Halloween Extravaganza: Paul Flewitt: Clive Barker, Dark Dreamer Pt 1

When I invited Paul Flewitt to take part in this year’s Halloween Extravaganza, I never could have expected the guest post that he sent me. We discussed it several times over the past few weeks, and every time he would tell me that it was almost done, send me over a small portion of it, and ask me what I thought. When I received the final copy, I immediately sat down to read it – a retrospective on one of my all-time favorite authors? – and could not believe just how good it was. Weighing in at 69 pages, 40,227 words… it’s definitely the largest, most researched blog post I have received in my seven plus years of being a blogger. I have broken it up into six days, so sit back and enjoy.


Clive Barker, Dark Dreamer:
A Retrospective
Part 1

Hi everyone, and happy belated Halloween. Thanks to Meghan for inviting me to write this, admittedly rather lengthy article.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that, given the opportunity to do so, I would write an article about Clive Barker. I have never made a secret of the fact that I love his work, and that I hold Barker in high esteem as a writer, artist, director and human being. I think every interview I have ever given has included Barker in some way or another – how could it not? He is a huge influence on my writing, as is reflected in many reviews of my books and stories. It would be utterly remiss of me to refuse to celebrate him in any way that I can. So when I discussed with Meghan the kinds of spots she wanted for her Halloween Extravaganza, and a Barker retrospective came up in the conversation, I leapt at the chance to be the one to write it. I do hope that you take as much pleasure in reading it as I have in researching and writing it.

I have tried to be concise, to keep this from becoming an unauthorised biography running into many thousands of words, but there is a lot of ground to cover. Clive has been an insanely prolific artist over the last 40 years, and to fit absolutely everything into a blog article in the detail that each project deserves would be inadvisable. I have written here a potted history of his books, some selected movies, and mentions for plays he has written. You might see this post as a jumping off point for further research. I recommend Douglas E. Winter’s authorised biography The Dark Fantastic, Clive Barker’s own The Essential Clive Barker, and also the Barkercast and Revelations websites for further examination of his wider work.

So, all of this said… shall we begin?


Liverpool, UK in the 1950’s and 60’s was a city in transformation. The year of Clive Barker’s birth, 1952, came seven years after World War 2 ended; Liverpool was still rebuilding and regenerating after being gutted by bombing and the docks, which once provided the lion’s share of the city’s economy, were slowly dying. It was a city catching up with the modern world, and was a hotbed of artistic creativity. From this soup would be fermented bands like The Beatles, The Merseybeats, Gerry & the Pacemakers, and writers like Phil Redmond and, of course, Clive Barker.

The young Barker was a creative, artistic boy. His bedroom was filled with scribblings, doodles, and models half-built. He created for himself different worlds to inhabit and take him away from one that made very little sense to him, which probably gave a clue to the man that he would become. He was an intelligent child; was one of only ten children in his primary school to pass his eleven-plus exam and be admitted to Quarry Bank Grammar School. The headteacher of Quarry Bank was William Pobjoy, a man forever remembered in history as the guy who allowed a young lad named John Lennon to form a little sciffle band while at school and play during lunch periods; The Quarrymen would pretty soon become The Beatles. Pobjoy was described as a “pompous prick” by Barker, so he clearly didn’t enjoy the same rapport with the man as Lennon did. Of course, Clive also described himself as a “snidey little bastard,” so his criticism is not only reserved for his headteacher, but turned upon himself too.

In his first years, Clive was absent from lessons more than he attended them, a fact that was mourned by one teacher who remarked that the class was “lesser for Clive’s absence.” He hated sports, and the class system which pitted child against child. The enigma to teachers was that Barker was a talented pupil, far from a dunce. He performed well in exams and in class… when he deigned to show up. Put simply, academic pursuits held little relevance to the young Clive Barker; the arts and words were where the world made sense to him. In time, he came to a compromise with his parents that he would knuckle down at school, if he could also pursue his art. As long as his mess was confined to his room, a deal was struck.

Clive’s English teacher, Norman Russell, immediately saw something very different in the young Barker, famously refusing to mark Clive’s assignments because “he had moved beyond the curriculum and could not be marked.” Russell was the man who encouraged Barker’s exploration of his imagination, supporting his endeavours on stage. Clive was cast in school plays throughout his time at Quarry Bank and was permitted to put on his own fringe plays, many of them written by him and his friend Phil Rimmer. This was also where Barker first met a boy two years his junior, but would become a lifelong friend, Doug Bradley. Most memorable of these self-produced plays was Neongonebony, a play entirely improvised by the students.

In these plays Barker and his fellow actors showed a forward-thinking and almost revolutionary philosophy toward the arts, seating the audience on stage while the play was enacted on the floor, lit by candles held by the actors and with horrific special effects designed by Clive and Phil.

Clive left Quarry Bank with the intention of attending Liverpool College of Arts, but at the insistence of his father who wanted him to get a proper education and some possibility of gainful employment, he went to the University of Liverpool instead. This dismayed his English teacher, Norman Russell, who had hoped to see Clive accepted into Oxford or Cambridge, but as Barker himself concedes “I lacked the application… I didn’t want to be an MP or justice of the peace…” University did not stop the young Barker from creating; writing plays and even a short novel, originally entitled “The Company of Dreamers;” later released as “The Candle in the Cloud” and dedicated to his friends: Julie, Sue, Anne, Lynne, Doug, and Graham; his fellow actors from school.

Throughout his years at university he continued to act, forming his own theatre company with Doug Bradley, Peter Atkins, Phil Rimmer, and others. The company started out as The Hydra Theatre Company after Clive and Phil Rimmer made a series of experimental short films, which included Salome and The Forbidden. The company occupied much of Clive’s spare time throughout the 70’s, mutating into The Theatre of the Imagination. Under both guises, Barker put on a number of plays. At this time he also wrote The Adventures of Maximillian Bacchus and His Travelling Circus, a short novel for young adults which was eventually released in 2009 and loosely based on his theatre company and friends. The theatre became more of a full time focus when he graduated from university in 1974, and they built a solid reputation for themselves.

