Dancing With Shadows: The Charles L. Grant Blogathon


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.


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.)


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


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.

other people’s words: 3

For today, something old and something new.

Something old: from the archives of the sadly departed site Infinity Plus, an excerpt from the Conrad Williams novel London Revenant, one of my favorite books from the last few years. At the World Horror Convention in 2010 in Brighton, I was chatting with a couple of guys about the fiction we liked and the conversation took that great passionate turn it does when you realize you have really similar tastes and so there we were, the three of us, raving and gushing over mutually admired writers and one of them asked me if I’d read this book. The name Conrad Williams was familiar to me from TTA Press publications, but I hadn’t read any of his novels, and one of the guys pressed this book on me. I read it when I got back home and adored it–a tale of subterranean London with a difference. But what really sets it apart is that Williams is simply an exquisite writer. I’m pretty sure he could write about the sun passing over the kitchen table and render it compelling.

Something new: more good flash fiction from Daily Science Fiction. This time it’s Caroline M. Yoachim’s dazzling “The Safe Road,” and you know, I really thought I didn’t like flash fiction much at all, but some of the fiction I read on this site is making me reconsider that. I don’t want to tell you too much about the story I’ve linked to; just go read it.

other people’s words: 2

An ongoing effort, each Monday, to point you to stuff old and new to read around the web. Mostly I’m focusing on highlighting sf/f/h fiction online, but I reserve the right to mix it up at anytime!

Today I’m linking to a back issue of Clarkesworld and a story by Nnedi Okorafor that I find interesting, in part, because it’s uniquely suited for the web: From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7 is the report of a field worker on an alien planet that uses audio files and mouse-over text with the names of flora and fauna for their field guide entries. Now, the mouse-over stuff could arguably be replaced by footnotes on paper, but the audio files, of course, could not. You don’t need any of those things to make the story work but they definitely enhance the futuristic field worker feel of it.

I remember in the early days of the web there was a lot of talk about hypertext and how fiction could really make use of new possibilities, but by and large that hasn’t happened. I’m not really sure why, except to say that in my own case at least, I’m kind of a traditionalist when it comes to fiction; I generally like to just read stories that are well-told, whether the format’s paper or electronic.

But sometimes, when I teach composition, I assign this story as an extra credit because I want students to know fiction isn’t just decades-old stories in their textbook, that short genre fiction in particular is thriving online, and that short stories can potentially use this method of delivery in innovative ways.

Also, the story just kind of haunts me. I don’t want to give anything away, so that’s all I’ll say.

And not online fiction, but an online crowdfunding fiction thing: Canadian writer and editor Michael Kelly is putting together a second volume of ghost stories Apparitions II. Your money will go toward paying professional rates to the writers, artist, and designer. And just check out this lineup thus far: Glen Hirshberg, Kathe Koja, John Langan, Sarah Langan, Mark Morris, Reggie Oliver, M. Rickert, and Simon Strantzas. Apparitions II will also have an open reading period in February 2013.

other people’s words: 1

I wasn’t able to get the blog post written that I wanted to write last week (it’s still coming!), but here’s something else I’ve been wanting to do. There is so much good stuff to read (and listen to, and watch) online, and I don’t do enough of it and I bet you don’t either. So I’ve been thinking for a while of doing a weekly thing where each Monday I point you to one or two or more things I ran across online over the previous week that particularly impressed me. This also helps to keep my blog from being solely all about memememe. Not that I don’t love the sound of my own voice–all writers must, secretly–but gosh, even I get a little weary of myself sometimes.

It won’t always be new stuff I send you to–but I promise it will all be good. Or at least it will be stuff I think is good.

So, without further ado, here are this week’s online gems. First, two delightful (or delightfully dark, if you will) stories from the archives of Daily Science Fiction by the delightful Cate Gardner. Both of these stories made me go “Ooooh, I wish I’d written that!”:

The Mechanical Heart of Him

Exit Stage Life

And an absolutely stunning and heartbreaking piece by writer Tom Piccirilli, written just before and just after his surgery for brain cancer a couple of months ago (the piece itself is newly posted, though). Gorgeous, affecting, stark, hopeful, and bleak by turns–it doesn’t get any realer than this:

Meeting the Black