Hey there folks!
Today’s post is something a little bit different: I just wanted to share my foreword as editor of our debut anthology, Ceci n’est pas une histoire d’horreur (This is Not a Horror Story), to give you all a little flavour of what to expect from it, and from the stories found within its pages. This is going to be quite a long post, so brace yourself.
I’m also going to be sharing a (hopefully exhaustive) list of all sensitive themes and topics likely to be encountered in this anthology after the foreword. Personally, I am an ardent advocate for publications to provide trigger warnings about subjects that may be distressing or otherwise upsetting to certain readers. However, with that said, I felt that providing them in the opening of the book may have led to other readers encountering unwanted spoilers, so have instead opted to include them in the back pages.
This collection does have a number of scenes and themes that may pose an issue for some, so please do check out these warnings below if you so wish to. Please also be aware that there may be slight spoilers contained within. For the sake of sensitivity though, I personally feel that trigger warnings are both a beneficial and a necessary inclusion.
By the time you find yourself reading this foreword (if, indeed, you are one of those kindred souls who always, always reads the foreword in books), Night Terror Novels will probably be celebrating its first birthday, or will have recently done so. When I originally created and launched the website back on the 19th October in the abysmal year that was 2020, that’d actually been all I’d intended it to be at the time: just a site to post my book reviews to, and maybe also the odd flash fiction piece every now and again. Venturing into the world of publishing was only something considered in passing, not an idea seriously entertained back then. As the year went on, however, I researched this avenue further, and as the idea seemed more plausible, so too did it become more enticing, more exciting—and (after a healthy dose of elbow grease) that eventually led to where we are now, to you holding this publication in your hands.
There’s always going to be a degree of apprehension, launching into this field with a debut collection from an entirely unknown, micro-publishing house: how will the theme be received? Will we even get enough submissions to compile an anthology, or indeed any at all? And, of course, the dreaded imposter syndrome makes itself known just as much during the editing process as it does during writing, looming over your shoulder and urging you to second-guess every single alteration and decision.
I’ve said this before but will reiterate it here: I was completely blown away by the response to the open call, both in regards to the number of submissions sent in, and to the calibre of the stories themselves, and also to the overall receptiveness to the concept of this project. The title Ceci n’est pas une histoire d’horreur (This is Not a Horror Story) was one I’d had knocking about for a while, attached to various works-in-progress that it never quite felt appropriate for, prior to it finding its home on this collection. The title is derived from the iconic “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” found in artist René Magritte’s 1929 work, The Treachery of Images, with our original call asking for ‘… short stories of surrealist, transgressive fiction with a horror twist’, and the authors who submitted pieces to us took that theme and ran with it in all manner of creative and unique ways.
Within the pages of this anthology, you will find fifteen of those submissions; fifteen that really spoke to me, or gave me goosebumps, or blew my mind with their sheer imaginativeness. It was essential, in my opinion, for this collection to offer diversity in terms of both subject matter and authorial voices, and I hope that I’ve managed to accomplish that, at least to some degree. All of these stories are transgressive, yes—they tell the stories of the marginalised, stories of characters rebelling against societal norms, stories of the taboo and the controversial—but suffice it to say that no two are alike. I also hope that you’ll be able to identify what I was aiming for in the presentation of this collection: something of a progression, from the quietly unsettling opening through to the more experimental and surreal offerings in the latter pages. Most of all though, I simply hope that you enjoy what we’ve put together here: that you discover new authors or are treated to fresh fiction from long-time favourites; that you are wowed or shocked or frightened or repulsed or all of the above at once—but also that you find something that clicks for you, stories and characters that linger in your mind when you’re done.
So, what exactly can you expect to find in this collection? We open with Thomas Kodnar’s “Back Home for a Bit”, a disquieting slice of slipstream fiction that evokes, in this editor’s mind, a similar sense of the uncanny—and palpable atmosphere of dread—to that found in the works of Iain Reid. You’ll then find yourself whisked right into the heart of a tense hostage situation at Shenango Lake Amusement Park in Vince Darcangelo’s “The Gallery of Discarded Things”, which weaves a tale of the marginalised and society’s encroachment upon them: a story by turns impassioned and intense. Next, Marc Joan offers a thought-provoking dive into the shady side of biomedical research with “The Puppy Farm”, a complicated and morally dubious narrative with a gut-punch of an ending—and one that’s sure to leave a lasting impression.
Take a breather with Kevin Brown’s horrifically hilarious and hilariously horrific “Replete After Death”, a satirical and very accurate lampooning of modern-day social media which channels pure, prime Palahniuk—through a couple of Instagram and Snapchat filters, naturally. R. E. McAuliffe’s lyrical and poetic prose takes us on a trip down to the market in the frosty and fantastical “Cold Magic”, in which we follow Declan on his quest to find the perfect pair of shoes.
We enter into the realms of goddesses with our next two stories, though through two very different approaches and settings. Isaac Menuza’s “Mara and the Volkhv” continues the wintry theme of its predecessor, but transports us to Eastern Europe for a tale of man’s intrusion into the domain of forces both powerful and primal. And in “To Crave An Empty Chest”, Lyra Meurer invites us along to the Valley of the Goddesses on a journey both magical and deeply affecting. The author crafts a memorable and engaging setting of skybikers and divine beings, and imbues it with an emotional core and a nuanced narrative.
