Wall of Fire ignites on Nov. 5, 2019

What would you walk through fire for…

Cover design: Aaron Bilawchuk & Emily Pratt

November 5, 2019

Terrace VII: Wall of Fire

By Robert Bose & Sarah L. Johnson

Welcome to the Seventh Terrace of Dante’s tower of Purgatory. Here, in darkness lit only by a wall of flame, we find souls enslaved by the sin of lust. Desire, curdled by madness and desperation. From a pair of crazy-in-love criminals on a scavenger hunt at the outskirts of Hell, to a lonely custodian working in a love doll brothel, to a sinister lingerie boutique hidden behind a red door. Lust is a great and terrible thing, and this collection of dark tales follows a mere handful of the many paths leading to the wall of fire.

Hot or Not?

We review books, music, trail races, deep sea creatures, colours on the visible spectrum, and whatever else we feel like, on a rating scale of one to five sin-purging flames.

Trace & Solomon: Torrington

Review by Noggy Splitfoot and Lola Silkysocks

Available at: AmazonAmazon CanadaKobo

Trace & Solomon: Torrington

Welcome to Torrington, Alberta. A wide spot in the blacktop, home to the world-famous Gopher Hole Museum above, and a massive convergence of mystical energy below. When a rogue exorcist acquires a soul translocating relic, the Vatican reluctantly – very reluctantly – turns to the only mercenaries capable of taking it back. The hard-drinking, double-crossing, catastrophe-courting mercenaries that sold it to him in the first place.

Trace and Solomon ought to know better. Church work is always a handshake with the Devil, but this time there’s more than money on the line, and it forces them to question what matters most. In this life, and the next.


Noggy Splitfoot: So, why are we interrupting my day drinking again?

Lola Silkysocks: It would be nice if you took our first paying gig seriously, and it’s 10am for Christ’s sake.

N: You got paid?

L: You didn’t? Nevermind. This is the part where we disclose that in exchange for unspecified remuneration, we are providing a fair and unbiased book review that doesn’t “violate community standards” whatever that means.

N: Okay, so it’s a grey market review. Fair and unbiased is overrated. I think I read that in a book, a philosophy book, or maybe it was a Wikipedia article. Everyone lies about these sorts of things. Objectivism is dead.

L: We’re reviewing a book, not objectivism. Focus.

Speaking of grey area, this is a long short story, or a short novella, or something in those murky waters. I can see why they self-published, not like anyone else would.

N: So, short enough to lack guts and long enough to get boring?

L: You can read it in half an hour is what I’m saying. That was probably my favourite part. 

N: Well, the cover has occult symbols and a beaver on it, so I’m thinking it’s about possessed nocturnal, semi-aquatic rodents.

L: Sigh…Noggy, did you read the book?

N: Well, I skimmed the introduction, which made absolutely zero sense, if that’s what you’re asking.

L: You disappoint me, Splitfoot.

N: Because I have better things to do? What are they even paying you? Twenty bucks?

L: No one here is proud. Go read. I’ll wait.

N: Fine. BRB

30 minutes later…

L: Nog?

3 days later…

N: Wow, what the hell did I just read? Not even one beaver.

L: Congratulations on finishing the equivalent of an I Can Read book.

N: Looks like Torrington is a real place. Like a prison for undead Richardson’s ground squirrels and other unwanted farm things.

L: The book is like From Dusk ‘til Dawn meets Little House on the Prairie, except Ma and Pa are evil Catholic clergy, the kids are rabid vermin, and Clooney and Tarantino are a trashy couple of grifters on a perpetual road trip in their shitty Winnebago.

N: The bar in the story didn’t have Salma Hayek. Or Machete.

L: Minus a star for that alone. But I like the idea of an evil ashtray that can capture your soul and funnel it into someone or something else

N: Sure, I guess. What kind of cigarettes would Jesus smoke do you think?

L: Had to have been weed. I mean, no one loves everyone, not that much. But back to the story. Did you find anything…familiar about these characters?

N: I guess Trace and Solomon are sort of like us, only Solomon is a lot older and uglier. Like who wears Hawaiian shirts, likes 80’s rock, and drives a 70’s era Winnebago? Not very relatable if you ask me.

L: Yes, he is 100% unlike you in every conceivable way, and Trace is way more dedicated than I am. That’s a lot of hassle just to get an ashtray back from an evil exorcist. I would have abandoned the quest and gone for tacos.

