Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Dawn

In addition to talent and perseverance, one of the ways that Brian Keene rose to his current level of popularity was his connection to his fans. Few if any writers in the horror field have fans who are as loyal and passionate about their work. Part of this comes from Keene’s efforts to connect with those fans, whether in person or on the internet, through his message board, and part is because he comes off as generally caring about his readers, being the kind of guy who you can imagine sitting and having a beer with you, not only talking to you but listening to you.

He has been generous with those fans, and, at the end of 2008, that generosity manifested itself in a rare way: As a Christmas gift, the registered members of his message board received a free chapbook (available only to them) titled New Dawn. This chapbook also shows generosity to some of Keene’s writer friends, as it contains, five stories, one by Keene and the others by talented but less well known writers. The denizens of the message board got a chapbook as a gift, while these writers received the gift of having their work read by 350 or so people who are avid fans of their type of writing.

The first story, “Waiting for Darkness” by Keene, is the shortest in the chapbook (it originally appeared on t-shirt sold by Cemetery Dance). A quick tale of an unfortunate day at the beach, it was reminiscent of some of Fredric Brown’s short-shorts.

“Scenic Pastures” by Nate Southard is a story of a pig farmer who supplements his income in a pragmatic way – he uses the pigs as a body disposal service. His grim sideline turns even darker when he takes on a new client who pays him to be rid of some unusual corpses.

The only writer in the volume other than Keene whose work I was familiar with, Maurice Broaddus contributes “Night of the Living Baseheads”, best described as The Wire meets Night of the Living Dead, as a dealer finds his new “Black Zombie” brand of heroin is a little too accurately described.

In “Bloodlegum and Lolliknives”, Bob Ford shows us Halloween trick-or-treating where the psycho child-killer is the least frightening character.

Kelli Dunlap, the former proprietor of Horror Web who has now turned to writing herself, crafts “How Does That Make You Feel?” the story of a therapy group consisted of incarcerated serial killers, and illustrates what happens when the therapist lets things get out of hand.

So five authors, four of them not yet household names, with five excellent stories. I usually recommend buying a book like this, but I imagine it will be difficult to come by, so you are probably out of luck if you don’t already have it. But keep the names in mind, as all have more fiction due out in the near future.

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