Toxic Love by Kristopher Triana (2020 Splatterpunk Awards)

54272456._SY475_Mike Ashbrook is struggling in life: his wife divorced him, he boss fired him, and his two daughters – one a teenager, the other approaching that point – are growing away from him. He has to find new work, not an easy task as a 45-year-old with no collage degree. He settles for becoming a janitor, and even then he draws the shortest straw: his new job involves cleaning up human remains. Picking out the shattered skull fragments of a man who committed suicide with a gun to his mouth, mopping up the blood of murder victims – all in a day’s work for Mike.

But things take a more positive turn when Mike meets his new co-worker: a beautiful young woman named Sage (“She looked like she should be selling lingerie, not filling up blood buckets”). At first, Mike believes that the gruesome task will be too much for her, especially given that their first job together is in a bedroom where two children were brutally murdered. But to his surprise and dismay, Sage finds the prospect utterly exciting: “She sounded like a kid seeing Star Wars for the first time. There was no shock or disgust, no horror, only childlike wonder.”

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How I Spent July 2020

EZM0ug2XgAM-aONAs I type this, I’ve recently returned from my first trip to my local comics shop since the lockdown began. It was a five-mile walk there and back in 29 degrees so I’m a little puffed, but boy does it feel good to regain some semblance of the antediluvian ways.

As for the rest of the month, the big happening for me was the release of my Omega Factor tie-in novel Divinity, available in audiobook-only form read by Louise Jameson. I tried to ensure that it would be enjoyable even to people unfamiliar with the original 1979 TV series, so if you haven’t done so already, check it out.

Other than that, much of my July was spent on doing Hugo Award reviews for WWAC and Splatterpunk Award reviews for this blog. Now that those are mostly finished, I’m looking forward to having time for other projects next month.
Until then…

Articles of mine published elsewhere this month:

Article topics for August and beyond:

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July 2020: A Month in Horror

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Aside from the internet becoming abuzz with presidentially-approved doctor Stella Immanuel’s claim that certain medical conditions are caused by demonic ejaculations, the main news in horror this month was a spate of awards.

Amongst these were the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards which had some horror winners. Best Series went to the Cthulhu Mythos, which has prompted yet another round of Twitter debate about H. P. Lovecraft’s legacy. Meanwhile, two films about hauntings – The Curse of the Cat People and The Canterville Ghost – were tied in the Best Dramatic Presentation category. Looking at the detailed stats, I couldn’t help but notice that Aleister Crowley’s occult text The Book of Thoth was a contender for Best Related Work, and even got more nomination votes than that category’s eventual winner (Leigh Brackett’s essay “The Science Fiction Field”). Alas, the judges disqualified Crowley’s opus on the grounds that it was insufficiently relevant to SF.

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Werewolf Wednesday: Cry of the Werewolf 

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In the latest post in my Killer Horror Critic series on the history of werewolf cinema I’m looking at a number from 1944 called Cry of the Werewolf, notable as the earliest surviving film to feature a female lycanthrope…

Past instalments:

Killer Lake by David Benton and W. G. Gagliani (2020 Splatterpunk Awards)

50817838._SX318_SY475_More than twenty years ago, a group of devil-worshippers led by a man claiming descent from Aleister Crowely performed a human sacrifice in the name of their dark god Asmodeus. Decades later, teenage friends Mandi, Anna and Krystal – accompanied by Danny, maladjusted nephew of Mandi’s old parapsychology professor – head to the coven’s stomping ground of Killdeer Lake. Unaware of the area’s dark history (the local nickname of Killer Lake is merely surfer-dude slang, they are assured) the girls hope to spend time with a bevy of sexy and wealthy young men.

The characters may be heading off the beaten track, but the reader knows full well that they are not straying too far from Hollywood: Killer Lake unabashedly evokes the atmosphere of eighties teen horror films. The main characters are a glamorous lot straight out of a tinseltown backlot (“her half-shirt exposed her impressive abdominal muscles, not to mention the lower part of her breasts”) with even Danny, the socially awkward boy treated as a pariah by most of the others, described as being rather hot. The threshold between normalcy and danger is marked by a run-down shop containing one of those eccentric old men who pop up in horror films to warn youngsters away, but our protagonists nonetheless cross over in the hopes of finding hedonistic delights (“Krystal wasn’t shy, grabbing their dicks under the murky water’s surface as they swam by. It’s like fishin’ for dick!”).

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The New Flesh (2020 Splatterpunk Awards)

52883162._SX318_SY475_The New Flesh: A Literary Tribute to David Cronenberg is an anthology themed around (but not officially endorsed by) the director whose oeuvre includes the likes of Videodrome, Scanners, Rabid, Crash and eXistenZ. None of the stories are adaptations in the literal sense, but all draw inspiration from Cronenberg’s recurring motifs.

The first few entries do a thorough job of setting the stage. Brian Evenson’s “A Bad Patch” is about a man who finds his stomach swelling, almost as though he is pregnant. He begins wearing his dead wife’s clothes for comfort – but the faceless corporation that employs him shows little sympathy for his condition. “Red Lips in a Blue Light” by Sara Century follows the daily life of a TV presenter and bit by bit unveils the surreal, oppressive and ultimately artificial nature of her existence. C. M. Muller ‘s “Descrambler” is a Videodrome-influenced story set in the era of VHS, about a young horror fan who watches a mysterious video that subsequently allows him to see a species of strange extra-dimensional creature.

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