Liverpool could not contain Clive Barker for much longer, however, as travel to cities like Paris and London showed him the wider world. It took some persuasion – Barker believed that living in Liverpool offered a unique mystique that being in the London scene would not afford them – but he was persuaded and was first of his friends to move, with his partner, John Gregson, to London in 76. Doug Bradley moved in 78, as did Phil Rimmer and the rest of the company. The troupe morphed as new members joined, becoming The Dog Company and performing several Barker-penned plays including “History of the Devil,” applying for funding from The Arts Council and touring to places like Edinburgh and Holland to perform. Barker and John were never particularly well off, but got by on John’s salary, Clive’s welfare checks, and whatever small income he received from performing. He also supplemented his income writing for a small S&M magazine, copies of which were seized and burned, much to Clive’s delight. It was these stories and articles that would later inspire, in part, Clive’s most famous creation, Pinhead.

More plays followed in the early years of the 80’s, with “Paradise Street,” “Frankenstein in Love,” “The Secret Life of Cartoons,” “Crazyface,” “Subtle Bodies,” and “Colossus” being written and performed in 81, 82 and 83. By now Clive had withdrawn from acting, taking on the role of stage director and principle writer in pursuit of more singular recognition for his writing.


1983 and 84 proved pivotal years for Barker as he began working at night on short stories. His days were still spent on plays and the theatre, the stories being more a distraction and something to share with his friends from the company. He explored his imagination in a much deeper, unreserved way in these stories, giving no thought to publishing any of them. That was, until he saw the Dark Forces anthology in a bookstore, containing short stories by Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, and Ramsey Campbell. This anthology set off a lightbulb for Barker and he immediately set about, with his theatrical agent, to find a publisher for his stories. It was a tough sell; the industry opinion was, and still is, that anthologies don’t sell. Sphere Books took a chance on them however, and Clive Barker’s Books of Blood were published. A new Imaginer had arrived, and took the world of horror and dark fantasy by storm. Ramsey Campbell wrote; “I think Clive Barker is the most important writer of horror fiction since Peter Straub,” and Stephen King wrote; “I have seen the future of horror, and his name is Clive Barker.” It was a phrase that Barker says “changed my life forever…” but also proved to be something of a curse.

Books of Blood (1984)

Of all Clive Barker’s works, Books of Blood is the one I see most frequently recommended in online groups to initiates into the world of Barker (or The Barkerverse, as I term it) these days. I can see why too; Books of Blood gives an overview of everything that might be expected from Clive’s work. There are claustrophobic horrors and epic fantasies, peopled by monsters of both the human and distinctly non-human variety. If you’re going to like any Barker at all, you will like a lot of what’s contained in these volumes.

There are a number of releases of Books of Blood: individual volumes and omnibus editions which collect volumes 1-3 and 3-6, all with differing cover art. Really, Barker is a collectors’ dream when it comes to interesting cover art. Like Pokemon; you’ve gotta catch em all.

Stand out stories for me here would be: Pig Blood Blues, Rawhead Rex, Dread, The Forbidden, Book of Blood, The Body Politic, Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament, Son of Celluloid, and In The Hills, The Cities. Honestly though, there isn’t a bad story in the whole bunch. As an introduction to Barker’s work, you really can’t go wrong here.


The release of Books of Blood proved something of an anomaly in publishing circles; for a writer to debut with a short story collection was unheard of in the modern era, for them to be a critical success unprecedented. It wasn’t an astounding commercial success, but sold enough for Sphere to want more from Barker: a novel. It was a daunting prospect for Clive to write a full length piece, but he set to work and produced a synopsis entitled “Out of the Empty Quarter.” This was proposed to begin in the Arabian desert; an explorer discovers the ruins of Eden inhabited by a lonely angel. The explorer returns to England and unleashes a horrifying force, which turns out to be more angelic than demonic. Sphere rejected this idea, finding it more akin to fantasy than horror. Unperturbed, Barker came up with something else: “Mamoulian’s Game,” but we would come to know it as “The Damnation Game.”

The Damnation Game (1985)

The story begins with a thief wandering through the ashes of the Warsaw Ghetto, searching for a legendary card player. Stories have been told of the European, the greatest card player they have ever heard of who never loses, and the thief is skeptical. Of course, he wants to meet this man himself and disprove the fable… and play him himself. He has tracked the European to Warsaw, and here he will find him… and win. The prize for winning against the European is wealth, fame, and long life, a prize that the thief accepts eagerly.

Years later, Marty Strauss is in prison for armed robbery, closing in on parole and determined to see out his sentence in peace. He is summoned to a meeting with the governor of the prison and is greeted by William Toy. Strauss is soon made an offer he could scarcely refuse: early release, in return for his services as bodyguard to the hermetic millionaire, Joseph Whitehead.

Strauss is taken to Whitehead’s Sanctuary by Toy, where he will live as Whitehead’s right hand man. He meets Whitehead and, quite frankly, cannot believe his luck. He is paid well for his services, lives in a grand mansion, and can live his life again. All is going better than Strauss could have possibly dreamed… until Mamoulian comes to call.

The Damnation Game is a Faustian tale of redemption and… well, damnation obviously. Marty Strauss is portrayed as a normal guy, thrown into some very unusual and terrifying circumstances, used by a man who considers himself above the common. Mamoulian, the Last European, is characterised as an eloquent, melancholy, and ill-used antagonist in the piece. There is a lot to like in this story, as bleak and morbid as it turns out to be. It is certainly a great debut novel from a writer finding his feet and discovering his style.

Once again, Barker’s work was praised by the genre critics, but wasn’t so much a commercial success. Sphere marketed it as a middle-ranked book, giving it a little marketing and hoping that Clive could sell it in personal appearances. They were hoping to sell movie rights, but they never materialised. It certainly engendered a response, with one critic calling it “spiritually bankrupt,” while another said it was “Zombie Flesh Eaters written by Graham Greene.” Characteristically, Barker revelled in these critiques. “What you can’t do to most of the images in my books is ignore them…”

If nothing else, Barker had announced himself on the scene as a major writer of dark fiction, and his contribution was recognised in 1985 by the British Fantasy Society and World Fantasy Society, awarding him Best Collection award for 84’s Books of Blood.

Now it was time for Barker to cement his place in the pantheon of British horror writers… but not before a little distraction in the form of movie-making.


