Review: Weirdbook 31

The strength of SF/F/H rests heavily on the shoulders of the classic magazine publications that fandom had grown up with and continues today in the ever evolving output of varying forms of media. But no matter what glittery new toy technology throws at us, it’s always nice to go back to our comfort zone. Magazines, periodicals, and lots and lots of great stories.

Amazing Stories started as a magazine back in 1926. It’s evolved with time, yet here we are, still touting the greatest form of literary fiction on the planet, spreading the word, and igniting the imagination of fandom.

Weirdbook One 1968
Weirdbook One 1968

So when we get wind of other publications in the genre, we can’t help but get excited. We can never have enough fresh new voices joining the cause. The fantasy and horror fanzine Weirdbook was first published in the late sixties with W. Paul Ganley as the editor. It was an ambitious undertaking, but it gave readers a chance to discover some new voices that may not have been heard of in other publications. Weirdbook 30 was the last publication in 1997, printed together with the fanzine Whispers. It’s been too long.

Weirdbook 31 cover September 2015
Weirdbook 31 cover
September 2015

In September, Weirdbook 31 was published by Wildside Press and fandom rejoiced. Under the consult of Ganley and the guidance of publisher John Betancourt, Editor Doug Draa has pulled together an amazing collection of stories and poetry. True to the original format, there is little in the form of illustrations with the major emphasis on the words. Not just words by the count. These words are good.

Who will you read? The names credited are John R. Fultz, Ann K. Schwader, Adrian Cole, Frederick J. Mayer, Gary A. Braunbeck, K. A. Opperman, Christian Riley, W. H. Pugmire, James Aquilone, Paul Dale Anderson, Jason A. Wyckoff, Ashley Dioses, Bret McCormick, Darrell Schweitzer, D.C. Lozar, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Gregg Chamberlain, Erica Ruppert, Wade German, Kurt Newton, J. T. Glover, Dave Reeder, Chad Hensley, Janet Harriett, Llanwyre Laish, Kevin Strange, and S.W. Lauden.

I hope to run into many of these names again in the future.

With eighteen short stories mixed with nine works of poetry, it would take more than one blog entry to discuss every piece. Though it may be a bit cryptic, here is a montage of some notes I jotted down while reading. Yes, it is quite a varied mixture of thoughts, but it should also be a good glimpse into the diverse ideas you will experience in Weirdbook:

A story of mythological proportions about a legendary knight and the legend he must live up to. A mystery/crime story with a twist of dark carnival weirdness. The tale of how Cymatics played a role in the death of over a dozen people – or more. A hiker’s experience with the mysterious forces of nature that you’ve never heard of. A man who could not see in the dark, only shadows. Readers will learn to look into one’s eyes, and how a dead soul will rot you from the inside out. A twisted tale of a son’s inquiry into his mother’s sanity. A unique take on a Matrix type mind download. This story will give new homeowners quivers if they knew what skeletons lived and died in the closets. Sometimes we forget more about ourselves than those around us. Memories can come in dreams and nightmares, and those who are gone can still have rank no matter where they go. The old adage that truth is stranger than fiction gets a zombie twist as a writer finds out that life can also imitate his art. Things get interesting when the fine line between consciousness and mechanical programming is blurred. The dark reality of death becomes a life lesson between father and son. Sometimes, the simple act of surviving can be disgraceful, especially when the reasons of our traditions are lost over time. A grim look at laughing with death, not at it. A birds “eye” view of the aftermath of war and a cautionary tale against disloyalty. A sordid tragic tale of black magic gone horribly wrong.

And that’s not all of it.

Weirdbook 30 1997
Weirdbook 30 1997

The best stories make you think long after you’ve read the last word. That’s probably why it took so long to complete this collection. Those long pauses for consideration sometimes lasted longer than it took to read each story.

In the editor’s forwarding note, Draa mentions, “this is a reader’s magazine and not a critic’s.” Well, as a reviewer, that statement sounded like a challenge. But after reading through this collection of works, the comment makes a lot more sense. Weirdbook is not looking for approval, it is simply here to entertain us. To “satisfy” is another word Draa uses when talking about the criteria for works included in Weirdbook. Mission accomplished and welcome back.

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