Reviewbr> "Captain Trips. Rage. Trixie. Motaba. MEV-1. T-Virus. Writers love wiping out humanity with their evil diseases." -Gary Kemble
Issue 8 of Midnight Echo was released in November 2012 with 130 odd pages of prose, poetry, columns, and a number of interviews. Considering we now know the magazine was in trouble at the time the issue is a salient lesson in how not to attract new subscribers. While the AHWA might have pretensions of literary glory they are missing a very simple point, horror is all about the story, the market is the beer and pretzel down home crowd, musings from the Ivory tower simply don't cut it. Having said that, our lines are open for your complaints and vitriol, there are still some mighty fine stories to be had and moments to enjoy in amongst the chaff and self indulgent seepage that threatens the magazine's future.
The Issue kicks off in fine style, on the prose side of the cover, with Joe R Lansdale's zombie tale A Visit with Friends. Before you ask, yes it is that Lansdale and hell yeah a zombie story that had me high fiving the ghost dog. Lansdale dives into the zombie apocalypse but does so at an angle that really drives home the idea that monsters were already in our midst before the first corpse dug itself out of the grave. Ensuring the local market is well represent Jason Fischer drops Pigroot Flat on us to finish the issue. A zombie tale that is so insanely different that it deserves every accolade and award that comes its way. Zombies just want to have fun, feral pig rampages, and psycho killers. Who let Fischer off the chain with this one? So the issue is the zombie issue right?
Well no, Matt Wedge, a Yank out of Chicago, simply goes backwoods mayhem as only the Seppos can do with the excellent Blissful Ignorance. This yarn of Hillbilly religious fanaticism has a real sting in the tail, folk who have read the story will see what I did there. I'm pretty sure Clive Barker would have been high fiving Pinhead after reading this one. Once again the home team replies with Jason Nahrung's Hello Kitty, a tale that could have been dragged kicking and screaming from the pages of Creepy magazine. Nahrung mixes in the Ocker Bogan with some thoughts on revenge and supernatural payback, its awesome stuff and worth the price of admission on its own.
I never really got the handle on Michelle Jager's Jar Baby, that's either one confused bit of writing that doesn't make things apparent to us pretzel eaters or an absolutely brilliant tale that hits the psychological multiple interpretation train to debate City. Your call there, solid piece of writing for mine, recommended read. To lighten the load Andrew J. McKiernan delivers They Don't Know That We Know What They Know, a devilishly twisted tale that had me humming the theme tune to, great story.
Surprisingly, and I guess this is a bit of a feather in Midnight Echo's hat Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee, yes that Ketchum and that McKee, are included with Squirrely Shirley, another backwards fable from North America. While I can dig the writing the actual yarn didn't work for me for some reason. I had more fun with Kathryn Hore's Tooth, which manages to mix in a couple of horror tropes to good effect. I particularly like how this tale took the normal horror dental thing and twisted the drill in the opposite direction. A fine piece of writing that the Author can be justifiably proud of, she got anything else released to the wild?
Now I was very pleased with a couple of different aspects to this Issue that show Executive Editor Marty Young is at least thinking of widening the magazine's appeal. Andrew J. McKiernan delivered Black Roads, Dark Highways, which examined the Min Min lights phenomena occurring in outback Oz. Liked how he examined the different explanations, which include car headlights and glow worms, while pointing out the mystery can't be blithely explained away. Gary Kemble in Facts, Fiction & Fever delved into the actuality of pan epidemics devastating the human race, cool stuff right there. I can dig some exploration of the horror back story. ScaryMinds also supports the comic form in a big way. Mark Farrugia and Greg Chapman to the fore there with a serialised comic, and a new column by Farrugia named Pix and Panels. Fingers crossed Farrugia gets out on the streets and covers some of the leading lights in the local dark genre script and art world.
Unfortunately that's about it for the good news week on the issue. We get a rundown on why the invited Editors did this issue and I'm afraid as opposed to previous columns this one just comes off as self congratulatory and really does nothing to enhance the experience the reader is going to get with the magazine. Worse yet poetry has expanded from a few poems to a few poems plus a poetry column. Are they really trying to sell this magazine to a wider audience or is it simply an exercise in literary masturbation? While I'm sure there are people out there who dig poetry the most, and all power to them, they would number a very small percentage in horror circles. I only have anecdotal evidence on this of course, but the reactions this site has had to the mere hint of poetry would indicate you lose sales by its inclusion. As one person who I question about it put it, "all the poets are writing music now dude". Sorry to be a negative Nelly here, but Midnight Echo is fighting for its existence, some tough love called for right about now.
On a positive note I rather enjoyed Geoff Brown's, then President of the AHWA, spin on the issue. Now there's a guy who is either putting his best foot forward or is viewing things through rose coloured sunglasses. The future ain't that bright for the genre as a whole Brother judging from recent cinema results, has everyone abandoned cinema and reading for the small screen? But I have to say Mr Brown got to where he was going with a minimum of fuss and a positive spin on things, now that's what I want to read in a magazine!
So issue eight of Midnight Echo for mine was a nadir in the magazine's at times rich heritage, calling a spade a spade here, and this is one person's opinion end of day. Besides some excellent stories, non-fiction, and the for me at least the highly anticipated report in from Sinister Reads, there was a whole bunch of stuff in the magazine that I skimmed through, did a face palm over, or simply glanced at and moved along. If the AHWA are fair dinkum about the magazine then they need to take a long hard look at themselves and realise the magazine's future will rest with the fanbase outside of the AHWA membership. For mine the magazine is an invaluable guide to what Writers are coming through, where some established writers are at, and more importantly what is coming our way in terms of new releases. The magazine should entertain, I'm a beer and pretzel dude, and even this issue did that, get your copy and support the local industry folks.
[Editor's Note: I liken the demise of Midnight Echo to the fall from grace of the Green movement, on going and sad to see. You let the left in with their agendas and suddenly your support starts declining. Just adding my 20c to the coin jar on top of the fridge]
Midnight Echo is available from the official site and at around $12.50 AUD for the print version is value for money. Back issues are available for purchase, so you are pretty much covered there.
Finally mention goes to the art team of Glenn Chadbourne, Greg Chapman, Chris Mars, and David Schembri outstanding work once again making Issue 8 a pleasure to journey through.