I want this to be a platform for EVERYONE within the horror community; authors, publishers, bloggers, reviewers, actors, directors, artists. I could go on, if you work in the genre then you are more than welcome to apply for the job.
The rules are quite simple…
You are invited to imagine yourselves as warden for an old graveyard, and choose eight books, preferably horror/dark genre, to take with you to cover your shift; here you can discuss why you chose the books.
As well as the books, wardens are allowed one song/album to listen to. Again, an explanation for this choice is required.
You must also discuss one luxury item you can bring, which must be inanimate and not allow communication.
If you’d like to take part in The Graveyard Shift then please submit an application to firstname.lastname@example.org
A new shift is about to begin. The warden for the week’s #GraveyardShift is…
Visions of Heaven and Hell. Though I take the mandate seriously to keep things on the dark side while I’m in charge of the cemetery, I’ve decided to challenge myself not to bring any obvious horror fiction along for my shift (with one or two exceptions to be discovered below), but this is at least a way of sneaking Clive Barker into the works. This is a coffee table book of Barker’s artwork, kind of a precursor to the magnificent Imaginer books that would follow some ten to fifteen years later. It’s one of my absolute favorite art books, and I wouldn’t want to be caught among the dead without it for any length of time.
The Pocket Book of Robert Frost’s Poems. Look, I’m going to need some poetry in my corner if I hope to survive this gruelling shift. Besides, The Witch of Coös is included in this particular volume, and if that’s not a horror poem, I don’t know what is.
A Christmas Carol. For a more authoritative explanation of why Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is a horror story, I would shine my caretaker’s lantern in the direction of Robert McCammon’s chapter in the indispensable How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by J.N. Williamson; it can also be found on his website HERE. At any rate, I agree that A Christmas Carol is a horror story, and it’s hardly the only one Mr. Dickens penned. In the end, however, it might be his most comforting, and that could prove invaluable during my little graveyard retreat.
Speaks the Nightbird. Speaking of Mr. McCammon, here’s the book that started it all, and by all I mean his beloved series of period adventure novels featuring the hapless, though intrepid, problem-solver Matthew Corbett. I won’t get through this tome in one shift, but I’m familiar enough with the story to be able to thumb my way to favorite passages.
In Cold Blood. Every now and then an argument bubbles up somewhere about what’s more important, story or style. Truman Capote stands as proof that we shouldn’t have to choose. A self-described stylist, he was also a master storyteller and nowhere is there more incontrovertible proof than in the pages of In Cold Blood. It’s also scary as hell. In fact, maybe I’ll read out loud from this one if the spirits draw too near.
Frankenstein. What would it say about my graveside manner if I didn’t include at least one classic work of horror? Many consider it more science fiction than horror, of course. I don’t see why it can’t be both. Whatever the case, it gives me an excuse to slip one more Victorian tale into the mix (almost Victorian, anyway). Besides, what story can scratch the itch with greater force when you’re craving something monstrous, fantastical, exciting, philosophical, and told with great depth of feeling? You can’t expect me to pull warden duty without Victor and his creation by my side. But please don’t make me choose between the Bernie Wrightson and Lynd Ward illustrations. I could use up my whole shift weighing the merits of both.
To Kill a Mockingbird. You want darkness? Okay, how about bigotry and provincialism dressed up in a tale of Gothic suspense? Some novels are reassuring in their timelessness. Others cause us to shake our heads out of chagrin for the same reason. Harper Lee’s haunting novel falls into the latter category.
The Complete Tales & Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Last but not least, as the saying goes. With this volume, I will have at my beck and call some of the greatest tales of humor, horror, mystery, and adventure ever put to paper, not to mention some of the greatest American poems. I hereby do believe my shift is pretty well in order, book-wise, and I feel fortified against whatever the night may bring.
[Honesty break, as I lean on my shovel and wipe sweat from my brow with the bandana I’ve pulled from the back pocket of my overalls: I’d probably want the comfort of a Stephen King title in this hypothetical scenario, but I thought it would be fun to leave him off the list and try to focus on the outskirts of the horror genre.]
The Dante Symphony See how sly I am, alluding to a possible ninth book without breaking any rules. Would a madman have been so wise as this? The first movement of Liszt’s symphony contains some of the darkest, most dramatic music in the symphonic repertoire. There are bright spots as the piece progresses, but, as with The Divine Comedy itself, I show up for the tortures of the damned. Everything else pales a little by comparison. Wagner convinced Liszt that it would be impossible to portray Paradiso in music, so the final movement is a setting of the Magnificat. My preferred recording includes the Dante Sonata as well, performed by Daniel Barenboim, who also conducts the symphony performance by the Berliner Philharmoniker. This should prove to be a suitable soundtrack for the depth and breadth of my reading selection.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Bullshit Grinder (the actual item is difficult for me to get to at present, hence the image above). I choose this item because my father gave it to me and it perfectly represents where his sense of humor intersected with mine. Someone he knew made it for him many years ago (a boxy wooden thing). It is a machine without purpose, other than to induce a smile or snicker (or maybe it calls forth demons that show up on someone else’s doorstep). I can no longer share a laugh with my dad over its clever uselessness, but I think of him whenever I give it a grind. Anyway, can there be two more powerful talismans against churchyard goblins than humor and fond remembrance? I think not.
Jagged Edges & Moving Parts
In these collected tales of terror, you will visit worlds familiar and foreign, witness frights credible and extraordinary … encounter villains human and otherworldly. If the stories have one common attribute, it is that they deliver suspense like a burning fuse while putting forward a distinguishable and consistent literary voice, a kind of rope handrail in a dark cave that keeps spelunkers just assured enough to continue moving from one unknown to the next. It may not be the magnitude of the darkness explored here that is of greatest interest, however, but the fact that unexpected moments of humanity, courage, and thoughtfulness are allowed to gain a foothold from time to time, often against seemingly impossible odds.
Jagged Edges & Moving Parts may be an exploration of the darkest corners of our shared existence, but it is also rooted in a belief that if people can be as ruthless as monsters, they can also be every bit as astonishing.
Pete Mesling has been publishing fiction in the traditional small press for more than a dozen years. In June of this year he released Jagged Edges & Moving Parts, his latest collection of horror stories, under his Other Kingdoms Press banner. His first novel will be out early next year.
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