Guest Post Written by Loren Rhoads
Every published book is merely the tip of an iceberg, the pinnacle in a pyramid of books that informed and inspired its author. I’d like to acknowledge books that led me to write my new short story collection, Unsafe Words.
1: The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
My mom didn’t have a lot of books. Even fewer of them were horror, which made this collection of Bradbury short stories stand out all the more. This is the book that hooked me on the master’s work. My story “Here There Be Monsters” takes place in a Bradburyesque setting, complete with darkness festering at its heart.
2: Angels & Visitations: A Miscellany by Neil Gaiman
In his first collection of short stories, Gaiman proved himself a master at writing stories that seem to be about what he’s telling you but end up about something altogether more poignant. I wanted to try my hand at that in my story “In the Pines.”
3: La-Bas by J. K. Huysmans
This book was a revelation. Huysmans’s French Decadent novel is obsessed by Gilles de Rais, one of Joan of Arc’s companions who turned to Satanism and serial murder after she was burned at the stake. The language Huysmans employs, even in translation, is lush and very seductive. Medusa, in my story “The Acid That Dissolves Images,” quotes La-Bas while she’s possessing Rachel on stage.
4. Falling Idols by Brian Hodge
I discovered Hodge’s short stories when he read one at a little local convention in Denver in the 90s. Falling Idols was the first of his story collections I picked up. Each story was more exquisite than the last until I reached “The Dripping of Sundered Wineskins.” Hodge’s writing steals your breath away and won’t give it back. I tried to do the same thing with my story “Valentine.” It was a dream come true when Brian agreed to blurb Unsafe Words for me.
5. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Burgess’s story is better known these days through Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film, but I would love someone to remake the movie and hew closer to the novel. Fifteen-year-old Alex struggles to appear adult in a world where drugs and violence are too close at hand. Ariel, in my story “The Arms Dealer’s Daughter,” spends her evening drinking synthemesc in direct homage to Burgess’s cautionary tale.
6. Dark Matter by Thomas S. Roche
I met Thomas Roche after he gave a reading in San Francisco, then stumbled on his story collection in the airport in Tokyo. All the way home on the plane I was absorbed by his smart, satirical erotica. Set in Goth clubs, crossing the whole spectrum of genders, these stories are luscious and refreshingly honest. While ” The Energizer Bunny at Home” is anything but erotic, I wanted to emulate Thomas’s honesty. It isn’t as easy as it looks.
7. Lost Angels by Loren Rhoads and Brian Thomas
When Brian and I wrote the first draft of a novel we called As Above, So Below, there was a scene in which the succubus Lorelei reminisces about working with the rock stars in LA in the 1970s. Eventually I split our massive novel into two pieces and found a publisher for them. Along the way, Dana Fredsti (in her editing pseudonym Inara Lavey) asked if I would write a succubus story for her Demon Lovers anthology. I researched Led Zeppelin, the Whisky a Go Go, and the Laurel Canyon music scene, and “Never Bargained for You” was born.
8. In Ghostly Japan by Lafcadio Hearn
This collection of stories inspired by Japanese folk tales is assembled from Hearn’s books published between 1894 and 1905. I read it before Ringu and Ju-On were released, so it was my first introduction to Japan’s inexorable mystical creatures. The water spirit in my story “Grandfather Carp’s Dream” isn’t the creature the protagonist should fear.
9. Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite
Lost Souls kicked open the gay vampire closet sketched out by Anne Rice. I wanted to take gay vampires even farther in my story “Affamé.” My goal was to write the hottest vampire story possible, without spilling a drop of blood.
10. Neuromancer by William Gibson
From the opening sentence — “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” — Neuromancer is a warning against the future. Hacker Case thinks he’s the only functioning intellect in a world falling to pieces around him. My story “Mothflame” centers on the same propulsive nihilism.
11. Vigilantes of Love by John Everson
Everson is a master at writing characters you care deeply about, even as their obsessions tear their lives apart. This collection of his early stories encouraged me to settle deeply into the characters in “Sound of Impact,” even as they make terrible, selfish choices in the name of love.
12. Kissing Carrion by Gemma Files
I met Gemma at one of the World Horror Conventions, when she was selling chapbooks of her stories and inviting people to her room to hear her read them. I was thrilled when those stories — and more — were finally collected into Kissing Carrion. The thing about Gemma’s stories is that they are full color and deeply textured. You can feel them envelop you as you read. My story “Justice” was inspired by her work.
13. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
One of my creative writing teachers recommended The Bloody Chamber to me and changed my life. Carter takes the original Charles Perrault versions of the familiar fairy tales and envisions them even darker and bloodier. I wanted to apply a similar filter to the mythology of the Wild Hunt in “The Magic of Fire and Dawn.”
14. Monsters of L.A. by Lisa Morton
The stories in Lisa Morton’s first collection are kaleidoscopic gems. As you study them, the image that comes most crisply into view is the city of Los Angeles. Ann Arbor, Michigan, the setting of my story “Still Life with Shattered Glass” is a much smaller canvas, but I wanted it to come alive the way Lisa breathes life into L.A.
15. The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World by Harlan Ellison
When I was in high school, I discovered Ellison while reading through the Hugo Award winners at my local library. The stories in this collection still make for mind-bending reading, but “With You by My Side It Should Be Fine” was most directly inspired by “A Boy and His Dog.” Blood, the genetically modified mutt, is crucial to his boy’s survival after the apocalypse. While Onyx in my story doesn’t speak, he is still the wisest creature after the apocalypse.
Whew! Now that I’ve finished my list, fifteen books don’t seem like enough. We are the summary of our inspirations, reckoning with their influence all the time.
About Loren Rhoads new book:
Unsafe Words by Loren Rhoads
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction,
Dark Fantasy Short Stories
Cover Artist: Lynne Hansen
Tagline: Once you’ve done the most unforgivable thing, what will you do next?
In the first full-length collection of her edgy, award-winning short stories, Loren Rhoads punctures the boundaries between horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction in a maelstrom of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.
Ghosts, succubi, naiads, vampires, the Wild Hunt, and the worst predator in the woods stalk these pages, alongside human monsters who follow their cravings past sanity or sense.
About the Author:
Loren Rhoads is the author of the In the Wake of the Templars space opera trilogy, co-author of a succubus/angel duology called As Above, So Below, and editor of Tales for the Camp Fire: An Anthology Benefiting Wildfire Relief. She’s also the author of a nonfiction travel guide called 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die. Unsafe Words is the first full-length collection of her short stories.
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