S.L. Edwards’s second collection, The Death of an Author, gives us an array of monsters and other dangers haunting our world and dragging us to some stranger, unexpected places. The sixteen stories gathered here range across (and out of) time and space as Edwards delves into dark fantasies of dragons and fallen gods, the horrors of zombies, ghosts, and possession, and a clutch of modern-day Mythos tales.
I find that Edwards is at his best when handling the intricacies and intersections of families and politics. While those themes are somewhat less central in The Death of an Author than in his previous collection, Edwards does not disappoint. He has a sure sense of the connections that fuel the conflicts–especially when there are monsters involved. He knows what drives people, even when they aren’t human any longer. Among the supernatural and cosmic beings he fleshes out here, the conflicts remain intimate, and the stakes personal.
“Christmas at Castle Dracula” lives up to its name, with a vampire’s musings on the sacred. A very odd holiday, indeed.
“Allister’s Garden” gives us another vampire, and the hierarchy of the living and the undead.
“A Slower Way of Starving” is the legendary ‘pizza story’. It proves to be far more emotionally resonant than I expected.
“She Never Killed Spiders” taps into the weird Averoigne landscape with a tale of witchcraft and predation.
“Bestia” tells of what lives inside a broken family and a dying town. Vivid and painful, with a parent-child dynamic that feels all too true. One of my favorites.
“With All Her Troubles Behind Her” blends Greek myth with the post-Gold Rush West as a woman with a mysterious past tries to right ancient wrongs.
“I Keep It in a Little Box” covers a lot of ground–despair, redemption, dragons, and, possibly, the end of the world.
“Standing There” is a creepy bit of flash fiction with a hint of Poltergeist to it.
“Christmas Alone” is another flash piece that would not be out of place on Tales from the Crypt.
“The Cthulhu Candidate” gives us Robert Marsh, congressman, presidential aspirant, and a master at manipulating the media to his own ends.
“Office Hours and After” introduces us to the Miskatonic University community as they deal with a terrible murder. The mystery of it serves as a frame for exploring the connections of the human and nonhuman. Imaginative, fascinating, and another of my favorites here.
“The Referendum Over Innsmouth” again turns on the machinations of Robert Marsh, and his sway over his under-informed true believers.
“The Ambassador in Yellow” gives us President Marsh, and the delicate negotiations between his staff and the representatives of Carcosa.
“The Darkness Makes Us Whole” is another tale of Miskatonic, but the school fades into the background as the characters struggle with devastating personal losses and the unclean discoveries they hope will heal them.
“The Last Mayfiles out of Bogota” closes out the collection, a mournful little story that fully captures the dislocation of the pandemic’s start. Beautifully told, and entirely felt. Another favorite.
S.L. Edwards once again delivers a thoughtful and thought provoking collection of weird tales. I look forward to meeting his recurring characters again, in another collection. Until then, I heartily recommend The Death of an Author.