I’m an admitted novel junkie. I’ve always preferred the full feature length of literary engagement and spending days immersed in the other world of a good book. I’ve also been accused of being too much of a *gasp* speed-reader. As if the haste with which I feel compelled to devour the words on a page (so much to read, so little time) belies my full comprehension or enjoyment of the work! Pshaw!
That said, Gemma Files‘ collections of short stories have introduced me to an entirely different kind of fictional immersion. Thick with poetic gore they are meant to be slowly savored and rolled around in small doses so the scent of her work can remain in your brain. I picked up a copy of Kissing Carrion from the coffee table of a horror-loving friend about four years ago and I foolishly tried reading it in one sitting; front-to-back, novel chapter style. I learned the hard way (seriously, I hurt my head!) that Gemma’s stories each require a certain amount of space to linger and resonate before switching gears to the next blood-soaked gem. (I don’t think I’ll ever get the titled story “Kissing Carrion” and her meat-puppets out of my brain.)
I knowingly (and willingly!) took my sweet time with the next collection, The Worm in Every Heart. The introduction by Nancy Kilpatrick echoes my sentiment, “Her work may leave you breathless. It could awaken realms within. At times you may sit stunned, wondering at the richness of writing, reconnecting to the reasons you have always loved to read.” This collection of fifteen stories (including her previously published International Horror Guild Award winning short, “Emperor’s Old Bones”) spans a wide range of settings and explores unique twists on classic horror themes – vampires, monsters, and magic mix with science, madmen, and world wars.
To deliver you a cross section of all the shorts would take volumes (and the fun out of your own discovery) but here’s a taste of the story “Ring of Fire” set in 1857 India:
“For madness had always lain dormant in him, the hidden loot in his genetic plum-pudding…”
“…it made him smile at her in such a warm and reassuring manner that she wept to see him, thinking him an angel — before cutting open her belly with his bayonet and thrusting his penis inside the slippery bag of her bladder until both their groins were stiff with urine, blood and semen.”
So, if you’re a novel snob (like I was) I hope I’ve tempted you to give Gemma’s collections a try. They may be tiny tales but they pack a huge gory wallop. The perfect length for bed-time stories, don’t you think? Sweet, blood-drippy dreams… (heh heh)