Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Turn Down the Lights: Celebrating Old-Style Horror with New Stories

Once, a long time ago, the budding horror writer had a special place. A place that nutured his need to be published and to learn his or her craft at the same time... a place that was a fun, literary community, made up of like-minded folks who genuinely loved the genre and did their level best to pen the types of stories that made horror an exciting place to be and an enjoyable thing to read in the 1980s and 90s. It was a place that possessed more positive than negative, more acceptance and mutual admiration among its peers than today's drama and uncertainty.

That place was the magical (albeit dark and seductive) land of the small press horror magazine. From the mid-80s through the 90s, self-published horror digests and full-sized magazines held a distinctive respect and appeal among genre fans, even in the shadows of horror fiction giants like Night Cry, Midnight Graffiti, and Twilight Zone Magazine. Horror magazines like The Horror Show, Grue, Noctulpa, Deathrealm, After Hours, 2AM, and New Blood, among dozens of others, had a solid readership, offering a multitude of new stories monthly by both big-name horror authors and those who were slowly making a name for themselves. Along with young writers of the macabre like Elizabeth Massie, Bentley Little, Norman Partridge, Wayne Allen Sallee, and others, I, too found myself among the ranks of wet-behind-the-ears storytellers who hungered to open the drafty tombs of their imagination and both raise goosebumps and turn stomachs. Those days were chocked full of fresh ideas and endless adrenalin... long, sleepless nights of typing away until a story was just right and the thrill of seeing your story and your byline on the printed page.

It was around that time that a new magazine came into being. It would be called Cemetery Dance and was the brainchild of a young college student named Richard Chizmar. I'd been a part of the small press scene for a while then and had seen several good magazines come and go... but there was something about this amiable guy and his dream that was different. Rich had a true love for the genre, not only for the traditional scares-and-screams type of fiction, but for the new and innovative brand of horror that was being generated in the minds of splatterpunks such as Skipp & Spector, David Schow, and Clive Barker. I instantly gravitated to Rich's desire to publish solid, enjoyable horror fiction and we became pals. When the premiere issue of Cemetery Dance was released, one of my most disturbing stories, "Forever Angels" was present. After that, my fiction appeared many times within the pages of CD.

Twenty-five years have passed and alot has happened since then. I've had a number of novels and short story collections published, both in traditional and digital formats, and even had an audio collection nominated for a Grammy Award back in the 90s. And Richard Chizmar has become one of the most respected magazine editors and book publishers in the horror business. So good things come to folks who stick to their guns and remain true to the things they love and cherish.

A few weeks ago, the folks at Cemetery Dance Publications performed an almost impossible task; they decided to put together an anthology of new short stories in time to celebrate Cemetery Dance's 25th Anniversary. It would be a collection of the type of stories that made -- and still does make -- the magazine one of the best venues of horror fiction being published today. The roster includes some heavy-hitters -- Stephen King, Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, and Clive Barker -- as well as writers who have proven themselves time and time again in the pages of CD;  Norman Partridge, Brian James Freeman, Bentley Little, Ed Gorman, Steve Rasnic Tem, and yours truly, Ol' Ron.

The anthology is titled Turn Down the Lights and will be offered in several different editions; a trade hardcover, an Artist's edition, and a Special Lettered edition. The Artist edition features artwork by Mark Edward Geyer, Steven C. Gilberts, Will Renfro, GAK, Erin S. Wells, Keith Minnion, Jill Bauman, Glenn Chadbourne, Chad Savage, and Alan M. Clark.

You can order your copy of Turn Down the Lights now directly from Cemetery Dance Publications. If you enjoy the sort of fiction that the horror genre and Cemetery Dance Magazine was founded on, head on over and order yourself a copy now! You won't be disappointed!