Tag Archives: horror

Historical Terror: Horror That Happened—London’s Murder Weapon

Detail from “In the Dark, In the Night” copyright © 2013 Alan M. Clark. Cover art for EAST END GIRLS by Rena Mason

Was Jack the Ripper a monster, larger than life, beyond our comprehension? From all that has been dramatized about the killer, one might think so. But no doubt the killer was merely a man, with the fears and frailties of an average human being.

If I could go through his pockets, I’ll bet I’d find that he carried common, everyday items that helped him maintain his physical and mental wellbeing in the world of Victorian London. If that’s true, it would tell me that although he was an extreme danger to society, he was subject to the physical and emotional trials we all go through in life.

allthatshedneed_small_sepia

“All that She’d Need” copyright © 2014 Alan M. Clark. Interior illustration for JACK THE RIPPER VICTIMS SERIES: THE DOUBLE EVENT by Alan M. Clark

The clothes we wear and the items we carry on our person say something about us. I wear shirts that button up the front. I never wear t-shirts. If asked why, I might say that I don’t think t-shirts are flattering to my middle-aged abdomen. I carry numerous keys because I want access to areas and items I lock up. One can easily deduce therefore that I’m doing more than most would to secure my stuff against theft, and that might say something about how many times I’ve been robbed. I slip my keys into a flexible glasses case before putting them in my pants because they chew holes in my pockets. I got tired of paying for new jeans just because the pockets were ruined, so it’s reasonable to assume I have been concerned about money during my life and learned to be frugal. I carry lip balm because I have the nervous habit of chewing my lips and making them chapped. What have I to be nervous about? That’s a good question. I carry a cloth handkerchief to wipe my nose instead of using paper tissues which might have something to do with my desire to preserve the natural world. For reasons I won’t reveal here, I carry a pocket knife and have no cell phone.

All these things say something about what I think and feel in my daily life, most of it of no consequence to anyone, but if I were a suspect or victim in a crime and the truth about me was important to discern, useful conclusions about who I am might come from considering these things.

Beyond the savagery of the Jack the Ripper killings, the murderer is perhaps most defined by his choice of victims; common, poor women who would have been forgotten in time if not for the compelling manner of their deaths.

With the idea that to know something of the women is to know something about the Ripper, I became interested in the possessions of the victims. The possessions of the murdered women, found at the crime scenes, provide a glimpse of their lives and speak volumes about the time in which the White Chapel Murderer lived. The people of 1888 London didn’t have the mp3 players and electronic tablets we have today. They didn’t have car keys, water enhancers, thumb drives, and anti-anxiety medications, but they did carry items useful to them in their time and circumstances.

Here are lists of the belongings of the first four victims of the Ripper as found at the crime scenes:

Mary Ann Nichols (Polly Nichols)nichols_beforeandafter_small

Clothing:
A black Straw bonnet trimmed with black velvet
A reddish brown ulster with large brass buttons.
A brown linsey frock
A white flannel chest cloth
A pair of black ribbed wool stockings
A wool petticoat stenciled with “Lambeth Workhouse”
A flannel petticoat stenciled with “Lambeth Workhouse”
Brown stays
Flannel drawers
A pair of men’s boots with the uppers cut and steel tips on the heels
Possessions:
A comb
A white pocket handkerchief
A broken piece of mirror (This would have been a valuable item for one living in the work house or common lodging)

Annie Chapmanannie_chapman_small

Clothing:
A long black, knee-length figured coat.
A black skirt
A Brown bodice
An Additional bodice
Two petticoats
A pair of lace up boots
A pair of red and white striped wool stockings
A neckerchief, with white with red border (folded into a triangle and tied about her neck)
Possessions:
A large empty pocket tied about the waist, worn under the skirt.
A scrap of muslin
A small tooth comb
A comb in a paper case
A scrap of envelope containing two pills.