We cross the midpoint of the collection with Carla Eliot’s deliciously unnerving “Wake Up, Miles”, a surreal and mysterious offering that teases the secrets of its plot through chilling scenes aplenty. A powerful story of ruin and rebirth is up next in Angela Sylvaine’s “Obsidian”. This fierce, heartfelt examination of the effects of abuse and sexism follows Cerie, a woman who bears thousands of cracks upon her body. Joanna Koch’s “Studies After the Human Figure” pulls no punches, delivering an absolute sledgehammer of a story that marries the abstract and the macabre in unholy union. Part zombie apocalypse, part psychosexual descent, this entry is bold, shocking, and unforgettable.
Gregory J. Wolos brings us an unsettling story of a couple trying to cope in the aftermath of a family tragedy with “Katu Latu Kulu”. Blurring the line between fact and fiction, dream and reality, to disturbing, nightmarish effect, Wolos crafts an intriguing and mesmerising study of loss. Roman mythology meets with all manner of folklore from Britain, Ireland, and the African continent in Brydie O’Shea’s hugely imaginative offering, “The Fates”. Told in a three-part, reverse-chronological narrative, this uncanny tale weaves its separate stories together into a dark and twisted tapestry. In David Burchell’s wonderfully poetic “On its skin oh under oceans”, we are taken on a spine-tingling odyssey of body horror that starts with an inexplicable, gelatinous growth and then hurtles towards a truly apocalyptic finale, driven forward by the author’s compelling voice.
The penultimate outing comes from bizarro fiction author Dustin Reade, whose elaborate and multi-layered “Tricks with Antlers and Horns” tells the story of a former dictator and his closest aide as they flee across the ocean to Canada and then down to Arizona in the States. The abstract and experimental narrative found within is sure to stick with you long after its last lines. This leads us into our closing act, and what could’ve been more fitting than Ashley Stokes’s aptly titled “Fade to Black”. A genuinely terrifying tale told through a unique blend of script, footnotes, and message board extracts, “Fade to Black” combines elements of Finnish folklore, cursed media, and a pervasive feeling of dread: the perfect story to bring down the final curtain on our anthology. Join us on this journey into the mysterious and the macabre; peer into the dark recesses of the minds of fifteen hugely talented writers, and enjoy the delectably dark and wickedly warped offerings to be found herein.
I can’t say with any degree of confidence what’s in store for the future of Night Terror Novels, though I’m hoping for this publication to be just the first of many. Will this be the first entry into a series of not-a-horror-story anthologies? Certainly, the quality of submissions we received was such that I could have quite comfortably produced a TOC of stellar stories several times over, so the possibility for future instalments is definitely there. All I can say for certain is this: compiling and putting together this anthology has been one of the toughest things I’ve done in my life thus far, as melodramatic as that may sound. From the excruciating task of narrowing down a final list of contributors to uming and ahing all the way through the design process, this has well and truly been a learning experience.
It’s also been one of the most rewarding, too. I’m truly humbled by any and all support for this project, and honoured to have had the opportunity to read so many wonderful stories during its creation.
Without getting overly gushy or sentimental, I do want to express my sincere and heartfelt thanks to everyone who has made this project not just a possibility, but a reality: first and foremost, to every author that took a chance on my little publishing house and fired a story my way—naturally, this couldn’t have been done without you and your belief in this publication. To the reading and writing communities I’ve found a home in online, particularly on Instagram and Twitter. And last but by no means least, the biggest thank you of all to you, the reader, for making this whole venture worthwhile—I appreciate it immensely.
That’s about it from me, for now. I’m excited to see what the future holds for Night Terror Novels, and have plenty of ideas on where to take things, going forward. I really do hope that you’ll be along with us for the ride. More on that when the time comes, though—in the meantime, thank you so much for picking up Ceci n’est pas une histoire d’horreur (This is Not a Horror Story) and supporting both Night Terror Novels and the authors featured inside, and I hope you enjoy reading this book.
J. D. Keown, 25th September, 2021
North Yorkshire, United Kingdom
Below, please find a list of potentially sensitive subject matter for the stories featured within this collection. I have tried my best to ensure this list is as comprehensive as possible, but for the sake of transparency, will also say that it may not be completely exhaustive. As such, reader discretion is advised.
Sensitive subject matter includes:
Abuse (of various forms, including: child, emotional, physical, verbal)
Explicit Graphic Violence
Explicit Sexual Content
References to Mental Health, Including but Not Limited to: PTSD, Suicide
Ceci n’est pas une histoire d’horreur (This is Not a Horror Story) will be releasing on the 30th October, 2021 via Night Terror Novels Publishing. We’ll be drip-feeding squirming morsels of details all the way up to release date on all of our socials, so give us a follow on Instagram and Twitter @JDKAuthor and @NightTerrorNovels if you aren’t already.
And just a quick reminder that you can sign up for updates to the Night Terror Novels blog using the form below, and we also have a Mailchimp mailing list. If you want the latest news on our publications and any promotions or giveaways we might be hosting (including bonus entries for being part of the NTN family), before anybody else, then please do subscribe, That’s about it for now, but stay tuned for future updates!
👻 Until the next time, sleep tight and stay spooky! 👻
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