Remembering Dennis Etchison
By Jeff Baker
A fine writer I know, well-versed in the field of horror, had never heard of Dennis Etchison. This seems to have been a problem for Etchison who was continually being referred to as a “new discovery,” even though he began publishing fiction when he was in school in the early 60s. Etchison published horror stories in the girlie magazines (then a thriving market) about the same time Stephen King was breaking in to print. Etchison passed away at the end of May. I never met him or even spoke to him online but he had a profound effect on my writing career.
In about 1991, I picked up a small paperback called “Masters of Darkness.” An author’s choice anthology, edited by Etchison, which featured stories selected by their authors. Etchison asked the authors to choose a story (“a personal favorite”) and to include a commentary about why they chose the story. That paperback (the first volume of three) featured stories by Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and others, and by the time I finished the book I wanted to write horror stories of my own. The author’s introductions were as much of an inspiration as anything; the look inside the creative life made me want to be part of it.
Volume Three featured Clive Barker’s “In The Hills, The Cities,” one of the first LGBT themed horror stories I had ever read.
Etchison wrote novels, short stories and even adapted stories for the current syndicated radio revival of “The Twilight Zone.”
Etchison did not select a story of his own for “Masters of Darkness,” but he could have. In his introduction to Charles Beaumont’s story “Free Dirt,” in the Beaumont collection “The Howling Man,” Etchison tells of attending a Science Fiction Workshop, taught by Beaumont in 1963 at UCLA. Years later an editor accepted Etchison’s story “Wet Season,” comparing it favorably to Beaumont. So, read any of Etchison’s stories in his memory, but maybe start with “Wet Season.” And, since I didn’t ever get the chance to say it; thanks, Mr. Etchison.
Also, this column must make note of the passing of writer and Blogger Sandra Seamans, whose marketing blog “My Little Corner” http://sandraseamans.blogspot.com/was an invaluable resource for fiction markets for writers (and did include LGBT-inclusive markets.) There is speculation that the blog may be continued. We will keep you posted.
Jeff Baker blogs about writing and reading sci-fi, fantasy and horror and other sundry matters on or around the thirteenth of each month. His non-fiction and reviews have appeared in Lambda Literary Review, and his fiction has appeared on the podcast “Monsters out of the Closet,” among other places. He blogs and posts fiction at his own bloghttps://authorjeffbaker.com/ , and is on Facebook at Jeff Baker, Author. He lives in Wichita, Kansas with his husband Darryl and a lot of books.