Elizabeth Stridestride_beforeandafter_smallest

Clothing:
A Long black cloth jacket, trimmed with fur at the bottom
A red rose and white maiden hair fern pinned to the coat.
A black skirt
A black crepe bonnet
A checked neck scarf knotted on left side
A dark brown velveteen bodice
Two light serge petticoats
A white chemise
A pair of white stockings
A pair of spring sided boots
Possesions:
Two handkerchiefs
A thimble
A piece of wool wound around a card
A key for a padlock
A small piece of lead pencil
Six large and one small button
A comb
A broken piece of comb
A metal spoon
A hook (as from a dress)
A piece of muslin
One or two small pieces of paper
A packet of Cachous. (a pill used by smokers to sweeten breath)

Catherine Eddoweseddowes_beforeandafter_smallest

Clothing:
A black straw bonnet trimmed in green and black velvet with black beads
A black cloth jacket with trimmed around the collar and cuffs with imitation fur and around the pockets in black silk braid and fur.
A dark green chintz skirt with 3 flounces and brown button on waistband.
A man’s white vest.
A brown linsey bodice with a black velvet collar and brown buttons down front
A grey stuff petticoat
A very old green alpaca skirt
A very old ragged blue skirt with red flounces and a light twill lining
A white calico chemise
A pair of men’s lace up boots. (The right boot was repaired with red thread)
A piece of red gauze silk worn around the neck
A large white pocket handkerchief
A large white cotton handkerchief with red and white bird’s eye border
Two unbleached calico pockets with strings
A blue stripe bed ticking pocket
A pair of brown ribbed knee stockings, darned at the feet with white cotton
Possessions:
Two small blue bags made of bed ticking
Two short black clay pipes
A tin box containing tea
A tin box containing sugar
A tin matchbox, empty
Twelve pieces white rag, some slightly bloodstained
A piece coarse linen, white
A piece of blue and white shirting
A piece red flannel with pins and needles
Six pieces soap
A small tooth comb
A white handled table knife
A metal teaspoon
A red leather cigarette case with white metal fittings
A ball hemp
A piece of old white apron
Several buttons and a thimble
Mustard tin containing two pawn tickets
A Printed handbill
A printed card calling card
A Portion of a pair of spectacles
A single red mitten

I have not included the possessions of the Ripper’s fifth victim, Mary Jane Kelly, because she was killed in her own bed, in her abode, and her possessions were not provided by the police reports in the same way.

These lists speak to me of women who had little of material worth in the world. Not one of them had any money. During the period in which they lived, unemployment and severe poverty were widespread in London. Regardless of whether the Ripper’s victims had few opportunities to live better lives or were responsible in large part for their predicaments, their legacy is pitiful and poignant. Items such as the brown stays, the comb, and the packet of Cachous suggest vanity or at least the need to maintain appearances. The tin of sugar, the one of tea, and the black clay pipes speak of a desire for creature comforts. The bloodstained rags, the pieces of soap, tooth combs (toothbrushes) were aids to bodily functions. Those things that are part of a incomplete set, such as the single mitten, and the broken items, like the partial pair of spectacles and the piece of a comb, suggest that nothing could be wasted; that everything, even if seriously flawed or deficient was irreplaceable.

With little imagination, the lists speak of skills, preparedness, resourcefulness and even aspirations on the part of these women. The list of Catherine Eddowe’s garments and possessions conjures for me the image of a Victorian-era bag lady, wearing many layers of clothing and carrying too many items in her bags (the many pockets, most of which were probably hidden under her top skirt). The only thing missing is the shopping cart. We have limited information about Eddowes’s life, and most of it leaves out the emotional aspects of her existence. We can assume she didn’t set out to become a bag lady, to be homeless and poor.

swiftpassage_small_sepiaWhat events in her life led to her demise on the streets of London? How much of the way she lived was a result of the choices she made? What was beyond her control? Was she chosen randomly by her killer?

I became fascinated enough with the questions that I explored her life and presented possible answers in my historical fiction novel, Of Thimble and Threat, published by Lazy Fascist Press. Catherine Eddowes had led a hard life and was very ill at the relatively young age of forty-seven when she died. My impression is that her choices had something to do with securing her wellbeing and placing her at risk, but that much of her existence was beyond her control. A life of poverty in London was slowly killing her, and the final blow, London’s murder weapon so to speak, was Jack the Ripper.

Still fascinated with the environment of late Victorian London, I explored the life of Elizabeth Stride, the Ripper’s third victim, in fiction in Say Anything But Your Prayers, also released by Lazy Fascist Press. Having thus started a string of novels, I titled it Jack the Ripper Victims Series, and went on to write about his first victim, Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols in A Brutal Chill in August, which was released by Word Horde in August 2016.

ABrutalChillInAugust_coverI refer to the Ripper as male because of the name Jack, but of course we don’t know the gender of the killer. Although we can’t know much about the Whitechapel murderer, we have information that tells us something about him and offers a glimpse of the world in which he and his victims lived. We can surmise that he was in most ways as vulnerable as his victims in a dangerous, often merciless world, that he was no doubt as aware as they were of the need to maintain appearances and to achieve the highest social position possible in order to ensure survival in a swiftly changing environment, and that he probably understood that eventually disease and death would claim him without ceremony and that he would die, just like everyone else. Perhaps, as he considered these things, he was filled with a pitiable fear like that experienced by his victims.

