The Future of Speculative Fiction

Promo logo for July 28, 2021 event about the future of Speculative Fiction, moderated by J. T. Glover and run by James River Writers

Do you read fantasy, science fiction, horror, or related genres? Do you know where you’ll be on the evening of July 28, 2021? Come check out an online panel discussion put on by James River Writers about The Future of Speculative Fiction. Hear from speakers M.K. England, Stephanie Toliver, and Nghi Vo about what’s in store for fiction that shows us alternate worlds. I’ll be moderating this exploration of what’s new, what’s back, and what’s next.

For more information and registration:
https://jamesriverwriters.org/event/july-2021-online-writing-show-the-future-of-speculative-fiction/

When Novels Attack

Reader, it’s been a minute.

When last I wrote, horror movies were on my brain, and so they still are. Since then, horror I’ve watched includes The Grudge (2004), Doctor Sleep, Black Christmas (2019), The Thing (2011), Angel Heart, Dark Was the Night, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Cruel Intentions, The Girl With All the Gifts, The Block Island Sound, and As Above, So Below. You’ve probably heard of all of those, except maybe Dark Was the Night, which was pleasantly uneven and featured some unusual monster action. Also since then, the U.S. has resumed a semblance of its previous on-fire-everywhere normalcy, I’ve found a new love of musicals and a revived love of board games, summer has come, and the writing continues.

I finished the first draft of a novel in late April, and there was much rejoicing! The last time I did that was indecently long ago, and it feels good to be already on my way with Draft Two. As all the writers out there who hop between genres know, it’s a weird stretching sort of feeling when you’ve paused on writing shorter works and are no longer in the hum & fray of constant submissions. Still doing the thing, but most of the paddling is under the surface. What spurred the novel?

Around 2005, my intention was to write novels, with maybe a few other things along the way. Between then and now, I got published, translated, anthologized; became enamored of short stories and their writing; and experienced prolonged dejection over lack of getting an agent for said previous novel. I also went through Big Life Changes, in the form of years of elevated stress due to illness and deaths in the family. That’s mostly in the rear view mirror at this point, but I’ve come through it a different person.

Anyway.

Last year I acknowledged to myself that I was starting to get truly burned out on writing short. (Editors to whom I owe stories or essays: I will still come through!) I wanted to read and write stories I could roll around in, and for me that means novels. I was considering possibilities for a longer story… something about nuclear-powered vampire llamas… and then the pandemic hit. After the shock started to wear off, I realized that it was time to get going. I was going to be at home for a while, I’d been wanting to write long again, and the threat of mortality was here. With a vengeance.

And so I’ve been trying to Make Good Art. It’s going all right, and I hope that this book will land an agent when I query, hopefully later this year. If not? Whether a given story or novel finds a home, it’s on to the next.

All I have, as they say, is time.

library of congress photo

Watching Horror, “Classic” and Otherwise

image of vampire from 1922 nosferatu filmEarlier this month I read a Variety article about the last hundred years of horror films. It featured the usual suspects, but I had the nagging sense that I was missing some things about which I had vague ideas. So, naturally, I popped the films and their dates into Excel and quickly learned which of my vague ideas were on point, which were off-base.

In the “on point” camp, I’ve seen more recent horror films than older ones. No big surprise, though I was surprised to see how dramatic the shift is on the seen/unseen axis when it comes to films made since I was born. Likewise, while I like to think of myself as an “old horror movies” guy, apparently I’ve been a Universal Horror guy first, “old horror movies” second, 1920s horror dead last.

In the “off-base” camp, I’ve seen less Asian horror than I thought. When I started going down the list, I realized that my vague idea that I “hadn’t seen too many Asian horror films” could be more accurately described as “haven’t seen more than a couple of the biggest.”

In the “huh” camp, I apparently don’t watch horror movies much during times of serious stress or crisis. Not just when someone close to me dies, but at other life or job stress points. Sometimes I go back and rewatch the biggies of the period, but other times not.

If all of this sounds like excessive navel gazing for someone who doesn’t really write that much about horror films, you’re not entirely wrong. In the last couple years, though, I’ve been writing more horror or horror-adjacent nonfiction, as well as thinking about movies. (I had an essay planned for a volume on contemporary horror films, and I withdrew this month, as I’m 2020-blocked, and it’s just not moving quickly enough.)

I’ve read some of the standard horror film/studies books (Clover, Creed, Carroll, etc.), which, if you’ve made it this far, you probably have as well. Some of the more recent work I’ve enjoyed has included…

  • Orrin Grey’s Monsters from the Vault books.
  • Horror Pod Class, also featuring Orrin in recent seasons.
  • Aesthetic Horror, as well as more general film Twitter and YouTube sites
  • Xavier Aldana Reyes’ is a big name in the field right now, and I like his scholarly work (the affect stuff is killer), but I’ll confess to being especially charmed by his #gothiccinema366 project on Twitter this year.

I’m also a reader of various horror stories and novels that take film as their subject, whether Gemma Files’ Experimental Film or Stephen Graham Jones’ The Last Final Girl. I’ve contributed a story or two to the genre as well, including my “There Has Never Been Anyone Here” in Nightscript IV.

Do you have a list of “must-see” horror films? One you go back to pick new watching from? A favorite film book you use to guide your watching? Feel free to drop it in the comments. In addition to the titles and projects mentioned above, I love The Scarecrow Video Movie Guide.

I’ll close with with a still from a 1997 film I watched yesterday that did not make Variety‘s list… but which was a lot of fun.

still shot from anaconda

Brief Update

It’s been over four months since my last post, and I’m guessing most of you have already heard about these elsewhere, but:

  • Back in November, my short story “En Plein Air” appeared over at Pseudopod. It’s a quiet horror story that seems to hit a sweet spot for people who like their horror subtle about the environment, It’s also attracted more than a few “that ain’t horror!” comments, so caveat lector.
  • Later this year, my dark SF story “Questionable Things” will finally be appearing. It’s a story I like very much, and which I had the Devil’s own time placing, but I stuck with it, and I hope it finds some readers.
  • Volume 2 of Thinking Horror will be coming out before long, says its doughty editor, s.j.  bagley, and I likewise hope my essay in there finds some interested readers. It’s a very personal essay, as they say, and was one of the most difficult pieces of writing I’ve done in recent years.