In Dreams We Rot: Betty Rocksteady
Reviewed By Tabatha Wood
- Paperback: 200 pages
- Publisher: Trepidatio Publishing (October 18, 2019)
If I could write only three words about this collection, they would have to be, “Read it immediately!”
Twenty-one fantastically different stories make up this anthology (plus an extra fifty-five 55-word flash fiction shorts) and every single one is remarkable and outstanding. Short stories can sometimes be difficult to get right, the author has only a limited space to grab a hold of the reader and show them what they’ve got, but Rocksteady clearly has no such problems.
Her first story welcomed me inside, a short but captivating tale, like a sweet smile from the greeter at a shop door. A bait and switch for certain, it is dark, but not too dark. The second had cats — wonderful, frightening, chilling cats — and by then I was hooked completely. Too late, I realised that Betty had locked the cellar doors behind me.
“In Dreams…” is a unique mix of gothic imaginings, brutal body horror and emotional despair. It delves deep into the most grotesque depths of human nature and grabs you tightly by the throat as it slowly unravels your weaknesses. Reading this collection feels a little like poking at a cavity in a tooth with your tongue. It’s uncomfortable and distracting, but despite the self-inflicted nerve-jolts of pain, you simply just can’t stop.
For me, “Postpartum” is easily the most chilling in the collection, and the inevitable climax leaves you hollow and raw, and hyperaware that mental health and horror are, and might always will be, fateful bedfellows. Wrapped in these dark pages are many stories where I feel that only women might fully appreciate the true horror, exploring what it means and how it feels to be female, yet Rocksteady has made every one accessible. “Larva, Pupa, Moth” is “Rosemary’s Baby” body horror at its very finest, playing nastily with alien-style impregnation and the total loss of body autonomy.
Rocksteady writes of trauma and loss, of weird sex and even weirder dreams. She captivates you from the very first words of every story, takes you with firm hands and pulls you into multiple hellish scenarios. By the end, when the nausea has finally passed, and the blanket of despair she wove for you now comforts you rather than smothers, you understand that her honesty, her visceral (yet beautiful) writing style and the horrors she creates also speak of some underlying vulnerability and an astute understanding of the many dark facets of human nature.
This is a truly powerful collection of amazing stories, and definitely one of the very best I have read this year. Rocksteady gives you an open invitation to explore the secret places many horror writers are still too nervous to go, and what’s even better, she brings cats.
In Dreams We Rot
A voyeur becomes the one being watched, terrifying beasts are stitched together, strange new insects appear, ancient sex gods rise, and an island on the brink of madness falls apart.
Betty Rocksteady’s debut collection blends surrealism and horror, tearing apart tropes as words bleed and transform down unexpected avenues of nightmare logic. These twenty stories run the gamut from splatterpunk to somber. They’re hot and wet and nasty, guaranteed to leave you with an unspeakable sense of dread.
Tabatha Wood lives in Wellington, New Zealand. A former English teacher and school library manager, her first published books are non-fiction guides aimed at teachers and others who work in education. She now teaches from home, while writing in her spare time.
Born in Whitby, North Yorkshire, Tabatha has always had a passion for weaving strange, unusual, and often gothic tales, entwined with her deep love for the land and sea. She strongly encourages the use of writing and creativity for positive mental health, and runs a group which supports women who write for wellness. She also hosts writing workshops, often gets involved in cosplay charity events, and enjoys knitting and making jewellery.
Her short story collection, ‘Dark Winds Over Wellington: Chilling Tales of the Weird & the Strange’ was a passion project, and is the first time she has published her fiction.