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Behind the Stories of THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR VOL. 7 edited by Ellen Datlow (Part 1)

Thanks to the folks at Night Shade Books, we’ve got a series of guest posts featuring the authors of The Best Horror of the Year Vol. 7. Each gives us a glimpse into the how and why of each story. Enjoy!

About The Best Horror of the Year Vol. 7:

A sin-eater plies the tools of her dangerous trade; a jealous husband takes his rival on a hunting trip; a student torments one of his teachers; a cheap grafter is selling artifacts form hell; something is haunting the departure lounge of an airport . . .

The Best Horror of the Year showcases the previous year’s best offerings in short fiction horror. This edition includes award-winning and critically acclaimed authors Laird Barron, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Nathan Ballingrud, Genevieve Valentine, and more.

For over three decades, award-winning editor and anthologist Ellen Datlow has had her finger on the pulse of the latest and most terrifying in horror writing. Night Shade Books is proud to present the seventh volume in this annual series, a new collection of stories to keep you up at night.

See the anthology’s table of contents for the awesome lineup.

On to the posts!


GEMMA FILES

Former film critic and teacher turned horror author Gemma Files is best-known for her Weird Western Hexslinger series: A Book of Tongues, A Rope of Thorns and A Tree of Bones, all from ChiZine Publications.

She has also published two collections of short fiction, Kissing Carrion and The Worm in Every Heart, two chapbooks of speculative poetry and a linked story-cycle, We Will All Go Down Together: Stories of the Five-Family Coven.

In 1999, she won the International Horror Guild Best Short Fiction award for her story “The Emperor’s Old Bones.” Her next novel, Experimental Film, will be available from CZP by the end of 2015.

“This Is Not for You” was originally published in the Ellen Datlow edited Women Destroy Horror issue of Nightmare Magazine

With “This Is Not For You,” I wanted to write something I hadn’t seen since Elizabeth Hand’s “The Bacchae,” which was a Maenad story–a story in which women band together and attack men while enveloped in an ecstatic religious frenzy, punishing them for intruding on their sacred rituals by ripping them apart, thus flipping the usual victim/predator matrix a lot of horror falls into. After some research, however, I decided to base the plot not around the worshippers of a male-identified god like Dionysus but on one of the more obscure yet even more intensely female-identified mystery cults–in this case, one which worships Persephone as the actual Cthonian goddess of death and the underworld, rather than just the god Hades’s wife.

As I told Nightmare magazine back when they first published it (in their Women Destroy Horror! issue), mythology is something that’s fascinated me since childhood, especially the ways in which societal power-shifts can cause myths to mutate. Go back far enough, for example, and you’ll see that Persephone pre-dates both Hades and Dionysus, her earlier phase far more reminiscent of goddesses like Ereshkigal, Tiamat, and Cerridwen–an overpowering mother-goddess figure who embraces both death and life, the generative and destructive powers. (We see a similar pattern with the de-evolution of the goddess Hera, now mainly known as “Zeus’s jealous wife,” who once encompassed all the apparently conflicting traits later parcelled out to subsidiary sister-wife and daughter goddesses like Artemis, Demeter, and Athena.)

My friend Claire Humphrey points out that writing any story is inherently political, especially when you’re a woman writing horror, which is a position I admire, though I rarely think of myself assuming it. When I heard about Women Destroy Horror!, however, I made a very conscious decision to reach for/pursue the most extreme thing that immediately occurred to me…and this was it: a conscious response to male-on-female violence as embodied at one extreme by the YouTube Manifesto shooting spree, at the other by the routine invasion of women-only “safe spaces” by guys yelling “Not all men!” But because I think predation is a human quality, not a sex-linked one, I also wanted to explore the use of religion as one way in which people in general give themselves permission to other and destroy, ostensibly in the service of something larger than themselves, but possibly in the service of their own impulses. And while I can’t say the potential repercussions didn’t scare me a bit, people’s overall reaction to the piece has been very positive indeed. One way or the other, I’m very proud to have written it.


