SPAWN: WEIRD HORROR TALES ABOUT PREGNANCY, BIRTH AND BABIES
WINNER of the Australian Shadows Award “Best Edited Work 2021”.
Nominated for the Aurealis Award “Best Anthology 2021”.
WINNER of the Australian Shadows “Best Short Fiction” category for “A Good Big Brother” by Matt Tighe.
Nominated twice in “Best Horror Short Story” Aurealis Award for “Sins of the Mother” by Tracie McBride, and “Mother Dandelion” by Antoinette Rydyr.
Nominated for the Ditmar Best Short Story for “A Good Big Brother” by Matt Tighe.
IFWG Publishing Australia published my anthology 3 May 2021.
A selection of the darkest Australian fiction.
Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies taps into anxieties, painful memories and nightmares. Here, your worst fears come true.
Penned by established authors and fresh new voices, these stories range from the gothic and phantasmagorical, through the demonic and supernatural, to the dystopian and sci-fi.
Prepare for a visceral, frightening read.
An Aurealis Magazine TOP PICK of 2021.
Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies comprises stories from Australian writers obtained via commission and open callout.
I’m absolutely delighted to share the TOC:
“A Good Big Brother” – Matt Tighe
“Sins of the Mother” – Tracie McBride
“Beneath the Cliffs of Darknoon Bay” – Rebecca Fraser
“Mother Dandelion” – Antoinette Rydyr
“Family Unit” – Sean Williams
“The Still Warm” – Paul Mannering
“The Hot-and-Cold Girl” – Samantha Murray
“Expel the Darkness” – Robyn O’Sullivan
“My Sweet Porcupette” – Geraldine Borella
“Hair and Teeth” (reprint) – Deborah Sheldon
“Mother Diamond” – Janeen Webb
“The Remarkable Compass for Finding the Departed” – Charles Spiteri
“Empty Bellies” – Ash Tudor
“A Rose for Becca” (reprint) – Jason Fischer
“Grieving the Spirit” – Jack Dann
“A Sense of Belonging” – Mark Towse
“Gravid” – JM Merryt
“Motherdoll” – HK Stubbs
“The Red Shrine (Fingerless and Double-mouthed)” – Kaaron Warren
“The Phobia Clinic” – David Kuraria
“The Surrogate” – Renee De Visser
“Saturday Night at the Milk Bar” (reprint) – Gary Kemble
“The River is Deep” – Kat Pekin
WHERE TO BUY
My anthology is available from brick-and-mortar bookshops in Australasia, North America, Europe (plus other places), and also from various online bookstores including Amazon.
Paperback: Amazon US, Amazon AUS
Ebook: Amazon US, Amazon AUS
AUREALIS MAGAZINE (#146) “REVIEWERS’ PICKS: BEST SPEC-FIC BOOKS OF 2021”
Includes Spawn. The review listing states: “There’s a strangeness about this collection of short stories that’s compelling, almost morish, and draws on an awful sense of knowing pain. The tiny atrocities that Deborah Sheldon collected from the far stretches of Australia make this a wonderful addition to all manner of horror and weird fiction shelves.”
EXAMPLES OF READER REVIEWS
Steven Paulsen, 5/5 – This is a Fantastic anthology! I delayed writing a review for this book because I wanted to comment on the individual stories. I made notes. I re-read stories. I thought about it… But pretty soon I realised I was planning a long article and frankly I just don’t have the time. So let me just say I loved this book because (a) the stories were all top class, (b) the diversity of takes on the theme were amazing, and (c) I devoured the book, I couldn’t put it down.
So many anthologies today are made up of stories by writers that are invited to contribute. That’s not to say they’re bad, on the contrary many are excellent. But in the case of this book, the editor and publisher put out an open call to writers except for three solicited stories. That approach meant that there was a huge number of submissions by writers new and established. But the result, based on the editor’s work, is a collection of stories that are diverse, challenging, entertaining, and thought provoking. There’s not a ‘bad’ story in the book.
