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Monthly Archives: January 2014

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The Best Horror Writers You’ve Probably Never Read (But Should): Part Two (Kristen Lamb and Kevin Lucia)

Once again I am stealing borrowing Kevin’s post on Kristen’s blog. My reading list has gone ballistic… enjoy

Posted by Author Kristen Lamb in Writing Tips on December 17, 2013

As writers around the world scream a collective, "NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!"

As writers around the world scream a collective, “NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

Kidding aside, it might seem strange that I have our WANA International Instructor, Kevin Lucia here talking about the horror genre. Yet, sometimes it’s good to get out of the comfort zone and cross-pollinate our creativity. I can tell writers who do too much reading in the same genre. What can really add that certain je ne sais quoi is when an author adds in elements from unexpected areas.

This is what makes the writing unique. Writing is similar to music, and the legends we remember in music are transcendent simply because they possess a gift of surprising listeners. They might add elements of opera to heavy metal or jazz to rap. This is where tropes can transform into something magical. Writers can do the same.

Kevin’s here to offer some suggestions to help diversify your creative palette.

Take it away, Kevin!

****

Some horror writers, for whatever reason, never end up writing nearly as much as others. And this is unfortunate. They never quite earn the popularity they deserve simply because they don’t churn out one cookie-cutter, mediocre story after another. Maybe it’s because of their sense of craftsmanship; because they consider(ed) themselves artists, because they want(ed) to live and breathe their own work, rather than spewing it out like a vending machine. Maybe they left us too early or, like Harper Lee, felt they’d said all they’d needed to say.

In my reading through different anthologies and collections, I’ve been amazed at how many of these writers I’ve encountered who only ever wrote a handful of stories. And because of this, sadly, they got pushed aside by legions of “pop” writers who latched onto the current craze, rode the wave, and then got overrun by the next legion of “pop” writers. Here’s a handful of horror writers I wish had written more, or I wish WOULD write more.

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In thirty years, Alan Peter Ryan wrote forty short stories, three novels and one novella. And I wish he’d written more. A stylist who knew how to use place better than anyone, his novels Cast A Cold Eye, his novella Amazonas and his novelette collection The Back of Beyond are among the finest things I’d ever read. He wrote with a literary sensibility, and also had two reoccurring characters – cowboys in weird westerns the likes of which Larry McMurty or Louis L’Amour might’ve written – that I enjoyed, and wanted to see more of. Unfortunately, just as he was returning from a fourteen year hiatus from horror fiction, Mr. Ryan passed away due to pancreatic cancer. His other novels: The Kill and Dead White, and his collection, The Bones Wizard.

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T. E. D. Klein wrote only one novel: The Ceremonies. Literary, finely crafted, built on tension and dread and atmosphere, about old myths and religions, it stands as one of the best things I’ve ever read. And that’s it. Only one novel, and no more appear to be coming any time soon. His short fiction is also astounding…and he only wrote fifteen of those, collected in Dark Gods and Reassuring Tales. He also served as the editor of The Twilight Zone Magazine, which became known during its four year run as one of the premier horror/dark fantasy magazines on the market.

Thomas Tessier is another fine author who hasn’t been nearly as prolific as some – only ten novels from 1978 – 2007 – but the results stand above the rest. Phantom is one of the best coming-of-age novels I’ve ever read, and Fog Heart is deeply emotional, moving, disturbing, and finely written. Two collections of his short fiction exist, Ghost Music and Other Tales, and Remorseless: Tales of Cruelty.

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A contemporary author who hasn’t written nearly as much as I’d like him to is Robert Dunbar. The Pines and The Shore are wonderfully lush, vivid, poetic novels offering intriguing spins on The Jersey Devil myths. They’re also about hurting people trying to find their way in the world without hurting those they love most. His collection Martyrs & Monsters offered wonderful genre/literary blends, and his small press Uninvited Books has committed itself to publishing literate, well-written dark fiction.

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Another writer, Robert Ford (and no, not the crack-smoking mayor of Toronto), also hasn’t written enough, of which we all dutifully remind him often, and kindly (sorta). Bob writes immensely enjoyable, entertaining horror…but his sense of style and craft is finely tuned, raising his work above the rest. Samson and Denial is a wonderful mix of crime noir and horror and I bought his short story “Georgie” for Shroud Magazine’s Halloween Issue because – as a father myself – it tore my guts out, in all the best ways. I haven’t yet read his zombie novel The Compound, but I know this: it will be about far more than zombies, simply because it was written by Robert Ford.

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Tomorrow, I’ll look at some authors whose writing simply can’t be contained by the term “horror,” or whose work sprawls outside all the lines.

