AHWA Short Story and Flash Fiction Competition winners

The results for this year’s Australian Horror Writers Association Short Story and Flash Fiction Competition have been announced. They are:


WINNER: “Always a Price” by Joanne Anderton
HONOURABLE MENTION: “Life, Death and Customer Service” by Nicholas Stella


WINNER: “Blood Lilies” by Shauna O’Meara
HONOURABLE MENTION: “Fragments of a Botanical Journal” by Matthew J Morrison

(more info here http://australianhorror.com/index.php?view=57)

Congratulations to the winners, and well done to all who entered. The competition was blind judgedby AHWA Members Alan Baxter, Felicity Dowker and Jason Fischer, and managed by Martin Livings.

Both winners will see publication in Midnight Echo magazine soon and will also receive a winner’s trophy.


Damnation And Dames – review by Damien Smith

DISCLAIMER: Thirteen O’Clock is managed by Alan Baxter, Felicity Dowker and Andrew McKiernan as Contributing Editors. While the Contributing Editors’ roles at Thirteen O’Clock are editorial and critique, all three are primarily writers. It is inevitable that their own work will form part of the Australian and international dark fiction publications which are Thirteen O’Clock’s focus, and as such it is also inevitable that their work will be reviewed at Thirteen O’Clock (to prohibit this would not only be unfortunate for Baxter, Dowker and McKiernan themselves, but for their hardworking editors and publishers).

Thirteen O’Clock will always have a third party contributor review the Contributing Editors’ work. Such reviews will be unedited (aside from standard corrections to typos and grammar), posted in full (be they negative or positive), and will always be accompanied by full disclosure of Baxter, Dowker and McKiernan’s place at Thirteen O’Clock. At no point will Baxter, Dowker or McKiernan review their own work.

Damnation And Dames (Edited by Liz Grzyb & Amanda Pillar).

Ticonderoga Publications April 2012, ISBN 978-1-921857-03-4 (Paperback)

Damnation and Dames is a sixteen-story paranormal noir-themed anthology from Ticonderoga Publications.  I remember seeing it appear in April and thinking that it sounded like a great read, but since I’d only recently got to Base Camp One of my pile of unread review books I had to sadly let it pass by.  Seeing another opportunity arise recently to review it, I couldn’t resist any longer.  Paranormal noir sounded like a really interesting spin.

What the heck is paranormal noir?  Well you know noir: private eyes, prohibition, mystery, dames with dangerous curves, characters narrating to the fourth wall.  Take that and mix in a bunch of ghosts, vampires, zombies, legendary creatures and at one point an undead king kong and you have paranormal noir.  Given the dark nature of noir it seems only natural that the unnatural creepies would creep in eventually and this collection certainly delivers what it advertises.

The collection kicks off by plunging straight into the vampiric underworld in Jay Caselberg’s Blind Pig with a full complement of dangerous (and damned) dames and collisions of the normal and paranormal worlds, and delves deeper from there.

There is an ebb and flow between paranormal and noir, with many stories being a solid mix of both.  Brian G Ross’ Hard Boiled only touched the surface of the paranormal, but with gems like “I knew never to trust a broad with a naked flame that close to my face, even one who seemed like she’d been poured out of a lingerie catalogue and dipped in perfume” you can almost hear the saxophone spilling quietly from the gramophone in the background.  Contrasting that are tales like where humans are the second-class citizens doing their supernatural superior’s bidding like M.L.D Curelas’ Silver Comes the Night or merely a background theme as in the excellent One Night at the Cherry by Chris Large, where a zombie detective has some problems with a genuinely dangerous doll.

Robert Hood’s Walking the Dead Beat is one of the only stories not written from the first person perspective and deserves a special mention if only for including a Playdead magazine in an undead bordello.

There are also two collaborative works in the collection: Burning, Always Burning by Alan Baxter and Felicity Dowker, and Prohibition Blues by Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter, both of which warrant a mention because although I’ve read many offerings from all four authors, both stories were so seamless I couldn’t pick who had written what, despite the authors’ differing styles.  One bone I would pick with Burning, Always Burning though is that it hinted enough at a much wider world that it felt like a prologue to something larger, and I found myself flicking through the anthology looking for the next instalment.  Hopefully it’ll come at some point.

