The New Black is a collection of twenty neo-noir stories exemplifying the best authors currently writing in this dark sub-genre. A mixture of horror, crime, fantasy, science fiction, magical realism, and the grotesque—all with a literary bent—these stories are the future of genre-bending fiction.
Table of Contents:
Foreword by Laird Barron
Stephen Graham Jones, "Father Son, Holy Rabbit"
Paul Tremblay, "It's Against the Law to Feed the Ducks"
Lindsay Hunter, "That Baby"
Roxane Gay, "How"
Kyle Minor, "The Truth and All Its Ugly"
Craig Clevenger, "Act of Contrition"
Micaela Morrissette, "The Familiars"
Richard Lange, "Fuzzyland"
Benjamin Percy, "Dial Tone"
Roy Kesey, "Instituto"
Craig Davidson, "Rust and Bone"
Rebecca Jones-Howe, "Blue Hawaii"
Joe Meno, "Children Are the Only Ones Who Blush"
Vanessa Veselka, "Christopher Hitchens"
Nik Korpon, "His Footsteps are Made of Soot"
Brian Evenson, "Windeye"
Craig Wallwork, "Dollhouse"
Tara Laskowski, "The Etiquette of Homicide"
Matt Bell, "Dredge"
Antonia Crane, "Sunshine for Adrienne"
Book Review: Richard Thomas’ The New Black: A Neo-Noir Anthology
Richard Thomas is the author of seven books: Three novels, Disintegration and Breaker (Random House Alibi), and Transubstantiate (Otherworld Publications); three short story collections, Tribulations (Crystal Lake), Staring Into the Abyss (Kraken Press), and Herniated Roots (Snubnose Press); as well as one novella of The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books).
With over 100 stories published, his credits include Cemetery Dance, PANK, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Arcadia, Qualia Nous, Chiral Mad 2 & 3, Gutted, and Shivers 6. He has won contests at ChiZine and One Buck Horror, and has received five Pushcart Prize nominations to date.
He is also the editor of four anthologies: Exigencies and The New Black (Dark House Press), The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press) and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press) with Chuck Palahniuk (finalist for the Bram Stoker Award).
He has taught at LitReactor, the University of Iowa, StoryStudio Chicago, and in Transylvania. He was Editor-in-Chief at Dark House Press (2012-2016) and is currently Editor-in-Chief of Gamut Magazine.
A Review of Richard Thomas' The New Black: A Neo-Noir Anthology by Steven Seum
Richard Thomas has curated a modern collection of stories by a wide variety of authors with the intent of paying homage to the noir genre, as his assemblage of prose speaks to the heart of families and the secrets kept from, or between, them. The dismay and horror commonly found in this genre lurk around every corner—a child born an aberration of nature, or the family vacation turned apocalyptic survival, or the addict aunt au-pair—as each of them deal with a dire reality all its own. Each author preserves a tender parental caress, despite the shady implications hidden in the shadows of the story. They are the new—the children in this book—the soft-skinned, juvenile, and untested subjects of a world their own families fear.
In the opening story, “Father, Son, and Holy Rabbit” by Stephen Graham Jones, the unmentioned and implied actions of survival move towards clarity as the story slowly unfolds revealing the eviscerating pain a father will endure to keep his child alive. This piece sets the tone for this collection of American noir, and all the anguish and disparity of its opening story takes place away from the young protagonist, where the gruesome reality of survival is hidden from his view. The lasting effects of his psychological trauma will burden him as he moves into adulthood, and he slowly comes to understand the sacrifice his father made for him:
The other men found the boy’s father curled under the tree. When they cut his pants
away to understand where the blood was coming from, the boy looked
away, the lower lids of his eyes pushing up into the field of vision. Over the
years it would come to be one of his mannerisms, a stare that might suggest
thoughtfulness to a potential employer, but right then, sitting with a blanket and his
first cup of coffee, waiting for a helicopter, it had just been a way of blurring the tree his
father was still sleeping under.
The child’s prayers for survival, made with his father, are handled delicately by Jones as the cost of sacrifice is paid in full.
In other stories in this collection, it is psychological darkness that prevails. The knowledge that there is no deed, no prayer, no intercession that can keep your child alive creates a sense of despair. The despair of failure and the unnerving cognizance of a short childhood is the focus of Vanessa Veselka’s story, “Christopher Hitchens.” She writes of the total loss of hope the protagonist feels as she deals with a terminally-ill daughter “[b]ut belief of any kind at this point feels like being rocked in the arms of an insane mother—faith, that great and breaking bough.” It is this maternal insanity we follow as this mother tries to navigate the murky waters of anguish, and we are dragged along her internal depths as she comes to the realization that “[e]verybody’s going to die someday…but it’s different when it’s your daughter.” For her there is no hope nor help which she can find—it is a tale of dread, with no hope for divine intervention.
The dim nature foreshadowed by the title of The New Black—the oppressed, dystopian, ruthless world each author creates is only brightened by the willpower to endure, to keep the next generation of family alive. Richard Thomas’ anthology is an array of tense and horrifying stories that showcase worlds where oppression, grief, and gloom linger in the shadows. It is an exhilarating white-knuckled page turner that forced me to reexamine my place as a parent, asking me to question if I was ready to do whatever it takes to keep my own children safe and alive.
Steven Seum is a recent transfer student to Lewis University. He has recently returned to college after a fifteen year hiatus to pursue a degree in English Writing. Currently, he is an assistant editor in Fiction/Nonfiction as well as assistant Book Reviewer and Marketing consultant for the Jet Fuel Review. In his free time he enjoys relaxing evenings on the couch watching movies with his wife and volunteering for the Watch D.O.G.S (Dads of Great Students) program at his (2) daughter’s school. His interests include an immersion in a wide variety of movie genres as well as a healthy interest in well-written science fiction and fantasy literature.