West Pigeon Press has released J.R. Hamantaschen’s short story collection, You Shall Never Know Security, in paperback and ebook editions.

From The Author: As the title indicates, there is definitely a consistent theme that runs through the stories, although the theme truly comes into focus toward the back end of the collection. There is a cumulative effect to the stories, and I advise readers to read one story a night, because, while the stories are all tonally and stylistically different and touch upon a wide range of genres and subject matter, upon reflection an underlying connective thread eventually makes itself apparent.

Collections like mine, I hope, demonstrate the difficulty in “genre” labeling. Ostensibly, the collection is “horror” and the stories are certainly bleak. It should be noted, however, that the title of the collection was taken from the Utopian novel Looking Backward, in which the panic-strewn narrator observes:

“For thirty years I had lived among them, and yet I seemed to have never noted before how drawn and anxious were their faces, of the rich as of the poor, the refined, acute faces of the educated as well as the dull masks of the ignorant. And well it might be so, for I saw now, as never before I had seen so plainly, that each as he walked constantly turned to catch the whispers of a spectre at his ear, the spectre of Uncertainty. ‘Do your work never so well,’ the spectre was whispering – ‘rise early and toil til late, rob cunningly or serve faithfully, you shall never know security. Rich you may be now and still come to poverty at last. Leave never so much wealth to your children, you cannot buy the assurance that your son may not be the servant of your servant, or that your daughter will not have to sell herself for bread.”

Theodore Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison, Phillip K. Dick, T.E.D. Klein, Dennis Etchison, Robert Silverberg, John Wyndham, Richard Yates (Revolutionary Road is as horrific and soul-crushing as anything I can remember): all “horror,” all unnerving and despairing fiction writers to me. If there is a cross-genre distinction to be made there, the denotation is strained enough that the denoting is not worth the effort.

A glimpse into some of the stories:

The first story, “A Lower Power,” was written partially as a response to the type of unrealistic, hackneyed relationship-horror stories I hate, where the woman is either a shrewish ball-breaking bitch or the man is a misogynistic, overbearing oaf, where the intended pay-off to the story comes about when the aggrieved party seeks some kind of violent or ironic revenge. That bores me. The two main characters in this story are sensible, conflicted people who obviously love one another. I like that about this story, and readers seem to like it, too: it’s certainly the most reprinted story in the collection, having appeared in over a dozen magazines and anthologies (although it previously appeared with a different title, so good luck trying to find it elsewhere and depriving me of my hard-earned $3 royalty).

“Wonder” came to be as a result of a dirty look some asshole gave me while I was innocently walking back to my rats-nest Southside Berkeley apartment, Yogurt Park product-in-tow. Who wants to be bothered at such a lovely moment, tooth-deep into some cookie dough, only to be dragooned back into experiencing the very emotions of fear, hatred and dislocation Yogurt Park yogurt magically melts away? (Berkeley readers know what I’m talking about). Tonally, I like that phrase: “Yogurt Park yogurt magically melts away.” The new collection has been named – you saw it here first folks, a HellNotes exclusive!

I wrote the first draft of “Wonder” in about 1-2 hours, and can thank this story for getting me noticed, thank Matthew Bey over at Revolution Science Fiction for running it, thank the Drabblecast for producing a popular audio version, and thank all the readers who loved it so much.

Many readers have told me they like “Endemic” and I think it has to do with how surprised they are about the inclusion of a science-fiction story in what they expected to be a “horror” collection. Of course, the surprises don’t stop there, and certainly no one has suggested this story is out-of-place in a collection of challenging fiction. This is the story which put me on the path of creating awesome pseudonyms, so next time you are at Moishes in the East Village eating some hamantashen, you can thank this story.

“A Parasite Inside Your Brain” is a darkly ironic little piece subverting the standard “parasite” story. In a world of helicopter parents and overburdened doctors, where every expert seems only concerned with proceeding to the next step and asking “WHAT CAN BE DONE!” rather than “What should we do?” … well, just read it.

Not to guilt people into checking out the collection, but “Sorrow Has Its Natural End” is the most personal, quasi-autobiographical story in the collection. Several years ago, my left retina detached and remained detached for about three weeks. The “hows” and “whys” of that incident are not important. After getting the left retina reattached, my doctors discovered that my right retina had about thirty-holes shot through it.

But having only the functioning power of one eye standing between you and debilitating disability, to see what your life may have in store for you by closing one eye and trying in vain to navigate through the fun-house-mirror of a damaged retina … well, if you cannot see the uncertainty and dread in that situation … then may I direct you to the title of the collection.

On that note, I am confident you have all been guilt-tripped into checking out the collection.

There are seven other stories in the collection. Explanations for those will have to wait for next time.

As always, feel free to email me at jrtaschen@gmail.com.

Look forwarding to hearing from you all.

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