This’ll be a bit of a long one (aren’t they all?), so I’ll dispense with a lengthy intro. Read on for the details on my latest story, some poetry news, and a lengthy selection of movie, music, and book recommendations. (And vacation photos!)
New Story: The Forest Dreams With Teeth (Demain Publishing)
My heavy metal horror novelette “The Forest Dreams With Teeth” is now available for your reading pleasure! Summary below:
Records burn in strip mall parking lots, a young woman is sacrificed, and something sinister awakens in the woods.
Evil finds a scapegoat in Adam Lloyd, a teen delinquent who escapes his troubled home life through horror movies and sword-and-sorcery novels.
Falsely accused of murder, Adam is dragged into a dangerous ritual that sees suburban hysteria weaponized, as heavy metal fever dreams feed an ancient beast…
The Forest Dreams With Teeth was a stab at folk horror that transformed into something different under the influence of Robert E. Howard. The sword and sorcery references go beyond the tattered Conan paperback the police find in our hero’s locker; I like to think the story shares DNA with Weird Tales (not to mention Dio album covers, Frank Frazetta art, The Wicker Man, and Vincent Price movies). I’d be remiss not to mention its real-life inspiration: the moral panics of the 1980s and beyond.
Pretty much everything I’m obsessed with is in this 32-page tale. Adam Lloyd is also one of my favourite characters I’ve written: angry and proud and scared shitless, defensive of his dreams and smarter than people think he is. I’ll revisit him in a sequel someday, I think.
You can read more about the story in this interview over at Kendall Reviews.
Or if you don’t want to take my word for it that it’s good, check out this review by Steve Stred.
And if you need a reading soundtrack, I also made a Spotify playlist:
Announcement: “Festival Song” enters Wickerpedia
In other folk horror-related news, my poem “Festival Song” will be appearing in Wickerpedia, a Wicker Man themed anthology edited by Kristen Garth and Nick Morrissey for Daily Drunk Mag.
The poem is written from the perspective of Christopher Lee’s Lord Summerisle, and inspired by the pseudo-folk songs on the movie’s soundtrack. I tried to capture Summerisle’s mixture of mysticism of cynicism as he reflects on the film’s central ritual.
Now that the self-promotion has been dispensed with, below you will find some things that have given me pleasure and that I am thus obligated to recommend:
We’re in Stage 3 of Ontario’s re-opening, which means movie theatres (with masking and reduced capacity) are open again. I’ve spent more time at Ottawa’s Mayfair Theatre than I care to admit. Here are a few new flicks you should check out:
Pig (dir. Michael Sarnoski)
A grizzled hermit played by Nicolas Cage goes on a quest through Portland’s food scene to rescue his kidnapped truffle pig.
I won’t spoil any more of the plot because it’s not at all what it’s being promoted as; suffice to say, Pig is a downbeat, largely non-violent film, offbeat and very compelling.
The Green Knight (dir. David Lowery)
I’ve been excited for The Green Knight for a long time, and it didn’t disappoint.
David Lowery’s Arthurian odyssey was gorgeous, with stunning cinematography and an enigmatic plot that’ll take me a few more watches to parse. It reminded me a bit of Oz Perkins’ Gretel and Hansel.
New Music Showcase
Iron Maiden – “The Writing on the Wall”
Iron Maiden are once again in fine form with this apocalyptic anthem. And the video is a twisted creation myth that could only have been plotted by Bruce Dickinson.
Snotty Nose Rez Kids – “Uncle Rico”
The Haisla hip hop duo give a tongue-in-cheek take on family lore in this very catchy new track.
Read a book or ten this summer. Check out what I thought of them all.
Arthur Machen – The White People and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Classics)
This is a really strong collection of slow-burn folk horror. Machen’s explorations of sinister hidden worlds intersecting with our own recalls the Cthulhu Mythos, but he’s is a better and wittier writer than H.P. Lovecraft. And there’s a sense of whimsy and hopefulness in mystical stories like “A Fragment of Life” that I found refreshing.
I followed up this collection with Machen’s novella The Great God Pan, a briskly-paced tale of mad science and ancient evil.
