Tag Archives: horror

Interview with Peter Coleborn & Jan Edwards

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Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards to talk about their new anthology The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors, the joys of editing, horror and short fiction!


Today sees the launch of your latest anthology The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors – what inspired you to choose the theme and what horrors can we look forward to seeing in it?

Peter: Besides the very general theme ‘horror’ the book has no theme. I feel that stories in themed anthologies, especially tightly themed ones, can become too similar. I enjoy variety. I enjoy coming across something unexpected. In this I mirror the views expressed by Mark Morris, editor of the wonderful New Fears series.

I use the word ‘horror’ as a wide catch-all net. What you will find between the covers is 25 well-written yarns that will hopefully chill you, or at the least make you go: wow, I didn’t expect that. Weird stories. Creature features. There are stories that may have been at home in The Pan Book of Horror Stories, perhaps in New Terrors (edited by Ramsey Campbell), or in one of Stephen Jones & David Sutton’s anthologies. Other anthologies are available.

Jan: Taken at its roots the term ‘horror’ is a wonderfully broad remit that encompasses everything from Hammer Films to Grimms’ Tales. Horrors gave writers scope to write about anything and everything – and they did.

Tightly themed anthologies can become frustrating. After the first six tales about two-tailed dogs in a bone factory any sense of tension and wonder has pretty much worn away.  Of course the answer is not to read a tightly themed anthology at one sitting.


With the APB of Horrors #2 opening for submissions in January 2019, what are your long term aims for the series and are there any particular types of tale you’d like to see submitted for Volume Two?

Peter: All being well – health and wealth wise – I’d like to see this become an annual event. I’d like to see a few more ghost / supernatural stories next time, otherwise more of the same – good quality horror fiction. I rather not see the usual horror tropes unless handled well / differently.

May I also mention artwork? Well, I am! One of the things I liked about the British Fantasy Society days was that there were so many pen & ink illustrations. I wanted to emulate that in Horrors so I managed to get 26 original Jim Pitts drawings for volume one – and all being well I hope to do the same for volume two onwards. The illustrations, I think, add a little class to the book.

Jan: I can’t add much more to the points Peter has raised. Yes, a few more ghost stories are always welcome. I am a fan of the good spooky tale – and folk horror, naturally – that uses imagination without resorting to ‘jolt’ tricks. Whether supernatural horror or not, anyone submitting work will always do well to avoid the ‘tropes of fashion’, for want of a better term, unless they have a genuinely different twist to perform.

What are the qualities of a good short horror story for you? What horror tropes turn you off?

Peter: Well-written tales are a must, otherwise it is difficult to describe the quality of a good story. If you can be precise about definitions then the story may lose that sense of wonder that grabs you. Generally, I like stories about people in strange or weird situations. I’m not a fan of people becoming victims for no reason whatsoever except to end them in particularly gruesome ways. Bloodshed is fine, but keep it in check. Subtlety is good!

Jan: As with the previous question, it is the things that go bump in the night that most people find scarier. The mad axemen will make you sweat a little yet they can usually be fought off or outwitted. We are hardwired to be far more afraid of the unknown, those things we cannot see or touch. The horror is always in the anticipation. Yes, there is horror in the more visceral but that relies far more on revulsion than genuine fear in many cases.

Who are your favourite short horror authors, and what short horror stories do you keep coming back to? 

Peter: I find this sort of question difficult to answer, to be truthful. I enjoy a range of short stories from a range of writers. Of those no longer with us, I would select Karl Edward Wagner as one of my favourites, as well as Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, etc… As for living authors: I rather not say because I’m bound to miss someone out.

Jan: I always hate these favourite or most influential writer questions. Partly for the reasons Peter has given but also because the moment I have delivered my choice I come up with a half dozen others. So not going to name names because they know who they are. But if pushed then I’d have to say that Daphne du Maurier will always take some beating in the short story stakes.

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What would you say is the appeal of short fiction anthologies for the reader? What anthologies would you recommend new readers try? 

Peter: Read Alchemy Press anthologies (and collections)!

I’ve mentioned a few earlier. In the UK I would always recommend you seek out any anthology edited or co-edited by Stephen Jones. Jones and David Sutton probably taught me more about anthologies than almost any other editor. Mark Morris’s New Fears series promises to be a top-notch home of quality horror – long may it exist. There are also several anthologies in the UK small press arena that are worth checking out.

In the US, go for Ellen Datlow anthologies. If you can find them, try Dark Forces edited by Kirby McCauley, Prime Evil edited by Douglas Winter, Masques edited by J N Williamson, Unknown Worlds edited by Stanley Schmidt and Martin Greenberg (this last is more weird fiction rather than horror).

Also, read the best of annuals, those currently edited by Stephen Jones, Ellen Datlow, Paula Guran, Johnny Mains. And dig around second-hand bookshops for the best of series edited by Karl Edward Wagner and Gerald Page.

And of course, read the magazines such as Black Static.

Jan: For me at least, though the novel allows scope for building tension and ramping up the chills, horror often works best in the brevity of the short form. For example I have always found Stephen King’s short fiction far more thought provoking than the majority of his novels. It brings us back to the unknown. The less you know, or is explained to you, the more scope your brain has to speculate.

