While I ordinarily do a year-end roundup of my favorite blog posts, articles, podcasts, and other things I’ve done, because I’ve shifted into working as a publisher and live stream host, I no longer write as much as I used to. Much of my energy has been focused on building up Terror House Magazine and Terror House Press, turning them into the premier hubs for outsider literature.
Since we launched in May, Terror House Magazine has published over 350 submissions from over 150 different writers, spanning short stories, literary nonfiction, poetry, reviews, and serialized novellas. Our traffic has continued to grow, with December falling a hair short of being our best month yet. We’ve been attacked by both the far-left and the neo-Nazi right, with the clods of #saferLIT trying to blackball our writers and famous right-wing personalities like Richard Spencer and J.F. Gariépy crying about us on their shows.
My co-editor Glahn has published an article today featuring his favorite Terror House submissions over the past year, and I present my favorite picks below. Note that I deliberately avoided choosing submissions that he also picked, since our tastes overlap on many of them, instead choosing to highlight several favorites of my own. Additionally, both Glahn’s list and mine exclude submissions that won Terror House’s Best of the Month Award, which you can find here.
Blood Knot by Jose Oseguera
I’m not really big on erotica; my one foray into writing it was as part of an aborted trolling campaign. For that matter, I don’t even really like gratuitous sex in writing period. Dangerous Days, a documentary about the making of Blade Runner, features an extended cut of the scene where Harrison Ford and Sean Young make out where she gets topless, with Ridley Scott explaining that he didn’t put it in the final cut because he views sex scenes as unnecessary unless they drive the plot forward in some fashion.
Blood Knot is a perfect example of a book where gratuitous sex isn’t just welcome, it’s necessary. A Story of O-esque novella about a relationship between a young man and an older woman, Oseguera’s graphic prose goes from sexy to sickening when layered with context. Blood Knot is a story about abuse, showing how the sins and scars of one person are transmuted to the next generation, knowingly or unknowingly.
“You Have a Mushroom Infection” by John Grauerholz
John Grauerholz, aka Mr. Mean-Spirited, is a writer I’ve followed for years, his cutting wit and ebullient misanthropy a welcome reprieve from the clap-happy self-empowerment talk common in this corner of the Internet. In this nonfiction story, he details a horrific case of jock itch he contracted while visiting Tijuana and the even more horrific doctor’s visit he endured afterwards.
“Bubblegum Cigarettes” by Matthew Brockmeyer
Set in the 1970’s, “Bubblegum Cigarettes” is the story of a young girl who runs away from her abusive parents. It’s full of wonderful quips and lines (e.g. “You don’t even know how to finger-fuck! You couldn’t even find my secret spot!”) and has a bleak, comic atmosphere.
“White Dwarf” by Glahn
If it weren’t for the fact that Terror House’s editors don’t give awards to themselves, “White Dwarf” would have been a strong contender for July’s Best of the Month Award. It’s a rarity in modern literature: a short story with a cartoony premise that is written so well it’s impossible not to take seriously.
“White Dwarf” follows the adventures of its titular character Milky, a slave owned by the black man Theo, who enjoys tormenting him in between having fun with the PAWGs chained up in his basement. It’s dark, funny, and after you read it, you’ll never look at jujubes the same way again.
“Food for Thought” by Anagha Subhash
As Glahn points out in his best-of list, one issue with outsider writers is that they tend towards depravity. I love reading about venereal diseases and white dwarves getting the shit kicked out of them as much as the next man, but it does get tiring after a while.
“Food for Thought” is a significant departure from Terror House’s usual fare: a story about one girl’s favorite dish. I’ve said for years that a talented writer can talk about the dumbest shit imaginable and still make it entertaining, and Anagha Subhash’s essay is proof of that: after reading it, I was craving a fatayer so badly that I went down to the only Lebanese restaurant in Budapest to get one.
