Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART IV

This is part IV in the categorical explanation for THE SUB GENRES OF HORROR.

For an introduction, and PART I of this series, please begin here:
The Sub-Genres of Horror - Part-I
PART II is here:
The Sub-Genres of Horror - Part-II
PART III is here: The Sub-Genres of Horror - Part-III

Part IV is below!


Lovecraftian Horror (Cthulhu Mythos)

Named after its progenitor, author H. P. Lovecraft, Lovecraftian Horror deals with “cosmic horror of the unknown.” This theme is guided by the belief that human minds cannot possibly comprehend the perilous mysteries of the universe which are, at its core, alien and malevolent. Common elements include protagonists who use science and logic to attempt to unravel these mysteries, but then, most often, lose their sanity, as the mysteries of the cosmos are too much for the human mind to comprehend. Also categorized under “Weird Fiction,” Lovecraftian Horror is generally pessimistic, dependent on atmosphere, and typically abstains from gore (choosing to emphasize psychological fear, being the absence of normality).

Book Examples:

The Call of Cthulhu (or Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos) by H. P. Lovecraft
The Burrowers Beneath (Book 1 of the Cthulhu Cycle Deities) by Brian Lumley
New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird (an anthology) edited by Paula Guran

Media Tie-In

A book based on a movie, game, television show, etc., authorized by the production company to be written as part of cross promotional efforts. Generally, this type of book will expand the storyline of the original work, using its existing characters, concepts, and settings. The important distinction here is that the story itself will be unique from the movie (or other media vehicle), whereas a novelization is the simply the written form of the original story, i.e. a written format of what occurs in the movie.

Book Examples:

30 Days of Night: Light of Day by Jeff Mariotte
The Willow Files, Vol. 1 (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) by Yvonne Navarro
Dreams of the Dark (Dark Shadows) by Stephen M. Rainey, Elizabeth Massie, and Lara Parker

Monster Horror (AKA: Supernatural Horror; AKA: Monster Literature)

The very word itself, “Monster,” suggests something that is evil or hideous, and monsters in horror is perhaps the most familiar theme when one thinks of the genre. This may include any fictional or supernatural creature such as zombies, werewolves, mummies, vampires, etc. Typically the Monster (also generally the antagonist) is defined as something that is abhorrent to society and that it also incites fear and is threatening.

Book Examples:

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
It by Stephen King


Paranormal Horror may be closely categorized to monster horror, but that these monsters are generally intangible, or if they are more like traditional “monsters” they are at least capable of intelligent thought, and not rambling killing-machines. Paranormal primarily includes ghosts, unidentified presences, demons, perhaps aliens, or simply anything that is contrary to the realm of current scientific explanation. Even the authenticity of séances or Ouija boards, faith healing, telepathy, or any psychic phenomena may be considered paranormal, as their results can’t be scientifically proven. A psychological movement, “Parapsychology” is the scientific study of the Paranormal, to push those boundaries of what may be “possible.” Another popular subgenre which is often categorized similarly is Paranormal Romance, recognized as a romance story in which one or more of the protagonists possesses some paranormal ability.

Book Examples (Paranormal Horror):

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Shining by Stephen King
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Book Examples (Paranormal Romance):

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris
Fantasy Lover (Dark-Hunter companion novel) by Sherrilyn Kenyon


MORE TO COME IN MY NEXT BLOG POST! Stay tuned soon for The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART V

Part I Describes:Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic Horror, Bizarro Fiction, Body Horror (Biological Horror)

Part II describes: Dark Fantasy (AKA:Fantasy Horror), Environmental Horror, Erotic Horror, Fairy Tales and Dark Fables

Part III describes: Gothic Horror, Historical Horror, Humor (AKA: Horror Comedy), and Killer Animals

Part IV describes: Lovecraftian Horror (Cthulhu Mythos), Media Tie-In, Monster Horror, and Paranormal

Part V describes: Psychic Abilities, Psychological Horror, Religious Horror (including: Demons and Possession), and Revenge


Thanks to notes on this topic accumulated from the following websites:


Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard


Eric J. Guignard writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. Assorted stories and articles that bear his byline may be found in the disreputable publications reserved for back alley bazaars. As an editor, Eric’s published the anthologies, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award®. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award), and watch for many more forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2016). Visit Eric at:, his blog:, or Twitter: @ericjguignard



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Interview With An Author (ME!) by Adventures With Ravina (PART 3 of 3)

This is Part 3 (of 3) of the of the interview done with me by the bloggers at ADVENTURES WITH RAVINA.