What would I recommend? The best of annuals are a showcase for the best in the field selected from the plethora of anthologies and collections produced every year. Peter has listed most of the better known in those categories but there are always others. The great thing about them is finding authors who are new to you and appeal to your tastes. Like Forest Gump’s infamous box of chocolates, ‘you never know what you’re going to get.’


You’ve edited a variety of publications for the British Fantasy Society as well as your work for the Alchemy Press, Penkhull Press (and Jan’s work for Fox Spirit Books) – how did you get started with editing short fiction? When and how did you realise it was something you wanted to do, and who were/are your editor influences?

Peter: I first edited magazines for the British Fantasy Society, including Winter Chills (aka Chills from number 5), which received some favourable comments from Ellen Datlow. That started me off. In the late 1990s I felt that the BFS wasn’t able to do the kind of thing I was after so I started The Alchemy Press. The first publication was a slim collection of Damian Paladin stories by Mike Chinn. (I should say here that Mike has been a huge help with all this editing and publishing lark – thanks Mike.) The next books included story and poetry collections by Kim Newman and Jo Fletcher. The first anthology Alchemy did was the loosely themed Beneath the Ground edited by Joel Lane (RIP, Joel. He would’ve been 55 this year), then Swords Against the Millennium edited and co-published by Mike Chinn/Saladoth Productions.

After a break of a few years – blame the BFS and FantasyCon – I decided to launch the press again with two anthologies, The Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders (edited by Jan and Jenny Barber) and The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes (edited by Mike Chinn). Then there were several other anthologies and collections. I usually did the backroom stuff – final edits and design work.

The first Alchemy Press book with my name on the cover was Something Remains in 2016, a tribute to Joel Lane – I’m very humbled to have produced this book. And now we have The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors due on 1st November (and launched at FantasyCon in October).

Jan: Like Peter, I started small, editing anthologies for writers’ groups and graduating through journals such as Dark Horizons up to open call anthologies. So yes, the BFS has a lot to answer for! Dark Horizons, and its later siblings, spawned many an anthologist and championed many a writer in its time.

I teamed up with Jenny Barber for both Alchemy Press and Fox Spirit to produce some dark fantasy anthologies. When we first started planning Ancient Wonders almost all anthologies being produced in the UK at the time were more traditional horror. We wanted to produce volumes that were dealt with the themes of fantasy and folklore. From that came the two Alchemy Urban Mythics and Fox’s Wicked Women.

jan covers

Editing The Alchemy Press Book of Horror with Peter is a return to editing after a little break, mainly because I have been more heavily involved in writing crime fiction in various forms.

And finally… what are you up to next? 

Peter: Besides The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors, I’m also publishing this year the second collection by Bryn Fortey, Compromising the Truth. Bryn’s first collection, Merry-Go-Round and Other Words was also published by us, a few years back. Bryn is a wonderful gent who had stories published in The Pan Book of Horror Stories – so we’re going full circle in a way.

I sent Bryn a mock up of the cover, based on one of my photos, which he liked so much he wrote a new and brilliant story for it, ‘Ain’t that the Truth.’

Otherwise, I’ve decided that I will keep Alchemy Press low key and publish just two titles a year, one anthology (Horrors 2, obviously) and a collection (which is hush hush at the moment). As you can tell, I am a short story fan.

The Penkhull Press is a non-fantasy/horror imprint formed by a few local writers, a sort of co-operative. Penkhull has published novels and short story collections, for which I seem to end up doing all that backroom stuff – but that’s okay, that’s fine. One of our books, Winter Downs by Jan, a World War Two crime drama, won this year’s Arnold Bennett Book Prize, which is fabulous news.

Jan: I have three more WW2 crime novels in the pipeline, and intend to get my urban fantasy trilogy out at some point (which is also crime in its way, but with supernatural elements thrown in).

I also have my novella, ‘A Small Thing for Yolanda’ just out in the French folk horror anthology Into the Night Eternal and have several short stories in gestation that are intended for crime anthologies, and at some point I will finish my ‘Captain Georgi’ cosmic horror collection, though as always its finding the time!

Thank you for joining us Peter & Jan!

The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors is available in ebook and paperback formats from Amazon and all good retailers!

Peter Coleborn created the award-winning Alchemy Press in the late 1990s and has since (co-)published a range of anthologies and collections, including The Alchemy Press Books of Pulp Heroes and Urban Mythic, and collections by John Grant, Anne Nicholls, Marion Pitman and others. He has edited various publications for the British Fantasy Society (including Winter Chills/Chills and Dark Horizons) and co-edited with Pauline E Dungate the Joel Lane tribute anthology Something Remains in 2016. Besides editing and publishing he mucks around with Photoshop a lot, as you can tell by the cover artwork.

Jan Edwards has edited been anthologies for various presses, notably Fox Spirit, The Alchemy Press and the BFS for over twenty years, including: (co-edited with Jenny Barber) Wicked Women, Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders and APBO Urban Mythic 1&2. The Alchemy Press book of Horrors (co-edited with Peter Coleborn) is just released. Several of her anthologies have been shortlisted for awards.

