article, guest post, publishing

Author Interview with Ben Thomas

microphone

Happy Friday!

Thriller and literary author Benjamin Thomas sat down and interviewed me as part of his “Getting to know Authors” series.

We discuss horror & weird fiction, a bit about my writing process and books, and the Toxic Avenger.

You can read the full interview here on Ben’s site. Hope you enjoy it!

So, welcome, thanks for stopping by the virtual hang space. Can you give us a bit of background on you, your work, and the genres you write in?
I’ve been described as a horror, bizarre, and weird fiction author. I like to think my work straddles the line between scary and ridiculous, because while I enjoy traditional horror, I love throwing elements of dark humor and absurdist nonsense into my stories. I’ve been published in a number of anthologies and literary magazines, and my first book DETROIT 2020 that I co-authored, was described in a review as “if Robocop and The Toxic Avenger had a weird baby.”

Thanks to Benjamin Thomas for reaching out to me to do this interview.

article

15 Most Anticipated Horror Books of 2018

2018-horror
credit: LitReactor

I wanted to post this excellent list of upcoming 2018 horror releases that I found over on LitReactor.

I liked this collection because it eschewed all mainstream stuff, and incorporated some lesser known authors, as well as a few Bizarro titles! You get everything from a Stephen King release all the way down to some obscure indie stuff. It’s a nice spread to add some chilling variety across the calendar year.

What do you think? Are any of these already on your “to read” list? I’m particularly excited about Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman, and Danger Slater’s He Digs a Hole. Slater is, in my opinion, one of the more talented authors to come out of the Bizarro scene.

book review

Book Review: “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness has been considered for most of this century as a literary classic, and also as a powerful indictment of the evils of imperialism. It reflects the savage repressions carried out in the Congo by the Belgians in one of the largest acts of genocide committed up to that time. Conrad’s narrator encounters at the end of the story a man named Kurtz, dying, insane, and guilty of unspeakable atrocities.

Oh Joseph Conrad, could you ever have imagined you’d get such conflicting reviews about your work on social media over a century after you wrote it?

Of course not, but at least his book has staying power.

I picked Heart of Darkness back up for the first time since high school, after watching “Apocalypse Now” on basic cable, and thought to myself “Let’s see if this little book is as dense as I remember it being.”

Yup.

This isn’t an easy read, nor is it particularly cheery or fun. It’s not the type of book you crack open to feel good about on a short flight or relaxing at the beach, but it’s not without merit.image of book cover of heart of darkness

The novella is a condemnation of imperialism, specifically Belgian atrocities in the Congo, and a bizarre misadventure heralded by an unreliable narrator. The subject matter is intense, and it speaks to capacity for evil that men are capable of.

I enjoyed Heart of Darkness for what it is, and it’ll definitely challenge readers more than the standard YA vampire novels that are churned out these days. I’m just glad that this time around I didn’t have to write a 4-page essay about the deeper meaning behind Kurtz’s last words.

If you’d like to grab a copy of this classic, you can use the affiliate link below and help support this blog.

Heart of Darkness (AmazonClassics Edition)

What I Liked:

  • The main character isn’t the narrator. This is kind of easy to miss, but Marlow is telling a story, and the narrator is an unnamed person sitting on a boat listening to him.
  • It’s one of the best examples of the “stream of consciousness” style in classic literature
  • The story is evocative. Its themes still resonate today.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • This story defines “purple prose”. Conrad was great at description, and loved his unnecessary words. That, along with the “stream of conscious” style can make things difficult to follow at times.
  • This book is a denouncement of European colonialism, and as such, features a LOT of racism. There are all sorts of metaphors and even some allegory in Heart of Darkness, but not when it comes to the racism. That’s just right in your face. If you’re sensitive to reading about things like that, it may turn you off.
  • The language is dense. At times I found myself re-reading passages just to assure I really understood them. It took way longer to read than a 100 page book has any right to.

 

book review

BOOK REVIEW: “The War of the Worlds, Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies” by H.G. Wells & Eric S. Brown

THE CLASSIC SCIENCE FICTION TALE THAT WILL EAT YOUR BRAINS! 

Never before in the history of warfare had destruction been so indiscriminate and so universal. 

Panic descends upon planet Earth once more as H. G. Wells’s terrify- ing cosmic invaders blaze a path of fiery destruction across Victorian England, leaving thousands of undead in their wake. Our adventurous narrator must survive the apocalyptic alien threat while fighting off rag- ing, bloodthirsty zombies. Who will triumph when man, Martian, and flesh-eating monster meet? Packed with fearsome supernatural creatures at every turn, Wells’s original masterpiece is scarier, gorier, and more suspenseful than ever!

