Epeolatry Book Review: Erie Tales #15: Classic Monsters edited by Michael Cieslak


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Erie Tales #15: Classic Monsters 

Edited by Michael Cieslak

Publisher: Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers

Published: Feb 1, 2023

93 pages

Synopsis: The members of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers love their monsters, and since you picked up this book, we suspect you do, too. Our brave authors have turned their ghoulish gazes towards the classic monsters of the past. Prepare to visit some of your old favorites and meet new interpretations of your old friends. Open to book, step into the theater, and settle in because this time… It Came From The Movies.

In the fifteenth edition of the Erie Tales series, authors from the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers pen stories featuring familiar monsters without even a subtle poke at the ubiquitous creatures from Universal films. Instead, classic creepers such as Edward Hyde and H.G. Wells’ Morlocks are thrust into the spotlight by fresh hands, and the result is as fun as a Saturday afternoon at the cinema.


Heading this line-up is Peggy Christie’s “The Dreadful Sisters Who Remain,” which tackles a sinister sisterhood who don’t get enough of their own stories despite their terrifying nature: the Gorgons. 


Meanwhile, in Matthew Tansek’s “No Country for Old Blobs,” a “great black-green gob” might appear as innocuous as a puddle of discarded motor oil, but when it grows to devour entire structures, it leaves the inhabitants with fourth degree burns. The tale is a social commentary on the lasting impact of fracking wrapped up in 1950s-style drive-in fodder. 


Allegory is also smartly rendered in R D Doan’s “An Eye for Beauty,” where a college-aged photographer encounters Dorian Gray; Gray’s oil painting may have yielded eternal youth in Oscar Wilde’s time, but in the 21st century, only a digital snapshot will do. Doan slides in a sly criticism on our contemporary obsession with documenting life for social media over enjoying the beauty of it. 


J.M. Van Horn’s “Substitute” imagines a world where genetic engineering creates a race of Hyde kids, children whose ids run on overdrive when their bodies transform. In Stevenson’s original, Edward Hyde was of smaller stature since his untamed nature was not as developed as Jekyll’s civilized one, but Van Horn’s villains are middle schoolers, preteens already consumed by hormones and self-indulgence, so the result is all the more disturbing. 


In Jen Haeger’s “This Won’t Hold Up in Court,” a medium uses her gift of divination and spectral communication to help solve a brutal murder, but a conjured spirit is more powerful than a predator might anticipate.


My two favorites in the collection are from Melodie Bolt and M.C. St. John. 


Bolt’s fun but quickly darkening “Another Line” offers an alternate timeline from H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine,” casting one of its characters as the new boy in an early 1980s American town where top priorities for a teen girl are limited to Bonne Bell lip balm and landing a date to the latest Bill Murray movie. Bonus points to the author for her brilliant character naming. 


M.C. St. John’s “These Things Move in Cycles” stars a Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the story vacillates between terror and splendor, then folds the two together into passages blossoming with imagery of terrible beauty: “Over the next two weeks, the estuary grows unusually quiet. The trilling of frogs goes first. The lonely morning warbles of loons is cut short. Even the rutting call of a young male moose rises to hysterics before being silenced in rippling rings of green water.” St. John’s entry is a nail biter painted with beautiful prose. 


Editor Michael Cieslak advises readers in his foreword that they should “prepare to look at some old friends in a new light.” Monsters from mythology and classic literature tango among popcorn movie feature creatures and campfire story creepers, reminding readers of what they pick up a horror book for in the first place: a fantastic good time with some good, old fashioned scares.


Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

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