BIG NEWS! I’m thrilled to announce that my fourth short story collection, SPONTANEOUS HUMAN COMBUSTION, will be out with Turner Publishing in early 2022. They did a great job with the Burnt Tongues re-release, so I decided to partner with them again. More details to come. It’ll cover the best of my work from the last five years or so. Stoked.
I’m not saying these are the best movies ever (though many are favorites), and I have divided this up into ten different categories, but I thought it might be fun to share this with you all. These are movies that shocked and amazed me, films that horrified and inspired me, work that has influenced my writing. I hope to see your head nodding as you read down this list, but more importantly, I hope you find a few movies that you have NOT seen yet. Maybe those films will provide you with some entertainment, terror, wonder, and excitement. ENJOY!
ONE: A24 FILMS
- Hereditary: Scared me to death in theaters, and also later, at home. Wow.
- The Witch: Wouldst thou like to live deliciously? I would.
- Under the Skin: What a haunting arthouse flick. Scarlett at her best.
- Enemy: A paranoid thriller that will shock and surprise. That ending!
- Ex Machina: A great SF/AI film that asks what it means to be human.
- Blade Runner: Quite possibly my favorite movie ever. Set the bar high, still holds up.
- Mulholland Drive: My favorite Lynch, the truth is shocking, the movie so stylish.
- Memento: Entirely backwards! And with short term memory loss, that’s trouble.
- Seven: What’s in the box! Such tension, great acting, tons of atmosphere.
- No Country for Old Men: Such a creepy bad guy, in Anton Chigurh. Lots of emotion.
THREE: STUDIO GHIBLI
- Howl’s Moving Castle: Has always been my favorite, my first. So weird and cool.
- Spirited Away: So strange, very original, definitely creeped me out at times.
- My Neighbor Totoro: Such a sweet film, but not without the oddities. Lots of heart.
- Princess Mononoke: An epic film, with so much to root for, great characters.
- Nausicaä and the Valley of the Wind: War, environment, and lots of drama.
- Caddyshack: Classic, hilarious, great cast, lots of lines to quote.
- Pee Wee’s Big Adventure: I know you are but what am I. So funny, and weird!
- Rango: Totally cracks me up, not just for kids, adult references, surreal at times.
- Fast Times at Ridgemont High: No shoes, no shirt—no service.
- Fantastic Mr. Fox: Something about the dry humor just cracks me up.
FIVE: CULT CLASSICS
- Repo Man: Always the first thing I think of when I hear “cult film.” Plate of shrimp.
- Donnie Darko: Such a dark, strange film, but a compelling one, for sure.
- Ghost World: A great graphic novel, and film. Excellent cast.
- Clerks: Starting to show its age, but so many great lines. Early Kevin Smith.
- Rocky Horror Picture Show: Hopefully you first saw it in theaters with all the props.
- Silence of the Lambs: A classic, with an excellent cast.
- Leon, the Professional: Definitely not formulaic. Lots of heart. Breaks the mold.
- The Game: It’s an older flick (1997) but the head games—wow. So good.
- Cape Fear: I like De Niro’s version, he’s so damn creepy.
- The Prestige: What a game of cat and mouse, has us guessing to the end.
SEVEN: TRANSGRESSIVE FILMS
- Fight Club: The first rule about fight club…had to list this one. Great book, too.
- Requiem for a Dream: What a dark, bleak, insane film, the ending unbearable.
- Trainspotting: Likewise, what a downward spiral this one is. Trippy.
- Oldboy: A wild ride, and then the ending is just so…shocking, in so many ways.
- Kids: So screwed up, but it still sticks with me. Unsettling. Dark stuff.
EIGHT: EDGY DRAMA
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Just breaks my heart every time.
- American Beauty: A haunting film about so much—love, intolerance, lust, loss.
- The Machinist: Christian Bale at his best, so surreal, and the ending!
- Shutter Island: Love Lehane’s books, this story really takes us for a ride.
- The Usual Suspects: Love the way this story is told, another intense ending.
NINE: SCIENCE FICTION
- Alien: Set the bar very high, inspired so many other films. Great franchise.
- Arrival: When you understand what’s going on, it breaks your heart. I always cry.
- Interstellar: Another one that crushes me at the end, such a great ride.
- Inception: The layers and layers and layers—goes so deep. That ending!
