No Trouble at All submission call

Edited by Eric Raglin and Alexis DuBon for Cursed Morsels Press, No Trouble at All will feature stories of polite horror: horror disguised through polite faces/manners, horror allowed to exist when politeness comes at the cost of self-preservation, and any other interpretation of the theme. We love thought-provoking stories, complex characters, unapologetic weirdness, and bold narrative risk-taking.

We’ve received questions about whether this is a “Midwest nice” anthology. It is not, but your story can explore that aspect of polite horror if it speaks to you. Polite horror is all around us. Think about how power works. How those without it are expected to smile and accept injustice for fear of retribution. How those with power dress up ugly realities and make suffering palatable to prevent resistance. Polite horrors come from both sides of the weapon—the wielder and the wounded. They color our intimate, familial, professional, cultural, and political realities. Don’t feel limited to any particular environment. Take it somewhere close—a domestic partnership; or take it larger scale—Good Germans. Have fun, go nuts. 

Before reading the rest of the submission guidelines, note that the existence of this project is contingent on the success of its Kickstarter campaign. We are grateful to everyone who spreads the word. Starting on January 15th, pledges can be made at this link.

Note that some writers have specifically been invited to contribute. The anthology will be a mix of solicited stories and stories selected from the open call submission period. Submissions are open to all writers, but we especially encourage submissions from writers of marginalized groups. 

Open to submissions from all writers March 1st, 2023 – March 15th. Extended submission period for writers of marginalized backgrounds (broadly defined) March 16th — March 22nd.

“No Trouble at All” will be published in both ebook and paperback on June 6th, 2023.

Stories should be between 2,000 and 4,500 words. Firm limit.

Simultaneous submissions are allowed, but withdraw your submission immediately if it gets accepted elsewhere. 

No multiple submissions. No reprints.

OTHER SUBMISSION CONSIDERATIONS

We expect and encourage stories that deal with ugly topics; however, we will not tolerate stories that are bigoted in nature or pose oppressor as victim. Racist, queerphobic, misogynistic, antisemitic, or otherwise fascistic stories will be rejected.

Do not submit stories that involve violence against dogs or wolves.

If you’re retreading well-established tropes, make it fresh.

We’re fine with horror that has erotic elements, but emphasis should be on the horror.

Gore and extreme elements are fine. Just make sure they serve the story.

Don’t be moralizing.

FORMAT

Use standard manuscript format. Send a doc/docx attachment. Do not copy-paste your story into the body of the email or submit it in any other format. We won’t read it if you do.

Please send submission to politehorrors@gmail.com. Include your name, story title, and word count in the subject heading (e.g., Firstname Lastname— “Story Title” — #### Words”).

PAYMENT

$.04 USD per word via PayPal for a short story after contract signing and final edits, and a free e-book copy of the anthology following publication. We hope to raise this amount if we meet our Kickstarter stretch goals.

RIGHTS

Exclusive First Worldwide Publication, Print, and Electronic Rights for three months, and non-exclusive rights thereafter.

Birthday book event–FREE stories!

On October 18th, I’ll be doing a reading, discussion, and signing for my horror collection Nightmare Yearnings. Indigo Bridge Books (1624 S 17th St Ste 200, Lincoln, NE 68502) will be hosting this free event from 6 pm to 7 pm. Register here. You can also join remotely with this Zoom link.

I’ll be reading one or two queer horror stories from Nightmare Yearnings, and there will be the chance for discussion afterwards. You can read these stories for free below:

My Better Half

How you determined which was my “gay half” and which was my “straight half” is a mystery to me. I suspect the realization came during last night’s date at Texas Roadhouse. A handsome waiter approached our table, black T-shirt highlighting the bulge of his pecs, tight jeans highlighting a bulge of a different sort. I tried not to stare, but I must have grinned—or half of my face must have grinned. The gay half. You ate in silence, spreading cinnamon butter over the dinner rolls with enough force to flatten them into dense discs. I asked you what was wrong, but you said nothing. When I pressed the issue, all you offered was, “Long day at work. And the chicken here sucks.” Our waiter came with the check. You didn’t leave a tip.

“What was that?” I asked, brushing past the birthday saddle as we rushed into the parking lot. “If you’re mad at me, don’t take it out on the waiter. Seriously, what the fuck?”

