Award Eligible Work

I have a few stories that are eligible for various award nominations—Hugo, Nebula, Locus, World Fantasy, Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson, etc.

“Ring of Fire” is a sf/fantasy/horror hybrid, set in an isolated arctic location. It’s novelette length, inspired by Annihilation, The Warren, and various A24 films. This was a real challenge to write, but I think it’s some of my best work to date. There are a number of threads that run through this story, and an ending that genuinely surprised me. It’s dark, but not without optimism.

PRAISE:

“’Ring of Fire’ by Richard Thomas—which tackles ‘lust’—is by far my favorite story in this collection and, in my opinion, the most skillfully rendered. First of all, like all the other stories, Thomas doesn’t give us a clichéd horror story about someone’s sexual urges leading them to a grisly death. However, this is Richard Thomas we’re talking about. I knew he wouldn’t lean on cliches going in. Instead, he tackles the intersection of loneliness, guilt, shame, grief, the desire for companionship, and, yes—sexuality. But sexuality through the lens of longing for companionship, for physical comfort and belonging, for intimate connection. I’m not going to say anything else about this story, except that lots of folks claim to write “science fiction/horror” blends, but few get it right. Thomas gets it extremely right in this.”
Cemetery Dance

“‘Ring of Fire’ is undoubtedly the most ‘horror’ of all the stories in this anthology, an unsettling pot-boiler that seethes with atmosphere and dread. Following a lone researcher at a facility in some unknown snowy location, Richard Thomas is the master of withholding information and creating mystery. It is always as much about what we do not know than what we know; what he refuses to say, as what he says. Our narrator for this story is straight-up unreliable, and the world around them is unreliable too. As we progress, however, and notice these disturbing deja vu moments, these chimes of coincidence, we begin to piece together the deeper narrative of what is happening…Richard Thomas plays with us, and our expectations, capturing the kind of paranoia of Blade Runner and mixing it with the existential dread of 2001: A Space Odyssey. There are sci-fi elements here, but they are subtle; our narrator seems to barely grasp them, describing his processes and encounters with unease and uncertainty, the vocabulary of a man at his wit’s end. This story is about lust, yet Richard makes sex conspicuous by absence, all the while amping up the pressure-cooker of sexual tension until we are, like our protagonist isolated in a lone facility, about to implode.
STORGY

“The Caged Bird Sings in a Darkness of Its Own Creation” is a clown story, in four acts, and is a similar blend of sf/fantasy/horror, but much shorter, with an open-ended finish, influenced by Black Mirror and The Twilight Zone. I experimented with some POV shifts and timeline leaps (backwards and forwards) as well as an ending that is up to interpretation.

PRAISE:

“The final story, The Caged Bird Sings in a Darkness of Its Own Creation, by Richard Thomas, feels like the culmination of the entire collection. I am biased as a huge fan of Richard’s work, but he genuinely pulls out all the stops in this Lovecraftian tale. It is a dark creation story, delving into the origin of all myths. Richard peels back the layers, gives us an almost glacial sequence of images that lead to revelation, like the atom-bomb episode of the third season of Twin Peaks, yet he condenses that extended form into something comparatively microscopic—the prose is so controlledAt the end, we are left with a sense of the entirety of what has happened, something bargained, something lost, something dark and terrible learned. Richard may not be as prolific as Stephen King, but his work is just as memorable.

The Mindflayer

If you would like a PDF of either story, please PM me, or drop me a note to richardgthomasiii@gmail.com. Thanks!

How The Witch and Get Out Helped Usher in the New Wave of Elevated Horror

Did I ever tell you about this article I wrote for Nightmare? “The H Word: How The Witch and Get Out Helped Usher in the New Wave of Elevated Horror“. ENJOY!

“If you haven’t seen The Witch (2015) and Get Out (2017), you must have been living under a rock. The former was a breakout title for A24 Films, becoming the fifth highest grossing movie they’ve put out to date (with over $25 million dollars in earnings). And the latter was nominated for several Golden Globe and Academy Awards, winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Two very different films, they both took chances at the box office—with their stories, images, themes, settings, and overall experiences. By garnering financial and critical success, they opened the door for a slew of experimental, edgy, divisive horror films.”

Best Horror of the Year, Volume Eleven. I’m IN IT!

