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I learned about Dad’s
fall on a Monday afternoon in August, two days after his eighty-seventh
birthday. The doorbell security camera shows Dad shuffle across the wet grass
with Gracie, his smaller dog while his neighbor walked the other dog. No cane
in his hand, no walker, and no one escorting him. The video cuts out as he
nears the neighbor’s driveway. I’m both frustrated and relieved that it stopped
because then we’d know exactly what happened.
On Monday, August 10,
2020, a derecho passed through northern Illinois. A derecho is a widespread,
long-lasting wind storm with multiple fast-moving squall lines. There were
fifteen tornadoes in northern Illinois that day, and the town of Harvard, where
Dad lived, experienced sustained winds over seventy-five miles per hour. The
skies were dark, and tornado sirens kept sounding to ensure residents remained
in their homes.
Dad was alone, but had Stella and Gracie to keep him company, although they were likely spooked from the storms as most dogs are. The house had a full basement, but he was too unsteady to use the stairs to take shelter.
As soon as Chinese New Year got cancelled, I knew this was serious. Then the virus spread just like viruses do in every horror novel. So much so, in fact, that my immediate first thought was not to stock up on bottled water and toilet paper, but that it’s finally time to read The Stand.
Naturally I’m a Stephen King superfan, so it’s strange I hadn’t yet read what is commonly considered his magnum opus. In the back of my mind I knew there would be a right time to read it. I thought it might be after King’s death (rue the day) or after reading everything else by him. As a way to fully compare it to the rest of his oeuvre. Clearly, however, a once-in-a-100-years pandemic was the sign I was looking for. This is it, folks. It’s time.
As it turned out…maybe not the best idea. After seven months of living through this, there’s a level of new normalcy. But in those early days, during constant uncertainty, seeing nearly 4,000 Americans die daily, entire nursing homes wiped out, entire families…it was scary as hell. Reading a scary book during a scary time isn’t nearly as fun as it sounds.
The Silent Patient is told from the written perspective of Dr. Theo Farber, a talk therapist, who changes jobs to be able to work with the famous patient, Alicia Berenson, a painter who had shot her husband, Gabriel, several times in the face and then never spoke again. Instead of going to prison, she was committed to the failing psychiatric unit, the Grove. There, Theo faces internal resistance to his attempts to help Alicia. The novel also explores Theo’s own psychological issues and is partly told from Alicia’s diary leading up to the murder of her husband.
The Silent Patient is Michaelides’ first novel and won the Goodreads Choice Award for Mystery & Thriller. I hadn’t finished it by the time it won this award, so I did not vote for it myself. But I can see the appeal.
It’s spring, 1998. The world is obsessed with Titanic, discovering the Internet through AOL, rocking out to bubblegum boy bands, enjoying newly-FDA approved Viagra, and learning a lot about sex in the oral office–I mean, oval office. It also happens to be the year that fledgling writer Robert Devereaux finally publishes his landmark novel Santa Steps Out.
Since penning the first draft ten years earlier, it’s been a hard-fought battle. Many industry leaders claimed to love it, but never to the extreme of publication. Pat LoBrutto, a highly successful agent, went so far as to say he wanted to tell his grandchildren he edited the peculiar Santa book. Pat pushed the book at Tor, where it seemed like a Christmas miracle was finally going to happen. Devereaux made thousands of revisions per their request. But once again, when it came down to it, nobody dared publish the sex-filled Santa Claus horror novel.
Two years ago I got a wild hair up my ass and
decided to make a fiction magazine. There weren’t many magazines out there that
produced what I wanted.
What I wanted was the equivalent of a low budget, terrible-but-great horror movie. Despite having no budget, and despite having no directorial skills and no trained actors and no sober crewmembers, a bunch of enthusiastic fans with a camera and a heart of gold can still make something incredible. And by incredible, I mean incredibly bad. But something magical happens with these kinds of bad movies. The audience can quickly adopt the movie’s shortcomings, and, somewhere along the line, the chemistry of the water changes. It’s the puppet show effect. Don’t bother hiding the strings. Everybody can tell that it’s a puppet. There are no illusions. The strings don’t matter. You can still enjoy the show.
I wanted that DIY, screw the rules, “lean in”
quality in a literary magazine. And, equally as important, I wanted to show off
the good work that my writing group was producing. Most importantly, I wanted
to reestablish subterranean mutants and slimy, semi-erotic monsters into the
great Literary Conversation. So I got to work, learned what I needed to learn,
and put out the word.
As you know, all four novellas featured in Throbbing Tales 2019 are standout, knock-you-down thrill rides. But that said, it’s time to announce the winner of Best In Show! Based on a vote of one, by yours truly, editor in chief.
Buckle your seatbelts boils and ghouls, because here comes the drumroll:
After much deliberation, constipation, condemnation, and conflagration, the winner of the Best In Show Award goes to………..
Jason Michael Spurlock!
Congrats, Jason. Your novella T.H.R.O.B. truly showcases what Throbbing Tales is all about, all while elevating the anthology to new heights with your strong narrative voice and dynamite characters. It was an honor to publish your work and I know readers will feel equally honored when they get to read it.
Again, a big thank you to all the authors featured and to all the authors who submitted. I’m already gearing up for next year’s edition, so bring it on!
Michael J. H. MacNeill Throbbing Tales, Editor in Chief
Throbbing Tales 2019 has burst forth into the world! Available now in paperback and eBook.
If phones and social media has scrambled our brains and melted our attention span, why haven’t novellas had a resurgence? They’re meatier than a short story and still short enough for us bipedal surface-dwellers to finish in one sitting. So where have all of the novellas gone?
Throbbing Tales made a space this year to highlight the novella format. I was overwhelmed with the quality of the submissions, and I’m proud to showcase them within these pages. This year’s model contains a wide variety of work, coming at you from every angle. We’ve got weird, we’ve got exciting, we’ve got poignent, we’ve got cannibals and sex-bots and wizards and werewolves. Time to unzip, then zip it right back up, because it’s about to get weird…
The artist intended it to look like a bowl of fruit.
Everybody who sees it can tell that it’s (say it with me now) a bowl of fruit.
Contemporary Art is different:
That could be a bowl of fruit – or it could be various snakes of different colors who’ve just devoured a pack of rats, then curled up together in this bowl, their skins distended into vaguely fruit-like shapes by the currently-being-digested lumps.