Best books of 2018 – LitReactor Staff Pics.

Image by Joshua Chaplinsky

Best books of 2018? I read very few books last year. I don’t know why I read so little. The ones I did were mainly for work. I read a lot of student work, edited manuscripts for clients and my own. Getting Collision edited and ready for printing took a lot of my time, partly because the folks from Meerkat are almost as anal as I am. Or at least pretend to be when I know they are just being patient. Anyway here are my pics for 2018 over at LitReactor. And while you’re there, check out Parts 1 and 2, pencil at the ready to jot down the list for your local bookstore.

Another Literary Mashups class about to begin at LitReactor: Sept. 13

The walls are coming down: sign up here.

Thanks to authors like George Saunders (weird ghosts), Jeff Ford (fantastical horror), Jeremy Robert Johnson (biznoirro), Angela Slatter (fairy tales with bite) and Kelly Link, whose stunning fantasy, “Stone Animals,” was included in Best American Short Stories, the lines dividing one set of genre conventions from another, can be blurred to stunning effect—and that’s what today’s publishers and editors are looking for.

The genre barbarians are at the gate, and getting all up in the guts of what used to be called ‘literary fiction,’ and the result is dark fantasy with sf elements, crime fiction with ghosts, vampires with artificial intelligence—the sky is literally the limit, and the old rules no longer apply.

Of that sounds like you—fascinated with Japanese horror yet knee-deep in a western sf novel, or if your crime story draws from Norse mythology, or American folk tales, or your fairy tales features robot romance—consider yourself home. Some of the most in-demand fiction today includes the best elements from multiple genres and styles in one big mosh-pit of surreal Gothic hellraising.

J.S. Breukelaar is the acclaimed author of the futuristic wild west horror novel, American Monster; Aletheia, a noir ghost-story with a sci-fi twist, and the upcoming collection, Collision, which includes dystopian ghost tales, Halloween war stories, alien gender-bending, body-horror romance, and a zombie novella for the AI age.

And, over four weeks of intense writing, plus exposure to some of the ground-breaking genre-benders making waves today—you will discover new techniques to pull the most powerful elements from countless genres—into a story with the kind of heart and soul editors are looking for.

Weird as F@#k Horror up at LitReactor

Alfred Kubin, Weird Fiction

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.

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.

5 Ray Bradbury Stories on LitReactor

My article dropped at LitReactor. This was fun to write. In his introduction to Best American Sci-fi and Fantasy, Joe Hill writes:

My awe, though, was not merely a reaction to Bradbury’s thrilling ideas. It was just as much a response to the shock of his sentences, the way he could fold a few words to created an indelible image, much as an origami artist may make a square of paper into a crane. One great verb, I discovered, had almost as much explosive power an any marvelous concept.”

I echo Hill’s awe of Bradbury’s language. It is explosive. Something to shoot for.

Writing the Weird starts tomorrow

Couple of places left to learn how writing weird fiction is done, really, how writing better fiction is possible, honestly. Meet like-minded writers, interstitial fools and visionaries whose gaze is fixed not wholly on the futur/istic, nor entirely on the horror/ific, or the fantastical but which falls somewhere between those cracks. Where the wild things are. JS Breukelaar, LitReactor, Writing the Weird.