Bad Thing Happen – Evolution of Evil by Matthew Saunders

Those three words can pretty much sum up the plot of any story I write: An old man refuses to evacuate his home as a hurricane approaches, and then bad things happen. A police inspector finds the dead body of his childhood friend in an alley, and then bad things happen. A man returns to his childhood home to help take care of his ailing mother, and then band things happen.

You get the picture.

Some members of my family ask me why I don’t write sweet love stories with puppies and rainbows and pink cotton-candy unicorns. I usually just smile and shrug, but the truth is I really don’t have a good answer to the question. I’m not sure why I like to write stories where bad things happen. I never went through a “Goth” phase. I have a very close-knit, supportive, loving family (despite the pink cotton-candy unicorn thing). My dad is an ordained Baptist minister. My mom is a schoolteacher.

Whatever the reason, when John announced that he was putting together an anthology of short stories all from the point of view of the bad guy, I was all aboard. The resulting story, “Any Other Way,” was an experiment for me. Despite the fact that I write urban fantasy and horror fiction, my writing style is normally more on the literary end of the spectrum. I deliberately wrote “Any Other Way” in a voice that was not literary. In the end, I had a story with a lot more swearing than my stories normally have, but I also had a world I really, really liked—a fantasy noir version of Los Angeles, where the things that go “bump” in the night are just underneath the surface and not hard to find for those who know where to look.

The two main characters in “Any other Way” are Lucas and Vincent, two members of a West L.A. werewolf street gang in the midst of a turf war with a rival pack. There is a third minor but very pivotal character, however—Valentin the hipster Russian vampire who sells party drugs to rich kids in Brentwood and Bel Air. When I heard that there was going to be a Big Bad II, I knew that the story I submitted would be his story. The end result is “I Think of Snow.” The voice in the story is closer to my natural style, because Valentin comes from an upper-class background (and is two hundred years old), but I’ve tried to keep the same dark, gritty noir tone of the first story.

Like “Any Other Way,” “I Think of Snow” explores the themes of obsession and betrayal, and asks the question, “What are you willing to do to get what you want?” Of course, bad things happen. Valentin is not a nice guy, but if I’ve done my job, you’ll sympathize with him and the situation he finds himself in.

Because here’s the trick: it’s not just about the bad things.

Margaret Atwood once said, “All writers are optimists.” There’s no point in writing if you aren’t, and I’m not really a doom-and-gloom kind of person. There’s always room for hope. Even if my characters don’t always (or never) make the right choices, it doesn’t mean they couldn’t, and if your only reaction after all the bad things happen is, “Gee, I’m glad I’m not that guy,” at least I made you glad about something, right?

 

 

Tags: , ,

Women ARE the Evolution of Evil – By S.H. Roddey

Yeah, not sure how much I’m going to be able to comment on that title and stay married, so I’ll just shut my damn mouth and let one of my favorite writers take it away. 

So as you can see from the title, there are two topics on the table around here.

Over the last few days, I’ve been following the great debate as to why we would even need Women in Horror Month. Ask any female horror writer and she’ll tell you, this is a tough fucking road to travel. The fact that there is even a distinction between male and female horror writers is exactly the reason why we still need it. We can’t all just get along and be horror writers, and if a chick chooses a gender-ambiguous name under which to write (like I have), said person catches hell for doing so.

“Oh, she’s just trying to confuse the audience.”

Bullshit. I’m angry about that. I chose to use my initials because it doesn’t clutter up a book cover. Heaven knows people can look at my last name and still get it wrong, so my true rationale was to give readers as few letters as possible to have to remember.

“Girls aren’t scary.”

Really? Pick a random chick out of a crowd and piss her off. I guaran-fucking-tee you she’s going to be more cruel and more vindictive than any man you come across. Why? Because we remember. We remember when you hurt us, and we wait until you’ve forgotten why we’re pissed before we make our move. We know how to twist emotions and lay on guilt. We have the innate ability to make you believe whatever we want you to believe just by virtue of our nature. We are capable of great love, as we have the power to create life within ourselves. But we also carry great darkness. We are monsters cloaked in beautiful façades. Isn’t the rule of nature that the most beautiful specimen is often the most deadly? Case in point, good sir.

