Category Archives: Halloween

Dark Fiction Reviews: Fireside Fiction Company # 36 & 37

Turned in what will be December’s edition of my Locus review column. Squeezed in 27 stories.* (Wow, that’s three already!) I ran out of room to cover these tales below, but I also had been intending to recommend some new dark fiction for the witching season, so here you go!
Like many publications, Fireside Fiction Company celebrates the Halloween spirit with dark stories for October (Issue 37). Guest editor Daniel José Older hits home runs with all three. (Hey, live with some baseball metaphors! The Cleveland Indians** are in the World Series.)

firesideMelissa Moorer offers a creepy urban-legendesque tale with “The Get-Get Man.” The eight-year-old narrator is too young for her eloquence, but this is forgivable as her attitude is spot on and the descriptions of the titular character are both poetic and frightening.

Cassandra Khaw cuts close to the bone of dark reality in the near-future fictional world of “Speak” where editors have neural ports and the media doesn’t cover mere murders. (Although if a 19-year-old widow had been killed by a “self-propagating, self-modifying virus named Sutee” rather than “roasted alive in a crematory” by her family, it would make tech news.) Very scary future; very scary reflection on now. (BTW: Khaw’s become one of my favorite newer writers. I cover her “Hammers on Bone” for and a story in The Dark in the Locus column.

Takes a really good piece of flash fiction to impress me, and Alyssa Wong (another new-ish favorite) impresses in the third, quite dark, October story. She does more than tug the heart strings with the encapsulated tragedy and mad science of “Rabbit Heart”—she wrenches those strands without mercy.

And as long as we are looking at Fireside Fiction Company… let’s catch up with September’s issue (#36):

In the near-future “Emergency Management Protocol,” C. C. S. Ryan imaginatively combines a relationship, how we can be isolated even though/because we are well networked, AIs, and a rescue attempt facilitated in part by a technologically advanced dildo. Excellent characterization of the narrator and, all-in-all, quite enjoyable.

“Delta Child” by Malon Edwards is another piece of flash. It’s shock-fiction about a guy, child of an experiment gone wrong, turned monstrous. For something so short, it depicts the narrator and even his the briefly seen baby mama well. Still, I’d like to have seen it developed as a more-nuanced, longer tale.

Not exactly horror but certainly gonzo weird: “Homesick” by Sarah Gailey. Crab-like, fortune-telling aliens that freeze as they tell your fortune (“She’s staring back at me with those ancient iridescent bug-eyes of hers. They’re starting to frost over—her eyelashes are limned with white and it’s spreading. She’s grinning at me.”)… Humanity at home on an alien planet… Earth abandoned… One desperate woman. This story by Gailey is awesomely weird. It twists the whole “alien invasion” trope inside out AND then tips it on its head.Cool stuff.



  • The Dark (10/16 & 11/16)
  • (9/11/16 & 10/11/16)
  • Uncanny #12 (9-10/16)
  • Black Static #54 (9-10/16)
  • Nightmare #48 (9/16)
  • Nightmare #49 (10/16)
  • And stories from:
  • Shimmer #33 9/16
  • Apex Magazine #89 (10/16)
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies #209 (10/16)
  • Strange Horizons (10/3/16)

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**Go Tribe! The kids are all right! This team! Wow!

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31 Days of Halloween: Day Thirty-one

magic-halloweenThis morning, on NPR, the ever-erudite Neil Gaiman answered when asked if—like his Sandman character Morpheus—he directed people’s dreams:

We all do that, every writer … one of the titles of the Sandman—and it’s a title that I stole from Lou Reed, who died so recently, from a song—is the Prince of Stories. And I think any writer worth his or her salt gets to be the Prince of Stories, gets to be the Princess of Stories.

We get to direct people; we get to give them waking dreams. We get to take them places, do magical things to their heads, and, with any luck, send them back to the day that they came from slightly changed, and not the person that they were when we got our hands on them and said, “I want to tell you a story.”

I have no ability to make people dream. If anyone can work magic it is you writers (and artists and musicians and other creators) and I’m privileged to be a part of sometimes being able to point out, convey, deliver your magic to readers. And that’s what Halloween is about, really: possibility, transformation… magic.

Happy Halloween.


31 Days of Halloween: Day Thirty

2-HallowsSomeone asked me why I wasn’t recommending more Halloween reading material in these October posts. The real answer is: fear. There are so many great authors out there, if I start trying to make a list or name individual names, I’ll surely forget someone. (And there already are plenty of recommended lists of Dead Authors out there to choose from.)

And I realized a great deal (not all) of my one-and-only “day job” is recommending dark fiction and writers who write it. I do it all the time.

Sure, I’ve been trying to get attention this year for a Halloween anthology of eighteen original short fiction I edited. I endorse those stories!

5-various-darkThen there was the treasury of thirty Halloween stories (aptly named Halloween) from 2011.

