Reviewed by Clancy Weeks
Jamais Vu is new to the stable of publications we review here at Tangent Online, so I’m going to start with a few thoughts about the magazine itself before digging into the stories themselves.
Overall, I find the writing to be top-notch, with only a few editing quibbles. The illustrations are nice, though certainly not ground-breaking, and the articles and reviews are well-done. Any magazine that can boast an original article from Harlan Ellison is probably worth picking up. His “I Had a Thought Today” was a humorous take on passive-aggressive conflict resolution through the clever use of mondegreen—a tactic I discovered years ago as a teacher. A bit of confirmation bias, I know, but still...
There are no color illustrations in this publication, giving the impression of an operation existing on a shoestring budget. Whether this is accurate, or merely a stylistic choice is unclear, but it does make it different. These days, an online-only presence has little excuse for a lack of color, but a print publication (as this one is, in addition to the electronic version) does have printing costs to consider.
While this issue is heavy on horror (or horror-like, if you will), and though I am not a huge fan of the genre, I think editors Eric S. Beebe and Paul Anderson have a winner on their hands. Sadly, in their third issue they were forced to combine their Summer and Autumn issues into a single volume for reasons spelled out in the opening editorial by Beebe. I hope this does not become common, as this magazine is certainly worth the subscription price. While I was underwhelmed overall by the short stories, there is far more to this magazine than the original fiction. I urge readers to purchase at least this copy to see for yourself, and maybe follow that up with a subscription. A reader could do far worse with their money.
On to the stories...
Wow. Damien Angelica Walters, with “The Floating Girls: A Documentary,” has crafted one of the most powerful stories I have read in recent memory. I wasn’t very far into it before I discovered what it was really about, but that made it even stronger for me. Every word became an identifier—a tell—that reinforced and expanded the underlying theme. The story alternates between flashbacks to childhood (of the documentary’s creator, I can only assume) and the research and interviews related to the day 300,000 young girls simply floated away, never to be seen again. It was a world-wide phenomenon, and one that was quickly covered up. I won’t delve further into the plot than this, as the reader must discover for themselves the meaning. This piece is both beautiful in its ethereal qualities, and horrible in its foundation. I had a hard time classifying this story, though. It starts out reading like soft sf, or possibly fantasy, but ends up neither. This one should be read in groups, and then discussed. Highly recommended.
Technical editing issues aside, “That Hideous Beauty” by Tom Piccirilli is both more and less than it appears to be. As a horror tale, it is less in the sense that nothing really happens here. We have a protagonist who is a disciple of Lucifer, meting out punishment at a mental hospital that is home to a coven of witches. There is a satanic rite, we meet Lucifer (or “Lou” if you will) and justice is served. Now, if you flip the whole thing inside-out and read it as the musings of a mentally ill patient, then it becomes more than a simple horror story. Either way, though, the ending left me wanting. Not “more”—just an actual ending.
Asako, in Steve Rasnic Tem’s story “Stick Men,” gives us a look at what it’s like to live as a young single woman in Japan. The fear that such women feel from the titular “stick men” when riding a cross-town bus is palpable in this story. These fears, passed down from mother to daughter, dominate this tale. There is beautiful prose here, and it gets quite poetic at times, but in the end nothing much happens until the very end. Up to that point it seems pure slipstream to me, but the ending tries to make it horror. Like the previous story, this is pure psychological horror, and as such, very little actually happens in the way of action. While this is the point in this type of tale, I am more of an action-oriented reader, and great writing is not enough to make a great story. Others, though, will find the lack of action perfectly acceptable in this type of story, and for them the beauty in the telling will be more than enough. For those readers, this is recommended.
Kenneth W. Cain’s “A Ring for His Own” is a nicely-done horror story with Lovecraftian flavor, if not exact style. Marshal Ben Donegal of Oakwood is about to find out that wanting is nearly as bad as getting, and when a stranger walks into your town you should probably take notice. Worth the read.
Nina is possessed. The question is what, exactly, has possessed her? Is it the demon of the book Simon found, or Simon himself? Kristi DeMeester, with “To Sleep Long, To Sleep Deep,” has crafted what appears to be a horror story on the surface. As with other entries in this issue, though, just below this layer lurks another tale of a woman abused. There is some fine writing here, and some action for a change, but I come away from this story with a clear sense of “blame the victim.” There is not a single likeable character in this tale, and this led to some piling-on with respect to the protagonist, but there is also a lot buried deep in the prose that is worthy of further discussion.
Clancy Weeks is a composer by training, with over two-dozen published works for wind ensemble and orchestra, and an author only in his fevered imagination. Having read SF/F for nearly fifty years, he figured “What the hell, I can do that,” and has set out to prove that, well… maybe not so much. He currently resides in Texas, but don’t hold that against him.