Jason V. Brock – editor of [Namel3ss] Magazine and co-editor (with William F. Nolan) of the anthologies The Bleeding Edge: Dark Barriers, Dark Frontiers and The Devil’s Coattails: More Dispatches from the Dark Frontier, and the man behind the films Charles Beaumont: The Short Life of Twilight Zone’s Magic Man and The Ackermonster Chronicles! – is one of modern horror and weird fiction’s most important voices, a view I share with William F. Nolan, who expresses it in his wonderful foreword to Simulacrum and Other Possible Realities. In his foreword, Nolan compares Brock to the great Charles Beaumont, which is on one hand quite a compliment and on another a lot to live up to, but Brock meets the challenge in his first collection. While his prose isn’t as lyrical as Beaumont’s, the ideas are there, the unique voice is there, the willingness (and desire) to test boundaries and challenge society (and the people in it) is there. Brock’s stories are more than entertainment.
The stories and poems in Simulacrum either veer away from familiar tropes or use them in new ways. Similarly, Brock frequently plays with narrative structure and the techniques of storytelling. The combination of these two creates a refreshingly post-modern set of speculative stories. The effect is hugely rewarding. Stories like “What the Dead’s Eyes Behold” and “The Central Coast,” which begin the book, challenge the reader with non-linear structures and strong use of metaphor. “One for the Road” is somewhat reminiscent of Dennis Etchison’s “It Only Comes Out at Night,” until it takes a turn that makes it wholly unique. “Where Everything That Is Lost Goes” takes the themes of aging and identity found in Harlan Ellison’s “Jefty Is Five” and turns them on their head. My favorite story of the collection is “Simulacrum,” which explores consciousness, reality, and hubris, while at the same time coming together as an enormously successful thriller. Other highlights include the Matheson sequel “Black Box” and the lost world weird tale “Milton’s Children.”
The stories and poems in Simulacrum and Other Possible Realities challenge the reader’s expectations of how a story should be told, what a story should be about, what an author can say, what an author can do. They push every boundary the way that Beaumont did in stories like “The Crooked Man,” “Miss Gentilbelle,” and “The Howling Man.” I worried that Brock wouldn’t live up to the high praise Nolan pressed upon him in the foreword, but he does. Oh, he does. Simulacrum and Other Possible Realities is a collection not to be missed.
Simulacrum and Other Possible Realities by Jason V. Brock (ISBN: 978-1-61498-055-1) is available from Hippocampus Press ($20.00).