Tor.com content by

Grady Hendrix

Fiction and Excerpts [2]
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Fiction and Excerpts [2]

My Best Friend’s Exorcism

|| A heartwarming story of friendship and demonic possession. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade, but is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

Horrorstör (Excerpt)

|| Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking. To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they'll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.

Insufferable Devil Children: Seed of Evil

Welcome to Freaky Friday, that day of the week when well-dressed children lying in their coffins stare back at you from the covers of out-of-print paperbacks. It’s creepy! Who makes a child wear a tie????

Dating is hard. Especially if you’re Patty Thompson, a divorced 23-year-old mother of two (Janet and Little Frankie). First, her chain-smoking mother, Lydia, lives with her and criticizes everything she does. Second, her dead end apartment complex smells like cabbage (“stale and sour”) which is a huge turn-off for any man she brings home who’s not a leprechaun. Third, the only bar she frequents is the Red Lantern Lounge at the end of her block where toothless alcoholics go to gum their rotgut vodka and their corpses get swept out at the end of the night. And fourth, she has zero self-esteem. Maybe less. “Patty glanced at her reflection behind the bar, then quickly turned away her head…the less she saw of herself the less she’d remember how pathetic she really looked.” Patty’s got so much going against her that it’s really no surprise to the reader that the first man she takes home since her divorce not only gets her pregnant, but turns out to be Satan. Or maybe James Taylor? But probably Satan.

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The Horrors of the Female Body: The Searing

Welcome to Freaky Fridays, the day of the week when we talk about female troubles. And to properly diagnose and treat them, we turn to the musty out-of-print paperbacks of the past for guidance. Because that’s where all the best medical knowledge is.

Let us pity, for a moment, women. They have a lot of problems that men don’t have to worry about. They age terribly, they’re always getting fat, and if they’re not completely careful every second of the day, they have babies. Also, they smell bad (feminine hygiene—learn about it, people). When they sweat it’s just terrible so they need to be extra careful about that, too. If they smile too much they’re creepy, but if they don’t smile enough they need to be shot with tranquilizer darts and put in a zoo.

Then there’s the entire issue of… Down There.

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The Food Pyramid of Death: The Farm

Welcome to Freaky Fridays, where we celebrate the one food group no one likes: you. Fortunately, out-of-print paperbacks from the dim and distant past are here to warn us about the menace of the Food Pyramid of Death!

Prepare yourself to meet The Hogs From Hell, little piggies so evil that when they go to market they eat the market. When they stay home, they destroy the home. Everyone likes to eat bacon, right? Well, in the United Kingdom, bacon eats YOU!

Old McDonald had a farm,
ee i ee i o
And on that farm everything wanted to kill you
ee i ee i o

As one character proclaims in The Farm, “There’s no doubt that those bloody pigs mean business.” And the business they mean is death! But these aren’t just random deadly piggies. This is the story of an entire farm on drugs, where every single pig, cow, horse, sheep, chicken, and bunny rabbit is on drugs and these aren’t fun drugs. These are drugs that command them to kill.

With a kill kill here
And a kill kill there
Here a kill
There a kill
Everywhere a kill kill
Old McDonald had a Murder Farm
ee i ee i o…

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Let’s Join a Cult! The Brainwashing Pulps of the ’70s and ’80s

Welcome to Freaky Fridays. You have come home. We’ve been waiting for you. Just relax, stop thinking, and read the sacred out-of-print paperbacks that allow us to understand the secret wisdom of the universe. We love you. Love us. There is no self. There is only us. Do not resist. Just relax. Become love with us.

Hey everyone, let’s join a cult! All the kids are doing it, and if you can give me one good reason not to do it, then I’ll give you an apple pie. Cults are fun! Cults are crazy! Cults can help you get ahead in this world! Cults actually run this world! Cults provide instant friends for the marginalized, the unwanted, and the short. I can’t think of a single problem that a cult couldn’t solve if they all put on their robes and worked together. So why wouldn’t you join one? You are actually holding yourself back and limiting your life every minute you are not in a cult.

