Born in Richmond, VA; married; wife's name Kathy (a publisher).
Home—Seattle, WA. Office—Darkside Press, 13320 27th Ave. NE, Seattle, WA 98125. E-mail—[email protected]
Author, editor, and publisher. Silver Salamander/Midnight House/Darkside Press, Seattle, WA, owner. Taught English in Japan.
International Horror Guild Award, 1996; Bram Stoker Award in anthology category, Horror Writers Association, 2002, for The Darker Side.
Axolotl special 1, Axolotl Press (Eugene, OR), 1989.
(Editor) Darkside: Horror for the New Millenium, Roc (New York, NY), 1995.
(With Edward Lee) Goon, Necro Publications (Orlando, FL), 1996.
(With Edward Lee) Shifters, 1998.
(With Edward Lee) Splatterspunk: The Micah Hayes Stories, 1998.
(Editor and contributor) The Last Continent: New Tales of Zothique, Shadowlands Press (Centreville, VA), 1999.
An Antique Vintage, Gargadillo Publishing (Corsicana, TX), 1999.
(Editor) Manly Wade Wellman, Fearful Rock and Other Precarious Locales, Night Shade Books (San Francisco, CA), 2001.
(Editor, with Benjamin Adams) The Children of Cthulhu: Chilling New Tales Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2002.
(Editor) The Devil Is Not Mocked and Other Warnings: The Selected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman, Volume 2, Night Shade Books (San Francisco, CA), 2002.
(Editor) Keith Fleming, Can Such Things Be?; or, The Weird of the Beresfords, Sarob Press (Wales), 2002.
(Editor) The Darker Side, Roc (New York, NY), 2002.
(Editor) Louisa Baldwin, The Shadow on the Blind, Ash-Tree Press (Ashcroft, British Columbia, Canada), 2002.
Darkness, My Old Friend (stories), Shadowlands Press (Centreville, VA), 2002.
(Editor) Manly Wade Wellman, Sin's Doorway and Other Ominous Entrances, Night Shade Books (San Francisco, CA), 2003.
(Editor) Manly Wade Wellman, Owls Hoot in the Daytime and Other Omens, Night Shade Books (San Francisco, CA), 2003.
(Editor, with Michael Reaves) Shadows Over Baker Street: New Tales of Terror, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2003.
(Editor, with Russell Kirk) What Shadows We Pursue: Ghost Stories Volume Two, Ash-Tree Press (Ashcroft, British Columbia, Canada), 2003.
(Editor) A Walk on the Darkside: Visions of Horror, Roc (New York, NY), 2004.
(Editor) Lost on the Darkside: Voices from the Edge of Horror, Roc (New York, NY), 2005.
(Editor) Alone on the Darkside: Echoes from Shadows of Horror, Roc, 2006.
(Editor) Century's Best Horror Fiction, Cemetery Dance (Forest Hill, MD), 2006.
(Editor) Dark Arts, Cemetery Dance (Forest Hill, MD), 2006.
Colour Out of Darkness, Cemetery Dance (Forest Hill, MD), 2006.
Also author of Girl's Night Out, 1998; author, with Edward Lee of Cotter's Field; or, The Scene That Started It All, 1996, The Case of the Police Officer's Cock Ring and the Piano Player Who Had No Fingers, 1997, Refrigerator Full of Sperm, 1998, Sideshow, 1998, Prologue, 1998, and Shifters, 2005. Contributor of short fiction to Triptych, Urbanite, Gothic.net, Enigmatic Tales, Carpe Noctem, and Horrorfind.com.
John Pelan is one of the foremost historians of horror, an expertise he has put to use as editor of numerous anthologies. Pelan grew up in Richmond, Virginia, raised by his mother and grandmother who, he has said gave him a Southern Gothic upbringing. He cites authors Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, John Sandford, Eckhart Tolle, Ken Wilbur, Joel Goldsmith, and Father Thomas Keating as having influenced his own work.
Pelan edited and contributed a story to The Last Continent: New Tales of Zothique, an anthology of nineteen new stories about Zothique, a super-continent rotting under the light of a dying sun, that was first created by dark fantasy master Clark Ashton Smith. Smith, who died in 1961, was known for his irony and his obvious eroticism, which his contemporary editors often felt compelled to trim.
Pelan recruited several writers to craft stories in Smith's style, allowing for flexible parameters. Edward Bryant noted in Locus that most of the writers grasped the necessary irony and erotic. Pelan chose many new writers to go with some of his old standbys, and, according to Bryant, they fared well.
