When any book is nominated for the Stoker Award, it automatically has a quality that others won’t. Spellbent by Lucy Snyder is a urban fantasy about a novice witch, Jessie Shimmer, caught in the middle of a horrible accident that will change not only her, but the world she is a part of. Her boyfriend, Cooper Marron, is pulled into a hellish dimension while they were trying to call rain to end a drought. The damage caused by the rip in dimensions causes a cover-up of supernatural proportions with Jessie now considered a fugitive for things she never knew about or took part in.
Not only will this be the first post for Women in Horror Recognition Month, but this will also be the first Fan Horror Level Spotlight we’ve done. Morbid Curiosity is the story of twin sisters, Haley and Heather, that lost there father to physical illness and mother to mental. They are shipped from Louisiana to their paternal grandparents in Mississippi. They loss of parents, friends, and lifestyle is too much for both of them, but more so for Haley. A popular girl in school, Karla, decides to help them out by showing them how she became popular: Chaos Magic. And like it’s name implies, chaos slowly takes over the lives of Haley and Heather.
Just thought I would let you all in on who going to be spotlighted in a few weeks for Women In Horror month.
It seemed like the answer to Haley’s prayers. The most popular girl in her high school promised Haley that her life would change forever if only she performed certain dark rituals. And if Haley can convince her twin sister to participate, their power will double. Together they will be able to summon mystical entities that will do their bidding, some more powerful than they ever dreamed possible.
But these are uncontrollable forces, forces that can kill—forces that demand to be . . . fed.
Jessie Shimmer’s roguish lover, Cooper, has been teaching her ubiquemancy, the art of finding the magic in everyday things. But things go terribly wrong when the couple try to call a rainstorm in downtown Columbus. A hellish portal opens, and Cooper is ripped from the world. Worse yet, a vicious demon invades the city. Jessie barely manages to slay it, but she’s gravely wounded and the capital’s center is destroyed. As if losing an eye and a hand isn’t bad enough, the city’s ruling mage, Benedict Jordan, brands her an outlaw. With only her ferret familiar to help her, Jessie must find the dimension Cooper’s trapped in and bring him back alive before sinister machinations make both of them vanish for good.
First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers-and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.
From the Penguin Website
The Bram Stoker Award-nominated novella “Mama’s Boy” is the cornerstone of this 14-story collection from author Fran Friel and Apex Publications. A man whose mother’s demented love for him has turned him from an innocent boy to a serial killer to a near-comatose mental patient opens his world to a psychologist determined to reach him as a way of dealing with her own mother’s battle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But is she helping, or is there more damage to be done?
In “Mashed,” a son’s simple request for potatoes with his birthday dinner opens up a world of past fears and childhood torments for his mother, while the flash fiction story “Close Shave” presents a horrifically funny solution to an everyday women’s issue.
From mother and son to broader family ties, Friel explores the bonds of human connection into every dark turn. The humorous yet wickedly creepy “Under the Dryer” begins as a tale told by the family dog and ends in a bloodbath; “Special Prayers,” perhaps the most disturbing offering in the collection, exposes a family secret of abuse and power; and the tragically soft and beautiful “Orange and Golden” explores the purest form of the human-animal bond as the sun sets on a natural disaster.
From the Apex Publications Website
Ante Mortem is a good collection of authors that are the newest guard of the horror genre. All the stories are about the those last moments before dies, either physically or metaphorically. I’m sure there are many out there that think that this would be mostly characters getting killed my some kind of murderer or monster. While those are in there, I have to give credit to the number or ways that theme was used that weren’t. Stories like “Tiny Fingers,” “Hit the Wall,” and “Fetching Narissa” are probably the favorites for that reason. In “Tiny Finger,” Aaron Polson writes a classic ghost tale, but with an ending that could only happen modern times. It is also an ending that you would not expect in most tales of any genre, for the most part. David Dunwoody’s “Hitting the Wall” creeps into that lovecraftian realm of cosmic horror (not “outer space” cosmic but “large and unknowable to human perception” cosmic) with the antagonist being Nature itself. But I would say top billing would go to “Fetching Narissa” where David Chrisom wrote the only story without a physical death in it. I think it is a more chilling and stronger story for it.
There is good cross over appeal in some of these stories. For instance, “Hitting the Wall” is a dark sci-fi story with its Mother Nature antagonist. “The Dubious Magic of Elliot Prince” could easily be read and enjoyed by the Urban Fantasy audience. It, along with “Beauty Ritual” are also stories that deal with gay characters.
What they all have in common is interesting new takes on many classic conventions and tropes of horror that seem original and not just rehashes. You like zombies? Gina Ranalli is your woman to read. Werewolves? “Territory” is your story. I’ll leave the rest for you to discover.
All and all, the highs and lows of the book even each other out, leaving a fairly even reading experience in the end. A solid anthology collection that an horror or non-horror reader can enjoy fully.
