The Nightside Codex: horror anthology including my latest story

The Nightside Codex, the latest anthology release from Silent Motorist Media has been recently released which includes my story “The Redneck Library”, alongside those from Stephen Graham Jones, Brian Evenson, Richard Thomas, and others. A collection of tales of the written and [un]written words—cursed tomes, lost words, and infernal music scores—The Nightside Codex is a book about books, the creative and destructive power of language.

Thanks to editor Justin Burnett of Silent Motorist Media for publishing and providing the editing to my story and all the others. This is SMM’s second anthology, a follow up to 2019’s Mannequin, which was Rue Morgue Magazines 2019 anthology of the year. Hopefully, The Nightside Codex will be equally successful.

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The Nightside Codex, edited by Justin A. Burnett, Silent Motorist Media, 2020. Cover art by Matthew Revert, info: silentmotorist.media.

Contents:
Editor’s Introduction – Justin A. Burnett
The Book of Black Dreams – K.A. Opperman
In His House – Richard Thomas
I Cannot Remember – Brian Evenson
Les Belles Infideles – Nadia Bulkin
Pulpit Fiction – Jessica McHugh
The Past is a Foreign Count – Alistair Rey
Schattenlenker’s Hidden Treasure – Michael Fassbender
Monster of the Mind – Scott J. Couturier
The Red King – Selene de Packh
The Redneck Library – S.E. Casey
Tongue Tied – Devora Gray
As I Sit to Write This Story – Philip Fracassi
My Eyes are Closed to Your Light – Luciano Marano
For Bobby – Christine Morgan
Ouroboros – Sarah Walker
Rhys Hughes – Between the Circles
Vanity – Austin James
The Hero of Flight 247 – Stephen Graham Jones

[Featured image by Nino Carè at Pixabay]

Rue Morgue Magazine names Mannequin as Best Multi-Author Horror Anthology of 2019

Recently, Rue Morgue Magazine has named the anthology, Mannequin: Tales of Wood Made Flesh, as the best multi-author horror anthology of 2019! Happy to have had my tale, “The Night Shift”, as one of its sixteen stories. Congratulations to Silent Motorist Media and editor Justin Burnett on this honor.

As the first release from Silent Motorist Media, this is certainly a big accomplishment. For a small press in a saturated market, publishing is a tough and often thankless job. In upcoming SMM news, they are soon coming out with a second release: The Nightside Codex. They also will be opening a submission call for a third anthology release tentatively named Mysterium Tremendum.

See the below for links and book description for Mannequin. Please also check out Silent Motorist Media’s website, facebook, twitter, and Patreon for those who would like to support indie creators.

Mannequin Kindle Link

Silent Motorist Media Website

Rue Morgue Magazine Link

Mannequin Book Description:

Mannequin: Tales of Wood Made Flesh, an anthology celebrating the uncanny realm of the living inanimate. Featuring tales of dolls, mannequins, statues, and other varieties of humanoid horror, Mannequin explores the intersection between artificiality and life through a stunning variety of writers both established and new. This highly-anticipated debut anthology from Silent Motorist Media is certain leave readers of horror and weird fiction more than satisfied.

List of Mannequin Contributors:

Ramsey Campbell
Michael Wehunt
Christine Morgan
Richard Gavin
Kristine Ong Muslim
Nicholas Day
William Tea
S.L. Edwards
Matthew M. Bartlett
S.E. Casey
Austin James
Jon Padgett
Duane Pesice
Daulton Dickey
Justin A. Burnett
C.P. Dunphey

(Introduction by Christopher Slatsky; Cover by Don Noble)

Vastarien #4 (Vol 2, Issue 1) – Book Review, Professor Nobody, and Other Notes

The tri-annual literary journal VASTARIEN describes itself as source of critical study and creative response to the corpus of Thomas Ligotti as well as associated authors and ideas. Its issues are an eclectic mix of literary fiction, nonfiction, poetry, artwork, and other hybrid pieces. VASTARIEN differentiates itself from the other horror/sci-fi/weird publications in the market with a focus on philosophy and experimental forms. See Christopher Ropes’ “Singing the Song of My Unmaking” in Vol 1, Issue 1 as example, a combination poem, fictional narrative, and confessional biography exploring the depths of clinical depression.

