Deadlights Horror Fiction Magazine started as an idea in 2016. That idea was to provide horror writers, artists, and poets a publication of quality that they could be proud of, maybe something to show off to their family and friends (as well as gain that ever-elusive publication credit). It was to be a venue for new authors and up-and-coming authors with a single known name leading each issue. The goal was to be a stepping stone for those within the genre looking to further their careers.
Of course, the truth was that this was an ambitious goal. There is no real way to prepare for opening a venue. Even those who have a head start with fancy finance or literature degrees find the task daunting. The only thing to do is put your head down and work hard. With six months, more or less, to prepare, said head was all the way down.
In order to get better at this whole magazine thing, it was decided that a second magazine would be released. What better than to produce a magazine that featured only new authors, with a few known horror writers just for fun? And what if we designed a digital-only magazine that we could host on our website? It was a great plan. At least, to us it was. And because Deadlights was still on the horizon, the last variable we added to the equation was that this digital magazine would publish every two weeks! Hence the “Shotgun” in this digital magazine, called Shotgun Horror Clips. The “clips” came from the idea that the stories within ought to be short and sweet–horrific–but sweet all the same. The most important aspect of Shotgun was that it was to feature brand new authors, give them a chance to experience the publishing process and give them something to show for their hard work after the fact. That was the most rewarding aspect of Shotgun and it still is to this day.
From that point on, Shotgun Horror Clips published regularly, and at a rip-roaring pace. A lot was learned in a very short amount of time, and that knowledge influenced the creation of Deadlights Horror Fiction Magazine immensely. We soon started to gather material for Deadlights. We hooked up with the talented Shawn Langley for cover art (to the right) and boy did he ever deliver. He is still drawing, and has recently landed work for Upper Deck, drawing Marvel characters. We secured a story from Brian Knight, a great author who is also local to the area where Deadlights was/is based. Check his work out here. And we were absolutely pummeled by submissions once we opened. That was unexpected and took a lot of adjustment to the way our poor email inbox was treated. Still, Shotgun Horror Clips led the way!
Enter January, 2017. It was the month before Deadlights was set to publish. It was time to shake things up again. The idea, at this time, was to change the logo and name of Shotgun Horror Clips. The reason that this was done was that its design was a little too close to Deadlights logo for comfort. This may or may not be true. Regardless, the change was made to Shotgun! Strange Stories. “Shotgun” still due to the publishing schedule. Strange Stories because the “Horror Clips” didn’t sound all that clever, anymore. Again, that may or may not be true. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the cliche goes!
The last publication of Shotgun! Strange Stories was on the edge of January–the 27th! Deadlights dropped on February 1st and it was a wonderful feeling, seeing all that hard work pay off. The magazines were ordered and arrived in great condition. Better than expected. And we even had sweat shirts and tee-shirts printed! The idea was that we would scale back our operation of Shotgun, to focus more on Deadlights. It was originally decided that Deadlights would be monthly, however, it became readily apparent that this would have to be a bi-monthly project.
At this point, we were at our height. We began planning the second issue. We decided to reach out to a known author that we loved, not expecting much, but hey, you never know, right? It turns out that the author was interested in not only selling a re-print to us; he agreed to do an interview! That author was none other than the late Jack Ketchum. He was a wonderful person to work with, a kind soul. He went so far as to give us instruction on how to word and write publishing contracts! You can check out his work here. The next issue opened for submissions and the art was commissioned.
We started to plan ahead even further, looking out to our third issue. We connected with Bill Pronzini through an old friend, and he agreed to sell us a short story. We had fun editing with him and learning from him. You should pick up a copy of one of his books here. We even started talking to Richard Chizmar about a possible interview! You should pick up a copy of one of his books here— or, you can visit Cemetery Dance Publications here LINK to get a look at his publishing company. They publish all sorts of wonderful stuffs, from a well-regarded magazine called Cemetery Dance all the way up to Stephen King collectors editions! It was an exciting time to be alive. Shotgun! Strange Stories was put on the back-burner temporarily. Its next publish date was unclear.
But another cliche is true: All good things come to an end. Deadlights was no exception. Costs turned out to be higher than what the magazine could take in from sales. A drastic change would have had to occur, from cutting the quality of the physical magazine, to paying authors less, to cutting corners on art and dropping the horror comics section completely; in other words, the second issue would be a shell of what the first issue was. This was a deal-breaker. There was no way to put more than the initial investment into the business, so it went under. And that’s okay. Sometimes things don’t work out, no matter how much you try. As Captain Picard said on TNG, “It is possible to make no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.” Too true.
Time was spent away from the project(s). Time was also spent away from the horror genre as a whole. Shotgun! Strange Stories came back in 2018 (though it lost the ‘!’). The magazine went in a different direction. The idea was to create a publication that called back to horror comics, horror anthologies that were fun, and to TV shows and movies. Examples: EC Comics, like Tales of the Crypt; Anthologies like Silver Scream; TV Shows like Tales from the Darkside; Movies like Creepshow. The magazine would be in the tradition of the good old fashioned pulp magazines, word puzzles and goofy humor and all. This version of the magazine published one issue in 2018 and that issue was a success. Now, at the end of 2019 and the start of 2020, the magazine is back in action!
The goal is the same: Work with new and up-and-coming writers who want to get their feet when in the publishing industry while also seeing their work in print and digital.
That’s the story behind the magazines and a little insight into the publisher(s)! Thank you for your interest and your continued support.