Market News: Short Story to be published in The World of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

Very pleased to see my name formally announced by Robert N Stephenson, editor of The World of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror anthology (Altair Australia), that my story, An Incident at Prnjavor,is in the TOC. A rather gruesome, WWI Eastern Front ghost story. I enjoyed writing it, because it has an interesting backdrop, with interesting characters, a bit of a twist at the conclusion. Looking forward to seeing it in print in January 2016.

news: short sale to The Worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror (ed. Robert N Stephenson)

Very happy to have sold my horror short story set during WWI in the Eastern Front, 'An Incident at Prnjavor' to The Worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror anthology, edited by Robert N Stephenson and published by Altair Australia.

This is scheduled to be released in January 2016. More news as we get closer to publication.

News: ‘Of The Color Turmeric, Climbing On Fingertips’ published in Night Terrors III

Extremely pleased to be included in the pro anthology, 'Night Terrors III' by Blood Bound Books, with my story, 'Of The Color Turmeric, Climbing On Fingertips' published alongside short fiction by luminaries such as Jack Ketchum, Steve Rasnic Tem, Eric J Guignard, and many others. This is particularly satisfying as it is a story with Australian protagonists set in an extremely unusual Australian setting. I will say no more. This anthology is a must buy. Purchases can, at this stage, be made in Amazon.


Market News: ‘The Past Catching Up’ published in Badlands anthology

I have a good track record with Westerns, be they horror, weird, steampunk, or a strange fusion of two or three. In this case I am pleased to have a weird/horror piece, 'The Past Catching Up'. in Dead Guns Press' anthology, Badlands. It is available in print at the moment, and presumably ebook soon. Come on over and read a quality Western Horror book, by a very good specialist independent publisher.

Badlands Cover

Book Review: Autumn in the Abyss by John Claude Smith

Autumn in the Abyss cover

I had the pleasure of reviewing John Claude Smith’s earlier collection, The Dark is Light Enough for Me. I was suitably impressed with Smith’s work, and so I embarked on my new reading journey with Autumn in the Abyss with some excitement.

I was not disappointed. In fact, I can see a maturing of Smith’s style and subject matter/themes. Deeper insights and sophistication; greater complexity—and yet a well balanced structure. Additionally, Dark is Light Enough for Me was a heterogeneous collection of short fiction, without an obvious thematic context of the whole (albeit, it was a good collection of individual stories), while Autumn in the Abyss is, on several levels, a case where the stories, together, have strong collective impact, more so than the individual components. More on that later.

Smith is a visceral writer—he does not feel the need to be limited in subject matter and description to get to the guts of a tale, and yet he is also an artist, choosing from his expansive palette to achieve the right hues, proportions, texture. Squeamish readers should carefully consider reading his work.

Smith’s five stories have two major themes or threads running in a zigzag fashion through them, both distinctly Lovecraftian in influence, and clearly delivered in a unique voice.

Firstly, and most notably conveyed in the first story, ‘Autumn in the Abyss’, the author deliberately eases the reader into a creeping and growing sense of cosmic horror. There’s nasty shit out there and humanity features rather insignificantly. While this sense runs through all the other stories to some degree or another, ‘La mia immortalita’ certainly oozes this sense as well. Smith’s style—and again, particularly in ‘Autumn in the Abyss’—pays homage to Lovecraft’s style, particularly with the use of first person in ‘Autumn in the Abyss’.

The second thread is more interesting and effective, and saturates the last four of the five tales: the depths of depravity and evil that humans can attain, without the aid of the supernormal. By intertwining the cosmic-layered horror with the human-layer, Smith etches a greater clarity in each, but the human side of the equation is the most disturbing, and insightful.

