Stains that linger | Books / Reviews | Coagulopath

51A2+mXsrAL._SX288_BO1,204,203,200_This is a 1991 anthology from Creation Books, back when they were Creation Press. Their basic approach is to pack various surrealist authors whose names start with B (Burroughs, Bataille, Banks, Britton) into a dense ball and insert said ball through your horizontal fissure at 300 miles per hour while giving the middle finger to boring lamestream media conventions like “design” and “print quality”. The pages in my copy are literally falling out. It’s poetic, as if the collection’s depravity is causing it to explode in my hands. Bad luck that I lost the page of contents, because now it’s hard to find my favorite stories.

The best one is the reprint of Ramsey Campbell’s, “Again”, which features flies, a corpse, and a gestalt: a terrifying and suffocating sense that you’re lost in a repetitious and unending cycle. Autoerotic strangulation via Moebius loop. Creation does come across as a “getting all my buddies in print” vanity enterprise at times (it helps if you understand that many people in this book don’t exist, and are pen names for other authors), but writers like Campbell and Burroughs hint at an ambition to be more than that.

Terence Sellers furnishes an excerpt (from The Correct Sadist) that is short and twisted. Not fifty shades of gray, one shade of black. David Conway’s story “Eloise” (which you can find collected in Metal Sushi) melds the old and romantic with futuristic anodyne and chrome. I’d already seen this story in one of his collections but was glad to read it again. Is this its original printing?

Then there’s “James Havoc”, contributing “In and Out of Flesh”, a fragment which appears in a more polished form in his Butchershop in the Sky compilation (and again as a full-blown graphic novel form in 2009). A teenage biker gang commits sadistic sex murders, literally writing return to sender on the bones of their victims. This early version is oddly unHavoclike – adjectives are relatively few, there’s no wild Burroughs-esque “literary guitar solos” a’la Satanskin, and generally it’s more like a story than is usual for this writer. The end of the collection promises a forthcoming (and still unreleased) children’s book from Havoc called Gingerworld, which (again) appears in fragments in Butchershop in the Sky.

Then there’s the usual filler. James Havoc’s girlfriend. A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it excerpt from Jeremy Reed. Prose from Clint Huczulak. Poetry from Aaron Williamson. They fulfill one purpose: increasing the page length beyond chapbook size into an actual anthology. None of these works were memorable in any way.

The final story, Paul Marks “And the Sun Shone by Night”, woke me from my torpor with its sheer brutality. Its first few pages make it sound like a a heavy handed tract about animal testing, but the following content is so extreme that goes straight past being a moral fable and becomes a Gommorral fable, if you like. Who’s Paul Marks? His generic, unGooglable name makes me think he’s still another pseudonym.

Red Stains is a nice look at the prime years for one of Britain’s early “extreme fiction” publishing houses. While their later compilation Dust emphasises surrealism, this one focuses on gore and violence. These were good times for Creation. In later years, a more apropos title would be Red Ink.