We reached the car, and as you unlocked it, you smiled at me.

“Everything will be fine in the morning. Don’t worry about it,” you said.

I didn’t know what to make of the mood swing, so I stayed quiet for the ride home.

#

I awoke the next morning in two places—my straight half in bed with you, and my gay half locked in the closet. A little on the nose, don’t you think? It was disorienting, seeing two sights at once—a split screen of a spinning ceiling fan on one side and a pile of sweaty gym clothes on the other. Oh, and blood—the one consistent element holding both sides together. A crimson spray on the bedroom ceiling and a brown crust on the closet carpet. An absolute mess.

You rolled over in bed and smiled at my straight half. Even splattered with gore, your blonde curls were gorgeous, somehow immune to bedhead. You kissed my half-mouth, and when you pulled away, a thin web of blood went with you. You looked unbothered. Unbothered by any of this.

“How would you feel about a little . . . you know?” you said, massaging my torso with your soft, warm hands.

I shook my head, unable to speak. When your smile persisted, I shook more vigorously, stopping only when half of my brain almost dislodged itself. Your face darkened and you stroked your chin, whispering something indecipherable. A moment later, you grabbed my straight half and lugged me over to the closet where my gay half lay. Maybe you’d been wrong about which half was which. You switched out sides, locking the closet behind you.

Again, you put the moves on, your tongue tracing my neck, a sensation I normally loved but could no longer tolerate. I tried to twist away and, hell, I even thought about biting you—half a mouth could still do some damage. But I didn’t. That wasn’t my style. And frankly, I would have pissed myself if my bladder weren’t cut in two. Everything inside had already drained out.

You must have seen the look on my face because you stopped again, this time gritting your teeth. For a second I thought you might kill me, fed up with trying to guess which of my sides was which, your experiment a total failure. And of course it was, but my reasons for thinking so were certainly different than yours. I didn’t say that to your face, though. Who knew how you’d react?

Time was what you needed. Time to think, to hypothesize, to scheme.

“I’m late for work,” you said, hopping out of my lap and stomping away.

The hiss of hot water came from the bathroom. I eyed my phone, pondering who I could call before you got out of the shower, but you stepped back into the room almost immediately to grab a towel. You tracked my eyeline, grabbed my phone, shattered it against the floor. I couldn’t see where it landed, but I was sure it was in multiple places, just like me.

With no way to contact anyone, I waited until you left, practically catatonic. You’d probably be back for lunch—wouldn’t trust me on my own for a whole day—so I had to make the most of what little time I had.

Half of me shuffled to the edge of the bed while the other half scooted against the back of the closet wall. Together, we stood up, slowly and precariously, balancing on one foot each like fucked-up flamingos. We hopped to each other, standing on opposite sides of the locked door. The thing was easy enough to open—just a twist of the lock—but in our rush, our bedroom half tripped. Barely catching ourself on the doorframe, a lung popped out and swung like a pendulum from my gaping cross section. We got that half of ourself upright again and tucked the thing back in.

Door open now, my halves met, and we hugged. I hugged. My closet half reached down to grab the sewing box, then both my halves hopped over to the bed. There, I spent the next couple hours sewing myself together, glancing at the clock every other stitch. When the spool ran out, I unraveled thread from the pillowcases, using those to finish the job. The colors weren’t uniform—white becoming green—but that was fine. It was only a temporary solution. What a permanent one looked like, I had no way of knowing.

The moment of truth came when I stood up. There was a sound like fabric stretching as the slack between the stitches widened, my halves threatening to separate once more. But after a moment of me staying perfectly still, the seam didn’t stretch any farther. Sure, someone could slip a spaghetti noodle through my center, but for now, the fix was stable enough.

I checked the clock. 11:58. You’d be home soon. I ran out of the room and down the stairs, my steps only semi-coordinated, the stitches at risk of tearing away if I slipped. But I made it out the front door, past the driveway, into a pile of bushes just as your car whipped around the corner like a drag racer’s. I paused to breathe, my lungs inhaling at different times, losing some oxygen through the slit in my windpipe. You slammed the car door, hustled into the house. But it wasn’t long before you stormed back out, screaming my name. I stayed hidden and didn’t dare answer. 

