Ghosts Can Bleed
Dark Continents Publishing 2011
Review by Matthew Tait
There are many writers in the Australian echelon that I am familiar enough to know by name but not by craft. Tracie McBride (originally from New Zealand), has spent the last few years cutting an impressive swath into the community with a staple brand of schizophrenic dark fiction tales. Ghosts Can Bleed is the weighty culmination of a hybrid of stories spanning years, with all the pieces here intertwined with short macabre poetry.
One of the things I noticed straight away: Tracie does not follow an immediate set of rules, and there are seldom any formulaic trappings. Here we find tropes like werewolves, zombies, and hatchet wielding maniacs completely off the menu – only to be replaced with a cross-breed of fiction heavily decorated with mythic societies and unique alien landscapes.
On Tracie’s Goodreads page, a reader can find a solid synopsis of each individual story presented here, but each tale is woven like a symphony of traveling music. Highlights include “Trading Up,” a kind of reverse-coin story of uncommon-possession – one that can take on departing life-forms … no matter the species. “Dreamcatcher” is rooted in the ‘now’ of suburbia with a domestic setting, but inter-spliced with noxious nightmares and how bad dreams can be parceled out. “Rush Hour” is a tour-de-force of Hell itself as Tracie explores the torment of commuting. “Marked” has all the delicious trimmings of B-Grade Horror with monsters who like to posses tiny-toddlers and then do away with their parents. But the pinnacle here was the title story itself. “Ghosts Can Bleed” – although a simple account of a protagonist who wanders through limbo – it is at its heart a bleeding metaphor: that in our own everyday lives and rituals we all feel the pull of being invisible.
With a light and breezy prose, this is Tracie McBride saying hello to the world. Stephen King likes to think of stories as fossils in the ground, and this is a collection that has all the earmarks of a writer just beginning to excavate an entire metropolis bursting at the seams with invention.