Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

Well, I didn’t think I could do it. But I did. At almost exactly 10:45 PM on May 31st, 2020, I finished the latest novel from my twisted imagination, The Pure World Comes.

If you aren’t aware, The Pure World Comes is a story I started writing back in April. It’s a culmination of all my love of and research into the Victorian era. The story takes place in 1894 and follows a maid who goes to work at the estate of a mad scientist. It’s part historical fiction, part Gothic horror, and part gaslamp fantasy (a subgenre I need to write an article about one of these days), with some slight elements of science fiction. All in one crazy story.

And with this story, I’ve actually broken a few personal records. First off, with Toyland back in March, this makes two novels finished in a single year. That has never happened before. Not to mention I wrote this novel in less than two months, another record. And today, I finished the novel by somehow getting forty-five hundred or so words down in one day. Yeah, forty-five hundred words. And none of these records I expected to beat until I beat them.

Am I bragging? Sorry about that. I just thought I’d mention them.

Anyway, onto the page and word counts. In terms of Microsoft Word pages, 8.5 inches by 11, with double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font, the novel is 214 pages. And, in terms of words, the novel is 59,333 words. Yeah, I know I used to say novels are sixty-thousand words or higher, but it’s recently come to my attention that most publishers and contests put the cutoff from novella to novel at around forty thousand words. Therefore, I’m caving into peer pressure just this once and will designate this a novel.

So, what’s next? Well, normally I would celebrate the completion of a novel with a huge party. Mead, pizza, heavy sugars, a movie or several episodes of TV. But it’s late, and tomorrow I have a busy morning, so I’ll delay the partying till tomorrow. After that, I might take some time to recharge creatively before I attempt so much as another short story.

In the meantime, I’ve already sent the first draft of The Pure World Comes to someone who has agreed to take a look at the first draft and give me feedback. With any luck, they’ll give me some advice which will allow me to eventually get this story published.

So glad to finally finish this story, a distillation of my love of Victorian England.

I sense there are great things on the horizon.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Remember, there’s still plenty of time to send in a question for my YouTube Q&A for the first publishing anniversary of my novel Rose. Just email a question with your name and where you’re from to ramiungar@ramiungarhtewriter.com by June 17th at noon, and your question will show up in the video. And if you’re from the US or UK, you may win a download code for the audio book for Rose.

And of course, if you want to read Rose but don’t want to go through Amazon or Audible, I’m selling signed copies directly to readers. Send an email to me, and we’ll discuss the details.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe and have some pleasant nightmares.

The Witcher books by Andrezj Sapkowski are a prime example of dark fantasy.

You’ve probably heard the term “dark fantasy” thrown around to describe different kinds of stories, and the simple definition given when asked what constitutes dark fantasy is “fantasy but darker or grimmer.” And yet, that doesn’t seem to fully encompass the subgenre or quell debate on what dark fantasy is. I’ve heard people say all horror that has to do with the supernatural as a kind of dark fantasy, or that the line between the two is very thin. Even authors who are known as dark fantasy writers have trouble pinning down a definition.

So while I’m no expert myself, I thought I would ask, “What is dark fantasy?” Especially since depending on the definition, my stories could fall into this genre on occasion.

And in the course of my research, I did come across some things. While an exact definition isn’t agreed upon, there are some things that fans and writers can agree upon. For example, both TV Tropes.org and Fantasy Book Fanatic.com agree that dark fantasy is fantasy (no duh), but unlike high fantasy or swords-and-sorcery fantasy, there is a much grimmer, more ominous tone to the stories. While in other subgenres of fantasy, gods can be clearly defined as good or evil or maybe just neutral, gods can be very evil or at best cruelly ambivalent to humans. If they show up in the story at all, that is.

