At the Rim of Daylight by Justin A. Burnett

Yes, I’m releasing a chapbook of my own stories under the Silent Motorist Media banner. Let me explain: as part of SMM’s Patreon goals, we promised patrons an exclusive chapbook once we hit $100 in subscriptions. Well, we’ve hit it, and this is the result of that promise. The paperback edition of At the Rim of Daylight is and will remain a Patreon-exclusive publication. To obtain a physical copy, all you have to do is subscribe to SMM on Patreon at $4 or more. At the Rim of Daylight will remain an ongoing bonus to Patreon subscribers. 

At the Rim of Daylight consists of four full-length stories and one flash fiction piece by me. None of these stories are set to appear in my first full-length collection, The Puppet King and Other Atonements, set to release in 2022 from Journalstone. Three of the pieces are unpublished, and one is from a collection permanently out of print. The chapbook will also feature notes, art, and benefit from all the care and attention of any other SMM publication. 

Cover art for Kindle edition

This chapbook will also be released on Kindle. This will be its only public release, and it will not be accompanied by a physical release on Amazon. This work is dedicated, with love, to SMM’s Patreon supporters, who have unwaveringly supported and encouraged us through every project. THANK YOU, and enjoy.


About the Author


Justin A. Burnett is the author of The Puppet King and Other Atonements, to be published by Trepidatio Publishing in 2022. He’s also the Executive Editor of Silent Motorist Media, a weird fiction publisher responsible for the creation of the anthologies Mannequin: Tales of Wood Made Flesh, which was named best multi-author anthology of 2019 by Rue Morgue magazine, The Nightside Codex, and Hymns of Abomination, a tribute to the work of Matthew M. Bartlett. His quarterly chapbook, Mysterium Tremendum, explores the intersection between horror and the holy. He currently lives in Austin, Texas, with his partner and children.

The Stars Are Brightly Shining by Joanna Parypinski

You hear them before you see them.

Here come their voices, harmonized as one and drifting out of the night in a whisper of moon: the Midnight Carolers. You’ve heard of them, as anyone has heard of a folktale, an urban legend passed between children’s ears to conjure up magic and mystery. They choose a different house each year, and every night for twelve nights prior to Christmas, they sing their carols.

Out the window, on the sleepy street, you see them, just barely, in the dark. Five figures cast into shadow by the streetlamp behind them, turning them into silhouettes. The dim yellow lamp makes the snow seem to glow.

It is eleven o’clock, and they are singing.

You’ve never cared for Christmas carols. Why should you? They are too cheerful, incongruous with the bleak world of winter, when everyone is so cold and worn down, frequently sick, and often depressed. They ring false, and you don’t like things that ring false. You don’t like the snappy voices on the radio or those car commercials where actors pretend to be impressed by awards, or the way the barista smiles at you when you order a black coffee, as if there is anything to be celebrated in the caffeinated liquid that keeps you going throughout the day. You don’t like retail rewards cards or Instagram, either. Why should you? It’s easy to be a cynic, in a world full of false promises.

The carolers start with “Silent Night,” which seems ironic because they’ve now disrupted the otherwise total quiet of the street with their singing. Speaking of false promises—how apropos. Their voices steal over blue drifts of snow and the streetlamp throws their long shapes against the ground. Soon they have transitioned to “Silver Bells,” which you almost do not hate, because there is something melancholy about it.

When they start “Deck the Halls,” however, you’ve had enough. It is after eleven o’clock. This is a quiet street, with large spread-out homes, and the neighbors are sleeping. You would like to be sleeping, too, but the singing has kept you awake. When you try to ignore them and go to sleep, it is as if their voices grow louder; when you pull a pillow over your head to block the sound, their voices cut through, they are in your ears, they are singing, singing.

Yes, you’ve had about enough.

When you open the window, letting in a rush of bitter air, and call out to them to be quiet, please, some of us are trying to sleep, and have work in the morning, you see—they ignore you. They never stop singing. You call out again, telling them to stop, to stop right now, but their voices, clear as ice, snake in through the window in smooth, ethereal tones, as if their voices are converging into one voice, but a voice capable of many notes and many harmonies at once.

It is too much. It is simply too much.

