Initial comments by readers and reviewers in 2001 about this anthology: NEMONYMOUS ONE 2001
Brand new TANGENT Review (Dec 2005)
Nemonymous Manifesto 2001
ROGER PILE (July 2007):
INFINITY PLUS REVIEW
Rev up Review: HERE.
I’ve decided to buck the trend in this review and write it with knowledge of who wrote the tales. I’ve singled out the stuff I feel deserves commentary, either (largely) positive or the ignoble alternative…
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of DRIVING IN CIRCLES: some fine dark prose, though the whole of it felt a little unfinished, as if the author had submitted an excerpt. It reminded me of the opening of King’s CHILDRENOF THE CORN, and I mean complimentarily; I just wanted more. I like a story to be a story – we have a beginning, a middle…but, for me at least, no end.
However, I truly enjoyed THE HILLS ARE ALIVE: it fitted with my traditional sensibilities. Mysterious house, strained relationship, weird happenings – the works. A pungent piece.
HUNTIN’ SEASON was certainly unapologetic in its approach, though I’ve never been a fan of such extreme work. Richly descriptive and effective,and it sure worked well in proximity with the gentler tales around it, but not for me, alas.
Now then, the very good stuff: THE SCARIEST STORY I KNOW – probaly the best title hook I’ve come across, reminiscent of the subtitle to Ford Madox Ford’s THE GOOD SOLDIER. And the tale lived up to its ambition. A tour de force of multiple narratives and blurred perspectives; a gem.
As was NEW SCIENCE. I won’t make it a secret that I personally know the writer, and I had the pleasure of reading this story in manuscript form. It’s amazing. Terse, brutal, bleak. Beautiful, tender, uplifting. How can so much be said in so few words by such a short guy? A great, great piece.
There we have it, then. Some fine work, some interesting stuff, and other pieces that neither moved me to eulogise nor aroused my criticism. In all, a solid collection, and with two outstanding contributions, a must-have book.
So let’s lament the passing of an unflinchingly eccentric and ambitious project. Nemo – Latin for ‘no-one’, I understand. Whoever follows will have a tough act to follow. Nemo did it better.
© Gary Fry (2005)
The latest (last?) issue of Nemonymous reaches us looking like one of those little Memo books mothers of the 1970s used to write their shopping lists in. Of course the identities of the authors of this particular collection of stories have been disclosed but I thought it more appropriate to write this review doing my best to ignore this fact, thus adhering to the principle of this now justifiably world-famous, revolutionary journal.
We begin with The Robot and the Octopus, a jolly little tale that had me smiling all the way through. After all, how can one resist a tale with sentences like ‘We have millions of dollars worth of nanotechs walking around in a robot dragging an octopus behind them’? One of the constant delights of Nemonymous is that you never know what the next story is going to be like, and the opener in no way prepares one for Driving in Circles – another short offering that is as neat as it is nihilistic. Running Away to Join The Town has such a splendid opening paragraph that I had to read it three times in order to fully savour it. A shame, then, that the story itself is somewhat clichéd, and while the narrative offers a few touches of surrealism the outcome is predictable and therefore ultimately disappointing, all the more so because of the delicious way in which the story has been put together.
The style of The Hills are Alive falls uneasily between Lovecraft and Ligotti, with the finished tale coming across to me as too verbose to be successful. The thankfully brief heyday of splatterpunk is revisited in the thankfully even more brief Huntin’ Season. I enjoyed Well Tempered – a clever little short that had me grinning with the possibilities left unexplored by the writer.
We then move on to a couple of stories presumably juxtaposed by the editor to act as a show-stopper to the already high-quality proceedings. All I can say about The Scariest Story I Know and New Science is that they are both so well-written, so emotionally devastating and so unbelievably powerful that this reviewer was reduced to tears over his French toast at a fashionable Bristol café one sunny Saturday morning, prompting the waitress to ask if everything was all right. Terrific stuff from both writers that more than makes the experience that is Nemonymous Five worthwhile.
So that’s it – an eclectic group of stories from a magazine (or megazanthus) that always provided value for money. I have all five issues and they are sitting on my desk in front of me as I write this. Flicking through them I had forgotten that I had written reviews of most of the issues, which leads me to the following final thoughts if the magazine is truly to be laid to rest. Most of the comments below relate to the stories contained within the five issues of Nemo, but they could just as easily apply to Nemo as a whole:
Ninety pages of short fiction in the purest form imaginable
Utterly totally and wonderfully surreal
Almost too good.
Painfully vivid & devastatingly realistic
A soupçon of surrealism
Nemonymous: It’s been a hell of a ride, and the world has been made a better place because of it.
