a few items of possible interest

First, there is a lovely review of my second collection, You’ll Know When You Get There, at the site “See the Elephant,” written by Paul St.John Macintosh. You can, of course, purchase You’ll Know When You Get There from its publisher, Swan River Press.

Second, my Shirley-Jackson Award-winning story, “The Dying Season,” has been reprinted at Nightmare Magazine, where you can read it for free. I strongly suggest that if you like the story, you should buy the anthology it appears in, Aickman’s Heirs, which also won the Shirley Jackson and is one of the best anthologies I’ve read. (It’s available on Kindle as well.) Oh! And there is also an interview with me, largely about the story, at the same site.

Third, the writer David Surface has written a lovely piece on his blog feature, “One Great Story,” about one of my early published stories, “These Things We Have Always Known.”

Fourth, I’ve written a couple of pieces about other writers for Women in Horror month. Check out the list of recommendations at Mark West’s Women in Horror mixtape, and over at the Ginger Nuts of Horror, Jim Mcleod asked me to write about a woman horror writer who’d influenced me in the past and also a newer one that I would recommend.

a citizen of nowhere

I’ve kept a journal all my life, or at least since I was eight, when I read The Diary of Anne Frank for the first of many times. I should amend that verb tense, that “I have,” to just “I,” though, because the “have” implies that I still do so. Sometime in the last few years, though, I got sick of the sound of my own voice in that particular form. I’ve made a few stabs at restarting, but they haven’t come to much.

Since I woke up on November 9 to the results of the U.S. presidential election, that urge to start chronicling my thoughts returned. I didn’t recognize it as such immediately. I only knew that I was using Facebook a lot more to talk about what I was feeling and to try to understand what was happening around me. I kept reading pieces like this one by Masha Gessen in The New York Review of Books on how to survive an authoritarian state, or this powerful piece by Sarah Kendzior, who is an expert in authoritarian states, that urged me to do that very thing, write it all down:

Write down what you value; what standards you hold for yourself and for others. Write about your dreams for the future and your hopes for your children. Write about the struggle of your ancestors and how the hardship they overcame shaped the person you are today.

Write your biography, write down your memories. Because if you do not do it now, you may forget.

Write a list of things you would never do. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will do them.

Write a list of things you would never believe. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will either believe them or be forced to say you believe them.

This was something I did instinctively for a few years after 9/11. That was the first time in my life that I had a through-the-looking-glass feeling about my country, when words stopped meaning what they had always meant and practices like surveillance of ordinary citizens, indefinite detention and torture began to be talked about by normal citizens as practices that were necessary and good. It was also the first time that I felt I was seeing history being rewritten before my eyes, in which events would shift and be described differently in the space of only a year. I wrote about how strange and paranoid and disorienting it all felt.

I never dreamed how much worse it was going to get.

Yet I still find I have no desire to return to those journals of old. Instead, what I have is a need to reach outwardly instead of inwardly.

I keep writing and saying that words can save us. I repeat this the way someone struggling with their faith might repeat a familiar prayer; I am no longer sure that I believe it, but I have to believe it. If I do not believe it then all will be lost.

But social media, and Facebook in particular, is a hermetic environment. And frankly it’s annoying on Facebook when anyone bangs on and on about just about any topic (except for your cat. You can talk about your cat until the death of the sun and I wouldn’t get tired of it. But I digress.) Plus, it just isn’t the right platform for what I now realize I’ve been reaching toward.

And I have this blog here, and I haven’t really been doing anything with it. So here we are.

I’ve long had a policy about not talking much about politics online, not talking much about anything of substance really. It’s not for a lack of opinions–I have a lot of opinions, very strong ones–and it’s not because I am one of those writers who is terrified of “alienating” readers because of actually being a human who thinks things. (“All art is inherently political anyway” is a topic for another day.) It’s simply because the internet is such a toxic environment–especially for women–and so devoid of nuance, that it always just seemed pointless. And I am all about the nuance, the shades of grey.

