When The Night Comes Down: Sixteen Tales of Darkness Descending
Bill Breedlove, Editor
Dark Arts Books
Trade Paper, 274 pages, $19.95
Review by Sheila Merritt
Stories from four very talented fellows are gathered in When the Night Comes Down: Sixteen Tales of Darkness Descending. Each author has a stand out story, and, overall, the quality is high. Editor Bill Breedlove enlisted fine contributors: Joseph D’Lacey, Bev Vincent, Robert E. Weinberg, and Nate Kenyon. Their voices are diverse, diabolical, and delightful. There are chills and chortles; and some cultural commentary that is screamingly scathing.
For snarky social comment, it’s hard to beat Robert E. Weinberg’s reprint tale, “Elevator Girls.” Originally published in the 1996 World Fantasy Convention Program Book, this look at unconventional convention groupies still possesses bite and sting. There is referencing of certain (thinly disguised) notable figures in the realm of horror fiction, which is giggly fun; but Weinberg goes for a dry acerbic tone. Jaundiced pragmatism pervades the yarn: “An editor can only print so many stories in a book. Time and economics dictate that he invites only a small number of authors to contribute. Business sense tells him to select the ones who he feels will do the best job and deliver their work on time. Being human, he tries to include those writers he knows and likes.”
With a similar healthy dose of wry perspective, Bev Vincent looks at the world of writing. In “Knock ‘Em Dead,” he examines extreme techniques involved in the marketing of a novel. He pokes fun at the excesses of success, and how far people will go to maintain it. When random attendees of an author’s readings die of natural causes, a mystique is created. The writer’s popularity subsequently skyrockets. As the publicity machine cranks up, commercial considerations are inevitable: Including survivor t-shirts for his devoted followers; they all want to show they lived through a reading/signing. When the quantity of deceased decreases, creativity is required to address his plummeting prominence. Vincent delivers a jolly good time with the macabre mayhem.
The phrase “reinventing oneself” takes a peculiar turn in Joseph D’Lacey’s “The Unwrapping of Alastair Perry.” This tale of metamorphosis is highly unsettling. A man shaves away at his skin, stripping himself to the bone. He reveals a woman underneath the surface. Experiencing that gender does not bring joy; but leads to rather bizarre artistic endeavors. Like a perverted Pygmalion, the protagonist self sculpts; using a razor as the implement of expression. This is a challenging narrative; a profoundly disturbing piece about mutilation and mutation.
Now, on to channeling art to meet specific demented demands: In Nate Kenyon’s “Breeding the Demons,” an artist is commissioned by demons to make sculptures assembled of dead bodies, and then photograph them as: “Pornography for the supernatural.” An unsparing unease permeates Kenyon’s work: “Candlelight flickered upon the backs of the dead. Black thread like veins lay everywhere, up one seam and down another. Toothless mouths turned to wombs, gave birth to things unmentionable. Limbs reached up and clawed the sky in agony.”
The savvy writers featured in When the Night Comes Down are skillful tellers of tales. Arch, wise and warped, this collection has much to offer: A savory supernatural sampling of choice works.