“Animal Control” in Paper Darts


My story “Animal Control,” recently won Paper Darts Short Story Contest. I’m very proud of it, and the artwork (GIF!) that accompanies it—by John Wilinksi—is great.

It’s an honor to win because I have so much love for Paper Darts. I can’t think of a better-looking lit site, and the design of relaunch is something that everyone should aspire to. Mad props for a literary site that takes UX and responsive design into account.

It’s a huge ego boost to win the accolades of Lindsay Hunter, who judged the contest. I’ve been a huge fan of Hunter’s work for a long time (probably an understatement), so to know that she picked mine out of however many blind submissions… I felt very legitimized.

Go read her books.

Thanks to everyone who read(s) “Animal Control.” I’ve been getting a lot of great feedback. I like when people say that it makes them feel weird, “but in a good way.”

Maybe readings aren’t boring. Maybe it’s you.

Wrote this in response to an article about boring readings.

Maybe readings aren’t boring.

Maybe it’s you.

Not just you, but all writers.

Maybe when we perpetuate the image of a sad, boring writer, we’re going to be sad and boring.

Writers: quit perpetuating your weaknesses

Quit perpetuating self-loathing.

Quit being bitter.

Quit engaging with your detractors.

Quit relying on booze as a social crutch.

Quit being unapproachable.

Quit being fucking weirdos.

This, coming from a guy who was diagnosed with anxiety and depression this year.

This, coming from a guy who just lost his cat.

Just be regular human beings.

Who can have conversations.

Who have other interests besides literature.

Who don’t have to have the most interesting things to say all the time.

Who can be awkward, and that’s okay.

I’m hella awkward.

Nobody has ever said a Scott McClanahan reading was boring.

Being human is a major theme in his writing.

Don’t talk about the reading while at the reading.

You don’t go to a party and talk about literature.

(if you do, then that party sucks)

There will be nobody who is as in love with your writing as you are.

But a reading is your chance to sell it.

If you’re a “boring” reader, get stage-coaching.

You care enough to get your writing edited, but not enough to get your performance edited?

Sorry, bud.

The insular writer doesn’t exist anymore.

Not if doing this for living is your ultimate goal.

It’s weird that we can be so self-involved while perpetuating the idea that we’re miserable people.

Quit aggrandizing “writing” as this untouchable art.

Our writing is not doing anyone any favors.

We’re doing it because otherwise we’d die.

It is like breathing.

Breathing isn’t boring.

Finding boredom in watching someone else breathe says more about you than the breather.

Focus on that.

Not your qualms with Big Publishing.

(who, in the Grand Scheme of Things, are not nearly as evil as the record or movie biz)

Not your twitter following.

Not James Franco.

I’m not saying don’t be sad.

I’m not saying be more happy.

I’m saying don’t perpetuate the idea that our lives our pathetic.

I’m saying there is nothing wrong with being a writer.


Please buy Black Candies or my entire life will turn out to be a sham

bcseethroughcoverI’ve been working on this anthology—Black Candies: See Through—for the better half of 2013. Really proud of it. Feels like a lot of blood has gone into it.

It’s weird because, even though I don’t have any writing in this one, it feels very personal. I will call myself a horror fan, but I find the “horror” tag pretty reductive in general. When people think of “horror” they think genre, blood and guts, vampires, monsters, whatever. The stories in “See Through” represent my favorite kind of writing—haunting, funny, weird, dark, lyrical. One of my favorite things about editing these books is soliciting writers who aren’t necessarily known for dark writing and letting them loose. We all have it in us, and those that can indulge in “genre” (even though that’s not really as defined or stigmatized anymore) are my kind of people.

(Click here for list of contributors)

Also, this year marks a turn in Black Candies that I’m particularly proud of: we have more women writers than men. As I’ve said before, I don’t want that to a point of diplomacy or a shallow attempt at political correctness, but more of a correction to my personal reading habits. I would love for Black Candies to correct the trajectory of male-dominated lit journals, and that we’re a horror anthology—a genre where women are notoriously underrepresented—that’s incredibly exciting. I have to give a big shout-out to Roxane Gay, who helped me get some really great women writers, writers that I can now count among my favorites.

Finally, I would love to give a shout out to Justin Hudnall and So Say We All, the literary organization here in San Diego that I’ve been involved with for the past three years. I’m proud of what organizations like ours do for the quality and demographic inclusiveness of our art in contrast to profit-minded publishers. And with these Black Candies books, Justin provides unquestioning support. Not everyone can publish books without having to resort to Kickstarter or Indiegogo (which is not meant as a dig at crowd-funding or anyone who uses it—I just feel they create a lot of extra work)—I feel lucky to have the circumstances where we can create and produce without having to rely on too much outside assistance. Thank you, Justin.

Other thanks: all the writers and artists who donated their work. It’s always difficult to ask for writing without offering pay, and I completely understand those who didn’t submit stories due to that fact. But those who did: you’re making my dreams come true.

Thank you Jay Wertzler: my writing partner and co-editor. I’ve never worked so well with anyone before. If you don’t have someone who will read your stuff and provide as much quality feedback as Jay, I’m sorry.

And of course, Adam Vieyra. He creates and designs beautiful books. I would be stuck in zine land, probably still using Chiller font, if it wasn’t for him. He did the majority of “See Through” in one day—I was there. Watching him work is like watching a beautiful time-lapse.

blackcandiesprogression(Progression from stapled zine to current issue)

Anyway, enough of the sentimental stuff. I hope you enjoy it!

And please add on Goodreads.


UPDATE: Black Candies line-up announced (meet the new ladies)


Update: Damn. This has truly been a humbling and exciting (if slightly overwhelming) experience. I received so many good submissions from women horror authors that I felt I had to be extra critical of what would fit best with the theme/other stories, or else it’d turn into a behemoth that neither time, budget, nor space would allow. 

Super big thanks to Roxane Gay, Natanya Pulley, and anyone else who tweeted/facebook’d it. 

Meet the new ladies of Black Candies (in bold)

Black Candies – “See Through”


Sarah Jean Alexander
Ken Baumann
Aaron Burch
Juliet Escoria
Sarah Rose Etter
Julia Evans
Lindsay Hunter
Jac Jemc
Rory Kelly
Cameron Pierce
Anna Prushinskaya
Natanya Ann Pulley
Jim Ruland
Camie Schaefer
Joshua Emerson Smith
Zack Wentz
Jay Wertzler
Adrian Van Young

Plus a couple more writers who don’t think deadlines apply to them (still love you!)

(old plea):

But here’s the thing: I want more ladies. Lindsay Hunter, Juliet Escoria, Jac Jemc and Natanya Ann-Pulley are among my favorite writers right now, and I couldn’t be more honored and excited to include them in this issue, but the scales are still imbalanced. I would hate for the rag I founded to be known as a boys’ club—I don’t want pull a New York Review of Books here—but I also don’t want this to be a diplomacy thing. I want this to be a remedy. I feel there’s a large hole in my education, and that I haven’t been as active in seeking female voices in the alt-horror/speculative/dark fiction realms as I should. I know it’s out there.

So if you’re a lady, and you think your writing would make anyone feel weird or uncomfortable, I want to read it. If you have something that you haven’t had luck at submitting (because we all know finding a home for this dark shit can be difficult) send it to me.

Reminders: theme is “See Through”. Interpret that how you want. No real word limit, but 1,500—6,000 words is ideal. Send to ryancraigbradford@gmail.com.

Extended deadline: Aug. 15 (no boys allowed)