Molar of the Story: “Mastication Station” to Appear in AMERICAN CANNIBAL Anthology

Proud to announce that my story, “Mastication Station,” will appear in the Rebecca Rowland anthology, American Cannibal.

Cover Art by Lynne Hansen

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.

Who Has the Key to Room #118?

Genuine friends and partners nudge and shove each other to be, in general, better — better people, sure; but what I am really aiming to say is that a byproduct of the mere adherence, and dependence, of friends expands what intrinsically exists as we’re compelled toward potentials of our chosen disciplines.

Creatively speaking, it’s a benefit when those friends are writers who consistently challenge me to perform at a progressive pace.  To grow.  (It’s lost on me, and I’m grateful for, just how many talented, literary allies exist in my epistolary network.)

Over the past several years, I’ve come to know Adam Golaski as not only a friend, but primarily as a writer with whom I can calibrate my own growth as a writer. As a teacher and lecturer, Golaski is insightful and encouraging; he’s also critical, but, like most competent educators, he also knows what the hell he’s talking about.

On his blog, Golaski recently made mention of the forthcoming Looming Low, Vol. II (Dim Shores), and noted my short-story contribution, “Lovenest.”  (The line-up for this anthology is so astonishing that I’m afraid someone’s going to ask, “Who invited this dude to the party?“) Colleagues and readers are so much better at portraying what occurs in my stories than I am (note:  I’m not a clueless creature, but often my audience repeatedly lands bullseyes about the content of my tales better than I ever could), and, to our benefit, Golaski maintains jewelers-loupe scrutiny.

Hotels and motels figure into my fiction (and into my formative years, for that matter, not to mention the more turbulent segments of adulthood) owing to their transient nature:  a temporary “home” — complete with the neon seduction of VACANCY — a palliative to the exercise of travel (or, to look at it another way, the lure of Midwest “mobility” as an antidote to potential stagnation).  I can think of a few of my stories where hotels are critical settings (“Fiending Aphophenia,” “The Undertow, and They That Dwell Within,” and an early one called “Mums”), but my derelict locale in “Lovenest” occupies a significant portion of the action and thematic rumination.

I open the story with an excerpt from one of my most personally-influential poets, Charles Simic — this from his poem, “Paradise Motel” (A Wedding In Hell, 1994):

On the pay channel, a man and a woman 

Were trading hungry kisses and tearing off

Each other’s clothes while I looked on

With the sound off and the room dark

Except for the screen where the color

Had too much red in it, too much pink.

Speaking of poetry:  I know there’s a significant contingent of Golaski-fiction fans in my network, and though I can’t speak for him, I can (I think?) mention that there are projects slowly ascending to the surface of our literary community. Golaski wrote the introduction to my 2020 collection, The Skeleton Melodies (Hippocampus Press), and so I am indebted to the man for that gesture alone. But I encourage his audience to remain current with what’s he’s doing. What I mean: you’d do well to keep an ear to the rail.  A trusty method is to check in on his blog from time to time.  Check it out here.