Grimscribe Press. 2021. ISBN: 978-0-578-75976-0. Pp., 333.
For over two decades now, Gemma Files has been churning out a consistent body of work focused on all things horrific and macabre. She has become one of the leading writers in horror today, and rightfully so. Over her career, she has proven herself to be an insightful critic of horror films and writing just as much as an accomplished author. Needless to say, when approaching one of Files’ books you are seeing a master of the genre at work.
In her latest collection of short stories In That Endlessness, Our Own End, Files offers up fifteen tales showcasing her fiction writing over the past five years. While it might be difficult to find a common theme linking all the stories in the book, Files’ prose and characters provide a measure of consistency throughout. Her characters after often young, discerning Canadians who are comfortable with iphones and the internet and who are not above snarky comments when called for. One of Files’ principal talents is her ability to locate the horrific in the ordinary modern world we inhabit. In “Bulb,” the transcript of a podcast episode warns listeners of the Lovecraftian terror hidden with the Canadian electrical grid, while in “The Church in The Mountains,” film and real-life blend together to reveal the sinister inheritances that family ties can foster. The milieux that Files creates are populated by Reddit posts, Air B-n-B rentals, internet discussion groups, and modern forms of media, bringing horror into the tech-savvy modern age.
As with most collections, we are given a mixed bag. In stories like “This Is How It Goes,” “The Puppet Motel,” “Sleep Hygiene,” and “Venio,” Files is at her best. She has a knack for playing upon our fears and creating characters that are easy to identify with. The diverse types of relationships she probes—family, romantic, and friendship—are reflective of the twenty-first century, and should be easily recognizable to Gen Xers and millennials. It is, ultimately, this easily recognizable world that gives Gemma Files’ stories such power. We encounter a social and cultural environment that resembles our own yet is nonetheless suffused with dark and menacing forces that defy explanation.
In That Endlessness, Our Own End is certain to please horror fans seeking updated takes on traditional themes such as haunted houses and diabolical cults. For those who might like to sample the work, they can find “Sleep Hygiene” and “Venio” on Pseudopod.