Forty-eight recommended stories and counting…

I also edit an annual Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror series, so—just as obviously—I like the thirty-five stories last year that I personally felt were among the best of the year, thirty-two the year before, thirty-one stories from 2010, and the thirty-nine stories published in 2009. There’s another 137 recommendations!

In addition…

If you like twenty-first century literary zombies… Zombies: The Recent Dead… or if you want something more gruesomely zomboid: Extreme Zombies.

Twenty-first century Vampires? Vampires: The Recent Undead…or how about (what could be more seasonal?) ghosts: Ghosts: Recent Hauntings.

Recent post-apocalyptic fiction? After the End: Recent Apocalypses New Lovecraftian? New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird. How about supernatural detective stories from the last decade? Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations.

And then there are witches: Witches: Wicked, Wild & Wonderful—not all “dark,” but certainly appropriate for the season. I’ve even covered Obsession: Tales of Irresistible Desire—damned dark.

Almost forgot The Mammoth Book of Angels and Demons. Not all dark stories, but more than half of the twenty-seven stories might be called “dark”.

Okay. I’m losing count myself, but that’s around 230-250 stories more stories. Something over 400 varying shades of darkness I’ve “recommended” in the last three years. I can’t count the authors…

So, there you go. Should keep you busy for awhile… and look for more in the coming year.


31 Days of Halloween: Day Twenty-Nine

Yesterday we looked at America’s favorite candy treats. But what candies do t-o-t’ers really consider as “tricks”? We are not talking pennies, pretzels, apples, raisins, or stale bags of plain popcorn here. Just candy. Personally, I hated Raisenets and Dum-Dums. Jeez, what a cheapskate! Couldn’t go for Tootsie-Pops? Even a plain ol’ sucker (with or without those loopy “safety sticks”) or three were better than Dum-Dums.

Huffington Post lists these nine “most-hated” Halloween treats, but included stuff that isn’t candy as #8 AND #9. (Comments mine.)

  1. Candy Corn – Yeah, not good. Seasonal but not really edible
  2. Mary Janes – I don’t even know what these are, so they have to be bad!
  3. Bit-o-Honey - Definitely not a favorite.
  4. Tootsie Rolls – Disagree! I liked Tootsie Rolls. The little waxy wrappers were a sure giveaway how many you’d eaten, but you had the same problem with Hersey Kisses except the foil was easier to roll into a teensy ball and wedge in a pocket. You were safe until Mom did the laundry.
  5. Good & Plenty – This is the oldest brand of candy still in the US and I think some boxes have been around since 1893. If I wanted licorice, I wanted licorice, not these pink-and-white candy-coated things.
  6. Smarties – Fie! I liked Smarties. Another wrapper-disposal problem, but these things taste pretty much like solid sugar. What kid doesn’t want that instant high?
  7. Whoppers – Huffpo, what’s up with that? Whoppers? LOVED ‘em. Still do. You don’t like Whoppers? Send them to me.

Okay, what about you? What candy tricks did you (or would you still) hate to have land in your bag of treats?


31 Days of Halloween: Day Twenty-eight

Okay, I really don’t get parents who think their children are going to go missing or be preyed upon on Halloween. Who sends a small child out alone to start with? Or even in a group without an adult or responsible teen (please note the adjective) at least quietly accompanying them? And if your neighborhood has trick-or-treat, it means more people are paying attention to (and watching out for) the youngsters than usual. As for poison, razor blades or needles in candy: all urban legends. Pedophiles? In some areas sex offenders are restricted from Halloween activities. The real dangers of Halloween include being hit by a car, the prevalence of candles and bonfires, and costumes (or accessories) that impair vision or cause tripping.

trickortrackerBut don’t listen to me. Evidently 15% of parents surveyed in 2011 told children’s advocacy group SafeKids that they fear their child will be abducted on Halloween.

Of course, there’s an app for that! Well, more than one, but the Trick or Tracker seems to really fill the bill. It allegedly “enables parents to monitor their child’s location at all times, both on Halloween and throughout the year, through their smartphone.” Recently updated , Trick Or Tracker now comes with “geo-fence technology…the home/school arrival notification technology Latchkey Kid, and other features built into the child’s phone. Through Trick Or Tracker, children can locate their parents or send a distress message, which sends the parent or other message recipient the child’s exact location through a daytime satellite map. The app additionally has a flashlight feature that shines a white light and can also shine in various glow-stick colors, making it a perfect safety light to guide trick-or-treaters on Halloween.”

Of course your kid has to have a smartphone. (Another dangerous distraction?)

Or does it even exist? I found this device written up or reported by several reputable sources. There are various videos and press releases. But checking out the website I found a nonfunctioning pages and no way to download the device.

Are we being tricked?


31 Days of Halloween: Day Twenty-seven

Want to provide the most popular candy for your trick-or-treaters?

MMs no longer rule; Reeses now #1!

MMs no longer rule; Reeses now #1!

