Best Horror of the Year

Years ago I was helping a junior staff member who was having some difficulties. Ours can be an arduous profession, with long hours, lots of conflict, and difficult policy decisions which have to be defended. She was talking about some of the difficulties she was facing, particularly as a woman of a different background in a profession dominated by white males. I am a white male, but not from the privileged background of many of our colleagues, and she turned the conversation to what I would like to achieve. I decided on total honesty. I pulled from my briefcase a copy of the latest edition of Stephen Jones’ Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, and said “One day, I want to have a story in here”. She laughed and was good natured about it, but she was puzzled, especially by the lurid cover.

I’m widely read, and I’m not a snob about any of it. I’m reading Jim Crace’s “Harvest”, and just finished “The Acolyte” by Nick Cutter and “The Buried Giant” by Kazuo Ishiguro, as well as “Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson. I love literary works as well as science fiction, crime and especially horror and weird fiction. I like works of unease, especially things that in a long and jaded reading life actually elicit a response from me. Last year I was moved by “Lila”, intrigued by “The Maggot People”, and I enjoyed “Moxyland”.

When people find out I like horror, they are sometimes confused. You seem normal, you have a family, you work, you are educated … I don’t say this to get a pat on the back; invariably I feel judged, as though there is something not quite right about me, as though I watch snuff films.

While blood and gore are par for the course, I don’t particularly like slasher films, and get bored by lists of atrocities. I do like work that suggests the world is not as we know it, that there are deeper currents, shadows, and doors that open to places they shouldn’t. I like the exercise of the imagination. i like all sorts of genres and works that are not supposed to be genre, but a comfort food I have always come back to, is horror. Most of it I don’t like – like anything, there is only a small proportion that is good, or that matches my tastes, but when I find it, I crack a smile from ear to ear. The good stuff.

No story of mine has found its way into a collection of Mr Jones’, or any of the yearly best of anthologies. Perhaps they never will. However …

Last year, I published a story in a magazine that I really like, “Three-Lobed Burning Eye”, edited by Andrew S Fuller. It is called “Some Corner of a Dorset Filed that is Forever Arabia”. I like all of my stories, but this was a favourite. I decided, perhaps wrongly, to publish it under a pseudonym – Lloyd Connor – for professional reasons, I was working under a particular contract at the time which could have made things difficult for me and my family.

The new volume of “Best Horror of the Year”, edited by Ellen Datlow, is about to be released. In its introduction, where Ms Datlow goes through some of the work published last year, she states regarding Three-Lobed Burning Eye that “in 2014 there were strong dark stories by Lauren Dixon, Lloyd Connor, and Bonni Jo Stufflebeam”. That might not seem like much to you, but consider me chuffed, I’m really happy someone liked the story enough to mention it. If you left click here, you can read it for free – please do!


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