1985 also brought Barker’s first feature film through Green Man Productions: Underworld. A futuristic horror, it was doomed from the beginning by interfering producers which led to a disjointed affair. Barker wrote the script and friend, George Pavlou, directed with a shoestring budget; neither was in control of the money and Pavlou was even barred entirely from the editing suite during post-production. A second writer was brought in to rewrite Barker’s scripts (which began as unfilmable since Clive had previously written for stage and had no experience of writing for the screen), but the new writer turned it into a more 80’s themed, low budget action romp. Pavlou tried to sew the two scripts together in an effort to create a coherent script… and ultimately failed. Barker saw the movie in the theatre and couldn’t watch, seeing the butchery that had been committed on his vision, which gave a preview of themes that he would revisit in Nightbreed.

Barker had sold the rights of first refusal to Green Man Productions for five of the stories from Books of Blood: Rawhead Rex; Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament; Confessions (From a Pornographer’s Shroud); Sex, Death and Starshine; and Human Remains.

Pre-production on Rawhead Rex would begin in January 1986.

If Clive thought that Rawhead Rex would be a happier, more successful experience and that Green Man Productions would have learned from the errors made with Underworld, he was mistaken. From the outset it became apparent that this would be another difficult production. First, the producers re-set the movie in Ireland instead of the south of England, then announced a budget of £3m, but the reality was rather less. Barker wrote the screenplay, which director George Pavlou loved… and that was essentially the end of Barker’s involvement in the project. He was never invited to the set, nor was he even called for advice. Clive presented the artists with sketches for the Rawhead character, but the producers had other ideas. The make-up artists designed an elaborate twenty-piece suit for Rawhead which would take seven hours to dress, but these were also rejected for being too expensive by producers. Instead, they went with a single piece suit which took fifteen minutes to dress… and it showed. Shooting took place during the worst storms Ireland had seen for years, meaning filming was a torturous experience. The movie took seven weeks of eighteen hour days to make in terrible conditions.

Needless to say, Rawhead Rex was far from the movie that it could have been, and once again Clive was disappointed with the result. What could have been a fine inclusion into the pantheon of monster horror was resigned to the B-movie comedy bin. Barker was not bitter about the experience, however; he had been taught an important lesson: if you want something done right, do it yourself.

1986 also saw Barker’s work return to the stage, and this time in the West End. The Secret Life of Cartoons had been received well at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1982, and now there were producers who wanted to put it onto the bigger stages in London. So it was that Tudor Davis directed the play at the Aldwych Theatre in October of 86. Barker expanded the play to two hours from its original one, and the play starred Una Stubbs (Worzel Gummidge), Derek Griffiths (Play School), and Geoffrey Hughes (Coronation Street). Unfortunately, the critics were not kind to Clive’s venturing into farce and the run was a short one.

1986 was a year of learning harsh lessons indeed… but 1987 was a year where everything would change and Clive Barker would put the lessons he had learned into action.

The first seeds of Barker’s rise to prominence on the world stage were sown in 1986, when he began writing the novelette that would kick his career into the stratosphere. So far, while his written work and stageplays had been moderately successful, his movies could only be viewed as interesting failures. 1987 would be the year that all of that changed… but Clive had to raise some hell first…


The Hellbound Heart (1987)

Clive Barker’s next release came with little fanfare: a novelette published in the Night Visions 3 anthology. This was a small press release, and very limited, so Barker could not have known the impact that this small (only covering around 100 pages) Faustian tale could have on his future. Night Visions was re-released in 1988 as The Hellbound Heart; the story itself not released individually until 1991, at the height of the movie’s success.

The Hellbound Heart begins with Frank Cotton, a man fuelled by excesses which are no longer sated by normal human pursuits. He travels in search of the next experience, the next excess with which his desires might be relieved. He is given a small, plain black box in Dusseldorf by a man named Kircher, who promises that to open the box is to travel… or something very like it. Of course, Frank wastes no time in finding the solution to opening the box and summoning the Cenobites of The Order of the Gash, explorers of the outer reaches of pleasure and sensation. They take him to their realm, to discover the limits of his own desires.

Barker takes inspiration for the Cenobites appearance from the homoerotic S&M magazines that he had written stories for previously; their scarred and disfigured appearance, bound in leather recalling the most extreme body modifications. He is here calling to outsider culture in the most direct terms possible, and perverting their activities as only Barker can.

Rory and Julia Cotton move into a house left to Rory by his missing brother following his disappearance, helped by their old schoolmate, Kirsty. Julia has grown to dislike Kirsty, her dour demeanour and endless fawning over Rory, and isn’t exactly happy in her marriage either: her thoughts are often drawn back to the day that she had succumbed to the advances of his brother, the irrepressible and missing Frank.

Rory cuts himself on a nail during the move and blood drips onto the floor of the house, unwittingly inviting a visitor into their new home. That night Julia is drawn to a room at the top of the house, the wall peels back to the sound of tinkling bells and a strange, flayed form is revealed; Frank is back.

What follows is a tale of love and lust. Julia agrees, reluctantly at first, to bring men back to the house so that Frank can feed. This she does and, over the course of the next few days, Frank grows stronger and ever more persuasive… what he needs next is flesh, and there is a donor living in the house with them.

Rory has asked Kirsty to look in on Julia, concerned by her suddenly erratic demeanour and distracted mood. When Kirsty does, her curiosity overcoming her. She explores the house and finds the puzzlebox that had undone Frank and the husks of Julia’s victims. She comes face to face with the skinless Frank, who lusts after her and sees her ripe for corruption. Kirsty escapes the house with the puzzlebox, fully intending to warn Rory before it’s too late, but she faints on the street outside the house.

She awakes in a hospital and notices the puzzlebox on the table beside her. She studies it to pass the time, her fingers moving across its lacquered surfaces. Unwittingly, she solves the puzzle, the box begins to open, and the Cenobites arrive. Of course, Hell’s servants must take Kirsty back to their domain, but Kirsty manages to persuade them to take another in her place.

