<![CDATA[Ginger Nuts of Horror - WiHM]]>Mon, 20 Feb 2017 05:04:05 +0000Weebly<![CDATA[MOTHERHOOD OF THE MONSTROUS: THANA NIVEAU]]>Thu, 23 Feb 2017 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/wihm/motherhood-of-the-monstrous-thana-niveau


Ginger Nuts of Horror's Motherhood of the Monstrous continues its celebtarion of female horror writers of the past present and future.  Today we are honoured to host an article from Thana Niveau, where she looks at the author who inspired her in the early years of her writing career, and the author who she thinks we should all be taking notice of right now! .

Thana Niveau lives in a crumbling gothic tower in Wicker Man country. She shares her life with fellow horror scribe John Llewellyn Probert, in a Victorian library filled with arcane books and curiosities.

All her life Thana has been drawn to the darker aspects of life. She was a fearful child, plagued by nightmares and anxiety. Horror saved her. Scary films gave her an outlet for all that darkness and fear became her friend. Jason and Freddy were her childhood companions. On the literary side, Poe was her first great horror love, followed swiftly by Stephen King and Ramsey Campbell. Their stories frightened her while at the same time inspiring her. She still had nightmares, but now they were more like visits from a slightly sadistic muse. Writing all the scary stuff down turned it from a curse into a blessing.

Whenever I’m asked what my favourite book is, it’s always a tough choice between two that are tied for the top spot. And they’re both by Shirley Jackson. One is, of course, the incomparable Haunting of Hill House. It’s the finest haunted house novel ever written, with one of the finest opening paragraphs of all time. (And a cracking final line too!) Eleanor’s descent into madness is both chilling and poignant, and the ending is ambiguous enough to suggest that it’s a happy one for her. At the same time, we’re left wondering whether any of what we’ve seen was real or just in her head.

Happy madness reigns supreme again in We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and Merricat Blackwood is one of the most fascinating characters ever written. Ms Jackson was no stranger to insanity herself, which gives her characters an authenticity few other writers can approach. In Merricat we have a true free spirit, unhindered by rules or social convention, refreshingly unpredictable and dangerously amoral. But she is only mad if viewed through the eyes of the “normal” characters. Since she is the one telling the story, she is generally labelled an unreliable narrator. However, I prefer to think that the ugly intrusion of reality is what is unreliable in the world of Castle, and that it’s Merricat who sees things as they truly are.

I have never written (or even attempted to write) anything like either book. But dreaming in the shadows of those twin masterpieces inspires me like nothing else. Jackson just has a way of conveying things that gets under your skin, a way of making you feel that indefinable “otherness”. Madness is one of my own pet obsessions, so I’ve written my share of disturbed characters. And I like to think that, in some imagined ruin of the mind, Eleanor and Merricat might meet some of them and make them feel welcome.

Jackson may be the Queen of Horror, but there’s no shortage of talented female horror writers out there today. Lynda E Rucker, Priya Sharma, Cate Gardner, Alison Littlewood, Anna Taborska, Kate Farrell and Carole Johnstone are only a few. But I’ve chosen to boost the signal for Laura Mauro. If you don’t know her name, you’d better learn it, because you’re going to be seeing more of her. Trust me.

Laura herself embodies the concept of still waters that run deep. There’s a twistedly beautiful dark poetry in her work that is both nightmarish and alluring. The first story of hers I ever read was “When Charlie Sleeps”, a sinister account of what makes a city live and breathe, and the terrible cost that must be paid. Laura claimed it was the first time she really let herself off the leash “embracing weirdness”, and the result was a story I can’t get out of my head to this day.

Her stories are filled with secrets and unbearable truths, and mysteries that aren’t always unravelled. “The Looking Glass Girl” is a bittersweet piece about two sisters and the dark secret that haunts them, while “Obsidian” is a lush and otherworldly story about a lake and what it hides. “Strange as Angels” is lyrical and disturbing, telling of a strange winged creature and the dark changes it brings to the life of the girl who first injures and then cares for it. It’s a wonderfully ambiguous story about how far you’re willing to go to escape, and what price you’re willing to pay.

We’re back on horribly familiar ground with “Ptichka”, where a pregnant migrant woman finds herself in a Cronenbergian nightmare of body horror, with a uniquely British dystopian twist. No one likes hospitals, but in “Terry in the Bed by the Window” we’re given a reason to fear them properly, with a strange and silent patient who may not be what he seems. Both stories highlight Laura’s compassion and empathy, and her experience with clinical work gives them a poignant integrity.

Shirley Jackson’s work has been described as having “a vast intimacy with everyday evil” but that quote could just as easily apply to Laura’s work. It takes a special talent to make the mundane as unbearably horrific as she does, but she unsettles me time and time again. I would dearly love to immerse myself in a novel by her (hint hint Laura), and I imagine it would stay with readers long after they finished reading it, just as many of her stories do.

Until then, I’m looking forward to her debut novella Naming the Bones, out this summer from Dark Minds press.

Seek her out!
Picture
FROM HELL TO ETERNITY . . . Enter the strange and disturbing world of Thana Niveau, where fear reigns eternal, and nightmares last forever; where your only refuge is madness and there is always something waiting in the dark . . . Won't you join her? . . . Gray Friar Press is proud to present sixteen tales of horror from a new Mistress of the Macabre . . . Number 2 in the NEW BLOOD series of short story collections. With an introduction by Ramsey Campbell.

