So, picture this.
There I was.
A total neophyte in the horror genre, completely out of my element, at NECON 30, one of the most revered speculative writing conferences in the Northeast. Even more intimidating, folks like F. Paul Wilson, Tom Monteleone, Christopher Golden, Douglas Clegg and more had been attending this thing for YEARS, so they were like one big family. Mix in relative but established newcomers like Nate Kenyon, Rio Youers, and Norman Prentiss; and little ole’ me, very literally, felt like a bug on a mansion wall. I SO totally did not belong (though everyone there was friendly, welcoming, and relaxed).
However, I was on mission. Sure, I’d been fortunate, had some things published, including a novella, but I didn’t want to rest on that. I wanted to be around the “big boys and gals”, not to bask in their aura, but to learn. To hear how they’d done it, and think about how I could take what I’d learned and apply it to my efforts.
So there I was, during some downtime one afternoon, wandering through the used book tables in the vendor area. The guy who’d read nothing but Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Peter Straub for years. Certainly excellent reading, but not too varied. I’d read some different authors at that point – a thorough stable of Leisure Fiction horror authors (before Leisure went belly-up) – but my background was solidly built upon those three authors. I sorta kinda knew LOTS of other folks had written horror, but I’d never taken the time to explore horror’s rich history.
And then I found it.
Greta King is scared. There’s no one home, and she’s locked out. Something is very wrong.
Even The Place, Greta’s imaginary world, is touched by terror. The bright blue sky has turned black-red, and the magical cats won’t talk anymore.
Ella King is scared, too. She and Greta’s little brother Justin are trapped in a dark, damp cell underground, prisoners of a madman who kills as if death were his to dispense by divine right.
The Place is both real and imaginary. It is sanctuary and prison, playground and battlefield…and deadly.
An intriguing description, definitely. But not necessarily mind blowing. What got me is when I flipped to the inside cover and read the following blurb, by some guy (who’d I’d yet to discover, also), named Ramsey Campbell:
“T. M. Wright is more than a master of quiet horror fiction: he is a one-man definition of the term.”
I did a double-take.
What’s that? So I bought it, started reading.
Haven’t stopped reading T. M. Wright or quiet horror since. And thus began my serious exploration of all the horror writers who had come before me.
Now, there are more parts to this story. Like how I – THANKFULLY – discovered Charles Grant‘s work, when someone compared Norman Prentiss’ award-winning novella, Invisible Fences to Grant’s work. Or the night I spent with Paul Wilson and Tom Monteleone, which was like a history class in speculative fiction, all in itself. Or listening to Brian Keene’s AnthoCon keynote address, ‘Roots’, about the history of horror fiction.
But T. M. Wright’s The Place was the first, the one that set me on this path to begin with.
So starting this Thursday – in between my monthly reviews here at The Diner – I’m going to present what I’d like to call a ‘Modest History of Horror’ (modest, because I’m hardly an expert, and discovering all this myself) and highlight some of the classic works I’ve been digging into this past year. Works that I’m going to go out on a limb and say if anyone is serious about writing horror – or, ergo, serious about submitting horror fiction to The Midnight Diner – they WILL read.
Because you can’t write good new stuff, unless you have a foundation to stand on, without knowing what’s already been done, and how it can be done again, but made new.
So, this Thursday. A few works from the “one man definition of quiet horror”, T. M. Wright.
See you there.
Kevin Lucia is a Contributing Editor for Shroud Magazine, and a blogger for The Midnight Diner. His short fiction has appeared in several anthologies. He’s currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles, and he’s currently working on his first novel. Visit him on the web at www.kevinlucia.com.