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Gateways to Abomination: Collected Short Fiction

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Bizarre radio broadcasts luring dissolute souls into the dark woods of Western Massachusetts. Sinister old men in topcoats gathered at corners and in playgrounds. A long-dead sorcerer returning to obscene life in the form of an old buck goat. Welcome to Leeds, Massachusetts, where the drowned walk, where winged leeches blast angry static, where black magic casts a shadow Bizarre radio broadcasts luring dissolute souls into the dark woods of Western Massachusetts. Sinister old men in topcoats gathered at corners and in playgrounds. A long-dead sorcerer returning to obscene life in the form of an old buck goat. Welcome to Leeds, Massachusetts, where the drowned walk, where winged leeches blast angry static, where black magic casts a shadow over a cringing populace. You've tuned in to WXXT. The fracture in the stanchion. The drop of blood in your morning milk. The viper in the veins of the Pioneer Valley.


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Bizarre radio broadcasts luring dissolute souls into the dark woods of Western Massachusetts. Sinister old men in topcoats gathered at corners and in playgrounds. A long-dead sorcerer returning to obscene life in the form of an old buck goat. Welcome to Leeds, Massachusetts, where the drowned walk, where winged leeches blast angry static, where black magic casts a shadow Bizarre radio broadcasts luring dissolute souls into the dark woods of Western Massachusetts. Sinister old men in topcoats gathered at corners and in playgrounds. A long-dead sorcerer returning to obscene life in the form of an old buck goat. Welcome to Leeds, Massachusetts, where the drowned walk, where winged leeches blast angry static, where black magic casts a shadow over a cringing populace. You've tuned in to WXXT. The fracture in the stanchion. The drop of blood in your morning milk. The viper in the veins of the Pioneer Valley.

30 review for Gateways to Abomination: Collected Short Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Janie C.

    Cackling with unfettered glee, these tales allure and infect until they are sated. Perfect.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Karl

    This hardcover edition is copy V of 36 signed numbered editions signed by Matthew M. Bartlett.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    Matthew M. Bartlett surprised me. I hadn’t read any of Bartlett’s work prior to picking up this debut collection, but a number of friends with impeccable taste had recommended GATEWAYS TO ABOMINATION so I decided to give it a shot. I was a little leery at first; the book is self-published, and most of the stories are just a few pages long. There is a dismaying amount of awful self-pubbed books out there, and I’m not generally a fan of weird/horror flash fiction. Some very short stories have Matthew M. Bartlett surprised me. I hadn’t read any of Bartlett’s work prior to picking up this debut collection, but a number of friends with impeccable taste had recommended GATEWAYS TO ABOMINATION so I decided to give it a shot. I was a little leery at first; the book is self-published, and most of the stories are just a few pages long. There is a dismaying amount of awful self-pubbed books out there, and I’m not generally a fan of weird/horror flash fiction. Some very short stories have intriguing ideas, but there is usually not enough room to develop those ideas for my tastes. GATEWAYS TO ABOMINATION, though, deftly avoids that pitfall by tying all of the stories together, making them more short chapters than separate works. Bartlett methodically develops a fantastical version of witch-haunted New England that revolves around mysterious radio station WXXT and a intertwining cast of families neck-deep in serious occult activity. Bartlett maintains the same tone throughout the 34 stories collected here. Vividly horrific waking nightmares (or are they) and high strangeness of the darkest sort are filtered through characters like the FCC agent in “the investigator” and the hapless boyfriend in “the last hike,” two of the lengthier tales. At times I was reminded of another excellent book, THE SEA OF ASH. Bartlett is not derivative of the superb Scott Thomas, but both set their stories in New England and include truly odd happenings alongside centuries-spanning horror. THE SEA OF ASH was one of the best things I read in 2014, and I don’t make this comparison lightly. While the presentation is different – bite-size morsels instead of a sumptuous feast – both authors are effective at generating chills and holding my easily-distracted attention. For a self-published book, the layout and design are a cut or three above the norm. I realize this kind of thing is not as critical to some people, but as a layout guy, poor design or too many typos can really pull me out of the story. The general look and feel of GATEWAYS TO ABOMINATION is much more that of a small press than so many other self-published books I’ve seen. While not as beautiful as some professionally designed volumes, the book is easy to read and pleasant to look at. GATEWAYS TO ABOMINATION is a self-published first collection of generally very short stories, and despite the trepidation those conditions inspire in my brain, it is also an absolute win. I would confidently shelf it in the Weird Renaissance section of my local book store if I had a local book store with such a section. I greatly enjoyed these stories and look forward to more fascinating prose from the estimable Mr. Bartlett.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    Whenever I feel stuck as a writer lately, I've picked up GATEWAYS TO ABOMINATION and have been inspired. Bartlett's imagination is unparalleled in its weird intensity, humor and originality. This book--both a collection and novelistic fever dream in one--is miraculous.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    GATEWAYS TO ABOMINATIONS, by Matthew M. Bartlett, is much more than a "collection of stories". In this book is a grouping of memories, newspaper reports, scenes from nightmares, vignettes of larger happenings, and yes--even the occasional story. The way that the author came up with the concept for this is simply astonishing! These tales from different viewpoints all have one common theme: something is seriously wrong in the town of Leeds, Massachusetts. Some of these stories actually made me GATEWAYS TO ABOMINATIONS, by Matthew M. Bartlett, is much more than a "collection of stories". In this book is a grouping of memories, newspaper reports, scenes from nightmares, vignettes of larger happenings, and yes--even the occasional story. The way that the author came up with the concept for this is simply astonishing! These tales from different viewpoints all have one common theme: something is seriously wrong in the town of Leeds, Massachusetts. Some of these stories actually made me shiver, hoping that the radio didn't just happen to turn itself on . . . WXXT is a station that you won't find anywhere else--one that exists "between" the other stations--but only in Leeds. "The door opened. I wasn't expecting anyone." Be forewarned--once you hear the sounds from this station, it's already too late . . . Recommended to fans of physchological horror, who like to turn to something altogether...different.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Doctor Gaines

