Articles, Horror, Science, SFF, Short stories

The Past and Future Lives of Test Subjects

I have a new story out! And it’s fucking terrible. I don’t say that lightly. The story itself is well-written and decently constructed, don’t get me wrong. I’m not fishing for affirmation of my writing ability. But the subject is monstrous. It’s also, unfortunately, drawn entirely from fact. “The Past and Future Lives of Test Subjects”, available in issue 1 of Dark Matter Magazine, is about the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments.

Those experiments, should you be so fortunate to have never heard of them, comprised a 40 year study in which the United States Public Health Service oversaw the “treatment” of syphilis in a study group of Black men. I say “treatment,” because although these men were told they were receiving medical care they really weren’t. The purpose of the study was to monitor the progression of untreated syphilis in the human body, and of course there’s no-one alive who would volunteer to the be the subject of that experiment, but the Public Health Service decided to go ahead and experiment anyway and not bother with any of those nasty consent issues.

This is the darkest story I’ve ever written. The people who ran this study were deeply, violently racist, and they clearly had absolutely no ethics at all, so be warned if you choose to read. You may prefer the accompanying essay, which I’m pleased to say Dark Matter also chose to publish in the same issue. “The Past and Future Lives of Scientists” goes into greater detail of the experiments in question, and places them within the ethical context of past failure and future necessity.

Horror, Short stories

Imago

I have a new story out! And I blame Animal Planet. It’s entirely their fault. There I was, blamelessly flicking through channels on the telly, and there was a documentary on cicadas. And not just any cicadas – if I wanted just any cicadas, I could see lots of them in the back garden. (I’ve admired their split skins since I was a kid.) No, this was about periodical cicadas. Apparently, over in the US, there’s a type of cicada that swarms every 13 or 17 years. The next swarm, all those years later, is laid by the previous swarm, and all I could think as I watched this programme was “I could make a great horror story out of this!”

So, there you have it. Blame Animal Planet. This weird, gross, insect-filled body horror was inspired by them. Poor things, they probably thought they were sharing scientific and educational information, real learning opportunities. Little did they know, across the other side of world a horror writer was trawling for bait.

I kind of disgusted myself with it, apparently. I certainly made a couple of writer colleagues who were kind enough to read an early draft retch. Apparently they dislike the egg part. Ha.

Anyway, “Imago” is free to read at Three-Lobed Burning Eye. If your stomach’s strong enough, that is.

Articles, Horror, Nonfiction

The Haunted Boundaries of House and Body

This… isn’t quite a story, but it’s new and more importantly it’s in Nightmare, which is a market I’ve been trying to crack for years. Have finally managed it with this essay about stories. Horror stories, to be precise. Nightmare has a regular column called “The H Word” that does short essays about various things within the genre, and this piece of mine is about haunted houses. “The Haunted Boundaries of House and Body” is an extract from a longer piece that I’m working on, about how haunted houses are frequently gendered as female.

It’s basically an excuse for me to read my way through the horror canon under the guise of scholarship.

Anyway, the story referred to in the essay is one of mine that’s not available online. That story, “The Knife Orchard,” about a piece of family history, is one of the original stories collected in my recently published collection The Mythology of Salt and Other Stories. It’s apples and sharp edges and haunting, and ultimately about turning away from haunting, which is a piece of good sense I am determined to appreciate. Anyway, you can read the essay at the link, so let me know what you think!

Horror, SFF, Short stories

The Body Politic

I have a new story out! “The Body Politic” can be found in Recognize Fascism, edited by Crystal M. Huff, from World Weaver Press. Recognize Fascism is a science fiction and fantasy short fiction anthology that does what it says on the tin. Fascism, sad to say, is one of those unfortunate ideologies that never seems to die. It’s always trying to sprout in new and unpleasant forms – and it’s best to be able to discern these as quickly as possible, so you can kick the shit out of them early and save yourself the trouble of doing it when they’ve got an even larger and nastier foothold in civilised society.

Anyway, my story is really more body horror than sci-fi or fantasy, and it’s weird body horror at that. One of the hallmarks of fascism, I think, is its attempts to control the body, particularly in the areas of identity and reproduction. In this little story, then – one of the few flash pieces I’ve ever written – the effects of fascism begin to literally appear on the body, limiting that body’s potential and rendering it weaker than before, and less capable of rebellion.

It’s such a good idea for an anthology, recognizing fascism, and I’m so glad that Crystal and World Weaver Press took a chance on what is really a very experimental piece of work. But it’s not just me – the anthology is positively stuffed with interesting, provocative stories by a number of truly excellent authors. Please take a look.

Horror, Poetry

Mary Shelley nominated for a Stoker

This is exciting news for me – my collection, Mary Shelley Makes A Monster, has been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award! It’s up for superior achievement in a poetry collection, which is nice for me as it’s my first Stoker nod. So I’m very happy about that, and happy too to be sharing the category with the other nominated poets: Linda D. Addison, Alessandro Manzetti, Donna Lynch, Michelle Scalise, Marge Simon, Bryan D. Dietrich, and Stephanie M. Wytovich.

Voting’s going on now, but the final results won’t be announced until later this year at StokerCon UK. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend as I’ll be in the middle of my writer’s residency at Massey University here in New Zealand, but it’s still great to be nominated.