“In the Event of Death” in BLACK WINGS IV

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My story, “In the Event of Death”, was published in BLACK WINGS IV (PS Publishing, 2015), a volume in the series edited by S. T. Joshi. It’s a riff on an idea from one of Lovecraft’s most famous stories, recontextualized and interpreted through my lens.

The story, in its earlier drafts, was drawn heavily from my own experiences, and though over time most of that personal material was removed, it still helped inform the story that remained. What’s most interesting is that of the material left in I can no longer be certain what was drawn from my own experiences and what was invented for the story. This is common occurrence for writers, I think, though knowing that does not dull how bizarre it is to find one’s memories bent and distorted by imagination. It also goes some distance to showing how memory is frequently fallible and untrustworthy. Perhaps that’s the true lesson in this story.

The title, by the way, is one of my favourites. It has a real “Cornell Woolrich” ring to it.

“First Miranda” in TERROR TALES OF THE OCEAN

TTs of the OceanWhen one of your favourite authors invites you to write a story for an anthology series they edit, you jump at the chance. And so it was when the incomparable Paul Finch asked me to contribute to TERROR TALES OF THE OCEAN (Gray Friar Press, 2015). My story, “First Miranda”, deals with identity and infidelity and the way simply being alive can change a person in innumerable ways.

What’s interesting about “First Miranda”, at least in my estimation, is its genesis. When I started thinking about what I might write for the book—or more accurately how I would fit in the writing of the story among the other obligations I had—I realized rather early that a smart course of action would be to rescue a story I’d written earlier that I’d never sold. And by “earlier”, I mean the first story I wrote when I decided to start sending my work out to editors. It was the first professional story I’d written, and though it was never accepted anywhere, I reread it a few years ago and thought it wasn’t as embarrassing as I predicted. A run-through with modern eyes was all that was needed to save it. Or so I told myself. It was only when I sat down to see how it could be fixed that I realized how little was salvageable. I kept the most basic of situations—a couple vacationing to save their marriage—and some of the images, but from them I crafted a new and (I hope) better tale from its ashes. I’m not sure if “The Quiet Harp” will ever see the light of day, but it was a stepping stone that led me here, so the time invested was worth it.

“On Ice” in NEW CTHULHU 2

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I was also pleased when Paula Guran selected another story from my collection, BURNT BLACK SUNS, to reprint. This time, in her sequel anthology NEW CTHULHU 2: MORE RECENT WEIRD (Prime Books, 2016).

The ideas behind “On Ice” stemmed from a science radio show on Canada’s CBC Radio. It outlined a research expedition to Miellville Island, and some of the interesting discoveries there. When I heard the story, I immediately knew it would make a great setting for a horror story, but I didn’t know what it would be. So, I saved an audio recording of the episode and let it sit on my hard drive for years until I came up with something to do with it.

It was after a lazy, inattentive reading of a story by Sarban that an idea sprung to mind. I’d fuse two different notions I had—one for the expedition, the other for a god trapped in ice—and create something that I hoped would be interesting. The piece stretched out longer than I’d initially anticipated, and much of the interaction among the researchers mutated along the way, but in the end I was pleased to be able to convey a bit of how Lovecraft inspired and continues to inspire me.

“Emotional Dues” in YEAR’S BEST DARK FICTION & FANTASY 2015

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I was very pleased to have my story “Emotional Dues”, first published in my collection, BURNT BLACK SUNS, selected for inclusion in THE YEAR’S BEST DARK FICTION & FANTASY 2015 (Prime Books, 2015).

“Emotional Dues” was a story I’d been writing for a number of years. It was originally intended for an all-novella anthology I’d been invited to, but I simply couldn’t make the story work. As sometimes is the case, my original intent for the story—more specifically, for the ending of the story—was forced to change when I reached my planned conclusion and realized the story itself wasn’t done being told. No matter how many times I came at the tale, I always hit the same roadblock. So, I put it aside for a short time. And that short time became a number of years. It was only while working on my collection, BURNT BLACK SUNS, that it occurred to me that I had a suitable addition in this piece, and I hoped that somehow I’d finally find a way to finish the story that hadn’t been clear to me before. As is evident, I think I found my way. The fact that it was selected by Paula Guran for her best-of book, and that a number of readers have reported it being a favourite story, helps convince me I made the right choice.

AICKMAN’S HEIRS, winner of the Shirley Jackson Award

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AICKMAN’S HEIRS, the anthology I edited for Undertow Publications, was the recipient of the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Edited Anthology yesterday (this announcement came minutes after it was announced that Lynda E. Rucker’s “The Dying Season”, from the same book, received the Jackson for Best Short Story). Needless to say, it was a huge honour. What follows is my hastily-prepared acceptance speech:

A famous director once said “directing is all about casting: if you pick the right cast, they do all the hard work for you”. I feel the same way about editing. You pick a good bunch of writers, and then just sit back and wait for the gold to come in. So, this award is mostly for the writers, not for me. They were all extremely enthusiastic about the idea, and turned in better material than I could have hoped for.

Thanks to the judges for not only liking the book as a whole, but for liking both Lynda’s and Nadia’s stories.

Thanks to Michael Griffin, Joe Pulver, John Langan, and all the rest who convinced me that even though someone else was planning to get to my Aickman-Inspired anthology before me, I should still move ahead with it. John, especially, was on board early with suggestions of writers outside my typical circles. 

Thanks to Michael Kelly and Undertow Publications. Mike was as excited as I was about this book every step of the way, and without his perseverance it might have just been another idea that floated away from me. What Mike is doing with Undertow over the last few years has been phenomenal, and I’m extremely proud to have this book out through his press.

And lastly I want to thank Peter Straub, who unknowingly introduced me to Robert Aickman’s work many moons ago in the pages of the anthology, Dark Voices. That was the second time he probably changed the course of my life.

You can watch the full awards ceremony here.

But that’s not all! Later that day, it was announced that AICKMAN’S HEIRS is also a finalist for the prestigious World Fantasy Award, to be given out at the World Fantasy Convention at the end of October in Columbus, OH. It made for another great honour in a great day.

For those keeping track, the book has been doing extremely well with reviewers and critics. The stories in its pages are also finding second lives in some exciting places. Here’s a list of some of the high-profile accolades that have come in so far:

  • Winner of the Shirley Jackson Award
  • Finalist for the British Fantasy Award
  • Finalist for the World Fantasy Award
  • ‘The Dying Season,’ by Lynda E. Rucker, winner of the Shirley Jackson Award
  • ‘Seven Minutes in Heaven,’ by Nadia Bulkin, Finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award
  • ‘Underground Economy,’ by John Langan, reprinted in both Best Horror of the Year and Best New Horror
  • ‘The Lake,’ by Daniel Mills, reprinted in Best New Horror
  • ‘Seaside Town,’ by Brian Evenson, reprinted in Year’s Best Weird Fiction
  • ‘Seven Minutes in Heaven,’ by Nadia Bulkin, reprinted in Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror
  • ‘Camp,’ by David Nickle, reprinted in Wilde Stories: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction

I’m very excited about how the book and its stories have been received. It’s still on sale from Undertow Publications directly, and from various online resellers. There is even a version for Kindle available at a discounted price. If you haven’t read the book yet, I hope you get a chance to do so soon.