Wow, what a fantastic article by Greg Levin about neo-noir authors. HONORED to be on this list alongside so many talented writers that have influenced my work in so MANY ways, especially Craig Clevenger, Sara Gran, WCB, Lindsay Hunter, Laird Barron, Craig Davidson, Holly Goddard Jones, Benjamin Percy and Brian Evenson.
As you may or may not know, Medallion Press went bankrupt. I bought the last 15 cases of Burnt Tongues, the anthology I edited with Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club, Choke, Survivor) and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes, Pet Sematary). So it’s now out of print. I’m going to be selling signed copies for $10 + $3 shipping. USA only. Outside the USA shipping will be more. Sometimes MUCH more. But do inquire. It’s an edgy, dark, weird anthology. Transgressive fiction. If you have a book club and want to order multiple copies I can give you a greatly reduced cost (say 50% off). Email me at email@example.com if you have any interest.
Live This Down Neil Krolicki 11
Charlie Chris Lewis Carter 29
Paper Gayle Towell 41
Mating Calls Tony Liebhard 55
Melody Michael De Vito, Jr. 77
F for Fake Tyler Jones 89
Mind and Soldier Phil Jourdan 109
Ingredients Richard Lemmer 123
The Line Forms on the Right Amanda Gowin 141
A Vodka Kind of Girl Matt Egan 155
Gasoline Fred Venturini 163
Dietary Brandon Tietz 187
Invisible Graffiti Adam Skorupskas 207
Bike Bryan Howie 217
Heavier Petting Brien Piechos 225
Engines, O-rings, and Astronauts Jason M. Fylan 247
Lemming Terence James Eeles 255
The Routine Keith Buie 281
Survived Gus Moreno 293
Zombie Whorehouse Daniel W. Broallt 305
Out today! Pick up your copy now. Reviews have been great. And I think my novelette, “Ring of Fire” is one of the best stories I’ve ever written. Edited by Patrick Beltran and D. Alexander Ward, with an introduction by Mercedes M. Yardley.
Throughout history, there have been certain moral evils so entangling, so alluring, that they routinely give birth to countless other evils in the hearts of human beings. From antiquity, these “capital vices” have been known as the seven deadly sins.
Now, from the editors who brought you Cutting Block Single Slices and Shadows Over Main Street, comes an all-new novella anthology featuring seven dark fiction authors at the top of their games, each writing passionately about one of The Seven Deadliest sins. Inside these pages:
- John C. Foster spins “Gilda,” a yarn about Avarice;
- Bracken MacLeod takes us on the road to Wrath with “A Short Madness”;
- Kasey Lansdale’s “Cap Diamant” teaches us the steep cost of Pride;
- Brian Kirk lays bare the Jealousy hidden beneath affluence in “Chisel and Stone”;
- Rena Mason reveals a new and terrifying guise of Sloth in “Clevengers of the Carrion Sea”;
- Richard Thomas examines Lust in his dystopian “Ring of Fire”; and
- John F.D. Taff feeds us the darker aspects of Gluttony in “All You Care to Eat.”
These dark tales from a cabal of highly regarded and award-winning authors hold nothing back, so turn the pages and feast your eyes. The Seven Deadliest sins await you.
REVIEWS FOR RING OF FIRE
Ink Heist: “There are two things in this overview of his story “Ring of Fire” that should make you sit up and take notice. One of them is making a reader like a bad person, and the other is magical realism. As to the first, he’s a fucking master of it. His protagonist in Disintegration was a very bad man who commits some heinous and horrific acts throughout the book, yet all the same, I loved the hell out of him. I think that was because of Richard’s authorial voice and his alacrity with backstory, but I don’t know. Read it and see for yourself. And when I think of magical realism and the movement we call neo-noir, his is a name that pops instantly, unbidden, into my mind. The man has a marvelous eye for curating such material and a fucking exemplary ability to write it. So yes. If you aren’t yet excited about Richard’s inclusion in a book about the Seven Deadly Sins, get that way. When Mr. Thomas is in the mix, it’s always a good indicator that you’re in for one hell of an unexpected venture of discovery.”
Mother of Horror, Sadie Hartmann: “Lust was the next sin represented in the story, RING OF FIRE by Richard Thomas. I very much enjoyed how the author chose to unpack this story’s secrets slowly and methodically. It was fun for the reader to guess at what was going on and to have some theories as to who the protagonist was in the context of the world at large as well as his object of lust, Rebecca. I admit, my theory was correct. I loved the ending/epilogue of this one—great dystopian/sci-fi story that reminded me of a Black Mirror episode.”
