Author Archive

Be My Victim: Nicholas Kaufmann – A Chat About Awards

Well it’s award season, kids. This past weekend, the Horror Writers’ Association (HWA) handed out its Bram Stoker Award honors. Just around the corner, the ITW Award from the International Thriller Writers and the Shirley Jackson Awards will name their honorees. Earlier this year, The Black Quill Award honorees were named, and these are only a few of the annual awards in which a horror author might find his or her work nominated. It’s a festival of gimmes and have-ones. So break out the champagne and the Prada tux, or kick back with a Sam Adams and a bag of Funyuns, because awards season is in full swing.

Remember, it’s an honor just to have been nominated.

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This month I’ll continue my conversation with the estimable John Skipp, as we further discuss the zombie and its current reign of the dark fiction realm. Last time, we examined the rise of the zombie, and took a look at how far this venerable creature had come. Now, we’re going to turn our eyes to the future to see where that shambling mass of rot is heading.

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The apocalypse is really starting to bore me.

In fact, I hit zombie overload about four years back. Around that time, I’d read a number of zombie novels, short stories, and novellas, and they all became a mushy blur of Romero-rehash and biohazard blah. (And most weren’t written very well). Of course, there were some standouts – World War Z by Max Brooks, The Rising by Brian Keene, Dead City by Joe McKinney – but most just felt dull. In truth, I prefer my zombies on screen. They shuffle around, chomp, get their heads splashed like old melons, and after 90 minutes, I’m pleased and ready to move on to something else. Night of the Living Dead is one of my all-time favorite films and still has the power to creep me out something fierce. Dawn of the Dead is a flat-out classic. I am devoted to Darabont’s The Walking Dead (based on the graphic novels by Robert Kirkman). I dig zombies in motion, but I am less-than-a-fan of them on the page. These days, that makes me an outcast in the writing world, where it seems every other book is Dead-this or Dead-that. Since popularity isn’t all that inspiring for me, I’m okay with that, but I can’t help but wonder why zombies have become such a cultural phenomenon.

Curious as I am, I have asked John Skipp to drop some knowledge on me. His groundbreaking anthology Book of the Dead, co-edited with Craig Spector, appeared on the publishing scene in 1989 when there were very few zombies shuffling around in print (In fact, Skipp tells me the only Romero-esque zombies in print were the novelizations of Romero’s groundbreaking films).


Lee Thomas So tell me, Skipp, why now? What’s going on culturally that makes zombies so compelling and so relevant?

John Skipp Well, I could rattle off the Top 20 Guesses that people like to throw around. You’ve undoubtedly heard them all ad nauseum, just like the basic zombie stories you’re already tired of.

I guess I see it like this: it’s been a long war of attrition. Modern flesh-eating zombies-next-door have been fucking cool since George Romero first thought ‘em up and shot ‘em, back in 1968. He sparked a meme that has never stopped spreading. An outsider meme, relentlessly growing ever since.

At its heart is a critique of modern civilization, in which “Mankind” is reduced to shambling drones, brainlessly consuming and destroying all they touch. It’s a powerful critique that can be played at least two ways: 1) “The monster is us”, or 2) “Everyone on Earth is an asshole but me.”

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Oh that annoying day job. Eight to twelve hours of your day – hours you could spend writing your next novel – devoted to a job you loathe. Or maybe the day job isn’t so bad, but you think about writing full time, because it will stand as a marker of your achievement. Well many of us – myself included – have chucked the nine-to-five and devoted ourselves to writing full time. Many of us – myself included – have come to regret this decision, but only because we didn’t really know what to expect at the end of that rainbow (hint: It ain’t gold).

My guest this month is award-winning author Sarah Langan. Together we will look at the pitfalls of a career in writing, and hopefully give some of the newer crop of professionals some idea of what’s ahead so they can make the transition to writing full time something less than a headlong dive into what-the-Hell?

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In my last column, Laird Barron commented, albeit briefly, on the marginalization of the short story. The subject seemed to interest readers, so this time around my guest, Paul Tremblay, and I will discuss the current state of the short story and perhaps a bit of history as to how we got to this point.

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As this is the season for giving, I’ve snagged some time with one of horror’s finest voices. It’s quite a gift, and NO you can’t exchange it for a Hello Kitty backpack.

Laird Barron has emerged as a major force in literary dark fiction over the past half decade, and he was gracious enough to swap some emails with me and discuss anti-intellectualism and the if/how/why it appears in the horror community.

Unwrap and enjoy.

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Be My Victim: Nick Mamatas

Be My Victim: Author, editor, and blogosphere personality Nick Mamatas, and I have a civil chat about ghosts, spirits, and dudes that go “Did you hear that?” in the night.

Though stories about ghosts and spirits have existed since earliest man – (That is a supposition, of course. I wasn’t there, and earliest man wasn’t big on backing up his files) – we’re going to focus the conversation on contemporary treatments of hauntings – mostly. Recently, my guest, Nick Mamatas, teamed up with Ellen Datlow to edit the anthology, Haunted Legends, for Tor Books, so he’s been exposed to some traditional and some not-so-traditional tales of spectral disturbance.

Set to commence in 3… 2…

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[SF Signal welcomes author Lee Thomas and the launch of his new SF Signal column, Be My Victim!]

This column is meant to address issues pertaining to horror fiction and the publishing of same. Some of the installments might rub you the wrong way. Down the road, this column might even hurt some feelings. It happens. We won’t always see eye to eye. My feelings run along these lines…

“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

– James A. Baldwin

This quotation describes the way I feel about horror fiction, so while there will be celebration of the genre, there will also be criticism. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments section.

My first guest is Maurice Broaddus, an author, a minister, and the master of Mo*Con, an annual literary convention focusing on religion and dark fiction. We’ll be discussing the status quo, or at least, the illusion of the status quo.

Set to commence in 3… 2…

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