    These days, it's tough to be scary. We as a culture have become largely desensitized to horror in every form. We've seen the human body creatively mutilated in every possible which-way, witnessed the exorcisms of so many fictional females we can't even keep their names straight anymore, and watched enough knife or chainsaw wielding psychopaths plunge their instruments into flesh to last us a lifetime. Each of these elements of horror (and many others) can certainly be executed well (heh heh), but These days, it's tough to be scary. We as a culture have become largely desensitized to horror in every form. We've seen the human body creatively mutilated in every possible which-way, witnessed the exorcisms of so many fictional females we can't even keep their names straight anymore, and watched enough knife or chainsaw wielding psychopaths plunge their instruments into flesh to last us a lifetime. Each of these elements of horror (and many others) can certainly be executed well (heh heh), but how many of these movies or books are just a cheap scare, and how many of them are sticking with us for good? How many of them are keeping us up at night, worried about what might make its way through the darkened door of our bedroom? When was the last time you watched or read something that really shook you up? For me, the answers to these questions would be Matthew M. Bartlett's bizarre collection of loosely-connected flash fiction and short stories, Gateways to Abomination. Never have I encountered so many completely insane ideas in one volume. Bartlett is a madman, and to the benefit of his readers. It is difficult to articulate exactly what is so captivating about this collection. The stories are brief and written in a minimalist style. They serve more like snapshots of crazy happenings in individuals' lives than drawn out stories with developed characters, though that is not to say any of them feel lazily-crafted or incomplete. Quite the opposite. Every sentence feels intentional and tight. Bartlett's vocabulary is grisly and consistent in tone, as if each descriptive word was chosen for the express purpose of making the reader as uncomfortable as possible. What struck me was that as gruesome and disturbing as some of the scenes in this book are, they do not feel like cheap-shots for the biggest gross-out; this is not splatterpunk by any means. The scenarios Bartlett comes up with make one feel as if they are getting a peek behind the curtain of the universe, and what is to be found there is nearly enough to break the mind. As I mentioned, the stories are loosely connected in a thematic sense. They all exist within the same universe (in fact, the same city), characters and locations will show up in numerous stories, and what is the deal with this Ben Stockton fellow? Read it and you'll know what I mean. Between the stories, Uncle Red read's 'To-Day's News,' describing horrific and impossible happenings around the local area. Intermixed into the stories are bizarre radio broadcasts, always from WXXT, coming to you from Leeds, Massachusetts. While the whole collection is worth reading (though maybe only one or two in a sitting; wouldn't want to lose your mind, after all), the stories that really got my goat were Pharaoh, When I Was A Boy—A Broadcast, The House in the Woods, The Theories of Uncle Jeb, The Leech, and The Arrival Parts I & II. If you're a fan of horror in any form, do yourself a favor and buy this already. Walk into the woods. Follow the dark figure. Turn up your radio. -D.G.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    Re-read: Thunderstorm's Private Reserve GATEWAYS TO ABOMINATIONS, by Matthew M. Bartlett, is much more than a "collection of stories". In this book is a grouping of memories, newspaper reports, scenes from nightmares, vignettes of larger happenings, and yes--even the occasional story. The way that the author came up with the concept for this is simply astonishing! These tales from different viewpoints all have one common theme: something is seriously wrong in the town of Leeds, Massachusetts. Re-read: Thunderstorm's Private Reserve GATEWAYS TO ABOMINATIONS, by Matthew M. Bartlett, is much more than a "collection of stories". In this book is a grouping of memories, newspaper reports, scenes from nightmares, vignettes of larger happenings, and yes--even the occasional story. The way that the author came up with the concept for this is simply astonishing! These tales from different viewpoints all have one common theme: something is seriously wrong in the town of Leeds, Massachusetts. Some of these stories actually made me shiver, hoping that the radio didn't just happen to turn itself on . . . WXXT is a station that you won't find anywhere else--one that exists "between" the other stations--but only in Leeds. "The door opened. I wasn't expecting anyone." Be forewarned--once you hear the sounds from this station, it's already too late . . . Recommended to fans of physchological horror, who like to turn to something altogether..different.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Karl

    Matthew M. Bartlett has given us an amazing performance with the publication of this book. I came away awestruck. When I picked up this book and glanced at the table of contents as I assumed that the book contained just a bunch of short, some quite short stories. I started reading and not twenty pages in he blew my mind. What appears as short stories, radio broadcasts and newspaper articles make up in fact a complete history of events in a secluded Massachusetts community bordering on the Matthew M. Bartlett has given us an amazing performance with the publication of this book. I came away awestruck. When I picked up this book and glanced at the table of contents as I assumed that the book contained just a bunch of short, some quite short stories. I started reading and not twenty pages in he blew my mind. What appears as short stories, radio broadcasts and newspaper articles make up in fact a complete history of events in a secluded Massachusetts community bordering on the ultimately frightening, strange , horrible and mind warping collection of incidents. The true horror and bizarreness of the events within this book quickly unfold and become crystal clear the further one ventures forward. I read the book over a period of two days, do yourself a favor and read as much as possible in one sitting in order to be immersed in Mr. Bartlett's vision, much more visceral than H.P. Lovecraft's unspeakable horrors, as these are spoken. I hope that Mr. Bartlett returns to this setting. Highly Recommended for readers of the uncanny, bizarre and horror.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    An instant modern cult classic. You will not read anything quite like this ever again, by any other author. It is gorgeously vile. Bartlett's writing style is established as uniquely his, early on, and he demonstrates great mastery over language. The story is out of control and yet the narrative never loses its own lunatic logic and direction. This horror story is a gem of unconventional story telling. It doesn't merely frighten in the common manner; it upsets and disturbs and distresses the An instant modern cult classic. You will not read anything quite like this ever again, by any other author. It is gorgeously vile. Bartlett's writing style is established as uniquely his, early on, and he demonstrates great mastery over language. The story is out of control and yet the narrative never loses its own lunatic logic and direction. This horror story is a gem of unconventional story telling. It doesn't merely frighten in the common manner; it upsets and disturbs and distresses the mind by weaving a lucid nightmare reality. I couldn't recommend it enough.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Benoit Lelièvre

