Interior artwork by Chaz Kemp
Cover art by A. W. Gifford
[NOTE. This blog post has been flagged for inappropriate content, specifically for malware. I believe this was the result of the link to the Bête Noire/For All Eternity website, which appears to have been corrupted. I have now removed that link and hopefully as is now well. January 2023]
Publishers of Bête Noir Magazine released their second anthology last year, a small seventy-eight-pager featuring seven stories, each representing one of the cardinal sins. The concept has been put to use for the anthology in the past, and I even recall a popular US magazine contest many years ago employing the theme for a vast monetary reward and selected a gluttony tale as its winner. For All Eternity generally relies on genre tales, fantasy with elements of horror, to tell of situations featuring each sin. A good quick read overall, there were two stories I simply did not like, though I was pleased to see that the book did not discriminate and included a non-genre story which is among my favourites.
Overall there is good variety in approach, setting (time and space) and interpretations of each sin, some more straightforward than others. My two favourite sins as per the anthology are wrath and pride.
A Fragment of Shadow by Renee Carter Hall. 5/10
Glass blower Giuliano inadvertently infuses his latest glass pieces with the searing envy he's been nurturing toward successful rival Silvio. The glass turns black and beautiful, unique as well as deadly. An interesting idea. I particularly liked that Giuliano is an average "good guy" victimized by a natural deep-rooted feeling. Though I did not care for the personification of his feeling as some kind of demon.
Zion by Michael Beers. 5/10
Prophet Propet tries to convince the starving populace to enter the yellow ships and sail to the planet Zion, where they can achieve freedom from consumerism and other gluttonous desires. A missed opportunity as some good satire is impaired by familiar territory, unnecessary pathos and too many typos.
Hearts of Gold by Die Booth. 6/10
Walter de Aurum (aurum being Latin for gold) purchases a vial of vengeance from local witch Mother Pellar (pellar being a kind of English conjurer) and later not only refuses to pay, but has the nerve to disrespect the woman in public. Being a prideful witch (the story encapsulates the sin of greed; pride is still to come), she curses the man. Author Booth continues to delve in his interest in classic horror themes and tropes, and hence "Hearts of Gold" is familiar ground, though a good quick read with a nice ambiguous finish. I had trouble only in believing that de Aurum, clearly made out to be not of the superstitious ilk, would visit a pellar witch. A more traditional tale of the likes of Le Fanu or M. R. James would have addressed this apparent character flaw, but then again those tales tended often to be quite lengthier with considerable build-up and characterization. Otherwise good but for some ineffective similes.
Lecherous by Marten Hoyle. 3/10
Speaking of ineffective similes... "Lecherous" deals with a gay man telling of an online hookup incident that has cured him of seeking hookups online. Unfortunately there are no surprises and little of interest in this piece. Admittedly, however, I've gained respect for its author via the brief candid author profile at the story's end.
The Corpse Road by Christian Larsen. 6/10
A hundred years after the start of the American Civil War, The Twilight Zone aired its semi-known episode "The Passersby," featuring a Confederate sergeant portrayed by likeable character actor James Gregory stopping on a dusty road as soldiers continue to file by. Given how predictable (by today's standards, at least) the episode is, I'm not really spoiling anything (spoiler alert!) by letting you know that the people passing by, those "passersby" of the title, are victims of the war.
In Larsen's take we find a soldier named Judson holed up in a roadside shop as men and women file by along "The Corpse Road." Our hero and readers are aware early on that the passersby here are dead, making their way west where hell resides. Judson discovers that while he cannot march east, he can actually stop and remain in the limbo of the road, which he has chosen to do. Here he can wonder why he, the good God-fearing man that he is, is directed west rather than the heavenly east. A good rendition of pride, particularly since in the classical Christian sense hubris was associated with the belief of one's self in relation to heaven, the cardinal sin implying that man has no right to place himself on a similar plane with God. Also a good alternate take on The Twilight Zone idea, with some good
, steady prose. I wonder only at the advanced damage to these corpses, and wonder how the legless would make the journey either east or west. In "The Passersby" victims marched the road with bodies intact.
Deadweight by Ken MacGregor. 3/10
Gregory Simmons is content to collect his worker's compensation earnings and waste his existence on take-out and a video game called Gods of Kromm. Unfortunately he is so disassociated from the world around him that he is unaware the building he is living in has been condemned and that the demolition crew is approaching. The story unfolds as you would expect, yet not too believably. I'm quite certain the municipality or demolition company would make damn sure no one was living in the building prior to letting loose the wrecking ball, not because they care so much but imagine the lawsuit and terrible public image. Moreover, if the building is being torn down there would be no electricity, so unless that video game is a figment of poor Gregory's imagination, then the wrecking ball is a figment of the author's. Double moreover, no restaurant would deliver to a building with a condemned notice on its front door, doors which should be barred to the public. Perhaps Simmons himself lives somewhere where such rules don't apply, perhaps in Kromm itself.
Mauschwitz by Brandon French. 6/10
The only non-genre story in the bunch, the title (seemingly borrowed from Art Spiegelman) refers to a tyrannical executive hovering over a team of marketing specialists over the re-release of some Walt Disney classics. Told through the point of view of wrathful Dani Lauer, the story deals with a woman who comes to terms with a part of herself through the death of a seemingly hateful man. Written with a combination of light humour and fervent energy, I was surprised when the story grew beyond its limitations to achieve something pertinent. I also like that the Disney universe is imbued with the hateful and the wrathful, imbibers and cynics, and only hoping that the Disney Corporation does not take out a lawsuit.