Horror Reader Level:
“Tiny Fingers” by Aaron Polson: Beginner
“The Good Friend” by Natalie L. Sin: Intermediate
“To Serve the Beginning” by Gina Ranalli: Intermediate
“Hit the Wall” by David Dunwoody: Intermediate
“From the Bowels” by Benjamin Kane Ethridge: Fan
“The Dubious Magic of Elliot Prince” by K.V. Taylor: Intermediate
“Hunger Pains” by Myrrym Davies: Beginner
“Fetching Narissa” by David Chrisom: Beginner
“Beauty Ritual” by John Grover: Intermediate
“Territory” by Kelly M. Hudson: Intermediate
“A Little Help in the Kitchen” by Jeff Parish: Fan
Average Reader Level: Intermediate
When it comes to horror, the breadth of subject matter is limited only to the imagination of the writer. But, even with that large spectrum to choose from, there are subjects that tend to be missed or glossed over for the most part. One of them is history. There are some out there that write historical horror, but the ratio of them to everyone else is very low. Shades of Blood and Shadow is one of those few. Stories steeped in historical context or settings fills most of this collection. Hawkes has a great way of either writing stories within historical settings or creating the stories that are her truth that started the myths and folk lore we know. “Fallen” was a great example as a story about one of the fallen angels that rebelled against God with Lucifer. “The Relic: Father Santiago’s Bones” takes place during the Spanish Inquisition.
While most of these stories are supernatural, it doesn’t take away for the killing fact of some of the horrors that humanity has caused. “The Tour Guide” shows the fact that the scientifically advanced culture of the Mayans still had a barbarous side. “All Becomes As Wormwood” looks at the possibilities in the ruins of Chernobyl. Both historical insights to the fact that even with all our advancements, enlightenment, and knowledge, humans can still cause horrors. Sometimes we mean to. Others are completely accidental. But many times it is because we are too sure of ourselves. That pride in ourselves, our thoughts and beliefs, are usually the main culprit in the most terrifying moments of our past and present.
Horror Reading Level:
The Relic: Father Santiago’s Bones: Fan
All Becomes As Wormwood: Intermediate
The Heir: Fan
The Highwayman of Epping Forest: Fan
Last Breath: Intermediate
Incident Beside the Striped Tent: What the Fruit Seller Saw: Fan
The Piper of Glamis Hill: Intermediate
El Reptil Rey: Intermediate
The Tour Guide: Fan
The Woe Tale of Fiona MacLean: Beginner
Average Rating: Intermediate
We are lucky enough to have Jodi Lee, Editor in Chief of Belfire Press and The New Bedlam Project, take a moment out of her hectic schedule and answer a quick fire for us. Writer, editor, mother, she has seen many the permutations of Horror. After years of editing for places like Apex Publications, LBF Books, Lachesis Publishing, and freelancing, she started up one on the newest small presses that is building a name for itself. Let’s see what she has to say about the state of Horror.
Continue reading “Women In Horror Month: Belfire Bits with Jodi Lee”
The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough is a clean, eloquent fiction piece told through the eyes of of a middle child who is taking care of her father dying of lung cancer. But, and this is a very significant but, to each reader it can be a different kind of tale.
For those that have had to deal with the lose of a love own to any kind or wasting illness, be it cancer or something else, it is tale of affirmation that the complex emotions you feel through the whole process of watching a love die. Pinborough’s honesty and realism in the emotions of not only the Point of View character, but her four siblings as well are the driving force of the story. Pinborough proves that it great writing and great talent creates that kind of honesty in a story.
For those unacquainted with death, it can be an almost Borgesian horror tale. Pinborough’s style has matured in this novella. And I say matured for a specific reason, and it is not to be condescending or patronizing. As I writer I have seen the growth of my own writing over the years. But for many writers, it takes a long time to get out of the process of learning, adding, and refining your style though a multitude of tales and only in later half of your writing career to find not just the voice of your writing but the voice of where all your stories come from, the voice of your Muse. Pinborough has achieved, at the very least, the first stage of writing her Muse’s voice. A part of that voice is always going to be a little bit frightening in her tales. Like all that start in horror, she sees the darkness not as purely evil, but a universal constant.
For those that have a desire for freedom for the lives they are in and have lived for so many years, it is a tale where dreams and fantasies can come true. That endings, while not emblazoned with “Happily ever after,” can still be happy endings where dreams do come true. Some dreams just take longer to be realized because one must live through nightmares first.
Three very distinct tales, all be told at the same time. It is real. It is wise. And, it is magical to read and experience.
Horror Reader Level: Beginner
In less than a week, February will be in full swing. Along with it comes Women in Horror Recognition Month. It is only in its second year, but with the number of women involved in Horror, it will have many more years to bring notice to women in the genre and the fights to crush stereotypes. Through out the month, there will be numerous events around the world. From film festivals to interview series to blood drives, they will in some part honor the integral role of women in the telling of terror.
While the majority of the events last year have been about the film end of the genre, it doesn’t mean its limited. Horror literature is not separate from Horror films. Both are written, in some cases by the same people. Many movies are based of books and are just a visual interpretation of the text. What effects one effects the other equally. Many stereotypes that Horror literature are branded with stem from the current state of Horror films. The same women that don’t get recognized for directing, producing, writing, even acting in Horror films are hidden by the same veil that hides female authors. The stereotypes of female characters and the circumstances they face are equally perceived in both film and literature.
So, this month, pick up a book or magazine with a female author in it. Check out some of the events listed on the WiH website. To help out on the literature front here is just a small list of female writers:
- Fran Friel
- Deborah LeBlanc
- Sarah Pinborough
- Sarah Langan
- Lisa Mannetti
- Mary SanGiovanni
- Poppy Z. Brite
- Amy Grech
- Jezzy Wolfe
- Elizabeth Blue
- Alexandra Sokoloff
- Caitlin R. Kiernan
- Elizabeth Massie
- Sephera Giron
- Rhodi Hawk
- Gabrielle Faust
- Allyson Bird
These are just a few. There are many more out there. Through places like Twitter and Goodreads you can find even more. What ever your taste is, there is a female writer for you.