In Gabino Iglesias's terrifying story, part of Tor Nightfire's Come Join Us By the Fire series, college students deliver a presentation about the Lady Rose, a ghost ship with a final, deadly message. Iglesias begins this terrifying story by focusing on mundane details, from the boredom of its viewpoint character to the disinterested students, then builds terror as the story progresses. Anybody who has had to suffer the oral student project, either as presenter or an attendee, will be drawn in immediately by Gabino's smooth prose and vivid imagery. The audio production enhances the story, compelling the reader to listen up to the final second.
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...
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.