After slamming down the window to shut them out, you find that the glass only slightly muffles, but does not fully dampen, the sound. You lie down, but how can you sleep? They sing, and sing, and sing, until you think you will never get these tunes out of your head, and maybe that’s the worst part of it all, knowing that you’ll be going about your day tomorrow with a head full of Christmas jingles, repeating themselves merrily while you check emails, while you urinate, while you fill out spreadsheets, until the songs have become insane, and so have you.

At midnight, silence falls abruptly. You peer out the window into the cold blank night, the empty road. They have gone, for now.

Already your ears are ringing.

You supplement your day with coffee, disliking the brittle edges of the barista’s fake smile, for how could you sleep, even after it went quiet? The singing lingered in your mind. It echoes on the tile floor in each of your footfalls. Your coworkers look at you strangely as you pour coffee down your throat and twitch at every cough or ringing phone, because somewhere in that cough is “jingle bells” and somewhere in that ringing phone is “Just hear those sleigh bells ring-a-ling.” You ask them, halfheartedly, if any carolers have stopped by their homes to sing in the middle of the night, but they shake their heads in wonderment and try to avoid your peevish temper.

It’s fine, you think.

But the carolers return the next night.

And the next. And the next.

And the next.

Each time, the singing commences at eleven o’clock, concluding precisely at midnight. At least they are punctual. Yet somehow, their precision of time is too terribly accurate, making your skin begin to crawl at 10:45, a visceral, Pavlovian reaction that you simply cannot help. And for the rest of the night you lie awake, with delirious half-dreams of their voices.

It is December 20th, and enough is enough. You call the cops.

“Yes, they’re out there right now,” you say. “Listen.” For a moment, you hold up the phone to the window, but when you finally bring it back to your ear the officer you are speaking with sounds uncomfortable, claiming that she did not hear anything, but what do you expect, it’s not like cell phones have the sound quality of a professional microphone. She asks if they are on your property, and you hesitate for a moment, looking out at where exactly they stand.

“Well, no. They’re in the street.”

They started out on the opposite side of the street, though. Little by little, each night, they seemed to have inched forward, until they were in the center of the street. Now they are closer to your side than to the opposite side, but still on that icy black pavement.

“Mmm. Street’s public property. Technically, they have every right to be there.” She sounds apologetic, but even her gentle voice cannot quell the trembling despair, the feeling of hopelessness, the sense that you cannot stop them, that you will have to listen to them singing forever. It isn’t fair. You’ve never tried to shove your beliefs down anyone else’s throat; never tried to get people to stop hiding Easter eggs around the neighborhood, never lectured anyone on the destructive force of capitalism, never forced anyone to purchase a firearm. You keep yourself to yourself; why can’t these people afford you the same courtesy?

“Can I at least make a noise complaint? It’s eleven-thirty, for crying out loud.”

“Sir,” she says, her patience wearing thin, her voice growing curt. That’s all she is, really: a voice on the phone. “Do you really want to be the guy who calls the cops on Christmas carolers? They’re just trying to spread some holiday cheer. Totally harmless. Let them be, and maybe try to enjoy it, won’t you?”

She leaves you gaping at your phone, at an utter loss, while the five shadowy carolers sing “Good King Wenceslas” outside.

You decide to turn on the television to try and drown out the singing. It creates a bit of a cacophony, but at least it distracts, somewhat—until, that is, your phone rings, some anonymous number, but you think perhaps it is a neighbor calling to ask about the carolers, so you answer.


On the line is the singing. Loud, joyful, demanding to be heard. Disgusted, you shout into the phone, “How did you get this number?” but your voice barely registers over the singing. You hang up and fling your phone across the room.

Who would fault you if you went insane, if you ran outside into the freezing night and slaughtered every last one of those carolers? If you got in your car and scattered them with your fender, or more likely, ran them over, since they seem so disinclined to budge from their place on the street?

You think these thoughts until the merciless quiet descends at midnight, and the echoes reverberate over and over in your mind until there are no thoughts left there but the music.

The next night, you decide to sit beside the window and watch for them. Where are they coming from? If you can pick out the direction, maybe you can figure out who they are.

But you must have dozed off, for in the breath of a blink, they are suddenly there, on the asphalt, perhaps two feet closer to your side of the street, at precisely eleven o’clock. As soon as they are there, they are already singing. There is no warm-up, no prep. It is like a switch flipped on.

