Bailey (Chiral Mad, 2013, etc.) edits this sci-fi/horror anthology of fiction and poetry.
In his introduction to this anthology, Bailey grimly ruminates on the nature of the potential immortality of art, even as its creators are condemned to eventual annihilation: “Every author in Qualia Nous will die. Yes, that is blunt, and a horrifying thought, but their words and the worlds they have created will survive (perchance in the infinite).” The liminal space between the infinite and the finite is much on the mind of the writers contained within this volume, including heavy hitters of the genre such as Stephen King, Gene O’Neill, Lucy A. Snyder, Richard Thomas, Jason V. Brock, James Chambers, Pat R. Steiner, and John Everson. With 25 stories, two poems, and four novelettes, the tome is a dense compendium of psychological horror rooted in the realm of hard sci-fi. The anthology offers a particularly literary-minded selection from the genres, with pieces that blend character study and emotionally complex narrative with plot-and-suspense-driven premises. The work is of a uniformly high quality, with particular standouts from Richard Thomas, Rena Mason, and Patrick Freivald. The best piece, perhaps, is “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family” by relative newcomer Usman T. Malik. Tara, a woman with a secret power, watches as first her family and then her city are pulled apart by violence and hate. As the terror piles up, the Beast inside of her whispers, “This is death, this is love, this is the comeuppance of the two, as the world according to you will finally come to an end.” The destructive otherworldly power possessed by Tara and her brother becomes a metaphor for humanity’s capacity for destruction in modern Pakistan—but also for humanity’s capacity for forgiveness. In addition to steeping readers in sci-fi dread, much of the work in the collection comments on the social, natural, and technological ills of the modern world, reaffirming the important role speculative literature can play in reframing the cultural dialogue.
An accomplished collection of masterfully crafted horror from some of the genre’s finest practitioners.