The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Eleven, edited by Ellen Datlow, is out today. LOVE that cover art. It includes work by Laird Barron, Joe Hill, John Langan, and Gemma Files, among others, as well as “Golden Sun,” a novelette I co-wrote with Kristi DeMeester, Michael Wehunt, and Damien Angelica Walters. Pick up your copy today!

Burnt Tongues Out of Print, Copies for Sale

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 richardgthomasiii@gmail.com if you have any interest.

FULL TOC:

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

The Seven Deadliest RELEASES TODAY!

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.

Cover Reveal for The Seven Deadliest Anthology

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.

Interview with Brian Hodge (Part Two): It’s All the Same Road in the End

Part Two of my group interview with Brian Hodge continues, with his second story in The Best Horror of the Year—quite the accomplishment. Read on!

“It’s All the Same Road in the End”

(Originally in The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, edited by Paula Guran, and reprinted in The Best Horror of the Year, edited by Ellen Datlow.)

QUESTION ONE: You begin with a cool, mysterious opening, then you proceed with a lot of backstory about the grandfather. Often, we are advised to not go too far into backstory, but in this case it really worked. Why did you decide to include so much, in a sense risking taking us out of the story? (And presume an editor/teacher would urge us to cut. So feel free to include any decisions you thought might be “breaking the rules.”) I’m wondering how you felt confident that it worked, and why you thought that as well.

ANSWER ONE: I don’t think you risk taking the reader out of the story when the past is so vital to the present that, without it, there wouldn’t be a present at all. It’s all the same story in the end, too. With this one, everything hinges on the events of fifty-odd years ago, so it’s imperative to understand what happened, or as much as the modern characters know of it. The reader has to know what drives them, what haunts them, what pulls at them and repels them. Without that, they’re just going through a set of prescribed motions that aren’t fully motivated. And even though Old Will, the grandfather, isn’t an active character, it felt important that he still be a presence and, ultimately, his voice be heard. History is repeating itself, generationally speaking … it’s just that nobody realizes that until it happens.

So the key is marbling the past throughout the active present, and optimally at the point at which its influence becomes most relevant, rather than front-loading things too heavily. Or trying to show things strictly chronologically. The onion metaphor is good here. You keep peeling those layers back. The past and the present continue to unfold together, and you see the membranes of connective tissue.

QUESTION TWO: How do you manage to make all that backstory interesting and “in the moment” even though it’s all memory? Are there techniques you suggest we try to avoid info-dumps but still feel vital to the story?

ANSWER TWO: I’ve addressed some ways of handling backstory in earlier questions, but another thing that occurs to me is that I try to render it in such a way that, instead of being dry, inert data, it’s more interactive for the characters. Like, it’s provoking some sort of emotional reaction or an intellectual conundrum, or it sets up a conflict in values. Anything like that. Ideally, you make it clear that this past stuff is something that strongly impacts the characters’ lives here and now. When it’s clear that what happened then matters to what happens now, or what happens next, it’s going to be more compelling.

QUESTION THREE: If you don’t mind, how long did this take you to write and edit? Do you plan it all out ahead of time, or pants through? Some writers might dance with a short story for months or more, how did this one unfold for you?

ANSWER THREE: I don’t remember how long it took, exactly. Somewhere between two and three weeks sounds about right. I didn’t plan everything out in advance, but I did have a decent idea of the general arc. With just about everything I tend to fall somewhere between plotting and pantsing. Like, I’ll have a sense of story or character arcs, and have in mind certain milestones, but there’s still room to figure other stuff out and surprise myself along the way, as most everything else develops more organically.

QUESTION FOUR: How much pre-planning and sketching do you do for characters in short stories? Do you give them more, or less, or different treatments than in a novel? For example, one brother starts out kind of a mama’s boy talking to her all the time, and the other seems more independent, yet their roles seem to invert at the end. Did you fully “know” these brothers, or did they evolve as you wrote?

ANSWER FOUR: It varies, but I give them a few paragraphs in my notes, at least, and more for characters in novels than in shorter works. I like to feel I know them well enough to get rolling, and then, as with any relationship, get to know them better as we spend more time together. That way, they have their own autonomy. They’re open to surprising me instead of being puppets that always have to do what I say. Like, with Young Will, the younger brother, I had no idea he was going to stay behind until right before he did.

