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!
Genevieve Valentine’s first novel, Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti , won the 2012 Crawford Award. Her second novel is speakeasy fairy tale The Girls at the Kingfisher Club. Her third, Persona, is due from Saga Press in 2015. Her short fiction has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award and the Shirley Jackson Award, and her stories have appeared in several Best of the Year anthologies. Her nonfiction and reviews have appeared at NPR.org, The AV Club, Strange Horizons, The Toast, LA Review of Books, and others. She’s currently the writer of DC’s CATWOMAN.
“A Dweller in Amenty” was originally published in Nightmare #18, March.
“A Dweller in Amenty” is a story inspired by a truth stranger than fiction (sin eating, a real and unenviable profession), and the implications that haunted me long after I had come to terms with the logistics. The workplace ethics of sin – and the idea of boutique services for those who, like their ancestors who bought forgiveness from the church, hope to be able to solve their problems with money – became the backbone of the story, and the cracks in professionalism are where the dark got in.
Brian Evenson is the author of a dozen books of fiction, most recently the story collection Windeye (Coffee House Press 2012) and the novel Immobility (Tor 2012), both of which were finalists for a Shirley Jackson Award. His novel Last Days won the American Library Association’s award for Best Horror Novel of 2009). His novel The Open Curtain (Coffee House Press) was a finalist for an Edgar Award and an International Horror Guild Award. Other books include The Wavering Knife (which won the IHG Award for best story collection), Dark Property, and Altmann’s Tongue. He has translated work by Christian Gailly, Jean Frémon, Claro, Jacques Jouet, Eric Chevillard, Antoine Volodine, Manuela Draeger, David B., and others. He is the recipient of three O. Henry Prizes as well as an NEA fellowship.His work has been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and Slovenian. He lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island, where he is Royce Professor of Teaching Excellence in Brown University’s Literary Arts Department.
“Past Reno” began with a trip my wife and I took through Nevada just after we were married. Small, strange things kept happening, things that didn’t really add up to much but slowly began to accumulate for me, making me feel like the world was just a little bit off. It all started in a convenience store that had an aisle that was nothing but jerky, then got weirder. At first I just noticed things, but after awhile I began to take notes. A lot of what I saw ended up in the story, sometimes in exaggerated form, but often not. Where the stuff with the father and Utah came from, I don’t know for certain; probably a good therapist could tell me.
John Langan is the author of two collections, The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies (Hippocampus 2013) and Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters (Prime 2008), and a novel, House of Windows (Night Shade 2009). With Paul Tremblay, he co-edited Creatures: Thirty Years of Monsters (Prime 2011). One of the founders of the Shirley Jackson Awards, he lives in upstate New York with his wife, younger son, and a houseful of animals.
“Ymir” was originally published in The Children of Old Leech, edited by Ross E. Lockhart and Justin Steele.
“Ymir”’s roots trace back to 2006. This was when Laird Barron published his novella, “Hallucigenia,” in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Tucked into the story was a reference to Barret and Macy Langan, friends of the protagonist, Wallace. When I talked to Laird about them, I joked about not realizing that he knew the west coast Langans. Oh, yeah, he said. How did they get their money, again? Piracy, I said, thinking, no doubt, of Carpenter’s The Fog. At the time, I thought it would be fun to do something more with them, but I thought I should wait to see if Laird would use them, first. He didn’t. Years went by. We talked about co-writing a story, kicked around the idea of a driver back from Iraq, from driving in the supply convoys the insurgents kept attacking, and having to deal with some kind of monster, something that crawled up out of an old well. We never got around to writing the story. More years passed. Ross Lockhart and Justin Steele invited me to contribute to The Children of Old Leech, their anthology of stories inspired by Laird’s fiction and the world it had created. Right away, I knew I was going to write about the west coast Langans, which swiftly lead me to the idea of writing a kind of sequel to “Hallucigenia.” I wanted to include Delaney, Wallace’s chauffeur and bodyguard from the original story, but I didn’t want to make him the center of my narrative, since Laird had told me some of the plans he had for the character. I thought, though, that Delaney could serve as a bridge from Laird’s story to mine, by recruiting someone to work for Barret Langan. Who? Why, the truck driver from the story Laird and I never co-wrote. As the story took shape, I worked in references to some of Laird’s other creations, the Broadsword Hotel and the scientists, Toshi and Campbell, but I was most interested in the villainous Choate brothers from Hallucigenia. There was a brother we’d met in “Hallucigenia,” and there was another we hadn’t. I decided we would. The story gave me a chance to play in the sandbox of one of the contemporary writers I most admire, even though he keeps insisting to me that it isn’t canon. Barret Langan knows better.
Robert Shearman has written five short story collections, and collectively they have won the World Fantasy Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, the Edge Hill Readers’ Prize and three British Fantasy Awards. He began his career in theater, both as playwright and director, and his work has won the Sunday Times Playwriting Award, the Sophie Winter Memorial Trust Award, and the Guinness Award for Ingenuity in association with the Royal National Theatre. His interactive series for BBC Radio Four, The Chain Gang, ran for three seasons and won two Sony Awards.
However, he may be best known as a writer for Doctor Who, reintroducing the Daleks for its BAFTA winning first series in an episode nominated for a Hugo Award.
“It Flows from the Mouth” was originally published in Shadows & Tall Trees 2014 edited by Michael Kelly.
Sometimes a story can be inspired by a complex idea – but sometimes it’s sparked by one simple memory. When I was a little boy, I had a bedroom at the top of the house, and from the window I could see the whole garden. It had twenty-six panes. I remember that specifically, because as a child I liked to count things. The fact there were panes puzzled me – I began to think of them not as component parts of a window, but as twenty-six different little windows of their own. And with the logic of a child who would often lie in bed at night – who couldn’t sleep well, and was a little frightened of the dark, and even more frightened of the moonlight that would come in – I began to wonder why I would need twenty-six separate windows in my bedroom. There was only one explanation. The twenty-six windows would all show me different things.
The idea sounds rather magical to me now – but back then it began to obsess me with a cold sense of dread. I’d lie in bed, and stare out towards the window, and the growing certainty that each pane was showing conflicting information confused me and gave me nightmares. Sometimes I would ask my parents to pull the curtains – I’d hate being left in the pitch dark, but it was better than having the window staring at me. And sometimes the knowledge that the window was behind the curtains waiting for me, and hiding from me, was too much – and I’d have to get up in the night and open them up again for myself. When I did this, I had to be be very brave. I was getting close to the window, and I knew if I looked through the panes, and saw that they were offering alternate views of the garden – then I would go mad. Through one pane it might be raining; through another it might be dry. Through one pane the garden would be empty; through another there might be some strange man staring up at me pointing.
What unnerves me still in horror is not blood, or the threat of violence. It’s dissonance. It’s the cracks being revealed in the ways I think I understand the world, and realising after all that nothing makes sense. It’s looking through a window, and seeing different things dependent on which pane you choose. ‘It Flows From the Mouth’ tries to find that crack, and prise it wide apart.