Story Review from Vastarien, Volume 1, Issue 1: Goff, Krall, Thoss, and Ropes

I’m continuing my look at all things Thomas Ligotti-related by turning now to the very first issue of Vastarien magazine, which if you haven’t yet checked out, you should. Here are my thoughts on the last four items in this issue.

“Nervous Wares & Abnormal Stares,” short story by Devin Goff

A really good story that begins very innocuously. This is the diary of a woman who has moved to a small, dying town to open a ceramics shop. She begins to learn that the town has secrets that are left unrevealed to an outsider like herself, including the existence of what seems like a cult whose members wear orange robes and hoods. The group eventually hires her to construct ceramic idols for them, which begins to take a toll on the woman. There are some fascinating things going on here with dates and issues related to mass/size of physical objects. Really intriguing.

“My Time at the Drake Clinic,” short story by Jordan Krall

A curious one; I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. The story begins with an instructor teaching some sort of class to approximately college-age students and two of the students are disruptive. There’s the impression that this may be a mental health facility rather than a university setting. One of the disruptive students ends up coming to visit the instructor in his office and they have several semi-incoherent conversations. By the end of the story, the instructor is having these same sorts of bizarre conversations with his boss. It’s unclear to me if the student’s mental problems were contagious in some sense, or if the instructor had been deranged all along. Not incredibly satisfying.

“Notes on a Horror,” essay by Dr. Raymond Thoss

An utterly compelling essay that was one of the strongest contributions in the journal. I would actually argue that it is an important essay, and I don’t say that lightly. The author is a practicing clinical psychologist who works with children who have experienced extreme forms of trauma, and has himself experienced such trauma. He (I am merely assuming that the pseudonymous Thoss is male) discovered Ligotti’s work and philosophy at the age of seventeen when he was suicidal; Thoss states that Liggotti saved his life by revealing that he was not in fact insane—the world is insane and he was merely awake. Most of the rest of humanity wants people like Thoss to go back to sleep. This is excellent. But the “important” part of the piece is Thoss’ description of how he incorporates some of Ligotti’s ideas into his clinical practice. This may be Ligotti’s most valuable contribution to society, via Thoss, and I am heartened that these ideas have proved useful to some of Thoss’ clients.

“Singing the Song of My Unmaking,” short story by Christopher Ropes

A depressed man who has attempted suicide twice lives in a city with his fiancée and his father, who is dying of cancer. A void opens above the city. At first, life goes on but then people start disappearing one, dissolving into the existential void. Eventually even inanimate objects—the city itself—disappears as well, until only the narrator is left. A very poignant look at what depression feels like and how depressives cope with it. Good stuff.

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