AE Siraki: “Richard Thomas deals with Lust in “Ring of Fire,” in which the protagonist is obsessed with a woman, Rebecca. It’s a very trippy story and at first I thought that one or both of the characters were [redacted] meant to look like [redacted], but let’s just say things took a turn in a much more Alien-like direction and that fans of sci-fi horror will really get a kick out of this one. Thomas explains in his afterword that he wanted to do something different with his pairing of lust and horror, and rest assured, he has pulled that off.”
MORE TO COME.
Here is the cover reveal for The Seven Deadliest, edited by Patrick Beltran and D. Alexander Ward, for Cutting Block Books. It features seven novelettes from an amazing group of authors—John F.D. Taff, Bracken MacLeod, Rena Mason, Brian Kirk, Kasey Lansdale, John Foster, and myself.
Yes, of course I GOT LUST! It’s titled “Ring of Fire” and was inspired by projects like Moon, Brian Evenson’s The Warren, Annihilation, and others.
It also has an amazing introduction by Mercedes Yardley, who said it is, “The most compelling exploration of [the seven deadly sins] that I’ve ever read.” And cover art by Francois Vaillancourt.
It’s out May 7th and I think this is some of my best work to date. You’re going to want to pick this up for sure.
So, wow, this is a dream come true. For the past eleven years, one of my white whales, those elusive goals, has been to make it into The Best Horror of the Year, and it’s finally happened. (I’ve been long-listed seven times.) I’ll be in Volume Eleven, out in September of this year. It’s for a shared narrative that I wrote with Kristi DeMeester, Damien Angelica Walters, and Michael Wehunt, entitled “Golden Sun.” This novelette, which was in Chiral Mad 4 (edited by Michael Bailey and Lucy A. Snyder, and published by Written Backwards) was quite a challenge. We talked about how we should not only link our stories, but do something fresh and different. I mentioned the idea of us writing a “Rashomon” (based on the 1950 movie directed by Akira Kurosawa)—four perspectives on a singular event, each with their own truth on what happened. We each got a member of a family—mother, father, daughter, and son. The missing piece was the daughter in the middle—literally missing. We talked about setting—forests, houses, asylums—this was about chirality after all, but pushed hard to set it somewhere that wasn’t expected—the beach, in the daytime. It was not easy, but I knew that by working with three very talented authors, three of my favorite writers working today, we had a chance to do something special. So to see the recognition from Ellen Datlow, for us to make it into this anthology—well, it’s thrilling, an honor.
Full TOC below:
- I Remember Nothing by Anne Billson
- Monkeys on the Beach by Ralph Robert Moore
- Painted Wolves by Ray Cluley
- Shit Happens by Michael Marshall Smith
- You Know How the Story Goes by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
- Back Along the Old Track by Sam Hicks
- Masks by Peter Sutton
- The Donner Party by Dale Bailey
- Milkteeth by Kristi DeMeester
- Haak by John Langan
- Thin Cold Hands by Gemma Files
- A Tiny Mirror by Eloise C. C. Shepherd
- I Love You Mary-Grace by Amelia Mangan
- The Jaws of Ouroboros by Steve Toase
- A Brief Moment of Rage by Bill Davidson
- Golden Sun by Kristi DeMeester, Richard Thomas, Damien Angelica Walters, and Michael Wehunt
- White Mare by Thana Niveau
- Girls Without Their Faces On by Laird Barron
- Thumbsucker by Robert Shearman
- You Are Released by Joe Hill
- Red Rain by Adam-Troy Castro
- Split Chain Stitch by Steve Toase
- No Exit by Orrin Grey
- Haunt by Siobhan Carroll
- Sleep by Carly Holmes
So, you like to read, and maybe you like to write, too. You are a connoisseur, a patron, a Renaissance man (or woman). What can you do this holiday season to support those authors in your life? Here are ten ideas.
01. BUY THEIR WORK. I mean, I know it sounds obvious, but this is the most direct way to help out the authors you love to read. See if they have a new novel out, or a collection, or perhaps they just published in a journal or anthology (you get TWO gold stars for supporting small / indie presses here, as well). I know, it gets expensive. So, think about the voices that you really love, the people you want to succeed. Maybe you set aside a few dollars every month and then spend it at Christmas. Or perhaps you find the work on sale at Amazon, or directly from a small press. I have over 50 entries at my Amazon profile, and they range from 99 cents to 99 dollars. Something for everyone!