Jan is also a writer of short fiction, which can be found in many crime, horror and fantasy anthologies. Her fiction has appeared in books as diverse as The Mammoth Book of Moriarty, Terror Tales of the Deep and the Dr Who DVD and anthology Daemons of Devil’s End; some of those tales have been collected into: Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties and Fables and Fabrications. Her supernatural crime novella ‘A Small Thing for Yolanda’ appears this year in Into The Night Eternal: Tales of French Folk Horror.
Her novels include Sussex Tales (winner of Winchester Slim Volume award) and more recently, Winter Downs: Bunch Courtney book #1 (crime novel; winner of the Arnold Bennett Book Prize). In Her Defence: Bunch Courtney #2 is due out late in 2018. Jan is also a recipient of a BFA Karl Edward Wagner award.
Blogsite: http://janedwardsblog.wordpress.com/ Twitter: @jancoledwards


Interview with Marie O’Regan

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Today I am pleased to welcome Marie O’Regan to the site to chat about her latest anthology Phantoms, the joys of short fiction, and all things horror!

Today sees the launch of your latest anthology Phantoms – what inspired you to choose the theme and what kind of haunting tales can we look forward to seeing in it?

PhantomsCoverI’ve wanted to do another ghost story anthology ever since I edited Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women, back in 2012, but anthologies are a hard sell with publishers these days. I’m very grateful to Titan Books for the opportunity to go back to working with ghost stories, which I love. Phantoms is a very different beast, as all the stories are contemporary. Four are reprints, including: John Connolly’s beautifully told ‘A Haunting’, the story of a man revisiting the hotel he always spent anniversaries in with his wife, this time, for the first time, alone; Joe Hill’s ‘20th Century Ghost’, which is a wonderful story about a movie-loving spirit tied to a cinema; Paul Tremblay’s story ‘A Haunted House is a Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken’, which is a ‘choose your ending’ style tale, beautifully told; and Muriel Gray’s emotive ‘Front Row Rider’, first published in Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories. Add to that original tales such as: Alison Littlewood’s ‘The Marvellous Talking Machine’ set in a Victorian entertainment emporium; Robert Shearman’s ‘Tom is in the Attic’, a haunted house story with a difference; M.R. Carey’s ‘My Life in Politics’, which deals with spirits seeking a new home and a corrupt politician, told from a young girl’s viewpoint… There are also stories by Kelley Armstrong, Gemma Files, Josh Malerman (‘Frank, Hide’), Tim Lebbon… the list goes on, but hopefully there’s a story in there for everyone.

What are the qualities of a good short horror story for you? What horror tropes turn you off?

A good short horror story, to my mind, should leave you feeling slightly uneasy – not necessarily because a story is gory, or shocking, but because it creeps you out and that feeling remains after you’ve finished reading. If you’re talking about classic ghost stories, a great example of this would be Edith Wharton’s ‘Afterward’ which I included in The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women; you’re aware throughout the story that there’s something not quite right but there’s nothing overt until the end, when you realise there has been a ghost after all, you just didn’t realise it at the time. If you’re talking contemporary short horror fiction, then I think an excellent example is Angela Slatter’s ‘When We Fall We Forget’, which is in Phantoms. The setting is very atmospheric, the characterisation is very well done and the story plays on the emotions beautifully, every thread weaving together to an affecting conclusion.

Horror tropes that turn me off? There are a few, I admit. I’m not a fan of the ‘woman in distress’ trope; some poor female is degraded in any one of a number of ways (chased, raped, abused, tortured, killed – always joyfully depicted), and the hero of the piece is some man, of course. Both men and women can be strong, and both can be weak.  And they can both be monsters; that’s not exclusively male. To me, good fiction shows the complexities of all the characters, and isn’t dependent on gender. I don’t like overly graphic violence that’s unnecessary. Sometimes it is, and that’s fine as long as it’s not glorified, but sometimes too much graphic violence just reads like torture porn and that’s a complete turn off for me.

Who are your favourite short horror authors, and what short horror stories do you keep coming back to?  

My favourite short horror authors are: Christopher Fowler, John Connolly, M.R. James, Charles L. Grant, Stephen King, Joe Hill, Angela Slatter, Gemma Files, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Crowther, Lisa Tuttle… the list goes on. There are loads of stories I keep going back to. Christopher Fowler’s ‘The Rule Book’, from his collection Red Gloves, or ‘Hater’, both excellent but I’m a huge fan of his writing in general. One of my favourite Stephen King short stories is ‘The Monkey’ from Skeleton Crew – and another favourite, although it’s a novella rather than a short story, is ‘The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet’; there’s also ‘The Reach’… I think you can tell I’m a fan! Peter Crowther’s ‘Eater’ is excellent; Charles L. Grant’s ‘Confess the Seasons’ and ‘The Last and Dreadful Hour’; John Connolly’s ‘Sometimes Children Wander by Mistake’ or ‘A Haunting’… So many that I love.

