Posts Tagged ‘Horror’

The marvelously named Snallygaster is first:  Dating back before the Declaration of Independence, snallygasters were rumored to have terrorized the surrounding hills of Washington, D.C. and Frederick County, Maryland.  German settlers in the 1730s first described the Schneller Geist (“quick spirit”) as a metal-beaked, half-bird, half-reptile that soared through the air and swooped down without a sound to capture its prey.  When it did utter a noise, the snallygaster let out a blood-curdling screech.  Seven-pointed stars were painted on barns to ward off the creature, though sightings continued into the 1900s.  The Smithsonian Institution once offered a reward for the Snallygaster and President Roosevelt is rumored to have delayed an African safari to hunt the beast on American soil.

The heck of it is, it’s native born so walls or better border enforcement won’t keep it away (current Presidents take note).  But there are six more listed in today’s email offering from THE-LINE-UP.COM, “7 Creepy Folklore Creatures from Around the World” by Stephanie Almazan.  For instance the original “Night Mare,” from Northern Europe, doing its best to disturb one’s sleep or, if that doesn’t work, going out to the stable and riding the horses until they’re exhausted.  Or China’s famous (at least if you watch certain Hong Kong movies) Jiang Shi, or hopping vampires.

And south of the border there’s Argentina’s own will-o’-the-wisp, a.k.a. La Luz Mala, or if one should visit the Dominican Republic . . . well, beware of wild women who wear their feet backward, more on whom along with the ones described above, plus one or two others, can be discovered by pressing here.

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Strange are the tales told of the Internet.  Of stories presumed rejected that weren’t; of acceptances disguised as things they might not be.  A magical, mystical place it is, of shadows and mysteries.  And here is one such strange telling now.

Let us go first to June 13 2018, and a call for submissions from Old Sins, “a (very) small publishing cooperative.”  Let’s write about conspiracies that have been debunked thoroughly but do so through the lens of Alternate History, where they have actually happened.  Let’s write about the second shooter, chemtrails, the Illuminati, Lizard People, Greys, the Loch Ness Monster, Pope Joan, Templars worshipping Satan, and so many other rumored conspiracies throughout history as if they were real.  So okay, let’s do.  As it happened I had such a tale already, of UFOs on the road to Roswell or, at least, an odd wounded humanoid creature who may have come from a UFO, originally published in BOOK OF DARK WISDOM in Summer 2005, called “The Country Doctor.”*

So off it went, until on October 25 an email came from Editor Joseph Cadotte asking about some possible small editorial changes, and allowing that he had liked the story and was sending it along to his partner.  Okay, so not an acceptance quite, but I sent a reply addressing the suggested changes (most of them having to do with italicization) and so time went on.  But then a new email came on January 27 this year with the subject title “Pending acceptance to FAKE NEWS,” stating in part:  We have a preliminary layout, and, if you are included in this message, you are on it.   So that’s positive mostly, sort of, yes?  Maybe a clearer confirmation (that is, not just “pending”) would be coming soon.

Which brings us to Wednesday afternoon, yesterday, not quite six months later, repeating the January 27 message, and with the same heading, but with an explanation above of how things are being delayed.  The wheels grind slowly, but grind they still do, and concluding:  I will try to send you a contract soonish.

So I’m going to call this an acceptance now of “The Country Doctor” for FAKE NEWS (or a similar title), and if perhaps still not 100 percent sure, we’ll find out together.

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*”The Country Doctor” has also been reprinted in the anthology AMERICA THE HORRIFIC (Bards and Sages, 2011), for which one can see below, October 29, 19 2011, et al.

