EYES FOR THE NEW YEAR, EYES ON THE OLD ONE

First, we announce my next book!

Bites Eyes: 13 Macabre Morsels is a brief collection of flash fiction, out through Brain Jar Press from February 28, 2023. It’s been a pleasure working with the BJP team on this and joining their roster of talented authors — basically a Who’s Who of modern Antipodean spec-fic. A few of them have even said some kind words about the book, as you’ll soon see!

From the press release:

Art and ambition meet sublime moments of dread in Matthew R. Davis’ Bites Eyes, a collection of sinister and terrifying vignettes from the award-winning author and rising star of Australian horror.

Within, you’ll find ghosts celebrating heartbreaking holidays, deadly music that spells death for any who hear it, unsettling children who take extraordinary steps, lethal butchers lurking in plain sight, ancient evils, and much more.

Collected together for the first time, these thirteen macabre morsels offer a taste of the terrifying, the sinister, the dangerous, and the disturbed.

Every bite’s a pleasure, yet comes with a delectable thrill of fear.


And now, lists of shit I liked in 2022, because why not. First of all — BOOKS!

I read 180 books in 2022, which, believe it or not, is a sharp drop from the past few years. But I wanted to read less and do more, so… mission accomplished! Here are my favourites from the new releases of the year, ranked in rough order of preference.

TOP 20 NOVELS

Daphne – Josh Malerman

Fellstones – Ramsey Campbell

Sundial – Catriona Ward

The Pallbearers Club – Paul Tremblay

Reluctant Immortals – Gwendolyn Kiste

The Path of Thorns – Angela Slatter

Fairy Tale – Stephen King

Nona the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir

Children of Paradise – Camilla Grudova

Devil House – John Darnielle

Empathy – Fay Lee

Hide – Kiersten White

Hidden Pictures – Jason Rekulak

Our Wives Under the Sea – Julia Armfield

Nightcrawling – Leila Mottley

Bird Bones – Michelle Jäger

The Black House – Carole Johnstone

Insomnia – Sarah Pinborough

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Exiles – Jane Harper


TOP 7 COLLECTIONS

Illuminations – Alan Moore

Hard Places – Kirstyn McDermott

The Fall – Alan Baxter

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke and Other Misfortunes – Eric LaRocca

Uncanny Angles – Sean Williams

Parallel Hells – Leon Craig

The Memory Librarian and Other Stories of Dirty Computer – Janelle Monáe


TOP 5 ANTHOLOGIES

Dark Stars – edited by John F.D. Taff

Voices in the Dark – edited by Eugene Johnson, Steve Dillon & Alain Davis

Midnight Echo 17 – edited by Greg Chapman

Sinister Supernatural Stories Vol. 1 – Screaming in the Night – edited by R.E. Sargent & Steven Pajak

This All Come Back Now: An Anthology of First Nations Speculative Fiction– edited by Mykaela Saunders


TOP 7 NON-FICTION

Ten Steps to Nanette – Hannah Gadsby

Stephen King: A Complete Exploration of His Work, Life, and Influences – Bev Vincent

Faith, Hope and Carnage – Nick Cave & Seán O’Hagan

Provocations: New and Selected Writing – Jeff Sparrow

Tinder Translator: An A-Z of Modern Misogyny – Aileen Barratt

The Ninth Life of a Diamond Miner – Grace Tame

Burning Questions: Essays and Occasional Pieces 2004-2021 – Margaret Atwood


I didn’t read enough new novellas, graphic novels, or poetry to bother writing up lists of their own, so here they are together in an unranked group.

A Mirror Mended – Alix E. Harrow (novella)

Bluebells – Leanbh Pearson (novella)

The Me You Love in the Dark – Skottie Young & Jorge Corona (graphic novel)

Saga: Volume Ten – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (graphic novel)

The Frozen Arch – Dominic J. Clark (poetry)

Orlam – PJ Harvey (poetry)


TOP 21 ALBUMS AND EPs

Meshuggah, Immutable

Cave In, Heavy Pendulum

Ghostsmoker, Grief EP

Porcupine Tree, Closure/Continuation

Kendrick Lamar, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers

Dead Cross, Dead Cross II

Rammstein, Zeit

Altars, Ascetic Reflection

Thornhill, Heroine

The Smile, A Light for Attracting Attention

Adalita, Inland

Daniel Johns, FutureNever

Freedom of Fear, Carpathia

Danger Mouse & Black Thought, Cheat Codes

Muse, Will of the People

Björk, Fossora

Imperial Triumphant, Spirit of Ecstasy

Jesu, Pity/Piety EP

Godflesh, Pure Live

Fear Factory, Recoded

Weezer, SZNS: Summer/Spring EPs


TOP 13 MOVIES (in no particular order)

Barbarian

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Ribspreader

Hellraiser

Halloween Ends

Prey

X

Everything Everywhere All at Once

The Northman

Men

Crimes of the Future

Nope

Clerks III

May 2023 be a year of blessings and bounties for you all.

Mx

Advertisement

SPREAD ‘EM!

New release news: you can read my flash fiction story “Youth Tooth Teeth” at Nightmare Fuel Magazine, simply by clicking here. Also, Night Terrors 22 is out now, featuring “Jaws of Glass”, a unique collaboration between myself and my dad, and you can find that here.

Steve Stred included me in his latest run of 3Q’s interviews, and now that it’s been published, you can find mine here.