© John Llewellyn Probert (2005)
JLP has been writing for the last three years and his stories have been published in a number of small press outlets. Go to http://www.johnlprobert.com where you can find a full list, as well as a very nice picture of him.
Anonymity is liberating. It can give people the courage to write material they would never consider publishing – even thinking – under their own name, and who hasn’t felt the almost illicit desire to fire a letter off to the newspaper while asking for your name and address to be withheld, or posting on an internet message board and abusing your fellow users in the most vituperative language in the safe knowledge that they have no idea who you are.
Nemonymous prints stories by authors who shall remain nameless, at least until the following issue, when all names are revealed. I think it makes you read the stories with closer attention; it’s a levelling device, and if, for example, you knew a friend of yours was writing in that particular issue, you wouldn’t be able to skip ahead to that story and ignore the rest. Each story I had to read with more concentration than I normally would.
Not all of the twelve stories in the issue I was given to review work, but I’ll criticise in a general sense rather than taking the opportunity to be flippant, mean-spirited or offensive about each of the stories I didn’t like. I think the problem with a lot of the writing is a common one, in that some of the authors don’t trust the fact that less can be more. In many of the stories, there are too many failed metaphors, too many adjectives, and a sense that the author is struggling to convey a sense that what you are reading is writing, and not just a story. The magazine ends with a quote from Daphne Du Maurier’s Don’t Look Now, and most of the writers feel they need to end their story with the equivalent of that dwarf in the red raincoat, something shocking and unexpected that will linger on after you finish. It can get a bit tiresome being presented with the same dwarf in a different guise twelve times in a row.
Of the stories that do work, some are enigmatic, like ‘Driving in Circles’, about a warring couple lost in the dark while driving away for the weekend, gradually drifting into a fortean, prehistoric landscape. Others are poised and precise, while being similarly cryptic, like ‘Solid Gold’, which follows an abstracted woman who has created a perfect and sterile faux-bohemian world for herself, and then sullies it by dragging a rusting, greasy car engine into her flat.
The standout story though has to be ‘Running Away to Join the Town’. In exuberant, Ray Bradbury-esque prose, the author describes the arrival of a sinister gothic carnival in a small town, and the effect it has on a spoiled young boy. Excellent, jagged phrases are littered throughout the story; the ‘hooligan industry’ of the mysterious fairground as it sets up on the village green, or the ‘ochre octave of teeth’ of the vicious performing bear. Although this can occasionally lapse into the overwritten, (‘buoyant jocularity’ being one example), the prose in this story isn’t as strained as it is in some of the others, and in any case, it fits the theme and subject of the story exactly. The inevitable twist makes its appearance at the end, but is thoroughly appropriate all the same (if signposted a little too obviously by the title), when, like a child taken by the faeries with a changeling left in its place, spoiled little Marcel is kidnapped by a despondent clown, who takes his place at home. To be fair, no one who writes about sinister gothic carnivals can hope to disappoint if they are even halfway talented with words, but finding out the name of the author of this dark and entertaining tale is reason enough to want to read the next issue.
© Richard Strachan (2005)
Richard was born in 1977, and has printed stories and articles in various small press magazines. He is currently working on his first novel.
Review by Steven Deighan
Having read many of today’s swelling lump of short story anthologies, none has surprised me more than the first ever edition of Nemonymous, edited by British writer D. F. Lewis. For those that haven’t ventured into this inspiring collection yet, it is an annual publication where the stories’ authors are cleverly extracted and revealed the following issue(s).
It was by chance that I came upon this unique little book, and chance that it found me. Its neat, uncommon format struck me with the excitement only a reader of surrealistic fiction could experience. The words upon its front page puzzled me enough to consult the Oxford Dictionary – ‘a journal of parthenogenetic fiction and late labelling.’ Its birth date, hovering at the bottom right-hand corner, lets me know how long I’ve been missing out. The cover art is of an indistinct eye, which I think sums up the dreaded conception horror writing conceives: that the ghouls on the pages really are watching us as we read.
Eagerly opening the first few pages, I was presented with a quotation from one of the world’s greatest horror writers. I took this as a credible mark (to the book’s advantage) and it cemented my expectations of Nemonymous being a ‘worthy’ read.
