Fear is the Worst Contagion

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Graphic: LiveScience.com

As a biological and microbial horror author, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t have at least something to say about the much-ballyhooed coronavirus.

Worrisome though it may be, COVID-19 is far less of a statistical threat than a slew of other illnesses teeming around the world as we speak. Indeed, despite its seemingly higher mortality rate (which many experts think might actually be much lower due to many undiagnosed milder cases), it would take an incredible feat for this coronavirus to surpass even influenza’s yearly death toll—a disease we rarely fear—much less malaria.

While it’s possible things may change, even in the case of a pandemic chances are only a fraction of the population will catch the bug, the vast majority of whom will come out healthy on the other side. As with any disease, the greatest risk falls on seniors and those with compromised immune systems, and it’s for them we should be taking the necessary governmental and personal precautions (wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick, etc.) to avoid spreading this—or any other—illness.

However, the point of this post isn’t to discuss the virus, it’s to shed light (shed dark?) on the behavior of certain folks in response to the recent news.

One would think horror writers such as myself—particularly ones who write about disease—would be gleeful over the latest outbreak, as it provides new source material and a vindication of our not-so-subtle warnings over the years to better prepare for these inevitable threats. Not so, however. Quite to the contrary, in fact.

While I obviously can’t speak for all horror authors, I know that the vast majority of us write horror not because we enjoy suffering and want to see more of it, but because we’re sensitive to life’s shadow and seek a way to sanely process it. Indeed, I haven’t seen a single horror writer online attempting to fan the flames of hysteria regarding the current outbreak.

But then there are the ghouls. These folks aren’t fiction writers, of course, as they have no useful insight on the human condition worth communicating. Instead, they seek attention by deliberately stoking fear through the spread of false information and apocalyptic opinion-making. It’s one thing to crack tasteless jokes in an attempt to lighten the mood, but these disturbed folks only seek to darken it.

Personally, I loathe the behavior of these ghouls, and I have confronted several of them online in an attempt to get them to see how irresponsible—and downright harmful—their figurative shit-spewing truly is. More often than not, they are so unhappy with their lives their only solace comes from spreading misery around. When they hear about a new outbreak, a part of them actually WANTS it to turn into a deadly pandemic. These people exemplify the worst of human nature and I am nearly sickened (pun intended) every time I see their disturbing antics on display.

Nothing is more contagious than fear. The ghouls wield that powerful emotionally recklessly with no intention other than to harm. But a skillful horror writer can harness it to get us to prepare—both psychologically and otherwise—for nature’s inevitable dark turns and show us how to make it safely back into the light.

Darkest Regards,
Josh Schlossberg
JoshWorstNightmare.com

Writing Horror is Hard

Josh perplexed black and white daguerrotypeI’m not gonna lie: it ain’t isn’t easy being a horror writer.

First of all, it takes years—if not decades—to develop your writing to the point where anyone wants to read it at all (if you’re lucky). And then, if you want to get published anywhere, you’ve got to make it past the gatekeepers—the editors, whose tastes are highly subjective.

Next, you’ve got to produce an original—but still comfortably familiar—novel that’s smoothly written, excitingly plotted, and populated by unique but realistic characters.

If you’re going the traditional publishing route, you’ve got to query dozens of agents (the majority of whom are focused on finding the next bestseller) or an independent publisher whose specific niche you can fill.

Even if you land an agent, that’s no guarantee of a sale to a publishing house. And if you are published and the sales aren’t very good, your agent or publisher will likely drop you. Then, you’re back at square one—with the added albatross of a poorly selling book hanging over your head.

I’ve written two complete novels thus far and while I’ve had some offers from independent publishers, none of them were the right fit for me, so I declined. While self-publishing was—and still is—a viable option, just for the hell of it I’m going to give the traditional route a third try.

Right now, I’m working on the second draft of my new horror novel, Malinae, about a disabled elderly man living with a wife who suffers from dementia. As her behavior gets increasingly strange—and eventually dangerous—he starts suspecting something far worse than her disease is at blame.

