Edition 17: Book Review: Vaudeville and Other Nightmares by Greg Chapman
Reviewed by Sophie Yorkston
Vaudeville and Other Nightmares—and if that isn’t a brilliant name for a horror anthology, I don’t know what is—is the first short story anthology from Australian horror writer Greg Chapman and the team at Black Beacon Books.
For each reader’s pleasure, Chapman has created a sampler of different examples of the horror genre. Dark fantasy, the supernatural and paranormal feature alongside macabre twists on fairytales and myth; each of the twenty-four stories has been picked specially for this collection. Chapman is also an accomplished artist and designed the delightfully chipper Vaudevillian cover.
My favourites in the collection were: ‘Deluge’, for the vivacity of apocalyptic vision that Chapman created; ‘A Host to Horror’, where the past life of an actor never quite leaves him be; ‘Forfeit’, a bleak imagining of what a suicide discovers on the other side; and particularly ‘The Name in the Dark’, a reimagining of the Rumplestiltskin fairy tale looking at what happens to the stolen child.
‘The Breadth of an Instant’ felt the most inventive of the stories, about a subconscious entanglement in the processes of time, of which those who tend to the mechanical methods of measurement end up serving the masters of time. Not a long story but inspired.
Some of Chapman’s work disturbed me and left me feeling uncomfortable, which is not a feeling I usually like to embrace. Stories such as ‘Like Windows to the Soul’ and ‘Lost Lake’ numbered among these and made me realise that it is the function of good horror fiction to make its readers feel this way, particularly by elucidating the psyche of those people or characters whose heads we don’t like to inhabit.
Even where the style of horror of some of the shorts didn’t appeal to me, the characters, like self-injuring Melanie from ‘Cult of Scars’, kept me reading by creating emotional investment. I also found the creepy entity from ‘Codex Musaicum’ to be devilishly devised.
In the whole collection only one story felt a bit out of place for me, and that was the story ‘Transe’. It’s a well-told tale of a child waking to find everyone else in a comatose state, and fits the horror definition, but to me it wasn’t as adult as the rest of Chapman’s material.
If some seem familiar, maybe they are. Several of the stories Chapman has had published before with different journals and anthologies.
For those who are regular readers of horror, or those looking to dip their toe into the extensive pool of the genre, Vaudeville and Other Nightmares comes highly recommended as a great example of the breadth of horror writing. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the undercurrent of the other worlds that walk with us at this time of year.
For those interested in the author, Greg Chapman, you can find out more about him at his website, which lists his background and many of his other works. If you’re in the Rockhampton area, Greg is reading from his book in the hair-raising cemetery setting. Listener beware!
Vaudeville and Other Nightmares, by Greg Chapman
Publisher: Black Beacon Books, 2014
Sophie is a scientist, writer, sci-fi and fantasy nerd. She is an editor with IFWG Publishing and has been Editor In Chief of SQ Mag and SQ Magazine, the previous incarnation. She also contributes book and film reviews. She is currently living in Vancouver, Canada.
You can find her in a few different places: @Smoph on Twitter, Sophie Yorkston – writer on Facebook, and at her blogs: Smoph’s Musings and Smoph Writes.