Well, another WTF Friday is upon us, which means we once again turn the Ruins over to my dark half. As regular visitors will know, Foster Medina has a passion for messed up literary diversions - books that are bizarre, twisted, grotesque, and kinky - and he's only too happy to splatter them across the page.
Strange Appetites - An Anthology of Truly Bizarre Erotic Stories is another dark, taboo-breaking anthology of erotic horror from the folks at Fantastic Fiction Publishing. Although the intensity fades a bit in the second half, there are still more than enough tasty tales to satisfy your hunger.
Richard Freeman opens the collection with Jaded Appetites, the story of a man who has run out of perversions to excite him. There's a nice contrast between his business-like conversation and the erotic fetishes on display around him, and the reveal of his latest twist is suitably chilling, even as it remains an arousing scene.
Oasis Beckoning is a more classic sort of monster tale, with Jacqueline Brocker making the most of the erotic potential in the aquatic scene. It's a well-balanced story, with a great set-up, a genuine struggle against sensuality, and an entirely satisfying conclusion.
Konrad Hartmann's stories here I've read before (see my review of his Dangerous Urges collection), but they're still work a second read. Frogger Says is a hell of a lot of fun, darkly comic, and sadly tragic, with a violent threesome involving psychotic stuffed animals, while Hunter's Tree is a disturbing story about troubled souls who pay to relive their fears - primal and raw, it works as well on a psychological level as a physical one.
Black Paint by Nobilis Reed was probably my favorite in the collection. It's a classic, period piece involving a noble, a peasant, and a painter. The dialogue is witty and spot-on, the erotic use of magical black paint to craft impossible new appendages is extremely exciting, and the sinister promise of the ending is just perfect.
Witch’s Price reminded me of Oasis Beckoning, a classic monster take from Ann Gimpel that manages to do a lot with the barren setting of a cold mountainside, the erotic allure of a figured glimpsed only through cold and snow, and the connection to a wronged love back home.
Although Black Paint was my favorite new story here, Strange Hospitality comes a close second. Kailin Morgan takes familiar elements of gothic horror and urban legends, weaving them together in a story that's full of atmosphere and genuinely arousing. There's an undercurrent of danger throughout, but it's tempered by a desperate need for love.
Like I said, the last second half faded a bit for me, with Ravening Season just not quite working for me, for some reason I can't really put my finger on; Screen Siren lacking something in the sense of danger and betrayal that I expected of the necrophiliac concept; and Little Henna Hair never quite living up to the ferocity of its promise (even if it does a brilliant job of deliberately breaking bestial taboos).
Fortunately, Richard Freeman injects some life and some excitement into those final pages with Sleep of Reason, a drug-fueled portal fantasy that reads like a cross between Clive Barker and Terry Gilliam. The imagination here is almost staggering, with Freeman leading us on a fantastic journey through a fetishistic world of marvels and monsters. It's, by far, the weirdest story in the collection, yet is also manages to be the most sensual and romantic.
Be warned, Strange Appetites - An Anthology of Truly Bizarre Erotic Stories indulges in taboos that more sensitive readers may find offensive, and it's not afraid to mix pain and pleasure, but it's a fantastic collection with some really exemplary stories within it.
Kindle Edition, 209 pages
Published October 28th 2014 by Fantastic Fiction Publishing