Likewise, magic is a neutral force at best, unlike magic in Harry Potter or the Force in Star Wars (which is a fantasy element in science fiction). Magic may even be the source of corruption that creates the villains in the stories, and could be considered a necessary evil or even the source of evil itself, needing to be rid from the world. As for heroes, there are a distinct lack of heroes in the world, and at best you get anti-heroes or mercenaries. Anyone who could be defined as a “hero” may be filling the role reluctantly. They’re doing this not for some noble goal like saving the world or defeating an evil warlord, but for revenge, their own goals, for profit or because they haven’t been given a choice in the matter and are really bitter about that.

Based on these definitions, the Overlord novels by Kugane Maruyama and their adaptations (which I recommend) count as dark fantasy as well as isekai fantasy.

And finally, there’s a good chance evil can win. Bad politicians can stay in power while good ones may lose their heads. The Demon King can take over the continent and establish an empire. The witch may kill the princess and release the plague upon the land before getting slaughtered by the princess’s lover. Things may just go to shit.

Yeah, bleak. And under these parameters, series like The Witcher novels or some of my favorite isekai fantasy series from Japan, such as Overlord, The Rising of the Shield Hero, or Arifureta,* count as dark fantasy.

But given those parameters, doesn’t that make supernatural horror dark fantasy after all? Not necessarily. While some might prefer to use the term “dark fantasy” for their stories to avoid horror’s negative connotations in society, and the two genres do overlap, there are key differences. Namely, dark fantasy focuses on the monster and fantasy elements while horror uses the monster and fantasy elements.

Look at my own novel Rose, for example. The protagonist Rose Taggert is transformed into a plant/human hybrid by a magical book given to mortals by a nature god. Sounds very fantasy-esque. And if Rose was a dark fantasy story, it would follow Rose Taggert’s attempts to live a life and understand her place in the world now that she’s changed, as well as to understand this new magic dimension in the world around her. But it doesn’t. Instead, the magic is a means by which to place Rose in the power of the antagonist, Paris Kuyper. It’s a means to create the terror of not knowing how dangerous Paris is, nor knowing what he’ll do to her if she doesn’t respond to his desires as he wants her to. That’s why Rose is a fantasy-horror novel rather than a dark fantasy novel.

Similarly, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles can be considered dark fantasy because they use the state of vampirism to explore psychological and philosophical truths and beliefs among the characters. If they were full-on horror, the vampires would be the means to terrify the readers. You know, like Salem’s Lot (which I need to reread, with a new adaptation on the way and all).

While some might categorize “Rose” as dark fantasy, how those fantasy elements are used distinguishes it as a horror novel.

And while we’re distinguishing between genres and subgenres, let’s talk about the difference between dark fantasy and grimdark. Grimdark is another subgenre of fantasy, characterized by apocalyptic, dystopian or hellish settings and a very bleak atmosphere, but still containing all those fantasy elements. So, what makes it different from dark fantasy, when both can contain those settings and atmosphere? According to Fantasy Book Fanatic.com, the difference is in hope:

“The concept of hope seems to be the primary differentiating factor between dark fantasy and grimdark. Hope is still able to be an integral theme in dark fantasy narratives. In contrast, the central theme of grimdark almost never entertains the possibility of hope. The central theme revolves around cynicism instead. This differentiation is vague at best, which is why many of the works of dark fantasy and grimdark are so easily confused.”

So what is dark fantasy? Well, by this definition, it is fantasy with darker or horror overtones. However, it distinguishes itself from horror by using the fantasy elements as a means to tell the story, rather than as a means to terrify the reader. Think vampires as tortured souls rather than vampires as supernatural man-eating monsters. And, unlike grimdark, there is still an element of hope in the story. Things may go to shit, but people are still allowed to hope.

My name is Rami Ungar, thank you for coming to my TED talk.

*Which, unlike the other two I just mentioned, will not appear on any of my anime recommendations lists. The anime did the original novels a poor service, which is a shame, because I devoured the first four books in a week, they’re that good. Check them out if you’re interested.