- The Matrix: I mean, another trendsetter, still holds up, great effects.
TEN: CONTEMPORARY HORROR
- Black Swan: I like the mix of lust and danger, good casting, too.
- The Ring: Still freaks me out, and it was kind of ahead of its time.
- Get Out: Another film that breaks the mold, so much paranoia, and tension.
- A Dark Song: Love the rituals and authority, and then that ending! Whoa.
- Spring: A romance! And so much more. Very original. Touching ending.
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.
“’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.”
“‘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.
“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.
“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 controlled. At 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.
If you would like a PDF of either story, please PM me, or drop me a note to email@example.com. Thanks!
Thrilled to be a part of this excellent anthology. Announcement today from Michael Bailey:
I am proud to announce the official line-up for PRISMS, the next dark science-fiction anthology co-edited by Darren Speegle and yours truly, to be released by PS Publishing.
- WE COME IN THREES – B.E. Scully
- ENCORE FOR AN EMPTY SKY – Lynda Rucker
- THE GIRL WITH BLACK FINGERS – Roberta Lannes
- THE SHIMMERING WALL – Brian Evenson
- IN THIS, THERE IS NO STING – Kristi DeMeester
- THE BIRTH OF VENUS – Ian Watson
- FIFTY SUPER-SAD MAD DOG SUI-HOMICIDAL SELF-SIBS, ALL IN A LEAKY TIN CAN HEAD – Paul Di Filippo
- RIVERGRACE – E. Catherine Tobler
- SAUDADE – Richard Thomas
- THERE IS NOTHING LOST – Erinn L Kemper
- THIS HEIGHT AND FIERY SPEED – A.C. Wise
- THE MOTEL BUSINESS – Michael Marshall Smith
- EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IS ALSO A LIE – Damien Angelica Walters
- THE GEARBOX – Paul Meloy
- DISTRICT TO CERVIX: THE TIME BEFORE WE WERE BORN – Tlotlo Tsamaase
- HERE TODAY AND GONE TOMORROW – Chaz Brenchley
- THE SECRETS OF MY PRISON HOUSE – J. Lincoln Fenn
- A LUTA CONTINUA – Nadia Bulkin
- I SHALL BUT LOVE THEE BETTER – Scott Edelman
The prism: dispersion of humankind into the spectrum of herself / himself; an object, a place, or something figurative; the human condition as it relates to the self, or to humankind in general; ascension; translation…
* Note that these are not official covers of any kind, just mock-ups I created during the conception of this project.
For the month of February we will have a special buy one, get one subscription free offer. So sign up now, and enjoy! The first two issues are out and/or uploading this month, and there are plenty of free samples to check out as well. Stop by and give us a look. We also pay ten cents a word for original fiction.
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’m teaching a six-week class, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror & Beyond, over at Story Studio Chicago (online) this October. Come join the fun. Here’s more information:
Description of Class
If you love the incredible, futuristic, supernatural, and fantastical—this is the class for you.
Whether you’re working on a project or just starting out, this six-week online course is perfect for writers who want to explore science fiction, fantasy, horror, and related sub-genres such as magical realism, new weird, and surrealism. We’ll discuss the conventions of these genres and explore the boundaries between them—and what happens when you cross them.
Students will explore craft elements such as character and setting, and how they operate in stories that challenge the imagination. You’ll practice creating alternate realities that may have a hint of magic, explore a dystopia or utopia, or even build an entirely new world.
We’ll read and study classic and contemporary examples by authors in various genres to learn what works, and explore the publishing world of speculative markets such as Cemetery Dance, Tor.com, Nightmare, Shimmer, F&SF, and Clarkesworld.
The class is perfect for writers who are curious about these genres, or writers who are already familiar with them and want to stretch the boundaries of their stories. Students will leave the class with new story starts and scenes, and share their work for feedback from the instructor and fellow writers.
What to Expect
Students can expect to spend two to three hours per week writing and interacting with classmates and the instructor. New lessons become available each Tuesday but can be completed anytime during the week.
This work will be supported by:
- a weekly video from the instructor introducing the topic
- an interactive lesson, moderated by the instructor
- new exercises and materials available every week
- full participation from every student to give and get feedback
- email for one-to-one interaction with the instructor
Students will begin the week with a lesson containing reading and discussion materials, along with specific exercises to reinforce craft elements. No long lectures or text. Just the important points and fun, imaginative exercises.
