Tom Johnstone, How I Learned the Truth About Krampus. Eibonvale Press, 2017. Pp. 36. ISBN 978-1-908125-58-3. £6.00.
Reviewed by Andy Sawyer
A young academic researching folkloric traditions becomes fascinated by the figure of Krampus, the horned monstrous companion to St Nicholas who, in Austrian tradition, punishes naughty children. We are reading his letter to his wife, written as he is awaiting arrest: their baby has disappeared; and the narrator is attempting to explain (and/or justify) what really happened following his trip to Germany to follow up the work of an expert on Central European folklore whose work was excluded from the most important work on traditional folk performance customs. He learns that Holger, the German academic had, apparently, strayed too far into the territory of "what one might call cryptozoology." Holger's former partner Claudia takes the narrator into the Tyrol, where they find Holger's tent and a weird, intricate carving which he takes back to England and gives to his fiancée. After their marriage, dreams of her "straddling" the monstrous carving, which sometimes bears the face of the narrator's friend Mike, sometimes his own face, haunt him. When their child is born his wrinkled skin and deep black eyes remind him of something he saw in Germany. The police have their own theory…
Scott Gable & C. Dombrowski (edd.), Ride the Star Wind: Cthulhu, Space Opera, and the Cosmic Weird. Broken Eye Books, 2017. Pp. ix+445. ISBN 978-1-940372-25-9. $23.99.
Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad
Gable and Dombrowski have edited several science fiction and horror anthologies for Broken Eye Books, several of them on Lovecraftian or “Cthulhu Mythos” themes. Ride the Star Wind is in this tradition, bringing together twenty-nine short stories that combine elements of Weird, space opera in the truest, far-future, laser-gun, television traditions, and the claustrophobic, existential terror in the face of the true alien: the alien that is like a god that cares no more for us than we care for the wellbeing of potatoes or ethical behavior of nematodes. In fact—and this is no criticism—this blend of cosmic and weird is not so unusual (in either space opera or Cthulhu circles), but it sure is a fun genre, so it’s always good to see more stories and anthologies like this. There is a striking variety of content in Ride the Star Wind, from gutsy horror, gritty war, grueling dystopian, through goofy comedy and nightmarish surrealism, such that most readers will find something to tickle their fancy. While to my taste there were only a couple of excellent and a few very good pieces, a relatively light dusting of brilliance on what is an unusually thick anthology of stories, there are no absolute stinkers or lead balloons in this volume.