Terence, Mephisto, and Vicera Eyes by Chris Kelso – A Review

The following is my review (as Kurt MacPhearson) of Terence, Mephisto, and Viscera Eyes by Chris Kelso, which appears in the latest issue of Tales of the Talisman.

Terrence Mephesto cover

In Terence, Mephisto, and Viscera Eyes, the reader is thrust into a bizarre world where nothing is quite right, and it almost seems as if it should be that way. This world, known as the Slave State, unfolds in nine short stories that are not for the faint of heart. The opening story, “The Family Man,” is only a page and a half, yet the sheer brutality described therein sets a tone for the rest of the stories. The title story is told from the point of view of a mistreated dog who, after being castrated, is overcome with the desire to be a writer. “Baptizm of Fire,” set in surreal version of Lagos, Nigeria, descends into a nightmare of both love and murder that pulls the reader deeper and deeper into the horrors of the Slave State. And when the reader finally reaches bottom, the incarnation of the bestial Slave State stares back with eyes dripping with viscera.

Few books have disturbed me. And of those few, none have disturbed as Chris Kelso has in this collection. From the bizarre atmosphere evoked from the first page, all the way to the final, horrific transformation in “Birth, Sex, Death, Stigmata,” I could not stop the mental cringes. The dark imagery, the emotional punches to the groin, the utter emptiness of the loss of control… Dread lurked on every page, yet I had to have more, as if I were searching for hope, though all the while knowing I would never find it.

“Baptizm of Fire” was the blood-curdling and thought-provoking standout of an amazing collection of bizarre fiction deserving of five talismans. If the lasting, disturbing impression this collection has made on me is any sign, Chris Kelso will soon be a major presence in the genre. One that should be feared.

(Terence, Mephisto, and Viscera Eyes, published by Bizzaro Pulp Press, is available here. It’s been a few months since I’ve read it, but I still get shivers when I recall certain scenes in “Baptizm of Fire.”)


In Defense of Pluto


Image via NASA

In August 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) stripped Pluto of its title of the Solar System’s ninth planet. Pluto would henceforth be classified as a “dwarf planet” because it had not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit. In other words, the IAU punished the King of the Dead for being too lazy to pick up after himself.

Seriously, though. It’s old news. The astronomy community has moved on and the idea of the Solar System having only eight planets has slowly caught on. It doesn’t change the fact that Pluto is still out there and that it bears study. The New Horizons space probe is supposed to start snapping pictures any day now. We’ll get some stunning images. Perhaps we’ll be able to count his icy wrinkles and peer up his frost-rimed nose.

I’d written “In Defense of Pluto” after I learned that Pluto no longer measured up to Olympian standards (or the IAU’s, depending upon whom you ask). While I understood the wisdom of the overthrow, I still believed he deserved a proper defense.

by Kurt MacPhearson

You’ve called him rogue
a miser and a trickster
and though I agree he’s done
some reprehensible things
if anyone is a product of his environment
then surely this twisted old ragamuffin
can’t be blamed for snatching up a young woman
he spied picking flowers
then trapping her in his dark abode
with the offer of fruit

Decades now you’ve watched him
out there, bothering no one
while you debated his status
then finally exiled him
to the asteroid-filled fringe
without allowing for so much
as a mumbled plea
for a chance to reform

Is the boatman
now to play jailor
or just some astronomical oddity
left him for mute company?

As much as you’re ready
to remind us of the severity
of his crime
you should take into account
that Pluto’s proximation
is due to the lot he drew
when sharing the world
with his two mighty brothers
whose own crimes are innumerable
yet by sheer magnitude
and illumination
go paradoxically ignored
as you recite with tongue-in-cheek fondness
the mischief the ancients could conjure
while gazing with wonder
upon their gassy
moon-flecked eminence

Perhaps your disdain
for Pluto’s existence
comes from relative size
in a system shrinking
with our telescoping reach
or could it be
that if you look deep inside
your pitiless, scientific heart
there lies
an unspoken, irrational fear
for the King of the Dead
lurking in your perfect heavens

Originally appeared in Tales of the Tailsman 7.1

Finding Speculative Poetry

SFPA logoEvery year since 1978, members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) have nominated speculative poetry published the prior year for the Rhysling Award. These poems are collected in the annual Rhysling Anthology. Once the membership receives their copies of the anthology, they cast votes for their three favorite poems in each of two categories: “Best Short Poem” (1-49 lines) and “Best Long Poem” (50 or more lines). The 2014 anthology came out a little late this year, but it was well worth waiting to lose myself in the astounding imagery offered by poets from around the world.

The 2014 Rhysling Anthology isn’t yet available for public sale, however, I’d like to use this opportunity to share a few links to speculative poetry publications.


Goblin Fruit

Quarterly poetry zine with a focus on the mythic and fantastical.


A new quarterly speculative poetry zine with poems “that touch the heart as much as the head.”

Note: Read Diane Severson’s review of Luminality’s first issue which includes four audio versions of the peoms here.

Strange Horizons

Weekly poem, story, article, review, etc., all with a speculative bent.


 Dreams and Nightmares Magazine

 Science Fiction and Fantasy poetry, often with a touch of horror.


The Journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Speculative poetry of all types.

Tales of the Talisman

Quarterly magazine packed with speculative fiction and imaginative poetry.