Kirsty returns to Julia’s house, hoping to save Rory from a fate similar to the men whose remains she had seen. When she gets there, she finds Julia and Rory, with blood on his face, drinking brandy. Rory tells her that he has killed Frank, and knows all about Julia’s actions of the last few days. He then utters a phrase which betrays him – “Come to Daddy…” he says, belying the man who really lived beneath the borrowed flesh. Kirsty argues against him, and Frank gives chase through the house until they reach the upper room. There, Frank unwittingly names himself and bells begin to toll as the Cenobites arrive to take their errant pupil.

While Barker didn’t write the story with any thought toward making a film of it (it was written to exorcise the ghost of his ended relationship with John Gregson after ten years), he soon realised that it would translate very well to a low-budget film. Clive first approached George Pavlou, but was also introduced to Chris Figg, who was interested in making a horror movie and had ambitions toward production. Learning from past mistakes, Clive insisted on directing the movie. Figg knew that insistence meant that the project would be small scale, low budget – no one would offer cash to a first time director. So, they set about trying to convince financiers to invest. Barker set about writing The Hellbound Heart as a screenplay and, via a circuitous route they came to Hollywood. After a deal with Virgin Films fell apart, New Line Cinema stepped into the breach and committed $4.2m to the project. Filming began in 1987, less than a year after Clive had conceived the story.

The movie version of Hellraiser was approached in much the same way as Barker approached his work with The Dog Company: it was a family affair. He drafted in Doug Bradley to play Pinhead and his cousin, Grace Kirby, played the female Cenobite with Nick Vince and Simon Bamford as Chatterer and Butterball. Clare Higgins was enlisted to play Julia, with Andrew Robinson as Larry and Ashley Laurence as Kirsty.

The movie is fairly faithful to the book, aside from the relationship of the principle characters being changed: Kirsty is now a teenage firebrand daughter of Larry (Rory) and Julia Cotton, not the dowdy old school-friend. The roles are perfectly played, particularly Kirsty, Julia, and Pinhead. Doug Bradley particularly understands the understated quality of Barker’s invention; equal parts Karloff’s Frankestein’s monster and Christopher Lee’s Dracula, he presents Pinhead as an aloof figure, intensely eloquent and with a quiet aura of threat and promised violence. Andrew Robinson, too, provided two improvisations which have proved to be iconic moments in the films; as he chases Kirsty through the house, he growls “Enough of this cat and mouse shit,” and as the Cenobites deliver their coup de gras, the tortured Frank utters the famous line “Jesus wept” moments before he is ripped apart by the hooks and chains which bear him up. It is these improvisations which show the spirit of collaboration that Barker brought to the project and work to make Hellraiser one of the most faithful and best adaptations of a horror story ever produced.

Much to Barker’s surprise it was not the character of Julia or Frank which captured the imagination of the audience, but the monster, Pinhead. The striking appearance of the Hell Priest gave rise to tee-shirts, jigsaws, comic books, a short story anthology and several more movies (declining in quality as they move further away from Clive’s initial intention,) models and trading cars. What Hellraiser ensured was Clive Barker’s equity as not only a writer, but a director and imaginer.


Hellraiser was not the only creation that worked to cement Barker’s reputation in 1987; the year also saw the release of Barker’s second novel. Amidst the praise and furore which surrounded Hellraiser, Clive released Weaveworld.

Back in 1986, Clive had signed a lucrative new publishing deal with HarperCollins, and they were keen to capitalise on the exposure that Clive had received with the movie. The PR department went into overdrive, putting everything they had behind the UK release and were rewarded with a number one bestselling book. They eschewed the “horror” tag and marketed the book for what it was, not for what Barker had become known for. There was a nationwide tour, television appearances, and the commissioning of a carpet from the Royal College of Art.

In the US, Simon & Schuster were more reserved, preferring to cling to the horror angle. This led to critical confusion and a more lukewarm reception from critics and readers alike. The Stephen King quote, “I have seen the future of horror…,” became a millstone around Clive’s neck, rather than the lifechanging gift that it once was. It is an issue that has plagued Barker ever since, as new readers on discussion boards the world over mistake Clive for a linear horror writer, not the fantasist that he really is.

Weaveworld certainly sold in the States upon its release, but was not the phenomenon that it was in the UK.

In the UK, it made Clive Barker a household name.

Weaveworld (1987)

Cal Mooney is an accountant yearning to dream, and for his dreams to come true. He has returned to Liverpool following the death of his mother, to care for a father who isn’t dealing well with his sudden widowhood, and his beloved racing pigeons. It is a setting familiar to anyone who, like me, grew up in the north of England.

When one of the pigeons flies off for adventures of its own, Cal chases the bird and tracks it to a house being emptied to pay for its occupants’ nursing costs. In the backyard is laid a rug from the house, its design facing upwards toward the sky. Cal corners the bird on a window ledge, climbing up on a wall to catch the errant creature. Cal falls while reaching to retrieve the pigeon, falling onto the carpet and catching sight of another world in the warp and weft of the rug. It is a sight that changes Cal’s life, and colours the future events of the story. He meets the grand-daughter of the occupant of the house, Suzanna, a potter with a free-spirit and memories of her grandmother’s tales of other places and magic. She has a book of fairytales, passed down to her from her grandmother, and strangely evocative of the world Cal has seen in the carpet.

Shadwell is a salesman, the emissary of dark witch Immacolata the Incantatrix, and her horrific sisters. He wears a dazzling jacket which has the power to produce the wildest wish of whomever views its lining; all you need do is look and your dearest wish can be yours. Shadwell’s greatest wish is to find the Weave and to sell it. This puts him at odds with his mistress, whose undying ambition is to exact revenge on the people inhabiting the carpet, the Seerkind, for rejecting and fighting against her ambitions to rule them and exiling her from their world, The Fugue. Together, Shadwell and Immacolata steal the carpet, tearing it in the process.

Cal and Suzanna find a deep attraction to one another, and make love. While they sleep, the fragment of the carpet unravels, releasing three inhabitants from The Fugue… and so the story proper begins.

Weaveworld is an ambitious work of fantasy, epic in its conception and execution. Barker introduces us to a Liverpool instantly recognisable and relatable, before taking us on a flight into his own imagination. Weaveworld involves themes that will become familiar in Clive’s subsequent work: magic being shunned by a world grown banal and ordinary, the fantastic hoping to live side by side with the ordinary, the struggle for the acceptance of difference, and the wonder of the weird. Like Books of Blood, Weaveworld is a book that I see recommended frequently to readers new to Barker’s work, and one that most Barker fans have taken to their hearts as a true modern classic.

