Horror

Recommended Read: Over Your Dead Body by Dan Wells

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Dan Wells is a cool guy. I first discovered him while listening to the Writing Excuses podcast with Brandon Sanderson, Howard Taylor, and Mary Robinette Kowal several years ago, and I’ve had the opportunity to speak with him in person at a few conventions.

I haven’t discussed the fiction of Dan Wells on my blog in much detail up to this point, but I’m a huge fan of his I Am Not A Serial Killer books. They’re creepy, they’re funny, they’re surprisingly deep and humanizing despite what they might appear to be on the surface, and they tell a fantastic story. Set up as thriller-style YA murder mysteries, a teenage sociopath named John Cleaver hunts down supernatural monsters while trying to keep his own violent and anti-social tendencies in check.

Over Your Dead Body brings John Cleaver and his pre-Marcy high school obsession Brooke closer than ever, developing these two broken characters and their relationship in surprising ways during their adventures to hunt down the Withered. The ending, of course, is a little heart wrenching. This is a horror book, after all. But it’s another fantastic addition to the I Am Not A Serial Killer universe.

It’s difficult to write a good trilogy, let alone a solid continuation of an original series. Dan Wells has done a masterful job expanding his series into new territory. The more I read about John Cleaver and his terrifying adventures, as well as his inner journey to balance the monster he could become with the protector of humanity and monster-slayer he wants to be, the more I fall in love with these characters. I can’t wait for the next installment!

Part of what I love so much about this series is that this author is so good at exploring and drawing something beautiful and meaningful (as well as terrifying) out of the pain of human experience, particularly concepts of mental illness. I don’t know much about sociopathy, but I’ve struggled with depression and have various family members who have struggled with mental illness, even going back a few generations. I love that this author is willing to have a discussion through storytelling about both what makes mental illness scary and sad, as well as what makes it interesting and human. He’s the sort of author that makes the horror genre beautiful because of its potential to explore the darkness and find the contrasting light of human nature’s potential in the midst.

Well done, Wells! Again, I’m a huge, huge fan of this series—it’s definitely one of my favorite sets of books. (In fact, I should probably put the series down on my little “favorite books” list under my About Me tab.)

You can pick up a copy of Over Your Dead Body, or any of the I Am Not A Serial Killer books here on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Over-Your-Dead-Body-Cleaver/dp/0765380692

Or you could do what I did and listen to the amazing Kirby Heyborne narrate this book over here on Audible:
http://www.audible.com/pd/Mysteries-Thrillers/Over-Your-Dead-Body-Audiobook/B01ENUTGHA.

After World Horror

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I wanted to keep my thoughts short this time. The World Horror Convention in Provo has come and gone. It was nice for me to attend this conference as it was hosted so close to my home, and I had a good time reading, paneling, squealing excitedly about Redneck Eldritch with other contributing authors, and connecting. I had some nice chats with Julie Frost, Jason A. Anderson, Jason King, and David J. West. It was awesome to get to know the reps of Muzzleland Press, as well as the the creepily creative artists of Metallic Visions and Monsterhedz.

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Robert J Defendi, Eric Holmes, thanks for listening to Dave Butler and me during our reading!

Mike Arnzen, it was very entertaining watching you juggle my swag brains at the book signing.

Sanford Allen, Keith Thompson it was cool to meet you during the panel on H. P. Lovecraft.

Paul Genesse, Kevin J. Anderson, DawnRay Ammon, Carter and Kelli Reid, Nathan Shumate, Steve Diamond, Bethany Hanks, Johnny Worthen, Michaelbrent Collings, Dave Butler, Eric Swedin, Scott Forman, Cody Langille, it was good to see you all and catch up with some of you!

To Victoria Price…we noticed you looked a little lonely over at your booth, and we’re sorry more of us vendors didn’t come talk to you. But we’re glad you came for a while.

Dr. Michael Collings, congratulations on receiving the Grand Master Award this year! And it is always a pleasure to talk to you.

Dan Wells, thanks for letting me fangirl over you a bit! It was cool to say hi as a fellow vendor and horror writer, and I’m looking forward to reading your next John Cleaver book.