Most of us spend much of life feeling confidently alive, solid and incorruptible, not thinking about our demise, our eventual loss of facility and faculty, our loss of awareness and identity and finally the decay of our flesh. Those of us who have not seen war or violent crime and disaster turn to face our demise slowly over many years as it dawns on us that we are just like those who have gone before us, that we all suffer and die. But to face that terror precipitously, to have the process demonstrated within moments, to be the playwright and director of that drama—that is what the Ripper experienced.

maryjanekelly_small

Crime scene photo of Mary Jane Kelly.

Could he identify with the women he’d murdered and feel their suffering? Having revealed to himself by his own cruel acts the heights of fear and pain and the terrifying frailty and ephemeral nature of flesh and awareness, was his dread of a particularly intense nature?

If his freedom or his life were never taken from him in answer to his crimes, did he at least suffer from the revelations of his own mortality? I would like to think that he did.

—Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon

About Alan M Clark ControlledAccidentAutoPortrait

Author and illustrator, Alan M. Clark grew up in Tennessee in a house full of bones and old medical books. His awards include the World Fantasy Award and four Chesley Awards. He is the author of seventeen books, including ten novels, a lavishly illustrated novella, four collections of fiction, and a nonfiction full-color book of his artwork. Mr. Clark’s company, IFD Publishing, has released 44 titles of various editions, including traditional books, both paperback and hardcover, audio books, and ebooks by such authors as F. Paul Wilson, Elizabeth Engstrom, and Jeremy Robert Johnson. Alan M. Clark and his wife, Melody, live in Oregon. www.alanmclark.com

An Interview with Michael Griffin

Happy Walpurgisnacht! Today marks the release of Michael Griffin‘s The Lure of Devouring Light. We’re currently launching the book with Mike at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in San Pedro, but a few days ago, Sean M. Thompson interviewed Mike about the collection.

The Lure of Devouring Light by Michael Griffin

What do you feel the role of genre is in fiction?

Genre is especially useful for booksellers, marketers and publishers. I think genre divisions are useful for people trying to find their way toward work they would enjoy, as a way of herding together works that share certain traits. From the opposite perspective, that of a writer, I would stop short of saying genre is a negative thing, as I’ve seen some other writers say. Some writers gladly align themselves to a genre, wear it like a badge on their sleeve, and go around proudly waving the flag. Many writers, though, don’t want to think about it too much, and look at genre as a necessary thing unavoidably imposed upon them. The writers I most respect pretty much seem to do what they want to do without consciously aiming at a certain genre target. The create the work, and their agent or their publisher or the critics decide what it is. I think this last approach makes the most sense to me, but I don’t want to disparage those who are flag-wavers for their chosen territory, and who exclusively write (and read) within it.

How do you think the weird has evolved in modern fiction, if you think it has at all?

I used to believe the weird had evolved a lot, but the more widely I read beyond the obvious starting point (Lovecraft) the more I discovered examples of weird writers throughout history creating all kinds of challenging and diversely varied stuff. I do feel that in the last ten or fifteen years, the number of people writing truly strong, individual work is higher than it has ever been before. But I no longer believe that the kind of thing being written now is entirely different in kind from what came before my lifetime. Maybe a slow evolution.

You’ve told me before you’re a proponent of a lot of edits. What’s the most you’ve ever edited your work?

There are different kinds of edits. I used to line edit endlessly, second-guessing word choices, adding commas, changing pronouns and shifting around phrases. That’s still important, and I spend a lot of time trying to get every word and every sentence just right. Certainly more important, though, is editing with a wider angle of view. By this I mean looking at the overall shape or trajectory of the story, maybe trimming or adding entire pages or even scenes. Once I start writing, I continue to pause, step back and look at my stories with a wider view. Sometimes I do what I call a “reverse outline,” where I look at the structure of the story as it’s written, and I create an outline from it. This helps me find things like jumps in logic, or especially repetition. Sometimes in a reverse outline I discover something like, “Hey, I don’t really need to have him visit the lawyer’s office and talk about the case in scene 9 because he basically did the same thing in scene 6.” I make sure each piece of the story contributes something, or else it gets changed or removed. I have to say, I read a lot of stories that could benefit from this kind of structural analysis. Very often stories include dead scenes or repetitive sections. But to answer the original question, I have stories I’ve reworked at least 20-30 times, and quite a few that have gone through more than 10 versions. As I get better at this, so I make fewer mistakes and follow fewer dead-ends to begin with, it seems like I’m able to get by with fewer drafts, maybe four to six.