The sixteen stories are laid out on the contents page like exquisite meals on a menu – teasing and alluring. I quelled my appetite with ‘A Smile in the Sky,’ an evolving story about one man’s uncanny isolation and its bitter bite, before moving on to a haunting little number in ‘The Friends of Mike Santini.’ Already impressed by the editor’s choice, I read further on and stumbled over the next tale, ‘The Quiet House.’ I felt this story had a theme of exploration that only the writer knew their way around. Not to say this disheartened me, as my continued reading brought me to the next story, ‘With Arms Outstretched,’ – a bizarre idea of marital bliss and agreed adultery that in many ways is brutal to the core. Overly descriptive ‘The Gravedigger’ offers the reader a grim, uneasy sentimentality towards most things dead, whilst ‘Alone’ is a sci-fi-inspired tale of tranquil serenity . . . and its alien inhabitants.
‘The Idiot Whistled Dead’ reminisces the classic zombie yarns; in such a short space, the writer succeeds in letting their character’s pain be felt, and their imploring whistling heard! ‘The Unmiraculous World of Jackie Mendoza’ blends a bewildered childhood with an unforgivable lost innocence where the character’s pain is masked only by the morphine that is the writer’s sensitive words. ‘Across the Hills’ whispers furtively about the environmental hazards our world suffers; ‘All for Nothing’ I found to be a fascinating story about surrogate possessions and their inconsequential worth.
‘Double Zero for Emptiness’ is a well-told story about a writer’s remembrance (and I’m sure that it’s about one certain famous American horror writer . . .); ‘Strobe’ was a personal favourite of mine – I found it to be cruelly dark and foreboding. Its concept of experimentation with the wonders of the brain agitated me to the point where I could almost see its light (but thankfully, not be lost in it).
‘Balafer de Vie’, is a loner’s remedy in the poignant sense that there are things in the world that drive us to the brink of madness . . . and often, safely beyond. It’s pleasantly written prose takes you along a nurturing route that’s hard to break from, but sadly cheats you with a benevolent injustice at the end.
‘The Mansions of the Moon (a cautionary tale)’ is a fabled story of desire with a smiling ounce of rapture. It descends lightly, like a fairytale, before revealing untold disaster and despair as we learn of a human cataclysm that no god could ever bestow.
Lastly, we end Nemonymous One with ‘Gamlingay Churchyard’, a curious story that took me more than one read to grasp what the (anonymous) writer was telling. Perhaps this was because I knew I’d reached the finale, the short book’s ‘swan song’ – whatever it’d been, I realised that I deeply resented the thought of having to finish it.
I found this story to be a writer’s Guess Who? of epitaph reading. The baffling conclusions thought of by the main character give a startling insight into assuming that what we read we shouldn’t actually always believe. Think about this one.
I found that Nemonymous One takes the reader on a journey that doesn’t concern itself with the destination point – no, it eases its pace along the way, and stops only to show the sights, displayed in various, ‘other-worldly’ forms.
With its subsequent editions, I’m convinced this awe-inspiring series will find its way onto your bookshelves very soon.
It already owns mine.
© Steven Deighan 2005
Steven is a 22yr old writer from Edinburgh who has a story in the forthcoming ‘Terror Tales 3’ book and a few published prior to that.
The most memorable review I have ever read crucified the author for several hundred words and concluded that “…on the basis of this work Mr X couldn’t write ‘shit’ on a wall”. I can assure you that this review will not be as memorable.
I have to admit that I wasn’t quite sure what, if any, difference would be made to me as a reader by not knowing the name of the authors of the short stories presented in Volume 3 of Nemonymous. I hadn’t come across the publication before but the concept certainly intrigued me. I think that the main beneficiary of this arrangement is, indeed, the reader. Authors can always be published under pseudonyms which would make it difficult for a reader to identify their work from a contents page. The added advantage to having no name is that the reader is simply faced with the text. No expectations and no preconceptions, just the experience of reading.
In this situation the format and style of the book becomes significantly more important. The format and design of Nemonymous is excellent throughout. You can choose to read stories at random or in any random order. Being a fairly conventional soul, I chose to read the volume from beginning to end and I found the editor’s grouping of the stories to be entertaining. It starts with two very short tales, goes on to a mixture of tales of various lengths and ends with another very short tale which neatly rounds off the collection. I have since dipped in and out, looking at the stories I enjoyed most and I feel even more strongly that not naming authors helps each story stand or fall on its own merits.
In general, all the stories were well written and merited their presence in the collection. I didn’t like them all but I didn’t expect to as all collections will contain works which don’t connect with individual readers. I personally preferred the longer stories in the collection over the ultra-short. For a very short story to work it has to have either a very original concept or twist that is succinctly expressed and the examples here didn’t quite achieve this. The first story the bluest of grey skies is certainly succinctly put but it tells an old, old tale. The second story, practice is also very short and works better. It comes across as a snapshot of a particular moment, a highly dramatic, closely described event which seems to be an extract from a longer tale.