The problem is, with so many cults to choose from, how do you narrow it down to just one? Cults aren’t like Better Business Bureaus. You can’t join two or three at a time. You have to pick one and commit. So how do you find the right cult for you? Allow Freaky Friday to help.

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Terrorist Toys: William Hallahan’s Keeper of the Children

Welcome to Freaky Fridays, the best source for your weekly dose of outrage inspired by out-of-print paperbacks from the Seventies and Eighties. Finally, a flavor of anger that suits you and tastes minty fresh all at the same time!

Wake up, America! We’ve been complacent for too long. For decades our enemies have been infiltrating our homes, brainwashing our children, and turning us against one another. It’s time we came together as a country and turned our anger on the real enemy. They’ll try to stop us, of course. They’ll try to make us look crazy which won’t be very hard, because even naming this enemy sounds like you’ve put on your tin foil hat and started talking about SPAWAR at a dinner party…but SPAWAR turned out to be true so the joke’s on everyone else!

Who are these devious anti-American termites gnawing away at the foundations of our democracy from deep within the house of liberty? You know who I’m talking about. Our sworn enemies are not the liberals, or the Communists, or the Fascists. The enemy of mankind has been nestled in our arms all along: toys! Tickle Me Elmo? Tickle Me Terrorist! Lego Batman? Let’s Go Overturn Democracy Batman! Don’t even get me started on the Velveteen Rabbit—that lethal lagomorph should be in Gitmo for trying to help his plush army “turn real.” You want “real”? How about a couple of steel-jacketed slugs from my .45, you heinous hare? Is that real enough for you?

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No One Likes a Brainchild

Welcome to Freaky Friday, that moment at the end of the week when you put down your torches and pitchforks, exhausted after six whole days of pursuing mad scientists to the edge of cliffs where they have the choice of either leaping to their dooms or being burned to death by your angry mob, and just relax and read something for fun before picking up the tools of your liberation once more.

Do you know what’s wrong with America? We don’t got no STEM. In case you’ve been asleep while Japanese high school students have been doing fifth-dimensional geometry and Norwegian middle school students have been building particle accelerators during recess, STEM is: “A curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.”

It’s the future of global leadership and we suck at it. Our kids aren’t in the top 10 for math or science scores, and most of them can’t even name the 10 best Pokemons without pulling out their phones. Want to know why we’re so bad at STEM? Read that last sentence again: “Rather than teach the four disciplines as separate and discrete subjects, STEM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications.” You know what that means? We need to encourage our kids to turn their homes into giant experiments where their parents and siblings are unwitting test subjects who have their behavior modified with electric shocks, that’s what it means. And Andrew Neiderman knew that before anyone.

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Can’t Hardly Bear It: Malachy McCoy’s Kodiak!

Welcome to Freaky Fridays, your fifteen-foot tall, 1,500 pound, fur-covered guide to the dusty old out-of-print paperbacks of yesteryear. We eat our weight in fresh salmon every day.

Bears are the most employable members of the animal kingdom. Kuma is the bodyguard for Heihachi Mishima. Billy Bob Brockali leads the Rock-afire Explosion Band at Showbiz Pizza (his evil cousin, Freddy Fazbear does the same over at the pizza parlor bearing his name). Fozzie Bear is a professional stand-up comedian for the Muppets. And Smokey is the most famous park ranger of all time. Then there are the questionable bears. The illegal immigrant bears (Paddington), the freeloaders (Yogi), the addicts (Winnie the Pooh), and those stupid lazy polar bears who just sit on their butts and drink Coca-Cola all day long.

Far worse, however, are the thug bears.

