the vegetarian han kangThis remark­able, even mes­mer­iz­ing, novel was first pub­lished in South Korea nearly a decade ago, where it became an inter­na­tional best­seller. Only recently has the book gained wide acclaim in this coun­try, after being trans­lated by British trans­la­tor Deb­o­rah Smith.

While not hor­ror in the tra­di­tional sense, THE VEG­E­TAR­IAN con­tains plenty of sur­real images and graphic, often dis­turb­ing vio­lence and sex. Yeong-​hye is a melan­choly and sub­mis­sive house­wife whose bland life is upended when dread­ful dreams of butchered ani­mals drive her to throw out all the meat in the freezer and announce that she is hence­forth veg­e­tar­ian. This seem­ingly innocu­ous deci­sion sends her rigidly tra­di­tional fam­ily into a tailspin.

Clearly the social mores of Yeong-hye’s world con­strain females to a lesser sta­tus. Her author­i­tar­ian father, in a fit of rage, tries to force pork into her mouth. Tellingly, when Yeong-​hye snatches up a knife, it’s not to fend off his brutish attack, but to slash her own wrists.

The book is told in three sec­tions, the first nar­rated by Yeong-hye’s clue­less and indif­fer­ent hus­band, the sec­ond by her smit­ten brother-​in-​law, the third by her sis­ter, who strug­gles to save Yeong-​hye and keep the fam­ily together. Yeong-hye’s own voice is sel­dom heard, as she retreats more deeply into a delu­sional world of silence and self-​starvation.

Tube-​fed in a psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal, Yeong-​hye fan­cies she can turn her­self into a tree. As her fran­tic sis­ter offers her one favorite food after another, each of which is rejected, Yeong-​hye asks, “Why, is it such a bad thing to die?”

Why indeed? In one poignant pas­sage, doubt is cast as to who is the pris­oner and who isn’t, as Yeong-hye’s sis­ter admits she is unable to for­give Yeong-​hye for “soar­ing alone over a bound­ary she her­self could never bring her­self to cross, unable to for­give that mag­nif­i­cent irre­spon­si­bil­ity that had enabled Yeong-​hye to shuck off social con­straints and leave her behind, still a prisoner.”

The reader is left with a haunt­ing image of Yeong-​hye, still cling­ing to life, being rushed to yet another hos­pi­tal. Her bizarre obses­sion with becom­ing a tree has destroyed her body. Whether or not it has also freed her from some­thing even worse appears to be still in question.

review of weird fictionMichael Griffin’s THE LURE of DEVOUR­ING LIGHT is the short story col­lec­tion of an excep­tional writer, whose evoca­tive, lyri­cal tales are impos­si­ble to for­get. Griffin’s work has been described as “quiet hor­ror”, a sub­genre of Weird Fic­tion. Con­sid­er­ing that Griffin’s prose is both bold and often graphic, the descrip­tion may be some­what misleading.

Nature – seduc­tive, tan­ta­liz­ing, and ulti­mately unknow­able – is fre­quently the set­ting of these sto­ries. In “Far From Streets”, city dwellers Dane and Car­olyn seek renewal by spend­ing week­ends at a cabin Dane built by hand. Sin­is­ter omens abound – from the bird that beats itself to death try­ing to escape the newly fin­ished cabin to the starv­ing young man who seems to be keep­ing watch on them. In the mid­dle of this daunt­ing land­scape, Dane and Car­olyn become lost in more ways than one. As Grif­fin writes of the belea­gered Dane, “Noth­ing had pre­pared him for the pos­si­bil­ity of mean­ings deeper than office toil, with short breaks for television.”

In “Dream­ing Awake In the Tree of the World”, the enig­matic Nomia appears to be a tree-​dwelling nature sprite, a kinswoman per­haps to Rima in GREEN MAN­SIONS. She has res­cued the ill-​fated Tomas and nursed him back to health high in the tree­tops. But in Griffin’s work, real­ity is rarely what it seems. Is Tomas safe in the heart of lush, wild nature or is he fac­ing some­thing alto­gether dif­fer­ent and more deadly?

