How I Spent August 2021

It’s been another month of writing for me, and I’m pelased to say that things are going well. I’ve sent off the second draft of the script I’m working on, my novel is just a few nose-to-the-grindstone days from becoming a complete draft itself, and my annual Hugo Award review series is well underway (I’ve already covered the short stories). I’ve also been in talks with Marcela Hauptvogelova about another comic project: suffice to say, I’m very happy with the character designs she’s turned in…

Articles published elsewhere this month:

Article topics for September and beyond:

August 2021: A Month in Horror


If my Twitter feed is anything to go by, the most talked-about horror film of the month is the new version of Candyman, which has clocked up 85% at Rotten Tomatoes. In an ordinary year I’d have rushed out to the cinema to see it, but this year — well. Hopefully I’ll be able to see it soon.

Of course, if we use a slightly broader definition of “horror”, then Candyman loses its most-talked-about title to The Suicide Squad. Certainly, some found it horrific, as evidenced by a certain “superversive” tweet that went viral for the wrong reasons.

In award news, this month saw Killercon Austin take place, and with it the Splatterpunk Awards. Wile E. Young’s The Magpie Coffin took Best Novel. Other winners were Samantha Kolesnik, whose novella True Crime and edited anthology Worst Laid Plans each won; and Silver Shamrock, a publisher represented by Wesley Southard’s short story “My Body” and Ronald Kelly’s collection The Essential Sick Stuff. The judges’ impartiality was apparently unaffected by the recent controversy in which Silver Shamrock managed to annoy a significant chunk of the horror community through its flip-flopping stance on trigger warnings.

The Shirley Jackson Awards were also handed out. The big winner was Stephen Graham Jones, who won in the novel and novella categories for The Only Good Indians and Night of the Mannequins respectively. The other winners were J. Ashley-Smith’s novelette “The Attic Tragedy”, R. A. Busby’s short story “Not the Man I Married”, Kathe Koja’s collection Velocities: Stories and the anthology Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women.

Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers: Another Chapter Published

If you’re a subscriber to my Patreon, you can now read the second published chapter of my work-in-progress book Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers. Having taken an in-depth look at the decidedly mixed reception to Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” I’m now examining some of the other short-form SF stories that got caught up in the culture war. My main case studies are Kij Johnson’s “Mantis Wives”, Brooke Bolander’s “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies”, the flash fiction sections in Lightspeed‘s “Women Destroy Science Fiction!”, “Queers Destroy Science Fiction!” and “People of Colo[u]r Destroy Science Fiction!” anthologies, and the equivalent section in Sci Phi Journal. This chapter is shorter than the first, but still pretty hefty: I started with a 730-word WWAC review of the Bolander story, and spun it into an 8000-word essay.

If you’re not already a subscriber to my Patreon, then sign up today! Additional perks include free copies of my comic Midnight Widows and the opportunity to have yourself drawn as a cryptid, like Bonnie McDaniel here:


Congratulations to the 2021 Splatterpunk Award Winners!

I’m a little late in posting this, given that the awards were presented a week ago, but I’ve only just finished reviewing the books. So, let’s wrap things up with a complete list…


Continue reading “Congratulations to the 2021 Splatterpunk Award Winners!”

Tome by Ross Jeffery (2021 Splatterpunk Awards)

Juniper2TomeTome begins with Jasper, an incarcerated serial killer, hearing a voice that compels him to bash his brains out on the wall of his cell. When prison guard Frank Whitten sees the gruesome result of this act, his immediate response is to call out “We’ve got another one!”

Clearly, something sinister is afoot.

This is the sequel to Ross Jeffery’s novella Juniper (also on the Splatterpunk Award ballot) and takes place in the fictional town of that book’s title. This time, however, we see a different area of Juniper. While the original novella treated us to the (already harrowing) sight sight of what went on in the burning sun of boa daylight, Tome takes us to the darker corners, introducing us to the people so bad that even Juniper places them behind bars.

