Seize the Night!

A couple of posts ago, when I was discussing forthcoming work, I mentioned that there was one thing I couldn’t yet talk about.  As of today, I can.  My novelette, “Shadow and Thirst,” will be part of Christopher Golden’s upcoming anthology of scary vampire stories, Seize the Night, which will be published in October of this year.  Here’s the press release and cover design:

SEIZE THE NIGHT

Gallery Books Trade Paperback

Print ISBN: 9781476783093

eBook ISBN: 9781476783130

$18.00 ($22.00 Can.)

On Sale 10/6/15

Before being transformed into romantic heroes and soft, emotional antiheroes, vampires were figures of overwhelming terror. Now, from some of the biggest names in horror and dark fiction, comes this stellar collection of short stories that make vampires frightening once again. Edited by New York Times bestselling author Christopher Golden, Seize the Night is old-school vampire fiction at its finest.

Featuring all-new stories from:

Kelley Armstrong

John Ajvide Lindqvist

Laird Barron

Gary A. Braunbeck

Dana Cameron

Dan Chaon and Lynda Barry

Charlaine Harris

Brian Keene

Sherrilyn Kenyon

Michael Koryta

John Langan

Tim Lebbon

Seanan McGuire

Joe McKinney

Leigh Perry

Robert Shearman

Scott Smith

Lucy A. Snyder

David Wellington

Rio Youers

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I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be part of this book, alongside…well, pretty much everyone else that’s in it.  I gather it’s not available for pre-order, yet, but when it is, trust me, I’ll let you know.

Stephen King: A Top-Ten List

A few weeks ago, the Honey Badger put up a list of his top-ten works by Stephen King.  Since reading it, I’ve been thinking about compiling my own list of favorite King works.  The problem is, King is part of my writing DNA in a way distinct from almost any other writer.  It was because of reading his Christine during the fall semester of my freshman year of high school that I was set on the path to becoming a horror writer.  After I discovered his work, I read and re-read it over and over again, learning something new from it each time.  There are things he’s written that are engraved on my bones.  So no surprise:  once I sat down to puzzle the matter out, trying to limit my favorites to ten proved much more difficult than I had expected.  Not to mention, there are several of King’s more recent works that I still haven’t gotten to.  Here’s a list, then, that is both reasonably accurate and completely unsatisfying:

1.  Night Shift

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2.  Skeleton Crew

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3.  Different Seasons

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4.  Full Dark, No Stars

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5.  Just After Sunset

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6.  Hearts in Atlantis

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7.  The Stand

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8.  The Shining

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9.  Pet Sematary

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10.  The Dark Tower II:  The Drawing of the Three

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The list is accurate because these are works to which I’ve returned time and again, and which have stuck with me in the years (in some cases) since last I read them.  It’s unsatisfying because it might consist of another ten works with equal accuracy.  It’s interesting to me to note how many of my choices are books of King’s stories.  I think it was Harlan Ellison who said, some years ago, that it was in King’s stories that you found his greatest accomplishments.  I’m not sure I’d completely buy that, but there’s an awful lot of good stuff in a book like Night Shift or Skeleton Crew.

People’s mileage with King tends to vary, the way it seems to with Tolkien.  I love his stuff, and can’t wait to get back to it.

Boskone 52!

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In about a month, I’ll be driving east to participate in the 52nd annual Boskone.  It’s been a couple of years since my last Boskone, and I’m very much looking forward to it.  This is my schedule:

Great Horror for Teens and Tweens

Saturday 11:00 – 11:50, Burroughs (Westin)

Teen fiction is more than BFFs, family issues, and dystopias. A whole lot more. There is a world of dark and dangerous beings who walk the night and infest the pages of teen and tween horror. Panelists share the books that inspired them to love reading and writing horror. Does adult and teen horror differ? Is there a line that should or shouldn’t be crossed? What new stories are coming out that you should be reading?

John Langan (M), Christopher Golden, Jack M. Haringa, Sarah Langan, Paul G. Tremblay

Autographing: Jeffrey Carver, John Langan, Marjorie Liu, Michael Swanwick

Saturday 13:00 – 13:50, Galleria-Autographing (Westin)

Jeffrey A. Carver, John Langan, Michael Swanwick, Marjorie Liu

The Children of Metamorphosis

Saturday 16:00 – 16:50, Marina 4 (Westin)

A hundred years ago, Gregor Samsa awoke from uneasy dreams to find himself transformed into a gigantic dung beetle. Franz Kafka was a fairly obscure writer at the time, but his fiction has since helped to transform literature as it challenged preconceptions about what could be done and how it might be done. What other stories of personal “metamorphosis” have since been published that echo or reflect Kafka’s masterpieces? Panelists discuss “Metamorphosis” (1915), Franz Kafka as an author, and his literary legacy.