02. BUY SIGNED WORK DIRECT. Another possibility if you’re a collector, or really want to put extra money in the author’s pocket is buy directly from them. Most authors will get a few dollars per book when you buy at Amazon or B&N or your local bookstore. But many get extra copies from their publisher, at no cost to them. Some authors BUY extra copies of their own book (at cost, or a great discount) just to resell and help earn a bit of money. Recently I’ve bought signed copies directly from Brian Evenson, Priya Sharma, Stephen Graham Jones, Paul Tremblay, and Maria Dahvana Headley. I love to have that personally signed copy on my shelves.
03. FOLLOW THEM ON SOCIAL MEDIA. So, this doesn’t cost any money! Believe it or not some presses and agents actually LOOK at how many followers authors have, and that’s a BONUS. So, why not friend them on Facebook (or like their author page), and follow them on Twitter. Maybe Instagram, or subscribe to their blog, or their Amazon Profile. And then engage with them! You might learn something about their process, hear about an open call, or just be entertained by their witty comments, and ribald jokes.
04. REACH OUT AND SAY SOMETHING NICE. I know this can be a bit stressful, the idea of reaching out to your heroes and idols, or even just other authors and peers you know, but BELIEVE ME, a kind word about a new story or novel, or past work, can really make an author’s day. They may be struggling—to create, to believe, to push through a block. I love to hear from friends, peers, students, and strangers about my writing—it always thrills me when somebody says a story of mine scared them, or inspired them, or helped them to take chances with their own prose. Every year when I read the Best Horror of the Year, and other anthologies, when I read a story that blows me away—I reach out to that author. I connect on social media (see #3. I usually drop them a private message via Facebook, and then Tweet publicly to them on Twitter. Nothing fancy, just along the line of, “Hey Livia, I loved your story ‘Allochthon’ in Best Horror, wow, that was intense, so visceral, and unsettling. Keep up the great work.” I’ll do that for authors I’ve known for years (HI STEPHEN!) as well as voices that are new to me. ESPECIALLY if they are emerging, or new to me.
05. SPREAD THE WORD. Once you’ve followed them on social media, it’s easy to retweet, share a post, or engage. So do that. And if you go on to buy that book, or collection, talk about that too! Post pictures! Just be sincere and spread the word. Do whatever you’re comfortable with, it all helps. Support their Kickstarter, retweet about their new book, share that post about an upcoming class they are teaching, etc.
06. POST REVIEWS. If you read a novel, collection, or anthology, take a moment and post up some kind words on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Don’t worry about writing some eloquent review, just speak from the heart. Talk about what you liked, how it made you feel, what it reminded you of, how it was innovative, whatever you like. If you ARE great at writing reviews, then DO take the time to write something polished. Those deeper reviews not only sell books, but can help an author to get through a dark day as well. Whatever you can share—it all helps.
07. SEE THEM LIVE. If you get a chance to see one of your favorite authors speak, go do it! Not only is it a lot of fun, but nothing makes an author happier than reading to a packed bookstore or auditorium. To look out at a sea of happy, smiling, supportive faces? Wow, that’s a great feeling. (And while you’re there, buy a book and have them sign it.)
08. TAKE A CLASS. If you’re an author, and you have the extra money, and that author you love so much is teaching somewhere (online or in person) why not study with them? Part of what got ME writing at the age of 40 (I’m 51 now) was the chance to study with Craig Clevenger. He taught me so much, and pushed me to submit work from his class, which ended up being my first professional sale (“Stillness” in Shivers VI at Cemetery Dance, alongside Stephen King and Peter Straub). I ended up taking THREE classes with Craig. I also studied under Monica Drake, after reading her novel Clown Girl. And then Max Barry. Later, with Jack Ketchum (RIP, brother), and then Stephen Graham Jones. Those were all wonderful experiences for me. Each author taught me something different, and I’m friends with most of them in real life, as well.