“Women are only good at writing romance, and romance isn’t real fiction.”

Oh, up yours. I do happen to write romance (under a REALLY confusing and hard to spell female pen name, mind you), but that’s totally irrelevant. It’s still fiction, and if you really want to be picky about it, it’s harder to write than horror. Either way you’re still manipulating human emotions to cause a very specific reaction. After all, sex and fear both cause the human body to release adrenaline, and there is no greater and more pleasurable death than la petite mort.

My point here is that gender and genre shouldn’t matter. A writer is a writer any way you twist it, and I am a writer. My being a girl is totally coincidental, and it’s exactly the reason why I dislike the concept of Women in Horror Month. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a necessary evil in this caveman society, and I appreciate the opportunity to showcase my work, but the fact that (and I’m not sure whether to call this feminism or anti-feminism here) there’s an entire month dedicated to women who write horror sort of bugs me. See the above statements. Personally, I don’t want the distinction of being a female horror writer. I don’t want to be good for a girl. I just want to be good, damn it. I am good, and I know it.

Which brings me to my next point: my personal Evolution of Evil.

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself evil, but I can write some really wicked shit when I put my mind to it. I target emotions. True evil is knowing your adversary’s fears, then using them to your advantage. It’s that creeping mist crawling across the carpet or the icy fingers along the back of your neck. It’s the sensation of being completely out of control and knowing there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.

In the case of the first Big Bad, I took it upon myself to destroy my favorite fairy tale. Wolfy was probably one of my favorite things I’d written until that point just because Charles is such a twisted bastard. And John liked it enough to take it so I considered it a win. Then (and please don’t ask where it came from because I don’t have a clue) I sat down and wrote Skippin’ Stones. And again, John took it. I’m not sure what that says about either of us.

See, my evil manifests itself in the form of the characters’ voices. They talk to me, just like I’d sit down and talk to you if we were in the same room. They tell me things I don’t necessarily want to know, and I write them down. It’s the only way to make them shut up. Nine times out of ten I don’t have a clue what’s going on until I’m told the punchline of whatever sick joke they’ve created for me. Seriously, it’s not like I intended to write the memoirs of a soulless manchild; it just happened, and I was helpless to stop it. Those voices, they know my fears. They know how to manipulate me.

There’s a reason I sleep with the television on… to keep the owners of those voices away. You see, I’m afraid they’ll come to get me when there’s nothing I can do about it.

Tags: , , ,

Evolution of Evil – “Little Gods” by Neal Litherland

Stories Beyond Good and Evil

By Neal F. Litherland

Have you ever heard of the gods Czernobog and Belobog? These were old Slavic gods, a Black God and White God respectively, who were responsible for bad things and good things. In some myths they were brothers, in others the same being who changed with the seasons (a common motif). While there’s still research going into understanding the beliefs of the Slavic peoples these gods come from, the point is that these figures represent one of the earliest points in world religion where there was a definite good god and a definite evil god. There was an angel and a devil, a light and a darkness, and you could always count on them to be responsible for their chosen deeds.

Before that was chaos. One day your crops might get rain, because the gods have deemed it so. The next day savage predators might sweep down from the mountains, kill all your livestock, and cripple your son because the gods have deemed it so. The gods were to be feared and placated, and their favor curried, but there were no labels put on their actions. Whether they were helpful or harmful the gods did as they pleased. There was no good, and there was no evil; only power.

My story “Little Gods” takes that sort of old-world chaos and sets it down in Chicago’s seedy underbelly to play in the muck.

What’s Compelling About That?

The story’s premise is simple enough. Warlock-for-hire Richard Blackheart is given a job by a disgraced Santera to help her steal the mantle of the little god of murder. If she can usurp the Hook Man’s place in the pantheon of the city then she’ll gain immortality and power, finally able to leave mortal flesh behind and step into the demimonde where mortals can only tread on little cat’s feet. She can’t do it without one of the city’s occult heavies backing her play, but The Bad Luck Man has motives of his own when he agrees to help her.