What is the significance of the title of your collection?

First of all, it’s the title of the lead story, so that’s why it’s the title of the collection, not just because it’s the first story but because it’s also representative of what I do, and a good opener, neither too long nor too short, and not too confusing. But to explain the significance of the story’s title, I’d say something that’s important to me is to avoid the too-easy trap of Horror and Weird writers making everything “black” and “dark.” There’s certainly plenty of darkness and nighttime and black imagery in my work, but I’m interested in different kinds of fear and unease. Also, the story makes the point that sometimes people or things that are dangerous or malicious don’t in fact appear horrifying or gruesome. They may be appealing, attractive or seductive. They have something to offer, something to draw us nearer, otherwise we would just run the other direction.

How do you think your style has changed from when you first started writing?

My style hasn’t changed too much, in terms of how I tend to build sentences. What has changed is that my way of conveying to the reader what’s happening has shifted to give a perspective from inside the mind and senses of the point of view character. As much as possible, everything should be filtered through the mechanism by which this person makes sense of their surroundings and what they see and hear unfolding around them. I guess a simpler way to say this would be that I try hard to make the point of view more subjective.

Ultimately what do you hope readers take away from The Lure of Devouring Light?

Aside from the obvious, like wanting to provide entertainment or enjoyment, the outcome I most hope for is that readers will find the characters believable, convincing human beings. I also hope some of the images or situations will linger in the mind after the reading is done.

A New Interview with Nicole Cushing

When the news broke last week that Nicole Cushing had been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award in two categories, for her Word Horde debut novel Mr. Suicide and her Cycatrix Press collection The Mirrors, we knew it was time for a new interview. So here’s Sean, talking to Nicole about transgressive horror, awards, writing one of the best books of 2015, and more…

Do you think that works of transgressive horror tend to get less acclaim due to their shocking elements?

It depends on who’s bestowing the accolades.

I think I’ve been given a fair shake by most of the reviewers who’ve chosen to talk about Mr. Suicide. Peter Tennant of Black Static, Frank Michaels Errington at Cemetery Dance, Nick Cato at The Horror Fiction Review, and George Anderson at Ginger Nuts of Horror all mentioned Mr. Suicide on their lists of the best books of 2015.

But sure, there will always be readers, reviewers, editors and critics who will clutch their proverbial pearls when faced with a book like Mr. Suicide. If everyone liked it, then–by definition–it wouldn’t be transgressive.

Mr. Suicide by Nicole Cushing

Do you think Mr. Suicide is too controversial for The Stokers?

There’s no way for me to answer that question impartially. That question is better answered by readers, reviewers, bloggers, and the voting membership of HWA.

I will say this, though. The very fact that the book garnered a nomination is encouraging. I also take heart from the fact that just last year, the HWA bestowed a lifetime achievement award on Jack Ketchum. So this is an organization that’s open to honoring controversial authors.

What do you think the role of genre is in fiction?

Genre labels are there to help readers find writers and vise-versa. And, if that’s how the labels are used, I’m cool with them.They only become a problem when they devolve into dismissive stereotypes.

Do you work slow or fast?

It depends on how we define the terms. On the one hand, I think I’ve managed to be reasonably prolific over the last year or two. On the other hand, I’ll likely never be one of those authors who can routinely write three thousand words a day.

I’m a little too obsessive for that. The words don’t have to sound pretty, but the sentences do (if that makes any sense). I want the sentences to have the right rhythm, and that takes time.

So I’m a tortoise, slow but steady. I usually can get in around 1200-1700 words a day, when things are going well. Towards the end of a project I find I build momentum and might routinely do 2,000 words a day. But sometimes I have to spend time on the business end of the job and I get very little written.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Rituals? No. Habits? Yes.

I’ve taken to writing on my laptop while slumped down in my comfy office chair with my feet propped up on a piece of luggage I use as a makeshift ottoman. I have terrible posture and probably look like a loon, while writing.

What do you hope to achieve with your fiction? What emotions do you want to elicit?