Last Saturday night, Meg and I attended the premiere of Ribspreader at the Adelaide Film Festival. This independent local feature managed to sell out three cinemas at the Palace Nova complex, and before the late screening began, Vaughan Place was chock full of punks, freaks, and horror lovers… my kind of place! I shot some scenes as an extra, and you can see me quite clearly in a few shots early on — look for the longhair in the moshpit wearing the NAZI PUNKS FUCK OFF shirt! The film was at least seven years in the making — I attended an audition call in 2015, and around the same time, a production meeting at Ghastly Manor, where I was living at the time — and it’s come up a treat! It features such luminaries as Chantal Contouri (Thirst, Snapshot, etc), Lloyd Kaufman (Troma), Laurence Harvey (The Human Centipede 2), Rat Scabies (The Damned), and Nick Oliveri (Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age/Mondo Generator) in cameo roles, and it’s bound to become a cult item. I’ve interviewed writer/director Dick Dale about various topics as research for some upcoming work, and we’ve also been discussing the idea of collaborating on a novelisation/screenplay publication. That would be rather cool!

Not much else to say this time out. I spent five days in Hillville, New South Wales, with Meg’s family last week, which was an interesting change of pace. I did some writing and editing there, and also came up with a few nifty new ideas, one of which I’ve already written since returning home.

Well, that’s about it for the moment. Have yourself a happy, haunted Halloween! Mine will probably involve a few scary movies with my lady, some fresh pumpkin pie, and a one-on-one reading of some MRD stories.

Listening:

Dead Cross II, Dead Cross — Fossora, Björk — Come, My Fanatics…, Electric Wizard — London, Voices — Cheat Codes, Danger Mouse & Black Thought

Reading:

Fellstones/The Village Killings & Other Novellas, Ramsey Campbell — The Ninth Life of a Diamond Miner, Grace Tame — Nona the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir — Fairy Tale, Stephen King — Monolithic Undertow: In Search of Sonic Oblivion, Harry Sword

Watching:

Doctor Who: The Power of the DoctorThe Midnight ClubHellraiser (2022) — Ribspreader The X-Files

Stay safe, sane, and sated!

M

Draw Down the Midnight Dark

Hello! Hope you’re well.

Voices in the Dark (formerly known as Tales of the Lost Vol. 3 and You’re Not Alone in the Dark) is out now through Saturday Mornings Incorporated Press. It features my novelette “Vigil at Singer’s Cross” alongside such luminaries as Peter Straub, Paul Tremblay, and Gwendolyn Kiste, and you can find it here.

Midnight Echo 17, the Australasian Horror Writers Association annual, is now out and features my story “Visitation Rites” alongside my awesome colleagues J. Ashley-Smith, Chris Mason, Kat Clay, Deborah Sheldon, Rebecca Fraser, and many more. You can find it here, with more versions coming soon.

Draw Down the Moon, from Propertius Press, is finally here; it contains my heartfelt story “Dawn Dressed in Rain”, amongst many more, and you can find it here.

I was recently tapped for a short story by Steve Dillon and Will Jacques for an upcoming anthology called Unknown Superheroes vs. the Forces of Darkness. It’s not a field I’ve written in before, but I sorted through some ideas and wrote a piece called “Tempest & Mooncalf”. Will, who previously created images for my stories “The Heart of the Mission” and “Andromeda Ascends” for Things in the Well, has drawn three pieces of original art to accompany it, and you can check out his fascinating and unique style below:

Not sure how much I’ve said about this before, but I’ve signed with Brain Jar Press to release a flash fiction chapbook this year. Submitted under the title of Shadows, Vignettes, and Silhouettes, it’s now likely to be called Bites Eyes: 13 Macabre Morsels, and it will feature eleven previously published pieces and two exclusive ones. We’ve been emailing back and forth about the cover, story sequence, and other details… I’ll let you know when it drops! I’m in fine company here; BJP has released fiction and non-fiction work by Angela Slatter, Sean Williams, Kirstyn McDermott, Kaaron Warren, Alan Baxter, and so on.

I’ve also been working hard on my non-fiction book, which will hopefully be out by the end of the year… it all depends on the subject! I might as well tell you now: it’s called The Cure: Every Album, Every Song, and it’s part of Sonicbond Publishing‘s On Track series. I read their book on Kate Bush’s discography last year and pitched them on a Cure tome, and they went for it. I’ve had a great time delving deep into the music and minds of my favourite band, and while I thought I was such a big fan you couldn’t tell me anything more about them, I’ve actually learned quite a lot! I went right down the rabbit hole with this one. The only problem is one of release dates and deadlines: I was supposed to hand in the book in March, but The Cure announced two new albums for later in the year, so we’ve held off until I can include the new material. Of course, as any Cure fan knows, promises mean nothing when it comes to releases, so while the 30th anniversary Deluxe Edition of Wish is out in early October, the new record they’ve been saying will be out before they recommence touring that month still has no launch date… so we’ll see what happens there when we see it…

And the other book I mentioned for this year hasn’t been written yet, but I really must get onto my friend and sort that out post haste…

Listening:

Ascetic Reflection, Altars — Vol. 4, Black Sabbath — Spirit of Ecstasy, Imperial Triumphant — Closure/Continuation, Porcupine Tree — A Light for Attracting Attention, The Smile

Reading:

Hard Places, Kirstyn McDermott — Lola on Fire, Rio Youers — The Me You Love in the Dark, Skottie Young & Jorge Corona — Atlantic Black, A.S. Patrić — The Memory Librarian and Other Stories of Dirty Computer, Janelle Monáe

Watching:

The Sandman — Studio 666 — Crimes of the Future — Paper Girls — Antibirth

Thanks for reading! See you on the flip.