When it was close to one, after nearly an hour of pacing and shouting, you drove off again. Back to work so your boss wouldn’t get mad. You’d deal with this when you got home. Or so you thought.

But I made sure you’d never find me. Where I went, I won’t tell you. Just know that it wasn’t with the handsome waiter from Texas Roadhouse. Though, if it were, I hope he’d never try to cut parts of me loose.

This is goodbye, not from one half of my being, but from a united whole—hurt, but healing.

When Mothman Came to Queer Lake

Ellie and I fled Crawford after our big secret came out—pun intended. The mom-and-pop grocery store owner Mr. Reynolds caught us kissing behind the Dumpster and fired us on the spot. We were off the clock and out of uniform, but the man couldn’t have homos scaring customers into shopping at Wal-Mart.

He was shocked when we filed a wrongful termination lawsuit, and he nearly fainted when we won in court. Our winnings were enough to score us a plot of land far away from Crawford, complete with a fishing pond and golden prairie as far as the eye could see. Thus, the town of Queer Lake was born. The fact that the state didn’t officially recognize it as a town only made Queer Lake queerer.

Ellie built us a house with slanted floors and enough cracks for mice to nestle in (as if I could do any better), but there was still the problem of food. It was a two-hour drive to the nearest grocery store—yep, that grocery store—which gave us all the push we needed to grow our own crops. Learning to farm was a joyful process, though. We would till rows in the soil and make corny jokes about what we were planting. When the exhaustion set in, we’d spend the evenings cuddling and watching X-Files on our shitty antenna TV. On the rare occasion that we got tired of spending every second together, it was easy to give each other space: Ellie fished the pond while I wandered the hills and tried to avoid prairie dog holes. But on those hikes, I often found myself glancing back at Ellie, admiring her arm muscles as she reeled in catfish, the rod bending under their weight. I could never stay away for long.

However, paradise came with the anxiety that it might crumble at any second. We’d seen energy company vans stopping on the road in front of our house. The workers surveyed the land, taking notes and measurements of who-knows-what. Ellie thought they might be planning the route of an oil pipeline—a black snake that would soon plunge its fangs into Queer Lake.

A more familiar threat also drove that road: trucks sporting Confederate flags and bumper stickers for homophobic senators. Whenever those drove by, Ellie and I went inside, not wanting the drivers to see us holding hands. You’d think we’d be safe doing that out in the middle of nowhere, but apparently not.

Then came Mothman, our strangest visitor by far. We’d first learned about him as children from a library book about cryptids. But it wasn’t until two decades later, as we returned from the fields, that we saw him for ourselves, perched atop our house. Ellie dropped her armful of corn, and I about pissed myself. Mothman was a tall, dark silhouette in the twilight. His eyes were large and red as stoplights, and his wings were long enough to graze the gutters on both sides of the roof. Spotted, he flew upward falcon-fast and disappeared into the clouds. We craned our necks for a good while, waiting for him to reappear, but by the time the clouds passed, the horizon had already swallowed the sun. As we made our way inside, I glimpsed a quick, black shape passing over the moon, but by then I was disinclined to trust my eyes.

We sat on the couch in the dark for a while before either of us could speak. Unsure what else to say, I broke the silence.

“Want to watch X-Files?”

“Pretty sure we just did,” Ellie replied.

I snorted, trying to hold back a laugh, but the dam burst. Both of us fell into a fit of giggles. Tearing up and gasping for breath, Ellie collapsed into my lap.

A thunk on the roof halted our laughter. We stared at each other through the darkness, and neither of us dared breathe.

A minute of silence, then Ellie whispered, “It’s him, right?”

“It’s got to be. Why the hell is he here?”

We’d both seen him, so we weren’t crazy. But just because our minds were fine didn’t mean everything else was. Where Mothman showed up, tragedy struck. In 1967, he tried to warn the people of Point Pleasant about the impending Silver Bridge collapse, but his omens were esoteric at best, transmitted through dreams that left more people scratching their heads than taking action. Forty-six people died in the Ohio River that December, and Mothman vanished.