    Welp. That was fun if you, like me, enjoy being terrified. GATEWAYS TO ABOMINATION is a great example of a book that amounts to more than the sum of its part. It's a series of vignettes, yet it's not a short story collection. It's not quite a novel either. It's a series of mysterious broadcasts (or are they?) depicting a Massachusetts city caught in the clutches of a Satanic cult. The narrative is super fragmented, yet loosely structured around recurring characters (Ben Stockton, Nathan Welp. That was fun if you, like me, enjoy being terrified. GATEWAYS TO ABOMINATION is a great example of a book that amounts to more than the sum of its part. It's a series of vignettes, yet it's not a short story collection. It's not quite a novel either. It's a series of mysterious broadcasts (or are they?) depicting a Massachusetts city caught in the clutches of a Satanic cult. The narrative is super fragmented, yet loosely structured around recurring characters (Ben Stockton, Nathan Whiteshirt, Uncle Jeb, etc.) and recurring events (the gathering in the woods). The more you progress through this collection, the more sense it makes and the more terrifying it gets. GATEWAYS TO ABOMINATION's best asset is that it portrays violent and terrible events, loosely connects the dots, but leaves many gaps for the reader to fill and freak out over. This is the kind of book you need to read in one sitting for maximum effect. It's one of these pleasant surprises of self-publishing.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Wow. Just. Wow. I know why people like Nathan Ballingrud rate Bartlett now. Fuck me. That was crazy. Full review to come... when I can gather up the mess that is my brain right now.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Despite the subtitle, these are less 'collected short stories' than fragments and shards of one, deeply creepy story. A strange cult involving leeches, goats and a pirate radio station takes over a town in Massachusetts. Some of these tales are fragments in which Bartlett unleashes wave after wave of grotesque, unsettling imagery. My favourites were: 'When I Was A Boy - A Broadcast' with its twisted sexuality, the 'ballad of Ben Stockton' and 'arrival' sequences (the latter numbered in reverse, Despite the subtitle, these are less 'collected short stories' than fragments and shards of one, deeply creepy story. A strange cult involving leeches, goats and a pirate radio station takes over a town in Massachusetts. Some of these tales are fragments in which Bartlett unleashes wave after wave of grotesque, unsettling imagery. My favourites were: 'When I Was A Boy - A Broadcast' with its twisted sexuality, the 'ballad of Ben Stockton' and 'arrival' sequences (the latter numbered in reverse, interestingly), 'Path' with its weird multiplication of elements, and anything with 'uncle' in the title. While most of this is driven by the notion of strange cults, Bartlett is especially good with twisting everyday details into something terrible and at visceral body horror. Towards the end, I felt a certain dulling of impact as certain sequences like 'The Investigator' felt a little stale, but the collection ends strongly with the crazed ... something... of 'The Reddening Dusk'. I look forward to reading more by Bartlett, who has a fertile, diseased imagination and a versatile prose style, pulpy but also artful.

  13. 4 out of 5

    John Smith

    Bartlett spins the dial to a radio jacked into the psyche, where the nightmare world unravels and a surreal dream-logic pushes the tales along with real intent in this curious and most satisfying collection that seems at all times to be spilling off the edge of the page. That's the dream-logic in motion and often taking over; at times, what happens seems to have come to Bartlett right then, at the moment he types whatever mad words are to follow. Some tales come off as bruised snapshots Bartlett spins the dial to a radio jacked into the psyche, where the nightmare world unravels and a surreal dream-logic pushes the tales along with real intent in this curious and most satisfying collection that seems at all times to be spilling off the edge of the page. That's the dream-logic in motion and often taking over; at times, what happens seems to have come to Bartlett right then, at the moment he types whatever mad words are to follow. Some tales come off as bruised snapshots suggesting something more, but the collection as a whole resonates with a distinct tone that connects them all. Fascinating and…self-published? Some smart publisher needs to sign Bartlett up Now. He knows what he’s doing and I Want More.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Collins

    This was a quick read and thoroughly entertaining. This was a collection of short stories that were not independent from one another but were connected to form one flowing story. I was somewhat reminded of Palahniuk's 'Haunted'. So far my Halloween reading of short story collections has not been disappointing. On to my next ride.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael Hicks

    Matthew M. Bartlett is an author that's become a fast favorite of mine thanks to his high-concept and ultra-weird method of story telling. Through a mosaic narrative, Bartlett explores the effects of the cult radio station, WXXT, broadcasting in Leeds, Massachussetts - and I mean "cult" literally. While WXXT is most certainly an underground broadcast, hidden in the airwaves and most certainly not FCC sanctioned, it's also a gateway for all kinds of unsettling and otherworldly forces. Listeners Matthew M. Bartlett is an author that's become a fast favorite of mine thanks to his high-concept and ultra-weird method of story telling. Through a mosaic narrative, Bartlett explores the effects of the cult radio station, WXXT, broadcasting in Leeds, Massachussetts - and I mean "cult" literally. While WXXT is most certainly an underground broadcast, hidden in the airwaves and most certainly not FCC sanctioned, it's also a gateway for all kinds of unsettling and otherworldly forces. Listeners who stumble across this broadcast are forever changed, or become privy to the occult influences surrounding them, usually in strange and disastrous ways. Listeners expecting a straight through-line in plot will be completely lost, but the disorientation that arises from Bartlett's style helps give life to the proceedings. Bartlett is engaged more in an exploration of concepts rather than an unraveling of story, forgoing the neat and typical pyramidal story structure or breadcrumb trail of Point A to B to C. It might be better to treat Gateways to Abomination as a short story collection, but even that isn't entirely correct as characters come and go and reoccur, and all are linked in some fashion to WXXT itself. Here, a listener makes acquaintances with a strange man who carries his brain, another seeks dental surgery for a strange growth in his mouth, goats are murdered, and the FCC dispatches an investigator to uncover the secrets of the strange frequency emanating from the woods, and Uncle Red reads the news. Do not go into the woods. Few authors can conjure such odd grotesqueries and infect the world with such weird wonders as effectively as Barlett, and Gateways to Abomination is a highly effective and compulsive study in the strange. I'm as entranced as I am oftentimes repulsed by Bartlett's imagination, and it really is a thing of wonder. I'm positively hooked on his conjurations and the expansive mythos he's developed around the conceptual form of his demonic radio station and its impact on Leeds, across books like this and his charitable chapbook for Nightscape Press, If It Bleeds, as well as his various short stories, like "The Black Cheese," in the recently released anthology of pizza horror, Tales From The Crust. For as much as I unabashedly love Bartlett's words, I think I just might love Jon Padgett reading those words even more now. I haven't listened to Jon's narrations previously, but I am a quick convert and am now desperate for him to read some more WXXT stories (and the sooner the better!). He has a marvelous voice, one that changes to suit the story and characters as needed, turning from broadcast journalist to demonic goat man on a dime, and he inhabits this world as if he's lived in Leeds his whole life. For as much as I recommend reading Bartlett, I just might recommend listening to this audiobook even more if you're able and willing.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Orrin Grey