Which brings me to about the only fault I could find with the collection: due to the nature of the format several of the stories finished up right when I felt they were just getting good.  I’d love to see some of the authors take the worlds they’ve hinted at here and let the various beasties rampage across a longer format.

I’ve picked a handful of the sixteen stories to mention for no real reason beyond the fact they stuck in my head for a particular line on theme.  Damnation and Dames brings together a bunch of stories from authors international and local, experienced and fledgling (Three Questions and One Troll is Chris Bauer’s debut work of fiction and he should be justifiably proud of the company it’s keeping) and it’s difficult to find a weak link amongst them.

Damnation and Dames can be found over at http://ticonderogapublications.com/ Upon finding, be sure to add it to your collection.

Reviewed by Damien Smith.

Damien Smith is a regular reviewer for several publications, most frequently online zine The Specusphere. Whilst usually content with being an armchair expert on other people’s work, he recently had his debut publication in SQ Magazine. Observing the social dynamic between his young daughter and two dogs provides endless inspiration, so there will no doubt be many more stories to come. Some of them may even get published.


Corrupts Absolutely? edited by Lincoln Crisler – review by Greg Chapman

Corrupts Absolutely?
 Lincoln Crisler
Publisher: Damnation Books
ISBN: 978-1-61572614–1 (eBook)
Published: 13th April, 2012
Words: 83,780

Corrupts Absolutely? collects twenty brand-new stories from veteran authors and newcomers, each with a unique perspective on what it might really be like to be superhuman in today’s day and age. In the center of such a roiling mass of uncertainty and excitement lies one important truth: the fight against good or evil is never as important as the fight for or against oneself.

Given I was raised on comic book superheroes like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, the X-Men, The Teen Titans and others, the meta-human fiction anthology Corrupts Absolutely? was always going to have instant appeal for me.

Edited by dark fiction author Lincoln Crisler, Corrupts Absolutely? Sets out to take comic book heroes beyond the confining rectangular borders of comic pages into a prose format and, when taken as a whole, the stories pack as much punch as The Incredible Hulk on a bad day.

Borrowing from some of the more adult comics and graphic novels of the 1980’s, like Watchmen and V for Vendetta, the heroes (and villains) in these 20 tales are as human as the rest of us, with troubled pasts, crises of conscience and revenge on the mind. The theme of the anthology centres on how power can corrupt and each story rides that theme like a speeding bullet into catastrophe (ok enough of the metaphors).

From the very first tale – Tim Marquitz’s “Retribution” about a nuclear-powered man who exacts explosive revenge on a Middle Eastern village on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks – you know immediately that the interpretation of what is a “hero” in this volume, will ride a very thin grey line indeed.

In my view, the strongest tales are in the first half of the book. Bram Stoker Award-winning author Weston Ochse’s piece “Hollywood Villains”, about a young man who can make anyone do anything not only forces you to sympathise with the villain as he psychically torments some of Hollywood’s more unsavoury characters, but makes you feel that his victims deserved it.

Jeff Strand’s “The Origin of Slashy” focuses on the victim of a rape who decides to become a vigilante and kill men with sex on their mind. The matter-of-factness of Strand’s writing adds considerable impact and there’s certainly no hero in sight in his story.

Edward M. Erdelac’s “Conviction” is a fantastic gangsta style tale about a young man trying to distance himself from the wrong people, only to be pulled back in. Erdelac captures the language and character of Abassi exceptionally well and provides imagery that lasts well after the final sentence.

Other standouts included the darkly atmospheric “Mental Man” by William Todd Rose, Joe McKinney’s “Hero”, “Crooked” by Lee Mather, “Acquainted with the Night” by Cat Rambo and “Max and Rose” by Andrew Bourelle. “Gone Rogue” by Wayne Helge, a humorous tale that reminded me of the film Mystery Men was a welcome addition to break up all the angst.

The only downside to the anthology was that there were possibly a few too many stories that reminded me of a certain rich billionaire with a mechanised suit.