MxRxDx

THE DARK MATTER OF NATASHA: Genesis, Requiem, etm.

The Winter Solstice is upon us (in the southern hemisphere, anyway), and The Dark Matter of Natasha has been unleashed!

Check out the Bibliography page for a bunch of purchase links. Now that you’ve done that (nudge, nudge), let’s talk a little about the life of the book so far.

My new novella is dedicated to J.R. Hayes of Pig Destroyer and Jeff Hanneman of Slayer, for good reason. The first germ of this story appeared way back in 2012, when I was listening to PD’s grindcore album Phantom Limb (2007). There’s a song on it called “Girl in the Slayer Jacket”, and something about Hayes’ lyrics spoke to me: “She had thick skin/but if you cut her/the wound/the wound would bleed forever… But the truth is her eyes/had been dead since she was five/she just hadn’t disposed of the body.” I immediately sensed a tale in the offing, and soon set about plotting it; in another nod to Pig Destroyer, I decided to call my character Natasha, after their experimental half-hour-plus narrative song of the same name. (Please don’t sue, guys. I love you!) I had a false start or two, but I recall working doggedly at the writing in October during the recording of the icecocoon album Deepest Crystal Black — every day for a week I’d get up early, catch a tram to the studio, record all day with Owen and Tom, then return home late at night and power away at Natasha for a few hours. Since my titular character wore a denim jacket with a big Slayer patch sewn on the back, and since I love to expound upon my own interests (for better or worse), I gave my narrator a subplot in which he discovers the visceral pleasures of thrash metal in general and Slayer in particular.

My own introduction to Slayer came in high school. A recent convert to heavy metal, I bought the tape of Seasons in the Abyss (1990) from my mate Nathan, and it remains my personal favourite (which explains why it’s the narrator’s pick, too). One of the legendary Big Four of thrash metal who arose in the early Eighties and brought the genre to prominence (along with Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax), Slayer shied away from the eventual sonic experimentation of their peers in favour of honing their signature sound: flat-out, punk-inspired drumming by Dave Lombardo (and later, Paul Bostaph), speed-picked buzzsaw riffs and demon-scream guitar solos from Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman, and Tom Araya’s distinctive wail (dis)articulating lyrics about murder, obsession, war, and/or Hell. They were the hardest of the hard (unless you asked the stoners who cranked Deicide and Cannibal Corpse in the high school art room), and Slayer fandom was something you wore like a badge of honour. I didn’t follow them as closely as Metallica, with whose albums I taught myself to play bass, but I always came back to them when I needed a fix of the strong stuff; people rave about Hell Awaits (1985)and Reign in Blood (1986), but albums like Divine Intervention (1994), God Hates Us All (2001), and World Painted Blood (2009) are equally delightful to me. I finally got to see them live in 2007 as a surprise birthday present from my partner at the time, and then again in 2011 at the Soundwave festival. On that later tour, Gary Holt stepped in to replace Hanneman, who was recovering from — how metal is this? — necrotising fasciitis that he’d apparently picked up from a spider bite whilst in a hot tub.

I finished the first draft of my novella in April 2013, at which point I decided upon a mildly idiosyncratic title: NATASHA ♥’s SLAYER, all caps and emoji included. A week or two later, I hopped in my car after work and heard Triple J playing “Dead Skin Mask”, Slayer’s eerie paean to Ed Gein. What was going on here? The youth radio network never played stuff like this outside the metal show — how curious! I was stunned when the DJs back-announced the song by reporting that Jeff Hanneman had passed away from what was later revealed to be alcohol-related cirrhosis and liver failure. I remember sending a text to my mate Charger, a rabid Slayer fan, that just said FUCK… and he knew exactly what I meant. On the spot, I decided that, should NATASHA ever be published, I would dedicate it to Jeff’s memory.

Years passed, and every now and again, I would return to the manuscript and give it another solid draft. The story grew stronger and stronger, but I had no idea where I would find a home for it — despite its bleak darkness and looming sense of hopelessness, it’s not exactly a horror tale, and the crime elements were too minor to edge it into that genre. Also, it was a fairly grimy and explicit missive from the underbelly of small-town life, and I suspected the seamy sex, drug use, and strong themes would work against it. I briefly considered including it in my first short story collection as a weighty closer, but it unbalanced the sequence and took up too much space. I sent it off to an open call on the off chance, but nothing eventuated from that, and I wondered if this story was doomed to linger forever on my hard drive, another work of mine that fell between genres and hence between the cracks of the world. As if to confirm its lack of relevance, the mighty Slayer finally called time in 2019 after a final post-Hanneman record, 2015’s Repentless, and a comprehensive farewell tour.

And then, in 2021, I submitted my bastard child to Grey Matter Press. Anthony Rivera, GMP editor and honcho, reached out to tell me how much he’d enjoyed the manuscript. He thought it would be a perfect fit for their then-unnamed Emergent Expressions line. At long last, NATASHA had found a home!

I went through a few rounds of publisher edits, a process I usually find somewhat arduous — especially before I even open the file, as if I expect to find reams of strikeouts and contemptuous invalidating notes from the editor, though of course it’s never as bad as all that — and found myself buoyed by occasional comments from Tony that had nothing to do with potential changes and everything to do with praising the writing. “It’s beautiful sentences/passages like this that make your work so highly enjoyable for me,” said one. “This literally sent chills down my spine,” read another. He related hard to the themes and settings of the work, had lived through some of the same experiences as me that coloured the story, and understood what I was trying to do so well that I barely had to explain anything. The only minor sticking point was my insistence on using “come” instead of “cum”, a spelling that makes my eyes hurt in a literary context, and that was simply an issue of… well, taste. Ahem.