N: The quest is the whole point, dummy. The story is about Trace and Sol getting to Torrington. They need to gather wards and stuff so they can’t be soul swapped. You see a lot of what their relationship is like.

L: Yeah, about that. Why are they even together? They fight all the time and screw… everything up. They’re going to get each other killed sooner or later. Reminds me of the time we got drunk under a bridge skipping stones and you hit a duck.

N: I’m a hell of a lot luckier than Sol, that’s all I’m going to say about that! At least I didn’t try to catch a duckling for a pet. Trace though, she needs a pet something fierce.

L: A lady needs something fuzzy to cuddle in the night. Speaking of…that sex scene in the graveyard was kinda yikes.

N: Sol finally got to pet a beaver.

L: You mean he got attacked by a badger?

N: Right, that.

L: Why would you pet a beaver?

N: Beaver/Badger, point is these authors are sadistic perverts.

L: They do seem to have an axe to grind. Against the church, flightless birds, and humanity in general. Everyone in this story deserves to be ground into hog feed.

N: At least that feels real! So, what was your favourite part?

L: When the 50-foot gopher attacks downtown Torrington. That was badass.

N: Clem T. GoFur!

I liked the crossroads demon scene. I hope they market Carl plushies. They’d sell dozens, probably make a hell of a lot more than selling eBooks.

L: Yeah, like who is this book even for? I was expecting Christian Tentacle Romance and got this trash. An occult heist story loaded with violence and sex and blasphemy.

N: I don’t even know what genre this is supposed to be. Weird Crap? Probably shouldn’t give it a name. Names have power.

But since they’re sort of paying us, well you, I can’t say it’s bad. I’m also not going to say it’s good. Twenty bucks is worth two stars I guess.

L: -1 Flame. Took too long to arrive in the mail and didn’t look like the picture.

N: We’re doing flames, right, totally forgot about that. They go negative? I thought we reserved imaginary numbers for poets and astrophysicists?

L: Rock bottom is for quitters, and these two brought shovels.

N: I do see they labeled it as #1 in a series

L: One more than anyone asked for, so I guess I’ll close us out on that note of despair. And since I’ve got $20 burning a hole in my skirt, I say we go to Arby’s.


?/5

Cover Reveal! End of the Loop by Brent Nichols

Cover design: A. Bilawchuck

David isn’t sure why he lives in the Institute. He’s not sure why the doors are locked and guarded. He doesn’t know why he has to take pills that turn his memory to mist.

But one day he doesn’t swallow his pills. On that day, he starts to remember. Once, things were quite different. Once, he went outside. He had friends, a lover, a life.

Once, something bad happened. 

Soon the staff will notice. They’ll make him take his pills, and these precious scraps of memory will fade away. There’s only one way to prevent it. Only one way to find out what’s truly going on.

He must escape.

“A tensely suspenseful reconstruction of a cold case reclaims a life lost to unimaginable tragedy.” ~ J.E. Barnard, author of When the Flood Falls

Tiny Sledgehammer: Fall 2020

Gary’s got great news!

Untuck your tentacles and unfurl your freak flags…

The Seventh Terrace is delighted to announce the Spring 2021 publication of Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy by Hailey Piper. Eighteen stories of queer horror, isolation, and the monstrous feminine, including an original grim novelette, “Recitation of the First Feeding.”

This collection is darkly fantastic, queer as hell, and we can’t wait to share it with all of you.

Hailey Piper is the author of Benny Rose, the Cannibal King from Unnerving, and her short fiction appears in Daily Science FictionThe ArcanistTales to Terrify, and elsewhere. She lives with her wife in Maryland, but can be found online at www.haileypiper.com or on Twitter via @HaileyPiperSays.

Detonation #15: Do Us A Favour And Don’t Share That Covid Poem

Navigating Life in a Literary Minefield

The news is dominated by ‘rona coverage. Most online content is at the very least pandemic adjacent in focus. You could escape into a book but that requires an attention span, and yours went out the window in March, approximately eleventy-hundred days ago.

We’ve got COVID on the brain and it’s hard to make good art when you’re distracted.

The solution: make COVID art!

Well, aren’t you fucking original. I’m sure no one has thought of that. You must be confident that everyone is starved for yet more angsty plague-centric literature and especially poetry. We can’t get enough. Riveting accounts of weight gain, images of a soggy magpie, or LOLOLOL your quarantine-drunk, spear-wielding spawn rampaging through your 9am Zoom meeting. Here’s the thing, these experiences are now universal to the point of cliché. In other words, anything but novel.