]]>
<![CDATA[​​TOSSING APOCALYPSES: A SHORT REVIEW  AND  INTERVIEW WITH JESSICA MCHUGH]]>Wed, 15 Feb 2017 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/wihm/tossing-apocalypses-a-short-review-and-interview-with-jessica-mchugh
 
 
The Train Derails In Boston by Jessica McHugh is a ghost story, more accurately about a house so stuffed to the gills with bad karma and horny ghosts, well, maybe not the whole house but definitely the basement and the mahjong box.  It's about a family so far gone down dysfunction road there may be no way to turn around and get back on the highway.  It's about revenge and sex and alcoholism and sex and self-loathing and sex and doubt and disorders and sex.  And most of all, it is brilliant.  Yeah, that's my super short review for it.  I dare not risk spoiling anything but detailing more. But I have more for you....keep reading:

I was fortunate enough to get the lovely Ms McHugh to volley some questions with me.  Below you'll see how that turned out.

 
 
JB: Before I read The Train Derails In Boston, I was only familiar with your work via The Green Kangaroos, and while those two books are wholly differing creatures, there are a lot of similarities.  You seem to have a thing for protagonists(?) who are flawed. heinously flawed and fairly unlikeable or redeemable. In both of these they are self-absorbed and self-loathing and while they love their families in one way, they'd also slit their throats in a minute.  Is there a reason you seem to enjoy rendering such characters? 
 
JM: The simple reason is that I find those characters the most fun to write and read. I like good people who make bad decisions, and I like bad people who try to make good decisions but end up in the gutter anyway. I like stories in which (to quote Swimming With Sharks) everyone lies, good guys lose, and love does not conquer all. I also enjoy the challenge of creating characters people love to hate. After learning all the ways Perry Samson has screwed over his family, you feel like he deserves punishment, but you also want him to wise up, get clean, and appreciate his family. 

That's the hope you have with addicts like Perry and Becca. No matter how many times they lie or steal or deliberately hurt you, no matter how many times you say you're done with their bullshit and "maybe they'd be better off dead," it's never enough to make you mean it. While my brother Eric isn't nearly as bad as Perry, his decades as a heroin addict taught me a lot I never wanted to learn. I didn't want to learn what it's like to love and hate someone in equal measure. I didn't want to learn how his manipulation of my natural kindness would eventually sour the kindness in me, turn it into something else, something suspicious, something shameful. I didn't want to learn how easy it was for me to write him off as a brother and then to forgive him because I saw a glint of hope, only to be cut down again. These are all lovely lessons for a writer, not so much for a human being. That's why despite the gore in TGK and TTDIB, the real horror lies inside the characters, somewhere between kindness and shame. 
 
 
JB: The husband in this book, believes he is a writer. He proves this by stating it endlessly and frequenting "writers" sites and speaking in writery tongues.  His wife treats this with indifference or sometimes a razored tongue and temper.  Is this a personal exposure, in that as a writer do you often feel treated as he is treated?  We can all admit that it is a thankless field a lot of the time.  And even when you get a golden goblet for something, you can damn well bet some people are lining up to fill that thing with piss.
 
JM: I haven't been quiet about my frustration with writers who don't write, and Peter Malone somehow turned into the manifestation of that. He's the kind of dude who would compose numerous blogs about being a writer even though the blogs are the only things he's written. The kind of dude who says "I'm writing a novel" but hasn't typed word one. He was a non-starter before he met Becca, but meeting her was the beginning of his downfall. He should've never bought her a drink. He should've never married her. Peter Malone annoys me as a character, but he's the only one in the book I wish I could give a big hug and an apology. 
 
JB: Your work runs the gamut from neo-hallucinogenic noir to devilishly over-the-top erotic (damn near porno)horror to young adult.  Is one hat more comfortable than the other?
 
JM: I'm most comfortable writing speculative fiction. I enjoy YA and the Darla Decker Diaries for sure, but there are times when I just want to throw in a unicorn or witch or cannibalistic fuckfest. Okay, maybe not the last one until the college years, but you know what I mean. After five books in that series, it's getting to the point when I want to toss an apocalypse at Shiloh Farms and make Darla a rogue warrior with telekinesis. But if we're looking under the spec-fic umbrella, I'd rather write horror than anything else. I believe horror is the common element in most stories, however, so I'm always looking for new ways to stretch the definitions of the genre. 
 
JB: I know a few of your influences, but could you lay it out for the fans and not-stalkers who some of those that lit the path for you are/were?
 
JM: Roald Dahl has been a lifelong influence. I've been a fan since I was little and spent way too much time trying to move objects with my mind like Matilda Wormwood. After seeing a production of "Lamb to the Slaughter" in middle school, I got into his short stories as well. They had the twisty darkness I'd grown to love about the Twilight Zone while retaining the signature humor I loved so in his children's books. I bought and devoured every short story collection I could find, and once those were spent, I thought it was time to try my hand at writing my own stories. I don't flatter myself to think my abilities match Dahl's, but I doubt I'd be half the writer I am today if not for Roald Dahl.

I would be remiss not to mention Stephen King as well, who I began reading in fifth grade. A lot of my friends kids suffered for that, I'm afraid, as I would bring Pet Semetery and Carrie to school and read the most graphic (and to me, hilarious) descriptions aloud at the lunch table. Sorry, kids. 
Bret Easton Ellis has also been a big influence on me, as has Anne Rice, Mary Higgins Clark, and Peter S. Beagle. I actually worked on Peter's The Last Unicorn tour a few years ago, and I told him about my plans for "The Train Derails in Boston" over drinks. Except for my husband, he was the only one who knew the big twist in the book, and he fervently encouraged me to move forward on it. It was one of the most thrilling days of my life.
 
JB: You've worked with many notable publishers in the small press: Post Mortem Press, Perpetual Motion Machine Press, Apokrypha Press.  Do you have aspirations to go "big house" one day? What is your view on the pros and cons of big versus small in regard to press?
 
