Midnight Echo - Issue 2 June 2009

Editors Angela Challis, Shane Jiraija Cummings
Publisher Australian Horror Writers Association
Length 90 pages


I was as excited as an Easter bride to get my hands on issue two of the amazingly strong Midnight Echo magazine. As promised in issue one for the second one we got new editors with different ideas on what the magazine should contain. I was actually pretty sure I would be in good hands as the Perth dynamic duo of Angela Challis and Shane Jiraija Cummings strode to the middle to face the music. If you have ever read one of Brimstone Press's excellent anthologies then you will know what I mean. As darkness descended, unfortunately it wasn't a stormy night, I cracked open a good bottle of Aussie red, opened the magazine to page one, and settled in for what promised to be a funky ride to the heart of scare town Oz.

Issue two is eight pages or so shorter than the first edition, but given the miniscule price tag 90 pages presents excellent value for money. The artwork through out reflects Art Director David Schembri's commitment to quality and thematic style, with everything mixed and matched to perfection. You really have to say the magazine presents as a solid piece of art work in and of itself. This time round, and guess this is what you are reading the review for, we get fourteen original stories, no poetry, an interview with up and comer Jason Crowe (ironically published for the first time in this issue of Midnight Echo, just prior to receiving an acceptance letter from Shroud magazine), and just to ensure you will go home contented with life an editorial by Shane Jiraija Cummings himself. Once again I need to reiterate that presents amazingly good value for money and considering the high standard of the stories in the issue, an offer simply too good to miss.

Slipping into the magazine proper we first come up with the editorial. Cummings presents a pretty good argument as to what he and Angela Challis were after for the issue, a largely Australian voice, and then strangely includes two stories from U.S speculative writer Kurt Newton. I've got no idea what the slush pile is like for Midnight Echo, I would imagine growing to daikaiju size and threatening to engulf the AHWA offices though, so I'm hoping we aren't seeing a trend of increasing foreign content. First and foremost the magazine should remain as a show case for Down Under writers though I have to admit, through gritted teeth, the two pieces by Newton were worthy of inclusion. With an increasing number of Aussies and Kiwis crashing the North American publishing block party I guess we can shoulder arms and let this one pass through to the keeper.

Once again issue two is sans advertising but I do note the AHWA are starting to offer space for anyone wanting to run quarter page, half page, or full page copy to promote their products, websites, or whatever. The tariff on advertising space is cheaper than a night up the Cross so if after some promotion then check out the AHWA website. Thinking of a half page advert myself though I'll have to run that past a couple of people.

Okay so we get fourteen stories and the writing is once again of a high standard, what entries stood out for me? Joanne Anderton's first person narrative Shadow of Drought simply enthralled me from first word to last word. Anderton manages to conjure up the drought affecting the rural Australian bush and is so economical yet provocative with her story that I had to read it twice to get the full nuances contained in the tale. The writer manages to tie in rural suicide, an epidemic in Australia, with the continuing drought, and follows a fine horror lineage from Shirley Jackson's The Lottery through The Wickerman. Please note when I mention The Wickerman I am referring to the original movie not the one featuring Nicky Cage in a bear suit kicking lesbians in the bum left, right, and center.

Bob Franklin surprises with the retro horror Bag Limit, you could well imagine this having been used by either Creepy magazine or Tales From the Crypt in a by gone era. I was grooving along to the vibe in this story through the conclusion is sort of dragging itself through the mud from about the mid point. If anyone wants to do a Down Under Masters of Horror pencil this story in.

Continuing Midnight Echo's nasty side from the first issue Shaun Jeffrey hits the reader right between the eyes with his flash piece Sweet Music, which has a pretty effective twist in the tale.

And of course Felicity Dowker fresh from a Ditmar win in the new talent category doesn't disappoint with her second Midnight Echo contribution The Emancipated Dance. Apparently Dowker is writing post feminist horror fiction, whatever that means, I'm simply going to state she writes a bloody good horror yarn that entertains. While noting the feminist angle, a battered wife is the protagonist and her relationship with her husband is presented in hushed tones, almost as a whisper of something we don't discuss in polite conversation, the story remains a pretty blood drenched tale of the macabre. Reflecting the dark knight of U.S horror Edgar Alan Poe, Dowker has a crow providing the motivation, doth quote the crow "walk, walk", before hitting the primordial feminine with a scene simply charged with imagery.

As stated up the top there isn't a single weak story in Midnight Echo issue two, so pony up and decide which ones you liked best, we can then argue relative merits over a couple of beers.

Once again I felt with issue two that there was something missing, namely a letters to the editor page, and an article on some aspect of the horror scene Down Under. Clearly we are dealing with a show case for short stories and flash pieces but an expansion into other areas would be worth a shot in my opinion.

Issue two of Midnight Echo continues the great foundation laid by issue one. Once again, and this is the third time I've said this don't you people listen? - it's great value for money, maintains a commitment to professionalism, and brings to the average reader even more names to search out in the coming weeks. I had an enjoyable few hours reading the magazine from cover to cover, and am now something of a junkie for the magazine. Given the bi-annual publishing schedule we should all have issue three in our grubby mitts come December, lock me in baby!

Midnight Echo is a publication from The Australian Horror Writers Association. Australian Horror

Issue 2 can be purchased from lulu.com clicky, as either a pdf download for $3.50USD or a softcover magazine $12.95USD (plus shipping).

Story submissions are welcome, see Midnight Echo for details.

Please note neither ScaryMinds or MovieHeretic have an association with Midnight Echo or the AHWA. We receive no remuneration from sales of the magazine. The review of the second issue has been published as a service to readers from the wider horror community world wide.

Oh and go and buy a copy of issue two and if you haven't done so already a copy of issue one.