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And thanks to all the volunteers who worked so hard, to the Utah HWA chapter for giving horror writers a presence here in our state, and the dedicated writers and artists who came from near and far to attend the convention. Though it was lightly attended, I hope you all made some new friends.

And for anyone I may have missed, I apologize–I enjoyed your company too.

To see more photos that I took at the World Horror Convention in Provo, check out my Facebook album here:
http://bit.ly/21oSGMO.

Redneck Eldritch & World Horror

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The paperback of Redneck Eldritch is live on Amazon! The Ebook and Kindle versions will be available for pre-order soon, and will be officially released April 28th. I’m excited and honored to be included in this collection with such talented authors, and I hope fans of horror, H.P. Lovecraft, and the sister Space Eldritch anthologies will enjoy this brand new installment of cosmic dread.

For any who are curious, you can read a sneak peek of my story, “Mine of the Damned Gods” here on the Cold Fusion Media website, along with excerpts from several other stories in the anthology: http://coldfusionmedia.us/redneck-eldritch-sneak-peek-mine-of-the-damned-gods-by-sarah-e-seeley/.

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The World Horror Convention will be in Provo April 18 – May 1. I have a light schedule, one panel and one reading. I’d be delighted for any in attendance to come listen to me discuss H.P. Lovecraft and read from my Redneck Eldritch story next to David J. West Dave Butler (*David West is still awesome, the schedule after the 17th just shuffled us readers around a little).

Here is my World Horror Schedule:

  • Friday, April 29 — 7:15 – 9: 45 PM: Book Signing
  • Friday, April 29 — 12:45 – 1:45 PM: Readings (30 min. each)
    Sarah E. Seeley & David J. West Dave Butler
  • Sunday, May 1 — 12:45 – 1:45 PM: Why We Love Lovecraft
    Eric Swedin, David J. West, Nathan Shumate, Carter Reid, Sanford Allen, Sarah E. Seeley

I will also be a book vendor with authors S. A. Butler and David J. West all four days. So come find me in the dealer’s room! I’ll have my usual publications to sell. Nathan Shumate will have copies of Redneck Eldritch available at his booth to purchase, and I’d be pleased to sign your copy should you acquire one.

As a member of the Utah HWA, I’d also like to encourage any who are considering to attend the World Horror Convention. While this is a smaller professional conference and the memberships are a little pricey, the investment is well worthwhile and will give you access to amazing networking opportunities within both the horror and general writing communities. There will also be some great panels and presentations, a workshop opportunity with David Farland for a small additional fee, and tons of cool stuff to participate in like ghost hunts. Check out the membership rates and programming here: http://www.whc2016.org/.

In other news, I’m currently working on edits for my Windows Into Hell story, “The Armadillo’s Song.” The anthology is still anticipated for release in October from Curiosity Quills Press.

And I’m slowly but steadily writing out the novel-length rendition of my steampunk story, “Curio Cay.”

Exciting things!

To my family, friends, and followers, thank you, as always, for your support and for believing in me. You inspire me and give me courage to try daring things…like write horror. And other fiction. And blog. I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I’ve enjoyed creating them for your entertainment.

Science, Fear of the Unknown, & H. P. Lovecraft’s Cosmic Indifference

I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on “Science in the Universe of H.P. Lovecraft” at Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience last month. As I have a story coming out in Redneck Eldritch this month, I thought it would be fun to revisit and expand on some of my thoughts that I had the opportunity to bring up on that panel.

H. P. Lovecraft’s life and worldviews are so interesting to me, aside from his fiction. Some have speculated he may have had what we would diagnose today as Asperger’s syndrome or Autism. In what I’ve read of both his fiction and his life, it is my impression that he was a very vulnerable writer who candidly integrated some of his deepest personal fears and phobias about sea creatures, foreigners, and losing his sanity into his fiction. Something that fascinates me about him is his brand of atheism, termed a “cosmic indifference” philosophy, which also colors his fiction in interesting ways.

As a scientist of faith myself who is hoping to study and contribute to the fields of paleontology and human evolution someday, I’m concerned about rhetoric from both radical New World Atheism that specifically decries religious and spiritual convictions as delusional, disingenuous, and destructive, and Intelligent Design proponents who subvert the scientific method to “prove” the existence of God. I feel that both of these extreme philosophical attitudes perpetuate misunderstandings about compatibility between science and religious beliefs.

