Thursday, July 19, 2012

#guest Paul Blom, SA HorrorFest organiser

Paul Blom and Sonja Ruppersberg
Picture: Thomas Dorma

Today I welcome Paul Blom who, with Sonja Ruppersberg, is responsible for bringing the South African HorrorFest to us each year. He's stopped by for a little Q&A. And if you're curious about our SA HorrorFest Bloody Parchment anthology, do go check out issue one (a free download off Goodreads) or our latest anthology, brought out with eKhaya (links on RHS, click through on cover art).

For submission guidelines for this year's short story competition, go here.

ND: Does horror have a place in a country where so many horrifying things happen on the news daily?

PB: It does indeed, because horror, fantasy and sci-fi is entertainment, not reality, and self-appointed moral judges far too often blur this line for their own benefit. Some people prefer to be invigorated by their entertainment. Suspense, scares and (benign) peril in a movie theatre or in front of your home entertainment system can actually have a beneficial cathartic effect, exorcising the demon of everyday life and the real horror out there (as opposed to regurgitated soap opera themes, people airing their dirty laundry on reality shows or dreary politically driven drama in a South African context - these all have their place, but one needs a diversion).

ND: How has SA HorrorFest grown over the years?

PB: The South African HorrorFest started as a big idea on a small scale. There is no Halloween tradition in South Africa, and Horror culture is not in the foreground. As movie-makers and musicians leaning towards the alternative end of the spectrum, we felt compelled to create this event for the other neglected fans out there. It started as a weekend film festival at The Labia Theatre in Cape Town, and has expanded to a 10 day event with feature- and short films submitted from around the globe (far too many to fit into the schedule). It has expanded to have our Shadow Realm, Inc. on-line literature chapter Bloody Parchment materialize into a live fiction reading event, short story competition and short story anthology releases. The live movie soundtrack performance to a classic silent film by The Makabra Ensemble is also one of the unique highlights. From the start we encouraged local movie-makers to create something exciting and utilize this sole platform, and have inspired many to pick up a camera. Each year the awareness of the event grows exponentially.

ND: What can folks expect from SA HorrorFest this year?

PB: Another batch of rare, strange, exciting and outrageous movies and short films they won't get to see in any SA cinema; the return of the Alternative Market we test-drove last year; we'll again be linking up with the Cape Town Zombie Walk; (if enough sponsors come on board) we're flying a prominent writer / producer / director in from the USA; and there are a few plans in the works which we can only announce once they've been confirmed - all updates can be found at the official website or at the Facebook group.

ND: What sort of submissions would you like to see, both in film and fiction for this year's fest?

PB: We like diversity. The great thing about the horror genre is you can tag it to any sub-genre, from comedy to sci-fi. Innovative, fresh and original ideas get the most attention, and while a mere re-hash of well-trodden ground is not preferred, timeless themes and techniques are still relevant.

ND: Where do you see the fest going in the foreseeable future?

PB: The Makabra Ensemble has reached beyond Cape Town by playing two of the live movie soundtracks at the 2009 and 2010 Oppi Koppi festival, but we plan on expanding the entire event to other parts of the country - this is dependent on logistical execution and sponsorship expansion. Nosferatu has been released on DVD with its new soundtrack, but we also plan on releasing all of those enhanced classics, and aim to release Shadow Realm DVD collections of the best short films submissions from around the world across the festival's history (incl. local productions).

Thursday, July 12, 2012

#guest Louis Greenberg on Bloody Parchment 2012

Louis Greenberg

To those of you active in the horror circles, Louis Greenberg requires very little introduction. As one half of the SL Grey partnership, with Sarah Lotz, that brought us The Mall, it's also thanks to his involvement with eKhaya, the digital imprint of Random House Struik, that we now have the Bloody Parchment elevated to the status of a paying market.

Louis's stopped by to chat about horror fiction in general, so, without further ado...

There're a lot of doom/naysayers who say that horror's golden age had its boom, and that the genre's now dead. Your thoughts?

LG: I suppose one reader's golden age is another reader's poxy selection of rip-offs. Whatever you grew up with, I suspect, you'll consider the golden age. But there's always something fresh, along with a lot of derivative stuff, being produced in any given cycle.

Any advice to writers of horror? What's the best way forward in such a competitive industry that's mutating so fast?

LG: Don't try to catch a wave, because you'll be too late. Stay honest; keep your integrity; work on your craft; write what moves you. Well crafted, honest writing has more chance of lasting a bit. (And don't confuse honesty with realism.)

