David’s Haunted Library: The Beauty Of Death

David's Haunted Library

30732852There are a lot of horror anthologies out there and it’s not always easy to find one that you think you would like. That being said sometimes you find a horror anthology that when you see it you know you can’t go wrong. The Beauty Of Death: The Gargantuan Book of Horror Tales is that book. Edited by Alessandro Manzetti, this book includes stories by such great horror authors as Tim Waggoner, John Skipp, Poppy Z Brite, Peter Straub and many more. This is one mammoth collection that all horror fans should have.

One of my favorite stories in this collection is Carly Is Dead by Shane McKenzie. This story is told from the viewpoint of a rotting corpse in a field who is being eaten by the forest animals but is still aware of what’s going on. Who would have thought you could have sympathy for a corpse. Another good hard-core gore story is White Trash Gothic by Edward Lee. This one has to do with an author who gets amnesia due to a traumatic event and he travels to where he wrote his last book to find out what happened. I loved how Mr. Lee makes you feel compassion for the author and then throws him into a bizarre situation that will make you fear going to a small town.

Another one of my favorites was Calcutta, Lord Of Nerves by Poppy Z. Brite. This one is about a boy born in Calcutta, he is moved to America but returns after his father dies and the zombie apocalypse starts. In Calcutta things are so bad it’s hard to tell the poor people from the zombies and weird things happen as we find out that the zombies may be worshiping an old God. My favorite scene in the book is when the lead character excepts that zombies are just part of the world now and he doesn’t think they’re that bad.

It’s really hard to pick favorites in this book and if I wrote about each story here this review would be a book in itself. Other stories that stood out for me were The Office by Kevin Lucia which is a psychological horror story about a  man who relives his life through his favorite place, his office. Another one is No Place Like Home by JG Faherty which follows a man who bought a haunted house that changes his life for the better. Things get bloody though when someone tries to get him to give it up. In The Garden is one by Lisa Morton that really got to me. In this one a woman lives in a house and is taking care of her crippled brother when something in her garden causes him to get better, I loved how Lisa made you feel compassion for the lead character and then hits you with a shock ending.

The Beauty Of Death deserves a spot on every horror fans book shelf. When I first saw it I knew I had to have it and I wasn’t disappointed. This book reminded me of The Year’s Best Horror anthologies that come out each year, but The Beauty Of Death has more to offer. Every story here has the anatomy of a good horror story and focuses on characters dealing with their worst fears and considering its length it will keep you scared and reading for a long time.

 

 

Advertisements

David’s Haunted Library: Two From Sumiko Saulson

60-black-women-in-horrorIn honor of Black History month I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about two books by Sumiko Saulson. The first one is 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction. This book is a compilation of interviews, essays and biographies of Black Women horror writers. Some of the writers featured in this book include Octavia Butler, L.A. Banks, Tananarive Due and many more.

I feel this is an important book because it gives writers exposure. Writers have to work hard at their craft and its hard for them to get the attention they deserve. There are more writers out there than readers and it’s too easy for a good writer to go unnoticed. 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction  shows that there are some great Black women horror writers out there. I only knew a handful of the writers in this book and after the in-depth interviews and short stories collected here, I found some new writers that I need to add to my to be read list.

This book starts with biographies and pictures of several writers and then gets into interviews with Linda Addison, Jemiah Jefferson and Eden Royce to name a few. One of my favorites parts of this book was how some of the writers talk about how women horror writers get treated differently than their male counterparts and there aren’t as many.  In the case of A.L. Peck she states that she doesn’t know why there aren’t more female horror writers and  she wants to change that.

There is also a great interview with Jemiah Jefferson where she talks about the hardships of finishing a novel while putting up with health issues, a stressful job and financial issues. This book doesn’t just give you a new perspective on what Black Women horror writers have to go through to get their work out to the public, it gives you a new appreciation for writers in general.  60 Black Women in Horror Fiction shows you what Black Women horror writers have to offer and  gives a glimpse of what goes on in the mind of a horror writer.

downloadAnother book I want to talk about is Insatiable by Sumiko Saulson. This is the third book in the Somnalia series but it does work as a stand alone novel. This book centers on Charlotte who is the goddess of erotic dreams and her sister Mercy who has been reincarnated and now has a death cult that is on a killing spree. Charolotte has tried to turn a blind eye but if Mercy continues on like she is  it could have disastrous results for all the gods in the Demos Oneiroi.

