Happy New Year

News and such coming soon, but for now I just wanted to share this poem that I just ran across, “Lochan” by Kathleen Jamie, which speaks to how I am feeling these days and perhaps how you are too.

Maybe in 2021 I will start to write poems again (which would be for the first time in 15? 20? more? years).

I want to say “Here’s to a better year than 2020,” and yet I can’t help thinking there’s no way to express that that doesn’t sound like a curse.

My weird dark shadow and a new short story

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in an author’s panel on Zoom moderated by Kate Jonez of the publishing company Omnium Gatherum. Unlike many people, I have been slow to warm up to Zoom in These Pandemic Times, but I really enjoyed chatting with my fellow authors Simon Bestwick, Tom Johnstone, and Mark Kirkbride. I am a weird dark shadow because of (redacted for boring) issues getting up and running and didn’t set my lighting properly! The panel was partly to celebrate the release of novellas by Johnstone and Kirkbride, Star Spangled Knuckle Duster and The Plot Against Heaven respectively, but our conversation was wide-ranging. I actually found it a bit difficult to do a panel without an audience–there’s no sense of whether you’re going on too short or too long, whether or not you’re engaging people!

All of us on the panel are Omnium Gatherum alumni in one way or another. A few years ago, Omnium Gatherum published Simon Bestwick’s novella Angels of the Silences (see my blurb at the link!) and a story by me, “The Receiver of Tales,” appeared in the Omnium Gatherum anthology Little Visible Delight in 2013 (later reprinted in my short story collection You’ll Know When You Get There).

Sisterhood Twitter

Speaking of short stories, my story “The Anchoress” will appear in a forthcoming anthology from Chaosium, Sisterhood: Dark Tales and Secret Mysteries. This features an exciting lineup that includes Alison Littlewood, Lisa Morton, Kaaron Warren, S.P. Miskowski, Livia Llewellyn, Nadia Bulkin, Gemma Files, Damien Angelica Walters and many more.

Film and horror nerd alert: Miskatonic goes online

Have you ever looked over the lecture offerings at The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies in LA, New York, or London and thought, “Damn, I wish I could go to that!” Conversely, are you going “Wait isn’t Miskatonic a fictional university from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft?” or “What the hell is she on about anyway?”

Well, if you like it when smart people say intellectual things about horror, you might like the lectures that Miskatonic hosts–and while the benefits of COVID have been well, pretty much nil, HERE IS ONE, sort of. I still much prefer things that happen in person, but it’s also cool that the lecture series is going online for the fall semester, and you can sign up for a pass for one city, all cities, or just buy by the lecture (£8 for London lectures and $10 for New York and LA lectures). I’m ridiculously excited that the terrible movie I love beyond all decency, The Dunwich Horror, will be part of a discussion on psychedelic horror, but there are also lectures on Misty and other girls’ British gothic comics, a class on the giallo, one on horror and WWI, the Spanish horror industry against the backdrop of 20th century Spanish politics–in particular the Spanish Civil War–and more. Hurry to get the all cities pass, which is only available for a few days! (Note that this time limit is only for the global pass. You can wait to buy the other tickets although obviously if you want a full pass to a single city’s program, you should buy it before the first class.)

PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO TIME AND TIME ZONES. Times listed are local to location, whether London, LA, or NYC.

a chat with Timothy J. Jarvis for Swan River Press

As you may know, Dublin’s Swan River Press publishes an unthemed anthology of strange and unsettling fiction known as the Uncertainties series, and I had the pleasure of editing volume 3. The talented Timothy Jarvis was the editor of Uncertainties 4, and after many delays, pandemic-related and otherwise, Tim and I sat down, virtually speaking, and had a chat about the editing process, the book and many other things. We are quite simpatico in many ways in how we approach this type of fiction, and while we’ve been acquainted in real life for several years, I don’t think we’ve ever appeared together on a panel chatting about this sort of thing, which I would absolutely love to do. Till then, here’s my interview with him in which our topics range from David Lynch to Arthur Machen, surrealist cinema to Alberto Manguel to the destabilizing effects of the pandemic and more. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Links to buy:

Uncertainties volume 1, edited by Brian Showers

Uncertainties volume 2, edited by Brian Showers

Uncertainties volume 3, edited by Lynda E. Rucker

Uncertainties volume 4, edited by Timothy J. Jarvis

“The Preacher’s Wife is a Witch”

After considering and rejecting several framings for this piece over the last few days, I’ve decided to just let Autumn Christian‘s writing speak for itself, which it is more than capable of doing. This short piece “The Preacher’s Wife is a Witch” suggests to me that she’s a writer to watch, and you can subscribe to her newsletter and get more work like this delivered straight to your inbox here.