The two other ultra-short stories in the collection, the ballerina and the place where lost things go are of very different forms. The story of the ballerina reads like and is presented as a piece of history. The final story on the collection the place where lost things go certainly has an interesting and fun idea but it is overdone.
Amongst the slightly longer stories, I was really struck by sleeping beauty. This is a great story which expresses anguish beautifully. It is wonderfully well written, paced to perfection and the more you read the more you feel for the characters.
There are two stories which deal with the issue of ageing and the first of these, scrounge adds a horror twist to the end which overcomplicates things. The more gentle story, twilight music seemed to me a much better expression of the longing for lost youth and other issues associated with ageing bodies and minds.
Two stories, the rest of larry and warp, are told with wry humour and are light examples of the horror genre. They are both very well written and contain interesting ideas which are well plotted. One other tale of this type, shark in a foggy sea is of equal standard and has a very well paced erotic storyline which is sustained throughout.
A few stories were irritating. Gerald and the soul doctor started out with an interesting idea about obsession and isolation but got lost along the way, wandering into a different story by the end. The idea behind digging for adults, where adults bury themselves to avoid dealing with children is very original but the story annoyed because it had a buried adult dug up only to choke on a piece of dirt. The characters in insanity over creamer’s field simply did not gain my sympathy nor was the central idea progressed as well as it might have been.
Any collection of stories must have a solid core of good work if it is to be successful and this is provided in this collection by the quality stories genie; otterwise; sirens; mobile phone; the small miracle and chemo. They are all enjoyable and stimulating and each contains either an excellent idea or memorable descriptions or phrases which demonstrate the quality of the writing.
The most enjoyable of the stories in the collection for me are two of the longest. The first, Lucia, deals with a tale of loss and belonging and is the story of a young orphan girl wandering in a city which she thinks she knows well. It is very well paced and the cityscape is described with a minimum of words. The girl finds a gold coin of which she is robbed and while fleeing she finds a new friend who awakens her to the wider world of reading.
The story which most appealed to me however, was in the steam room. It sets out a scenario where several people are gathered together in one place and each character then describes the others whilst giving the reader a glimpse of their own identity. The author builds a series of misconceptions and judgements from the initial character’s views on his companions which are revised as each character is given a voice to comment from their own perspective. It is a very simple device but works very well as each character is well written and entirely believable. By the end you imagine them leaving and generating their own life stories.
In his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig commented that “We keep passing unseen through little moments of other people’s lives”. Nemonymous is a collection that creates the moments when authors pass unkown through their reader’s lives but these are moments we can, and should, relive.
© Jim Mearns (2005)
Middle aged Glaswegian, brought up to love books and reading like many of my fellow citizens. The city has many bookstores, including some great antiquarian and secondhand shops for that difficult to find volume and, of course, the fantastic Mitchell Library. Currently, my ‘to read’ pile includes several autobiographies of scientists, some science fiction novels and short story anthologies and some ‘classic’ novels. My other hobbies include archaeology, golf and current affairs.
The idea behind the Nemonymous anthology is amazingly simple. Accept only anonymous submissions in order to eliminate any bias an author’s name creates. Work is judged by both the editor and readers on its own merits, not on an author’s reputation or lack there of. Not having been familiar with the anthology before reading Nemonymous 3, I was intrigued with the concept. A bit skeptical, I wondered if the book would live up to the hype. In this reviewer’s opinion, it absolutely does.
Editor Des Lewis has done a wonderful job weaving the sometimes weird, sometimes surreal stories together. All twenty-one stories can stand alone, but presented together they are much more of a gift to the reader. Although this anthology featured many wonderful stories, here are a few that stood out.
I have to start with “Genie,” a morose tale focused on those among us who are invisible. Can a person impact your life if you aren’t sure they were ever really there? Next, “Twilight Music” brought to light to the ever changing and always complicated dynamic of the mother-daughter relationship. How do you handle the role reversal that is inevitable with an aging mother? Can you ever bridge the distance between you? Do you really need to? Finally, “Chemo” shows how easily adoration and love can turn to apathy and hatred. Would you bring yourself to fight to save the one you have grown to loathe the most?
Nemonymous 3 incorporates wonderful prose, high quality materials, a well placed layout and beautiful artwork. If you have not had the Nemonymous experience, you are missing something special. We should all thank Mr. Lewis for taking a risk and thinking outside the box. Nemonymous 3 is a testament to pure creativity.
© Carmela Rebe (2005)
NEMO’S ARK ‘SPEECHES’ FOR NEMONYMOUS 7 (ZENCORE!) 2007-8
Others to follow.