Part I of the interview is here:

Part II of the interview is here:

Part III of the full length of interview questions is below!


Last books you purchased? Tell us about it.

= “EDGE OF DARK WATER” by Joe R. Lansdale. “THE TERROR” by Dan Simmons. NEVERWHERE” by Neil Gaimon. “DEADFALL HOTEL” by Steve Rasnic Tem. “REDSHIRTS” by John Scalzi. “THE CORN MAIDEN AND OTHER NIGHTMARES” by Joyce Carol Oates. All six of these books are recent purchases and highly recommended. With the exception of “REDSHIRTS” (which is science fiction) these are all horror and dark fiction works; all are by amazing authors who have built a career on bestselling works that are applauded within the literary community.

Do you find the time to read?

= Every day; I try to read at least 30 minutes.

When and why did you begin writing?

= I’ve been writing and drawing stories ever since I was a child. However I stopped in college, in order to pursue business and serious-minded life necessities... which, of course, I now regret. I don’t regret the pursuit of those things, but having given up writing for so many years. I only jumped into as a potential career two-and-a-half years ago after the realization struck me that I was missing out on something I was passionate about.

How long have you been writing?

= I’ve been writing fiction with the goal of publication since February, 2011.

What genre are you most comfortable writing?

= Dark fiction, speculative fiction, horror, humor, and children’s stories

Who designed the cover?

= I designed the cover myself, although the artwork was created by Kevin Scott Sutay. Kevin is a United States veteran who is currently and illegally held by Columbian rebels as a prisoner on false charges of espionage. Hopefully by the time this interview sees print, the US government will have negotiated his release.

Who is your publisher?

= Dark Moon Books, an imprint of Stony Meadow Publishing, which is a wonderful indie publisher in Florida of quality fiction (mostly horror) and non-fiction.

How much of the book is realistic?

None of it is particularly realistic. “AFTER DEATH...” is anthology of all stories which are pure speculation on the part of the authors. Everyone’s opinion of what may happen after we die is different, and these stories explore a myriad of possibilities.

Have you ever considered anyone as a mentor?

= Weston Ochse @
and Lisa Morton @

What are your current writing projects now?

= I’m beginning a dark fantasy novel set in the hobo camps of the 1930s depression. Also, as a short story writer, I’m constantly working on smaller projects, both in the creation of stories, but also in the promotion of presses I work with.

Are there any new authors that have sparked your interest and why?

= Edward M Erdelac; I appreciate his crisp technical skills and love of mixing genres, primarily history and horror into compelling reading.

Peter Giglio; As a writer, editor, and publisher, Pete creates and promotes some of the best horror and dark fiction in the indie presses.

Jamie Lackey; Primarily an author of short stories, Jamie is exceptionally prolific with her work which spans fantasy, science fiction, and horror. She’s able to meld very emotionally-resonant characters into powerful storylines.

Do you have any advice for writers?

= Keep writing, and remember that every rejection is an opportunity for improvement.


All for now! Be sure to follow this Blog and connect with me via Twitter and other fine social media sites.

Go Back to: Author Interview with Me Part 1

Go Back to: Author Interview with Me Part 2

Monday, October 7, 2013

Interview With An Author (ME!) by Adventures With Ravina (PART 2 of 3)

This is Part II of the of the interview done with me by the bloggers at ADVENTURES WITH RAVINA.

Part I of the interview is here:

Part II of the full length of interview questions is below!


How much sleep do you need to be your best?

= Solid eight hours, though with family and work, that’s a rarity.

Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge and thank for their support?
= My family, of course!

Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you?

= Either finding personal satisfaction or achieving financial goals. The greatest success is accomplishing both!

Tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?

= This current book is an anthology I edited of short stories written by different authors, entitled “AFTER DEATH...” The subject matter considers what happens to us after we die. These fiction stories range from horror to science fiction to humor to inspirational. The book includes 34 tales, each illustrated, and explores perspectives from various cultures, philosophies, hopes, or fears. Within these pages, follow the ghost of an Australian cowboy. Discover what the “white light” really means to the recently departed. Consider the impact of modern, or future, technology on the dead. Follow the karmic path of reincarnation. Visit the realms of Greek Hades, Viking Valhalla, or Chinese Fengdu, and travel from the cruelest levels of Hell’s torments to the celestial realms of eternal paradise. For more information on this anthology, visit:

When you are not writing, how do you like to relax?