    In his best moments, Matthew M. Bartlett conjures a poetry of decadence and decay that rivals Poe. This was Bartlett's debut, though I'm only coming to it after being introduced to his grotesque and gorgeous prose in Creeping Waves and The Stay-Awake Men. This early volume (I read the one with the blue cover, if it matters) shows all the same delirious promise as those tomes, and sucks you into the bizarre world of Leeds, one abominable radio broadcast at a time. If you aren't already reading In his best moments, Matthew M. Bartlett conjures a poetry of decadence and decay that rivals Poe. This was Bartlett's debut, though I'm only coming to it after being introduced to his grotesque and gorgeous prose in Creeping Waves and The Stay-Awake Men. This early volume (I read the one with the blue cover, if it matters) shows all the same delirious promise as those tomes, and sucks you into the bizarre world of Leeds, one abominable radio broadcast at a time. If you aren't already reading Bartlett, crank up the volume, turn your dial all the way to the left, and prepare for something that nothing can prepare you for.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    You're listening to WXXT- an eerie, ghastly Western Massachusetts radio station that haunts its listeners and announcers alike. This collection of vignettes is most definitely not for those with vivid imaginations and weak stomachs- demonic goats, masses of worms, rotting flesh, cadaverous humans abound in these stories. Gateways to Abomination makes Welcome to Night Vale sound like A Prairie Home Companion.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Paul Roberts

    Incredible read. Original. Transgressive. This DIY release is what punk rock looks like in 2015.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chad Pilcher

    Matthew Bartlett's darkly simmering star is on the rise these days. This wicked little self-published collection has been garnering attention and praise from some of Weird fiction's most bioluminous worthies, and rightly so. Gateways is a tight bundle of tales, vignettes, and interludes which comprise an uneasy survey of occult happenings in and around the singular town of Leeds, Mass. and the darkling woods which border it. Ever-lurking in the background radiation of Leeds is WXXT, a spectral Matthew Bartlett's darkly simmering star is on the rise these days. This wicked little self-published collection has been garnering attention and praise from some of Weird fiction's most bioluminous worthies, and rightly so. Gateways is a tight bundle of tales, vignettes, and interludes which comprise an uneasy survey of occult happenings in and around the singular town of Leeds, Mass. and the darkling woods which border it. Ever-lurking in the background radiation of Leeds is WXXT, a spectral pirate radio station gone a-roving 'cross airwaves and brainwaves, whose gravid mutterings afflict all manner of revelation and tribulation upon hapless listeners. Through sundry band scans and snapshots, the reader bears trembling witness to terrible Events great and small as reality begins to unravel. Bartlett mines the rich vein of New England occult history and lore to good effect, while infusing just the right dose of pulp surreality and a pinch of grue. In Leeds and its denizens, we see a fine new mythology in the birthing--one which carries forward in several other limited-edition chapbooks, as well as a forthcoming follow-up collection. WXXT isn't signing off anytime soon, and that can only be a good thing for us, if not for the town of Leeds.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bill Wallace

    Too many worms and viscera devalue the currency, but this is a pretty fair example of a school of modern horror writing that seemingly begins at the point where the Lovecraftian narrator enters a state of hallucinatory madness. If Lucio Fulci had written expressionist fiction, this might be it. My problem with this school is that I find myself flipping pages and becoming numb -- when all things unspeakable are possible, nothing is unspeakable. The narrators here are all more or less the same Too many worms and viscera devalue the currency, but this is a pretty fair example of a school of modern horror writing that seemingly begins at the point where the Lovecraftian narrator enters a state of hallucinatory madness. If Lucio Fulci had written expressionist fiction, this might be it. My problem with this school is that I find myself flipping pages and becoming numb -- when all things unspeakable are possible, nothing is unspeakable. The narrators here are all more or less the same person; there is no conventional story arc to hang onto. The nightmare (and possible metaphor) of alienation is the whole point of the tale. Gateways is, however, a way above average example of the genre. For an insanely cursed and haunted backwater, Leeds is a surprisingly real place, with a sense of history and WXXT, a station I wish I could receive on my car radio. I think the scariest moment, a real gem, involves a smudge of paint on a dentist's door, and the leeches are the most likable characters in the book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    S.P.

