Red Penny Papers Vol. II Issue 3 (Spring 2012)
edited by KV Taylor and John Cash
It was through Camille Alexa's serialized novella, Particular Friends, that I discovered Red Penny Papers in late 2010. It was a great bit of steampunk-ish storytelling that exemplified a tone brought forth by the periodical. It has become a go-to place for "sensationalist and fantastical fiction." And I recently had the chance to read their spring issue.
This issue kind of ran the gamut with six stories, but I suppose there was a lean towards psychological horror this time around. The first story, "Bone Daddy," definitely had that psychotic tinge to it. Britney Smith presented two long-time friends who as little girls created an imaginary friend and guardian of sorts they called Mister Johnny Trick. But it's when the two women are reunited and one of them still holds a deep abidance to their bone daddy that things become really strange.
The next story was a bit lighter fare, as Nicki Vardon's "Garlic Squash" blended a bit of fantasy and noir with a touch of farce about a world in which vampires are out in the open and one bartender tries to make ends meet, then receives an enticing offer from a bloodsucking customer.
The two stand-outs in the issue came at the end, and from two authors with whose works I've become familiar. "Sacrifice" by Natalie L. Sin puts Japan in the spotlight with a wonderfully noir-ish horror story about a lovesick man forced to kill his best friends in order to save the woman he loves only to have his entire world collapse entirely, then have the ghosts of his deeds come back to haunt him in a way no one could have expected--no one but Natalie, that is. I've really liked Natalie's stories in the past, but this one I absolutely loved and I'll rank it easily as one of my favorites for 2012.
And then there was Tonia Brown's "Pins and Needles, Silk and Sawdust." The story takes place almost entirely in a mortuary as a mortician works on the bodies laid out on slabs. But more than that, he talks with them and they talk back. There are three men from different walks of life, and a young girl. All dead, and all carry on a conversation concerning The Wizard of Oz, death, and their lots in life. This all takes place as the mortician is conflicted with the idea of his wife wanting to start a family, a notion he's long been against due to seeing far too many children brought in for him to work on. It's a sad story, but tempered with humor and a nice bit of poignancy at the end. I liked it, but when the Oz stuff was brought up by the characters, I was hooked. Another great find and really good work from Tonia yet again.