A quick note before we begin: I’m tying all of these updates to the guidelines page for whichever anthology they’re written for (at the bottom of the page), so all the updates will be listed together for easy reference.
As of today, there’s approximately two weeks until the reading period for This Patchwork Flesh opens on June 1st. I spent a fair amount of time talking about Start a Revolution while that anthology was coming together (and I’m hoping to announce the full ToC for same before the end of the month–pretty much everything’s in place, I’m just waiting on a couple of last things before I do so). But I haven’t really talked much here about This Patchwork Flesh yet.
Part of that is because horror is not only a most interesting subject, but also a decidedly subjective one.
What terrifies? What unsettles? What enacts unease within the reader?
The answer to any of those questions is a highly individual thing. And horror itself covers an inordinate amount of ground, and so the answers are manifold. Primarily we are used to talking about horror as a form of transgression, or alternately as a form of immersion in the dark and disquieting. But moreso than being a direct form of genre, or a literature unto itself, horror is a sense, or atmosphere. It is a response to stimuli. Sometimes raw. Sometimes visceral. Sometimes utterly ephemeral.
But one thing all effective horror does do is linger. The best horror remains with us–gets under our skin and digs deep.
How, then, to do that and address specifically QUILTBAG horror, given that horror is so wide open to interpretation and practice? The same way the best work submitted for Start a Revolution approached building stories around QUILTBAG protagonists: by telling an effective, engaging, or otherwise captivating story with protagonists who just happen to be QUILTBAG.
And that’s something I want to stress in advance of This Patchwork Flesh opening to submissions, because an awful lot of people got this wrong with Start a Revolution: a story featuring a QUILTBAG protagonist does not mean that the story has to be about the fact that the protagonist is QUILTBAG. Indeed, that’s very often a decidedly limiting approach. One that’s proliferated as the central function of Queer, or LGBT storytelling, especially in a mainstream context, and often overwhelmingly centers around Cis White Gay protagonists, at the expense of other QUILTBAG stories.
It’s a style of storytelling that will not serve you at all well with me.
These anthologies are about normalizing the presence of QUILTBAG characters as protagonists. And by QUILTBAG I do mean a spectrum, in multiple respects. The stories that have come together for Start a Revolution have included PoCs, gay, lesbian, Trans*, genderqueer/genderfluid, pansexual, asexual, and other characters, along with some other aspects of the QUILTBAG spectrum, and stories a little wider still in scope. And I’m hoping to do the same with This Patchwork Flesh.
Now, given that This Patchwork Flesh is wide open in terms of horror content as long as it’s speculative horror, I can’t really give you a theme to work with. And, indeed, I’m looking forward to seeing a fair amount of variety in terms of what comes in during the reading period. I want to see what terrifies you.
Of course, I do sympathize with those of you who are looking for some kind of guide or framework to work from (assuming that the things I talked about on the This Patchwork Flesh guidelines page didn’t give you a head start on that), but the best I can do in that respect is talk about the kind of things that I, as a reader and an editor, find interesting or captivating. So I will share with you some references that appeal to me.
But let me stress that these are not something you need adhere to. Nor would I suggest trying to game the system in any way by adhering to these tones and styles:
I honestly can’t tell you exactly what I’m looking for. I’m looking forward, very much, to being surprised by things I would not have seen coming. I’ve done some soliciting in order to acquire stories with certain voices and styles of storytelling, but the content of those stories and the approach their authors will take is always a delightful surprise.
So when I say that the work of the following authors, and the specific material cited, interests me, this is true. But it is not exclusively true in this context. Hell, I can’t even assure you that all of the things I’m going to mention below are things other people would normally ascribe as “horror.”
Which brings us back to the assertion that horror is a highly individual, and ultimately quite mutable concept. But the things that interest me stylistically?
Some of that work tends to show up in magazines such as:
And it tends to be written by authors like:
- Shirley Jackson
- James Tiptree Jr.
- Caitlín Kiernan
- Kathe Koja
- Kaaron Warren
- Poppy Z. Brite
- Laird Barron
- David Nickle
And that certain stylistic approach and tone has a tendency to show up in work like:
- Elizabeth Hand’s Cass Neary novels (Generation Loss; Available Dark)
- Kameron Hurley’s The Bel Dame Apocrypha series
- Nicola Griffith’s Slow River
- Ian Rogers’s “The Candle”
- Paul Tremblay’s “The Teacher”
- Tony Burgess’s The n-Body Problem
And it also find its way into films like:
I could also technically be citing something like The Cabin in the Woods in that final section. Though, technically, I don’t really find that to be a horror film so much as an active metanarrative at play. But it does do fascinating, intelligent, and extraordinarily self-aware storytelling that the best kind of horror (or, really, the best writing of any kind) captures. And if you want to try that level of complex structural work, by all means, do so. I’d love to see someone carry off something that complex within the allowable framework.
And, of course, those are just the influences and references that are on my mind at this particular moment. Ultimately, though horror stories focused on quiet, beautiful, subtle, and terrifying storytelling are the ones I most frequently deal with one way or another, I’m interested in seeing as wide a spread of horror styles and tones as possible for This Patchwork Flesh.
With that in mind, you have two weeks left to prepare before the reading period opens. And a final deadline of August 31st for all submissions.
Go to it :)