The moon has fascinated us for millennia. It’s beautiful, mysterious and intrinsic to how the world functions. But the moon can also bring out the worst in people and encourage the supernatural to enter our lives without warning. From a storytelling perspective, the lunar cycle provides writers with so much inspiration, and that’s happened in the Moonlit Dreams/Moonlit Nightmares anthology published by Antimony and Elder Lace Press.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have one of my short stories, Eleventh Hour, featured in the anthology. But Moonlit Dreams/Moonlight Nightmares contains various stories from talented authors. With that said, here’s a review of a collection that shows the darker, rawer side of human nature.
A Consultation By Moonlight by Thomas Vaughn
The anthology begins with a story that features a sinister pact during the time of Ancient Rome. This is one of my favourite time periods, and Vaughn brings Rome to life in vivid detail. From poetic language to ruthless political intrigue, A Consultation By Moonlight features everything that makes historical fiction entertaining.
It’s a strong opening story for a collection that pulls no punches in the pursuit of describing the moon’s hold on mankind.
Phosphene by Sarah Walker
During a full moon, there’s often talk of crazy people coming out in the night. The idea of lunatics is a common theme and so mental health and the moon go hand in hand. But Phosphene doesn’t present mental health in a negative way. Walker tells the story of a girl called Adria with depression and how realistic and terrifying it is to live with such a debilitating condition.
It’s a story of how mental illness can manifest into a physical monstrosity. It’s about how we can overcome those demons and regain happiness.
A Visitation by Parineeta Singh
Visitation is a tense story that deals with themes of insecurity and a haunted hotel. Singh’s writing style is hard-hitting and memorable. She’s good at making you feel connected to the protagonist and then revealing a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming.
When The Moon Is Full by Dawn J. Stevens
The bond between a mother and daughter is a powerful connection. It’s the major theme of When The Moon Is Full, a tale of a woman struggling to deal with psychic premonitions. Stevens’ protagonist, Heather, has spent much of her life trying to live with what she sees as both a curse and a gift.
Stevens has a self-aware and beautiful writing style that contrasts well with the delicate themes of her subject matter.
The Sound Of Stars by A.P Sessler
The Sound Of Stars is one of my favourite stories from the collection. A.P Sessler depicts the lives of two families living side by side during a meteor shower. There’s a great mixture of sci-fi and horror that manifest at a slow pace.
What I particularly enjoy about The Sound Of Stars is how it starts off as one type of tale and then gradually brings in the horror elements. By the end, it feels like a completely different story, but one that’s kept you invested from start to finish.
One Stormy Night by Jesse Moak
I’m always going to be a sucker for a good historical yarn about the sea. One Stormy Night has a Lovecraftian element to it that dances around the edges. But the horror is subtler and more tragic.
Moak depicts a man who has gone to seek is fortune but becomes trapped in a place that defies everything he’s ever known. There’s a wonderful rawness to the way that Moak writes that will keep you interested.
Anamnesis by Cara Fox
Similar to Stevens’ story, Anamnesis follows the relationship of a mother and her daughter. Only it’s far more direct because the mother, Jen, interacts with her child, Bianca, throughout. Anamnesis brings forth the idea that the moon can be both beautiful and dangerous for children. It’s a sinister, slow burn short story that needs to be read more than once.
The Magic Circle by Dimitris Psomadellis
The old saying ‘be careful what you wish for’ is a popular theme in fiction. It’s the kind of timeless trope that can be reimagined in different ways. The Magic Circle delivers a classic take on the trope with the naivety of a young woman who wants to get a guy to notice her. To win his affection, the girl relies on the help of three witches and it’s not long before she starts to regret her decision.
Receiving Room by Lori Tiron-Pandit
Receiving Room is another stand out story because of the way it’s written. It’s presented in the style of a journal entry, with the protagonist writing down her dreams and the unease she feels about them.
Eleventh Hour by Jamie Ryder
Again, I’m pleased to mention that I was able to get my story featured in Moonlit Dreams/Moonlight Nightmares.
I’d describe Eleventh Hour as an urban horror that takes place in my home city of Manchester. A young man is stuck in a rut and a supernatural creature comes along to boot him up the arse and help him get on with his life.
The First Victims Club by Shaun Avery
Shaun Avery’s story is wonderfully creative, dark and funny. The First Victims Club plays with the idea of what it means to be a victim and how you break out of that mentality. Some victims choose to rise above their pain, while others adopt the attitude of their oppressors and become a reflection of everything they hated.
To Make A Violin by L. Seeber
To Make A Violin stands out for two reasons. First, because it’s an entertaining crime story. Second, because it’s written by the woman behind Antimony and Elder Lace Press, and I’m grateful for her publishing the collection to begin with.
In addition to the crime elements, Seeber’s story focuses on the relationship between a detective and his niece. But that bond is put to the test through a trial by fire.
The Experiment by Todd P. Taylor
As the last story of the collection, The Experiment is a cracking finale. It focuses on themes of homelessness and altruism. Selfishness and survival. I think it paints a realistic take on what many people think of the homeless, as shown through the lens of someone who used to live on the streets.
But when we choose to help the homeless is it because we feel guilty or because we want to feel like we’ve done a good deed? That is a conundrum that Todd P. Taylor answers beautifully in The Experiment.