The Locus Awards reflect the best Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction and related Non-fiction in the universe. The winners of the awards were just announced and I spent some time during Matariki weekend watching the ceremony.
This year the lineup was incredible. The nominees in the Horror Fiction category shone like deadlights from a demon. Here's a taste of what's lurking in the shadows.
Stephen King competed against himself in the horror category. This really gives me a kick.
Later is an un-put-down-able ghost story with the potential to keep you reading till the wee hours. Its a bit like The Sixth Sense, without the twist, but better.
Jamie can see dead people after they have just passed. They're compelled to tell him the truth, before they begin to fade away (which takes about a week). That is, until Jamie meets Kenneth Therriault - a serial bomber, hanging around on this plane to enjoy the fruits of his last great conquest.
Later rates with me because of the gore factor. Yuck. And it's a fast-paced adventure ride. Its also SK's third title with an iconic cover from Hard Case Crime - publishers of Joyland and The Colorado Kid.
Billy Summers was King's second entry and its a much different novel. Its a lot longer, so of course it has a lot more depth and characterisation to it than Later. I'd hesitate to call it horror, but it sure fits the thriller definition.
Billy is a hit-man who only kills bad people. The premise enables King to explore one of his favorite themes: the 'good' bad guy, in one of his favorite scenarios - one fans love - a small American town. Billy sets up his alibi, infiltrates himself into the community - and feels guilty for it. The question is, what kind of people is he working for? And what went down in Fallujah?
Sorrowland, by Rivers Solomon, was my pick for the win. It's mind-blowing and original. Vern, a teenage girl carrying twins, escapes from Cainland: a commune conceived on Black Power principles, but now corrupt.
Vern attempts to live in the forest with her two boys, Feral and Howl, but her body begins to change - she gains superhuman strength, begins to grow an exo-skeleton and is haunted by hallucinations. These have something to do with with fungus. Fungus is awesome.
Can Vern outrun Cainland before her body betrays her? Can she and her children survive out in the world? In her writing Solomon uses the horror genre as a vehicle to convey the horror of human existence - historical experimentation on African American people in the not so dark past. Read my Sorrowland review for more.
The Final Girl Support Group, by Grady Hendrix, has been hugely popular. What happens to the 'final girl', the last survivor of a horror movie, after the credits roll? According to Hendrix, they form a support group.
The final girls in this story have, however, survived some crazy real horrors and are helping each other to put their lives back together. Enter a villain, intent on picking them off, and apart, one by one. Except this time they're not alone - and are a force to be reckoned with. And its being adapted for TV! Glee emoji!
My Heart is a Chainsaw, by Stephen Graham Jones, is another final girl story, and it's the first of a series. And it's the title that took out the win!
Jade is half Native American, and sees her holiday-destination-for-the-rich lake town through the eyes of her addiction - horror movies. Jade is jade-ed: an outcast, with an abusive father, in a town that is trading nature for rich holiday homes.
When her dreams/nightmares begin to come true, blood spills for real into that idyllic lake. Jade believes she knows how the story will play out, but underneath all her bravado, she's really just a scared kid...
Native American Graham Jones (Blackfoot) is another author using the horror medium to convey historic destruction of indigenous peoples and environments.