Posts Tagged ‘sanitarium’

THE REJECTED FOR CONTENT PHENOMENON

Now that the doors to the Sanitarium have been opened wide and the fifth volume of the Rejected For Content series is out in the world, spreading insanity far and wide, I figured it was time to have a little retrospective into the Rejected For Content phenomenon.

What is Rejected For Content?

Well, unless you’ve been living on the moon, or under a rock, or in some other way out of the loop, chances are you may have heard of it. Although it is perfectly viable that you haven’t heard of it at all; after all, the phenomenon isn’t exactly something aimed at all audiences. It isn’t something normal folk who don’t have a penchant for the extreme would be inclined to seek out or investigate.

So what is it? Quite simply it started out as a simple discussion, a notion, an idea to create a place where those stories deemed too offensive, objectionable, disturbing or horrific for various reasons to be published by the majority of publishers could find themselves a home. Essentially, it was to become a suitable outlet for tales that had been, or were likely to be, rejected on the grounds of content.

A small collective of authors were originally involved in the general banter which soon switched from mere discussion to plans and suggestions for a specific anthology. These folk included the likes of Catt Dahman, Scott Essel Pratt, Michael Fisher, Amanda Lyons, Mark Woods and myself. A conversation was mostly revolving around extreme horror and during the course of it I was making mention of the fact that I had a story submitted somewhere that I was pretty sure was going to be rejected on the basis of its content. That story, House of the Goat Monster, was later actually accepted for the publication I’d submitted it to (Ghosts: An Anthology of Horror From the Beyond) and more recently has resurfaced in Dual Depravity Volume One, but from that off-hand remark sprang the discussion that led to the creation of Rejected For Content. Michael Fisher knocked up a cover concept, a call for submissions was opened up and the wheels were set in motion.

It was bold, it was an experimental venture, it was risky, it was a gamble. And it dropped at the perfect time. Into a sea of readers keen to be launched into realms of extremity. This was only a mere couple of years ago.

Extreme horror was not new then by any means; it’s been around for a long time indeed, but its popularity was, and still is, continuing to rise. Folks love the extreme, they dig it, they want to be immersed in it and they can’t get enough of it, and though different things, fads, whatever you want to call them, are going to shift in and out of fashion, extreme horror has entrenched itself solidly and it’s not about to go away any time soon. And what’s more, those stories that were getting knocked back by publishers on the grounds of content that mere couple of years ago, would now stand a much better chance of getting published by those same publications that shied away from them in the first place. Because extreme horror sells. People want it. They crave it. They love it.

The submissions flowed in for Rejected For Content, and they ran the gamut from subtle to outright shockingly gruesome, displaying just how many different levels there are to the concept. What is, or should be, rejected on the basis of the content, doesn’t essentially require it to be an utter bloodbath or a murky mire of depravity and perversion, it can simply be something that is disturbing and disquieting through suggestion alone, enough to make your mind conjure up worse things than what’s already been spilled on the pages.

Catt Dahman helmed this first volume (which later ended up with the subtitle Splattergore), while I assisted and advised with stories, and chased bios and things along those lines. There were no theme limits (and even to this day, despite the various subtitles that were attached to ensuing volumes, Rejected For Content remains an open theme venture), which meant folks were free to run wild with their imaginations, or of course, submit those stories that had been knocked back from other places, whatever they happened to be about. Horror, bizarro, erotica, or even some strange melange of all the above were perfectly acceptable and continue to be.

And surprise, surprise, the audacious gamble paid off. Readers loved the concept, they loved the inclusion of the rejection letters with each author’s contribution, they loved to be frightened, horrified, appalled, disturbed…all those things horror should make the reader feel.

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http://smarturl.it/RejectedForContent

However, the purpose of Rejected For Content wasn’t a solitary one. It was multi-fold.

Not only was RFC intended to become a home for those difficult to place outlandish, shocking stories with their desire to approach the unapproachable or to delve into topics and material few would be game to consider, it was a place where these stories could convey messages despite the often outrageous content. These weren’t just tales designed to shock for the sake of shock, or to be explicit and ultra-violent just in order to be extreme, they carried an undercurrent of commentary and societal reflections within their grisly or provocative trappings, things to make you ponder and contemplate. Unfortunately there are those who misconstrue writing extreme horror as an excuse to spill buckets of blood or plumb the depths of perversion without bothering to anchor any semblance of a story to it, but that wasn’t the case here.