A very, very quick bit of news. “Flute and Harp,” accepted as a reprint by HELIOS QUARTERLY on June 3 (see below), has now been scheduled for Volume 6, Issue 2, for June 2021.  Yes, that’s two years from now, Volume 5 having already been filled due to a greater than expected response to this year’s call for submissions.  The story itself, originally published in WHISPERS AND SHADOWS (Prime Books, 2001) concerns a pair of musicians on a dying world who like each other very much, but also share a fear of ghouls.  The story itself is a favorite of mine and, if I may say so, should be worth the wait, but for those who might be more impatient it also appears in my novel-in-stories, TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH (Elder Signs Press, 2017), for more on which one may press its picture in the center column.

A girl walks home alone at night.  But this time Aimée was stopped by Death on the bad side of Rampart Street in the shadow of St. Louis Cemetery Number 1.

So starts the story, the first sentence a blatant steal from Ana Lily Amanpour’s debut full length film of the same name (cf. January 11, also January 15 2015).  The story’s title, “Death and the Vampire,” another in the series of tales of les filles à les caissettes or, as they say in New Orleans, the “Casket Girls” (see June 12 2019, et al.).  Then hark us back to October 31 2018 and the call from WEIRDBOOK:  No HARDCORE sex!  No Sexual violence!  No UNDERAGED SEX!!  I’m looking for original (no reprints) well-written (duuh, I guess that that’s fairly obvious) weird stories.  My tastes are broad and I’m looking for any of the following:  fantasy, dark fantasy, sword and sorcery, ghost, horror, heroic fantasy, science fantasy or just plain odd.

Well, Aimée might raise an eyebrow at the “No violence” part, it being a part of the trade of a vampire, but maybe a little bit might be okay, so she took a chance and off she went last Halloween night, just meeting an October 31 deadline.  And that was that.  Her undeath continued.  But then today an answer arrived from WEIRDBOOK Editor Douglas Draa:  Dear James, my apologies for the awful delay.  I like this quite bit.  May I have it for WB# 44.  This will be a mid 2020 issue.

And that is that.  An email went back this afternoon to say Aimée is honored by the acceptance, for which look for more here as it becomes known.

HIGH LIFE is not an easy film.  Here’s the way the Indiana University Cinema put it:  In Claire Denis’ highly anticipated science-fiction film, Monte and his baby daughter are the last survivors of a damned and dangerous mission to deep space.  The crew — death-row inmates led by a doctor with sinister motives — has vanished.  As the mystery of what happened onboard the ship is unraveled, father and daughter must rely on each other to survive as they hurtle toward the oblivion of a black hole.  Contains mature content, including sexual violence.

For me, I enjoyed it, dark as it might be for science fiction, but then when have I been put off by “dark.”  However between non-linear time and a disjointed scene structure, I’d have to see it a few times more to really get a handle on it.  But as a film (to quote the docent as best I remember) “draw[ing] strong visceral and emotional reactions,” and one “to think about afterward,” it worked.

Beyond that as one Amazon reviewer put it, to say anything much about the plot, other than it begins with a spaceman’s talking with a baby, would risk multiple spoilers.  So here is a closing of other reviews from Wikipedia:  David Ehrlich of INDIEWIRE gave the film an A- grade, saying it owed more to SOLARIS than STAR WARS and describing it as “a pensive and profound study of human life on the brink of the apocalypse.”  Jessica Kiang of VARIETY called it “extraordinary, difficult, hypnotic, and repulsive”. Charles Bramesco of the GUARDIAN gave the film 5 stars out of 5, saying Denis had reconfigured the genre’s “familiar components to create a startlingly fresh engagement with the question of what it means to be human.”  Steve MacFarlane of SLANT MAGAZINE wrote:  “The film asks down-and-dirty questions about what really resides beneath thousands of years of human progress, a savage and haunting antidote to the high-minded idealism of movies like Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR and Ridley Scott’s THE MARTIAN.”

HIGH LIFE will be re-screened Friday (tonight) after which the Cinema will go dark for renovations during the summer, then resume (I believe) in late August.

A xenological invasion.  A creature in the pipes.  A monster in the dark.  A dragon.  And childhood toys that are more than they seem.