The first story, ‘Autumn in the Abyss’, was a pleasant surprise and sowed the seed of my view of Smith’s growing sophistication. On the surface the short story is a surrealistic tale of a man obsessed with writing a biography of a long dead Beat-period poet. I won’t spoil the ending by detailing much more of the plot. As stated above, it decidedly invokes HPL’s style and allusions to the Mythos. Smith slowly and cleverly reveals horrifying powers linked with the poet that the narrator is obsessed with, where words have multidimensional powers that parallel Lovecraft’s depiction of the terrifying dimensions associated with angles in space and time, as per the ‘The Whisperer in Darkness’ (which in turn was influenced by Frank Belknap Long/August Derleth). Ultimately, the most Lovecraftian element of Smith’s story is the sense, at the end of the tale, of the utter futility of humankind, in the face of horrifying powers that dwell on the edge of perception. This is a highly recommended piece, for the reasons outlined above, as well as being a great horror tale in itself, and its thorough research into the poetry movements in the US in the 1950s and 60s.

‘Broken Teacup’ is probably the most disturbing of Smith’s short stories, where he explores in jagged, clawing depth the depravity of humanity. Nothing can easily come near the heartless horror of men who choose to torture and destroy people for the sake of entertainment—including their own. In terms of tapping into a dark, bleak underbelly of America, this story is somewhat reminiscent of ‘I Want To Take You Higher’ in The Dark is Light Enough for Me, although without the brief moments of humor. This story, however, is plainly intense. Where one of the dimensions of horror that comes out of Lovecraft’s ancient, alien gods is the sheer detachment of these cosmic entities, in this tale Smith presents a very different, vivid detachment from a pair of snuff moviemakers. Not for the faint-hearted, this is a well-constructed story.

La mia immortalita’ moves away from the physical horrors that can be perpetrated by humanity, to the psychological. Again we have indifference in an individual—in this case a self-obsessed artist blind and deaf to the feelings of other human beings, even those who are close to him. A strong piece, adding another dimension to the impact of the anthology as a whole, and drawing from Smith’s exposure to art, and in particular, sculpture.

‘Becoming Human’ seems, perhaps coincidentally, to draw the physical and psychological together. This story has the least tie-in with the Lovecraftian theme, but certainly stabs deep into human depravity. Two detectives’ lives were scarred for life by their exposure to a sadistic serial killer, leading to the suicide of one. The other is an emotional husk and must contend with a copycat killer and his own humanity at the same time. This story contributes the least to the two-theme effect of the anthology as a whole, but doesn’t lack quality, and certainly does provide another insight into the indifference of evil—with a twist.

‘Where The Light Won’t Find You’ is the last story and rounds the anthology nicely. Mr. Liu and representation of his ‘patrons’ make another appearance, and, most interestingly, draws a little back from the visceral horror well executed in most of Smith’s previous stories. Yes, there’s some nasty stuff, but it’s at an arm’s length, where the focus is on a young man, following an argument with his girl friend, enters a movie theatre with dire consequences. This story isn’t as deep as the previous tales, but it adds information about Mr. Liu and his patrons, and contributes granularity to what evil is (and isn’t) at the supernormal level.

I had a lot to say that’s good about John Claude Smith’s ‘Autumn in the Abyss’, and it is deserved. The allusions to the sinister, indifferent powers that exist beyond most of humanity’s perception is well crafted and multi-dimensional when the anthology is read as a whole. The evil that exists in human beings are more tangibly described, and are more horrifying by far. So much so that even the mysterious Mr. Liu and his patrons must sit up and take notice.

I recommend this anthology to any serious reader of horror. Five well-deserved stars.

The book can be purchased in print and ebook format from all good online stores, including Amazon.

News: ‘The Crab Woman’ to be published in Our World of Horror anthology

Happy to announce that my short story, 'The Crab Woman', was an early acceptance to the Eldritch Press pro horror anthology, Our World of Horror. The partial TOC will be announced by Eldritch Press in a few days.

Aside from being a pro sale, I am over the moon to see this story getting accepted. It was sold on first submission, which is a nice hit rate, and I had the great pleasure of having Kaaron Warren be my beta reader on this–her time spent on it, and the valuable feedback, was integral to this story, set on in the island nation of  Vanuatu, being as polished as it is. Kaaron is a very generous writer.

Our World of Horror

Market News: The Wooden Tomb in Frost Fire Worlds 2

This took me by surprise. I knew my story was due to be published in November, but on a whim I double checked the site, and lo and behold! my story, The Wooden Tomb, is in Frost Fire World issue 2. Very pleased to have published this, as it is a little different – coming of age in an African village, a little bit of horror, and lot of fantasy. It's nice to have found a home for this story dear to my heart.

