Gallery of Horror
Late in October of 2010, Thomas M. Malafarina was attending a combination art show and book signing near the city of Harrisburg, PA where he was scheduled to sign copies of his first short story collection 13 Nasty Endings and his first two novels Burn Phone and 99 Souls. There he had the pleasure of meeting the artist who had designed the covers to these books – Alecia Nye – and the good fortune of being introduced to Nunzio Barbera. Barbera is a dark surrealist whose influences are “Dali, punk rock, skateboarding and comic books” and who works presently in mixed media and collage; he is bold, macabre and seems to regard no boundaries in representing his vision of the world and the bizarre denizens of his canvases reminds one at times of Clive Barker in his early “splatterpunk” days. During the course of that afternoon’s conversations on art and method, Malafarina began to recognize a kinship with this controversial artist and on the drive home soon hatched a plan to design a book in the mold of Rod Serling’s “Night Gallery” wherein he would choose a selection of prints – a “gallery” – from amongst Barbera’s portfolio and write stories inspired from them.
Writes Malafarina in his introduction: “Both Nunzio and Sunbury Press loved the idea. So after completing the proof of my novel Eye Contact in early 2011, I immediately went to work on Gallery of Horror and from the very first story I wrote, “The Age of Man”, I was hooked. But I quickly learned I had challenged myself with what turned out to be quite a monumental task. Nunzio’s work is often complex and very much “out there”, with all sorts of what initially seem like unrelated images coming together in one place. But I understood that Nunzio had a plan behind creating each work, and for a while I even considered asking him to explain what each work meant to him. I know he would have been willing to comply, but then I changed my mind. I realized that taking such a step would ruin the real point of the book.”
“Good evening and welcome to a private showing of three paintings, displayed here for the first time. Each is a collector’s item in its own way – not because of any special artistic quality, but because each captures on canvas, suspends in time and space, a frozen moment of a nightmare.”
And so Rod Serling introduced us all to his new television anthology series on NBC called Night Gallery, a show which would run for three seasons before the suits starting messing with Serling (there are always suits, aren’t there?) and ultimately cancelled it. In Serling’s mind, his newest foray into network television was conceived as a companion piece to the ground breaking “The Twilight Zone” (which ran for 5 seasons on CBS) in that while The Zone dealt mostly with science fiction and psychological thrillers The Gallery would present fare more grounded in fantasy and horror. The pilot included the short film “Eyes” which was written by Serling and notable in that it not only marked the directorial debut of a young Steven Speilberg but it also contained what was to be Joan Crawford’s final starring performance.
But what was seen as a critical failure in the overall presentation of Night Gallery works, of course, in a short story collection – disparateness of voice, tone and delivery can be tolerated and even expected, all of which Tom Malafarina delivers upon with varying degrees of success in the ten highly imaginative stories he has written and chosen to present. And unlike the paintings of Tom Wright on Night Gallery, which were mostly too precise and apropos, Barbera’s creations are simply too dense with mixed media images and visual richness to be interpreted outright and dramatized verbatim, of which Malafarina respects and does no such disservice in trying to attempt. That is part of the fun in this collection though – we get to view the paintings before embarking on the stories and seeing how well our readings coincide with what our visual experience and expectations were with them.
As can be expected, Malafarina can’t help but for the most part to continue writing of horrific inter-dimensional and otherworldly beings invading our world and using the human race as fodder for their inconceivable machinations and whims – we are all meat in the end to them – but that too seems to play perfectly in line with Barbera’s worldview and work. Two of my favorite stories are:
In “Talk2Me” an ancient being from an “old country” with “old ways” enters our world on vacation and begins to hunt humans after first procuring and donning some camouflage so as to blend into our environment … the being is eventually arrested on murder charges and soon ends up making one hell of a mess of the precinct … but not before making a friend.
In “Beyond The Mind’s Eye” a young artist is hired on to assist the research of a professor from a major technological university who believes that he can realize in three dimensions what can be imagined in the mind’s eye … he works to harness and harvest the young artist’s imagination and is successful in recreating an apple and then a rat and then a fifty dollar bill … and then one day the professor neglects to remember the video gaming enthusiasms of his young assistant and, well, it can get rather boring laying in that chair for hours … the mind can wander … and the professor did leave the door to the imaging chamber open.
Thomas M. Malafarina continues to mature as a writer – his sentences are more fluid and thought out and possess a more sophisticated design better suited to hold his grand, growing complex of ideas than in previous works. The stories here flow as well, though not all are successful in pulling off their premises completely, which by no means makes them “bad” but rather stands as testament to the fount of imagination that is Tom’s in conflict with the “time restriction” of the short story form which I suspect he felt (just my gut feeling) in combination with his desire to do justice to Nunzio Barbera’s massive universe. Kudos and extra credit for even bringing this ambitious project to life is certainly due. This impressive improvement in Tom Malafarina’s craft in such a short amount of time bodes well for the genre and is exciting to witness. If you haven’t given Malafarina a read this may be the book to acquaint yourself with – Gallery of Horror is a very good short story collection that is wonderfully designed not only as a homage to the groundbreaking imagination of Rod Serling but as an interactive litmus for your tastes and concepts of horror in art.
Available from Sunbury Press B&W (artwork) – softcover – perfect binding.
182 pgs. 5.5 x 8.5
Suggested Retail Price- $14.95
COLOR (artwork) – softcover – perfect binding.
104 pgs. 8 x 10
Suggested Retail Price- $24.95
On a lighter yet related note (and just as twisted), comes an offering of cartoons drawn and captioned by Thomas M. Malafarina, Yes, I Smelled It Too!. As the subtitle says, these are cartoons for the somewhat off-center in all of us – think Gary Larsen meets Edward Gorey meets Scott Adams (yes, Dilbert) … this collection of Malafarina’s single panel cartoons are twisted, bizarre, weird, strangely down-to-earth and, well, pretty funny. This is a pretty cool book to have laying about the rest of your horror collection.
Available from Sunbury Press
B&W (artwork) – softcover – perfect binding.
164 pgs. 8 x 10 illustrated
Suggested Retail Price- $19.95