Earlier this month we put a horrific / humorous twist on the season, featuring book reviews, interviews, top 13 lists, guest posts, and odd facts about the holiday. It was all very twisted and terrible, and definitely not traditional, but all in good fun. If you enjoyed our daily antidote to the sugary spiritual sweetness of the season, then I hope you'll enjoy one last guilty pleasure.
To help wrap things up, please allow me to introduce you to Steve Rossiter, twisted editor/contributor of the Ho Ho Horror anthology.
Q. With its melting pot of mythologies, its fractured folklore, and its crass commercialism, Christmas is certainly seeded with dark potential. What was it that inspired you to plant those seeds and pull together your own collection of twisted tinsel tales?
A. It started with a short story called Ho Ho Ho by Gordon Reece. I met Gordon in March 2011 at the opening night of the Somerset Celebration of Literature, an annual high school literature festival held on the Gold Coast. We got talking and after the festival Gordon sent me a story to see if I could use it online, along with a note warning the story was "nasty". I liked the story, but it was definitely best suited for readers who would have some idea of the kind of story they would be getting. So I came up with Ho Ho Horror as a collection of Christmas horror stories and put out a call for submissions.
Q. Of all the stories in Ho Ho Horror, was there one that shocked/surprised you, or really stood out as embodying the 'spirit' of the collection?
Ho Ho Ho by Gordon Reece could fit that description, since it was the inspiration for the collection. Gordon's story treads the fine line between a child with a vivid imagination and a truly disturbed child who is a danger to others. There are numerous points in the story where I think many readers would be shocked by where the story goes - or delightfully surprised if they are horror fans.
Let It Snow by Sam Stephens explores the boundary between sanity and insanity for a father on a Christmas getaway at a secluded North American wilderness cabin retreat. Unwanted Gift by Belinda Dorio features an ex-lover's return at Christmas with an unwanted gift. Naughty or Nice by Cameron Trost is a play on the idea of Santa's list of who has been naughty or nice and the lengths to which one naughty boy will go to be on the nice list.
I read in your recent review, Bob, that you especially liked the story Satan Claus by Keith Mushonga. The spirit of the collection is twofold; firstly, the spirit of exploring horror stories and Christmas subject matter in original and engaging ways, and, secondly, serving as a vehicle for writers to get their stories read and go some way to helping writers move toward bigger things. Keith was living in a village near Harare, Zimbabwe when Ho Ho Horror was published and since then he has taken up a scholarship to study writing at university in the United States. This embodies the spirit of using a collection like Ho Ho Horror as a stepping stone on the way to bigger things.
Q. With the possible exception of Easter, Christmas is the holiday most often viewed as being 'off-limits' for such twists. Did it take much for you to overcome that sentiment, or was the idea of it being 'sacred' a temptation all on its own?
A. Such sentiments did not factor one way or the other because the horror treatment is not a commentary on the holiday itself. All holidays would be equally up for grabs for to receive a horror treatment. The stories don't take on the 'sacredness' of Christmas in any sort of religious sense. The stories are more focused on Christmas as a festive holiday and gift-giving season including customs involving the character of Santa.
The idea of Christmas horror was fun because so many people are familiar with a broad range of Christmas customs and this helps trigger a myriad of story possibilities that will connect with readers.
A. I don't feel that either is necessarily easier or more difficult than the other.
I tend to prefer non-parody stories to parody stories. Parody stories tend to rely on set opinions about something else for their emotional and intellectual value whereas non-parody stories tend to rely on what's shown in the story for their emotional and intellectual value and do not require the reader or viewer to accept set opinions to appreciate the story.
Q. Is there a weird, unusual, or downright strange Christmas memory that lurks somewhere in the dark recesses of your mind? Not necessarily something that influenced your writing, but one that compels the occasional shudder or maniacal grin?
A. No, I'm free of strange Christmas memories.
Q. Finally, before we let you get back to your shopping (or grinching, or scrooging), what one book would you be most tempted to bribe Santa into slipping under the tree for fantasy/horror fans?
A. It by Stephen King is an enduring favourite. I remember first reading it in primary school and feeling like I was being treated as an intelligent horror reader and not just presented with the child-friendly horror-themed imagery and stock situations I had experienced in 'horror' books recommended for my age.
For readers who want something more recent, Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King, a novel by Jack Ketchum or his short story collection Peaceable Kingdom, or, for those after something Australian, Mice by Gordon Reece, or a novel by Greig Beck or Jaye Ford.
Great answers, Steve! Thanks for the Ho Ho Horror read, and for stopping by to share your holiday twists.