cover image A Natural History of Hell: Stories

A Natural History of Hell: Stories

Jeffrey Ford. Small Beer, $16 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-61873-118-0

Celebrated short-form fantasist Ford (The Physiognomy) seamlessly blends subtle psychological horror with a mix of literary history, folklore, and SF in this collection of 13 short stories, all focused on the struggles, sorrows, and terrors of daily life. Some stories are told in the modern era; others are set in unspecified periods. Each tale gently twists perceptions, diving down into the ordinary and coming back out with a thoughtful nugget of the extraordinary. “The Blameless” opens the collection with a humorously scathing indictment of modern parenting, treating a teenager’s exorcism with the same tender care as one would any religious coming-of-age ceremony. “Rocket Ship to Hell” begins by lampooning pulp-era SF writers and progresses through an intriguing psychological twist, complete with an oblique X-Files reference. “Mount Chary Galore” is a bone-chilling story of three young children in a more innocent, more difficult time, and their encounter with the local wise woman. Each story has its own perfectly suited voice, and readers will be alarmed by how easily they relate to the well-meaning but inevitably destructive characters. (July)