1987 was a pivotal year in Barker’s progression as a writer, seeing the success of Hellraiser and the release of his first bestselling novel. As we know, Barker is not one for resting on his laurels and the need to move forward was as strong as ever.


Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of this fantastic retrospective on Clive Barker.

Paul Flewitt is a horror/dark fantasy author. He was born on the 24th April 1982 in the Yorkshire city of Sheffield.

Always an avid reader, Paul put pen to paper for the first time in 1999 and came very close to inking a deal with a small press. Due to circumstances unforeseen, this work has never been released, but it did give Paul a drive to achieve within the arts.

In the early 2000’s, Paul concentrated on music; writing song lyrics for his brother and his own bands. Paul was lead singer in a few rock bands during this time and still garners inspiration from music to this day. Paul gave up his musical aspirations in 2009.

In late 2012, Paul became unemployed and decided to make a serious attempt to make a name for himself as a writer. He went to work, penning several short stories and even dusting off the manuscript that had almost been published over a decade earlier. His efforts culminated in his first work being published in mid-2013, the flash fiction piece “Smoke” can be found in OzHorrorCon’s Book of the Tribes: A Tribute To Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.

2013 was a productive year as he released his short story “Paradise Park” in both J. Ellington Ashton’s All That Remains anthology and separate anthology, Thirteen Vol 3. He also completed his debut novella in this time. Poor Jeffrey was first released to much praise in February 2014. In July 2014 his short story “Always Beneath” was released as part of CHBB’s Dark Light Four anthology.

In 2015 Paul contributed to two further anthologies: Demonology (Climbing Out) from Lycopolis Press and Behind Closed Doors (Apartment 16c) with fellow authors Matt Shaw, Michael Bray, Stuart Keane, and more.In 2016, Paul wrote the monologue, The Silent Invader, for a pitch TV series entitled Fragments of Fear. The resulting episode can be viewed now on YouTube, but the show was never aired. The text for the monologue was published in Matt Shaw’s Masters Of Horror anthology in 2017.

Paul continues to work on further material.

He remains in Sheffield, where he lives with his partner and two children. He consorts with his beta reading demons on a daily basis.

You can find more information on Paul Flewitt and his works here…

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Halloween Extravaganza: Brian Hodge: My Review of The Spirit of Things

Having the amazing Brian Hodge on the blog for the first time is definitely an honor. Having him write a review of his favorite Halloween story, which is also one of mine… it’s like we’ve known each other forever.


It is inevitable that institutions get watered down by time. Meanings dilute; the reactions they evoke diminish. Solemn rites become superficial pageantry, ever more hollow the further they drift from their original contexts. Given enough familiarity, even villains and monsters evolve into unlikely antiheroes. By now, the only people rooting for the Halloween movies’ Michael Myers to be stopped are those who are bored sick of him.

According to splatterpunk O.G. John Skipp and his early short story “The Spirit of Things,” the problem with Halloween goes back a lot farther in time than its four-decade film franchise, and runs a lot deeper.

To the ancient Celts, the seasonal turning of summer to winter, of old year to new, was a transitional phase that brought a thinning of the veil between our world and everything else on the other side. Spirits, demons, the dead… they could all cross the ephemeral threshold. This is the history that “The Spirit of Things” remembers. This is the reality that, after millennia of eradication and mockery, is reasserting itself with extreme prejudice.

Since it was first published in the mid-1980s, “The Spirit of Things” has remained my favorite Halloween story of all time. Until a couple of moves disappeared my old hardcopies into a boxed storage purgatory from which they’ve yet to be excavated, I read the piece each year like holy canon: first in the December 1986 issue of Twilight Zone Magazine, then in Deadlines, the 1988 novel by Skipp and his then-collaborator Craig Spector. A strange narrative beast, is Dead Lines, at the time described by its authors as a story collection wrapped in a novel about a guy who kills himself because he can’t sell his story collection.

Barely cracking 2300 words, “The Spirit of Things” has the straightforward simplicity of a timeless fable: a single character, a single setting, a single sequence of events that, in real time, would span fifteen minutes, tops. On the scariest night of the year, an armed and desperate blue-collar worker barricades himself in his apartment, listening to the grisly fate of his neighbors and waiting to see what his own will be.

Yet, with this deceptively limited handful of elements, Skipp paints a portrait in miniature of an entire world undergoing breakdown toward a horrifying new normal. To read it is to reposition yourself at the heart of it. It’s not only balding, paunchy Jake Wertzel under siege in his home; it’s you in yours. It’s not just Wertzel finding out how far he’s willing to go when offering sacrifices to petition for his survival; you can’t read this without wondering about your own limits.

The story’s greatest power is in how actively it engages the imagination. Reader participation is mandatory, because while little is actually seen, much is implied and a whole crazy freakin’ lot is heard. As Wertzel’s surroundings periodically erupt with the kinetic mayhem of an Evil Dead film, it’s the chaos of what he can only hear going on all around him — just outside the windows, on the other side of ceilings and walls — that truly brings the terror, forcing you to conjure in your own head what horrors could possibly be making those ghastly sounds… as well as the carnage they’re leaving in their wake. You want to see, but to see will be the end of you.

Because it’s been around more than thirty years, “The Spirit of Things” may require a bit of a hunt to get your hands on one of its various reprintings. But the effort will be of long-term reward: a holiday classic you can revisit on an annual basis, and wonder, “What if, this year…?”

Called “a writer of spectacularly unflinching gifts” by no less than Peter Straub, Brian Hodge is one of those people who always has to be making something. So far, he’s made thirteen novels, over 130 shorter works, five full-length collections, and one soundtrack album.

His most recent works include the novel The Immaculate Void and the collection Skidding Into Oblivion, companion volumes of cosmic horror. His Lovecraftian novella The Same Deep Waters As You is in the early stages of development as a TV series by a London-based production company. More of everything is in the works.

He lives in Colorado, where he also endeavors to sweat every day like he’s being chased by the police. Connect through his website, or Facebook.

The Immaculate Void

“You wouldn’t think events happening years apart, at points in the solar system hundreds of millions of miles distant, would have anything to do with each other.”