VASTARIEN issue #4 continues this tradition. In “All the Stage is a World” by Forrest Aguirre, a university student makes an unfamiliar cross-town trip to attend a off-campus play required for class. The play is absurd, the performance and its motivations unclear. Without giving away too much of the ending, in reading this, I was reminded of Thomas Ligotti’s story “Professor Nobody’s Little Lectures on Supernatural Horror” where (speaking through the character of a like horror author Professor Nobody) Ligotti differentiates two types of horror writing. He argues that there are “stories that are just stories”—that is spun tales with a coherent plot, characters, and theme. Typically, in horror a monster is used as a device to represent some human fear (death, aging, insanity, isolation) in a fashion to make us “squirm and quake”. In contradiction, the good Prof. Nobody continues, there is also the story that doesn’t seek to confront our fears at a metaphorical arm’s length as a way to delude ourselves into thinking we have any measure of control over a horrible world; but rather a story that pulls back the lens to reveal the indifference of a universe in chaos. The universe in its many dimensions doesn’t consciously conspire to threaten us with mundane horrors, but instead is simply deranged. The highest law is disorder: existence as nightmare. So does “All the Stage is a World” linger, the horror not in the performance changing the world in some sinister way, but in the implication that the performance changes nothing, only dispels the illusions of  coherence.

Another stand out story is “In the Way of Eslan Mendeghast” by Farah Rose Smith. The imagery featured is rich and darkly beautiful. The writing is top-notch, language flowing and poetic. Again, the focus is not so much of a structured narrative, rather a frightening peek into an absurdist void.

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Vastarien Art by Dave Felton

“Vanpool” by C.M. Muller is an anxious and claustrophobic tale. The characters are unnamed, as is the suburb where it is set, but these ‘story’ details aren’t important. Told from the perspective of a child, there is the looming sense of the unknown existing beyond the confines of the home. Of course, as children, what did we know of where our parents go every day? Certainly, this mystery is traumatic, a daily ritual of abandonment. And who are ‘parents’? How does a child validate their creator’s backstory and origin? Not armed with the proper perspective or life experience to understand, there is little that can be done to alleviate these anxieties. And what of us? What assurances do we have of any ‘intelligent design’ of the universe in which we, ourselves, inhabit?

The two non-fiction essays are focused on horror authors Mark Samuels (essay by David Peak) and Charlotte Perkins Gilman (by Gwendolyn Kiste). While I wasn’t familiar with either author, both essays proved to be illuminating. Like any story, allowing the writer to guide me forward, I ended up finding found both pieces interesting and relevant.

VASTARIEN’s other non-fiction entry is “Effigies of Former Managers” by Matthew M. Bartlett, a character study of his former bosses. Okay, *wink*, it’s fiction—one of those stories that for whatever reason I only wish were true. A group of character vignettes done in his ineffable style, it’s not a Leeds story (the fictional town that is the basis of Creeping Waves, Gateways to Abomination, etc), but is written in a similar vein. Like his collection of Leeds’ finest, Bartlett defines his middle manager wretches through a series of compulsive quirks which are so consuming to drive the humanity from them. If we can be defined as animals gifted with a ‘divine spark’, these characters are cursed by a doomed lodestone. They are haunted meat puppets, unconsciously possessed by their ghastly obsessions (and then nailed to the ceiling).

“Venio” by Gemma Files is the most ‘story’ story in the issue. It names its characters, flushes them out, and has a well-defined plot. It’s an invasion story with a Ligottian bent: a fantastical intrusion not into the world, but rather the sanity of its characters. By contrast, “The Lord as an Active Shooter” by Fiona Maeve Geist is a largely philosophical piece. Told in the second person, it explores the collision of gun culture with our evolutionary reflex of superstition in a parabolic way. I think Professor Nobody would approve of both tales.

