How I Spent December 2022


Like a lot of people, I spent a good chunk of my time this month thinking about 2023.

I’m hoping to step up my fiction-writing next year. A month or so ago I decided to do a little story-writing every day — even if all I put down was a couple of lines — and so far, I’ve been able to keep it up. I’m actually quite annoyed with myself for not starting sooner, as I’m expecting to see a real boost to my productivity. No more excuses: I want to see my stories coming along thicker and faster from now on.

I also have two non-fiction books in the works that have been taking longer than I would’ve liked. I’m hoping — hoping — to have both of them finished off in the early months of the new year.

As for other projects, well… it’s a safe bet that the next issue of Midnight Widows will be out next year. I might also have the script for a short film finished, too. And who knows what other opportunities await me…?

Articles of mine published elsewhere this month:

Article topics for January 2023 and beyond:


An Ongoing History of Vampire Literature


Two of my blogging projects this year, Nosferatu’s Kindred and Carmilla’s Kindred, were each parts of a wider off-and-on project I’ve had for a while about the history of vampire literature. Here’s how far I’ve gotten in terms of chronicling the long period I’ve come to think of as the anteRicean era:

Werewolf Wednesday: Pre-Victorian Lycanthropes (1835)

This week’s werewolf tidbit comes from David Booth’s Analytical Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1835, which talks about werewolves as part of an entry on wolves in general. The section is brief, but notable for being comparatively early: Sabine Baring-Gould’s influential book on werewolves would not be published until thirty years later.

One detail that stands out is that the author associates werewolves with grave desecration, an aspect of lycanthrope lore that is not particularly prominent these days, and consequently connects them to the ghouls of the Arabian Nights.

The animal of which we now speak has his part in classical fiction. Lupus, the Wolf, is one of the southern Constellations; and Lycaon was changed into a Wolf, when, at the termination of the age of Gold, Astrea ascended into heaven. Romulus and Remus were suckled by a She-wolf.

In the annals of superstition, a certain species of insanity, in which the patients are said to have imagined themselves transformed into Wolves, has the medical name of Lycanthropy; from the Greek lycos, a wolf, and anthropus, a man. This supersititon was also prevalent among the Gothic nations; for the Werewolf (Man-wolf) was a bugbear of general belief.

In latter times the Werewolves were considered as Sorcerers, who frequented Church-yards and fed upon human bodies, which they seized either alive or dead. They were connected with the Devil, who enabled them to assume the shape of Wolves, that they might the more easily gratify their horrid propensity. Men suspected of this practice were persecuted and tortured in Germany as later as the close of the sixteenth century; and we find that a similar superstition had prevailed in other nations. The Loup-garou of the French is the same monster; and the Goule of the Arabian Nights visited nightly the graves of the dead, to feed on human flesh. See Vampire.

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca


The World Wide Web has given a valuable new toolbox to anyone writing epistolary fiction. Yes, these tools can be used poorly: look no further than the criticism heaped upon J. K. Rowling’s use of social media posts in The Ink Black Heart. But when put to good use, the online epistolary has the potential to capture a genuine directness and rawness – chatroom conversations tend to be more to-the-point than the Victorian letter-writers portrayed by Collins and Stoker, after all. And, in a novella like this, the form is also an ideal way to explore the seedy underbelly of Internet culture.

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke comprises a series of email exchanges and instant messenger conversations between two women, Agnes Petrella and Zoe Cross. The pair meet on innocuous enough terms, with Agnes posting on an LGBT forum to sell an antique apple peeler and Zoe being sufficiently intrigued by the item’s colourful history that she agrees to buy.

Continue readingThings Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca”

Werewolf Wednesday: Olaus Magnus on Lycanthropy (1555)

Christmas is nearly upon us, and I decided to celebrate with an appropriately festive piece of werewolf folklore. The source this time is Olaus Magnus’ 1555 book Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus (A Description of the Northern Peoples), chapters 45-7 of which discuss lycanthropy. If any of this seems familiar, then chances are you’ve read Sabine Baring-Gould’s summary.