And as you read her cautionary tale, remember: you might be very surprised, when the time comes, at just who is willing–nay eager–to whisper your name in the ear of the witchfinder general.

 

“unanimity of voices”

You do find some lovely things online while passing through the circles of hell that comprise social media, which is why I’ll probably figure out some way to keep an eye on certain corners of Twitter even after I delete my account. There are a few things I’ve read in the last few days I want to recommend to you but I’ll stick to one a day for now in the interest of keeping these posts somewhat bite-sized.

Anne Louise Avery’s Twitter feed is reason alone to gird your loins and pay a visit to that otherwise horrific platform. She posts gentle, fierce, cozy, moving, deceptively simple but in fact quite profound tweet-sized stories about the daily lives of little forest animals (who also live and thrive in cities): Old Fox, Wolf, Pine Martin, Ermine, Mouse, Grand Cub and many many more who read books, prepare lovely meals and look after each other. They take long train journeys; they open shops in Paris and remember childhoods in central Europe. If it sounds unbearably twee, it is anything but. Avery’s writing is suffused with a sense of longing, melancholy and impending loss, with an unflinching moral core at the center of it all, a resolute stance against the wrongs of the world, and her characters suffer from loneliness, from fear, from sickness, from uncertainty, from an emptiness they are not quite sure how to fill. It only now occurs to me, as I write this, that it is perhaps the only type of storytelling I have encountered that I would compare to Tove Jansson’s Moomin stories, deceptively simple tales that look like sweet, charming vignettes for children while actually being moving and mature meditations on the breadth of the human condition.

Given how much I love Avery’s small stories on Twitter, I was unsurprised to find that her travel/nature writing is just as breathtaking, as in this piece on walking The Cotswald Way in England at the online magazine Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel, where she is also an editor. Here are just a couple of sentences to give you a sense of her gorgeous, evocative prose:

Rhythmically climbing and descending, it tumbles down through dark, still beech woods to the valleys and villages below, all cow bellows and bird song and church bells, then up steep field paths edged with willow-herb, meadowsweet and scarlet poppies, to the intoxicating wind, sun and rain of the pagan high hills, where the track winds through Iron Age forts and adder-haunted heaths. Golden, black-spiked gorse, seed pods popping in the sun, rule the uplands: standing guard in these ancient silent places.

Avery’s account is not all bird song and flora: it is marked by the all-encompassing specter of grief, the strange collision of the violence of war with the indifference of nature (this makes me think of Terence Malick’s transcendent The Thin Red Line, a film that has been on my mind a lot lately for some reason) alongside the mundane, devastating loss of a parent, all bound up in the experience of landscape.

There is a fine, long tradition of brilliant English nature writing or English nature writing twinned with travel writing, a deep understanding of and connection with landscape that I just love, and her writing feels rooted in that yet–like the best writing, of course–finding its own way and voice. They need no introduction from me, but Robert Macfarlane and Tom Cox are in this tradition as well–the latter writes some extraordinary pieces on his linked blog, I feel like there is a common thread here between this type of writing, the work of such English fantasists as Susan Cooper and Alan Garner, who are also deeply connected to landscape, and the tradition of English “folk horror.” They all chronicle a land that is ancient, and beautiful, and terrible, and extraordinary. The UK as a whole but England in particular is going through some hard times right now, but England is so much more than the incompetence and perfidy and greed of the petty and the ignorant and the small-minded. These old, magical stones and roads and ways and rivers and hills have survived* worse, and will again.

