Woodstock!

Hi everyone! As some of you may have heard, this coming Saturday, August 13th, at 2:00pm, I’ll be doing a reading and q & a sponsored by the Golden Notebook of Woodstock, NY, to support my new collection, Corpsemouth and Other Autobiographies. Here’s a graphic the store’s PR department provided for it:

The event will take place at Nancy’s Artisanal Creamery, which is to say, you’ll be able to have delicious ice cream at it! So come out Saturday for chills of the literary and culinary varieties!

Advertisement

WHAT?!?

Today, the extremely happy news that Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies has won a This Is Horror award has been released to the public. Since Michael David Wilson emailed me about this the other week, I’ve been bursting at the seams to tell everyone about it; finally, I can do so. Here’s the text of the acceptance speech I wrote:

Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies by [John Langan, Stephen Graham Jones]
The lizard people are overjoyed! (Really, they are.)

The news that the voters have chosen Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies for the 2020 This Is Horror award in the collection category comes as a surprise and a delight. Of course you don’t write for awards, but there’s no denying the shot in the arm they can give you. As with so many people, I’ve found the past year at times a struggle, and I’m grateful for the joy this award brings with it. Thanks to all who cast their vote for my book. The other finalists in the category: Kay Chronister, Kathe Koja, Adam Nevill, and Christopher Slatsky, represent an impressive range of talent and accomplishment. I’m honored to have had my book associated with theirs. If you haven’t read any of them, I urge you to remedy that oversight with all due haste. Together, their books make a compelling case for the continued health and vitality of the horror field–as indeed does this ballot as a whole.

There are a number of people I have to thank:

–Ross Lockhart and Word Horde press, for publishing the collection and Matthew Jaffe for gifting it with such a striking cover;

–the editors who originally solicited its stories: Ellen Datlow, Aaron French, Nick Gevers, Orrin Grey and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Eric Guignard, S.T. Joshi, Chris Kelso, Ross Lockhart, Joe Pulver, Darrell Schweitzer, Justin Steele, Simon Strantzas, and Erin Underwood;

–my agent, the indefatigable Ginger Clark, and her associate, the fearless Nicole Eisenbraum;

–those fellow writers who are always there when I pick up the phone, Laird Barron and Paul Tremblay;

–and my family, especially my younger son, David, with whom I’ve discussed storytelling and music as we’ve walked the dogs at night, and my wife, Fiona, who continues to accompany me through this strange, loving life we’ve made together.

I included the words “and Other Genealogies” in my title to highlight my sense of these stories as mapping branches of my (literary) family tree. Though only a partial accounting, the book’s contents nonetheless gesture in the direction of the gnarled and twisted tree from which my stories have sprung. I’m grateful for those who came before me, for those of my own generation, and for those newer writers who are doing such wonderful things.

Thanks very much.

I’m especially happy to share the podium, as it were, with friends Stephen Graham Jones, Laurel Hightower, and Todd Keisling. I’ve already received a number of congratulations, for which, thank you!

News of the Falchion!

Yesterday, Ross Lockhart, my publisher at Word Horde, wrote to tell me that Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies has made the short list for the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award for Best Short Story Collection/Anthology. To that I say, Hurrah! And also thanks, for all who voted to put it there. I haven’t seen the final ballot, yet, but best wishes to all who are on it. Do I need a silver falchion? What do you think?

Falchion, Steel, gold, textile, Italian, Venice
Like this!

Storm King

The other day, I asked one of my classes to try writing a lǜshī, a type of Chinese formal poem. It’s a new form to me, so I thought I should give it a try. Here’s what I came up with.

Returning to my home

In view of the granite dome

Of Storm King mountain.

This sight has been fountain

Of my memories:

The bare crest, the clinging trees,

Backdrop to a distant youth

Lived against its stony truth

Storm King Mountain (New York) - Wikipedia

With Jeff Ford at the Fabulous Mountain

Saturday night, I had this strange dream. In it, I was somewhere in Ireland. I had come from the airport to meet Jeff Ford. Together, we walked around a cul-de-sac of maybe four or five houses, which were the only buildings around. At the center of the cul-de-sac was a traffic island thick with grass and short trees. There were other people walking on the sidewalk beside the road. I understood they lived in the houses. They gave Ford and me suspicious glances, but he ignored them. There was also a constable with a large black and gray dog who kept walking between us. I thought maybe the dog was trained to sniff out drugs, and the cop wanted to give him a chance to get a good whiff of us. We walked onto the island, I can’t recall exactly what we were talking about–it had something to do with being in Ireland. (Maybe Ford was teaching a workshop there?) The cop and his dog followed us onto the island and once more passed between us. We stepped out onto the street to return the way we’d come, and I saw a mountain in the distance ahead of us. The sight of it stopped me in my tracks. It was wide, its slopes steep, though not too much to hike up, and rose to a long flat top. Its summit was dusted in snow almost pink in the sunlight. Its sides were deep green and dark blue, traversed by winding streams, dotted with small lakes. It seemed to glow in the afternoon light. I was awestruck by the sight of it, overcome with this feeling of wonder that hasn’t left me yet. “This was behind us this whole time?” I said to Ford, who replied, yeah, and there were more beyond it. As he said this, I could see the edges of other mountains in the distance behind this one, dark purple masses. I think I saw water at or near their bases. Looking at all of it was like hearing the swell of an orchestra as it reaches the end of a song.