You do not move from your spot, and you keep your eyes trained out the window. The more intently you listen, the eerier, the stranger, their voices seem to become. How they hypnotize you into thoughtlessness, until your mind is like ice. Their voices pull at you, gently, like the tug of a frosty breeze. They pull you to the front door of your house, which you suddenly realize you have unlocked and opened, admitting the holy night. The wind blows flurries of snow around your bare ankles, and the sensation is so cold it shocks you out of your stupor, shocks you into bright clear wakefulness, where you balance on the precipice of your doorstep.

Should you step out into that world—and yes, you have one foot lifted, ready to step outside—everything will change. It isn’t just that you will likely get frostbite, walking barefoot through the snow; it is something else. Something different in the air.

You have the strange and sudden sensation, now that you are looking out the open doorway and not just through a window, that this street is not your street. These darkened houses are not your neighbors’ houses. Something of the night is uncanny, and you dare not go out onto the porch, not simply because it is cold, but because you are worried you will step out into somewhere entirely different.

These stars are not your stars.

It is almost midnight.

Now the carolers are singing their songs, but the songs are wrong, somehow; and now the caroler’s eyes are shining from the shadow, like little yellow stars. In each silhouette, you can see no facial features, no details within the flat black shape, but you can see their eyes shining with that unnatural glimmer like Christmas lights, and it is this sight that makes you close and lock the door.

You decide to watch from your bedroom window, where it is safe.

It is safe.

Is it?

It is midnight.

Midnight, and barely a whisper of moon in the frozen sky.

The carolers have disappeared.

No one is walking away down the street. There is no moment wherein they stop singing, nod at one another, and move on. They simply vanish. They are just not there anymore, as if they were never there to begin with.

It is December twenty-third. The exhaustion is nearly debilitating.

You haven’t slept in more than a week. How is this possible? Isn’t that the point at which people begin to hallucinate, to go crazy from lack of sleep? Or die?

Is that their plan?

You’ve tried your best to ignore the carolers, but it is impossible. And now you won’t even have work to distract you, to keep your mind, at least in the daytime, somewhere else, because the office won’t be open again until after the holidays. You are all alone, and with no distractions, you’ve had time to think about the singing. To analyze it.

And there’s something you’ve figured out, which feels like a terrible realization:

They are not actually singing Christmas carols.

How can this be?

At first, you listened for the odd resonance beneath the singing, those other tones that were barely noticeable just below the audible ones. Once you heard them, you couldn’t un-hear them, the way you can’t not notice a new word you’ve just learned suddenly being used all around you.

Then you realized that the carols are only what we humans hear, a glamour, a façade—that they are singing a different song, underneath.

You can almost make it out.

You can almost hear what the real song is, the one beneath the carols. The song of winter, of the dark, of the sky. Of old, primeval things once worshipped as humans froze or starved in the unforgiving December. The truth about this time of year, the truth that resonates throughout the universe.

Something that we have forgotten. Something that we have covered over with our bright wrapping paper, with our jolly songs, with our forced cheer—painted with such frightened desperation over the terrible truth, because if we stopped smiling, we might be screaming instead.

The carolers stare up at you with their pinprick yellow eyes like holes in the shadow of the world, and they sing, and they sing, and they sing.

They are closer to the house, tonight.

It is Christmas Eve. Listen.

At last, the end of it all approaches. The clock marches on above the mantle as the clouds move across the night, and all else is still.

After tonight, the carolers will be gone for good, and perhaps this will all have been a bad dream, although how can one dream when…

When was the last time you slept?

Tonight, children will lie awake in their beds, too excited to sleep, waiting for Santa and his reindeer, waiting for magic. You will lie awake, too, but for different reasons. There is an uneasiness in the quiet mystery of the dark, in the unsettled way the world has opened itself to magic on this night.

A winter wind rattles the windowpanes like the dead asking admittance from the cold. We shall knock down this construction of wood and brick, the wind with its voice of the dead seems to say. We shall fling open this door if you do not obey us.

It is almost eleven o’clock. Almost the hour when the dead creep out of their graves and make their way through the snow. Christmas is full of the dead.

Listen. Listen. You sit in silence for you cannot help but listen to every moan of the wind and think it a dead man’s moan, and every creak of the house and think it a devil drawing near, every distant clatter, every tap, and think it a shrouded figure knocking at the door.

At eleven o’clock, they come.

They are nearly at the door.

How did they get so close?

