Article first published as Manga Review: The Clockwork Sky Volume One by Madeline Rosca on Blogcritics.
In many ways short stories have been replaced with other forms of media. The graphic novel is for the most part just a highly illustrated form of the medium. You would think that in the attention deficit afflicted world in which we live, short stories would be the preferred format but, the truth is that those of us with those short attention spans often need more stimuli than reading offers. Maybe it’s just habit after trying to pack so much productivity into our relatively short lives. Personally, I find reading while catching up on some type of news program on television works best for me.
Besides the quick pace within which we all live our lives these days, there are other reasons why short stories are less abundant. The biggest reason is that print media itself is disappearing. Many magazines are going digital and reducing the amount of content they provide. Those same magazines at one time provided outlets for authors of short stories. That was the path of the late great Ray Bradbury. Others like Ian Fleming and Clive Barker were able to publish collections of short stories. Barker’s Books of Blood were a personal favorite of mine but, perhaps the writing was on the wall, as even those were hardly profitable for the author.
The Crimson Pact is project conceived by Patrick M. Tracy and Paul Genesse. It sets Tracy’s The Failed Crusade, the first story in Volume 1 as an introduction and allows the short stories by a variety of authors, which they recruited, to continue what they started throughout the multi-verse. The common theme is that all of the stories tell of the “Demons of Rusted Vale.” Without giving too much away, these demons come in the forms of human, demons, aliens, extra-planar life forms, and others. The settings and genres range from urban fantasy, mystery, romance, steampunk, to alternate history.
Printed by Alliteration Ink, the four The Crimson Pact books are pretty lengthy. The volumes are each over 300 pages with the first two being the thicker tomes but, many of the stories will feel as they’ve ended too quickly. A few of the tales are better described as flash fiction, occupying only two or three pages though others can be as long as 30 pages. Sarah Hans’ Ideal Vessel is a lengthier steampunk tale in Volume 1 that is thankfully continued in the later books. It is that loose continuity offers quite a variety tone as readers make their way through and an occasional sequel often makes for a surprise gift.
Almost 30 years later The Crimson Pact supplants Clive Barker’s Books of Blood series as the modern compendium of fantasy horror short stories. Though The Crimson Pact lacks the consistent voice the Books of Blood offer, there is something to be said for the variety of styles. Like the viewers of the classic Twilight Zone and Outer Limits television series, each reader is bound to have their own favorites. Whether you buy these for yourself or someone else, any horror, suspense, or dark fiction fan should enjoy the collection.
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