Reviewed by Jim Steel

There's a Sparks song called Thank God It's Not Christmas which is so laden with sleigh bells that it is still an uncomfortable listen in August. It's weird the way some things work. Here is a special Halloween issue of Cemetery Dance. However, it was delayed and didn't come out until February or so. Of course, it was a while after that before I got a review copy, and I'm not the quickest writer in the world, so you're probably reading this sometime in September. And then you've got to order it and await its arrival. It's nearly Halloween again. But the great advantage of Halloween fiction is that it can be enjoyed at any time of year. Isn't horror wonderful?

Cemetery Dance is a big, bulky magazine that's printed on pulpy newsprint. It seems to have been around forever and, since there's a lot to look at, we'll get cracking with the fiction. First up is Charlee Jacob's The Sticks, which is set in an uncanny swamp town where, every Halloween, the parents dress up and go from door to door. Eventually they pick one house and take away the children. It's told from the point of view of two of the children and is very, very creepy. Jacobs then takes it to the next step. Would you let your children be taken away? And, of course, is there a reason for this bizarre ritual? It's a brilliant story and should turn up in Year's Best collections, but there is also a harrowing interview with Jacobs. How this writer finds the strength to write is beyond me. Anyone who prevaricates about writing should read this. They will shrivel up with shame.

White Pumpkins by David Prill is another stormer. Every Halloween, after all the kids are off the streets, a strange, raggedy woman trick-or-treats the narrator. Every year she seems a little worse off, and he tries to rescue her and bring her inside from whatever seasonal hell she has found herself trapped inside. Aside from the odd, misplaced, flippant comment, it's a wonderful, warm story. It's curious that the first two stories have adults taking the children's roles, but they are as different as it is possible to imagine.

A.R. Molan's Holes deals with a little boy's curiosity about women. He disguises himself and sneaks into a female toilet to find out just exactly what goes on. It's a very unusual effective story. The title reveals the objective. Stephen Graham Jones's Father, Son, Holy Rabbit also has, in retrospect, a revealing title, especially for those of a certain religious persuasion. A father and son are lost and starving in the woods but manage to trap the same rabbit over and over. Again, the theme is one that shows up in another story later in the magazine.

That Lovely Land Of Might-Have-Been by Paul G. Bens, Jr. is a well-observed piece of contemporary mundane horror cast as a children's fairytale, but when the destination is this visible, is the journey really necessary? Jack Slay, Jr. contributes a series of linked Halloween vignettes, and Michael McBride and James Cooper & Andrew Jury contribute a couple of sturdy stories, but the remaining story, C. Dean Anderson's The Death Wagon Rolls On By rises above its clumsy title to become one of the issue's highlights. The Death Wagon is the vehicle that removes dead animals from farms and roads, and two road workers become more and more familiar with it as the story goes on.

There is a massive amount of non-fiction. An entire column is dedicated to following activities in the world of Stephen King, for a start. Thomas F. Monteleone does a Harlan Ellison-lite column, and there are high quality reviews for more books than you will have time to read. And much more besides. Cemetery Dance. It's not just for Halloween.

Cemetery Dance edited by Robert Morrish and published by Cemetery Dance Publications, 132-B Industry Lane, Unit #7, Forest Hill, MD 210050, USA. A4 116pp, $5.00 or $27.00/6 (non-US rates, see website).


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