    Diabolical and delightful. So many writers attempt this kind of story. So many writers fail. GATEWAYS TO ABOMINATION leaves them in the dust. Here is a well-written tale of demons and ancient rituals infiltrating the modern world. The prose is witty, world weary, and very wise. Buy a copy today, before the rest of the universe catches on to the beauty of Matthew M. Bartlett's imagination. Highly recommended.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Spencer

    Being one of my favourite books of all time I’ve been reeeally looking forward to the audio release of this and I wasn’t disappointed. Jon Padgett does a wonderful job as narrator with an unhinged performance that perfectly suits the surreal fever dream that is Gateways to Abomination. I absolutely love this book; the nightmare landscape of Leeds is macabrely mesmerizing and utterly engrossing, this has my absolute highest recommendation!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    This is one bloody, mind bending ride from hell. "...they will host the Leech and the Leech will simmer in its tubes and conduits and its tanks..."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    This book is a revelation; I'm kicking myself for not having read it earlier and I'll be picking up Creeping Waves very soon. In Bartlett's own words, Gateways is less of a short fiction collection and more of a mosaic novel, something which becomes clearer the farther into the book you get. Leeds and its environs is a fantastic setting, and the mythos Bartlett has created is one of my new favorites. If you're at all interested in the Weird and grotesque, this book is for you. If you love the This book is a revelation; I'm kicking myself for not having read it earlier and I'll be picking up Creeping Waves very soon. In Bartlett's own words, Gateways is less of a short fiction collection and more of a mosaic novel, something which becomes clearer the farther into the book you get. Leeds and its environs is a fantastic setting, and the mythos Bartlett has created is one of my new favorites. If you're at all interested in the Weird and grotesque, this book is for you. If you love the "spooky town" setting as I do, this book is for you. If you love the premise of something like Welcome to Nightvale, but found the execution toothless, this book is for you. I think in some twisted way, a lot of us hope to one day stumble upon a station like WXXT; for those of us, Gateways can offer a bizarre sort of escapism. Don't forget: if it bleeds, it's Leeds.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Thom (T.E.)

    You may start reading horror via big bestsellers. Stephen King, Ann Rice. Maybe Peter Straub, some mainstream-crossover, or somebody with a hot title. Next, you might dig into a paperback or two or six that's recommended to you as a genre classic. Soon enough, you realize that horror is the sort of literature where much of the best seems hot-wired toward your emotional core. Your id, your survival instincts. The veiled desires that touch your lust and also your shame--as if the two were megawatt You may start reading horror via big bestsellers. Stephen King, Ann Rice. Maybe Peter Straub, some mainstream-crossover, or somebody with a hot title. Next, you might dig into a paperback or two or six that's recommended to you as a genre classic. Soon enough, you realize that horror is the sort of literature where much of the best seems hot-wired toward your emotional core. Your id, your survival instincts. The veiled desires that touch your lust and also your shame--as if the two were megawatt electrical poles. The mists and the screams--of smell, taste, sound--that found you at a formative age and will not let go. The revulsion of grotesquerie. The panic of suffocation. Sure there are subtle horror stories. Lots of them--and many of the greats work that way. But as you continue to develop your reading tastes in a genre like this, that always has at least a suggestion of hewing close to the bone, you may find yourself wishing to read high-quality fiction that's at the very edge of shadows. Shadows of all sorts--that clutch at all your senses, playing with combinations of them that leave you dizzy and confused but wanting to see more, read more, know more. We're not talking about just dime-store-rack paperbacks. Not even the small-press, printed on the most pulpy yellow or gray stapled tabloid. No, this is material that only sometimes bothers with the form of a complete story. Sometimes it's just a recounted nightmare, with the names of characters laughable--until you see how they form an odd pattern across the page, and you realize the most outrageous facet of Bartlett's seemingly-incomplete story has yanked something from your memory of a relative showing you the family tree in a legacy Bible long-ago destroyed by fire or fungus. This is how Matthew Bartlett functions at his best. Formal structure is neither beyond him nor beneath him. He just knows how to string short nightmares across a collection of several dozen pages, and make you as a reader speak to parts of yourself that you thought could remain hidden. And he occasionally overdoes the spell he's working to weave. This is a high-wire act of fiction-writing, after all...or maybe sword-swallowing is a more appropriate metaphor? But I was amazed at his batting average for setting concise miniatures of cosmic anxiety together in a way that kept you looking back (and with dread, looking forward) to the motifs such as his history of central New England, or the radio station of utter insanity and possible doom-portents.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Slatsky

    Tune in to WXXT 81.5 FM and listen to the weird colloquies of a new voice in weird fiction… Not knowing much about the author, I can’t say what Bartlett’s influences are, but reading “Gateways to Abomination” plunked me down into a place where the grotesqueries of François Rabelais and the nightmarish imagery of a Thomas Ligotti tale frolic about like demented wildlife whose proportions are not quite correct. Things slither and squelch and drip in Bartlett’s world. Doorways and perspectives tilt Tune in to WXXT 81.5 FM and listen to the weird colloquies of a new voice in weird fiction… Not knowing much about the author, I can’t say what Bartlett’s influences are, but reading “Gateways to Abomination” plunked me down into a place where the grotesqueries of François Rabelais and the nightmarish imagery of a Thomas Ligotti tale frolic about like demented wildlife whose proportions are not quite correct. Things slither and squelch and drip in Bartlett’s world. Doorways and perspectives tilt at incorrect angles; goats and seething masses of worms wear suits. It’s a landscape where the textures of the familiar are not so familiar. Nothing is as it seems, and even less is explained, because the oneiric realm Bartlett creates has a strange logic all its own. Here surrealism is cloaked in ambiguity and is just as likely to beat you to death with a walking cane as it is to confound you. “'Abomination" is an Alfred Kubin dream inhabited by characters that wear the faces of a Hannah Höch portrait; or a Teruo Ishii film projected against the gnarled skeletal trees of a New England setting-- I can go on and on, but my comparisons can only hint at what a wonderfully witchy, odd, and funny in a I’m-not-sure-I-should-be-smirking-at-this kind of way, read this is from beginning to end. Bartlett’s creations are more than a little bit naughty, and yes, often repulsive and disturbing, while remaining as haunting and mischievous as something giggling from deep within a dark forest. You bet I recommend “Gateways to Abomination”. Emphatically. I expect further great things from Matthew M. Bartlett.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jon Hilty