*in a manner of speaking; I really must write about Rym Kechaca’s extraordinary Dark River here at some point, a book I read last year prior to its publication earlier this year by the excellent press Unsung Stories and haven’t been able to stop thinking about.

a pandemic update

Spring cleaning (can we call it that if it’s already June?) Shocking, the layer of dust that’s grown around here after just a few months away. Let us briefly acknowledge that the world has been on fire lately and that this is one of several reasons for my lengthy absence from this space. On the plus side, expect to see me around here a lot more.

Stories are still being told! In April, PS Publishing released Apostles of the Weird, edited by S.T. Joshi, which includes my story “This Hollow Thing.” Here’s the entire lineup.

  • Death in All Its Ripeness by Mark Samuels
  • Introduction by S. T.  Joshi
  • Sebillia by John Shirley
  • Come Closer by Gemma Files
  • Widow’s Walk by Jonathan Thomas
  • The Walls Are Trembling by Steve Rasnic Tem
  • Trogs by Nancy Kilpatrick
  • The Zanies of Sorrow by W. H. Pugmire
  • This Hollow Thing by Lynda E. Rucker
  • The Outer Boundary by Michael Washburn
  • Black Museums by Jason V Brock
  • The Legend of the One-Armed Brakeman by Michael Aronovitz
  • Lisa’s Pieces by Clint Smith
  • Everything Is Good in the Forest by George Edwards Murray
  • Three Knocks on a Forsaken Door by Richard Gavin
  • The Thief of Dreams by Darrell Schweitzer
  • Axolotl House by Cody Goodfellow
  • Night Time in the Karoo by Lynne Jamneck
  • Porson’s Piece by Reggie Oliver
  • Cave Canem by Stephen Woodworth

Announced and due to be released later in the summer is Crooked Houses edited by Mark Beach at Egaeus Press.  This includes my story “Miasmata” along with stories by Helen Grant, Reggie Oliver, Steve Duffy, Mark Valentine, Rebecca Lloyd, Carly Holmes, John Gale, Richard Gavin, Rebecca Kuder, Albert Power, James Doig, Katherine Haynes, Colin Insole, David Surface, Jane Jakeman and Timothy Granville. A haunted house anthology, but one that looks back beyond the cozy ghost story to stranger, more atavistic hauntings.

Prisms

The image you see above is the cover art for Prisms by the excellent Ben Baldwin, a science fiction anthology edited by Michael Bailey and Darren Speegle that includes my story “Encore for an Empty Sky.” This will be available for pre-order from PS Publishing shortly. Here’s the full lineup:

“We Come in Threes” by B.E. Scully
“Encore for an Empty Sky” by Lynda E. Rucker
“The Girl with Black Fingers” by Roberta Lannes
“The Shimmering Wall” by Brian Evenson
“In This, There Is No Sting” by Kristi DeMeester
“The Birth of Venus” by Ian Watson
“Fifty Super-Sad Mad Dog Sui-Homicidal Self-Sibs, All in a Leaky Tin Can Head” by Paul Di Filippo
“Rivergrace” by E. Catherine Tobler
“Saudade” by Richard Thomas
“There Is Nothing Lost” by Erinn Kemper
“This Height and Fiery Speed” by A.C. Wise
“The Motel Business” by Michael Marshall Smith
“Everything Beautiful Is Also a Lie” by Damien Angelica Walters
“The Gearbox” by Paul Meloy
“District to Cervix: The Time Before We Were Born” by Tlotlo Tsamaase
“Here Today and Gone Tomorrow” by Chaz Brenchley
“The Secrets of My Prison House by J Lincoln Fenn
“A Luta Continua” by Nadia Bulkin”
“I Shall but Love Thee Better” by Scott Edelman

Also, I was interviewed in Phantasmagoria Magazine! You can pick up a copy on Amazon.

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Here’s a fun little project I had the opportunity to take part in a couple of months ago along with some friends to promote the new book of another friend, Rob Shearman. Rob is a terrific writer and a lovely guy, and in April, PS Publishing released a three-volume set of 101 short stories by him with illustrations by the ridiculously multi-talented Reggie Oliver (actor, writer, artist). Jim McLeod, the mad Scotsman behind the site Ginger Nuts of Horror, conspired to have dozens of us write short review of one or two stories each from the book, and you can check them out here (I’m in part four).