Whether it’s through traditional, independent, or self-publishing, Malinae I intend to leash it upon the world within the next year or so. I greatly appreciate all of you who might be reading this or any of my fiction. I won’t forget it.

Darkest Regards,
Josh Schlossberg

Terror at 5280′ Available on Amazon!

A neighborhood won’t let its residents forget the past. One taste draws two lovers into a nightmarish addiction. A harsh winter forces strange creatures down from the mountains.

At sea level, where it’s safe, things like this can’t happen. But when you’re sky high in Denver, Colorado, anything goes…including your sanity.

Beware of Terror at 5280’, a local horror fiction anthology featuring 22 dark tales set in and around Denver and the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains penned exclusively by local authors (including Stephen Graham Jones, Carter Wilson, and others).

Paperback ($12.95) and e-book ($3.99) available on Amazon on Tuesday, November 26, aka Terror Tuesday! Makes a great holiday gift for friends/loved ones/enemies!

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The Glamorous Life of a Horror Writer

It’s been a busy week for a biological horror fiction writer!

Music to my Fears FB cropOver the weekend, I helped put on “Music To My Fears” with Denver Horror Collective, our experiment with horror fiction readings set to live music. On top of making sure everything went smoothly with the acts and the event itself, I played guitar accompaniment behind two stories. “Love Bug” by Amy Armstrong dealt with the outbreak of a strange, new disease and “You Can Do Better” by bestselling author JoAnn Chaney was about a disturbing Tinder date.

We had a sold-out show with about 80 people in the audience and we raised enough money to fully finance Terror at 5280’, Denver Horror Collective’s local horror fiction anthology due out in November (of which I’m an editor).

As if that wasn’t enough, last night I read at something called “Noir at the Bar,” a semi-regular event at the Irish Snug here in Denver typically focused on crime fiction. However, since this is the Halloween season, they wanted a horror twist—which is probably the only reason they invited me!noir

I had a great time listening to the other authors including organizer Michael Poole, Sam W. Anderson, Carina Bissett, Hunter C. Eden, Molly Tanzer, and Jane Keir.

Though I haven’t written anything I’d call “noir,” I read an excerpt from my short story “Viremia,” which was published in Campfire Tales in 2017. If you haven’t read the story yet, it certainly has a few elements of crime fiction, but in my particular style, things get weird pretty fast.

Darkest Regards,

Josh Schlossberg

Help Get Terror at 5280′ Off the Ground!

Terror CoverOver the last century, traditional publishing has brought us the most famous horror stories ever told. Big names such as Stephen King and Dean Koontz thrust horror’s tendrils into the minds of millions of Americans, popularizing the genre.

Fast forward to 2019, where small presses and indie publishing are now bringing us the lion’s share of horror fiction—including what I believe to be some of the best stuff ever written, in what many are calling a horror renaissance.

The reason is simple: Small presses have more freedom to publish unique and diverse voices, acquired tastes that might not appeal to a mainstream palate. While these conduits can sometimes be hit or miss, more often than not, they’re where you’ll find the most artful—and dangerous—writing out there. Giving free rein to authors is how a literary genre evolves.

Which is why I’m all shivers to announce that, this fall, Denver Horror Collective (of which I’m a founding member) will be publishing a horror fiction anthology of its own!

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I Finally Found My Genre

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What do vampire bedbugs, desert parasites, and zombie deer have in common? They’ve all had starring roles in my horror fiction!

Though I rarely lack for dark inspiration, for years I’ve struggled to define the specific subgenre of horror in which I write. For a while I was calling it “microbial horror,” as a lot of my work focuses on viruses and bacteria, though not all.

For instance, the novel I’m currently pitching, Alpha Syndrome, has to do with deer ticks, but I’m sure as hell not calling my stuff “tick-lit.” And then I wrote “Handgina,” and while some tried to label it “body horror,” to me that brings up images of guts and gore, which I tend to shy away from (in my writing, my reading, and life in general).

Over time, I pondered my (world’s largest?) collection of “nature-based horror” books: dark, clever, and often absurd tomes about killer sea birds, deadly snails, and murderous bodies of standing water. But while many of my stories do take place in or involve nature, that didn’t quite feel right either.

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