Readers will be introduced to Antonio, a gargantuan child-molester; Henry Crumb, leader of a Neo-Nazi group called the Sisters whose situation has driven them to homosexuality; and Klein, a wife-beater who “hadn’t been aiming to leave a bloody mess of a woman, he’d been planning to leave a bloody corpse of a woman” (Klein’s wife Janet is a central character in Juniper, making him one of the few direct connections between the two books).

The authorities are scarcely better than the criminal underworld. Tome emphasises racism as a particularly grave evil, one embodied by the character of Hezekiah Fleming. A warden at the prison, Fleming is an avowed racist; his office has a taxidermied woodchuck holding a Confederate flag, and he fits right into a prison where a pulley arm once used for hanging slaves is still on display. He receives the opponent of his nightmares in the form of Dolores Fink, sent by the Correctional Investigation team of the US Marshal Office to investigate the suspicious deaths. Being black, she is an immediate object of Fleming’s hostility; but despite all of his efforts, she appears impossible to intimidate. Desperate to do away with her, Fleming makes a deal with the convicts he is supposedly trying to keep in line.

Continue readingTome by Ross Jeffery (2021 Splatterpunk Awards)”

Gone to See the River Man by Kristopher Triana (2021 Splatterpunk Awards)

GoneToSeeTheRiverManLori, an aspiring true crime writer, is engaged in correspondence with a convicted serial killer named Edmund Cox. Ostensibly she hopes to wring a book deal out of her communications with the murderer, but her interest in Cox is far more than merely professional, as she feels a deep emotional bond with him: “In conversations with those who took life, Lori no longer felt dead inside. Killers, of all people, made her feel alive.” She even visits him in prison, where he makes a peculiar request. He asks her to visit an old hideout of his – a riverside shack never traced by the authorities – where she will find a key. This, Cox explains, she must take to The River Man. He gives no more information about this personage: no proper name, no address, no explanation as to what he would want with the key. All he says is that, if Lori follows his directions, she and The River Man shall meet.

Devoted to the serial killer, Lori agrees to carry out this strange task. Against her wishes, however, she is accompanied on the journey by her sister Abby. Although the elder of the two, Abby has a mental handicap brought on by a childhood injury and requires Lori as a caregiver; the very notion of being left alone sends Abby into a fit, prompting Lori to take her along after all. More interested in cartoons and musicals than the news or true crime books, Abby has no idea of Edmund’s crimes: to her, he is simply her sister’s boyfriend. As for the identity of The River Man, meanwhile, both sisters are in the dark – until they finally meet him.

Gone to See the River Man is one of three books by Kristopher Triana to appear on the 2021 Splatterpunk Award ballot (see also Blood Relations and They All Died Screaming) and once again, it is built around the core theme of warped relationships Protagonist Lori forms the trunk of an entire family tree of relationships gone wrong: as the novel unfolds, her crush on a convicted serial killer turns out to be comparatively normal.

Continue readingGone to See the River Man by Kristopher Triana (2021 Splatterpunk Awards)”

Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 2

ReynoldsMiscLast week I started a trip through George W. M. Reynolds’ sprawling nineteenth-century werewolf novel Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf. The prologue introduced the titular lycanthrope, while the first two chapters depicted thus far unrelated intrigue in a noble household. So, let us see where chapter three takes us…

Nisida, deaf-mute daughter of the reecently-deceased Count of Riverola, has decided to open a closet forbidden to be opened by any but her brother on his wedding day. Inside she finds something that makes her recoil with horror, along with a manuscript which, when read, sends her “grinding her teeth with demoniac rage”, although the exact details are kept from the reader. Aghast at the contents, Nisida decides to put the manuscript back: “she repaired with the lamp to her brother’s room—purloined the key a second time—hastened to the chamber of death—opened the closet again—and again sustained the shock of a single glance at its horrors, as she returned the manuscript to the place whence she had originally taken it.”

Continue reading “Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 2″