In “The Acci­dent of Sur­vival”, a ter­ri­fy­ing near-​miss on the high­way leaves two peo­ple badly shaken. As they con­tinue to their des­ti­na­tion, how­ever, it becomes increas­ingly unclear who’s sur­vived and who per­haps hasn’t, and how peo­ple “shaken loose from life” can strug­gle to reclaim reality.

Griffin’s prose sings, but his for­mi­da­ble power resides in his abil­ity to make us doubt our own senses, his abil­ity to explore the deeply unsta­ble and shapeshift­ing nature of what we blithely con­sider ‘reality’.

9781616894542 custom 39c6e478a34afbed9d5879845f153af9e2550e79 s300 c85The story of James Edward Deeds, Jr., who cre­ated this col­lec­tion of haunt­ing sketches while locked inside a men­tal insti­tu­tion, is both inspir­ing and tremen­dously sad, an extreme case of cre­ativ­ity melded with men­tal illness.

Born in Nevada, Mis­souri, in 1907, James Edward Deeds was a shy boy abused by an author­i­tar­ian father. At age twenty-​eight, after con­fronting his brother Clay with a hatchet (whether seri­ously or in jest is unclear), he was taken to State Hos­pi­tal #3, where he would spend the next thirty-​seven years, under­go­ing drug ther­apy and elec­tro­con­vlul­sive shock ther­apy. His poignant draw­ings dur­ing that time – drawn on Hos­pi­tal ledger paper – came to light only recently, after hav­ing been lost to the world for over three decades.

Look­ing at Deeds’ draw­ings is a jour­ney to another world, not the one that Deeds actu­ally inhab­ited, but a quaint, gen­tle era of long-​haired women in plumed hats, grace­ful arbors, and stately pad­dle­boats. Despite their benign charm, the draw­ings seem infused with a quiet under­cur­rent of hor­ror. Deeds’ peo­ple stare out at the viewer with round, stunned eyes and pose stiffly, like peo­ple trau­ma­tized by some­thing so hor­rific that, once seen, can never be forgotten.

Some draw­ings seem to con­tain cryp­tic mes­sages. A par­tic­u­larly dis­turb­ing one, #33, shows a small, hat­ted man with the cap­tion WHY.DOCTOR. Daw­ings #94 and #95 con­tain the ini­tials ECT, a ref­er­ence to the ther­apy Deeds was forced to endure.

The book’s title comes from draw­ing #197, a metic­u­lous por­trait of a woman point­ing to a bou­quet of posies in her other hand. Deeds cap­tioned the draw­ing ECTLEC­TRC, a ‘mis­spelling’ of the word ‘elec­tric’ in which the ini­tials ECT occur twice and which some have inter­preted as another ref­er­ence to shock treatments.

Deeds story is a heart­break­ing one, and I found the 282 draw­ings both fas­ci­nat­ing and dif­fi­cult to look at. For all the sweet nos­tal­gia for some bygone era the artist never actu­ally knew, they are pow­er­ful and some­times wrench­ing to behold. His draw­ings are surely a tes­ti­mony to the spirit of some human beings to cre­ate art under the worst pos­si­ble circumstances.

It’s Feb­ru­ary again, and we all know what that means – Women in Hor­ror Month! This year, we’ve got the debut of Bil­lie Sue Mosiman’s FRIGHT MARE: WOMEN WRITE HOR­ROR, an anthol­ogy of twenty sto­ries by top-​notch female authors th5168XzBCqL. SX331 BO1204203200 at puts to rest once and for all the notion that men some­how writer hor­ror ‘better.’

