One of the absolute delights of digging through the horror genre’s past is discovering stories and characters which pre-date and pre-figure contemporary stories and characters I’ve enjoyed. In The Philosophy of Horror, Noel Carroll posits that horror is one of the few literary genres which consistently builds upon its past, in that its practitioners not only consciously pay their respects to their history in the form of homages and pastiches, but they also attempt to create something new out of the old, in some cases reinventing a trope, subverting it, or, in the case of Paul Tremblay’s Head Full of Ghosts or Kristi DeMeester’s Beneath, reinventing, subverting, and paying homage all at once.Continue Reading
When you engage in any kind of artistic “career” over a certain period of time, lots of preconceived notions are shed. Nowhere is that truer than in writing. It’s part of the gig. Over time, idealistic goals either vanish altogether, or, in the best case scenario, transform into more obtainable goals.
For me, it was the notion of writing full time. Writing as the day job. Spending my workday solely in my invented worlds. Many of my fellow writers have gone through the same transition. Realizing that for whatever reason, writing as a full-time career simply wasn’t in the cards.
When I began my exploration into the history of the horror genre, accepting this as a reality became a lot easier. It amazed me how many wonderful writers I encountered who never broke into a “full time” writing career. In some cases, they wrote one or two stories, and never wrote again.Continue Reading
Writing this column is occasionally daunting. I often grapple with the unfortunate reality that not only is it impossible for me to completely cover every important horror/spec fic writer, it’s also hard to read everything written by the writers I highlight. In some cases — writers with modest outputs, or contemporary writers I’ve been reading right along — that’s not such a difficulty.
However, with other writers, such as the focus of today’s column — Algernon Blackwood — I simply have to be content with believing I’ve read enough of their work to offer an informed opinion and recommendation. Even so, there’s still that little irrational insecurity (anyone who knows me knows I’m nothing more than a bundle of irrational insecurities) someone will pipe up in the comments, “Oh, but have you read THIS story by INSERT AUTHOR NAME HERE? You haven’t? Oh.”Continue Reading
As many of you know, I began this column (almost five years ago, which is a little mind-blowing) with the intention of chronicling the writers who impacted me during a very transitional period in my writing career. Writers who exposed me to new things, new kinds of horrors and writing styles. However, a year or so ago I realized this column should evolve and start featuring newly discovered contemporary writers right alongside the masters of years gone by. The first of these newly discovered writers was Peter Laws. Today’s featured writer is Kristi DeMeester, author of the amazing, beautifully bleak novel Beneath, and the powerful short story collection Everything That’s Underneath.Continue Reading
I’m only an armchair observer and by no means an expert, but it seems in the last six years the horror genre has witnessed a blossoming short story anthology market. And no offense to anyone, but I mean good markets offering quality stories and top-notch production values, not lots of people discovering the novelty of quick and easy self-publishing in order to issue sub-standard collections through Lulu or Createspace, which seemed very common about eight or nine years ago. (Again, I apologize for any snark; that’s just my opinion, only).Continue Reading
I apologize for my absence. This past summer I had major reconstructive surgery on my foot. Unfortunately, it took a lot out of me. However, I’m ready to resume my exploration of the works of horror which have played a role in my development as a writer, so I hope you’ll rejoin me on this journey.
Ironically, in my quest to discover other horror writers besides Stephen King, (I adore King’s work but at that time, I was reading him exclusively), it was King himself who helped lead the way. Somewhere in the middle of that quest I finally, for the first time, read his non-fiction treatise on the horror genre, Danse Macabre (which you should all do, right now). Continue Reading
I read my first Ramsey Campbell novel, Creatures of the Pool, in October 2010. A little over ten years ago. Yes, I know. A little late to the party, right? But, like so many other horror authors, Ramsey Campbell was just another name I’d heard spoken reverently as “an author all aspiring horror authors should read.” Continue Reading
As an aspiring writer, you often don’t realize the influences certain authors have over your developing style and voice. You’re busy reading books and stories which really excite you, writing away in your own little world, and in many ways, you can’t see the forest for the trees.
I’ve been especially prone to that over the years. I tend to read many books simultaneously at frenzied paces (I’ve often said I read like other people breathe), and it’s sometimes hard to keep track of where I draw my inspirations from. It was once said Rod Serling was the same. When Ray Bradbury actually accused Serling of stealing his work for The Twilight Zone, some said Serling could never completely deny it, because he’d read so many things so quickly, he always had difficulty attributing a source to his story ideas.Continue Reading
I remember my first Robert Aickman story vividly. It was in February. Early in the morning. As the snow fell outside on an already white winter morning, I sat very still in my favorite chair, reading “The School Friend,” and wondering…just what was I reading? A story about a long-lost friend returning after her father’s death, to comfort her old school friend, who had fallen into a lonely life? Or was this friend something…more? Continue Reading
When I proposed “Revelations” to the fine folks at Cemetery Dance, my intent was to examine writers I’d encountered during a specific period in my career. Writers’ whose work had impacted me on a profound level, changed the way I thought about horror, and changed the way I wrote. Never once did I imagine I’d stumbled onto something profound or unheard of. Continue Reading
I have friend and colleague Bob Ford to thank for introducing me to Robert McCammon’s work. I’m not sure exactly when I stumbled across his blog entry about Boy’s Life, but it must’ve been late summer or early fall 2010, because I read Boy’s Life for the first time not long after. And, I can say—without an ounce of hyperbole—that novel impacted me more than any novel I’ve ever read. It changed me, fundamentally, as a writer. I made me realize the limitless possibilities of speculative fiction. Continue Reading
I first heard Norman Partridge’s name when talking to Norman Prentiss at my second Borderlands Bootcamp in 2010. It came up by happenstance. During dinner, Norman was talking about how someone at the most recent World Horror Convention had mistaken him for Norman Partridge, because of their similar first names. Norman Prentiss‘ wistful response was, “I only wish I was Norman Partridge.”
Not only has Norman Prentiss been a wonderful friend and editor, he’s also been a trustworthy guide to powerful voices in the genre. His endorsement certainly put Norman Partridge’s name on my TBR list. So, the following Halloween, when folks started chattering about this Halloween novel which had been published a few years before—Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge—I figured it would be the perfect entry point. And, boy howdy…what an entry point it was. About the time I hit this beautiful block of prose, which snapped with the ferocity of high-voltage wire, I was hooked…Continue Reading
As I’ve written this series, I’ve found it necessary to achieve a tenuous balance in my recommendations and recountings of the horror which has impacted me as a reader and writer. I’ve bounced a lot between the descriptions “fun and fast-paced” and “literate and full of substance.” The truth of the matter (as I’ve come to discover it) is this: good fiction and, even more importantly, a good reading diet, shouldn’t ever cater to one end of the spectrum exclusively. Stories should move us emotionally, they should make us ponder the world around us, our existence, and life in general. They should say something about the human condition. Continue Reading