Frost Fire Worlds Issue 2 Cover

Book Review: The Gate Theory by Kaaron Warren (Cohesion Publishing)


I had the misfortune of only being exposed to Kaaron Warren's fiction for the last few years – I wish I followed her career from the start. She is a truly wonderful writer of the disturbing, and has evocative prose. The Gate Theory is not an original fiction anthology but collects some of her best work in the period 2005 to the present day, and they deserve a solid gathering in a single title. You could call it a 'best of' work except that I was blown away last year with her collection, Through Splintered Walls, where none of the stories represented are in this work. Nevertheless, there are definitely stories in this work that will blow you completely away.

All in all, most of Warren's work in The Gate Theory are reflective of her greatest strengths: the ability to disturb (to the degree of horrify) readers, and to taste, smell and feel what is being invoked in her stories. I will pick on several of the stories, although in passing I feel compelled to say that 'The History Thief' is the least of her stories in the collection, in the sense that it is the odd one out (it is in fact an excellent story). While all the other stories in the anthology are strong treatments of the dark, 'The History Thief' has less in-your-face prose and is more of a fantastical mystery.

'That Girl' is one of Warren's Fiji stories influenced by her stay in the island nation, although on a number of levels it could have been set in other places. Nevertheless Fiji's backdrop is vivid, incredibly so, and has the right mystery and association with older cultural practices to springboard a backstory of horror experienced by a young woman. Warren paints a horrifying story of rape and cover-up, and for much of the story there is also a tangible fear of the supernatural; yet at the end, without lessening the throttle, we are exposed to what is the true horror – that of the subjugation of females in this society – and which can easily extend far beyond. A deep, well-written piece.

'Dead Sea Fruit' is my favourite story in the collection. It is a piece describing the personal horrors of anorexia in excruciating detail, iterating consistently through the length of the short and adding a tangible, bona fide supernatural dimension. The antagonist wasn't evil through-and-through, and the protagonist isn't a stable figure – she was entering the lion's den and the reader's tension-meter shot up with concern for her. The ending was a perfect closure, but with hardly any happiness for anyone. This story is soaked in death, and with one exception, was long and agonising.

'The Gaze Dogs of Nine Waterfalls' is a horror story, but of a highly unusual, perhaps Bizarro nature. Another Fijian short. I liked this story perhaps for less obvious reasons than some readers may usually expect. The idea of a world-treking business to find highly unusual breeds of dogs, often intertwined with the supernatural – and readily accepted by the protagonists – is novel, interesting, entertaining. The adventure to obtain a most unusual breed in Fiji, protected by a gigantic, old, and deadly canine is also very good reading. However, what I liked most was the protagonist, Rosie, a person who is an efficient, cool adventuress, and devoid of what we would understand to be human compassion, and who is, I believe, a sociopath. She is not likeable, and this is what intrigues me about the story as it leads the reader along with interest and yet there is little, if any, sympathy for her. Most stories fail with that basic structure but this one doesn't, and I think it's because of the Bizarro, weird storyline that raises the reader's eyebrows every few paragraphs.

I left a few stories out and leave it to you, the reader, to fully explore. Kaaron Warren is undoubtedly one of the world's leading short fiction horror writers, defined by her mastery of disturbing prose. You would do yourself a disservice to miss this work. Anyone who rates The Gate Theory below 4 stars out of 5 are either maniacally against the horror genre, or are trolls. I give it 5 out of 5, although if the scale was out of 10 I would give it 9, as Through Splintered Walls sets her benchmark for perfection.

The ebook can be purchased at Amazon.

Market News: short story, ‘The Deluge’, accepted for Black Beacon: Brisbane anthology

Pleased to have my short story, 'The Deluge' accepted by new Queensland publishing house, Black Beacon Books, for their Black Beacons: Brisbane anthology. This is a pleasing sale, as it is local, and it is a tale that came to me vividly, inspired by the Brisbane floods a few years ago.