I was also honored to write an introduction to David Surface‘s debut short story collection, Terrible Things, out now from Black Shuck Books. If you subscribe to Black Static (and if you love horror fiction, you should) you may know David from his “One Good Story” column that he writes there, or you might recognize him from appearances in various anthologies.Terrible Things is a terrific debut, and you should check it out.

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Last but by no means least, fans of British horror cinema (or critic David Thomson’s Suspects) might want to check out England’s Screaming by Sean Hogan, a book with the conceit that a link runs through the characters and happenings in British horror films to a diabolical end. Part short story collection, part film criticism, part secret “history” of post-war Britain, England’s Screaming is a vicious romp even if you don’t know all the films (I didn’t). For a taste of the madness, you can read a bonus vignette at Sean’s blog here and the book’s introduction by writer, critic and actor Jonathan Rigby here. There’s also a novella-length sequel, Three Mothers, One Father, that tackles Eurohorror, and you can pick it up over at Black Shuck Books. You can also check out some additional terrific book recommendations from Sean at Kendall Reviews (which is partnered with PS to offer 10% off England’s Screaming for June), an interview and a review of England’s Screaming at Diabolique, and an interview at the Britflicks podcast.

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Wherever you are in this absolutely mad world we have found ourselves in, truly through the looking glass, I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well and have found some wonderful stories as a temporary respite.

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.

Advance reading recs

I’ve had the pleasure of getting sneak previews of a couple of things coming out soon, one a short novel and one a novella.

sentinels

David Longhorn is the editor of the well-regarded Supernatural Tales magazine [disclaimer: yes, I have had a few stories published there] and his debut novel proves that he’s as adept at storytelling as he is at selecting stories. Sentinels is the first of a trilogy and has the same old-fashioned feel to it as a Jonathan Aycliffe novel (and here I mean “old-fashioned” as a compliment). Fast-paced and fun, Sentinels, set in England in 1940, mixes horror with international intrigue (Nazis! Spies!) and a dash of M.R. James (and maybe some Tombs of the Blind Dead, although that my just be my own undying fondness for that film coming through that made me picture the “Raggedy Men” as those scary undead Templars). I can’t wait for the next installment. This is available on Amazon on June 17, and you should check it out–you can preorder it for a mere 99 cents as an ebook, and it’s also available as a paperback. (Also available on Amazon UK.)

muscadines

If you aren’t already familiar with her, Shirley Jackson Award-nominated S.P. Miskowski writes stories about very bad, very real women. In other words, not women who are, say, bad but sexy. Or “women that you love to hate.” Miskowski’s characters are complex and terrifying and they probably will remind you of at least one person that you know or have known. Or maybe that’s just me.

Muscadines is a very dark novella that is coming soon from Dunhams Manor Press.  Here’s what I had to say about it elsewhere: “Narrated in prose as languid and deceptively dreamlike as a Georgia summer afternoon, S.P. Miskowski’s Muscadines feels like a fairy tale recast as a Southern Gothic—a fairy tale of the old, savage, unsanitized-for-modern-children’s-consumption variety. Nobody does very bad women like Miskowski, and this deeply disturbing story further establishes her as a master at exploring the psychological terrain of the kind of women who aren’t supposed to exist.”

 

 

 

 

 

Black Static #36

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Black Static #36 is out! In addition to my column, “Blood Pudding,” there are stories by Jacob A. Boyd, Stephen Bacon, Tim Waggoner, Christopher Fowler, V.H. Leslie, and Ray Cluley plus Stephen Volk‘s regular column “Coffinmaker Blues,” reviews by Tony Lee and Peter Tennant, an interview with the incomparable Nina Allan and the usual assortment of exceptional artwork.

Black Static is one of the premiere print magazines of the horror field, so if you love horror fiction and want to keep up with some of the best short fiction work being done in the genre, I highly recommend a subscription. You can also get it on Kindle in the US and in the UK.

Oh, and if you can’t get enough of my writing, you can still buy my book.