the measure of sorrow: stories

 

Shirley Jackson Award-winning author J. Ashley-Smith’s first collection, The Measure of Sorrow, draws together ten stories of dark speculative fiction, including both new and previously acclaimed works. In these pages a black reef holds the secret to an interminable coastal limbo; a father struggles to relate to his estranged children in a post-bushfire wilderness; an artist records her last days in conversation with her unborn child; a brother and sister are abandoned to the manifestations of their uncle’s insanity; a suburban neighborhood succumbs to an indescribable malaise; teenage ravers fall in with an eldritch crowd; a sensitive New Age guy commits a terminal act of passive-aggression; a plane crash opens the door to the Garden of Eden; the new boy in the village falls victim to a fatal ruse; and a husband’s unexpressed grief is embodied in the shadows of a crumbling country barn. Intelligent and emotionally complex, the stories in The Measure of Sorrow elude easy classification, lifting the veil on the wonder and horror of a world just out of true.

Cover of The Measure Of Sorrow: Stories

Praise for The Measure of Sorrow

Publishers Weekly – “For lovers of voicey, elegant prose that lingers for days in the corners of the mind, this is highly recommended.”

Kathe Koja, author of Dark Factory and The Cipher – “An active, lucid, melancholy voice, telling us tales of the natural unnatural world – J. Ashley-Smith’s The Measure of Sorrow is half love, half fear, and all wonder.”

Paul Tremblay, author of The Cabin at the End of the World and A Head Full of Ghosts – “The impeccable and haunting stories in The Measure of Sorrow are filled with longing, frailty, and a most human sense of awe in the face of its horrors.”

Kirstyn McDermott, author of Hard Places – The Measure of Sorrow could not bear a better title. This collection plumbs the depths of our darkest emotional states – grief, shame, madness, terror – and renders them with exquisite sensitivity and candour. There is both strength and vulnerability in these tales, and in the characters that find their way through them (or not), laced with a surreal strain of cosmic horror that J. Ashley-Smith truly makes his own. They are sure to linger with you for quite a while, these stories. If you’re lucky, they may even leave a scar.”

John Langan, author of Corpsemouth and Other Autobiographies – “J. Ashley-Smith writes stories like five course meals: rich, complex, satisfying. In his work, betrayal, grief, and sorrow bleed into and blend with situations ominous and surreal. There are echoes of Kafka, here, and Aickman, too, but the achievement is all J. Ashley-Smith’s. The Measure of Sorrow gives measure of his talent, and that is considerable.”

Joanne Anderton, author of The Art of Broken Things – The Measure of Sorrow is a beautiful, deeply unsettling collection that explores the horror and the mystery of what it is to be human. Heartbreaking at times and raw, these stories always feel immensely true, no matter how fantastical they seem. Ashley-Smith has a talent for creating worlds that are hauntingly familiar, echoes of our own edged with a darkness that we can only hope isn’t real.”

Matthew R. Davis, Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of Midnight in the Chapel of Love – “The soil of these stories is sown with the salt of night-sweat and grief-tears, and what it grows is resplendent in weird, wonderful riches. Bring home The Measure of Sorrow, let it take root in the grounds you walk alone, and cherish the bittersweet fruits of its seductive terrors for years to come.”

Eugen Bacon, World Fantasy Finalist and award-winning author of Danged Black Thing, Mage of Fools and Chasing Whispers – “The exquisiteness and gentleness with which J. Ashley-Smith swathes his darkest stories, entangled in the cornerstones of serrated humanity, leave you fact checking everything you thought you believed. The theme story ‘The Measure of Sorrow’ is literary horror that taps on angst—a father’s craving for his dead wife and pining to assuage his son’s lostness—to spill out the guts of a luminescent magnetar in animated doom. The juxtaposition of opalescence and gloom in deeply-etched longing and need echo in ink until you forget, and forget, that what you’re reading is horror, until—too late—it masticates you alive. For lovers of elegant literary horror.”

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