“Was Her Resting?” by Kirk Forlatt
Terror House has published a few Southern Gothic pieces, but this is by far my favorite. The tale of an old man, his dog, and some robbers, I challenge you to not shed a tear at the ending. Forlatt’s sparse prose and attention to detail sell the story.
“Fetish” by Benjamin Welton
Benjamin Welton specializes in contemporary horror stories that take advantage of “negative space,” allowing readers to fill in the blanks and speculate about the motives and fates of his characters. “Fetish” is my personal favorite of his work so far, focusing on a trophy wife, her husband’s foot fetish, and her paranoia over his potential cheating.
“Helené Brooks” by Edward Shaw
Edward Shaw is another regular writer at Terror House, penning stories known for their sudden twists and surreal atmospheres. This story, about a young man searching for a present for his girlfriend in 1950’s San Francisco and his run-in with a sultry older woman, is my personal favorite of his.
“Sugar-Plum Fearless” by Soren James
I’m not even sure what the fuck this story is supposed to be, other than that I like it. It starts with a private eye pissing his pants because he’s too senile to remember how to unzip, then he has a philosophical discussion with a dwarf while he chops up the corpse of a tranny hooker in his bathtub. Seriously, read it.
NEET by Calvin Westra
I’ve been friends with Calvin for years and in that time, I’ve watched him mature into one of the best writers of our generation. NEET, an eight-part novella about a jobless junkie who gets bullied by a monster made out of cans, is his best work to date. Calvin has truly mastered the art of doing less with more, as he effortlessly narrates the life of Ben and how he is ridiculed by his dealer, patronized by his mother, and mocked by the can monster.
“If You Love Something” by Brian Eckert
Brian Eckert holds the distinctions of being the first writer to submit to Terror House and the first winner of our Best of the Month Award. “If You Love Something” is his most recent story for us and one of his best, a moving tale about a loveless nerd who makes his fantasies into reality, in a similar fashion as Jimmy Stewart’s character in Vertigo. In contrast to the black comedy of “Standing Arrow Straight” and the surreal “Nagasaki Boy,” “If You Love Something” is almost tender, a love story for a world in which God is dead.
“Last Days and Testament” by Nick Willis
“Last Days and Testament” is a story about the archetypal modern man: a man with no family, no friends, no love life, no fulfilling job, and nothing to live for aside from jerking off. It’s a common story, one that we’ve heard before, but Willis narrates it with humor and clarity.
“Self-Destruction” by Ikhnaton Skypeople
I’ve made it clear in the past that I don’t care for most women writers, particularly young women: their lack of life experience and narcissism is unbearable. However, good women writers have one thing on men: they’re much better at capturing emotion itself, the swirling maelstrom of hormones and hindbrain impulses that afflict all humans but which men are less capable of understanding.
“Self-Destruction” is the kind of work that only a woman could have written. A patchwork tale of one woman’s descent into alcoholism and ruin, “Self-Destruction” is told through a combination of first-person accounts, emails, and MySpace postings, detailing the unraveling of Allie’s life in graphic, unflinching detail.
“Conjugal Bloodbath” by Bronze Age Chad
One of the secrets of Terror House’s success is that we’re not pretentious. We’ll publish traditional-style fiction and poetry, but we’ll also publish works that no other literary magazine would touch…such as a story depicting Richard Spencer and James Fields as prison lovers. Published shortly after Fields’ murder conviction, “Conjugal Bloodbath” is a stinging satire of the alt-right.
“Win” by the Juju Writers’ Collective
Last month, as an experiment, Glahn created an open-access Google Document, inviting anyone and everyone to collectively write a short story. “Win” is the result: a story about an Indian chief shitting into an octoroon’s mouth, then raping him so hard that his intestines prolapse. Depending on your perspective, it’s either the best thing ever or the worst thing ever.
I’d like to thank not only those of you who have read and supported Terror House Magazine since its inception, but those of you who’ve followed my own work over the years. Stay tuned, because 2019 is going to be the biggest year yet.