When someone reads one of my books, I want them to experience an altered state of consciousness. I want them to experience a waking nightmare that is both weird and utterly convincing. I obviously want this altered state of consciousness to be temporary and voluntary (the reader can always stop it by putting the book down). But I want the ride to be intense, because my life experiences have been intense and intensity seems more honest than coziness.

I’m a traumatized person. To some degree, an alienated person. I’ve had more than my share of intense emotional ups and downs. All of these facts shape how I look at the world. I suspect that the readers who feel a strong connection with my work are those who can relate to what it’s like to be traumatized, alienated, or intensely emotional. Either they’ve lived a life with similar issues, or they know people who have.

Quiet, subtle horror has its place, but I don’t want to write fiction that’s gentrified or predictable. I like juxtaposing stretches of quiet horror against moments of graphic horror and moments of graphic horror against moments of absurdity. I feel a novel is a large canvas, so there’s room for all of these approaches.

In that way, a horror novel can be a bit like a symphony. If you listen to a Shostakovich symphony, for example, you hear that his work isn’t all loud, or all quiet. He juxtaposes stretches of quiet, introspective strings against blasts of monstrous horns and the throbbing of monstrous drums. (A perfect example of this is the final six minutes of the Fourth.) I dedicated Mr. Suicide to another Russian composer, Alfred Schnittke, who possibly went even further than Shostakovich in advancing a so-called “polystylistic” approach. As ridiculous as it may sound to those who think transgressive horror is for boors, Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso No. 1 was an inspiration for the polystylism of Mr. Suicide.

Got any pluggy-wugs?

Four, but I’ll make them quick.

First, I want to encourage readers to check out my Youtube channel. I’ve recently started a series of brief (five minute long) videos called Forgotten Lore. Each week I discuss an unjustly-forgotten work of dark fiction from an author who is no longer with us. It’s a labor of love and I’m having a lot of fun with it.

Second, I want to mention that my short story collection, The Mirrors (Cycatrix Press), was also nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. It’s available at Amazon, directly through Cycatrix Press, and at a couple brick and mortar bookstores.

Third, I want to share the news that my next book, The Sadist’s Bible, will be coming out in April from 01 Publishing. You can pre-order from Amazon now.This is a novella weighing in at about 30,000 words. Readers who enjoyed Mr. Suicide will probably dig this one, as well.

And speaking of Mr. Suicide, I should mention that–to celebrate the Bram Stoker Award nomination–Word Horde is taking two bucks off the price of the Kindle edition. It was $4.99 and is now $2.99. It also appears (as I write this) that Amazon has taken ten percent off the price of the paperback So if you’ve been on the fence about buying it, now’s a good time to go ahead.

Still on the fence? Check out this recent review of Mr. Suicide at The Conqueror Weird, in which reviewer Brian O’Connell calls Mr. Suicide “…one of the greatest novels ever written.”

An Interview with Livia Llewellyn

Livia Llewellyn‘s brand-new collection, Furnace, drops this week, and we couldn’t be more excited. The first review of the book hit over at The Conqueror Weird last Thursday. Spoiler alert: It’s a rave one! So we figured we’d bring you something special this week to celebrate. Here’s an exclusive interview with Livia, conducted by our own Sean M. Thompson…

What do you feel the role of genre is in fiction?

I honestly don’t know. It’s really just a device the writer uses to help tell the story. I know, I know, it’s a marketing device used by the publishing and bookselling industries to target customers and create more sales, but it’s also a reflection of the writer. Beyond that, I couldn’t say – it’s not something I think about, because I honestly don’t care.

When you’re putting together a collection, do you view it as like an album, or do you have another analog?

I do see it very much as like putting together an album. Each piece of fiction or song is a story unto itself, but the entire collection or album is also a story, an emotional narrative that you want the listener or reader to experience. You want them to come away thinking that they went through something, that it was a journey with a beginning and an ending, not just a random jumble of art. So your first piece has to be saying something very specific, it has to invite them in, give them a taste of what’s to come but not send them off in the wrong direction altogether; and then as you go through the collection, you put stories together that maybe have similar themes or settings, you have an interlude or two where your reader can catch their breath with a piece that isn’t quite the same as the rest, and then you have a final stretch of your most intense work, ending with the story that you hope (I hope, anyway) encapsulates all of the themes of the entire work and leaves the reader in an emotional place that hopefully isn’t the same as where they were at the beginning. The best albums have that ability to guide listeners through that kind of an artistic and emotional journey, and so do the best collections and anthologies. I can only hope that Furnace can do the same. Time will tell.