JM: While I certainly have nothing against the big houses and would be grateful to work with one, as I am with any kind, hardworking company, I don't see myself scrambling from my families anytime soon. That's what a great small press is. Eric and Stephanie Beebe of Post Mortem taught me that and show it time and time again in their production of qualities products as well as their care for the people creating them. They bust their asses, traveling to conventions and festivals, and do everything in their power to keep their authors happy and productive. Like a family, we support and encourage each other's successes, knowing that when one of us does well we all do well. Likewise, I've been a fan and friend of Raw Dog Screaming Press since I met John Edward Lawson and Jennifer Barnes at an indie lit festival years ago, and they've treated me like family ever since--even though I wasn't one of their authors (yet). There was no reason for that except kindness, and when you find people like that, you hold on tight and never let go. 

Of course I aspire to work with other publishers I admire like Fungasm and Crystal Lake, but I have a feeling if you hear about Jessica McHugh going big, it'll be more about my beer and burger consumption than a book contract.
 
JB:  I completely agree with what you replied here, and I can also confirm those thoughts about the Beebes and Post Mortem, I was lucky enough to have them handle my debut novella and they have been nothing but supportive and kind .  The others you mentioned are all wonderful presses that put out great books.  Another great small press is Apokrypha Press, run by Jacob Haddon. They do Lamplight magazine, which is just amazing.  I know you recently released a kaiju novella through Apokrypha Press, Home Birth, besides that or if you want to talk on that some...then could you tell us what we can hope for from you in the coming year. 
 
JM: Home Birth was a blast to write, partly because a few of the characters appear in the book I'm planning to write later this year, A Motherfucking Heist Novel. It's going to be an insane sci-fi (perhaps bizarro) romp. Darla Decker Breaks the Case will be out from Evolved Publishing this year, as well as my RDSP dystopian novel Nightly Owl, Fatal Raven. If all goes well, Hares in the Hedgerow will also be released by Post Mortem Press in 2017, which I'm extremely excited about. I never intended to write a sequel to Rabbits in the Garden, but once an idea popped into my head it was impossible to erase. I still have lots of work to do, but I'm very proud of the story. 

I'm also working on a YA horror novella called Who Died in the House Next Door, and a bunch of wacky short stories I'm hoping to give a lovely home. So I'm just a tad busy, but that's how I likes it!
 
JB:  Sounds like I'm going to need to make a bit of room on my bookshelf.  I want to thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and I hope all these things you hinted or spoke up come through with little or no delay.   Thanks again.
JM: Thank you so much, John!  :)
Picture
CHERRYWOOD LODGE IS HAUNTED, AND THANK FUCK FOR ITS GHOSTS . . . Rebecca Malone has problems. Not just the alcohol. Not just her husband's inane attempts at writing a bestselling novel, their teenage daughter's promiscuity, or her certifiable mother. Not even her lover, who wants to take her husband's place in Cherrywood Lodge, the famous estate she now calls home. Her biggest issues start the moment she discovers a chest of ancient mahjong tiles in the basement of her new house, causing her life to spin out of control with hallucinations, sexual deviances, and grisly murders. Is the mahjong game haunted? Or are Rebecca's problems part of a different game, started before she was born?

]]>
<![CDATA[MOTHERHOOD OF THE MONSTROUS: JESSICA MCHUGH]]>Wed, 15 Feb 2017 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/wihm/motherhood-of-the-monstrous-jessica-mchugh

I can't deny that Anne Rice and her “Tales of the Mayfair Witches” had a large influence on my decision to take fiction seriously, but as I've fiddled with composing horror all my life, I'd like to go back even further.

I had chronic bronchitis in my youth and spent a lot of time home sick, coughing my brains out and splattering them across the novels of Mary Higgins Clark. While usually categorized as an author of mysteries, Mary Higgins Clark was my first exposure to a female writer who dared to write something as horrific as the novel “Love Music, Loves to Dance.” The villain in this story made such an impression on me that I wrote about it in my childhood diary. In the entry dated November 1994, I said the following:

“It was creepy. See, this guy kills dancing girls who make personal ads, then he freezes them and/or buries them in his yard. Sometimes he will just leave them on the street with one dancing slipper on their right foot. Then he will send the left dancing slipper and original shoe to the girl's parents. It was pretty cool.”

Even though my Mom got me into MHC, I doubt she and my dad were happy their eleven-year-old daughter thought a story about a killer who freezes and dances with dead girls was “pretty cool.” Still, I'd love to travel back in time and deliver them a six-pack of gratitude. Thanks to Mary Higgins Clark, it's always a sick day in my heart.

****

Stephanie M. Wytovich is my toast and jam. I haven't gotten a chance to read her first novel, The Eighth, but I'm a huge fan of her poetry collections, Mourning Jewelry, Asylum, and especially Brothel. She is immensely skilled at grotesquerie and fostering the kind of unflinching horror and sexuality that makes me want to take on the world. Her understanding of the value of language, how she makes every horrific and beautiful word count awes me time and time again. On top of that, she's an amazing human being that I'm proud to call a friend and inky sister.
Picture
Perry Samson loves drugs. He'll take what he can get, but raw atlys is his passion. Shot hard and fast into his testicles, atlys helps him forget that he lives in an abandoned Baltimore school, that his roommate exchanges lumps of flesh for drugs at the Kum Den Smokehouse, and that every day is a moldering motley of whores, cuntcutters, and disease. Unfortunately, atlys never helps Perry forget that, even though his older brother died from an atlys overdose, he will never stop being the tortured middle child. Set in 2099, The Green Kangaroos explores the disgusting world of Perry's addiction to atlys and the Samson family's addiction to his sobriety. "I write junkie fiction. I read and watch junkie fiction. Call it a lifestyle choice. I honestly didn't think I'd discover anything new under the sun when it came to the genre. I was wrong. Green Kangaroos is the freshest, most wholly original work I've come across concerning the subject of addiction. Think Requiem for a Dream meets Cabin in the Woods, only funnier, fresher, and more harrowing. Potsticking makes krokodil seem like a good time. Jessica McHugh has crafted one mindf*ck of a novel." -Joe Clifford author of Junkie Love and Lamentation

