Review: “Beautiful/Grotesque” edited by Sam Richard

Buy it here:

Godless, Weirdpunk Books, Amazon

Synopsis:

Five authors of strange fiction, Roland Blackburn (Seventeen Names For Skin), Jo Quenell (The Mud Ballad), Katy Michelle Quinn (Winnie), Joanna Koch (The Wingspan of Severed Hands), and Sam Richard (Sabbath of the Fox-Devils) each bring you their own unique vision of the macabre and the glorious violently colliding. From full-on hardcore horror to decadently surreal nightmares, and noir-fueled psychosis, to an eerie meditation on grief, and familial quiet horror, Beautiful/Grotesque guides us through the murky waters where the monstrous and the breathtaking meet.

They are all beautiful. They are all grotesque.

Review:

Beautiful/Grotesque is something of a different anthology for WeirdPunk Books, who have done previous anthology inspired by the Misfits, G.G. Allin, and David Cronenberg. This is an anthology assembled and edited by Sam Richard, inspired by the image of a Zdzisław Beksiński work “Untitled Drawing, 1968.” The idea was that approached some of his friends and authors formerly published by WeirdPunk Books to write stories on this theme. The five stories in this anthology really showcases the level of talent and horror that WeirdPunk Books is consistently releasing. I have read and reviewed all but one of these authors and it is fitting to just go through each story.

“God of the Silvered Halls” by Roland Blackburn

The author of Seventeen Names for Skin, starts off the collection with a strong, traditional horror story. I could see this as comparable to someone like Joe Hill or Josh Malerman. Blackburn delivers a strong, well written, and fun horror story about a medical examiner who gets too involved with a strange case of a woman hit by a train.  

“Threnody” by Jo Quenell

Jo Quenell offers a story about a woman hired to sing at a dead child’s funeral. The story is about transition and grief, and if you have read Jo Quenell’s novella, Mud Ballad, you will recognize that there is a little bit of grime in every story that she tells. 

“The Queen of the Select” by Katy Michelle Quinn

I have read one story by Katy Michelle Quinn (“Mall Goth Lazerdick Explode-A-Thon III” in the anthology LAZERMALL.) Her entry here, “The Queen of the Select,” follows a cop who goes to private parties to have sex with transgender women, and the guilt and anger he feels about this desire. This makes for a gut-wrenching, devastating extreme horror story. It is hard to choose my favorite story in this collection, but this is the one that brought the most emotions out of me.

“Swanmord” by Joanna Koch

This is by the author of The Wingspan of Severed Hands, and based on this novella, I expected it to be surreal, confusing, and stunning. I was not disappointed. This is the story of Hayden and Trillious, partners in a slippery narrative about love and transformation. Koch’s writing is difficult yet rewarding in the ability to make you think long after the story is over.

“The Fruit of a Barren Tree” by Sam Richard

The final story in this short collection is by Splatterpunk Award-winning author Sam Richard. Most of his writing is saturated with grief and loss, but he has a way of writing that makes us feel all of the things the characters are feeling. This is the most somber story in the collection, and a great way to end the anthology. 

As a whole, if you have read any of these authors or any of the books published by WeirdPunk Books, Beautiful/Grotesque fits right in with the rest. If you have not read these authors before, I can say that this is a great representation of the types of stories that they tell. Sam Richard has said before that he is going to be working on more short anthologies like this, and if he continues gathering stories with this level of quality, he will continue to find success as one of the premiere indie publishers of great horror.

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