Wall of Fire ignites on Nov. 5, 2019

What would you walk through fire for…

Cover design: Aaron Bilawchuk & Emily Pratt

November 5, 2019

Terrace VII: Wall of Fire

By Robert Bose & Sarah L. Johnson

Welcome to the Seventh Terrace of Dante’s tower of Purgatory. Here, in darkness lit only by a wall of flame, we find souls enslaved by the sin of lust. Desire, curdled by madness and desperation. From a pair of crazy-in-love criminals on a scavenger hunt at the outskirts of Hell, to a lonely custodian working in a love doll brothel, to a sinister lingerie boutique hidden behind a red door. Lust is a great and terrible thing, and this collection of dark tales follows a mere handful of the many paths leading to the wall of fire.

Hot or Not?

We review books, music, trail races, deep sea creatures, colours on the visible spectrum, and whatever else we feel like, on a rating scale of one to five sin-purging flames.

Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition by Mike Thorn

REVIEW

I didn’t think I could love this collection more, but I so do! When it comes to Mike Thorn, more is always better. And this Expanded Edition gives you so much more. Hard to believe it’s been four years since the original was released by Unnerving – I remember reading through it the first time thinking what the absolute fuck. In the best way of course. I never thought of hair the same way. Ever.

So what comes in the box? Besides freshly revised versions of the all the original stories, we get an awesome new cover from Mikio Murakami, a lovely foreword from Sadie Hartmann (of Mother Horror renown), story notes for each story, and a collection of excellent essays on horror cinema.

I’m not going to review each of the stories in depth, but I will say if I had to pick my jewel of the collection, I’m going to have to go with “Mictian Diabolus”. A story with anything or anyone called The Peeler hits all of my sweet spots.

Of all the new content, the story notes are my favourite addition. As both a reader and author, I love to hear how stories came to be and their influences (so incredibly varied) and how they evolved. Super cool.

And the essays? Mike knows SO much about horror film history, and his insights on such make me realize how much I don’t know and what I should go track down and devour (Rob Zombie’s 31!). He makes it look effortless. After you read this set of essays, if you haven’t poured through the lists of his favourites (and why they are his favourites) on Twitter, you’re missing out. Run, don’t walk, and read them all. Trust me, you’ll learn so much.

Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition will be released into the world by Journalstone on June 11, 2021.

INTERVIEW – BETWEEN TWO FLAMES WITH LOLA AND NOGGY

Noggy: Today in the studio, we have the infamous Mike Thorn. Want to tell us a little about your new collection Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition and why we’d consider you infamous? 

Mike: Yes, I do want to tell you about Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition! Thank you, Sarah and Rob. This is a deluxe reissue of a short story collection initially released in 2017. This updated version includes my author notes for all 16 original stories, 17 essays on horror cinema, and a foreword by the great Sadie Hartmann (Mother Horror). It also features beautiful new cover art by Mikio Murakami. 

I suspect you might consider me infamous because my reading of “Hair” made several customers gag at Owl’s Nest Books. Is that true?  

Noggy: I’m going to say yes! (Sarah’s nota bene: it is true and it was me). And that’s probably why the Nest now has hardwood instead of carpet. So with that out of the way, I do have a burning question, are you perhaps any relation to the Frank Manly Thorn? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Manly_Thorn – you’re both sort of dapper writer types in that monstrous and indescribable way. 

Mike: I can’t respond to this with any certainty. If I send my saliva to 23andMe, will they be able to confirm? I apologize for answering your question with a question, but it’s the best I can do right now. 

Lola: Understood. If anyone understands evasion, we certainly do. What horror movie/book/media you totally love and adore that most people think is garbage – and vice versa? 

Mike: I recently rewatched the director’s cut of The Bye Bye Man, directed by Stacy Title, and I liked it even more on a second viewing. I’m also a huge fan of John Boorman’s Exorcist II, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, all of Dario Argento’s late-career work, Bela Lugosi’s Poverty Row pictures … I could go on and on. There are so many horror films that I think are misunderstood and/or underappreciated!  

As for the reverse: I did not respond to A Quiet Place at all, but I know a lot of people were excited by it.  

Lola: Fuck/Marry/Kill: characters and monsters from Darkest Hours. Come on, we know you have answers! 

Mike: Fuck the blob from “Mired.” 
Marry Cate from “The Auteur.” 
Kill Steve from “Party Time.”

