Null ImmortalisEdited By Des Lewis (Megazanthus Press; 2010)

This, sadly, is the final installment of the weird and wonderful Nemonymous anthology series. As a summation of all things Nemonymous I’m unsure how this volume rates (not having read the first seven installments), but as an example of the ineffable strangeness that defines these books it’s first rate. The stories are quite varied in style and subject matter, yet there is a unifying vision, eccentric through it may be.

Two things are constant: the enigmatic term “Null Immortalis” and the name Tullis–after Scott Tullis, who won a competition to appear in every story. Scott Tullis, it should be added, has a story herein, “The Return,” one of the collection’s most authentically hallucinatory offerings. It concerns a girl who returns from an unidentified somewhere irrevocably changed; that’s all I’ll reveal (you won’t be able to guess where this tale is going, no matter how hard you try).

The stories have a considerable range of locales and subject matter, including a man’s remembrance of his shrinking father (Daniel Pearlman’s “A Giant in the House”), a possibly imaginary neck growth (Tim Casson’s “The Scream”), a search for an elusive and perhaps nonexistent society woman (David V. Griffin’s “Violette Doranges”), a performer haunted by a small yellow idle (Mark Valentine’s “The Man who Made the Yellow God”) and a wicked satire of the publishing industry in the form of an eccentric ghost story (Joel Lane’s “The Drowned Market”).

Dreams are a popular topic, fuelling three of the stronger tales. “Even the Mirror” by Ursula Pflug is about a love affair conducted entirely in dreams, and the novella-length “The Shell” by Tony Lovell concerns a series of extremely vivid dreams that come to overtake a man’s reality during a vacation with his wife. In “Strings Attached” by Gary Fry a dream both nostalgic and horrific allows the protagonist to reexamine an ambiguous childhood memory involving a possibly malevolent clown.

David M. Fitzpatrick’s “Lucien’s Menagerie” is one of the more straightforward offerings, an old-fashioned horror story about a woman who agrees to stay overnight in the mansion belonging to her deceased ex-husband, a taxidermist, as a condition of his will…with 52 animal statues and her husband’s own stuffed corpse! Stephen Bacon’s wistful “The Toymaker of Breman” is another (mostly) straightforward offering, about a boy who, following an apparent car accident, finds himself in the cozy but rather creepy home of a German toymaker. “A Matter of Degree” by Mike Chinn is a nonshowy, highly immersive recounting of a daredevil traversing a suspension bride.

“The Green Dog” presents a surreal meditation on identity (or lack thereof) by the brilliant Steve Resnic Tem, about a man at the end of his life who’s also a green dog. The witty “Haven’t You Ever Wondered?” by Bob Lock features editor Des Lewis getting editorial advice on this very book from a most bizarre source. Then there’s “Only Enuma Elish” by Richard Gavin, which is something else entirely: the tender story of a man who performs his one and only good deed by befriending an old woman, and so, through a chain events involving the tome mentioned in the title, precipitates horrific destruction.

“Supermarine” by Tim Nichols closes the volume out in fittingly unfitting fashion with a supremely odd tribute to the fiction of J.G. Ballard. Truthfully, I can’t tell you precisely what this story is about, but it is rich and fascinating, involving a troubled actress, an Easter egg hunt and a cormorant invasion amid a lot of very Ballardian landscapes.

I should add here that the typical Nemonymous practice of withholding credit for the stories (to be revealed in the subsequent volume) has, as you might guess, been jettisoned, this being the last Nemonymous. It will be missed!