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The Seers’ Table January 2024


Linda D. Addison, Member of the Diverse Works Inclusion Community

You can see any of “The Seers’ Table” posts since inception (March 2016) by going to the HWA main page and selecting menu item “Our Blogs / Seers’ Table.”

Linda D. Addison recommends:
Jenny Kiefer is a Kentucky native and an avid rock climber. Together with her mother, she is the owner and manager of Butcher Cabin Books, an all-horror bookstore in Louisville, Kentucky. This Wretched Valley is her debut novel. She has short stories published in Pseudopod, Cosmic Horror Monthly, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

Recommended Reading: This Wretched Valley (released January 2024 by Quirk Books).
Excerpt From This Wretched Valley:

“What baffled them was the skeleton.
The other bodies were weird, but they couldn’t figure out the fucking skeleton. Just bones, no organic matter: Not one scrap of skin left. No sinews, no rotting brain, no nothing. The bones were arranged all together, each one of the two hundred and six in its place, a kneecap or two hidden by new fall leaves. Had the group resorted to cannibalism? It was one of the early guesses. But even that did not seem to fit. The bones wouldn’t be so clean, arranged perfectly, as if they belonged to a knocked-over classroom display, sans bolts. There were no scorch marks, no scratches or other signs of instruments, and surely any form of cannibalism that left such a pristine skeleton behind would have included at the very least a blade to peel the flesh. And besides, they’d been experienced hikers.
The coroners and first responders could make guesses at the state of the other bodies—animals, perhaps, though they had not observed any wildlife in the area, had not even heard the flap of wings overhead or the crunching of a swift mammal over leaves—but this fucking set of bones. It was wrong to move them, the investigators thought, even as they placed them into the evidence bags, each bone lifting away like gravel, no tendons or fat to hold them together; like putting a complicated puzzle back in the box after hours spent piecing the cardboard together.”

Follow Kiefer at: Web site: www.jennykiefer.com; Twitter: @_jennykiefer; Instagram: @_jennykiefer; TikTok: @_jennykiefer; Bluesky: @jennykiefer

Tish Jackson recommends:

CJ Leede writes slasher fiction, with her debut novel telling a story through a woman’s murderous point-of-view. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University, and a BA from NYU’s Gallatin School. Leede’s writing is sharp, funny, and gruesome in all the right places. Maeve Fly is the title of Leede’s book and the name of the protagonist of the story, a young woman angry at the world over everything and finding solace in books. When she meets the key to unlocking her deepest desires—a man—Maeve finally expresses herself in a spray of blood and tearing of flesh. Often compared to American Psycho, Maeve Fly gives serial killing a much-needed feminine touch.

Excerpt from Maeve Fly, published by Tor Nightfire on June 6, 2023:

     Unease spreads through me like a sudden-onset illness.
     It is a doll’s head, this newly arrived thing, without hair and with one eyelash missing, attached carefully and lovingly to a plastic toy alligator body by a dark red substance I know instinctively to be blood. I reach in, and gently extract it from its thorny nest. I cradle the little foundling as though it were made of glass or something even more precious and fragile. A single human hair is wound and tied around its neck. On its belly, scrawled in letters of the same red, it says “In order to know virtue.
     I blink, and a chill runs through me. The air is still. The Santa Anas soon will come, will shake the whole town. But now, it is crushingly quiet, stale almost. I pull out my phone and search it. I know I’ve read it before, I know—The quote is by the Marquis de Sade. I turn it about in my head, tumble it through the fissures and rapids of thought and hope and desire. I turn this most perfect creature one way and then another, the doll’s single remaining eyelid fluttering open and closed as I move it. It is so lovely. It is so much more than the feat I just accomplished inside my bedroom. It is everything. This creature existing here, as if hatched from my own flesh and mind.
     It is something new.

Leede has two more horror novels due out from Tor next year. You can find CJ Leede’s work on all major platform and bookstores everywhere; Web site: https://cjleede.com/.

Kate Maruyama Recommends:
Angela Liu is a Pushcart-nominated writer/poet based in New York City and Tokyo. She is a graduate of New York University (Phi Beta Kappa), with double degrees in Economics and East Asian Studies. She also holds a Master’s from Keio University’s Graduate School of Media Design in Japan where she researched mixed reality (with a focus on interactive narrative platforms and tangible interfaces for remote communication).
She currently works as an IT consultant, strategic planner, and frequent Japanese-to-English translator, but has also worked in finance, music (new artist deals), and product development. She is also mom to a feral kaiju/Pokemon-loving toddler whose latest obsessions range from Mongolian death worms to carnivorous plants.
Her short fiction is published/forthcoming in The Dark, Fusion Fragment, Maudlin House, Clarkesworld, Cast of Wonders, Dark Matter Magazine, khōréō, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, among others.
Her poetry can be found in Strange Horizons, Nightmare Magazine, Small Wonders, Uncanny, and forthcoming in Worlds of Possibility.
Her debut short story collection, Beautiful Ways We Break Each Other Open, is scheduled for release in September 2024 with Dark Matter INK.

