I’ve covered some of the gay horror fiction of Mark Allan Gunnells before. You can read my blog about his gay slasher Sequel here, and I cover his gay zombie novel Asylum here. Plus, he allowed me to post one of his sexually-charged short horror stories here.
Mark is one of those authors who keeps me coming back for more. So it was time to check out two of his short story collections: Tales from the Midnight Shift and Welcome to the Graveyard And Other Stories. Below I give a breakdown of all the stories in each collection, but first, I chatted with Mark about horror and short stories.
Boys, Bears & Scares: Hi, Mark. Thanks for taking some time to discuss your writing. So I’ve read some of your horror novels and now two of your short story collections. When it comes to writing and even reading horror, do you have a preference? Long or short form, and why?
Mark: I must admit, short fiction is my true passion. I enjoy writing novels and novellas and even the occasional bit of nonfiction, but short stories are where I’m happiest. I feel I have an inherent understanding of the pacing of a short, and I find it very satisfying to create a brief bit of effective horror fiction. Sort of a one-two punch to the gut.
BB&S: Which horror authors have had the strongest influence on you, particularly in the area of short stories?
Mark: Clive Barker is of course a huge inspiration to me. One of the few modern writers to initially achieve success through short story collections. And the short stories themselves are bold and innovative. Brian Hodge is another writer that I think truly excels at the short form. Stephen King and Joe Lansdale have also turned out some of the best short fiction in the past thirty years.
BB&S: Much of your writing style has a “horror movie” feel to it, which I love. And many of your short stories feel like they could easily be adapted into episodes of Tales from the Darkside. Are you heavily inspired by horror films and horror TV shows and do you intentionally write stories that make it feel like the reader is watching a movie?
Mark: Well, my love of horror originally came from watching the original Twilight Zone as a kid, and I think a part of me loves to create that sort of surreal atmosphere. Then I discovered horror films and started devouring them, and then horror fiction entered the picture and quickly eclipsed everything else. I don’t necessarily set out to make my stories “cinematic” but it is possibly because of my earliest exposures being television and movies that gives it that feel.
BB&S: While I love horror anthologies, short horror films, and shows like The Twilight Zone, I’ve never been a huge fan of reading short stories, with a few exceptions—King, Bradbury, Poe, and…Mark Allan Gunnells. You really know how to deliver short stories that have twists and zingers and never come to the obvious conclusion. What comes first, the general concept/theme of the story, or the dastardly conclusion?
Mark: For me, it’s always the concept first. Or possibly a character or two. Sometimes the ending comes along with that, but there have been many times I’ve started a story with no real idea how it was going to end. Or in more than a few cases, I’ve thought I knew how it was going to end but then once the story takes over, it tells me otherwise.
BB&S: Your stories cover it all: supernatural scares; gore and brutality; sexual situations; disturbing and sensitive subject matter; emotional character exploration; gay issues, complete with gay antagonists and gay protagonists; plus non-horror stories, although even those have horror sensibilities. When assembling a collection, do you put any thought into how a diversity of stories will be received by readers?
Mark: Possibly I should put more thought into it, but I approach it as the kind of reader I am. And as a reader, I appreciate an author that can stretch and deliver different types of stories. That’s why Lansdale is my favorite writer working today. So often when I am putting a collection together, I do try to gather as many diverse types of tales in terms of subject matter, tone, etc. as I can. Might that put off some readers that are looking for just one type? I suppose that could be the case, but I still like to offer a variety that shows range.
BB&S: As a creator of gay horror, how do you feel the subgenre is received by gay audiences? Do you think specifically gay-themed horror books and films are necessary and in demand or are they shunned by even gay horror fans?
Mark: I must admit, that from the feedback I’ve gotten, my readership (small as it may be) is primarily heterosexual. However, I do think there is a contingent of gay folks out there who do love horror, and as more out writers start publishing, I think you’re going to see the audience of gay horror fans growing. It’s great to see yourself represented in the fiction you read. I will say, because I’ll use a gay villain as quickly as a gay hero, that is off-putting for some gay readers.
BB&S: And finally, if you could make a horror anthology film featuring 3 – 5 stories from these two collections, which would you choose and why?