And what’s with the relentless insistence on the essential nature of poetry in this bonkers world where your closest relationships are with your co-workers’ nostril hairs and double-chins? I’m not a doctor or anything, but I dunno how essential it is to read something that feels like reading nothing. Scratch that, less than nothing. A nothing that leaves a little bit of itself behind, like a tiny malignant egg laid in your ear, whispering its nonsense in poet voice.

Maybe you’re compelled to indulge this shitty impulse to wax lyrical over a pile of rocks or giving birth in a rain barrel as a metaphor for social distancing. Maybe it quells your anxiety or lubes your ego to think someone might read your tortured placental images of loneliness and swoon. Maybe they will, but it’s the kind of swooning you do when you find the cat busily decapitating a rabbit on the front porch. The kind where it seems physically impossible to have eaten the amount you just vomited.

Real talk, okay? Poeming about COVID is not a noble pursuit. This drivel is for you, so stop inflicting it on others. We’re all struggling to find ways to cope and function in such times. Your poetry may be a balm to your soul, but it’s an acid bath to mine, so Jesus frick-fracking Christ, keep it in isolation.

P.S. Octoclot was in a mood when she wrote this. She’s also a wretched hypocrite who admits to writing a poem or two herself.

If It Bleeds by Stephen King

“AMAZING!” ~ slavish fan

“King at his best.” ~ slavish reviewer

“Loved! But the cover sucks.” ~ some dork from goodreads

Before you get mad, I’m not here to drag the King. I read almost everything he wrote up until 2010-ish. Needful Things, Pet Sematery, and Different Seasons are among some of my rare re-reads. I’m possibly the only person out there that really loved Duma Key. And King writes some of the greatest short stories and novellas out there. Apt Pupil is relentless horror on so many levels. The Road Virus Heads North is a master class in punishing suspense in the short form.

But he’s not incapable of mediocrity. Cell, anyone? He’s also a frequent idiot on Twitter, but whatever. Boomers gonna boom. Never meet your heroes. (Also, I haven’t read any of The Dark Tower books. Shut up, I don’t care.)

Now for the review! I picked up If It Bleeds because of the clever cover. I like animals all up in each other. It’s fun. Like the cat-rat version of turducken. Without the third thing. I don’t know what that would be. Maybe a fish or a lizard.

Now the review, for real this time. I was ready to settle into the comfy pair of slippers that is a Stephen King book and If It Bleeds did not disappoint. This book is very King-y. Four novellas containing all his greatest hits. Folksy olds. Poignant moments of loss. A child’s world existing just below the line of adult sight. And, of course, a struggling writer.

I’ll go through one at a time and give my thoughts.

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone

A ghost story for the digital age. Young boy earns a few bucks each week reading the newspaper to a retired finance industry titan. Eventually the old man dies, but not before the boy teaches him how to use an iPhone. Life goes on, but in some ways stays rooted in place where it begins to sicken and rot. It’s a story about grief. In a sense, all the novellas in this collection are about grief, but Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is the most explicit, and it sets the tone nicely. Also harkens back to the advent of the smart phone with a certain nostalgia and horror. This story felt the most fully realized of the four, but the novelty of tech doesn’t make it a novel King story. If an AI was programmed to generate Stephen King stories, this would be one of them.

The Life of Chuck

This one reads almost experimental, like a China Mieville novel. Told in three acts in reverse order, or from the inside out, or from the top down. I don’t know really. Chuck is born, he lives, he dies, and the world he carries within dies with him. I can’t say more than that without spoiling because this one isn’t a thriller chiller. It meanders, and does so delightfully. As a whole the story doesn’t quite take shape the way you sense King wants it to, but that’s why it’s my favourite of the four. It takes a risk and does something King doesn’t normally do. It surprised me.

If It Bleeds

You get the feeling the other stories are just blubber padding out the headliner. I didn’t read The Outsider. I hear it’s good. Maybe I should read it because this one was just okay for me. The premise is cool, a face shifting monster orchestrates a middle school bombing and Holly Gibney is on the case. This is what happens when an author loves his characters too much. This story is indulgent. King tries to get our hearts to bleed for Holly, but I didn’t feel it. She’s basically perfect with a few quirks. He loves her too much to give her actual flaws. It was a fun read, but nothing that resonated on the level I know King is capable of.

