“Different Angels” reprinted at Nightmare Magazine

The first story I ever published, “Different Angels,” has been reprinted over at Nightmare Magazine. I wrote this way back in the halcyon days of the late 1990s–a different world, that was–and it was published by The Third Alternative, the precursor to Black Static, in 1999. I’ve written elsewhere about what TTA Press meant and means to me and how important that first sale was–the first story I sent to Andy Cox!–so I won’t belabor that point here, but I did want to talk a little bit about the story’s origin.

Back in the 1990s, I was still very much finding my voice as a writer. And wow, I could not sell a story. I couldn’t even give a story away–believe me, I tried. Back then, nobody wanted the kind of stories I was writing, or didn’t want them from me, at any rate.

The stories we write are always stories that come from where we are in that particular time and place, and “Different Angels” is an angry story I could have only written in my twenties. I was still angry at the rural South where I’d grown up, and hadn’t yet figured out how to reconcile the things I hated about it–ignorance and bigotry and small-mindedness and religious fundamentalism–with who I was–unmistakably a product of that rural South, however much I wanted to deny it. So I wrote a story that twisted a lot of the values I was kicking against–religion, the family. I think I was also mainlining a lot of writers like Flannery O’Connor and Harry Crews around that time.

I used to hear a lot of writers say that nothing changes after you publish your first story, but I found that wasn’t true at all. I had wanted to be a writer ever since I could hold a pen, and I’d been seriously submitting stories for four years with no success. To finally get an acceptance, and to a magazine I admired so much, was a huge deal to me. I felt like a real writer at last–even if nobody in America had ever heard of the magazine or TTA Press back in those days and just looked at me blankly when I mentioned it. Plus, it plugged me into a community of TTA readers and writers, some of whom I’m real-life friends with today.

Of course, if you like the story, you can check out other stories by me that are available free online. “Different Angels” is also reprinted in my first collection, The Moon Will Look Strange, which is available at all the Amazons (even though I only linked to two) in Kindle or paperback. And you can pick up my second collection from Swan River Press, You’ll Know When You Get There.

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Dorian Gray, Best New Horror, & Black Static

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Now available for pre-order from Swan River Press and due out next month is the anthology The Scarlet Soul: Stories for Dorian Gray, which includes my story “Every Exquisite Thing” and nine other stories by terrific writers. Edited by Mark Valentine, this is another gorgeous production from Swan River Press that you won’t want to miss.

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Also available for pre-order: Best New Horror #28, edited by Stephen Jones, from PS Publishing. This includes my story “Who Is This Who Is Coming?” from my short story collection You’ll Know When You Get There. You can get the trade paperback or the signed limited edition of Best New Horror, which has a fine lineup as always. And you can still get a copy of You’ll Know When You Get There from Swan River Press while they last.

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Finally, there’s a new Black Static out; I have an ongoing column here, and for this issue I wrote about ghosts. There’s also a regular column by Ralph Robert Moore, fiction reviews by Peter Tennant and film reviews by Gary Couzens, and the usual lineup of fine fiction, this time from Ruth EJ Booth, Ralph Robert Moore, Georgina Bruce, Andrew Humphrey, Carly Holmes, and Mel Kassel, all beautifully illustrated by Vince Haig, George C. Cotronis, and Joachim Luetke. If you subscribe, you get the first issue free.

Darker Companions, a Ramsey Campbell tribute anthology

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Darker Companions, a Ramsey Campbell tribute anthology, is out now from PS Publishing, with cover art by the great JK Potter.

Here’s the glorious lineup:

  • Introduction: Hymns from the Church in High Street by Scott David Aniolowski 
  • Holoow by Michael Wehunt 
  • The Long Fade into Evening by Steve Rasnic Tem 
  • Asking Price by S.P. Miskowski 
  • Author! Author?  by John Llewellyn Probert 
  • Meriwether by Michael Griffin 
  • The Entertainment Arrives by Alison Littlewood 
  • Premeditation by Marc Laidlaw 
  • A Perfect Replica by Damien Angelica Walters 
  • There, There by Gary McMahon 
  • We Pass from View by Matthew M. Bartlett 
  • Meeting the Master by Gary Fry 
  • Saints in Gold by Kristi DeMeester 
  • This Last Night in Sodom by Cody Goodfellow 
  • The Whither by Kaaron Warren 
  • Uncanny Valley by Jeffrey Thomas 
  • The Dublin Horror by Lynda E. Rucker 
  • The Sixth Floor by Thana Niveau 
  • The Carcass of the Lion by Christopher Slatsky 
  • The Granfalloon by Orrin Grey 
  • Little Black Lamb by Adam L G Nevill

When Joe Pulver first asked me to contribute to a Ramsey Campbell tribute anthology he would be editing with Scott Aniolowski, my reply was something like Try and stop me! Ramsey Campbell has been one of the most significant influences from the horror genre on my own writing, and I was thrilled at the opportunity to honor him in this way.

I first read Ramsey Campbell as a teenager—a copy of The Face That Must Die, the Scream Press edition with the JK Potter photographs and the harrowing essay by Ramsey about his childhood somehow made its way into our house in rural Georgia. (I have no idea how. Perhaps through some demonology on the part of Ramsey himself.) That was quite an introduction to his work. To be honest, at the time, I wasn’t sure what I thought about it. I’d never encountered anything like it. But a couple of years later, I’d started reading his stories in Year’s Best anthologies and picked up The Hungry Moon, a tale of ancient pagan evil and modern fundamentalism in a small English village, at my university library. I loved it.

