Horror Writers Association

The Seers’ Table April 2022

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The Seers Table

Kate Maruyama, Member of the Diverse Works Inclusion Community

So much good reading this spring! We’ve all been catching up on reading for the Bram Stoker Awards® and reading new releases in journals, books, and elsewhere. Hope you enjoy this month’s lineup of writers of dark things. The excerpts alone have added a few books to my stack.

Linda Addison introduces:

Alex Jennings was born in Germany and raised in Botswana, Paramaribo, Tunis, and Columbia, MD. His writing has appeared in Strange HorizonsPodCastle, and Uncanny Magazine, among others, and he is a regular contributor to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He received the inaugural Imagination Unbound Fellowship at Under the Volcano 2022 in Tepoztlan, Mexico. His debut novel, The Ballad of Perilous Graves, was published in June, 2022. He lives and writes in New Orleans with his dog, Karate Valentino.

Recommended Reading: The Ballad of Perilous Graves, released June 2022

“From here, as he wobbled his legs and rolled his shoulders, Perry saw a shadow forming under the streetlight. It was the silhouette of a man sitting at a piano, and the music came from him. The spirit’s piano resolved into view. It was a glittery-gold baby grand festooned with stickers and beads, its keys moving on their own. Shortly thereafter, Doctor Professor himself appeared, hunched over, playing hard as he threw his head back in song. He wore a fuzzy purple fur hat, great big sunglasses with star-shaped lenses, and a purple-sequined tuxedo jacket and bow tie. Big clunky rings stood out on his knuckles as his hands blurred across the keyboard, striking notes and chords.

Perry gave himself up to the sound and the rhythm of the music. The saxophone solo had begun, and it spun Perry around, carried him down the steps and across the yard. His feet swiveled on the sidewalk, turning in and out as he threw his arms up above his head.

Just as quickly as he’d come, Doctor Professor began to fade from sight. First, the man disappeared except for his hands, then his stool disappeared, and then the piano itself. He had become another disturbance in the air—a weird blot of not-really-anything smudged inside the cone cast by the streetlight, and just before he had gone entirely away, Perry heard another song starting up. The music released him, and the crowd stopped moving.”

Follow Jennings at alexjennings.net, @magicknegro on Twitter and Instagram!

 

Theresa Derwin introduces:

Justin David is a child of Wolverhampton who has lived and worked in East London for most of his adult life. He graduated from the MA Creative Writing at Goldsmiths.

The Pharmacist was published by Salt as part of their Modern Dreams series. It was described in the Times Literary Supplement as “the perfect introduction to a singular voice in gay literature.” Kissing the Lizard is a prequel to The Pharmacist.

He is also a well-known photographer. His images of artists, writers, performers, and musicians have appeared on the pages of numerous newspapers and magazines, including: The TimesThe GuardianThe Irish TimesAttitudeBeigeClassical Music MagazineGay TimesOut TherePink PaperQX, and Time Out.

Justin is one-half of Inkandescent with Nathan Evans. Their first offering, Threads, featuring Nathan’s poetry and Justin’s photography, was long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. It was supported using public funding by Arts Council England. In 2021, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, they published their first collection, Mainstream: An Anthology of Stories from the Edges, championing underrepresented voices.

Recommended Reading: Kissing the Lizard.

Kissing the Lizard by David, released on April 4, 2022, in which young writer Jamie is disillusioned with life and hoping to escape living with a prejudiced family for the delights of London.

One fateful meeting changes everything.

Excerpt:

Billy angles his face to the man, who towers over him like a giant stick insect. He obviously can’t remember this guy’s name and Jamie enjoys letting this run on, briefly, until he weakens.

“I could wait forever for an introduction. Hi. I’m Jamie.”

“He’s so rude, isn’t he?” the tall man laughs. ‘Matthew. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

He extends a long limp-wristed arm, hands littered with silver, slightly loose on bony fingers. Jamie winks at Billy. “Lovely to meet you, Matthew,” he says, watching Billy relax. He shakes Matthew’s hand and as their gazes meet, his eyes seem to move, vibrate almost, from side to side. Jamie is first to look away. “Well, what a surprise to see you, Billy, in a vegetarian bistro, of all places. I thought you were a meat eater.”