Why should you want to read that? On the one hand it’s a dark modern fantasy that steps off the path and drags you through the dark forest alongside the wolves instead of to the path to grandma’s house. Also because without a hero or a villain you’re left to make your own decisions about what’s right and wrong, what’s deserved and what isn’t. In the absence of a white knight (or really any sort of knight) every reader has to decide for themselves what the story means. Or if in the end it’s another of the myths we tell where there is no hero or villain; only the gods throwing rocks into the little mortal pool and making the ripples that shape our world.

Check out more Neal on the web here!

Tags: , ,

Evolution of Evil – “Feels Like Justice to Me” by Edmund Schubert

It seems fitting that this story is our launch day Evolution of Evil, because it’s one of my very favorite stories in the book, by one of my favorite writers and people, Edmund Schubert. Edmund certainly could have called me up and said “I want to be in the anthology,” and with his talent and publishing credits my answer would have been “Hell Yeah!” But he didn’t. He submitted through slush, following all the submission guidelines, with a professional cover letter, just like he expects folks to do to IGMS. I appreciated that professionalism, then I read the story and was blown away. Now we get the story behind the story, which is always the best. 

I’ve long avoided writing about anything within a thousand miles of the zombie genre because I felt like there wasn’t anything new to say on the subject. I’ve run into a few great stories, a slew of bad ones, and enough competent ones to feel like what ought to be said on the subject already has been said. I’ve immensely enjoyed the best of them (the original Night of the Living Dead was brilliant, Carry Ryan has done exceptional work in both novels and short stories, and I’ve devoured (pardon the pun) The Walking Dead, both the TV show and the graphic novels). But a lot of writers are beating what’s starting to feel like a dead horse, and even if that horse comes back to life and starts eating people… well, okay, I think I would actually consider reading a story about that, but you really do to have to go that far out there to hold my attention any more.

Inevitably, tragically, karmicly, once you express a sentiment like that, the muses will punish you with what feels like an original idea that you simply must explore.

So there I was, with an angle I could get excited about. But then, I always have a variety of ideas nibbling at the fringes of my ADD-ridden brain, and although I dabbled with a draft or two of this particular idea, nothing seemed to come alive for me in that way I need it to in order to see things through to the end.

That’s when an open submission call for Big Bad 2 was announced. The first book had already been published and I really wanted an opportunity to work with the editors, John and Emily, as well as see my own stuff in a table of contents along with other invited authors whose work I admired. I also immediately saw that it would not be difficult to shift the POV character in this zombie-idea of mine from the ‘good guy’ to the ‘bad guy.’ In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I knew that switching POVs would make for an even stronger story. Getting inside this ‘bad guy’s’ head and seeing him commit extreme acts of violence against his fellow humans in order to protect a zombie—and feel completely justified in doing so—was a darkly fascinating exercise. I’m not sure what that says about me as a writer or a human being, but it was absolutely fascinating.

So a big thanks to Emily and John for conceiving the Big Bad concept in the first place. You always hear the advice that every character should be the hero of their own story, even the bad guy, so as anthologies go, The Big Bad is one of those ideas that seems simultaneously brilliant and obvious—so obvious that you have to ask why no one else thought of it sooner. But then that’s the true test of genius, isn’t it? It always seems so obvious… in hindsight.

I also have to give a shout out of thanks to Emily, who, during the editing phase, pointed out that the revelation of certain information would be more effective if presented later in the story, and she was 100% correct. It may seem like a small detail, but the details can make all the difference. Her (accurate) argument was that revealing key information too soon ran the risk of making the main character sympathetic, and we weren’t going for sympathetic, we were going for horrible-but-relatable. That’s actually no small detail; it’s a vital one.

In a similar vein, many thanks go to James Maxey, who read an earlier draft of the story and pointed out the absence of other key piece of information: the main character’s underlying motivation for doing what he was doing. On one level I felt justified in making the argument that since the primary ‘good guy’ never finds out, the reader ought not to know either. But James correctly observed that since we were seeing this story unfold through the mind of the man committing such inexcusable acts of violence, it would feel to the reader like a cheat not to know, too. Plus, it wasn’t really all that difficult to let the reader know without revealing anything to the other characters.

