Learning to Horror

Trees, sky, light on water in Daphne, Alabama

After years of focusing on literary poetry and fiction, including completing my undergraduate education in creative writing and taking writing workshops, I’m finally embracing my original genre aspirations.

I always enjoyed reading dark fantasy and horror the most, especially short fiction, but I cannot say I’m widely read in horror. I read a couple of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror collections edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (I own a few more of these I’m eager to read soon.) Novelists I enjoyed reading when I was younger included Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Anne Rice, and John Saul. I took a few college courses that exposed me to masterpieces like The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.

To begin addressing this perceived lack, and to read more widely among diverse writers, I subscribe to Nightmare Magazine. It’s among my absolute favorite publications. I enjoy it so much I decided to purchase a lifetime subscription so that I can read all the back issues while supporting this great publication into the (far) future. Every issue has two new stories, two reprints, interviews with the writers, macabre art on both the cover and in a gallery inside, followed by an interview with the artist, and essays on horror.

And I will read more dark fiction and horror anthologies and novels. I haven’t been interested in monthly “subscription boxes” until yesterday when I heard that a new anthology I’m eager to read—Miscreations: Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors—will be available a month early in Night Worms’ January 2020 package. After some research including perusing the Night Worms website and watching several YouTube unpackaging videos, I decided to sign up for their monthly deliveries. As I often do when I get excited about something new, I went overboard and also helped them sell out of one of their October book selections and their November package “Feasting on Horror.”

When it comes to reading, I’m definitely ramping up how much dark fantasy and horror I consume. Lots of new books and book-related goodies are on their way.

Meanwhile, I’m writing and submitting a lot more dark fantasy and horror (though even my earlier published literary poems and short stories tended to be quite dark already.) Nothing to report on the submission front yet. Earlier this year, I joined the Horror Writers Association as a supporting member. The HWA website and monthly newsletters have been incredible resources.

I also recently attended several writing panels, including those focused on dark fantasy and horror, at TusCon, the annual science fiction, fantasy, and horror convention held in November in Tucson, Arizona. This was my first visit, even though I’ve lived in Tucson for over fifteen years now. I felt really inspired after the event and plan to attend this one again and maybe other similar conventions elsewhere in the future.

So, with all this reading and writing, and also watching horror television and movies regularly, I’d say I’m on the right track if my goal is to write more dark fantasy and horror.

Which is not to say I won’t continue writing literary poetry or fiction or works in other genres like science fiction and fantasy. I love it all. Thinking about who I want to be as a poet and a writer, I don’t find aspirations in literary and genre writing incompatible.

But I could certainly use more hours in the day.

Richard Leis

Richard Leis

Richard Leis (he/him/his) lives in Tucson, Arizona where he writes poetry and fiction, attends and teaches writing workshops at the Writers Studio Tucson, and works for HiRISE, a team in the Lunar & Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona with a camera in orbit around Mars onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Verified Services

View Full Profile →