Other stories include the fableist “The Curse of the Biblical Magi” by Sepehr Goshayeshi, the cosmic horror “Aharesia” by Natalia Theodoridou, the weird ritualistic short, “Burger Shop” by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy, the body horror “Rat King” by Lia Swope Mitchell, and the satirical “Ageless Agelasts” by Rhys Hughes. Poetry includes “Orchid Architecture” by the prolific K.A. Opperman and the creepy “The Sisters” by F.J. Bergman.

For full disclosure, my own cosmic horror flash story, “Silhouette Golems”, is a part of this issue. I’m the worst judge of my work, so I’ll leave it that I am honored and thrilled to be published alongside such talented authors. Thanks to Jon Padgett for publishing and for creating a publication dedicated to Thomas Ligotti in the first place.

VASTARIEN is available at Amazon, however, it also can be ordered direct from the Grimscribe Press website. If anyone is interested in checking this or any other issue, please consider buying direct as more of the proceeds will go to the publisher. At the time of this review, the price of the ebook is actually lower at Grimscribe Press, so this is one virtue that will save you money. Of course, if you are absolutist in the belief that virtue must be accompanied with pain, you can certainly take the savings and buy another issue.

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MANNEQUIN: Wood Made Flesh- Anthology Release

From publisher Silent Motorist Media, the themed anthology MANNEQUIN has been released this week. My story “The Night Shift” is one of sixteen stories about dummies, puppets, mannequins, scarecrows, and other various human-disguised automatons. From the back cover:

Mannequin: Tales of Wood Made Flesh, an anthology celebrating the uncanny realm of the living inanimate. Featuring tales of dolls, mannequins, statues, and other varieties of humanoid horror, Mannequin explores the intersection between artificiality and life through a stunning variety of writers both established and new. This highly-anticipated debut anthology from Silent Motorist Media is certain leave readers of horror and weird fiction more than satisfied.

I’ve always avoided writing a puppet story. It’s well trammeled ground in the horror/weird fiction world and, as a Ligotti-phile, I subconsciously accept anything I attempt would grossly pale in comparison to such masterpieces as “Dream of a Manikin”, “Dr. Voke and Mr. Veech”, or “The Clown Puppet”.

However, because I wanted to be a part of Silent Motorist Media’s inaugural anthology, I got to work to come up with a puppet story that wasn’t too derivative. I ended up being inspired by a title that I didn’t end up using: “Hypergamy of Puppets”. It’s a ridiculous concept, of course, but interesting too—how to fit a story that makes sense around such an absurd abstraction? Sleeping on this conundrum a few nights, an idea formed although in the end I dropped the title. I’m not sure how many people know what hypergamy is without looking it up; plus, I needed to use the title to keep the reader focused on the corporate elements lurking behind the narrative.

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View of a city park from the 21st floor

Many of the details in “The Night Shift” are experienced. I work a desk job in Boston on the 21st floor across from a small city park. The park is nicknamed “Pick-up Park” as in the story, and underneath its lush tree-lined lawn is concealed a parking garage. Also, I’ve worked long enough to notice the trends in corporate life explored in the story such as the taking down the walls of cubicles, no longer assigning seats, and the investments in flexible work-at-home, work-when-you-can technology. I can also see where further technological advances will influence work culture in the future. I’ve always avoided using my mundane office as a environment in a story. Again, maybe subconsciously I know I can’t compete with Ligotti’s “My Work Has Not Been Done”. However, given corporate life’s invisible coercive strings of scheduling, time sheets, dress codes, and office etiquette; what better place to set a story about puppets?