The theme/title, rather than constraining, as some potential readers might assume, has produced a collection of stories that are horrific, heart rending, and mind blowing. From my point of view, this anthology is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for lovers of horror, weird, surreal, fantastic, bizarre, and science fiction stories.
Rebecca Fraser, 5/5 – Sometimes anthologies can be a little hit and miss: some stories you love, others not so much. This was absolutely not the case with Spawn. Without exception, I enjoyed each and every story, and was seriously impressed at not only the quality of writing, but the varied and creative interpretations of the central theme. Some of the authors contributing to Spawn are household names in Australian horror, and others are voices I was grateful to discover. All in all, this is one heck of an impressive anthology! Kudos to editor, Deb Sheldon, for gathering together a diversity of quality stories you’ll want to read with the lights on, and remember long after you’ve switched them off.
(Disclaimer: I have a story ‘Beneath the Cliffs of Darknoon Bay’ included in this anthology, however this in no way influenced my impression of the publication).
Allen James, 5/5 – The books inspiration, all about reproduction, got the best out of the writers. I loved all the different kinds of stories. It was amazing to me to see the range of stories people came up with. If you love horror i would highly recommend this book.
Dani Ringrose, 5/5 – What an unsettling and delightful collection. Has helped me along the way incorporating more body horror into my writing, and now I wish this collection was being pitched after the draft of my last piece! The stories I preferred more focused on the specific body horror of pregnancy and childbirth, but that’s just my weirdo personal preference. Standouts were The Still Warm, Hair and Teeth (even the title had me from the start), A Sense of Belonging, Mother Doll, and The Red Shrine. Looking forward to tracking down some further work from these authors, and keeping an eye on any more anthologies Sheldon edits in the future.
GINGER NUTS OF HORROR “BEHIND THE SCENES” SERIES
What inspires horror stories? Throughout April 2021, Ginger Nuts of Horror published a four-part “Behind the Scenes” series for Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies, edited by yours truly. The series includes insightful and candid essays by most of the contributors.
- Part One – editor Deborah Sheldon, Matt Tighe, Tracie McBride, Rebecca Fraser, and Antoinette Rydyr.
- Part Two – Sean Williams, Paul Mannering, Samantha Murray, Robyn O’Sullivan, and Geraldine Borella.
- Part Three – Janeen Webb, Charles Spiteri, Ash Tudor, Jason Fischer, Jack Dann, and Mark Towse.
- Part Four – J.M. Merryt, H.K. Stubbs, Kaaron Warren, David Kuraria, and Renee De Visser.
AUREALIS MAGAZINE REVIEW (#140)
Who knew that a great conglomerate of dark minds and their equally dark thoughts lay in wait in obscure corners of Australia? Spawn: Weird Horror Tales about Pregnancy, Birth and Babies showcases Australian weird fiction and horror writers as they challenge the traditionally notions of pregnancy, birth and babies, with technological atrocities, monsters, aliens and long-forgotten curses.
Inside the eerie cover is Matt Tighe’s devastating ‘A Good Big Brother’ that shows how life must go on despite the zombies beyond the gate. The post-apocalyptic ‘Mother Dandelion’ by Antoinette Rydyr ponders just how far the human race will go to continue its existence. Sean William offers a disturbing modern take on a Frankenstein-esque tale in ‘Family Unit’. There’s also the surreal and unnatural motherhood of Ava in Tracie McBride’s ‘Sins of the Mother’, and vampires are all of a sudden far too real in ‘Saturday Night at the Milk Bar’ by Gary Kemble.
Deborah Sheldon, as the editor of this brooding collection of short stories, has searched across Australia to fill a book with disturbing visions of parenthood. Sheldon proposes Spawn to spawn further collections, hoping to feast on even more disturbed minds from Australia, Australasia and the world. This collection comes with a clear trigger warning: anyone who’s lost a child through pregnancy or birth may find the stories troubling, because, well, they are a troublesome bunch. Spawn is a book for that time in your life when you make it into the family realm and look back at what couldn’t have been. It evokes a gratitude for the family one has in the light of all the foreboding families one could have had. [Tamantha Smith]
I haven’t had many opportunities in recent years to get acquainted with the work of Australian horror writers, whose names (with the exception of editor Deborah Sheldon, Jack Dann, Kaaron Warren, and Sean Williams, who are among the contributors to the present anthology) are mostly unknown to me. Which is a shame because, as this book proves, there are many Australian authors deserving a wider recognition beyond their country’s borders.
