BY MARK SLADE
Dark dreams began a few years ago as a podcast. I wanted to give other writers a chance to be heard, as well as myself. I also wanted to gather as many of my favorite stories by writers I liked. I was able to have stories read by Richard Christian Matheson, G. Wayne Miller and Joe R. Lansdale. My narrations were not very good, but E.S. Wynn was a master of it. He had a flare for the dramatic and the right timing for comedy, and a voice to die for. That podcast bit the dust after two or three years. Funny story (not so funny at the time) but a name writer took offense when I asked if his story could be read. He didn’t like my website, claimed I was stealing writer’s stories and vowed he would get the Horror Writers Association to sue me. I thought I was going to have to shut things down when another writer told me to ignore it, and it would go away. Well, nothing happened except he drew more people to the podcast for a week or so. A few years went by and an 80 or so episodes went by before I closed the podcast.
A few months ago I was listening to the Twilight Zone podcast, http://thetwilightzonepodcast.com/, hosted by Tom Elliot. He said (I think) that he believed the Twilight Zone all characters were connected somehow, and that the reason for the Twilight Zone’s existence was because of that connection. I loved that reasoning of the show and I got to thinking of bringing the title Dark Dreams back and doing an anthology. So I asked each writer to write a story using a minor or major character from the last story entry. Or if they already had a story to modify a character’s name. I’ve asked the contributors to explain their inspirations for their story. I also asked Artist Cameron Hampton about her paintings and drawings that make up the cover. To me the cover shows, in a dreamlike state, four different images that sums up the book. Loneliness and isolation, sex, murder and a horrific consequences of an evil act (or) acts.
BOOK COVER AND ART BY CAMERON HAMPTON
“The painting on the left is a self-portrait of me Skyping with my boyfriend. It’s called Long Distance. The pictures on the top right were for another writers work, ‘Nothing there’ by G. Wayne Miller. The painting on the bottom right (the green one) is for an Edgar Allan Poe story, The Cask of Amontillado.”
DREAM GURU BY MARK SLADE
I think it’s safe to say almost everyone who contributed to this book is a huge Rod Serling fan, whether it’s the Twilight Zone or Night Gallery, those influence weigh heavy on all involved in this project. This story was originally published in Nightmare Stalkers and Dream Walkers volume II. I had an idea about a man who had so many gambling debts that he was willing to do anything to rid himself of the problem. I also wanted to write a story about self-help gurus and how obsessed society is with “self”. Improving yourself is fine, but wouldn’t it be better if the improvement was how you treated people and your loved ones, not paying loads of money to satisfy the “inner self”? Maybe helping out with, or giving to charities?
I imagined this to be an episode of Tales from the darkside. I imagined the main character as a young (1980’s) John Goodman and the girlfriend Cathy Moriarty of raging Bull fame. The dream guru character was named after friend and writer T. Fox Dunham.
BEYOND THE MINDS EYE BY THOMAS M. MALAFARINA
Tom’s story was perfect follow up to mine. Definitely a shock to the system with that ending.
“My inspiration for “Beyond the Mind’s Eye” was to create a horror/sci-fi type of story that combined several different elements. I wanted to show something about the power of creativity and how an imagination is so incredibly powerful. I also wanted to touch on how technology, originally developed with the greater good in mind could become corrupted by human greed. And of course I wanted to throw in some good old fashioned gore. The original inspiration was a work of art by Nunzio Barbera of the same title. https://www.saatchiart.com/art/-Beyond-the-Mind-s-Eye/166157/94820/view. This story was part of my collection “Gallery Of Horror” no longer in print. I took 10 of Nunzio’s works and wrote stories around them with the same title. The purpose of this was to simulate in print the old Rod Serling show “Night Gallery”. If the story has a bit of a “Twilight Zone” feel, that’s why.”
PSYCHOSIS BY D.S. SCOTT
D.S.’s story kept me guessing where it was going. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I came to the end because I didn’t see it coming.
“Well, the idea for my story came from my experiences with doctors and nurses. Although I’ve never been placed in a mental institution before, I have visited one and seen what it’s like. I also have physical health problems, so I’ve had to deal with more than my fair share of doctors. I’ve wondered what it’s like to have that job. I guess my inspiration came from thinking to myself, what if a mentally ill person was the one taking care of other mentally ill people and what kind of outcome that could produce. There are killers that blend in with everyone else in society, so why wouldn’t there be some that blend in as doctors or nurses, too?