Another trend of working in the city I have lately noticed is the use of greenery. In the lobby of my building, for example, vertical gardens have recently been installed around the elevator wells (see pic below- yes, the plants are real). The tops of most buildings are ugly slabs of concrete with a physical plant inartfully perched on top. However, more and more, gardens are being built on rooftops as perk for its occupants. It’s quite a juxtaposition to see these oasis suspended high above the streets. It’s rather calming and makes me feel less stress about the hustle of the city.

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Vertical garden structure in the building lobby.

MANNEQUIN is available in print and ebook (click here for link). The full list of authors is as follows:

Ramsey Campbell
Michael Wehunt
Christine Morgan
Richard Gavin
Kristine Ong Muslim
Nicholas Day
William Tea
S.L. Edwards
Matthew M. Bartlett
S.E. Casey
Austin James
Jon Padgett
Duane Pesice
Daulton Dickey
Justin A. Burnett
C.P. Dunphey

(Introduction by Christopher Slatsky)

Thanks to Justin Burnett from Silent Motorist Media for publishing and compiling such a great TOC (Ramsey Campbell!!). There are many of the best weird/horror authors working in the industry today here and am honored to share a few pages with them.

Here’s a few more Boston pics from outside my office windows. Until next time. -S.E. Casey

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Rooftop lawn and reflecting pool
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Another vertical-indoor garden shot

 

Limbo in Limbo: New Story Up At Bizarro Central

Mayhem on the high seas! Cosmic cruise ship horror! My latest flash fiction story, Six Days and Endless Nights (click for link), is now available to read at Bizarro Central.

Like most of my flash stories, this tale was sparked by its first line—a cruise ship limbo contest that doesn’t seem quite right—and letting my anxieties decide the logical course (at least to me) of everything that would follow. Purple pools, snake roads, doppelgangers, and secret fights in the engine room, all set to the piano melody of John Carpenter’s Halloween. The world is a scary place folks. This is why I don’t travel. This is why I rarely leave the house.

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Click for story link

Thanks Eric and all the good people at Bizarro Central for publishing! If any other authors have a weird/bizarre flash fiction story, they have an open Flash Fiction Friday submission call (see BizarroCentral.com for details). I found in shopping this piece that there are very few online sites specifically looking for bizarro shorts, so I’m glad I found this. Hope other authors will considering submitting here and make Flash Fiction Friday a thing.

Bon Voyage, S.E. Casey

 

Silhouette Golems – New story in the upcoming issue of VASTARIEN

I am happy to announce my short story Silhouette Golems will be in the next issue of the  literary journal VASTARIEN.

If there is one current publication that I would wish to have a story placed, it is VASTARIEN, a publication inspired by the writings of Thomas Ligotti. Many years ago I stumbled upon a copy of The Nightmare Factory, a compendium of many of Ligotti’s stories, which I felt an immediate and strong connection. More philosophical and atmospheric than gory or scary, this was my gateway into cosmic horror, although Ligotti’s stories stand out in their own unique category. Reading the first three issues of VASTARIEN, to have one of my works appearing here is definitely a high-point in my writing career so far.

Edited by the co-administrators of the longtime message board Thomas Ligotti Online (Ligotti.net), Jon Padgett and Matt Cardin, VASTRIAN is a tri-annual publication of weird fiction, non-fiction articles, poetry, and other literary hybrids. I am honored to be included in Volume 2, Issue 1 with many indie authors that I read and follow such as Matthew Bartlett, Gemma Files, C.M. Muller, Farah Rose Smith, Kyle Opperman, and Jayaprakash Satyamurthy to name a few (see full Table of Contents below).

The current issue can be pre-ordered now (click for link). It will be available to ship and available on Amazon in the next few weeks. However, buying direct or through a Patreon plan can help support VASTARIEN, as a greater percentage of the proceeds will go to the publication.

Thanks to Jon Padgett and Matt Cardin for bringing my Silhouette Golems to life! Looking forward to reading the issue!

PATREON LINK HERE.

SUBSCRIPTION LINK HERE.

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And if Vastarien was a nightmare, it was a nightmare transformed in spirit by the utter absence of refuge: nightmare made normal.