How do you think digital publishing will affect the horror genre? Who are the new gatekeepers now that the playing field has been levelled?

LG: I think publishing will find its level. After the boom and bust of the fly-by-night publishers who are just looking to cash in, we'll hopefully be left with those publishers who care about vision and quality. These include both traditional publishers who know their business very well and upstarts who will be able to use the flexibility of new media to enter the field. The medium doesn't matter; the writing and quality of production does.

Anthologies... How do you feel about them?

LG: It takes some creativity to make an anthology more than just a loose collection, one that works as a whole. But at the very least, anthologies are usually a great showcase of emerging and existing talent that you may not have encountered before, and great motivation for beginning writers to carry on.

Are there any Bloody Parchment stories that particularly jumped out at you?

I'm not going to highlight any favourites, because that would be unfair, but I looked with interest at how each writer uses local, specific detail in their stories. I'm drawn to stories in which the action is imbued with local flavour and is set in specific rather than generic locations. Even if the plots are fantastical, I like them when they're hung on real places. They have so much more effect that way.



Sunday, July 8, 2012

Volume two unleashed, plus opening of short story competition

Wow, time really flies, and we're back to third annual Bloody Parchment short story competition. This year also saw the very exciting development that we now have eKhaya, an imprint of Random House Struik, on board as the publisher of this year's anthology, which contains stories from last year's competition. Well done to the authors.

I'm proud to announce Bloody Parchment: Hidden Things, Lost Things and Other Stories 

So, feed your reader, tablet or smartphone with a varied collection of some of the best dark fantasy and horror stories. From the downright creepy to surreal and somewhat humorous to uneasy, these tales offer a fine selection from a range of authors from around the globe. Once again, well done to Brett R Bruton, Jenny Robson, Mico Pisanti, Lee Mather, Stacey Larner, Toby Bennett, SL Schmitz, Austin Malone, Benjamin Knox and Joan De La Haye. You guys are fabulous and I hope to see you enter again this year.

Speaking of entries, I'm happy to announce that submissions for this year's competition are once again open. Details below. Feel free to mail me at if you have any queries. Other than that, please follow the below submission guidelines. Closing date for this year's entries is October 31, 2012.

The first prize includes one round of professional editing of a novella or novel-length work. Bloody Parchment will publish an anthology of the top 13 finalists, to be released in anticipation of the 2013 SA HORRORFEST.

Submission guidelines:
Email your entries to as attached .rtf or .doc files and place : “Submission: Bloody Parchment 2012 – [insert author name]” in the subject line. Standard manuscript format applies (Times New Roman, 12pt font; indented paragraphs; double spacing). Please include your contact details (full name, pen name, email address and telephone number if South African resident). This competition is open to South African and international entrants.

Please be a darling and read our rules and regulations for the finer details. The competition is open until October 31, 2012. Winners will be notified by e-mail, and announced on the HORRORFEST websites:

Submission guidelines:
Impress us. We do not claim to know what makes the perfect story, but as we are the judges and we get to choose the winner, it's only fair that we give some idea what we are looking for. In short, we are going to give the prize to the story that impresses us most and irritates us least. We don't think we're particularly irritable but with a stack of submissions to narrow down to a few winners, any small thing is likely to condemn a story to the larger pile. It's much easier to describe what will irritate us than what will impress us, so we've done that below.

More importantly, what will impress us is a narrative-based story with strong characters and an interesting plot. We know that's what everyone says and that desspite the huge amount that has been written on the subject, it still defies definition. We're not going to try to define it here because we're looking forward to reading entries that show us what it means. If you're looking for a concise description no more than a click away, we recommend

Genre. As this is part of the SA HORRORFEST, we are looking for stories of horror or dark fantasy. We are not going to be prescriptive about what that means as our definitions are fairly broad. A horror story need not contain a supernatural element, nor must a dark fantasy story give us nightmares. All we really ask for is the sense that the story belongs on the dark side.

Having said that, simply inserting an element associated with the darker genres will not be enough. A romance story about a tall, dark handsome vampire is still a romance story. A crime story about a demonic detective is still a crime story. Which leads on to the list of things that will irritate us.

Things guaranteed to count against you...
Bad usage. We are not going to throw your story out for one spelling mistake but we are all in love with the English language and we don't like to see her abused. Besides, repeated mis-spellings and grammatical errors are guaranteed to irritate.

