Friday, 20 November 2020

A Seed in a Soil of Sorrow by Keith Anthony Baird

 


When the death cult calls ... what are you running from?


The path to the Viridian Chapter is paved with many sorrows. It's a sect which sits on the site of a brutal atrocity, and one which harbours numerous dark secrets. Leader, Hans Lehmann, is a visionary bestowed with remarkable abilities, with followers who are prepared to offer their lives in exchange for his promise of a utopia.

On the cusp of autumn, a lone seeker arrives to discard his former life and embrace his rebirth as a chapter disciple. Stark lessons within a strict regime are the lure for those who have been traumatised by their uncaring past. The promise of a doomsday ascension through the waste of flesh proves at odds with a union between two souls who must flee the confines of the commune, if their love is to stand a chance of being fully realised.

But will the inner circle elite discover this betrayal and exact a terrible retribution, or will they escape the clutches of the sect's unstable originator and lift the lid on the culture of violence within?

Tobias, a young man barely 23, runs form the pain of his old life looking for a way out. He travels across Europe where he meets Han, a father figure like no other who takes him in when he joins his sect, The Viridian Chapter. All he expects in return is complete surrender.

This is a great short story that I found really disturbing and truly horrifying. The horror pure psychological. I just think there's something really creepy about cults where vulnerable people are taken advantage of, their lives and even minds changed forever. 

It's a really gripping tale, I easily read this is one sitting. I've read Keith's work before so I knew it would be dark! He's a master at pulling you into a tale. 


Sunday, 15 November 2020

Interview with Dan Coxon, author of Only the Broken Remain

 



Today I’m chatting with Dan Coxon, an author I greatly admire. He’s been a part of the British horror/strange fiction scene for many years. He’s been at the helm of the legendary Tales From The Shadow Booth anthologies as well as the multi award winning anthology, This Dreaming Isle, and now he has his debut short fiction collection Only The Broken Remain coming out with Black Shuck Books




1)   Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m a writer and editor based on the outskirts of London, probably best known for editing the anthology This Dreaming Isle (shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson Awards and the British Fantasy Awards). I’m also editor for Unsung Stories (Best Independent Press, British Fantasy Awards 2018 & 2019), and a freelance editor at Momus Editorial. My short fiction has appeared in Black Static, Nightscript and Not One of Us, and the anthologies Nox Pareidolia and Humanagerie, among many other places. Earlier this year I had a mini-collection, Green Fingers, published by Black Shuck Books, and they’ve just published my first full-length collection, Only The Broken Remain. Oh, and I bake a mean loaf of bread.

 

1)   Tell us about your new story collection, Only The Broken Remain.

Only The Broken Remain is a collection of stories about people who are marginalised or excluded in some way, sometimes through no fault of their own, sometimes as a consequence of their actions. I’m really interested in these types of characters: people who have been worn down by life and cast adrift, but somehow find the strength to carry on regardless. There’s a quiet heroism in not giving in. So you’ll find stories about a disenfranchised immigrant worker who forms a pact with the local foxes, a social misfit who finds his ideal job failing in front of a circus audience, an accountant who has embezzled funds and loses herself – literally – while on the run in Australia… I’m sure you get the idea. Some are previously published, while a handful are new and original to this book.

 


1)   What is it that drew you to British folk horror?

Part of what I do is folk horror, for sure, but I’m generally interested in weird fiction and the uncanny. I suspect the success of This Dreaming Isle will see me tagged as ‘the British folk-horror guy’ for a while, but that was really something that grew out of a specific situation, at a specific time, and I think flogging it for years to come would be a mistake. When I first started work on that anthology, we were in the midst of the Brexit vote, and nobody knew what the future held for Britain, whereas now… well, actually we still haven’t a clue, have we. But there was a sense in which folk horror was examining and reframing the ways in which we view the past, and I really liked that about it. It felt like the perfect antidote to rampant nostalgia – a timely reminder that the past was actually a dark, dangerous place, and not at all the ‘green and pleasant land’ some politicians seemed to be hankering after. That said, folk horror bleeds through into lots of other genres – ghost stories, for example, could be said to be both uncanny and folkloric – so I’m not quite done with it yet. I’m just keen to keep it as one possible tool of many, rather than the entire toolbox.

 


2)   Do you write in other genres?

I’ve written science fiction before (with only moderate success), and had a story in a ‘Year’s Best’ body horror anthology once (I don’t write body horror usually, although I do love early Cronenberg). For many years I was trying to write ‘literary’ short stories, so my earlier work tended to avoid any of the horror genre trappings – it was much more down-to-earth and mundane. Strangeness started to creep back into my fiction about six years ago, though, and I think it’s here to stay. I won’t claim that everything I write will be horror, but it will certainly all be odd and unsettling in some way. In fact, some of the stories in Only The Broken Remain are probably weird fiction rather than horror or folk horror. I prefer to let each story lead me where it will, rather than trying to impose genre ‘rules’ on it.

 

3)   How have you been spending your time during lockdown?

This is going to be a very dull answer, so I’ll keep it short. Looking after my kids, home schooling, learning to bake a really good loaf of bread, fighting the weeds at my allotment (and losing), putting up a shed, painting a shed, utterly failing to organise the chaos inside a shed. I’ve not had much time to read or write – at least, not as much as I’d like – but there’s been some of that too. Plus trying to earn enough of a living to stay afloat. My freelance editorial business is my main source of income, and the cashflow can be erratic at the best of times – lockdown was a challenge. One that I seem to have navigated so far, thank god.