“I think I watched an episode of the show Dexter, about the serial killer who kills other killers. If I recall correctly, I think his first human kill was the nurse who tried to overdose his step father in the hospital. I’m not sure if that’s in the book series by Jeff Lindsay though. But now that I think about it, that probably helped inspire me with the story.”
Jacqui sent this story to me quickly after I asked her to join in on the anthology. I believe it only took her two weeks. But what a satisfying little gem it is and fits perfectly as an intro to the next story by Emerian. Funny how so many writers can end up on the same wave length.
BEAUTIFUL ANGEL BY JOHN C. ADAMS
“I love the novelty of linking the story together. It felt really fresh and innovative.
“My inspiration came from the previous story, where a nurse was called a ‘beautiful angel’. As a horror writer I went ahead and took that literally. She meets a horrible end but comes back as a guardian angel, a sort of psychic detective from another realm.
“Writer’s that inspired me were HP Lovecraft always and Stephen King. Read a lot of James Herbert as a kid. All of them influenced me a lot. I wouldn’t say any of them were in mind when I wrote the story – probably subconscious, as these things always are.”
This is the second time I’ve been able work with Emerian for an anthology. Happily, it was not what I was expecting from her. I couldn’t help but have that feeling of claustrophobia when I read her story, or maybe anxiety of dread is more appropriate.
VAMPIRE THERAPY BY EMERIAN RICH
“Actually a dream- which is where a lot of my ideas come from. I woke one night in the middle of the night breathing hard and felt like someone was stealing my breath. I also had the very real impression that my husband had died in a terrorist attack. He hadn’t…thankfully he was still by my side. But in the darkness I saw a form that looked like a vampire face. I turned on the light – it was just a white shirt hanging in the closet. So yes, all imagined, but creeped me out enough to write about it.”
Jason Norton sent me a few stories for the now defunct mag I was doing for Horrified Press Nightmare Illustrated. I think we share the same philosophy when it comes to writing stories. Try to hook the reader from the get-go foreshadow the ending (or in our case surprise ending) of the story.
6 BY JASON NORTON
“The majority of my short stories (including this one) have been inspired by two sources: Tales from the Crypt and The Twilight Zone. I always try to catch the reader off-guard with some sort of twist or unexpected plot thread. And I love a good redemption story, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to take a shot at writing one. This story had its origins in an idea I had nearly 20 years ago, but never completed. The original idea was that this hard-luck criminal who had lost nearly everything ends up at this mysterious roadside hotel where all these lost objects–and lost travelers–turn up. The watch I use in “6” came directly from that original story concept. I tweaked the updated version, adding a few horror elements and a new ending and I think it made for a more enjoyable narrative–but of course, I’m pretty biased.”
P.J. is a fellow column writer for Horror Metal Sounds as I am with my column From the Grave. I was reading one of his columns about movies and decided to ask him along for the ride. I most certainly had no regrets. He produced a fine, interesting story. I hope to see more from him.
CLUMSY IS THE CROW BY P.J. GRIFFIN
“I wanted to create a story that had the feeling of a genuine nightmare. Nightmares are often so scary because not only do they tap into our personal fears but they are also quite disconnected from reality. It’s as if nightmares are all the terror without any safety net.
“The initial concept of the story was the tangible feeling of being alone in the woods, suddenly feeling like you’ve made a mistake. The character knows that staying home was probably a better choice but he’s gone too far and he is simultaneously afraid of being exposed. However, little by little, the narrator distances himself from what the reader might see as acceptable response to his situation and surroundings. Suddenly the reader loses the narrator as their one connection to the safety of reality. It’s a frightening thing to realize that a tour guide is no longer a stable figure.
“Additionally, I wanted to explore the nature of losing oneself. I feel that our emotions and how they align with the majority of others is a comfort that can be especially disturbing when lost. The horrific becomes comedic, the senseless suddenly makes sense.
“Nightmares often become so upsetting because it’s as if we are in a strange world to which we feel inexplicably feel connected. Getting lost in the chaos, venturing out into uncharted territory and having your own feelings betray you. That’s what the heart of the story is.”