I hated James for that. The problem there—for me as an author, anyway—was that I honestly didn’t know the answer to James’ question. Why? Yes, I knew the surface reason for his killings, but not the story behind the character’s story. So back to the drawing board I went. The new material I produced only amounted to a paragraph or two, but it was the hardest part of writing this story (which is probably why I was subconsciously avoiding it). (Writer’s Tip #413: If you ever find yourself writing a story but avoiding something, take that as a clue: it’s important stuff and your brain knows it, and has gone into hiding to avoid the accompanying difficulties.)

So…

I’m sure by now you’ve noticed that I’ve bent over backward trying to provide insight into the creation of my story without providing spoilers. This is simply one of those stories that works best if you don’t know ahead of time what’s coming. Well… let me restate that. You pretty much know exactly what’s coming. Corpses, and lots of them; both the living variety and the dead variety. The joy is digging down into the ‘why’ of it. That’s the part I want you to discover for yourself; the part I’m being so intentional about avoiding.

But then that’s kind of the point of these essays, isn’t it: to make you want to read the story. I hope you do, because I honestly feel like it’s one of the best things I’ve written in a long time. I can always tell when a story is going to turn out well because I have a lot of fun writing it. Hopefully you’ll have as much fun reading it.

Of course, if you do, you’re a sick fuck. But there’s not much I can do about that.

 

Tags: , ,

Evolution of Evil – J.T. Glover – Mercy’s Armistice

Quieter Horror

by J. T. Glover

 Late in 2013 I sprained my back, and several months passed while it healed. During the period when my spine looked less like a straight line and more like a question mark, I wrote “Mercy’s Armistice” for The Big Bad II. Most of it was dictated using speech recognition software, because sitting down for long periods was out of the question—standing was only somewhat less painful, but lying down actually worked all right. Things came together, I submitted the story, and John & Emily took it.

What does my tale of woe have to do with the evolution of evil? Just this: by the time I actually started writing, the pain was large enough that I was distracted. Decayed noblemen with fangs and capes seemed patently ridiculous, and the same went for most everything else from the canon of Big Bads. The zombie apocalypse is a very distant concern when you’re dropping mugs, showering is a fraught activity, and getting into a car involves an IKEA-like diagram of turns and shifts.

One afternoon in December I wound up re-watching The Godfather for the nth time, and something clicked. The world that Mario Puzo described and Francis Ford Coppola immortalized is made up of those who are family, those who are not, and those who wish they were. What, I started to wonder, about the people who weren’t part of any of that, or of the square world? What about the true outsiders—skip the heroin chic, dodge the beautiful gutters—what about the truly desperate?

And then, as often happens for me, I put two and two together. What happens when hit men get old? Luca Brasi wasn’t a young man when he went to sleep with the fishes, but we saw little of his mundane life. Everyone ages, contracts this or that illness, eventually dies—but most of that doesn’t happen on screen. “How” I asked myself, “would it work for a couple of aging supernatural predators who had to take care of a sick relative?” That was the point at which the engine actually turned over and the Muse took the wheel.

I like the tight, well-plotted headliners of horror that sweep me along, but I also like the quiet and mundane: Caitlín R. Kiernan’s “Standing Water,” T.E.D. Klein’s “Growing Things,” David Searcy’s Ordinary Horror, any number of stories by Shirley Jackson. The empty spaces between the evisceration of hapless victims and the howl of the Beast can be horrifying, too.  In those moments, I think it’s easier to look past the fur and the fangs and see the so-familiar face that hides underneath the mask.

bb2xlg

Tags: , ,

John’s ConNooga Panel Schedule

Hey y’all, we interrupt all the goodness surrounding The Big Bad and Women in Horror Month to give you my panel schedule for ConNooga next weekend.

