by the 2010 Sunburst Award Jury
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"Bleak, stark and creepy, Stoker-winner Nickle's first collection will delight the literary horror reader...
...A jarring cover illustration by Erik Mohr prepares the reader for 13 terrifying tales of rural settings, complex and reticent characters and unexpected twists that question the fundamentals of reality. All are delivered with a certain grace, creating a sparse yet poetic tour of the horrors that exist just out of sight...
-Publisher's Weekly, starred review
These stories work so well in part because of Nickle's facility with the language of the place he's created. He is comfortable writing in different voices, including that of a nearly illiterate young woman in the excellent "Janie and the Wind," and he knows the idiom of his semi-rural environment..."
-Alex Good in Quill & Quire, starred review
"Ghosts, Vampires, mythical beasts and circus sideshows. You’d think that you were reading a book full of what you had always expected a horror story to be, but Nickle takes a left turn and blindsides you with tales that are not of the norm, but are all the more horrific because of surprise twists, darkness and raw emotion."
-January Magazine, in Best Books of 2009: Fiction
" Monstrous Affections is an absolutely brilliant collection and easily one of the most satisfying books of the past few years ... marking David Nickle as one the most talented writers to emerge from Canada in the last 10 years."
"Even though this is the third or fourth time that I’ve read some of these tales, they’ve lost none of their power through the passage of time or the rigors of repeated study. In particular, “The Sloan Men” ... and “The Pit-Heads” ... qualify as genre classics, resonating with a disconcerting sense of not-quite-right otherness."
-Robert Morrish, at Twilightridge.net
"David Nickle writes 'em damned weird and damned good and damned dark.
He is bourbon-rough, poetic and vivid. Don't miss this one."
-Cory Doctorow, author of Makers
-Karl Schroeder, author of Sun of Suns
"Nickle ... writes with a journalist's unflinching eye and a ghastly inventiveness that can make you queasy. This is not comfortable coffee-table horror; this is the real deal."
-John McDaid, Sturgeon-award-winning author
-Peter Watts, author of Blindsight
Look, we understand.
You see the cover of this book, and you think:
What am I supposed to do with a fellow like this?
How will I feel about that?
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That's a good question. You don't have to kiss him, after all. Not if you don't like what he has to offer.
But you do owe it to yourself to see.
Here's a sampler of the 13 stories in Monstrous Affections, my collection of short fiction now available from ChiZine Publications.
There's not much more than a paragraph for most of them. But some of them you can read in their entirety. Some of them you can listen to, on Pseudopod. In the end, it all might just help you to decide:
How will I feel about that?
Mrs. Sloan had only three fingers
on her left hand, but when she drummed them against the countertop,
the tiny polished bones at the end of the fourth and fifth stumps clattered
like fingernails. If Judith hadn’t been looking, she wouldn’t have
noticed anything strange about Mrs. Sloan’s hand.
Janie and the Wind
The eaves of Mr. Swayze’s island lodge rattled like soup bones loose in a bin. There was a wind up—a wind roaring across the bay that shook the eaves—a wind that’d knock you down where you stood, if you hadn’t a grip on something solid. It’d knock you down like Janie’d been knocked down herself not long past; except Janie’d have been able to get up right away if it were just the wind, and not her husband Ernie who’d done it to her.
Night of the Tar Baby
A nasty breeze caught the fumes off the still-bubbling tar pot and brought them along the shortest route it could find into Shelly’s nostrils. It was the foulest thing that Shelly had ever smelled; tar fumes stank like distilled pain, a kick in the gut or a smack across the ear, and they made her cough when they reached down into her lungs. At the sound she made, her brother Blaine punched her hard in the side.
Other People’s Kids
“The trouble with places like this,” said my sister Lenore, “is other people’s kids.”
The Mayor Will Make a Brief Statement and Then Take Questions
“The death of a child affects all of us deeply. We are a community of parents, of brothers and of sisters, of friends and neighbours. Any child lost is a loss for us all.
Paul Peletier and I drove up to Cobalt one last time, about seven years ago. It was my idea. Should have been Paul’s—hell, almost two decades before that it was his idea, going to Cobalt to paint the pit-heads—but lately he hadn’t been painting, hadn’t been out of his house to so much as look in so long, he was convinced he didn’t have any more ideas.
We were cuing up tape for another run at “Black Mountain Side” when Steve set down his sticks, got up, answered the door-chime. Cool lake air wafted in through the empty doorway and blew the funk of weed and beer and slide lube from living room clear to kitchen. Steve couldn't see who was there. Then he knelt down, and not looking back, reported:
“It’s a fish.”
The Inevitability of Earth
When Michael was just a kid, Uncle Evan made a movie of Grandfather. He used an old eight-millimetre camera that wound up with a key and had three narrow lenses that rotated on a plate. Michael remembered holding the camera. It was supposedly lightweight for its time, but in his six-year-old hands, it seemed like it weighed a ton. Uncle Evan had told him to be careful with it; the camera was a precision instrument, and it needed to be in good working order if the movie was going to be of any scientific value.
Swamp Witch and the Tea-Drinking Man
Swamp witch rode her dragonfly into town Saturday night, meaning to see old Albert Farmer one more time. Albert ran the local smoke and book, drove a gleaming red sports car from Italy, and smiled a smile to run an iceberg wet. Many suspected he might be the Devil’s kin and swamp witch allowed as that may have been so; yet whether he be Devil or Saint, swamp witch knew Albert Farmer to be the kindest man in the whole of Okehole County. Hadn’t he let her beat him at checkers that time? Didn’t he smile just right? Oh yes, swamp witch figured she’d like to keep old Albert Farmer awhile and see him this night.
The Delilah Party
Mitchell Owens spent much of his seventeen years a quiet boy, sitting very still in the darkest part of a very dark room. Most people could not figure him out, and as far as Mitchell was concerned, the feeling was mutual.
Fly in Your Eye
It drifts through your vision, a detached retina on patrol. You blink, you rub your temples, you think about seeing the eye doctor real soon. But you look again, and you realize, no, you were wrong. There’s nothing remotely retinal about this thing. Six stickly legs, disco-ball eyes, a big hairy ass, brown-tinted wings stretched akimbo. Just looking through ’em makes you want to scratch.
The horror in the sawmill wasn’t far from his mind the night he saw the giant. He’d thought about it briefly in Los Angeles, after he saw the telegram announcing his father’s death. He considered the slow swing of barn-board doors across the mill’s great black belly, each of the three times he’d had to stop to change flat tires on his brand new Ford Coupe. He thought about it again, stopped in the afternoon sun at the top of a steep slope just west of the Idaho line, to deal with his boiled-over radiator. The water steaming from under the hood made him think about how the rainwater dripped from the tackle and chains in the sawmill’s rafters as he lay face-down in damp sawdust. He retched yellow bile into the roadside dirt and started, maybe, to cry. The horror of that night was clearer in his mind then than it had been for years.
Wallace Gleason walked alone that day.