Monday, October 5, 2015

Happy Happy Halloween (Month)

On October 13, I'm going to be interviewed by Scott Nicolay on his horror-centric podcast The Outer Dark, here ( Since all interviews thus far have rocked ass, this is very good company to be sharing, and I'm looking forward to it. Otherwise, everything in my life right now is about completing "Red Words," the story I've been haphazardly slamming at for most of September, so sorry for the absence.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Pimp My Fic(Tion)

Added a bunch of new links to the right-hand column, mainly fiction: almost the entire Hammer Pirates series ("Two Captains," "Drawn Up From Dark Places," "The Salt Wedding"), plus both One-Shot Reese stories ("Sown From Salt" at The Harrow plus its podcast version, as part of Tales to Terrify Ep. 6, and "A Feast For Dust" at Beneath Ceaseless Skies and the podcast version of that as well), "One In The Morning and One At Night," at The Three-Lobed Burning Eye, and the podcast of "In The Poor Girl Taken By Surprise," at Pseudopod. The list is getting kind of unwieldy, obviously, but I have to admit it does make me smile.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Greetings from Toronto on a cold, rainy first day back at school. Last week--along with such luminaries as Caitlin R. Kiernan and Garth Nix--I talked about my story "This Is Not For You" at SF Signal, as part of a series examining the stories behind the stories in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year Vol. 7 ( Said series continues today with instalment #2, featuring Orrin Grey and Livia Llewellyn, amongst others ( I always love to write these pieces as well as to read them, and this particular anthology is usually amazing, particularly so this year; both instalments are therefore well worth your time, even if you remember some of what I said from the original Nightmare magazine author spotlight interview.

Interestingly, today's nonfiction work will also be about explaining my process--Nightmare is reprinting my story "The Emperor's Old Bones," which I haven't written about in years, and a fellow writer is assigning "Imaginary Beauties" to her lucky short fiction writing class, so she wants to be able to contextualize it. The prospect of re-examining both these tales therefore serves to remind me how often things begin with me watching a movie, occasionally two, and thinking either "you know, these would go well together" or "hmmm, I think I could do better"; a bit like I was writing fanfic a long time before I actually started writing fanfic, in other words. With "The Emperor's...", it was all about Steven Spielberg's adaptation of J.G. Ballard's Empire of the Sun, in which Christian Bale plays the young "Jim" and John Malkovich plays an American deserter/smuggler who acts as his anti-mentor. I flipped the Malkovich character's gender, conjured a formative crush between our sociopathic young protagonist and her, then added a sympathetic magic ritual inspired by a very cruel traditional Chinese dish that involves adding years to one's life through cannibalism, and hey presto! Something different was born. Similarly, above and beyond the Murder By Numbers connection discussed last time, "Imaginary Beauties" also owes a debt to my continuing obsession with Lovecraft's "Herbert West, Re-Animator" by way of the Stuart Gordon movie, as well as the character Ben Foster plays in Alpha Dog. My mind is a garburator, etc.

In true tales of accountability, meanwhile, now that my son Cal's ostensibly out of my hair, this week I need to break into my next story for real, because the deadline is October 1. So I will bid you all (ha ha) adieu.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Good review of Steve Berman's Daughters of Frankenstein: Lesbian Mad Scientists! by Brit Mandelo, for's Queering SFF. You can read the whole thing here (, but I was happy with this section, about my story "Imaginary Beauties: A Lurid Melodrama":

Gemma Files’s [“Imaginary Beauties”] is also a solid story, though much darker and more—well, lurid—than the rest. A much more accurately contemporary feel, too: damaged weird girls making bad drugs, going out together in a blaze of (stupid) not-glory. The exploration of social versus technical genius between the two women here is also interesting, particularly because of what a genuinely bad person Rice—our protagonist—is.

