GOING POSTAL

edited by Gerard Daniel Houarner

Space & Time / 125 pages / June 1998

ISBN: 0917053117

If you’ve ever remarked that people seem to get crazier every day, you’re not alone. Life at the end of the 20th century appears to be pushing most, if not all of us, over the edge. Sometimes the break reveals a serial killer, a high schooler shooter, a baby abandoned for the sake of Pachinko. Basically, we’re all going crazy at different speeds, but we’re headed the same place. Each of us is just one more horn honk away from Going Postal.

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Don’t flip through the pages, searching for tales of USPS shoot-em-ups. These are stories about all of us and the process of going quietly berserk. From six-year-old Tony in “Boo!”, Linda Addison’s quick jaunt into horror, to the grizzled wreck in “Spellchecked,” it is a phenomenon irrespective of age. Social class is no protection. City or suburb. Not even a requirement of humanity. Check your sanity at the door.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that one of the strongest and most disturbing tales comes from Melanie Tem. “Sweet” is anything but. This is a subtler cruelty than that which makes the front page of your local paper. Roger is the kind of monster that already lives next door; here is the “quiet guy,” the “best neighbour you could ask for.” The kind of fellow who keeps to himself and doesn’t bother you with the screams or the stench of his victims. Just give him time.

The pressures of culture and the demands of society prove to be the breaking point for the heroines of “Jinn” and “Legion.” Final meltdown occurs inside the minds of two women. When they crumble under the load of fear and sorrow heaped upon them, they take no one else with them. Jacob’s “Legion” leaves the reader wondering how much of what the main character perceives is true, while Pollard’s “Jinn” takes us to a horror that probably once existed and continues without the woman, but will live forever in her mind.

Two commentaries on pop-culture fail only in that they are somewhat predictable. “Toon-Boy” is a retelling of WillIam Goldman’s Magic, and comes out on the losing end of the comparison despite lively and engrossing narration. Saying that the ending of “One Last E-Ticket Ride” is too obvious may well be unfair; perhaps only those of us who grew up in the long shadow of Mouse Town can see this one coming.

Science fiction, fantasy, and horror — it’s all there in Going Postal. Houarner has gathered together the new names that you will be seeing on book spines in all these genres for years to come. Pay attention to the messages and the messengers; they’re going to be part of our lives for some time. Unless things suddenly get drastically better. In other words, for some time.