I’ve been meaning to get to this one for a while.

I had a hankering for some undead horror lately, and I finally pulled The War of The Worlds, Plus Blood, Guts, and Zombies from my TBR “To Be Read” list. It’s a “blood enriched classic” in the same vein (pun intended) as the more well-known Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which means a piece of classic literature is given over to a horror author to create a “mash-up” story by blending in horror elements. It’s a fun idea that yields mixed results.

Luckily, War is a winner.

wowbgz.jpgThe first thing to know about this sub-genre is that you’re reading literature. These books are roughly 80% original material, so if you don’t like old time-y prose and dialogue, you’re best to skip it. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, or PaPaZ, as some call it, wasn’t my cup of tea because I didn’t enjoy wading through Jane Austen’s story a second time just for a few scenes of ninjas fighting zombies. Luckily, I had a much better experience with the subject of this review.

War of The Worlds was excellent source material to create a zombie mash-up from. At it’s core, War was already science fiction about a supernatural invasion, so it was a great foundation to throw the undead onto. Eric S. Brown has written numerous satirical horror stories and books, and was a good choice for a co-author. He blends the ghoulish violence and gore into the original work so well, in both plot and prose, it feels like it was always there.

The premise is that a zombie outbreak ensues when the Martians unknowingly bring some outside entity (space bacteria?) with them during their invasion. The undead nightmare becomes an issue for human and Martian alike, and is well designed as an ever-present threat woven through the story. Brown is also adept at penning graphic violence, and his description of death and destruction really delivers on the Blood, and Guts part of the title.

I highly recommend War as an entry point into the “blood enriched classics” series, and for horror fans in general. It’s a cool spin on a classic story, and it reads quickly even weighing in at over 300 pages. If you or someone you know loves alien invasion stories, zombies, or both, put it on your list to read. (You can buy it on Amazon using the affiliate link below.)

The War of the Worlds, Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies

What I Liked:

  • Great adaptation of a classic story
  • Brown seamlessly meshes zombies and gore into the source material
  • Old timey narration is funny when describing horrific violence

What I Didn’t Like:

  • A couple parts from the original story dragged
  • Some of H.G. Wells/Brown’s language was confusing at times, required re-reading
book review

BOOK REVIEW: “Damnificados” BY JJ Amaworo Wilson

Damnificados is loosely based on the real-life occupation of a half-completed skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela, the Tower of David. In this fictional version, 600 “damnificados”—vagabonds and misfits—take over an abandoned urban tower and set up a community complete with schools, stores, beauty salons, bakeries, and a rag-tag defensive militia. Their always heroic (and often hilarious) struggle for survival and dignity pits them against corrupt police, the brutal military, and the tyrannical “owners.” Taking place in an unnamed country at an unspecified time, the novel has elements of magical realism: avenging wolves, biblical floods, massacres involving multilingual ghosts, arrow showers falling to the tune of Beethoven’s Ninth, and a trash truck acting as a Trojan horse.

Steering away from my normal track of horror and dark fantasy, I recently read Damnificados by JJ Amaworo Wilson. Published back in 2016, this heavily fictionalized story based on true events delves deep into magical realism. It’s a mix of humor, human drama, and fantastical events that is entertaining if not flawed.

cover art of book damnificadosDamnificados essentially tells its readers a legend. The legendary tale of Nacho Morales and his struggle to keep together a community of people after they successfully take over an abandoned tower in the center of a city. The story is told in present tense which lends an urgency to the writing. Wilson’s prose is excellent, especially his detailed descriptions of locations and events. I found myself laughing and re-reading certain sections simply for the pure enjoyment of the printed words.

On the flip side, the book’s pacing is tough. For a novel clocking in at under 300 pages, some portions drag heavily. New characters are constantly introduced and there are a few world-building subplots that were unnecessary, if not entertaining. The overall plot was straight forward and could probably have been told as a novella, were it not for the elaborate descriptions and prosaic experimentation (one chapter features a 4-page long sentence). As the saying goes “middles are hard”, but I’m glad I put up through the minor slog to reach what was a satisfying ending.

As someone who has written satire, I appreciated Wilson’s often tongue-in-cheek tone and the positive message he portrays even in light of the struggles the characters face in his book.

If you’re at all interested in political fiction, magical realism, or stories told as legends, you may want to grab Damnificados and give it a read. You can purchase a copy from Amazon using my affiliate link, provided below.

Damnificados: A Novel (Spectacular Fiction)

What I Liked:

  • Excellent prose and voice.
  • Wilson’s humor and effective political satire
  • Literary experimentation

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Middle section dragged
  • Plot/story was sacrificed in spots for purple prose
  • Some members of ensemble cast felt underdeveloped