Killer VHS Series #3: Teleportasm Is Damn Fine!

Image courtesy of Shortwave Publishing. Cover illustration by Marc Vuletich. Cover design by Alan Lastufka

Shortwave Publishing quickly made a name for itself as a home for some of the most original and unique names in indie horror writing. While I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read from them, even if I didn’t end up reviewing some, it was the Killer VHS Series that caught my attention. After seeing the exclusive cover reveal to Dread Central, revealing the pulpy B-movie-coded cover art for Alex Ebenstein’s Melon Head Mayhem, I knew genre fans of all ages would be in for a sweet treat. The Killer VHS Series started strong with Alex’s love letter to low-budget 80s cinema. Melon Head Mayhem was soon followed by Brian McAuley’s gratuitously gorgeous Candy Cain Kills (which has recently been greenlit for a sequel). Then, we get to now. Graced with another gorgeous cover illustrated by Marc Vuletich, and designed by Alan Lastufka, we have Joshua Millican’s genre-bending Teleportasm

Teleportasm (noun): the temporary state of euphoria, confusion, and/or excited delirium that follows a teleportation event. 

Teleportasm isn’t your average horror story, it’s 50 times better than your average horror story. We follow Barry, Snaps, Frankie, and Lars, four friends who find themselves in Barry’s Lair of Terror. The friends smoke and inhale nitrous to their heart’s content. After trying Barry’s new way of smoking, the internal bullfrog, the friends find a new and interesting fix. What is their new fix? Oh, I don’t know, maybe a VHS tape that grants the viewer the ability to teleport, which is followed by an intense and unique high. This is Teleportasm

Joshua Millican is an uncannily unique voice, with the cryptic knowledge of a long-time Art Bell fan and the optimistic nihilism of an 80s teen who spent their weekends browsing the aisles of video stores. Straight out of the nightmares of Andrew Basiago, Teleportasm weaves an inventive tale of psychological and body horror that sits with the reader long after the epilogue. Anthology books come in all different shapes and sizes and Teleportasm is an absolute blast of an anthology novella. It’s not your typical anthology, hell I don’t even know if Millican would refer to it as an anthology but it feels like one to me and took my enjoyment to a whole new level. 

As much as reading appeals to me, I’ve always found it quite difficult to review books. Finding that fine line between being analytical of an author’s prose and their ability to craft atmosphere while still keeping enough of the goodies a secret is essential. So how can I find the ways to tell you that you NEED to read Teleportasm? I could start by, like I already did, mentioning that the novella is sort of an anthology. 

I love anthologies. Whether it’s a film anthology, a book, or a series of video games, I will devour any anthology put in front of me and be happier than a pig in sh*t. Joshua Millican crafts an anthology in the most stylish way possible. While the main plot does revolve around the four friends and their respective relationships to the (telepor)tape(tion), you quickly realize that’s just the catalyst. Millican pulls a fast one over on the readers by lulling them into a sense of ease. He builds a world around these characters and just when you think they’re the main characters, you quickly realize that’s very much incorrect. 

You know how many people will say something along the lines of, “The house in Amityville Horror is just as much of a character as the humans.” And while I agree with that sentiment, it’s not the best example. At least, not anymore. Each character is crafted into a fully-realized entity, no matter how much, or little, time they have in the book proper. But Millican has found a way to take this 7.4”x4” black plastic square filled with two spools of film and give it a life beyond what anyone could imagine. Spanning decades, thousands of dubs, and explosions, these tapes fill the lives of millions of people with dread, anger, and desperation. 

The most impressive aspect of Millican’s prose is his ability to keep a clear and consistent voice between stories–each chapter revisiting the four friends is a complete tonal shift from the one-off vignettes (which aren’t really one-offs as it does all tie together, but that’s the best way to describe them). 

Chapter 9 “Welcome to Dead World” is legitimately one of the most depressing things I’ve ever read. Fatalistic and mean, “Welcome to Dead World” is a harrowing change of course for the, up to this point, fun and entertaining first eight chapters. A lesser writer would completely fall apart with a tonal shift this drastic, but Millican does it with the ease of a Bram Stoker Award winner. Chapter 12 “The Knights of Penumbra” on the other hand, is a fun sidestep out of horror and into the world of an intriguing spy thriller. If you were wondering why the Art Bell reference earlier, and if Joshua Millican is reading this and is also curious as to why that reference was there, this chapter feels like a love letter to Art. There are so many small aspects of this chapter that were at some point discussed on his show, and it made me so happy to read. 

I should note the heavy allegory of Teleportasm but as someone who is no expert with the worldwide drug pandemic, I don’t feel like my voice would add anything reputable to the conversation. All I will say about it is how Joshua Millican properly utilizes social commentary to tell one hell of a scary story.

Teleportasm is the goopy lovechild of John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns and 80s late-night talk show conspiracy theories (while Cronenberg sat on a chair in the corner of the room and inserted VHS tapes into his torso tape player). Each entry into the Killer VHS Series continues to up the bar. Shortwave Publishing hit gold and this gold rush is just getting started. Teleportasm can be in your hands June 25 and I highly recommend you pick this one up. You can preorder Teleportasm here!

A series of TVs with different body parts on them
Image courtesy of Shortwave Publishing. Cover illustration by Marc Vuletich. Cover design by Alan Lastufka

Written by Brendan Jesus

Brendan is an award-winning author and screenwriter. His hobbies include magnets, ghouls, and finding slugs after a fresh rain.

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