JESSICA MCHUGH

]]>
<![CDATA[MOTHERHOOD OF THE MONSTROUS: MICHELLE GARZA]]>Mon, 13 Feb 2017 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/wihm/motherhood-of-the-monstrous-michelle-garzaby Michelle Garza 
As part of our support of Women In Horror MonthMotherhood of the Monstrous brings together some of the finest genres finest writers to discuss the authors who inspired them to take up the pen, and which of the new and emerging horror authors we should all be taking notice.  In the spotlight today we are proud to welcome Michelle Garza.  Michelle Garza writes alongside her twin sister Melissa Lason. They have been dubbed the Sisters of Slaughter. They write all levels of horror and some dark fantasy. They have been published by Sinister Grin Press, JEA and Fireside Press.
My earliest female influence would definitely be from Mary Shelley. My mother bought my sister Melissa and I some of the classic horror books when we were young. She got us Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and also Bram Stokers Dracula because we had already read all the Goosebumps books and the scary stories to tell in the dark books. We were looking for horror and she happened upon them for like fifty cents each and brought them home for us. We were around thirteen years old at the time. Opening Frankenstein and delving into it felt like being shown some sacred texts, the words were poetic, atmospheric and moving, though some of it went over our heads a little bit ha! It was a dark story, creepy but also sad. It brought with it a sense of becoming an adult, as opposed to those horrors specifically written for kids. By that time we had already been writing stories together for fun, but this book really showed us the difference in literary styles to our young minds it was the difference in watching Nickelodeons are you afraid of the dark and then watching the twilight zone, the complexity of the story was obviously deeper because it was written for adults. Reading Mary Shelley was like a coming of age ritual that we reveled in.
 
A female author I’d like to take the opportunity to shine the ghastly horror spotlight on would be Somer Canon. I just finished Mischief Night and it was a great Halloween read. She also penned Vicki Beautiful which was an excellent, bloody little tale about the lengths true friends will go to fulfill their bestie’s final wishes. There are tons of fantastic female writers kicking ass in the genre like Jessica McHugh, Jamie Johnessee, Stephanie M. Wytovich and the witchy bizzaro queen Leza Cantoral. Add Somer Canon to those brutal babes and the horror world is in for some seriously awesome reads for many years to come.  

Picture
Xibalba, home of torture and sacrifice, is the kingdom of the lord of death. He stalked the night in the guise of a putrefied corpse, with the head of an owl and adorned with a necklace of disembodied eyes that hung from nerve cords. He commanded legions of shapeshifting creatures, spectral shamans, and corpses hungry for the flesh of the living. The Mayans feared him and his realm of horror. He sat atop his pyramid temple surrounded by his demon kings and demanded sacrifices of blood and beating hearts as tribute to him and his ghostly world.

These legends, along with those that lived in fear of them, have been dead and gone for centuries. Yet now, a doorway has been opened in Georgia. A group of college students seek their missing professor, a man who has secretly uncovered the answer to one of history’s greatest mysteries. However, what they find is more than the evidence of a hidden civilization. It’s also a gateway to a world of living nightmares.

]]>
<![CDATA[MOTHERHOOD OF THE MONSTROUS: CATRIONA WARD]]>Sun, 12 Feb 2017 09:07:58 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/wihm/motherhood-of-the-monstrous-catriona-ward
As part of our support of Women In Horror Month, Motherhood of the Monstrous brings together some of the finest genres finest writers to discuss the authors who inspired them to take up the pen, and which of the new and emerging horror authors we should all be taking notice.  In the spotlight today we are proud to welcome Catriona Ward, who was  born in Washington, DC, and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA from the University of East Anglia. Her debut novel, Rawblood (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2015) won best horror novel at the 2016 British Fantasy Awards, was shortlisted for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award, and was selected as a Winter 2016 Fresh Talent title by WHSmith. Rawblood will be published in the US and Canada as The Girl from Rawblood (Sourcebooks, 2017). Catriona’s second novel will be published by W&N in 2018. She works for a human rights foundation and lives in London.
The best uncanny writing gives the reader a sense of slippage; the experience of having wandered, not out of the world, but slightly aslant within it, so that it assumes new and horrifying angles. More than any other writer, Shirley Jackson taught me about the generative fear that comes in the night, the darkness that lies both at the edge of worlds and within us. Her writing explores not just that darkness but the wild abandon of giving in to it. The horror we feel is horror at our own fierce joy. 

I began reading the ‘Haunting of Hill House’ on a sunny morning. It quickly frightened me so much on every level that I had to put it down and go outside. The creeping madness of the setting, the eponymous Hill House, is bad enough, but the novel is composed of layers of insidious fear. We engage with the fractured world of Hill House through the wounded consciousness of the protagonist Eleanor Vance. Eleanor is trapped between her divergent impulses – she revels in her newfound liberty, since the death of her mother, but has a child-like compulsion to belong. As a result she is paralysed, deprived of agency. She becomes the perfect void waiting to be filled. We are horrified, helpless observers as the house’s evil slowly trickles in. The reader is twice trapped – in Hill House, and within Eleanor. 

‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle,’ perhaps Jackson’s greatest, weirdest work, uses this slippage between character and surroundings to dizzying effect. Merricat Blackwood, the anti-hero, imprints herself in the Blackwood land and on the house with her vengeful, sinister magical thinking; nailing books to trees and burying silver dollars to ward off evil. But the evil has already arrived. The main event, the mass murder that took the Blackwood family’s lives, is already done and buried. Instead the slow plot takes us somewhere stranger, through the subterranean twists and turns of Merricat’s mind and into madness.

