Blog #19: October Country


Thanks for checking out my annual Halloween special! I know everyone’s busy today carving pumpkins and stalking babysitters and punishing all those who don’t make the annual tribute, so let’s dive right in!

Read on (if you dare) for:

  • New Releases (3 anthology stories and 2 spooky poems that you can read right now)
  • New music from some of our creepiest living musicians;
  • Some ghastly reading recommendations; tales of possession, ancient monsters, and rock’n’roll carnage;

New Releases

Poem: The Shape of Water [Final Cut Zine]

Hollywood horror-masters had something to say about love
We chose, instead, to fear

I’ve been working my way through Universal’s classic monster movies recently, and I’ve been impressed at deeply human they are. The best of them (the originals, before they lost some of their elegance) were gothic romances as much as creature features: Frankenstein’s monster, The Mummy, and the Wolf Man were tragic figures, villainized for being different and punished for things beyond their control.

One of the reasons I loved Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water is that it gave the Creature from the Black Lagoon (the most beautiful and most blameless of the Universal monsters) the happy ending it deserved.

That’s the idea behind this poem, featured in Issue #1 of Final Cut Zine.

Editor Grace Alice Evans has curated a really beautiful collection of horror-themed poems, essays, and stories in this issue, featuring new perspectives on everything from zombies to giallo slashers.

Read it here.

Poem: Right “Where She Belongs” [Pink Plastic House]

They whisper / that I am deluded / but only when they know I’m in earshot

Written last month as part of Kristin Garth’s Poem-A-Day group, based on a sci-fi/horror story I’m trying to finish for an open call. Published on October 23rd as part of 31 Hauntings of The Haunted Dollhouse.

Kristin’s publishing lots of wonderfully spooky poems this month, so be sure to check out The Haunted Dollhouse.

Short Story: “The Year They Cancelled Halloween” [Night Frights]

…No spooky stories; no talk of ghosts, ghouls, goblins, or monsters; no costumes, scary masks, mummy wrappings or
witches’ hats; no pumpkin carving contests; no candies wrapped in orange foil.

Concerned about its influence on students, the teachers at Miskatonic Elementary School decide to cancel Halloween. Deprived of their annual tribute, a cabal of monsters and demons plot their nastiest trick yet.

A cautionary tale featured in Vol. 1 of Night Frights, the new Young Adult horror mag from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.

Pick up a copy here.

Short Story: “Living Vicariously Through You” [When The World Stopped]

“No one’s keeping you here,” he interrupted. “Go, if you want. Leave this astounding new ability unexplored.”

“I will.”

“Then go.”

“I am.” She paused. “Out of curiosity-”

Sophie’s quarantine takes an odd turn when she develops a telepathic connection with the sketchy guy loitering near her building. A pseudoscientific rom-com about these weird times.

Featured in When the World Stopped: A Collection of Infectious Stories from Owl Hollow Press.

Pick up a copy here.

Short Story: “Dust in the Jail Cell” [On Time]

“Come now. You know you could not elude me for all eternity.”

A dimension-hopping war arrives at a downtown police station after a trailer on cinder blocks materializes in the middle of traffic. The young woman in the holding cell has a strange story to tell – if she lives long enough.

Featured in On Time, an anthology of chronologically-themed tales from Transmundane Press.

Pick up a copy here.

Coming Soon

Short Story: Bullfight [Excuse Me Mag]

My flash story “Bullfight” is appearing in Excuse Me‘s “Blood & Bad Times!” issue, and I’m very much looking forward to introducing this bizarre thing to the world.

The story was inspired by my conflicted feelings about astrology, and I managed to cram a lot of gore and bodily transformation and rotting garbage into 500 words.

The issue should be out in the very near future.

You can find more information here.

Your Halloween Soundtrack

How great is it that three composers inextricably linked to Halloween and horror movies all released singles just in time for the occasion? Of course, new music from these guys welcome any time of the year:

John Carpenter – “Weeping Ghost” [Lost Themes III]

Director John Carpenter has an instantly recognizable style, and his distinctive synth-heavy scores have a lot to do with that. This single from his upcoming instrumental album Lost Themes III: Alive After Death perfectly encapsulates the potent mixture of action and dread that characterizes his best films.

