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By tkayo, author of blacklight

Nov 2, 2019: SHORT VERSION:

spooky eldritch shit but without a lot of the bullshit you usually get attached to that, and also good as shit and non-creepy lesbians. go read it.


Katalepsis falls somewhere in-between the genres of urban fantasy and eldritch horror – more of the vibe of the former but the content of the latter, if I had to try and pin it down like that. My first thought for comparison was The Laundry Files by Charles Stross, except, you know. Good.

Heather Morell sees things. Monsters, abominations, fake versions of reality. Diagnosed with severe schizo-affective disorder, she’s struggling through an empty university life, with medication that doesn’t work and horrors she can’t ignore. Right up until she runs into a girl on the street, and starts to figure out that maybe the reason the medications weren’t working is that the things that she’s seeing are actually there.

Right off the bat, it’s important to note that Heather’s misdiagnosis is explicitly that, a misdiagnosis. Sometimes with stories like these, you get a situation where the disability is actually just super special secret magic powers (cough cough Percy Jackson cough cough) which . . . kinda sucks. Thankfully, Katalepsis doesn’t go that route – it’s not trying to say that every schizophrenic person is actually seeing Lovecraftian abominations in the street, but also doesn’t treat Heather like she’s suddenly been ‘cured’ or deserving of more respect or worth as a person because she’s not actually schizophrenic. The issue of disability, both mental and physical, is handled with care and respect, which sadly shouldn’t be as unusual as it is, but is nice regardless.

I don’t usually go for horror, because I’m a big baby, but I didn’t really have much trouble reading Katalepsis. What horror there is is more of the existential sort, not much in terms of gore or body horror, so depending on where you’re at it could be less scary than average or significantly scarier. For me, though, the tone was not the kind of overwhelmingly terrifying nihilism that you usually get with the more eldritch stories – there’s a nice throughline of warmth and humanity throughout the entire story, and a rejection of that kind of attitude at one point that had me punching the air in satisfaction. Heather in particular is someone who has every right to be beaten down and bitter but still manages to be incredibly warm and caring while still having a spine, which I found very endearing.

As mentioned above, all of the primary cast of Katalepsis so far are some form of gay, and that too is handled well. It’s not exclusively a romance, but romance plays a big part in the story, and it’s very cute and authentically-written. Heather is . . . incredibly horny, but it’s not fetishised or treated weirdly. Her relationship with Raine, one of the other protagonists, is also nice in that it’s allowed to veer close to being unhealthy without passing some massive judgement or making it A Thing. When people say ‘let women and queers be messy’, this is what it should mean (as opposed to what it normally means, which is ‘don’t persecute me for being a pedophile’, but that’s a whole other thing). The cast is very small, but delightful charming in almost every aspect, varied in personality and vibes. I’m having trouble picking a favourite, which is unusual for me, but if you put a gun to my head I’d have to go with Evelyn, the shitty, bitchy, haughty mage of the group, but Twil, the chavvy teenage swearwolf, would probably come in a close second.

On the subject of characters, though, the one thing I would say about Katalepsis is that it is a very white story. I’m not entirely sure there’s been a single non-white character in the entire story, and if there has, they were minor enough that I completely missed their appearance. Considering that Katalepsis is very good about other kinds of rep, it’s a bit disappointing. It’s not justification to rain fire down on it from above or anything, but as someone who was otherwise quite catered to by the story, it sucks. Unfortunately, though, getting used to that particular bugbear is something you have to do a lot in the modern media environment, so it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story too much (even though I kind of wish I was spoiled for choice enough that it did).

(EDIT: as of April 2020, there is now at least one major character of colour, as well as a sort of iffy edge case. Said major character is an antagonist and fairly nasty person, though, and the edge case is . . . complicated. It’s not much, but it is progress, I suppose.)

Regardless, Katalepsis is still an excellent story, with lengthy and consistent updates, and definitely worth your time, unless you’re gonna be weird about lesbians in which case go away.

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Fast and Fun

By Clement Wethers, member

Oct 2, 2019: I have read the first four parts of The Scarlet Jane Files, and I can honestly say that I am enjoying my time so far and intend to continue. The author’s writing is fast and easy to consume, and I found myself flying through the text. There is always something interesting to pull you forward.

That said, beside the inciting incident (alluded to in the blurb), nothing that I didn’t expect going in has happened so far. For that reason, and the occasional piece of awkward grammar, I feel confident in giving it four out of five stars.

Check it out if you are at all interested in Urban Fantasy coming-of-age stories. There are vampires. Maybe.

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Compelling and gay: the two things I look for in a story

By A. B. Boekelheide, author of Fishbowl

Sep 17, 2019: Katalepsis tells the story of Heather Morell, a college student tormented by nightmarish visions she believes to be schizophrenic hallucinations. After a chance encounter with an attractive young woman, Heather learns that her visions are real, and she is thrust into a world of monstrous spirits, horrifying alien dimensions, and unexpected friendships.

From the first chapter, this is an extremely engaging story. The author does a great job striking the right balance of withholding enough information to intrigue readers without confusing them. I’m a big fan of stories that pique my curiosity, and Katalepsis does a great job of this. I didn’t initially intend to read the whole story, but the first chapter left me with so many questions about Heather’s story. Much like Heather herself, I was haunted, and found myself drawn back to the story, desperate to learn more about Heather and her world. The author has a fantastic imagination, and the descriptions of the monsters and other worlds are vivid and terrifying, which made the story all the more intriguing.

For the most part, the writing style is great, although there are a few near the beginning that need a little polish. One thing I have mixed feelings about is the way the author will begin a section by stating what is about to happen. For example, the story’s first line is "On the day I met Raine, the first thing I did was jerk awake in bed and vomit nightmares into my lap." On the one hand, this is intriguing; the reader wants to keep reading to find out who Raine is. On the other hand, it can feel a bit awkward in places.

I really enjoy the characters; they’re all interesting, and have unique personalities. It’s rare to find a story with so many compelling female characters, and even rarer to find a story with compelling lesbian leads.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the story often reads as a romance as much as a cosmic horror story, which I feel is worth mentioning, as it isn’t necessarily evident from the description.

WLW (lesbians in particular) are pretty clearly the target audience here, and as a lesbian, it’s a pleasure to read something so well done featuring characters that are like me. However, the lesbian characters are one of many things about the story I enjoyed, and I think non-lesbians will find plenty about the story to enjoy as well. I’d recommend this story to anyone, regardless of sexuality (provided they’re not a jerk who’s put off by lesbians in fiction, in which case—their loss!)

Overall, this has rapidly become one of my favorite stories, and I would enthusiastically recommend it to fans of horror or urban fantasy, or to anyone who thinks fiction could use more compelling lesbian characters.

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