    I grabbed this based on the high ratings it has here, the intriguing idea of an occult radio station that pipes out all sorts of weirdness, etc. I hate to say it, but I came away fairly unexcited. The author did do a good job at keeping the theme rolling through the vignettes and flash fiction and, even very occasionally, an actual short story, but at the same time, it was too often too disjointed, and often I felt like he was adding in the grotesque or the sexual just for the sake of it being I grabbed this based on the high ratings it has here, the intriguing idea of an occult radio station that pipes out all sorts of weirdness, etc. I hate to say it, but I came away fairly unexcited. The author did do a good job at keeping the theme rolling through the vignettes and flash fiction and, even very occasionally, an actual short story, but at the same time, it was too often too disjointed, and often I felt like he was adding in the grotesque or the sexual just for the sake of it being there. It was a bit too repetitive for my tastes as well. All that being said...it did keep me reading. When a story had a chance to actually blossom, I enjoyed it more. There are 34 stories that are interconnected in the 145 pages here. I guess flash fiction isn't really my thing. I'd be interested to check out longer pieces, based on the handful of stories here that got to or past the 10 page mark, but I'm not going to be in a rush to do so.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tom Breen

    In the early days of radio, the medium - like recorded sound - was seen as something uncanny and slightly eerie. The thought that human voices speaking hundreds of miles away could be heard thanks to the purchase of a wooden box seemed like a kind of industrial magic. Bartlett's book captures that strangeness, as it presents a series of fragmented nightmares broadcast from the unearthly Western Massachusetts non-station WXXT, which poisons the lives of anyone unfortunate enough to be in range of In the early days of radio, the medium - like recorded sound - was seen as something uncanny and slightly eerie. The thought that human voices speaking hundreds of miles away could be heard thanks to the purchase of a wooden box seemed like a kind of industrial magic. Bartlett's book captures that strangeness, as it presents a series of fragmented nightmares broadcast from the unearthly Western Massachusetts non-station WXXT, which poisons the lives of anyone unfortunate enough to be in range of its signal. I've seen the adjective "Lovecraftian" attached to this book, but to me the stories fit much more comfortably alongside the burgeoning "New Weird" school of horror fiction, and with writers like Nathan Ballingrud, Karin Tidbeck, and Kelly Link.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jose Cruz

