Friday, August 7, 2009

Cemetery Dancing

Cemetery Dance has hit its 61st issue. I'm comforted by that.

Anything that survives that long is an indicator of good health. Health of the genre? Sure. Health of a loyal readership? Certainly.

If you have a passing interest in horror, you're probably not into Cemetery Dance. The mag's not always easy to find, and it doesn't tend to jump on bandwagons that are currently popular. It's for serious horror fans. And writers. And editors.

The latest issue makes a justified fuss about Peter Straub, the author of Ghost Story (made into a rotten film), Shadowland (an rich, extraordinary fantasy), Koko, The Throat, and The Hellfire Club (for starters). He's subversive with a firm handshake, a trusted member of an exclusive club. I haven't warmed to all his books, but I consider Ghost Story a masterpiece. I felt cold and anxious reading it for the first time. Few books do that to me.

Shadowland, on the other hand, is not terribly horrific, but it is terribly good and transporting in a way few novels are (TM Wright's Strange Seed and Jonathan Carroll's The Land of Laughs are some of those few). I'm not afraid to stick my neck out and say that Shadowland is Straub's Something Wicked This Way Comes. The breath of Bradbury is on its neck.

Mark Sieber, who runs, contributes a great piece on the state of horror in this issue. He explores whether writers are benefiting from the genre's current profile as much as fans. It's a provocative question. Horror is everywhere right now. Not just in films and books, either. It's on-line, in comics, in blogs. To an outsider, it might look like everybody in the biz is working hard, partying hard, and keeping the cash machines ringing, but that's not really the case. Global fragmentation of entertainment has broadened influence and diminished the revenue being channeled back to the creators.

The regular Stephen King section (by Bev Vincent) begins with a short piece on Under The Dome, a 1120-page novel that stands to make It look like a chapbook. Of interest is King's comment (paraphrased from USA Today) on new modes of story delivery such as the Kindle: "The delivery mechanism to my mind is secondary for me as a writer".

As a reader, it is secondary to story for me, too, but only just. I'm very attached to pulp. The prospect of reading future Wright, Ketchum, Carroll, King, Little, Keene, Smith and Herbert novels on an electronic tablet is very disheartening.

Will the Kindle (and its electronic brethren) ever replace the paperback? I don't know. Do I want it to? Definitely not. Hopefully, the delivery mechanisms will co-exist.

Movies can be watched in a theatre, at home, on an ipod, on a computer, and on a small screen in a phallus-shaped sex aid currently being developed by a German electronics company (just kidding about that one).

I don't foresee the built-in convenience of a paperback entertainment centre being usurped by a thing requiring batteries.

Leisure editor Dan D'Auria makes his debut as a regular columnist in CD's 61st issue. He turns in a great piece on how books are selected for publication. It is a sobering, slightly brutal reality check. We need more brutality like that.

The issue's striking cover art is by Alan M. Clark

If you are just getting started with horror fiction, what would be better than ordering dozens of back issues of Cemetery Dance.

From the age of six, I have been a sucker for back issue listings. When I used to crack open the latest issue of Famous Monsters, the Captain Company's back issue spread would call my name. As I leafed through the mag towards the spread, my anxiety level would increase, and I'd start dreaming up ways to finance future purchases with combinations of hard work, lottery wins, and future birthday trade-offs.

Cemetery Dance, which also publishes original and re-printed horror fiction, is one of the go-to destinations for those caught forever in the genre's web-like hold.


  1. Thanks for the reminder of why Cemetery Dance still matters. The first issue I read was #4, some 20 years ago-give or take-and it made an indelible impression upon me. With delays in publication of the mag and novels over the past few years (due to personal issues on Mike's part), I'd kind of given up on CD. Now that it seems back on track, and given this issues contents, CD is still the best horror magazine around.

  2. raingods -- you're very welcome. It really is an excellent magazine, and more important today than ever before.

  3. So, is that still running, I remember that they printed one of my now favourite Horror stories: Jack Ketchum's "The Box"
    That was back in the mid-nineties.

    But I lost sight of it around the time the only other story magazine I read, "Science Fiction Age", ceased publishing.
    Would have thought them gone by now, too, it's seldom that a story magazine survives that long.

  4. OF -- Yes, very much still running.

    "The Box" is a great story.

    You're right about fiction mags (especially horror fiction mags) not usually surviving for too long. CD has had its ups and downs, but it definitely feels up right now.


    raingods -- I agree with your sentiments. It is the best. I try to pick up others when I can, too.