...which sounds bad, I guess, but it's also totally true! Clarice "Rice" Petty is one of my favourite asshole protags ever, based very explicitly on the Loeb expy character from Murder By Numbers, which is why you can't go wrong seeing her as a chick version of charming sociopath Ryan Gosling; I enjoyed writing this piece a heck of a lot, so I'm glad it's finally getting some mainstream(ish) attention. (It was originally published as part of Kelp Queen Press's Loonie Dreadful line, along with "Every Angel," the first of my Terrible Seven stories.)

In further news of stuff I like, meanwhile, there's a new episode of The Black Tapes Podcast out, #9, which you can access here ( If I haven't said before, this particular mock-doc paranormal investigation series is really brilliant, totally worth your investment; I find it fascinating, creepy and inspiring, all the things I want from a narrative, horror or otherwise. And there's a fairly great showcase on female-directed film going on at Twitter and other places: #DirectedbyWomen (, running from September 1 to September 15. I intend to do something to tie in with it before time runs out, probably involving talking about my favourite female directors (horror and otherwise).

Personal news: "What You See When The Lights Are Out" A) is done and B) has been accepted, with some changes. I'll be doing those today, hopefully, along with another rewrite I totally forgot I owed a previous editor, while continuing to plan out a third story I owe by October 1. I've also finalized plans to travel to Saskatoon to appear at Word On The Street with a ChiZine posse (September 19 to 21) at last, and will be doing a very exciting phone interview tomorrow, so the march to publication continues apace. I'll keep you all apprised

All right, this makes me one for one in terms of keeping this blog current. Fingers crossed it becomes a habit...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Wow, okay. That's a llllooooonnngggg fuckin' time between updates. (And amusingly enough, over a year later, I am still working on "What You See When The Lights Are Out"! Which happens, though I've tried really hard to make it not happen, these last few years.

Perhaps you wonder what is going on with me. Or not. Well, for those who are interested:

1. Experimental Film is finally on its way! Here's the pre-order page, at Amazon (; the release date is currently November 17, 2015. I can tell you for a fact that we're already through the first round of edits and that I just signed off on the line-edits, so we are very close indeed to being done with this process. I've been kind of amazed by the buzz surrounding the book thus far, given it's been pumped at ( and SF Signal ( In the second case, Stephen King's name was cited alongside my own, which impressed this shit out of my Dad: life goal achieved.

2. I am once more teaching a course on writing what you fear--cunningly entitled "Write What You Fear"--over at LitReactor, starting October 13. If this interests you and you have the money/time, please sign up! Last year's session was a lot of fun, and lead to at least one of my students getting published, which was very much the point of the exercise. The deets are here (

3. I was interviewed over at the Lovecraft eZine Talk Show, and the result is up here ( I shared the stage with filmmaker Len LoBiondo, Mike Davis, Joe Pulver and the usual merry crew of Lovecraftian-minded regulars. I talk about my writing, about film, and how the two intersect.

4. I was also interviewed by Derek Newman-Stille for Speculating Canada on Trent Radio, almost a year earlier (, when I was in the throes of my obsession with The Walking Dead. BTW: If you're interested in the 100,000+ words' worth of fanfic that resulted from said obsession, you can find it here (

5. In anticipation of my upcoming appearance at Word on the Street Saskatoon, meanwhile, I was interviewed here, by Ann Foster, for CFCR's Radio Book Club ( This was an interesting interview for a couple of reasons, one of them being that I'm pretty sure Ann isn't a huge horror/Weird Western person, which spurred her to ask me a few questions I haven't heard in a while; it was pleasant and useful! Plus, I sound a lot better than I did "on the YouTube."

So now we are caught up, basically. I'm hoping to keep updating on a slightly more regular basis, from now on, but I know I've said that before.;) At any rate, good to have all this in one place.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Readercon Schedule

Since the cool kids are posting theirs...

