The Unseeming Horror of “Unseaming”

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When a story starts out, “You know he’s the one who made your beloved niece disappear,” it doesn’t bode well.

The first line of The Button Bin in Mike Allen’s collection of horror stories, “Unseaming,” is enough to raise the hair on your arms and the back of your neck. Allen, already well known as an editor and writer of speculative poetry, delivered “Unseaming” several years ago in all its luscious, spine-tingling dread and horror.

Imagine standing in front of a window. You’re holding a brick.

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You throw the brick through the window. With force.

You step close to the ragged hole and lower your hand, the sensitive flesh between your thumb and forefinger, steadily down toward a jagged shard jutting up at a crazy angle out into the open air.

That, in my opinion, is what it’s like to read “Unseaming.”

If the bizarre, mind-bending tales, often with an unexpected twist, aren’t enough, maybe the serrated, melodic writing will destabilize our repose as unnatural and chilling situations unfurl before us.

For example, we squirm uncomfortably but can’t look away as a grieving woman toes the edge of the abyss:

Soon she heard nothing else. An absence of music, an opposite of laughter, as if a throat sculpted pure mourning, emitted waves that drained away power and life as they washed over whatever they touched.

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If horror can be born somehow of lyricism, Mike Allen accomplishes that. And expect nightmares of all types: surreal and self-made. In one story, a hiker witnesses this:

The monster ascended the far side of the gully on legs like arched lightning, climbing into the murk at heart-wrenching speed.

When I go hiking, “legs like arched lightning” is the last thing I want to see. Where’s the racoon family or the friendly old man with the cane? Please don’t put the words “gully” and “climbing with heart-wrenching speed” together and expect me to visit Mr. Baldy again anytime soon.

Foggy Mountain

And then the other type of monstrosity declares THIS in the bookend of the collection:

To you I am a shriveled lump, but I speak with pride when I tell you that I’m a self-made monster, a Mandelbrot set, a Koch curve, a Menger sponge, and inside I have no boundaries.

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It’s not easy to find a book of horror, I think, that opines the state of heightened primordial sociopathy approaching omnipotence in such deliberate language peppered with an alarming and passionate undertone.  It takes talent to make the words “Koch curve” sound as deadly and sinister as “Nosferatu” or “The Mist.”

As an added point of intrigue, Mr. Allen has another collection of horror out there “The Spider Tapestries.” Spiders? Ughhh. Maybe it has nothing to do with spiders–I don’t know–but then why is she holding one–lovingly, I might add–on the cover?

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At any rate, I haven’t delved into this one yet.

Maybe you’ll get there before I do. But be careful if you do.

Don’t cut yourself….too deep.

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36 thoughts on “The Unseeming Horror of “Unseaming”

  1. Provocative. Painful. Your opening description,”…You step close to the ragged hole and lower your hand, the sensitive flesh between your thumb and forefinger, steadily down toward a jagged shard jutting up at a crazy angle out into the open air.” Yikes. Great writing, Stacey.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Considering the unseemly cover pic of UNSEEMING features the creepy zipper-back of a woman (pardon me for saying so but I couldn’t possibly undress our not-so-glam covergirl with my eyes any more than she’s already done to herself), to label it as ‘spine-tingling, as you did Stacey, I thought was a true inspired masterstroke.

    Please don’t shatter my notions of your genius, Stacey, and tell me that particular sublime choice of adjective was accidental. I don’t think I could handle being told that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha. Genius! I think not. Grab on to something….or sit down. I’m sorry! I was NOT thinking of her back when I used the cliched “spine-tingling” to describe the stories. Maybe…subconsciously? But definitely not consciously. My thinking is bereft of masterstrokes. It’s dominated mainly by amateur staccato dabs. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey, Glen, I found episode 7 of Fireside but feel like I went in the wrong way, ’cause there was no place for comments. You DID post episode 7 already, right?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Goddammit you are too modest Stacey.
    I think I know what’s actually going on.
    You have somehow trained your subconscience mind over the years to operate on ‘Genius’ mode as a backup to when your conscience brain is clicked into cruise mode.

    And even if your conscience mind denies this, it’s your SUBconscience that’s really behind the wheel steering the luxury maserati, so whichever way you look at it you DID intend that piece of sparky brilliance with the choice inclusion of the ‘spine tingling’ adjective.

