Contributor Spotlight: David Demchuk

In Bloodbath (VHS, 1987, director unknown) a lost VHS tape offers footage of a grisly history.

Tell us a little bit about what inspired “Bloodbath (VHS, 1987, director unknown)”? 

The story in part came about because I had noticed in my social media feeds a resurgence in interest in hard-to-find VHS horror films, including direct-to-video films that never made the transition to DVD or Blu-Ray. Some of the films were dubs of dubs and in terrible shape, which somehow only added to their appeal. From there it wasn’t too difficult for me to imagine that footage from someone’s personal horror story might end up on a flea market table somewhere, and that’s when the story took off for me.

What do you hope readers get from reading “Bloodbath (VHS, 1987, director unknown)”? 

It’s mostly a nasty fun story, so I’m hoping they mostly just get creeped out by it. But I am very fond of the friendship between the two young women at its core, and the love of horror that unites them (although each for different reasons). It was also a nice opportunity for me to expand the Bone Mother universe ever so slightly.

How has your time in the Prairies influenced your writing?  

Of course, I was born and raised in Winnipeg in the pre-internet era, so the feeling of flatness and spaciousness and isolation was acute. We were a small city in a vast expanse, a dot on the map disconnected from all the other dots on the map, and I think that sense of remoteness, of living in a city and a community with its own rules and ways of dealing with things is very present in my work. Our main connection to the world beyond us was through movies and books and cable TV, and in particular the US stations that were near the border–KCND in Pembina, WDAZ in Devil’s Lake/Grand Forks, KTHI and KXJB in Fargo, and the PBS station KGFE (now part of the Prairie Public Television network). Some of these stations had locally produced late night chiller thriller shows on the weekend, as well as some creepy movies of the week and afternoon matinees, fuelling my interest in horror throughout my childhood. My other escape was my twice-yearly trip to my grandparent’s farm in Sandy Lake, which has featured prominently in some of my writing as well. 

What do you feel anthologies and short stories accomplish that novellas and novels don’t? 

I find short stories challenging to write. You have very few words in which to create memorable well-realized characters and intriguing conflicts and dilemmas, something that will draw the reader in quickly and then hold them in the story’s grip. Short stories are also a great place to try out new techniques and different approaches, things that may be difficult to sustain in a longer form. Anthologies give readers an opportunity to try out various writers they may not have read before, to sample their writing styles and worldviews; if you find a connection there, you may feel motivated to seek out their other work–other stories or novels or series.

What other work would you like the readers to know about?

I am best known for my two novels: my Giller-nominated debut The Bone Mother, which is a ‘mosaic novel’ inspired largely by Eastern European fairy tales and folklore, and RED X, which is a dark fantasia embracing queerness, horror and monstrosity as it tells of a seductive, ravenous creature taking men from Toronto’s gay village over decades and possibly centuries. 

What are you working on now? What can readers look forward to next? 

I’ve started a new novel about a woman overwhelmed and unmoored by grief, returning to her notoriously haunted childhood summer home looking for answers in the wake of her husband’s recent suicide and her teenaged son’s disappearance. She finds them.

Award-winning author David Demchuk has been writing for print, stage, digital and other media for more than 40 years. His debut horror novel The Bone Mother was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Amazon First Novel Award, the Toronto Book Award, the Kobzar Book Award and a Shirley Jackson Award in the Best Novel category. It won the 2018 Sunburst Award in the Adult Fiction category. His troubling new novel RED X is published by Strange Light, an imprint of Penguin Random House. His short fiction is in the anthologies Fantasmagoriana II (Winnipeg Thin Air Festival), There Is No Death, There Are No Dead (Crystal Lake Publishing) and Alternate Plains (Great Plains Publications).

Alternate Plains: Stories of Prairie Speculative Fiction is available wherever books are sold like Amazon, Chapters Indigo, through our publisher Great Plains Publications, and local booksellers like ours, McNally Robinson Booksellers.

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