Weird Women: Classic Supernatural Fiction by Groundbreaking Female Writers: 1852-1923, a brand new anthology of chilling supernatural tales, is out on August 4, 2020 from editors Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger. It is an absolute must-own for those interested in the women who helped shape the horror genre.
The collection features just over 20 tales of the strange and unusual, some from authors whose names you’ve no doubt heard, and others who have all but fallen to obscurity save for their inclusion in anthologies and collections from time to time.
Sadly, many times tales like these are collected, the roster is almost entirely made up of male authors with the inclusion of one or two entries by women who were writing during the same time period. Thankfully, Klinger and Morton decided it was time to let these talented women have their say.
Weird Women begins with Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Old Nurse’s Story. Published in 1852, the story is told by an elderly nanny relating to a group of children a chilling tale involving their grandmother when she was just a babe. It’s the perfect tale to set the tone for what you’ll find in the remainder of the collection. She is also a prime example of why the work of so many women writers of the time were dismissed.
She had all but fallen into obscurity already when Lord David Cecil–a historian and scholar–wrote of that she was “all woman” and that she made “creditable effort to overcome her natural deficiencies but all in vain.” Sadly, these sort of comments colored criticism of her work for almost two decades until writers in the 50s and 60s began to re-read Gaskell and came to the conclusion that her views were a natural predecessor to the feminist movement which explained why so many stuffy male critics of the early 20th century had chosen to dismiss her work.
Then there are those authors like Louisa May Alcott whose names you most certainly know, but you might not have known they dipped their toes in the supernatural/horror pool from time to time. Little Women is undeniably her best known work, but Lost in a Pyramid; or, The Mummy’s Curse from 1869 places Alcott on the literary map as one of the first women to write a fully fleshed out “Mummy’s Curse” narrative.
I am also fond of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Giant Wistaria. Just about anyone who has taken a freshmen level Intro to Lit course in college is familiar with the author’s The Yellow Wall-Paper, but few may have read this particular tale, a ghost story that deals with some of the same themes as the better known work.
What I love most about this collection–and other collections like it–is when I am introduced to works and authors I have not read before.
Take for instance The Were-Wolf written by Clemence Housman. Housman was an author and illustrator. She also happens to be the sister of the poet A.E. Housman. This particular tale encapsulates many of the ideas of those who chafed against gender constraints of the time, wrapping them in a chilling, yet undeniably beautiful story about a female werewolf.
Weird Women ultimately works because of the stories and authors Klinger and Morton chose. They present a cross-section of the women who published during the time period, focusing on tales that are not only well-written but are also genuinely creepy. They also provide a brief bio for each author so that you can learn more about the incredible women in this collection.
The book is available to order on Amazon by CLICKING HERE. I cannot recommend it enough if you are a fan of tales of the strange and unusual.
‘Clive Barker’s Dark Worlds’ Set to Release Just in Time for Halloween
Every so often something comes along that feels like a gift to the horror community. Clive Barker’s Dark Worlds has that feeling.
Created by Phil and Sarah Stokes, the hardcover monograph is set for release on October 18, 2022 from Cernunnos Publishing, and will take fans of the author and filmmaker on a deep dive into the mind that created Pinhead, Candyman, Rawhead Rex, the Night Breed and more. According to a press release we received earlier today, it will contain sketches, handwritten manuscripts, and more, many of which have never been shared with the public.
The Stokes have been longtime collaborators and archivists of Barker’s work. In short, they’re the perfect duo for this project. In addition to their own thoughts on Barker’s work, Dark Worlds will also feature commentary from Ramsey Campbell, Quentin Tarantino, Neil Gaiman, China Miéville, Peter Straub, Armistead Maupin, J.G. Ballard, Wes Craven, and more. Of course, the man himself wrote the book’s afterword.
Retail on the book comes in at $50, a small price to pay for the promised content. Keep your eyes peeled for Clive Barker’s Dark Worlds this October and stay tuned to iHorror as the release draws closer for more info!
Bryan Smith, Samantha Kolesnik team up for ‘Beleth Station’ from Clash Books
There’s nothing quite like an old school author collab to get me excited about the publishing world, and Clash Books has come through in a big way with the announcement of a new work from Bryan Smith and Samantha Kolesnik. Titled Beleth Station, the book will consist of two novellas set in the same fictional Pennsylvania town.
Bryan Smith is the author of over 30 horror/thriller novels including 68 Kill which was adapted into a 2017 film starring Matthew Gray Gubler of Criminal Minds fame. His other titles include the cult classic Depraved, House of Blood, and The Killing Kind.
Samantha Kolesnik may be newer to the game, but she’s become an essential indie horror author to watch with novellas like True Crime and Waif, both of which have garnered rightful acclaim for their raw, gritty storytelling.
Together the two will take us to Beleth Station, and while details about the book are being kept under wraps, we do know that they take place in a shared world with shared characters.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration. It started with a tweet, of all things, and then hit the ground running and has never lost momentum. Beleth Station is one helluva fucked up place as far as literary settings go, and Bryan and I are wreaking havoc. But it’s the characters who are front-and-center in both of our novellas, which will be released together in one book.”
For his part, Smith has added that this is some of the most disturbing material he’s written since the previously mentioned Depraved. If you’re familiar with that book, well, you know exactly how bonkers this thing might be!
The collaboration does not have an official release date as of yet, but we’ll certainly be keeping our eyes peeled for it and you should too! For more information on the project, be sure to visit the official Clash Books website.
