Ginger Nuts of Horror
Splatterpunk is a sub-genre of horror fiction that came to light during the 1980s. It was, and perhaps still is a movement against the more traditional stylings of horror fiction. I am talking about the ghost stories, the quiet creeping horror that was a staple of the genre, particularly throughout the 80s. Splatterpunk is a no holds barred approach to writing horror. It’s one that isn’t afraid to go that little bit further, to take a chance, to push the readers imagination, and sometimes to push the readers dinner back out of their stomachs. Names like John Skipp, Craig Spector, David J. Schow, Edward Lee, and Jack Ketchum…..these are just a selection of some of the great writers operating within the Splatterpunk genre.
Where am I going with this? Well, for this Press-Ups feature I decided to have a chat with Jack Bantry. Jack is a postman by day, avid reader and horror fan by night. Jack is a lover of horror and particularly the Splatterpunk genre. So much so that Jack decided to start his own magazine called Splatterpunk!
The first issue came out in 2012 and featured fiction from Dave Benton & W.D. Gagliani, Jeff Strand (a regular contributor to the zine), Tim Curran and a short from Bantry himself. Book reviews and interviews with Jack Ketchum, Wrath James White & Andre Duza and a great little piece by Wayne Simmons.
The magazine has gone from strength to strength. Last year saw the release of Splatterpunk #7. Jeff Strand was again involved along with Adam Cesare, Kristopher Rufty and Garrett Cook! I am telling you now, this magazine is superb. Most issues are sold out (lucky I have them all). I sat down with Jack and had a chin wag about the future for Splatterpunk, horror fiction and news of an upcoming anthology. Enjoy...
GNoH: First of all, thanks for chatting with us, Jack. For the folks out there who are not familiar with Splatterpunk Magazine can you tell us about it? In particular, why you decided to start up the magazine.
Hello, Adrian. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to discuss the zine. In my youth I used to do a punk zine called Small Sailor, which consisted of band interviews, record reviews and random columns. I mainly sold the zine at local gigs and through the post. After a few years of not really doing anything, I started writing short fiction. When submitting, I discovered all the cool xeroxed zines of the 80s and 90s had disappeared, so I decided to start up my own. You might think, because of the title, that it's a homage to the sub-genre of the mid-80s, but it isn't really. Like I mentioned before, I'm a punk and I love splatter fiction, hence the name. A lot of people go on about splatterpunk (fiction) and how cool it is, but I think it was just a group of friends who wrote fresh new horror. If you think about it, splatterpunk fiction was very similar to the type of horror films being made at the same time. Skipp & Spector, Schow and Barker were all part of that "Fangoria" generation. I think splatter fiction was there before splatterpunk. James Herbert wrote THE RATS in 1974 and all his early novels were just as extreme, if not more so, than splatterpunk novels like THE LIGHT AT THE END. I think splatterpunk has now morphed into the more general term of extreme horror, where basically anything goes. So, you could say, Splatterpunk Zine is an extreme horror magazine, and I think that would be an accurate term, but whatever we call it I chose to publish this type of fiction because I love reading it. I like novellas and short novels which are fast paced and don't venture off course. They read like a film and go for the jugular. I also like the sex and graphic detail. I find it entertaining!
GNoH: What are some of your favourite Splatterpunk books?
I love the traditional splatterpunk novels like THE LIGHT AT THE END and THE CLEAN-UP, both by Skipp & Spector, Barker's mind-blowing collection THE BOOKS OF BLOOD, and Rex Miller’s SLOB, about the serial killer, Daniel "Chaingang" Bunkowski. Ray Garton is another favourite. Like THE LIGHT AT THE END, LIVE GIRLS and LOT LIZARDS reinvigorated vampire novels in the 80s, but I think TRADE SECRETS and SHACKLED are my favourite Garton books. I'm also a big fan of Jack Ketchum (it's too hard to pick a favourite) and I love the newer stuff: HEADER by Lee, SURVIVOR by JF Gonzalez, THE RISING by Keene, and the excellent Mexican wrestling massacre: MUERTE CON CARNE by Shane McKenzie. The list goes on...
