Fiction River Asks Us to Feel the Fear

Fiction River: Feel the Fear
Mark Leslie, ed.
Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, series ed.
WMG Publishing
Ebook $6.99
Trade Paper $15.99

If you’ve hung around this blog for long, you will probably recognize the name of the anthology magazine Fiction River.  It’s been a while since I reviewed one of the issues.  (No, I won’t look up how long; it will just depress me.)  I’ve dipped into them (I have a subscription), but I’ve not managed to finish any.  That statement shouldn’t be taken as a reflection on the quality on the contents but on my available time.

Anyway, I couldn’t resist reading the current issue given the theme.  (All issues of Fiction River have a theme.)  Editor Mark Leslie has put together a top-notch anthology.

The stories contained herein aren’t all stories of a fantastic nature.  Some are, and those tended to be the ones I liked the most.  Every story deals with fear in its many forms.  Some didn’t work for me, because the things the author dealt with don’t scare.  Spiders for example.  I’m not scared of them.  Snakes, on the other hand.  That’s not to say the stories weren’t well written and even effective.  Just that those particular fears are not ones I share with the authors.

Here’s a look at some of my favorites.

The lead story, “Murmuration of a Darkening Sea” by Lee Allred, is a Lovecraftian tale about a man with the last name of Dunwich.  Horribly burned in the Great War, he finally manages to find employment by answering a want ad.  An old lady living in a remote mansion on the Pacific coast needs him to transcribe a book, a book that can only be handled by someone with a unique bloodline…

David Stier’s “Swimming on the Grass” deals with a parent who has Alzheimer’s.  It will be disturbing to a number of people.

“The Dark Queen” by J. F. Penn deals with an underwater archaeological expedition that goes wrong.

Erik Lynd looks at a fear common to nearly all parents, that of a missing child.  In “The Playground of Lost Children”, a woman returns to her childhood home where her younger brother disappeared when they were children and to a playground that no child should go near.  This and Lee Allred’s story were the two I liked the most and should appeal to readers of this blog.

“The Tin Can Man” by Annie Reed takes us on a descent into a woman’s madness after she suffers a brutal assault.

Robert T. Jeshonek tells us about what it’s like for an invisible creature to “Piggyback” on a human.  This one was a fun, albeit dark, fantasy.

I said earlier that the theme of this anthology was fear in all its forms and not all of the stories deal with the fantastic.  Anthea Lawson writes across multiple genres under more than one name, Anthea Sharp being one you might recognize.  In “The Visit”, written under her Lawson byline, she deals with a fear that married men can relate to.  It was a nice change from some of the darker stories.

Feel the Fear is an ambitious anthology, one that won’t succeed with every story simply because not every fear contained herein is universal.  But it is an anthology I will recommend.  The stories in this book stretched me as I read outside my usual fare for many of them.  Mark Leslie is to be commended for tackling this project.  I’ll keep my eye out for futures projects from him.

2 thoughts on “Fiction River Asks Us to Feel the Fear

  1. deuce

    Keith, I’m with you on the spiders vs. snakes issue. Serpents definitely trip my trigger. Spiders? Unless it’s an actual close encounter with a brown recluse, I’m pretty blase about them. For one thing, spiders are ridiculously easy to kill. Snakes are a whole ‘nother matter. Also, even the venomous North American spiders tend to be fairly non-lethal. I was born within a 40mi range of 4 different pit viper habitats. Viper venom, whether it be rattlesnake or water moccasin, is nothing to sneeze at and can have lasting effects even if you survive.

    1. Keith West Post author

      You’re correct about spiders being easy to kill. One summer about the time I graduated high school, give or take a year, I spent part of the time looking for black widows to kill. We had a bumper crop that year, and they were all over the place. I figured it would be better to kill them before one of them bit someone. I also spent part of the summer between college and graduate school spraying the yellow jacket nests with a hose just to have something to do, but that was a few years after the black widow summer, IIRC.

      Snakes I don’t hunt. I keep my distance. I’ve been bitten more than once by spiders. Never a snake, and I intend to keep it that way.


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