While academic groups like the Broader Social Impacts Committee of the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program wish to persuade more Americans that the concepts of evolutionary biology need not pose a threat toward individual religious and cultural worldviews, I believe these extreme attitudes are not the only obstacles to such goals. Science fiction entertainment often flatly pairs radical atheistic themes and attitudes in negative ways with scientific exploration time and again. These themes of conflict between science and belief are becoming deeply ingrained in our broader culture, and no place more effectively than in the sci-fi horror and thriller genres where, one might argue, Lovecraftian themes of cosmic indifference are most frequently emulated.

Whatever influence Lovecraft’s storytelling may have in tying anti-religious sentiments to science in our current cultural mindset, his worldview also strikes me as a genuine and historically significant one that I feel is absolutely worth dissecting and understanding. Something else that fascinates me about his fiction is that it often fixates on fear of the unknown, and mankind’s ability to comprehend the universe. Howard Lovecraft lived in a time when the world was becoming more trusting, unified, and reliant on science and scientific methods to quantify and understand the universe. As my favorite Wikipedia article puts it (I know, I know, it’s not scholarly, but it’s been a great discussion-starter source): “Lovecraft portrays this potential for a growing gap of man’s understanding of the universe as a potential for horror.”

In my mind, faith and fear of the unknown and the unknowable feel like fundamentally supernatural concepts—which seems counterintuitive when Lovecraft’s stories are considered trendsetters for our modern brand of “scientific” horror. The reason Lovecraft’s stories are considered scientific rather than typical supernatural horror, however, is because his characters make painstaking references and appeals to scientific evidence or rationalist thinking, even when that ultimately still fails them. It’s the reasoning in their approach to their problems that makes the horror conflicts scientific rather than paranormal from a literary standpoint. Interestingly, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, written a hundred years earlier than Lovecraft’s tales, evokes a similar sense of horror and caution about the potential unseen dangers and consequences of an attitude that we can control and comprehend everything through science, or “play God.” But it does so with the exact opposite motive of rekindling a sense of the sacred and the profane.

Imitating Lovecraft

It was important to me in writing “Mine of the Damned Gods” to try and capture Lovecraft’s themes of cosmic indifference, and the horror of trying to make meaning out of universal insignificance in my own way. I love using transformation scenes in my fiction in general because they evoke visceral questions about the sanctity of from and the fundamental or indivisible qualities of core identity. What makes me me? And is there a part of me that is not only more than a composite of trillions of individual cells that happen to look and function a certain way, but that would persist if my physical form were to suddenly, completely, and irrevocably contort into something else? How does our fear of mutilation relate to a sense of core identity, and why is the concept of a sudden shift in an individual’s physical form–from one species to another completely alien form–so effectively disturbing in this way?

It was also important to me to bend the tropes that paint misconceptions about how evolutionary processes actually work in particular, and that otherwise make evolution look like a bleak reality or a callous tool scientists (or alien invaders) might use to justify disturbing and cold-blooded activities. In my story I attempted to portray evolutionary processes as “natural,” creatively free-form, and hopeful (however blindly or futile for the sake of the horror narrative). In contrast, the “unnatural” and “damning” horror of my characters’ transformations into unfeeling cosmic entities is portrayed as constraining, annihilating, disorienting, gross, and anti-evolutionary.

There’s a lot more going on in my story, of course. Being a retelling of Oedipus Rex with a pinch of the German Legend of the Water Goblin blended in, a redneck tale, and, ultimately, a horror story meant to entertain, I had a lot of bizarre, creative fun with “Mine of the Damned Gods.” H. P. Lovecraft’s stories have captured the imaginations of many and contributed to modern science fiction literature and culture in broad and significant ways. Writing a Lovecraftian tale has both expanded my own storytelling skills and allowed me to explore themes of cosmic indifference in fiction with deeper appreciation for that point of view and its influence in the genre of scientific horror.

Sarah E. Seeley is a fantasy and horror author, and an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association. She has a bachelor’s degree in geology and loves exploring the science of human origins.

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