Short Sharp Shocks! #16
Christopher Stanley: The Forest Is Hungry
Reviewed By Steve Stred
Demain Publishing has put out so many stunning releases with their stellar Short! Sharp! Shocks! series that you’d be hardpressed to pick out an absolute best. Saying that – what I read with ‘The Forest is Hungry‘ would be a strong contender in that category.
What I liked: God, was this story creepy as hell. Richard is a torn man. He left his wife three years ago, moving into a new house with a new woman. A house by a forest. Now, his daughter comes for visits. But on one such visit, she disappears in the forest. After finding her, Richard discovers that she has developed a connection with the trees themselves.
I’ve not read anything by Stanley previously, but you’d be a smart person to put money down on me seeking out more of his work, after reading this. Everything happens for a precise and brutal reason and as we get to the ending, Stanley gives us scary kids in levels not achieved since ‘Children of the Corn.’
What I didn’t like: This one is near perfect, so it is difficult to really find a fault or something others may not enjoy. I’ll have to go with the tried and true – I wish it would’ve been longer. Saying that, this story doesn’t feel rushed or that it’s missing anything.
Why you should buy it: What Dean and Adrian have created with Demain is amazing and the variety of voices they’ve released is staggering. Stanley is yet another author I’ve discovered who delivered one of the creepiest stories I’ve ever read. This one is an absolute home run. Kudos to the author for making me squirm.
The Forest Is Hungry
A sick daughter, a father’s race against time to find the one thing that might save her and a mysterious tree growing through the kitchen floor…
Post Review Questions
Kendall Reviews: Do you have a reason for why the forest is hungry at the time of this story?
Christopher Stanley: That’s a great question! I think it makes sense for it to happen in the modern era, given the cumulative impact mankind is having on the planet. Whether it’s over-population, fossil fuels, deforestation, plastics—any of those things that weren’t noticeably part of my childhood but that my kids are growing up with every day—it seems we’ve backed the planet into a corner. It’ll be interesting to see what changes we make following the lockdown. I’m cautiously optimistic that some things will change for the better.
KR: Have you created a backstory you plan to explore in a future story?
CS: The short answer is: no. Most of my stories are self-contained. At the moment, I have so many ideas for stories I want to write, I can’t imagine revisiting any of those that are out there already. I have friends who’ve turned short stories into novels with great success, so I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of revisiting this world—or any of the others I’ve created—at some point in the future. But it’s not something I’ve done or am planning to do anytime soon.
KR: What led you to decide on the growth of trees through the homes?
CS: I think it’s important the trees are seen as a real and immediate threat to the characters in the story. If the characters have to visit the forest to be in danger, the simple answer would be to stay at home. Maybe I could have made the trees mobile, but then I’d be wandering into Tolkien territory, and it just didn’t feel right.
We’ve had bamboo in our back garden before so I know how determined plant life can be. That bamboo sprung up everywhere, through everything—and it grew so fast! Thankfully it never came in the house. That would have been a whole new level of weird.
That’s the other thing I liked about the trees in The Forest is Hungry. The weirdness of it all. When Richard (the main character) comes downstairs to find a tree in the kitchen that wasn’t there the previous evening—it begs a lot of questions. Hopefully enough to make readers want to read on.
KR: Are the parasites and eggs of our world?
Okay, so I avoided answering this in the story. I don’t know. I guess the parasites are from the same place as the tree, which makes sense given their symbiotic relationship. I think I probably see this as an earthbound evolution story more than alien visitors or a man-made mutation. As I said before, it’s nature fighting back.
Some of the ideas in the story may seem unbelievable but once you start looking at parasites—like the Emerald Cockroach Wasp or Gordian worms—you quickly realise that pretty much anything is possible. And I mean anything. Spontaneous colour change, castration, increased life expectancy, new social habits and suicidal tendencies are just a start. If you’re a fan of horror, take a look at Ed Yong’s brilliant TED Talk. It’s horrifying (and very educational).
And yes, I enjoyed working with parasites in The Forest is Hungry. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I’ve made them a part of my new novella, which I hope to complete later this year. I was going to say ‘I’ve made them the villains of my new novella’ but that’s not really fair. Underestimate nature at your peril.
KR: Did you always expect the story would end the way it did?
CS: No, and I wrestled with a couple of other endings before I settled on the one in The Forest is Hungry. Originally, I envisaged government people showing up in hazmat suits, and the whole area being placed under quarantine. And probably that’s what would happen eventually, but it just wasn’t necessary for the characters in the story.
I also wondered if this was an isolated incident, or were similar trees and parasites are popping up all over the country? Again, it wasn’t really relevant to the characters, but it seems likely, wouldn’t you say?
KR: A year has passed since The Forest is Hungry was first published. As well as the novella, what else have you been working on?
CS: Thanks for asking! I always have several projects on the go, and I even started recording a new album with my band just before the lockdown. The most exciting project, which has taken up a huge amount of my time, is my flash horror collection, The Lamppost Huggers and Other Wretched Tales, which came out 1 June 2020. I’d love to come back and talk about that one sometime – maybe next year!
Christopher Stanley is the author of numerous prize-winning flash fictions, the darkest of which can be found spreading misery and mayhem in his debut collection, The Lamppost Huggers and Other Wretched Tales (The Arcanist, June 2020). He’s also the author of the horror novelette, The Forest is Hungry (Demain Publishing, April 2019). Follow him on Twitter @allthosestrings or visit his website: christopherstanleyauthor.com
Steve Stred writes dark, bleak horror fiction.
Steve is the author of three novels, a number of novellas and four collections.
He is proud to work with the Ladies of Horror Fiction to facilitate the Annual LOHF Writers Grant.
Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews.
Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can follow Steve on Instagram @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official website here