You’ll have to read the book to psychoanalyze these responses, folks!

Noggy: You just released your first novel – Shelter for the Damned – do you think you’ll write more novels, or are you retreating back to short stories where the fun and uh… money is? 

Mike: Right now, I’m drafting a screen treatment and an essay for an anthology on Weird Fiction. I’m also neck-deep in a second novel. I intend to keep working within both the long and short forms. Wherever the muse leads me, you know? 

Lola: What would you do if you woke up one morning and found a single stout hair growing in the middle of your tongue? 

Mike: Just one hair? In all honesty, I would probably just pluck it. If this became a recurring issue, or if one hair became two (or more), I would promptly schedule a visit with my doctor.  

Lola: The only thing less respectable than being a horror writer is being a film critic. In your view, is becoming a critic failing up or down? 

Mike: “Respectable” is overrated.  

I like to think my failings are on a consistently upward trajectory. Thanks for this question.  

Noggy: Could be worse I guess, you could be a poet. Want to tell us about what you have coming out this year and what you’re working on? Or have you peaked and plan on coasting for the rest of the decade? 

Mike: My second short story collection, Peel Back and See, comes out from Journalstone in October. Also, Jamie Blanks and I have been talking about collaborating on something scary for the screen! 

Right now, I’m working on getting vaccinated and staying afloat.

Noggy: Good luck with with all your endeavours, and enjoy your new microchip. Well Lola, guess we should mention that Mike has also been coerced into writing a story for The Seventh Terrace’s forthcoming mini-anthology Terrace VI: Forbidden Fruit, out in June!

Lola: Do yourself a favour and pick up Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition. And remember, there’s always more than one hair…

5/5


About the Author:

Mike Thorn is the author of the novel Shelter for the Damned and the short story collection Darkest Hours. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including Vastarien, Dark Moon Digest, The NoSleep Podcast, and Tales to Terrify. His film criticism has been published in MUBI Notebook, The Film Stage, and In Review Online

Visit his website mikethornwrites.com or connect with him on Twitter @MikeThornWrites.

Publisher: Journalstone

One Tough Bastard by Adam Howe

One Tough Bastard

In Adam Howe’s One Tough Bastard, the most legendary buddy team-up in cinematic history has flung itself from the 80’s silver screen to plummet onto the written page. Maybe not the traditional vector for this sort of blockbuster, but given the lack of time machines, it’s not like modern humanity is able to return the favour. If Adam ever got a film made from this book, the universe would probably explode, Ouroboros being what it is.

Worth the risk of course, and until then we have this exquisite… historical document about Moxie and Duke and their wild-ass testosterone drenched misadventures. As a child of the 80’s (acid wash notwithstanding) this book is a love letter. To me. Hell, I owned pastel blue parachute pants (made from a real parachute) and a jean vest and cowboy boots. And a sick mullet. I’d post a picture, but the twenties don’t appreciate style and I’d get arrested for being nostalgically awesome (a real thing, look it up).

Anyways, I digress. Actually, no I don’t, the 80’s ARE the best. Maybe you had to be there, maybe you had to be the right age, but nothing beats the pure unfettered blend of action and humour and music and style. Peak movie insanity. Peak wrestling. Peak cheap booze. Peak stripper bars. A higher percentage of enbiggening oxygen in the atmosphere (also a real thing).

So, what to say about One Tough Bastard that hasn’t already been politically incorrectly uttered in every cool bar in every cool corner of every cool city and town and backwater cesspool? It’s just plain, unapologetic fun. In a world that seems to think everything has to be have a deep, underlying theme about loss and grief, it’s fabulous to read a story that’s pure fun romp. Sure, there are integral themes about friendship and self-confidence and being unable to understand how much of an idiot you are. And sure, even a nod to grief, of course as fuel for revenge, but all heaped with a giggling lemon spread of fun. Which is exactly what 2021 needs. Beyond the 80’s buddy movie dynamic, Adam has created a mythology around the characters and story squeezed from the best this genre have to offer. Shane Moxie is a hero. Possibly flawed, sure, but who wouldn’t be with that much awesomeness warping reality? If his movies were available, bootleg or not, I’d have Amishing in Action, Gung Ho-Ho-Ho, and especially Copscicle, splashed across a 108” 8K screen every chance I could.

