Gorefest, ed. K. Trap Jones (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)

This anthology opens with “Fuckin’ Maggots” by Natasha Sinclair, in which a resentful musician massacres his bandmates onstage with a chainsaw. The band’s act is so hardcore that the audience assumes this is all part of the show – until they turn out to be his next targets. This is a good introduction to Gorefest, as the book’s frequently tongue-in-cheek horror stories have an element of showmanship to them, almost as though the authors are daring one another to come up with something still more outrageous than the last offering.

Indeed, just such a competition – the KillerCon Gross-Out Contest – serves as the basis for Stephen Kozeniewski’s contribution. “The Terrible Trio” comprises three short pieces: starting with an autobiographical account of Kozeniewski’s involvement with the contest, followed by his winning stories from 2016 and 2018 (“Dildoey McDildoface: A Poop Dildo’s Odyssey” and “Everybody Poops. Especially Godzilla”).

That Stephen Kozeniewski’s two gross-out tales star respectively a dildo and Godzilla is appropriate, as most of the stories in Gorefest fall into one of two categories: sex stories and monster stories.

In the sexual line-up is “Little Elvis” by Armand Rosamilia, which is about a man with a fetish for power tools, and how the sparks fly when he finally meets the girl of his dreams. As a follow-up, we find Donnie Goodman’s “Influencers”, in which a couple get 90,000 viewers by livestreaming their toilet-related fetish acts – and then get a visit from the channel owner with an offer for something even more extreme. Meanwhile, “.38 Special” by Amy Grech sees a couple decide to spice up their sex life with a game of Russian roulette, and things get even more sordid when a third person turns out to be involved.

We could also perhaps include “Winner Digs the Grave” by Jay Wilburn in the sex category. The story depicts a post-apocalyptic pitfight rather than a sexual act – but given the emphasis on nipples, groins and spurting bodily fluids, the subtext is hard to miss.

Moving on to the monster-based stories, we find “Cut Around the Ass” by Daniel J. Volpe. Here, a boy reluctantly kills his first deer on a hunting trip with his father, grandfather and uncle – but something is lurking in the wilderness, and the hunters soon, as the old saying goes, become the hunted. Jonathan Butcher’s “Beneath the Moor” shifts from sleaze to supernatural horror, encompassing adultery, murder and the Beast of Bodmin Moor along the way. Representing the animals-attack tradition is “Infested” by Lucas Milliron, which starts with a man vomiting into his facemask and then leads into an attack of flesh-eating wasps.

There are also some good twists on classic monsters. “You Can’t Kill the Dead” by Jack Bantry & Robert Essig is a zombie story, one that homes in on a specific area of zombie lore: namely, their ability to survive despite having large chunks hacked off their bodies. Wesley Southard’s “The Negative One” is about a vampire-like creature that feeds not on blood but on the negative energy arising from violence; as she travels through Philadelphia, she relishes the bloodshot that she witnesses.

Sitting outside the two main spheres of sex and monsters is “The Cart Don’t Go There” by Patrick C. Harrison III. This is told from the perspective of a man who takes his task of patrolling a parking lot very seriously indeed: if a person who parks in the handicapped space is not disabled when they arrive, they will be after a visit from security.

Also included in the anthology is Wrath James White’s poem “Bloodsoaked Savior”. In addition, if you buy the Godless Editor’s Choice Edition, you will be able to enjoy pages’ worth of hand-scrawled notes on the stories (a typical example reads “Official Score: Scooter Lot Guy 0, Hatchet Wielding Grandma 1”). Really, what more could you ask for from a splatterpunk anthology?

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