In the early evening sunlight, his complexion has an unnatural greenish tinge, somewhere between vomit and chlorophyll. Fresh scratches criss-cross his sinuous arm. Could he be ill? Twenty-eight? Thirty? It’s not beyond comprehension. Jamie knows three men, at least, who died of AIDS in the last half year.

“Gardening,” Matthew lifts his arms. “Bloody rose bushes.”

Jamie reproaches himself. His morbid conclusions are ignorant. Though there’s something about Matthew— his clothes, his manner—unlike anyone else he’s encountered.

You can learn more about Inkandescent here: https://www.inkandescent.co.uk/kissingthelizard.

And you can find Justin on Facebook @justindavidartist.

And Twitter @Justin_Writer

And Instagram: @justindavidartist

 

Kate Maruyama introduces:

Isabel J. Kim is a Korean-American science fiction and fantasy writer based in New York City. When she’s not writing, she’s either attempting a legal career or co-hosting “Wow If True,” a podcast about Internet culture—both equally noble pursuits. Her work has been published in ClarkesworldLightspeed, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Recommended Reading: Excerpt from “Christopher Mills, Return to Sender” from Fantasy Magazine, March 2022.

This is the dead thing becoming the body. This is the dead thing opening the body’s eyes. This is the dead thing rising from the grave. This is the dead thing saying “What the hell—I didn’t ask to be summoned. I was having a great time being dead and dreaming about nothing.”

This is the alive thing staring at the grave, dead thing, body. The alive thing says, “Your case has been reopened, Chris.”

Chris says, “Oh Christ.” The word burns his tongue because Chris became a demon and went to hell.

Chris says, “Fuck.” That doesn’t hurt to say. Generalized swearing is encouraged in hell.

Hell is an infinite suburban shopping mall with cool air conditioning and Muzak piped in through the speaker system. Two minutes ago, Chris had been lying in a massage chair staring at the clear blue window of heaven through a skylight. He’s mostly been pretty happy in hell. He eats a lot of soft pretzels.

Now, however, Chris is lying in the grave and the alive thing above him (flesh, pumping blood, blue eyes like the skylight to heaven) is saying, “Chris, I need you to testify.”

Chris closes his eyes. Chris says, “Angelica Mills, God fucking dammit, I don’t want to testify, and I don’t want to get out of my grave, and I want to go back to sleep. It doesn’t matter what happened because I’m already dead.”

Angelica, sweet necromancer Angelica, stares down at the dead body demon that used to be her brother, sneering at her. She scowls back. She holds out a Styrofoam cup.

“Well too fucking bad, Christopher Mills, because I want you to have justice. Get up. I brought you a smoothie.”

“Well, if you brought me a smoothie,” Chris says, and opens his eyes, hauling himself out of his grave.

Learn more about Isabel at http://isabel.kim/.

Follow her on Twitter @isabeljkim.

 

Lauren Salerno introduces:

Jennifer Fawcett grew up in rural Eastern Ontario and spent many years in Canada making theatre before coming to the United States. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop. Her work has been published in Third Coast MagazineReunion: The Dallas ReviewStorybrink, and in the anthology Long Story Short. She teaches writing at Skidmore College and lives in upstate New York with her husband and son.

Recommended Reading: Beneath the Stairs. Excerpt:

Prologue

SPRING

One of the girls found out about the house first. It was always this way; one heard the story and told the others, and so the secret was passed down, girl to girl, generation to generation. She heard her mother talking about it, about something that had happened there before the girl was born, something bad. This secret place still existed, hidden in the woods, waiting to be found again.

And so, one spring afternoon, the girl led her friends around the curve in the road where the field stopped and the woods began. Partway along, she slowed down, searching for the spot where the fence was only hooked over the nails. Easy to pull back; easy to hide. They hid their bikes just inside the woods and followed the old road. Insistent undergrowth pulled at their legs like barbed seaweed, but they kept moving deeper. “Why would you build a house in here?” “Are you sure this is where she said it’d be?” “Maybe it’s gone now.” None of them were willing to say that they wanted to turn around, that as soon as they’d crossed into these trees, they knew this wasn’t a place for them. And then they tumbled into the clearing. And there, alone and asleep, was the Octagon House.

They went inside. Of course they went inside.