They sing “O Holy Night.” The melody is perfect. Their voices ring out like silver bells, like great shards of ice in the vacuum of space. But they only get halfway through the song before their voices stick and repeat like a skipping record. They sing, “The stars are brightly shining,” and they do not move on. They sing the line again, and they do not move on. Now they sing it on repeat.

The carol is breaking down. They know that you have heard the truth beneath it, and they cannot sustain the illusion any longer.

Their eyes gleam unnaturally from their shadowed forms.

The stars are brightly shining. The stars are brightly shining.

They repeat the line so many times that you begin laughing, unable to stop. And you look up into the night sky, where the clouds have parted to reveal a scatter of stars in unfamiliar shapes. These stars are not your stars, but they are shining, they are shining.

They are not even stars, in fact. They are eyes! They are staring down at you, they can see you, they are the eyes of the great old terrible things of winter, who have sent their avatars down to sing their otherworldly songs, to remind us—

Midnight. It is Christmas, now,

and the carolers stop singing.

But they do not disappear.

They remain where they stand. The silence rings in your ears, and you cannot even conjure up the ghost of their singing, anymore, which has so haunted you. It is gone, and it has left nothing in its wake. Nothing, you realize, nothing at all; you cannot hear a thing—not the groan of the house settling, or your frightened breath, in and out. Upon the world has descended a silence like the pall of death. Pure and total, the way a deaf person must experience the world.

There is only the silence, and the white, and the stars. Shining. And the carolers, watching.

“No,” you shout, but you cannot hear yourself, and, for the sake of maintaining some semblance of your self-respect, let us not describe in detail how you scream, how you cry, how you trash the bedroom, how you thrash about, trying to break through your prison of silence. How the terror gives way to desperation gives way to despair. The thing is, you have heard voices beyond the frequency of the world, and now the reality you thought you knew is broken, for the only real sounds there are, indeed, are the ones waiting for you on the other side of the carols.

And the carolers are waiting for you, too.

When you open the front door, your ears heavy with silence, you begin to wonder what your coworkers will say. He lived alone, they will say. You know how lonely Christmas can be without family. How the risk for suicide rises at this time of year. If only we had known, they will say.

And what will your neighbors say? No, we never heard any carolers. We never saw anyone standing out there on the street.

You step out into the alien winter world, where the stars are brighter and the snow reflects their glimmering gaze, into a world that is made of ice, and you make your way to the carolers, stepping into the shadows where they live.

As soon as you are among them, you begin to hear that low resonance that lurked just beneath the caroling. You hear it, and it fills you up with cold wonder, with dreadful ecstasy. You will sing with them—the real song, the only real song in existence. This song of ancient winter, a universal song of coldest night, for in the depths of reality, it is always winter. It has always been winter. And you will never stop singing it, because the song is reality. Everything else is just a façade. Not just the smiles of baristas and the enthusiasm of actors in commercials, but also, as you suspected all along, the office, the bridge you take to work, the birds that chirp in the morning, the air you breathe, the seven billion human bodies bumbling through the world, the trees and yule logs and the fire in your fireplace with its false warmth.

Next year, when the carolers pick a house, there will be six of them. Six shadows, with starry eyes, singing, singing eternally of the eternal night.

Oh night. Oh night divine.

Joanna Parypinski writes and teaches in the Los Angeles area with much encouragement from her husband and two cats. She also writes under the name Jo Kaplan. Her fiction has appeared in Fireside Quarterly, Black Static, Nightmare Magazine, Vastarien, Haunted Nights edited by Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton, and elsewhere. Her novel It Will Just Be Us (as Jo Kaplan) came out in September. She teaches English and creative writing at Glendale Community College.

Beholding the Void: An Interview with Philip Fracassi

It’s an absolute honor to announce that Philip Fracassi, author of the widely esteemed collection Behold the Void, declared “Short Story Collection of the Year” by This Is Horror UK, as well as the novellas Fragile Dreams, Sacculina, and the eagerly-anticipated Shiloh, is gracing the ranks of our ever-growing author interview series. Be sure to visit Fracassi’s beautiful website, and join the newsletter for updates on the slew of upcoming releases mentioned at the end of this interview. If you’ve enjoyed the writers featured here so far, then you certainly don’t want to miss out on Fracassi. Enjoy.

“I want readers to be entertained, and I want them to be moved. While it’s great to have my stuff bought and read, what really makes it worthwhile is hearing feedback from readers about how a story impacted them in a bigger way […] I want the story to be an experience remembered, not just empty calories.”

