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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Nemonymous 7: Zencore! Scriptus Innominatus, edited by D.F. Lewis

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“Torsion” by ?
“MMM - Delicious” by ?
“Undergrowth” by ?
“Fugly” by ?
“The Nightmare Reader” by ?
“The Secret Life of the Panda” by ?
“Upset Stomach” by ?
“The Awful Truth About The Circus” by ?
“Red Velvet Dust” by ?
“The Coughing Coffin” by ?
“Terminus” by ?
“Mary’s Gift, the Stars and Frank’s Pisser” by ?
“Blue Raspberries” by ?
“Berian Winslow & The Stream Of Consciousness Storyteller” by ?
“The Plunge” by ?
“England and Nowhere” by ?
“Word Doctor” by ?

The currently unallocated list of authors of the above stories in alphabetical (not story) order: Anonymous, Daniel Ausema, Charles Black, Dominy Clements, Scott Edelman, Nick Jackson, M.P. Johnson, Kek-W, Tim Nickels, Reggie Oliver, Ursula Pflug, Steven Pirie, Brian Rappatta, Patricia Russo, E. Sedia, S.D. Tullis, & Mark Valentine

Zencore! Scriptus Innominatus is a unique anthology published by Megazanthus Press and is the seventh volume (including the mysterious missing sixth volume) of Nemonymous, an experiment in speculative fiction.  As originally envisioned by the editor, these anthologies publish cutting-edge magic fiction and magic realism written by professional authors.  The catch is that the authors and the editor are anonymous as of the date of publication.  This gives the authors unprecedented freedom as they can experiment, try new ideas and techniques, without the reader having any expectations or preconceived notions.  The prose stands (or falls) on its own merit.  And as you would expect with experiments, the results are decidedly mixed.

First up is a lovely tale, a diamond among the gravel if you will, of wasted life titled “Torsion.”  We follow the narrator as he visits a favorite retreat from his barren life, a polluted pond inhabited only by sludge-eating snails.  He pretends to fish with no bait or lure, knowing that there are no fish to catch.  Yet this mindless pastime is the highlight of his week.  When he finds a homeless person eating the snails at his fishing spot, he chases him off in a possessive rage, but not before the ragged fellow infects the narrator with a curse. And so it comes to pass, what his life is, he becomes.

“MMM - Delicious” is a screed against Madison Avenue and the banality of advertising.  Lucy finds the perfect spokesman for her ad agency’s clients, but is he even human?   A bizarre take on this sleaziest of professions.

“Undergrowth” is an odd, unfocused tale playing on a pun based on the booksellers’ term for the slow selling books that are consigned to the bottom shelves of the racks.  In this case, the books rightly deserve this fate.  Just why the narrator seeks these languishing volumes is unclear.

“Fugly” is another of the true gems of this collection, one of the successes of the experiment.  Lenore and Pete live together, and like so many couples in the real world, remain together as much because of inertia as any emotional attachment.  That is until the physical embodiment of Lenore’s anger, frustration, and angst crashes through the bathroom window late one night.  Her reaction to her own repressed self is telling.

“The Nightmare Reader” is one of the experiments that was not a success.  In essence, this is a densely written tale of a poor, mentally impaired man’s decent into true madness as his obsession with boll weevils takes over his life.  An interesting presentation, but overlong and less than engaging.

Next up is a two-story arc on the futility of modern life for the average man.  In “The Secret Life of the Panda,” Denis works mightily to expend the days of his life without actually participating, not with his job, his girlfriend, or the world generally.  When he’s forced to become an active player in life by an emergency, he’s embarrassed with himself.

“Upset Stomach” follows Todd during his workday.  His job is so meaningless, he plans his day around the snacks he’ll eat during his breaks.  And then he is blessed with an evil miracle when his own excrement comes to life, the true progeny of his life.  Truly a disturbing tale.

“The Awful Truth About The Circus” is another failed experiment.  Carly seeks escape from her small-town life by visiting the circus. What follows is confusion, fear, and abject despair.  But I’m still unclear why Carly feels this way, or why we should care.

“Red Velvet Dust” is an overlong tale of middle-aged Chelsea, 20 years after the death of her mother, yet Chelea still mourns.  She finds her mother’s spirit and closure in the course of collecting old clothes at second hand shops, but I’m not sure what the point was.

“The Coughing Coffin” is the cleverest tale of the collection, built around a joke within a joke within a joke.  The retired British Major tells a tale of ghostly happenings at an old friend’s crypt.  At the end, he slips us a sly smile.  Is he playing a joke on his listeners?  Or on us?  And so the layers go.

“Terminus” was my least favorite tale of the anthology, although not a failed experiment.  An allegorical tale on the impermanence of life represented by an ever-changing everyday world.  You can’t even walk around the block here, as your starting point may not be there when you return.  In the end, we’re asked to speculate if life isn’t just a long terminal illness.  Of course, if that’s your view of life, why bother living?

“Mary’s Gift, The Stars and Frank’s Pisser” is another of the shining gems in this collection.  Mary and her fellows are street people—addicted, mentally ill, and emotionally impaired.  Yet Mary is a true angel in human form, capable of miracles.  If only she could just find a reason to do so.  Even among the filth and vomit of the gutters, she marvels at the beauty of the heavens.  And despite the wretchedness of her world, we feel her wonder and celebrate her redemption at the end.

“Blue Raspberries” is a disturbing tale built around a neo-Nazi, pornographic political cult.  A man finds their manifesto among his father’s things, something he mistakes for cheap pornography. And then he learns the truth.  I’m just unclear whether the protagonist cares.

“Berian Winslow & The Stream Of Consciousness Storyteller” is just that, a stream of consciousness story about a robot storyteller.  Our narrator watches as the robot evolves to sentience, but that is really a side issue in this meandering tale.  Unfortunately, this not so much a story as a journey with no particular end in mind.

“The Plunge” is yet another gem of a tale, compelling and humanistic as it horrifies.  Frank struggles to be kind, understanding, and humane as he executes the excess children of the world with his bare hands.  And he takes pride in his craft, sending the children to death like a knacker in a slaughterhouse with efficiency and professionalism, all the time worrying that the little dears suffer not at all.  Yet you identify with this man, worry with him as he is anguished over any failings in his executions. 

“England And Nowhere” is a slice out of the life of an old, alcoholic man as he diverts himself watching the people around him between martinis at the beach resort hotel where he lives.  And so his days go, living other peoples lives secondhand from his balcony, martini glass in hand.

The final tale of the collection, and the final gem, is “Word Doctor,” probably the most straightforward allegory of the anthology.  Arkimp is the one and only master word doctor, repairing the blighted and twisted words of the world.  But when he finds his craft lacking, he travels to the land of origin of the word and learns the land no longer is what the word describes.  And so he sets off on a new quest to correct this failing around the world.  And we root for him, hoping he may visit our land someday?

Overall, this is a worthy experiment in crafting fiction.  Only by pushing the boundaries and daring something different can the authors of the world grow.  And in this case, we are rewarded with enough successes to justify the visit here.  I commend Zencore! Scriptus Innomiatus to you.

Publisher: Megazanthus Press (June 2007)
Trade Paperback: £8.00