Hellraiser asked the Question "What's your pleasure?", well that would be telling. Phobophobia an anthology of 27 short stories asks the questions "what's your fear?" If you have been paying attention then you will all know what my main fears are. Thankfully it doesn't look as though any nuns have made there way into this anthology. However what you do get is an A-Z of fears, plus a bonus story from Steven Savile & Steve Lockley.
Edited by Dean M. Drinkel, Phobophobia certainly look like another first class production from the good folks over at Dark Continents Publishing.
A is for Aquaphobia : Aqua Mortis by Adrian Chamberlin
It's down to an old Ginger Nuts favourite, Adrian Chamberlin, to get the ball rolling. His Story Aqua Mortis a grimy tale set in the golden age of witch finders, has a village and the Witchfinder in the grip of a witch's curse. Adrian has done a sterling jog capturing the feel of such classic movies as Captain Kronos. A well written tale with a good pay off, this story sets the bar high for the rest of the anthology.
B is For Bibliophobia : Words To The Wise by Paul Kane
This is an odd tale. Samuel Kellerman, is afraid of the written word, so afraid in fact he is convinced that books are out to kill him. This could easily have turned to be a silly mess of a story, however what you get here is a rather funny, yet twisted tale of fear. I really enjoyed this story, imagine if the Phantom Tollbooth, was written for adults, yes that's how good this story was.
C is for Coulrophobia : The Clown Cemetery by Sean Sweeney
This story takes the thread of humour started by Paul Kane's previous story and ranks it up to max. Here we find our hero, how has a crippling fear of clowns somehow finding herself in a a clown cemetery, and is want to happen in these sort of stories, the clowns are restless. Sean Sweeney has created an action pack fun tale, that while funny and irreverant, still manges to chill the reader to the core. The passage recounting the a clown parade that our hero visited as a kid sent a shiver down my spine.
D is for Dementophobia : Emile-Louis Tomas Jouvet
This an emotionally charged and chilling character study and that's all I am going to say about this story. This is one of those short stories, where I believe, the more you know about the lesser an impact te conclusion will have on you. Jouvet, keeps racking up the tension, right up to a conclusion that will tear at your heart strings. This is very powerful and well written story.
E is for Electrophobia : Kate Jonez
This is a strange tale, where Elmo, an inventor battles electricity. This story is strange, it kept me guessing as to what was actually going on, at first I wasn't too sure about it, this one, but by the time I finished it, I was won over by it. Odd but worthwhile.
F is for Frigophobia : Dave Jeffery
Where back on more familiar ground here, where a an encounter between a therapist and her patient leads to chilling consequences,(sorry couldn't help myself there). This is a solid well written story that has a nice shock at the end of the tale.
G is for Gatophobia : S.L. Schmitz
This is a wonderful horror tale set in a future where animals and humans are augmented with both cybernetic parts, and foreign DNA. This is a world populated by animals razor sharp metallic claws, dogs that can speak any language, and cats that have been combined with vampyrric DNA. You just know that a story that sees a young boy getting a vampire cat as a pet is not going to end well. The reason as to why the cat does what it does is pure genius.
H is for Hagiophobia : Tracie McBride
This is a dark tale involving a lust boy and his obsession for a gothic girlfriend. Oh and his rather psychotic sister. If the devil had a daughter her name would be Clare This is a powerful well written story that builds the tension to an almost unbearable level.
I is for Ichthyophobia : Ian Woodhead
This is another story where the protagonist's life is made hell by an evil sister. Poor Scott.not only is he stuck in a wheelchair, but his sister likes to torment him at every turn. Scot has developed a fear of fish, stemming from his father being killed during a fishing trip. And his sister Andrea, loves to torment him about this. I liked this story, the ending maybe a bit silly, but it manages to stay just on the right side silly, an enjoyable tale, that doesn't take itself too seriously.
J is for Jesusphobia : William Meikle
This is another fun tongue in cheek tale, that explores what might happen when a man who has a crippling fear of Jesus dies. Meikle, hits the bullseye yet again, with another extremely enjoyable tale. If I see Willie's name in an anthology I normally jump straight to his story. Thankfully the wait was well worth it.
K is for Kenophobia : Rakie Keig
We shift back down to a much more sombre mood with this melancholy tale of regret loss and heartache. This was a moving tale, that uses its setting as an effect character in the story. It's been a long time since I read anything by Rakie, and I'm kicking myself for not keeping her name more in my mind. This is a great story.
L is for Lygophobia : Richard Salter
This was rather difficult to read, not due to the authors talent for writing, as this is a very well written story. It was difficult due to the subject matter. Frank did something terrible in his youth, something so terrible it haunts him everyday reaching out from the darkness, threatening to enact it's revenge. It is the mark of a good writer, when a reader actually feels a small bit of compassion for a character who has done something so terrible. A great story topped off with a great ending
M is for Metathesiophobia : Marie O'Regan
Eva is afraid of change, so much so she is under the guidance of a therapist. Everything must stay the same, books cannot be out of place on a bookshelf. Her life has become a prison. But when the her therapist unlocks the door to her mental prison, well ...... Marie O'Regan, has created a wonderful tale that evokes a memory of classic Tales of The Unexpected. I love stories that have endings like this.