Furnace by Livia Llewellyn

Do you have cats that tend to hover around you while you try to write? (asking, uh, for a friend, (get out of here kitty-))

I can’t afford a cat on my salary, but if I ever do get to the point where I can have an animal in my life, it’ll be a dog.

You seem to be pretty up front about the fact you don’t consider yourself a weird fiction writer. Do you think the label of being “weird” is kind of like tacking on that a horror film is a “thriller” when it starts to do well, or do you genuinely think the weird is its own thing?

I think weird fiction is genuinely its own thing – I just don’t think that I write enough of it to be called a weird fiction writer, anymore than I should be called a Lovecraftian writer. My writing branches off into so many areas that I think “dark fiction writer” is a better umbrella for me to stand under.

Your last collection was Engines of Desire, and your new one is Furnace. What is about imagery with machinery that you find yourself drawn to, or does it just make for a cool-sounding story collection?

It didn’t occur to me until this question that I have two collections with machinery in their titles. That’s interesting – I have no idea what it means. Since I was very young, I’ve found engines and machinery fascinating and alien and exciting, but I think I’d need a psychiatrist to tell me why. I don’t really need to know why. Maybe in twenty years I’ll look back at my body of work and the light bulb will go on, but until then, I’m happy to work it out in my writing.

High-Res-EoD-Cover

Do you have a set amount of time you usually can write for before you have to take a break?

I can write for maybe ninety minutes before my mind starts to wander. But in my defense, I’m usually writing in the evening, after an 8-10 hour work day, so I’m already tired and a bit frazzled to start with – ninety minutes on weekdays is my limit because I need at least part of the evening to wind down by reading or working out or just listening to music and staring into space. On weekends, I write maybe three hours at a stretch, and then I have to walk away from the computer screen to recharge my batteries.

Coffee, tea, or the lightning juice?

When I’m writing, I prefer either coffee or tea, depending on the time of day. I really don’t like to drink when I’m writing – alcohol makes me lose my concentration, so I save that for after I’ve finished for the day.

Would you ever write a science fiction novel, fantasy novel, anything like that? Or do you just start a story, and whatever it is, it is?

Do you mean story? I’ve never even managed to finish writing a horror novel, let alone a novel in any other genre – but as for stories, I do tend to just start writing and not worry about what genre it is. I have no interest in writing SF or Game of Thrones-style fantasy, though. It’s just not my thing. I suppose if I ever did, the science fiction would look a lot like Alien or Event Horizon, and the fantasy would look like… Alien vs. Conan, which is not a real movie but absolutely should be.

My cousins live in Long Island. (Oh shit, wait, that wasn’t a question.)

You’re still in NYC, how’s that going? Has anyone at Starbucks really f-ed up your name again?

I’m not a big fan of the big city – I’d really prefer to be in a smaller city somewhere near mountains – the cultural experiences here are amazing, but the housing situation is something of a nightmare (for anyone who’s not quite wealthy, that is), which makes it a constantly depressing and demoralizing situation for me. But the job is here, and my friends are all here, so until I can retire, I cope as best I can. And, I’ve largely stopped going to Starbucks for coffee. I did enjoy the very creative misspellings of my name (Libba, Navan, Lil’diq), but the coffee is way overpriced, and more and more the baristas were getting my orders wrong and then treating me like shit when I complained. We get free lattes and cappuccinos at work, so I just make my own coffee and misspell my own name nowadays. Hello, Liveria!

Your prose hits like a lead pipe to the teeth. Do you ever write anything, and go “oh, whoa, I should probably tone this down a bit.”?

Yes, I’ve thought that a couple of times. Whenever I have that reaction, it’s not because I think I’ve gone over the line, but because I think I’ve gone over the line for the intended market. I do have to take into consideration the anthology or magazine, and what kind of audience the editor is targeting with my and the other contributors’ stories. A number of stories in Furnace are quite sexually explicit or graphic in their depictions of the female body, and I thought perhaps they might be rejected. Amazingly, they weren’t. The editors probably knew readers would just skip over my story, so it didn’t matter that they weren’t appropriate – most people pick up anthologies for the much bigger names! But if asked, I would certainly work with the editor to change the story, if I felt some of the content wasn’t the right fit for the market and if I felt I could make the changes without turning the story into something I wasn’t happy with. I’ve had to completely tear apart stories before, and it’s always a bit painful, but the end results have so far resulted in much better stories.