Mark: Hmm, interesting question. I’d probably want to choose a few that would give it a TZ feel since I’m such a fan of the Zone. Maybe “Jam” and “Accidents” happen from Tales from the Midnight Shift, “The Delivery Boy” and “A Stroll Down Grace Street at Twilight” from Ghosts in the Attic, and “Sunday Bath” and “Prank” from Welcome to the Graveyard.
BB&S: Thanks for taking the time to chat horror with me, Mark!
And as promised here is a lineup of the stories in Tales from the Midnight Shift and Welcome to the Graveyard and Other Stories.
The stories of TALES FROM THE MIDNIGHT SHIFT
“God Doesn’t Follow You Into the Bathroom” – A sick little tale about the lies we tell ourselves about our relationship with God.
“Jam” – When traffic comes to a halt, stranded drivers make desperate decisions.
“Acts 19:19 Party” – Religious folk decide to hold a book burning and get a nasty surprise when they try to throw horror novels on the fire.
“Playing Possum” – A gay man who senses his relationship with his partner has come to an end begins seeing a possum in his kitchen. What does it mean?
“The Barter System” – At a gas station in the middle of nowhere with no gas and no money, a woman figures out a way to pay for the fuel that her boyfriend really isn’t going to like.
“The Room Where No One Died” – A gay couple calls in a ghost hunter to help them with a haunted room in their new house. But this is no ordinary ghost with which they are dealing.
“The Gift Certificate” – A man is in for some serious torture porn when he gets a gift certificate as a birthday gift from his uncle.
“Christmas Getaway” – A father takes his son on a terrifying holiday trip when he believes Santa is out to kill his boy.
“Big Dog” – A writer has an unhealthy connection to his outdated computer…and will do anything to keep it in his possession.
“Collector’s Market” – A writer gets more than he bargained for in his goal to become a valued author.
“Accidents Happen” – A man’s boyfriend begins to see the ghost of the young boy he killed in a car accident.
“Snuff” – This is one evil twist on the horror of making snuff films!
“The More Things Change” – The concept of anti-gay high school bullying is turned on its head in this story that challenges the notion that times have really changed.
“Out of Print” – An author’s message board gets taken over by a group of extreme fans bidding on a copy of his out-of-print book, with horrific results.
“The World’s Smallest Man” – When a new magician is hired at a carnival, the small man begins to suspect he is doing heinous things in his act.
The stories of WELCOME TO THE GRAVEYARD AND OTHER TALES
“Dancing in the Dark” – A college student discovers the dangers of listening to Bruce Springsteen.
“Be My Voice” – A simple night of karaoke becomes a nightmare for a man who gets more attention than he wanted for having a good voice.
“After” – A woman is horrified at how a threesome turns out.
“The Napkins” – This quick story is about a man who feels he and his family are victims of racism at a pizza restaurant.
“Anything” – A great twist on the usual “help me get rid of the body” plot.
“Cockroach Mecca” – What if killing bugs was against your religion?
“Sunday Bath” – A man finds soaking in a hot tub is the only way to escape to his true identity as a gay man.
“Art Imitates Life” – A parallel is show between the clashes in a gay couple’s relationship and that of a vampire couple.
“Breaking-and-Entering Christmas” – A radio station’s plan to surprise a struggling family for the holidays goes horribly wrong.
“What Little Boys Are Made Of” – Gender identity is put to the test when a dad finds his boy playing with dolls.
“Parental Instincts” – A new parent’s worst nightmare…and it’s not what you think.
“Don’t Take No for an Answer” – A writer decides to get revenge on the sender of all those rejection letters.
“What’s Done’s Done” – A lesson on forming feelings for a prostitute.
“A Midnight Errand” – What exactly is the bloody swaddled bundle a father carries to its resting place?
“Prank” – An evil little self-loathing gay Halloween horror story.
“Making Ends Meet” – A straight man begins to have dreams about being raped by a gay clown.
“Shootin’ the Shit” – Some people are all talk before the action.
“Urges” – A dark tale of pedophilia and payback.
“Top of the World” – There’s no telling where you may end up when you get on this amusement park ride.
“The Day That God Threw Up” – Even God gets sick every now and then…and the results aren’t pleasant.
“Welcome to the Graveyard” – This isn’t your usual story about a gang of high school buddies and their victim.