When she was six, Daphne was taken into a neighbor’s toolshed, and came within seconds of never coming out alive. Most of the scars healed. Except for the one that went all the way through.

“You wouldn’t think that the serial murders of children, and the one who got away, would have any connection with the strange fate of one of Jupiter’s moons.”

Two decades later, when Daphne goes missing again, it’s nothing new. As her exes might agree, running is what she does best … so her brother Tanner sets out one more time to find her. Whether in the mountains, or in his own family, search—and—rescue is what he does best.

“But it does. It’s all connected. Everything’s connected.”

Down two different paths, along two different timelines, Daphne and Tanner both find themselves trapped in a savage hunt for the rarest people on earth, by those who would slaughter them on behalf of ravenous entities that lurk outside of time.

“So when things start to unravel, it all starts to unravel.”

But in ominous signs that have traveled light—years to be seen by human eyes, and that plummet from the sky, the ultimate truth is revealed:

There are some things in the cosmos that terrify even the gods.

Skidding Into Oblivion

We each inhabit many worlds, often at the same time. From worlds on the inside, to the world on a cosmic scale. Worlds imposed on us, and worlds of our own making.

In time, though, all worlds will end. Bear witness:

After the death of their grandmother, two cousins return to their family’s rural homestead to find a community rotting from the soul outward, and a secret nobody dreamed their matriarch had been keeping.

The survivors of the 1929 raid on H.P. Lovecraft’s town of Innsmouth hold the key to an anomalous new event in the ocean, if only someone could communicate with them.

The ultimate snow day turns into the ultimate nightmare when it just doesn’t stop.

An extreme metal musician compels his harshest critic to live up to the hyperbole of his trolling.

With the last of a generation of grotesquely selfish city fathers on his deathbed, the residents of the town they doomed exercise their right to self-determination one last time.

As history repeats itself and the world shivers through a volcanic winter, a group gathers around the shore of a mountain lake to once again invoke the magic that created the world’s most famous monster.

With Skidding Into Oblivion, his fifth collection, award-winning author Brian Hodge brings together his most concentrated assortment yet of year’s best picks and awards finalists, with one thing in common:

It’s the end of the world as we know it… and we don’t feel fine at all.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Brian Hodge

Meghan: Hi, Brian. It is an honor to have you here on Meghan’s House of Books as part of my annual Halloween Extravaganza. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Brian Hodge: When I did 23andMe, the DNA results showed 12% mountains, 14% being half of a dyad, 8% Maine Coons, 5% coffee, 2% Belgian ale, 6% black metal, 7% Berlin school electronics, 8% ambient, 11% solitude, 6% kettlebells, 4% Odin, 5% Green Man, and 12% trace elements and unidentifiable.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Brian Hodge: (1) My favorite person from history is Leonardo da Vinci, because I’m fascinated by polymaths. (2) I am, so far, up to a blue belt in Krav Maga, the hand-to-hand combat system of the Israeli Defense Forces (the progression is white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, black). (3) I once managed the circus feat of projectile vomiting strawberry shortcake into my own underwear. (4) For more than twenty years, I’ve been an investor. (5) My primary childhood doctor told me I have unusually tough connective tissue, which I’ve chosen to interpret as being armor plated.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Brian Hodge: It would’ve been from the Little Golden Books line for children. I had a couple of Christmas books … The ABC’s of Christmas and the other told the Rudolph story.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Brian Hodge: The same ones. No, okay … I always have a few going at the same time. Right now, that’s The Blade Itself (Joe Abercrombie); Inc. Yourself (Judith McQuown, because I’m thinking about doing that); Faster Than Normal (Peter Shankman, about ADHD brains); Ghost Rider (Rush drummer Neil Peart’s memoir about losing his first family); and The Divine Spark (essays on psychedelics).

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Brian Hodge: Can I cheat? I promise, it’s still writing related. I can’t think of a book, but I loved the show Gilmore Girls. Which probably wouldn’t have been something most people familiar with me would think I’d find essential. But a few weeks after its first season debut, I stumbled across this article, headlined something like “The Best-Written Show You Have No Idea Exists.” Okay, then — challenge accepted. And I right away fell in love with it, in part because the dialogue was so sharply written.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Brian Hodge: Second grade was when I wrote my first story. I was trying novels by sixth. That drive was always there, from even before I’d learned the alphabet, so there was never a conscious decision about it. It was just following the impulse.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Brian Hodge: My desk, most of the time. It’s this big oak beast with a hutch that I bought right after we moved to Colorado. When I snuff it, I’m thinking the whole thing should be smashed up as the wood for my funeral pyre.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Brian Hodge: It’s more about how I begin the day overall. For me, writing in the morning is optimal, when I’m freshest and my head is clearest. So I get up about 5:30am, and after a bit of mobility warm-up, I head outside for a cardio workout in a fasted state. It comes down to: “Get up, get out, get moving.” It’s usually either trail running or going to the park we live by for a jump rope regimen with agility and weighted ropes. There are a lot of benefits from this: fresh air, getting the blood flowing, and especially the production of BDNF, brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Even in the middle of winter, it has to be awfully deadly out to keep me inside. Then I’m back in for a pint of warm water with lemon juice and apple cider vinegar, and I step into a cold shower for a few minutes. This routine leaves me feeling phenomenal — energized but calm, focused, just plain turbocharged. So it’s a great place from which to begin working.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Brian Hodge: Probably keeping on the right side of perfectionist tendencies, before toppling over onto the other side where they start to become paralyzing.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Brian Hodge: It’s always the most recent things — the latest novel, The Immaculate Void, and the newest collection, Skidding Into Oblivion. I consider them companion volumes. They started out as a single book, then while writing a capstone piece for the collection I accidentally wrote a novel. And I recently did a piece called “Insanity Among Penguins,” for Final Cuts, an upcoming anthology edited by Ellen Datlow, themed around films. It’s about a lost Werner Herzog documentary, and unnerved the shit out of me more than anything has in a long time.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Brian Hodge: It was less about individual books than the cumulative effects of bodies of work. There’s no getting away from Stephen King, and encountering Clive Barker was like seeing the bar get raised. John Irving and Shakespeare left their marks. Dylan Thomas, for rhythm, but that came from audio recordings of him. I always like to credit three contemporaries who came along around the same time, Poppy Z. Brite and Caitlín R. Kiernan and Kathe Koja, for making me more aware of language — they all burst out of the gate doing beautiful things with language — and then Kathe turned me onto Cormac McCarthy. Still, that’s scratching the surface. I’m always absorbing something.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Brian Hodge: Compelling characters in interesting situations. Preferably situations whose resolutions aren’t telegraphed too obviously ahead of time, and ideally in well-realized settings.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Brian Hodge: Just like loving people in real life, there’s almost no end of reasons, or combinations of reasons, that can bring it about. It could be elements of chemistry and compatibility, like worldview and humor and vulnerabilities. It could be admirable traits, like commitment to a cause or striving to do the right thing no matter how hard it may be.