NEMO’S ARK ‘SPEECHES’ FOR NEMONYMOUS 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6
The writers below describe their past Nemo experiences in their own words (speeches published 2006).
Dominy Clements / Margaret B Simon:
Rachel Kendall/ Simon Kewin:
Len Maynard & Mick Sims:
Michael Kelly / Keith Brooke (aka Nick Gifford):
Allen Ashley / Paul Kane:
Simon Clark / Bruce Golden:
Andrew Hook / Richard Gavin:
Adrian Fry / D Harlan Wilson
Neil Williamson / Brendan Connell:
Lavie Tidhar / Monica O’Rourke
Jay Lake / Tamar Yellin:
Joel Lane / Antony Mann:
Jorge Candeias / Iain Rowan:
Scott Tullis / Gary Couzens:
Eric Schaller / JaNell Golden:
Rhys Hughes / Daniel Pearlman:
Tony Ballantyne / Avital Gad-Cykman:
Paul Meloy / A.D. Harvey:
David J Brown / Joe Murphy:
Jai Clare / John Travis:
David Mathew / Jeff Holland:
Shawn James / Brian Howell:
Anonymous / Regina Mitchell:
Dawn Andrews / Paul Evanby:
Jeff VanderMeer / Neil Bristow:
Gary McMahon / Robyn Alezanders:
Trent Jamieson / Lucy AE Ward / Other Writers:
Thing-in-itself / Janet Hetherington:
Lida Broadhurst / Tom Williams
Lawrence Dyer / Sarah Singleton
Robert Morrish / Terry Gates-Grimwood
Sarah Singleton (2) / G.W. Thomas:
Jetse de Vries / Quotations:
Some quotations from the above ‘speeches’:
“’The Painter’ (Nemonymous #4) was my first ever entry as a writer, and as they say here in The Netherlands, I ‘fell with my nose in the butter’.” – Dominy Clements
“Being accepted at that time, by a magazine I considered one of the most important of the small press, gave me the motivation I needed to keep on writing.” – Rachel Kendall
“I am proud to be part of such a courageous venture as Nemo.” – Simon Clark
“I enjoyed my “Nemonymous Experience”, the beautiful production of the books, the high quality of the stories, Des’ more-than-occasional ramblings, and the whole debate it sometimes stirred across the Internet.” – Lavie Tidhar
“Nemonymous is a unique and landmark publication and in the long term scheme of things, whatever Des says, not a failure in the least.” – Tamar Yellin
“Ice Age was the first story that anybody paid me money for. … I remember talking with Des when Nemo was just a gleam in his eye; it was great to see it become (sur)real, and I was proud that my stories appeared in it.” Iain Rowan
“What difference has appearing in Nemonymous made? A huge personal one, considering that I’ve been an enormous fan of DF Lewis ever since reading “My Giddy Aunt” in a beat-up paperback copy of Year’s Best Horror Stories.” – Scott Tullis
“Nemo 5 was a beautiful thing. It resonates in the hand. The whole Nemonymous concept and subsequent execution has been a delight to watch unfold, but to end up with a story in that marvellous vermilion baby was something I had coveted for a long time. When Des took Running Away, I felt I had achieved something unique and strange and rather mystical.” – Paul Meloy
“Getting published in Nemonymous was a real boost for me. It is still by far (if reviews are anything to go by) my most read story, and, it seems, positively read too. And I doubt that I’ll ever be published in a more beautiful publication if I live to be a hundred.” – John Travis
“I hereby propose that any Nemo’s life is either pre-Evanby of post-Evanby. … What is important to me, though, is that there are people like Des Lewis, who just think of stuff like this. One man, who dreams up late-labelling, and nemonymous publishing, and who then creates a magazine out of a single dropped moment of silence, which, listened to in another context, turns out to be a deafening roar. The difference, in the end, will not be the writer’s, but to writing itself.” – Paul Evanby
“I don’t think it the least bit coincidental that every other writer to have had the pleasure of being involved with Des and Nemo says pretty much the same thing – of what a transcendental experience it has been to us as artists.” – Robyn Alezanders.
“More than anything, it gave me a sense of freedom to write in a different way than ‘the norm’ for me … As Simon Clark said so perfectly: ‘If anything Nemo has become a little voice in the back of my head telling me to be more courageous and more adventurous with my writing.'” – Robert Morrish
“Several of the stories that have been or are awaiting publication are stories I originally wrote, in one form or another, as Nemonymous submissions. Okay, so hey didn’t fulfil their original intent, but each one has gone on to gather laurels of their own in other publications. So, if it wasn’t for Nemonymous, they would never have been written. Nemonymous itself however, was an astonishing experience.” – Terry Gates-Grimwood