As someone with a pretty significant anxiety disorder, I get asked a lot why I write (and read, and most of all watch) horror, and most of the time I don’t really have a very good answer. In her latest essay for Nightmare Magazine, Nadia Bulkin certainly hits on part of it. That desire for control, that need to experience our fear in digestible quantities, in a safe space. It’s not a new idea. It’s been trotted out to explain our fascination with everything from scary movies to Halloween haunted houses to rides at the state fair. But it never quite rang true for me. My relationship with horror, as I said on social media when sharing a link to Nadia’s essay, has always been more chummy than cathartic, for reasons that I still haven’t completely figured out.

I think a part of it is quite simply this: Horror doesn’t really scare me. Not the way that it’s supposed to. Not in the hands-over-your-eyes, middle-of-the-night-call-from-the-hospital way that Nadia describes. Maybe there was a time when it did. When I was a little kid, hiding behind the couch from the dog body strung up in C.H.U.D. or getting nightmares from the dead mother with a dog’s head sitting at the foot of Edward Furlong’s bed in Pet Sematary 2. (As a kid, I was pretty scared of dogs. Still am, if they bark, though I’ve gotten more used to it.)

Mostly, though, it was real life that scared me. Horror felt like a place I could escape to. One that acknowledged the darkness and pain of the world–that, in fact, elated it, to some extent–but that also offered something else. Beauty, sometimes, and the opportunity for transcendence. Someplace where pain became elegaic, rather than quotidiain.

That’s part of it, sure, but there’s also this: Horror didn’t scare me, but it let me feel scared. What’s the difference? I’m honestly not sure I know, let alone can explain, but I’ll try. My particular condition causes me to “get out of my body,” as my therapist says. I stop feeling much of anything. Feeling anything becomes dangerous and scary all on its own, regardless of the nature of the feeling. Horror movies let me feel in a way that also feels safe. I can wrap myself in them, and then I’m both in my body and not at the same time.

I think that may be why I can’t do it in the light. Why I need horror to keep at least some ragged vestiges of its edge to work. Why it isn’t enough for a thing to have monsters, it needs to also have a little bit of atmosphere. That atmosphere is the dark room; the place where fear bleeds in and reality bleeds away, so that I can feel without feeling too much.

Or maybe I just like monsters.

It has been a tough week. I had a rough couple of days about this time last week, and on Thursday I got some bad news. The Grey household has had a couple of additional wrenches tossed into the gears of our current health situation, and, in all, things have been a little more difficult than I would prefer.

That said, on Friday night, we headed out for a semi-impromptu road trip, driving three hours west (and apparently twenty years into the past) to arrive in Salina, where we spent the night before heading on to Lindsborg, a delightful little town forgotten by time, where I saw, among other things, an actual phone booth and a card catalog. Not to mention lots of beautiful houses and spooky old buildings.

While we were in the area anyway, we stopped by Coronado Heights, a place that I visited many times as a kid. At least ostensibly the place where Francisco Vasquez de Coronado gave up on his quest to find the seven cities of gold, I was fond of it as a kid because there’s a picnic shelter there designed to look like a castle. As an adult, the castle is still neat–and still small–but the actual hill upon which it is built is probably cooler, a sandstone bluff etched with graffiti and covered in unusual-for-the-area plants.

Grace had never been, so we went out and she even climbed the stairs in the castle, in spite of her cast, so that she could look out from the rooftop over the surrounding countryside. It was a good trip.

Thanks to the one-thing-after-another nature of the last year’s worth of assorted health incidents, I remain behind on just about everything. I hope to return to relative normalcy soon, but we’ll see.

Coronado Heights

So, as astute readers may already be aware, I used to have a Patreon. For various reasons, I shut it down. Notably, I didn’t agree with some changes Patreon made to their funding model. They have since walked those changes back, but they weren’t the only reason I made the decision I did, and so that ship has sailed.

However, some people have expressed a desire to still be able to give me money, and far be it from me to argue. So I recently set up a Ko-fi account for just that purpose.  Now you can give me $3 anytime you feel so inclined.