Horror Pride Month: David R. Slayton, Author of ‘White Trash Warlock’
A few months ago, I was looking for a new audiobook to dig into. Since re-entering the leaving-your-house workforce, audiobooks have helped me survive the daily commute. I wanted something that blended genres and fed my love of horror, fantasy, and gayness. As I combed through the thousands of Audible titles, I found a book called White Trash Warlock by David R. Slayton. The book concerns Adam Binder, a gay witch from Oklahoma who ends up confronting a monstrous entity attacking Denver and driving people insane.
Gayme. Set. Match. I was so in!
By the end of the book, I was in desperate need for more. Luckily for me, the second book in the trilogy, Trailer Park Trickster, was already available, and though it ended on the mother of all cliffhangers, I knew there was at least one more book, Deadbeat Druid on the way.
In the meantime, I made it my mission to track down the author to let him know just what his books meant to a gay, horror-loving, romance addict–and fellow author–in a small town in East Texas. I also immediately floated a pitch to interview him for Horror Pride Month this year, and was excited when he agreed.
As we settled in to chat, I told him again how much I appreciated the books, but I also had to ask, “Where and when did you meet Adam Binder?”
The story did not let me down.
As it happened, Slayton had been trying to write epic fantasy which, from personal experience, I can tell you is a daunting task. As it turned out, however, he was also a fan of urban fantasy and had been formulating a story about a doctor, his wife, and their child in Denver, the city that the author calls home.
“So I had this whole plot, but what I didn’t have was a main character,” the author explained. “I sort of put it in the back of my brain and forgot all about it, and then one night I was driving through the Carolinas. The moon was full. It was hanging over the road. The trees were hanging over the road. And that Kaleo song ‘Way Down we Go’ came on the radio. This character popped into my head, and I just start asking him questions. I said, ‘who are you?’ and he said, ‘Well, I’m just like you. I’m from Guthrie. I grew up in the woods.’ I started thinking I could merge this to that urban fantasy plot but that urban fantasy plot is still very Denver focused. Adam said, ‘Well, I could go to Denver.'”
And that’s just what he did…does…you know what I mean.
While the elements are fantastical and sometimes downright harrowing, the story of Adam Binder, a witch who has very little power in the grand scheme of things, and his mostly mundane family is rooted in a sense of reality. That truth, the realness of it all, was derived from Slayton’s own experiences. He even went so far as to name Adam’s mother after his own grandmother.
“Her name was Tilla-Mae Wolfgang Slayton and she was everything that the name implies,” he says.
As for the fantasy, he says, he was careful where he pulled his influences from while writing the novels.
“Someone who recently interviewed me said they didn’t understand why I didn’t use American folklore and myth,” he said. “The thing about it is, when you’re talking about American mythology you’re really talking about Native American mythology. I’m a very white person. I don’t want to appropriate that. So I was looking around at what mythologies are out there and what could I draw on from my own heritage and what can I do to take something that’s really well-known and tropey and flip it on its head.”
And so he created Elves who believe themselves to be hyper-modern yet they walk and dress and talk like they’ve stepped right out of a noir movie from the 1940s. Then, he brought in the far-too-seldom-used Leprechauns, giving them the swagger of a character from Peaky Blinders. I’m not even going to explain the gnomes to you. You just have to read it for yourself. The mix and mash, push and pull, of what we know and what we expect is what keeps the reader on their toes and that brings the author a great deal of satisfaction.
As it’s Pride, of course, we had to discuss the fact that the book has a gay protagonist. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in a comments section where anything queer is remotely mentioned knows what most of us face when we set about writing about ourselves, placing ourselves in the narrative. The homophobes come out of the woodwork hurling accusations of forcing agendas and wokeness when all we really want is to read stories where we exist.
For Slayton, there was no question about Adam’s sexuality from the beginning. It wasn’t an agenda. It was who he was.
“It’s vital to me,” he said. “Most of my inspiration in what I write comes from seeing a gap in the market. I grew up in Guthrie in the woods. I didn’t have access to a lot. My mother was very religious so what I was allowed to read was very limited. What I could find in fantasy, whenever there was an LGBTQ character, they were either barely there or they died tragically. There was an AIDS analog or coming out was a thing. I love seeing more of the representation spread and good representation in particular. That’s part of why I started writing White Trash Warlock. I don’t see a broke, gay witch from Oklahoma on the page. So, I thought, I’m going to write that. Since it is urban fantasy, prejudice and issues around Adam’s sexuality are present, but I didn’t want it to be the main thing in the story. Better writers than me have written about all that so I don’t want to read it.”
The formula is certainly working for Slayton. His books have captured the imagination of readers around the world. The blending of his own mixture of horror and fantasy is thrilling and compelling. For me, it gives me the same thrill of the first time I read Gaiman, Pratchett, and to an extent, even Barker.
This brings us, of course, to the final book in Slayton’s trilogy. With Deadbeat Druid on the horizon, it would have been criminal not to ask for a peek of what’s to come.
“At the end of Trailer Park Trickster, Adam is very much sent on an Odyssey,” he said. “Instead of using islands, I’m using real towns. Some of them just have a cool, creepy true crime thing connected with them; some of them just have interesting events connected to them. I’ve really enjoyed researching the history of these places. In Deadbeat Druid, you’ll get a little more of that.”
Yes, but what about Adam Binder and his sexy but very “everything is black and white” possible boyfriend, Vic, who he inadvertently made into a Grim Reaper?!
“I play a lot of D&D so I think in those terms,” Slayton pointed out. “Adam is chaotic good, which means that he always does the right thing, even if it’s against the law. Vic is lawful good, which means he will always do the right thing but it has to follow the law. By the end of book three, they’ve both taken steps toward each other and neutral good. Not everything is black and white and not every law is bad.”
To learn more about David Slayton, visit his official website and look for his novels online and in bookstores!