-Philip Fracassi

Justin A. Burnett: You recently released Shiloh, a work set during one of the most famous battles of the Civil War. I think readers may find themselves happily surprised by this unusual setting (both unusual for you, and the horror/weird community in general, as far as I can tell). What inspired you to locate your story here?

Philip Fracassi: I was inspired not so much by the locale or the war itself as I was by a little-known anecdote about the battle of Shiloh. Apparently, during one of the nights of the battle a few of the soldiers who were wounded started to GLOW. Specifically, their wounds were glowing a bright, luminescent green color. Not only that, but the soldiers who were glowing were healing faster than was considered normal. They nicknamed the phenomenon “Angel Glow” for its healing properties and strange lighting effect. This is factual record, mind you. Anyway, about a hundred years later some high school kids did a science project about it and discovered the glow was caused by a bacterium carried by insects. Regardless, I’d always been fascinated by the legend and decided to run with it. It’s only a part of what happens in the story, but it got my mind going on the “how’s” and “why’s” of that battle. Then, the more I read up on the battle and its horrors and the degree to which it was a blood-bath, I became more and more fascinated and eager to work in that sandbox. I did an absolute ton of research, read a few first-hand accounts, and hopefully got most of the facts right, from the weapons used to the battle formations to the overall strategy of the armies. It was fun but exhausting and it’ll be a while before I do another period piece, but I’m happy with the way this one turned out.

Burnett: You anticipated my next question. My brother is an absolute civil war expert, and I picked up a little of this merely by proximity. I think you succeeded wonderfully on recapturing the intensity of battle. I think a lot of people watch the reenactments without getting a sense of what it must’ve been like to be there in the midst of it. Was this your first research-intensive writing project?

Fracassi: Oh no—not by a long shot. All my stories are exhaustively researched. I think stories like “The Baby Farmer” and Sacculina come to mind as ones that were especially heavy on the research front. “The Horse Thief” as well. Any time I step into a world or write about a topic I’m not definitively familiar with, I always spend days or weeks researching the details I’m writing about for accuracy. It’s actually a really fun part of the process. With Shiloh, I think it just became a lot more than I’d bargained for—there are so many details that need to be verified for a period war piece. Everything from the formations of the troops to the vernacular of that time to the guns and ammunition to the types of underwear the soldiers wore. It’s one thing to write about parasitic barnacles, it’s quite another to realistically recreate a battle that took place over a hundred years ago.

Burnett: I can definitely appreciate the sheer volume of material out there one would have to sift through to recreate the battle of Shiloh. I applaud you for it. I think lot of writers in the horror community would just toss it together. But your level of detail is not at all surprising to me, since one of my favorite aspects of your work is the obvious level of care you put into the craft. This extends to what I would call the “classic” Fracassi story, “The Soda Jerk,” featured in Shiloh. It’s an absolutely gorgeous piece. Did anything in particular inspire this one?

Fracassi: Oh, well thanks very much. The idea of “Soda Jerk” stemmed from the idea of creating a larger world of fiction to play within. I had the idea of doing a series of stories about a small, nondescript, mid-century American town called Sabbath. The plan was to do a series of novellas that would ultimately culminate in one large book—a serial, to be precise. While the serial may or may not come to fruition, I have begun work on additional stories and characters, along with a plot arc, for that world. “Soda Jerk” is a sort of preface to that longer story arc, ergo the “A Sabbath Story” tag. There’s also a story in my collection called “Soft Construction of a Sunset” that takes place in the same small town. The idea of Sabbath is that it’s a place where strange and supernatural things occur due to the infestation of cosmic creatures that harbor there. Hopefully, the full story will come to light one day, possibly as a novel or the aforementioned serial project.

Burnett: That would be fantastic. You submerge the reader into the little town of Sabbath quite nicely, and it feels like a world rich for exploration, like Welcome to Night Vale, except richer and more serious. I called “The Soda Jerk” classic Fracassi because it establishes a relatively normal setting which gets ripped out from under the protagonist’s feet. You have a serious ability to suck the reader into a pretty straightforward plot before pummeling them with something horrific. Shiloh seems to depart from this model in that the “action” is intense from the beginning. The “horror” doesn’t come exclusively from “outside” the normal world but is very much part of both the supernatural and realistic element alike. Was this a conscious departure on your behalf? Did writing it feel different to you?