#

Each morning, Ellie wrote a new tragic prediction on our refrigerator whiteboard: “Ellie will come out as straight,” “Wachiwi will develop a corn allergy,” or “the mice will eat us in our sleep.” Seeing these jokes made me smile, but I couldn’t always bring myself to laugh. Had the people of Point Pleasant done the same thing as us, dismissing Mothman’s omens only to pay the ultimate price? I mentioned this to Ellie one day as we were harvesting potatoes.

“What if it’s something serious?” I said. “A drought. A wildfire. Violent homophobes. Or Proud Boys coming to—you know. I mean, there’s nowhere to run out here. No way to protect—” 

“Let’s not psych ourselves out,” she said, wiping her muddy hands on her jeans. “Maybe Mothman was just passing through on his way to Crawford. Plenty of tragedy to warn people about in that shithole. And in any case, don’t you trust me to protect you?”

She flashed a flirty smile and flexed her muscular arms. The tension in my chest eased up, and I couldn’t help smiling back. I felt silly for worrying in the first place. It had been three weeks since the Mothman sighting, and he hadn’t appeared again. It was probably just a fluke.

But Mothman returned that evening. He stood beside the pond, his red eyes reflecting off the water. Ellie and I watched him from the relative safety of our home, daring only to peek through a crack in the curtains. Mothman was shivering. His whole body trembled, and his knees looked close to collapsing. When at last he fell, he landed facedown in the pond, his wings twitching in sharp, spastic motions. Ellie and I looked at each other, wide-eyed and frozen. She sprang into action first, running out the door. I hesitated to follow, suspecting a trap, but if Ellie was going to die, I’d die beside her.

We rushed toward the pond, and the closer we got the more I wanted to turn back. Mothman had the wingspan of a pterodactyl and the build of an NBA player; he could easily fuck us up if he wanted to. But that didn’t seem to register for Ellie as she barreled forward. She wouldn’t be able to pull Mothman out of the water on her own, so I kept following despite every hair on my body bristling.

When we reached Mothman, no bubbles came up from where his face rested in the pond. I worried we were too late, but we each grabbed a leg and pulled him out. His fuzzy form prickled me with static electricity, only the static didn’t discharge after one touch. The sensation was constant as we dragged him onto dry land and, with tremendous effort, tipped him onto his back. Seeing him up close, I could only discern his eyes. Shadows bunched up around his other features as if they weren’t for us mortals to see. It was the kind of darkness one might find at the bottom of a well—an amorphous black that banished all light. And while it sounds like I should’ve been frightened, my heartbeat slowed in his presence.

“His eyes,” Ellie said, her voice far away.

I kneeled down to get a better look. Mothman’s eyes still glowed with life, and something danced below their glassy surface. It was a swirling mist that vacillated between form and formlessness. I caught glimpses of fire devouring homes, tactical boots crushing necks, and people dying in the streets of some town—distant or near, I couldn’t be sure. The images flashed by so quickly that it was hard for me to keep up. But even if I didn’t consciously register each one, my unconscious mind still pieced together their meaning. Tears welled in my eyes. Acid rose in my throat. I turned away from Mothman and vomited into the grass.

After my gut emptied and I’d dry heaved several times, I turned back to Ellie. She was no longer looking at Mothman. Instead she stared off into space, her knees pulled to her chin. My gaze lowered to Mothman, and I realized he was still breathing—hyperventilating, really, the rise and fall of his chest quick and shallow. Not knowing what else to do, I placed a hand on him and moved it in soft, slow circles. The static sensation prickled me even more than before, but the longer I spent soothing him, the weaker the sensation became. Eventually it diminished to nothing more than gentle moth fuzz against my skin.

Mothman’s wing twitched away a horsefly—one of the last still alive before the frost. I stepped back. After a minute of strained movement, Mothman pushed himself onto his feet. He looked at Ellie, then at me. At least for now, his eyes didn’t swirl with a thousand omens. I held his gaze for what felt like hours, wondering if it held a message. With little warning, he took off into the night to carry on his work.

When the black sky consumed him, Ellie shuffled over and hugged me from behind. She sniffled, and her cheek felt wet against my neck.

“I think this place is his sanctuary too,” Ellie said, her voice hoarse.

