Weird as F@#k Horror up at LitReactor

In my latest column over at LitReactor five of my favorite authors talk about weird horror. Here’s a taste:

I think probably the biggest danger in writing that type of tale, however, is keeping it consistent throughout the entire story. I know that in my writing, as I get closer to the end, I tend to rush the words and drop a lot of the details and world-building that shapes the first half of the story. I get sloppy—it’s a common mistake. I think once a writer has finished their piece, it’s important to go back and make sure they haven’t neglected the atmosphere and details in the last half of the story (or novel) for the sake of wrapping up the plot.

Livia Llewellyn, author of Furnace,Word Horde.

The Weird derives from our attempt to grapple with an unreliable reality through the hooks and nets of literature, and the true monster signals the breakdown at some level of consensus reality, whether our shared understanding of the laws of physics or simply our place in the food chain, so the monster is often the horrific’s vector into The Weird.Scott Nicolay, author of Ana Tai Tangata, Fedogan and Bremer

We’re a species that looks under rocks, when it would have been perfectly fine for us to keep on walking by. But sometimes that instinct, it burns us. Sometimes our human curiosity, it brings us face to face with a vastness we can’t begin to comprehend. That’s kind of the magic of weird fiction, I think. It’s using our saving, maybe defining trait against us. In order to survive, we have to stop being human, basically. We have to cash out what we are in hopes of some version of what we used to be just walking on by that rock, into the future. Which is a bad trade. But, looking under that rock, it’s no guarantee of happiness either.

Stephen Graham Jones, author of Mongrels William Morrow

With classic horror the results are often expected right? It’s a demon, a ghost, a werewolf, a zombie, a vampire. With The Weird, it’s rarely what you are anticipating—it’s much worse, much stranger, so it’s hard to react, as a character. There is no silver bullet, no wooden stake. It’s something beyond comprehension. Richard Thomas, author of Tribulations, Crystal Lake Publishers.

My focus in stories is typically an emotional core. I’ve joked more than once that I like it when my work makes people cry, but it isn’t really a joke at all.

Damien Angelica Walters,author of Paper Tigers, Dark House Press.

Check out the full article over at you know where.

With stories from Ramsey Campbell, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Paul Tremblay, John F.D. Taff, Lisa Mannetti, Damien Angelica Walters, Christopher Coake, Josh Malerman, Mercedes M. Yardley, Brian Kirk, Amanda Gowin, Richard Thomas, Maria Alexander, Stephanie M. Wytovich and Kevin Lucia. With a foreword by Cemetery Dance magazine founder Richard Chizmar.

Here is an early review. and another one here, singling out Mercedes M. Yardley’s story, “Water Thy Bones,” as “one of the high points of the collection, an odd sort of tale that explores the beautiful side of horror – which, as it turns out, is bone deep (not skin deep). It wasn’t only an interesting story, but and interestingly told story.”.

Looks like a collection that’s going to make quite a splash, makes me proud to be a very recent addition to the Crystal Lake family. Here’s where you buy it.

Is this my house?

It has been such a long time since I’ve checked in, that even my own blog doesn’t recognize me. Apologies for the absence. A tough month of personal loss. Hard to make sense of the universe right now. In “Emma Zunz,” Borges writes that after getting news of the death of her father, Emma realized that “it was the only thing that had happened in the world, and it would go on happening endlessly.”

Lots of work to keep me near dark, though. Correcting novel proofs, working on an exciting new piece for LitReactor, two stories anthology-bound. End of semester paper grading just for shits and giggles.

And I finally did manage to get Gabino Iglesias’s novel reviewed for This is Horror. Get this bad boy into you, mis amigos, where it will lay eggs on your subconscious, I guarantee, for hatching when you least expect it.

Managed, also, out of necessity, to keep reading. Polished off Scott Nicolay’s Ana Kai Tangata, and Years Best Weird Fiction, ed Kathe Koja. Caitlin Keirnan’s “Bus Fare” is numinousity on a whole new level, Nathan Balingrud’s “The Atlas of Hell” one of the most claustrophobically horrific stories I’ve read in recent memory, even for him, and back to Nicolay, hard to pick one, but if I had to, “Eyes Exchange Bank” and the title piece. This from EEB:

Route 202 was a tunnel through a shadowed world whose brightest color was brown. Woods that in spring or summer would offer green relief from the drab and dreary towns were gnawed to bleak orchards of black bone.

I know this road. Saw you there.

Caught on the Web

Oftentimes, we are blocked for good reason. Maybe our standards are too high for our best creative self to want to show up. Maybe we’re taking ourselves and what we can produce too seriously. Sometimes, your block is fighting for you just as much as it is fighting against you.

Elizabeth Percer at Lithub.com.

Amelia Gray talks revision at Realpants : amelia-gray-labyrinth

BRACE YOUR MIND: THIS GRID FROM TOR.COM via Seanan McGuire WILL EXPLODE IT!EveryHeartADoorway_Seanan-McGuire

Blood under the bridge

v4i23-cover-front-copy-200x300Monday morning. Holy finish line. I could kiss my desk, which is almost clean enough to eat off again, now that I’ve scraped off all the blood. Barely a trace of the last three months left, and the bones are beginning to set. Feeling a twinge of wonder at having pushed through 4 part time jobs and a bunch of other hurdles, working 7 days and 3 nights a week, since the beginning of March, and coming out of it with just the regular teaching left ongoing, a two book deal, a new column gig, and two new stories sold. It doesn’t get easier and the stakes get higher, and it’s true, you do fail better.