James Patrick Kelly (M), F. Brett Cox, Sarah Langan, John Langan, Darrell Schweitzer

Notes for Participant(s)

An interesting link in the Paris Review written by David Cronenberg http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2014/01/17/the-beetle-and-the-fly/

Murder, Mystery, and Mayhem

Saturday 20:00 – 20:50, Burroughs (Westin)

Dark fiction and suspense are natural bedfellows. What is it about their synergy that works so well? How do you walk the line between mystery and suspense when there are monsters tearing their way through the plot? And how do dark fiction and horror help generate or amplify those nail-biting moments that make readers blaze through a story to see how it ends?

Leigh Perry (M), Dana Cameron, John Langan, Paul G. Tremblay

Reading: John Langan

Saturday 21:00 – 21:25, Griffin (Westin)

John Langan

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Sunday 11:00 – 11:50, Marina 2 (Westin)

From comics to movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has succeeded in keeping comic book fans interested and engaging new ones. With the weekly television show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the reach extends. How does the show expand the storytelling toolkit of comics and/or the movies? Which elements have been successful and which could use some improvement?

Jack M. Haringa (M), LJ Cohen, Jim Mann, Marshall Ryan Maresca, John Langan

Kaffeeklatsch: John Langan

Sunday 12:00 – 12:50, Galleria-Kaffeeklatsch 1 (Westin)

John Langan

If you’re around and can afford it, think about dropping by, and if you do, please say hi.

I Know Some of You

are wondering why I study Tang Soo Do.  I could tell you that it’s for the long-term health benefits, or to share in an activity with my younger son, and while each of those would be true, neither is the REAL reason.  This video explains it better than I ever could:

That’s right:  I study Tang Soo Do to enable me to fight HOPPING VAMPIRES.

That is all.

A New Year’s Reflection, Prompted by Jet Li’s Fearless

Yesterday afternoon, my younger son, David, wanted to close out the old year by watching a martial arts film.  I opted for Jet Li’s Fearless, which I hadn’t seen before.  It’s a version, you might say, of the life of the Chinese martial artist, Huo Yuanjia.  As you would expect, the martial arts portion of the film was impressive.  There was an emphasis on not using your kung fu to beat up other people/take revenge on your enemies that I appreciated, especially since I was watching the film with my eleven year old, red belt son.

What struck me most, though, was a scene towards the end of the film, when Jet Li’s character is having tea with a Japanese karate master he’ll soon face in combat.  Huo Yuanjia, as he’s portrayed here, puts forth the idea that there is no single martial art that’s the best.  They’re all valid; there are simply better and worse practitioners of them.  So why compete against one another? the karate master asks.  To find out what our individual shortcomings are, Huo Yuanjia says, and work to better ourselves.

Fearless Still

From what little I know of martial arts, this strikes me as pretty much the case.  (As my Sa Bom Nim likes to say, “What’s the best martial art if you’re attacked?  The one you know.”)  And however hokey the scene in which it was expressed, the sentiment seems equally applicable to a variety of contexts, particularly the arts.  Since writing is what I do, I’m thinking of it specifically in that way.  Yes, there are plenty of kinds of narrative, plenty of genres, and within each one, all sorts of subdivisions.  But I have yet to see any compelling evidence that one type of narrative or another is intrinsically superior to the rest.  (Which is not to say that I haven’t read a lot of assertions to that effect.)  What I have seen are individual writers whose use of a particular genre, or one of its subdivisions, allows them to create brilliant art.

Don’t get me wrong:  I don’t deny the usefulness of larger categories of narrative, either to serve as a frame for the writer to work within, or to aid the critic attempting to interpret and contextualize the writer’s work.  The martial arts comparison applies:  the specific styles and schools allow you a way to direct your individual development.  If it helps you as a writer to see yourself as part of a larger movement, to publish manifestos, to align yourself with this writer or that writer who’s gone before, then by all means, do what helps your writing.  I cheerfully identify myself as a horror writer, and am happy to place myself within a tradition that includes Stephen King, Peter Straub, Shirley Jackson, and Robert E. Howard, to name a few.  I try not to confuse my identification with the genre, however, and my love and respect for it, with any sense that it’s superior to the other kinds of narratives people choose to write.

Ultimately, my real contest is with myself, to try to be a better writer tomorrow than I was today.  The more I’ve practiced Tang Soo Do, the more I’ve discovered I’m able to do.  (Flying side kicks–it’s crazy.)  The more I’ve written, the more I’ve discovered I’m able to write.  Horror, weird, strange, bizarro:  whatever you call what you’re doing, use it to help you become a better artist.  Your contest isn’t with your fellow writers:  it’s with yourself.

