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)

The Quiet Box – Flash Fiction Xmas Story up at Kendall Reviews

My latest Christmas Flash Fiction Horror story, The Quiet Box, (click title for link) is now up on Kendall Reviews site. This one follows my Christmas flash, The Toy Gun Factory, of two years ago, and The Stars Over Casper, Texas, last year. Although not intended, these three stories share a similar voice (Dickens vs Ligotti perhaps). They seem to be getting progressively bleak. Wonder what I’ll get up to next year.

Thanks to Gavin at KendallReviews.com for posting it on his site. Kendall Reviews is a growing horror blog featuring book reviews, author interviews, guest posts, articles, and promotions. It’s an active site with new content posted most every day. So please check them out and follow on twitter (@gjkendall)! Promote Horror.

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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.

O Unholy Night in Deathlehem – a holiday horrors charity anthology available now

My doom laden Christmas story, TRADITIONS AND ROTTEN DELICACIES, is included in the latest edition of the Grinning Skull Press annual Deathlehem charity anthology series available here. Its for a good cause as proceeds go to The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

This was a story I wrote a long time ago which was to be included in a Christmas/winter weird horror anthology by me. Due due to some heroic procrastination techniques I diligently employed throughout 2018, it hasn’t yet gotten off the ground, so it gave me an excuse to work on polishing one of the stories. Plus, it’s going to a good cause.

Thanks to Harrison Graves (editor) and Grinning Skull Press for publishing. Other authors include fellow flash fiction writers I often get published with Wiebo Grobler and Christopher Stanley (#teamdarkness).

Happy holidays and good reading!

S.E. Casey

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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 Toy Gun Factory – (A Christmas Horror Story)

There were no ceremonies and no witnesses. Twelve days before Christmas, in the middle of the Shaker Hills Mall parking lot, the tree appeared overnight.

Driven clear through the asphalt, its expansive width obliterated several rows of prime parking spaces. Gnarled bark and cankerous knots pocked its sooty trunk. Laden with rotten needles, its black branches swept off the stocky axis casting an ominous shade in the weak December sun.

Ribbons of mercury festooned the dark conifer, an infernal beauty in the cancerous tinsel although no one was fool enough to touch. We knew to steer clear, a tangible blight radiating from its awful core. At night, we beheld the lights recessed in the stygian foliage blinking deliberately like eyes of some wicked deep-forest predators.

No one knew the motivation behind the unwanted gift or the identity of its silent benefactor. The mall remained open despite the sinister presence. However, sales were sluggish, the mall plagued by a myriad of strange phenomenon. Without explanation and at irregular intervals, dirges of bassoons and oboes would blare over the PA system. Escalators suddenly reversed zooming backwards at ten times the speed, several broken bones and concussions the consequence. A six-year-old girl’s hand was badly scalded in the atrium wishing well, the waters somehow brought to boil.

The odd occurrences continued after hours. The department store mannequins were repositioned during the night, no one admitting to the deed. In the morning, the store owners would find them lurking in menacing poses or dangling from the ceiling in mock hangings. Thirteen mannequins went missing, the same number as the work gloves and coveralls mysteriously stolen from Krauss’s Sporting Goods.

Silent for decades, the abandoned factory behind the mall fired up its furnaces. Iron dust spewed from the dilapidated smokestacks which had been painted in a candy cane swirl. No one smiled at the mockingly festive design, a foul brown cloud gathering above the dilapidated building. Whoever manned the old assembly lines remained a mystery. No one could get close enough to find out, the demonic growls of the watchdogs slinking unseen amidst the winter shadows keeping everyone at bay.

The mall shut down three days before Christmas, abandoning the most profitable shopping days. The Yuletide spirit had been wrung out of us. We mostly stayed home, the shuttered factory’s hellish growl and faceless laborers the town’s only commerce.

On Christmas Eve, we were compelled to gather around the monstrous tree. Basking in the icy moon shadows, we celebrated under the starry black limbs, foolish worshippers shushing the crying children before hanging our sacrifices in those solemn, malevolent boughs.

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Story first published in 2017 on HorrorScribes.com. Placed 6th place in the Horror Scribes 2017 Christmas Horror Story Contest.