Black Candies: The Eighties visual design inspired by… the nineties??

The thematic idea for Black Candies: The Eighties came about more or less as a whim. After Stranger Things came out, I fell down a wormhole of nostalgia-heavy entertainment and ended up rewatching all the horror ‘80s horror that became intrinsic to my formative years: Evil Dead, The Re-Animator and Romero’s Day of the Dead.

But when submissions for the issue began to trickle in, I noticed how much seething anger there was among them. Analog deaths, slashers, the past made present, political allegories. Ironically, The Eighties seemed to reflect the horror of our current era with more vehemence than any other issue of Black Candies.  

So co-editor Julia Dixon Evans and I wanted The Eighties to reflect this hostility. This is the first issue that I’ve not had the help of a creative director, and it’s quite different than those that came before it. It’s purposefully abrasive. Analog-like glitches fill the corners. We didn’t want blurbs on the cover. We wanted it to feel like a dangerous object that you’d find tucked away in footlocker. An unmarked VHS; a cursed cassette. We wanted readers to feel like they were reading a book produced by a haunted printing press.

For inspiration, I turned to two well-known albums: Nirvana’s In Utero and Nine Inch Nails’ Broken. Both albums are considered sharp left-turns because they veered deep into abrasive, harsh, alienating waters from artists who experienced commercial success from their previous albums. I always find it fascinating when artists willingly show their ugly side when money’s on the line.

There was a long period in my life when I stopped listening to Nirvana because I thought “grunge” was a boring genre and—ugh—everyone listened to Nirvana. The songs were ubiquitous on the radio, and it came to a point when I didn’t know if “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was actually a good song, or if it was just lionized it after Cobain’s death.

It wasn’t until the 2013 reissue of In Utero that I decided to give Nirvana another chance. My brother owned that CD when we were young (the Walmart edited version, with “Waif Me” instead of “Rape Me”), but it had been maybe 15 years since I listened to it. In the intervening years, I had become familiar with In Utero producer Steve Albini’s other projects (Big Black and Shellac) and considered myself a fan of his curmudgeonly subversiveness and provocation. I was interested in seeing how In Utero held up.

That first dive back in was a jarring experience, especially since I was so used to the radio polish of songs “Come As You Are” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Yes, In Utero has “Heart-Shaped Box” and “All Apologies,” but the rest of the album is fucking insane. There’s nothing gentle about it. The vocals sound like they’re sung into a trashcan, and the drums are relentlessly pummeling (the drum sounds on In Utero, especially on “Scentless Apprentice,” may be my favorite of all time). The corporate hesitancy to release such an abrasive record is well-documented, but I would’ve loved to be a fly on the wall when a record exec—hoping for another “Teen Spirit”—turned on “Tourettes”.

Nine Inch Nails’ Broken EP, is another one that I wasn’t really familiar with until recently. I mean, growing up in a Mormon household made all Nine Inch Nails’ music inherently scary— it didn’t matter if it was from Pretty Hate Machine or the Downward Spiral, so I can’t say I had the mettle to analyze both until later.

But then I read this essay by Aaron Burch, which tackles Broken better and more in-depth than I plan to do here— and again, I was infatuated with the idea of an intentionally-abrasive piece of art. I finally got around to listening to Broken, and, yeah, it’s harsh. Its predecessor Pretty Hate Machine is not exactly gentle, but it contains nothing as trashy as tracks like “Wish.” The whole EP, sounds drowned in industrial beats and distortion, but it’s an obvious keystone to understanding the brilliance of The Downward Spiral and The Fragile that came afterwards.

Plus, according to the wiki: “Reznor said he wanted the album to be ‘an ultra-fast chunk of death” for the listener, something that would “make your ears a little scratchy’.”

“A little scratchy.” I love that. So, if The Eighties can make your eyes a little scratchy as well, then my work is done.


You can order Black Candies: The Eighties here.


Black Candies – Surveillance

I’m proud to present the third issue of the literary horror journal which I edit: Black Candies – Surveillance.

We’re never alone. Paranoia has replaced privacy. Secrets are the new currency. The strangers who watched from the street now watch from within. For this issue of Black Candies, we found 11 smart, terrifying stories that explore the theme of “Surveillance” in explicit, implicit and abstract ways. These stories not only touch on the contradiction of the securities of our modern era, but unearth the deeper terror, paranoia, and anxiety that results.