Fanfiction. Any characters or settings still under copyright are likely to get us sued if we publish them. The idea of being sued irritates us so much that if we're in any doubt, we're not going to touch it even if the story is brilliant. As a general guide, anything published by Project Gutenberg ( is in the public domain.

Bigotry. Your characters may be as bigoted as you like but we're all pale-livered liberals and will be irritated by the sense that a story is derogatory toward any particular group of human beings. We don't mind stories derogatory toward imaginary beings.

Derivative stories. Between us, we've read quite a few books and seen quite a few films, and if any of us think a story is a rehash of one of them with slightly different characters, we are likely to be irritated. That's not to say that a story can't share ideas with other stories or films, and in fact it's practically impossible not to, but retellings nearly always have the sense of being second rate.

Twilight knock-offs. Need we say more?

Things that may irritate us if not handled carefully.
Gratuitous sex. There's nothing wrong with a bit of sex in a story, but the competition is part of the Horrorfest, not the Sexpo, and we are not looking for erotica.

Gratuitous violence. As with sex, violence may be an essential part of the story and we enjoy a good punch-up as much as the next reader, but pornographic descriptions of violence get boring very quickly.

Excessive gore. We are not particularly squeamish and we are asking for horror stories, but gore is another element that gets boring when overdone.

Exposition. There are probably things that we need to know in order to care about the characters and understand the setting, but conveying information is a way that makes us feel we are being given an orientation briefing by the author is not conducive to a good narrative.

Tropes such as vampires, werewolves, serial killers, etc. These are staples of horror and dark fiction and we believe they have a lot of life in them yet. However, the fact of their being tropes also means that a lot has been done with them so a story that uses them will need to do something new.

Trying to shock us. We believe we are immune to being shocked. It may be interesting to be proved wrong, but depending on shock value to the exclusion of narrative and characters will not give us the impression that we are reading a good story.

* * * *

Rules and regulations:
1. The entrant confirms that s/he is the original author of the work and has full copyright of the submitted work and that it is not subject any publication restrictions as a result of prior obligations (including, but not limited to previous publication) or disputes.

2. The entrant confirms that the work s/he submitted does not violate the trademarks, copyright, and/or rights of others and that any liability that may arise from their work will be solely theirs.

3. The entrant accepts that by entering this contest no obligation (direct or implied) exists for the submitted work to be published and/or any compensation accruing to the entrant.

4. The entrant will retain copyright of the submitted work. In the event that the work should be selected as a finalist in the contest, the entrant agrees upon submission that the contest organisers may publish in hardcover and electronic format an anthology containing their work (properly attributed to the author).

5. The entrant accepts without reservation that the decision of the contest judges are final and that no further correspondence will be entered into.

6. The contest is open for submissions from midnight on (July 7, 2012) until midnight on (October 31, 2012).

7. The contest is for short original fictional work written in UK or SA English within the theme of Halloween, horror, urban fantasy or dark fantasy. No fan fiction will be accepted. Work that is not narrative-driven and/or containing explicit and gratuitous violence, sex or any form of bigotry will be rejected.

8. The submitted work must not exceed (3 500) words in length and must be a complete work, not an extract from a longer piece.

9. A submission must be in the following format (or it will be rejected without correspondence to the entrant): an email attachment, saved as a rich text file (.rtf), only the title (without the author’s name, which will be recorded according to rule 10 below) and the text, no images or graphics, Times New Roman, 12pt font, double line-spacing, with page numbers in the right bottom corner of each page. The author's name should not appear in the attachment since the judging process relies on the majority of the judges not being aware of the author’s identity—those works that are selected as finalists will be reunited with the correct author name before the finalists are announced.

10. Submissions must be sent to the following address only: with the subject line: “Submission: Bloody Parchment 2012 – [insert author name]”.

11. The entrant accepts that once a work has been submitted it cannot be updated/edited in any way whatsoever by the entrant, other than changes that may be recommended by the judges of the contest. Resubmissions of works already submitted will be ignored.

12. The entrant undertakes not to withdraw a work once it has been selected as a finalist (barring cases where the contest organisers become aware of a violation of these rules or any other serious transgression involving the submitted work).

13. The contest organisers do not have the administrative capacity to enter into correspondence with entrants and will not confirm receipt of entries; entrants are advised to utilise the “request delivery receipt” function available with many email applications.

14. The entrant acknowledges that any violation of the letter or spirit of the above contest rules will lead to the immediate disqualification of his/her submission.