5/5


About the Author: Adam Howe writes the twisted fiction your mother warned you about. A British writer of fiction and screenplays, he lives in London with his partner, their daughter, and a hellhound named Gino. Writing as Garrett Addams, his short story Jumper was chosen by Stephen King as the winner of the international On Writing contest, and published in the paperback/Kindle editions of King’s memoir. His fiction has appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Thuglit, Mythic Delirium, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror, and other places. He is the author of One Tough Bastard, Scapegoat (with James Newman), Tijuana Donkey Showdown, Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, and Black Cat Mojo, and the editor of the Wrestle Maniacs anthology. In the pipeline: The Polack, a gritty 1930s noir co-written with Joseph Hirsch. Stalk him at Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter @Adam_G_Howe.

Publisher: Honey Badger Press

Luster by Raven Leilani

Edie is the only black woman working at a children’s book publisher where she hopes to get promoted from reception to illustrator. But when they hire another, younger, hungrier, lighter-skinned black lady, Edie is fired. It’s racism, tokenism, an outrage. It’s also because Edie fucked most of the men in the office and isn’t good at her job. So, lacking any other option, she moves in with her married white boyfriend, his white wife, and their recently adopted 11yo black daughter. It’s every bit as strange as it sounds but this book blew my mind. A story of alienation, desperation, and bewildering tenderness, Luster is a darkly curious dive into unconventional relationships, the surprising ways in which people bond, and what they can teach each other.

I don’t know if I’d call this horror in the genre sense, but since I prefer to think of horror as an experience, an emotion, I gotta say I was peeking over the edge of a blanket, tense, cringing, and biting my knuckles in avoidance of my own unvarnished reactions to this story and the people living inside it. Raven Leilani’s prose is voracious, with a full set of teeth in each sentence.

Detonation #19: This is Not Censorship

Navigating Life in a Literary Minefield

On March 2, 2021 six Dr. Seuss titles, published between 1937-1975, were pulled from publication by Dr. Seuss Enterprises due to portrayals of people deemed to be “hurtful and wrong” aka racist as hell. The most recent title being a Cat in the Hat companion piece called The Cat’s Quizzer. I’ll save you the math, that’s 46 years ago, and my point is:

A) These are old-ass books

B) You’ve probably never heard of them

But holy shit! Folks get wind that a few obscure books are going away and suddenly it’s Fahrenheit 45-fucking-1. Even more wild is that there’s virtually no disagreement over whether these depictions are racist or not. They totally are, and some of us just really want to show them to our babies. White nostalgia vs. institutionalized racism isn’t a problem I’m going to solve with a few paragraphs and a bunch of swear words, but fuuuuck me side-saddle…

Instead, let’s take a minute to talk about censorship.

Books go out of print. All. The. Time. That’s right ducklings, most books will eventually be lost to the shifting dunes of the cultural desert, with the lucky ones growing spores in a used bookstore somewhere. Why does this happen? The details may differ but it all funnels down to the same reason: no demand. Modern readers have little appetite for the vast majority of what was written decades ago, even if it’s not explicitly racist. With zillions of books flooding the market every goddamn day, their lifecycle is shorter than ever. A midlist book published just five years ago has even odds of being out of print today.

So, if you were hoping to pick up a copy of the 2015 zipper-ripper Donkey Dick Dan’s Billionaire Bride – brand new, without half the pages stuck together – you’re likely out of luck. It’s not banned. It’s just that no one wanted the thing.

Here’s the straight dope. Declining to publish is not censorship. Declining to be published is not censorship. Those with rights to the work get to decide where it does or does not appear. Libraries get to curate what they do and don’t want in their collections. Bookstores get to decide what they will and won’t sell. This is not political correctness on ‘roids. Equating loss of platform with muzzling, cancelling, and attempting to sanitize history is fallacious. We’re smarter than that. Pulling a few Dr. Seuss titles most people didn’t know existed until a few days ago is NOT censorship.

Censorship is government suppression of free expression, and this is not that.

And I get it, y’all love Dr. Seuss and want his wonderful books available to your children and their children and on and on. I do too. And great news! As long as there’s demand, they will be! What the frothing mob screaming about book burning and other nonsense doesn’t seem to get is that Dr. Seuss Enterprises made this decision to protect Seuss and his legacy of delighting children for generations. Instead of, y’know, risking the cancellation of his life’s work because they continued to publish racist imagery and just, like, hoped that people would tell their kids that shit’s not cool anymore.