09. DROP THEIR NAMES WHEN INVITED IN. Some of you may be at the point in your career where you have a little bit of influence. Kudos. Way to go. The next time you get invited into an anthology, be sure to ask if the TOC is full. If it’s not, and the editor needs names, share with them the voices that inspire you, and who knows—you may get to publish alongside a hero of yours. I not only drop names of authors I like, but I push for diversity and inclusion. I always ask about the ratio of men to women in the anthology (or just comment on it if the TOC they show me is all SWM). Nothing pushy, just, “Do you need any names? Are you short on women? Great, here are a few authors I love.” And I also look for authors of color, and suggest them as well. You may not be in this position now, and it may be awkward the first time you do it, but trust me—any editor that bristles at the idea of diversity, is probably somebody you don’t want to work with anyway.
10. INVITE THEM IN. Likewise, if you ever get to a position of power, say an editor at a magazine, or an anthology, be sure to reach out to those authors that inspired you over the years. Sure, the paycheck is great, but it’s just as important to show those authors that you value their work. Invite them in to that anthology you’re editing, reach out when you have a new issue of a magazine coming out and the theme submissions aren’t what you expected, or just make sure they know about the open call, and that you’d love to see something from them. Authors, we’re a bipolar bunch. One day we’re KING OF THE WORLD, the next an obvious hack and imposter. I can tell you that it is THRILLING to see authors I came up with, or past students that I’ve taught, evolve and grow, eventually running magazines, journals, and presses. Whenever they reach out to me and ask for work, it’s so flattering, so exciting. It means the world to me.
So, whatever you can do this holiday season (and all year long) it all matters, it all helps. Spending money on the authors you love is one way to support them, but it’s just as important to share your kind words, and help spread the word about the voices that haunt, entertain, and inspire you. Happy Holidays!
Warning: There are spoilers below. Also, all data, figures, and rankings were accurate as of August 2, 2018.
In an age of remakes, spin-offs, and watered-down franchises, A24 Films is bringing unique movies to the big screen, with astounding results. A film distribution company rarely gets much attention—they are behind the scenes, unnoticed. They buy movies, design the movie posters and movie trailers, and get the films into the theaters. But starting in 2012, that logo crisscrossing the film screen started to mean something. It was Pavlov ringing a bell, and I was a dog, salivating.
“It wasn’t just that, for a new distribution company, it seemed to have a level of taste and an instinct for cool that is atypical in Hollywood. It was also that A24 was releasing these films not with a sigh and a shrug, but with panache, style, and humor,” said GQ Magazine. In the same article, director Alex Garland continued, “I would say that if Ex Machina had been distributed by a big studio—this isn’t actually a criticism of studios; it’s actually just a statement of fact—the film would not have been remotely as well received or successful as it was.”
Ex Machina. Under the Skin. Room. Amy. Enemy. Green Room. Moonlight. The Witch. The Lobster. Swiss Army Man. It Comes at Night. A Ghost Story. The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Lady Bird. The Disaster Artist. And most recently, Hereditary.
Do you recognize these titles? You should.
All A24 Films.
When it comes to the new-weird, indie films, original perspectives, and innovative takes on genre, A24 is getting a lot of attention—award nominations, and wins. And making some money. How? By appealing to more than the standard fan base—smart movies, shocking movies, films that surprise, and move you, that leave you unsettled.
What are the top movies that A24 has put out, to date? Where should you start? Let me make a few lists, consult a few websites and appendixes, and see if I can’t wrangle you a weekend, or three, of quality motions pictures.
BIG AT THE BOX OFFICE
Let’s look at the top five films distributed by A24 Films, as far as gross sales in the USA. What do they have in common? You might be surprised at the list.
FIVE. The Witch—$25M (2016)
In 1630s New England a family leaves their Puritan plantation, setting out to survive on their own in the remote wilderness. From an unknown director (Robert Eggers in his debut) this moody, slow burn of a horror film both upset and thrilled viewers. It was not a slasher, not your standard horror fare—no, this was religious fervor that turned a family against itself, while bad things happened in the woods just out of sight (and sometimes, revealed in the shadows). Anya Taylor-Joy (Split) is compelling as Thomasin, our main character, and we see how hard she works, though her parents are quick to blame her for everything that goes wrong. As each member of the family slowly loses their mind (and their lives) the darkness creeps in closer, ultimately corrupting Thomasin, in a scene with Black Philip that has been quoted and elevated to meme status: “Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?” (Yes, we would, it turns out.) The final scene cements this experience, splitting the audience, but showing us a fate that was unavoidable—the only choice left to an already tainted, and abandoned, Thomasin.