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If you’re interested, I’m still taking orders for signed copies of Rose. Send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com for details. Or you can check it out on Amazon and Audible. And if you do check the book out, let me know what you think. In the meantime, I’ll be neck deep in Victorian England again, but I hope to put out another post very soon.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

It’s been a while since I’ve done any sort of tag, so I saw this on my friend Kat Impossible’s blog and I was like, “Sounds like fun.” And while I’m not sure I believe in “perfection,” I tried to come up with stories that come close to that in my personal opinion. Most of these titles are from the horror genre, but I do add some from other genres and even a few other mediums (I can be a rule breaker when I want to be). With that in mind, let us begin the Perfect Book Tag.

THE PERFECT GENRE

(pick a book that perfectly represents the genre)

I had a hard time choosing on this, between what could be considered a quintessential horror novel, and what could be the most terrifying novel (AKA the “perfect” horror novel). In the end, I wanted to include the quintessential novel elsewhere, and I hate repeating myself, so I decided on the most terrifying novel I’ve ever read, The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. Honestly, this novel’s show of brutality, the ease in which regular people can be persuaded to commit acts of evil and the graphic descriptions of torture and cruelty were enough to make me put the book down at times just so I could process what I was reading and get control of my dread. If you want perfect horror, this might be close enough.

Just don’t blame me if this gives you an upset stomach or nightmares. Trust me, it’s a tough one to get through.

THE PERFECT SETTING

(pick a book that takes place in a perfect place)

Again, I’m not sure if there’s anything considered “perfect” in entertainment, let alone a perfect setting. However, as far as I’m concerned, this might come damn close. The Doctor Who universe has every sort of setting imaginable. From futuristic cityscapes, to the distant past, and even our own modern times, you can find aliens, historical personages, gods and demons, magic (sort of) and science, friends and enemies, and even new universes or pocket universes! It’s an endlessly adaptable setting, and that’s why it’s my choice for perfect setting.

Also, I know it’s a TV show and the books are expanded universe and semi-canonical at best, but like I said, I like to break the rules.

 

THE PERFECT MAIN CHARACTER

(pick the perfect main character)

For this one, I didn’t pick perfect as in “they’re the best at everything and never have to improve. The story is just a way for the reader to fawn over how amazing the characters are.” Those are known as Mary Sues and Gary Sues, and most writers learn to stop creating them when trying to write compelling stories. Instead, I picked examples of characters I like to work with the most: women/girls who don’t start out as protagonist material, but as time goes on they grow into their heroine roles. Sailor Moon and Buffy are two great examples of those characters, as well as the reason I love that character type.

Neither Buffy Summers nor Sailor Moon started out as heroes who were thrilled with their roles. They just wanted to be normal girls, not burdened down with these destinies to save humanity from evil. But over time, as they get stronger and build their support networks, they become stronger, able to defy evil and inspire everyone around them and everyone watching them, regardless of age or gender. It’s part of the reason why these characters have endured over thirty years after their debuts, and part of the reason why I am who I am today.

 

THE PERFECT BEST FRIEND

(loyal and supportive, pick a character that you think is the best friend ever)

 

This one was easy. She’s smart, kind, brave, and is willing to point out when you’re wrong or doing something stupid. And she’s willing to stand up for the oppressed when no one else will, including many of the oppressed. She can be a bit stubborn, and at times she loses sight of reality when it comes to studies or other things she deems important. But honestly, Hermione Granger would make a great best bud.

 

THE PERFECT LOVE INTEREST

(pick a character you think would be an amazing romantic partner)

Let me level with you all. I may be bisexual, but I’m aromantic, so I don’t really feel romantic attraction to anyone. Sexual, definitely, but I have trouble imagining myself wanting to be tied to someone like a partner or lover. And since I don’t feel like telling the world about a character I may find sexy, I’ll just leave this one blank. Sorry if you really wanted to know what my type was or wanted to set me up with someone you know. You can’t change someone’s nature that easily.

