Book Review : Lost Signals - Horror Transmissions (2016)
Short stories are the most interesting riddle in contemporary publishing. They can be great. Tighter and more satisfying than novels. Short fiction shouldn't be considered "the minor leagues," yet the are and I haven't heard a satisfying suggestion that would help the form gain its nobility back. Except for mine: Give the readers a reason to choose short stories over novels. Why should they select a multiplicity of voices over involvement, depth and familiarity?
Co-owners of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing Max Booth III and Lori Michelle took my challenge to heart and carefully planned and edited a very special anthology of short horror stories based on rogue transmissions: radio signals, creepy airwaves and terrifying broadcasts of every sort. Why should you bother reading Lost Signals: Horror Transmissions and not just pick up a horror novel? Because it's packed with creepy and original stories. It's an explosion of creativity around a theme other narrative forms simply can't offer.
It's hard to single out stories from Lost Signals, but two stood a head above the rest: T.E Grau's contemporary classic Transmission (discussed at length here) and Paul Michael Anderson's eerie and claustrophobic. All That You Leave Behind. Anderson's is both original and terribly efficient because it uses an old psychoanalytic concept to freak you out: das unheimliche. While most stories in Lost Signals are scary because they point an a horrifying unknown, Anderson's All That You Leave Behind corrupts the familiar, the comforting: the rogue transmission in the story is the tape of an unborn baby. I'll leave it at that and let your forthcoming nightmares do the rest.
The talented Damien Angelica Walters also has a story in Lost Signals titled Little Girl Blue, Come Cry Your Way Home. This one's about transmissions from a baby monitor and most important, the changes and pressure new parents have to face. John C. Foster's Amageddon Baby featured an omnipresent radio station in Alaska and a protagonist on collision course with damnation. Foster's story is atmospheric, twisted and oddly sassy, which was a pleasant and unexpected change of page in Lost Signals, which is so consistently gloomy and truffled with Gothic undertones.
Now, the second category of stories in Lost Signals is the unexplained radio signals stories. There's a lot of them in there. A LOT (unsurprisingly). My favorite of the lot was George Cotronis' Darkhorse Actual, which subverted major clichés of the genre such as military transmissions and dead people in the airwaves. Amanda Hard's Rosabelle, Believe and Matthew M. Bartlett's If He Summons his Herd also stood out by seamlessly blending conventional horror tropes with their own agendas. Joseph Bouthiette Jr., James Newman and Joshua Chaplinsky also delivered different and challenging stories that took liberties with conventional short story form to maximize effect, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Lost Signals was an absolute blast. There are many four or five stories that didn't quite resonate with me, but I enjoyed the great majority of them. I don't have any major complaints except maybe the stories get samey at some point. There's a lot of dead people talking through radio signals and some of the stories can fade when compared to other titles in the anthology. There are two ways it can go from here if you're a horror fan: you can either pick up Lost Signals right now and enjoy its delightful cornucopia of urban legends and campfire tales right away or keep it for Halloween week and use its terror potential to full effect. The choice is yours, either way these are short stories that serve their purpose wonderfully well and that provide a unique and memorable experience!