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.
For the sake of Twitter characters and in looking for something a little more punchy, I’ve now decided to call this feature The Graveyard Shift. (#GraveyardShift)
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 and the warden is…
J. Daniel Stone
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
Every book by Burroughs takes the reader on a hellacious acid trip, but for me Naked Lunch changed everything that I once knew about linear narratives, the rules of writing and prose style. It’s a book that flips the bird to all the rules. Nobody knows what Naked Lunch is about, and that’s the part that has always intrigued me the most. It reads almost like an epistolary format, but with no plot or clear sense of direction. Burroughs was the premier Beat Poet and is probably best known for having introduced the cut-up method into literature (juxtaposing cut up passages of prose and then pasting them back together at random) that he first learned from the painter and poet Brion Gysin in 1959. This method defined his infamous Nova Trilogy (The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded, Nova Express) and more. Naked Lunch was written and published before Burroughs knew about the cut-up method, but it eerily served as some sort of preface or predecessor (albeit randomly) to the cut-up method itself. Naked Lunch is one of the most chaotic books I have ever read, and that chaos matched that what was going on inside my mind at the time I first read the book back in 2003. Burroughs challenged everything and anyone who stood in his way, and with each delicious line of prose, I found myself spiralling downward into Burroughs’ beautiful insanity and wanting more. Naked Lunch has influenced me beyond any other piece of literature I can describe, not to mention it was published at a time when anything Queer was taboo and Burroughs just went all out and threw his queer life into the reader’s face. That’s a true badass in my opinion.
Strange Angels by Kathe Koja
Koja is best known for her 1991 Dell Abyss debut horror novel The Cipher (nee Funhole). And as it goes with most explosive first novels, she’s had a hard time pleasing fans with a book of equal vexation, or something as compelling (in their opinion). Just go to any place with reviews of her work, and you’ll see that The Cipher dominates everything. But I believe that but it’s her fourth novel, Strange Angels, in which Koja shines. She takes the idea of character study and propels the reader into her universe with knife-like precision. Not a word is wasted on the page. Strange Angels rocks from page 1 and doesn’t stop sucking you into Koja’s vision until the book is over and you sort of sit there and scratch your head. Grant is a photographer suffering from a block (an artists worst nightmare) until he discovers the almost child-like crayon drawings of a young man named Robin, who is a patient of his wife Johnna, an art therapist. From there, Grant’s creative drive is opened back up, but in a more obsessive manner so much so he has Robin move into his home and disrupt his relationship with Johnna. As you can imagine, the more connected Robin and Grant become, the crazier Grant becomes, the more introverted Robin becomes, which unleashes a whole lot of hell. Strange Angels is one of the finest novels I’ve ever read.
Violin by Anne Rice
Anne Rice needs no introduction, but what I think she does need is more appreciation. Lots of authors are jealous of her talent and her fame, claiming that her prose is too thick, or that her scenes are too wordy, her characters too queer, her tone too dark or sexual. Lots of readers who hate on Rice say the same thing. It’s all too clear this is all said in envy. Anne Rice is a marvel, and I learn so much from her books. But when I think of the word pain, Violin comes to mind. It is the most hated book in the Anne Rice canon, but it is hands down my favorite of hers. I don’t think she’s ever written a book with more fiery passion and with such an autobiographical tone. The fact that her large amount of readers hated Violin so much only goes to show how basic they are, unable to looks past her Vampire Chronicles and her stories about Sleeping Beauty, to appreciate this gem of a novel. Triana is our narrator and seemingly a normal woman who develops a psychosis as she mourns the death of her husband from AIDS complications (and becomes obsessed with death and dying, rightfully so). Then a ghost shows up (Stefan) to her street and plays a sweet, seductive and entrancing symphony with his violin alone. Triana, a middle-aged woman, has always longed to play the violin knew she’d never be any good at it, hears this music and it brings back all that need to pick up the violin and also brings out her dark side. As you can imagine, the two end up crossing paths, but also cross realities, past….present and future. Violin is a deeply dark novel, and it takes a real open mind to understand it.