THE STARS OVER CASPER, TEXAS — honorable mention, Weird Christmas Flash Fiction Contest

My 350 word short holiday story, THE STARS OVER CASPER, TEXAS, received an honorable mention from WeirdChristmas.com‘s inaugural holiday flash fiction contest. You can listen to my story and 11 other weird flash fiction stories from the contest results episode of the podcast (mine starts at 12:41), or read it in the comments section. So, what is my story about? I think the host’s introduction to it says it all, “…a mix between Cormac McCarthy and Thomas Ligotti”. So, that’s going in the Author Bio; heh, heh.

Thanks to Craig at Weird Christmas for running the contest. He has committed to doing it again next year, so get your stories ready (only 350 days until the 2019 deadline). Also, thanks to Brian Earl (twitter- @XmasPastPodcast) from the Christmas Past blog for his reading of my story.

S.E. Casey

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CLICK FOR STORY LINK

The Scaredy Men – New Story, Top Ten #FlashMonster Contest Finisher

Happy to announce that my new flash fiction story The Scaredy Men is part of the Molotov Cocktail Lit Zine’s Halloween #FlashMonster edition. This story started as one of the drabbles I wrote over the summer for another submission call. Initially titled “Scarecrow Music”, I decided this idea had so many facets and possibilities for something bigger that it needed to be expanded. In fact, one of the many drafts ended up being 1,200 words. Although there were many directions it could have gone, I committed to one pairing it down to the 1,000 word limit.

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Illustration by The Molotov Cocktail

One of my biggest frustrations in writing is choosing a definite path from the multitude of possibilities any premise can travel. Much like a cornfield maze, I know all the turns that I forewent and wonder if the story would have been better if I had chosen differently. It’s the same with most stories I write, the final result just one possibility out of the hundreds that could have been. Much like regrets and buyer’s remorse over any life decision, I suppose. But that’s another post…

My story ended up finishing 10th in the contest. Congratulations to the winners in the Top 3, and the other stories rounding out the Top 10 as well. Happy that some of my twitter friends, Christopher Stanley and Emma Miller, are part of this issue as well. It’s good to see some familiar faces who have read and commented about my work in the past being successful in their own writing endeavors.

Finally, thanks to Josh and Mary from the Molotov Cocktail for running the contest. I love the illustration for my story (see above). Also, as a top-10 finisher, I will be a part of the year end Molotov anthology which will be my third!

Happy Halloween!

S.E. Casey

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DYSTOPIA – by Aphotic Realm: The Day the Towers Rose

Happy to announce my dystopian tale, The Day the Towers Rose, is included in the latest Aphotic Realm release DYSTOPIA. What’s it about? Chances are that society won’t end with a bang. Like most empires, it will slowly waste and erode, the fear of austerity and stagnating culture eventually fracturing the system. How long would you hold onto the life you know? Would you keep going to work knowing the end is near; mow that lawn, keep up with that diet?

Dystopia5I am pretty sure I would hang on to the very end. I would take a minimum wage job mopping the decks of the Titanic instead of making a run for the life rafts. I have grown used to depending on order and rules. Safety. Complacency. So what would you do? Embrace the uncertainty and chaos like a modern day Mad Max? Are you sure? Since everything is temporary and the end is inevitable, why haven’t you checked out of the system already? Quit the job, live off the grid in the mountains. No one’s stopping you. Still sure??

Thanks to A.A. Medina, Dustin Yoak, and everyone else at Aphotic Realm. Dystopia is a giant issue: 100 pages! Other authors include S.J. Budd, John F. Leonard, Brian Black, Kevin Holton, Mandi Jourdan, Lachlan Watt, and Bo Chappell to name a few. Happy to share this issue with all! Also, if you are looking to support Independent authors/presses, check out Aphotic Realm. They work hard and love what they do.