Fracassi: I do have a tendency to engage readers in an “everyday” scenario with characters that readers can hopefully empathize with or relate to in some fashion, and then, yeah, sorta infuse the story with horror and/or the supernatural. I don’t know why I do this, but I don’t think it’s conscious. Even stories I’ve written that have not been released yet—a couple on a Ferris Wheel, a cornfield church wedding—tend to take common, or “normal” situations and turn them upside down. I certainly wasn’t thinking about Shiloh being a departure from this, but in a way I’d say it’s similar because while the battle is certainly bloody and horrible, it’s still very “real”… at least until the supernatural stuff shows up and takes the story in a very different direction. On one hand I certainly don’t want to be pigeon-holed into this kind of setup, but on the other hand it’s a lot of fun and I think creates a nice impact for the reader. That said, I’ll likely try to shake things up a bit moving forward. Don’t want to telegraph my punches too much.

Burnett: I feel less like it’s a pigeonhole and more like it, as you say, “creates a nice impact.” I still never know what I’m getting into with one of your releases. I remember being blown away by Altar, which is kind of the pinnacle of that setup.

If you were to sum up your artistic goal as a writer, what would that look like? What are you trying to do with your unique and thoughtful version of cosmic horror?

Fracassi: In regards to goals, I think that’s a still-developing target. A couple years ago, my goal was simply to get something—anything—published. Then my goal was to build on that and get more out there and build a readership base. Then it was to have a collection. So, it’s hard to say what the endgame is, because I’m always looking at the next rung on that ladder and striving to reach it. Right now, I’d say my goal as an artist is to get a novel out into the world. I’m still writing screenplays and short stories, however, so a novel is a big undertaking and would mean putting the other stuff on hold. But I have one that’s being shopped around, and I’m hoping that in the next 12-18 months I’ll be able to announce a novel and a 2nd story collection release. But, as I said, I’m also working on multiple screen projects, so it’s really hard to prioritize. It’ll be interesting to see what the next year brings. In the meantime, I’m gonna keep my nose down and work my ass off.

In regards to the art of creating stories, my goals are very simple. I want readers to be entertained, and I want them to be moved. While it’s great to have my stuff bought and read, what really makes it worthwhile is hearing feedback from readers about how a story impacted them in a bigger way, created a new memory that is forever lodged in their brain. That’s why I always try to make my characters memorable and three-dimensional, and why my prose is probably a bit more dense or poetic than a lot of horror writers, because I want the story to be an experience remembered, not just empty calories. At least in a best-case scenario.

Burnett: I personally think you absolutely achieve this, at least given the way your work has stood out to me over these relatively few years. Regarding your initial goal, were you surprised by how quickly your initial publications found an audience?

Fracassi: I was! I mean, you’re talking to a guy who has been writing his whole life. I’ve written three novels and over a hundred short stories–all literary—and tried for YEARS to get published or find an agent, etc. Bupkus. So, to dip my toe in the horror genre (with my short story “Mother”) and get accepted to the first publisher I sent it to was mind-blowing. And then to get mentored by Laird Barron—one of my literary heroes—and get the early support of folks like Paul Tremblay, Adam Nevill, Ted Grau… I mean, it boggled my mind. Totally surreal. And I was pleased that reviewers enjoyed the story, and it got a small readership which was amazing to me. But then Altar came out and the whole thing sort of exploded. Suddenly, all these people were reading my work and seemed to actually ENJOY the work… it was crazy. So since then I’ve just worked hard to keep putting stuff out and doing my best to create the stories I’ve fallen in love with and just hope that people like them. The reality is that when you get to a certain “level” (I hate that word but it’s the only one that fits), you get hit with a dose of reality—you realize that there’s a big, bad world out there that doesn’t care about your hundreds or even thousands of readers, and that if you want to make an honest-to-goodness living doing this sort of thing, you need to adjust your sights and aim a LOT higher, which is sad and daunting at the same time. I miss the early epiphanies of getting published and having my stories chatted about on social media… and while it’s still incredibly fun to achieve those things, I’ve had to adjust my expectations and my goals, and in some ways the work itself. It’s a big-time reality check. I think a lot of writers hit this same wall… I mean, you’re kind of like walking down this golden road, laughing and singing just as—BAM—this looming black wall slams down in your path and you’re like “oh shit!” So you can either start climbing that sucker or you can stay on the road you’ve been on… and it’s not an easy decision to make. Me? I’m climbing. I don’t know if I’ll get to what’s behind it, but I’m gonna try. I know that’s a long-winded answer, but I hope it reflects how a writing career can quickly evolve. It’s incredibly taxing mentally and emotionally, but you just keep doing your best to find readers and publishers who want your work and try to keep building on that.