Friday night will be a Triple Threat Launch Party for Big Bad 2, Tales from a Goth Librarian 2, and the new Pulptress novella from Andrea Judy! Come join us for food, drink, friendship, drink, snacks, drink, books, drink, readings, drink and shameless pimpage! And drinks!

Saturday morning at 11AM I’ll be doing a reading. I don’t know what I’m reading yet, but it’ll certainly be something lively to get everybody going in the AM.

Saturday at 1PM I’m on the Indie/Self-Pub/Trad-Pub Panel, and we’ll have plenty to talk about I’m sure!

Saturday at 8PM – Plot or Die! Gameshow Panel. This was ridiculous last year and sure to be silly and self-indulgent and hilarious again.

Sunday at 1PM I talk about Writing for an Anthology, then I drive home.

 

Hope to see you there! If you don’t know Connooga, it’s definitely worth the trip!

 

 

Evolution of Evil – A Day in the Life – Guest Post by James R. Tuck

James R. Tuck is my brother from another mother, one of my favorite people, one of my favorite writers, and one of the best friends I’ve got in this business. I love everything he writes, from Deacon Chalk to the Big Bad, and it’s always an honor to have him share his words with me in these anthologies. Here’s his story about his story. 

 

It’s Neil Gaiman’s fault.

Kind of.

Well, he’s good enough to blame anyways.

My story in the last one had a supervillian, and he was evil, but for Big Bad 2 I wanted to go really evil. Old school evil. Hardcore evil.

I put on my thinking cap and came up with the concept of the Devil in a concentration camp.

Can’t really get more evil than that now can you?

I needed a reason for him to be there and so I ripped off Gaimen. In my story, we have a Devil who, as part of his curse, is forced to live a human life every year. (If perchance you do not know how this is ripping off Neil Gaimen then stop and immediately order DEATH: THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE by him. Hell, just go ahead and pick up the Sandman Omnibus vol 1 & 2. You’ll thank me for it.) This fits with the narrative of the Bible as we have a few occurances of Old Slewfoot showing up and actually being a real presence.

The Devil HATES these days and he doesn’t ever want to do them. He’s been able to push off these mandatory human life days longer and longer as his power grows. This is the reason he believes he will one day be able to win his struggle against God.

However, the day has come upon him in the middle of World War 2, and he decides to take over the life of a concentration camp guard.

My plan when picking this was to go full-bore evil. I had the Devil’s number, got him in one fell swoop as a right bastard, just the kind of prick you’d think the Prince Of Darkness would be.

Oh, this story was going to be some truly twisted, therapy-inducing horror.

Then Hadassah showed up.

Simple Hadassah. Straightforward Hadassah. Courageous Hadassah.

She ruined my plans and made this story about something else, something more. There is evil here, it’s on the page and in the subtext, but with Hadassah the story became about humanity. The ability we have to hold to our own faith and dignity even in the very mouth of the devourer. I’ve written many tales in my time. Some of them have been damn good.

This story is one of them I am most proud of.

It’s outside my wheelhouse, far outside my voice, and it’s about something.

No, it’s about somethings. There’s a texture to it that I’m pleased with. Normally I write very surface, guns and monsters and things that go boom, but not in this time.

This is a quiet story.

Enjoy.

bb2xlg

 

Tags: , ,

Women in Horror Month – Sarah Joy Adams

Don’t Breathe Out

by

Sarah Joy Adams

 

Some things were strictly forbidden in my house while I growing up and Horror was definitely on the list. My mom had seen a horror movie once, peeking out from behind my grandfather’s armchair when she was supposed to be asleep, and it gave her nightmares for years. Between my mother’s (entirely understandable) desire not to let her kids have their own years of nightmares and the fact that we didn’t have cable there weren’t a lot of opportunities for me to find out what horror was. I grew up with the vague impression that horror meant Stephen King and teenagers getting hacked to pieces. Since I liked my teenage babysitters and had enough childhood fears of my own to be getting on with, the prohibition on Horror was not one I was eager to break.