The thing I liked most about Insatiable was how the reincarnation works in the story. All of the characters have had past lives and when they come back again in another form, they’re still associated with the ones they loved in the past. At the heart of this book is a love story, but it’s not the kind of love story that you are probably used to. Insatiable looks at people who have more than one romantic relationship with several different people. The relationships seem to work though.

Insatiable has some great characters, they all have complex relationships and how they act towards each other is what makes the book interesting. There are also some moments of great horror here as we get into Mercy’s death cult and the things they do. This book made me think of a therapy session as you get into the head of several characters and find out why they are the way they are. Charlotte’s husband Flynn comes across as such a nice guy and a bit of a doormat who needs Charlotte more than she needs him. Despite his issues in this story we see him act like a hero at times.  We also have Phobetor who is driven by jealousy and power but comes across as compassionate and shows how complex he is.

Sumiko Saulson writes horror novels aimed at intellectuals. There isn’t a lot of action or suspense in this book but there is a lot of great complex characters and it was interesting watching them interact with each other. The story also creates a new spin on an old mythology and shows how a mythological family could exist. Sumiko’s books are different from most horror novels out there. Insatiable is a character driven story that comes across as a philosophy text-book at times. If you like books that make you think then give this one a try.

http://sumikosaulson.com/

Linda Addison On Winning A Bram Stoker Award

Linda D. Addison is the award-winning author of four collections including How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend. She is the first African-American recipient of the HWA Bram Stoker Award® and has published over 300 poems, stories and articles. Linda is part of 7 Magpies, a film project involving 7 black female horror authors & filmmakers based on the old nursery rhyme. Catch her latest work in the upcoming anthology Scary Out There (Simon Schuster). Linda was kind enough recently to answer a few questions about winning the Stoker and her work in general:

How did it feel being the first Black Bram Stoker award winner?

2002 NYC Linda Mom First Stoker color2LA: It was mind-blowing experience (to quote a cliche). I literally was so excited to be on the final ballot with people who were my heroes that it didn’t occur to me that I would actually win. The awards were in New York City so my mother came up from Philly for the awards banquet. It was amazing to receive it and have my mother there (she passed in 2009). She was my biggest supporter and it meant everything to me for her to see this great honoring. I could barely speak. I did get it together enough to make my mother stand up and wave to everyone. It’s one of my happiest memories.

I didn’t realize then that I was the first Black award winner until someone bought it up and I looked back at the history of HWA Bram Stoker winners. One awesome thing that came out of winning was that my high school, Germantown HS, in Philadelphia asked me to speak at a graduation.

For what did you win the award for?

LA: I received the HWA Bram Stoker award® for “Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes”, a poetry collection published by Space & Time, with an introduction by one of my favorite authors, Charlee Jacob and cover by Colleen Crary, interior illustrations by Marge Simon.

When it came out I had the first book signing set for Sept 11, 2001 in Rockefeller Center in NYC. Yes, that day! I had the book propped up on my desk at my day job as a software developer. When that day came to an end I couldn’t even look at the cover. The first poem is called ‘Fire/Fight’, which I write years before 9/11 but suddenly was too relevant.

As NYC and I tried to find a new normal after the Towers were destroyed I slowly returned to my book. I was interviewed a couple of times about the book title and opening poem.

What is it about?

LA: It’s a poetry collection I put together around the concept of transformation after destruction. There are three sections titled: Things Gone Bad, In Between, Transformation. The poems cover many kinds of loss and transformation, for example: a mother mourning a lost child, a lover loss of self, a revengeful lover, even a human losing their soul to a Voodoo Goddess.

What other stories have you received nominations for?

