Posts Tagged ‘John F.D. Taff’



Publisher: Grey Matter Press

Length: 331 Pages

Ominous Realities is the brand new anthology from the awesome people at Grey Matter Press and serves up 16 extraordinarily written tales that fall within the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres. I must say when I was contacted by Anthony Rivera of Grey Matters with an offer to review the anthology, I jumped at the chance. These stories, despite their variety of styles and genre classifications, all have one thing in common – giving you a glimpse at unique post-apocalyptic scenarios.

While many of these stories may not be horror in the traditional sense, there is no doubt that the futures depicted in each one of these stories is quite horrifying in their own way. What makes these stories just as scary (or scarier) than your traditional horror fare is that in most cases, these scenarios could actually happen.

William Meikle’s “On The Threshold” is the first story that details such a possibility. Meikle’s story focuses on the trials of two scientists named John and Connon as they attempt to use a high-powered lab, a wealth of resources and their staggering scientific intellect to create their own universe from nothing. Their goal seems relatively harmless – an endeavor to study the origins of a universe and whether the rules of ours would apply – all in the name of science.  Do the aims of John and Connor sound familiar? Well they should, as we are currently conducting an experiment with the Large Hadron Collider built by CERN for startlingly similar purposes. After reading the frightening experiences contained within “On The Threshold”, it raises the question: Should we be manipulating forces we do not fully understand?

Ken Altabel’s story, “Doyoshota”, is another story that while not necessarily based in our reality, draws information from a puzzling real life phenomena. I have always been fascinated with unexplained phenomena of all kinds and can honestly admit to spending countless hours trawling Wikipedia pages and falling down the rabbit hole of links contained within each article. UFO’s, hauntings , “The Bloop” and countless other cases have all captured my interest. Altabel’s story draws inspiration from real-life reports of a phenomena known as “The Hum”. This phenomenon is categorized as a low-frequency sound that is often described as a persistent buzzing. What makes The Hum so unique is that it cannot be easily explained away since it is a constant occurrence and has been reported all over the world. Altabel’s story explores this mysterious phenomena through the eyes of a University of Rochester audiologist sent to the town of Doyoshota, Nevada to investigate the potential cause of the noise along with other scientists. At first, the noises are not taken seriously and the residents that report them are portrayed as eccentric, to put it mildly. However, as the character begins to hear the hum himself and witnesses the mental degradation of the biggest skeptic – Air Force psychologist Guy Patterson – it becomes clear that “The Hum” is real. The character slowly begins realizing the origins of The Hum, and not only is it absolutely terrifying, it offers a very logical theory for the origins of the phenomena.

Gregory L. Norris’ story “Third Offense” is set in a world that seems to have been spawned from the tendency of press outlets to create content more impressed with “clicks” and “reach” than actual substance and eye implants that resemble  a supercharged version of Google Glass. Hugh A.D. Spencer’s story, “John, Paul, Xavier, Ironside and George (But Not Vincent)” is a surreal take on an apocalyptic scenario in which roving clouds of nanobots lay waste to civilization.

Although most of the stories contained in Ominous Realities fall outside of the traditional horror genre, there are a few tales that come directly from the genre. “Angie” by John F.D. Taff  focuses on the lives of Dennis and Angie, a divorced couple who are trying to survive the zombie apocalypse together. I absolutely loved this story and it was a unique take on the zombie genre that offers frightening and grim look at the realities of the walking dead roaming the streets with an emotional dynamic that is every bit as interesting. It is obvious to see they still care about each other and that love is proved in a final twist ending that was both sweet and incredibly horrifying.

My favorite story from the anthology has to be Bracken MacLeod’s stellar contribution, “Pure Blood and Evergreen”. MacLeod tells the story of Pyotr cel Tinar, a youth who is held in a prison camp after the New Republic rises to power and destroys his village as part of a cleansing process. It is not clear until later in the story that Pytor may not be what he seems, but even then you can’t help but feel horrified by the nightmarish conditions he was forced to endure. This was the first story I have read from MacLeod, but I think it is safe to say I am now a fan for life!

Grey Matter Press has done a phenomenal job with Ominous Realities and in my opinion, they are putting out some of the best anthologies in the genre. While you may not be a fan of every story, there is enough variety here to ensure that you will find something to enjoy and may introduce you to some new and extremely talented authors. This is a “must purchase” anthology for any dark fiction fan!

Rating: 5/5


Grey Matter Press’ Official Website

List of stories and authors featured in Ominous Realities

Purchase Ominous Realities on Amazon



Publisher: Books of the Dead Press

Length: 266 Pages

I discovered John F.D. Taff’s newest novel The Bell Witch completely by chance while browsing Amazon’s bestseller list for horror. People always say you should never judge a book by its cover, but the sinister looking cover (which I later found out was designed by one of my favorite authors Kealan Patrick Burke) is what immediately grabbed my attention. Intrigued, I decided to check out the synopsis and once I learned it was based on The Bell Witch Haunting, that was all it took to have me hooked.

John F.D. Taff’s novel focuses on the Bells, an early 19th century farm family from Tennessee who are haunted by an entity known only as the “Witch”. The entities arrival at the Bell homestead causes the Bells to fall into chaos as they are plagued by odd sounds, occasional bouts of violence and unrelenting taunts. The hauntings are limited to the home at first and the Bells think that if they just ignore the disturbances, The Witch will go away. The domineering patriarch of the Bell family, Jack Bell, refuses to allow his slaves into the house and places a ban on speaking about the disturbances to prevent others in the town from finding about the entity. However, the Witch foils these plans by making an appearance at the local church and announcing its presence to the entire town when it interrupts the church service.

While the Witch torments all of the members of the Bell family and other people who cross its path, it focuses much of its energy and hatred toward Jack. It frequently tells him and his family that its main purpose for existing is to make Jack suffer and that before it leaves it will kill him. The reason its anger falls mostly upon Jack is one of the novel’s central mysteries and is directly related to what The Witch is and why it has decided to  torment the Bell family.

As a former history major, huge fan of documented hauntings and all things paranormal, I absolutely loved The Bell Witch. Many familiar with the Bell Witch Haunting will take issue with the artistic liberties Taff has taken with the legend and feel disappointed it doesn’t strictly adhere to the events reported to have occurred. However, I applaud Taff for making the history of the Bell Witch his own because it adheres to the spirit of the legend. The two definitive texts on the legend were published 60 and 75 years after the alleged events. Who is to say those writers did not take liberties of their own? Besides, Taff’s liberties with the Bell Witch story make for a truly unique origin story for the Bell Witch.

It is also important to note that The Bell Witch is not an all out fright-fest, so if that is what you are looking for, you may be disappointed with The Bell Witch. However, if you can appreciate an atmospheric ghost story that leans more towards “quiet horror” territory, you will fall in love with this novel. That isn’t to say the book doesn’t have its truly frightening moments, though. There is a pretty creepy possession scene that horror fans will love and Taff does an incredible job of adding quick shots of terror through the Witch’s actions. The action occasionally lags, but overall The Bell Witch is an outstanding take on a uniquely American ghost story that I would highly recommend.

Taff recently announced a new novella collection for Grey Matter Press titled The End in All Beginnings and two rewritten novels titled The Exterminator and The Orpheus Box for Books of the Dead Press and to say these are highly anticipated would be an understatement.

Rating: 4/5


John F.D. Taff’s Official Website

Books of the Dead Press

Purchase The Bell Witch on Amazon