I’m back after a short break from reviewing! In February I checked out Issue 1 of Archive of the Odd. The magazine presents itself as an archive of found documents, and all the stories within are some form of realistic artifact, be that notes on a PhD dissertation, text logs, NDAS, forums, or scientific reports (redacted, of course).

I’m really blown away by Issue 1. The sheer variety in story formats is super impressive, and the simulations of different mediums are impactful and believable throughout. All the stories are fantastic, and tremendously innovative. I can’t understate the creativity and wonderful use of the medium collected in these stories. Every single story had something interesting to offer, and I immensely enjoyed my time reading through the issue. A few favorites of mine:

The Securities & Exchange Commission v. The Undying Sea by Simo Srinivas is unbelievably expansive, weaving its story across NDA’s, twitter posts and shitposts, web forums, and news articles. Srinivas has created an intricate world of submerged cities, aquaforming, securities fraud, and internet memes. The twitter and reddit portions are an utter delight, expertly deploying internet lingo and goofy forum in-jokes. The regular denizens of the internet cavalierly post, and grifters grift, all while Something lurks in the sea.

“HALLWAY” by RL Meza is an instructional guide for how to get back to your right dimensional space. The instructions are flowing and in-depth, and the juxtaposition between the matter-of-fact rules and the dire implications if they are not followed, and their necessity in the first place, are haunting. This reminded me a lot of urban legend rituals, like how to summon Bloody Mary, or ghost summing games you can find on the internet, but the author has really heightened and perfected the form, in a story with a sense of tremendous urgency.

“Azul” by JR Santos is the last remaining chat logs from a tourist stranded after a tour goes awry. The sun will not set, and they can not find the rest of their party. The mounting sense of dread is pulled off masterfully as the landscape becomes more and more alien around the narrator. Grim discoveries punctuate the desperate messages and attempts to find help. I really enjoyed the unexplained nature of the event, and the heightening of natural occurrences, coupled with supernatural occurrences. The illustrations by Alina Gottbrecht are also fantastic, and the final illustration at the end delivers such a gut-punch in its reveal.

“KULLEN Product Support” by EV Smith is the QA section of the IKEA website for the “KULLEN” set of drawers. The author has perfectly captured the feel of a product Q and A section, where the questions are somewhat responded to, but never with as as much info or clarity as you want, and plumbed that for some really delightful and unexpected horror. The accompanying art by Renée Elizabeth Clarke is also very elegant in how it captures all the elements of the story.

“Welcome” by Alexis Ames and Kat Veldt follows employees at a marketing firm as they attempt to deliver a marketing campaign and tie-in merch for an Entity as it subsumes the populace into a glorious singularity. The employee chat and texts are written perfectly, with attempts at remaining positive in the face of crunch, technology “issues,” and regular day-to-day relationships (the texts to “work husband” made me chuckle, as someone who is “work wife” in a coworkers phone) woven around a dawning horror. Employees casually discussing the crumbling world around them in-between discussing their deliverables felt very relatable, and mixed humor with creeping horror wonderfully.

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