 

THE PERFECT VILLAIN

(pick a character with the most sinister mind)

Remember that quintessential horror novel I mentioned as a contender for Perfect Genre? Yeah, IT was the runner-up. But in terms of villains, Pennywise is the ultimate, hence why he’s here. Honestly, he’s a perfect mix of both the human villain and the supernatural. He understands human fears and motivations, is a master manipulator and knows just how to get under our skin and either terrify us into a stupor or make us his pawn. At the same time, he’s this giant cosmic entity from beyond the universe, a thing we can only grasp as orange lights known as The Deadlights. His motivations aren’t born from hatred or greed or any human desire, but from the need to feed and eventually the need to procreate. It’s just another show of his Otherworldly nature.

And let’s face it, he’s devious! It takes a special sort of evil to enjoy being an evil clown 24/7, and Pennywise does it better than the Joker. Yeah, you read that right. What are you going to do about it?

 

THE PERFECT FAMILY

(pick the perfect bookish family)

Well, they’re not from any books, at least not originally, but the Addams Family would be my perfect fictional family. You can guess why.

 

THE PERFECT ANIMAL OR PET

(pick a pet or fantastic animal you need to see on a book)

Although I’m against the breeding of white tigers (they’re a genetic abnormality and breeding them leaves the tigers with all sorts of genetic problems), White Blaze from the anime Ronin Warriors is a creature I always wanted. He’s a tiger and deadly towards his enemies, but he’s smart, kind and good with people. You could honestly have him babysit your kids, he’s that good. And in a fight against evil, you couldn’t ask for a better animal partner.

In fact, White Blaze might be part of the reason why tigers are my favorite animal. And it’s not hard to see why.

 

THE PERFECT PLOT TWIST

(pick a book with the best plot twist)

I won’t say what it was. But it left me reeling. Took me half the next chapter to realize the author was serious and wasn’t pulling my leg. Still the hardest a twist in a novel has ever hit me.

 

THE PERFECT TROPE

(pick that trope you would add to your own book without thinking)

Let’s face it, I love a cosmic horror twist. The idea of an entity that defies human conception, to the point it can drive us mad, excites me as a horror writer to no end.

 

THE PERFECT COVER

(pick a cover you would want on your own book)

I want a cover similar to this on one of my books someday. Either that, or something that disturbs just to look at it.

 

THE PERFECT ENDING

(pick a book that has the perfect ending)

My favorite endings in horror have the horror continuing on long after the heroes appear to have won. So if I have to pick one that’s a good example, I think I’ll go with Needful Things by Stephen King. Great book with an enigmatic and terrifying antagonist. If you haven’t read it yet and you have a stomach for horror, you might want to change that sooner rather than later.

 

I TAG THEE:

  • Priscilla Bettis
  • Iseult Murphy
  • Joleene Naylor
  • Ruth Ann Nordin
  • Matt Williams
  • YOU!!! (If you want to)

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Tomorrow, I finally start that essay, and then I start on a new short story. But in the meantime, what did you think of my choices? Any of them resonate with you? Let’s talk in the comments.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

On Sunday, I posted about finishing my first short story of 2020, a science-horror story called “Primordial Nuclear Soup” (what a title, right?). I mentioned in that post I wanted to find a beta reader to take a look at the story before I edited it and tried to send it anywhere. Thankfully, I found someone very quickly who turned out to be the right sort of reader for this story. They gave me some excellent feedback on ways the story could be improved, but there’s one point that I wanted to focus on.

With “Primordial Nuclear Soup,” I was going for an ambiguous ending to the story. You know, the kind where things are left kind of open, leading to readers wondering what happened after “The End”? Yeah, apparently I confused my beta reader with that. They actually asked me if I’d cut it off early.

Now, this may have been because I simply forgot to put the words “The End” at the end of the story. But it got me thinking: when is an ambiguous ending good for a story, and when does it actually get in the way of telling the story?

As usual, when faced with a writing quandary that I can’t reason out on my own, I go to Facebook groups for writers. I got a variety of opinions on the subject, some of which felt more on the mark than others, but one response in particular resonated with me. The writer in question said that ambiguous endings work best with ambiguous stories.