    You might say from a fate perspective from the moment you were born events were leading up to the moment when you would choose that adjective. But possibly that’s looking into things a touch too deep.
    Just a touch, mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I WISH!
    Hubby constantly accuses me of “overthinking” everything, which makes it seem like my brain is always busy in its lab doing complicated research and triple checking facts, but actually it means my synapses are over-firing, staggering in a circle, then sputtering out. Effective? No. Exhausting? Yes. But thanks for your positivity, lol

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hey Stace – you really do love how language can be sculpted. Great, very positive review. This guy sounds like a beautiful talent. Especially the idea of inner space (mandelbrot set etc).
    I’ve come into a small amount of Xmas money, so will be buying Day for Night. Looking forward! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh my god. Do you really think that’s a good use of your time and energy, lol ??!! Nooooooo! But thank you. What a nice gesture!
    It’s not gonna be Mike Allen level or even Out of Essex level, but….what are you gonna do? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Well I’m kinda glad I don’t really read anymore because I’d certainly be cowering in the corner of a room. Weeping, freaked and scared. Almost wishing to escape, the horror, within a labyrinth of a mandelbrot. Maybe the machine elves will bring me comfort?

    Yeah I don’t read anymore. Well apart from some gritty comics. However I did receive HG Wells The War Of The Worlds novel for xmas from my children. So I’ll be trying to train the eyes to “proper” read again.

    BTW I just realised from the comments you are Stacey rather than Seliza which I may of called you a few times. Hello Stacey. You have a great way with words and the jaggered glass piercing through my hand description isn’t gonna have me picking up that book anytime soon LOL.

    All the best for the roaring twenties.
    Mikey

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Lol, thanks, Mikey! It wasn’t the gentlest of invitations, was it?
    Also, yeah, I’m using my email address as my “handle”–been meaning to change it for, I guess, years now, but….oh, well. It’s worked out fine thus far. You may not read much anymore, but with me if anything takes longer than 9 1/2 minutes to figure out how to do on the computer, I pretty much jump ship unless it’s SUPER important.
    Happy 2020 to you too, sir!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha yeah I hear you on the time issue. Usually after a minute or so I’m already lost down a rabbit hole wondering what I doing there. Then a few days later I remember I was going to change that “email” thing etc etc. End of the day none of it really matters lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Ooh! Lincoln and Child’s stuff was a favorite of mine!
    Remember in Reliquary when the train stalled in the tunnel and the man (or woman; it’s been years since I read it) decided that putting his foot on the third rail would be better than facing what was coming at them out of that tunnel? Eeeeeeeeeek ! ! !

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  11. Stace, your book is nudging all the others downwards. The beaten competitors include two by Ursula Le Guin, a new novel by Chris Knowles (‘Secret Sun’ blog), a biography of Dickens, and a book by Thomas Merton.
    There is so much to like. The secondary characters are big and bold (Hama, Rex, the sister), the murky but well-lived depths of the main character are being fathomed and unwound at just the right pace, the breeze from the Californian coastline is never far away, and the humour/irony is so good it makes me envious. Boy, do you know how to milk the last drop of wit.
    All of this before any consideration accorded to aliens and vampires. WTF will they bring to the party?
    And I always like short chapters. They are practical for the reader.
    Also something to be said about the sophistication of LA. I can’t find words for it, because I lack that sophistication…..except maybe to say that your tribe is half a light year ahead of the rest of the world, in terms of speed of thought and how to get to the point with humour inbuilt. Funnily enough, we watched episode 1 of season 2 of YOU on Netflix yesterday. The LA characters have this uniqueness about them….or do I kid myself?
    Anyway, the corner of the page is turned at the start of Chgapter 10. Onwards we go! 🙂🙂🙂🙂

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  12. Also, a question. You have archives available to readers. Does that need an advanced wordpress package? I’m on the basic. Maybe it’s time to upgrade, so that my posts are categorised and easily accessible. Your wisdom would be appreciated. Cheers!

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  13. Hi, Kev!
    No one in the world could wake up to a better Sunday morning than hearing a fellow writer say I’ve somehow, for the moment, bested Ursula Le Guin in their order of reading. Of course I don’t believe you, but….it’s still an amazing way to start the day! I’m doing a deep bow to you and, with a genteel flick and twirl of my wrist, endeavor to depart my heartfelt thanks…………..

    I wish I knew about You so I could answer honestly, but I haven’t seen it. It’s possible the writers for the show are actually good and are making the characters unique and interesting. There are unique people here in L.A. But if you were talking to my husband (who’s from Brooklyn) he would probably roll his eyes and say, “Pfffffffftttttttttt.” And then bark a laugh. And then leave the room.

