Extermination Days: David Massengill
We welcome author David Massengill to DEMAIN with his Extermination Days, entry 65 in the Short Sharp Shocks! series. The book is out on the 31st December but is available for pre-sales now.
A collection of post-apocalyptic short stories to get you through the End of Days.
In The Twilit World, an American man hopes to reunite with a British woman he fell in love with twenty years ago while studying abroad. He finds the UK is less tranquil now thanks to an outbreak of Bovine+, a variation of mad cow disease that makes people severely mentally ill—and oftentimes dangerous.
Multiple tales are then set during the redbug invasion of the Pacific Northwest. When the cockroach-like redbug makes contact with a person’s skin, death follows within 24 hours. While the air teems with toxic insects, characters must also deal with their personal crises, ranging from unfaithful partners to the failure to become a mother.
Open Wounds takes place in Iran, after the US government has withdrawn all chemical soldiers. During an inspection of a desert palace coated with the residue of the lethal chemical YZ-549, the leader of a post-operation team discovers something still alive—and vengeful—lurking within the contaminated space.
These stories, collected together for the first time, have appeared in literary magazines, including Pulp Metal Magazine, Danse Macabre, The WiFiles, and The Literary Hatchet with some serving as the seeds for Massengill’s debut novel, Red Swarm (Montag Press).
(with a cover by Adrian Baldwin)
David Massengill Talks To Demain Publishing
(Originally featured on the Demain Publishing Blog 11th December 2020 HERE)
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hey David, welcome, welcome to DEMAIN. Pleasure to have you as part of the family now. So let’s talk about your first introduction to the horror genre.
DAVID MASSENGILL: And a pleasure to be here…when I was 12, I was fortunate enough to go on a family trip to Europe. We visited England and Italy and Switzerland. For some reason my parents allowed me to buy Stephen King’s Pet Sematary—my first ‘adult’ novel—and I was as thrilled about reading that book as I was about seeing Stonehenge or the Colosseum or Lake Geneva. I didn’t start writing horror fiction until my thirties, and sometimes I wonder if my turning to the genre had something to do with that well-worn paperback copy of Pet Sematary.
DP: I suspect it did – and that’s a great book…who else do you read and have they influenced you too?
DM: My top three favorite genres are horror, literary, and thriller/crime fiction. I’m partial to—and inspired by—minimalist writing. (I prefer reading books that are under 300 pages.) I’ve learned much about economy of style from Hemingway, James M. Cain, Jean Rhys, and Richard Matheson. The author who made me want to start writing short horror fiction was M.R. James, the absolute master of the ghost story.
DP: Definitely [Dean recently wrote a M.R. James inspired story for Trevor Kennedy’s Phantasmogoria James special –available on Amazon] agree with you there. What does horror mean to you?
DM: I think of horror as exploration of ‘the shadow’—the part of ourselves or others or society that we fear or worry about or don’t understand—and death. Horror fiction and horror movies allow us to safely venture into uncomfortable areas, through narratives and characters and symbols, and we come out of that exploration a little more comfortable with the shadow or death.
DP: That’s a great definition! Probably the wrong time to ask this but would you say that the horror genre is affected by world events?
DM: Horror is an excellent way to process tragic world events. I’ve definitely relied on my knowledge of Historical Bad Things Peoplekind Has Done while writing my fiction. I’m of the opinion, though, that mixing horror fiction with real-world horror rarely works well. If something truly horrific happened in the past, why do you need to add an element of fictional horror to that? That being said, I’m going to contradict myself and say I’d probably enjoy a serial killer thriller set during COVID lockdown.
DP: Actually I think I would too – let’s write it ha ha – creatively David is there something you haven’t yet achieved?
DM: A novel in fragments or found documents. Or the short story In the Blood, 1982: An Incident Not Described in the Biography of Delilah Dawn, Scream Queen. Or a Paul and Jane Bowles-type novel (The Sheltering Sky-ish) set in post-apocalyptic California. I have a list of ideas that have made it into my fiction or have remained in limbo.
DP: That’s very cool, I’d read them for sure – so writing is a long term career?
DM: Writing is definitely a long-term passion for me, and I’ve been crafting fiction for over 20 years. I think writing is an incredibly isolating and slow-going activity that doesn’t really suit people who want quick rewards. Somehow I always feel a little happier and more centered after a productive writing session, and that’s probably what keeps me coming back to the blinking cursor. I also love when my fiction reaches someone years after I wrote it, and I find out that person was somehow moved or provoked or entertained by whatever story I told.
DP: The lockdown then…
DM: The lockdown has been helpful for my writing practice—especially in the beginning, when we knew so little about the virus and what could or couldn’t get us sick. During those early days when I was rarely leaving the house or seeing friends, I didn’t have the excuse for not sitting down to write at least once a day. Just before the pandemic began, I started drafting a novel about a haunted property in Seattle. I’ll probably always think of this novel as my COVID book even though it’s set pre-pandemic and concerns the supernatural. I’ve noticed the characters in the novel are at home a lot and struggling with isolation (in addition to the terrifying goings-on on the property).
DP: Very clever! I like that idea – perhaps we’ll talk more when it’s finished. Finally David, can you tell us something your readers might find surprising about you?
DM: After reading the post-apocalyptic stories of Extermination Days, they might be surprised to learn that I’m an optimist. Sure, the world will come to an end one day, but something else will begin.
DP: And on that note – thank you David for your time, the best of luck with your Short Sharp Shocks!
David Massengill is the author of the novels The Skin That Fits (Montag Press) and Red Swarm (Montag Press) and the short story collection Fragments of a Journal Salvaged from a Charred House in Germany, 1816 (Hammer and Anvil Books). His short works of horror and literary fiction have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. He lives in Seattle, and he’s owned an N95 mask since before the start of the pandemic.
You can find out more about David by visiting his official website www.davidmassengillfiction.com