Rob Zombie – “The Triumph of King Freak (A Crypt of Preservation and Superstition)” [The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy]

Not to be outdone, horror Renaissance man Rob Zombie (who remade Carpenter’s Halloween in 2007) also has a new single out and a new album to promote. Genre-hopping stomper “King Freak” is classic Zombie, harkening back to the heavier sound of his White Zombie days, its towering chorus offset by subtle touches of hip hop-inspired guitar. Lyrically, it’s less rambling than some of Zombie’s other works without losing his trademark non-sequiturs and surreal word collages.

Danny Elfman – “Happy”

Frequent Tim Burton collaborator Danny Elfman (who led the darkly satirical new wave group Oingo Boingo before becoming a full-time composer for film and television) just released his first solo single since 1984. The song’s a nightmarescape that builds up from ominous synthpop into a punk rock mania. It essentially sounds like Oingo Boingo on a very bad day: slightly less rambunctious and a tad more sinister.

More Scary Stories

What I’ve been reading this month…

Adam Nevill’s The Ritual is a terrifying folk/survival horror tale about four former friends trapped in the Norwegian wilderness, stalked by a monster older than civilization. The horrors they encounter are equal parts visceral and psychological, and the shocking final quarter reads like Arthur Machen writing Lords of Chaos.

I adore Weirdpunk Books anthologies (full disclosure: I was in one of them) and this one – paired with a Misfits soundtrack, of course – is a perfect Halloween season companion.

Stylistically eclectic, ranging from mildly offbeat to incomprehensibly bizarre, Hybrid Moments: A Literary Tribute to the Misfits has something that’s sure to delight or offend everyone. It’s hard to pick a favourite in here, although I’m partial to opening story “American Gods, American Monsters” (which reminded me a bit of Barker), the ripped-from-the-headlines “She is On the Run;” Bible-quoting werewolf shocker “The Way of the Wolf,” and “Teenagers from Mars” tribute “An Answer from the Stars” (not to mention the two grisly “bonus tracks” from editors Sam Richard and Emma Alice Johnson).

Going off the cover alone, you could be forgiven for thinking Grady Hendrix’s 2019 novel is another hard rock horror story – albeit with the masterful character development and effortless blend of terror and wit we’ve come to expect from the author of Horrorstor and My Best Friend’s Exorcism. But Hendrix once again subverts expectations, crafting a surreal conspiracy thriller that pulses with the defiance and righteous paranoia of a great metal song.

Hailey Piper’s novella The Possession of Natalie Glasgow is an exorcism story with a twist. There’s a whodunit element here, as well, with Piper carefully concealing the identity of the evil entity; the solution is both clever and heartbreaking.

1936 novella At the Mountains of Madness features one of Lovecraft’s most coherent descriptions of his cosmology, along with striking Antarctic imagery and visceral descriptions of otherworldly creatures.

Finishing this one for the first time also necessitated a re-read of Victor LaValle’s brilliant sequel “Up From Slavery” (to catch all the references I missed initially). LaValle’s story, published in the newest issue of the revived Weird Tales, is both a sequel and a subversion of the original, critiquing Lovecraft’s racism while crafting a clever and horror mystery with an extremely compelling protagonist.

I’ve also been enjoying short story collections from Arthur Machen, Shirley Jackson, and Ray Bradbury, as well as Stephen Graham Jones’s eerie The Only Good Indians and Chandler Morrison’s obnoxious vampire epic Until the Sun.

Happy Halloween!

This month, I’ve enjoyed many an evening writing at a picnic table, surrounded by falling leaves and curious spiders. I’m currently making progress on a beachy cosmic horror tale, a psychological alien thriller, and a set of intertwined stories set on Halloween; I also recently composed a new fairy tale about a cursed forest that turns out to be surprisingly benevolent.

With Halloween falling on a Saturday, I hope to make a dent in some scary stories while also fitting in as many horror movies as possible (right now I’ve got Pumpkinhead, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Orphanage on the docket).

How are you celebrating?

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