Projects Recent and Forthcoming

Also during the past several months, I’ve had a couple of pieces appear in print, and a couple more accepted to appear in 2015.  So:

The Recent (1):  “Kore,” an autobiographically-inflected story masquerading as a Halloween memoir, which appeared in Shock Totem‘s Halloween special (available here).  At the end of this past summer, Barry Dejasu contacted me to ask if I’d consider writing a holiday recollection for Shock Totem magazine’s upcoming Halloween special.  Of course I said yes.  I was already thinking about the Halloween walk my wife and I have been putting on for the last several years, and how I wanted a chance to write about it.  As I did, though, the story took on a life of its own, inspired by one young boy who found the experience of the Walk a little bit too much.  Which is to say, only most of the events in the piece actually happened.

(As an aside:  this issue of Shock Totem comes in the form of a little paperback that is just about pocket-sized.  It’s quite charming.)

Shock Totem Cover

The Recent (2):  Entry for Les Mysteres du Ver, a description of a fictitious book for auction as part of a larger catalogue of occult books, which appeared in The Starry Wisdom Library:  The Catalogue of the Greatest Occult Book Auction of All Time, edited by Nate Pedersen (available here).  A couple of years ago, Nate Pedersen contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in a project he was putting together.  It had been inspired by one of H.P. Lovecraft’s last stories, “The Haunter of the Dark.”  In the story, there’s mention of a cult, The Church of Starry Wisdom, which possessed a vast library of occult tomes (i.e. Lovecraft’s famous Necronomicon).  Nate’s conceit was to imagine that the cult might have put its library up for auction as a way to raise funds.  He proposed putting together the catalogue for that auction, which would combine physical descriptions of the individual books with short essays on their contents.  I signed on immediately, this kind of pseudo-historical invention being something I love to do (as you may have gathered if you’ve read my story, “Technicolor”).  I had thoughts about selecting the infamous Black Guide, which my pal, Laird Barron, has written so much about since I first told him of its French original, but ultimately decided on Les Mysteres du Ver.  This was a book I first introduced in my second published story, “Mr. Gaunt;” it was my take on one of the Lovecraft circle’s invented books, De Vermis Mysteriis.  In my subsequent essay, I had some fun tying the book together with my stories, “Renfrew’s Course” and “Mother of Stone,” as well as to M.R. James’s “Count Magnus” and Elilzabeth Kostova’s The Historian.

I have to say, though, that I was unprepared for just how much care Nate was going to lavish on the production of the book. This is a marvelous reproduction of a late nineteenth century auction catalogue, its attention to detail of the highest degree.  In addition, its list of contributors is a who’s who of contemporary horror, from Ramsey Campbell and F. Paul Wilson to Livia Llewellyn and Molly Tanzer.  It may be about the strangest anthology I’ve ever been part of; it’s certainly among the most weirdly wonderful.

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The Future (1):  “The Communion of Saints,” a story to appear in Giallo Fantastique, edited by Ross Lockhart (not yet available for pre-order).  In my stories, “City of the Dog” and “Children of the Fang,” there’s an Albany, NY, police detective named Calasso.  I thought it would be fun to write a story about him facing a series of gruesome kidnappings apparently committed by some of the more infamous, if cliched, monsters of recent movies.

Giallo Fantastique

The Future (2):  “Homemade Monsters,” a story to appear in The Doll Collection, edited by Ellen Datlow (available for pre-order here).  Sure, I called them action figures, but I played with dolls all the time as a kid.  At first, I thought I might write about the 8 inch Spider-Man figure who was probably my single favorite toy when I was about nine; then I remembered how I had transformed a number of my Star Trek figures into monsters, especially Godzilla.  More autobiographically-inflected fiction, with kaiju.

Doll Collection

The Future (3):  “The Underground Economy,” a story to appear in Aickman’s Heirs, edited by Simon Strantzas (not yet available for pre-order).  During the 2013 Necronomicon and immediately after, I encouraged Simon Strantzas to put together this anthology.  That was so I could submit a story to it.  I love Robert Aickman’s work; though I’m far from understanding it.  I had re-read “The Swords,” recently, and that came together with comments made by Simon and folks on the All-Hallows Message Board about the role of the erotic in Aickman’s fiction into this story.  The piece felt like a chance; I’m happy it worked for Simon.

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There’s one other project that I haven’t been given leave to speak about, yet; more as soon as I can say it.  And I’m hopeful that 2015 will see my third collection making its way into the world; fingers crossed!

The Labyrinth Podcast

File under “I should have mentioned this earlier”:  this past November, I was interviewed by Cesar Torres for his Labyrinth podcast.  I had watched Cesar’s interviews with Peter Straub and Laird Barron, among others, and was pleased and flattered when Cesar contacted me about doing a show with him.  We had a fine, far-ranging conversation (which you can watch here); so fine, in fact, that we agreed to continue it sometime after the new year.  Stay tuned…