All in all, Corrupts Absolutely? was a great escape, providing very interesting pastiches of heroes and villains. Hopefully Mr Crisler might consider putting together a second volume in the not too distant future?

- review by Greg Chapman

The Pleasures And Perils Of Compiling Horror

This op-ed is taken from one of many Australian SpecFic in Focus Snapshots that happened over the last two weeks leading up to the 51st Australian SF NatCon. The Snapshot tries to get mini-interviews from as many people involved in Australian Spec Fic as possible. This particular Snapshot was conducted by Jason Nahrung and the interviewee was writer, editor and musician, Talie Helene. Talie is co-editor of the Ticonderoga Publications series, Year’s Best Australian Fantasy And Horror. Talie was asked:

What are the pleasures and perils of compiling the horror component of the Ticonderoga Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror?

Her answer provides some fascinating insights not only into editing horror, but into the horror genre itself, and we’ve reposted her answer here. You can read the original, full Snapshot interview here and you can find Talie Helene online here: www.taliehelene.com/

What are the pleasures and perils of compiling the horror component of the Ticonderoga Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror?

One of the guiding principals I have is that the stories need to go to different emotional places, because horror is about hitting raw nerves. If you hit the same nerve too many times, you desensitise and the stories become emotionally monochrome. Horror is unique in that the genre is defined by emotion, rather than trope or context – you can have a completely supernatural story that is horror, and a totally realistic story that is also horror. So trying to keep the mix fresh and blow the readers away in different ways, keep the emotional impact – that is pure fun. Editing a Year’s Best is a bit like being a DJ. The works are already published and polished, so the job is to find that mix of hits and undiscovered gems and make the overall experience entertaining and powerful and surprising. It’s a kick!

Working with Liz and Russell at Ticonderoga is totally a pleasure. I was a dark horse choice for this editing job, and having them believe in my instincts is very humbling. They are also really understanding, and they’ve been very supportive throughout. Having a purpose that isn’t focused on my own headspace has probably been a saving grace for me. Just getting to associate with such fine writers is a buzz and an honour; meeting some of ‘my authors’ and having these instantly engaging conversations about narrative that I would never otherwise have is a delight.

The perils. Well, there should be perils in compiling horror, right?

I think probably the biggest peril is balancing literary horror and visceral horror; horror goes to places that connect with visceral responses, and it goes to places of deep trauma and danger and anger, and sex and death are so very tangled together. If the emotion overwhelms the form it can be incomprehensible, and if the form overwhelms the emotion you get cliche. The quality that lifts both aspects up is authenticity. I’m just one person, so I have to trust my own instincts as to which stories do which of those things excellently. Just entering that territory is perilous, because when people disagree they will disagree vehemently. Conversely, if I didn’t stick to my guns about my choices, I have no business editing horror.

I worship what I would call literary horror – writing that engages with top-shelf word craft and narrative constructs in the service of hitting those raw nerves. In the Capital L Literature world the idea of ‘literary horror’ is regarded as an oxymoron. The reality of any genre is you have to read through a truckload of mediocrity to find the amazing work. Go to a Capital L Literary spoken word night. You will have to endure an avalanche of bullshit to experience a few dazzling talents. But I think it’s harder for people to go the other way – from the literary world, to the horror world – because horror stories do contain exploded intestines! The bad ones have exploded intestines! The brilliant ones have exploded intestines! It takes a committed reader to learn to separate being repulsed by bad gory writing, and enthralled by brilliant gory writing – which is also repulsive! But repulsive in the service of some larger meaning.

Really great horror stories aren’t just about horror – there is always something else that makes you empathise. That’s the reason Stephen King writes so much about love and different kinds of relationships. If you write about death, you write about life. I think horror is the deepest genre because it speaks from that precipice of our mortality. But I’m not allowed to harpoon people who don’t share that view!

While I prize literary horror, I also feel very connected with visceral horror. There would be something really wrong if the horror selection in Year’s Best didn’t include some stories where things that are supposed to be inside people are splashed all over the page – maybe that is blood, or a terrible secret, or unbearable knowledge. I think there are people who read horror and appraise the shock value over the literary merit – that reader is going to roll their eyes at terror in sunlight stories or existential horror. For me, blood and the numinous are equally powerful. By making a broad selection, I’m demanding the reader be open to all of that.