Everyone should read Kelly Link, whose writing endlessly reinvents the known, rendering it strange and fantastic. Reading her short story collection ‘Magic for Beginners’ was a seminal experience for me. It opened doors in my mind – fiction was both more boundless than I had thought. So was reality. Each of her works is a perfectly realised alchemical world fusing the familiar and the unfamiliar. She uses the tools of genre, especially horror – ghosts, zombies, vampires, automatons - to conjure truths about everyday life, and warm human detail to evoke the uncanny. Whether she is describing zombies running a 24 hour gas station, a mail-order ghost boyfriend or a magical TV show that morphs like a virus from week to week, the energy and clarity of her prose is crystalline. 

Kelly Link’s vision of the world is joyous and anarchic where Shirley Jackson’s is dark and febrile. But both writers know that the real and the uncanny lie side by side, often touching; that they are often the same thing. 

Picture
Winner of BEST HORROR NOVEL (August Derleth Award) at British Fantasy Awards 2016
For generations the Villarcas have died mysteriously, and young. Now Iris and her father will finally understand why. . .
At the turn of England's century, as the wind whistles in the lonely halls of Rawblood, young Iris Villarca is the last of her family's line. They are haunted, through the generations, by "her," a curse passed down through ancient blood that marks each Villarca for certain heartbreak, and death. 
Iris forsakes her promise to her father, to remain alone, safe from the world. She dares to fall in love, and the consequences of her choice are immediate and terrifying. As the world falls apart around her, she must take a final journey back to Rawblood where it all began and where it must all end...
From the sun dappled hills of Italy to the biting chill of Victorian dissection halls, The Girl from Rawblood is a lyrical and haunting historical novel of darkness, love, and the ghosts of the past.

]]>
<![CDATA[THE MOTHERHOOD OF THE MONSTROUS:  LYNDA E. RUCKER]]>Fri, 10 Feb 2017 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/wihm/the-motherhood-of-the-monstrous-lynda-e-ruckerBy Lynda E. Rucker

Representation matters. I cut my teeth on the horror of the 1970s and 1980s, and none of the big names were women. When women did write horror, they were largely overlooked: even Douglas Winter could only find a single woman to interview for his 1980s book Faces of Fear, and that was V.C. Andrews. Anthologies from those days tell a similar story, many of them featuring no women at all or at best a handful in their table of contents.
Of the women whose stories were appearing in anthologies at the time, I hadn't run across any I'd fallen in love with to the same degree I did stories by writers like Ramsey Campbell and Karl Edward Wagner. At least, none that were living. It seemed I was stuck with a triptych of the dead: Shirley Jackson, Daphne DuMaurier, Flannery O'Connor. I'd never thought of horror as gendered but it was obvious to me that the kind of people who were largely succeeding in the field of modern horror were, well, not quite like me. That's one reason discovering Lisa Tuttle's first collection,  A Nest of Nightmares, was so significant for me. She was the first living female writer of horror whose work I truly fell in love with. They were contemporary stories with flawed, well-drawn characters who encountered terrors whose origins ranged from ancient myths to modern anxieties. Not only did I love the stories in the collection, but she was from the South (well, Texas), like me, and she lived in England, where I wanted to live someday. She still seemed like some impossible, remote figure, as all writers did to me in those days, but maybe just a tiny bit less of one than all the others.
 
A few years ago, I received a copy of A Nest of Nightmares as a gift, and I reread it immediately, for the first time in in decades. The first thing that struck me about it, which I had not fully grasped on my first encounter with it, was what a fiercely feminist collection it was. There were also images and ideas that had remained ever since that first reading, in some cases even when I'd forgotten their origins: the horrifying denouement of “The Horse Lord,” the terrible homecoming of the small-town Texas writer in “Flying to Byzantium.” Of course, eventually, I had the privilege of Lisa's writing the introduction to my second short story collection, which was absolutely one of those pinnacle moments for me, circling back to the person I was in a profoundly meaningful way.
 
I have mixed feelings about Women in Horror month because I worry that it separates us into two separate groups: “writers” and “women writers.” But I know the people who participate in and promote it are doing so because they fear the alternative may be that the second group just doesn't get noticed at all. And ultimately, I participate because I remember my own struggles to find someone who, well, was like me. Finding someone who is like you probably seems like something that doesn't matter very much when you have spent your life surrounded by examples of people like you doing the things you dream of doing. When those examples are few and far between, though, they mean everything.
 
NOW
 
Because her novel-length work is in the field of literary YA mysteries and thrillers and her short ghostly and supernatural tales have appeared largely in small niche markets, Helen Grant is a woman in horror who doesn't get as much namechecking and recognition as she deserves. Grant is, among other things, an aficionado of M.R. James, and it shows. Her work is characterized by a similar slow, subtle building of dread and often features Jamesian characters and locations. But these are not pastiches; Grant is a scholar of dead languages and an explorer of ruins herself, and these stories are very much her own. She doesn't write a great deal of short fiction, but what I have learned is that everything she writes is reliably excellent; when I pick up something and see a Grant story within, I know it will be quality. Some of the places you can find her work include the anthology Uncertainties II along with several issues of the magazine Supernatural Tales as well as her Swan River Press collection, Sea Change.

Picture
The laughter of a dead child echoes down the winding streets of a town in Spain… A mysterious stranger makes increasingly disquieting visits to a lonely English instructor in Central Europe… A woman experiences her own literal disintegration as someone – or something – from her past takes over her life…but who is the possessed and who is possessing? In return for the ability to touch the miraculous, the residents of an isolated mountain community are busily manufacturing items they don’t understand in preparation for a future they cannot imagine… With eight reprints from the pages of such publications as Black Static, The Third Alternative, and Supernatural Tales and three original tales, this chilling debut collection by Lynda E. Rucker will fill you with unease and unsettle your dreams. “Lynda Rucker's great talent is that she is able to carefully build a perceptive portrayal of the real world and in the process of that exploration find that edge where the everyday dissolves and the numinous begins. Her compelling execution of this transition strongly echoes the work of Robert Aickman.” – Steve Rasnic Tem

Picture
A woman returns home to revisit an encounter with the numinous; couples take up residence in houses full of sinister secrets; a man fleeing a failed marriage discovers something ancient and unknowable in rural Ireland . . .