What do I mean by ambiguous stories? Well, these are stories where so much is up in the air, that an ending where things are up in the air makes sense. A story with an unreliable narrator fits this description, or a story like The Haunting of Hill House, where we’re not sure if the house is really haunted and we feel the psychological strain on the characters. By the end of the latter, we’re still not sure whether the house is haunted, so an ending that still leaves us questioning what the hell just happened fits nicely.

Of course, some more “definitive” stories may benefit from an ambiguous ending, especially if it ramps up the tension. “All That You Love Will Be Carried Away,” a Stephen King short story about a traveling salesman contemplating suicide, has an ambiguous ending dependent on whether the protagonist sees a light from a farmhouse through a snowstorm.* It’s a great way to top off a story revolving around a troubled man wondering whether or not he should kill himself or live to write a book about his encounters on his travels.

As for my own story…well, it’s science horror. And science/science fiction tends to deal with exactness. Even though the Xenomorph from the pinnacle of science horror, Alien, has an unclear origin,** everything else in that film is clear as crystal. So perhaps I need to give my own story a clearer ending.

Well, we’ll see. I’ll give the story an edit before I start that essay (yes, I’m going to write it) and see what I can do with it. Hopefully, I’ll make something a magazine won’t want to throw in the trash after the first page.

A dramatic shot of “Rose” I couldn’t help but take.

Oh, and while I have your attention still, did you know today is the two-year anniversary of when I announced Rose was accepted for publication? Yeah, it happened on this day in 2017, and a lot’s happened since then. A year of edits and rewrites, the release and all the marketing, the audio book, and so much more. More and more, people have been telling me they’ve enjoyed the story, and hearing that is the most gratifying feeling ever. Makes me want to keep writing.

If you haven’t read the Kafkaesque story of a young woman turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems), and you’d like to check it out, I’ll include the links below. And if you do read it, please let me know what you think. I love feedback, and reviews help me out in the long run.

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

*It’s been 19 years since it first came out, so I’m not sorry I didn’t include a spoiler warning.

**I like to pretend Prometheus and Alien: Covenant never happened. They take all the mystery out of the franchise.

Well, this has been a busy day today. Met with the Ohio chapter of the HWA for a very productive meeting, ran some important errands for stuff happening at work and in the Jewish calendar, watched a movie with dinner, and…oh yeah, got the first short story of 2020 out of my way. It looks like I’m making good progress on those writing goals.

“Primordial Nuclear Soup” is a science-horror story about a team of scientists and their military escort who go into a nuclear power facility two years after a meltdown, and what they encounter there. It was inspired by a YouTube video I watched going into some of the science about the Chernobyl disaster, and was further influenced by a certain Stephen King story and a certain Godzilla movie (neither of which I can reveal without giving too many hints about the story). It’s about sixty-five hundred words long, so it’s not super long. And as it’s partially science-fiction, there will hopefully be plenty of magazines or anthologies that would consider publishing it.

I had a lot of fun writing this short story, but it was also challenging. I thought I knew which way it was going to go, but the story ended up going in different directions than I expected. I was actually pantsing for the last half or so, but it ended up working out in the end. Maybe that’ll give it a bit more surprise for any readers.

For now though, I’m going to see if I can’t get someone take a look at this story before I edit and submit it anywhere. I want it to be in top shape, after all.

As for what’s next, I’m going to do some research into essay writing for that essay I mentioned wanting to write. If I feel up to the task, I’ll write that essay. If not, I’ll move onto my next story. After all, I have nine short(er) stories I mean to work on, and I’ve already figured out which one I’ll be tackling next. Should be good to get it out, considering how long it’s been knocking around this twisted head of mine.

Well, it’s late, and I’ve got work in the morning. Goodnight, my Followers of Fear, and pleasant nightmares!

Okay, not actually in 3D, this is a blog, after all. However, I need to give these posts a snappy title if I’m going to keep recommending them, so here we go. Anyway, I’ve got some new anime I’d like to recommend to you, so let’s get to it.