In fact, the only problem we ran into during the preparation of the manuscript was its title. I had never considered it might be a concern, but publishers have to be aware of all things, and GMP noted that we’d be using a registered trademark. A query was sent off to Slayer’s legal people, with the understanding that if they wanted to charge for use of the name, we’d have to demur and choose a different title. Time went by and we heard nothing back, which ate at me somewhat because I’d grown quite attached to NATASHA ♥’s SLAYER and couldn’t imagine the novella being called anything else. Eventually, though, the lack of response meant I had to do just that. I ran through some alternatives like Natasha’s Curse and Nymphetamine (after the Cradle of Filth album, which I was using as a working title for another tale) and even found myself rifling through Slayer albums for a song title I could nick instead, like “Expendable Youth” or “Stain of Mind” — but that didn’t feel right, felt like trying to make a blunt point about my own stubbornness in the face of compromise. Finally, I settled on either The Dark Matter of Natasha or Natasha’s Dark Matter, prompted by the galactic similes I sprinkled throughout the text, and we agreed the former worked better. It’s got a nice old-fashioned ring to it that belies its contents, and I didn’t even notice that I’d incorporated a word from the publisher’s name! It’s grown on me considerably, to the point where I almost never slip up and use the old name anymore. Yeah, you’re not always right, sunshine…

When it came to discussing cover art, I had a lot to say. (Cue knowing eyerolls from everyone who’s ever worked with me.) Since the story had grown from a song on Phantom Limb, I’d always imagined the published version utilising art by the same guy who’d done its cover: one John Dyer Baizley, best known as the vocalist/guitarist/mainstay of the excellent Baroness. I’d even vaguely considered self-publishing at one point and commissioning a new piece of art or licensing an old one from JDB, an idea immediately scuttled by my perpetual poverty. I knew it was a long shot, so I sent Tony some of his work and hoped for something in the same ballpark. Understandably, GMP plumped for cover art a little more approachable to the casual reader, though they did end up working in a pentagram to hint at the metal angle. As with the new title, it’s something I quickly got used to and ended up quite liking.

Pig Destroyer, Phantom Limb (2007). Artwork by John Dyer Baizley.

Then we came to the subject of blurbs. I’d garnered a handful for If Only Tonight We Could Sleep but hadn’t bothered to do so with Midnight in the Chapel of Love, kind of liking the idea that the novel would drop with no associations or preconceptions and would stand on its own merits. (Oh, sweet summer child, etc.) This time I suggested fellow Aussie Alan Baxter, who had a few books out through GMP and with whom I’d had a little contact on social media and through the Australasian Horror Writers Association… only to learn that he’d already put himself forward for the task! He supplied the first glowing appraisal, and more came from J. Ashley-Smith (who’d asked me to blurb his forthcoming collection, The Measure of Sorrow, and upon reading my MS, was very happy to return the favour) and John C. Foster. Splendid chaps, all of them — I had the pleasure of meeting Alan in person recently at the Aurealis Awards, where I also got to hang with J. for the second time, and I hope for a chance to catch up with John one day.

And that brings us pretty much up to date. GMP have garnered a bunch of pre-release reviews for the book, mostly very positive ones with a few slightly reserved takes thrown in for good measure, and I’m gratified to see how much Natasha is resonating with readers. We may well work together again in the near future — Tony has a new novella and a second short story collection of mine lurking in his inbox for consideration — so stay tuned…

I’d like to take this opportunity to once again thank everyone involved: Anthony and GMP for having faith in my work and doing it dark justice, Alan, J., and John for their kind appraisals, Joe Joe and Dad for reading the MS in earlier stages (Dad’s assessment: “bleakly compelling”), J.R. for the words that led to my own much more detailed examination of a dead-end girl, Slayer for being fucking Slayer, and Meg for the author pic and general all-round support and loving awesomeness. Also, everyone who’s read, reviewed, promoted, and/or supported this book along the way. You’re all well wizard… and believe me, here in the dark, you matter.

MRD

PS. etm. is a contraction of et merda, quite literally “and shit”. I’m going to use this all the time now.

Some Great Award (A Black Celebration)

Welcome back to another edition of my sporadic blog!

Okay, first of all: “The Waiting Room” did not win a Shadows Award — that one went to the very deserving Ariadne, I Love You, by J. Ashley-Smith. (Read the full list of winners here.) However, I was then shortlisted for two Aurealis Awards: Best Horror Novella for “Hell’s Teeth”, and Best Horror Novel for Midnight in the Chapel of Love. Read on to find out how that panned out. But first…

Screaming in the Night: Sinister Supernatural Stories Vol. 1 by Sinister Smile Press, which includes my story “I Do Thee Woe”, is now available here.

My third story to be published by SSP, “Thee Most Exalted Potentate of Love”, appears in If I Die Before I Wake Vol. 7 — Tales of Savagery and Slaughter, which drops on June 7. Check it out and preorder here.

Tales of the Lost Vol. 3 has now been renamed You’re Not Alone in the Dark and looks to be released soon by Plaid Dragon; it features my novelette “Vigil at Singer’s Cross” alongside works by Peter Straub, Gwendolyn Kiste, Paul Tremblay, Chris Mason, etc. More news as it comes in.