FOUR. Ex Machina—$25M (2015)
Directed by Alex Garland, this science fiction thriller starred several emerging actors—Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Alicia Vikander as A.I. Ava (Jason Bourne, Tomb Raider), and Domhnall Gleeson (Black Mirror, The Revenant). A smart, layered film, this movie didn’t appeal to the lowest common denominator, either—it challenged us to keep up, to test us as Ava worked to pass her own Turing test. Visually stunning (winning an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects) we are manipulated along with the cast, feeling a wide range of emotions along the way. The empathy and sympathy are handled well, with an ending that will leave you reeling. It doesn’t take much imagination to tack on the words “deus es” to the title, turning this film into “God from the machine,” adding additional philosophical discourse to the end of the film—is it God, the machine, or man who is responsible? And what happens next? Similar themes are playing out on Westworld, as we speak. It’s hard to say if this film helped launch the current movement of “smart science fiction,” but there have been a number of movies that have followed Ex Machina, and challenged audiences—mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. Arrival (2016), comes to mind, as does Annihilation (2018)—both based on literature: Ted Chiang’s short fiction, “Story of Your Life,” and Jeff VanderMeer’s novel of the same name, respectively.
THREE. Moonlight—$27M (2016)
I mean, if you want to get some attention, this is the way to do it. Moonlight was a powerful film that got a lot of recognition—nominated for eight Academy Awards and five Golden Globes. It won the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor to Mahershala Ali (House of Cards, Luke Cage, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons), and Best Adapted Screenplay, winning the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture-Drama, too. It was the first film with an all-black cast, the first LGBT film, and the second lowest-grossing film domestically (behind The Hurt Locker) to win the Oscar for Best Picture. This coming-of-age story deals with sexuality and identity, physical and emotional abuse, as well as bigotry. The triptych structure (i. Little ii. Chiron iii. Black) helps to show the split and divide that haunted the main character, Chiron (who is played by three different actors). Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight is based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unpublished semi-autobiographical play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.
TWO. Hereditary—$43M (and climbing) (2018)
One of the best horror films I’ve seen in a long time, Hereditary is about a family, and their tainted bloodline, and how the presence of something old, and evil, manifests in them. Much like The Witch, this film built on the success of defying expectation, of elevating horror to a new level—not just through the use of violence (though there is some, in crucial moments) but psychological terror, gradually increasing tension, and moments of temporary madness. I cannot remember the last time I was so genuinely scared in a movie—skin crawling, head spinning, brow sweating. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the exceptional cinematography and sound—a beautifully haunting movie that keeps your attention from the opening credits, never letting up. Cluck. And the casting—Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense) brilliantly chosen at the mother, Annie; Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects) in a subtle, creepy turn as the father, Steve; Alex Wolff as the son, Peter; Milly Shapiro as the unsettling Charlie (that car ride!); and Ann Dowd in a guest performance (The Handmaid’s Tale) as Joan, a friend of the family. A must-see movie on the biggest screen you can find.
ONE. Lady Bird—$48M (2017)
And at the top of the list, is a comedy, Lady Bird, a coming-of-age story starring Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) as “Lady Bird,” and Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne) as her mother. While the previous films on this list were science fiction, horror, and drama, this comedy (with dramatic moments) is a pleasant change. A24 Films embraces comedy, and this story, set in 2002 in Sacramento, California, showcases humor with depth. Written and directed by Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha), many felt that she was snubbed at both the Golden Globes and Oscars, and women directors in general. (Though Lady Bird did win several Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture-Comedy, and Best Actress-Comedy, for Saoirse Ronan. Gerwig did get a nomination for Best Director at the Oscars.) One of the things I liked most about this film, and you may notice a theme here, is the fact that I was surprised throughout. Whether it was Lady Bird opening the door to her car and tumbling out in a moment of rage and desperation, or the emotion that swept over me at the end of the movie, the suitcase full of letters from her mother—Lady Bird got to me. It was funny, honest, and not without bite.
So, what are some other ways we can figure out what A24 Films to watch? I have a few ideas, and quick thoughts.
TOP TEN IMDB
- Eighth Grade (2018) 8.2
- Room (2015) 8.2
- Amy (2015) 7.8
- Ex Machina (2014) 7.7
- Hereditary (2018) 7.6
- The Florida Project (2017) 7.6
- First Reformed (2017) 7.6
- Lady Bird (2017) 7.5
- The Disaster Artist (2017) 7.5
- Moonlight (2016) 7.5
If we take the top ten A24 Films, according to IMDB (Internet Movie Database), this should help expand our list. A few notes on the films that haven’t been mentioned yet.
