By Julie Horner
Among the teaching volumes, spiritual guidebooks, tribal lore, and works of fantasy in the athenaeum of books for sale at Air and Fire: A Mystical Boutique in Boulder Creek, The Lost Librarian’s Grave edited by Ann Wycoff welcomes readers of speculative fiction into a world of the supernatural and the abominable. The 437-page short story anthology features 36 authors and three poets from around the world and “runs the gamut of horror and weird fiction across space and time” from Greece and India, to Japan and Ukraine. This “unclean tome” has lessons on how to become a successful zombie, tells the story of the “calloused gravediggers” of Victorian England, and speaks of battles between “malevolent but polite” sorcerers from present-day New York City.
Writing under the pen name Ann Wycoff, the Santa Cruz author, freelance writer, and self-proclaimed “Chaos Lady” began work on a collection of stories “under the rubric of horror in its many forms.” The title of the book, now in its second edition, came from a dream. “I was inside what seemed like the stacks of an old library,” she writes in the afterward, “with many doors and narrow corridors bound by tall, mostly wooden shelving which ascended out of sight into shadow and darkness.” Without a word a young man beckons her outside, past the manuscripts, stone tablets, and antlers to see a terrible sight: the library is crumbling beneath their feet, books, masonry, and people tumbling without sound down the fog-shrouded cliffs. She took notes upon waking and realized, “The librarian is the source of all knowledge that has ever been, and he willingly persists in undeath so that he may gift others and ensure that his wisdom is not forgotten…I would use the library with its silent figurehead as my launching point…”
Exceeding expectations for finding wildly diverse submissions for the anthology, The Lost Librarian’s Grave includes subjects such as The Dead, The Mad, and The Terrified; Ghosts and the Grave; Strange Adventures and Weird Journeys; Witches, Magicians, and Sorcery, and other topics from the realm of the fantastical…and the unthinkable.
A Feast of Depravity, Misjudgement, and Misadventure
Of witchcraft and torture, Amanda Cecelia Lang offers Snake and Sinew, Flame and Bone. “Among the pebble-bones of a forgotten village, beneath ancient soil consecrated by moonlight and venom, Lilias Proctor, a daughter of the nocturnal garden, awakens to the whisper of a shovel. Her grave has always been shallow, her sisters won’t need to dig deep to unearth her.”
In The Infinity of Worse, Ken Heuler writes of the worst of human nature. “Too cold,” Lowell grumbled and limped on. Paul scampered behind the lowborn thug, who was lurching grave to grave in the twilight, too terrified and desperate to flee. Again he glanced to a stand of alders where Lowell’s horse and drag were dissolving into the darkness and sour mist. Paul lowered the sack gently, to lessen the noise, and slid out a long metal spike. Partway to the grave a hiss stopped him. Tssch! The other end, ninny—where the head will be!”
“Terror and loathing welled up inside me as I realized this astonishing harridan was searching for me,” writes Nidheesh Samant in Ocular, a story of malice and dark magic. “Suddenly the creature vomited out a blood-curdling shriek. She ripped through the bedsheets with her hideously long bony fingers. The smell of rot and piss almost unmanned me as I struggled to remain silent. Cold sweat trickled down my back.”
Other short stories include The Savage Night, by Pedro Iniguez; Death, and the Scent of Tea, by Cheryl Zaidan; The Woman in the Wallpaper, by Gregory L. Norris; A Bed Both Long and Narrow, by Sipora Coffelt; and poems such as “The Trouble of Bottling Troublesome Spirits, by Juleigh Howard-Hobson; The Grotesque, by Rhonda Parrish; and The Maze of Moonlight and Mirrors, by Gerri Leen.
The Lost Librarian’s Grave is published by Redwood Press of Felton and is available at Air and Fire, 13150 Highway 9, Boulder Creek and online at airandfire.com/books.html.
Julie Horner writes about art, music, and the people of the San Lorenzo Valley.
Featured photo: Ann Wycoff and The Lost Librarian’s Grave | Photo by Julie Horner
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