By far the most bizarre story I’ve had in any of my anthologies. Not for the faint of heart. By the way, Mr. Deadman runs his own online zine Deadman’s Tome, along with a podcast of the same name.
CYNTHIA’S GARDEN BY MR. DEADMAN
“Inspiration: my goal with Cynthia’s Garden was to write something absolutely disgusting, perverted, and bizarre. The subtext, however, played with the idea of a strong female character that kills people for simply slut shaming her. The twist at the end with the talking heads was from a concept I’ve been playing with for a while: a garden of bodies.”
I might be wrong, but I think Joe has been in almost every anthology I have put together. He was one of the original writers for the podcast Blackout City and he is in my anthology Wicked Gardens a book of stories about an apartment building.
MANIK BY DAVID LUDFORD
“I guess my inspiration was something I’ve relied on for a number of stories- man’s interaction with strange, supernatural creatures and the endless possibilities this presents. Significantly with ‘Manik’ it wasn’t an ordinary man who caused the demon’s downfall but a supernatural power even higher than itself. I wondered what a battle- albeit a brief one- between evil forces would look like.”
PENANCE BY JOSEPH PATCHEN
“Dreams. I get everything from letting my mind go and the dream or nightmare enters. I don’t write anything. I’m the vessel for whatever enters and develops in my unconscious and subconscious state.”
Next up is a very unsettling story by Mark Tompkins, a writer who has been involved with many projects published by Horrified Press and Rogue Planet press.
PHASE BOUNDRY BY MARK TOMPKINS
“Phase Boundary was inspired by pondering shadows and different states of matter. The idea came to me one lazy weekend day when I was sitting outside watching the shadows through the trees. My wife and I had been discussing parallel universes and other theoretical stuff earlier in the day and the story just popped into my head.”
The book was just about finished, but it seemed to need something else. I noticed that E.S. Wynn wasn’t in the book. Earl is another writer that has been in every project I’ve been tied to. Initially he turned me down, having too many things on his plate. But I pleaded and finally he caved in. Without his contribution, the book would have felt unfinished.
FEAST OF FLESH BY E.S. WYNN
“My biggest inspiration for Feast of Flesh was H.P. Lovecraft. I wanted to bring forth elements of his style and of the kinds of stories he wrote and put them together into something uniquely my own. I wanted to write a rainy nightmare about cats and rats that leaves the reader wondering who the bad guy really is.”
I’ve seen Shawn’s name pop up all over the place and decided to take a chance, ask him to be in the book. A wallop of a story. Packs a lot of power.
THE OLD MAN BY SHAWN CLAY
“I wanted a departure from the zombie genre. I got the idea from wondering what it would be like for the reaper when it was time for him to come and take someone. I wanted to personify him as both caring and cruel at the same time. Relief and struggle can be opposite spectrums of the reaper’s calling.”
Thankfully Gavin Chappell, my co-editor on this book and the others, asked Kevin to finish it up. I wanted Gavin to write the last story, but running an imprint, two magazines, editing a lot of anthologies and writing, I wonder if the man ever sleeps. He asked Kevin to step in and he did a great job. I also asked Gavin what he thought of the book after it was completed.
“An ambitious project. The various authors’ skillful ability to bring together all those disparate strands and continuing the themes and characters through so many changes of scene was what impressed me most.”
DRIFT BY KEVIN REES
“First, I was contacted by Gavin who asked if I could do a ‘wrap up’ story that encompassed the other stories. Also I was briefed that a minor character from the previous story would appear in the following story. That sort of didn’t happen, however the quality of the stories as standalone’s, and the fact they were supposed to be dreams gave me the idea of taking several of the characters and placing them in the nightmare world of Drift. When I write a story images tend to come to mind and then words. The word Drift wouldn’t go away and I wanted it to stand for something, an acronym. It worked because it’s linked to drifting off to sleep and the anthology dealt with dreams. I enjoyed writing the story and hope it did justice to the anthology.”
It would be fun to produce another volume. Who knows, maybe even have the same writers and none of the stories link until the last story to recap and link them together. Or maybe just have one object pop up in each story that could be the link. It could happen if everyone has time to put energy into the project.