I feel like that’s a luxury I no longer have. And it’s not just my country that is hurtling toward a right-wing authoritarian nationalism; it’s happening in the UK, it’s stirring all over Europe. I think it’s incumbent upon ordinary people like me to start speaking up, to beat that drum that says this is not normal and I will not accept this.

But it’s more than that. There is a smallness, a meanness of spirit in the Trumps, the Farages, the Le Pens of the world. As the writer Nina Allan put it so brilliantly in a blog post that you should go and read immediately:

..it also makes me want to weep, for the vile shortsightedness of a political culture that seeks to drive us away from Europe and into the arms of the US, a direction of travel precipitated by Thatcher but accelerated by Blair and all driven by a flag-waving, proud philistinism that is always going to value the politics of the so-called ‘free’ market over philosophy, sustainability, indigenous culture, creative endeavour and abstract thought, all the social and artistic values inherent in being human.

I want to celebrate those things here. I want to write about books and film and art and music and stories and travel and all the glorious things in the world that these small mean grubby minds, these pathetic, paltry imaginations, do not value, would like to crush out of existence. “If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere,” said Theresa May, apparently thinking this was some sort of insult. I will proudly take up the badge of citizen of nowhere; that sounds to me like a person of courage, someone who is unafraid of borders and differences, of crossing over, of discovery. But I also want to remind people: Dissent is an American value. Because I criticize my country and my government and hold them to higher standards, I am no less a “real American” than anyone else. You would think this would not be in question, and yet it is.

As I write this, we have two days left. I feel like Lewis Barnavelt in The House With a Clock In Its Walls, that tick-tock-tick-tock to doomsday following me everywhere I go. And I think about the world that could have been, the future we could be heading toward–should be, because I feel like that future has been stolen from us, I really do–had things gone just a little bit differently in the U.K. and the U.S. Instead of heading into a glorious, humanist future, it feels like we’re going to repeat all the horrors of the twentieth century again, only with different players this time. And the only way I know to not give into despair is to just keep writing. So here we are, and here I will be.

Black Static. Bleak Days.

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cover art by Joachim Luetke

The new issue of Black Static is out, and in my bimonthly column, I talk about the intersection of politics and art:

What, then, are we to do, those of us who look at the world around us and see a narrowing, a meanness, a falling back to fight old battles we thought were won? And how can stories about monsters help anyone in times like these?

The magazine has the usual mix of terrific fiction, art, reviews, interviews, and commentary and includes the debut of Ralph Robert Moore as my fellow columnist. You can get this issue free if you subscribe now.

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I can scarcely believe what a different world we are living in, and what a bleak one we are on the brink of, compared to my last post on this blog. You’ll be hearing from me more here than usual in the weeks and months ahead, because I have a lot to say and a lot to process and I have to believe that words can save us, or I’ll give in to despair.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

Resist. Dissent. Make art.

That’s all I got.

New interview and more

First! Brian Lillie asked me lots of great questions for his blog 31 Hath October.  Check out my answers (well, plus his questions) here!

Next! I wrote a chapter on “Finding Your Voice” in Writers on Writing, vol. 4, edited by Joe Mynhardt over at Crystal Lake Publishing. It’s an ebook available on Amazon and is out now.

And! If you are looking for some great horror stories to read, Adam Nevill offers up a list over at The Quietus, including my story “The Dying Season” from Aickman’s Heirs and lots of other great stuff.

The Old Roads and Other Stories

First of all, I am delighted to say that my story “The Old Roads” is up at the Burrow Press website, where you can read it for free. It’s the start of their Month of Horrors, which will bring you a new horror story every Tuesday for the rest of the month, so be sure to check back for the rest of the fiction that editor Teege Braune has lined up for you. Speaking of Teege, he is a wonderfully insightful editor and was a joy to work with.

Now, onto other stories!

