Thursday, May 30, 2019

RIP Dennis Etchison (1943-2019)

Author and editor Dennis Etchison, whose finely-wrought, enigmatic tales of psychological horror were some of the best of the 1980s, has died at age 76. Born in Stockton, CA, he had deep roots in the genre and was mentored by writers like Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, and George Clayton Johnson. Etchison didn’t set out to be a horror writer. He has been referred to as a writer of “dark fantasy” or “quiet horror,” and in an interview with journalist Stanley Wiater in the book Dark Dreamers (1990), the author states that he found himself in the horror genre “sort of by accident.” Etchison began writing and publishing science fiction stories in the 1960s, but as the market for short genre fiction changed, he found his work gained more acceptance in the burgeoning horror fiction field of the 1970s.

Etchison is perhaps best described as a horror writer's horror writer: while prolific, he never achieved mainstream name recognition, but he was very highly respected by virtually every other horror writer working in the '80s and '90s. I discovered Etchison while I was still in high school with a copy of Red Dreams given to me by an aunt who also enjoyed horror paperbacks. However I was more taken at the time by his editorial skills; his 1986 anthology Cutting Edge was filled with mature, challenging, utterly weird and sometimes graphically violent stories by some of the best writers working then. Later I would become enamored of Etchison's unique talents when I read his first short story collection, 1984's Dark Country.

Etchison wrote novels like Shadow Man and California Gothic for the Dell Abyss line. A lifelong movie buff, Etchison studied film in college, and later produced many novelizations for horror films, including several Halloweens, Carpenter's Fog, and Cronenberg's Videodrome (under the pseudonym Jack Martin, which was also the name of one of his recurring protagonists). He assisted Stephen King with film references in King's classic 1981 nonfiction study Danse Macabre. His expert editorial skills were seen again in Masters of Darkness (1986-91) and MetaHorror (1992).

In the early 1990s Etchison was president of the Horror Writers Association. In later years he continued to write and adapted Rod Serling's original Twilight Zone scripts into radio dramas. Often nominated for various genre awards, he won many for his short fiction, and in 2016 was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the HWA. He was also, going by the remembrances on social media, a heckuva guy who will be much missed by the horror community.

Dennis Etchison 
(March 30, 1943 – May 28, 2019)


John said...

Sad news. I read a lot of his work in the 80's and 90's. A very good writer.

J.P. Choquette said...

I'm sorry to hear of this but happy to find a new author to check out. How did I live so long without hearing of this writer? His books look really intriguing...especially the creepy doll one! Thanks for the post!

Zwolf said...

Ah, man, I hate to hear this. So many of the old guard are going. Etchison was one of the greats.