Editor: J.D. Graves
Econcolash Review advertises itself as Quality Cheap Thrills, and much like Broadswords and Blasters, bills itself as a contemporary pulp journal publishing “publish only the best crime/sci-fi/noir/horror/humor/fantasy and everything else in between.” For a first issue debut, I can only gape in awe at the amount of talent pulled together into this anthology and will definitely be adding EconoClash to the list of small press magazines to keep a very close eye on.
You aren’t here to listen to me gush though, so let’s take a look at the stories included within.
“The Last Book” by Rick McQuiston
“In the Mouth of Madness” style metahorror piece. When a writer writes to entertain the eldritch horrors, what happens when he decides to quit the game? The meta-fiction aspect is a little heavy handed and not what I would have expected fresh out the gate from this anthology, and it doesn’t quite set the tone for everything that comes after.
“Recompense” by William R. Soldan
What happens when addiction takes hold and you can’t shake its hooks from where they’ve buried under your skin. How it destroys not just the addict, but everything it touches, like a crap version of King Midas. This story drills home the inherent tragedy, without indulging in angst.
“The Boss Man Cometh” by Christopher Hivner
A demon keeps escaping from the abyss, and each time he’s dragged back. But as each trip makes him a bit more human, maybe he’ll be able to escape for good? Well, he would if the Boss didn’t come down on him like a bucket truck of bricks. And sometimes being handed what you want turns out to be the worst punishment of all.
“Blessed He Be, Shinokaze” by Joachim Heijndermans
A Kaiju cult in London, trying to spread the good word of imminent destruction. A study in what bravery looks like in the face of death, or at least a fatalistic look at what inevitability looks like. So when the Kaiju comes, do you run or do you except that you are going to be consumed in glory? I really enjoyed the perspective this piece gave, with the focus lasered in on a couple of characters and with the Kaiju being treated like the natural disaster it would be.
“Meet the Family” by Charlotte Platt
What happens when a con man goes to Scotland with the pretense to meet his bride-to-be’s family but in fact planning to kill her and cash in on a life insurance policy? Sure, the girl is nice enough, but when you owe a lot of money to some very bad people, you start to look for ways out. What Steven wasn’t counting on was his fiancée’s pedigree. A great atmospheric piece and I couldn’t help but feel that vicarious thrill you get when a bad thing happens to a terrible person.
“The Little Death of Jacob Green” by J.D. Graves
Small towns keep secrets like bees keep honey, but you always suspect that the dirty laundry is there. A whiff in the air, the stench of something foul. This story is kind of like that, where one man’s apparent suicide is what makes the town wonder what was really going on. Also, a strong story on marriage, and what it might take to keep a couple together. Graves’ metaphor on marriage being like a casino gamble against the house is deeply cynical and jaded, but his characters hold true throughout, despite the personal cost exacted.
“Exit Ramp” by Lyndon Perry
What starts out as a standard crime fiction story takes a sharp turn into the weird in the best way. The criminal underworld mashed up with the supernatural underworld was an unexpected delight. Perry’s setting and set-up were well done and his delivery pitch perfect with characters that would fit right into any hardboiled story you’d care to name.
“Green Eyed Monster” by Gerri R. Gray
Honestly, this was probably my least favorite piece in the magazine. The dialogue came off a bit stilted and the plot a bit too B-movieish. It does, however capture the struggles of two people who both wanted a little more out of life, and the danger when you let your ambitions blind you to those around you.
“Quick Pick” by Nick Manzolillo
A dead body and a lottery ticket are all that stand between Billy and the easy life, but the ticket’s buried with the body. So what’s a guy to do? Grab a shovel and get to digging is what. But what happens when he’s discovered late at night in the graveyard? This story’s humor is about as black as you can get, but you can’t help but feel a little sorry for poor Billy.
“Beneath Me” by Edward Turner III
A creepy horror piece. What if, when you’re dead, you can still sense the world around you? How do you cope with seeing your loved ones walking by your corpse? How do you deal with being buried? And what might you hear, crawling in the dirt around you?
“Neon Anemone” by Scotch Rutherford
An unexpected cyberpunk story that hums with energy, and manages to blend substance and style. The story unfolds beautifully. This is the story that rewards the most on a second read through, and to say too much of it would give away the plot. Set in Las Vegas, it works in summer blockbuster levels of action. I sincerely hope there is more from Rutherford using this setting, if not these exact characters. My one complaint is that this story could have used another pass in editing as some of the sentences comes across as somewhat awkward.