Their feet crunched over decades’ worth of broken beer bottles, leaves, animal droppings, and scattered remains of garbage, all of it turned a uniform shade of dust. The girls shivered and wanted to hug themselves but didn’t. They walked carefully around the two large rooms on the first floor. They glanced up the decayed stairs to the second floor. They looked at the strange door, too large for a regular door and made of metal instead of wood. “It must lead to the basement,” they said. They wiggled the latch, but it was broken, the door firmly shut. The girls were quietly grateful for that. They wandered back into the old kitchen where they had started, kicking at the garbage, wondering what to do next.

But the one who had brought them returned to that metal door. It was once dark green, but rust had spread over most of its surface, slowly gnawing its way through. Nothing stays hidden forever, she thought. And then she remembered how her mother had sounded when she’d talked about this house, that old fear coming awake again. She heard the others and turned to follow them. Just as she did, there was a click, and the door began to slide open. The air that escaped was cold and wet and smelled of earth and rot. Go, she thought, they’re leaving. But her legs wouldn’t move. The door opened farther, and now she could see the top of old wooden stairs.

She wanted to look.

She didn’t want to look.

She dared herself to look.

Only darkness, but there, on the lowest stair: something. She leaned into the doorway and looked down. She took out her phone and shone the light into the darkness, but that only made shadows, so she turned it off again. And in that millisecond, the instant between the light and the dark—

Help me.

The voice was inside her head, but it wasn’t hers.

Her friends called out to her: “Are you coming?” They were already at the door, stepping out of the grip of the house like it was nothing. She was alone.

Help me leave this place.

She pulled herself away and ran to them.

The girls bolted across the clearing, giddy with adrenaline and release. And as they disappeared into the woods, the door shut. But it would open again. The house was awake now.

She would come back. They always came back.

Learn more about Jennifer here:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JenniferFawcettAuthor.

Twitter: @AuthorFawcett

Instagram: @jenniferfawcett_author

 

Mireya S. Vela introduces:

Hye-young Pyun is an award-winning horror writer from Seoul, South Korea. She is the author of The Hole (2017) and City of Ash and Red (2018). Both works were translated from Korean to English by Sora Kim-RussellThe Hole won the 2017 Shirley Jackson Award and was named one of the “Top 10 Thrillers to Read This Summer” by Time MagazineThe City of Ash and Red was named an NPR Great Read of 2018.

The City Ash and Red is a Kafkaesque apocalyptic novel of crime and punishment. It follows a nameless character who is sent by the extermination company for an extended assignment in C, as the country falls beneath a pandemic and is overwhelmed by terror and paranoia. Immediately upon arrival, the protagonist is quarantined by officials with no means of contacting the outside world. On his release, he must fight to survive the streets filled with contamination and fear.

Recommended Reading: The City of Ash and Red (published in 2018 by Arcade):

“Danger warnings are more common than actual danger. And yet when danger does finally strike, it does so without warning. That was why the man thought nothing of the quarantine notices and infectious disease prevention regulations posted all around the airport. He knew that the more cautions signs there were, the less danger he was in. As if overhearing the man’s thoughts, a health inspector in a hazmat suit who was scanning the temperatures of disembarking passengers looked hard at the thermometer and gave him a warning frown. Was it the man’s slight fever? The stink of alcohol wafting off of him? He clamped his mouth shut and slopped a hand up to his forehead. It felt like the lid of a rice cooker set to warm.

The flight had been short but exhausting. Not only had he been working overtime every night to prepare for his trip, he was still hungover from the night before. His hand felt even warmer than his forehead. His wrist ached and his palm throbbed as if he has been squeezing something hard. He took a closer look and say that his pad was bruised. Even the slightest clenching of his fist brought on a tingling pain.

This time, the health inspector placed a thermometer directly against the man’s right ear. An electric hum buzzed in his ear like an alarm. He barked out a loud cough and as if in response to the sound, the health inspector jumped back.

The inspections were due to a recent outbreak. An illness had been spreading fast, from the country zero to most of the rest of the world, like fire jumping from roof to roof.”

Hye-young Pyun isn’t visible on social media. You can learn more about her from her publisher’s page: https://www.simonandschuster.com/authors/Hye-young-Pyun/154440343.

 

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