And if you do happen to feel so inclined, now would honestly be a great time, because between medical bills from all of our recent health-related mishaps and the time Grace has had to spend off work due to same (I freelance, so I’m never off work, though I won’t lie and say that health stuff hasn’t impacted my productivity overall), our fiscal situation has certainly been better at other times than it is right this minute.

We’re not in bad shape, so if you can’t throw $3 into the digital hat, don’t worry about it. We’ll be fine for now, and once these particular health issues all pass, we’ll be back in the black in short enough order, I’m sure. But even then, if anyone ever feels like throwing some cash into the ring, it helps me to produce the kinds of projects that are a little more fun and a little less guaranteed a paying home. Stuff like writing about Toho’s “Bloodthirsty Trilogy” for Unwinnable, or a proposed essay about the Gothic elements of the 2005 version of House of Wax, for example.

(Speaking of that kind of writing, I recently learned that a very old essay of mine on Carpenter’s “Apocalypse Trilogy” was actually quoted in the book on In the Mouth of Madness by Michael Blythe from the Devil’s Advocates series!)

It also helps me to focus more on my fiction. Freelancing pays the bills faster and more reliably than any other writing, which means that Ko-fi money helps to give me breathing room to work on projects that don’t have as immediate a return.

I’ve dropped a Ko-fi button into the sidebar of my site here, and you can throw three dollars into the jar by clicking on that or on this link right here. If you ever feel like it, it’s much appreciated, and if you would rather support me in a way that gets you something more concrete in return, you can always do so by buying any of my books, which is even more appreciated!

As I write this, it’s still Friday the 13th for a few more hours, but I haven’t watched a Jason movie yet. May not, at this rate, more’s the pity. Still, it’s been a good, busy day. Grace accepted a new position at her job today, as a QA Auditor instead of a QC Supervisor. It’s a move that’s been in the works for a while, and one that we’re both really happy about. It also means that she should be able to work from home a little more over the next few weeks, until she’s back on her feet and able to go back to work.

GuignolYesterday, I turned in the page proofs for my third collection, coming later this year from Word Horde. It’s going to be called Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales, and it’s a little rougher than my previous collections. Not as far as story quality or presentation–hopefully that’s all still pretty polished–but as far as the tone and tenor of the stories. Don’t worry, I think I’m still writing fun horror, but some of these come from–and go to–a darker, harder place than I’ve gone before. I think there may also be more monsters-per-page in this book than in any of my others, so that’s something to look forward to.

It was good timing, because today the Publishers Weekly review of Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales went live. They called it “a veritable smorgasbord of horrific thrills and chills” and “a must-read for hardcore fans of horror,” so it could be a whole lot worse. I’ll have more info about Guignol as the release date gets closer, and we should have a pre-order link coming hopefully very soon.

If you absolutely can’t wait, there’s also a flash sale going on right now at Strix Publishing where you can get Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings for 15% off!

Grace’s broken leg, page proofs, and freelance work have been keeping me pretty busy of late, but I have managed the time to knock out a couple of other projects, including writing about Toho’s “Bloodthirsty Trilogy” of Dracula movies for Unwinnable. I think that’s it for this Friday the 13th. Maybe I’ll watch that Jason movie after all…

MilpoolSo, this doesn’t quite meet the standard set by previous events at the end of last year and the beginning of this one which I dubbed “mean seasons,” but it’s certainly less than optimal. Just as both her health and mine were starting to get set to rights, Grace broke her leg last week, necessitating what was, by my count, our sixth or seventh trip to the emergency room within the last year.

As far as we know right now, it’s a nice, clean fracture that should heal well and shouldn’t require surgery. That’s the good news. She can’t put any weight on it for a couple of weeks, and will have to wear a robot-foot-looking walking boot cast thingy for probably another month after that, at least. That’s the less good news.

According to her Official Account, she broke her leg while fishing because she hooked a catfish of such monstrous size and strength that her attempts to land it caused these terrible injuries. Though I was present at the time, I can neither confirm nor deny this account. What I can say is that I also fell as a result of these events, and while none of my bones are broken, I managed to put my back/hip/side/etc all out of place.

Fortunately, unless we hear something new in the next few weeks, we should both heal up just fine, sooner or later. This is just another set of severe tire damage spikes on what has already been a long, long road to recovery for both of us. When this one is over, we could really use some time off.