In her introduction, Lisa Tuttle observes that “certain places are doomed, dangerous in some inexplicable, metaphysical way”, and the characters in these stories all seem drawn in their own ways to just such places, whether trying to return home or endeavouring to get as far from life as possible. These nine stories by Shirley Jackson Award winner Lynda E. Rucker tell tales of those lost and searching, often for something they cannot name, and encountering along the way the uncanny embedded in the everyday world.

Contents

"Haunted Places, Haunted People" by Lisa Tuttle
"The Receiver of Tales"
"Widdershins"
"The House on Cobb Street"
"Where the Summer Dwells"
"Who Is This Who Is Coming?"
"The Queen in the Yellow Wallpaper"
"The Wife's Lament"
"This Time of Day, This Time of Year"
"The Haunting House"
"Story Notes"
"Acknowledgements"

]]>
<![CDATA[DOMESTIC GOTHIC: FROM SHIRLEY JACKSON TO GILLIAN FLYNN BY TRACY FAHEY]]>Thu, 09 Feb 2017 05:40:47 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/wihm/domestic-gothic-from-shirley-jackson-to-gillian-flynn-by-tracy-fahey
 
I’m fascinated with the relationship between home and the unhomely space it can represent. In horror the home can become a site of demonic possession, murder, domestic violence hauntings and twisted relationships; all the more horrifying for the inversion of our traditional understanding of the home as a space of light, warmth and domesticity. The genre of domestic noir, a term popularised in 2013, plays with these dualities, exploring the aspects of the Heimlich (homely, secret, concealed) and the Unheimlich (the unhomely, the uncanny). The home becomes a place where buried secrets come to light with the most awful of consequences; it’s a space haunted by spectres of domestic violence, incest, murder and the paranormal. We see this dark domesticity writ large in novels from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca to Michael McDowell’s The Elementals, from Anne Rivers Siddons’ The House Next Door to Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts. I’d like to trace this tradition by highlighting aspects of two novels, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects.
Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, is a supreme novel of dark domesticity. On the face of it, the plot is relatively simple; a story about a group of paranormal investigators conducting experiments in a haunted house; their behaviour, relationships and mental stability all become affected by it. But the novel is much, much more than this. It depicts a haunting, terrifying space where the protagonists and the reader are constantly adrift, trapped in a nightmare between sleep and waking, between fantasy and reality. As the novel proceeds, this rift widens; an effect further heightened through Jackson’s marvellous, limpid prose which delineates the dizzying, disorientating effect of the misaligned architecture on the inhabitants.

Hill House is marked out as a dark place from the beginning. In fact, the famous opening sentence signals its sentient, brooding quality, the idea that it holds an ancient evil within in:
The Haunting of Hill House works so marvellously because it operates through the eyes of the main protagonist, Eleanor, herself an uncertain, troubled woman. The house acts as a malignant echo of Eleanor’s own unhappy past; it configures itself around her, like a great, malignant animal calling to her, beckoning to her. Her dissolution of mind is conveyed beautifully through her internal monologue which shifts subtly from delight to fear to a bewildered, seduced love, and a final, crushing realisation of doom. It’s a beautiful, unsettling novel that never fails to disturb me.
 
From an old favourite to a new favourite, from The Haunting of Hill House to Sharp Objects. Gillian Flynn is one of the main writers (together with Paula Hawkins, S J Watson and BA Paris) who have re-ignited interest in domestic Gothic novels – and given the genre a new name, that of ‘domestic noir’. Flynn’s novel Gone Girl with its convoluted plot, dark storyline and unreliable narrator charmed millions. However, the best-seller tag that clung to this book obscured the fact that her other novels are very much Gothic horrors. Dark Places and Sharp Objects are remarkable for their unapologetic darkness, visceral violence and ambiguous characters. Flynn’s first novel Sharp Objects in particular offers a lushly written, brilliantly-conceived contemporary take on the traditional Southern Gothic novel.

The narrator of Sharp Objects is Camille, a dysfunctional reporter, crippled by the dark secrets of her upbringing, who is forced to return to her hometown. Camille’s relationships with her mother Adora and half-sister Amma are spectacularly dysfunctional, overlaid with half-suggested horrors and troubling intimacies. She is also haunted by the death of her younger sister, an old terror resurrected by the shocking murder of young girls that she is reporting on for her paper.

But as Camille narrates her journey home to the heart of her family secrets, the uneasy darkness of home re-activates her self-destructive impulses. As the humid heat rises, home becomes a trigger for self-harm as she cuts words onto her flesh that signal her mental agitation. As with Jackson, the writing is evocative, mesmerising.

‘Thoughts and words captured where I could see and track them. The truth, stinging, on my skin, in a freakish shorthand. Tell me you’re going to the doctor, and I’ll want to cut worrisome on my arm. Say you’ve fallen in love and I buzz the outlines of tragic on my breast. But I was out of places to write, slicing myself between my toes - bad, cry – like a junkie looking for a last vein.’

Sharp Objects is memorable. It’s nasty. It’s unsettling. As Stephen King puts it ‘…after the lights were out, the story just stayed there in my head, coiled and hissing, like a snake in a cave." It’s this peculiar, haunting quality that links these two very different books. Once read, they act to subvert our very notions of domesticity; these Unheimlich homes that writhe and vibrate with their hideous secrets.
]]>
<![CDATA[FROM THE ROOTS TO THE BRANCHES: Mary SanGiovanni ON THE FEMALE WRITERS THAT INSPIRE HER ]]>Wed, 08 Feb 2017 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/wihm/from-the-roots-to-the-branches-mary-sangiovanni-on-the-female-writers-that-inspire-her
Mary SanGiovanni takes the spotlight today with her picks for the female writer that inspired her to writer, and the female writer that we should all be taking notice of now.  