= I hike and study entomology (insects); spend time with my family; woodwork in my garage; and read, read, read.

How often do you write? And when do you write?

= I try to write every day, even if it’s only a dozen words. My personal goal is 1,000 words a day, though most writers I know strive for more, between 1,500 – 2,000.

How do you feel about social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter? Are they a good thing?

= They’re a terrible time-suck if you let them take over your day. However, if used responsibly, they’re a wonderful tool. I use most popular social media and have had great success in promoting my projects, as well as the projects of others, networking, and have been offered writing opportunities I otherwise would not have received. I regularly check in on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and LinkedIn, in addition to several forums specifically geared toward the writing genres I follow.

What’s your next project?

= Besides my recent anthology that I’m promoting, “AFTER DEATH...”, I’ve also just released a novella entitled, “BAGGAGE OF ETERNAL NIGHT”. This is packaged with a second novella, “SMOG” by Lisa Morton under the tradition of DoubleDown Books (Two novellas in one) by JournalStone Publishing. The story takes place in 1963 Detroit, and follows two men who bid in the hotel baggage auctions. One of them wins an old suitcase, but the antique gramophone it holds inside opens a cursed portal to a frozen realm of eternity. Reader age range is 16+ to adults. For more information, visit:

When you get free time on the internet or you go to the library – what do you want to read about?

= Horror, science fiction, literary, or historic works.

What would you love to produce in your life?

= Something that changes a person’s life for the better. And a New York Times Bestseller.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Interview With An Author (ME!) by Adventures With Ravina (PART 1 of 3)

As part of a Book Promotions Tour, I was recently interviewed by a Blogger at ADVENTURES WITH RAVINA. I was asked a series of questions, though only a partial selection of those were ultimately posted.

I thought it would be fun to post the entire interview, though due to its length, I’ll break it up into three parts.

The final posted Interview is here:

Part I of the full length of interview questions is below!


Tell us a bit about your family.

= I’m married to my beautiful childhood sweetheart. We have a five year old son, and my wife is pregnant with our second (a girl) due March, 2014.

What makes you happiest?

= Writing the words, “The End”

What books did you love growing up?

= Horror (Stephen King, Dean Koontz), Boys Adventure (Jack London, Hardy Boys), Literary Classics (Mark Twain, John Steinbeck), anthologies or collections of short stories (Thomas Monteleone, Stephen King ((again)), O. Henry), and lots and lots of comics (Marvel, D.C., and Dark Horse universes)

Who are your favorite authors?

= Cormac McCarthy, George Orwell, Stephen King, John Steinbeck, Joe R. Lansdale, Clive Barker, Hunter S. Thompson, Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemmingway, Robert McCammon, Mark Bowden, O. Henry, James Ellroy, and many others.

What book should everybody read at least once?

= “Boys Life” by Robert McCammon, “Big Fish” by Daniel Wallace, “The Divine Comedy” by Dante, “Burmese Days” by James Orwell, or any volume of “The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror.”

Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and where you now live?

= I was born and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles. I’ve travelled extensively through the United States and the world, but southern California has always been home.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

= Dreams (both night and day), news, conversations with people, personal observations of the world, and playing the “What If?” game.

Do you plan to publish more books?

= Absolutely. I have a stack ideas I want to put to paper.

What else do you do to make money, other than write? It is rare today for writers to be full time…

= I used to work in business and outside sales. I then tried to start my own custom furniture design and manufacturing business which flopped. Now I contract write and edit, including working in the financial industry as a technical writer.

What other jobs have you had in your life?

= Geez, just about everything! Retail, Waiter, Security, Roofing, Manufacturing, Professional Sales (Inside and Outside), Loan Officer, Graphic Designer, Freight Loader at U.P.S., Furniture Designer, Project Manager, and more. I’ve kept a running log of dates for every single job I’ve ever worked. I’ve been employed for 19 years (since 1994) and have worked 28 jobs. Many of those overlapped, including part-time, weekend, or temporary work. The expression, “Jack of all trades, master of none,” definitely comes to mind; I’ve jumped around a lot.

How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk?

= I used to write with pen in spiral notebooks and then type it up later on a word processor. Now, I write exclusively on my desktop computer. Actually, to be honest, I write in my head first, word by word, then run to my computer and try to type it all out as I imagined it.