TheDark37-220x340The latest issue of The Dark magazine just went live the other day, and with it, my story “The Hurrah (aka Corpse Scene).” That may not sound much like one of my titles, but it’s definitely one of my stories, and one that I’m pretty proud of. Over on Facebook, Scott Nicolay said, “I don’t know another author who can make a story about a slasher film as simply and elegantly…poignant…as Orrin Grey does here.” While the first review of the new issue at SFRevu called it a “Good story which just comes together perfectly.”

It’s also the first time one of my new stories was available to read online in a long time. The story follows the daughter of an actress who made her debut–and, unfortunately, also her swan song–in a low-budget slasher flick. Think the 2015 film The Final Girls, but veering off in a very different direction.

When I was a younger horror movie nerd, I didn’t think I liked slasher movies much. It took the insights of friends and colleagues like Adam Cesare, Trevor Henderson, and Stephen Graham Jones for me to get to the place where I am today, where I could even write a story like “The Hurrah (aka Corpse Scene).”

This isn’t the only story I’ve got coming out that deals with movies and, specifically, the act of watching them. My “haunted” movie theatre story “The Granfalloon” is being reprinted in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year Volume 10 later this month! (You can preorder it right now!) “The Granfalloon” first appeared in Darker Companions late last year, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to see it showing back up in the TOC of The Best Horror of the Year!

Back when I still worked at a video store, a woman came in with her young son–he was probably around 9 or 10 years old, but I am also notoriously terrible at guessing the ages of the children, so who knows? He badly wanted to rent the Brendan Fraser Mummy movie, which she had seen, but she was concerned that it would be too violent and scary for him. She wanted to show him Raiders of the Lost Ark, because she had watched it when she was about his age.

Overhearing all this conversation as they browsed the shelves, when she came up to the counter to ask my opinion, I reminded her of some of the stuff that actually happens in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The face-melting. The scene with the airplane propeller. Etc. They ended up leaving with both movies, and I felt pretty good about that day.

I tell this story now to illustrate that people have short, selective memories. People my age who ostensibly grew up reading comic books complain that comic books are “too political now” or whatever, handily forgetting how ludicrously heavy-handed the messages in comic books often were when I was a kid. Most recently, I have seen people picking at the notion of a sort of all-ages line of stuff for Warhammer and Warhammer 40K.

Now, leaving aside the fact that I, like a lot of people, first got into Warhammer and Warhammer 40K when I was a kid of about the age these books are probably targeted toward, sure, Warhammer may seem like an odd property to adapt for youngsters. “In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war,” and all that. But it obviously appeals to kids, and it’s certainly not the first odd-duck property to get the all-ages makeover, nor the most unlikely. (Not to mention the fact that anything that acknowledges the obvious existence of kids in this setting is only going to be a big plus for more robust world building.)

I have said before that it was the height of irony to me that, when I was a kid, parent groups were freaking out about Dungeons & Dragons while Robocop was over here casually transitioning into an actual Saturday morning cartoon show. They made a cartoon of The Toxic Avenger, for Godzilla’s sake. And, for that matter, let’s talk about Godzilla. All children everywhere love Godzilla, the walking embodiment of the horrors of nuclear war.

If you are a nerd, then chances are your nerd shit appeals to children. That’s probably why you got into it when you were a kid. And anything that appeals to children is going to get marketed to them sooner or later, if it isn’t already. This is not only inevitable, it’s also fine. Calm down about it.

There is nothing wrong with politics in your comic books, or with Warhammer stuff aimed at middle-graders. We were all skimming issues of White Dwarf when we were middle-graders, and those of us who aren’t throwing a fit about this new development obviously turned out fine.

Introducing new people to the things you like is great, and if those people then come in and change those things, that is also great. You don’t have to like every iteration; they aren’t all going to be for you, and some of them are probably going to be overtly bad. But some of the ones you like are probably also overtly bad, so, again, calm down. The grim darkness of the far future is a big damn table. It has room for a lot of different seats.

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Illustration done by Matt Smith as cover art for an LP by the Minibosses.