I finished the issue of Cemetery Dance last night. It's roughly what I was expecting. On a sentence-for-sentence level, the writing is pretty professional. Things are well described, some of the ideas are fun. Nearly all of the fiction, though, has a twist or shock ending. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The gore aspect is surprisingly limited, which was actually a nice surprise.
The one piece that really deviates from this is my favorite: "Hook House" by Sherry Decker. It's a gothic troubled family kind of story involving ghosts and generations of in-family murder. It's very well detailed, and surprisingly character driven. The other piece that amused me was "Misdirection" by Tony Richards. It's about a performance artist who involves the audience in violent ways, and definitely employs one of those shock ending pieces. But I'm a sucker for anything set in Scotland, and even more so if its at the Edinburg Arts Fest.
I mentioned the Nancy Holder interview earlier, but the issue also features an interview with long time horror writer Richard Matheson. With all he's done from novels, short fiction, film and t.v. scripts he brings an interesting perspective to the genre. Also interesting that he really hates gore, and hints that he regrets writing work that used gore when he was young. There's also an interview with Sean Wallace, head of the small press Prime Books; Wallace had a number of interesting things to say about running a small press that focuses on genre work and all the difficulties involved with it. I didn't know the press by name, but in reading the article realized I have at least two of their books, both by Jeff Vandermeer.
Based on this one issue, I think I'm capable to write pieces of equal quality if I get the ideas. I know I'm no Peter Straub, but this mag gave me a nice sense of hope.
So now I've moved on to the new issue of Gargoyle. The opening piece, Sally Drumm's "Alphabet Story", is brilliant. It's an odd quasi-nonfiction piece mixing letters, journal entries and essays into one. If there's a discernable theme, I'd say it's about writers, readers and exploring and questioning the relationships the two have with one another. It's also about language, and the style and rhythm has a deceptively random feel (although I'm sure it's not random at all). I got the same feeling from it that I get from reading a Kathy Acker piece for the first time. Slightly confused, but very interested in what the author is creating. Which, for me, is a good thing. More Gargoyle later.
Lastly, I want to point people to Alt-x. It's a journal and press that specializes in hypertext fiction, but does have a few other odds and ends mixed in. I hadn't looked at them in several months, but it looks like they've redone their site and made it a lot more organized and easier to navigate. I'm curious what others might think about hypertext fiction, because I have very mixed feelings about it.