Olaus Magnus begins the section by citing Pliny’s description of a race of wolves descended from men that can be found in lands to the north. He then moves on to Prussia, Livonia and Lithuania where, we are told, substantial loss of livestock to wolves is a common problem The wolves responsible are not just any animals: rather, they are men who have been transformed.

On the night of the feast of the Nativity of Christ, says Olaus Magnus, a great number of these wolves arrive from disparate places to gather together in a location that they have chosen. They then terrorise human and animal alike, even trying to break down doors so that they can consume the occupants and any household pets. Meat is not the only substance on their minds: these wolves are also fond of entering the cellars of beer-makers and indulging in alcohol. This trait, we are told, is what distinguishes them from natural wolves.

Continue reading “Werewolf Wednesday: Olaus Magnus on Lycanthropy (1555)”

A Roll of the Dice by Matt Shaw (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)


The prolific Matt Shaw previously played with non-linear storytelling in A Christmas to Remember, which was modelled on the format of the Choose Your Own Adventure series. With A Roll of the Dice, he uses a variation on the concept in which each branch of the story is decided not by the reader’s choice but by pure chance.

The narrative opens with the protagonist – a workplace pariah surrounded by the jeers of his colleagues – preparing for a date. But then he starts to have second thoughts, and he decides to roll a dice to choose whether or not to go ahead. This is where the book’s high concept comes into play: you, the reader, will need to roll a dice to decide for him.

Rolling one, the book informs you, will put the protagonist in a “no hope” scenario. Roll a two or a three and he will head off on his date. Roll between three and six, and the main character will settle for a quiet night home alone with his dog, telling himself that his date would “only be disappointed when she saw me.” Then the dog starts talking to him, and he pulls out some lubricant for a spot of bestiality.

Continue readingA Roll of the Dice by Matt Shaw (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)”

Werewolf Wednesday: Homo Homini Lupus (1655)

Screenshot_20221214-120903_Samsung Internet

This week’s werewolf tidbit comes from Epistolae Ho-Elianae (Familiar Letters), specifically the collected edition of 1655. The volume is a compilation of letters (“Partly Historicall, partly Politicall, Partly Philosophicall”)  written by the historian James Howell.

One letter, purportedly sent by Howell in 1644 (I say “purportedly” as a long-running dispute surrounds the question of whether or not Howell fabricated his own correspondence), touches upon the topic of mental health. Towards the end of the letter, Howell uses lycanthropy as an analogy — giving us an idea of how the concept might have been discussed in the seventeenth century.

To Sir Ed. Sa. Knight.

Wer ther a Physitian that could cure the maladies of the mind, as well as those of the body, he needed not to with the Lord Major, or the Pope for his unkle, for he should have Patients without number; It is true, that ther be som distempers of the mind that proceed from those of the body, and so are cureable by Drugs and Dyets; but ther are others that are quite abstracted from all corporeall impressions, and are merely mental; these kind of Agonies are the more violent of the two, for as the one use to drive us into Fevers, the other precipitate us oftentimes into Frenzies; And this is the ground I believe, which made the Philosopher think, that the rational soul was infus’d into man, partly for his punishment, and the understanding for his executioner, unless wisdom sit at the Helm, and steer the motions of his Will.

Continue reading “Werewolf Wednesday: Homo Homini Lupus (1655)”

Talia by Daniel J. Volpe (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)


Talia is a young actress whose dreams of stardom led her to the theatre – after which came heavy debts that led her to a small film studio. Her new job is not quite what she had in mind: the studio, which has connections to the mob, specialises in hardcore BDSM porn. Talia’s role here involves slipping into dominatrix gear and, alongside fellow performer Simone, subjecting a succession of male porn actors to various forms of violent degradation.

The porn films are assembled by a motley crew of grotesques, headed by predatory director Mike Malone. Working alongside him is his similarly depraved scriptwriter Nathan (“Nathan turned on the charm, of which he had none. His last three sexual encounters had been with prostitutes and the one prior to that had been with his dog, Sandy”). Also involved are Nico, Luke and Tommy, the so-called “three amigos” tasked with tying up loose ends after shooting wraps. Finally, we have Salvatore “Sally” Testa, an unrepentant necrophile who acts as go-between with the mob.

Continue readingTalia by Daniel J. Volpe (2022 Splatterpunk Awards)”