Amazon Purchase Link : DYSTOPIA – Aphotic Realm Magazine #4

S.E. Casey

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VASTARIEN, Vol 1, Issue 1 – Book Review

The Thomas Ligotti inspired collection VASTARIEN kicks-off with the one act play, “The Gods in Their Seats, Unblinking”  by Kurt Fawver. More accurately, it is an account of play, the playwright and actors vanished and possibly fictional themselves. The traditional roles between actor and audience quickly dissolves. Who are the real performers? Are audience and actors interchangeable? Redundant?

An excellent, thought-provoking story, it not only kept me interested in the narrative, but also in the larger philosophical questions posed. It is said that good art makes the audience an active participant, which is certainly the case here. Perhaps the placement of “Gods in Their Seats, Unblinking” (great title too) as the first story is a subtle hint to which VASTARIEN aspires. In this literary journal, there is a bleeding of fiction, meta-fiction, and nonfiction—the lines between reader and writer blurring much like the participants in Fawver’s play or Ligotti’s own metaphoric twilights and nebulous skylines.

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Vastarien Art by Dave Felton

Described as a source of critical study and creative response to the corpus of Thomas Ligotti, as well as associated authors and ideas, VASTARIEN focuses on the thematic elements and dominant subjects of the horror master. While this may sound a bit antiseptic and scholarly,  each author brings their own creativity and spirit to their chapter. This is not an echo chamber of a Ligottian ethos or a mimic of his style (unlike the many Lovecraft pastiches out there). Simply put, these are works that occupy a similar rebellious space of existential anxiety and escapism.

Some of the fiction highlights for me are “Nervous Wares & Abnormal Stares” by Devin Goff. A bucolic town is dismantled board by board, shop by shop, the rural niceties a cover for the strange and sinister. Jordan Krall delivers an unsettling, disorienting tale of the crumbling reality of madness in “My Time at the Drake Clinic”. Also, Christopher Slatsky’s mockumentary “Affirmation of the Spirit: Consciousness, Transformation, and the Fourth World in Film” expertly walks the fine line of fiction masquerading as the real.

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Vastarien – Art by Dave Felton

VASTARIEN’s half dozen nonfiction essays are highlighted by the simply named, “Notes on a Horror” by a psychologist using the alias Dr. Raymond Thoss. This piece provides a penetrating look into the world of trauma and treatment. Written for the layman in four digestible parts, the author makes the case of how Ligottian themes can be used to both conceptualize pathological dissociation associated with such things as PTSD, and how they can actually reconnect a patient to the world. Given how many dismiss Ligotti’s worldview as simply antinatalistic and pessimistic, I found this a compelling demonstration of how Ligotti’s work can relieve and even heal. For someone who has taken much comfort and solace in Ligotti’s words/worlds, I am glad to see this concept eloquently explored.

Finally, closing the collection, is Christopher Ropes’ “Singing the Song of My Unmaking”. This hybrid piece sums VASTARIEN as it is part poem, fictional story, and confessional autobiography blended into a coherent whole. It’s a fitting closer where dissociation, depression, and the dissolving of reality play out under the threatening clouds of engulfing nihilism. A emotional story that will stay with you long after reading.

VASTARIEN is a must read for the Ligotti fan. I found this dedicated journal gave me insights into his works that I hadn’t before. Also, to see what Ligotti inspires in others was something I hadn’t anticipated and gave me much to contemplate. For those who may not be familiar with Ligotti, there is a lot to enjoy here, nothing too esoteric or ‘inside’. The different pieces, while certainly challenging, are never out of reach, written both for the neophyte and Ligotti-phile. The inclusion of starkly personal works, too, make this an accessible book. An exciting beginning to the VASTARIEN journey. Congratulations to editors Jon Padgett and Matt Cardin of ‘Thomas Ligotti Online’ to make this project come to fruition. Looking forward to Issue 2!

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Vastarien Art by Dave Felton

Vastarien, Vol 1, Issue 1 on Amazon: Click for Link

Vastarien, Vol 1, Issue 1 on Goodreads: Click for Link