July 10, 2012

Rabid Reads: "Dark Faith" edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon

Dark Faith
edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon
Apex Books (2010)
375 pages
ISBN 0982159684

Try bringing aspects of religion into your horror writing and see what kind of reaction you get from the God-fearin' folks. Or, you could just ask Maurice Broaddus about it. Maurice, himself a devout Christian, has no qualms in recognizing the darker elements of faith, as well shining a little of that gospel of the terrifying. And considering the caliber of authors he coerced into contributing to this anthology, the guy knows how to strike a balance. It's just kind of funny to hear how such a nice, talented guy gets such strange looks from others when they find out the kinds of stories he writes. We've all been there, I suppose.

Dark Faith amasses thirty-one authors with short stories, and a couple poems, that all deal in one way or another with faith. From that one starting point, each author goes off on their own path, each story following its own north star, as it were. Now, I'm still a guy who doesn't shine towards poetry, so my focus was on the fiction.

Two short stories immediately jumped out at the beginning of the anthology with disparate tones, but equally rending effect. Jennifer Pelland's "Ghosts of New York" is a sad portrait of a woman's afterlife in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. As I recall, Jennifer was a bit hesitant about how this story would be received by readers, given its setting, but I thought it was tragic feat of beauty. Then, there was Brian Keene's "I Sing a New Psalm," with a hard-bitten tone that practically jumps off the page and dares you to hit back.

From there, the anthology carries on with stories like Ekaterin Sedia's "You Dream", a story I liked despite its use of second-person POV which I rarely enjoy; Catherynne M. Valente's "Days of Flaming Motorcycles", which was already a favorite of mine after reading it online in a couple other venues; plus Tom Piccirilli's "Scrawl" and an increasingly creepy stroll through fetishism and self-loathing.

The book is just about the furthest thing you can get from a religious screed designed to convert or dissuade people from God. If you're thinking that, you can knock it off. This anthology is a bit like a confessional, but more like a open-ended prayer uttered to no one god in particular. Whatever ear the song falls on, it is hopefully a friendly one. For an atheist like me, it was kind of nice to see horror and faith meet with a more sophisticated approach than evil priests and generic zealotry posited as villains. What villains there are in this book are ourselves, more or less. Our frailties. And no matter which god you believe in, Westboro Baptists not withstanding, you ought to see that the book may be dark, but it does shed some light on the idea of faith.

With thirty-one stories and poems packed into one book, you are bound to not like all of them, but--by gawd--you should like most of 'em.

There's a Dark Faith 2 in the works, and I think it's set for release sometime in the latter half of 2012, so you can bet that I'll be keeping my eye out for that one when the time comes. I may not be a good little Christian soldier, but I am a satisfied customer.

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