Besides, my local library had plenty of other books for me to read that were perfectly acceptable. Mythology was a whole other thing, right? And the Brother’s Grimm was fairytales, so that was okay. And ghost stories were….okay, mom probably didn’t want me reading those either, but I snuck a few home every once in a while, telling myself that they didn’t count because they were real. So I grew up reading about Blue Beard’s Chamber and Saturn devouring his children and any number of creepy old houses inhabited by vengeful spirits. Not to mention Little Red Riding Hood – for years, I was sure there was a pony sized wolf waiting behind the bathroom shower curtain to eat me all up.

The result was that I grew up without a sense of horror as a genre, but a really strong sense of what was horrifying. For me it’s not about big scary monsters, but about visceral, lingering fear. This is why Jabba the Hutt’s rancor monster trying to eat Luke was, to me, just a cool fight scene, but his little dog-rat-thing chewing on C3PO’s eye was the stuff of nightmares. Give me a good light saber and that monster’s dead. But the little rat thing will sneak up on you and eat your face when you’re most vulnerable. This is how Lovecraft managed to make geometry and colors terrifying. (If that doesn’t ring a bell go read “Brown Jenkin” and “The Colour out of Space.” Just don’t read them late at night.)

It can be sudden and bladder clenching or it can be slowly dawning realization, but either way, effective horror induces what Emily Dickinson called the “zero at the bone.” Good horror is the difference between gore and pain. Blood is just blood. It can be cleaned up. It can even be funny. Pain is inside you, inescapable. Effective horror creates that gut clenching fear of inescapable pain. It makes you feel small and helpless, that your only hope is to freeze so the evil thing doesn’t see you.

 

Read more from Sarah in The Big Bad 2!

bb2xlg

 

 

 

 

Tags: , ,

Monsters, Trailer Parks and Truck Stops – Evolution of Evil by Gail Z. Martin

Monsters, Trailer Parks and Truck Stops

By Gail Z. Martin

People who aren’t from Pennsylvania picture two cities: Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. If you’re from PA, you know that the state’s whole center is farmland and nearly uninhabited forest (drive across I-80 sometime and you’ll see what I mean). Where I grew up, in the top corner near Lake Erie, not only do most people have a taxidermist on speed dial, but I’m pretty sure the car dealerships not only sell pickup trucks with gun racks as standard equipment, but I think the guns may be part of the package. Schools and businesses officially close for the first day of Deer Season. Most people I knew could field dress a deer with a pocket knife.

This matters because there’s urban horror and then there’s rural horror. They play off different kinds of fears. Urban horror plays off the anonymity of the big city, the strangers, the manmade caverns of concrete and the trackless tunnels underneath, dark alleys and seedy neighborhoods. Rural horror is a little more primal: wild animals, crazy loners holed up in caves or cabins, the brutal Darwinism of the elements and the fear of what you find in the vast, empty darkness, far away from street lights or cell phone signals.

My story for Big Bad 2 was inspired by getting lost in rural areas, and unexpected inspiration at a truck stop.

We’ve still got family in Northwestern PA, even though we’ve been in North Carolina for nearly 20 years. So we have worn a groove in I-77 and I-79 North over the years, heading nearly all the way up to the shores of Lake Erie. We’ve got the drive down to a science, and we trade off drivers every two hours at our favorite places to stop. One of those is a Flying J truck stop in Fort Chiswell, VA. It’s one of those restaurant/gas station/convenience store/gift shop kind of places, and one day, as I was getting a huge cup of coffee for the road, one of their t-shirts caught my eye.

“Mess with me, and you mess with the whole trailer park.” The guy depicted on the graphic looked like someone out of Cabin in the Woods, not the shell with the most gunpowder, if you know what I mean. But for some reason, that statement of backwoods solidarity got me thinking. What if the trailer park was full of monsters? Hmm.

Getting lost in a city can be scary if you end up a bad neighborhood. Getting lost in rural areas means you’re not in anybody’s neighborhood. Three I&B cover from Amazonsituations made an impression on me. In one case, it was late at night, we were back home in what should have been our stomping grounds, and we missed a turn on a rural road. No problem, we had a pretty good idea of where we were, and we took the next left, expecting it to cut across. The blacktop road went from two lanes to one lane, then became a gravel road, then a dirt road. This was before GPS. I thought our odds were good of ending up in front of someone’s barn, facing a big German Shepherd and the business end of someone’s shotgun.

