Allen Koszowski’s new magazine, Inhuman, is all about one thing: the art of monstrosity. It’s theme is the “inhuman” — the monstrous — and every story in the digest is a good old-fashioned monster story to the core. I say “good old-fashioned” because there’s a nostalgic undercurrent to the magazine’s approach that really sent me right back to the days when I would watch Creature Features on Saturday afternoon television. But that doesn’t mean that the writing isn’t fresh, original, or modern — indeed, Inhuman entertains while it also manages to call into question what it means to be human, from a variety of angles. It purposely avoids the trappings of the psycho killer story or the extremes of splat-for-splat’s sake. In fact, its strong editorial focus on monsters is what amazes me about the magazine: it’s admirably fresh while also remaining true to the entertainment value of a good monster story, and it’s clear-cut focus gives the magazine a refreshingly assured identity, compared to a lot of other magazines that seem to make it all up as they go along. I know that any issue of Inhuman that I open up will fulfill its promise to return me to the thrill and wonderment of horror, by virtue of the monsters at its core.
Tightening its thematic bond is the supremely talented artwork, ALL of which is not only monster-centric, but also aesthetically centered on the traditional pen-and-ink craftsmanship of the illustrious editor, Allen K. himself. You don’t have to read a lot of horror magazines to recognize his style: prolifically appearing all over the scene since 1973, Allen Koszowski has been virtually everywhere in the genre press, from Cemetery Dance to Isaac Asimov’s SF Magazine to Weird Tales. I see his signature style in any number of collectable horror books I’ve got on my shelves, and even in many of the underground magazines I myself appeared in long ago. You can recognize his craftsmanship the instant you see the ominous stippling, the brash lines, the cinematic realism bent into surreal extremities. No one conjures creatures from a bottle of india ink like Allen K. and rare is the artist who can pull off a magazine like this, featuring entirely his own artwork alone. But Allen K. makes it not only look easy, but natural. Inhuman reads like an illuminated art portfolio without the trappings of an artist’s narcissism; paging through it to see what he’s exploring through his art nowadays is half the joy of reading the magazine. And the synergy between the stories and his illustrations is nothing short of brilliant. For you see, he’s not only a master of horrifying pen-and-ink drawings of monsters…backed by years of experience, he’s a master of capturing a story’s mood and essence by illustrating a key object, character, or scene from the story world. He brings to life a lot of the monsters that are lurking inside the stories themselves.
And the stories Allen K. is publishing are all wonderful. You can tell how well-read this artist and his assistant editors are in the genre; the authors they choose are excellent examples of the best working in horror today (and in year’s past). I already mentioned the magazine’s nostalgic longing for classic monster stories, and Inhuman actually reprints vintage tales in the genre — often contemporary classics that deserve another look. In issue #2, Joe R. Lansdale’s “Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man’s Back” is presented alongside a simply awesome art piece by Allen K. that brings Lansdale’s post-nuclear “flowers” to life in an uncanny way. The story definitely stands the test of time and like many of Lansdale’s pieces it is a must-read. Also reprinted in this issue are wonderful stories by Ramsey Campbell, Thomas F. Monteleone, and Brain Lumley — a few of which I’d missed and was very happy to have had the chance to read. The illustration for Lumley’s “The Spider in the Bathtub” is so striking that I would love to have a blown-up giant poster made out of it and put up on my bathroom wall. The original monster fiction in the magazine is also superb, and I was particularly struck by Elizabeth Massie’s masterfully bizarre doppelganger story, “Donald Meets Arnold,” which does an expert job of making the protagonist’s hilarious eccentricity completely unlikable so we’ll root for the justice to come when his uncanny and monstrous “alterego” comes to life. Allen K’s accompanying art for this story is surrealistically gruesome — and pulls you right into the story so you’ll want to understand it. Also appearing in this issue with new tales involving everything from alien aberrations to tentacled terrors are Shikhar Dixit, Michael Laimo, Tim Curran, Don D’Ammassa and C.J. Henderson. All of them are entertaining and, well, scary! The magazine is rounded out nicely with film reviews, poetry, and essays on the genre.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Inhuman attempts to do what is virtually impossible in today’s horror genre: keep the content friendly for young readers, without lowering the psychological and literary depth of the stories. While the violence factor is high, sexuality is kept to a minimum and offensive language is virtually absent. This is a conscious choice, as Allen K makes clear in his introduction to issue #2, since the Lansdale story made him contemplate the matter of what’s worth censoring and what’s not. I applaud Allen K’s integrity on this issue; monster stories are naturally appealing to the youth, and it just makes good sense to appease parents in order to show the next generation just how good horror can be. I know that a lot of my early love of the genre came from reading magazines that teetered somewhere between a PG and R rating when I was young. I only wish there had been a magazine like Inhuman around. Thankfully, there is now. And it’s no kiddie mag. Inhuman is highly recommended to anyone, young and old, who enjoys monsters, dark art, and the best fiction in the genre.
Allen K’s Inhuman is a digest-sized, perfect bound magazine, with full color cover and b/w interiors. Nothing short of a bargain at $6.95 a copy. Pick up a copy through shocklines.com or browse around on the publisher’s website at Die Monster Die Publishing.