What would you say is the appeal of short fiction anthologies for the reader? What anthologies would you recommend new readers try?

joe-roberts-ghost-stories-by-women-x-portrait-designI think a short story anthology holds a certain kind of appeal. The stories are ‘bite-sized’, if you like, so you can dip in and out as and when you have time. There’s also the fact that you’re less likely to have to leave the story part-way through, as you would with a novel. And with an anthology, there’s also the fact that you get the chance to sample writing from a number of different authors, some of whom you might not have read before – introducing you to new possibilities as well as reading work from some of your favourites.  As for anthologies I’d recommend, I’m bound really to recommend mine – Phantoms, and the last one, Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women, or the ones I’ve edited with Paul (Kane), Hellbound Hearts, short stories based on Clive Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart, The Mammoth Book of Body Horror, or our anthology of circus-themed horror, A Carnivàle of Horror: Dark Tales from the Fairground. I love Stephen Jones’ long-running Best New Horror anthology series, now published by PS Publishing, although any anthology he edits is going to be great value. Or any anthology edited by Ellen Datlow – I’m particularly fond of The Dark. PS also do the Postscripts series, always a good read.

Do you prefer anthologies with a narrow theme or a wider theme and why?

I prefer as wide a theme as possible, purely because then you stand a chance of getting the widest range of fiction possible. Ghosts, for example, is a broad church; you can set your story anywhere or anytime.

You’ve edited and co-edited an assortment of magazines and anthologies – how did you get started with editing short fiction? When and how did you realise it was something you wanted to do long term, and who were/are your editor influences?

I got my start editing short fiction with the British Fantasy Society. First I edited their newsletter, Prism, as it was called in those days – and then moved on to their fiction magazine, Dark Horizons. With Paul, I co-edited an anthology (BFS- A Celebration) for them, and we’ve also edited many other magazines – FantasyCon programme booklets etc. I’ve taught writing, I’ve been a judge on short story competitions, a juror for the Stoker Awards two years running… and of course Paul and I have edited a number of anthologies together, as I’ve said above. We’re currently working on a few more, to be released over the next two years, but I can’t really say too much about those here.

As an ex-Chair of the British Fantasy Society and current Co-Chair of the UK Chapter of the Horror Writers Association, what would you say are the benefits of being part of such organisations?  And what are your aims and future projects with the UK HWA?

I would say the value of both organisations lies primarily in their ability to form a community of sorts for people working in the genre. Writing is a lonely business, or can be, and it’s important to make friendships and keep abreast of developments in the genre as well as attend events and mingle with others working in the same field. Both societies also publish fiction by their members, which is a great way to get those vital first few stories out there. The HWA goes a little further in that it provides things like a hardship fund, legal advice for publishing disputes, a mentor scheme – it’s always looking for ways to help its members in a practical way.


As to our aims with the HWA UK – we’ve been organising pub meets, similar to the BFS Open Nights, as a way of allowing members to meet up and socialise, as well as discuss what they want from the HWA or talk to us about any things they’d like to see… we usually have a guest author to read and answer questions as well. So far we’ve had M.R. Carey, Catriona Ward and A.K. Benedict as guests – we’re trying to organise another one at the moment, but can’t confirm just yet. We’ve run two day long events – a Scriptwriting Day last year, with screenwriters such as Joe Ahearne, Stephen Volk, Stephen Gallagher, James Moran and Cat Davies, Jason Arnopp, producer Jen Handorf, among others, giving up a day to give talks/run panels on various aspects of screenwriting; we finished with a screening of Alice Lowe’s PREVENGE, produced by Jen, which went down very well. And this year we ran a Crime Writing Day, as there’s a huge crossover between horror and crime fiction. Again, it was a great day, with authors such as Stuart MacBride, Fiona Cummins, David Mark, Steph Broadribb, Roz Watkins, Paul Finch, Jo Jakeman, to name a few, giving up a day to run panels on all aspects of writing in that genre.

StokerConLogoAnd in 2020, we’re bringing StokerCon™ to the UK for the first time, over the weekend of 16th to 19th April, in Scarborough. We’re working on that now, and it promises to be a brilliant weekend. You can find more details on www.stokercon-uk.com.  What we want to do is build a community for fans of the horror genre and those working within it; there isn’t really an organisation purely for horror in the UK.  We’re also looking at ways to improve what we offer here; perhaps an ezine for members only, that sort of thing. All members, worldwide, get monthly emails that include market information, members’ news etc.

And finally… what are you up to next? 

So much stuff! First up, Paul and I are about to hand in another anthology, but can’t release more on that just yet. I have a collection coming out from Luna Press next year, called The Last Ghost and Other Stories, several short stories in various anthologies – three are due out this month: ‘Pretty Things’ in the Alchemy Press Book of Horrors, ‘Before the Parade Passes By’ in Stephen Jones’ Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories, and ‘Tap, Tap’ in Black Room Manuscripts Vol. 4. Two of those launch at FantasyCon this month, as does Phantoms, and I have a Forbidden Planet signing for Phantoms on Saturday 27th October (https://forbiddenplanet.com/events/2018/10/27/join-best-names-horror-fiction), with a number of authors coming along: M.R. Carey, Joe Hill, Catriona Ward, Laura Purcell, Robert Shearman, George Mann… and me. I’m trying to organise a couple of local events for that as well. Paul and I are working on two more mass market anthology projects that are due out over the next year or so, I’m working on a novel that I hope to finish pretty soon now… and various script and short story projects are in the pipeline. And StokerCon UK, of course. That’s just going to keep getting busier.

