I readily admit that I spend much of my horror ruminations on days gone by. Many consider the 1980s to be the Golden Age of Horror. It was an unparalleled time of creativity and fun in the genre. Horror fiction was going crazy, with many old masters still crafting great stories, and brash newcomers were shaking the foundations of traditional horror storytelling.Continue Reading
For the most part, the authors featured in these columns have impacted my development and growth as a writer primarily through their work. Ronald Malfi impacted me as a person, first, before I delved into his work. Looking at his career path, getting to know him as a person first has impacted me just as much as his work has.Continue Reading
About six years ago, as my partner Jack and I were waxing poetic about the Halloween season on our Monster Men podcast, I started calling the 31 days of spookiness Terrortober. For some reason, midway through the month, I changed it to Horrortober and it stuck. Now I’m not saying I was the first, but I don’t remember anyone else calling it that back then. Okay, maybe I am saying I was the first.Continue Reading
Today marks the release of my second short story collection, Things You Need, from Crystal Lake Publishing, also the latest installment in the ongoing story of my fictional Adirondack town, Clifton Heights, which owes its existence in large part to not only Charles L. Grant’s fictional town, Oxrun Station, but even more so to the anthology series he edited, The Chronicles of Greystone Bay.Continue Reading
The year was 1988. I had been a serious horror reader for years and things were really starting to get interesting. We had it all then. Big names, legends, were still publishing: Robert Bloch, Ray Russell, Manly Wade Wellman, Hugh B. Cave, and others. Newer writers like Dennis Etchison, Richard Christian Matheson, Ramsey Campbell, and Michael McDowell were getting into high gear. Writers were migrating from the SF field. And there was a new, streetwise style of horror breaking barriers, from writers like John Skipp, Craig Spector, David J. Schow, Ray Garton. It was a heyday, and it seemed like every new author on the scene I heard about was well worth my time and money.
So when I read a triple review by the great Stanley Wiater in Fangoria magazine about a writer named Joe R. Lansdale, I took notice. The reviewed works in question were Act of Love, The Nightrunners, and Dead in the West.Continue Reading
I can’t tell you how many speculative fiction writers I’ve interacted with over the years who have expressed a deep respect for, if not a rabid obsession with, The Twilight Zone. It’s basically reached “sacred cow” status amongst genre writers, whether or not it’s had a direct influence on their writing (I know a few authors who pitch their books at cons as being “like The Twilight Zone,” myself included). In fact, the only author I can think of who I’ve ever seen express a somewhat-negative view of the show was Stephen King in his 1981 nonfiction book Danse Macabre. We’ll let this one pass, Mr. King.Continue Reading
The aim of this column is to spotlight authors who have been instrumental in my development as a writer. Some of the writers I’ve covered have been legends in the field who are no longer with us; others more contemporary writers who are still very active and influential. I’m revealing them along a semi-chronological path of when I discovered them, not necessarily their publication dates. Today’s installment features a contemporary writer whose first novel had a huge impact on me, as does her continuing work: Mary SanGiovanni.Continue Reading
It’s easy to see why Stephen King’s Firestarter was nearly the novel we never read.
Abandoning his manuscript on several occasions, King felt the book was too much like Carrie and feared he would be copying himself. While Carrie White had telekinesis (the ability to move objects with her mind), Charlie McGee’s gift (or curse) in Firestarter is pyrokinesis — the ability to start fires with her mind. Both Carrie and Charlie are adolescents. Both have unnaturally co-dependent relationships with a parental figure. And, both are going through a painful process of learning how to control their extraordinary powers.Continue Reading
I grew up obsessed with robots. How I haven’t run off with a replicant is a mystery to me.
When I was a wee lad, there was a particular show I watched with my mother every single day that sparked my infatuation with, as the show’s evil/comedic doctor would call them, “ferrous Frankenstein fiends in tin clothing.” That show was Lost In Space — the original from the ’60s, not the okay reboot on Netflix. Continue Reading
I grew up with two younger sisters who probably owned five million dolls between the two of them. They had plenty of mass-market stuff like Barbies and Cabbage Patch Kids, but also a few “lifelike” porcelain dolls. I wouldn’t say that these dolls “scared” me, but there always was something more mysterious and unsettling about them, with their stiff, white bodies and old-timey dresses.
From Child’s Play to Annabelle to the Twilight Zone episode “Living Doll,” dolls have been mined for their horror potential for a long time. What is it about dolls that makes them so freaky? Author Ania Ahlborn has some thoughts. She saw a doll-centric horror movie early on in life that left such a impression on her, she went on to write scary stories of her own.Continue Reading
It was the early years of my decades-long love affair with horror fiction. I blazed through the Stephen King books that had been published at the time, with Pet Semetery being the most current. It was 1983 — a very good year for the genre, with even better things were on the immediate horizon. I eagerly devoured the Peter Straub books that were available, and they were among the finest pieces of fiction I had ever read. I enjoyed books by James Herbert, Whitley Strieber, Ramsey Campbell, John Farris. I read landmark novels by brilliant talents such as F. Paul Wilson and T.E.D. Klein. There were numerous markets for short fiction, and I was blown away by pieces from Karl Edward Wagner, Richard Christian Matheson, and Dennis Etchison. And of course I marveled at the works of Charles L. Grant. The field was on fire, and it was an incredible time to be a fan.Continue Reading
In 1987, the gods of creativity were looking favorably upon Stephen King, who blessed Constant Readers with three books in a ten-month period — a new record for the already highly prolific author. Among the three novels published that year was Misery, an instant bestseller that would become hailed as one of King’s classics. At the time of its release, however, it might not have seemed very King-like at all. Continue Reading
In 2018, Castle Rock, the town Stephen King introduced in The Dead Zone and returned to numerous times in subsequent works, isn’t on the map any more. A few years ago, the town voted to disincorporate itself. The historic downtown is mostly home to boarded-up businesses. Nan’s Luncheonette burned under mysterious circumstances a while back. The nearest Wal-Mart is some sixty miles distant. The town’s main employer is Shawshank Prison, twenty miles away. A considerable percentage of the people behind bars in that establishment are from Castle Rock.Continue Reading
Sometimes it’s hard to stay on top of everything that’s going on in the Stephen King Universe. There are so many projects underway or about to get underway or that could possibly some day get underway that it boggles the mind. This is a new Golden Age for King, especially when it comes to the various adaptations of his work to screens large and small, silver and otherwise. I’m here to help you keep track! Continue Reading
I lived a good chunk of my childhood on a small, rural road. All of the homes had families and were fairly well-kempt, so my siblings and my best buddy who lived next door didn’t really have a typical “haunted house” to be afraid of; but that didn’t keep us from concocting weird stories about the surrounding property. That creepy orchard up the hill? A kid my mom used to babysit for convinced us that he had seen a severed hand from World War II hanging from a tree up there (yep, from that famous WWII battle fought in Upstate New York, of course). Then there was the turnaround where I swear I saw a UFO land one night (okay, maybe that was just a dream). When you’re a kid, your imagination runs wild, and seemingly innocuous places can transform into terrifying locales. Jonathan Janz can relate—he read a story back in seventh grade that touched on just that idea, a story that stuck with him and put him on a path to creating strange stories of his own. Continue Reading