I found Game of Thrones to be a master class in this. There were so many characters I loved, and for different reasons. But one thing I noticed that I especially responded to were characters who were devoted to protecting, looking out for, whatever, one or more weaker characters — even if they were only weaker in the moment — no matter the cost. It was the selflessness of that.

So in my own work, I’m more conscious of this than I used to be. But then, two or three years ago, I had a similar thing called to my attention in a review. I don’t remember what it was covering specifically, but the reviewer brought up having noticed this thread throughout several things of mine they’d read: of characters having to make really hard choices. I hadn’t consciously realized it, but it made me think: Yeah, I guess that’s right. I love it when characters find it in themselves to make the hardest moral choices of their lives. Okay, then, more of that.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Brian Hodge: I’d have to go back to my first couple of novels, Oasis and Dark Advent, the main protagonists of those. A few years ago, in an afterword to a new edition of the latter, I mentioned that the reason the central characters of both novels are students is because, at the time, a student was still about all I knew anything about being. They were such early novels…not just early in my overall body of work, but early in my life. I wrote Oasis about a year out of university. So it was like, okay, if I tap all that, high school and college, at least I’ll have that much locked down. So we’re talking most like me at the time of the writing, but not now. You grow, you evolve, you start achieving your Ultimate Form. I wouldn’t want to be either of those lunkheads now.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Brian Hodge: I should know better, but, yeah, I still can’t help seeing a bad cover as a poor reflection of the contents. As for my own, I’ve occupied every possible station along the continuum: with no input whatsoever and having to take what they give me, total veto power, making suggestions for changes to the basic concept, to designing and compositing my own for some upcoming novella re-releases.

Some of the most satisfying experiences came from projects with Cemetery Dance Publications, and working more closely with the artists. Vincent Chong did the covers for my fourth collection, Picking the Bones, and that new edition of Dark Advent. The most I did was talk about mood, then Vinny knocked them out of the park. He’s glorious. The same with Kim Parkhurst, an artist I got directed to for a novella called I’ll Bring You the Birds From Out of the Sky. With this, it was more than the cover. The story is rooted in cosmic horror, and involves a cache of Appalachian folk art, so I thought it would be cool to have several style-appropriate color plates throughout the book. Kim totally ran with it. All I had to do was sit back and drool over the work-in-progress that she would send me. That little book looks so good I want to lick it.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Brian Hodge: Years ago I read something that immediately struck me as true, but I’d never considered it before: that each book teaches how you to write that particular book. The implication being that there’s not as much carryover to the next as you might think, because the next presents its own new set of challenges. But through all that, one overarching thing I’ve learned is to simply trust the process. That as long as you keep showing up to do the work, and giving it all you have, the details tend to sort themselves out along the way. What you’re doing that whole time is giving your subconscious mind more and more to work with, and the subconscious is always busy, always solving problems. So many times I’ve had no concrete notion of how something should culminate, but by the time I’m on the final approach, it’s there. So I don’t stress about it like I might’ve early on. I trust the process.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Brian Hodge: The one that’s always stayed with me as the biggest ordeal is a chapter in my sixth novel, Prototype. One of the central characters is this damaged guy who finds out he has this extremely rare chromosomal abnormality. About two-thirds in, he finally meets another one like him, whom he finds to be in even worse shape, so it’s devastating for him. I wanted to get as deep into this as possible, so I really prepared for it. On the stereo, I set this 20-minute Godflesh track on infinite repeat, like this spiraling black hole of oppressive noise, and wrote the chapter over several hours while tripping on acid. It got the job done, but I was useless the next day.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Brian Hodge: Really, I’m the last person who should weigh in on this. About all I can say is that they’re uniquely mine, but that’s going to apply to most anyone with a byline. You’d have to ask readers, and even then, ten different people might give you ten different answers.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Brian Hodge: They’re vital, but regardless of whether it’s novels or short stories or long fiction or collections, it seems like I either know what the perfect title is very early on, or it eludes me and nothing ever feels quite right. The best times are when I have a title sitting around waiting for the perfect thing to hang beneath it. “Scars In Progress,” a piece in the collection from earlier this year, Skidding Into Oblivion, is a good example of that. One day I was skimming some dull technical material and misread the phrase “scans in progress.” Wait — what was that again? So I knew I had a keeper, even if it had to gather dust a few years for the right story to come along and claim it. Happy accidents like that can come from anywhere, so you have to always leave yourself open to receive the gifts.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Brian Hodge: I’ve always described novels as being like marriages, while shorter works are passionate flings on the side. So they each have their own rewards. A novel is obviously a bigger accomplishment, but there are times when it’s a bigger pain in the ass, too. So the intrinsic reward ratio is skewed. Let’s say a particular novel is fifteen times the length of a particular short story. Is it fifteen times as fulfilling? I can’t say that it is. I’m just happy to cross another finish line, however long the race. What I most love is the process, and the relationship with the work, however long it lasts.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Brian Hodge: Every book, whether it’s been horror, crime, or more recently fantasy, has been a product of the time it was written. Five years apart, the same idea might undergo a very different development and execution. So I don’t think in terms of a target audience. That would feel too calculating. The main concern is to do the best job I possibly can with the narrative that has started to undress itself in front of me.

