2021 Awards Eligibility

My year has been defined, above all, by big changes. I had three books published (Shelter for the Damned [February]; Darkest Hours [expanded reissue, June]; and Peel Back and See [October]), obtained agent representation through The Rights Factory, and began my PhD in Creative Writing at the University of New Brunswick. Below, I have listed all of my 2021 releases that are eligible for awards consideration.

FICTION, NOVEL (DEBUT)

Shelter for the Damned (JournalStone; February 26)

Synopsis

While looking for a secret place to smoke cigarettes with his two best friends, troubled teenager Mark discovers a mysterious shack in a suburban field. Alienated from his parents and peers, Mark finds within the shack an escape greater than anything he has ever experienced.

But it isn’t long before the place begins revealing its strange, powerful sentience. And it wants something in exchange for the shelter it provides.

Shelter for the Damned is not only a scary, fast-paced horror novel, but also an unflinching study of suburban violence, masculine conditioning, and adolescent rage.

Praise

“A full-throttle descent into visceral terror, Shelter for the Damned grabs you by the throat and never lets go. This haunting tale heralds the arrival of Mike Thorn as a horror writer to watch.”

— Jeffrey Reddick, creator of Final Destination

“A terrifying descent into suburban addiction and male shame, Shelter for the Damned is a gripping, uncanny tale cut from the same cloth as Stephen King and John Carpenter.”

— Daniel Goldhaber, director of Cam (Netflix)

“Superbly written … Deeply unnerving and unique.”

— Laurel Hightower, author of Crossroads

“Impressive is an understatement. Mike Thorn is a fresh voice in horror with a distinct vision well worth your attention.”

— John Claude Smith, author of the Bram Stoker Award® nominated Riding the Centipede

Shelter for the Damned is a genre standout, among the likes of King’s The Body.”

— Erin Emily Ann Vance, author of Advice for Taxidermists and Amateur Beekeepers

“A twisted and twisting tale of male adolescence in all its granular horror—the small resentments, the misrecognitions, the petty power plays, the inchoate longing, the misdirected rage, the unexpected violence, and, most of all, the final failure to make meaning of all this teenage chaos—so many night terrors come together in this absorbing literary horror by Mike Thorn.”

— Randy Nikkel Schroeder, author of Arctic Smoke

“Mike Thorn’s Shelter for the Damned is one of a kind—a staggeringly excellent debut by a promising new voice in horror.”

— Philip Elliott, Arthur Ellis Award® winning author of Nobody Move

“Mike Thorn’s debut novel Shelter for the Damned is a remarkable journey into suburban insanity, adolescent rage, the power of addictions, the struggle for identity, and so much more.”

— Chris Patrick Carolan, author of The Nightshade Cabal

“Mike Thorn expands upon some of the horror themes explored in his excellent story collection, Darkest Hours. At the same time, he perfectly captures both the jittery uncertainty and the banality of suburban teenage existence, in a coming-of-age story with teeth and claws.”

— S.P. Miskowski, author of the Bram Stoker Award® nominated The Worst is Yet to Come

“A lucid suburban nightmare. Richly textured, visceral and haunting, Shelter for the Damned will unearth fears you didn’t even know you had.”

— Niall Howell, author of Only Pretty Damned

“Thorn taps into the rage of suburban youth with this tale of high school friends, bullies, and parents who don’t understand.”

— Daniel Braum, author of Underworld Dreams

FICTION, SHORT STORY COLLECTION

Peel Back and See (JournalStone; October 29)

Description

In spaces both familiar and strange, unknowable horrors lurk.

From the recesses of the Internet, where cosmic terror shows its face on an endless live feed, to a museum celebrating the sordid legacy of an occultist painter, this chilling collection of sixteen short stories will plunge you into the eerie, pessimistic imagination of Mike Thorn.

Peel Back and See urges its readers to look closer, to push past surface-level appearances and face the things that stir below.

Praise

“Mike Thorn’s Peel Back and See is a stunning show-stopper of a fiction collection. Eclectic and truly unnerving, I’ll be thinking of these tales for years to come.”

— Eric LaRocca, author of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke

“Reminiscent of the very best of Lovecraft, Thorn’s ability to render internal terrors of the mind is startling in its efficiency and ruthlessness … Thorn is the real deal. A powerful and exciting new voice in horror literature. His work has teeth and can bite you. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

— Jamie Blanks, director of Urban Legend

“With Peel Back and See, Mike Thorn plants one bloody foot in the history of horror and the other firmly in its future. Thorn is a forward-thinking master of the craft and if you haven’t read his work yet, now’s the time to catch the fuck up.”

— Sam Richard, author of Sabbath of the Fox-Devils

“Mike Thorn brings his masterful skill with immersive language and style to this beautiful and disturbing collection. No two stories are the same, and each world he creates grabs the reader and pulls them into the inexorable nightmare with unmatched speed and dexterity, leaving them with a haunting fear of what they’ll find when they PEEL BACK AND SEE.”

