Unless you frequent coffee shops, book- or record stores in Minneapolis and St. Paul, you probably have never come across the literary journal Whistling Shade, a fine regional publication currently in its fifteenth year. Black Gate readers may want to track down a copy of the Fall-Winter 2015 issue, though, as there is much herein of particular interest. No road trip or airline ticket is necessary: a full PDF replica of this horror-themed issue is available for $1 HERE. All of the issue’s contents are also posted (free) online HERE.
In addition to the horror fiction and poetry, the issue includes two excellent pieces on H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Bloch. Sten Johnson’s eight-page essay “The Lonely World of H.P. Lovecraft” is one of the finest introductions of the enigmatic author I’ve seen. It provides not only a lively biographical sketch but does a swell job of situating Lovecraft’s oeuvre in the canon of twentieth-century literature. In “Once More Around the Bloch: The Man Behind the Fright Mask,” Thomas R. Smith provides a tribute to his mentor Robert Bloch that is entertaining, insightful, and thought provoking.
Before I give you a rundown of the table of contents, please indulge me a moment while I brag a bit as a proud father. This issue marks the first publication for my six-year-old daughter. Her poem “The Ghost that Hides in My House,” which she came up with this past summer and I faithfully copied down, appears on page 2 of Whistling Shade‘s HORROR Issue! In landing her first acceptance at the age of six, she has got me beat by a full decade. The publisher has kindly granted me permission to reprint Irelyn’s poem here (Please check it out just after the “Read More” tag — she’s very excited about it and will be stoked to know lots more people read it online).
In his Poetics, Aristotle astutely points out that literature is a form of imitation, and that imitation is used, by humans and other animals, as a way of learning. Far more than mere entertainment or aesthetics, it teaches us how to cope with the very real dangers in the world around us. In an observation that seems particularly apropos for the Horror genre, he adds: “Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies.” Which begs the question: If reading Clive Barker or Stephen King is a dress rehearsal for our own death or dismemberment, why do we enjoy it so much?
Van Valin proceeds to contemplate that question in three ensuing paragraphs that cite everyone from King to Poe to Lovecraft while also giving a succinct summary of horror from Homer to the Romantic Age to today.
Here is the fiction featured in the issue:
“Fresh Papers” by Victor Robert Lee
“Dead Dog” by Nicholas Ozment
“Help Me” by Tony Rauch
“Fun Patrol: Bingo in Bedlam, Part IV” by Justin Teerlinck
“DreamMakers” by David Fingerman
The issue also features poetry from Irelyn Ruby Ozment, Michael McCormick, Joanna M. Weston, Robbie Menge, Andrey Gritsman, Patti Sullivan, Scott Hotaling, Kyle Anderson, Patricia Faith Polak, Emily Densten, Hanakia Zedek, Marc Tretin, and Sean Lause.
You’ll notice at least one familiar name on that table of contents, and I should note that, while this is the first print publication of “Dead Dog,” a podcast of it read by Ben Phillips can be heard at Pseudopod.org HERE.