Is that condescending? I don’t mean to be condescending to consider that a peril. My gut tells me horror writers feel that they put great demands on readers too, and that is one of the issues of commercialism (or lack of) for horror.

There is an amorphous danger zone of gender politics in the speculative fiction community in Australia, and in horror more than any other genre. It is in part due to a disparity in theorised feminism, because writers range from all walks of life – can I say thank fuck? That is something I can appreciate from both sides, because I’m not a theorised feminist myself. (I don’t have a degree, and while I do read feminist musicology with interest, I’m truant on Feminism 101.) I think the sticking point is that horror is often violent, and historically violence precedes from the patriarchy, so there has been confusion in separating confronting language from gendered language.

As horror editor of the Year’s Best, I’ve had to remain silent on feminist issues I might have otherwise been very vocal about, because I have conflict of interest – and I support people in their artistic practice who have completely contradictory views, including views that I don’t agree with. It doesn’t mean I’m not participating in the discourse, because I will recognise writers who are disrupting and interrogating those issues in their work, and that becomes an influence in my editorial process. I want the anthology to be a powder keg of awesome! My philosophy is stolen from an old 3RRR Radio Station ID: ‘Diversity in the face of adversity’.

A more personal peril is discovering if I don’t include a writer’s stories, I can hurt the feelings of a friend – and maybe give them the erroneous impression that they had ‘a bad year’. While the words ‘best’ and ‘horror’ are the stars by which I navigate in story selection, there are also other pressures on the selection process – and not every fine story on the shortlist makes it through. It does not always mean those stories aren’t as good – or that I am prejudiced against a certain flavour of horror and won’t ever include it. This is the arts. It is subjective. It has to be subjective. And the DJ part of the editorial process serves a mix, not just an evaluation.

The final peril is for me as an emerging writer. Donning the hat of gatekeeper threatens to crush my view of my own writing with 10,000 tonnes of neurosis. (And that’s what SuperNova [writing group] is for.)

You can find the Year’s Best Fantasy And Horror volumes through Ticonderoga Publications here.


2011 Australian Shadows Award Winners – News

The Winners and Honourable Mentions for the 2011 Australian Shadows Award have been announced by the Australian Horror Writers Association.

The winners of the 2011 Australian Shadows Awards have been announced:

– No Award.
– Honourable Mention: The Broken Ones by Stephen M Irwin

Long Fiction:
WINNER:The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt‘ by Paul Haines
– Honourable Mentions:
* ‘And the Dead Shall Outnumber the Living‘ by Deborah Biancotti
* ‘Sleeping and the Dead‘ by Cat Sparks
* ‘From the Teeth of Strange Children‘ by Lisa L. Hannett

WINNER: Tales of Sin and Madness by Brett McBean
– Honourable Mentions:
* Bluegrass Symphony by Lisa
* The Last Days of Kali Yuga by Paul Haines
* Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies by Lucy Sussex
* Apocrypha Sequence (all four volumes) by Shane Jiraiya Cummings

Edited Publication:
WINNER: Dead Red Heart ed. Russell B Farr
– Honourable Mentions:
* More Scary Kisses ed. Liz Grzyb
* Midnight Echo 6 ed. David Kernot, David Conyers and Jason Fischer
* The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror ed. Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene

Short Stories:
WINNER:Shovel Man Joe‘ by Amanda J Spedding
– Honourable Mentions:
* ‘Taking It for the Team‘ by Tracie McBride,
* ‘The Sea at Night‘ by Joanne Anderton
* ‘The Wanderer in Darkness‘ by Andrew J. McKiernan
* ‘Out Hunting for Teeth‘ by Joanne Anderton

Thirteen O’Clock would like to congratulate all of the Winners and the authors and editors who have received an Honourable Mention.

Source: http://australianhorror.com/index.php?view=304

Midnight Echo 7, the taboo issue, edited by Daniel I Russell, is now available

The official magazine of the Australian Horror Writers’ Association, Midnight Echo 7, the taboo issue, edited by Daniel I Russell, is now available for order in Print and digital (PDF, MOBI, or EPUB) formats.