Friday july 11

11:00 AM CR Teaching the Ghost Story: A Seminar for Instructors. Erik Amundsen, Michael Dirda, Gemma Files, Jack Haringa, Glen Hirshberg (leader). This presentation and conversation will help help instructors inspire fresh, compelling new work in the ghost story genre. Longtime writing teacher Glen Hirshberg will go over essential principles that all instructors will find useful when teaching writers of all levels, and will open the floor for the sharing of tips and techniques.

2:00 PM EM Fearful Symmetries Group Reading. Nathan Ballingrud, Gemma Files, John Langan. Fearful Symmetries is a new all-original anthology edited by Ellen Datlow, published by Chizine Publications.

7:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Marc Abrahams, Gemma Files.

8:00 PM ENL Dealing with Discouragement. Lisa (LJ) Cohen, F. Brett Cox, Gemma Files, Barbara Krasnoff (leader), Bud Sparhawk. As writers, we learn very early on to handle rejection, but how do you handle it when a story you're sure is good is rejected by 20 different publications? Or when your carefully crafted novel is shrugged off by five different agents? Or your self-published novella is bought by only 25 people, all of them friends and relatives? Or your fantasy novel disappears from public view after a couple of weeks? This discussion, led by Barbara Krasnoff, will cover personal strategies to deal with disappointments, rejection, and other setbacks.

10:30 PM F Meet the Pros(e).

Saturday July 12

10:00 AM E Autographs. Amal El-Mohtar, Gemma Files.

3:00 PM F Dark Fantasy and Horror: What's the Difference?. Jeanne Cavelos, Ellen Datlow (leader), Gemma Files, Jordan Hamessley, Jack Haringa, Steve Rasnic Tem. "As an editor of both dark fantasy and horror," Ellen Datlow writes, "I've been struggling with differentiating the difference for the last couple of years, particularly when editing the Best Horror of the Year, but also when reading for the Women Destroy Horror issue of Nightmare magazine." This panel of editors will discuss how they draw the line between horror and dark fantasy when selecting stories for publications that are firmly in the horror field—or vice versa.

6:00 PM Women Destroy Science Fiction/Horror Reading, with Livia Llewellyn et al. (Not sure where it is yet.)

Sunday July 13

12:00 PM G Horror for Diverse Audiences. Gemma Files, Nicholas Kaufmann, John Langan (leader), Shira Lipkin, Jennifer Pelland, Shveta Thakrar. Stereotypes and -isms often come from the id, from a place of deep fear. Horror writers have made use of this for ages, particularly describing monsters and monstrousness in ways that evoke racial anxiety, sexual anxieties, and fears of bodily change. However, that only works if your audience is in the racial majority, sexual majority, and able-bodied. What is the place of horror based on normalized fears for someone who doesn't or can't identify with the norm? How can writers effectively write horror for diverse audiences with diverse fears and anxieties? Can horror be a tool for expanding social empathy and social justice?

2:00 PM EM Reading: Gemma Files. Gemma Files. Gemma Files reads selections from her work in progress Experimental Film and the upcoming book We Will All Go Down Together: Stories of the Five-Family Coven

The long Canada Day weekend was a bit of a crazy grind, as ever, but at least I got the corrections in on the We Will All Go Down... proof and finished "In Hell, An Eye." Today will be about trying to finish "What You See (When the Lights Are Out)," hopefully in time for that deadline. If not, I'll at least have something to bank for later. And today Cal starts summer school, and tonight I'm seeing a theatre show with my Mom, all that.

So: onward.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

We Will All Go Down Together: An Alphabet (Part One)

Hey, all. As We Will All Go Down Together: Stories of the Five-Family Coven slouches towards publication on August 19th, I've decided to preface it with a bunch of new posts, another alphabetized compendium of themes and characters from the book. Here's the first one, right at the end of June:

A is for All Of Them Witches

The phrase in question references Rosemary's Baby—it's what the first girl the coven who eventually foist an antichrist on our titular character tries to warn her of, with middling results—but primarily it's the phrase that the term “witch” always sparks in my mind, or maybe my personal witchcraft hashtag. And it's certainly appropriate here, where so many of our characters actually are witches, even the ones who don't identify as such.