On top of that RFC served as a place where new and upcoming writers could have an opportunity to get a foot in the door. Publishing might be a hell of a lot easier in some contexts to get into these days, at least in comparison to several decades ago (when I first had a bash at getting work published), but there are still certain expectations, levels of writing, all manner of things to consider and it’s tough for new writers to try and crack. Easier doesn’t mean easy. So with that in mind, RFC also existed to allow some exposure to be spotlighted on some of these folks. In some ways it also served as a launching pad of sorts for several, some who have managed to crop up prevalently over the whole course of the series, some who appeared in perhaps just the one volume. After all, repeating the same table of contents (at least in terms of author names) wouldn’t allow for anything fresh, or new names to appear. Naturally there are multiple repeat offenders and a rare few have the distinction of appearing in every single volume thus far.

This inaugural volume featured tales from many of those involved in the original discussions, including Essel Pratt, Michael Fisher, Mark Woods and yours truly as well as introducing the likes of Toneye Eyenot and featuring some truly worthy pieces from folks like Jason Hughes and Kevin MacLeod.

After the surprise success of Splattergore-or perhaps it wasn’t such a surprise, since it was a unique concept dropped right amidst the scene in all its filthy, shocking, brutal and jarring glory that folks were keen to embrace-it was a given that a follow-up book would be planned. Midway through the process of this was when I took over the series (which is why I also have a story appearing in said book-I’d already written it with RFC2 in mind and had it accepted) and again, the tales creeping in for this one were a wildly diverse bunch that covered all bases, from the quietly disturbing to the brutally affronting. Writers embraced the concept with whole-hearted gruesome glee and readers did likewise. Once more, and as it always will be, the theme was wide open to interpretation, meaning if you had a story that was likely to be rejected because of the content or already had been previously, no matter what it was about, then it was a potential fit for what I later termed the Aberrant Menagerie. A zoo full of freakish exhibits, a collection of the unusual and the horrifying.

The same template established in the first volume, the same reasons for existing, the same ideology was present in Rejected For Content 2. Rejection letters, actual or otherwise creatively conjured up, would be part of the book and have become one of those quirky little aspects that have vastly appealed to readers and are here for the duration.

More importantly though, the stories carried messages, cautionary concepts or presented ideas and notions designed not to just horrify you, but to make you think. Again, there were opportunities for new and upcoming writers to join the RFC brigade. A blend of established inkslingers and unknowns delivered stories essentially deemed unfit to be published on the grounds of content. Nothing was taboo here. Censoring horror is counterproductive and unnecessary sanitization of a genre which, as its very name suggests, should be horrific. It should invoke feelings of dread, or fear, apprehension, terror, even disgust and shock. Which probably explains a little of the success of the series. There are no boxes here to try and fit in, no stone left unturned, no dark corner which can’t be explored, no layers that can’t be sliced and peeled away.

There weren’t just stories here, there were works of poetry (the first volume also contained poems), displaying that less words, or shorter entities could convey just as much of those requisite sensations experienced when reading these books as lengthier stories could.

Toneye Eyenot, Essel Pratt and Amanda Lyons (who are the only three recidivists with the distinction of being in each book of the whole series to date) resurfaced in the Aberrant Menagerie; we had names such as Christine Morgan and Michael Noe dipping into depths of depravity.

The Aberrant Menagerie opened for business in April of 2015 and remains in the top 100 Horror Anthologies today, albeit dropping out now and then, only to resurface with renewed venom and vigour.

rejected2

http://smarturl.it/RFC2

Given the fact that the first book and the second one appeared in 2014 and 2015 respectively, one might assume that the ensuing volume would surface in the following year, but in the grand scheme of things, the span of time between the two wasn’t exactly one whole year. What was more, folks wanted more. No, they needed more. Craved more. Which brings us to Rejected For Content 3: Vicious Vengeance.

This beast also marked the beginning of something of a new trend in the series, where a themed subtitle presented more focus on specific subject matter, at least loosely. To begin with, this wasn’t a conscious decision. Like the two predecessors, RFC3 wasn’t given any title until after I’d compiled the stories and pieced the book together, but it was as I was going through the various submissions that I noticed a high proportion of them received for this call revolved around themes of revenge and vengeance. While the whole concept of Rejected For Content remained open theme, this high occurrence of vengeful tales meant the opus pretty much named itself.

