Remember Why You Fear Me
By Robert Shearman
Published by Chizine Publications, 2012
This is not my first encounter with Robert Shearman, nor, should I hope, my last. I fell in love with his fiction when I first picked up an odd-looking volume titled “They Do The Same Things Different Here”. So I did what any lover of fine fiction does: I went and picked up the back catalogue.
Remember Why You Fear Me is a collection of twenty short stories, all weird, all poignant, and all written with Shearmanian brilliance. My love of short fiction comes from the production of a final punch that knocks your socks off. Shearman seems to like to toy with his audience, first. If there is such a thing, he hails from the Muhammad Ali school of short fiction. Before taking you to that final, inevitable conclusion, he’s first drawn you left when you thought he was guiding you right, then opened a trap door beneath your feet when you fell for it. Classic boxing move. Then and only then does he lunge in for the kill, from under the boxing ring, in the dark.
In “Mortal Coil”, humanity has found out the exact date at which each individual will die, through a letter sent in the mail. This is the story of a man who did not receive such a letter, and keeps getting unexpected visitors.
“George Clooney’s Mustache” is the story of a female kidnap victim who begins to fall for her captor, much to his detriment.
“Damned If You Don’t” retells the story of a man trapped in Hell who becomes the bunkmate of Hitler’s dog, and the friendship that ensues.
“So Proud” is about a newly married couple whose wife gets pregnant, but gives birth to a piece of furniture, and the fallout that comes from it.
“Roadkill” tells us about a couple who go off to the countryside for a romantic getaway, and hit an unnatural creature on the way back.
“Clown Envy” is the narrative of a family wherein a boy’s parents join the circus, just to be like the other parents.
Two of my personal favorites are “Granny’s Grinning”, the story about two children who receive some very special costumes for Christmas, and “The Dark Space in the House in the House in the Garden at the Centre of the World”, about a haunted house in the middle of the Garden of Eden.
All these stories are like coiling snakes: they have unexpected twists and turns and astonishing surprises that make no sense whatsoever save in the wicked weird worlds of Robert Shearman, yet make them grand for them. They are the unexpected written as if mundane, rendering them that much more surprising. They are Weird Fiction at its best, and I look forward to reading more strange offerings from one of my favorite short story artists.
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