Tag Archives: Elizabeth Massie

Shrieks and Shivers from the Horror Zine

The Horror Zine’s latest short story anthology, Shrieks and Shivers from the Horror Zine, edited by Jeani Rector and printed by Post Mortem Press, is allegedly also their final one. Listed as “the scariest book that [they have] ever produced” on the Zine’s website, there are some big-name authors to be found here, including Elizabeth Massie, P.D. Cacek, Tom Piccirilli, Ray Garton, and Joe McKinney, alongside many other, newer and lesser-known authors.

There were stories in this anthology that particularly stood out. Martin Rose’s opener, “Tapeworm,” had me squirming with its subdued, suggested-but-not-seen horrors. Eric J. Guignard’s “One Last Tweet” was a delightfully disorienting second-person story-cum-postmodern social commentary about our Internet age. Elizabeth Massie’s “Squatters” was a solid, old-fashioned tale of a vile man getting his just desserts. P.D. Cacek’s “Somniphobia” was a fun, hallucinatory ride through night (and day) terrors. At first glance, Nathan Robinson’s “Old Haunts” was a typically gory zombie apocalypse tale, until it cleverly asks the reader to wonder just who is narrating the story. And let’s just say that Ray Garton’s “Parasites” is NOT a story to be read in the bathroom.

I have to admit that going into this anthology I was fairly stoked, but ultimately, I was a bit disappointed. A number of the stories just didn’t groove with me, often suffering from the common storytelling problem of “too much tell, not enough show.” Others were too heavy-handed with their horror delivery. Now, every multiple-author story anthology runs the risk of having some stories that don’t work for every reader; it’s a given evil in any art field. In this case, however, the sheer number of weaker stories hurt my overall opinion of the anthology.

Bentley Little’s introduction, in which he all but literally admits that he’s only included for cosmetic purposes, didn’t help. “I haven’t read any of the stories in this anthology,” he states in his opening paragraph. “I don’t even know the names of the authors contributing to this volume.” His admission left me desiring a more dedicated introduction, be it by Little or someone else. His lack of enthusiasm didn’t help my overall opinion of the stories and my feelings of their quality.

Furthermore, the book’s early inclusion of an essay by John Russo, co-scribe of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), was another touch that didn’t quite work. Russo rambles about zombies, and how they’ve changed over the years, yet not once does he mention the following stories, nor Jeani Rector, nor anything else to do with this anthology. Beyond being another big name, its inclusion is not clearly justified.

For all of its content (over 30 stories in all), Shrieks and Shivers from the Horror Zine felt like it was assembled with quantity in mind, rather than a strong sense of overall quality. Here’s to hoping that it isn’t truly The Horror Zine’s final anthology, if nothing else than for the hopes of a more proper send-off.

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Lamplight: Volume One

Being aware of the competition is one of the first things they teach in business classes. One of the magazines that Shock Totem is sometimes mentioned with is Lamplight. Edited by Jacob Haddon, Lamplight delivers short fiction and classic public domain tales that are usually—and wrongfully—long forgotten. These are corralled with great interviews and a series of non-fiction pieces written by J.F. Gonzalez that chronicle varying stages and movements in horror literary history. Very inspirational and educational work there.

This compendium gathers all printed work from Lamplight’s first year, four issues, and most of it is quite good. From Kevin Lucia’s staggering tale of guilt, regret and the special ghosts they make to Elizabeth Massie’s story “Flip Flap,” which is quite a wonderful tale of sideshow revenge. Robert Ford gives revenge a new face and it’s muddied with garden soil. Kelli Owen’s “Spell,” which I raved about when I reviewed her collection last year, is still one of my favorite short stories of all time. Brilliant and harrowing.

Nathan Yocum hands in one of the saddest and sweetest apocalyptic tales I’ve ever read in “Elgar’s Zoo.” In and around these tales are numerous others. William Meikle’s retro-styled “The Kelp” buoys alongside Tim Leider’s angry rantosaurus of a tale, “A Gun to Your Head.” The stories are all fairly solid. In fact, were I to harbor any sort of negative criticism at all, it would be the directed at the interviews, rather the lack of creativity in them. The same questions are asked of each author. Very little interplay, which makes them come off sort of contrived. As an interviewer myself, I know they can be a bitch to nail. I hope that in time this fellow learns to inject a little personality in the mix.