The volume collects twenty-three stories addressing the unusual theme in a variety of angles, atmospheres, and tones. Commenting upon each single tale is clearly impossible, hence I will mention the ones which seem the more accomplished.
“A Good Big Brother” by Matt Tighe is a tense, apocalyptic story where people are transformed by a mysterious disease, and a young boy must learn how to protect his mother and his baby brother.
“The Still Warm” by Paul Mannering is a powerful example of graphic horror portraying the horrible fate of a pregnant woman surviving a hanging and finding herself buried alive inside a coffin.
The unsettling “Beneath the Cliffs of Darknoon Bay” by Rebecca Fraser takes place in the lonesome atmosphere of a lighthouse and depicts how the sheer madness of a pregnant woman gets tragically loose.
Robyn O’ Sullivan’s “Expel the Darkness” is the vivid description of an ill-fated pregnancy ending with a terrifying labor at home, while Deborah Sheldon’s “Hair and Teeth” is a disquieting tale of medical horror featuring a woman with uterine troubles.
In the well-crafted “Mother Diamond” by Janeen Webb a woman is haunted in many ways by the spirit of her late, domineering mother.
Charles Spiteri contributes “The Remarkable Compass for Finding the Departed”, a gentle, sad but disturbing tale revolving around a restless stillborn child, while JM Merryt pens “Gravid”, a dark, subtly unnerving fairy tale (contrary to what the narrator declares…)
All in all, an interesting anthology of horror fiction, graced by some little gems apt to effectively entertain and disquiet the reader. – Mario Guslandi
“As physical beings that can experience pain, mutilation, deformation, suffering and death at any moment, we’re not safe. Not ever. Horror fiction – in particular, body horror – digs into this fear of vulnerability in a way that other genres cannot match.”
– Deborah Sheldon, Introduction
I won Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies, a collection of short horror stories, in a book giveaway by Horror Tree. I was drawn to the cover as soon as I saw it, as well as the title, and I admit to saving the giveaway link on my phone so I could enter daily for the best chance to win. I was thrilled when I received the news that I’d won, and I was equally as excited to receive an email from author and editor of the collection Deborah Sheldon with the link to my copy.
Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies was released on May 3, 2021, weighing in at a healthy 266 pages, and was published by IFWG Publishing.
This collection of Australian dark horror is based off Sheldon’s 2018 story “Hair and Teeth,” which is also featured in this collection. Three bestselling Australian authors, Jack Dann, Kaaron Warren, and Sean Williams were commissioned to write stories for the anthology, and the rest came from an open callout to other Australian horror authors. Spawn is intended to be a trilogy, and after reading it I’m anxious to see what’s next. This first collection will wow you with sci-fi, dystopian, gothic, phantasmagorical, supernatural, occult, and demon tales. Buckle up.
Having two children of my own, and having experienced a series of infertility procedures and two C-sections, I was able to relate in some ways emotionally and physically to quite a few stories in this collection. Each author brings something to the table, whether it’s about conception, pregnancy, birth, post-partum, or surrogacy. I’d give a few more subjects, but I don’t want to give away anything from any of these delightful and horrific stories. I will say as a Kafka fan, I was pleased with this collection.
While reading, I had moments of disgust, awe, sadness, and shock. I cringed. I grimaced. I loved it. I enjoyed all of the different types of stories. Not one is similar to another, and that brings such a smorgasbord of delights and horrors. Just when you think you know what is happening in some of these tales, the authors surprise you and make your jaw drop. You’ll find yourself wondering how common some of the occurrences might be, and you’ll be glad others are so fantastical. Kudos to Sheldon for putting together such an intriguing collection. I’ve been a fan of Australian horror for a while, and I’m excited to add more horror voices to my list thanks to this collection. – Robin Knabel