LA: After “Consumed, Reduced to Beautiful Grey Ashes” I was nominated for two collections that I wrote alone and won for both: “Being989336 Full of Light, Insubstantial”, which was 100 poems (Space & Time, 2007) & “How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend” a collection of short stories and poetry (Necon E-Books, 2011).

A collaborative collection, “Dark Duet” of music inspired poetry written with Stephen M. Wilson, published by Necon E-Books 2012, was on the final ballot. This was a very special collection for me. Stephen approached me with the project and I was excited to work with him because he did poetry that made shapes on the page and I wanted to try something different. We worked seamlessly together and I’m extremely proud of this book. Unfortunately, Stephen died from cancer in 2013.

My fourth HWA Bram Stoker award® was received in 2014 for “Four Elements” with Charlee Jacob, Marge Simon & Rain Graves, published by Bad Moon Book. The book has four sections for the four elements, Earth, Fire, Water and Air. Each of us picked an element, mine was Air which I wrote as a person who travels through time and space. I’ve known the other authors for years and it was a great honor working with them to create this collection.

When did you start writing?

LA: I would say I’ve spent my whole life making up fairy tales, poetry, etc. I started writing to see myself in print when I was in high school. I had a couple of poems published in my high school magazine. Once I got out of college I started seriously submitting work (and collecting a good number of rejections), eventually the rejections became acceptances around 1994.

What inspires you to write?

LA: Everything around me, the news, my past, my hopes for the future, all the positive and negative things that humans do to each other and the planet. I moved from NYC in 2014 to Arizona and went from a city kid to being surrounded by mountains and nature. The mountains  and desert have an overall settling effect on me which help me focus.

What advice would you give other writers?

13264877LA: Write, write, write. Write every day, even if only for a few minutes. I believe most writing happens in our subconscious so if we sit down each day the subconscious gets to know, ‘ah so I can show up now’ and it will pour out what it’s been mulling over.

Know that even when you’re not putting words on paper/computer you’re writing. Living is writing. Everything we do feeds creativity, even in the most un-obvious ways.

Don’t edit while writing first draft, just get it out. This is a rule I often struggle with because I know the quality I want, but I also know it’s important to write it from beginning to end and the editor mind doesn’t help that for me.

Read (all kinds of writing, even the kind you don’t do), listen to music, go to art shows. There is such energy from creating and it’s important to feed all the senses.

Once your work is as good as you can make it Send It Out! Don’t spend time wondering if it will be accepted or not, just get it out the house and start something new. If it comes back and you can make it better, do it. If you can’t make it better, Send It Out anyway. We writers are not the best judge of our work. For sure, your writing will get better the more you write, not necessarily rewriting the same piece.

What are some books that you have available?

LA: All of the books I mentioned above are available as print and/or eBooks. The links are on my website.

What are you working on now?17263849

LA: I had a story, “Twice, At Once, Separated”, published in the first Dark Matter anthology years ago, that I’m developing into a SF novel. The novel is a new form for me and I’m learning a lot about writing while tackling it.

The end of last year I started writing daily twitter poems (which also show up on my FaceBook page) just to get my poetry fix in each day. I write them with very little editing because I didn’t want to get off the novel track, but I really needed to get some poetry writing in.

Folks can check my site for updates on work that will be coming out this year, like poetry I will have in the upcoming “Scary Out There” horror anthology for young adults (Simon Schuster) edited by Jonathan Maberry, including work by fantastic authors like R.L. Stine, Joyce Carol Oates, Christopher Golden, Lucy Snyder, Marge Simon, Nancy Holder and others.

I’m attending several events this year (see my site) and I will have work in the WHC 2016 souvenir anthology as well as teaching a poetry workshop at StokerCon.

Where can people find you online?

LA:

Website: www.lindaaddisonpoet.com

Facebook=Linda D Addison

Twitter=Linda Addison@nytebird45

Instagram=nytebird45

 

Genesis – The First Black Horror Writers/Storytellers by Linda Addison

Genesis – The First Black Horror Writers/Storytellers

by Linda Addison

Horror —n: an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting; a shuddering fear.