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Kevin Lucia has worked as an Editor for Shroud Magazine and a Submissions Reader for Cemetery Dance Magazine, and is now an Associate Fiction Editor for The Horror ChannelHis podcast “Horror 101” is featured monthly on Tales to Terrify and his short fiction has appeared in several venues. He’s currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles and his first short story collection, Things Slip Through is NOW AVAILABLE from Crystal Lake Publishing.

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Ray Bradbury Challenge #24- A Question of Loyalty

A Question of Loyalty

soldier dog

 My name is Barandein. Me and my kind are the only thing standing between your people and extinction. Yes, we will give our life in defense of yours if necessary. It is truly what we live for. As it has been for ten thousand years, our loyalty to humans is unshakeable.

I have been on patrol for two hours and it is time to check in with my human.

“Alpha-seven to Foxtrot-three, do you copy?”

My communication is translated by the computer chip in my brain and broadcast directly on the radio. My vocal cords will not allow me to emulate human speech. I was modified and enhanced for duty but I was not genetically altered like the new breeds. I am one of the last, purebred Canis familiaris in the Corps.

Foxtrot-three, go Alpha-seven.”

“Sector J secure at twenty-two thirty hours. I am RTB by route four-oh-four.”

Copy, Foxtrot-three clear.”

If I had to, I could get to the base in fifteen minutes. I can run nearly twice as fast as a human, even with a full pack. I settle into a steady trot that will conserve my energy for more important uses. Even though there has been no sign of the enemy in this area, I keep my guard up and sniff the air for their scent.

On my way back to the base I pass a building whose walls are stained with blood. The smell of death and the enemy still lingers there. Less than a year ago it was used for the instruction of human children. Sensing their weakness, our enemy slaughtered the young and defenseless with a ferocity unmatched in human history. Command estimates that nearly ninety percent of those too young to fight were killed in the first days of the war. Out of seven hundred humans at our base, there are only four who have yet to reach breeding age. One adult female is ready to give birth, but the odds of her offspring surviving its first year are very slim. The virus that created our enemy often infects new born humans. They are killed out of mercy. It is a shame that humans have only one or two young in a litter. If they had more, they would stand a better chance of survival. Things do not look good for their breed.

Before I enter the base, I climb to the lookout stand and trade sniffs with Donagaen. He is first generation canis de manu hominis, genetically engineered for increased intelligence and human speech. Despite his advantages, he lowers his head in respect. It is my instinct for the hunt and survival, passed on to his breed that makes us superior warriors and keeps us alive.

His human and mine share the same sire. Humans call them ‘half-brothers’ but we Canines do not understand the difference. Litter mates may not have the same bloodline, but that doesn’t make them any less blood-bound.

“And what scent has the air, First Mage?” I ask. My use of his title repays his respect.

“The wind breathes clean and clear, Alpha sir. A still night with no sound to cause alarm.”

His human speech rings in my ears with a strange, hollow tone. My vocalizer is no doubt less than pleasant to him but he shows no sign of discomfort. He complains not, nor does he question orders. He is a warrior.

“Very well. Keep a wary ear and a sharp nose, Donagaen. They are quick and clever.”

The wag of his tail is his only response, the human equivalent of a salute.

The attack is quick and vicious. I am already on the ramp and suffer only superficial wounds. Donagaen is not so lucky. He fights with teeth and blades, sending scores of the vermin to their death. Their sheer numbers overwhelm him. Before I can assist, his body disappears under a wave of sharp claws and fangs. His howls will be added to those I already hear in my dreams.

“Alpha-seven to base, we are code red at checkpoint seventeen, repeat, code red. Enemy is breaching, send first and second squads. Engage with extreme prejudice.”

I can outrun them for a short distance, maybe long enough to reach the gate. The scraping of their claws on the gravel goads me into pushing my body. My pack injects stimulants into my blood, keeping me ahead of my pursuers. I am only a few meters from the gate when it opens and the squads rush toward me, howling in the primal language of our ancestors. We are outnumbered ten to one, but they tear through the enemy ranks, blood and fur splatters the ground in the darkness. These Canines have been engineered for the single purpose of killing our enemy. Humans have fitted them with protective armor and advanced weapons. Despite this, we lose a third of them before the battle is over. That is our foe’s greatest weapon; overwhelming numbers. Their females go into heat nearly as often as humans and they are able to breed within a few months after birth.

Humans created the virus to increase their immunity to diseases. They had no idea that it would produce monsters. In their own kind, mutations usually die within a few weeks. It is a horrible, painful way to die. Canines were spared, our wolf ancestry gave us immunity.

It is estimated that at the time the disease was released, there were over one hundred million members of the species Felis silvestris catus kept as pets in America alone. Feral members accounted for another fifty million. Now, their numbers are almost half a billion. Cats not only survived the disease, they thrived. Most of them are double the size of their predecessors with fangs, claws and a taste for blood to match. They make no distinction between human and Canine. And they are the enemy.