Sam Richard – To Wallow in Ash & Other Sorrows (Nihilism Revised)
Sam Richard’s darkly beautiful collection alternates from frank and deeply personal reflections on grief to outlandish bizarro horror (sometimes both in the same story).
One of the strongest is Undone, a tragedy-steeped folk horror about a death cult survivor desperate to return to his family.
Sara Ellis – Back of Beyond: Stories of the Supernatural (Margaret K. McElderry Books)
Sara Ellis’s unsettling, enigmatic YA stories had a strong influence on how I approach fantasy writing, so I enjoyed revisiting this collection. Most of these stories have an urban folk horror vibe, with troubled characters startled by the intervention of fairies and others spirits in their lives.
The human drama at the centre of the stories is varied and interesting, as is Ellis’s application of supernatural forces: in “Potato,” for instance, a thrift shop toy becomes an unexpected lifeline for a young man in a cult, and “Knife” has a seal take an unexpected form to comfort an angry teenager.
Grant Morrison & John J Muth – The Mystery Play (Vertigo)
Debates about faith and philosophy consume a small town after an actor in a religious play is murdered.
Gorgeous illustrations by Jon J Muth give an unearthly glow to Grant Morrison’s metaphysical mystery.
Jo Quenell – The Mud Ballad (Weirdpunk Books)
The tragicomic tale of a former sideshow performer trying to undo the murder of his conjoined twin, Jo Quenell’s novella reads like The Hills Have Eyes as written by Ray Bradbury.
It’s depressing and clever and gory, with f*cked up characters you can’t help loving and twists you won’t see coming.
Joanna Koch – The Couvade (Demain Publishing)
Childhood trauma comes back to bite two men in this unconventional werewolf story.
Koch’s tale of transformation and cannibalism in a declining family has the classic gothic hallmarks of tortured characters, disturbing secrets, and twisted sexuality, but ends on a note of liberation.
Sara Tantlinger – Cradleland of Parasites (Strangehouse Books)
A macabre collection of poetry inspired by the Black Plague (and other pandemics).
It’s a morbid and ominous read, with Tantlinger taking the perspective of patients, plague doctors, gravediggers and grieving family members, not to mention the infections themselves.
Hailey Piper – An Invitation to Darkness (Demain Publishing)
A swashbuckling gothic romance with a freaky creature and hints of cosmic horror. So fun!
Patricia Lockwood – No One Is Talking About This (Riverhead Books)
Poet Patricia Lockwood weaves social commentary with family tragedy in her fiction debut.
The book’s stream-of-consciousness first half is an eerily accurate representation of what it feels like to be on Twitter in 2021. Lockwood’s extremely-online protagonist (anointed an internet expert after one of her tweets goes viral) is as fascinated by internet culture as she is disturbed by it; she feels herself succumbing to doomscrolling and mob mentality but isn’t sure how or whether to escape it. She’s only able to extricate herself from the endless feedback loop when her sister gives birth to a seriously ill child, and the whole world seems to stop.
Like Lockwood’s excellent memoir Priestdaddy, No One… is startlingly thoughtful and earnest beneath layers of wit and wordplay. It’s less a condemnation of digital culture than a reflection on where we find meaning.
Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Harper Perennial)
Tarantino’s print debut – a novelization of his film of the same name – is a very different animal from its source material. Merely hinting at the movie’s vicious climax, Tarantino trades explicit violence for heavy doses of film analysis and Old Hollywood gossip. If you like hearing Quentin Tarantino talk about movies (which I absolutely do), you’ll like this book.
It also provides more insight into the lives of main characters Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth. Amiable stuntman Cliff is confirmed as a sociopath, with several cold-blooded murders (in addition to the killing of his wife) on his record. (He also has surprisingly refined taste in movies). Mercurial actor Rick Dalton, on the other hand, remains one of Tarantino’s most sympathetic characters. All in all, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a surprisingly sweet-natured read.
- William Gibson – Spook Country
- Owl Goingback – Tribal Screams
- Algernon Blackwood – Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories
- Cynthia Pelayo – Into the Forest and All the Way Through
- Robert E Howard, L. Sprague De Camp, & Lin Carter – Conan
Continued Adventures of…
Took a post-vaccination vacation last month, flying to Vancouver for some sightseeing before hitting up the Calgary Stampede in Alberta. Check out some of my favourite photos below: