Horror & Dark Fantasy

COSMIC POWERS

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Dec. 2013 (Issue 15)

This month, we have original fiction from Sam J. Miller (“57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides”) and David J. Schow (“A Home in the Dark”), along with reprints by Connie Willis (“Distress Call”) and Conrad Williams (“The Owl). We also have the latest installment of our column on horror, “The H Word,” plus author spotlights with our authors, a showcase on our cover artist, and a feature interview with master of horror Joe R. Lansdale.

In This Issue: Dec. 2013 (Issue 15)

Editorial

Editorial, December 2013

This month, we have original fiction from Sam J. Miller (“57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides”) and David J. Schow (“A Home in the Dark”), along with reprints by Connie Willis (“Distress Call”) and Conrad Williams (“The Owl). We also have the latest installment of our column on horror, “The H Word,” plus author spotlights with our authors, a showcase on our cover artist, and a feature interview with master of horror Joe R. Lansdale.

Fiction

57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides

1. Because it would take the patience of a saint or Dalai Lama to smilingly turn the other cheek to those six savage boys day after day, to emerge unembittered from each new round of psychological and physical assaults; whereas I, Jared Shumsky, aged sixteen, have many things, like pimples and the bottom bunk bed in a trailer, and clothes that smell like cherry car air fresheners, but no particular strength or patience.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Sam J. Miller

As a reader and a writer, I approach unconventional structures with extreme caution, and perhaps a bit of prejudice. A formal conceit really needs to be earned, and I often find that quirky structures are there partially to distract from a story’s other deficits. But then I’ll find an amazing story that really could not be told any other way, and I’ll happily ditch my bias. My Clarion classmate, Carmen Maria Machado, used a similarly unconventional structure for her brilliant story “Inventory,” published in Strange Horizons, and it reminded me that you can use that kind of format to highlight what’s structured out of the story—in the case of “57 Reasons,” the way the narrator’s selfish and single-minded pursuit of revenge blinds him to the reality of the situation, and his own guilt and responsibility.

Fiction

Distress Call

Caroline was not in the room. Amy could hear her crying somewhere down the hall. Her crying sounded louder, as though some other, all-pervading sound had suddenly ceased. “The engines have stopped,” Amy thought. “We are dead in the water. Something has happened,” she thought. “Something terrible.”

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Connie Willis

I’ve been in love with the sinking of the Titanic since I read Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember when I was fifteen. It has everything—horror, pathos, redemption, courage, appalling decisions, irony. Or as the Onion said in one of its great historical deadlines: WORLD’S LARGEST METAPHOR SINKS. It also has calls for help that aren’t heard, rescue that comes too late, drowning children, self-sacrifice—all the elements of a ghost story. I guess you could call “Distress Call” sort of a first attempt at capturing something of the feeling that the Titanic gave me. When I wrote it, I had no intention of returning to the theme and certainly not of writing a whole novel on the subject, but the Titanic and its meaning continued to nag at me through the years, and eventually resulted in Passage.

Nonfiction

The H Word: Babes in the Wilderness

Some years ago I left Alaska, land of my birth. Since then I’ve dwelt in the cities and farmland of the Pacific Northwest, and deep in the mountains of western Montana. At the moment, the trail has led a long and winding way to upstate New York, about as far as one can migrate east and still dwell within the continental U.S.

Fiction

The Owl

Walk continuously around a tree with an owl in it: the owl will keep its eye on you until it has wrenched off its own head. He couldn’t remember where the words had come from, but he knew they were old and the last time he had heard them he could have been little more than five years of age.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Conrad Williams

In 2002, my wife and I bought a crumbling, old (but very beautiful) farmhouse in southwest France, near Cognac. The first time we were shown around the place by the estate agent, we found a dead owl in the attic. Owls lived in a number of the outbuildings and you could hear them at night when they went out hunting. We’d done a lot of driving around in search of the perfect property, and on some of the roads were these “fantômes,” black, person-sized cut-outs that stood at the edge of the tarmac, signifying a death by road traffic accident. Pretty sobering. Some of them had jagged red fractures in their heads. The story came out of those two elements.

Artist Showcase

Artist Showcase: Lukasz Jaszak

Łukasz Jaszak is a thirty-six-year-old self-taught photographer and graphic designer living and working in Krakow, Poland. He made his start in this dark discipline when approached to do album art for a friend’s metal band, eventually doing work for acts like Blood Red Throne, Decapitated, The Vision Bleak, Vomitory, and Behemoth. A visual perfectionist who enjoys making something from nothing, Jaszak cuts no corners: for his photoshoots, every item is carefully selected or created, right down to building his own sets and performing taxidermy for animal props. This stringency aside, Jaszak does not force himself to produce, but waits for his twisted muse to come to him. His work can be found at www.jaszak.net.

Fiction

A Home in the Dark

We didn’t even notice the calamity and probably slept through it. If a luxury liner takes on a little water, that’s not news; if the ship keels over or sinks, that’s news. If a racecar driver whined to national media about a slight rear-end shimmy at 180mph, he’d be laughed out of the pit, whereas if he crashed and made a fireball, it would be noteworthy on the old daily feed. Most Southern California quakes are akin to one misstep while strolling.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: David J. Schow

Q: In “A Home in the Dark,” the horror seems to be more about the stifling and destructive lifestyle of the narrator than the creature in the canyon. Was that your intent? A: It is an interior story about an exterior event, which casts the reliability of the narrator into deep doubt. This follows a more vintage horror form—a detailed rendering of a single event leading to what Poe called the “effect” (the essence of horror), which may be a fever dream or hallucination.

Nonfiction

Interview: Joe R. Lansdale

Few writers can authentically claim to be their own distinct genre, but there’s no question that Joe R. Lansdale is a category unto himself. He’s written award-winning horror, mystery, suspense, westerns, graphic novels and comics, media tie-ins, screenplays, and mainstream literature, yet each new work fits recognizably into the East Texas-slang-filled, fast-paced, fluid storytelling style that defines the Joe R. Lansdale genre. His most recent works include the novel The Thicket (which critics have compared to some of Mark Twain’s books), and the feature film Christmas With the Dead, which Lansdale’s son Keith adapted from Joe’s short story of the same name (Lansdale also served as producer on the film). Lansdale’s novel Cold in July has also recently been adapted into a movie starring Michael C. Hall, Don Johnson, and Sam Shepard.