Not long after that, I went to Ireland for a few months on a student work visa. I waited tables in a pub in Dublin, a dreadful yuppie establishment that used to be on Wicklow Street, thankfully now long gone and forgotten, and drank a lot of Guinness. I was pretty broke, and books were expensive in Ireland even then, so I relied on charity shops and my two flatmates to keep me in a steady supply of reading material. At one Oxfam shop near where I lived in Rathmines, Ramsey Campbell paperbacks started turning up, one or two a week. It became a kind of ritual, stopping in to see if whoever seemed to be working their way through Ramsey’s bibliography and then passing them more or less directly on to me had left me another. It was during this time that I fell well and truly in love with his work, his allusive and often intricate style, his descriptions of a world in which realities shifted in front of characters’ eyes, and his themes, including those of alienation and the oppressive nature of organized religion–two that I borrowed for my own story in this anthology. I remember how sad I was when I’d read all the novels he’d written up to that point, and there were no more new books coming in.

It was with all this in mind that I set out to write “The Dublin Horror.” I wanted my main character to be a 1980s teen goth girl—perhaps not so different from Amy of Ramsey’s 1998 novel Nazareth Hill, one of my favorites by him. I wanted her to discover a writer in the same way I’d fallen in love with Ramsey’s books, and as I once owned a copy of his Night of the Claw written as Jay Ramsey, in a moment of cheekiness I gave the writer the first name of Jay. After that it got cheekier—I won’t spoil my own story, but suffice it to say any resemblance to Ramsey Campbell, the writer and the person I have come to know a little over the years, ends there.

At its core, though, I wanted to tell a story that evoked the same sense of disorientation and isolation that so many of Ramsey’s stories have done for me. I set out to write something that felt, to me at least, Campbellesque, as filtered through my own style and preoccupations. I’m just so pleased to have had the opportunity to contribute to this anthology and to pay my respects to a writer who has meant so much to me—not just as a writer, but as a reader. Like many of my colleagues, I wouldn’t be here in quite the same way without him.

more things by me to buy and read

I’ve been traveling around a bit this year and having some adventures and I am trying to force myself to start putting things here on the blog rather than on Facebook, although so far that has (clearly) not been successful, but I’m going to put some travel stuff up soon. In the meantime, here are some things by me that have come out that you can buy!

First up, OUTSIDE is a comic anthology edited by Amir Naaman and Doron Hamburger, produced/designed by Ash Pure, and containing stories and art by loads of talented people including Maura McHugh, Joe Pulver, Joe Lansdale, John Shirley, Diamanda Galas, Chesya Burke, Daniele Serra and more! Including a story written by Sean Hogan and me and illustrated by Australian artist Matthew Dunn. It’s really gorgeous, and it’s published by TOPICS Berlin, and I am in Berlin right now, which meant that I was able to be at a most excellent launch of the book here in Berlin a couple of weeks ago. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and I’m proud to be a part of it. I’m a lifelong comics fan, but I’ve never written a comic before, so working in a new medium was fun and challenging. I believe this is my first-ever collaboration as well. Finally, seeing Matthew Dunn’s art bring our story to life was very cool.

Next up, two books from PS Publishing! Best New Horror #27, edited by Stephen Jones, contains my story “The Seventh Wave,” which originally appeared in Terror Tales of the Ocean, edited by Paul Finch, and loads of other excellent writers. Now available for pre-order and out soon from PS as well is We Are the Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale, edited by Neil Snowdon and including my essay “On Wishing For a Nigel Kneale Childhood.” Neil’s assembled an amazing lineup of writers for the book and shepherded it through some very troubled waters to bring it out at last.

Gothic Lovecraft is edited by Lynne Jamneck and S.T. Joshi and includes my story “The Unknown Chambers” along with stories by Caitlin R. Kiernan, Nancy Kilpatrick, John Shirley and many more!

And, as ever, there is a new Black Static out, packed with all the usual great fiction and nonfiction including my column, “Notes from the Borderlands.”

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.

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.

books to buy and read

Mostly, this blog post is all about telling you to buy things. Let’s think of it as an embarrassment of riches!

First of all, my new collection, You’ll Know When You Get There, which officially launches at the Dublin Ghost Story Festival this weekend, is now available. All pre-orders have now been sent out, and the first 100 numbered copies are history, but unnumbered copies are still available! If you happen to live in Dublin or will be in Dublin, there are also copies at Alan Hanna’s Bookshop in Rathmines.

Also available! Uncertainties: Volume I, which contains my story “The Seance.” For reasons not worth boring you with here, there is also, already, an Uncertainties: Volume II, which I am not in, but which a lot of other fabulous people are in, and so you might as well pick up the pair while you are at it.

Fear not! I am not merely a shill for Swan River Press. You should also pick up the Alchemy Press title Something Remains, now available for pre-order at Amazon UK and Amazon US and, I am certain, all the other Amazons out there. This is the tribute anthology that is (sort of) co-written with Joel Lane that I blogged about recently. This will launch in September at the British Fantasy Convention and a lot of contributors will be on hand, so if you’re attending, you may want to pick up your copy there.

Finally, not something to buy, although I expect you will want to buy things or at least pay a visit to your local library after following this next link! This is very late, but weeks ago Mark West posted the American Horror Mixtape, companion to the Brit Horror Mixtape. This time around my candidates included Karl Edward Wagner’s “Sticks” and Shirley Jackson’s “The Summer People,” and a number of my other favorites made it on there as well. I was also surprised and happy to see that Laura Mauro (a very good writer whose short fiction you should check out) had included one of my stories on the list! Go there to see whose story ultimately made my cut.