It’s all true. Everything they tell you.

One thing is that I want to add Jacob Haddon, at Lamplight Magazine to the list of editor/writers without whom this whole “golden age” of smart genre fiction wouldn’t be possible. I’ve talked about this before. Zack Wentz, Keith McCleary and Matt Lewis, Tobias Carroll, Cameron Pierce and Kirsten Alene. J.W Wang, Richard Thomas, John Joseph Adams, Ellen Datlow, Joshua Chaplinsky, J. David Osborne, Joe Pulver, Neil Clarke. And now Jacob Haddon, whose eye and sense of story is behind the classy Lamplight Magazine, where you’ll find my new story, “Fairy Tale,” as well as work by Tim Deal, Gwendolyn Kiste, Subodhana Wijeyeratne, Matt Mikalatos, Douglas F. Warrick, Leanne Karwatowski, and Kevin Lucia returning for his Horror 101 series.. Please consider buying the double issue for $4.99 or subscribing to this dark drink of water. $10/year for four issues to mess with your dreams.

A rising tide lifts all boats…

Congrats to my student Melina Anderson for her first published piece, finessed from an exercise we did in our Tues night SFF workshop. Antipodean Sci-fi snapped it up, and I’ll post the link as soon as I have it. I get pretty pumped when this happens.

Speaking of Australian talent, here is poem I had the privilege of teaching last week. It’s by Omar Sakr, called The H Word, and I haven’t been able to let it go.

The H Word

My suburbs had hoods.
They weren’t neighbours – just hoods.

And the kids were the lums born of them.
Hood-lums hood-winked into dark spaces,

into tunnel vision: that this is all there is.
Just pockmarked streets and bruised knuckles

for homes. Another H-word.
The scariest one. Not horror or homicide

or haemorrhage or hate. Not hope.
Home. Continue reading A rising tide lifts all boats…

New article up at LitReactor: Six Killer Death Scenes

in which I talk about Laird Barron, Don DeLillo, Shirley Jackson and others. Here is a taste but you can read more at LitReactor. Image courtesy of LitReactor.

When my kids were little we had a family fun game called “Death Scenes.” We’d gather in the back yard or in the playing fields behind our house—the same fields, by the way, where Peter Jackson shot his matricide movie, Heavenly Creatures—and we’d compete to see who could die the best. Enter alien sniper, medieval archer, Zombie-werewolf, or evil wizard/giant/ogre guy, and… action. My son’s death scenes were of the running start-spiralling-fall-anguished-yowl-false-alarm-staggering-second-wind-high-pitched-screech-down-but-not-out-oh-wait-feotal-curl-is-it-over-yet-maybe-not variety. His four year-old sister in contrast went for a speedy demise followed by an unsettling open-eyed stare, and my death involved much thrashing and gnashing and pounding of fists. As the, um, adult I had to make sure that I went for just enough dramatic effect to win my son’s wide-eyed admiration, but not enough to make my daughter cry.

Thing was, I sometimes failed. I mean I failed not to make my daughter cry. I’d try to wink or smile or get up at exactly the right moment to make sure that she knew I was okay, but it was often too late. By which time her mouth would be quivering, and her brother’s eyes would be clouded over with concern (for her, not me) and Eugene the Killer Dog would be at her side and I’d be lying alone on the grass beneath the great pink expanse of New Zealand sky, just another drop-dead mom.

Lamplight Magazine to pick up “Fairy Tale.”

It can be a long time between drinks in the writing life, either because the day job gets in the way of making stuff up and subbing it, or because rejections tend to come in swarms and leave you allergic to your keyboard…. or you get caught up in a novel. Last year I was caught up in writing Aletheia and I pretty much only wrote one story. Thank you to Jacob Haddon’s Lamplight Magazine, the very classy publisher of dark fictions from Tim Waggoner, Damian Angelica Walters, Mercedes Yardley and the like, for picking up “Fairy Tale,” my story about a war veteran haunted by the fourteen year old shooter who put him in a wheelchair.

More good news in tomorrow’s post.

Caught on the web

Submitting opportunity at Tor.:

The mighty Vincenzo Bilof on This Is Horror.

William Vandenburg’s Punctures at Pank

The human body is generous. The hole healed over. In our remaining months, he referred to it as a puncture.

I disagreed with him. I said that a puncture only goes in one side. A hole is all the way through.

Cath Murphy at LitReactor gets iconoclastic: Four Famous Authors Whose Prose was Crap

Crystal Lake Publishing picks up Aletheia and book number 2.

Crystal Lake Publishing Logo.png.opt266x188o0,0s266x188Crystal Lake, awarded Best Horror publisher of the year in 2013, and currently in the ring for a slew of Stokers, has picked up my new novel, Aletheia, to be released late in the year (cross fingers) as the first of a two book deal. Stoked for sure, and grateful to my agent, and to the kind, smart people in my corner who keep my eyes on the prize and my nose to the grindstone. Above all, pumped to be working with the tireless Joe Mynhardt and the CL team.