As author and anthol­o­gist Mosi­man points out, “Women have been writ­ing great hor­ror since Mary Shel­ley came out with Franken­stein,” yet there are still a few who think only male authors can deliver when it comes to the gory, the grue­some, and the grotesque. Not so! Girls kill, too (and some­times do a lot worse).

Among the ter­ri­fy­ing tales in FRIGHT MARE, you’ll find “Sakura Time” by Loren Rhoads, a won­der­fully creepy story of a man under the spell of a dead woman’s dolls; in Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s “The Whole of the Wide­ness of Night”, you’ll meet a tor­mented girl who pays a ter­ri­ble price for tak­ing revenge on her broth­ers; and in “Snow Angel;” by Amy Grech, a father strug­gles with an unthink­able decision.

My story “Dead Mes­sen­gers” fea­tures an Anglo who goes by the name of Raimundo and falls under the sway of some inter­est­ing New Age beliefs, includ­ing those of “a crazy preacher-​lady who thinks you can fuck your way to God.” Maybe he can, maybe he can’t, but Raimundo’s sure going to try. Check out FRIGHT MARE to see how it all works out for him.

Look for FRIGHT MARE in Kin­dle and paper­back ver­sions at Ama​zon​.com.

review of Stanley Kubrick's The ShiningEdited by Danel Olson and pub­lished by Cen­tipede Press, Stan­ley Kubrick’s The Shin­ing: Stud­ies in the Hor­ror Film is an enor­mous tome packed with inside infor­ma­tion from cast and crew, includ­ing Jack Nichol­son, Shel­ley Duvall, Scat­man Crothers, the Shin­ing Twins, and even Lia Bel­dam, the actress who played the ghost of the woman in room 237.

This metic­u­lously researched vol­ume also includes illu­mi­nat­ing, some­times sur­pris­ing, essays by many of those who know the film best. In Tony Magistrale’s “Sutured Time: His­tory and Kubrick’s The Shin­ing”, we get a detailed look at Jack Torrance’s descent into insan­ity, includ­ing Stephen King’s thoughts on how Kubrick han­dled the col­lapse of the character’s emo­tional state and the speed with which Jack’s men­tal unrav­el­ing took place.

In “They Ate Each Other Up?”, Ber­nice M. Mur­phy looks at The Shin­ing as a tale with roots in the windigo of Native Amer­i­can leg­end, a the­sis she claims is rein­forced by the fre­quent ref­er­ences to can­ni­bal­ism in the film. Bev Vincent’s “The Genius Fal­lacy” analy­ses attempts to uncover mes­sages hid­den in The Shin­ing and how the search for this secret sub­text has even given us a new word – crypto-​kubrology. And in Danel Olson’s “Shin­ing Through the Labyrinth”, we’re treated to an intrigu­ing and thought-​provoking com­par­i­son between Kubrick’s work and that of Guillermo del Toro.

To com­plete this defin­i­tive vol­ume, there are dozens of pho­tographs of cast, crew, and set, as well as a detailed analy­sis of the film’s music and lit­tle known facts about scenes that were filmed but that never made it to the final cut.

In short, the book is a visual and lit­er­ary feast that can only enhance what Lee Unkrich calls “our dread for and per­verse inter­est in the Overlook.”

review of The Water Museum Luis Alberto Urrea’s short story col­lec­tion, The Water Museum, is an ode to the south­west­ern U.S., its con­tra­dic­tions and multi-​culturalism as well as its humor and tragedies. Urrea’s prose sings, often imbu­ing even the most mun­dane details with an unex­pected poignancy. Many of these sto­ries pack a wal­lop, some­times through sud­den vio­lence, other times through the grad­ual rev­e­la­tion of a character’s true nature.

The title story “The Water Museum”, is a pow­er­ful, apoc­a­lyp­tic piece in which chil­dren who have never known rain expe­ri­ence a sim­u­lated thun­der­storm while the adults grieve the loss of the world they once knew. “Amap­ola” is a tale of young lovers told from the view­point of a besot­ted teenaged Romeo who falls for the hot lit­tle sis­ter of his Mex­i­can friend. What begins as a saga of ado­les­cent long­ing changes dra­mat­i­cally when the story reaches its stun­ning conclusion.