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Remembering William Peter Blatty, 1928-2017

Yesterday, author and director William Peter Blatty died. Most people will remember him as the guy who wrote The Exorcist. I’ll remember him as the guy who took the freedom he got from The Exorcist and wrote two complicated, thorny, hopeful horror novels and then adapted them into two complicated, thorny, hopeful horror movies (which he also directed). And I’ll remember him as a novelist who was capable of turning out dialogue that read as sharp and surprising as Elmore Leonard’s, only with a far more philosophical bent.

Born to Lebanese immigrants, Blatty was raised by a single mother whose poverty turned his childhood into a constant flight to stay one step ahead of eviction. Blatty received a deeply Catholic education and was a deeply devout Catholic. He was so religious that the needle that goaded him into writing The Exorcist was watching Rosemary’s Baby with its famously ambiguous ending that, to him, felt like a cop-out. How the hell could a horror movie end with the forces of evil triumphant? A few years later, he pitched a courtroom novel about a kid who kills an adult and uses a claim of demonic possession as her defense to Mark Jaffe of Bantam Books, a paperback company (Bantam would later sell the hardcover rights to Harper & Row). It was a New Year’s party, everyone was drinking, Jaffe bought the book. It wound up getting titled The Exorcist.

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High-Tech Wizardry: C> The Shadow Man

Welcome to Freaky Fridays.
Current date is Fri 12-01-1986
Enter new date:
Current time is: 13:01:24.18
Enter new time:
The IBM Personal Computer DOS
Version 2.0 (C)Copyright IBM Corp 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986

A>dir

Stephen Gresham would one day write the best book about magicians ever conceived (Abracadabra, 1988) but in 1986 his greatest accomplishment was still on the horizon. For now, he had already written novels for Zebra Books that explored haunted lakes (Moon Lake, 1982), elderly transvestite serial killers (Rockabye Baby, 1984), and skeletons playing the banjo (Dew Claws, 1986), so clearly it was time for him to write about the personal computer revolution. And for Gresham, there was a simple question that needed to be asked.

[Q: What tasks can a PC (personal computer) accomplish in your home?]

All Orphans Are Terrifying: Frank Lauria’s The Foundling

2016 could not kill us, and 2017 will not be our undoing either. It’s Freaky Fridays, back from a holiday-shaped grave and still your tiny and adorable paperback sump pump hooked up to your eyes and filling your skull with weirdness on a weekly basis.

As we head into the new year it’s important to remember that everything is dangerous. Temp jobs (The Shining), traveling for work (Dracula), going to university (Frankenstein), sleepovers (The Haunting of Hill House), studying hard (Doctor Faustus), buying a car (Christine), or even just minding your own business (Red Dragon). Once kids are involved you’re in truly terrifying territory because everything about them is scary: having a baby (Rosemary’s Baby), babysitting (The Turn of the Screw), bringing your baby back from the dead (Pet Sematary), going on a school trip (Lord of the Flies). But nothing is generally accepted to be as completely off-the-rails insane as adopting a child. Even a totally rad orphan with mad guitar skills.

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Just Hear Those Slay Bells Jingling

Ho, ho, ho! Don’t be sad, it’s that most wonderful time of the week when we delve into Santa’s bulging sack (of old paperbacks, you pervert) and pull out something ripe and delicious to stick our noses into together (that one was on purpose). It’s time for Freaky Fridays!

“You’d better watch out / You’d better not cry / You’d better not pout / I’m telling you why / Santa Claus is stabbing you in the face over and over and over again until you’re dead!” That’s the beautiful traditional Christmas carol my family sang when I was a child, and I sing it to my children today. And it’s also the wonderful song that runs through Jo Gibson’s Slay Bells, a 1994 Yuletide YA slasher written by Jo Gibson, a pen name for Joanne Fluke, beloved author of the Hannah Swensen baking mystery books—she’s whipped up 21 of these little beauties since 2001 with such scrumptious titles as Fudge Cupcake Murder, Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, and Christmas Caramel Murder. The Winston Salem Journal says, “Mm, mm, Fluke’s fans can’t wait for the next confection in the series to be served up.” Well, since she’s republishing her YA work written as Jo Gibson, there’s no need to wait. Just pick up Slay Bells for some Mm, mm, mmurder, along with mm, mmm, mmmmayhemmmm, and mm, mmm, mmmmmorons. All set in mm, mm, MMMmmmminesota.