Silk by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Caitlin R. Kiernan is our generation’s HP Lovecraft. I don’t care what anyone says. She is highly misunderstood by her many haters, and is far underrated. She is extremely prolific, and surprisingly can one-up herself even to this day. She doesn’t suffer from the Stephen King syndrome where it’s a guaranteed hit or miss. Kiernan pretty much always knocks it out of the park. Very rarely has a story of hers gotten a “meh” from me. Her prose is so good she sometimes has me asking myself why do I even write. Alas, that’s the exact kind of reaction I want a writer to invoke from me. Silk was literally the first novel I read where I felt like somebody understood my mind. Spyder is the leader of the alienated and lost goth kids in the deep south. I’m not from the south, I’m a NYC Yankee through and through, but Kiernan definitely caught my emo and goth mindset which was something I connected to right away. We follow Spyder and her fellow goths into ritual, drug use, an abusive family history, and into other realms where angels and monsters are the norm. Spyder doesn’t know that she is the beacon for all of these strange forces until it’s too late. From there on out we are pulled into Kiernan’s wonderful dark worlds littered with spirituality, artists, musicians, drunks, drug addicts and then some. Silk is one of those books that sticks with you for life if you read it at the right time. I was in my early twenties when I read it, at the apex of my goth/metal/emo lifestyle, so it’s a book I will always cherish as it spoke to queer goth boys like me.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Bronte’s only finished novel, Wuthering Heights, is one of those books you’re forced to read in high school, thus robbing you of the opportunity to truly understand it. Only when you come back to the book as a more seasoned reader is when you’ll appreciate Wuthering Heights for what it is: an impressive novel that teaches us many moral lessons, sometimes more than we bargained for. One of Bronte’s strongest traits as a writer is her flair for dialogue, and Wuthering Heights is loaded with some of the most beautiful dialogue I have ever read. Sometimes it’s better than the narrative itself, which is rare. First published under an androgynous (but still masculine) pseudonym, Ellis Bell, Wuthering Heights would never have seen the light of day if Bronte didn’t do such. Obviously in that time, women weren’t seen as smart enough to write books, let alone read. This inequality must have inspired Bronte as it’s weaved throughout the narrative of Wuthering Heights, constantly challenging, or even poking fun at, Victorian norms. At that time that was quite taboo. SO you could say not only was Bronte one hell of a talented writer, she was brave as well. All of us pretty much know the story of Wuthering Heights, and so we can all agree that it earned it’s spot as classic English language novel. It’s a dark and perhaps tenuous account of lost love in a time when people were forbidden to be together be it class or race or finances. Wuthering Heights is also a sort of horror novel, depending what your definition of horror is. All I know is that the book vexes me and keeps me coming back.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Mark Z. Danielewski burst onto the scene with his 2000 debut House of Leaves and developed an immediate cult following. Me included. Rightfully so. Never have I ever been pulled into a book so quickly that takes such effort to read. But the payoff is 100% worth it. House of Leaves is less a narrative and more freakishly constructed piece of fiction. The story revolves around a lost documentary about a family who live in a house that is bigger on the inside than what is perceived on the outside. It’s a very Lovecraftian theme. The book is narrated through the eyes of Johnny Truant, who finds in a dead man’s apartment a study about the Navidson Record, a documentary film of people who may or may not exist. This obviously opens up an abyss of curiosity and we al deep dive into the background of the haunted house. But we are not given the details easily. The book is broken up into multiple POVs, footnotes that have footnotes, a ton of references to real and fake academic novels and movies so much so that it can make you dizzy. There are also entire pages you need to turn upside to read properly, and then others with a single word on it in random parts of the page to make you feel like you fall into the dark with the characters themselves. It’s really impossible to explain how this book makes me feel. It takes months to read, in order to ingest the story properly. So if you’re inclined to swim in the murky waters of HoL then make sure to dedicate time to this addicting read. This disturbing book made me an instant fan.
The Light At The End by John Skipp and Craig Spector
Skipp is probably best known for ushering in the splatterpunk genre alongside David J. Schow. The Light At The End was my introduction to splatterpunk, and since then I’ve never read anyone who does it better. It’s the most in-your-face lush prose novel that punches you in the windpipe and then proceeds to kick you also while you’re down. The scene is 1980s NYC, which I love to read about as a native NYer because I connect to it immediately. In real life, Skipp is from the Midwest, but like most burgeoning artists, he migrated to NYC to make a life as an author. He worked every odd job you can imagine and his life was chock full of every oddball you can imagine. The only outsiders the book is missing are the queers, or at least a decent representation of them. But this outside mentality and oddball people are peppered throughout The Light At The End, all the grit, the grime, the darkness, the garbage, the poverty, goths, metalheads, punks, all of the outsiders you can imagine. The book centres around a vampire that is ravaging NYC, which starts in the subway and then goes beyond that. The prose reads like a speed metal song, quick and gut-wrenching and wild.
