Manifesto UF is that latest anthology I managed to squeeze a story within. Therefore, I have an investment in this review. To keep it honest and fair, I will only write about my five favorite stories in this volume and share some of the inside details of my story, Bloody Red Sun of Fantastic L.A.
Personally, I love short fiction. I enjoy writing it, and even more, I love reading it. The best part of an anthology is that I get to sample between ten and thirty authors, some more experienced and some newer, and see what worked for them. Getting published in an anthology isn’t easy, each author has brought their best offering. Plus, if you want to learn how to write better, reading anthologies is a way that has helped me a lot.
What is Manifesto UF? Horror/Dark Fantasy author Tim Marquitz and Tyson Mauermann (Book reviewer at Speculative Book Review) collaborated on forming the quintessential definition of Urban Fantasy. They hit the bullseye. What is inside are vampires, werewolves, angels, wizards, dragons, demons, undead, and other forms of the supernatural all living together in our modern setting. Tim and Tyson have made it undoubtedly clear that this is not Paranormal Romance.
Before I spotlight my five favorites, I need to say it was very difficult to pick from the twelve stories I’d loved greatly. This anthology has twenty-six stories, of which I thought half were amazing, and the other half very enjoyable. These were my favorites, I’ve listed them in no particular order.
I’m an Animal. You’re an Animal Too by Zachary Jernigan
I’d read I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and Salem’s Lot by Stephen King and since then haven’t found a vampire story that I could fully get into. Here’s one. It was brilliant. Zachary Jernigan’s tone set this one from the beginning, the story was ripe with frustration and uncertainty, and in the end delivered perfect meaning to its title – I’m an animal. You’re an animal too.
Naked the Night Sings by Theresa Frohock
Of the dragon stories, this was my favorite. Theresa tells of a musician who was almost good enough to be somebody, but not quite. Failing yet another audition by a margin, a mysterious woman promises him a worthy gift in exchange for retrieving a simple gift for her. She offers him the duende, a deep knowledge of the dark sounds, if he would only retrieve a small bit of yarn that is being kept by a dragon. The flow of the writing is so impossibly good, I will re-read this one again someday.
Nephilim by TSP Sweeny
I had a hard time deciding between Betsy Dornbusch’s Chains of Gray and Nephilim. The determining factor; I connected better with Sweeny’s fallen angels.
Here on Earth, there are fallen angels, and then there are Fallen angels. Dantalion is one of the fallen, and while waiting for Judgment, he works for a pharmaceutical company that recently lost an experimental drug. It’s an experimental drug with a side effect that gets people really freakin’ high. Not surprisingly, it’s turned up as a new street drug being coined Nephilim. This was a complex story with good attention to detail.
Front Lines, Big City by Timothy Baker
Timothy Baker is becoming one of my favorite new authors. Three times we’ve been published together, and each time his stories get better. His world prompts that the United States has survived its 2nd civil war. Both sides of the broken United States employed sorcerers to get the job done, but after the war, the winner decided that sorcerers were too dangerous to keep alive. This is the story of two surviving sorcerers…or maybe only one…
There were two other stories devoted to modern day wizardry, both of them were good, only Tim Baker’s was my favorite. It was the tone and atmosphere Timothy Baker set that took the story up a notch higher for me. Timothy’s story carved a deeper dread, and a sense of foreboding along with a genuine human element that the other two tales just couldn’t quite touch.
Blessing and Damnation by Wilson Geiger
As I’ve said, it was an incredibly difficult task narrowing down my five favorite stories in this anthology. Blessing and Damnation is told from a demon’s point of view, and expertly done. A superior demon had gone rogue, escaping hell and has gone rampaging through our world spreading an infernal disease. He is intentionally trying to break the peace between Heaven and Hell. The powers of Hell order another demon to rise and stop the stronger demon. I closed the story with a grim smile, appreciating the paradox.
Now, because it’s the only chance I have to share insights, I’ll leave little tidbits about how I built my story.
Bloody Red Sun of Fantastic L.A. by Jake Elliot
Although the story took its title from one of my favorite songs by The Doors, there was a deeper reasoning beyond The Doors getting their start in downtown Hollywood. Los Angeles is the City of Angels, the sun is our nearest star, and Hollywood is the City of the Stars—this story has overt symbolic relevance to a little bit of all of that.
My inspiration for this story came from Westin Ochse’s brilliant short story, Hollywood Villainy, which offered a soiled and ugly picture of Hollywood’s nightlife. I’d hoped to describe Hollywood’s diversity and shine, even if it’s still a bit tarnished. I feel successful in painting a vivid picture of the historical street corner of Hollywood and Vine.
My protagonist is the Arch-angel Michael (Mikael,) who I envision as a cold servant of God. A lot of people don’t realize that angels were created without freewill and their sole purpose is to serve God. This does not give Michael a warm personality. In fact, I imagined his view of humanity with considerable apathy.
Ba’al, the demon, is my antagonist. I built him like Christian history and mythology make him. A friend told me they’d felt more sympathy for Ba’al than Mikael. My response was “Me too, the poor guy totally got the shaft.” Each character represented the diverse extremes of law and chaos. It was all those poor bastards getting crushed in the middle I’d hoped someone would recognize, but so far, the poor huddled masses have no sympathizers.
My ending is totally Dues ex Machina. Some will think that is a bad thing. For my story to observe the religious connotations of Angelic behavior, (assuming they are real,) then Mikael is only a messenger. I felt the ending was right, and I will say no more. I wish not to spoil anyone’s fun.