Thanks for taking part in the interview. Please, tell our fine readers what they have to look forward to from you, in this, the dawning of the age of Word Hordius.

I have a number of short stories that will be coming out later this year and in 2017. I’m also in the middle of putting together a collection of extremely fantastical and dark erotic stories over on Patreon, called Tales of the Dark Century – that should be finished this year, but I honestly don’t know if I’ll find a publisher for it, as it’s definitely not the kind of erotica that currently popular. Maybe Chuck Tingle can give me some self-publishing tips…

An Interview with Nicole Cushing, author of Mr. Suicide

Earlier this week, Sean M. Thompson sat down with Mr. Suicide author Nicole Cushing, to ask her a few questions. Here’s what Nicole had to say:

What made you want to join with Ross and the Word Horde?

Finding a publisher who is a good fit for you is somewhat analogous to dating: once you’ve been doing it awhile you know what you like, what you need, and what you should run from.

Ross is excited about books that take chances and don’t necessarily follow the conventions of the tentpole projects released by corporate publishing. So, artistically, we’re on the same wavelength.

At the same time, he struck me as someone who knew the business end of things pretty well and was committed to helping offbeat books maximize their audience. (That impression is, if anything, only reinforced by the work I’ve done with him since signing on.)

So, what’s not to love?

What do you feel the role of genre is in fiction?

Genre labels can help readers find books they may end up loving. They also help writers find publishers (and vice versa).

I know some people find genre labels to be limiting or even counterproductive, but I think genre (and subgenre) labels give us a helpful shorthand method of describing various types of fiction and the communities that love them.

Mr. Suicide by Nicole Cushing

Why is transgressive literature necessary?

Because it’s the only tool that can accurately communicate the emotional core of certain extreme experiences. In my opinion, conventional literary approaches fail when they attempt to depict trauma, poverty, addiction, underground subcultures, homelessness, violence, and certain varieties of mental illness.

At best, they can only get to the periphery of such experiences. Not the core. And so, they let down readers (particularly the readers who have lived through such extreme experiences and know their emotional textures). People who have lived through the worst that life can dish out deserve fiction that tells the truth about how the world (at its absolute worst) really works. So do people who haven’t lived through such experiences, but have curiosity about them.

Increasingly, American culture feels a need for all art to be created according to the polite, considerate, and safe dictates of the superego. But I suspect the best works of dark fiction come from the id.

What inspired you to start writing Mr. Suicide?

The short answer is…life. Mr. Suicide is a warped, funhouse mirror depiction of how I (and some of my classmates) grew up.

The main character is a composite. Some aspects of him are autobiographical, some are drawn from my memories of troubled family members, but others (including some of his most disturbing facets) come from a boy I knew in high school who said outrageous things that–even after all these years–I can’t forget.

It’s like I had a blister on my brain for the last twenty-five years. Mr. Suicide was one of the ways in which I lanced it.

I also should acknowledge the influence of a brief talk given by Jack Ketchum called “Writing from the Wound”. (You can find it on YouTube or in the archives of the Odyssey Writing Workshop podcast.) After listening to Jack’s talk, I felt I had no choice but to “go there”.

What are some of your favorite transgressive novels?

Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr., The Maimed by Hermann Ungar, Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite, The Folks (a novella) by Ray Garton, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen (a story collection) by Tadeusz Borowski, Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, and Excrement (a memoir) by Crad Kilodney.

What have you been working on lately?

I’ve been working on the last bit of polishing of my story collection The Mirrors (in preparation for its impending, official release). I’ve sold a novella called The Sadist’s Bible (which I can’t say much about, until the contract is signed). Speaking of contracts, I just signed one with Dark Regions Press to provide a novella (as yet untitled) for their forthcoming anthology I Am the Abyss.

I continue to write nonfiction articles for the UK-based horror film magazine Scream.

Also, I’m working on a novel tentatively called Knife & Wound and I’ll be contributing short stories to a number of anthologies in the coming months.

It’s a full plate, but I’m excited and grateful to have so much work.

What scares you?

I have the same fears everyone else does. I pride myself on my ability to look my own mortality in the eye (without resorting to belief in an afterlife). But the truth is I’m just as scared of dying as anyone else. I’m also scared of the inevitable death of my loved ones. I’m not crazy about heights. Hell, I’m even scared of the possibility that one day I’ll face financial struggle again.

Nothing too noteworthy, there.