A Vindication of Monsters, a book of essays about Mary Shelley, her monster, and her mother edited by Claire Fitzpatrick and featuring a piece by me, has now been picked up by IFWG Publishing and its release pushed back to 2023.

The Dark Matter of Natasha, my forthcoming novella from Grey Matter Press, drops on June 21. I woke this morning to a lovely review by Paul Preston, which is a great way to start the day! You can read a little about the book and preorder it at 30% off here. Check it out!

I spent the month of May working as many shifts as I could in order to take myself and my partner over to Canberra for the Aurealis Awards ceremony. Gratifyingly, I was also asked to be part of a weird fiction panel in the afternoon alongside Alan Baxter, Aaron Dries, J. Ashley-Smith, Joanne Anderton, and J.S. Breukelaar! Despite my best-laid plans, however, the trip quickly turned into an exercise in frustration: our 6am flight was delayed, as was our connecting flight to Canberra, meaning we arrived in town at 12:30pm when the panel started at 12! Not only that, but it turns out there are two venues in Canberra called the Hellenic Club, so we booked a hotel across the road from the wrong one! Meg and I did manage to make it to the awards ceremony on time, so there was that, at least! After all that, I figured winning anything was too much to hope for, and sure enough, I didn’t bring home any gongs this year. (Check out the list of worthy winners here.)

But there was a brilliant silver lining to all this, which was that I got to meet and hang out with a whole bunch of Australian spec-fic peeps. I’d met a few before and now met many more for the first time, and I’m pleased to report they’re diamond geezers and birds every one: Alan Baxter, J. Ashley-Smith, Zachary Ashford, Kaaron Warren, Tehani Croft, J.S. Breukelaar, Joanne Anderton, Alannah Pearson, Sean Williams, Kathryn Parker, Aaron Dries, Nathan J. Phillips, Cat Sparks, Pamela Jeffs, and many more. I had a great time drinking and hobnobbing with my writing community and can’t wait to do it again! I only wish I’d had the chance to talk more with everyone and chat to some people I missed this time around. The night really drove home how far I’ve come; ten years ago, I was reading Kaaron Warren’s books with only a few published shorts to my name, pondering the gap between our worlds — now we’re peers, for crying out loud, amiably competing for the same awards, signing books for each other, and she’s throwing unprompted and hugely validating praise in my direction! Quite a trip, I assure you.

Me and Alan Baxter – Grey Matter Boys represent! (pic by Albax)

The next day, Meg and I went a-roaming and explored a colourful little slice of Canberra before flying home.

Speaking of Meg, her fantastic film clip for the ambient electronica banger “Womb” by Minds Untethered is now available to watch here and I highly recommend you do so forthwith. I served as assistant on the shoot, which features our friends Sean Donleavy from Wings of Thanatos and Mitch Brackman from Dyssidia, and my pale mitts make a cameo appearance in certain spots — when it comes to film, I guess you could say I’m keeping my hand in…

I’ve been asked to write some blurbs for fellow authors recently, which is a huge boost! I’ve provided glowing testimonials for J. Ashley-Smith’s collection The Measure of Sorrow, due in 2023 from Meerkat Press, and Fay Lee’s Empathy from Hawkeye Books, which is out this month. In fact, I’m appearing at Fay’s book launch on June 9, where the pair of us will be pontificating about writing and such with The Adelaide Show‘s Stephen Davis. Let’s hope this panel is one I manage to reach in time — not helped by the fact that I have a trial shift for a new job that ends at the same time the event is scheduled to begin…! The discussion is also being recorded for a podcast, so I’ll drop a link for that when it’s out.

A few more talented people have dropped off the twig lately, always sad news, but I’d like to take a moment to mourn the premature passing of Depeche Mode’s Andy Fletcher. I’ve been a DM fan for decades and this turn of events is as tragic as it is surprising. Farewell, Fletch, and thanks for everything.

Listening:

Immutable, Meshuggah — Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, Kendrick Lamar — Heavy Pendulum, Cave In — Zeit, Rammstein — FutureNever, Daniel Johns

Reading:

Sundial, Catriona Ward — These Things Between Us, Gus Moreno — The Apparition Phase, Will Maclean — Ten Steps to Nanette, Hannah Gadsby — Our Wives Under the Sea, Julia Armfield

Watching:

Stranger Things Season 4 — Sex Education Russian Doll The Golden Girls The Beast Must Die

Thanks all, and may you be well!

M

All the Dark Matters that matter

Hello, and welcome to another horribly belated edition of… my blog!

Let’s start with the biggest news: I can finally announce that Grey Matter Press will be releasing my novella The Dark Matter of Natasha later this year as part of their Emerging Expressions line. I’ve got a sweet blurb from Alan Baxter, who’s had a few knockout books published by GMP, plus one from Shirley Jackson Award winner J. Ashley-Smith, and editor Anthony Rivera has been effusive in his praise of the story — I can’t wait for everyone to read it! Labelled a psychological thriller because we didn’t know what else to call it, it’s a bit of a bummer and not exactly a beach read, but you won’t forget it in a hurry! More on this sliver of darkness anon. For now, here’s an image from the photoshoot I did with my wonderful partner Meg for the book’s author pic.

Photo by Red Wallflower Photography, 22.2.22

As previously noted, I’ve signed contracts for two more books to come out this year, with another one lurking in the wings. It’s looking like a banner year! I’ll dish the delicious deets when appropriate. I’ve also put together a prospective second collection, which has already garnered some publisher interest — my fingers are crossed so much that my hands look like pretzels at the moment…

My novelette “The Waiting Room”, from It Calls from the Doors, was recently shortlisted for the Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction in the 2021 Australian Shadows Awards! You can read the full list of worthy nominees here.

