Dark Wisdom: the Magazine of Dark Fiction #10

Review by Jonathan Oliver

Dark Wisdom has gone all glossy, the paper stock goes up a grade with this issue and the magazine is really looking very good indeed in its larger format. The fiction here is perhaps a little less consistently good than in previous issues, however. There is a mélange of stories but none of them struck particularly true for me.

Opening, we have ‘Dead Men Talk a Lot’ by William C. Dietz which is set in a world where the living can talk to the dead through the phone network. The narrator and his friend Larry decide to stage a bank heist. Unfortunately Larry dies in the event and the narrator has no idea where the money is hidden. Help, however, is only a phone call away. The premise is fine in this tale, it’s just that the characters’ decision to do the big robbery felt way too much like a plot device and forced the story along rather than carried it.

‘Yakov and the Crows’ by E. Sedia is marginally better. In Russia during the cold war an office worker befriends a crow. It’s a slight but well written tale. I was just left wanting much more from the story.

Next is ‘The Lake of Shadows’ by Stephen Mark Rainey and here we have a story that treads familiar horror ground and does nothing new with its subject matter. A couple goes back to the site of their daughter’s suicide to find strange forces in operation there. And that, literally, is it. The supernatural elements aren’t explored as fully as they could have been and the premise felt a little tired to me.

‘The Generosity of Strangers’ by Michael McBride tells of a student who is called in the middle of the night by a man threatening to commit suicide. A relationship is established between the two in a series of phone calls and the reader is never sure who is manipulating who. This is a pretty neat idea. I felt that the conclusion could have packed more punch but this is one of the more promising stories here.

‘Magic Words’ by Gene O’Neill is effectively a story about a gypsy curse and about being careful of what you wish for. Not much of note here and a tale I feel that I’ve read before.

‘The Box’ by Kevin Anderson is a short short which is more of shaggy dog story than a full blooded horror tale.

‘Early’ by Jay Casselberg tells of an unusual haunting where the ghost may actually be the spirit of someone still living. I think I prefer Casselberg’s science-fiction as I wasn’t overly taken by this. On the whole Casselberg is, however, a good solid writer.

‘Memories, Red and Wet’ by Christopher Welch is a horror story told from the zombie’s point of view. Not bad but still not much to get my teeth into.

Finally we have part one of ‘Paradigm Wash’ by Ann K. Shwader. An entertaining piece and I hope that the next part is as good as this.

As always the issue is packed full of great non-fiction and reviews.

Overall not the best issue I’ve seen of Dark Wisdom but I know that the magazine is capable of much better things.

Elder Signs Press, $6.00. Website: www.eldersignspress.com. Subscriptions: 4 issues $22 (Overseas $40). This review originally appeared in Prism.