Howls from the Scene of the Crime
Editors: Jessica Peter & Timaeus Bloom
For this year’s anthology, we’re diving into the world of CRIME HORROR! We want a blending of CRIME and HORROR fiction, with multiple subgenres within that combination.
When we talk about crime fiction, we mean “the genre of fiction that deals with crimes, their detection, criminals, and their motives”1. Within crime you’ll find subgenres like noir, murder mystery, heist stories, detective, and more, or it can be none of the above and just deal with what happens when the law is broken. The blend of horror into crime is our sweet spot: we want stories that go beyond your average thriller into fiction that can disturb, frighten, shock, or create feelings of dread or disgust in a reader. While each story must deal with some aspect of crime, they should also comfortably fit within the genre of horror (and all of its subgenres).
The theme being crime horror comes with a need for sensitivity. We want a sensitivity to the humanity* of characters:
– Sensitivity to the victims, for example by not capitalizing on the trauma of marginalized groups you don’t belong to, or by avoiding retelling true crime stories in living history
– Sensitivity to the perpetrators: re-consider the trope of the “criminal” – crime is an action, not a character trait (and many people who do heinous crimes were often once victims themselves)
This isn’t just for upholding social justice, but also for giving the anthology authenticity – by handling these significant topics respectfully, we can work to do away with stale tropes and create stories that better reflect the real world.
*Unless they aren’t human at all, of course.
We’d Love to See:
– A variety of settings – We’d love to see crime as it occurs in all sorts of places, countries, or time periods
– A variety of sub-genres and styles within horror + crime – get creative, turn tropes on their heads (while we do enjoy the Dashiell Hammett/Raymond Chandler hardboiled detective voice, it can’t be all that)
– Supernatural or non-supernatural horror are both fair game, as long as the story emphasizes the horror
– A touch of humour can be good (but so can an endless bleakness)
– Criticism of existing societal structures related to justice & crime
– Own voices encouraged
Jess’s Particular Story Likes
(but probably not all in one story!)
– Atmospheric, grimy, drippy stuff (think gothic vibes, but not gothic genre)
– An immersive and engaging plot that keeps me turning pages
– Blending of bittersweet into the horror
– Interlacing stories with social issues in a way that doesn’t hit you over the head with it
Tim’s Particular Story Likes
– Non-traditional narratives
– Weird, experimental
– Stories that don’t completely rely on “unexpected” twists and turns
– The fear of the seemingly mundane
– Upholding of sexism, racism, cissexism, homophobia, colonial attitudes, fetishizing the “other”…. and all the related and unrelated -isms (as part of the story itself, that is, if your characters are shitty, that’s fine!
– If you’re going to have a rape or sexual assault, make it earned in the plot (e.g., don’t use women’s trauma as a way to advance men’s character development – no fridging)
– Outright copaganda
– Retelling of real true crime stories within living memory (but those around 75-100 years ago or earlier are okay)
– Stories written, developed, or assisted by AI writing programs such as ChatGPT, Copy.ai, or Rytr, among others (we want your words and stories!)
Crime Horror in Other Media For Inspiration:
– Se7en (movie)
– The Pale Blue Eye (movie)
– The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias
– The Silence of the Lambs (and other books/movies in series)
– True Detective (season 1)
– From Dusk Till Dawn (movie)
– The Purge (movies/show)
– From Hell (graphic novel/movie [but, you know, better done than the movie])
– “The Finkelstein 5”; “Zimmer Land” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (short stories)
– “Hand of Glory” by Laird Barron (short story)
– And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
– Last Days by Brian Evenson
– Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
– Bad Times at the El Royale (movie)
Theme & Content FAQ
What do you mean by “crime”? From Wikipedia, “In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority.” So yes, it’s of the legal variety against some authority, not “that mustache is an absolute crime.”
Are secondary worlds okay? Yes. We’re not directly looking for this, but we’d be happy to accept it – as long as it’s horror and doesn’t veer into outright fantasy. And it still needs to be a crime against an authority (though we accept that the authorities – and crimes – may, by definition, be different).
Is post-apocalyptic okay? Yes, and we’re into it. As long as it’s still in a society where laws can be broken.
The Gritty Details
Date Due & How to Submit
October 1, 2023: Deadline for submissions to anthology, by the end of the day wherever you are. Submit to the editors’ contact email at: email@example.com.
Under 4000 words preferred, 5000 hard limit. We really want a wide range of story lengths—and at least one of our editors also really enjoys short stuff: if you can tell a complete story at flash length, we’d totally be up for it. We’d also be open to including a poem or two (or three), at the same by-the-word pay rate.
We will pay $0.05 a word for the first 4,000 words and $0.01 a word up to the manuscript limit of 5,000 words. Each contributor will receive a copy of the anthology.
Format (for Invited Pieces)
Google Doc in Shunn manuscript format. (While we are reading stories from the HOWLS community anonymously, we will know which stories are from our invited authors so do not need anonymity there).
Exclusive First Worldwide Publication, Print, Audio, and Electronic Rights for three months, and non-exclusive rights thereafter.