Praise continues for the Rebecca Rowland project, American Cannibal (Maenad Press, 2023). Over at Hellnotes, Elaine Pascale extends some generous sentiments in her review of the anthology, wherein my story, “Mastication Station,” receives a nod.
“[‘Mastication Station’] really grew on me,” writes Pascale. “It had a slow burn and some thoughtful prose that made me want to take my time reading. For example, Smith writes, ‘Nature possesses a signature creativity when devising her demises, with how she crafts her cataclysms. But what had occurred at Johnstown had purely been an exhibition in the artistic incompetence of man.’ The story is set immediately after the flood, and the main character is on a heroic journey. He eventually learns that there are creative twists to the narrative of life and death.”
The project’s initial guidelines were to create a piece of historical-based horror (though history replete with real enough horror) — reimaginings of actual events and the people that populate them. For my short-story contribution, I selected the Johnstown Flood of 1889. Owing, in part, to the dichotomous (and negligent) confluence of circumstances leading up to the tragedy, the Johnstown Flood has remained on my mind, in some fictional form, for over twenty years.
And despite the topic’s grimness, it was an engrossing and enjoyable exercise to potentially train a reader’s attention to one of the most massive disasters in United States history: the official death toll in Johnstown was 2,209 (that was 1 in every 10 people — the actual definition of “decimation”) — 99 entire families were lost, with 396 children under the age of ten killed. One victim’s body was found in Steubenville, Ohio approximately 600 miles away from Johnstown, while the last discovery of human remains occurred in 1911, twenty-two years after the flood. Relief aid arrived from eighteen countries.
From the American Cannibal promo: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to (rep)eat it. A mother and daughter negotiate the Oregon Trail with grisly results; an elementary teacher watches the carnage of The Challenger explosion spill over into her own classroom. A possible prospector traveling west is drawn to an isolated inn where no one walks away hungry; a 1950s housewife shares the gruesome repertoire of behavior expected of a proper lady. Prohibition and women’s suffrage, the Civil War and the Vietnam War, the JFK assassination conspiracy and the Y2K hysteria: the annals of American history are reimagined with a side order of cannibalism by twenty of the biggest names writing horror fiction today.”
With a foreword by Wrath James White, the table of contents follows:
“The Lost Diary,” Candace Nola
“Carnivore,” Jeremy Megargee
“Gold Rush,” V. Castro
“Ozark Devil Cult Blues,” Jon Steffens
“Wendigo Dreams,” Owl Goingback
“Mastication Station,” Clint Smith
“And the Window Was Boarded Shut,” Elizabeth Massie
“The Flannigan Cure,” EV Knight
“Papa’s Night (or The Short, Happy Life of Elena de Hoyos),” Douglas Ford
“The Hungry Wives of Bleak Street,” Gwendolyn Kiste
“Texas is the Reason,” Brian Asman
“Tender Farm,” C.V. Hunt
“When a Stranger Bites,” L. Stephenson
“All Ears,” Clay McLeod Chapman
“Seasons Out of Time,” Jeffrey Ford
“Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” Bridgett Nelson
“Go at Throttle Up,” Ronald Malfi
“Tiki Bar at the Edge of Forever,” Daniel Braum
“Flesh Communion,” Holly Rae Garcia
“Y2K Feast,” Jeff Strand
The book is slated for release in paperback, eBook, Audible audiobook, and limited edition dustcover hardcover on March 7, 2023.