Mike Thorn’s new short story “Deprimer” is included in Vastarien: A Literary Journal, volume 3, issue 2. Pre-order here.
I’m thrilled to announce that my new story “Offer to the Adversary” will be included in Beyond the Book of Eibon, a literary tribute anthology to the Italian horror master, Lucio Fulci!
Edited by Perry Ruhland and Astrid Rose, the book will also include contributions by Adam Cesare, Gemma Files, Orrin Grey, Michael Hoarty, Kai Perrignon, Matt Serafini, William Tea, Christopher Slatsky, and others. Featuring a foreword by Kier-La Janisse.
Daniel Braum’s new short story collection Underworld Dreams comes equipped with a Story Notes section; within these Notes, the author provides thoughtful reflections on his creative process, narrative intentions, and philosophical interests, among other things. Most prominently, Braum stresses his persisting interest in the ambiguous space between the psychological and the supernatural. Braum’s fiction inhabits this space and engages with the Weird tradition to depict our reality as innately interstitial, slippery, and impervious to “mastery.” By extension, Underworld Dreams repeatedly encourages us to scrutinize the artificial gap between human and nonhuman animals, between subject and world.
This coy, quiet, and unassuming challenge to human exceptionalism resonates throughout. The first story, “How to Stay Afloat When Drowning,” features a disturbing centerpiece in which a group of people brutally torture a shark; later, the story uses its psychological-supernatural ambiguity to blur the distinction between shark and human. “The Monkey Coat” lends attention to the suffering bound up in its titular object (the origin of whose horrors remain unknown).
Braum does not employ this symbolism to bluntly didactic ends; rather, he assesses the artificial divide between human and nonhuman animal to underline broader investigations about the human subject’s relation to the world. For example, the title story sees characters discussing acts of infidelity and dishonesty as reflections of their “monkey in the jungle” selves.
Braum cites Algernon Blackwood’s classic Weird novella The Willows in his Story Notes, and the imprint is visible: Underworld Dreams repeatedly sees its characters encountering eerily numinous spaces and reality-fissures in environments that have evaded global industrialism. Braum finds lots of potential for the ineffable in “natural” spaces, demonstrating a knack for imagery and atmosphere.
There are horrifying moments here (perhaps most notably in the aforementioned “Monkey Coat,” reportedly inspired by advice Braum got from the legendary Jack Ketchum), but this book mostly occupies Weird Fiction’s less macabre terrain. China Melville writes that the “obsession with numinosity under the everyday is at the heart of Weird Fiction,” and this is the obsession that most clearly characterizes Underworld Dreams. For readers seeking fiction with a strong narrative engine and a bold commitment to the unknown, this collection is one to seek out.
“Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to be a writer?
I can’t remember a time before I started writing. For better or worse, it has been a lifelong impulse. I was always drawn to reading, which is probably where my interest in writing originated. As a kid, I was excited by fantasy and horror (J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and R. L. Stine when I was quite young, and then Stephen King when I got a little older).”
Mike Thorn is an author and film critic who currently resides in Calgary, Alberta (mostly inside his apartment, at the moment). Thorn’s Darkest Hours, a collection of short stories, is anything but mundane. Although his writing is full of darkness and supernatural horrors, it is always rooted in something painfully human. A genre film enthusiast, Mike excels at uncovering allegorical meanings behind fantastical works of art, often rooted in depictions of trauma and hidden pasts. He also can name the top ten horror flicks from any decade at the drop of a hat; the man has lists for everything. Mike is unique in his approach to writing, as he is informed not only by his intense love for literature, but also by his extensive knowledge of cinema. He is particularly influenced and inspired by 1930s horror. Currently, Mike works as an instructor at Bow Valley College, while also keeping up with personal writing projects. Keep your eyes peeled in February 2021 for his debut novel, Shelter for the Damned.
Kathe Koja’s work has always wrestled with complex issues: the limits of agonistic art, performance/performativity, and expressions of embodiment. From her groundbreaking debut novel, The Cipher (1991), to her 1997 collection Extremities, the author often evaluates these topics through the porous boundaries of horror. Of course, it is not only Koja’s compelling thematic engagements that set her writing apart, but also her crackling, inimitable, urgent prose style.
Koja’s career-long fixations persist in her new collection, Velocities, one of the most vital, haunting, and commanding genre releases in recent years. Particularly noteworthy is the book’s interest in art (especially performance art) as a catalyst for negotiations with trauma. Two stand-out examples are “Velocity,” which sees its performance artist reliving a horrific event through his work, and “Pas de Deux,” which depicts a woman grappling with the interior catharsis of dance versus exterior demands on her body. Indeed, this tension between desires of interiority and those of embodied, physical reality (central to novels like Skin  and Strange Angels ) shows up repeatedly throughout this collection.
When dealing with Koja, one of the twentieth century’s major American horror novelists, it seems impossible to avoid the question of genre. Is Velocities a “genre” collection? Undoubtedly Koja lays bare her expertise on genre forms and modes (“The Marble Lily” might be the most convincing contemporary imitation of nineteenth-century Gothic I’ve read), but this book circumvents categorical structures at nearly every turn. Within the first couple stories, it dawned on me that Koja’s fiction is simply a genre unto itself; hers is a body of work defined by singular style. Truly, Koja’s voice is among the most distinctive and invigorating I have encountered.