The Rat

I’m just going to say it. This story was some dumb shit. A recycled mish mash of Bag of Bones, 1408, and The Secret Window and probably any story where King is clearly writing some externalized version of himself. Writer is having trouble writing. Writer goes to cabin. Writer experiences a strange. Writer makes Bad Deal. Consequences. I kept waiting for King to subvert his own trope, but he doesn’t. If I had to guess, I’d say this was a trunk story he hauled out to meet a page count that would justify a $38 hardcover.

Overall, I enjoyed this collection, and with the exception of The Rat the stories were entertaining. The Life of Chuck was nearly brilliant, and I give King credit for taking that risk, considering the rest of the stories play it incredibly safe. Maybe the cover says it all? We’ve got the cat and mouse (or rat), which is clever if familiar. What’s missing is the third ingredient that surprises and makes the whole thing memorable. If It Bleeds is not bad, Constant Reader, but it’s no turducken.

3/5

Detonation #14 – Such Times

Navigating Life in a Literary Minefield


“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

I’ve always loved those lines, and they’ve never been more apt. Such times indeed, and so true. We all have to decide what to do with the time that is given us.

So, of course, we’re totally wasting it. And I’m not talking about the last couple of months, trapped in our homes and clinging to sanity with alcohol and Netflix. Nobody is going to begrudge a little demotivation and aimlessness right now. It’s an unusual and uncertain glitch in the matrix.

But it will end and there will be a new normal. What will you do then? Try to wiggle back into your old life? Because, really, who’d want to live in those boring old times, doing the same thing day after day, year after year, living on the dying carcass of global free market capitalism? 

Well, regular people, I guess. And there’s no shortage of them. In fact, in an informal poll where I browsed both Facebook and Twitter for a six and half hours every day for ten years, it was obvious that a majority of social media users, which is to say everyone on the entire planet, is so bored and boring and unenlightened they’ve outsourced their life to a drinking bird. Like clockwork, the bird dips and another meme blasts forth, another tweet is retweeted, and the noise cloud that is our reality gets slightly noisier.

Of course, at the moment, most of this is complaining or fist shaking. Life is shit. You’re making my life shit. Don’t you know you shouldn’t do this? That you can’t do that? And now, because people are nasty, we have snitch lines. Is this the fucking Spanish Inquisition? If you see a few people walking down the street, less than two meters apart, don’t fucking call the cops. Don’t write letters to the editor. Don’t complain about it on Facebook. Look, I get it, I do. Every time I wander out to the park for some fresh air, there are milling groups of people with t-shirts that say “Oh no, the Economy” or “Cull the Weak.” Every time I go to the grocery store I see people going the wrong direction down clearly marked aisles. Makes me wish I’d brought the woodchipper. But I smile and wave and maneuver far around them. I don’t call the cops. Or complain. At least about that, complaining about complainers currently consumes most of my free time.

Damn the irony.


Right. Interesting times, which doesn’t have to be a curse. I’d posit that if you pull your head out of the social media Khazad Dum, you’ll notice there’s a damn remarkable world both inside and out worth writing about.

And I’m not talking about poetry.

Please do not write personal plague poetry, or as Lola so elegantly puts it, “Poetic observations of a nature so shallow they appear to be fathomless.” I’m not saying it’s impossible to write decent poetry about living in your kitchen, baking bread, and calling the cops on some poor neighbor who happens to break the two-meter rule, but… yeah, it is. Same goes for plague prose. Give it time. Give it a year or two. If we need to flatten the curve on ANYTHING, it’s to make sure everyone doesn’t write about the exact same thing happening to everyone, regardless of how much nightmare fuel is being poured on the fire. You think the emergency wards are taxed now? Wait until everyone is forced to read about the horrors, or possibly pleasures, of social distancing, or about what happened to all the toilet paper.

No.

There are far better uses for that pent-up wellspring of emotion, both now and into the new normal. Whether your life is currently a smoking crater, or not, you’re experiencing something novel that hasn’t happened in a hundred years and probably won’t happen like this again. There’s a lot of passion out there, generated by wanting to see other people punished for doing things you don’t understand aren’t technically against the law. Capture that passion. Capture the fear. Capture the determination to make them pay by killing or torturing them in your next story.

Let that passion infuse your work.

When this does end, don’t flush that passion away and go back to your old life. You only have so much time, you know, and you’ve probably wasted enough of it writing poetry.