Calgary writer Mike Thorn finds horror inside collection of sub-genre short stories

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In the introduction to Calgary writer Mike Thorn’s short story collection Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition, American horror lover Sadie Hartmann offers a list of the intricate subgenres found inside.

Hartmann, who calls herself Mother Horror, has found traces of everything from “gross body horror” to “satirical black comedy”, “slasher”, “urban legends” and even “satanic panic” from the 1980s in Thorn’s work.

This can perhaps be attributed to Thorn’s unique blend of academic interests and superfan tendencies when it comes to his appreciation of the genre. It started as a 12-year-old who spent a long period of school detention consuming Stephen King’s 1983 classic Pet Sematary rather than his assigned readings. He then moved on to more scholarly pursuits which included writing a thesis on John Carpenter’s 1987 film Prince of Darkness.

But Thorn admits that he thought exploring the myriad ways the horror genre has divided would be a difficult writing exercise for a college-educated creative writing student.

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“As for the Darkest Hours, it was a time when I was really determined to write serious fiction,” she says. “So I think there was a certain degree of awareness in thinking, ‘I’d like to write my version of a slasher story. I would like to write my version of an urban legend. I wish I had my version of a dark, realistic tale. Things like that. It was quite conscious at the time. After writing Darkest Hours, I feel like I’ve covered just about every subgenre in the book.

It may seem a bit overwhelming and academic. But Thorn’s premeditated desire to delve into various horror silos is really just one way the high-profile stories in Darkest Hours were born. As a creative writing major who is about to travel to New Brunswick for his PhD, there is certainly a smart side to his modus operandi. But it was also his experiences in higher education, particularly his pursuit of a master’s degree at the University of Calgary, that indirectly led to a deeper, darker, and more unconscious conduct in his writing.

“There is a common thread throughout the book involving the fear and anxiety that accompany academic environments,” he says. “But, also, a lot of the literature and theories that I was reading at the time, I think, bleed into the stories in different ways.”

How exactly all of this bleeds into Thorn’s work is probably a complex question. For horror fans, it’s safe to say that what matters is Thorn’s mastery of tone and genre and the deep throaty horror that can be found in a number of stories. Hair, for example, is a crude story about a young man named Theodore who becomes obsessed with consuming his and other people’s locks. But, as we learn from Thorn’s author’s notes, he was also influenced by the writer’s love for the grandfather of all obsessive tales, Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

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Satanic Panic stems from Thorn’s work on his dissertation on Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, but also from his fascination with a particular variety of Christian films in the 1980s and 1990s that attempted to expose the “Satanic Web” supposed to run in full swing. sight and lead America astray.

In fact, part of the fun of reading Darkest Hours is discovering all of the academic and not-so-academic influences that inform the stories, which Thorn dutifully lists in the author’s notes after each story. The first short story he sold, Long Man, was inspired by both Gregg Araki’s 2004 queer movie classic on coming of age, Mysterious Skin, and Cher’s anthemic song, Believe , which the writer said was inexplicably repeating itself in his head when he wrote the story. . When discussing Economics Nowadays, a story fueled by dark humor, Thorn cites everything from Eli Roth’s torture porn films to unscrupulous literature such as The World According to Garp by John Irving and White. Teeth by Zadie Smith.

Whatever the combination of influences, they have guided Thorn through an extremely prolific period. Darkest Hours, which is an expanded version of a collection he released in 2017, will be released on June 11. Shelter of the Damned, a novel about a teenager’s discovery of a mysterious and sensitive cabin in a suburban field that unleashes violence and rage, was released in February. A new collection of short stories, Peel Back and See, will be released on October 29.

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Some of the anxiety at the heart of the Darkest Hours stories stems from a sort of impostor syndrome that Thorn says he feels in some academic circles, which he attributes to his interest in a genre as opposed to more literary fiction. traditional. It’s a feeling that has dissipated over the years, he says.

“I think I’ve come to terms with those feelings now,” he says.

Part of this probably stems from the fact that academic studies are taking genre fiction more and more seriously.

“There also seems to be a resurgence of interest in horror and science fiction,” he says. “I took a cyberpunk-fiction seminar during my masters degree and in my opinion it was one of the most complex and stimulating fictions you can wrestle with. These boundaries are starting to dissolve a bit and people are starting to take genre fiction seriously and evaluate a lot of the ideas in it.

“For me,” he adds, “we live in circumstances that are on the whole horrendous. Horror fiction seems to be one of the most intuitive ways to explore this reality we live in.

Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition will be released on June 11 on JournalStone Publishing.

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