GNoH: What is it about the Splatterpunk movement that you enjoy so much?
Like I said earlier, it's the pace of the story. I discovered horror fiction reading Stephen King, but really fell in love with it when I discovered James Herbert. Whereas King goes on a 100 or so page tangent (which I find boring), Herbert's books are like films. THE FOG, THE RATS (trilogy), THE SPEAR and THE DARK are just awesome. I particularly liked the third Rats book, DOMAIN, set after a nuclear holocaust. Splatterpunk is just the same, unfortunately I was only 10 when THE LIGHT AT THE END came out, and living in a world without the internet at the edge of the North York Moors it was a long time until I discovered these writers. I had to make do with buying my books from local bookshops, charity shops and car boot sales. At this time it was Stephen King, James Herbert, Clive Barker, Graham Masterton and Richard Laymon. Being a teenager, I loved Richard Laymon, and I devoured his books.
GNoH: There have been some brilliant contributions to the zine from some of my personal favourite writers. How does the submission process for Splatterpunk work? Do you have an open window or do you simply contact the writers yourself and ask if they would like to contribute?
I invite writers who I like and think would suit the zine, people like Jeff Strand. I appreciate how such a prolific writer can find the time to contribute to my zine. I also want to include new writers, so I encourage them to send it stories, but these stories have to hit the mark! I didn't discover Shane McKenzie until he submitted a story for Splatterpunk 2, now he's one of my favourites. In issue 6 I published the first story by Brendan Vidito and my upcoming anthology will have the debut from Paul Shrimpton. I want to give people a chance, if we only publish household names then there’ll be nowhere for new writers.
GNoH: What have been some of the highlights for you so far concerning the magazine?
I think the highlights are working with all the great contributors, whether they are writers or artists. There are some great people out there and I'm indebted to their generosity. It's also fulfilling seeing people buying the zine, telling people how much they enjoy it, and coming back for future issues. A number of times I've finished putting together an issue and I've told myself that I will have some time off to concentrate on other things, but then people tell me how much they love it and I jump straight back in with a new issue. When I think about it, the highlights of doing the zine are all the great people I've met (mainly online) within the horror community.
GNoH: Horror and dark fiction is still frowned upon by many. From a fiction perspective; what do you think of its current state?
I love reading horror fiction and I don't care what other people’s perceptions are. It's not hugely popular and judging from the state of horror sections in bookshops I'd say it's still in decline, but it is hard to tell because bookshops themselves are struggling to compete with online sellers, like Amazon. A lot of bookshops now rely on coffee shops and greetings card sections (and probably get rid of the horror section to make way for these). I don't think horror fiction has picked up, but like punk music, it will always have a core element which will keep it going. What does seem to be popular at the moment is horror TV shows. THE WALKING DEAD, AMERICAN HORROR STORY, ASH Vs EVIL DEAD. I've heard they are now making Stephen King's THE MIST into a series. People like horror. Sadly they don't like reading horror. Or, maybe because horror fiction is now more "underground" they don't know it's out there. Ask someone who's buying the latest Stephen King novel from Tesco if they've heard of Shane McKenzie. I bet they haven't. I have friends who like horror films, but they don't read books. But I wouldn't say books were in decline. I went into Waterstones recently and the crime section is huge. Crime fiction is massive!
GNoH: One of my favourite stories was from issue #3. It was ‘Balance’ by the late J. F. Gonzalez. Brilliant writing, I absolutely loved it. It wasn’t an all-out gore fest but it really showcased the quality of Jesus’ writing and how he had a unique voice in horror fiction. Do you have any one particular story from any issue that you have a special affinity with?
I can't answer this question. I read an interview with Jack Ketchum once and the interviewer asked him what his favourite Ketchum novel was. He said they were like his children and he couldn’t choose one over another. In a similar way, I can't choose one contributor over another, not in public anyway! But I did love JF Gonzales' contributions. I personally preferred RICOCHET over BALANCE. JF was a great writer. I remember going on a family holiday and sitting round the pool reading SURVIVOR while families splashed about and sunbathed. It felt so wrong! JF had mentioned contributing again, but unfortunately it never happened.