Koja maximizes on that which is specific to the written medium; her wildly unique prose style delivers affective experiences that I cannot imagine transmitting fully to any other artistic form. At the same time, though, this author draws often on the tactility of performance and dance, imagining the many ways in which artistic modes can either mirror or contend with each other.
Suffice to say that Velocities is, like any other Koja book, a major event. This writer’s work has had more impact on me and my work than I can express. Time and again, her fiction has reinvigorated me and helped me to imagine the boundless literary potential of genre. It is no exaggeration to say that she is among the most important writers in horror, and a major figure in contemporary American fiction more broadly.
Randy Nikkel Schroeder’s Arctic Smoke does not simply inhabit its multiple genres, but instead interrogates the intersections and tensions between those genres’ methodologies.
“Deeply disturbing, in all the best ways.”
– Laurel Hightower, author of Whispers in the Dark
“Mike Thorn captures the essence of his characters so well in such a short space that his stories often yield the same satisfaction as reading an entire novel.”
– Erin Emily Ann Vance, author of Advice for Taxidermists and Amateur Beekeepers
Niall Howell’s Only Pretty Damned is a seriously impressive debut, showcasing a sophisticated sense of craft and a deep understanding of its genre’s genealogy. Centered on a traveling circus making its way through the unforgiving environs of post-WWII America and Canada, Damned is steeped in richly detailed sociohistorical texture.
Advice for Taxidermists and Amateur Beekeepers, by Erin Emily Ann Vance (2019)
And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, by Gwendolyn Kiste (2017)
Arctic Smoke, by Randy Nikkel Schroeder (2019)
Autobiography of Childhood, by Sina Queyras (2011)
Burqa of Skin, by Nelly Arcan (2011)
The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, by Thomas Ligotti (2011)
Daddy Love, by Joyce Carol Oates (2013)
A Dark Matter, by Peter Straub (2010)
Full Dark, No Stars, by Stephen King (2010)
Full-Metal Indigiqueer, by Joshua Whitehead (2017)
Home, by Toni Morrison (2011)
Horror of Philosophy, vols. 1-3, by Eugene Thacker (2011-2015)
Monoceros, by Suzette Mayr (2011)
Oil on Water, by Helon Habila (2010)
On an Ungrounded Earth: Towards a New Geophilosophy, by Ben Woodard (2013)
Only Pretty Damned, by Niall Howell (2019)
Open City, by Teju Cole (2011)
Point Omega, by Don DeLillo (2010)
Son of a Trickster, by Eden Robinson (2017)
Strange is the Night, by S. P. Miskowski (2017)
The Streets, by Robert Dunbar (2015)
The Thing: A Phenomenology of Horror, by Dylan Trigg (2014)
What is Not Yours is Not Yours, by Helen Oyeyemi (2016)
Where the Sun Shines Best, by Austin Clarke (2013)
The Wilderness Within, by John Claude Smith (2017)
4:44 Last Day on Earth, dir. Abel Ferrara (2011)
Almayer’s Folly, dir. Chantal Akerman (2011)
The Assassin, dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien (2015)
Bitter Money, dir. Wang Bing (2016)
Blackhat, dir. Michael Mann (2015)
Cityscape, dir. Michael Snow (2019)
Cosmopolis, dir. David Cronenberg (2012)
Crazy Horse, dir. Frederick Wiseman (2011)
Djinn, dir. Tobe Hooper (2013)
J. Edgar, dir. Clint Eastwood (2011)
Jauja, dir. Lisandro Alonso (2014)
Journey to the Shore, dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa (2015)
Knock Knock, dir. Eli Roth (2015)
Like Someone in Love, dir. Abbas Kiarostami (2012)
The Lords of Salem, dir. Rob Zombie (2012)
Mekong Hotel, dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2012)
The Other Side of the Wind, dir. Orson Welles (2018)
People That Are Not Me, dir. Hadas ben Aroya (2016)
Shutter Island, dir. Martin Scorsese (2010)
Stemple Pass, dir. James Benning (2012)
Three Landscapes, dir. Peter B. Hutton (2013)
A Touch of Sin, dir. Jia Zhangke (2013)
Twin Peaks: The Return, dir. David Lynch (2017)
Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey, dir. Terrence Malick (2016)
★, by David Bowie (2016)
Bring on the Sun, by Laraaji (2017)
Circle the Wagons, by Darkthrone (2010)
Concrete Desert, by The Bug vs Earth (2017)
Conversations with Myself, by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma (2011)
Conversion, by Jacob Kirkegaard (2013)
Copper Lock Hell, by Khost (2014)
Destiny Calls, by Chevalier (2019)
Ett, by Klara Lewis (2014)
Every Day I Get Closer to the Light From Which I Came, by Jesu (2013)
Firepower, by Judas Priest (2018)
Heaven Upside Down, by Marilyn Manson (2017)
Lost Themes II, by John Carpenter (2016)
Lulu, by Lou Reed & Metallica (2011)
NV, by Gnaw Their Tongues & Dragged Into Sunlight (2015)
Ornitheology, by Chubby Wolf (2010)
A Paean to Wilson, by The Durutti Column (2010)
Post Self, by Godflesh (2017)
Posthuman, by JK Flesh (2012)
Pylon, by Killing Joke (2015)
Skeleton Keys, by Steve Roach (2015)
Tempest, by Bob Dylan (2012)
Universal Themes, by Sun Kil Moon (2015)
Utilitarian, by Napalm Death (2012)
Yeezus, by Kanye West (2013)