A truck roared down the road. While I could only see the headlights, I pictured a driver with a MAGA hat inside. I pictured him getting out of the truck with a rifle in hand. I pictured hate pouring from his mouth and screams pouring from Ellie’s. I pictured two unmarked graves. An energy company laying down pipe. Our home demolished. Our pond shimmering with the wrong kind of rainbow, black and viscous.That night, I dreamed about Crawford and the world we left behind. Ellie woke me when I started screaming in my sleep. And as grateful as I was to wake up in Queer Lake, I could feel that other world encroaching on our paradise. It was not a matter of if it would reach us but when. I wondered where Mothman would rest after this place was swallowed up.

SHREDDED: A SPORTS AND FITNESS BODY HORROR ANTHOLOGY

This fiction anthology from Eric Raglin (writer of NIGHTMARE YEARNINGS, editor of ANTIFA SPLATTERPUNK) will feature stories of body horror in sports and fitness. Submit your most grotesque, strange, frightening, and thought-provoking stories—ones with complex characters, unapologetic weirdness, and horror that takes bold narrative risks.

Submissions are open to all writers, but I especially encourage submissions from writers of marginalized groups. Note that some writers have specifically been invited to contribute. The anthology will be a mix of solicited stories and stories selected from the open call submission period.

Stories should be between 2,000 and 4,500 words.

Multiple submissions are not allowed. Simultaneous submissions are allowed, but withdraw your submission immediately if it gets accepted elsewhere. No reprints.

Open for submissions March 1st, 2022 – March 31st, 2022.

The extended submission period for writers of marginalized backgrounds related to race, gender, sexuality, class, disability, religion, and other identity categories is April 1st – 7th, 2022.

I will announce accepted submissions by April 15th, 2022.

Anthology will be published as both an electronic and print book in July 2022.

OTHER SUBMISSION CONSIDERATIONS
If you’re retreading old ground and well-established tropes, make it fresh.

I’m fine with horror that has erotic elements, but emphasis should be on the horror.

Don’t be moralizing. I want nuance.

Stories that deal with bigotry are fine, but bigoted stories are not.

I don’t want stories with graphic depictions of sexual violence.

It’s a body horror anthology, so I’m fine with gore and extreme elements. Just make sure they serve the story.


FORMAT
Use standard manuscript format. Send a doc/docx attachment. Do not copy-paste your story into the body of the email or submit it in any other format. We won’t read it if you do.

Please send submission to shreddedanthology@gmail.com. Include your name, story title, and word count in the subject heading (e.g., Firstname Lastname— “Story Title” — #### Words”).

Include an author bio of under 100 words and no more than two links to accompany your story.


PAYMENT
$.03 USD per word via PayPal for a short story after contract signing and final edits, and a free e-book copy of the anthology following publication.


RIGHTS
Exclusive First Worldwide Publication, Print, and Electronic Rights for three months, and non-exclusive rights thereafter.

Great books, albums, podcasts, and movies of 2021

Numbered rankings have always felt arbitrary to me, which is why the first word of this post is “great” rather than “best.” Here, I’ll recommend a novel, novella, short story collection, anthology, nonfiction book, album, movie, and podcast. If a particular 2021 release isn’t mentioned here, that’s not because I disliked it. In fact, there are plenty of releases I loved this year that I’m leaving out. But I want to keep this post short and sweet, so here we go!

A GREAT NOVEL

David Demchuk’s Red X rocked my world. It combines true crime with supernatural horror and authorial diary entries with up-close histories of the AIDS crisis. In other words, it felt like it was made just for me. The book is ambitious, strange, queer, and utterly unique. I look forward to devouring all of Demchuk’s future releases.

A GREAT NOVELLA

Samantha Kolesnik’s Waif explores many of my favorite things: bizarre body horror, complex queer characters, and people on the fringes of society getting by any way they can. I read this book in a single sitting, and without spoiling anything, can tell you it has the greatest last two lines I’ve read in a long, long time. This one will stick with me.

A GREAT SHORT STORY COLLECTION

I’d heard great things about Michael Cisco long before I read this collection, but I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to his work than Antisocieties. Cisco operates on a level of weirdness that feels pulled directly from a dream, resisting interpretation and yet inviting endless satisfying speculation. I adored this collection.