Five novelettes. Five stories that will force you to get in touch with our undeniable connection to the animal and insect worlds and the monster within . . . for are we really all that different from the monsters that we loathe?  Our deft and expert authors have won awards and had work in award-winning anthologies, and these stories showcase their gift for terrifying us but also in finding the humanity through our fear.  They are . . .

Gordon B. White
James Dorr
Mark Pantoja
Jon Gauthier
Peter Emmett Naughton

Thus the blurb fromTell-Tale Press’s Amazon listing for THE BLOOD TOMES VOLUME TWO, CREATURES, NOVELETTES EDITION of which my tale of a dragon quest in modern-day Wales, “The Bala Worm,” is a part (cf. May 23, 14, et al.).  And that is one mouthful of a title.  But the thing is, my author’s copy came yesterday evening from Editor/Publisher Andrea Dawn, was downloaded today and converted to PDF (which the local cave computer is more comfortable with), and from just glancing through it looks to be about 80 pages of really fun reading.  The individual stories, in fact, can be read for free*, for which press here, but there’s something nice about having them in ebook form together as well, which Kindle readers can get for only 99 cents by pressing here.  So, separately or in Kindle format, to quote one more line from the Amazon blurb:

We challenge you to read these stories, but only if you’re ready to explore the nightmarish creatures within us all.

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*”The Bala Worm,” incidentally, is a reprint, originally published in Ricasso Press’s BLACK DRAGON, WHITE DRAGON in 2008 and reprinted in my 2013 collection THE TEARS OF ISIS.

Yes, let us recall PLANET SCUMM and its Christmastide presentation of “Holly Jolly” (see March 17 2019; December 27, 14 2018, et al.), the tale of a pointy-eared alien conqueror, or at least he hoped to be.  For after all, disguised as a department store Santa’s assistant elf, what could possibly go wrong?  Well, you can find out by buying the Winter 2018 issue of PLANET SCUMM, if you haven’t already, and now you can hear it for yourself too in a just-released audio edition.

Or, to quote from the reindeer’s mouth as it were:  Planet Scumm is a quarterly science-fiction magazine, published by Spark & Fizz Books.  It is produced by Tyler Burdwood, Sean Clancy, Eric Loucks, Samuel Rheaume and Alyssa Alarcón Santo.  [It] was born out of reverence for the bizarre science fiction magazines of the 1930s, 1950s, and 1960s.  We cherish the genre as an open forum for philosophy, anxieties, thought experiments and thoughtless experiments.

Also, according to the announcement, the issue is out as well in a new paperback book edition.  For either form, pb or audio, find more out by pressing here.

Ah, June!  And with Wednesday evening it was time again for the Bloomington Writers Guild “First Wednesday Spoken Word Series” at Bears Place (cf. May 2, et al.).  The musical guests were the VLF (drummer John Valdez, bass Park Law, and guitarist and sometime voice Jason Fickel) Trio, sharing the stage with poetry by Tim Heerdink, author of RED FLAG AND OTHER POEMS plus another collection, THE HUMAN REMAINS, and first novel LAST LIGHTS OF A DYING SUN due in the near future; creative nonfiction (and sometimes mixed with a little fiction too) from Juliana Crespo with work in or forthcoming in a number of literary journals; and more poetry from local Bears Place server Brian Boucher, with a novella, “Wahoo,” serialized in THE RYDER Magazine plus poetry book ARROGANT ENLIGHTENMENT AND A CRY FOR PURPOSE on Instagram.  Then we, the walk-ons came with, in fifth place out of seven, new fille à la caissette Yvonne making her debut in a brief, 1830s-set New Orleanian tale of blood and absinthe, “The Darkness, Forgotten.”

Some editors know what they like and don’t mind saying so very quickly.  To quote the announcement, SPECIAL CALL:  HELIOS QUARTERLY turns 5 in 2020!  Over the years, we’ve published less horror than science fiction & fantasy.  . . .  We want to change that.  For our upcoming call for submissions, we’re especially interested in horror short stories and poetry by Black, Indigenous, and other poets and authors of color.  So late Sunday night (the email auto-acknowledgement is stamped as 10:34 p.m.) I plunked the key that sent my submission of a 5500-word story, “Flute and Harp.”