But I do have my oddball (perhaps irrational) fears, too. For example, I’m scared of the U.S. falling into an economic or political crisis during my lifetime. I also have a variety of strange, entirely irrational, idiosyncratic anxieties that have sometimes made my life a bit difficult. And I’m scared of things no self-respecting horror author should admit they’re scared of. My hubbie and I once had a skink in our basement that scared the shit out of me. Loud, sudden noises have sometimes gotten to me, too.

I hate to admit these things. It makes me sound like such a wimp. It makes it sound like I can dish out fear but I can’t take it. So I’ll finish this interview by talking about something that highlights my status as a badass. I’m not afraid to be rude to door-to-door salesmen, religious proselytizers, or politicians. I once told a group of political canvassers who defied the “no soliciting” sign on my door that I would make sure to vote against their candidate simply because they bugged me. (I wouldn’t really vote on that basis, but it was worth saying it just to see the expression on their faces!)

Ask for Mr. Suicide where better books are sold, or order Mr. Suicide direct from Word Horde.

If you’re in the Indianapolis area, catch Nicole when she reads and signs copies of Mr. Suicide at Indy Reads Books on Thursday, October 29 at 6:00 p.m. Details here: http://indyreadsbooks.org/

Cover Reveal: Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts

Coming next month from Word Horde, Orrin Grey’s new collection Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts. Here’s your first peek at the cover!

Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts

ORRIN GREY LOVES MONSTERS. That is abundantly clear in the stories he spins. No matter where he draws inspiration from, whether the weird tales of Lovecraft, Machen, and Poe or the films of Murnau, Corman, and Argento, the end result is inevitably fresh and new. And wonderfully monstrous.

If you love monsters—the macabre, the murderous, the misunderstood; the strange, the sinister, the sympathetic; the cinematic and the literary—you will find plenty to love in Orrin Grey’s Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts.

Cover Art by Nick Gucker
Cover Design by Scott R. Jones

Table of Contents:

Introduction by John Langan
The Worm That Gnaws
The White Prince
Night’s Foul Bird
The Murders on Morgue Street*
Ripperology
Walpurgisnacht
The Red Church
Remains
The Labyrinth of Sleep
Lovecrafting
Persistence of Vision
Strange Beast*
Painted Monsters*

* Titles marked with an asterisk are original to the collection.

Pre-order Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts today!

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Cover Reveal

Cthulhu Fhtagn! edited by Ross E. Lockhart

Coming from Word Horde this August: Cthulhu Fhtagn!

Now available to preorder: http://wordhorde.com/product/cthulhu-fhtagn-bundle/

From Ross E. Lockhart, the editor who brought you The Book of Cthulhu, The Children of Old Leech, and Giallo Fantastique comes Cthulhu Fhtagn!, 19 weird tales inspired by H. P. Lovecraft.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: In His House at R’lyeh… – Ross E. Lockhart
The Lightning Splitter – Walter Greatshell
Dead Canyons – Ann K. Schwader
Delirium Sings at the Maelstrom Window – Michael Griffin
Into Ye Smoke-Wreath’d World of Dream – W. H. Pugmire
The Lurker In the Shadows – Nathan Carson
The Insectivore – Orrin Grey
The Body Shop – Richard Lee Byers
On a Kansas Plain – Michael J. Martinez
The Prince of Lyghes – Anya Martin
The Curious Death of Sir Arthur Turnbridge – G. D. Falksen
Aerkheim’s Horror – Christine Morgan
Return of the Prodigy – T.E. Grau
The Curse of the Old Ones – Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington
Love Will Save You – Cameron Pierce
Assemblage Point – Scott R. Jones
The Return of Sarnath – Gord Sellar
The Long Dark – Wendy N. Wagner
Green Revolution – Cody Goodfellow
Don’t Make Me Assume My Ultimate Form – Laird Barron

Preorder today: http://wordhorde.com/product/cthulhu-fhtagn-bundle/

Cover art by Adolfo Navarro

Poppy Z. Brite praises Nicole Cushing’s Mr. Suicide

One of the most influential and transgressive horror writers of the last few decades has high acclaim for Nicole Cushing’s forthcoming Word Horde debut, Mr. Suicide:

“This tale of a damaged and murderous child is the most original horror novel I’ve read in years. Cushing’s prose is rapid-fire, grisly, and passionate.”
–Poppy Z. Brite, author of Exquisite Corpse and Lost Souls

Mr. Suicide by Nicole Cushing

Pre-Order Mr. Suicide today.

And a tremendous Thank You goes out to Billy Martin for providing us with the blurb.