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Tales of Blood and Roses

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Tales of Blood and Roses

Publisher and editor in chief Jeffrey L. Shipley

On the surface, it smacks of being a Twilight sequel, it really does, but don’t let that deter you from picking up the first issue of the new local horror zine Tales of Blood and Roses. From the macabre mind of Jeffrey L. Shipley, a contributor to the popular fanzine Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore!, Tales’ maiden issue, “Love Gone Wrong!,” flexes plenty of literati muscle.

The issue warns, “Don’t look for happy endings in these pages,” and makes good on that promise. From a story about a rose breeder with morbid intent to the disturbing tale of a woman whose werewolf husband routinely rapes her, Tales offers enough to keep the mind interested but never too much to turn it away. The zine capitalizes on an obsession with death and plays on it with intrigue. There is a sexual component too, which grabs the libido before the violent undertones are fully absorbed. All of this is accomplished without ever transforming into the teen-angst vampire-porn fiction the cover appears to advertise.

The zine isn’t just limiting itself to gothy teenagers and Glenn Danzig. “Love Gone Wrong!” delivers formidable writing beneath all the bloodshed: You don’t need fangs to appreciate it when Rebecca Urban writes, “Passions resemble dead-end roses run over by my drunk ass boyfriend at 2 AM when he can’t find his dick anymore.”

Comprised of short fiction and poetry contributions from 28 writers and lovers of campy gore, “Love Gone Wrong!” has some great content. It’s not all stock footage either. Yes, the whole “evil child returns from the dead for revenge” thing has been done before, but “Halliegh” by R. A. Boyd is a thoughtful retelling with a twist that has no odor of cliche. Likewise, Terence Kuch’s “Taste” does the “cheating lover and his mistress kill his wife” thing with a shot of humor. And the issue comes complete with a list of suggested songs to add that “haunted house” atmosphere to your reading, provided by the Enigmatic MZ.

The pitfalls are few in the fiction, though the poetry gets spotty at times. Some pieces are thoughtful and ready for the page, but others just fall flat and leave you unprovoked. “Refusing the Call” by Jesse A. Whyte is a high point, but Colin James’ “A Large Bridge of Ambiguous Circumvention” is the issue’s biggest question mark.

The zine’s marginless layout and sometimes sloppy copy editing are standard for a small-pub production. The graphic content is generally well done, though a bit oversaturated. But the genre is an acceptable excuse for these decisions—as with any good horror movie, if the content doesn’t make you cringe then the production quality damn well better. Overall, Tales is worth its salt—even if that salt is used to preserve the corpse of your fiance.

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