Friday, October 21, 2011
The Mushrooms by Gregory L. Norris
I grew up in an enchanted cottage near a big woods in the town of Windham, New Hampshire. A lot of wonderful circumstances like that house, those woods, contributed to me becoming the writer I am today. But another factor truly added flavor to the recipe, and its influence still affects me, some 30 years after the fact.
Creature Double-Feature, broadcast every Saturday on WLVI-Channel 56 out of Boston, was a weekly staple of my boyhood life. One of the event-viewing must-sees tossed into the movie rotation was the ultra-creepy 1963 Japanese import, Matango -- known in these parts as Attack of the Mushroom People. In Attack, doomed party goers on a yacht get stranded on a mysterious island where there is nothing to eat save mushrooms...only the mushrooms, which produce a trilling laugh that still crawls over my flesh when I imagine it all these years later, are quite hungry themselves. I vividly remember the chill that worked below my skin when the lone escapee, when questioned, turns to his interviewers in those final seconds of the movie, the half of his face being eaten alive by fungus unseen until that moment, and shrieks, "I ate them!" Also, of playing in the woods in the later afternoon following the double-feature -- but not for long because my barely-contained panic in the living room was running fairly free in the lush green glens just across the road following that terrible Fade Out.
I watched the movie in 2008 for the first time in decades while under a horrific deadline for a novel, and icy fingers tickled my spine as effectively then as when I was a kid. The same autumn, an ugly encounter with another writer schooled me on the dangers of professional jealousy in any creative field. The two factors collided, and the idea for "The Mushrooms" was spawned.
"The Mushrooms," my novella of roughly 20,000 words, was released this week in Grand Mal Press's beautiful quadruple-threat collection, Mal Contents. My contribution follows Sunny Weir, a successful and visible chef-lebrity who is celebrating the latest highlights of her career when she is savagely attacked by a crazed wannabe convinced that Sunny has stolen a cherished family recipe. The wannabe, who applied to the reality cooking show upon which Sunny serves as judge, will go to any length to finish what she starts on the fateful night when Sunny's chest runs into the wannabe's knife -- even if it means completing the bloodshed from beyond the grave.
GMP showrunner Ryan Thomas approached me in early 2011 to contribute a novella to the then-unnamed project, which was operating loosely under a theme of Revenge and Redemption. I wrote two for Ryan, unable to put either story down once started (the second, "Nightmare Near Highway 101," will appear in my forthcoming collection by EJP, The Fierce and Unforgiving Muse). But I have quite the fondness for Sunny Weir and sympathy for the predicament she finds herself in after her attacker corners her, forcing Sunny to fight for her life in a kitchen competition unlike any other. To read "The Mushrooms" as well as the three fantastic novellas penned by Ryan, Randy Chandler, and David T. Wilbanks, be sure to pick up a copy of Mal Contents.