Marie O’Regan, thank you for joining us!

Phantoms is available in ebook and paperback format from all good retailers!

Marie O’Regan is a three-time British Fantasy Award-nominated author and editor, based in Derbyshire. She has released two collections, Mirror Mere and In Times of Want, and her third, The Last Ghost and Other Stories is due from Luna Press early in 2019, Her short fiction has appeared in a number of genre magazines and anthologies in the UK, US, Canada, Italy and Germany, including Best British Horror 2014, and Great British Horror: Dark Satanic Mills (2017), and The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories. Her novella, Bury Them Deep, was published by Hersham Horror Books in September 2017. She was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Society Award for Best Short Story in 2006, and Best Anthology in 2010 (Hellbound Hearts) and 2012 (Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women). Her genre journalism has appeared in magazines like The Dark Side, Rue Morgue and Fortean Times, and her interview book with prominent figures from the horror genre, Voices in the Dark, was released in 2011. An essay on ‘The Changeling’ was published in PS Publishing’s Cinema Macabre, edited by Mark Morris. She is co-editor of the bestselling Hellbound Hearts, Mammoth Book of Body Horror and A Carnivàle of Horror – Dark Tales from the Fairground, plus editor of bestselling The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories by Women and Phantoms. She is Co-Chair of the UK Chapter of the Horror Writers’ Association, and is currently organising StokerCon UK, which will take place in Scarborough in April 2020. Marie is represented by Jamie Cowen of The Ampersand Agency.

You can visit Marie at her website: http://www.marieoregan.net

[Author photo credit: (c) Ellen Datlow]

Interview with Mark Morris

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Today I am delighted to welcome author and editor Mark Morris to the site to chat about his latest anthology New Fears 2, the joys of short fiction, and all things horror!

18th September saw the launch of your latest anthology New Fears 2 – what kind of fearsome tales can we look forward to seeing in it?

As in the first volume, the stories extend the genre in all sorts of weird and wonderful directions. Some are very dark, some are fantastical, some are humorous, and some may not at first glance seem like horror stories at all. They’re all united, though, by the fact that they get under your skin and unsettle you. More than anything, I hope they show that the horror genre is an incredibly vibrant, varied and imaginative place right now.

The New Fears series specifically celebrates non-themed horror – what appeals to you about keeping the remit so open?  And what are your aims for future volumes?

New_Fears2I was brought up reading the Pan and Fontana books of horror stories – not to mention many other non-themed anthologies. I’ve nothing against themed anthologies – I’ve read some excellent ones – but I do find them a bit restrictive sometimes, both as a writer and a reader. Keeping the anthology non-themed both allows writers to let their imaginations roam wherever they may, and also showcases what a vast and infinitely inventive genre horror can be. I love the fact that you can read New Fears not knowing what kind of story to expect next. Life is full of surprises, and these two volumes mirror that.

As for future volumes, at the moment it’s looking as though there won’t be any, I’m afraid. Even though the first volume of New Fears received fantastic reviews, was included on various ‘Best Horror of the Year’ lists, and has been nominated for several awards, the anthology simply hasn’t sold well enough for Titan to commission any further volumes. It’s nothing to do with whether the anthology is themed or non-themed, it’s simply a sad fact that anthologies don’t sell well unless there are massive names involved (and I’m talking people whose novels sell millions of copies like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman). Unfortunately to get those kinds of names you have to be prepared to pay them vast amounts of money – but because anthologies don’t sell well, publishers are reluctant to commit themselves to big advances, added to which I personally believe that all contributors to an anthology should get the same rate of payment, and so you’re stuck in a vicious circle of little money, which means limited publicity, which means low sales, which inevitably leads to premature cancellation.

As a passionate short story reader and horror fan you’ve stated that short fiction is the life-blood of the horror genre – what are the qualities of a good short horror story for you? What horror tropes turn you off?

A good horror story for me is simply one that surprises me, or thrills me, or does something new, or compels me to read on. I try not to impose restrictions on myself, and if I were to list my favourite horror stories, it’s unlikely you’d find many points of similarity between them. By the same token, I’m not opposed to horror tropes as such, because I still think there’s plenty of scope for telling great stories involving vampires, werewolves, zombies or whatever. What I don’t like, though, are tired old clichés, or simplistic revenge stories, or stories whose endings you can see coming from the first page or two. So many of the submissions I received for New Fears were competently written, but showed no spark of creativity whatsoever. The vast majority of them were tainted by the curse of predictability, and therefore lay lifeless on the page.