Why not read your kids some books that portray different colors, and cultures, and identities, and abilities with nuance and compassion rather than lazy ignorant stereotypes? There’s great stuff out there and this is just a short list. Check it out, then if you’re still hungry, you can have your Green Eggs and Ham.

2020: The Year We All Walked Through Fire


L: NOGGY!!!
N: Jesus, Lola…what?
L: It’s January 11, 2021.
N: Congratulations, you learned to read a calendar. Next, you’re going tell me it’s 6:43 p.m.
L: Shut up, I just meant eleven days is enough time to get some perspective on the most remarkable year in living memory.
N: Hate to break it to you, Silkysocks but I don’t even remember what happened last week.
L: Put the bottle down and let’s do this.
N: Fine, but let the record show I am aggrieved. Are we even allowed to talk about this stuff? People might get mad.
L: For that to happen they’d have to read our blog.
N: Which no one has. Ever.
L: So, let’s warm up with the good. We had two whole months that weren’t a pandemic.

The Good

  • Launched End of the Loop and Starseed by getting drunk on something blue called Sex in (on?) the Driveway and presenting the first and possibly last episode of Between Two Flames over Zoom. Poor Guy…
  • Attended Wordbridge in Little LA and got lost in a blizzard tryin’ to find Arby’s.
  • Celebrated Noggy’s b-day sucking the cream out of a bunch of cannoli.
  • Summer road trip to BC. Noggy, Lola, and Particle Man, running through the mountains, angering the gods, and capping it off riding Sturgeons in Revelstoke for Lola’s Birthday.
  • Bloody Offensive Literary Salon. A real boner of a good time.
  • Neither of us got fired/arrested/strip-searched or investigated for crimes against the living or dead. Or god(s).
  • Crashed a wedding. That sooo needed crashing.
  • Attended 80’s themed book launch in the most disgusting dive in the city on the coldest day in twenty years. Noggy really took a shine to his red metallic leggings. Cash bar. Bathrooms physically residing in Hell. But hey, great band!
  • Noggy & Lola’s alter egos saw their very first co-written story, about Grandpa’s freezer meat, purchased for actual money, and published in an actual book called Chew on This!
  • Road trip to Taber, complete with lunch at the Mexican-Ukrainian fusion restaurant and Lola desecrating Noggy’s grandfather’s grave (details redacted, but there were haunted soul holes and spiders. And owls.).
  • Wrote an epic poem for Particle Man’s birthday “The Many Deaths of Particle Man.”
  • Taylor Swift released two new amazing records!
  • Exotic cocktails with the Secret Saturday Night Quarantine Society.
  • Working from home.
  • First name basis at local liquor stores.
  • Picnics.
  • Full moon runs.
  • Jaja Ding Dong.

The Bad

  • Lola dropped her phone down a mountain trying to take a picture of a goat.
  • Virtual events. They suck. Good Merciful Gary, do they suck. Even ours. Especially ours.
  • Writer podcasts that are 1hr+ of aimless, unedited yammering – but we listened anyways, cause.
  • All races, literary events, festivals, and conventions cancelled. Although this is probably why we didn’t get fired or arrested.
  • Everyone deciding they need to get some fucking fresh air, dawdling about in enormous groups clogging entire paths.
  • Doing the summer scavenger hunt and Lola having to be nice to the path cloggers.
  • Doing the summer scavenger hunt and Noggy forbidding Lola from sticking her hiking pole in some idiot cyclist’s spokes.
  • Noggy forced to listen repeatedly to two new Taylor Swift records.
  • Perturbed skunks on a full moon run.
  • Sunday mornings.
  • Trying to work from home with your entire family up your ass.
  • Lola’s number one Spotify song: Jaja Ding Dong.

The Ugly

  • This is eerily mostly the same list as The Good.
  • Actually missing open mic poetry about rocks and streams and dead parents.
  • Noggy projectile vomiting 65km into our 80km self-directed urban ultra-marathon. That bush is dead now, the city bench melted. They should really replace the memorial plaque.
  • Lola setting her hair on fire doing witchcraft.
  • Running 420km in December + Eggnog + Herring Rollmops.
  • Homeschooling six (6) gremlins.
  • 11 p.m. Particle Man ukulele singalongs (the other hotel guests loved it).
  • The mall. Any malls. All malls.
  • IT WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH!