Burnett: I seem to gravitate towards writers with one foot in horror and another in literary fiction. Is there a chance of your older literary work surfacing now that you find yourself accepted in the horror world?

Fracassi: I think whatever “training” I had writing lit fiction was evident from my first story. I take pride in the prose as much as I do the story. Not that it always succeeds (ditto for the stories), but the effort is there to make the words count for something other than relaying the plot. But it has to contribute. No purple prose, etc. Sometimes, though, it really helps create a sensation or help attain an emotional or visceral response from a reader to write a certain way—using certain words, or phrases… you can create a lot of dread without actually having anything dreadful necessarily happening. This has been fairly effective for me based on some of the reader response I’ve received. Altar is a great example where nothing bad is happening—just a family going to the community pool on a sunny afternoon—but the reader still gets a strong sense of dread or fear simply by the way I describe things. Folks like Laird Barron are pros at this sort of thing, and Brian Evenson, who creates a wonderful sense of detachment, or a better word might be “incertitude,” at what’s occurring. These can be just effective as a scary plot at disturbing and disorienting a reader

Burnett: You mentioned Barron and Evenson, two writers who also add a strong literary twist to the horror genre. Are there any more like them you feel you share a particular affinity with?

Fracassi: That’s an interesting question, and one I’ve given a lot of thought to. It’s always a warm fuzzy feeling to have comparable writers you can associate with in order to help readers get a grasp on what you’re giving them… but honestly, I’ve had a hard time. There is a large quadrant of “new weird” writers out there really tearing things up—guys like Michael Wehunt and Kristi DeMeester and Nadia Bulkin. And then there are folks doing things completely original, like Jon Padgett and Matthew Bartlett. I think Brian Evenson stands pretty outside the box as a “weird” horror writer who is able to create things with language not many writers can accomplish. I suppose he’s akin somewhat to Robert Aickman? And then Barron is a force on his own, and is really not comparable to any other modern writer, although he came up with other greats like Paul Tremblay, S.P. Miskowski, John Langan and Stephen Graham Jones. Then there’s the old-school guys—Straub, McCammon, King, Koontz, Laymon, Ketchum—who all had their unique styles but are still definitively of a period… but still it’s not a perfect fit. I think if I had to pick a couple modern writers to associate with, it’d be folks like Josh Malerman, Nathan Ballingrud, Jeffrey Ford. But I really can’t say with any certainty because, frankly, I haven’t done enough! I don’t even have a novel out there yet! To answer a slightly different way, I would say that there are writers whose careers I’d like to emulate—authors like Adam Nevill, Ronald Malfi, Malerman,Tremblay… guys who are pumping out a horror novel every year, just like they used to do with King, Laymon, John Farris, Bentley Little and Koontz. So, to answer your question, I don’t feel like I’m part of any current group of modern horror writers. I think I’m sorta doing my own thing, which is a little lonely! I don’t get into a lot of anthologies, and don’t make many of the award lists… but if the readers are there? That’s all that matters.

Burnett: You mentioned shopping around a possible new collection and a novel earlier. Are there any details you want your readers to know about these?

Fracassi: There aren’t a ton of details at this time regarding the novel or the 2nd collection, other than to say the novel is “throwback” horror with all the tropes sort of tossed together and pushed into a new direction, and the collection will likely consist of at least 1-2 of my current novellas plus the stories I’ve published over the last year in places like Dark Discoveries Magazine and anthologies like Test Patterns and A Walk on the Weird Side. Plus 1-2 new things, I’m sure.

As far as my current slate, I’ll have a reprint in Best Horror of the Year Vol. 10 coming in June, then an original novella called Overnight coming from Unnerving Press in July, then I’ll appear in a couple unannounced anthologies, and finally another new novella called The Wheel from Cemetery Dances in early 2019. My collection, Behold the Void, will also be translated into a Spanish edition coming in October of this year, and a Czech edition coming late this year or early 2019. So lot’s going on. Fingers crossed that I’ll have news on the collection and/or the novel by the end of the year. I have a newsletter folks can subscribe to, or you can follow my blog. All of it is available at my author site.