    Who were the first Black horror writers in a country that made enslaved Africans’ everyday life horrific? How did stories develop and what were their themes?

I wanted to write this because of my own curiosity. I didn’t know where this was going to lead me but the more I dug the more I found. The yellow brick road of discovery took me away from the land of published authors to places unexpected.

Known for my horror poetry collections, I can find horror in unlikely Black publications that publish. My horror poetry isn’t typically blood and guts, but more around the subject of loss, abuse, possession/demons, revenge, etc.

Poetry and fiction written outside the realm of horror publications by Blacks often represent the fears that we live as a minority in America, marginalized and fighting for the acceptance that our lives matter as humans, regardless of our skin color. I’m not surprised to find reflections of fear and shock in our non-genre work.

Certainly there is a solid list of Black writers that do write straight up horror (see lists compiled by Sumiko Saulson, Invisible Universe and others).

My earliest memory of horror came from watching ‘scary’ movies with my family. The first Black horror writer that I met at a World Horror Convention (WHC) was Tananarive Due, who was on the final ballot for a HWA Bram Stoker in 1996. I grew up reading science-fiction and fantasy so I knew some Black authors from that arena. I read speculative Black writers before that like Walter Mosley, Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler, but still I wondered who wrote the first scary stories in America. My curiosity pushed me beyond searching for ’Black Horror Writers’.

I looked up Negro folklore, African-American folk tales, voodoo tales, etc. and reached as far back as I could to find myself looking for stories by enslaved Africans in America.

Storytelling is the corner stone in many cultures. For African and African-American communities it’s a way of communicating history, passing on lessons and entertaining. Most of this storytelling was done in oral folktales by those surviving the nightmare of slave ships and a ‘New World’ that forbid their traditional practice.

The folk tales from Africa were modified to be acceptable in a country where anything that sounded aggressive or like strength from slaves could result in torture or death. The first recorded Black folktales I found were from the late nineteenth century. There’s a number of stories with animals where one plays the part of the trickster, but I was looking for monsters, demons, etc.

“Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folk-tales from the Gulf States”, Black folklore collected by Zora Neale Hurston in the late 1920s documented almost 500 folktales from 122 Black workers, farmers, and artisans by traveling to places like Alabama, Florida and New Orleans. Besides themes of religion, family and other social concepts I also found two sections named: “Devil Tales” and “Witch and Hant Tales” (Hant means “haunt” or “ghost”).

The tales and storytellers from the two sections (some stories didn’t have titles so I listed a few words from the beginning of the story between single quotes):

Devil Tales section of Every Tongue Got to Confess”:

“The’ passed the communion cup to a woman…” by Jerry Bennett

The Woman and the Devil by Geneva Woods

‘Once I wuz travelin’ uh job tuh work,…’ by Julius Henry

Woman Smarter than Devil by M. C. Ford

‘Once there was a man going with the devil’s daughter…’ by Arther Hopkins

‘These people was vast rich…’ by L. O. Taylor

‘A Negro and de devil had a bet…’ by Jonathan Hines

‘You know de devil don’t do everything they say…’ by W. M. Richardson

Why We Say “Unh Hunh” by Mack C. Ford

Witch and Hant* Tales section; (Hant means “haunt” or “ghost”) of Every Tongue Got to Confess”:

Five tales by A. D. Frazier:

De Witch Woman

The Four Story Lost Lot

‘The old fortune-teller woman…’

‘A man sold hisself to de high chief devil…’

High Walker and Bloody Bones

One tale by Hattie Reeves, born on Island of Grand Command

The Orphan Boy and Girl and the Witches

These stories were transcribed in the dialects of the storytellers which presented a challenge for Hurston getting the work published. She fought to maintain the original language and made the smallest corrections possible.

I bought the book for my kindle (and a paper version is coming in the mail in the week—how could I not have this in my bookcase!). In reading the stories the sense of oral literature is strong. The beginning of “De Witch Woman” by A. D. Frazier:

‘There was a witch woman wid a saddle-cat who could git out her skin and go ride people she didn’t like. She had a great big looking-glass. When she git ready to go out she’d git befo dat glass naked.’