Haunted: An Anthology, featuring my novelette “Hell’s Teeth”, is out now from Specul8 Publishing, and you can get it here. Apocalyptic Monsters, featuring “George Romero Doomed Us All”, is also out now through Wicked Taxidermy Press, and you can find that here.

In another first, I’ll have a substantial piece of non-fiction out between covers soon. A Vindication of Monsters is Claire Fitzpatrick’s anthology of essays about Mary Shelley, her mother, and her monster, and it will feature my piece “The Maker Remade: Mary Shelley in Fiction”.

I had a short essay featured as part of Kendall Reviews’s Books of Blood Advent Calendar in December, where each story from Clive Barker’s classic series was discussed by an author — you can read “In Praise of Paradox: ‘The Madonna'” here.

I did an interview with Eerie River Publishing in support of their anthology It Calls from the Doors, featuring my novelette “The Waiting Room”, and you can read that here.

In non-writing news, I’m working on art ideas for my brother Ethan’s third album, and I recently recorded some bass for a new icecocoon single. Here’s a pic of me laying down the law.

Pic by Owen Gillett. Yes, I’ve been losing weight.

Since I’ve left it so long between posts, I guess there’s no point in me doing my semi-regular Best of the Year lists. Let me just say that my favourite albums of 2021 were by such luminaries as Mastodon, th1rt3en x Pharoahe Monche, Halsey, Carcass, Ministry, Garbage, Mr. Bungle, Jerry Cantrell, Steven Wilson, Weezer, Tomahawk, Rob Zombie, Cradle of Filth, Fear Factory, Converge, Lorde, John Carpenter, Lingua Ignota, CHVRCHES, Lana Del Rey, Godflesh, Shihad, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and The Veronicas. I greatly enjoyed books by Sarah Bailey, Stephen Graham Jones, Carole Johnstone, Grady Hendrix, Angela Slatter, Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Catriona Ward, Megan Abbott, Nina Allan, Steven Hall, Mike Thorn, Ronald Malfi, J.S. Breukelaar, Philip Fracassi, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Christos Tsiolkas, Catherine Jinks, Riley Sager, Virginia Feito, J. Ashley-Smith, Gordon B. White, Alan Baxter, Rebecca Fraser, Junji Ito, Silvia Canton Rondoni & Silvia Nieta, Jess Zimmerman, Steven Hyden, Dave Grohl, Nikki Sixx, and Seth Rogen. I don’t have a handy list of my favourite films and TV shows, but they include Doctor Who: Flux, Candyman, Brand New Cherry Flavor, Mare of Easttown, Last Night in Soho, Gunpowder Milkshake, In the Earth, Censor, and The Night House.

I hope you’re all well and remain so. Keep kicking, my friends.

MRDx

Remission: Waiting for Blogot

Okay, once again I have been remiss in updating my blog, so there’s a bit to get through! (And yes, that’s a Beckett gag in the title.) I was waiting on confirmation of a few things before I blurted about them — read on to find out what…

First of all, I recently learned that my collection If Only Tonight We Could Sleep was namedropped by the one and only Ellen Datlow in Best Horror of the Year: Volume 13. Holy wow! Ellen is the editor on the global horror scene, so to make it onto her radar, even in such a small way, is a bit of a coup. Sadly, she misspelled my name, but at least it wasn’t yet another Davies…

It Calls from the Doors, featuring my novelette “The Waiting Room”, is out now, and you can find it here among other places. I’ve also had a couple more book reviews posted on Horror Oasis – you can read my thoughts on Gordon B. White’s new novella Rookfield here, and Philip Fracassi’s limited edition novel Boys in the Valley here.

Haunted, an anthology from Specul8 Publishing featuring my novelette “Hell’s Teeth”, will be available from December 24. Tales of the Lost Vol. 3, another charitable anthology from Plaid Dragon Press that features my novelette “Vigil at Singer’s Cross” alongside reprints by some amazing authors like Peter Straub, is currently being crowdfunded here and they hope to have it out in December. Look out for another guest post on Kendall Reviews shortly — they’re doing an advent calendar in December based around each story in Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, for which I’ve written an essay.

“Dawn Dressed in Rain”, an emotive paranormal story that is basically a fiction adaptation of The Cure’s “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea”, has been accepted for Propertius Press‘s Draw Down the Moon, which should be out any day now. “Jaws of Glass” has been accepted by Scare Street for their Night Terrors anthology series, and that’s where things get really interesting — because I wrote that story with one Roger Davis, otherwise known as my dad! Explanation: my father, who has been a published cartoonist amongst many other things but never a published writer (though he’s occasionally bashed out a quick shocker), sat down early last year and knocked out a quick piece inspired by a surprise sliding door he encountered in North Adelaide, which he then offered to me in case I wanted to do anything with it. Intrigued by the idea of a collaboration, I rewrote the story from top to tail, retaining the plot and characters and adding in a few little details of my own. Soon my father can truthfully claim to be a published author — and if you don’t like the plot or the twist it takes at the end, blame him, because they’re his!