According to 24/7 WallStreet these are America’s Top Ten Favorite Halloween Candies:

1. Reese’s
Sales: $509.85 million
Unit sales: 407.44 million
Average price per unit: $1.25
Introduced: 1928
Company: Hershey
Sales of Reese’s regular size (less than 3.5 oz) peanut butter cups jumped by 7.7% in the past year, outstripping M&M’s from its top spot from the best-selling candy.

2. M&M’s
Sales: $500.82 million
Unit sales: 435.18 million
Average price per unit: $1.15
Introduced: 1941
Company: Mars
Although it is the second highest selling regular size candy, it ranks only eighth among brands in snack-sized sales.

(Yes, Reese’s has overtaken M&Ms, but read on for surprising revelations about Kit Kat and other top sellers!)
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31 Days of Halloween: Day 26

220px-Staphylococcus_aureus_VISA_2There are more things to be scared of at Halloween than you can imagine! Like getting a skin disease from your mask… (in Washington state) warns us that trying on rubber Halloween masks may be dangerous. Biology professor Dr. Stan Kikkert evidently tested some masks. “I was quite surprised at the number of bacteria and the diversity of the bacteria that you guys found on these different plates,” he said. The biggest danger is the exposure to the bacteria that could lead to skin conditions, such as staph infection. (The bacteria is shown here on the left.)

“One person after another after another wearing this probably adds to this and allows for the bacteria to actually cultivate, so that might be part of the reason why we see such robust results,” Kikkert said.

Kikert said wiping down the inside of your your mask with rubbing alcohol should get rid of the germs.


31 Days of Halloween: Day 25

…and also it is a Friday, so: Free Fiction Friday! (A bit late, but better late than…)

Today’s tale is by Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman who was born on Halloween in 1852. As The Literary Gothic points out: “Her reputation went into decline for much of the mid-[twentieth century], for her “feminine” subjects were often dismissed by critics as simply unimportant in the context of larger world events. More recent scholarship has argued convincingly for the importance of Freeman’s work, which often does feature spinster heroines or—especially in some of her more well-known ghost stories—abandoned children (this ‘forlorn child’ theme is widely thought to be Freeman’s working out of her own feelings regarding the death, at age seventeen, of her sister). Freeman’s ghost stories have only recently begun to attract appreciative critical attention…”

This one concerns a little girl ghost who cannot find her mother. Nala the Official Halloween Cat does not find this story to her liking as it involves the spectral pulling of an innocent cat’s tail, but we hope you otherwise enjoy.

The Lost Ghost
Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman

(First published in Everybody’s Magazine, May 1903)

LostGhostMrs. John Emerson, sitting with her needlework beside the window, looked out and saw Mrs. Rhoda Meserve coming down the street, and knew at once by the trend of her steps and the cant of her head that she meditated turning in at her gate. She also knew by a certain something about her general carriage—a thrusting forward of the neck, a bustling hitch of the shoulders—that she had important news. Rhoda Meserve always had the news as soon as the news was in being, and generally Mrs. John Emerson was the first to whom she imparted it. The two women had been friends ever since Mrs. Meserve had married Simon Meserve and come to the village to live.

Mrs. Meserve was a pretty woman, moving with graceful flirts of ruffling skirts; her clear-cut, nervous face, as delicately tinted as a shell, looked brightly from the plumy brim of a black hat at Mrs. Emerson in the window. Mrs. Emerson was glad to see her coming. She returned the greeting with enthusiasm, then rose hurriedly, ran into the cold parlour and brought out one of the best rocking-chairs. She was just in time, after drawing it up beside the opposite window, to greet her friend at the door.
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31 Days of Halloween: Day 24

It is with no surprise that I report (via The Atlantic Wire) that the latest in Halloween “costumes” has nothing to do with your physical body at all: folks are “dressing up” their Twitter handle with a seasonal (usually punny) twist. A few reported “Halloweenized” names: hockey writer Harrison Mooney’s Scarrison Booney, New Yorker managing editor Sylvia Killingsworth’s Killvia Killingsworth, copywriter Bobby Finger’s Bloody Finger, or Gawker editor Max Read’s Axe Bleed. As you can see, it is sort of an untweeted rule to cleverly “disguise” your real name. Although there are those like John Halloween (John Cook, another Gawker editor) who aren’t quite as witty. And those with last names like “Heller” already have it made!

Of course, for most of us, Halloweenizing our names is a challenge. I might try “Pooka Guran” or maybe “Paula Grue Ran”…”Boo-la Grrran”? Nawww…

How about you? Any trick-or-tweeting on Twitter for you?


We Have Winners!

Nala the Official Halloween Cat (although she wasn’t too happy about this “costume”) has made her selections.

I’ve messaged a couple of you to get mailing addresses, emailed a couple to make sure I have the right address, and a couple of you I have addresses for. So, whether they want it or not, a copy of HALLOWEEN: MAGIC, MYSTERY & THE MACABRE will soon be sent to:

  • Terry Lawson
  • Cynthia Ward
  • Chris Furst
  • Laura Bickle
  • Nisi Shawl
  • Gary Dulanski

Thanks for sharing about the book or “following” on Twitter!