You are currently browsing the archives for the “Ray Bradbury” tag.


Hallowen: Magic, Mystery & the Macabre Trick or Treating with Friends

September 8th, 2013

HalloweenMagicMysMacabre-500Halloween comes early this year, with the September release of Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre – another terrific anthology from award-winning editor Paula Guran and the good people at Prime Books.

The book is a follow up to Paula’s 2011 anthology Halloween, which featured 33 classic reprints by the likes of Ray Bradbury, H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and F. Paul Wilson. It also featured a thoughtful essay about the origins and traditions of Halloween, which you can read here.

Unlike its predecessor, the new book features all-new Halloween-themed stories. I’ve just finished reading my copy, and it’s a terrific book – perfect material for a cool autumn night.

scent-of-magicAmong the standouts is “The Halloween Men,” a horror story by my good friend Maria V. Snyder, a writer more often associated with romantic fantasy than horror fiction. She and I currently serve as residency writers in the Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University, and at this summer’s residency she attributed her foray into the macabre to hanging out with Michael A. Arnzen and me. She was being generous, of course. But regardless of how the story came to be, it’s a terrific read. Set in a strange world where the wearing of masks is enforced by mysterious men in black robes, “The Halloween Men” displays the kind of spare yet fully-realized fantasy that has made Maria one of the best fantasy writers working today. If you haven’t discovered her yet, consider checking out her books Scent of Magic, Poison Study, Touch of Power, and all the other titles that you can read about at MariaVSnyder.com. Good reading awaits.

TimeAnother standout story is “All Souls Day” by Barbara Roden, who in recent years has established herself as one of the contemporary masters of short fiction. Publishers Weekly, in a review of her collection Northwest Passages, refers to her work as “deftly executed tales of subtle horror,” and her story in this collection continues that tradition. Barbara is also a multi-award winning editor who, along with her husband Christopher Roden, has been running critically acclaimed Ash-Tree Press since its inception in 1994. I first met Barbara and Christopher at World Fantasy 2007, and we’ve been good friends ever since, getting together at the major conventions at least once or twice a year. In 2010 they edited and published This Way to Egress, the definitive collection of my horror stories.

Jack Pumpkinhead by William Wallace DenslowHalloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre also features terrific new stories by Laird Barron, Laura Bickle, Jay Caselberg, Brenda Cooper, Brian Hodge, Stephen Graham Jones, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Nancy Kilpatrick, Jonathan Maberry, Norman Partridge, John Shirley, Steve Rasnic Tem & Melanie Tem, Carrie Vaughn, A.C. Wise, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro – some of the modern masters of magic, mystery, and the macabre.

Oh yes, it also contains one of my stories – a new tale of physiological horror titled “Pumpkin Head Escapes.” And since the book releases this week, my friends and I get to do some early trick-or-treating.

Care to join us?

Image Credits:

Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre,  Prime Books 2013. Scent of Magic, Harlequin 2013. Northwest Passages, Prime Books 2010. Jack Pumpkin Head, illustration detail by William Wallace Dinslow from L. Frank Baum’s The Road to Oz (1909).

Monster Wrangled!

June 23rd, 2012

Mission accomplished . . . but of course I had expert help from the fourteen talented writers who attended the presentation.

Together, we considered how to effectively present strange creatures in genre fiction. With a nod to Christopher Priest’s novel The Prestige, the discussion explored how some of the most effective monster scenes in science fiction, fantasy, and horror basically employ three elements:

1. the sense of anticipation
2. the appearance of something terrible or wondrous (sometimes both)
3. a dramatic payoff (what Priest’s novel refers to as the prestige).

That last step is important. It’s not enough to have the creature appear and chew the scenery. Instead, the most successful monster scenes present something new and unexpected, as do the vampire scenes in Bob Leman’s excellent (albeit relatively obscure) “The Pilgrimage of Clifford M,” which served as one of our examples during the discussion.

We also deconstructed Ray Bradbury’s “Mars is Heaven” (in which the monsters never actually appear) and Bob Leman’s “Window” (in which they do). The discussion seemed to go well, and in the end I sense that I learned as much as my students. A great way to spend a Thursday afternoon at Seton Hill!

The next day, with the monsters successfully wrangled, I visited the alumni writers retreat, aka “In Your Write Mind” (which runs concurrently with the university’s graduate writing program) for a survey on Genre Conventions. As I often do at such events, I began by providing each attendee with a 3×5 index card for submitting questions and comments. In this case, I also asked for recommendations of conventions not covered in my presentation.

Here are a few of the comments and recommendations that I received:

“Don’t forget about Killercon! This year it’s September 20-23 in Las Vegas [featuring] Bill Nolan, Kelley Armstrong, Jack Ketchum, Don D’Aurua, and Brian Keene.”

Yes! Thanks for the reminder. I’ve heard good things about Killercom.

SCBWI – Summer & Winter Cons.”

This one’s new to me, but it looks like a must for people interested in children’s books.

Love is Murder (held in Chicago around Valentine’s Day). Cost is approximately $200 – $250. The focus is on mystery/thriller but also includes paranormal, suspense, pulp, near-future thrillers, master classes, and manuscript critiques.”

I must check this one out!

And here are a few of the questions submitted (along with some quick answers):

“How far away is too far [to go to attend a con]?”

With air travel and ticket pricing being what it is these days, distance isn’t really much of an impediment. Indeed, I found that some of my longer trips have actually been far more affordable than the close ones. The ticket prices for my last three trips from Pennsylvania to the west coast (San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Jose) were better than half the price of my upcoming trip to Toronto for World Fantasy. I also find that I can get a lot of work done on planes and in airports, so the time in transit isn’t really lost. In all, I think it comes down to the event itself and not how far away it is. If it looks worthwhile, go for it.

“Is the western genre being absorbed into science fiction? Can science fiction and horror be blended as well?”

I don’t really see sf taking over the western. True, both deal with new frontiers, but – with the exception of western steampunk (The Wild Wild West, for example) – I don’t really see one taking over the other.

The dividing lines between horror and sf tend to be quite permeable, as can be seen in works such as Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, Ray Bradbury’s “Mars is Heaven,” and Bob Leman’s “Window” – all stories that we considered in Monster Wrangling (see above).  For this reason, if you are interested in horror, you might consider checking out WorldCon, where the programming usually contains a few horror-related discussions.

“Many writers are introverts – how do you break out at cons?”

The people you want to meet and work with are almost certainly introverts as well. They probably spend most of their time reading books and sitting in front of their computers. They’re attending the con to meet people like themselves . . . and you are one of them.  I find that keeping that in mind helps. Perhaps it will work for you as well.

Right now, I need to get away from this computer and attend a book signing sponsored by the alumni at SHU. Hope to see some of you there!

As always, feel free to post comments, corrections, or questions below. Don’t be an introvert. I’d love to hear from you.