A GREAT ANTHOLOGY

Sam Richard is a phenomenal writer, editor, and friend. His newest anthology, Cinema Viscera, takes movie theater horror to hideously bleak places. Every story oozes with nightmare–sometimes literally. A couple highlights include Charles Austin Muir’s “A Marriage of Blood and Pus,” a bizarre, dark, and intensely personal story that only Charles could tell. Another is Jo Quenell’s “The Reassigned,” which at times feels physically painful to read–and I mean that as a compliment. Overall, a killer anthology! Not a dud in the bunch.

A GREAT NONFICTION BOOK

Okay, this one isn’t a 2021 release, but I didn’t read much nonfiction this year, so cut me some slack, will ya? Mark Bray’s Antifa: The Antifascist Handbook is without a doubt one of my favorite political history and organizing strategy books. It’s a book I’m certain I will read again, and at the risk of sounding dramatic, it deserves a place on the bookshelves of all committed antifascists. Utterly fascinating and full of indispensable wisdom.

A GREAT ALBUM

I have long preached the gospel of Kayo Dot. The band is endlessly inventive, and even when a song of theirs doesn’t quite work for me, I’m always appreciative that they tried something new. This 2021 album, Moss Grew on the Swords and Plowshares Alike, is their best since their 2010 release Coyote. It’s brimming with catchy riffs, badass lyrics, and explosive creativity. Any metalhead with a taste for adventure should pick it up.

A GREAT PODCAST

At the beginning of this year, I was worried that I was getting dumber and less politically engaged than I’d been in years. That’s still a little true, but Behind the Bastards made me a little less dumb and a lot more angry. Robert Evans’s journalistic research is top-notch and his presentation of “the worst people in history” always keeps me engaged. There’s plenty to learn about the past and present hideousness of our Hellworld.

A GREAT MOVIE

I regret that I never got to see Julia Ducournau’s Titane when it came to theaters (in Nebraska of all places. Nebraska!), but even watching it on the tiny screen of my laptop, I was entranced. Two films deep into her career, Ducournau already holds the 21st century throne of body horror film directors. Her penchant for weirdness, playfulness, and brutality make this film an utterly captivating experience. Don’t miss it!

ANTIFA SPLATTERPUNK

This summer, I’ll be editing ANTIFA SPLATTERPUNK, an anthology dedicated to–you guessed it–anti-fascist splatterpunk stories. In addition to pure splatterpunk, I’m also open to extreme horror with weird, bizarro, historical, or science fiction elements. Just keep it anti-fascist. 

The anthology is open to all writers, but I would especially like submissions from antifascist writers of marginalized groups. Note that some writers have specifically been invited to contribute. The anthology will be a mix of solicited stories and stories selected from the open call submission period.

Stories should be between 2,000 and 4,500 words.

Multiple submissions are not allowed. Simultaneous submissions are allowed, but withdraw your submission immediately if it gets accepted elsewhere. No reprints.

Open for submissions July 1st, 2021 – July 31st, 2021.

The extended submission period for women and non-binary writers is August 1st – 7th, 2021.

I will announce accepted submissions by August 31st, 2021.

Anthology will be published as both an electronic and print book in winter 2021.

OTHER SUBMISSION CONSIDERATIONS

If you’re retreading old ground and well-established tropes, make it fresh.

I’m fine with horror that has erotic elements, but emphasis should be on the horror.

Yes, make it anti-fascist, but don’t be moralizing. I want nuance.

Stories that deal with bigotry are fine, but bigoted stories are not.

I don’t want stories with graphic depictions of sexual violence.

This is a splatterpunk anthology, so gore and extreme elements are encouraged, but make sure they serve story, character, and theme.

FORMAT

Use standard manuscript format. Send a doc/docx attachment. Do not copy-paste your story into the body of the email or submit it in any other format. We won’t read it if you do.

Please send submission to antifasplatterpunk@gmail.com. Include your name, story title, and word count in the subject heading (e.g., Firstname Lastname— “Fascism Bad” — 3,500 Words”).

Include an author bio of under 100 words and no more than two links to accompany your story.

PAYMENT

A flat $100 via PayPal for a short story after contract signing and final edits, and a free e-book copy of the anthology following publication.