Urrea pop­u­lates his fic­tion with a won­der­ful melt­ing pot of grin­gos, Chi­canos, and Indi­ans – some­times with hilar­i­ous results, as in “The Sous Chefs of Iogua”, in which an elderly farmer finds him­self in the mid­dle of a restau­rant war among com­pet­ing Mex­i­can chefs. Then there is the lovely and heart­break­ing story “Farewell to Her Many Horses”, where we meet Don, a Sioux deal­ing with the death of his sis­ter and the arrival on the reser­va­tion of her guilt-​ridden anglo hus­band. Don reap­pears in “Taped to the Sky”, a lighter story that has him lend­ing his rifle to a jilted hus­band bent on shoot­ing his car.

The col­lec­tion is also a show­case for Urrea’s love of music. The musi­cal ref­er­ences are numer­ous, every­thing from two bud­dies who bond over Lou Reed to a nod to Nine Inch Nails and Alice Cooper.

For lovers of beau­ti­fully crafted fic­tion as well as those with a deep inter­est in the south­west, The Water Museum is a col­lec­tion not to be missed.

I’m delighted to announce that my story “Wing­less Beasts” was selected by editor/​anthologist Ellen Dat­low for Best Hor­ror of the Year #7! This is a huge honor as you’ll see from the TOC of authors listed below.

The fol­low­ing is taken from Dark Wolf’s Fan­tasy Review:

Table of con­tents — “The Best Hor­ror of the Year, Vol­ume 7″ edited by Ellen Datlow