The Complete Fiction of HP Lovecraft by HP Lovecraft
Lovecraft needs zero introduction. You can thank him for inspiring, thus giving you all of your favorite horror authors, musicians, painters, poets and then some in the horror/weird/scifi world. Yes, we all know that in recent times it has been revealed HPL was involved in all sorts of scandal from racism to xenophobia to homophobia (though I believe the man was gay). But we need to separate the man from his stories and just focus on the latter because his stories remain some of the best in the weird, horror and sci-fi genres. He pretty much invented another important genre, Cosmic Horror, alongside some of his colleagues and influences such as Clark Ashton Smith, Algernon Blackwood, Poe, Arthur Machen and more. His stories, whether short or on the long side, take us deep into the mind of one of the most imaginative writers to have ever existed. Lovecraft did more for prose and myths and the cosmos with his small body of fiction (owed to his short life) than the last 20 “prolific” writers you think are actually prolific. There are scenes in his work and lines of prose that make my jaw drop, the hairs stand up on the back of my neck; I’ve had dreams about his creatures and myths and legends and lore. He invented times and places and darknesses that we can all relate to and revisit and learn from. I always go back to HPL’s stories, because they hold such a special place in my heart. He’s for sure a legend.
Lateralus by Tool
I have an extremely diverse musical taste, and easily can find myself switching from Black Sabbath to Madonna and everything in between, depending on my mood. So suffice it to say, I’m a music junkie. There is good music and bad music and decent music out there, but it all depends on your taste. And then there’s the music that touches your soul. Lateralus by Tool was that record for me. Released in 2001, I was just fourteen years old and falling headlong into my goth/metal/emo/punk life, and Tool unleashed this album, gobsmacking me with this musical behemoth that has kept me hook on the band ever since. Lateralus is one of the most abyssal and hypnotic records I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. Everything from Alex Grey’s fantastic artwork, to the lyrics and the musicianship, is just perfect. I hate to use that word, but there is literally nothing on Lateralus that I hate, and that includes the useless interludes. See I called them useless, but I don’t hate them. They are there for a purpose, palate cleansers if you will. Maynard’s lyrics on this album reach such poetic heights, I of course find myself crying and connecting to them. In 2001 the band was at their creative height, just old enough to polish their musicianship, but still young enough as to where they had that burning passion inside of them that drove them to create such an astounding record.
Craft Beer, specifically a very bitter IPA
J. Daniel Stone
Born and raised in NYC, J. Daniel Stone, at one point or another, prepared bodies for the morgue, was a vegetarian, and nicknamed the devil. His body of work has been called “fierce,” “dark and sensuous” and “lush ultraviolence like that of 90’s-era horror” by writers such as Kathe Koja, Josh Malerman and John FD Taff, as well as legendary horror outlets Rue Morgue, HorrorNews.net and Fangoria.
He is the author of the urban horror adventures The Absence of Light, Blood Kiss, I Can Taste The Blood, the short story collection Lovebites & Razorlines and the upcoming Stations Of Shadow. He writes under a pseudonym to keep the wolves at bay.
Stations Of Shadow
Sebastian Ricciuti, known by night as Hydra, wants to change the way people think about drag by infecting the scene with a macabre flavor. To be the best, a performer must reach into their psyche and pull out the nightmares that lie beneath. What would happen if we tapped into the full potential of our brain? Could it change person’s skin and reveal the monster beneath?
Adrian Zapatero also wants to be the best drag performer New York City has ever seen. He will stop at nothing to become the reigning supreme as Hera Wynn. Bejeweled in glitz, tattooed with lace, and slathered with lipstick the color of shadow, Sebastian and Adrian bring freak culture back to subterranean clubs with storms in their eyes and theatrical violence in their heart.
But desire makes people weak, and envy breeds bitterness. There can only be one Queen of the Night. And she must do whatever it takes to earn that crown, even if it means destroying romance, reputations and friendships. Drag in New York City has never been darker.
You can buy Stations Of Shadow from Lethe Press