    Truly, for authors who are considering their first foray into the realm of self-publishing, Matthew M. Bartlett’s Gateways to Abomination should be used as one of the prime texts in terms of both professional refinement and freedom of creative expression. There have been books issued by third-party publishers that have had more instances of typographical errors in a matter of pages than Bartlett’s work does in the whole of its volume, to say nothing of their lack of imagination. This might sound Truly, for authors who are considering their first foray into the realm of self-publishing, Matthew M. Bartlett’s Gateways to Abomination should be used as one of the prime texts in terms of both professional refinement and freedom of creative expression. There have been books issued by third-party publishers that have had more instances of typographical errors in a matter of pages than Bartlett’s work does in the whole of its volume, to say nothing of their lack of imagination. This might sound like damning with faint praise, but let me assure you it is not. Bartlett’s collection resonates with the care and enthusiasm that went into its preparation. This author respects his audience. Like a master chef, he knows that the presentation is just as important as the taste of the dish. But, to belabor a metaphor with an idiom, the proof is in the pudding, and Bartlett demonstrates abundantly throughout his book that he is a voice worth listening to. The connective tissue of the collection is Massachusetts-based radio station 89.7 WXXT, a channel run by a witch cult of decrepit ancients who broadcast all manner of upsetting, mesmerizing, and ominous songs and monologues that enrapture and entice the listeners who happen upon it by accident or design. The book’s contents—all of the titles are in lowercase like the scribbled descriptions on the side of transmission tapes—range from short stories of traditional length to vignettes spanning a few paragraphs. Of the vignettes, there’s really only one, “accident”, that feels too fleeting to make any kind of lasting impression. If anything though, this is just a further testament to Bartlett’s skill. In a volume spanning 33 individual entries in all, some of them running the same length as “accident” or shorter, each one of the contents feels as if it’s adding a little bit more to the cult’s sinister history while simultaneously keeping most of its mysterious workings pleasantly in the dark. It’s a tough balancing act but Bartlett makes it look easy. The first entry, “the woods in fall”, perfectly sets the stage for what is to follow and provides us with themes and images that will recur throughout: a subtle insinuation of the radio station’s power; the first appearances of many by tall, thin men staring from the woods and interfering cats; a fascination with bodily ejaculations. More than that though, it assures us of two things. One, that we are in the hands of a writer with a facility for the language and an eye for baroque detail. Leaves fall like dry, dead angels, piling up against the leviathan broken bones of storm-savaged trees. And two, that we are in the hands of a madman. An ungodly gurgle bellowed up from his throat and he vomited a thick stream of wriggling worms. It’s this dichotomy that keeps us glued to Bartlett’s stories, the poetical turns of phrase mashing up against the scatological horrors of bleeding Leeds, MA in a dizzying mix of the sublime, the silly, and the strange. There are trappings of classic weird fiction within the collection—the evil sects vying for domination, the books intimating forbidden secrets—but Bartlett puts his own spin on them by concocting images indelibly his own and far more surreal than your everyday tentacle. There are porcupine-quilled clowns with plastic rumps, flying leeches, brain-melting beetles, ravaged angels riding a stampede of ravening goats through fields of madness. As the sole creative force in control (writer, editor, publisher), Bartlett is the one holding the keys to the screaming metal deathtrap that is Gateways to Abomination. The doors are locked, the engine is cackling, and the author is grinning at us from the driver’s seat with a mouth full of too many teeth. All we can do is wonder where the hell Bartlett will take us next and hope that we’ll be ready for it. Bartlett is at his best when dealing with the longer narratives, the stories that are given the space to breathe and bloom like sickly-scented fungi. “when I was a boy—a broadcast” feels like a deeply personal confession gone horribly wrong, the tale of a growing lad obsessed with the corpulent body of a friend’s mother whose burgeoning sexual longings are hideously fulfilled. It is a tale drenched in the sweet and stink of New England and the dirty, musty banality of sex. “path” follows a fairly original conceit, namely how a deranged murderer deals with a devilish horror greater than himself. The story meshes an effectively disturbing psychological insight (the killer’s method of detaching himself from the world) with the disconcerting bits of quiet horror (the discovery of too many knives in the drawer, the silhouettes of the hypnotized drivers listening to WXXT) that Bartlett handles so well. Similarly great are the pair of two-parters, “the ballad of ben stockton” and “the arrival”. The former describes the narrator’s should-be routine visit to the dentist that takes a turn into obfuscation and disturbing hints at unseen gears turning that would make Thomas Ligotti proud. The latter tells its story in reverse, going from a rebirth in the woods to the precipitating events of a goat-man’s reign of terror and mission to devour information through radio antennae. Bartlett performs this narrative experimentation on a few occasions, forcing the reader to set the misarranged puzzle pieces aright only for them to find out that the finished picture still has deep pockets of impenetrable darkness. Bartlett also takes joy in revealing towards the end of some entries that they’ve actually been broadcasts straight from WXXT all along, insinuating that the station has already torn through the fourth wall and that its messages have nestled in our gray matter like contented maggots. It all makes for a delightfully teasing and immersive game. Best of all the stories are “the sons of ben” and “the gathering in the deep woods”. The first concerns a teenager discovering his true unholy parentage and contains one of the most exquisite invocations of a nightmare that I’ve ever read. It fills up your heart with the shadow of familiarity and disquiet. In a blink, I was driving on a deserted highway amidst tall black buildings with windows glowing red and shadows dancing somewhere within. Alongside the elevated highway raged and roiled a black river, bisected by ornate, spired bridges that passed somewhere below the road on which I drove. Looming above the arches and the terraces, a large skyscraper seemed to rise before me, tattooed with an enormous, neon red inverted cross. Below the cross sprawled unreadable letters that looked vaguely Arabic. The city was vast, lit red, save for blue lights that blinked in patternless intervals atop the taller spires and rooftops. Stone-winged cathedrals, with many stained-glass eyes, crouched like tarantulas amidst the skyscrapers. Cruel looking helicopters, noses angled low, roamed between the buildings like wasps. When I glimpsed the vapor-lit streets, I saw loose gangs of figures in strange configurations, several lone people scuttling like crabs into and out of crooked alleys. I saw shadows of things maddeningly large and unthinkably shaped where the corners of light met the shadows… I remember being afraid to look at the passenger seat. Someone was sitting there, and it seemed vital that I not look, lest… lest what? And that hasn’t even covered the demonic construction crew working over the pit of dead babies. It’s this section that makes Gateways feel vast, bigger than even the sprawling New England terrain that serves as its focal point, this nightmare like a projection of a future hell where the hallmarks of our modern civilization are viewed through a kaleidoscope of diabolical shades. Look closely, Bartlett says. This is the Abomi-Nation. “the gathering in the deep woods” is the account of a man invited to the titular event by a stranger who carries his own brain into a diner. Bartlett slowly builds the details to unnerving effect, culminating in the man’s journey through the layers of a party from the Underworld that includes blasphemous car top murals, children puking up slithering tumors, and a pile of shit wearing a party hat. It’s this latter element of gross, impish, and seemingly out-of-place humor that surprises one more than the presence of any insanity-inducing horror. It’s another one of Bartlett’s balancing acts, and for the most part he pulls it off, with only a few entries, like “the first to die”, straining on the stitches of terror and humor that bind them. Readers who are adverse to characters contemplating the portent of their vicious, black stool are advised to practice caution, with “the theories of uncle jeb” being perhaps the nastiest of the lot in its depiction of the skull-faced, gnarl-toed title character opening up his cancerous, smelly navel and inviting his kind relations to beat his diseased penis in with a mallet. It’s a lesson in how much your nose can wrinkle in the span of a story. It seems appropriate that Bartlett’s collection should end with “the reddening dusk”, a beastly man’s wailing diatribe to the dead wife he murdered that finishes with him burrowing into the stomachs of his enemies and screaming in delirium. It’s a tonal high note for the work to go out on, leaving the reader disoriented and slightly traumatized from all the absurd grotesquries that have unspooled from the crackling recordings of Bartlett’s imagination. The author has promised a companion volume for future release to be titled Creeping Waves, a book collecting further chronicles of Western Massachusetts’ haunted airwaves. If you were provoked or enthralled or upset by the contents of Gateways to Abomination, as I was, I can only imagine the “sequel” will have more of the same in store. Which is to say that come the time of its release, my ham radio will be tuned accordingly and I’ll be ready to listen to the voices of the damned once more. But, then again, chances are I’ve been hearing them the whole time. We now pause for station identification.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joe Zanetti