STEPHEN GRAHAM JONES

Stephen Graham Jones is the author of fifteen novels and six short story collections. The most recent are Not for Nothing, After the People Lights Have Gone Off, and, with Paul Tremblay, Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly.

Jones has more than two hundred stories published, many reprinted in best of the year annuals. He’s won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for fiction, the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, and an NEA fellowship in fiction. He teaches in the MFA programs at CU Boulder and UCR–Palm Desert.

He lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and kids. For more information: demontheory.net or you can find him on twitter: @SGJ72.

“Chapter Six” was originally published on Tor.com June 11.

If you ever see me just sitting in a chair in an airport, and I’m not reading a book, and I’m not writing, then chances are I’m thinking about early man. Our hominid ancestors occupy a lot of real estate in my head. There’s so many questions—why’d we stand up? why’d we go leave Africa? when did fire happen? cooking? dogs? tools? language? And, if I’m not thinking about all that, then I’m probably lost in zombies and werewolves and things with teeth. I really couldn’t have helped writing “Chapter Six,” I mean. But it took a few runs. The trick with horror, it’s going a bit farther than you’re really comfortable with. The only honest horror is horror that transgresses, that bleeds across after the book’s closed, that rises with the first shadows. And the only way to get there, it’s to go to places you don’t really want to go. With “Chapter Six,” I thought I was nestled deep in familiar territory. But then that backpack kind of moved.


CAITLÍN R. KIERNAN

Caitlín R. Kiernan was recently hailed by the New York Times as “one of our essential authors of dark fiction.” A two-time winner of both the World Fantasy and Bram Stoker awards, she’s published ten novels, including The Red Tree and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir. She is also the recipient of the Locus and the James Tiptree, Jr. awards. Her short fiction has been collected in thirteen volumes, including Tales of Pain and Wonder, The Ammonite Violin & Others, A is for Alien, and The Ape’s Wife and Other Stories.

Subterranean Press has released a two-volume set collecting the “best” of her short fiction, Two Worlds and In Between and Beneath an Oil-Dark Sea. She is currently working on a screenplay, and her next novel, Interstate Love Song: Murder Ballads.

“Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8)” was originally published in Sirenia Digest100.

Last summer, the summer of 2014, I first heard Neko Case’s “Deep Red Bells,” a song that suggests much of what went on to become “Interstate Love Song.” It’s an absolutely amazing song, and I hardly listened to anything else for a week. Really, the story owes more, I think, to various songs that to anything else, than to prose, hence the subtitle. I’ve always loved murder ballads. Or dead baby songs, as we used to call them when I was a kid. Two more by Neko Case – “Furnace Room Lullaby” and “Things That Scare Me” – were influences, along with Stone Temple Pilots “Interstate Love Song,” from which I borrowed the title. I’m going to be expanding the story into my next novel. I feel like I’ve hardly scratched the surface.


ANGELA SLATTER

Angela Slatter is the author of the Aurealis Award-winning The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, World Fantasy Award finalist Sourdough and Other Stories, Aurealis finalist Midnight and Moonshine (with Lisa L. Hannett), Black-Winged Angels, The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, and The Female Factory (again with Hannett).

She’s the first Australian to win a British Fantasy Award, holds an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing, is a graduate of the Clarion South and Tin House Summer Writers Workshops, and was an inaugural Queensland Writers Fellow. She blogs at www.angelaslatter.com.

“Winter Children” was originally published in Far Voyager, PS 32/33 edited by Nick Gevers.

When my maternal grandmother died I wasn’t sure how to deal with the hurt sitting inside me; it went to the well where I’d already stored the grief for my paternal grandmother, who’d died years before. Tears didn’t seem enough. Eventually I figured it might all be channelled into a story. I’d hoped that it would be something inspiring and uplifting, something that reflected the sort of wonderful women they both were.

