In this month’s column for This Is Horror, I showcase nine of Australia’s best women writers of horror and dark fiction. So much amazing writing happening in Australian speculative fiction, in short stories and longer works alike. I could’ve gone on for ages, but I think the post would’ve buckled under the weight of all those awards…
Anyhoo, here’s a snippet from the beginning of the article:
Last year, the infamous Snowtown bank – in which eight bodies were found decomposing in six plastic barrels – went up for auction. It was affordable, as I recall; on the market for less than $200,000. It came attached to a little, comfortable house. It wasn’t too far a drive from the city of Adelaide. One night, a group of us fantasised about pooling our money and buying the place and using it as a getaway. That’s it, we said. It would make a great writers’ retreat.
Macabre? Maybe a bit. What kind of people would think of such a thing? More to the point, who would be inspired by such a thing? And can you imagine sleeping there? Even if they wouldn’t actually do so, the writers mentioned below could, no doubt, imagine all this and more.
Head on over here to read more about the not-quite top ten, and to suggest who else you think should be included!
My April column for This Is Horror is now live! This month, I talk about authors of horror fiction who write themselves into their narratives. And because there is limited space in these columns, I’ve focused on two brilliant examples: Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis and the short stories of Paul Haines. Here’s a snippet to whet your appetites:
Writers of great horror don’t hold back when it comes to subject matter: nothing is off limits. Their stories go places that make readers shudder, sweat, squirm. Settings may be familiar, but somehow they are also warped. ‘Natural’ elements are inevitably of the ‘un’ or ‘super’ variety. Plots are designed to unnerve. In horror, the depths of the human psyche are dredged; dark secrets, dark fears, dark realities are unearthed, then strewn in black ink across paper. And when the tale is told, the last page turned, the best authors will leave us hoping never to meet anyone, in real life, as disturbed as the characters they’ve created. We like to pretend that such people live out there, somewhere else – that they’ll always be anonymous strangers.
You can read the rest here.
I should point out, the last few lines of this column aren’t a personal cry for help: they’re lines taken from Paul Haines’s brilliant story, ‘The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt.’ Also, as I’ve mentioned at the very very bottom of the column — and certainly worth repeating here — many thanks to Dr Ben Kooyman for sharing his insights on Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and Hooper’s Midnight Movie.
I have a confession. There are a few (well, many) horror tropes that I just cannot stomach at all. Not because they’re cliché – although, of course, they are – but because there’s something about them that’s actually, fundamentally, terrifying.
The first involves revenants, namely the twitchy-jittery and/or fast-moving variety. True, this is one of the most hackneyed techniques used in horror movies nowadays – but still. Logically I can figure out how the twitchy-fast effect is achieved. Most likely, it’s a combination of camerawork and post-production trickery. The film is sped up; actors’ movements are edited so they seem to randomly jump across the screen; filters or dark obscuring layers are added so the creatures are blurred, and hard to get a fix on. I know this, I can work this out, logically.
But, alas, fear isn’t necessarily controlled by logic.
Read the rest of this article (in which I am a whimpering puppy) here.
(Honestly, I can hardly stand to look at this image from The Ring. FREAKS ME OUT.)
My latest column is up over at This Is Horror! This month, I make a plea on behalf of some of the more neglected night creatures in fiction… Here’s a snippet from the opening:
Like many fans of dark fiction, I was once seduced by Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Le Fanu’s Carmilla and Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. I watched all of Buffy and some of Angel. The first season of True Blood was intriguing, as was its premise, though the show quickly wore thin. I still consider Norman Partridge’s ‘Apotropaics’ (Subterranean, 2008) one of the most refreshing uses of vampire lore in short fiction. Jason Nahrung’s Blood and Dust (2012), what will no doubt prove to be a rollicking vampire yarn set in the Queensland outback, is a novel I’m really looking forward to reading. And James Bradley has written a brilliant essay, ‘Bloody Beauties: The Rise and Rise of Vampire Lit’ (The Australian Literary Review), which has done an excellent job explaining the resilience of vampire fiction over the years…
Read the rest of the column here.
Woke up to discover that my short short, ‘Twice Full’, is now up at This Is Horror — accompanied by an absolutely gorgeous illustration by Rich Sampson (a detail of which I’ve included to the left.)
Tonight, they dig a second pit on our beach. Big men, all of them, dark hair and skin slick with sweat. Hands slippery on worn shovel handles. Feet bare, soles scorched and cracking. The sun is a glowing boulder buried deep in the ocean, still baking the sand from below the horizon.
For two days, relentless heat. For two days, the grass mattress in our room was a bed of coals. For two days I laboured, but could not get up. Exhausted, I could hardly breathe. Now I stand, finally cool in the shallows. My curls are matted from struggling, from useless pushing and straining. Salt drips into my eyes. My white linen shift is soaked, transparent. It does not flutter in the sea breeze…
Read the rest here.
In honour of Australia Day, I was asked to write an article about Australian horror for This Is Horror in the UK — and it’s now up! The article surveys some of the standout horror published in the past two years by Australian independent presses: so much to talk about, so much incredible talent!
Australia is a land of extremes. One minute the country is ravaged by drought and bushfires, the next it’s drowning in devastating floods. The continent is a combination of enormous red deserts meeting sprawling metropolises meeting ancient tropical rainforests meeting endless coastlines. Some of the largest — and tiniest — deadly predators on the planet are hidden out in the wilds, but are also unearthed in suburban backyards. Over it all, the harsh Australian sun beats down. Casting the longest, darkest shadows.
And right there — right where the glaring light gives way to shade — a population of Australian horror writers thrives. It’s a great position to be in. Looking at stories published by independent presses in the past two years, we find that Australian horror can plunge wholly into the black, even more tragic and disturbing by contrast to the brightness left behind; it can be light-hearted but nuanced, love and joy limned in darkness; or it can tread both worlds, supernatural and terrifying and endearing all at once…
Read the rest here — and enjoy!