N is for Nosocomephobia : Christopher L. Beck
Derek, has a fear, a fear that completely encompasses his life, he is afraid of hospitals. When he is injured while saving a little girl, he finds himself in the place of his fears. Desperate to escape his personal hell, he is thwarted at every turn by visions of a dirty old man. A man who taunts him at every chance. This is a good story that manges to convey the sense of desperation and fear that Derek feels, however the story was let down by a slightly unsatisfactory ending.
O is for Osmophobia : John Palisano
Osmophobia, Scott suffers a fear of smells. Trying to find answers to the secrets of what lies beyond death. John Patison does a good job in keeping the story interesting until the final twist.
P Is for Pternophobia : G.R. Yeates
This was an odd story, and truthfully I had to read it second time to fully grasp the jist of the story. Maybe I shouldn't try and read a story after being awake for thirty hours. On the second reading when everything clicked into place, I remembered exactly why G.R. Yeates, is on my list of new authors to watch out for. A deeply satisfying short story.
Q is for Qiqirn : Simon Kurt Unsworth
Sometimes I think people like to play with me. Imagine making me wait until past the halfway mark to read a story by one of my favourite authors. Luckily for Mr Drinkel the wait was worth it. Simon Kurt Unsworth delivers another excellent piece of quiet supernatural terror. Some writers have a great gift for capturing feelings and atmosphere on the page. Mr Unsworth is one of those writers.
R is for Ranidaphobia : John Irvine
John Irvine story gives the reader a welcome break from the rather heavy and dark stories that have just been. John's tale is a nice light fun tale about why its sometimes not always best to kiss a frog.
S is for Sarmassophobia : D.M. Youngquist
D. M. Youngquist's tale is the first in a run of sexual themed stories. Justin is infatuated with killjoy, a frequenter of sex clubs. But John has a fear of intimacy. following her into her club can only and does lead to tragedy. Youngquist. has crafted a bittersweet story that that also manages to terrify.
T is for Tetratophobia : John Prescott
Harry Remembers his childhood a childhood ruined by a bully and his minions. But Harry has a secret game. His board game, Here Be monsters is an apt title. for this game. John Prescott has written another fine tale that captors u-h fear of being bullied and the fear of just what retribution just might bring.
U is for Uranophobia : Barbie Wilde.
Wow, wow, wow. That pretty much sums up my feelings about this story. Barbie has created a story that reads like a power of nature. Gia story is both powerful and deeply shocking. This tale of latent revenge and pent up anger was a joy to read.
V is for Venustraphobia : Serenity J Banks
Is another story that has the power and lure of sexual promise at the core of the tale. This time Michael is afraid of nudity. And is tormented by his workmates who send him porn to his computer. When he comes face to face with a succubus his fears most be faced head on. Serenity, has written another gripping story that twists a common trope on its head.
W is for Wicca phobia : Jonathan Green.
This was another highlight of the candles anthology for me. Imagine the essence of Hammer's House of Horror distilled into a short story. Done that, then what you'll have is this story. Reading this story you won't be able to stop yourself from picturing a young Jenny Agutter being terrified out of her mind in a old English cottage.
X is for xanthophobia : Wayne Goodchild
But this is a rather fine riff on the king on Yellow. It's been a long time since I read c-t I could be confused. John suffers from Xanthophobia, and has taken to writing to overcome it. But what he doesn't realise is his writing as summand. The king in yellow. John must fight back or succumb to his madness. It's a brave man who tries to tackle what many to consider to be a gold standard in horror fiction. Luckily Wayne has the talent to pull it off.
Y is for Ymophobia : Magen Toole
This is a warning tale for all you mathematicians out there searching for the answers to everything. Sometimes the search for the ultimate truth will give you an answer you don't want to find. This is a nice mind bending tale, with a subtle nod to Hellraiser.
Z is for Zeusophobia : Dean M. Drinkel
I've always said you can judge an anthology by the contribution of the editor. After all, his story kind of sets the benchmark. And truthfully, Dean's story sets the standard perfectly. A mysterious figure is travelling the globe, granting dying wishes to those desperate for his help. This was a gripping enough story, however when the reveal is made as to who or what the mysterious figure is, the story is elevated to even greater heights. Dean's story was another personal highlight of the collection for me.
Bonus Story :Steven Savile and Steve Lockley
Is if I think another short story set in the authors world of snow zombies. Where a father and son are besieged by shufflers during a snow storm. As usual, the two Steves have come up with another first class short story.
So, 27 stories later, what are my final thoughts on this anthology? With phobophobia, Dean M. Drinkel, has shown that he has a not only a great gift for writing, but also an excellent eye, when it comes to selecting stories for this anthology. The standard of these stories ranges from very good to excellent. There wasn't a single story that I didn't enjoy reading.