And if you would like to read my previous two recommendation posts, here’s Post Number One and Post Number Two.

Astra: Lost in Space

Set in the far future, when humanity has started exploring other planets, a bunch of teenagers and one ten-year-old are sent on a survival retreat to an uninhabited planet. Unfortunately, their camping trip goes awry when a portal appears out of nowhere and sends them millions of light years across the galaxy, into the vast reaches of space. Luckily though, they find a spaceship that they can navigate back home. Along the way, they explore strange planets, grow as people and as a family, and try to find out how they ended up transported across space in the first place.

So yeah, this is kind of like Lost in Space, but animated and with teenagers. Hell, the show’s in the title! The balance between humor, mystery, and storytelling is a little off at times, but the characters are lovable and the mystery elements to the story are compelling. If you’re looking for sci-fi with characters you want to hug and a bit of suspense to boot, this might be up your alley.

 

Serial Experiments Lain

After one of her classmates commits suicide, fourteen-year-old Lain Iwakura finds out said classmate has since been sending messages to others in her class over the Wired, a super-advanced version of the Internet that uses virtual reality. She starts exploring the Wired, and finds herself going down the rabbit hole as she deals with secret societies, and an entity claiming to be the God of the Wired. But the greatest mystery of all may be Lain herself…

Released in 1998, Serial Experiments Lain has become something of a cult phenomenon in the anime community, noted for its uncanny predictions of how the Internet would develop in the next twenty years or so and exploration of Internet culture, as well as the nature of consciousness, God, and so much more. It’s a story more focused on philosophical/psychological exploration rather than traditional storytelling, so its slow pace might turn off some viewers. But if you stick with it, you may find yourself having your mind blown by this hard-to-define series.

 

Fruits Basket (2019)

Technically speaking, there are two adaptations of this award-winning manga, one from 2001 and one from last year. However, the more recent version has gorgeous animation, adheres more closely to the original manga, and plans to tell the whole story.

Fruits Basket follows Tohru Honda, a cheerful girl who finds herself homeless after her mother’s death. She ends up moving in with the Sohmas, a large and influential family whose members Tohru is classmates with. However, she finds something crazy out about her new home: certain members of the Sohma family can turn into animals of the Chinese zodiac when hugged by a member of the opposite sex or under great stress. Thus Tohru’s life becomes more wonderful and stranger than she ever dreamed.

So while the premise sounds whimsical enough, and there are plenty of sweet and funny moments, this series can get really dark. A lot of the characters have suffered from their ability to transform into animals, and there’s a lot of exploration of social isolation, anxiety and depression, self-loathing and self-fulfilling prophecies, broken homes and gang violence, and more. How the show balances all that so well with humor and lighter moments, I have no idea, but there you go.

Anyway, this is a great series to make you laugh and cry, with a literal menagerie of characters for you to fall in love with. The second season is due out next month, so I hope you’ll check it out in the meantime.

Overlord

This one’s become my new favorite anime, and I’ve watched it five or six times since I first watched it back in September. Yeah, you read that right. And I’m about to tell you why.

A gamer’s favorite virtual reality game is about to shut down forever. Having met all his friends and received his best memories in that game, he decides to stay in the game until the servers shut down. However, when the game shuts down, he finds himself transported to a world where magic and monsters exists. As his video game avatar. Which so happens to be a powerful undead skeleton and commander of an entire monstrous army, the great Ainz Ooal Gown. Wanting to understand his new world and find out how he got there, Ainz embraces his new form and sets out on a conquest of this strange new world.

Considered one of the best isekai stories out there,* Overlord has a lot to offer. Not only is it the sort of story where you get to root for a super-powerful villain, but the ensemble cast are a lot of fun and the story manages to keep you interested by flipping point of views and coming up with new scenarios to challenge the main character Ainz, who’s basically an office drone who’s suddenly found himself in the position of a god-king and is basically just trying to fake it till he makes it. And let’s face it, it’s just awesome to see an overpowered character as an antihero sometimes (check out this clip if you don’t believe me).