 

4)   What book are you currently reading?

I’m re-reading Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which is just as great as I remembered, and even more weird. She’s wonderful at those adept little touches that just throw you off-guard with a couple of words. That’s true mastery.

 

5)   Who are your favourite authors?

This list tends to change with the seasons, but at the moment I’m very into Robert Aickman, Jeff Vandermeer, Joel Lane, Paul Tremblay, Alison Moore and Robert Holdstock. I’ll always have a soft spot for Iain Banks, too.

6)   How would you describe your work?

Strange fiction, of every flavour.

 

7)   Do you have any advice for new writers?

Read lots, write lots, and try to keep moving forward all the time. There’s a tendency to write something that you’re convinced is great, then sit back and try and place it somewhere. It’s important to send work out for publication, but you should always be working on the next thing – that’s how you improve. Also, don’t listen to too much advice. What worked for someone else might not do it for you.

 

8)   In the future, do you have plans to write a novel ?

I’m actually about 30,000 words into one, but then lockdown got in the way (see earlier notes regarding home schooling, work, etc.) I’ll be going back to it at some point soon, and who knows, I might even finish it. By the time I’ve done the edits, found an agent and sold it to a publisher, you might see it around 2025 sometime. In the meantime, though, I have two new anthologies slated for next year (one fiction, one non-fiction), so I’ve got plenty to keep me busy.

 


Friday, 13 November 2020

Only The Broken Remain by Dan Coxon

 


I could see into the room well enough, but there was nothing there. No furniture, no ornaments. A rusted sink streaked with black and grey. An empty light fitting. Nothing more than a thick layer of dust on tired linoleum, forming a furred carpet that stretched undisturbed into the empty room beyond… There was no neighbour. It occurred to me for the first time that I might be going mad.

A young man joins a circus where the mysterious ringmaster is more interested in watching him fail. An immigrant worker forms an unlikely alliance with his housing estate’s foxes. A fraudulent accountant goes on the run, but loses herself in the dry heat of Australia.

This debut collection from Dan Coxon unearths the no man’s land between dreams and nightmares, a place where the strange is constantly threatening to seep through into our everyday reality. Populated by the lost and the downtrodden, the forgotten and the estranged, these stories follow in the tradition of Thomas Ligotti, Robert Aickman and Joel Lane. Because when the dust has settled and the blood has been washed away, Only the Broken Remain.

“Dan Coxon’s subtle, delightfully dark tales creep up on you from the shadows, then refuse to let you go. I devoured these stories about crises of identity and reality being undermined after glimpsing something inexplicable from the corner of your eye.”
—Tim Major, author of Snakeskins and Hope Island

“Coxon writes stories filled with surreal, precise menace. Only the Broken Remain gripped me throughout.”
—Aliya Whiteley, author of The Beauty and The Loosening Skin


Only The Broken Remain by Dan Coxon features 14 fabulous stories that I guess you could classify as weird horror with a British flavour. However I think Dan Coxon is one of those rare writers that are hard to pin down and define.  The award winning author has been published in many prestigious magazines such as Black Static, Nightscript, Not one of Us, Unsung Stories and many others. He's also the editor of the critically acclaimed Tales From The Shadow Booth anthologies as well as This Dreaming Isle.

This collection, which I immensely enjoyed, features a motley crue of down and outs, people who once lived like us but had something about them irreparably broken. Yet they are still unwilling to give up, choosing instead to forge a survival when and where they can find it. 

Most of these stories start off sounding normal and mundane but when you look closer you realise there is something not quite right. All these stories united by a thread of cold anxious dread seeping in through the pages. Darkness is always underfoot and there's no telling how it will strike. It's a quiet sort of horror that creeps in slowly from the edges of normalcy but once it has you it is final. 

These stories exert a powerful realness, that they could happen to anyone, they warn that any one of us could slip through the cracks of society and find themselves lost and alone.

I loved the attention to details in these stories, Dan Coxon paints a really vivid picture full of atmosphere but keeps the pace moving quickly. 

I really enjoyed all these tales but my stand out favourites were;

Stannislav in Foxtown

Previously published in one of my all time favourite magazines; Black Static. This tale features a disenchanted immigrant, Stannislav moving to the UK for want of a better life but ends up working in a chicken shop.  Mistreated each day by his boss Mr Sharples, starving and abused he forms an unlikely friendship, and in numbers there is strength. 

Only The Broken Remain

Possibly the darkest tale in this anthology. This was creepy from the first word. Allison the young woman of the tale had been to hell and back and would be on the road to recovery if it weren't for the fact she can't any sleep. Her new neighbours are the source of some strange night-time activities and when she battles with her agoraphobia to go and knock on their door, she realises there is no next door. But where are the noises coming from? 

Baddavine 

Set in an isolated small community somewhere by the sea, this is British folk horror at its best. One day a father and daughter hear a strange whisper when they spend the day at the coast. At first the father thinks it is just childlike imagination but then he starts to hear it too, so does the rest of his small village. Baddavine, the voice rasps over and over again. It drives them mad and one night they all go together to challenge the intruder.

Rut 

Down and out Cedric works at a pub, terrorised by Gary Chiltern and his gang. Each day gets a little harder but he needs this job. Gradually he is pushed away from society and starts to find refuge in the local woods that have a rich history with his family. It's the perfect haven until Chiltern spots him going there alone one night...

All the Letters in His Van

A couple embark on a walking holiday with the intent to relax and get a break from their crumbling attempt to start a family of their own. They end up up getting lost but thankfully find a quaint little village to rest in.