Overall, Lamplight is a great publication with a fine eye for dark fiction. A comrade more than competition. In this business, we need more of the former and less of the latter. We’re all on the same ship, in the same choppy waters, and I would gladly share a lifeboat with Lamplight. Give them a shot.

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Psychos and the Appalachian Undead

Some staff news, ya’ll! Cue banjo!

This coming October, if not sooner, Apex Publications is set to release Appalachian Undead, a new anthology dedicated to the walking dead. I contributed a quirky tale called “Long Days to Come.”


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The brilliant artwork was created by Cortney Skinner. Quite a lineup, too: Elizabeth Massie, Jonathan Maberry, Tim Waggoner, S. Clayton Rhodes*, Maurice Broaddus, Bev Vincent, Tim Lebbon, Steve Rasnic Tem, John Skipp* & Dori Miller, and Gary A. Braunbeck, to name a few more than a few.

If you’d like to check out the full table of contents, click here.

You can also pre-order via the above link (and get 5% off if you tweet the link), but before you do, check out this groovy contest they’re running for those who do pre-order.

As always from Apex Publications, you can expect quality.

Not to be outdone, Mercedes and John each have stories—“Murder for Beginners” and “Intruder,” respectively—in Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen, and the Criminally Insane, the latest slab—and I do mean slab; these things are massive—in an ongoing series edited by the inimitable John Skipp which has thus far included Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead, Werewolves and Shapeshifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within, and Demons: Encounters with the Devil and His Minions, Fallen Angels, and the Possessed.


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Psychos is due out in September via Black Dog & Leventhal, and features new and classic fiction from the likes of Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Jack Ketchum, Joe R. Lansdale, Lawerence Block, Neil Gaiman, Leslianne Wilder*, Violet LeVoit, Weston Ochse*, Kathe Koja, and many more.

If you order now, Amazon has it for $10.07. That’s 608 pages for $10! No-brainer.

We hope you’ll buy both!

* Shock Totem alumni.

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Bring More Lore!

Born in a New Jersey basement in the mid-90’s, Lore was a DIY magazine for dark fiction and fantasy. In their time, they took home a number of awards, including The Dragon’s Breath Small Press Award for Best New Magazine, as well as had several stories from within their pages garner awards of their own.

I must admit, here, that I had never heard of Lore. This is a fact I am now somewhat ashamed of, after reading this, a collection of stories that appeared during their five-year run. I missed out on some quality reading back in the day.

I won’t go through every story in this collection, but will touch upon those that stuck with me most.

Starting things off with Harlan Ellison is always a smart move. Ellison has long been regarded as a master of speculative fiction, and with “Chatting with Anubis” we get a tongue-in-cheek tale of archaeology and spiritualism and the dark threads that bind them.

“The Mandala,” by Kendall Evans, is a bizarre exercise in surrealism as symbolism. Patricia Russo’s “Rat Familiar” is Grimm-style fantasy that is served up nasty and dark, while Jeffrey Thomas’s “Empathy” is a sadly sweet tale of trust, mistreatment and revenge.

Brian Lumley turns in “The Vehicle” which is a lighthearted “fish out of water” sort of sci-fi tale. Donald R. Burleson gives us what might be my favorite tale in the book, “Sheets,” a terrific haunted-house story, and it is exactly not what you think it is.

All the stories in this volume are strong. Some skirt the edges of the Horror estate, while others wander that bizarre and weird landscape on its outskirts. “The Challenge From Below,” a group-penned tribute to Lovecraft, as well as many other pieces, have never been reprinted before this. And a few are nearly science fiction. All, however, have a classic feel and mature voice.

This is old-school writing.

As of 2011, Lore has resurrected itself. I would have loved the magazine back in its heyday, so I hope to follow them, now, and keep up with what they put out.

This volume can be purchased through the Lore website.

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