Back in 2011, during this keynote speech, I proposed that there were five “waves” of horror fiction. Later that year, I proposed that the genre was now seeing the emergence of the sixth wave. And we are. So I thought it was time we took a look at some of them. This is the first entry in a new ongoing series here spotlighting the men and women making up the best of that sixth wave, beginning with one of my absolute favorites, Nate Southard.
Nate’s writing is perhaps best described as having pulp-sensibilities with a literary flourish. His voice is unique. I’ve seen critics cite echoes of myself, Joe R. Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, and Norman Partridge as influences on him, all of which are true, but he sounds like none of us. He is not the next Brian Keene, the next Joe Lansdale, the next Jack Ketchum, or the next Norman Partridge. He is the first Nate Southard. And that is a very exciting thing to be, and an even more exciting thing for you, the reader.
Nate first gained notice with his graphic novels Drive and A Trip to Rundberg (both now out of print). He’s gone on to be a prominent part of the Sixth Wave, and one of it’s most popular and distinctive voices. What follows is a primer of his currently available work.
Let’s start off with my favorite of Nate’s work. Just Like Hell is the perfect introduction for those who’ve not yet read him. Don’t let the garish cover fool you. Yes, it’s a brutal read, but the brutality is on an emotional level akin to Jack Ketchum’s seminal The Girl Next Door. Indeed, that’s what I’ve compared this book to before, and I stand by the comparison. I firmly believe that in 15 years, Just Like Hell will be just as influential and spoken of with the same reverence as Ketchum’s classic.
Red Sky is part hard-boiled crime novel, part siege novel, and part vampire novel. Along the way, it manages to take each of those tropes and completely knock them on their ass, delivering a fresh, exciting spin, and a lightening-paced read. If you want me to classify it in pop culture terms, think Breaking Bad and Reservoir Dogs meets Simon Clark’s Vampyrrhic with the claustrophobic elements of Alien 3. Yeah. You know you want it.
I suspect that it might be a right of passage for writers of the Sixth Wave to have to try their hands at a zombie novel. I also suspect that this is probably my fault. Scavengers is Nate Southard’s zombie novel, and it is an excellent one. Based on his out-of-print graphic novel, A Trip to Rundberg, Scavengers is everything that’s right about the zombie genre — a solid, plot-driven tale with superb human characterization. It doesn’t try to do something “new and daring”. There are no telepathic zombies or zombie mosquitoes or zombies fighting Bigfoots. Instead, there’s a competent, well-written zombie novel that is instantly familiar and yet still entertains in spades.
Something Went Wrong is Nate’s first short story collection. Previously only available as an expensive limited edition hardcover, it is now available as an affordable Kindle edition. In addition to Just Like Hell (mentioned above) this another excellent introductory books for those new to Nate’s work. The breadth and variety of these stories is stunning, especially given that they are the work of a writer still relatively new in his career. Horrific, engaging, and crackling with one awesome idea after another, everything is right with Something Went Wrong. Recommended!
A confession – I haven’t read this one yet, although it’s next on my pile (after I finish Warren Ellis’s Gun Machine). Here’s the plot summary: In 1992, The Frequency Brothers board a plane following a sold out concert in Austin, Texas. The plan is to fly to New York to shoot their next video. But then their plane goes down. Injured and stranded in a seemingly endless forest, The Frequency Brothers now find themselves fighting for survival. Everywhere they look, they see signs that they are not alone, that something waits in the darkness. They can hear it, and it sounds angry. There’s something else out there, though. Something much worse. And it wants to drag them Down.