Tag Archives: weird fiction

Happy Halloween! Enjoy “Strange Beast,” by Orrin Grey

Tonight, monsters walk the streets. Werewolves, witches, and weirder things, hungry in the darkness. Listen to them, their footfalls, coming down the sidewalk, across the driveway, up the path to your door. They knock, and when you open the door, they intone the ritual cant: “Trick or Treat!”

So here’s a treat (and a trick) for all you monsters and monster-lovers out there, from a guy who knows a thing or two about monsters. This is “Strange Beast,” by Orrin Grey. This story first appeared in Orrin’s Word Horde collection Painted Monsters and Other Strange Beasts. So unwrap a fun-sized candy bar, sit back, and enjoy…

 

STRANGE BEAST

by Orrin Grey

 

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following manuscript has been assembled from notes left behind by Kennedy Sanchez, who was contracted with Deanna Bloom of Fetlock & Burridge to produce a book-length work entitled Last Days on Monster Island. The manuscript was never delivered, and Ms. Sanchez returned her advance seven days before she drowned in the swimming pool of her Tallahassee apartment complex. A subsequent police investigation ruled the drowning an accidental death. In reproducing the notes, sections printed entirely in italics indicate hand-written passages in the margins of the rest of the notes, which were printed out from her word processor and sometimes copied-and-pasted from websites. No actual manuscript for the proposed book was ever found, and the notes are presented here exactly as written.]

 

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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.

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.

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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 Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Our intrepid reporter, Sean M. Thompson, recently sat down with one of our favorite authors and editors, Silvia Moreno-Garcia of Innsmouth Free Press, to talk about her latest anthology, the all-women Lovecraftian anthology, She Walks in Shadows (which we at Word Horde are big fans of). Here’s their conversation…

In your own words, why do you think it’s important for there to be weird fiction (or really any type of genre) collections featuring work exclusively by women?

In the horror genre, and that includes Weird fiction, women don’t seem to get much attention. Whenever there are lists of Top Ten Horror Writers people remember to include folks like King, Lovecraft, yet even figures as crucial as Jackson can slip through the cracks and be ignored. Some anthologies routinely used to include only all men in their TOCs, I’m thinking of several Lovecraftian books which did this not even five years ago. So, there’s a complex problem. Yes, there are less women horror writers than men. But the ones we have can have a hard time drawing attention. And how do we get more women interested in the genre? In creating and consuming and being part of it, that’s not an easy thing to do but part of it must be visibility. Anthologies can help highlight the work of women which we don’t see, but I should say it’s not the only way this should be done, nor is it an instant solution to get more women interested in the field.

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What prompted you to start the process of creating She Walks in Shadows? Was the turn around faster or slower than other editing work you’ve had?

There was a Facebook discussion where someone asked “Do girls just not like to play with squids?” By squids the person meant Lovecraftian stories, there was the assumption there are no women writing it because it doesn’t interest them. There was a long discussion about this on several spaces. At some point someone said women were incapable of writing Lovecraftiana and at another point someone said if you want something different, why don’t you do it yourself. So we did. Of course then some people got mad that we actually were action-oriented and not just talk, but that’s another story.

You have a story in Word Horde’s Tales of Jack the Ripper. Does the Ripper case interest you? Are there any other murder cases that you find yourself terrified by/ intrigued by?

The Ripper is one of the cases I find more dull, in comparison to others because it’s not as bizarre as some other stuff I’ve read. I’m interested in crime, not just murder, and I’ve read a lot of nota roja, yellow journalism, and crime books. I’m curious about people and I like knowing about the investigators, the criminal, the victim. There was a case in Mexico City in the 50s which I find quite interesting and apparently I’m not the only one since they made it into a play and a movie. Basically this guy had a whole family, six kids and a wife, and he kept them locked inside his home all the time. They never went out. They made a living by making rat poison and the father went selling it door to door. And you think for sure they’re going to murder him with rat poison! But they don’t. A daughter throws a scrap of paper onto the street and eventually the cops come and take the guy to prison. But the things that gets me, the thing I go over and over again in my head, is the mother. After the guy goes to jail she says she still loves him and wants him back.