The stories are filled with doomed relationships and dying cities. Gerald Houarner's "To Wake the Dead in Nympholos" is about the guardian of a city of ghouls who meets a woman and tries to reconcile his gloomy job with his attraction for her. Mark Chadbourn's "Love and Death at the End of the World" is a crime fiction in which five criminals who abduct a young woman meet nasty ends. Pelan's own contribution is "The Scarlet Succubus," which he wrote with Edward Lee. Other authors include David B. Silva, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Charlee Jacob, and Lucy Taylor. Bryant summarized in his review: "Be wary of gifting your love with this book on Valentine's Day; but otherwise it's a keeper."
Among Pelan's other anthologies is Fearful Rock and Other Precarious Locales, a collection of short stories by Manly Wade Wellman of Weird Tales. Wellman died in 1986, and Fearful Rock is the third volume of a projected five. It contains stories written in the mid-twentieth century that still frighten. Several feature Sergeant Jaeger, a former Union soldier turned minister, in the wilds of Missouri and Arkansas during the Civil War. Four tales involve the occult detective, Keith Hilary Pursuivant. Wellman's work blends elements of Southern Gothic, folklore, classic supernatural fiction, and heroic masculinity to create a spooky atmosphere.
The Children of Cthulhu: Chilling New Tales Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, which Pelan coedited with Benjamin Adams, is an anthology of twenty-one short stories, and like the writings of Lovecraft are dark and sinister. Poppy Z. Brite's "Are You Loathesome Tonight" brings Elvis and his peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches to the horror genre. In "Details," by China Mieville, an elderly woman sees something looking at her from behind walls and trees, and finds it lurking in her own memories. Richard Laymon's "The Cabin in the Woods" tells of a horrible thing trying to get into a cabin at night. Other notable stories include Caitlin R. Kiernan's "Nor the Demons down under the Sea" and "A Victorian Pot Dresser" by L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims. Regina Schroeder, in Booklist, praised the stories for doing what they intended—to titillate, horrify, and confront, just as Lovecraft did. "Altogether they constitute a fitting sacrifice to the appetites of the cult of Lovecraft and his monstrous elder gods," she wrote.
Pelan and Michael Reaves edited Shadows Over Baker Street: New Tales of Terror, a collection of eighteen original Sherlock Holmes tales that find the sleuth encountering Lovecraft-type horrors. A Publishers Weekly contributor considered Phelan's "The Mystery of the Worm" and Reaves's "The Adventure of the Arab's Manuscript" to be two of "the more successful tales."
Dark Arts is a collection for which Pelan sought contributors to write about artists, sculptors, and others whose stories reveal the dark side of their art. The opening story, Steve Rasnic Tem's "Disease Artist" is set in an antiseptic future and features a performance artist who infects himself with deadly diseases to demonstrate to his audience that we are all mortal. A twelve-year-old pianist calls on the dead in Patricia Lee Macomber's "Chained Melody." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that Lucy Taylor's "I Hear You Quietly Singing" and Brian Hodge's "With Acknowledgments to Sun Tzu" are examples of stories of "artists whose dark visions expose the grim reality of existence" The final story is "Nightmares, Imported and Domestic," by Matt Cardin and Mark McLaughlin, who write about an artist whose dreams become more real than his actual life. Carl Hays concluded in Booklist that this collection is "consistently first rate."
Colour Out of Darkness is Pelan's novel featuring a tentacled alien that is spreading a contagious infection in order to take over the world. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that this story comes "replete with explicit sex and gore."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature 1975-1991, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
Booklist, December 15, 2001, Regina Schroeder, review of The Children of Cthulhu: Chilling New Tales Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, p. 709; May 15, 2006, Carl Hays, review of Dark Arts, p. 33.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2001, review of The Children of Cthulhu, p. 1461; August 1, 2003, review of Shadows Over Baker Street: New Tales of Terror, p. 988.
Library Journal, January, 2002, Jackie Cassada, review of The Children of Cthulhu, p. 159.
Locus, January, 2000, Edward Bryant, review of The Last Continent: New Tales of Zothique, p. 31.
Publishers Weekly, February 4, 2002, review of Fearful Rock and Other Precarious Locales, p. 59; September 15, 2003, review of Shadows Over Baker Street, p. 49; January 30, 2006, review of The Colour Out of Darkness, p. 45; April 10, 2006, review of Dark Arts, p. 50.
Darkside Press Web site,http://www.darksidepress.com/ (January 2, 2006).