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Home for the Holidays: The Sibling

Welcome to Freaky Fridays, that most wonderful time of the week when we curl up in front of a roaring fire with an old horror paperback and wait for it to consume us and reduce us to ashes as we read.

It’s time for that most important holiday of the White Anglo Saxon Protestant year: Christmas! Is there a season more sacred to the cast of St Elmo’s Fire, Ordinary People, Love Story, and anything by Whit Stillman than the Yuletide days when they can wear tweed and corduroy, put on their turtlenecks, sing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”, drunk drive over icy roads as they head home from the country club, and overdose on sedatives in their extravagant bathrooms of Venetian marble while sobbing silently?

Horror paperbacks have risen to the occasion by turning out a fistful of excellent tales of WASP destruction set during the holiday season, from the boarding school pyromania of Tricycle, to the gibbering nervous breakdown of Such Nice People, and the cold-blooded sociopathic antics of Halo. But the most over-the-top of the bunch is The Sibling, a wonderfully-written account of a young man sliding into madness, falling in love with his sister, and picking out and wrapping the worst Christmas present ever (hint: he found it attached to a corpse).

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The Trouble With Yetis: Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Welcome to Freaky Fridays: War on Christmas edition! From now until Santa has murdered all the naughty children and Krampus is doing a jig in their guts, we’ll be talking about the weird old paperback novels that put the “ow” in snowman.

Normally, I don’t start these columns talking about the cover art, but look at that guy. Just look at him. What you’re seeing is the online dating profile used by the Abominable Snowman when he’s looking for a mate. First, he thoughtfully tells us his age (“thousands of years”) so that we understand he’s a sugar daddy looking for a sugar baby, then he makes sure we know his interests (likes to stalk the earth; is a foodie) ensuring his dietary preferences are front and center because, as we all know, most sugar babies are body conscious and wouldn’t be comfortable feasting at all, let alone on the flesh of humans, since they’re mostly vegan.

OKCupid says men’s profile photos are most effective when they look away from the camera and don’t smile. Yeti’s on it. You should be doing something interesting, preferably with your pet. Yeti is hiking, and he’s his own pet: done. eHarmony advises that your profile photo be flattering, genuine, and accurate. Check, check, and check again. He’s even listed his full name (Norman Bogner) under his username (Snowman). Okay, Yeti is ready to fire his proton torpedoes into your thermal exhaust port, so what’s stopping this hairy snowman? Turns out: everything. YETI IS TERRIBLE AT DATING.

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The Horrors of Healthcare: William Woolfolk’s The Sendai

Congratulations! You survived seven more days on this planet! You deserve a freaky Friday, where I dig into the vault and pull out some weird and forgotten horror book that smells like cat hair.

It’s open enrollment period on the health insurance marketplace so what better time to read The Sendai? If you’re looking for new health insurance, and especially if you’re thinking of having yourself a litter of babies, it can be scary trying to pick the right doctor. Fortunately, The Sendai is here with some tips! First, stay away from any clinic or doctor with a name out of a Cronenberg movie. Second, do not give birth in a delivery room that includes a conveyor belt leading to The Off-Limits Building. Also, maybe don’t have a baby in a clinic that has something referred to as The Off-Limits Building.

Basically, do not have your baby at The Karyll Clinic in The Sendai, unless you want to have your newborn child replaced with a lifeless rubber dummy you’ll weep over while your actual suckling babe is conveyed off to its horrible new life as a genetic mutant.

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