On October 30, Ribspreader lead actor Tommy Darwin was involved in a reading event called Halloween Tales of Terror, held by Orchard Bookshop at the Adelaide Central Market. Other orators delivered classic genre fare like Dracula, Frankenstein, The Monk, The Raven, and so on… but Tommy wanted something different, so he asked if he could read out my work! It was certainly a different experience to sit in a crowd and listen to someone else tell my tales. He read three mordant flash fiction pieces: “Catching Flies”, “What I Did on the Weekend by Taylor Cassidy, Class 2A”, and “You’ve Seen the Butcher”. They were well-received, which was gratifying considering the other fiction presented that night, and it was a pleasant evening for all — I even sold a couple of books on the strength of those three flashes! Notably, the story that Tommy originally chose to read was “Debutante”… but that was nixed by the organisers due to the fact it involves a missing daughter and the Cleo Smith disappearance was still unresolved at the time. I think that was a fair call — much as I’d like to leave an audience stunned into silence through the power of my words, these people were coming out for an evening of spooky enjoyment, not to be potentially triggered and upset by a story that hits so close to home. Effectively, my work was too scary for a horror reading. Matthew R. Davis: MORE TERRIFYING THAN TERROR ITSELF!

Ha ha, okay. I’m over myself now. Right, enough short stories… how many books do you think I’ll have out next year?

The answer, believe it or not, is four.

So far.

I’ve signed a contract with Grey Matter Press for a novella;

I’ve signed a contract to write a non-fiction book about one of my absolute favourite subjects, over which I have been duly obsessing for the last two weeks — it’s already over halfway done, and shall remain a secret for now;

I’m waiting on a contract for an accepted chapbook collection of horror flash fiction;

And I have a verbal contract to write the novelisation of a feature film script. That’s right — tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be Alan Dean Foster.

2022 is shaping up to be a busy and exciting year! Who knows what else it will hold? I hope yours is looking promising, too.

Best of luck and love,

MRD

Listening: Hushed and Grim, Mastodon — Brighten, Jerry Cantrell — Moral Hygiene, Ministry — Old Gods, Shihad — Wild Mood Swings, The Cure

Reading: The Housemate, Sarah Bailey — My Heart is a Chainsaw, Stephen Graham Jones — Underworld Dreams, Daniel Braum — Women and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology, Jess Zimmerman — Ariadne, I Love You, J. Ashley-Smith

Watching: Doctor Who: FluxBrand New Cherry Flavor Let’s Scare Jessica to Death Mare of Easttown The Haunting (1963)

Honouring My Heritage and Other Essential Voices

Well, I didn’t win that Shirley Jackson Award. Congrats, however, to fellow Aussie J. Ashley-Smith for taking it out with his cracking The Attic Tragedy — see the full winners list here. And it turns out that “Heritage Hill” has been shortlisted for another honour: the Washington Science Fiction Small Press Award! Check out the shortlist here. I was hoping that story would push some buttons, and it appears it has.

It’s been an oddly quiet year for short story acceptances thus far, but I’m pleased to note my novelette “Hell’s Teeth” has been accepted for Haunted: An Anthology from Specul8 Publishing.

Here is a new review for Midnight in the Chapel of Love from Hellnotes. It’s rather nice to be thought of as an “essential voice”!

I’ve been spouting more mouth-words lately. You can check out my substantial and entertaining podcast interview with R.F. Blackstone for Behind the Keyboard here, which features possibly the world’s best Polly Waffle pun. I also had a chat with SA radio legend Peter Goers for his Evenings with show on August 3; the audio is no longer accessible as far as I can tell, but he made some thoughtful points about Midnight in the Chapel of Love and praised it quite highly, which was gratifying. He thinks I write sex well, which was a startling if welcome comment! It looks like I’ll be making another appearance on the show sometime, so keep those ears peeled. (Who came up with that saying, anyway? Since when was peeling your sensory organs a desirable thing? I guess it originally meant “keep your eyelids peeled open”, but… huh.)

It’s been very quiet on the music front these past few years, but I’ll be making a rare appearance during the Adelaide Guitar Festival to take part in Guitarchestra, playing a specially commissioned piece along with 99 other bassists and guitarists. Should be interesting!

My partner Meg (aka Red Wallflower Photography) has put a few deliciously dark prints up for purchase, hopefully the first of many. You can check them out here. Quick signal boost/shameless plug: she added extensive photographs to If Only Tonight We Could Sleep, took author photos that featured in my other books, had her work used as the cover of Paroxysm Press’s Spitting Teeth poetry anthology and their forthcoming collection of Kerryn Tredrea’s hard-hitting poetry, shot the sleeve art for two albums by my brother Ethan and one by Splintering Heart, and is generally amazing. Shut up, you’re biased.

Stay well, my friends.

MRDx

Listening: If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, Halsey — Liebe ist für alle da, Rammstein — Entangled in Chaos, Morbid Angel — Birth of Violence, Chelsea Wolfe — Carnage, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

Reading: Billy Summers, Stephen King — The Turnout, Megan Abbott — The Final Girls Support Group, Grady Hendrix — Petra’s Ghost, C.S. O’Ceinnide — The Gulp, Alan Baxter

Watching: The Good Place Candyman (2021) — Candyman (1992) — Black Widow Upstart Crow

Shirley You Can’t Be Serious…

Okay, first things first — some gobsmacking news! “Heritage Hill”, from Things in the Well’s Outback Horrors Down Under, has been shortlisted in the Best Novelette Category for the 2020 Shirley Jackson Awards!

This is a huge boost. The shortlist is stuffed with severely talented people (see the full list here) and it’s a real thrill to be nominated amongst them. I don’t hold out much hope of winning, but this’ll do nicely for now. To be a serious contender in the awards named for the author of The Haunting of Hill House, which boasts possibly the finest opening paragraph in English literature — the fine mind behind We Have Always Lived in the Castle and a plethora of sterling short fiction — is very satisfying and validating.

