Reviewed by Adrian Fry
Fusing Horizons is a new horror magazine with all the slightly desperate optimism and pretentious ambition that necessarily entails in a literary climate as receptive to horror as George Bush is to Islamic conversion. It boasts an Editorial, an only somewhat ironically titled 'Philosophical Thesis' and cover art attempting to illustrate said thesis. But if you can smile indulgently through these features - and the makeweight 'interview' with Michael Marshall Smith that is surely only there so his august moniker can appear too prominently on the cover - you'll find a magazine packed with contemporary horror fiction from the literary end of the genre.
Joel Lane kicks things off brilliantly with No Secret Place, an atmospheric slice of bleak urban realism with a supernatural twist. Its the deft characterisation and sense of place that convince here, and the story certainly engaged me from the first line.
Andrew Hook's Only The Lonely is a black comedy introducing us to a man in an unsatisfactory relationship who finds an odd sort of solace in the company of ghost suicides. I certainly enjoyed this story, though wasn't too sure about yet another recapitulation of the romanticisation of suicide.
Ramsey Campbell has a little known story reprinted here. Though I love Campbell's prose style and his almost David Lynchian way with a surreal image, I found this ambiguous story of a film students descent into the clutches of something worse than madness unengaging difficult to understand or relate to. I leave it to more astute readers than myself to decide what The Invocation is all about.
Sara Joan Berniker's Visitation Rights - a story of dysfunctional family life continued beyond and back from the grave - is a crude piece. Its characters struggle to attain one dimension and the writing is insufficiently interesting. The story just didn't seem to belong in this collection.
Darren O Godfrey's Sweet Scream doesn't quite come off but there's an audacity about it I rather like. A fat boy arriving in a new neighbourhood is liberated into a different reality by a new friend and some hallucinogenic drugs. There's a quirky wit to this tale and a refreshing feeling for the pleasure of rhythm in language.
Charlie Williams' Three Units is a well executed story about some unexpected consequences of downsizing which is paced just right - another very black comedy for our times.
Ophelia by John Llewellyn Probert starts with an enigmatic kidnap but ends a little more than a joke about modern art. The author writes well but this is another story that just didn't add up to much, for me.
Sam Hayes' Diversion End concerns hunters and hunted (of the human kind) in a well described frozen English countryside. Hayes manages to capture the contradiction between the smug, comfortable surfaces of country life and the tooth and claw battles going on beneath.
Gary Fry's Flesh of My Flesh, with its stranded protagonist on a walking holiday and the malevolent father and son who come to his 'rescue' is a slight tale, like a drastically abridged The Hills Have Eyes set in Yorkshire.
Ken Loach style realism isn't something you get in a horror magazine too often. Joolz Denby's matter of fact Irish Mary tells the story of a murdered prostitute, one of the street people society insatiably creates and destroys. It's a sad tale we've heard a thousand times: that's the horror of it.
But the best story in this collection by a long mile is Gary McMahon's genuinely terrifying The Forever Doll. A malignant presence resides in a drawing and is rediscovered with horrific consequences. Tapping brilliantly into childhood fears and the talismanic qualities of even the simplest images, this story frightened the hell out of me.
Fusing Horizons also contains a series of Fusing Atoms; short short stories between the longer pieces. These are as variable in quality as you might expect, with only one or two managing to be more than the shiver inducing equivalent of Christmas cracker jokes. It's a feature well worth keeping, however, as it adds to the packed feeling of the collection as whole.
Overall Fusing Horizons # 1 is a great collection of fiction. It really is exciting to read a new horror magazine that doesn't define its perameters too rigidly. While others wax perplexed about the problems of horror, Fusing Horizons is striding bravely over the precipice. Will it fly or fall? Its up to you.
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