During the week, students will post their work and comment on the work of the other participants. The instructor will also provide feedback on the exercises.
The only requirement is a reliable internet connection!
How many years has it been since we started this project? I think at least five, my section, Golden Geese, written at the Writers in the Heartland writing residency that I was awarded back in 2011. The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books) is a dark journey—four novellas written by four authors (myself, Nik Korpon, Caleb Ross and Axel Taiari) across for seasons in four different parts of The City. Think Sin City meets Memento. It was an honor to work on this with Nik, Caleb, and Axel—three very talented authors.
Here is what This is Horror had to say about it:
“The Soul Standard is unlike anything else you’re likely to read this year, or this decade. Think Sin City meets Blade Runner meets David Lynch and you’ll begin to have an inkling of what’s in store for you, but only a very small one. These four brilliant authors have brought their collective genius together to paint this unflinchingly violent, oppressively bleak city with the adroitness of world class painters, drawing vivid images on your imagination in varying shades of gray and frequent splashes of red. Dzanc Books has a reputation for only publishing the very highest quality fiction and The Soul Standard does nothing to tarnish that rep.”
So if you enjoy my writing, and that of my esteemed peers (Nik is blowing up, with several books out, a new contract with Angry Robot books just announced and Axel Taiari one of the authors in the anthology I edited, Exigencies) then pick this up today.
Here’s the official 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.
Thanks for your continued support!
Forget the flippant summer beach read. Ring in the dog days with these 10 science fiction, fantasy, and speculative novels picked as July’s best by the Chicago Review of Books. From dark, masterfully constructed plots to stories that probe the human condition, the following books will keep you perplexed—and bewildered—until the leaves begin to change.
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.
Thrilled that Tribulations, my third short story collection is finally out. Special thanks to Joe Mynhardt and Crystal Lake Publishing for all of their support and hard work. Thank you Stephen Graham Jones for the wonderful introduction, and Kristi DeMeester and Adam Cesare for the excellent blurbs, as well as Ben Baldwin and Luke Spooner for the amazing art. Honored and thrilled.
From the Introduction by Stephen Graham Jones:
“A good collection of horror stories will, at two in the morning, direct your car more to Motel 6 than Super 8, say. Just because you want to be in a room where someone’s left the light on for you.
Tribulations does that for you, yes? Or, Richard Thomas is doing that for Motel 6.
Either way, it’s delivering the creepy visuals, the prose that worms into your head and crawls around on the backside of your skull.
And we ask for that, don’t we?
We stand at the register and we lay down our money, fully expecting to not be able to turn the lights off that night.
But that’s just what we expect from our horror. That’s the minimum horror has to do to satisfy.
A really good collection of horror stories, then—like this one you’re holding in your hands—it does that and it provides something else, something even creepier and crawlier, something wormier and altogether less comfortable. Something you wouldn’t necessarily ask for.
EARLY PRAISE FOR TRIBULATIONS:
“The stories Richard Thomas tells are dark rooms. Sometimes they are filled with terrors—ghosts and jealousies and strange beasts. Sometimes they are empty. And this might be the most terrifying thing of all. At times sharp and biting and other times dreamy and lyrical, Thomas is a powerful writer and Tribulations is a stellar collection.”—Kristi DeMeester, author of Split Tongues
“Tribulations is a dark fiction collection for all readers. No matter your preference: this book ducks, dives, and bounces between genres like an Olympic skier taking on a hillside of slalom. Rarely is reading a collection straight-through as eclectic (or purely enjoyable) an experience. If you’re not already a fan of Thomas: prepare to be.”—Adam Cesare, author of Tribesmen and Zero Lives Remaining
“…one of the most productive and unique writers on the hardboiled and horror short story markets…Tribulations contains some of his best work…the end result is richer and more visceral than anything he’s ever done before.”—Dead End Follies
“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
“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.
“Richard Thomas does this thing where he introduces us to his friends, folks just like you or me, good, hard-working, honest folks. People we can relate to on many levels. And then, for whatever reason, he drops them right into the middle of hell. Maybe he just enjoys making them suffer. Maybe he knows that we enjoy watching. Whatever the case, with Tribulations he has let us get a little closer, made the glass between us and the suffering a little thinner, and reminded us that we just might be next in line.”—Horrornews.net
“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