Known for the Chiral Mad series, Michael Bailey is not only a fine editor, but he is also an excellent writer. In his latest release, Inkblots and Blood Spots, he showcases a number of short stories and poems that reflect an alluring diversity and depth.
While much of the work presented here is previously published, this collection gives readers the opportunity to peruse a wide variety of themes and subjects all in one book. Bailey’s stories range from sci-fi/ horror tales like “Bootstrap” and “Fireman” to the haunting Gothic tone of “The Dying Gaul.” He moves elegantly between subgenres throughout the collection without missing a beat. Victor’s clinical science fiction voice in “Bootstrap” is just as authentic as the pained Celtic soul of the Gaul in his moment of loss and heartache. Poetic lines such as “The ice/ Slices through/ Cutting the Breath/ With significance/ Chipping away/ The slivers/ Of hope in “Beneath Clouds” transport the reader into a strange, contradictory place of peace and unsettled fear.
Many of the stories were in first person, and I would like to see Bailey push himself with more third person narrative. The use of the first person gave a few of the stories that indistinct feel common with an unreliable narrator. His creative storytelling is superb, and a third person narrator would have tightened the narrative in a few tales.
The first-person is a small flaw in an otherwise outstanding collection of stories. Bailey steps outside of the usual horror tropes, thus exposing horrors much more frightening than simply monsters under the bed. He ventures into the mind, and examines the nightmares that live inside us. We are Bailey’s monsters. We create the horrors that haunt the small hours… Michael Bailey is the guide leading us down that dark, sinister path deep in ourselves. Highly recommended.