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Photo courtesy Samara Burns

U of C alumnus releases first horror short-story collection

By Matt Hume, November 8 2017 —

Looking for stories to send chills down your spine? There’s no need to wait for the next blockbuster horror flick or nostalgia-based Netflix series. U of C master of arts alumnus Mike Thorn is releasing his debut fiction collection, Darkest Hours, through Unnerving on Nov. 21. The collection consists of eight previously published and eight never-before published short stories that all fit somewhere within the vast realm of horror fiction.

The collection, which was written over the past two years, ranges in style “from satirical to brutal horrifying realist fiction, to more supernatural horror,” according to Thorn. Darkest Hours has already received substantial praise from notable horror writers such as S.P. Miskowski and Robert Dunbar.

Each story in Darkest Hours stands alone in terms of plot. Thorn says it’s difficult to pick a personal favourite while reflecting on the collection.

“My answer changes depending on the day,” he says. “But I usually bring up a story called ‘Fear and Grace’ which is less of a genre story. It’s more of a realist fiction piece with horrifying content in it so I’m pleased with that story.”

When it comes to writing horror fiction, Thorn says it’s not a conscious choice. Instead of writing fiction to deliberately cause unease within the reader, Thorn writes to combat the anxieties of a modern world in a defensive manner.

“That’s just what comes out when I write. But I also think living in 2017, the world’s a pretty terrifying place. I think most of us live with some degree of anxiety,” he says. “It always comes from some deep-seated anxiety or fear of my own and I try and resolve that through some kind of armature of horror.”

Thorn’s MA research focused on John Carpenter’s 1987 fantasy sci-fi film Prince of Darkness. He explored the philosophical problem of epistemophobia, or knowledge and its relation to fear.

“I don’t know if it affects [my fiction] in any direct way, I don’t like to go in with explicitly theoretical intent when I’m writing DarkestHoursCoverMikeThornfiction,” he says. “I just want to focus on mechanical things like, are the character’s motivations clear, is the plot structured effectively and so on and so forth. But I’m sure in ways I’m not conscious of my academic work has influence on my fiction.”

With the release of Darkest Hours right around the corner, Thorn is already working on his next tale. He hopes to return to long-form writing and find a home for his first novel sometime in 2018. Although he’s only in preliminary stages of research for the novel, Thorn hopes to expand on a concept touched on in the Darkest Hours short story “Satanic Panic.”

“I’m very interested in the ‘satanic panic’ pandemic that occurred in the late ‘80s early ‘90s in the U.S. and its relation to metal music,”  he says. “And I’m very interested in that sort of cultural milieu and the [legal] trials that occurred.”

While you’re waiting for the release of Darkest Hours, there’s plenty of horror fiction for you to enjoy. Thorn’s favourite writers include Virginia Woolf, Kathe Koja and Stephen King, but he currently recommends Gwendolyn Kiste’s debut fiction collection And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe and Edin Robinson’s latest novel Son of a Trickster.

Darkest Hours is available on Nov. 21 on Amazon and in paperback, with pre-orders already open for the eBook. Thorn will also attend two Calgary book launches at the Mount Royal Bookstore on Dec. 1 at 2 p.m. and at Owl’s Nest Books on Dec. 6 at 7 p.m.

Check out previously published work and other content from Thorn at mikethornwrites.com.

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