For the past sev­eral years one of my high­lights of each read­ing cal­en­dar is Ellen Dat­low’s series of antholo­gies, “The Best Hor­ror of the Year”. Each year, since 2009, “The Best Hor­ror of the Year” not only rewarded me with some excel­lent short sto­ries, but it also offered me the pos­si­bil­ity to dis­cover plenty of oth­ers through the list of hon­or­able men­tions pub­lished by Ellen Dat­low in every vol­ume. This year “The Best Hor­ror of the Year” sees the pub­li­ca­tion of its 7th vol­ume and yet again Ellen Datlow’s anthol­ogy comes with a very inter­est­ing list of short sto­ries and a catchy, sug­ges­tive cover artwork.
“[Hor­ror fic­tion] shows us that the con­trol we believe we have is purely illu­sory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and obliv­ion.” —Clive Barker
For over three decades, Ellen Dat­low has been at the cen­ter of hor­ror. Bring­ing you the most fright­en­ing and ter­ri­fy­ing sto­ries, Dat­low always has her fin­ger on the pulse of what hor­ror read­ers crave. Now, with the sev­enth vol­ume of this series, Dat­low is back again to bring you the sto­ries that will keep you up at night.
With each pass­ing year, sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, and the march of time shine light into the craggy cor­ners of the uni­verse, mak­ing the fears of an ear­lier gen­er­a­tion seem quaint. But this “light” cre­ates its own shad­ows.The Best Hor­ror of the Yearchron­i­cles these shift­ing shad­ows. It is a cat­a­log of ter­ror, fear, and unpleas­ant­ness, as artic­u­lated by today’s most chal­leng­ing and excit­ing writers.
“As usual, Dat­low deliv­ers what she promises, ‘the best hor­ror of the year,’ whether it’s writ­ten by the famous (Neil Gaiman) or the should-​be famous (Laird Bar­ron and many oth­ers).”
Wash­ing­ton Post
“The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud (Fear­ful Sym­me­tries, edited by Ellen Dat­low, ChiZine Publications)
“Win­ter Chil­dren” by Angela Slat­ter (Post­scripts #32/​33 Far Voy­ager, edited by Nick Gev­ers, PS Publishing)
“A Dweller in Amenty” by Genevieve Valen­tine (Night­mare Mag­a­zine, March 2014)
“Out­side Heav­enly” by Rio Youers (The Spec­tral Book of Hor­ror Sto­ries, edited by Mark Mor­ris, Spec­tral Press)
“Shay Cor­sham Worsted” by Garth Nix (Fear­ful Sym­me­tries, edited by Ellen Dat­low, ChiZine Publications)
“Alloc­thon” by Livia Llewellyn (Let­ters to Love­craft, edited by Jesse Bulling­ton, Stone Skin Press)
“Chap­ter Six” by Stephen Gra­ham Jones (Tor​.com, June 2014)
“This is Not for You” by Gemma Files (Night­mare Mag­a­zine, Sep­tem­ber 2014)
“Inter­state Love Song (Mur­der Bal­lad No. 8)” by Caitlín R. Kier­nan (Sire­nia Digest #100, May 2014)
“The Cul­vert” by Dale Bai­ley (The Mag­a­zine of Fan­tasy & Sci­ence Fic­tion, September/​October 2014)
“Past Reno” by Brian Even­son (Let­ters to Love­craft, edited by Jesse Bulling­ton, Stone Skin Press)
“The Coat Off His Back” by Keris McDon­ald (Ter­ror Tales of York­shire, edited by Paul Finch, Gray Friar Press)
“the worms crawl in” by Laird Bar­ron (Fear­ful Sym­me­tries, edited by Ellen Dat­low, ChiZine Publications)
“The Dog’s Home” by Ali­son Lit­tle­wood (The Spec­tral Book of Hor­ror Sto­ries, edited by Mark Mor­ris, Spec­tral Press)
“Tread Upon the Brit­tle Shell” by Rhoads Bra­zos (SQ Mag­a­zine, Edi­tion 14, May 2014)
“Per­sis­tence of Vision” by Orrin Grey (Frac­tured: Tales of the Cana­dian Post-​Apocalypse, edited by Sil­via Moreno-​Garcia, Exile Editions)
“It Flows From the Mouth” by Robert Shear­man (Shad­ows & Tall Trees, Vol­ume 6)
“Wing­less Beasts” by Lucy Tay­lor (Fatal Jour­neys, Over­look Con­nec­tion Press)
“Depar­tures” by Car­ole John­stone (The Bright Day is Done, Gray Friar Press)
“Ymir” by John Lan­gan (The Chil­dren of the Old Leech, edited by Ross E. Lock­hart & Justin Steele, Word Horde)
“Plink” by Kurt Dinan (Post­scripts #32/​33 Far Voy­ager, edited by Nick Gev­ers, PS Publishing)
“Nigredo” by Cody Good­fel­low (In the Court of the Yel­low King, edited by Glynn Owen Bar­ras, Celaeno Press)

tmp73AA 640x480Hor­ror fans are well-​acquainted with the work of acclaimed artist Glenn Chad­bourne, of New­cas­tle, Maine. Widely known in the hor­ror and fan­tasy gen­res Chad­bourne has cre­ated cov­ers and illus­trated books and mag­a­zines for Ceme­tery Dance Pub­li­ca­tions, Sub­ter­ranean Press, and Earth­ling Publications.

Recently Chad­bourne illus­trated The Sec­re­tary of Dreams: Vol­ume 1, a graphic col­lec­tion of Stephen King sto­ries pubished by CD Pub­li­ca­tions in three lim­ited edi­tions. He has also illus­trated the work of Joe R. Lans­dale, Dave Low­ell, Jack Ketchum, Bev Vin­cent, and many others.

Need­less to say, I’m thrilled that Glenn is cre­at­ing the illus­tra­tions for the new, illus­trated edi­tion of my novel The Safety of Unknown Cities, due out at Hal­loween 2015 from The Over­look Con­nec­tion Press. Over­look edi­tor and pub­lisher Dave Hinch­berger shared a cou­ple of the illos with me recently, one of which was briefly banned on face­book for its (shud­der) depic­tion of breasts.