Of the many women I like and admire working in the horror field, I find Sarah Pinborough's work to be inspiring. If Sarah's writing were like singing, she'd have an incredible vocal range, from horror to dark fantasy, from gracefully quiet to beautifully brutal. When I think of the quintessential approach of the most talented women horror writers, the ability to portray subtle complexity of feelings and underlying horror like entwining dark rivers beneath deftly woven prose, I think of Sarah's work. She is not one to be missed.

One of the things that I admire about up-and-coming writer Amber Fallon  is her fierceness and her fearlessness. She doesn't flinch from the brutality that zombies and bloodthirsty, otherworldly psychopaths wreak on her characters. She enthusiastically embraces explosions and pulpy delights while keeping the action and momentum moving. Maybe most impressively, she doesn't shy away from writing about real people feeling real things. And she does it with an honest, almost vulnerable attention to her prose, constantly honing her craft, learning, experimenting, making better and better stories. Pick up her new novel, The Terminal 

Picture
“True Detective” meets H.P. Lovecraft in this chilling novel of murder, mystery, and 
slow-mounting dread from acclaimed author Mary SanGiovanni . . .

 
It begins with a freak snowstorm in May. Hit hardest is the rural town of Colby, Connecticut. Schools and businesses are closed, powerlines are down, and police detective Jack Glazier has found a body in the snow. It appears to be the victim of a bizarre ritual murder. It won’t be the last. As the snow piles up, so do the sacrifices. Cut off from the rest of the world, Glazier teams up with an occult crime specialist to uncover a secret society hiding in their midst. 
 

The gods they worship are unthinkable. The powers they summon are unstoppable. And the things they will do to the good people of Colby are utterly, horribly unspeakable…

Discover more about Mary at her website
]]>
<![CDATA[​BODY HORROR: SCARS TELL THE BEST STORIES BY STEPHANIE M. WYTOVICH]]>Tue, 07 Feb 2017 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/wihm/body-horror-scars-tell-the-best-stories-by-stephanie-m-wytovich
 
My favorite book is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and while there are countless reasons why this book should be on everyone’s to-read list, today, I want to talk to you about what Mary Shelley did for me, personally, by writing this beautifully monstrous story. But first, are you familiar with the tale of why Shelley wrote the book in the first place? No? Oh, do let me tell you!

Year: 1816

Setting: Lake Geneva, Switzerland....
Mary Godwin (our soon-to-be Shelley), and her stepsister, Jane, found themselves chatting around a fire one night with Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, two notorious romantics already working in the writing scene. Inspired by the occult, and perhaps by the ashy-artic climate results from a recent volcanic eruption in the Dutch East Indies, Percy Shelley suggested that they each write a ghost story. He then proceeded to explain that they would all get together again, read their works aloud, and then judge the winner themselves. All parties agreed, and that night, Mary was plagued by nightmares. Now, there’s no telling who won the contest (cough, cough, Mary), but that dream eventually became the inspiration for, and basis, of what we know today as the classic science fiction/horror mash-up, Frankenstein.

Now, what I love most about Mary Shelley is that she wasn’t afraid to write a very masculine (ugh, I hate myself for writing that—what is masculine anyways?[1]) story for that time period. Here we have a tale about a quote-on-quote mad scientist obsessed with playing God, whose main focus was bringing the dead back to life after his mother passed away and he was unable to save her (insert witty Freudian comment about mother issues here). Shelley then proceeds to compose a story that is not only a haunting creature feature, but one that also raises existential questions about life, death, morality, and faith, while introducing an entire sub-genre of body horror, freeing women, and monsters (see what I did there? Christ, Shelley was brilliant), from the constraints of appearance, genre, and hell, even the definition of death.

[1] Masculine is whatever you want, and/or perceive, it to be because stereotypes and stigmas are stupid. #genderequality #canIuseahashtaginafootnote?askingforafriend

Yet beyond writing something dark, fantastic, and intellectual, Shelley also was a survivor, and her personal biography can be linked to Frankenstein in my ways. With a strained family dynamic, Shelley harbored a tense relationship with her father and stepmother, and took to educating herself in her father’s library, as she never had a formal education, much like the monster, who read quite a few challenging books if I recall….

Anyways, after she met Percy in 1814, it seemed as if her life had finally found tranquility, however much like our protagonist and antagonist (not naming which is which BECAUSE IT’S HARD TO DEFINE THEM), she was instead left feeling isolated, alone, and immersed in a pile of death.

Widowed at age 24, Mary worked to support herself and her family, and continued to write. She was diligent in promoting poetry, continued to write science fiction and horror, and even wrote a novella, Mathilda, which is believed to be a “fictional” (yes, picture me doing air quotes here, people) story about a woman who tells the story of her father’s confession of incestuous love while also simultaneously detailing her own love interested in a gift young poet.

Ahem. Did someone say we have a confessional poet/memoirist here in the genre?

Let me clear my throat, but YES.

See, Shelley is my role model because she wasn’t afraid to steer away from the conventional safe love stories about dowry and class. She wasn’t afraid to write from the male perspective or create monsters that we all ended up sympathizing with probably a little too much, or use the monster as a metaphor for woman and the patriarchy attempting to control our bodies. As a woman, she tackled science and religion, and she challenged us to think outside our comfort zones by grave digging and electrocuting a bunch of sewed body parts together, and then daring to question what the point of existence was if we remain without love?

So yes, when it comes to women who aren’t afraid to rise from the ashes—or the table, I suppose, in this case—Shelley, without a doubt, gets my vote.
But what about now, you ask?