RIGHTS

Exclusive First Worldwide Publication, Print, and Electronic Rights for three months, and non-exclusive rights thereafter.

Top 5s of 2020

Here are my favorite books, short stories, movies, albums, songs, and podcasts of 2020. Note that not all of these came out in 2020, but 2020 is when I was first introduced to them. Also, I haven’t ranked these favorites in any particular order.

TOP 5 BOOKS

TOP 5 SHORT STORIES

  • “In the Hills, the Cities” by Clive Barker: there’s a reason this short story is a classic. Unforgettable strangeness, imagery, and agony.
  • “Skin Like Honey and Lace” by Gwendolyn Kiste: this story has so many potential layers of interpretation — pun intended. One of the best uses of body horror I’ve seen in fiction.
  • “The Penance Lake Roadside Wax Museum” by Max D. Stanton: this story blew my mind the first, second, third, fourth time I read it. I can only assume it will do the same on my fifth reading. Surreal, frightening, and tense all the way through.
  • “Cellar Door” by Emma J. Gibbon: I love ghost stories, and I love weird, hallucinatory tales. This is the perfect combination of the two. Some truly excellent storytelling here.
  • “Deathlike Love” by Sam Richard: this story is tough to read by design. Every sentence I read felt like an intrusion on a deeply private moment, but that’s what makes this one so powerful. If you can stomach it, it’s absolutely worth your time.

TOP 5 MOVIES

  • Little Women directed by Greta Gerwig: this film is the strangest one of the list. I’ve never read the book it was based on, nor did I go into the film with any expectation that I’d love it as much as I did. Greta Gerwig nailed it, and the casting was perfect.
  • The Invisible Man directed by Leigh Whannell: the scariest film of the year. I was terrified within the first five minutes of the film, and it didn’t let up. An astounding reworking of a classic story.
  • Relic directed by Natalie Erika James: dementia stories mess me up, and this one did exactly that. A phenomenal horror film rooted in a reality I’m all too familiar with. Highly recommended!
  • Possessor directed by Brandon Cronenberg: I love body horror and near-future hyper-capitalist dystopian stories, so it’s no surprise I dug this one. The Cronenberg legacy is in good hands!
  • How to Survive a Plague directed by David France: I’ve wanted to learn about the AIDS epidemic for a long time, but I’ve shied away from it out of fear for how much it would devastate me. This documentary is a fascinating look at AIDS activism during the height of the epidemic. Tragic and inspiring in equal measure.

TOP 5 ALBUMS

  • Signature by Teton: I love gloomy music, and this band brings the gloom…but makes it catchy! I also got a chance to play with them when my metal band was still active. I love everything they’ve put out, but this album is their best yet.
  • Lesions of a Different Kind by Undeath: I’m super picky when it comes to death metal, but this album checked all the boxes. Intensely catchy, groovy, and fun!
  • Vacation Man by Adrian Knight: I know I’m not ranking these top 5 lists, but this is for sure my album of the year. Very rarely do I get as obsessive about an album as I got about this one. Virtually every track is revelation. I love Vacation Man to death.
  • Take a Chance on Rock ‘n’ Roll by Couch Slut: my go-to feel bad album of the year. This is the perfect album for when I want to embrace life’s grime and negativity. Sometimes it feels good to feel bad!
  • Wilting in Mauve by Gláss: this album was an unexpected surprise, and I stumbled upon it purely back accident. Every track has a gloomy, punk catchiness to it. I’ll still be spinning this one well into next year.

TOP 5 SONGS

TOP 5 PODCASTS

  • 2.0: this was a dark year, and 2.0 made me laugh when things got rough. Bless them for that.
  • Against Everyone with Conner Habib: I can’t always intellectually follow where Conner’s big brain goes, but his conversations are consistently interesting and perspective-altering.
  • Spooked: beautifully produced true ghost stories perfect for nighttime walks in the woods.
  • My Friend Chuck: I’m bummed that this is no longer an active podcast, but Chuck and McKenzie brought a smile to my face countless times this past year. I’ll miss hearing their kind, funny words!
  • Dead Headspace: Patrick and Brennan are lovely hosts, and their interviews with horror writers are always a blast to listen to. Maybe we can collab someday???