You’ve said elsewhere that your first taste of horror fiction was through the short fiction found in such anthologies as the Armada, Pan, and Fontana horror and ghost story collections – who are your favourite short horror authors, and what short horror stories do you keep coming back to?

One early favourite – and to contradict what I just said, this is a simplistic revenge story, but beautifully told – was Nigel Kneale’s ‘The Pond’, the ending of which still gives me a delicious thrill whenever I read it, because it’s just so right. Another story I read as an adolescent that still resonates with me is ‘Green Fingers’ by R.C. Cook, which appeared in The 3rd Fontana Book of Great Horror Stories. ‘Which One?’ by R. Chetwynd-Hayes was another story I loved – that one appeared in The 17th Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories. In terms of their entire output, however, my list of favourite genre short story writers would include M.R. James, Robert Aickman, Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury, Ramsey Campbell, Dennis Etchison, Nicholas Royle, Stephen Volk, Steve Rasnic Tem, Alison Moore, Rob Shearman… oh, God, I wish I hadn’t started this now, because the more I think about it, the more names spring to mind. There have been some outstanding short story collections in recent years: All the Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma, Probably Monsters by Ray Cluley, North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud, Never Trust A Rabbit by Jeremy Dyson… I’m sure there are plenty of others I’ve forgotten – but suffice to say, we are blessed with great story writers in this genre. Absolutely blessed.

How did you get started with editing short fiction? When and how did you realise it was something you wanted to do, and who were/are your editor influences?

Editing anthologies and writing stories and novels have pretty much been my joint ambitions ever since I started out in the genre – in fact, ever since I started reading books as a child. The Pans, Fontanas and Armadas started me off, which I guess mean that my earliest editor influences were Herbert Van Thal, Robert Aickman, Ron Chetwynd-Hayes, Christine Barnard, Rosemary Timperley and especially Mary Danby. There have been other landmark anthologies along the way – New Terrors and Superhorror, both edited by Ramsey Campbell, Dark Forces edited by Kirby McCauley, Prime Evil edited by Douglas Winter and Cutting Edge edited by Dennis Etchison. Then, of course, there are the numerous anthologies edited by Charles L. Grant, Stephen Jones and Ellen Datlow, which I’ve devoured over the years.

spectral+horror+2_designAs for how I personally got started, it had always been my ambition – and still is – to edit an annual, long-running, non-themed anthology series in the tradition of the Pan and Fontana books, though I guess more in the style of Charlie Grant’s Shadows series, which featured all-new stories by contemporary writers rather than a combination of new stories and classic reprints. After pitching the idea to various publishers over the years, and getting nowhere, I finally persuaded Simon Marshall-Jones at Spectral Press, who was making great inroads in the genre at that time, to say yes. I edited two volumes of The Spectral Book of Horror Stories, but by volume two it was clear that the company was in serious financial trouble and probably wouldn’t last much longer. Realising I’d have to start again, I therefore approached Titan and made the same pitch to my excellent editor Cath Trechman, who loved the idea and has remained incredibly supportive of New Fears throughout. For a long time the book was going to be called The Titan Book of Horror Stories, but quite late on the sales team at Titan decided they wanted a less specific title, and so it was renamed New Fears – a title which was suggested, as I recall, by Alison Littlewood, and which I liked because it paid homage to Ramsey Campbell’s New Terrors, which, as I’ve already said, was a big influence on me.

Somewhat optimistically, I envisaged New Fears running for ten, twelve, fifteen years – certainly I had big plans for it, and I’d already drawn up a list of writers I’d planned to approach for volume three – but sadly, it seems, the market is no longer able to sustain a long-running anthology of this nature. Having said that, if there are any enterprising publishers out there who would like to take up the reins and keep New Fears alive, then I’m very much open to offers.

What would you say is the appeal of short fiction anthologies for the reader? What anthologies would you recommend new readers try?

Short stories are great for people who don’t get a lot of time to read, and don’t want to commit to a novel. They’re also an ideal way for readers to dip into a genre, and to discover new writers. They fire the imagination in a way that novels possibly don’t, in that a good short story has to have a strong, often startling, central idea at its core. Additionally writers can afford to be bolder and more experimental in their short fiction than they can in their novel-length work, which traditionally has to be more commercial and accessible in order to sell, as a result of which the real cutting edge of a genre can often be found in its short fiction.

As for anthologies, look at my list of titles and editors above, and you can’t go far wrong.

You have a reputation for being one of the most optimistic people working in the genre – what things are currently exciting you?  How do you see horror and short fiction venues developing in the future?

Well, that’s nice of you to say so. Certainly I think the horror genre is an exciting place to be right now. Well-established writers like Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Adam Nevill and Tim Lebbon are still doing great work, and there are so many excellent newer writers coming through that it’s hard to keep up with them all. One very encouraging trend is that there are far more women writing in the genre now than there were when I started out thirty years ago. Back then you’d only get maybe one or two stories by women in each anthology, and pretty much all the significant female horror writers could be gathered together in a single book – as they were by Lisa Tuttle in Skin of the Soul. Now, though, there are dozens and dozens of female writers doing excellent work – so many, in fact, that I could fill an entire page or more naming them all. In the UK alone we’ve got Sarah Pinborough, Alison Littlewood, Alison Moore, Aliya Whiteley, Laura Mauro, Thana Niveau, Catriona Ward, Priya Sharma, Victoria Leslie, Sarah Lotz, A.K. Benedict, Nina Allan, Lynda Rucker, Laura Purcell and many more. Even so-called ‘literary’ writers like Sarah Perry, Sarah Waters and Jessie Burton have one foot planted very firmly in the genre.