Now we probably would have been OK. We were on home territory, and that meant we could have played the “Do you know my parents, aunts, cousins, cousin’s sister-in-law’s aunt’s neighbor” verification-by-relative game. But it’s a scary thing bouncing down a road without street lights that isn’t on the map and where there are no signs to tell you which road you’re on if the mile markers aren’t enough for you to know. There’s a whole lot of dark emptiness out there.

Another time, we had to get off I-79 onto a detour in West Virginia because of road construction and we somehow lost the detour. This is a bad thing if you’re not from there, and we aren’t. See, there are what’s called “hollers”, or mountain valleys. There’s the front of the holler and the back of the holler. First rule: you don’t go into the holler if you don’t belong there. Second rule: you don’t come out of the back of the holler if you go in there and you don’t belong there. It was a ‘paddle faster, I hear banjos’ kind of moment.

Then there was the time I was taking my daughter back to Penn State, which is in the middle of the state and the middle of nowhere. We missed a turn (ok, maybe I shouldn’t navigate), and said ‘that’s OK, we’ve got GPS’. Yeah well. Instead of four-lane highway, we took a charming scenic detour through increasingly smaller hamlets on one-lane roads that were wavier than pan-fried bacon. I was fine with it—it was daylight, we had a full tank of gas, and it wasn’t like we were going to run into cow gangs from the wrong side of the tracks. There were even places where the cell phones kinda worked.

But my daughter, raised in Pittsburgh and Charlotte, got more and more nervous the farther we got from ‘civilization’. When I stopped for gas at a no-name station in a tiny one-traffic-light town and had to pay inside (horrors!) she actually locked the car doors until I came back. (Just because everyone in sight is wearing camo does not mean you’re in danger. Up there, they sell camo lingerie and camo baby onesies, just sayin’.) But her nervousness outside her comfort zone got my writer brain working on what makes us afraid.

Put it all together, and you get “Old Nonna,” my story for Big Bad 2.

 

Martin_WarOfShadows-TP

About the Author:

Gail Z. Martin is the author of the new epic fantasy novel War of Shadows (Orbit Books) which is Book Three in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga; Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Solaris Books); and Iron and Blood: The Jake Desmet Adventures a new Steampunk series (July 2015, Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin. She is also author of Ice Forged and Reign of Ash in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) from Orbit Books. Gail writes two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures and her work has appeared in 20 US/UK anthologies.

 

Find her at www.AscendantKingdoms.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com, on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/GailZMartin and free excerpts on Wattpad http://wattpad.com/GailZMartin.

 

Tags: , ,

Women in Horror Month – Selah Janel

Welcome back Selah Janel to talk about Women in Horror Month! For more Selah, check out her website

Although I grew up something of a scaredy-cat, admittedly I’ve always been drawn to the horror genre. I was the one always begging friends to tell me blow-by-blow details of the movies I wasn’t allowed to see, the one reading the descriptions of horror movies off boxes in video stores when my parents weren’t looking, the one who may or may not have run an underground library for R.L. Stine titles and urban legend collections out of my locker in Junior High. I think we take for granted that women seem to be designated as chainsaw fodder or final girl in the genre, when there are truthfully a lot of other roles if we keep an open mind and are open to a lot of different titles. I also don’t think it’s that unusual that women make awesome horror authors. I could give you the standard answer of how we’re emotional creatures and at the end of the day we always have to be aware while walking down the street, when we’re meeting someone new, when we have to walk away from a table and leave our drink unattended, when protecting our children, etc.

However, I think there’s another reason women of my particular generation are drawn to horror and happen to be good at it. It’s a little thing I like to call the 1980’s.

Stay with me here. Yes, the eighties were time when slasher films ruled and women’s roles tended to be reduced to victims for the most part, but that’s not what I’m talking about. To really get why my ilk are into the genre, you have to go to a whole other medium entirely: children’s cartoons.