And it doesn’t matter what I might want readers to take away, so I never think of that either. When you release something new into the wild, you may retain ownership of the work itself, but you relinquish control over the experience of reading it. People find their own meanings in things. I’ve seen people align perfectly with what I felt I was putting into a work, and seen other people derive takeaways I never intended. But I would never tell the latter people, “No, you’re wrong,” because it’s their own subjective experience. The first time anyone asked me what I wanted readers to come away with, it was during a convention panel, and all I said was, “A receipt.”

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Brian Hodge: I tend to not work in a way that generates big, solid chunks of extraneous stuff. I’m lazy, I don’t want to do all this work that’s just going to get tossed, so paradoxically I do as much heavy lifting upfront as possible. I’ll have these freeform conversations with myself on a yellow legal pad as a way of brainstorming, to get a good idea of where things might be headed, who the characters are, and so on. With a completed first draft, my metaphor is that it’s like a fighter showing up for training camp — recognizable but out of shape. The subsequent drafts, it’s mainly about losing flab and building more muscle where needed. The final pass-throughs, to get to the optimal fighting weight, we’re down to sweating off ounces — a word here, a few words there.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”? (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn’t necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a ‘rainy day’ or for when they have extra time. Do you have one?)

Brian Hodge: That’s interesting, the difference in terminology here. To me, “trunk novel” has always meant an early stab at writing a book that didn’t turn out well, so it gets stashed away in this trunk, real or metaphorical, and likely never sees daylight again.

But what you’re talking about, to me it just falls under time- and project management. I have ideas for novels, and am hundreds of pages into one of them, but it’s not their time yet. So they’re idling like airliners on a runway, waiting on the tower to clear them for takeoff. And I like to mess about with music and sound design, in a home studio. By now it seems to have sorted itself out into three stylistically different identities. I can’t accord it the same priority as the writing, but it’s still something I love doing. Photography, too — I like doing photography. The rationalization I came up with for it all is that success in one field of creative endeavor should fund the ongoing abuse of another.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Brian Hodge: If we are what we repeatedly do, as Aristotle said, for more than a year I ceased to be much of a writer. My parents died in April of last year, then I was appointed estate executor. There were so many responsibilities and obligations, that this was my focus for the next year. Then I needed to take some time off from everything. There’s still estate business to tend to now and then, but I pretty much have my life back again, even though it feels slow in getting back up to speed. Like turning an aircraft carrier.

Lately I’ve been putting together my sixth collection. I wrote the main finale for the third and final volume of editor Stephen JonesLovecraft Squad trilogy of mosaic novels. I just did a piece for an anthology called Miscreations. There’s a gritty fantasy novel called A Song of Eagles that’s part of a larger Kickstarter project, and was 50,000 words along when I had to set it aside the day I woke up to the news my mom had died. So now that I’m warmed up, I’ll finish that one, then decide which runway novel to go with next.

Then there are some potential TV and film projects. We’ve just renewed the option for a TV adaptation of a story called “The Same Deep Waters As You,” by a London-based production company. I read their season one treatment recently, and really like what the attached writer, from Sweden, has done with it. A few other things are still in the negotiation or paperwork phase, so it’s too soon to go public with the news.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Brian Hodge: My website has an email link. I’m usually active on Facebook, although a brief sabbatical is occasionally necessary when the whining hits critical mass. I still have an account on Twitter but hesitate to send anyone there. When the family stuff blew up, I didn’t have time for it, and it’s been dormant ever since.

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Brian Hodge: Nah, other than to say thanks very much for having me here.

Called “a writer of spectacularly unflinching gifts” by no less than Peter Straub, Brian Hodge is one of those people who always has to be making something. So far, he’s made thirteen novels, over 130 shorter works, five full-length collections, and one soundtrack album.

His most recent works include the novel The Immaculate Void and the collection Skidding Into Oblivion, companion volumes of cosmic horror. His Lovecraftian novella The Same Deep Waters As You is in the early stages of development as a TV series by a London-based production company. More of everything is in the works.

He lives in Colorado, where he also endeavors to sweat every day like he’s being chased by the police. Connect through his website, or Facebook.

The Immaculate Void

“You wouldn’t think events happening years apart, at points in the solar system hundreds of millions of miles distant, would have anything to do with each other.”

When she was six, Daphne was taken into a neighbor’s toolshed, and came within seconds of never coming out alive. Most of the scars healed. Except for the one that went all the way through.

“You wouldn’t think that the serial murders of children, and the one who got away, would have any connection with the strange fate of one of Jupiter’s moons.”

Two decades later, when Daphne goes missing again, it’s nothing new. As her exes might agree, running is what she does best … so her brother Tanner sets out one more time to find her. Whether in the mountains, or in his own family, search—and—rescue is what he does best.

“But it does. It’s all connected. Everything’s connected.”

Down two different paths, along two different timelines, Daphne and Tanner both find themselves trapped in a savage hunt for the rarest people on earth, by those who would slaughter them on behalf of ravenous entities that lurk outside of time.

“So when things start to unravel, it all starts to unravel.”

But in ominous signs that have traveled light—years to be seen by human eyes, and that plummet from the sky, the ultimate truth is revealed:

There are some things in the cosmos that terrify even the gods.

Skidding Into Oblivion

We each inhabit many worlds, often at the same time. From worlds on the inside, to the world on a cosmic scale. Worlds imposed on us, and worlds of our own making.

In time, though, all worlds will end. Bear witness:

After the death of their grandmother, two cousins return to their family’s rural homestead to find a community rotting from the soul outward, and a secret nobody dreamed their matriarch had been keeping.

The survivors of the 1929 raid on H.P. Lovecraft’s town of Innsmouth hold the key to an anomalous new event in the ocean, if only someone could communicate with them.

The ultimate snow day turns into the ultimate nightmare when it just doesn’t stop.

An extreme metal musician compels his harshest critic to live up to the hyperbole of his trolling.

With the last of a generation of grotesquely selfish city fathers on his deathbed, the residents of the town they doomed exercise their right to self-determination one last time.

As history repeats itself and the world shivers through a volcanic winter, a group gathers around the shore of a mountain lake to once again invoke the magic that created the world’s most famous monster.

With Skidding Into Oblivion, his fifth collection, award-winning author Brian Hodge brings together his most concentrated assortment yet of year’s best picks and awards finalists, with one thing in common:

It’s the end of the world as we know it… and we don’t feel fine at all.