For any­one who loves hard­core hor­ror and dyna­mite graphic art­work, keep an eye out for the late 2015 release of this illus­trated edition.

Corpse ExhibitionBefore tak­ing out his knife, he said, “After study­ing the client’s file, you must sub­mit a brief note on how you pro­pose to kill your first client and how you will dis­play his body in the city. But that doesn’t mean that what you pro­pose in your note will be approved…”

So begins the title story, a sur­real and har­row­ing tale of mur­ders care­fully crafted and art­fully dis­played to evoke max­i­mum hor­ror. The nar­ra­tor of the tale is inter­view­ing for the posi­tion of assas­sin, with the caveat that his vic­tims must be posi­tioned in eye-​catching and mem­o­rable ways. Fail­ure to live up to the job descrip­tion can only end in a grisly demise.

Blasim is a writer and film­maker who fled per­se­cu­tion under Sad­dam Hus­sein in 1998 and now lives in Fin­land. The Corpse Exhi­bi­tion is a graphic and Kafkaesque look at a night­mare world of feral young men groomed to be gang­sters and killers, doomed fam­i­lies, des­per­ate sur­vivors, and death at its most grue­some and meaningless.

In “The Song of Goats”, the nar­ra­tor finds him­self com­pet­ing with other would-​be con­tes­tants to see who can tell the most hor­rific story and win a place on a radio game show. Shock fol­lows absur­dity as the hap­less nar­ra­tor vies to come up with the most appalling tale, while another con­tes­tant grum­bles, “That’s a story? If I told my story to a rock, it would break its heart.”

The Mad­man of Free­dom Square” chron­i­cles the mir­a­cle of two young blond men who appear in the wretched Dark­ness Dis­trict and rejuvinate the squalid neigh­bor­hood. After their dis­ap­pear­ance, a bloody bat­tle ensues between the gov­ern­ment and the locals over the fate of the stat­ues erected to honor them.

The col­lec­tion con­cludes with “The Night­mare of Car­los Fuentes”, in which an Iraqui escapes to Hol­land and does his best to embrace his new life and good for­tune, but pon­ders the stark dif­fer­ences between his life then and now. “Why can’t we be peace­ful like them?…Why do they respect dogs as much as humans? Why do we mas­tur­bate twenty-​four hours a day?” There is, how­ever, no refuge from the night­mares and Car­los Fuentes soon learns that there’s more to escap­ing one’s past than just geography.

The Corpse Exhi­bi­tion is by no means an easy read. Blasim piles hor­ror upon hor­ror. But clearly the author writes with the author­ity of expe­ri­ence. Beneath the often fan­tas­ti­cal nar­ra­tive is a vivid and sober­ing look into a world most of us know only from the head­lines and the evening news.

horror in exotic landsOver­look Con­nec­tion Press pub­lisher Dave Hinch­berger is giv­ing away two copies of the lim­ited edi­tion of Fatal Jour­neys! To be in the run­ning just post a review of the book on Fatal Jour­neys’ Face­book and Ama­zon pages. You will authomat­i­cally be entered in a lot­tery to win one of the two lim­ited edi­tions being given away.

The lim­ited edi­tion includes:

*“Wing­less Beasts”, a bonus story, never-​before-​pubished and mak­ing its first appear­ance in this signed lim­ited edition

*Orig­i­nal cover foil-​stamped design by noted hor­ror and dark fan­tasy artist Glenn Chad­bourne, who cre­ated new art for the front and back of this edition

*Sig­na­tures by Lucy Tay­lor, Jack Ketchum, and Glenn Chadbourne

*Fron­tispiece by Bill Munster

*Bound-​in silk bookmark

There are only two hun­dred copies of the lim­ited edi­tion avail­able, so write a review and get one for free!