“The Seventh Wave,” which was originally published in Paul Finch’s Terror Tales of the Ocean, has been reprinted in Undertow Press’s Year’s Best Weird Fiction vol. 3 and it’s available now in hardback or softcover from Amazon or from Undertow Press themselves. The guest editor this time around was Simon Strantzas.

Also, just a reminder that the anthologies Something Remains, a tribute to/collaboration with Joel Lane published by Alchemy Press, launched at Fantasycon (which was brilliant! amazing! Best FCon since Brighton 2012!) as did Newcon Press’s Ten Tall Tales, and both are also available now.

 

Dancing With Shadows: The Charles L. Grant Blogathon

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This post is part of the Charles L. Grant blogathon as curated by Neil Snowdon. All posts for the blogathon are available at that link as they appear.

I can’t remember in which of two ways I first encountered Charles L. Grant: was it through his series of Shadows anthologies, or his short story “If Damon Comes”? It would have been at roughly the same time, sometime in my late teens, and both made deep impressions upon me. The short story I found in David Hartwell’s anthology The Dark Descent, a book whose influence on me cannot be overstated, and it absolutely terrified me. I remember I read it over and over again, perhaps in the hopes that would somehow diminish its power, only to find the opposite happening.

It was a frightening story, but what made it work was Grant’s technique: his elliptical approach to storytelling, what he did not include. There was also the mundane tragedy of the story at its core, that of a broken marriage, a broken family. Grant was a master of getting at the psychology of his characters and revealing sometimes-uncomfortable truths about human nature.

I have always been under the impression that it was Grant who coined the term “quiet horror” although as I write it now I wonder if I’m wrong, but it was a term often applied to his work. “If Damon Comes” is a masterpiece of quiet horror and demonstrates how devastating and scary such an approach can be.

And then there were the Shadows anthologies. I must have read all of them, some of them multiple times—along with Stuart Schiff’s Whispers series, in my mind the two are indelibly linked—not even realizing that I was giving myself a foundational course in then-contemporary horror fiction, just reading them because I loved them. They were like a Who’s Who of 1970s and 1980s horror. Ramsey Campbell, Dennis Etchison, Steve Rasnic Tem, Manly Wade Wellman, Lisa Tuttle, Joe R. Lansdale, Tanith Lee, and Melanie Tem were just a few of its influential alumni.

I met Charles L. Grant once. It was either at the very end of the 1990s or the beginning of the 2000s, at a World Horror or World Fantasy Con. I waited in line to have him sign a book for me—Jackals, not one of his best novels, and published as the commercial horror boom was waning—but I’d been reading it on the way to the convention. I was in awe of him—I was in awe of anyone who was a writer—still kind of star struck with the idea that I could walk up to these people that I’d read and admired and, well, technically make conversation although in my case it generally just amounted to me approaching them with a book held out before me like some kind of shield and shyly mumbling something about how much I liked their work before slinking away. Anyway, what I remember about meeting him was that he was gruff and funny. I handed the book to him babbling something about how I hadn’t finished it yet but I was really enjoying it and he scrawled in it “Lynda, Finish the damn book!”

I love the vein of “quiet horror” in which Grant wrote. His manipulation of language and the slow burn of his storytelling isn’t for every taste but rewards those who have the patience for it. And this is the perfect time to seek him out, for in my memory of his work, in Charlie Grant Land, it is always autumn.

Ten Tall Tales

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(and ten limericks, courtesy of Ramsey Campbell)

It is the tenth anniversary of NewCon Press, which is a very fine small press indeed run by Ian Whates. In celebration, NewCon has been releasing a series of publications including this one–in which we were asked to write a story of dark fantasy or horror that incorporated something about the number ten. Just look at that terrific lineup! My story, “One Little Mouth to Kiss You Goodnight” is in there along with ten other excellent writers (nine stories plus ten limericks from Mr. Campbell). It will be launched at the British Fantasy Convention (with wine!), but if you can’t attend, fear not. It’s also available for pre-order at the NewCon Press website.