As for the future of short horror fiction, who knows? Yes, professional markets are limited, and anthologies don’t sell anywhere near as many copies as they used to, which means there are far fewer of them on the shelves of Waterstones, but what is encouraging is the continuing rise of the small presses, who thanks to cheaper and more efficient technology are able to produce books of a quality to rival or even surpass those produced by mass-market publishers. There isn’t much money about for short fiction admittedly – but then there never was. No writer is ever going to make a living by writing short stories. Despite these drawbacks, though, the discerning horror reader will always find an abundance of quality short fiction – either in anthology form or via single author collections – if they know the genre, and if they look hard enough. The magazine Black Static is still going strong in the UK, and the likes of PS Publishing, Chizine, Undertow, Tartarus and others continue to keep short genre fiction very much alive.

And finally… what are you up to next?

Predator_OfficialNovelization_MMPB_cvr_USLet’s see… As well as New Fears 2, I’ve also had another book out this week – on the same day, in fact, and from the same publisher – which is the novelisation of The Predator, the latest movie in the ongoing franchise, which I co-wrote with my very good buddy, Christopher Golden. And if that wasn’t enough for one week, a couple of days earlier saw the release of my latest full-cast Doctor Who audio drama The Dispossessed from Big Finish Productions, starring Sylvester McCoy as the seventh Doctor, and Bonnie Langford and Sophie Aldred as his companions Mel and Ace.

On the horizon is the release of my ‘trunk’ novel The Winter Tree, which I wrote when I was twenty-one – before Toady – and which, probably for very good reason, has never before seen the light of day. Admittedly the novel is very rough and ready, very uneven, embarrassingly naïve in parts – but Pete Kahle, who runs the US imprint Bloodshot Books, thought there was enough merit in it to bring it out as a kind of curiosity piece – as an example of the kind of thing a young and very immature writer might be expected to produce before moving on to bigger and better things.

Aside from that, I’ve just completed a new audio drama (which I’m not allowed to talk about yet), am about to start work on a new novella, which is part of a fun and exciting four-writer project for PS Publishing (but which I can’t say any more about at the moment, I’m afraid), and sticking with PS, I’ll have a big Best Of… collection out from them next year to celebrate my thirty years as a professional writer.

On top of that, I have a new novel proposal to thrash into shape, and am finally hoping 2019 will see the completion of a YA novel that Tim Lebbon and I have been working on together for about the past decade, and which we add bits to as and when we get time. If we finally finish it, and if we sell it, we’re hoping it will be the first book in an ongoing series – but I’ve a feeling we’ve some way to go yet before we get there.

Mark Morris, thank you for joining us!


Mark Morris is a prolific author with over thirty books under his belt. His work ranges from horror fiction to movie & tv tie-ins and related non-fiction; it spans short fiction, novellas, novels, articles, reviews, audio fiction and editing.  He’s a winner of the British Fantasy Award and past nominee for the Shirley Jackson Award and has been called “one of the finest horror writers at work today” by Clive Barker.

You can visit Mark at his website: http://www.markmorrisfiction.com/

New Fears 2 is available in ebook and paperback format from all good retailers!

Cool Kickstarters: Portals, This Dreaming Isle

It’s been a while since I pimped some anthology kickstarters, and as it happens, there’s a couple of very cool ones live at the moment.  Specifically, the Zombies Need Brains trio of awesome for Portals, Temporal Deactivation and Alternate Peace, and from Unsung Stories there’s This Dreaming Isle

Sooooooo… what are they about then?

Portals, Temporal Deactivation and Alternate Peace


The Pitch:

Portals – edited by Patricia Bray & S.C. Butler

“From wardrobes to monoliths, wormholes to fairy rings, there is a rich tradition of stories in both science fiction and fantasy that explore what happens when–by accident or design–characters are transported from one world to another. Join fourteen of today’s leading science fiction and fantasy authors as they offer fresh takes on this classic theme. Whether a routine trip or unexpected journey, each tale will explore new worlds of adventure, mystery, humor, and horror, with stories for every taste and fancy. ”

Temporally Deactivated – edited by David B. Coe & Joshua Palmatier

“For this follow-up to 2015’s Temporally Out of Order, we are looking for stories that take a person, object, event, or phenomenon and somehow, during the course of the plot, ‘temporally deactivate’ it, whatever that may mean in the context of the story. ‘Temporal deactivation’ should refer to something more than a simple death, malfunction, or termination, and instead should touch in some way on issues of time — its flow, distortion, dislocation, etc.”

