"Children who are not yet one year old are buried" - Uddab
In 2011 Fablecroft Publications issued an e-collection in order to raise money for those affected by the floods that had ravaged the State of Queensland and made their presence known further south in New South Wales and Victoria. Naturally this lead to a more rounded out print release of fifteen stories based upon the theme of what happens after the rain stops. While the collection is more speculative fiction rather than out and out horror there's still enough of the dark stuff to perk our interest. Let's shake the rain off the umbrella and see what editor Wessely drops on our plates.
There were a couple of traps I had expected Wessely to fall into during the course of the book. Firstly I expected a collection full of stories covering Australia's sometimes violent environment, a sort of literary aussie aussie aussie, oi oi oi, if you will. Thankfully while Wessely includes any number of stories with a local flavour and feeling she also includes stories set well beyond these fatal shores, thus adding interest and depth to proceedings that might not otherwise have been there. No offensive to the Authors setting their yarns in amongst the gumtrees, but the old outback dust has been recycled too many times in both film and printed form to yield much in the way of original gold. Dave Luckett with Powerplant goes beyond the confines of planet earth in an out and out Sci-Fi romp that would provide a good basis for a movie, while in one of the standout stories of the collection Europe After The Rain Lee Battersby travels to Dresden post Second World War firebombing to touch on Jewish mythology. Naturally there are locally set stories to have you humming the National anthem, Sally Newham hits something new with My Flood Husband that throws an interesting twist on things.
The other issue I felt that would trip Wessely up would be the overall theme and finding stories that fitted directly into the scheme of things. Here I believe things went slightly off the rails as any number of stories are simply paying lip service to the theme via throw away lines and inclusions that really don't center on what the collection is reportedly about. One feels rain, either metaphorically or empirically, should have been the driving concept of a lot more of the stories. Whether or not this is a moot point I'll leave to the individual reader.
While the collection does deviate widely from the normal fodder of this site, Jason Nahrung includes an excellent cyberpunk outing Wet Work for example, there still are enough stories hitting the dark streets to keep us entertained. When the Bone Men Come, Peter Cooper, sees a good old fashion romp through revenant land, Peter M. Ball resurrects the Daikaiju aesthetic in Visitors, and once again Europe After The Rain sees Lee Battersby visiting with a traditional monster. For sure you are going to get your dark coin worth, just don't expect tales of psycho killers, vampires, or lycanthropes, though Lyn Battersby goes closest with the biblically inclined Daughters of the Deluge.
In keeping with either some feeling of political correctness, or just to keep things interesting, Editor Wessely also goes beyond the expected Koori tales or solely focusing on White Australia and the fear of the foreigner, both key themes in dark genre literature in this Country. Besides Lee Battersby's excellent entry (which I'm going to avoid mentioning a third time), we get the Chinese orientated shocker When the Bone Men Come by Peter Cooper, and the Nepal orientated Fruit of the Pipal Tree Thoraiya Dyer. So for those who simply must have some variety in their horror salad Editor Wessely has you covered. I'm actually surprised no one decided the collection needed a tale of Brit backpackers in peril, must have been an oversight.
So overall you get a collection that contains some pretty good writing, a couple of standout stories that pretty much make the book worth laying down the hard earns for, and a mixture of speculative genres that may or may not appeal to ScaryMinds readers who are after some howling on the moors. After initially thinking Wessely's offering might not have too much to offer me I ended up grooving to the beat and having a good time between the covers. Guarded recommendation on this one, if after out and out horror you are in the wrong place, but if waiting something to dial into on a wet Sunday afternoon then dig it. Did I mention Lee Battersby's piece?
You can score a copy of After the Rain via Fablecroft's Online Shop for $25.95 (AUD), a Smashwords ebook will set you back $9.95 (USD), or once again via the link you can head on down to one of the listed bookstores. Anyone ever heard of "Infinitas", the listed Sydney store? If they are covering small Press Australian releases might check them out.