I’ve also had a short story acceptance, my first in a while — I was starting to get a little worried! “The Waiting Room” will appear in Eerie River Publishing’s It Calls Through the Doors, which will drop later in the year. I’ve had some exciting expressions of interest from good publishers about a couple of other projects, and I’ve gotten the green light for a cool and unusual undertaking that I’ll share with you once I’m able…

If you’d like some MRD-centric reading or listening to get you through these cold/hot middle months (depending on your hemisphere), you can find a podcast interview for Australian Book Lovers here and a brief accompanying Q&A here; a 10 Questions With interview conducted by Nikky Lee here; a new review of Midnight in the Chapel of Love from UK site Ginger Nuts of Horror here; and, breaking new ground, my review of Philip Fracassi’s Beneath A Pale Sky for Horror Oasis here.

Cool beans, huh? Stay warm/cool, and we’ll speak again soon.

Mx

Listening: No Gods No Masters, Garbage — Superunknown, Soundgarden — Aggression Continuum, Fear Factory — 26 Mixes for Cash, Aphex Twin — Pick A Bigger Weapon, The Coup

Reading: Forests of the Night, Tanith Lee — Somebody’s Voice, Ramsey Campbell — Coralesque and Other Tales to Disturb and Distract, Rebecca Fraser — Plain Bad Heroines, Emily M. Danforth — Underland: A Deep Time Journey, Robert McFarlane

Watching: Mystery Road Rick and Morty Season Five — Loki Cam The Neon Demon

The Little Black Dog Who Could

Well, guess who’s fallen back out of the habit of regular blogging, hmmm? There are a couple of new interviews up, one with Cats Luv Coffee (read it here) and one with Nina Soden (read it here). Also, I learned that my presence in the South Australian library system has increased; previously they held two copies of IOTWCS and nothing else, but now they have four copies of that and TEN copies of MITCOL. Wow. Humbled, #blessed, blah blah blah, but that’s actually really cool!

You know what else is really cool that I keep forgetting about because I’m such a Negative Nancy lately? I’ve been shortlisted for an Australian Shadows Award! That’s right — “Vision Thing”, from Black Dogs, Black Tales, is up for Best Short Story! And how do I keep forgetting that? Why, it’s because I submitted work for three categories and was only shortlisted for one! Typical writer mentality. I’ve been so focused on the disappointment of If Only Tonight We Could Sleep not making the Best Collection shortlist for the Shadows (and the Aurealis Awards) that I spare little to no time to feel good about the positives to come out of all this. (Here’s the full list of nominated works, and well done to everyone on it.) I’m not bitter toward anyone else, it’s just a reminder that nothing is promised, every victory is hard-won, and you need a thick skin to make it anywhere in the creative arts — a field distinguished by its preponderance of sensitive souls. Man, it’s a slaughterhouse out there. Believe it.

Anyhoo, I’ve accrued a couple of new reviews for Midnight in the Chapel of Love, and they’ve been instructive when it comes to understanding how other people view one’s work. For example, I was informed of Aurealis Magazine‘s review on my birthday, and it was quite a middling thing, written by someone who wasn’t drawn into the story and didn’t understand or invest in its depth; this was disappointing, as one hopes this opinion will not be held by the majority of one’s readers! On the other hand, a couple of weeks later The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Reviewer published a review that went far deeper and was much, much more appreciative of the novel’s themes, approach, language, and, well, everything — exactly the kind of review a writer wishes to see, one that engages with the work and understands what it is trying to say, or at least evoke. (And I only had to pay him a tenner to say all that, ha ha.) As a horror writer who’s about so much more than hack n’ slash, it’s really important to receive this kind of attention and praise. More, please!

No new announcements to make at the moment. I’m waiting on many responses and if I pull some of these off, I’ll be very happy indeed — but nothing to declare right now. I’ve been struggling to bring new ideas to fruition, in that I have great hooks and concepts and character beats but sometimes I just can’t see the whole plot, or I’m stymied by logic holes that open up elsewhere as soon as they’re closed. It’s a very frustrating feeling, especially as time runs out and you’re thinking to yourself, “Yeah, two weeks to write and edit a whole novella for a big open call is totally doable as long as you sort your shit out… oh, look at that, your shit is resolutely unsorted. And now it’s thirteen days and yet you’re rewatching Brooklyn Nine-Nine for some reason.” And while I can feel my next novel manuscript and know that it’s going to be well wicked once written, I’m not managing to nut out background issues, plot logic, character arcs and so on to my satisfaction. Ah, it doesn’t matter. I’m only going to start writing it next month, that’s plenty of time to stress out over not doing the work I feel I should be doing. Ha.

Yeah, so job uncertainty and craft issues are kind of getting me down. But I will persevere and excel, so worry ye not. More good news soon.

Be well. x

Listening: Alphaville, Imperial Triumphant — Check Your Head, Beastie Boys — We Live, Electric Wizard — Lost Themes III: Alive After Death, John Carpenter — Tonic Immobility, Tomahawk

Reading: Goblin, Josh Malerman — Beneath A Pale Sky, Philip Fracassi — All the Murmuring Bones, Angela Slatter — Shelter for the Damned, Mike Thorn — The Last House on Needless Street, Catriona Ward

Watching: Brooklyn Nine-NineVampyresDoctor Who Series Four — Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here — Wonder Woman 1984