Where do you get support from? Do you have friends in the industry?

= I’ve made friends in the industry recently, but starting out (only two and a half years ago), I knew nobody or nothing about the world of publishing fiction. But I threw myself into it, studied the craft, networked, and learned through experiences. Of course, still being a “newbie,” I realize I have a great deal more to learn.


Continue Author Interview with Me, Part 2, HEREAuthor Interview with Me, Part 2

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART III

This is part III in the categorical explanation for THE SUB GENRES OF HORROR.

For an introduction, and PART I of this series, please begin here: The Sub-Genres of Horror - Part-I

PART II is here: The Sub-Genres of Horror - Part-II


Gothic Horror (AKA: Gothic Fiction)

Gothic horror originated as a movement that combined elements of terror with romance, attributed first to English author, Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto (AKA: A Gothic Story). Gothic horror has since then expanded, though it still relies heavily on atmosphere and setting (such as a ruined castle, rugged mountain, or mist-shrouded cemetery) to create an overall sense of gloominess or dread. Often, the plot is melodramatic and sensational and may include a naïve heroine living by the moors of a Victorianesque society and/ or a lonely male traveler, haunted by a dark secret which is revealed at the story’s climax.

Book Examples:

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe
Drood by Dan Simmons

Historical Horror (including: Alternative History)

Historical Horror (and any other type of Historical Fiction) is set in the past. Though not a clearly factual account, this sub-genre relies heavily on historic facts, setting, and/ or people to provide an alternative context or hypothetical explanation to an actual event that occurred, or simply to provide the backdrop for a realistic and interesting point in time. Horror set in history has a broad range, whether including an ancillary character that happens to have existed or by completely rewriting events, such as pitting alien invaders against Confederate raiders during the Civil War. The significance in this style of writing is that particular attention is placed in the details which maintain accuracy to the time period and the appropriate mannerisms and descriptions of characters involved.

Book Examples:

The Terror by Dan Simmons
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
The Devils of D-Day by Graham Masterton

Humor (AKA: Horror Comedy)

Though at first consideration horror and humor may seem like diametric opposites, these two elements actually work complimentarily with each other; each shares the goal to elicit a strong reaction by mixing screaming with laughing. The act of combining humor and horror has a deep-running psychological basis as fears, or that which is not understood, is often exaggerated into parody. The short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving (published in 1820) is considered the first "great comedy-horror story."

Book Examples:

John Dies at the End by David Wong
The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks
Fat White Vampire Blues by Andrew Fox

Killer Animals

A self-descriptive title, this category includes stories of animals engaging in murderous rampage. Whether it’s a single animal or an invasion by large group, these beasts are consumed with a voracious inclination to slaughter every human being in their path. Typically the killer animal may be classified in one of two devices: The creature is already a feared or despised species that causes revulsion in the reader even while in a tranquil state (i.e. spiders or snakes); Or the creature is one which the reader empathizes with (i.e. dog or cat), but who is turned vicious by illness, revenge, latent evil, or any other cause normally attributable to humans.

Book Examples:

The Rats by James Herbert
Jaws by Peter Benchley
Cujo by Stephen King


MORE TO COME IN MY NEXT BLOG POST! Stay tuned soon for The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART IV

Part I Describes: Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic Horror, Bizarro Fiction, Body Horror (Biological Horror)

Part II describes: Dark Fantasy (AKA:Fantasy Horror), Environmental Horror, Erotic Horror, Fairy Tales and Dark Fables

Part III describes: Gothic Horror, Historical Horror, Humor (AKA: Horror Comedy), and Killer Animals

Part IV describes: Lovecraftian Horror (Cthulhu Mythos), Media Tie-In, Monster Horror, and Paranormal

Part V describes: Psychic Abilities, Psychological Horror, Religious Horror (including: Demons and Possession), and Revenge


Thanks to notes on this topic accumulated from the following websites:


Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART II

This is part II in the categorical explanation for THE SUB GENRES OF HORROR.