GNoH: You have released a series of chapbooks through Splatterpunk Magazine also. Can you tell us about these and if there are any still available?
I published two chapbooks in 2012. CHRISTMAS IS CANCELLED by Dan Henk and INTERLOPER by Barry Hoffman. Dan sent me his story to see if I'd include it in Splatterpunk, but it was too long and worked better as a chapbook. Barry wanted me to publish INTERLOPER as a limited novel, but I didn't have the finances and he didn't want it published as a print-on-demand paperback, so he reduced the word count and we published it as a chapbook. Both these were limited to 300 copies and are sold out. Since then I have done two more chapbooks, both with myself and Nathan Robinson. They were solely done for the purpose of selling a conventions, but I have made some available online. I have about 30 copies left of each. I'd like to do more chapbooks, with some of the contributors to the zine, but due to the lack of money I don't feel like I could do a good enough job at the moment.
GNoH: When can we expect issue #8? Are there any more chapbooks coming and can you tell us about a certain anthology that you have coming soon?
All I have planned in the near future is the anthology, hopefully out in June. It has, sort of, replaced Splatterpunk 8. I have had numerous people ask if the zine will be available digitally and the majority of my customers are from overseas, so I wanted to experiment and do an anthology which would be available on paperback and Kindle. See if sales increase as it’ll be more accessible through Amazon, and if people buy it with other books they'll get free postage. I'm hoping that new people will discover Splatterpunk. Who knows? Saying that, no matter how successful the anthology is Splatterpunk will still continue in the cut & paste format, but not in the immediate future. I want to concentrate on some of my own writing, but I aim to put together the next issue of the zine to sell at next year’s conventions, which'll mean I will need to start working on it at the end of this year. I think selling the zine at conventions will increase the readership, but we'll have to wait and see.
GNoH: The con season is underway in the UK. Will you be making an appearance at any of them in the near future?
I’ve never been to a convention, so I do plan to go this year. I wanted to go to Edge-Lit, but I’m working on the Saturday. Maybe I can make the Sunday? Same for HorrorCon. I'd also like to go to FCon. It's in Scarborough this year and it'd be fun to meet some people who I communicate with online. I have a novel coming out soon, and this is the main reason I haven't booked anything yet. I wanted to have the book available to sell and I didn't know when it would be out. Next year will be a different matter!
GNoH: You have published some pretty awesome name already but is there any one writer out there who you would love to get a story off for a future issue?
Jack Ketchum, but sadly I can't afford him. Instead I had to make do with an interview!
GNoH: Let’s chat about your own writing for a moment. How long have you been writing? Who are some of your influences? And aside from Splatterpunk Magazine, where else can we read some Jack Bantry?
I started writing about five years ago when I had some time off work recovering from pneumonia. I have always loved reading horror fiction and I had an idea for a story, so I put pen to paper. I submitted the story to a couple of places and got some rejections! I've since had a few stories published. The first was in Jeani Rector's The Horror Zine. The story, titled KEEP SAFE, is also in one of my chapbooks. I've got two new stories coming out this year, one in Toneye Blakk's werewolf anthology and another in a new zine, which I'm waiting for the editor to announce publicly. My story CLARISSA, co-wrote with Robert Essig, has been selected for Comet Press' Best Of Hardcore Horror anthology (also including Splatterpunk contributors Jeff Strand and Adam Cesare). It's due out on June and I'm really looking forward to that. But, for me, the highlight of the year will be the publication of my debut novel, currently titled THE LUCKY ONES DIED FIRST. It will be published in June by Deadite Press. June is going to be a big month! I have also just finished the first draft of my second novel. This one is my first venture into crime writing. It's a dirty noir story, co-written by my friend, Robert Essig. I have a good feeling about it. The future is exciting!
GNoH: Jack. Tell these fine folk where they can find out more about Splatterpunk Magazine.
The current issue of Splatterpunk is available online at: splatterpunkzine.bigcartel.com
If you're a book lover you can visit my book review website at: splatterpunkzine.wordpress.com
And I'm on Facebook: www.facebook.com/jack.bantry ; www.facebook.com/splatterpunkzine