Fear Itself – James K Moran’s short story collection of horror and sexuality, naming the thing that must not be named
With Fear Itself, Canadian author James K Moran picks up where he left off after his promising horror debut novel, Town & Train. This new collection of stories is a special blend of horror, with a soupçon of fantasy and sci-fi, including nine stories in all, a ghost novelette, and story notes. Many pieces have a clear local Canadian setting and feature LGBTQI+ protagonists. While they generally do not meet tragic, pulpy ends, the characters do not make it out unscathed, either.
The collection opens with the appropriately named “Glimpses Through the Trees”, in which a young straight couple find themselves on the run from something they can glimpse fleetingly, but can’t really see. From there the chills grow.
There is a lot of interplay among differently gendered couples that plays into Moran’s take on sexuality and horror. And where there is sexuality, seduction is never far behind. In “James Harker Tries to Have the Talk”, a provocatively shape-shifting demon summoned through an incantation ceremony plays mind games to get the young protagonist to declare his sexual preference once and for all. And good luck to it.
Nor is Moran above a literary touch, as in “Crag Face”, with its sly nod to the beat generation, when a giant from another dimension wreaks havoc on the protagonist as he makes his way to a funeral. The story, almost an exorcism, serves as an homage to real-life school friends and acquaintances, as Moran explains in an author’s note. In fact, each of the stories is followed by the author’s thoughts on their making. While these are normally the sort of things kept in private diaries, it’s as though Moran is so enthusiastic about his work that he can’t resist sharing just a little more.
In “Squared Away”, a creature with a vendetta against the entire human race (and who doesn’t have one these days?) lives in a box in the basement of a wine-store chain outlet. As the protagonist explores the store’s nether regions, he recalls a series of unexplained disappearances that may in fact have a direct connection here.
It’s at this point that the reader may feel a twinge of sympathy for the chorus of demonic forces called into being, whether summoned through wormholes, incantations in a grimoire, or, in the highly amusing “Monitored”, a nursery monitor. In either case, it’s clear the non-demonic characters must face their share of blame for the dangers brought about by their insatiable curiosity.
These are fun and highly relatable stories — the sort you can see yourself in. All the better to freak yourself out with as the author tries to fathom the malevolence lurking in the darkest corners of our minds, always on the lookout for that spine-tingling something as we contemplate the unimaginable. Whether you are seeking the child in your adult or you are an adult seeking to revert to childhood, Moran’s infectious delight in the macabre and the purely inventive will have you taking this journey at his side.
Available from LETHE PRESS
With Fear Itself, readers will discover sea serpents among the roiling waters of the St. Lawrence River under a dilapidated international bridge; a misguided bi mage negotiating with a demon he accidentally summoned into his dorm; a baby monitor issuing the voice of an inter-dimensional dark god; a couple in Picton County fleeing an ancient entity they cannot see directly that demands a blood sacrifice; queer ghosts haunting a British nightclub; two salty old ranch hands outside Lethbridge, Alberta, betting on who is a better shot in what may be the apocalypse; a shape-changing huckster seducing apathetic suburbanites; a gay rare-collectibles hunter hunted by a being moving between the Internet, film, and fact; a cat-fished giant marauding the backroads of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry counties; a gay wine shop manager discovering more than a dusty Moscato lurking in the musty basement; and a pterodactyl loose downtown.
Table of Contents
“Glimpses Through the Trees”
“James Harker Tries to Have the Talk”
“Living Under the Conditions”
“Carl and Monty’s Prairie Wager”
“A Canadian Ghost in London”
Paperback, cover design by Inkspiral
Interior design by Ryan Vance
James K Moran’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Canadian, American and British publications including Burly Tales: Fairy Tales for the Hirsute and Hefty Gay Man, bywords.ca, Glitterwolf, Icarus, and On Spec. Moran’s articles and reviews have appeared via CBC Radio, Daily Xtra!, Plenitude, Rue Morgue and Strange Horizons. He founded the Little Workshop of Horrors, an Ottawa writers’ group that carves speculative and literary work into the shape it is meant to be. He also runs Queer Speculations, which workshops 2SLGBTQ+ or queer-themed stories from far and wide. He is findable at jameskmoran.blogspot.ca and @jkmoran on Twitter. He lives on the unceded Territory of the Anishinabe Algonquin Nation, now called Ottawa.
About the Author
Jeffrey Round is an award-winning author, filmmaker, and songwriter. His breakout novel, A CAGE OF BONES, was listed on AfterElton’s 50 Best Gay Books. LAKE ON THE MOUNTAIN, the first of seven Dan Sharp mysteries, won a Lambda Award in 2013. His latest book is the poetry collection THREADS from Beautiful Dreamer Press. His fifteenth novel, THE SULPHUR SPRINGS CURE, will be published by Cormorant books in 2024. www.jeffreyround.com