Some very familiar faces made themselves known yet again with Toneye Eyenot, who up until this point had been a regular contributor of poetry, unleashing a stunning story of brutal vengeance to open proceedings and set the scene for what was to follow in a deluge of darkness. Powerhouses K. Trap Jones and The Sisters of Slaughter (Michelle Garza & Melissa Lason) were on-board for this too with tales to eviscerate and decimate, as were a host of newcomers who brought all kinds of weird and wonderful to the table, from more subtly nuanced pieces to the utter gory filth we love at RFC, albeit once more with multiple layers to each composition. Some of these names such as Brent Lorentson, G. Zimmerman and Matthew Weber would return in later volumes, penning truly intriguing stories that most definitely belonged in the establishment known as Rejected For Content.

Michael Fisher, the man responsible for the artwork of both previous volumes was back to create the cover for this one too, with the dark greys, browns and blacks of those two supplanted here by striking blue/purples and bright bold red.

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http://smarturl.it/Rejected3

 

Nine months after the release of Vicious Vengeance, another bestial, bloody, hellish RFC baby was spawned. This entity built on the foundations laid in volume three and went one further, by actually having a subtitle set in place prior to the book being put together. This was courtesy of cover artist Michael Fisher who was playing around with ideas for a future RFC cover and created one with the subtitle to match. Thus, Highway to Hell was born.

This time, despite keeping the overall theme as an open one, I made mention of the fact that I would be specifically seeking for some of the submissions to address this subtitle in some way, however folks chose to interpret that or involve some highway to hell, actual or metaphorical, was completely up to them. Plenty of sanguinary scribes rose to the occasion and delivered all manner of good stuff, from a literal walk through hell, to suggestions of mental hells, to folks whose deeds meant they would surely be guaranteed a berth in any perceived hell. Splatterpunk scribes such as David Owain Hughes, John Ledger, K. Trap Jones and others brought the extreme, newcomer Eric LaRocca brought one of the most intriguing stories we’ve seen to date, T.S. Woolard shredded souls with a short, sharp gut-punch of a tale and the whole volume itself made for one hell of a fucked up road trip into the pit (both mental and actual). A blend of seasoned pros and fresh faces was again the order of the day, the same ideals of strong stories with more than just shock factor were present and accounted for.

rfc4cover

http://smarturl.it/Rejected4

Which finally brings us to where we’re at in the series now. The recently released Rejected For Content 5: Sanitarium. By now, the template where we have a subtitle prior to the open call, has been set in place, so while an open theme policy remains consistent, a focus on stories which in some way, no matter how tenuous, adhere to that whole Sanitarium idea, was encouraged. This meant I wanted tales of craziness, insanity, institutions, folks who should be incarcerated in them or whose actions meant they’d end up there sooner or later. And that was precisely what I got, in all kinds of lurid interpretations. The creativity and imaginations of folks out there is astounding, brilliant and captivating, and it’s always fascinating to give these people a simple focal point and see just how differently they all choose to approach it. Consequently, while Rejected For Content will always stay as an open themed entity (not sure I’ve said that often enough in this whole look back on the phenomenon, so best to say it once more), the whole notion of putting a subtitle to the book beforehand or pointing out that I’ll be after a proportion of stories related in some manner to said subtitle gives people something to focus on. Their interpretation, how they elect to approach it or whether they even want to adhere to it at all is all part of the fun, and one of the things that makes Rejected For Content so vibrant, fresh and so much fun to be involved with.

So when the doors to the Sanitarium finally cracked open, there was insanity abounding. Old hands at this Rejected For Content business were lurking in the corridors and new inmates were ushered in and shown to their rooms, where it was either going to be a case of straitjackets or lobotomies. K. Trap Jones, Essel Pratt, Toneye Eyenot booked themselves padded cells, and we welcomed back repeat offenders such as Brent Lorentson, G. Zimmerman and David Owain Hughes, while newcomers J.L Lane, Tamara Fey Turner and Mark Nye brought their own special breeds of insanity.

I coined the simple phrase Get Rejected a while back in the series, and this time I added Go Insane to that. It was fair to say that all those who were admitted to the Sanitarium certainly did that. In fact, they should all be institutionalised.

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http://smarturl.it/rfcsanitarium

So, where to from here when it comes to Rejected For Content? Well, you will all have to wait and see, but there are most definitely plenty of plans and plenty of places we have yet to go. I can’t foresee this wrapping up any time soon. I love Rejected For Content and at this point in time, there’s no end in sight. In fact, soon I might be calling on fans of the series to be involved in various future endeavours. For now, be sure to check in to the Sanitarium and catch up on the latest installment. And wonder just where we’re going to end up next.

 

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