Steve Rasnic Tem is an award winning American, speculative fiction writer of novels and more than 430 short stories. The novella The Man On The Ceiling, which he cowrote with his late wife Melanie, won the World Fantasy, Bram Stoker, and International Horror Guild awards in 2001. Steve has won many awards for his solo work as well, including the Bram Stoker, International Horror Guild, and British Fantasy Awards. He has a distinctive, lyrical style which lends many of his stories an eerie, dreamlike quality. Each of these tales were a pleasure to read.
1. “At the Bureau” (1980) – A man who’s worked at the same, increasingly irrelevant, government licensing office for years begins to notice the shadow of a man at his office door all the time but can’t find who’s causing it when he opens it. Does it have something to do with whoever has moved into the long vacant office next door? This is an effective, very short piece of fiction with a twist ending.
2. “City Fishing” (1980) – A boy is being taken “fishing” by his father along with his father’s friend and his son, but they drive deeper into the city rather than to a lake. On the trip their surroundings begin to twist all around them in this surrealistic tale.
3. “Blue Boy” (1980) – Memories of a lifetime of abuse from his violent father and the strange doll he had back then named Blue Boy cause the lines of reality to blur for a tormented man.
4. “The Poor” (1982) – An intermediary for undisclosed overseers becomes overwhelmed by the burden of his desire to help an ever-multiplying horde of destitute people looking to him for relief.
5. “Shadows on the Grass” (1983) – A man who fixates on people who’ve experienced tragedies due to his not having experienced them for himself becomes obsessed with a recent accident site where a young boy was killed by a car while his mother was watching. One day when he goes there he finds the mother in the same spot saying her son isn’t dead but rather out playing. While there, he sees something odd regarding the moving shadows on the grass.
6. “Hidey Hole” (1987) – A young girl is afraid of the small hole beneath the porch in the backyard of her new stepfather’s house. She envisions dark, creepy things living there but is forced to confront those fears when her stepbrother ventures near it.
7. “Mask of the Hero” by Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem (1991) – A seventeen year old orphan named Mark works for a man delivering packages by bicycle. He constantly sees masks everywhere, floating through the air, hovering over people hiding their real faces, etc. These masks hum at him in different pitches all the time. He views himself as The Prince of Masks as a result. He soon finds he’s more important than he ever knew when he’s recruited to help fend off an incursion into our realm by an entity known as The Queen in this surreal tale written for an anthology of stories set in the CHILL Horror RPG world.
8. “The Bereavement Photographer” (2003) – A single man who has little interest in children volunteers at the hospital where his sister works as a bereavement photographer, which involves taking pictures of families with their recently deceased children. A strange thing begins to occur when he notices some of the dead children open their eyes to stare at him during the shoot. This is another very strong, eerie tale.
9. “Smoke in a Bottle” (2009) – Returning to his childhood home after the death of his mother, a man remembers his penniless youth and his alcoholic father’s eccentricities. Later he begins seeing a shadowy figure which leads to realizations about his past.
10. “Telling” (2010) – A man and his artist wife check out hundreds of homes for sale because she’s searching for the perfect fit. They finally find it and she begins to create paintings of it. The husband has a bad feeling about the place and an ominous, shadowy figure begins to appear in her paintings. This is a very spooky, atmospheric tale.
11. “Miri” (2011) – An artist struggles to stay connected to his wife and kids as he keeps catching glimpses of the thin, pale woman he dated in college named Miri. All the years they were together he never once saw Miri eat anything, and although he didn’t love her they stayed together for a long time. This is another eerie, well told tale.
12. “The Ex” (2011) – An elderly man still sees and bickers with his wife who recently died from a stroke.
13. “Between the Pilings” (2015) – A lonely man returns to the squalid seaside town of Innsmouth where he recalls a memorable vacation his parents took him to as a child. The place is more rundown than it was back then, but he remains anyway, staying at the old hotel they rented so long ago and visiting landmarks they did back then. There is something very odd about the place. This is an excellent, somber tale.
14. “The Long Fade Into Evening” (2017) – Finding himself with no place to live, Simon accepts his cousin’s invitation to stay in a deteriorating old house in a bad part of town to keep squatters and vandals away. He doesn’t see anyone living anywhere around him but sometimes hears them. One evening he opens the back door to find a street filled with rotting Victorian houses which weren’t there before and strange cat-like faces peering at him from various windows. This story was written as a tribute to horror icon Ramsey Campbell.
15. “Reflections in Black” (2018) – When a lonely man hears the name of a former love called out on a busy bus the night before Halloween, it spurs him to try and look up her whereabouts in the years since they parted. Initially, he believes she died but then receives a phone call out-of-the-blue from her mother asking him if he could come visit her as she’s ill and has been trying to reach him. He agrees to make the long trek out to her house on Halloween night but finds more than he bargained for when he arrives.
16. “The Parts Man” (2018) – A man makes a deal with a mysterious entity with a vintage, stretch car. They drive to specific locations picking up specters of loved ones the man has lost during his life. He pays the price of losing internal organs to the entity for each new passenger. Eerie, surreal, and somber – this is a powerful tale of remorse and longing.
Steve’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Steve-Rasnic-Tem/e/B001JRYPX6%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share
Steve’s Website: http://stevetem.com
Article by Matt Cowan