For an introduction, and PART I of this series, please begin here:

The Sub-Genres of Horror - Part-I


Dark Fantasy (AKA: Fantasy Horror, AKA: Gothic Fantasy)

Dark Fantasy in its broadest definition may be seen as simply another term for “supernatural horror,” being that it has a speculative element and the story is gloomy or grim in tone. However, the Dark Fantasy category is generally referenced when defining fiction in a “fantastic” context, and going beyond just the idea of one supernatural presence in order to explore a greater evil within its universe. Often, alternate and horrific worlds are developed that the characters must exist within. Other associations may involve elements of Sword & Sorcery fiction or High Fantasy fiction, written to a particulalry dark bent. Another example could be that the story is told from a mythological monster’s point of view.

Book Examples:

The Dark Tower (series of books) by Stephen King
The Saint-Germain novels by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Kane (stories and novels) by Karl Edward Wagner

Environmental Horror (AKA: Eco-Horror, including “Natural Disasters”)

This category applies to any story in which an element of nature takes on a speculative aspect with potentially deadly consequences to humans. Often it’s a reactionary tale in which mankind abuses the environment, and by consequence of their own actions cause the environment to exact revenge. Examples of rampant ecology include: catastrophic natural calamity (volcano, earthquake, tornado); climactic upheaval (sudden return of the ice age or cooling of Earth’s core); man-eating plants (‘nuff said); mutated animals (overt monsters such as two-headed monster shark or oversized insects OR psychological/ intellect, ala Planet of the Apes); disastrous weather (flooding, blizzards, extreme heat); atmospheric toxicity (air no longer breathable), etc. Though often ‘campy,’ these stories do promote the greater good of environmental awareness and often serve as platforms for real warnings about misusing Earth’s resources.

Book Examples:

Hothouse by Brian W. Aldiss
Garbage Man
by Joseph D'Lacey
The Ruins by Scott Smith

Erotic Horror (AKA: Dark Erotica)

Erotic Horror is horror fiction which combines elements of strong sexual or sensual imagery, including (though not necessitating) intercourse. Often the erotic element goes against conventional norms, involves supernatural aspects, and may not be ‘pleasurable’ to at least one of the participants. It’s a fine line and matter of taste moving beyond a story’s traditional “romantic” element to elicit erotica and tends to be more common in the horror genre than others, simply by the graphic style of writing that the community promotes. When pushing boundaries, it’s just as easy to describe an intense act of coitus as it is a gory bloodbath; both are somewhat taboo. Much horror has subtle elements that naturally lends itself into this category. Consider Dracula’s sensual sway over female victims, or the demon Succubus that drains unsuspecting men, or even the horror movie cliché that any young couple who engage in sex will be killed the following scene. (Trivia Time: William Shakespeare called the orgasm the “little death.”)

Book Examples:

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker
Scared Stiff
by Ramsey Campbell
Love in Vein: Twenty Original Tales of Vampiric Erotica edited by Poppy Z. Brite

Fairy Tales and Dark Fables

More often recognized in sanitized adaptations with happy endings, children are reared on legion of fairy tales. However, most of these stories were originally developed as being much darker in nature with gruesome twists and horrific endings than as known today. Rather than heroic adventures, fairy tales are parables for children meant to reinforce values and life lessons from an early age. At their heart, these stories may even be viewed as psychological tools . Child psychologist, Bruno Bettelheim, wrote the following in 1975 about this topic: “In order to master the psychological problems of growing up... a child needs to understand what is going on within his conscious self so that he can also cope with that which goes on in his unconscious.” Psycho-babble aside, old-school fairy tales are frightening things; oft-employed grim elements include supernatural monsters or witches, ghosts, deformation, severe punishment or imprisonment, and death. There continue to be new works released that incorporate elements of fairy tales, create their own tale, or promulgate the legends of fairy tales or fables, so this sub-genre by no means includes only “passed-down” stories.

Book Examples:

Grimms' Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Little Red Riding Hood
by Charles Perrault (first published)
Once by James Herbert


MORE TO COME IN MY NEXT BLOG POST! Stay tuned soon for The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART III

Part I Describes: Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic Horror, Bizarro Fiction, Body Horror (Biological Horror)

Part II describes: Dark Fantasy (AKA:Fantasy Horror), Environmental Horror, Erotic Horror, Fairy Tales and Dark Fables

Part III describes: Gothic Horror, Historical Horror, Humor (AKA: Horror Comedy), and Killer Animals

Part IV describes: Lovecraftian Horror (Cthulhu Mythos), Media Tie-In, Monster Horror, and Paranormal

Part V describes: Psychic Abilities, Psychological Horror, Religious Horror (including: Demons and Possession), and Revenge


