Editor: R. Scott McCoy
Published by Stygian Publication
Publication Date: 2009
“Why open a door when you are afraid of what stands beyond it? Yet how not to when the questions pound and some small part niggles and begs for attention.”
– Catherine Gardner, “The Scratch of an Old Record”
Awhile back I had reviewed Malpractice, an anthology of medical terror that I thoroughly enjoyed, and shortly thereafter found that the magazine that had given birth to it, Necrotic Tissue, was going print. Now, as much as I love free stuff, I can’t bring myself to gather the stamina required to read a magazine as a PDF file, so I was happy to get this in a form that I could and would bother reading. Of course, editor R. Scott McCoy not only set the bar high for himself with the previously mentioned anthology, but it was also made culling the writers of the best material from five issues of the magazine as well as additions from an open submission period. So, did issue seven manage to meet the challenge and, more importantly, is it worth dropping six bucks on? Let’s look inside…
To begin with, I am ecstatic to see that they continue to make use of the 100 word “bites”, one of my favorite touches from the anthology. Like fan fiction on a meth binge, when done right these puppies are as lean and mean as you can get. Mathew Ewald’s “From the Journal of…” is a pure gold riff on the old Harker tale and Dee Caudill’s “Cheater” presented a gorgeous taste of Cthuloid school horror that had me grinning from ear to ear. Even the works that fall a bit more into the meh territory still work nicely to break up the larger stories with a quick jab to the skull.
Moving on to those larger stories, we certainly have some interesting stuff here. I’ve made my stance on the glut of Zombie fiction clear often enough before, but it seems like every time I say that, then I find myself facing down something like the absurd beauty of “How to Make a Brain Souffle” by Justin Pilon, a simple recipe that oozes wit and malevolent joy like pus or the bleak honesty of “Savior, Teach Us to Rise” by Doug Murano. Nicky Drayden gives us a view of the bland mundanity that has overtaken Hell itself in the name of efficiency that frightened me more than any lake of fire ever could (“With Good Intentions”) and Richmond Weems wastes no time at all showing us how he managed to offend everyone at the Orson Scott Card Literary Boot Camp with what I do believe is a blacksploitation vampire tale that Tarantino wishes he could write. But the true monster here is “The Scratch of an Old Record” by Catherine Gardner, a surreal piece haunted slipstream that confounds as much as it wounds. Damn straight she earned the pro-pay prize of the issue.
Writer’s, the main intended market, will find some indispensable advice in the “Help Me to Help You Help Me” column, which focuses on common problems the editor sees in works that are submitted to him and how to avoid them. Though he obviously is speaking his own mind hear, the problems and advice are universal enough to apply fairly generally. Also, the ending rant addressing the problem of writers not helping to support the industry they are trying to use to propel their own career finds a nice balance between vitriol and reason. Casual readers out there need not worry, these pieces are short and in no way block you from enjoying the fiction itself.
In fact, I hope the subtitle, of a horror writer’s magazine does not chase off those who simply want to read some good stories because this focus pushes the editor to do something few other magazine bother with: accept open submissions. He does it because he wants to support the writer’s market but it carries with it the advantage that we, the readers get a bit of a glimpse into the future of the genre. Magazines like Cemetery Dance and Weird Tales do a great job of presenting us with some of the best proven writers out there and I would never malign the great products that they are, but you will never see anything new and ballsy there simply because everyone who submits to them has been requested because their past work fits the past works that have been published there that have proven to meet the desires of their readers. It’s a gamble on the part of the magazine to go this route, but ultimately, the readers win.
Keep your eyes on this one.
Available from Necrotic Tissue