Then just under twelve hours later, listed as at 10:32 a.m. Monday, the e-reply came:  Congratulations writer!  We would like to publish your submission “Flute and Harp”.  At this time we do not yet know the actual date of publication, but we will continue to keep you notified of what is happening as we move forward.  So while I don’t know if that’s a record, it is pretty swift.

“Flute and Harp” is a reprint, originally published in WHISPERS AND SHADOWS (Prime Books, 2001), and is a sort of personal favorite of mine.  It tells the tale of two doomed musician-lovers on a far-future dying planet and also appears as a story chapter in TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH (Elder Signs Press, 2017).  And I might also note that HELIOS QUARTERLY has a very narrow window for submissions (again to quote from their guidelines), from June 1-15 11:59 EST every year.  Or in other words, my two musicians (as might benefit musicians everywhere) had a very fine sense of timing!

But that also means there is at least a short time remaining for others who might have a yen to submit to HELIOS QUARTERLY (which though, in addition to quickness, seems also to be rather picky), for more on which one may press here.

“Don’t blame Hollywood.” the come-on via Facebook’s SUPERNATURAL TALES page began, including a link to “The History of Creepy Dolls” by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie on SMITHSONIANMAG.COM.  So okay, I’ll bite.  McRobbie’s piece starts with a note about Pollock’s Toy Museum in London.  And in it, just before the exit, the “Doll Room”:  Dolls with “sleepy eyes”, with staring, glass eyes.  Dolls with porcelain faces, with “true-to-life” painted ragdoll faces, with mops of real hair atop their heads, with no hair at all.  One-hundred-and-fifty-year-old Victorian dolls, rare dolls with wax faces.  Dolls with cheery countenances, dolls with stern expressions.  Sweet dolls and vaguely sinister dolls.  Skinny Dutch wooden dolls from the end of the 19th century, dolls in “traditional” Japanese or Chinese dress.  One glassed-off nook of a room is crammed with porcelain-faced dolls in 19th-century clothing, sitting in vintage model carriages and propped up in wrought iron bedsteads, as if in a miniaturized, overcrowded Victorian orphanage.  The point then being that charming as the museum may be in general, some people can’t quite take the Doll Room, even going back all the way to the entrance to leave.

So I have a friend who doesn’t like puppets, but the thing is he’s not alone, that people in general may be creeped out by dolls and other human-like objects — Japanese designing overly anthropomorphic robots are reportedly contending with the same problem — and, according to McRobbie, it isn’t just because of movies with Chucky and other murderous play toys, but goes much deeper.  Much, much deeper.

According to psychologist Frank McAndrew, dolls inhabit [an] area of uncertainty largely because they look human but we know they are not.  Our brains are designed to read faces for important information about intentions, emotions and potential threats; indeed, we’re so primed to see faces and respond to them that we see them everywhere, in streaked windows and smears of Marmite, toast and banana peels, a phenomenon under the catchall term “pareidolia.”  However much we know that a doll is (likely) not a threat, seeing a face that looks human but isn’t unsettles our most basic human instincts.

“We shouldn’t be afraid of a little piece of plastic, but it’s sending out social signals,” says McAndrew, noting too that depending on the doll, these signals could just as easily trigger a positive response, such as protectiveness.  “They look like people but aren’t people, so we don’t know how to respond to it, just like we don’t know how to respond when we don’t know whether there is a danger or not  . . .  the world in which we evolved how we process information, there weren’t things like dolls.

But, hey, it’s a lovely, sunny Sunday afternoon outside so let’s save the rest of this for tonight, as shadows lengthen and, perhaps, even a tiny chill wafts through the air.  Look behind you first, and make sure that noise you just heard is the cat, and then continue by pressing here.




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