Alternate Peace – edited by Steven H. Silver & Joshua Palmatier

“All too often, alternate histories are based on a battle or assassination. We’re looking for stories where change grew out of more peaceful activities…science, business, and culture. Imagine a world in which the branch point from our own was caused by scientific endeavor, social change, natural forces, or other points of divergence which don’t rely on military activity or violence.”

Why It’s Cool: I’m a frequent backer of the Zombies Need Brains anthology kickstarters as they put out many excellent anthologies with many fabulous authors both new and well established.  (They also have open subs & pay pro rates for their anthologies, which is a bonus… should you manage to finish a story in time… *coughs*)  I love the themes they’ve come up with in the past and look forward to seeing what stories emerge out of the current kickstarter themes.

The Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/543968884/portals-temporal-deactivation-and-alternate-peace

This Dreaming Isle – edited by Dan Coxon


The Pitch:

“Something strange is happening on British shores.

Britain has a long history of folk tales, ghost stories and other uncanny fictions, and these literary ley lines are still shimmering beneath the surface of this green and pleasant land. Every few generations this strangeness crawls out from the dark places of the British imagination, seeping into our art and culture. We are living through such a time.

This Dreaming Isle is an anthology of new horror stories and weird fiction with a distinctly British flavour, edited by Dan Coxon. It collects together fifteen brand new horrifying or unsettling stories that draw upon the landscape and history of the British Isles for their inspiration. Some explore the realms of myth and legend, others are firmly rooted in the present, engaging with the country’s forgotten spaces.

As we struggle to imagine what Britain will look like post-Brexit – after the power struggles and the in-fighting, the failed negotiations and the resignations – This Dreaming Isle questions who we are and who we are becoming. Rooted in folk tales and local legends, these stories also offer an unsettling, frightening glimpse of our nation today.”

Why It’s Cool: They pretty much had me at British horror… 🙂  There’s some fab authors involved, including some new-to-me folk, and a £5 pledge will net you a copy of the ebook which is an absolute bargain!

The Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/291030539/this-dreaming-isle-an-anthology-of-dark-fantasy-an

State of the Jen: March 2018

Like most of the country, I am currently in shock at the existence of weather. (Snoooooooooow!)  But never mind that, update time!


In February I managed guest posts in two (2! Count ’em!) places:

WiHM9-GrrrlLogoTall-BR-MAs part of the Fox Spirit Books celebration of Women in Horror Month I did a post about short horror fiction and the women who write it.  Go check out my post Short Fiction Queens or visit the round up post to see the full range of fab Foxy women in horror posts.

Not only! But also! The splendiferous Mark West has compiled another Mixtape blog, this time on short Stephen King fiction.  I did a short thing on ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’ and you can read it, and the rest of the picks, over on the Mixtape here!

Publication News!

horrors-vol-1-ver-3cAnd I am thrilled to announce I’ll be having a story published in the upcoming Alchemy Press Book of Horrors. My story ‘Down Along the Backroads’ is a bit of a weird post-apoc multi-world thing where new visitors to town stir up things best left unstirred. There’s a lovely bunch of horror folks joining me in the table of contents (see the full list here!) so look out for that around September time.


I may have written a couple of non-fiction books.  I blame the mother ship entirely.

Thus – coming later in the year will be a couple of short taster guides for card divination! Let’s Try Tarot, co-written with Patricia Barber, will give the quick and easy way to try out tarot reading. Its companion volume, Let’s Try Cartomancy, covers quick and easy playing card divination. More news on those to follow!


Women for the Win!

ghost-summerThis morning I’m delighted to be part of Mark West’s latest short fic mixtape – it being Women in Horror month, the theme is, quite naturally, Women in Horror. My personal pick is for one of the many excellent stories in Tananarive Due‘s Ghost Summer: Stories collection, which is a book I enthusiastically recommend you all go out and buy, just because!   But the particular story I’ve picked is also available online at m’beloved Lightspeed so you can pop over to read the Mixtape then link through to read the story! (Is that a deal or what?)

Elsewhere across the interwebs, the gloriousness that is the Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse has resurrected from its shallow grave to fight the good fight once more, so you’ll find me and many others popping up there with info, meta and all manner of oddness.  Thus far we’ve covered survival rations and stocking your pantry, the art of protest signs, humour as an essential survival tool, how to date an egomaniacal dictator and my own contribution – a vaguely Resident Evil inspired ramble on Beware the Monsters.

Apocalypse Girl2

Mixtape Mayhem

skele crewUp today on the very lovely Mark West’s site, is the American Horror Mixtape – in which a selection of fine and funky folks pontificate on their favourite horror shorts from US-ian and Canadian authors.  My pick is a classic Stephen King thing – ‘Mrs Todd’s Shortcut’ from Skeleton Crew.  Not that it was easy to pick just the one King short, mind, but ‘Mrs Todd’s Shortcut’ is a particular favourite.


Not only, but also!  A couple of months back our man West hosted The Brit Horror Mixtape – in which a bunch of us babbled about our favourite horror shorts from Brit authors.  Another tough pick, that, but Sarah Pinborough’s ‘Do You See?’ won out as my contribution.

Pop over to see who picked what else, and stand by for future mixtapes!