Eighth Grade just came out, so I haven’t seen it yet, unfortunately. Room, based on the novel by Emma Donoghue, won an Oscar for Best Actress (Brie Larson). Amy was a tragic documentary about singer Amy Winehouse. The Florida Project follows a young girl through the shadows of Walt Disney World, with Willem Dafoe. First Reformed stars Ethan Hawke as a priest of a small congregation in upstate New York. And The Disaster Artist? I mean, where to start. You’ve probably heard of Tommy Wiseau and his film, The Room, by now (not to be confused with the aforementioned Room). This film is widely touted as quite possibly the best worst movie ever made. And you may have seen James DeFranco’s Golden Globe acceptance speech, with Tommy on stage, trying to grab the mic. Let’s just say this is a rabbit hole that is worth going down—from the memes and catch phrases that have popped up (“Oh hi, Mark,” and “You’re killing me, Lisa” both come to mind), to Tommy in general, to the original film, and then this take on what happened—it’s all worth it.
- Moonlight (2016) 99
- Lady Bird (2017) 94
- The Florida Project (2017) 92
- Eighth Grade (2018) 90
- Hereditary (2018) 87
- Room (2015) 86
- Krisha (2016) 86
- Amy (2015) 85
- First Reformed (2017) 85
- A Ghost Story (2017) 84
A24 Film’s Metascore (at Metacritic) is similar to Rotten Tomatoes, weighing critics and the public together. And they happen to track A24 Films specifically, so, what movies on this list have we not mentioned yet? Only two. Krisha is a drama about a woman who returns for a Thanksgiving dinner to suburban Texas after ten years apart from her family. Of course things go wrong—past transgressions and personal issues coming up. And, A Ghost Story (with Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara). I know people were split on this film, some saying it wasn’t scary at all. It’s a slow, dramatic film, with very little dialogue, but when it comes to horror, it’s all very subjective. Some thought The Blair Witch Project was dull, but the ending terrified me. Paranormal Activity freaked me out. And of course we’ve already talked about The Witch, and Hereditary. The one thing you can say is that A Ghost Story is not your conventional horror movie.
THEIR WEIRDEST FILMS
And then there are those films that simply defy expectation—surreal, bizarre movies, that are impossible to categorize. I had to pull a few descriptions from A24 Films and IMDB, because I was having a hard time figuring out how to even sum these movies up! Swiss Army Man (2016)—“Hank (Paul Dano) is stranded on a deserted island, having given up all hope of ever making it home again. But one day everything changes when a corpse named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on shore; the two become fast friends, and ultimately go on an epic adventure that will bring Hank back to the woman of his dreams.” (A24 Films) The Lobster (2015)—(with Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz) is an absurdist, black comedy: “In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.” (IMDB) Locke (2013), starring Tom Hardy, which was shot almost entirely inside a BMW X5. And, The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) again, with Colin Farrell, as well as Nicole Kidman: “Steven, a charismatic surgeon, is forced to make an unthinkable sacrifice after his life starts to fall apart, when the behavior of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing turns sinister.” (IMDB) If you’re looking for something offbeat and eccentric, these choices are for you.
Sure, why not look at the A24 Films that have won awards, too!
Academy Award Winners—2016: Best Actress (Brie Larson, Room), Best Documentary (Amy), Best Visual Effects (Ex Machina), Best Motion Picture (Moonlight).
Golden Globe Winners—2016: Best Actress—Drama (Brie Larson, Room); 2017: Best Motion Picture—Drama (Moonlight); 2018: Best Motion Picture—Comedy (Lady Bird), Best Supporting Actor—Comedy (James Franco, The Disaster Artist), Best Supporting Actress—Comedy (Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird).