Ascendance of a Bookworm

A young woman gets her dream job of becoming a librarian and getting to read books all day. But then she dies and gets reincarnated into a fantasy universe. Cool, right? Wrong. First off, she’s now a sickly little girl named Myne, and can’t walk down a set of stairs without getting a fever. Second, she lives in a world where books are expensive and are usually the property of the nobility, which she is not. Despite all that, Myne is determined to get books one way or another, and she won’t let small things like illiteracy or a frail body get in her way!

As far as isekai anime go, this is a bit of an outlier. Normally, isekai protagonists have some great advantage and go out to do amazing things. However, Myne’s only advantages are her own brains and experience, and it’s a story about an ordinary girl (sort of) trying to live an ordinary life with her friends and new family, not anything like saving the world or conquering nations. Add in a mellow pace and beloved characters, and you find yourself falling in love with these characters. If you want a fantasy story not focused on anything major like politics or war and lovable characters just trying to eke out a normal life, this might be the anime for you.

My Bride is a Mermaid

Nagasumi Michishio nearly drowns, but is saved by a mermaid. But now, by mermaid law, he has to marry the mermaid, a girl his own age named Sun Seto. Whose overprotective father is the head of a merfolk yakuza family. And he’s not ready for his little girl to go off and marry, let alone marry a weak human. Hijinks ensue.

This beloved romantic comedy is sure to make anyone laugh. It brings together a whole bunch of kooky characters with a zany concept, and makes the most of it. For a while, it was my favorite anime in high school, and there’s a reason it’s endured for over ten years since it aired. If you want a zany comedy with endearing characters and the ability to surprise you at least once or twice an episode, this may be the anime for you.

 

Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun!

Iruma Suzuki is a 14-year-old pushover who’s been forced to work since he was a small child in order to get by. One day, his scumbag parents sell his soul to a demon. The demon, Sullivan, takes Iruma to the nether realms…and adopts him as his grandson! He then enrolls in the elite demon school, Babyls, where if he’s discovered to be human, he’ll be eaten. Hijinks ensue.

This is one of my new favorite anime. It oozes year-round Halloween spirit in every frame of animation, with eyeballs and skulls and spider webs (oh my!) everywhere. Not only that, but these characters are lovable and quirky in their own way, from sweet and pure but easily swayed Iruma, to the beloved and adoring Asmodeus Alice, and the hilarious Clara Valac (think me, but a demoness with twice as much energy and randomness as me). Watching them grow and become friends in a strange world is a lot of fun, as well as hella funny. If you want a series full of demons, Halloween, and utter hilarity and fun, I can’t recommend this one enough.

Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun

A high schooler goes into a bathroom to summon the spirit Hanako-san,** who is supposed to grant a wish to anyone who summons them. Instead of a little girl in a red dress, she gets a devilish boy in an old boy’s uniform, Hanako-kun. He’ll grant her wish…but in exchange, she’ll have to be his assistant in keeping her school’s spirits in line. Hijinks ensue.

With a unique animation style like a webcomic and a great balance of silly humor and intrigue, Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun is one of the breakout hits of Winter 2020. If you’d like a series with funny characters, stellar animation and a bit of supernatural fun, you might enjoy this one. New episodes are airing right now, so why not go ahead and check it out?

Which anime whets your appetite? Have you seen any of these? What did you think? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I hope to have another post or two out this week. Also, wanted to let you know I’m writing like crazy these days. I should have an announcement of a new first draft before too long.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*If you don’t remember from my first anime recommendation post, isekai is a subgenre of fantasy anime in which a normal person is transported to a magical world resembling fantasy worlds out of novels and video games, and may have features from the latter. The transported average Joe often ends up becoming some sort of hero or adventurer, going on quests and fighting monsters or exploring unknown regions. It’s a popular genre of anime right now, to the point that half the new series that came out last year seemed to be isekai anime. Thankfully, I can point out some of the good ones.