Bonus List: The Weird

  • Running at dusk and finding ourselves, no shit, surrounded by beavers.
  • Approached by an elfin teenaged boy after dark and offered a cookie.
  • Along the river finding many, many elaborate dwellings constructed from deadfall.
  • Elementals chasing us off Mount Okanagan.
  • Repeated sex dreams about all our friends.
  • The metallic pants, again. Noggy can’t get enough.
  • Onesies.
  • Lola’s cover girl debut…as a corpse.
  • And, as always, the weird wonderful constant in this topsy turvy world: Arby’s

In closing, there’s a lot more we could have added, but Legal has advised us to quit while we’re not in contravention of any number of municipal bylaws or provincial health orders. Suffice it to say, it’s been a trip. From the looks of it, 2021 is already asking 2020 to hold her beer, and you know what? We can’t wait.

Detonation #18: Living at Ludicrous Speed

Navigating Life in a Literary Minefield

Typically we use this space to yell at idiots, and rarely exclude ourselves from that classification. Today is no exception, except we’re excluding all of you. Feel free to self-include in this public castigation, but today we’ll largely direct our vitriol inward.

Forward thinking is good, mostly. You don’t want to see your best days trailing behind you, winking out like ancient stars. That’s never been my style. I’ve got my eye on the road ahead, on what dreams may come, and mostly it’s served me well. I guess because the alternative makes me sad to the point of illness. People who are like, “Ugh, 2020 is the shittiest year ever!” bother me, because you know they said the same thing about 2019, 2018, 2017, and so on. For that person, no matter what year it is, it’s shit. Every day is the worst day of their fucking life, and I don’t even wanna speculate what that must feel like.

I can be cynical when it comes to human nature, but when it comes to the arc of my own existence I am an incorrigible optimist. Believe me, no one is more surprised than I am. Single days may vary in degree of suckage, but over time I believe each year will be better than the last and you know what? I haven’t been wrong yet. I went through a dark period in my thirties when I had young children and no personal identity outside of Chief Juice Pouring Technician, but even at my lowest point, I never wished to go back to some better time in the past. The future is unwritten, you know? You can fill it with all the good exciting stuff you want and so long as it remains in the future you can’t rule it out. It’s how I’ve learned to thrive in high stress environments, to keep cool in the cut, to be happy when there is objectively little to be happy about — because there is always something to look forward to.

And in this way, by rolling at a breakneck pace towards that brilliant light on the horizon, I cheat myself out of taking pleasure in where I’ve been and where I am.

A case study: Lola and Noggy are not ambitious in the traditional sense. They aren’t type A. They aren’t climbers out to prove how much better they are than anyone else. They’re more like those annoying kids that won’t sit still at carpet time. Most of the time they’re barely aware there IS anyone else. They’re just…busy.

Lola: I see you’ve made a spreadsheet of all our projects and tasks for the next few months.

Noggy: Launch two books, finish our novel drafts, edit forthcoming publishing projects, and make more spreadsheets. Think we can handle it?

Lola: What’s the worst that could happen?

Noggy: We’ve spent the length of a pregnancy working on these two new releases for The Seventh Terrace, it’s so cool to see them birthed out into the world.

Lola: That was yesterday, Nog. We got drunk on zoom, ensured both authors will never work with us again, what’s next?

Noggy: NaNoWriMo!

Lola: Wow, did we really just launch two books and do NaNo?

Noggy: That was yesterday Silkysocks, shouldn’t you be editing our next book for TST?

Lola: And then we have to work on that new Purgatorio book

Noggy: And then we’re going to run every single day in December

Lola: And then I’m going to get back to my novel

Noggy: And we have the winter running scavenger hunt

Lola: And then we should co-write another story, and it’ll be race season again!

Noggy: And then I’ll make more spreadsheets!

And then

And then

And then…

If you ever wanted to see goblins on Adderall, this is it. These two are fucking exhausting, and the problem becomes evident.

There’s nothing wrong with having goals and a plan for the future, but at a certain point I find I’m moving too fast to take any real satisfaction in what I’ve accomplished. Maybe I’m even more afraid of getting stuck in the present than I am in the past.

I don’t do resolutions, but this is more about evolution. I still believe my best days are ahead of me, but I’d like to develop the skill of being still, to lose the fear of losing momentum, to hang out unhurried, look back and be like “Wow, we really did some cool shit, didn’t we?”