Well, when it comes to the contemporary horror scene, I think most people know by now that I have a soft spot for stories about madness and psychological trauma. I love when authors push their characters into the slaughterhouse of body horror and then shackle them inside an asylum of emotional torment, so if someone can do that while still making the story beautiful AND terrifying? Well, readers, let me introduce you to Mercedes M. Yardley.
I met Mercedes a few years ago at a kaffeeklatsch in New Orleans, and we jumped up and down, giggling like demons at a tea party where we immediately started talking about our love of heart-breaking horror and the beautiful grotesque. Now, I’ve read a lot of Yardley’s work, and she gets pain much like Shelley got pain. Her characters are broken yet sympathetic, tortured, yet hauntingly beautiful. How Shelly tackled the body, Yardley tackles the mind, as she brings issues of mental illness and grief to the forefront and then challenges their attached stigmas and stereotypes with strong female leads that show that women are anything but victims. Her prose is delicate but full of bite, and her words, while sometimes soft, will leave you bruised, and if you haven’t read her yet, I highly recommend it.

I, personally, started with her short story collection, Beautiful Sorrows, and I haven’t looked back since.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH STEPHANIE HERE 

Picture
Rhea Harmon is a living target for the Devil as she possesses the power to detect one’s deadliest sin at first glance. Intended to be used as a weapon of war, the Devil sends Paimon, his right-hand man and top collector, to claim her soul and bring her to him in Hell. But the Devil isn’t the only one who is interested in Rhea. When Paimon arrives to collect her soul, he’s immediately taken with her and the resemblance she bears to his late-wife, Marissa. He falls in love with the mortal girl whose soul he is supposed to claim, and instead vows to protect her, thereby severing his allegiance to the Devil and sealing his fate as a traitor. Consumed by rage and fear, Paimon and Arazel, the Devil’s blood slave and ring leader to the circle of Lust, flee Hell in an attempt to save Rhea, but are instead forced to confront their pasts and their presents as they reevaluate the definition of sin and punishment. So what happens when a demon has to confront his demons, when Paimon has to turn to something darker, something more sinister for help? After centuries of living in exile, banned from their home and their right to rule, The Seven, the keepers of the deadly sins, are only too happy to answer his call, and if Paimon thought it was dangerous to make a deal with the Devil, then he had no idea what it meant to be blessed by the creators of sin

Follow Wytovich at Stephanie M. Wytovich.com   and on Twitter 
]]>
<![CDATA[​INVISIBLE WOMEN BY DAMIEN ANGELICA WALTERS]]>Sun, 05 Feb 2017 15:35:31 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/wihm/invisible-women-by-damien-angelica-walters
I have mixed feelings about Women in Horror Month. While I'm pleased there's a dedicated month to bring attention to women who write horror, I fear we cease to exist in people's minds the other eleven months of the year. Ask someone in August to list their favorite horror authors, and it's quite possible the only woman included on that list will be Shirley Jackson. She was brilliant, don't get me wrong, but she's not the only one.

It's hard to admit, but even I'm guilty of this.

It's not that women haven't been writing amazing horror for ages; it's that we're all conditioned to unconsciously give work written by men more weight. I've mentioned many times in many interviews that reading Stephen King's The Shining when I was eleven played a huge role in my development as an author, and it did. But this is only part of the story. I've done a grave disservice by not turning the calendar back a little more, because Lois Duncan truly paved the way.

I devoured books as a young girl, rereading my favorites multiple times, something I still do as an adult. The titles of most of those books have been lost over time, but some, like Lois Duncan's Down a Dark Hall, Killing Mr. Griffin, Summer of Fear, and Ransom have stuck with me over the years. I remember checking them out of the library again and again. I remember the cold snake of fear moving up my spine each time I read them.

Without her, I never would've told grim little stories to myself, never would've started writing them down, never would've read King or Herbert or Poe. Or Carter, Jackson, Shelley, du Maurier, Oates, or Rice, for that matter. Please, Lois Duncan, forgive me for not giving you the credit you've deserved for years. You played a huge role in my becoming a writer, and I won't ever neglect to mention you again.

So, let's leave young Damien behind and talk about a writer she's reading now, someone you definitely should be reading as well. I could list a dozen easily, and then I could take a moment to think and list a dozen more. Rinse. Repeat.

Since I'm only supposed to talk about one, though, I'm going to highlight someone you should be paying close attention to: Kristi DeMeester. In the interest of full disclosure, I frequently beta read for her. What that has offered me is an insight into where she is as a writer and where she's going.

Since Kristi started publishing a few years ago, her short fiction has been published by Shimmer, The Dark, and Black Static, among others, and has been included in The Year's Best Weird Fiction. This year, her first novel Beneath will be released from Word Horde, and her debut short fiction collection, Everything That's Underneath, from Apex Publications.

Her voice is poetic and confident. Her stories cut deep into your heart and linger in the shadows. She writes of beauty and ugliness, of love and loss, of family and solitude, and everything in between, and I suspect she's going to be around for a long time.

Honestly, I've never been very good at following directions, so I'm going to add a few more authors, and I highly recommend you also give them a read: Livia Llewellyn, Priya Sharma, Helen Marshall, Gemma Files, Sarah Langan, S.P. Miskowski, and Cate Gardner.
 


Picture
In this haunting and hypnotizing novel, a young woman loses everything, half of her body, her fiance, and possibly her unborn child to a terrible apartment fire. While recovering from the trauma, she discovers a photo album inhabited by a predatory ghost who promises to make her whole again, all while slowly consuming her from the inside out.
​ 

Damien Angelica Walters' work has appeared or is forthcoming in "Year's Best Weird Fiction Volume One," "Nightmare," "Strange Horizons," " Lightspeed," "Shimmer," "Apex," and "Glitter & Mayhem." She was an associate editor of the Hugo Award-winning "Electric Velocipede.""

]]>