It’s just strange, the bizarre shit that can be going on behind a perfectly normal looking house.

What kind of music did you listen to today?

Today? 80s music. I had “Mad World” playing.

How goes your dissertation?

Half there. I need to re-write a portion of it but getting there.

Do you think there are certain place which contain some type of power we can’t explain? You hear people talk about, say, The Bermuda Triangle, and no one can quite pin down why so many ships disappear in that area?

I don’t believe in ghosts or monsters or demons. But my great-grandmother was superstitious and I grew up with that, so it’s hard to scrub it off even when you are an adult. I also lived for a bit in Massachusetts and you’re from there so you know what it’s like. A lot of old houses and this kind of sad, depressing feeling in certain spots. There’s a lot of history in certain places, in New England, in Mexico, in Europe of course. And it feels different than the ‘new’ cities like Vancouver where everything is glass, it’s clean, and there’s an optimism which seems to flow from this youth. That said there was a place in Vancouver my husband and I found creepy. We would walk by a building which had been a hospital and was abandoned and we both swore the building was staring at us. It would follow you. And it looked angry. They turned it into condos and it looks very fine now, nothing like it did before, but I don’t think I’d live there. It’s not scientific at all but that building was a nasty building.

Growing up, were there any creepy areas around Mexico City you thought might contain some type of unexplainable forces?

There are a lot of creepy places but I was never afraid of ghosts or the supernatural in Mexico City. My fears were very concrete and very real. Would I get mugged, for example. As a child there used to be some weird knocking in my home. Knocking on the walls. It was made of brick, so it wasn’t like in the US or Canada where you can safely assume the wood is contracting, the floorboards are making noises, it was this knocking that happened when I saw in one room. I’m sure there is a natural explanation but when it bothered me a lot I would yell. I would say “Shut up! Stop!” I figured if it was a ghost it was motherfucking rude ghost and it deserved to be told off. And the noise did subside after I yelled. But I was never afraid. The ‘real’ world was a lot more scary.

Do you have any writing rituals? Molly Tanzer has some very specific ones…

No. I write late at night because it’s the only spare time I have.

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

Does it have to have one? You use whatever tools do the job. Sometimes its genre, sometimes its lit.

Order She Walks in Shadows from Innsmouth Free Press. Order Tales of Jack the Ripper from Word Horde. Silvia’s debut novel, Signal to Noise, is available from Solaris. To learn more about Silvia Moreno Garcia and her awesome projects, visit her website.

Now Available: Cthulhu Fhtagn!

Happy 125th Birthday, H. P. Lovecraft. To celebrate, we baked you an anthology. Featuring 19 weird tales inspired by H. P. Lovecraft by 20 of the best authors working in Weird Fiction today, Cthulhu Fhtagn! is sure to satisfy. But don’t just take our word for it. Check out Cthulhu Fhtagn! for yourself!

Cthulhu Fhtagn! edited by Ross E. Lockhart

In his house at R’lyeh, Cthulhu waits dreaming…

What are the dreams that monsters dream? When will the stars grow right? Where are the sunken temples in which the dreamers dwell? How will it all change when they come home?

Within these pages lie the answers, and more, in all-new stories by many of the brightest lights in dark fiction. Gathered together by Ross E. Lockhart, the editor who brought you The Book of Cthulhu, The Children of Old Leech, and Giallo Fantastique, Cthulhu Fhtagn! features nineteen weird tales inspired by H. P. Lovecraft.

Edited by Ross E. Lockhart
Cover Art by Adolfo Navarro
Cover Design by MMP

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

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Pie by Petaluma Pie Company.

Ask for Cthulhu Fhtagn! wherever books are sold.