There are a lot of new things I tried with this issue, including full-bleeds and two-page spreads for the illustrations. This is also the first time that I’ve used Createspace, a decision that I came to after reading Cameron Pierce’s (publisher of Lazy Fascist Press) novella “The Snakes of Boring,”—printed with Createspace—and being very impressed with the quality.

I also feel like I stretched my editorial muscles with this one. In the past, I’ve had the fortune of falling back on co-editors, and that’s probably made me a little less confident in my editing skills. I was lucky enough to have a group of writers who were very patient and willing to build their pieces where I thought they should be developed, or push back when appropriate. The resulting camaraderie among writers in the book (at least from what I can tell on social media) is pretty amazing—unlike anything I’ve experienced with a publication.

There’s also a new Facebook page where we’re gonna post info about upcoming issues, ways to submit, etc.

And here’s a rad thing: You can read Angus McIntyre’s “Someone To Watch Over Me” over at Boing Boing!

Here are Black Candies’ authors: 

Angus McIntyre
Valerie E. Polichar
Julia Evans
Gabriela Santiago
Melissa Gutierrez
Berit Ellingsen
Jake Arky
Matt Lewis
Chris Curtis
Kevin Sampsell
Ron Gutierrez
Wade Pavlick

Here are the artists: 

Adam Vieyra
Carabella Sands
Andrew McGranahan
Laura Gwynne
Carrie Anne Hudson
Thanks y’all. I hope you enjoy it.



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.


Two books with one stone: Black Candies and Last Night on Earth

Over the last two months, my friends and I have been at work putting together two books, and this morning, we can finally put the nail in both of them. It’s quite an accomplishment, really, and I want to tell you about them.

First off: Black Candies – a journal of literary horror.

Black Candies has been a passion project of mine to get some of my favorite literary writers to indulge their most horrific writing. This year, I got five great writers to write on the theme of “Post Apocalypse” (a concept I’ve been obsessed with over the last year); with some really great variations on said theme. The line-up for these authors goes:

Oh and the thing has art too. Some really great art, in fact. I really don’t want to show it to you cuz that would give it all away. Here are the artists:

So yeah, the stories in here are scary. Perfect time to get your spooks on!

Next book is Last Night on Earth.
If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’ve talked about this book here before, and there are really too many authors to call out, but it’s so, so great. My constant collaborator/friend/partner in crime (also Black Candies contributor) Jay Wertzler did the book design on this one. When I woke up to find his finished pdf in my inbox, I had to stand up and walk away from my computer. It’s just so breathtaking to see something you’ve been working on for so long finally be real. It has a face now – a glorious, immaculate face. Again, I can’t thank him enough for his hard work.

And of course, none of these would’ve been possible without Justin Hudnall, a true frontiersman. His constant encouragement and belief has made both these projects not only possible, but bigger and greater than anything I could’ve accomplished on my own.

I’ll keep you posted on when/where to get them.

Black Candies – a horror lit journal

As October looms closer, I want there to be a place where respectable artists are not afraid to indulge in their most shameless love of genre. I want it to be a place where writers scare themselves with the risks they take and the dark things they uncover within themselves. I want it to be literary and smart. Or, if that sounds pretentious, think of it like a Cronenberg film.

Black Candies is that place. I’m looking for a couple more stories to round out an already-exciting roster of talent. These would be short fiction stories or essays. Preferably 1000-5000 words. Visual artists are also encouraged to submit!

The (very) loose theme for this issue is “The Post Apocalypse”

If you are interested, let me know soon. I wanna have enough time to make it look good. And by that, I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from Dane Cardiel’s lit mag Manor House Quarterly. Please take a look at that sample and just relish how wonderful it looks. Now: think how it could apply to a bleak, post-apocalyptic art/lit journal filled with horror.

Please send all stories/art to and thanks in advance. I think it will be fun.

Post Apocalypse!

UPDATE: Black Candies Fall 2012 is available to order here.

blackcandies-coverUPDATE 2: 2013’s “See Through” issue is available here.