Alas, you cannot direct the muse, for she is a contrary bitch, and when you’re a writer of dark fantasy and horror it’s bound to go south rapidly. What I ended up doing was playing off the contrast of the home she was in during her last months: a good spot, bright and light and clean with lovely caring staff, and nothing like the one depicted in “Winter Children”. And I thought about how it was the perfect place for something awful to hide. I thought about a young woman whose loss had driven her to terrible acts all her life in the hope of somehow making things better or safer for others. The protagonist’s voice led me to dark places, places where children are lost and fall down the rabbit hole easily.


GARTH NIX

Garth Nix was born in 1963 in Melbourne, Australia, to the sound of the Salvation Army band outside playing ‘Hail the Conquering Hero Comes’ or possibly ‘Roll Out the Barrel’. Garth left Melbourne at an early age for Canberra (the federal capital) and stayed there till he was nineteen, when he left to drive around the UK in a beat-up Austin with a boot full of books and a Silver-Reed typewriter.

Despite a wheel literally falling off the Austin, Garth survived to return to Australia and study at the University of Canberra. After finishing his degree in 1986 he worked in a bookshop, then as a book publicist, a publisher’s sales representative, and editor. Along the way he was also a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve, serving in an Assault Pioneer platoon for four years. Garth left publishing to work as a public relations and marketing consultant from 1994-1997, till he became a full-time writer in 1998. He did that for a year before joining Curtis Brown Australia as a part-time literary agent in 1999. In January 2002 Garth went back to dedicated writer again, despite his belief that full-time writing explains the strange behaviour of many authors.

He now lives in Sydney with his wife, two sons and lots of books.

I often find it difficult to pin down the genesis of a story. For “Shay Corsham Worsted” I think the first inkling of the story came when I was in London in 2013, waiting for a train at Paddington station. There is a statue of Isambard Kingdom Brunel there, and I looked at it and thought about his extraordinary life and all the things he designed and constructed. Later, on the train journey to Bath, we went through the Box Tunnel — one of Brunel’s works — and I idly wondered: “What if Brunel dug something up here, something horrible and dangerous and not part of this world?”

I could have written about actually finding a monster, and set the story in Brunel’s time, but for some reason I found it more interesting to think about what might happen much later on. I do have a particular fondness for stories about things best left alone, ancient mysteries that should remain shrouded, and doors that need to remain firmly shut.


CODY GOODFELLOW

Cody Goodfellow has written five novels—his latest is Repo Shark (Broken River Books)—co-written three others with John Skipp, and three collections—Silent Weapons For Quiet Wars, All-Monster Action, and Strategies Against Nature.

He wrote, co-produced, and scored the short Lovecraftian hygiene film Stay At Home Dad, which can be viewed on YouTube. He is also a director of the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival—Los Angeles and cofounder of Perilous Press, a micropublisher of modern cosmic horror. He lives in Burbank, California, and is currently working very hard on building a perfect bowling team.

“Nigredo” was originally published in the anthology In the Court of the Yellow King, edited by Glynn Owen Barrass.

“Nigredo” began life as a feature script, a gritty noir mystery about a cult deprogrammer noodling with a dangerous mind control tool, several years ago, but it never went anywhere. Even complete, it lacked any vital moving parts. When I was invited to write another King In Yellow story (my first, “Wishing Well,” is in A Season In Carcosa) edited by Edward Lipsett and Glynn Barrass, it immediately clicked as the missing component, the mainspring that set all the internal elements moving and somehow compacted it into its present state, while alluding to spaces vast and unknowable as passages to the larger Chambers universe. Since this was immediately following upon the True Detective explosion, I tried to push the use of the French Play beyond just a backdrop, and to explore what makes the text itself so potently toxic.
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About Kristin Centorcelli (842 Articles)
Kristin Centorcelli is the Associate Editor at SF Signal, proprietor of My Bookish Ways, a reviewer for Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and has also written for Crime Fiction Lover, Criminal Element, and Mystery Scene Magazine. She has been reviewing books since late 2010, in an effort to get through a rather immense personal library, while also discussing it with whoever will willingly sit still (and some that won’t).
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