    I mean, unique people are obviously everywhere. But unfortunately, in a broad picture, I think the L.A. population is sorely lacking. So I’d say that there is SOME uniqueness in SOME L.A. people. The isolation and endlessness of driving everywhere, therefore being physically separated from everyone else, the sometimes overt but mainly just under the surface, now, racism, and the constant pressure from many different sources to succumb to shallowness makes L.A. a strange paradox: it actually IS very David Lynchian, sort of nice to look at at first glance, but just under the surface rotted and dark and kinda… empty.

    As for the third thing you mention, archives, I’m so sorry to be ignorant about that. I, too, am in the basic WordPress mode. I kinda thought anyone could go into archives if they wanted to. Is that not true? I should experiment today on other people’s sites and see what happens–yours even! 🙂 🙂 🙂
    But thanks so much for the thought!
    It’s encouraging!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Yeah, I went back into your blog. You don’t have archives….or I just can’t see them?
    I see mine…and they’re accessible. But I suspect that’s because I’m on my own computer, even if I did enter the blog by looking it up on Google first.
    Hmm….
    No answers about this yet….

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  15. Nice to hear from you, Matthew! I definitely miss your posts: it’s like there’s a big hole in the bloggosphere, you know?! But I hope you’re enjoying your break. Maybe when you come back you could take on less topics and you’ll feel more relaxed…………??!!! But I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s feeling the empty space where Observation Blogger was.
    Omg, it came? It’s actually been a really nice start to the new year having TWO people decide to read the book!
    Well, I’ve already given my warnings, so all I can do is hope you can some chuckles and have a little fun.
    And thanks again for your enthusiasm and excitement. I hope my book doesn’t kill it dead, at the worst, or leave it permanently lobotomized, at the next-to-worst…….. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know why I didn’t receive your message in my WordPress app. I wanted to tell you that I am really enjoying your book. I’ll admit the first two chapters were a bit of a struggle, but since Chapter 3 I have found it engrossing and a real page-turner. I am now up to Chapter 10. Probably no other book has made me miss driving as much and you seem to have bottled what it’s like to be in LA; the sights, smells and sounds etc. If it wasn’t for other commitments I would have read it all by now. The characters are just so rich and multilayered and your writing of dialogue is fantastic. I like its frenetic pace and eccentricity. I could easily see it being adapted for the screen. There is a Tarantino – Lynch-esque feel to it too, but from a female perspective. There are many highlights so far, but the conversations / incidents with the policewoman, the 10 year old boy and Margarite (and who’s diddy? Haha) I found so witty, humorous and absorbing. Her shoulder therapist is a real riot too! I am so glad I purchased your book. In fact I just took a photo of it now, which I believe you can see at this link:
      https://photos.app.goo.gl/uiyGiBzmCQqvgjDT6

      Re. my blog, It’s hard for me to get motivated again. This year I have dedicated to traveling so I have been working on an itinerary and been traveling already. When I do get back into the swing of things I would like to have a Wednesday literary post dedicated to an excerpt from your book – with your permission of course.
      Have a wonderful day Stacey! I’ll be back in touch when I finish Day For Night.
      ‘Un abrazo’.
      Cheers.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I saw the pic! Ha ha ha. Thanks, Matthew. And thanks for the encouraging words. I’ll get all my nails out of my mouth and just gnaw on my forefinger, maybe. Literary Wednesday?! Sounds fantastic! Obviously a bottomless well for you to fill besides me, of course, lol. That’s a good idea. I wonder if my blog’s read enough to warrant, like, a Once-A-Month Literary Excerpt party…………Hmm…………..!

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome. I read a bit more last night. It’s a lot of fun. When I was blogging on Wednesdays I presented excerpts from books I was reading, so I was hoping when I resumed blogging I might be able to include an excerpt from your book. I hope this message finds you well. Oh, I’m glad you saw the pic. It is currently my whatsapp profile pic. I’m trying to spread the word in Colombia about your book lol

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Hahaha Colombia, huh? Boy, I wish I had kept my Spanish fluent and written a second version!
    Of course, I’d be honored to be included in your excerpt blog. It really is a good idea, not only for well known authors and works but less well known, and I’m definitely gonna do something like that someday soon when I can just…get……a little bit……more time……to myself ! ! ! You know?!
    And your message finds me quite well, thank you.
    The same back at ya! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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  17. That’s it! That IS an easy link. I can imagine some of the graphic artists you review doing the drawings for Allen’s stories–it would be mind-blowing ! ! !

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