Thanks to notes on this topic accumulated from the following websites:


Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Book Reviews (September) for older Horror Novels

September Book Reviews are of older Horror Novels (15 years or more). Each of the following books may be purchased through


WRITTEN BY: Robert R. McCammon
PUBLISHED: June, 1987

Another successful novel by author, Robert R. McCammon. Swan Song is a post-apocalyptic horror story following the survivors of a nuclear Armageddon. The characters are diverse and engaging, though many border on the stereotypical “too-good” vs. “too-evil.” However, I appreciated the variety of characters’ “Points of Views” by chapter, similar to Stephen King’s own post-apocalyptic novel, “The Stand.” The desolation and misery created by McCammon is emotional; you can feel the pain and weariness of the survivors as they trek across the ruined country. But that’s also offset by the perpetual hope and innocence of the girl, Swan, as well as the life lessons learned and perseverance by Sister and Josh and the others. The ending is very satisfying, even somewhat beautiful. Swan Song is a classic and recommended reading for anyone who enjoys dark fiction.

Five out of Five stars


REVIEWED: Among Madmen
WRITTEN BY: Jim Starlin and illustrated by Daina Graziunas
PUBLISHED: April, 1990

Easy read, fast-paced, violent, and gripping = highly recommended for fans of pulp action stories. Consider this similar to a zombie plague, only instead of fighting off the undead, the protagonists must battle “Berserkers” which are people who have contracted an incurable mental condition that drives them to sadistically murder anyone they can (consider a similarity in this to the movie, “28 Days Later”). Another level to this story, which makes the plot successful, is that anyone may contract the illness at anytime. So survivors are constantly suspicious of their friends, wondering if they’re about to turn berserker. The main character, Tom Laker, is an ex-vet and sheriff of a town of survivors. He’s a well-rounded hero with flaws and tragic circumstances. Most of the other characters are rather flat, however, and represent bland stereotypes. The author forces a great deal of emotion into the book, some of which is advantageous and some which is not. He cares for a wounded dog, which then runs away, leaving the audience to wonder at its purpose, or if it was an analogous device for Tom himself. Overall, if you’re not expecting too much, this is a great “read-something-fun” book. Also illustrated by the author’s wife, Daina, although I question the placement of the images, as they always came before a plot point, thus giving away what was going to happen.

Four-and-a-half out of Five stars


REVIEWED: Song of Kali
WRITTEN BY: Dan Simmons
PUBLISHED: January, 1998

Song of Kali is a well written novel of dark fiction, though hardly “the most frightening book ever written” as heralded across reviews and its book cover. There are actually very few scenes that seemed particularly scary at all. The plot is fair and emotionally-driven, compelling and sad, with good pacing, conflict, etc. And, man!, can this author write! The technical ability of Dan Simmons is extraordinary. However, the book just felt barely “above-average,” rather than fantastic, after closing the final page. The ending is anticlimactic, i.e. dreadful (in terms of boredom)... this story had so much potential to have been greater. The backdrop and circumstances Simmons established could have led to many, many more frightening scenes than he used. All-in-all, a fine read, especially as this is the first novel he ever wrote. Note to reader: His books get much better.

Four out of Five stars

Midnight cheers,


Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART I

In the great and storied realm of Literature, what constitutes that particular niche known as “Horror”? We seem to recognize it when we see it, but it’s not entirely easy to categorize into one lump genre.
First, by “Horror,” I mean that spirit relating to FICTION, primarily in literature and movies, which is intended, or has the capacity, to frighten or cause a sense of dread or alarm.
See further on this in my blog discussion, “The Horror Genre” here:

Consider Horror like a city, one if which all manner of ominous denizens dwell. It’s a great place to sightsee, but most people may not want to live there. Within this City, there are further divisions—neighborhoods—if you will. Some of the horror neighborhoods are gory and some are psychological and some are geared even toward children. These neighborhoods are the “sub-genres.”

Now, if you take a step back, you realize that the city of Horror is also part of a larger County, and there are neighboring cities which—although not intended to be horror—share those same neighborhoods which dip into Horror’s boundaries. Consider the neighboring cities as other genres, and the neighborhoods which are sub-genres may cross many of their limits.