— Laurel Hightower, author of Whispers in the Dark

“Mike Thorn remains a marvel, a pensive adult with an adolescent’s lust for the dangerously macabre. Who could resist all this literary sophistication (and illimitable intellect) awash in philosophical trauma? We love pain. Observe the victimized characters in these stories, all these souls passively sunk in crisis mode: suicide and homicide, all profoundly disturbing, and ultimately just profound, blended with wild stabs of the oddest humor. Again, who could resist?”

— Robert Dunbar, author of The Pines

“This collection bites deep, in that it truly distresses your everyday assumptions, including your assumptions about what stories can do.”

— Randy Nikkel Schroeder, author of Arctic Smoke

“Stylish, raw, and sophisticated, Peel Back and See delivers the shivers with tales of trauma and comeuppance that won’t let you look away.”

— Sarah L. Johnson, author of Suicide Stitch

“Intensely personal and expertly crafted, Mike Thorn’s second collection showcases everything from thought-provoking literary malaise to gleeful pulp – sometimes within the same story. It’s an exercise in despair told with reckless, loving abandon, refusing all labels and never failing to entertain. In Thorn we’re witnessing the machinery of an uncontainable imagination, one with the talent and gravity to back it up.”

— Daniel Barnett, author of The Nightmareland Chronicles

“My God, this guy can write. Mike Thorn’s words flow with class and style, a voice that is undeniably his own, and there is something distinctly unsettling about every story he writes.”

— James Newman, author of Ride or Die

“Mike Thorn has delivered another fantastic collection, one made up of fresh, vibrant pieces and ones showcasing just how great of a writer he has been since arriving some years ago.”

— Steve Stred, author of Ritual

FICTION, SHORT STORIES

“Vomitus Bacchanalius,” in Terrace VI: Forbidden Fruit (edited by Sarah L. Johnson and Rob Bose), The Seventh Terrace (published June 2021).

“Offer to the Adversary,” in Beyond the Book of Eibon (edited by Perry Ruhland and Astrid Rose), Death Wound Publishing (published February 2021).

NON-FICTION, ESSAY

“Lizard Brain Ouroboros: Human Antiexceptionalism in Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive and Crocodile,” in American Twilight: The Cinema of Tobe Hooper (edited by Kristopher Woofter and Will Dodson), University of Texas Press (published June 2021).

Love is Never Far from Fear: Lindsay Lerman’s I’m from Nowhere is a Very Special Novel

“Whether you think of it as heavenly or as earthly, if you love life immortality is no consolation for death.”
– Simone de Beauvoir, A Very Easy Death

To describe Lindsay Lerman’s I’m from Nowhere as a book about grief is accurate, to some degree, but it is also something of a reduction. The book brings to mind one of the most painful passages in Roland Barthes’ Mourning Diary: “Don’t say Mourning. It’s too psychoanalytic. I’m not mourning. I’m suffering.” Lerman’s book captures the magnitude of this suffering, the scarring nature of loss, the unfathomable nature of its somatic and emotional tolls. Tracing protagonist Claire’s early processing of her husband John’s premature death, this novel interlocks past and present to offer a stunning portrait of psychological ruptures, anticipatory mourning, and complex forms of libidinal desire.

Lerman expertly deploys flashbacks and interior monologue to study the imprint of memory on present experience, using Claire’s thoughts to reflect on the multifaceted nature of loss. Claire strives to comprehend the hidden corners of her deceased husband’s psyche, but Lerman beautifully demonstrates the impossibility of fully knowing another. In this sense, the book brings to mind Jacques Derrida’s The Work of Mourning, namely the philosopher’s statement that “the [deceased] friend can no longer be but in us, and whatever we may believe about living-on, according to all the possible forms of faith, it is in us that these movements might appear.” The novel explores Derridean notions of mourning through Claire’s inner questioning: “What self was there worth defending or preserving if John and his self, so mingled and fused with hers, would eventually be gone?”

Some of the book’s most painfully resonant passages arrive in its study of a relationship’s lifeline: Lerman showcases an awe-striking ability to capture love’s inchoate doubts, the transformation of passion, the essentiality of commitment and faith above all else. Love is the meeting of two subjectivities, universes of individual traumas and embodied experiences and biases and neuroses, and mutual conviction is a necessity for its survival. One chapter closes with a mournful moment of reflection, in which Claire notes that “All any of us has is each other” before sharing a simple, elegiac expression of grief-denial: “Don’t leave.

At two key moments in the novel, Claire shares the belief that “Love is never far from fear.” This statement  captures the aforementioned faith at the foundation of love, but also the inevitable and anticipatory mourning imbedded therein. Derridean scholars Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas note that, “[t]o have a friend, to call him or her by name and to be called by him or her, is already to know that one of the two of you will go first, that one will be left to speak the name of the other in the other’s absence.” Through brilliant psychological and narrative construction, Lerman accentuates this idea throughout.

The present sees Claire navigating the advances of two men, Andrew and Luke, who see opportunity in the immediate wake of John’s passing. Lerman is adept at depicting the complications of Claire’s intimate encounters: reverberating with tension, but also underscored above all by the heartbreaking need to confirm that she still exists.

This is an extremely special book, an instant favorite, and one of the few reads in recent memory that made me cry. Seek it out.

Order I’m from Nowhere.

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