Featuring all new fiction by Graham Masterton, Lee Battersby, Andrew J McKiernan, and more, disturbing art by Joshua Hoffine, Jason Paulos, and Greg Hughes, interviews with Joe R Lansdale, Graham Masterton, and Joshua Hoffine, the comic series Allure of the Ancients by Mark Farrugia and Greg Chapman, and a special tribute to Paul Haines.

130 pages of fiction, art, interviews, book releases, and more!

So if you like your addictions, your fetishes and all the other things you’ve been told not to like, slip on your latex gloves and take a peek inside.

Click HERE for full details.


Haven – Series 2 (DVD) – Review

Haven is a Syfy original TV series based very loosely upon the Stephen King Hard Case Crime novel The Colorado Kid. In fact, I wouldn’t even say it was really ‘based upon’. More ‘inspired by’ as the connection between series and novel are very tenuous. Instead, it is best to view this series as a totally separate entity – maybe originating from somewhere along a different Beam – and hence there is no need to be familiar with King’s hard to find crime novel.

As this is Series 2 that I’ll be reviewing, some reference to Series 1 and a brief rundown might be in order, but I’ll try very hard to stay away from spoilers.

Haven Series 1 opened with FBI Special Agent Audrey Parker (played by Emily Rose) arriving in the small town of Haven, Maine, to investigate a routine case. Agent Parker soon found herself involved in a series of possibly supernatural events, known locally as The Troubles. In the course of solving these strange and paranormal mysteries, Agent Parker discovered what may be a personal link between herself and the town of Haven; a link that might lead her to the mother she has never known.

Structured in ways similar to shows such as The X-Files, Dead Zone and Warehouse 13, each episode of Haven features Agent Parker – having taken leave from the FBI and now a Haven Police Officer – and her partner Nathan Wuornos working to discover the cause of various ‘Troubles’ that afflict the town’s populace. These ‘Troubles’ are supernatural in nature, some of them a little clichéd, others totally original. But even the clichéd stories are held together well by some great characterisation from actors Emily Rose (Agent Audrey Parker), Lucas Bryant (Officer Nathan Wuornos), Eric Balfour (the criminally minded but always smooth Duke Crocker) and especially Stephen McHattie (Pontypool’s Grant Mazzy as the Reverent Ed Driscoll).

Series 1 ended with something of a cliff-hanger, and Series 2 picks up exactly where it left off with Agent Parker questioning her own name, identity and memories… which may not be her own.

Series 2 follows the same ‘one case per episode’ style established in the first series: towns people hallucinating or haunted by their worst fears (with a number of knowing nods to Stephen King’s IT); machines taking on a life of their own (a theme familiar to a number of King shorts and novels); dark forests with deadly intent; Groundhog Day style time-shifts; and a man haunted by evil and deadly duplicates of himself.

Many of the episodes don’t take themselves too seriously, and in some ways this light-hearted approach is closest to that of shows like Warehouse 13 or Eureka. But there are a few stories that take on a decidedly darker tone. “The Tides That Bind” is possibly the creepiest of these, with an opening scene that is sure to chill the blood.

Another feature that makes Series 2 different from Series 1 is a stronger emphasis on a continuous story-arc. The mystery of Agent Parker’s own past, and her reason for being in Haven, are examined in much greater detail. This is what I felt really elevated Series 2 above its predecessor. This main story-line never intrudes too much upon the individual episodes – indeed, it is the individual episodes themselves that often drive this main story – but it is a constant undercurrent that really adds a sustained and welcome suspense throughout the series.

Overall, Haven is a well acted and often surprising series. Even clichéd themes are given interesting twists and the main characters are all likeable… except maybe Stephen McHattie’s Reverend Driscoll. There are plenty of little ‘easter egg’ type additions for the Stephen King Constant Reader to discover, and the main story arc will keep you watching for more than just the individual episodes. Haven is a great addition to the genre of supernatural TV, and with stronger character writing, Series 2 is an even bigger improvement on what was already a very enjoyable first series.

Haven Series 2 is distributed by Hopscotch Entertainment and available on DVD and Blu-Ray from May 16th.