This video is from last week’s Poe birthday bash. You can see one of the cats wanted to become internet famous as I read a stanza of “The Raven.”
A very happy birthday to one of my biggest influences.
My ranking of his movies, from worst to best, would include the following:
Guess whose birthday it is?
That’s right, it’s Clark Ashton Smith’s, contemporary of H. P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, and Robert E. Howard, and one of the key writers during Weird Tales’ golden age. He wrote amazing poetry and incredible stories with prose so purple it was practically ultraviolet.
So happy happy CAS!
I just submitted the signed contract so I feel comfortable posting it here. My story "Prodigal" has been accepted for publication in the anthology Anterior Skies edited by C. F. Page. It should be released by Strange Elf Press in the spring of 2023. Details as I learn them.
In print and visual media, this was a banner year for horror. These were my favorites.
5. Bones and All (d. Luca Guadagnino): A coming-of-age story, with cannibals. This may be too much of a slow burn for some and it's surprising less grisly than the synopsis suggest. Great performances by Timothee Chalamet and Taylor Russell, and Guadagnino's directorial eye is even better here than in his masterful Suspiria (2018).
4. The Black Phone (d. Scott Derrickson): Trapped in a killer's basement with the spirits of the dead, who speak through a disconnected phone. Based on Joe Hill's story. Derrickson knows how to build tension and dread, and perfectly places period details.
3. Brightwood (d. Dane Elcar): A couple traverses a trail surrounding a lake, and finds themselves incapable of escape. A powerfully crafted movie about how love turns to hate and, curiously, back again. Seen at Other Worlds Austin.
2. X/Pearl (d. Ti West): Mia Goth takes on the role of a woman trapped by her dreams in two outstanding movies, one an homage to 1970s exploitation, one a tour de force Technicolor character story. I probably prefer X for its visceral thrills, but Pearl is the better movie. See both.
1. Barbarian (d. Zach Cragger): I get why people dislike this movie. I do. But for me it was the most unpredictable picture of the year. I was sold based on the trailer, but it's so much more to the story than that. And it blends humor without overpowering it.
Others: Nope (d. Jordan Peele); Crimes of the Future (d. David Cronenberg); Resurrection (d. Andrew Semans).
Sorry, but I liked Alex Garland's Men.
It seems a bit ridiculous to put the previous year in perspective; after all, what can we say but the big blue marble completed another track around the giant ball of fire? But a year is how we take stock: of ourselves, of the state of the world, of anything that matters to us as a society, a civilization, a species.
And none of it seems very good. Even if we wanted to set aside the global lunacy affecting us all on both micro and macro scales, we face problems that, to my own admittedly cynical eye, appear insurmountable. We've gone crazy, and none of us seem immune to modern dancing mania. On a personal level, even as I managed the fallout of a major personal incident that occurred a couple of years ago, new professional and personal issues required more of my energy and attention. I skipped events to ensure stability; those I attended had a bittersweet air. I missed deadlines for open calls I found interesting, and flirted with giving up writing several times; while I wrote more fiction this year, only a handful of pieces sold. The result is I begin the new year more tired than I have been in a while.
And yet, on the writing front, this has been my best year ever. I had six stories published in 2022, the most I've released in a single year, including:
I've been on TikTok for over a year now, and
For 2023, I plan editing my novel, and writing more fiction.
At this point, that's about all I can do.
Derek Austin Johnson has lived most of his life in the Lone Star State. His work has appeared in The Horror Zine, Rayguns Over Texas!, Horror U.S.A.: Texas, Campfire Macabre, The Dread Machine, and Generation X-ed.
He lives in Central Texas.