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VASTARIEN, Vol 1 – An Existential 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 on Amazon: Click for Link

Vastarien, Vol 1 on Goodreads: Click for Link

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Biological Determinism – Short story up at Silent Motorist Media

My latest flash fiction surreality, Biological Determinism, has been published by the relatively new weird and bizarro online magazine/blog Silent Motorist Media. Originally, I wrote this in response to a contest call by SMM for 200 word stories relating to “Esoteric Sausages”. While an idea based on this theme came to me quickly, I had a little problem deciding which 15-20 darling words I would need to chop off to get it down to the count limit that, along with other deadlines distracting me, had the contest end before I got a chance to submit. What to do with a odd, esoteric sausage story? Fortunately, Silent Motorist Media opened up soon after for general submissions. Without the word count limitation, I was free to expand my abstract creepiness to 420 words. Submitted. Done.

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        *Click for Biological Determinism story link*

 

Thanks to SSM’s creator, chief editor, and benevolent tyrant Justin Burnett for publishing. Justin has a lot on his plate, but was really enthusiastic about working with me and featuring this piece on his site. Check out and subscribe for other Silent Motorist Media content. Music, literature, philosophy, art. Interviews too, most recently a-list horror authors Michael Wehunt and Philip Fracassi. Hopefully, I will be talking with Justin myself, soon.

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Who is the Night Animal Control Officer? Flash Fiction story 3rd Place Winner- Molotov Cocktail Lit. #KillerFlash

Happy to have my story entry “Animal Control” (click for link) finish in third place in the Molotov Cocktail Literary Zine’s May #KillerFlash contest. The themed contest asked for stories dealing in some way with death. Of course, death is often feared and certainly hated, but is also omnipresent and unfortunately necessary. Avoidance is not an option, denial is foolish, struggle is futile. It controls everything, but best we not let it control us until it is time. Like a bad, but frustratingly competent co-worker, can we work with it side by side, deal with its inconveniences, obscenities, and poor manners? Can we ignore the throbbing thing in the oozing black paper bag in the office refrigerator, or, when noontime suddenly turns to night?

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Click to read story

Thanks to the Molotov Cocktail (Josh, Mary, and all the other fine folks at MC) for hosting these contests (there’s one every quarter and a dark poetry contest once a year for those who want in on the fun). Love the illustration they made of the hate-’em-but-can’t-live-without-’em main character. Also, thanks to Sylvia Mann for reading an early draft and providing some necessary insight instrumental in focusing my chaos!

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Click to see the entire Killer Flash issue!

Hinnom Magazine 006 – Author Interview and Short Story Published

Hinnom Magazine Issue 006 <click link> is now live. Available in digital and print, it includes my short story “O’ Babylon” as well as stories by Ed Kurtz, George Taylor, Ashley Dioses, Kevin M Folliard, P.L McMillian, and Brianna Zigler. Also reviews, articles, and an interview of Bram Stoker nominated author S.P. Miskowski.

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Author Spotlight: and interview with S.E. Casey

I also was interviewed by Gehenna & Hinnom Book’s founder C.P. Dunphey in an author spotlight <click link>. We discussed my motivations for writing, influences, philosophy, and the background on my story. Hear me shamelessly talk about myself and butcher a Dostoyevsky title.

Thanks go out to Gehenna & Hinnom, and especially C.P.  Dunphey. It was a great experience being published by Hinnom Magazine, the communication and the support they showed me was great. Please support this press, this is truly a publisher who has a great respect for the horror, sci-fi, and weird genres and is dedicated to helping indie authors. Here is a recent interview of C.P. Dunphey from Horror Tree <click link> for more info on Gehenna & Hinnom.

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Hinnom Magazine 006 available at Amazon, digital and print

 

 

The Hunger House – Story in The Sirens Call Magazine #38

My story “The Hunger House” has been published in The Sirens Call Ezine #38 (free to download). My story is part of my “Red Girls” mythos that I am slowly releasing across various publications. This issue is 184 pages(!), stories, drabbles, poems etc by some familiar names, Christopher Stanley, Maura Yzmore, David B. Harrington, Brian Bogart, Kevin Holton, and Myk Pilgrim to name a few.

