The post-quarantine world moves fast. For those interested, I’m scheduled to be at Multiversecon this October. If you attend come say hi.
Yeah, 2020 was a crap year, and if 2021 is even marginally better we will consider it a miracle. I don't need to repeat the litany of events; most of us probably developed PTSD from our collective daily doom scrolling. May the entire year lay near the bottom of history's dustbin.
As bad as 2020 was, it turned out great horror. I kept up with what I could for a change, and seldom found myself disappointed by the books and movies released. Below are my favorite horror books published during 2020, all of which I recommend.
Movies didn't have as groundbreaking a year as in previous years, for obvious reasons, but that doesn't mean worthwhile efforts weren't released on streaming services such as Shudder. There were a lot of great movies available if you knew where to look. Of the movies released in 2020, I'd recommend the following.
Found in the huge anthology Midnight in the Pentagram edited by Kenneth W. Cain, James Newman's story concerns the aftermath of an exorcism, and the effect it has on the protagonist, at that time fifteen years old. Far from the happy ending implied by most possession tales, Newman suggests what would follow is a mélange of post-traumatic stress, isolation, and, to some extent, longing, all told in elegant prose with mounting unease. It's a story I wish I had written.
"Your ghosts follow you."
His House is a powerful little thriller about a Sudanese couple seeking refuge in England, but inexplicable things occur when they arrive at a tenement home in London. Taut and gripping, with strong performances and breathtaking imagery.
Thanks to Gabino Iglesias for the recommendation.
It's the last Friday the 13th of 2020. What could go wrong?
You would think, as a child of the 1980s, I would have been a slasher fan. It was a golden age for such franchises: Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and of course Friday the 13th hunted down scores of teens who refused to heed messages like Just Say No, Abstinence Only, or for that matter "Where's the Beef?" But I wasn't interested in these sorts of tales at all. I preferred the landscapes and monsters proffered by Universal and Hammer, in part because the fantasy elements offered escape from my mundane adolescence. It wasn't until I read Carol J. Clover's Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film in college that I grew to appreciate and love the slasher story. By then, however, the form had played out; Freddy was dead, Jason lumbered like a zombie, and Michael Myers's gigantic knife couldn't cut through his series' overgrown mythology. It took Wes Craven's Scream to revive the form, and to cement the rules into popular culture.
For all of its seeming limitations, the slasher story remains incredibly robust. From David Gordon Green's Halloween to the metafictional Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, the form offers more interest and social insight than my pretentious teenage self could imagine.
This includes novels and stories. For modern examples, see Sadie Hartmann's slasher selections. It leaves out a few of my own favorites, such as Stephen Graham Jones's The Last Final Girl, but it offers both a good starting point for the novice and solid recommendations for the seasoned horror reader.
As a reminder, my slasher story "Final Girl" will appear in the anthology Campfire Macabre, coming soon from Cemetery Gates Media. Details on where you can find a copy soon.
Enjoy your Friday the 13th while you can...
My slasher story "Final Girl" will appear in the anthology Campfire Macabre, coming soon from Cemetery Gates Media. I share a table of contents with Tim Waggoner and Yolanda Sfetsos, among many others.
Details on where you can find a copy soon.
Jeani Rector's The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories is available on Kindle from Hellbound Books. My story "Proof of Afterlife" appears within.
For those who prefer their stories inked onto the skins of dead trees, a paperback edition is available.
Coming soon from editor Hellbound Books. I share a table of contents with two of my favorites, Joe Lansdale and Graham Masterton, among other fine writers.
If the blurbs are anything to go by, people seem to dig this one.
“This collection of ghost stories is fresh, varied, and entertaining. Perfect company for a long winter’s night.” – Owen King, co-author of Sleeping Beauties
“An incredibly creepy collection of stories of the recently and not so recently dead, written by some of the finest writers in horror. I suggest that when reading, do so in the daylight, because reading these at night will only make you more aware of your own, unempty house.” – Susie Moloney, author of The Dwelling and The Thirteen
“Gruesome, eerie, horrific, sometimes uplifting; this is a terrific selection of ghost stories that satisfy the soul—they chill the blood, too.” – Simon Clark, author of Whitby Vampyrrhic
“Looking for a perfect evening? Spend the night hunkered down in your favorite chair with only a reading light on, and dive into The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories. Forget sleep, these tales will keep you enthralled till daybreak.” – Tony Tremblay, author of The Moore House
“Nobody keeps the supernatural alive like The Horror Zine.” – Scott Nicholson, author of The Red Church
Release date forthcoming.
Roger Waters, in collaboration with other musical artists in lockdown. offers two fantastic renditions of Pink Floyd's most haunting songs from The Final Cut and The Wall.
"Two Suns in the Sunset."
Derek Austin Johnson has lived most of his life in the Lone Star State. A member of the Turkey City Writer's Workshop, his work has appeared in The Horror Zine, Tell-Tale Press, Skull Fragments: A Skelos Sampler, Rick Klaw's Rayguns Over Texas!, Nova Express, Moving Pictures, Her Majesty's Secret Servant, and Revolution SF. His film column "Watching the Future" appeared each month at Hugo Award-winning SF Signal.
He lives in Central Texas.