As a poet I easily released my inner editor and simply let the words flow, but I can imagine the difficulty of convincing Hurston’s white supporters to publish a book without ‘correct’ english, but now reading the stories as they were told is perfect.

One of the storytellers, A. D. Frazier, had almost all of the tales in Hurston’s ‘Devil Tales’ section. Further searching led to a site with content and analysis of “Mules and Men” by Zora Neale Hurston: a collection of American folk-takes and Hoodoo material from New Orleans published in 1935 with tales from Frazier [http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma01/grand-jean/hurston/chapters/Chapter10.html]

Reading this book there is the strong sense that telling a story was just something Black folks did, not as a vocation but to entertain, to make a point. In Chapter 10, Hurston and others were at a community center and held a lying contest.

It seems that A.D. Frazier was known for telling scary tales/lies. The following is after Frazier had just finished telling one tale:

“What make you love tuh tell dem skeery lies, A.D.?” Clarence Beale asked.

… “Youse jus’ all right, A.D. If you know another one skeerier than dat one, Ah’ll give yuh five dollars tuh tell it …”

So A.D. told another one which began:

This wuz uh man. His name was High Walker. He walked into a boneyard with skull-heads and other bones. So he would call them, “Rise up bloody bones and shake Yo’self.” And de bones would rise up and come together, and shake theirselves and part and lay back down. Then he would say to hisself, “High Walker,” and de bones would say “Be walkin’.”

I found the concept of lying as a description of telling tales. There was two meaning to telling stories in my house. One meant actually not telling the truth when you were supposed to and the other was the honorable idea of telling a tale.

For my mother, telling a tale, was an easy way to entertain children in a house often without a television or books. I remember my mother saying to someone when asked about my being published in “Dark Matter II”: ‘That girl’s been making up stories her whole life’ and she laughed. I laughed with her because that was a huge recognition from someone I considered a master storyteller even though my mother never had anything in print. I do have one original story that she wrote for my sister’s daughter, but unfortunately the stories she told us at night with us as characters are gone to the dusty corners of my childhood.

I wished I had talked to my mother, grandmother and older relatives about telling stories before they passed. Who told them stories? What were those stories?

Like my mother, the early Black storytellers of scary stories are not going to be found in books they published but in the few dictated folk tales. They didn’t dream of being published in a book, telling stories was something they did after work (the day job that many of us proclaimed writers have to do now) to entertain family and friends. Stories that invoked an emotion, scary stories were valued.

I should have called this “Genesis: The First Black Horror Storytellers”. There is so much to find in this literary dig I began. This is a subject that I feel I’ve barely scratched the top layer. I have another document full of information, more bread crumbs that lead on a widening Yellow Brick Road. I’ve included a few references below.

 

References and Further Reading

African American Folklore

African-American Folktales and their Use in an Integrated Curriculum by Joyce Patton; Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute

A History of Blackness in Speculative Fiction, A Documentary by M. Asli Dukan, independent filmmaker

“Mules and Men” by Zora Neale Hurston: a collection of American folk-takes and Hoodoo material from New Orleans published in 1935. This site has analysis and content from the book

The Oral Literature of African American Slavery as a Source of History: The Tar Baby Tale

Wiki page: African-American and African-Canadian science fiction, fantasy, and horror

Zora Neale Hurston about her findings on zombies in an interview on the Mary Margaret McBride Show, January 25, 1943

 

***********

LAddison_color_by_Stu Jenks_V2Linda D. Addison is the award-winning author of four collections including How To Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend. She is the first African-American recipient of the HWA Bram Stoker Award® and has published over 300 poems, stories and articles. Linda is part of 7 Magpies, a film project involving 7 black female horror authors & filmmakers based on the old nursery rhyme. Catch her latest work in the upcoming anthology Scary Out There (Simon Schuster). Her site: www.lindaaddisonpoet.com.
Photo credit: Stu Jenks