The ideal place to reach—and it happens more with novels than with shorter stuff, because of the duration and investment of time—is where the characters start meeting you halfway and doing some of the work. I can usually count on it happening around 60 or 80 or 100 pages in. Sit down at the desk in the morning and it’s like calling a team meeting: “What’s everybody up to today? Really, you’re sure? Okay, I can get on board with that.” And off we go. That’s a great place to get to. Everything feels so warm and alive then.

QUESTION FIVE: Regarding planning out a story…do you know you want to leave clues like the photo of the woman, the cattle call of the song as you wrote this, or did you pepper those in later, after a draft or two? We thought those types of clues were the primary reason we found the backstory interesting, little compelling bursts of weird and unsettling clues. Really, really well done.

ANSWER FIVE: None of those were later drop-ins. All of that I knew about before I ever started writing anything. That’s not to say I never go back and weave elements in later. But in general, I like to do as much of the heavy lifting upfront as possible, so that the revision process is more about refinement and pruning and fine-tuning things to as high a degree as I can manage. That’s just the way I work, what works best for me.

QUESTION SIX: Where did the idea of this story come from? And the woman, the hag, or alien, or Baba Yaga, or whatever she was—is that based on a story you heard, legend, myth? Ditto for the calling/culling song.

ANSWER SIX: It came from what turned out to be a Photoshop manipulation of an old picture I found online, tarted up with a caption that it was the last photo taken by some folklorist who went missing. But it was really evocative, and totally sparked my imagination, so I kept it around on my hard drive for a few years until I felt ready to use it as the springboard for something that could go way beyond what the caption suggested.

The cattle call? That’s a real thing…an ancient thing, actually. The Swedish word is kulning. You can find examples of it on YouTube. I first encountered it at the beginning of a compilation CD of Nordic folk music called Wizard Women of the North. And other places since then…like black metal artist Amalie Bruun, who records as Myrkur, did it at the beginning of her 2017 album, Mareridt. It’s a lovely sound, and I would imagine it’s quite haunting at a distance, lilting over the fields and through the trees. I thought it would be an obvious reference point for the descendants of Swedish settlers in the area—they’re hearing something that’s sort of like it, but not really, and they can tell something’s wrong with the woman doing it, because the intensity of it is absolutely terrifying.

QUESTION SEVEN: There were some haunting moments in here that really were dependent on setting and sensory details. This is always important in my work. I’m thinking of how you show Daisy, the meteorite, and how they change after touching it. Is this a conscious choice, and do you consider yourself a maximalist? A choice of genre? Just your style? Or do you pick the moments to unpack and slow down, to immerse your readers? (Or all of the above! LOL). I’d love to hear your thoughts on the role of setting and sensory detail, especially in horror.

ANSWER SEVEN: A few years ago I began regarding the dichotomy of minimalist and maximalist as personally irrelevant, and started thinking of myself as a muscularist. Yeah, it’s a made-up word. I guess it was in a review, although I don’t remember of what, or where I saw it, and someone used the phrase “tight, muscular prose” to describe whichever work of mine they were covering. And I really liked that. I liked the metaphor of words as muscle tissue. It was also appealing because I’m avid about working out, with an emphasis on things like functional fitness and strength and movement.

If you think about a well-toned body, you recognize that muscle density isn’t the same everywhere. In some places it may be very lean; in other places it may be bigger and bulkier. It’s what it needs to be according to its function within the whole system, and ideally, going from one area to another, it’s all nicely contoured. There’s a visual flow.

So if you apply that metaphor to prose, then you start thinking about the functional fitness of lines and paragraphs. If you have something that’s necessary but easily conveyed, or transitional, you keep it streamlined. But if you need to, say, take the reader inside an intense emotional state, or weave various setting and sensory details that work together to create a mood or atmosphere, which in turn affects the psychological state of the reader, you go heavier, and build up a passage that flexes harder, so it can hit harder.

Ideally, too, whatever the word volume is, it’s tight and compact, not flabby. Even before the muscularist term occurred to me, I was already thinking of the later revision process, looking for more words to cut, as sweating off ounces. My ultimate goal is that, however many words there are, they all survived, and are there, for a reason.


Visit Brian at his WEBSITE or TWITTER or AMAZON.