Reviewed by Michelle Ristuccia
This issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies is a themed Weird Western issue celebrating the release of their themed anthology, Ceaseless West: Weird Western Stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
In “Splitskin” by E. Catherine Tobler, the protagonist and several other characters exist as a duality, with the spirit of a supernatural being tenuously existing within their human skins. The story begins with the narrator relating Raven’s capture of her and her lover’s mothers, both thunderbird spirits, who have remained trapped in the mountains since her childhood. Now white men have come following the gold rush, and a snake spirit offers to take the protagonist and her lover into the mountains on his train to free the thunderbirds. “Splitskin” draws from the Raven Tales folklore of indigenous tribes of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. Tobler’s story will captivate fans of the weird without alienating other fantasy readers.
In “Swallowing Silver” by Erin Cashier, John Halpern must team up with the werewolves his deceased sister married into in order to combat a much greater threat, a wendigo that is attacking all arriving caravans, thereby threatening the town’s incoming supplies in its impossible quest to sate its supernatural hunger. Cashier tells a story of mutual prejudice and fear of the inhuman, with a narrative driven by action and deadly circumstances. “Swallowing Silver” draws from the wendigo legends of the indigenous peoples of the Atlantic Coast and Great Lakes Region of North America.
Leo is haunted by the talking head of his dead twin brother Cary in “The Snake-Oil Salesman and the Prophet’s Head” by Shannon Peavey. Even as Leo tries to deny his connection with the talking head to the other carnival workers, he is drawn to talk with Cary and generally obsesses over the head’s presence as a condemnation of his slick-talking, snake-oil salesman ways. Peavey explores the extremes of pathological lying in this straight-forward tale.
Michelle Ristuccia enjoys slowing down time in the middle of the night to read and review speculative fiction, because sleeping offspring are the best inspiration and motivation. You can find out more about her other writing projects and geeky obsessions by visiting her blog.