Eighties nostalgia has gotten a lot of flak over the years. Yeah, a lot of the cartoons were made off toy lines and they weren’t always drawn very well. A lot of the Saturday morning installments didn’t even last all that long, if a whole season. What they were, however, is utterly, completely, cracked out.

Let’s just take a look at some of my early influences, eh? The first Care Bears movie features a book that could be considered a riff off the Necronomicon. Heck, the second movie contains shapeshifting demons and a variation on possession. Yes, the villains are either dealt with or reformed, but can you imagine that even existing in a theatre for four-year-olds these days? My Little Ponies had gateways to other dimensions and a dark ooze that nearly destroyed Ponyland. Rainbow Brite had her color drained on at least one occasion, a Lady Lovelylocks villain went into a deep coma-like sleep and nearly died. One of the Misfits in Jem nearly died from strange plant scratches. She-Ra was repeatedly kidnapped, drained of her powers, almost-tortured, and who knows what else. The Ewoks were forced into slavery on their cartoon at certain points, and one of the girl Ewoks learned quickly not to try to play magic to her advantage. Villains and sidekicks alike nearly had their souls sucked out in a few franchises and it was just another Saturday for all us little girls watching. For the puppet crowd, Jim Henson’s The Storyteller featured devils and heroine-beating trolls, and the Skeksis of The Dark Crystal haunted our nightmares for ages because of their soul-sucking abilities and we loved them for it. Disney regularly played cartoons from their vaults, including things like where Pluto dreams he’s been sent to hell and is tortured by a bunch of animated cat devils.

The Real Ghostbusters just plain existed. Seriously, this show was amazing for how bizarre it was until it was dumbed down for little kids. I still remember an episode where the ghostbusters got sent to another dimension where ghosts hunted people and their ghost counterparts chased them down like criminals. It was intense, mind-bending stuff. In short, beautiful.

The nineties tried, but by then everything was either taking existing franchises and turning the characters into children, or trying slightly different variations of the same ol’ same ol’. It was always strange to me that people got so freaked out about Tales from the Cryptkeeper, when things like that had been a part of my entire tender youth, and no one had complained because “they were just cartoons based on toys.”

My point is, those things were considered normal for little girls or for girls and boys alike. I admittedly question some of the gender divide, though, because I knew a lot of boys who collected She-Ra figures along with He-Man and quite a few little girls who could quote you episodes of The Real Ghost Busters. Along with all the sparkly, we regularly got our dose of freaky, otherworldly danger. In some cases, it was like Lovecraft was reincarnated as an animator. Whether this was people groping for a plot or just throwing something out there, who knows, but it gave us permission at a very young age to let our weird out and not be apologetic about it. It was okay to be villains who did whatever was necessary, to be heroes who were kind, yes, but still had to go to great lengths and nearly lose their souls to get their way. Adventures were better the more elaborate and the darker they became.

Yes, there were gender divides in the toy aisle, but in a lot of ways, girly cartoons were pretty subversive for their time, more so than a lot of the things I’ve seen these days. The plots were not always great, the art was eh, true, but the weird factor was amazing. I’ve talked to a lot of women in my age grouping who laugh and remember a lot of those episodes fondly, either because they loved them or because they were traumatized by them and now find it amusing. Some have even passed things like the original two Care Bears movies onto their own daughters. A lot of these girls graduated to appreciate Stephen King and Anne Rice alike, to not just want to be the chick who hangs out with vampires, but who had ambitions of maybe, someday, becoming the head vampire.

These days, yes, women write horror from a female standpoint at times, but I think we don’t take into consideration that that isn’t the only way we can write horror. Maybe, if we started letting our girls get a dose of weird early again, there wouldn’t be such a barrier for them to the genre. It would be just another day at the toy aisle, just another Saturday of cartoons. For those of us already grown up, yes, we definitely have different takes on the genre, and some of them will inevitably have to do with gender. However, we also have a huge universal appreciation for the dark and the bizarre. Why? Why not? After all, we were brought up that way.

Tags: , , ,