You see, the Horror Genre is formally a subset of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Genre, which in turn falls under the larger umbrella of “Speculative Fiction.” Speculative Fiction is contrasted against literary fiction by “Including a supernatural element.” Whereas literary fiction involves fictional characters and/or events in an everyday world in which we could theoretically share the same experiences as those characters. Speculative Fiction, in my example, is the County, and thus Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, etc. are all the cities.

Confused? You’re not alone. Try categorizing your favorite author into one sub-genre. Typically it’s impossible, as writers enjoy challenging themselves and exploring new “neighborhoods.” Even Stephen King, the literal “King of Horror” has written in numerous genres and sub-genres.

So all that is well and good, but with the names of neighborhoods often bandied about, and no road map of how they relate to each other, it is often a perplexing place to visit. I thought I would investigate a bit and attempt to map out the sub-genres of Horror.

By no means is my list inclusive, but here are some of the more common categories you may encounter (in alphabetic order):

Apocalyptic/ Post-Apocalyptic Horror

Apocalyptic fiction deals with the catastrophic end of civilization, and Post-Apocalyptic fiction deals with its aftermath. Generally both elements may be infused into the same story, as for it to truly be considered “apocalyptic,” the catastrophe must occur, and not simply be a grave threat which is overcome. The catastrophic end may be for any reason relating to scientifically-possible or to supernatural imaginings, such as nuclear war, plague, alien invasion, monsters, celestial judgment, etc.

Book Examples:

The Stand by Stephen King
Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Bizarro Fiction

A relatively new subgenre, Bizarro fiction is a contemporary classification, which is not entirely easy to define. It encompasses elements of satire, absurdism, and the grotesque, along with pop-surrealism and genre fiction staples, in order to create subversive works that are as strange and entertaining as possible. Not all Bizarro has horror references, but similar themes may be often found, including those of fear, confusion, monsters, supernatural elements, etc. Bizarro sometimes may be compared to “Weird Fiction,” though Weird Fiction seems to have subtler oddities, and not the brutally outlandish which is found in Bizarro.
Book Examples:
The Haunted Vagina by Carlton Mellick III
Shatnerquake by Jeff Burk
The Bizarro Starter Kit (Volumes Orange and Blue) edited by Eraserhead Press

Body Horror (AKA: Biological Horror)
Body horror, biological horror, organic horror, or venereal horror are associated names of a genre in which the human body itself is used as the primary device by which the audience is confronted with the horrific. The horror in these stories is principally derived from the graphic destruction or degeneration of the body and can include transformation or mutilation to the body as a way to reflect an innate fear of death or loss of control. Besides mutilation, other ideas may deal with disease, decay, parasitism, or mutation. Another type of body horror includes unnatural movements, or the anatomically incorrect placement of limbs to create 'monsters' out of human body parts.
Book Examples:
The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker
Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book Reviews (June)

Book Reviews! Each of the following books may be purchased through any large book store or online through

REVIEWED: Redshirts
WRITTEN BY: John Scalzi
PUBLISHED: January, 2012

On its face, Redshirts, by John Scalzi, is a successful story. Mirroring the Star Trek show, Redshirts creates an alternative explanation as to why crewmembers aboard the “Intrepid” regularly seem to die off for no reason. Geeky science fiction which is part comedic satire, part adventure, and part existential philosophy. The majority of the book (comprising about the first 85%) is a quick read, fun and fast-paced. Then Scalzi adds in three codas or “P.S.”s, afterwards, each which builds another level to the story. It’s really a unique structure which I’ve not seen commonly done, but he pulls it off and the book is increasingly better with the advancement of each of the codas. Great ending that tied everything together.

Five out of Five stars

REVIEWED: Finders Keepers: The Story of a Man Who Found $1 Million
WRITTEN BY: Mark Bowden
PUBLISHED: October, 2002

This is a journalistic account of the true story of Joey Coyle, an out-of-work and drug-addicted 28 year old man, who finds $1.2 million which had fallen from an armored truck. It’s a riveting drama which at turns takes twists into humor and suspense but ends, unfortunately, as a tragedy. Coyle is portrayed as an amiable man who essentially blows through much of the money in two weeks, simply by giving it away to homeless, using it on drugs, “forgetting” where he put it, and sharing it with shady businessmen and friends who find out about his fortune and begin to confront him for a piece of the loot. Add to all this, Joey increasingly uses methamphetamine (speed) which causes him paranoid delusions and crippling anxiety. Finders Keepers is sharp and well-written; a fascinating tale of an ordinary man faced with a moral dilemma, and the ensuing reactions of family, friends, neighbors, and police who become a part of his misadventures.