MY TOP TEN
- Under the Skin (2013)
- Hereditary (2018)
- The Witch (2016)
- Enemy (2013)
- Ex Machina (2015)
- Lady Bird (2017)
- Amy (2015)
- The Lobster (2016)
- The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
- Locke (2013)
And here is my personal list. You’ll recognize quite a few from other lists—best-selling movies, IMDB, and Metascore, as well as the section on “weird” films. But there are a few on here we haven’t spoken about yet. And I think they’re essential viewing. Under the Skin is a movie I have watched every year since it came out, even tracking it down to a big screen recently, and I think this is Scarlett Johansson’s best work to date. I liked her a lot in Ghost World, and Lost in Translation, but everything you’ve ever thought may have held her back as an actress is an asset in this film. Don’t watch the trailers, don’t read a synopsis at IMDB or anywhere else, don’t read reviews online (it’s very easy to spoil this film) just go rent it now. It is a stunning arthouse film, and it elevated Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast) to a whole other level, in my opinion. Enemy is another film that may have gone under your radar. I think it’s a stellar performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2) this is a beautiful, gritty, tense film that takes truth and identity to some very interesting places. The ending alone should keep you up at night, not just wondering, “What the hell just happened?” but also, “What does it all mean?”
So now you have quite a few ideas of where to begin with A24 Films. You can start with the movies that have done well at the box office, for sure. I mean, can 48 million people be wrong? Or you can look at the films that the critics liked, the award-winners. And you can of course consult a few of these handy lists. Or seek out the weirder offerings. Or maybe your personal aesthetic aligns with my own. What’s important here is that you start seeking out A24 Films, in general. Catch them on the big screen; some don’t last that long. (Under the Silver Lake in April of 2019 looks great.) Or rent a few and scurry down the rabbit hole with me. What I can tell you now is that the A24 logo at the start of a film is going to be your own ringing bell, a signal of great things to come. Buckle up and get comfortable—A24 Films is the new purveyor of all things innovative, thought-provoking, and inspiring. You don’t want to miss out.
Art reveal! Luke Spooner interprets my story “Hiraeth,” a tale about the wondrous power of the stories we tell ourselves. Love this interior art, such emotion and symbolism, which, when you read the story you’ll totally understand. Always a huge fan of Luke’s work.
Fun fact: The word “hiraeth” is defined as a yearning or nostalgia for a home to which we can never return…a home that, perhaps, never was.
Behold! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders publishes July 28 and features Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Ramsey Campbell, Lisa Morton, Brian Kirk, Hal Bodner, Stephanie M. Wytovich, John Langan, Erinn Kemper, John F.D. Taff, Patrick Freivald, Lucy A. Snyder, Brian Hodge, Kristi DeMeester, Christopher Coake, Sarah Read and me!. Foreword by Josh Malerman. Illustrations by Luke Spooner. Cover art by John Coulthart.
So, I had quite a few things come out this year, and they are all eligible for award consideration. Cat Rambo was encouraging authors to do this, so here I go! (HWA for sure, as well as SFWA, etc.) The short stories were for pro pay, so those markets are definitely eligible. If you are a member of HWA, SFWA or any other organization that nominates for awards and you would like a PDF of any of this work, let me know, at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
NOVEL: Breaker (Random House Alibi)
Description: Living alone in the dusty apartment where he grew up, Ray Nelson is a mystery to his neighbors and an unbeatable foe to the brutal men he fights in the ring for money. But a life defined by sinister secrets doesn’t stop Ray from trying to do the right thing for his dangerously high-flying sister. Or for Natalie, the young girl living next door. As a sadistic murderer’s ominous white van trolls for young victims throughout the Windy City, Ray is determined to protect Natalie from both predators and a bleak future. When she sees a bruised and beaten Ray return from late-night fights, Natalie spots a kindred spirit. Still, she cannot imagine the darkness just beneath, or what’s hidden in the rooms he calls home. Now, as the horrors of his own past creep back to life with a twisted vengeance, Ray may not even be able to save himself.
Blurbs: “Richard Thomas’s Breaker is a modern noir fever dream: brutal, lyrical, evocative. But it also exhibits surprising tenderness—its shattered characters find strength in one another, and beauty in the pattern of the cracks.”—Chris Holm, author of The Killing Kind / “Gritty, raw, powerful, visceral—that’s all you need to know about Richard Thomas’s novel Breaker. It’s a ‘gotta read this’ book.”—Les Edgerton, author of The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping / “One of the most terrifying, harrowing stories you’ll read all year . . . With a solid mix of heartbreak and action, along with some plot-defying acrobatics not seen on the page too often, Breaker delivers the goods on all fronts.”—This Is Horror
SHORT STORY COLLECTION: Tribulations (Cemetery Dance / Crystal Lake)
Description: In the third short story collection by Richard Thomas, Tribulations, the stories cover a wide range of dark fiction—from fantasy, science fiction and horror, to magical realism, neo-noir, and transgressive fiction. The common thread that weaves these tragic tales together is suffering and sorrow, and the ways we emerge from such heartbreak stronger, more appreciative of what we have left—a spark of hope enough to guide us though the valley of death. Fireflies and wolves, ghosts and golems, tentacled beasts and demonic spirits–these psychological thrillers will hypnotize you as they slide the blade between your ribs, up close and personal, whispering in your ear as you gasp and pull them closer. Tribulations includes 25 short stories–including two that were long-listed for Best Horror of the Year. There are also five original full-page illustrations by Luke Spooner.