The Five-Family Coven is, as its name suggests, made up of five families whose brief partnership dates back to the 1600s, when they met during the reign of James the Sixth (of Scotland) and First (of England). Three of these families trace their descent back to three women, two peasants and one upwardly mobile, all witches—a sort of coven inside the coven. The other two are both artistocratic, one led by a changeling and primarily made up of her half- and quarter-Fae descendants, the other led by the latest in a string of hereditary warlocks/heirarchical magicians, who married into the changeling's family. This class disparity allows the aristocrats to eventually betray and abandon their non-aristocratic partners, leaving them to face the mechanics of the Scots witch-hunting machine, and every bit of bad blood between all five families can be traced back to that particular source.

My personal opinion about witchcraft, to head a potential philosophical sidebar off at the pass, is that obviously it doesn't “work” per se IRL, except in a purely metaphorical sense. But I've been fascinated since I was very young by the question of how people could ever think that it did, both from the witch-hunter angle and the witch/warlock angle. One of the first places I ran across a precis of the primary Burning Times myth was in Barbara Ninde Byfield's sadly out of print 1967 The Book of Weird (also known as The Glass Harmonica: A Lexicon of the Fantastical). It's a sort of proto-Tough Guide to Fantasyland in many ways, defining and explicating creatures such as Cockatrices, Dragons, Ghouls etc., while also charting the differences of degree between linked subjects like Wizards and Sorceresses, Giants, Ogres and Trolls, or Oafs, Churls, Louts and Knaves. Yet it also touches here and there on not-so-simple human evils, like Torture, Punishment and Execution.

Byfield's version of witchcraft makes it look nasty, brutish and short, definitely spinning on the idea that the people who ended up accused of witchcraft were, in the main, poor, indigent, ill and female. They swapped their immortal souls for a certain amount of temporal power, but like Schrodinger's Cat, it was the sort which stopped working the minute anybody looked at it (especially anybody from the Church). And while it's possible that Colin Wilson has something with his theory that after a while, people—like Isobel Gowdie, the Scots housewife who just suddenly confessed to witchcraft, without prompting or torment—might imprint on the generalized witchcraft narrative and fetishize it, treating it like the world's most epiphanic S/M fantasy scene, it seems far more likely to me that for people like the Pendle Witches (see Jeannette Winterson's The Daylight Gate), witchcraft provided a kind of outlet for those who felt utterly powerless to effect anything around them, people to whom the devil would necessarily seem like a better invisible friend than the God who propped up all the authoritative structures which kept them excluded.

I also think it's possible to argue that while there may indeed not have been any “real” witch-cults at the beginning of the Burning Times—just vaguely pagan mainly-women (midwives, herballists, etc.) who broke the mold and had to be put down, or aristocrats whose money and lands the king wanted, or scapegoats for whom witchcraft accusations were the further demonization needed to whip public disapproval into a killing frenzy—there actually might have been some, by the end. That these might have been second- or third-generation philosophical “terrorists” who'd seen their families destroyed by witchcraft accusations, and thought: okay, well, if everyone's going to assume I'm a witch anyways... then why not form a little cell of similar malcontents, go down to the graveyard every month and dance back-to-back, eat filth, act out displays of cursing your neighbours, kiss the ass of some dude in a devil suit, engage in an orgy, repeat?

When the North Berwick Witches tried to kill King James by melting a wax doll with his name on it, it may well have been at the instigation of his cousin Francis Stewart, the Earl of Bothwell, who himself took on the persona of Black Man at the sabbat: weaponized witchcraft. The myth come full circle.

Anyhow, that's where the image of witches in We Will All Go Down Together comes from. I'm not saying it's true, because it's not. I'm saying “what if?”, and acting accordingly.