When I was a young queerling reading any and all science fiction and/or horror tales voraciously, I always looked for any collection with “omnibus” in the title because I knew I’d get an immense volume stuffed with all kinds of goodies. Vince Liaguno’s Unspeakable Horror 2 reminded me very much of those books. At twenty stories, you can sink your teeth into this book and either gnash your way through like a starving man at a banquet or savor each one. And there’s much to savor here.
Liaguno’s introduction is well-written and concise, giving a nod to the first volume while putting this one into context. He also gives some history of the project, a move I never really understood until I edited a few anthologies of my own (it’s such a wonderful yet frustrating process, someone ought to hear about the struggle) and follows that up with some interesting information about each story.
I was most happy to see some reliable tale-tellers in the Table of Contents such as Marshall Moore, whose “Underground” brings the minotaur to life again. Stalwart Lee Thomas also makes an appearance with “The Grief Season,” an exquisitely wrought story about a foreboding physical manifestation of that emotion. And I don’t think any modern queer horror anthology would be complete without a selection from Tom Cardamone, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of times. His NYC-centric “Bent on Midnight Frolic” takes us deep into Central Park’s Ramble to follow the exploits of one Golden Boy, a trick who’s not exactly a treat. Historical and romantic fiction author Erastes is also on hand to delight us with the short but punchy “Fugitive Colors,” and Evan J. Peterson takes us inside the business world to find out who’s really underneath those suits and ties in “Investment Opportunity.”
As my duties at Out in Print send me far and wide over more than a few genres, I haven’t had the time or resources to delve as far into queer horror fiction as the little queerling referenced above would like, so I have missed or am just reading for the first time some authors Liaguno has had some experience with. So Lisa Morton’s chilling “Ofrenda,” about a meth addict in a graveyard on Dia de los Muertos, Michael Hacker’s twisty-ending “Clearing Clutter,” and R.B. Payne’s atmospheric “The Sisterhood” were total surprises, as was Gemma Files’s shiver-inducing “Lagan.”
But one of the most powerful stories here is Stephen Graham Jones’s “Kissyface,” an absolutely kick-ass story about a high-school mass murderer and the prank which warped him. I read this in school as I supervised a student teacher (I was subbing that day), and every time I glanced up, all I could wonder was which of the students were enduring similar trauma and might be just as badly warped. Jones’s descriptions were horrific–in a good way–and what I loved most was the way he restored some humanity to the titular murderer. Worth the price of admission alone.
A very large thanks goes out to Vince Liaguno for his patience and persistence in collecting these stories. I can hardly wait for number three.
© 2017 Jerry L. Wheeler