**Yes, the same spirit from Japanese folklore that inspired my short story “Hannah.”

February is Women in Horror Month. Since women writers are a big influence on my writing–JK Rowling got me into storytelling in the first place, and Anne Rice helped pave the way for me to write darker fiction–I thought I’d recommend some stories for those who want to help support the month. You’ll see some familiar names here, but also some you may not be familiar with. Either way, I hope you’ll consider giving them a read.

Tiny Teeth by Sarah Hans. This is actually a short story by a friend and colleague of mine, but it is a scary one. Imagine a world where a virus turns children into dangerous, gnawing animals, and one woman’s experience in that world. You can find it on Pseudopod.org, a website where scary short stories are read by narrators and released as a podcast. Give it a listen. Guarantee you, it’ll be 45 minutes not wasted. Here’s the link.

Garden of Eldritch Delights by Lucy A. Snyder. This is also by a friend and colleague of mine, but it’s also a great collection of scary stories. The majority of them feature cosmic horror themes and entities, which I love, as well as intriguing characters and plots. A couple of the stories also incorporate sci-fi and fantasy themes, and feature a diverse cast, which is something I love to see. If you pick up Garden of Eldritch Delights, you will find it worth your time. Here’s the Amazon link.

The Amaranthine Books by Joleene Naylor. You’ve probably seen Joleene’s name around this blog before, but did you know she’s written an entire book series? She has, a vampire series called the Amaranthine books, and they all come highly rated. Even better, some of the books are free or under a dollar under the Kindle edition, so why not take the opportunity to read them? You can find all the Amaranthine books, and then some, on Joleene’s Amazon page.

In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware. Technically, these are mysteries, but they have horror themes about them, so I’ll count them here. In a Dark, Dark Wood follows a mystery writer invited out to a bachelorette party by a friend she hasn’t seen in years, unaware of the forces conspiring against her. The Death of Mrs. Westaway stars a Tarot reader on hard times who finds out she’s received an inheritance from a grandmother she didn’t know she had, and what that inheritance entails for her. Both are terrifying and keep you on the edge of your seat with suspense. You can check out both further on the author’s Amazon page (and I need to check out more of her work).

Kept me on the edge of my seat the whole audio book.

Within These Walls and The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn. No joke, Ania Ahlborn is one of the scariest writers I’ve ever had the pleasure to read, and I really need to read more of her work, as should you. Within These Walls follows a true crime writer as he and his daughter stay in the home of a Manson-like cult leader, and what happens while they’re there (I actually reviewed it a few years ago). The Shuddering follows a group of young adults as they go skiing at a mountain resort, only to discover the area has come under siege from a rather hungry enemy. Either one will leave you shaking in your boots! Here’s the Amazon page if you want it.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Come on, you know I had to include this. Even if I’m not a fan of this book, it’s undeniable that Jackson’s most well-known novel, and one of the most influential horror stories of the 20th century. Following a group of paranormal researchers as they explore the titular house and the effect the house has on them, this book is still a well-known classic in the genre, and some consider it required reading for fans and authors. It’s so well known, I won’t include any links for it (surprise!).

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. Again, can you blame me? Whatever you think of the many sequels, it’s undeniable that Anne Rice’s debut novel has remained a classic for a reason. A journalist interviews a 200-year-old vampire named Louis, who recounts his creation in French New Orleans and his travels around the world looking for meaning and for more of his kind. It’s a haunting tale, the horror coming more from Louis’s psychological journey and despair rather than from the supernatural. As I said earlier, this novel also paved the way for my eventual turn to horror, so I can’t recommend it enough (and I’ll have to reread it someday). Again, no need for links. It’s that well-known.

 

What recommendations do you have for Women in Horror Month? Are you reading anything for it? Are you familiar with any of these books? What was your opinion of them?

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you find something good to read based on this list. I’ll be listening to The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates this month on audio book, so maybe I’ll add it to a future list someday. I better get started soon!

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!