Jamais Vu: The Journal of Strange Among the Familiar is a new horror magazine on the scene. Issue #1 hit the shelves (and Internet) in January and features a mix of fiction, poetry, non-fiction, comics, reviews, and a featured essay from legendary author Harlan Ellison.
In his introduction, editor Paul Anderson discusses the origin and goal of the magazine, how it is similar to British television, and the theme of this issue, which is “aftermath…dealing with the past and/or the choices we've made.” Stories and poems by Gary A. Braunbeck, Michael Kelly, Jessica McHugh, Max Booth III, Adam-Troy Castro, Bruce Boston, Marge Simon, Stephanie Wytovich, and others explore this from various angles and with varying degrees of success, but the quality of the writing (both fiction and non-fiction) is surprisingly high for the first issue of a fledgling publication.
The issue kicks off with “Photo Captions” by Gary A. Braunbeck, who turns in the strongest story of the magazine, about a man driven to desperate ends as his family disintegrates. It is vintage Braunbeck, full of heart, subtlety, and will not be easily forgotten. The second story I want to spotlight is “Bait” by Michael Kelly. Kelly is one of horror’s finest and especially adept at atmospheric horror. In “Bait,” he uses that skill to imbue everything with a feeling of dread and menace. The ending comes suddenly, but not unexpectedly.
The final story I want to give attention in this review is “Video Nasties” by Max Booth III. It is, as shown with the two essays that accompany it (“Twisting Our Values: Culture and the Medium that Shapes It” by K.T. Jayne and “Medium as a Mirror” by Lydia Peever) and the editor’s introduction, clearly intended to be the centerpiece of the issue. I had a mixed reaction to this story. It is undeniably powerful and one of the finest explorations of societal insouciance that I've ever read, but as a horror story it is lacking, relying on authorial intrusion to give it more depth and story than “torture porn.” While it wasn't my favorite story in the issue, it was the most powerful and memorable and important story in the issue and a fitting choice on which to build it.
The other stories, poems, reviews, and non-fiction are all of a very high quality, especially “Shiva” by Cameron Suey, “Eventually, You Become Immune” by Stephanie Wytovich, and Harlan Ellison’s remembrance of the night he spent with Whitey Bulger.
Jamais Vu will appeal to fans of Black Static and Shadows & Tall Trees, as well as fans of the Borderlands anthology series, and this reviewer looks forward to many more issues.