Award-winning author, Gary McMahon, is editing a brand new Pendragon Press anthology, entitled Visions Fading Fast. Gary recently swung by This Is Horror HQ to explain a little more on his new venture and why he selected each author for Visions Fading Fast. Over to Gary.
When I had the idea to put together another anthology as editor, I knew that I wanted to ask writers who I admired rather than open it up to submissions. The reasons behind this were twofold: I simply didn’t have the time to read a lot of submissions, and I wanted to work with people who I already thought were doing the best work in the field. I also knew that I wanted to showcase long stories from a small bunch of writers rather than shorter pieces from a larger group.
My guidelines were simple: scare me or move me, but preferably do both. Each of the writers I approached succeeded in doing those things, and more. If you can spare the time, I’d like to tell you a little bit about how I first encountered their work, and about the marvellous stories they sent me for Visions Fading Fast.
Joel Lane has been a literary hero of mine since I first discovered his work in small press magazines in the early nineties. He was a founding member of the literary sub-genre that became known as Miserablism – a major influence on me in those early years, when I was still struggling to find my own style. Along with Nick Royle, Christopher Kenworthy, and a handful of other British writers, Joel helped redefine the then-moribund horror genre as having a social conscience. His story ‘The Lost District’ is one of the best I’ve ever read. ‘Blues Before Sunrise’ – the story he sent me for the anthology – takes place in the same milieu as his first novel, From Blue to Black, and might just be the single best thing he’s ever written.
I first encountered the work of Nathan Ballingrud in Ellen Datlow’s The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, Volume 17. When I read the story ‘You Go Where it Takes You’, I knew that I’d found something special. I’ve followed Nathan’s career ever since, and I think he’s the best American short story writer of his (and my) generation. ‘Wild Acre’, the story he sent me, is the best thing of his I’ve read to date. Nathan writes about the male psyche under pressure better than anyone else I can think of. His protagonists are as recognisable as they are troubled; you feel like you know these men, even though they are fictional creations. Nathan’s work excites me; it reminds me why I value fiction so much in this world. Nathan Ballingrud’s candid blog is the only one of these things I read on a regular basis. It’s indispensable, and reveals a lot about the man as both an artist and father.
Reggie Oliver already has an enviable reputation in the field of supernatural horror. His stories are influenced by the grand masters – James, Blackwood, Aickman, etc – yet the voice and settings are uniquely his own. He specialises in theatre-set ghost stories, and ‘Dancer in the Dark’ shows him on top form. Reggie is a clever man, a writer who understands exactly how language can be used to chill – the correct word choice, the rhythm of the prose; he uses these like a craftsman to create the desired effect.
I’d never heard of Kaaron Warren until her debut novel was published by Angry Robot – the same publisher who picked up my Thomas Usher novels. I was intrigued by the blurb, thought the cover art was incredible, so decided to give the book a go. It turned out to be the best novel I read that year. I was gripped, repulsed, and fascinated by the main character, and the ideas and the language were a joy to behold. ‘The History Thief’ shares its themes with the novel, but isn’t connected. The short story exists in a world of its own. There are several female writers whose work I currently admire in the horror genre – including Melanie Tem, Lisa Tuttle, Carol Johnstone, Alison Littlewood, Claire Massey, Gemma Files and Livia Llewellyn – but Kaaron’s might just be the most original voice of them all.
Years ago, I read a story in the British magazine The Third Alternative (now known as Black Static) called The Last Paladin of Idle Deceit. It remains the best story that magazine ever published, and it was written by Paul Meloy. Paul is an enigma; a miserable cockney sod who writes the most heart-wrenching fiction I’ve ever had the pleasure to read – his collection, Islington Crocodiles is a masterpiece. He’s one of the only authors I know whose work regularly moves me to tears. ‘Night Closures’ is no different. When I’d finished reading the story for the first time, my cheeks were damp. It touched upon a certain time and place in my own life that I think is universal to most people my age. It’s the perfect story to close the book.
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