Five out of Five stars

REVIEWED: Sunset and Sawdust
WRITTEN BY: Joe R. Lansdale
PUBLISHED: January, 2005

This is classic Lansdale: Well-written, gripping, and at times poignantly funny. Sunset Jones kills her abusive husband in self-defense in the middle of a cyclone. It’s really quite symbolic as not only her home and husband are gone, but her entire life is torn apart. From the very beginning, it’s a story of her reconstructing everything around her, including her own world views. Through the assistance of her wealthy mother-in-law, Sunset becomes Sheriff of the town, a small logging camp in the 1930’s depression. One of her first orders of business is to solve a brutal double murder that her late-husband (the former Sheriff) buried. The book effortlessly cuts across genres of mystery and thriller, horror, western and humor. Lansdale, as common for him, deals with race and gender issues and takes a progressive stance against commonly held clichés. Great read overall. The only complaint was that Lansdale built up such a pair of clever and creepy villains, but then rarely used them. He needs to write a prologue story stat, just about McBride and his half-brother, Two!

Four out of Five stars

REVIEWED: Boy's Life
EDITED BY: Robert R. McCammon
PUBLISHED: May, 1992

I don’t know how this book has escaped me for so long, as it was written back in 1991. This is the kind of story I wish I would have read as a teenager. Although, of course, it may not have meant as much to me then as it does now, as a father, watching my son begin his own adventures, and remembering that sense of magic and excitement that I’ve somehow lost over the years. People frequently throw the phrase around that they’ve read something that’s “one of the best things ever,” but I can truly affirm that “Boy’s Life” by Robert McCammon is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

The publisher’s description doesn’t do the book justice. It says that a young boy and his father witness a murdered man being driven into a lake, and their lives are shaken by the realization the idyllic town they live in must contain an evil person. The boy goes on to investigate the mystery and has magical adventures with his friends.

I read that and thought it sounded pretty “ho-hum,” perhaps like a glorified Hardy Boys tale. Though the murder mystery is a part of the book, it’s really just one small thread woven through an immense tapestry of gorgeous narrative. The book description doesn’t exhort the prospective reader with the amazing beauty contained within and the author’s ability for spit-shined storytelling… of course it can’t, as every book description makes such claims. The difference with this novel, is that it delivers.

“Boy’s Life” takes place in 1964 and follows the coming-of-age years of Cory Mackenson, a 12-year old in the small town of Zephyr, Alabama, who lives life as all of us once did. He plays with his friends, struggles in school, and does what his parents tell him to do. He’s at odds with the neighborhood bullies, loves his dog, and is filled to brimming with hopes and dreams and fears. He knows the world by what is taught him in a town peopled with all types of personalities; from small-minded bigots to superstitious elders to neighbors who harbor dark and strange secrets. But he’s also at the age where he’s beginning to make his own decisions about the things around him.

Through it all, Cory, like all boys, can see the magic of the world that adults cannot. There are ghosts in town, some of whom mourn their untimely passing, while others just want to play with the living. Wishes can come true if wished hard enough. Dinosaurs still live, a boy’s bicycle isn’t just an inanimate thing, and monsters appear from the shadows if you’re not careful. Death and life pass by hand-in-hand, and Cory navigates it all amongst gun-toting moonshiners, natural disasters, and an ancient woman who helps interpret the dreams he and his father have late at night.

This book is simply a priceless gem of sparkling prose. Each of Cory’s multiple adventures brought me back to the years when I experienced these things first-hand. The author has an incredible command, not only of the language of writing, but also of the heart strings of emotion. Suffice it to say, tears fell from my eyes more than once.
For example, here’s an excerpt: “I glance at her and my eyes are blessed. She wears sunlight in her blond hair like a spill of golden flowers… we smile at each other. Her hand finds mine. They were meant to be clasped together, just like this.”

Anyway, to sum it up, I absolutely loved this book. It won the World Fantasy Award when it came out, so other people loved it, too. Of course, there’s no book written that’s going to please everyone, so before picking up a copy, ask yourself this: Did you like “Stand By Me” by Stephen King? If the answer is yes, consider “Boy’s Life” as a wilder adventure, longer in page count (over 800) and filled with a bit more imagination and a lot more depth.

SIX out of Five stars (yes, that is the equivalent of 120% - it deserves it)

Midnight cheers,