Category Archives: horror

The Reaper’s Maze and Other Halloween Treats

On my Substack, Time Zone Weird, I released my first subscriber-exclusive story, a horror novelette titled “The Reaper’s Maze.” The story follows five troublemaking teens who go trick-or-treating on Halloween night. At one house, a neighbor dressed as the Grim Reaper invites them to traverse a cornstalk maze in his backyard. Amid the twists and turns of the haunting maze, the teens discover the neighbor is more than he appears, and his Grim Reaper costume may not be a costume at all…

Continue reading

True Crime vs. Fictional Crime or Zodiac vs. Se7en

The genre of “true crime” is growing in popularity in the form of documentaries and podcasts that cover real crimes pulled from news headlines in detail. There are also fictionalized movies and television series about true crimes. I am not especially interested in true crime, but it is the fictionalized narratives about real crimes that interest me least. Fictional crime stories are better—or have the potential to be better—than true crime stories. The difference between them can best be seen in two of director David Fincher’s films about serial killers: Se7en (1995) and Zodiac (2007).

Continue reading

Thomas Ligotti on the Superiority of Short Fiction Over Novels

image from filth.com.mx

Thomas Ligotti has become one of my favorite contemporary horror writers. Like my favorite contemporary science fiction writer, Ted Chiang, Ligotti writes exclusively short stories. Both writers have never published anything longer than a novella. In this excerpt from an interview, Ligotti explains why he has not and never will write a novel:

I think it’s safe to say that I will never write a novel. The reason is this: I really don’t like fiction, and novels are what fiction is all about. The only fictional works that I’ve ever admired are those which have their formal basis in essays (Borges), poetry (Bruno Schulz), monologues (Thomas Bernhard), or all three (Poe and Lovecraft). I want to hear a writer speaking, not see a movie in my mind that takes days or weeks to get through rather than 100 minutes or the time it takes to watch a multi-part mini-series. Why would anyone want to read The Silence of the Lambs when they could see the movie?

– Thomas Ligotti interviewed by Mark McLaughlin at Horror Garage
Continue reading

Best of the Rest of 2021

I already went over my favorite movies, TV shows, fiction books, nonfiction books, and comic books I consumed this past year, so now it’s time for one last look back at 2021 for the best of the rest: video games, audio dramas, and music.

Continue reading

Best Comic Books I Read in 2021

1. The Department of Truth, Vol 1: The End of the World (2021) & Vol 2: The City Upon a Hill (2021) by James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds

The Department of Truth is an inventive spin on conspiracy theories. In this world, every conspiracy is true, but at the same time, no conspiracy theory is true. It’s a slight spoiler to explain that, basically, if enough people believe in a conspiracy then it manifests in reality. The “Department of Truth” is a government agency that works to prevent dangerous conspiracies from spreading and becoming real. The books are well-researched in conspiracy lore, featuring popular theories like JFK, flat earth, the Satanic panic, Bigfoot, and more. My only gripe is that it’s a bit too anti-conspiracy theory, the subtext being all conspiracy theories are false and conspiracy theorists are dangerous. In reality, many (but not all) conspiracy theories are false, and some (but not most) conspiracy theorists are dangerous. Overall, this was really well-written with great artwork and I can’t wait for the next volume.

Continue reading

Best Streams of 2021

Television:

The Mandalorian (seasons 1&2 on Disney+)

I heard great things about The Mandalorian when it premiered a couple years ago and had been wanting to see it, but I did not have Disney+ (until this past year). So I finally got around to watching the first two seasons of the show and really enjoyed it. I normally prefer movies over TV series, but The Mandalorian was better than the recent Star Wars film trilogy. That’s probably because the showrunner (John Favreau) had more creative freedom since he wasn’t working with the core franchise characters. There were likely too many cooks in the kitchen for the movies, with producers, studio execs, marketing experts, toy manufacturers, and Disney brand advisors all having a say in the plot and characters. Plus there were different writers and directors for the three movies and they apparently didn’t plan together. Beyond that, so much was on the line for the Disney mega-corporation with those movies because of the production and marketing budgets. The Mandalorian had a relatively high budget (~$120 million per season), but the budgets of each Star Wars movie were 2-3x that. They surely saved a lot on marketing by just dropping the show on Disney+ (while people were stuck at home during a pandemic with nothing else to do but watch TV).

Continue reading

Ten Best Fiction Books I Read in 2021

Note: The books on this list, with links to purchase, are available at my Bookshop.org page.

1) Songs of a Dead Dreamer (1986) and Grimscribe (1991) by Thomas Ligotti (2015)

I was looking forward to reading this double collection of horror short stories after hearing Ligotti be recommended by so many other writers I admire. And I can see why there was so much hype. I was immensely impressed, and Ligotti has become my favorite living horror writer and probably the best writer of weird fiction since Lovecraft. Ligotti is like the Ted Chiang of horror—not in terms of theme or content, but in the fact that they only write short stories and their stories are all fantastic and deep philosophically. Ligotti’s brand of horror is highly cerebral. He is a master of prose style, which is similar to Lovecraft’s in its verbosity and poetic beauty. Ligotti is also similar to Lovecraft in his content and themes—primarily extreme nihilism. His nonfiction book, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, which I read last year, lays out his antinatalist worldview—a worldview I do not share—though I enjoy reading about those dark themes in fiction. After all, what could be more horrific than the idea that human life doesn’t matter and it would be better if we did not exist?

Continue reading

Top 10 Movies (at Least 10 Years Old) I Saw in 2021

It is time for my sixth annual list of the best movies at least ten years old that I arbitrarily watched this past year. There isn’t much of a method to the movies I choose to watch, some of which are re-watches and others I’m seeing for the first time. The common themes that emerged from this year’s list are psychological horror, literary adaptations, twist endings, plus a lot of Johnny Depp and Keanu Reeves.

Continue reading

Visceral vs. Cerebral Horror

As a child I was terrified of horror movies and avoided watching them. Two of my favorite movies were Jurassic Park and Independence Day, and while they were not directly horror, there were certain scenes in each film that I had to close my eyes during because I was so terrified. (They were when the raptors popped out and when they showed the alien body in the Area 51 base). Though I avoided explicit horror, I enjoyed spooky movies and TV shows intended for children, such as Disney’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark?. I liked PG horror because it was merely spooky and creepy, not outright terrifying. The first true horror movie I remember seeing was Scream, which came out in 1996 when I was ten years old. Though that movie was meant to be somewhat comedic, the Ghostface mask nevertheless remained burned in my mind and gave me nightmares for months after.

Continue reading

A Manifesto to Weird

I’ve always been weird. As a child, my earliest memories from school were how I was always so much different than everyone else—not just personality-wise, being extremely shy compared to them, but also in my interests. The other kids weren’t into the things I wanted to do and talk about which was probably why I didn’t like talking to them. But the weird thing is I didn’t like being weird as a kid. I had such severe social anxiety that I wanted to fit in and be like everybody else. I was terrified of being ostracized and rejected by my peers. I didn’t want to stand out, so I would hide my weird interests from them.

Continue reading