The next day, I relayed the dream to Fiona, my wife, as we were making dinner. Although I couldn’t figure out what it meant, it had stuck with me since I had awakened that morning. “What do you make of it?” I said when I had reached the end of it. I didn’t think she’d have an answer; I assumed she’d say something to the effect of, “Beats me.”

As is usually the case when I make assumptions about my wife, I was wrong. She said, “I think it’s about your creativity. You were feeling low after losing the Stoker award. So your mind brought you to someone you look up to and admire. From what you’ve said, Jeff Ford isn’t too concerned about awards. While you were with him, you saw this fabulous mountain, which is an emblem of your creativity. You were amazed, but Ford wasn’t, because that’s what he’s focusing on, already. Think of it as your brain’s way of reminding you of what’s important.”

“Wow,” I said. “That makes sense.”

“Great,” Fiona said. “That’ll be fifty bucks.”

I’m Sorry: They Said WHAT About My Story?

At the beginning of this year, I joined the lunatics on the Staring Into the Abyss podcast for a discussion of Ramsey Campbell’s brilliant story, “The Companion.” I had a blast discussing the story, and as Ramsey sent only one Night Gaunt after me, I assumed he was not too displeased by our analysis of it.

Well, now the shoe’s on the other hoof, with guest writer Patrick Barb having selected my story, “The Communion of Saints,” for discussion. The result is terrific. The best kinds of critical discourse open up a work for understanding, often for the writer as much as anyone. (That’s the case for me, at least.) Listening to these guys talking about my story, I learned all kinds of things about it I wasn’t aware of (not consciously, at least–leave it to the Fornits…). Thanks to Patrick, Scott, Matt, Mike, Richard, Other Mike, Little Joe, Doc McStuffins, Old Greasy, and Knock-off Big Bird for the time and attention they spent on my story.

(If you decide to listen, though, start around the 47 minute mark. What comes before is–well, it’s pretty messed up. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

An Honor from the Circulo Lovecraftiano & Horror

A little while ago, I did a print interview with the Circulo Lovecraftiano & Horror, a principally Mexican group of horror fans, critics, and writers. Subsequently, I had the pleasure of sitting down to a zoom call with them, which developed into a wide-ranging and entertaining conversation. The other month, they asked me for my mailing address. Last week, the following wonderful items arrived:

I cannot tell you how pleased, and honored, and moved I was by these gifts. My sincerest thanks to the CL&H for their thoughtfulness, and my hopes that some day in the not to distant future, we will be able to carry on our conversations in person.

Holy Priceless Collection of Etruscan Snoods, Batman!

To my great surprise and joy, my collection, Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies, has been nominated for the This Is Horror awards in the collection category! Thanks very much to everyone who voted to put it there, amidst some imposing company. Frankly, I am gobsmacked. If you’d like to have a look at the complete nominations, you can do so here.

Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies by [John Langan, Stephen Graham Jones]

Recent Reading

Here are two novels I recently finished that are well worth your attention. (Indeed, if I had read them in time, I would have included them in the year’s best writeup I published in Locus recently.)

Emily Danforth’s Plain Bad Heroines was recommended to me by Paul Tremblay when he read it for a blurb last year. His recommendation was spot on. It’s a great big book, full of multiple points of view, multiple timelines, bees, footnotes, and cool illustrations. Every time I hear the adjective big applied to a horror novel, I think of the doorstoppers of the 1980s, but while Danforth does make reference to Straub’s Ghost Story, the vibe here seems to me much more postmodern, playful–which is not to say the book doesn’t have plenty of creepy moments, and plot twists, and a couple of endings I’m still turning over in my head. Reading it is the kind of immersive experience that drew me to horror in the first place.

I saw a number of writers I trust mentioning Jo Kaplan’s It Will Just Be Us a couple of months ago on social media, so I ordered a copy. In comparison to Plain Bad Heroines, it’s a slender book, but one Kaplan packs with a maximum of character and incident. There’s a haunted house–which is another way of saying it’s a place where images from the past flicker in and out of view, some momentarily, others for longer. To the women who live in this house, on the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia, the house’s manifestations are not usually frightening–though the tendency of its rooms to meander, for new hallways to lead to new parts of the house, can be disorienting. There’s plenty of history for the house to display, from those of its current residents to those who have called it home in the past. There’s also a room that has remained closed, and whose key seems to have disappeared. And then a family member returns to the house, split from her husband and hugely pregnant, and things get worse. Jo Kaplan is a terrific stylist; there is prose in these pages that is as good as any you’re likely to find being written right now. There are plenty of disquieting images, too, the kinds of things that make you decide you had better read another couple of pages, so you don’t go to sleep with that picture in your mind’s eye. Best of all (from my perspective), this is an unabashed horror novel. As the end drew nearer, I kept wondering how and if the narrative was going to evade the conclusion it seemed to be racing toward–only to find that it didn’t, it went all the way to the terrible end and beyond. The result was a darkly splendid delight.

It Will Just Be Us: A Novel by [Jo Kaplan]

So if you’re looking for a couple of examples of contemporary horror writing at its finest, may I recommend each of these?