    "Don't startle or scare. Disturb. Upset. Remove the floor and dissolve the walls." - Abrecan Geist, Sinister Mechanisms p. 45 When I'm working my seasonal job, there are some days where I do not finish until one o'clock in the morning, sometimes two. My commute home is just over an hour, and to help with it I usually listen to talk radio. I primarily listen to NPR, but I'll sometimes scan the radio waves for something different, anything from religious talk, to something revolving around the "Don't startle or scare. Disturb. Upset. Remove the floor and dissolve the walls." - Abrecan Geist, Sinister Mechanisms p. 45 When I'm working my seasonal job, there are some days where I do not finish until one o'clock in the morning, sometimes two. My commute home is just over an hour, and to help with it I usually listen to talk radio. I primarily listen to NPR, but I'll sometimes scan the radio waves for something different, anything from religious talk, to something revolving around the paranormal. Driving on the highway at such a late hour, pitch black all around, scanning the radio, your imagination tends to run wild. I often think I'll discover some sort of pirate radio station that broadcasts strange discussions on strange topics; the kind of topics that make the hairs on your body stand up, or send chills up your spine. I wait for a voice to say, "Have you seen the Yellow Sign?" or, "The whole family is buried out in those woods." Fortunately, that never happens, but there is something about radio broadcasts that can create atmospheres of mystery, serenity, and even dread. Matthew M. Bartlett, a black star who has ascended to a far corner of the Weird cosmic frontier, takes that dread and multiplies it by a thousand, using the twisted radio broadcasts of WXXT, your discount butcher of all living things. Gateways to Abomination is a collection of stories of varying length. Some are more along the lines of flash fiction, while others are standard short story length, but they are all connected, creating a living, breathing, organic world of tremendously disturbing proportions. Bartlett's prose is finely-tuned and precise; his stories are carefully crafted, bordering on vile and sinister poetry. Reading Gateways is like being cut by the dull blade of a surgical knife found in the basement of an abandoned home, belonging to a serial killer surgeon. It's also akin to being bitten by a rabid hunter you encountered in the deep woods. The wound festers and spreads, causing delirium; you can't distinguish between what's real and what's not. These stories creep, squirm, and crawl their way into you, transforming and binding you to WXXT. This is the kind of fiction that takes form in the leaky, dank basement of your grandparents' house, where you once found old slide films of naked men and women in your grandfather's trunk. It's the kind of fiction that takes form in a fort built in the woods behind a junior high school by some thirteen-year-old kids, where you'll find damp Hustler magazines and a soaked half-pack of Marlboro Reds or Camels. If you ever find yourself driving through the small town of Leeds, Massachusetts, it would behoove you to keep your radio off. If not, you risk tuning in to WXXT, and it's all downhill from there. Leeds is besieged by this mysterious and disturbing radio station. All manner of weirdness can be heard, from twisted sermons, weeping children, uncontrollable moaning, to deranged polka music. Listening to WXXT is akin to reading the Necronomicon, or the second act of the King in Yellow: you'll never be the same. What's interesting about WXXT, though, is that it's not easily found; you almost have to be precise in your tuning. There are some who know how to find it, and others happen upon it accidentally. It's like it exists in it's own fold of space; it's outside of all that is logical and rational, at least, from our own feeble perspective. Those who are unfortunate enough to listen to it, however, see things in a whole new, disturbing and horrifying way. On top of all that, every day life in Leeds is a warped carnival of horrors, featuring winged leeches, worms in suits, twisted sexuality, walking corpses, bipedal goatmen, and backwoods rituals that make the Manson family look like the Tanner family from Full House. Leeds is very much a place that is haunted by a corrupt and tragic past that goes back centuries, and people harbor family secrets that refuse to stay hidden. In his stories, Bartlett cleverly takes the fears and fantasies of both children and adults, and amplifies them by distorting and reshaping them into bizarre, grotesque, and unspeakable things. In the ballad of ben stockton verse 2, visits to the dentist and oral surgeon are made even more terrifying than we already make them out to be, which helps to amp up the dread and anxiety that permeates Bartlett's stories. A boyhood fantasy about a friend's mother is contorted and reformed into something terribly disturbing and gross, yet it vociferates volumes about very real issues and problems about our society. Leeds is also rife with religious fundamentalism and hardcore patriarchy. In the theories of uncle jeb, themes of a male-dominated society are explored, as is the overall theme that we are a cancerous lot, eating away at everything, including ourselves. This entire world will collapse because of us. If you read carefully, you'll also pick up on the fact that Leeds has been poisoned and corrupt for centuries. The world has been messed up for a long time. With this knowledge, you'll sense the normalcy in all of it, especially in the gathering in the deep wood, where a man walks into a diner carrying his brain, and everyone just goes about their business like it's not happening; however, the man sits next to the person who is narrating the story, and it's only then that the narrator wants him to go away. On a larger scale, this can be seen as a case of people not wanting to deal with societal and worldly problems until they come to their homes and knock down their front doors. Leeds is a fractured, unhinged, chthonian reflection of our own world, which is pretty bad, considering how messed up our world is. We live in a time where we turn our heads to the problems that plague us; we don't want our cozy lives disrupted, because then we would have to deal with all of it. We never do anything until it appears in our backyards. It's a sad and painful truth that Bartlett effortlessly engages. Bartlett also places great emphasis on those who are truly affected by the poison and corruption: children. Nearly every story in Bartlett's book features children who suffer in a plethora of ways. Children are left in a warehouse while their parents are off performing some sort of ritualistic orgy. Some children are kidnapped; others grow up not knowing who their real fathers are. In when i was a boy - a broadcast, a young boy is seduced by a much older woman, resulting in both disturbing and pleasurable experiences, but the boy is changed for the worse, and he ends up burning down the house with the woman in it. This theme of innocence lost pervades the entire book. Children are stripped of their childhoods; they are no longer free from corruption as they experience the horrors of the world, and they will be haunted by those horrifying experiences for the rest of their lives. Some may be able to live semi-normal lives, while others may continue the disturbing and grotesque trends that poison Leeds. Another theme explored is commercialization, or, corporatization. Leeds is an example of a small town that loses certain facilities, replaced by parking lots, Wal-Marts, and other corporate mega structures, designed for mass appeal and consumption. Mental institutions are torn down, the patients have nowhere to go, rendering them unable to seek the proper care they need; they are left to wander on their own. These are real people with real problems, yet they are treated as sub-human; a parking structure is more important. Greed and callousness cast a dark, poisonous cloud over Leeds. Another strength of Bartlett's book stems from the self-publishing aspect. The simplistic style of Gateways to Abomination makes it somewhat believable. Crazy, right? Yet, many passages read like clippings found in the archives of a library, such as those of uncle red reads to-day's news. If I didn't know any better, I'd travel to Leeds and conduct my own investigations to see if there is any truth to the depravity that afflicts the town. Some of the shorter pieces excel at illuminating just how fast and easily rumors can spread in small towns, and how a normal event can turn into something much more exaggerated. A person who tends to not socialize and live as a recluse can instantly turn into a pedophile through local gossip. All of these elements combined serve to enhance the overall effect the book has on its readers. While reading Gateways, I kept thinking about John Carpenter's film, In the Mouth of Madness, and how Bartlett could easily be Sutter Kane, causing one to wonder: is this real? What the hell is going on? Bartlett has crafted a masterpiece of cult literature that should be on the shelves of anyone who loves Weird Horror.

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