2018_april_ezine_coverThe seeds of this story came last summer when I was trying to come up with a 500 word maximum horror submission call. One of my ideas sprung from a house that I pass most everyday at sunset. In wring the first draft, I went way past the 500 word limit and knew it would be impossible to chop down without making it incoherent. Hating to leave any story half-finished, recently I filled in the missing details, edited, and polished it. Seeing a submission call for general horror stories by The Siren’s Call, I decided to kick it out of the house and put it to work.

 

See below for a picture of the actual house. It sits on the shores of Buzzard’s Bay and has a catwalk that rings a dual white chimney. Of course, the house in my story is larger, more historic, with a shorter chimney, etc. Basic writer trickery to fit around the story. Its not a historic house, but, as a side note, a famous person did live there for a number of years.

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The Hunger House

 

Here is the original drabble I wrote introducing the Red Girls mythos:

THE RED GIRLS

He left the door unlocked.

All doors were locked the nights the Red Girls visited.

Colonel Emerick Aldrich sipped his cognac. However, he couldn’t taste it. There wasn’t much he could enjoy anymore. Even the heat from the roaring fire felt dull.

He heard the door handle rattle behind him, a pattering of little feet on the hardwood.

They stood him up like a marionette. The old man smiled, he would get to see the Red Girls, a fitting finale to his life. But they didn’t turn him around, forcing him to take one step after another toward the fire.

Also, see the link for a follow-up Red Girls 300 word story, “Courtship of the Sewer King”.

Thanks to The Sirens Call: Julianne, Nina, and Lee for publication. Check out the other projects/magazine issues/submission calls from The Sirens Call here ⇒ (click for link).

S.E. Casey

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Killer Flash results

Thrilled to have finished third in Molotov Cocktail Lit Zine’s #KillerFlash contest. My 1,000 word story “Animal Control” will be posted on Friday (5/4). Find out who is the Night Animal Control Officer in my soporific tale.

The Molotov Cocktail

Apparently, you folks are a little morbid. We were thrilled to see so many unique angles taken on this contest’s death theme. Although, with such a strong turnout and such compelling writing, that made for cutthroat competition.

We saw entries pour in from 40 states here in the U.S. (get your act together, Wyoming, et al.) as well as from writers living in Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Thailand, Scotland, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and Wales.

With such fierce competition, just making the shortlist required clearing quite a few hurdles. The following writers had stories that made it through several rounds of cuts, but didn’t quite squeak into the Top 10.

Close-but-no-cigar shout-outs go to:

Christopher Allen
Kristopher Armstrong
K.B. Carle
Spencer Chou
Nathan Coley
Joan Cooper
John Cornelius
Dwight Curtis
Tracy Davidson
Alex Ebel
Myles Ehrlich
Jeremy Goun
Ann…

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O’ Babylon – Hinnom Magazine Pre-Order

I am happy to announce my modern cosmic horror short story O’ Babylon has been accepted to be published by Hinnom Magazine. It will be a part of issue 006 along with stories by Brianna Zigler, George Taylor, Ed Kurtz, P.L McMillan, Ashley Dioses, and Kevin M. Folliard. Also, there will be an interview of the always great (and very nice) S.P Miskowski along with reviews of her latest two books. The magazine will be released on May 1, and can be pre-ordered here.

 

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O’ Babylon 

 

I will have more notes on the actual story after the magazine has been released. But I want to thank C.P. Dunphey of Gehenna & Hinnom Books. Anyone starting a press is a brave soul as it is a lot of work and risk. Here is a publishing house dealing in the weird and strange genre that produces regular high quality releases and is a paying market. I’ve submitted twice, (one rejection) and the process each time was great: professional and positive. For any of my writer friends, it’s a great market to submit—no games, good response times, and plenty of communication. Please support G&H. I am rooting for them and look for great things in the future.

-S.E. Casey

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O’ Babylon artwork by David Dawkins at Gehenna and Hinnom Books