She is a full member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Assn. (SFWA), a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Assn. (SFPA), and an Active Pro Writer at HWA. She is also a member of the writing collective Codex.

Recommended reading, her Pushcart-nominated transformative terror, “Salt Girl” in Uncharted Magazine.

Rika rakes her salt garden morning and night. She brews tea and goes for long walks in town, watching the trees grow heavy with summer leaves. Some of the other girls stop her on the street. Everyone is curious about the Salt Girl and her Salt Garden. What do you do with all that salt? Is that the secret to your gorgeous skin? Does your husband have a fetish for it? Sometimes she sells packs of Red Snow for Miss Lurid, the old woman on the east end of town who then pays her a small commission. These are new feelings: making money, befriending strangers, her heart a cauldron of new tiny joys. The days are peaceful, and Rika finally starts to forget the emptiness left by her father. The toll of the bell towers at dusk becomes just another background sound as she makes her way home.
But then the itch starts.
Just a tickle at first. A nudge at the base of her head, slowly radiating up like tiny ants marching across her skull.
She scratches her head constantly, a shower of dead skin falling with each rake over her scalp. Tiny flakes cover her pillow in the mornings.
By late summer, her hands and face have turned scaly.

You can find Angela online at: liu-angela.com or on Twitter/Instagram @liu_angela.

Nicole D. Sconiers recommends:
J.A.W. McCarthy is a Bram Stoker Award® and Shirley Jackson Award finalist and author of Sometimes We’re Cruel and Other Stories (Cemetery Gates Media, 2021) and Sleep Alone (Off Limits Press, 2023). Her short fiction has appeared in numerous publications, including Vastarien, PseudoPod, Split Scream Vol. 3, Apparition Lit, Tales to Terrify, and The Best Horror of the Year Vol. 13 (Ellen Datlow, editor). She is Thai American and lives with her spouse and assistant cats in the Pacific Northwest.
Her searing novella Sleep Alone follows the story of Ronnie, a lonely merch girl for an indie rock band who’s grown weary of life on the road. But this band isn’t simply chasing fame. They’re succubi with a bottomless hunger that drives them from club to club in search of their next feed. Ronnie meets up with the mysterious Helene, a fellow traveler with secrets of her own. When a mysterious disease strikes the band, Ronnie must confront her terrifying power and a heavy truth that threatens the group’s survival.

Recommended Reading: Sleep Alone (Off Limits Press, 2023).

Excerpt from Sleep Alone.

We snag the last seats in the place, in a cozy corner booth that Helene claims in a blur of black on black and a “fuck you” aura that keeps the other hovering people at bay. There’s a good mix here tonight, a nice balanced representation of people in their twenties through forties who look just the right amount of willing. I see strong bodies, full bellies, pleasant memories being made tonight. And they’re all just tipsy enough to be friendly, but not so drunk they’ll make a scene when Helene and I lead them through the crowd and out into the cold, empty night.

While I’m at the bar waiting for our drinks, I watch a couple of middle-aged men approach Helene, then quickly leave with their mouths shaped into the word “bitch.” This happens with another pair of men, then a single guy. Her allure, her beauty, allow her to be choosy, but this bar is not dark enough to hide the deep lines hunger has carved on my face. I need her to hook someone first, to pull them in enough that they won’t pull back when I join her. Without the proximity of the band, will anyone want me when there are other choices and the night is far from ending?

I’ve got our drinks in hand when a new pair approaches Helene, a couple of women who look like they haven’t seen a night out in a long time. She rebuffs them just as quickly, and I watch the women pick their way to another table, nothing but the softest arcs as they lean and whisper and clutch each other awkwardly. I imagine husbands at home waiting up for these women, men content to tend fat babies and make turkey sandwiches pinned with love notes and the hope that momma had fun. These women are the warm sheets, the honey and butter, the safety of walking through the same door every night. It takes everything I have to keep myself from sweeping these women into the alley and devouring them whole.

You can call J.A.W. McCarthy Jen on Twitter @JAWMcCarthy, and find out more at www.jawmccarthy.com.

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