Reviews: “Tribulations shows that Richard Thomas not only knows his craft, but excels in it. Readers owe Richard Thomas a letter to thank him for sharing his brilliant work, and Richard Thomas owes readers a letter to apologize for giving them more reasons to never turn off the light”—Cultured Vultures. / “At his best Thomas writes like his life depends on it, while his restraint and careful use of language ensure that these stories hit in all the right places. Whether it’s with a dash of stream-of-consciousness here, a bit of prose poem there, or a starkly minimalist passage, these stories speak to the things that haunt the darkest corners of the mind.”—Hellnotes / “Richard Thomas is on the cutting edge of neo-noir fiction and I dare anyone to say different. Tribulations is his best yet: elegantly twisted, superbly creepy, and dripping darkness. This is required reading for anyone into the shadow side of literature.”—Dread Central
ANTHOLOGY / NOVELLA: The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books) / Golden Geese
Description: Across four different districts of a city that has torn itself to shreds, four different interweaving tales (each written by a different author) play out. In “Four Corners,” a morally dubious banker must keep his employer happy at any cost. The next story, “Punhos Sagrados,” concerns a boxer who finds himself torn between honor and the woman he loves. “Golden Geese” follows a hardened criminal with a terrifying condition who must come to terms with the life he’s led. Finally, “Jamais Vu” provides a stunning denouement as a man searches endlessly for his missing daughter, a task which is complicated by a peculiar condition: his inability to recognize faces. Told in rugged, bare-knuckled prose, The Soul Standard is a nonstop thrill-ride down the darkened avenues and through the shadowed alleys of a nightmare town. MY NOVELLA “Golden Geese” is about a man living in the outskirts, trying to forget the dark deeds he has done, as the consequences of his actions close in around him, one final act of redemption his only way to survive.
SHORT FICTION: “Repent” in Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories (Crystal Lake) / “The Offering on the Hill” in Chiral Mad 3 (Dark Regions Press)
Gutted Description: From Bram Stoker Award-nominated publisher, Crystal Lake Publishing, and the editing duo who brought you the best-selling and critically acclaimed small-town Lovecraftian horror anthology Shadows Over Main Street, comes Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories–a disturbing journey into the beauty that rests inside the very heart of darkness. Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories features the most celebrated voices in dark fiction, as well as a number of exciting new talents: Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Ramsey Campbell, Paul Tremblay, John F.D. Taff, Lisa Mannetti, Damien Angelica Walters, Josh Malerman, Christopher Coake, Mercedes M. Yardley, Brian Kirk, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Amanda Gowin, Richard Thomas, Maria Alexander and Kevin Lucia. Edited by Doug Murano and D. Alexander Ward. MY STORY “Repent” is about a father, a bad man, and what he is willing to do in order to redeem himself and save his son.
Chiral Mad 3 Description: The third act in the critically-acclaimed series by Written Backwards, is a symmetrically-structured anthology of psychological horror by Bram Stoker Award nominated editor Michael Bailey, whose previous anthologies include The Library of the Dead, Qualia Nous and Pellucid Lunacy. The anthology contains 45 illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne, over 20 stories by the likes of Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Ramsey Campbell, Gary A. Braunbeck, Mort Castle, Josh Malerman, Scott Edelman, Richard Thomas, Richard Chizmar and Gene O’Neill, and with 20 intertwined poems by the likes of Elizabeth Massie, Marge Simon, Bruce Boston, Erik T. Johnson, Stephanie M. Wytovich, and also includes an introduction by the extraordinary Chuck Palahniuk. MY STORY “The Offering on the Hill” is a bit of a Dark Tower homage, about a man wandering in a post-apocalyptic setting trying to find his wife and daughter.
I have a new Storyville column up at LitReactor today entitled Ten Lesser-Known Stephen King Books Worth Reading. ENJOY!