StokerCon & Silver Hammers

This last weekend was a whirlwind of activities, panels, and readings. The pandemic has affected many things over the last 15 months, and StokerCon 2021 was one of those things. Through a truly massive effort on the part of co-chairs Brian W. Matthews and James Chambers, StokerCon shifted to a virtual platform in a matter of just a couple of months. It was an impressive feat.

During StokerCon, I was lucky enough to take part in three prerecorded panels: From Poetry to Fiction and Vice Versa, Reinventing the Classics, and HWA Chapters: What They Do and How to Start One. I also moderated the readings by two guests of honor: Lisa Morton and Seanan McGuire. And, before I knew it, the  Bram Stoker Awards® presentation hit the schedule Saturday night. Normally, I enjoy the awards as a spectator there to cheer for the finalists. This time, it was a little different.

A couple of months back, I was notified that I was won the Silver Hammer Award alongside Brian W. Matthews. This is the first year there have been two recipients of this award since 1997 when it was given to Lawrence Watt-Evans and Robert Weinberg. With the truly massive amount work Brian dedicates to HWA (StokerCon co-chair in 2019 Grand Rapids, 2021 virtual, and 2022 Denver), he represents the epitome of dedication and devotion in his efforts to shine a light on the best horror has to offer. However, I have to admit that winning an award for my own volunteer efforts threw me for a loop. The entire experience of recording an acceptance speech and writing something for the souvenir anthology was somewhat surreal.

Every single minute I’ve spent volunteering for the HWA has been a minute well spent. It is rewarding work, and I find great joy in contributing to an organization dedicated to providing a safe and supportive space for members. I’m grateful to be a part of this creative and compassionate community.

Carina Bissett, StokerCon 2021 Souvenir Anthology: The Phantom Denver Edition

The Silver Hammer Award is periodically given to “an HWA volunteer who has done a truly massive amount of work for the organization, often unsung and behind the scenes. It was instituted in 1996, and is decided by a vote of HWA’s Board of Trustees.” Since I won the HWA Scholarship in 2016, I’ve volunteered annually as a member of both Stoker and Scholarship juries. In 2020, I started work on the HWA Membership Committee and worked alongside Hillary Dodge to create the Colorado Springs Chapter of HWA. I also helped with StokerCon 2021 as the Sponsorship Coordinator. The work in itself has always been rewarding, and I look forward to many more years of service in supporting this organization that has given me so much.

One of my favorite parts of the virtual conference was that I was able to see everyone’s panels and all of the author readings. So often during a physical conference, I’m forced to pick and choose. For my own reading, I shared “Twice in the Telling,” a mashup of the murder ballad “The Twa Sisters” and the fairy tale “The Water Nixie.” I was lucky enough to have this story included in the anthology Upon a Twice Time, which is now available from Air and Nothingness Press. Best of all, I was able to see comments from attendees who stopped by to listen to my reading.

To say the weekend was important to me would be an understatement. Even though we were not able to be together at a physical conference, I was happy that I had the opportunity to see and speak with friends-old and new-at the virtual conference. The entire experience has been an amazing one, and I’ve learned a little more about myself along the way.

Anthology Announcement & an Open Call

I’ve been working on a project for a couple of months now, and I decided that May 1st was the perfect day to formally announce it. After all, May Day is the halfway point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. I happen to like the liminal space measured in halfway points. And although May Day has a connection to the alignment of the stars, it is also deeply rooted in agriculture and the earth. It turns out both the stars and the land link to cartography, which provides the underlying connections in the upcoming anthology Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas.

This project is the brainchild of myself and my fellow editors Hillary Dodge and Josh Viola. The cover art was created by the award-winning artist Aaron Lovett, who will also be completing original interior art for the individual stories as well. Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas is scheduled to be published in October 2021 by Hex Publishers. And yes, there will be an open call for authors and poets interested in submitting. (More about that later.)

From the very beginning, we decided that this was not going to be a conventional anthology. We were steadfast in reserving spots for an open submission call. We knew we wanted a strong representation of dark poetry alongside short fiction. And we were determined to have a table of contents dominated by women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized and underrepresented voices.

When sending out invitations for Shadow Atlas, we were able to bring together authors and poets from various subgenres existing under the umbrella of speculative fiction to create a unique discourse examining the American continents through a multi-faceted lens. It’s truly been a remarkable experience to see the ways this diversity adds to the exploration of these lands and all they encompass. Interspersed throughout the anthology, nonfiction “field notes” bring in additional narratives focused on location-based cryptids, haunted sightings, lost cities, mysterious forces, and the layered textuality of peoples past and present.

Our current list of confirmed contributors includes Mario Acevedo,
Kay Chronister, Sara Cleto & Brittany Warman (The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic), Sean Eads, Warren Hammond, Angie Hodapp, Gwendolyn Kiste, Josh Malerman, Lee Murray, Annie Neugebauer, Cynthia Pelayo, Gerardo Horacio Porcayo, Sarah Read, Julia Rios, Betty Rocksteady, Angela Yuriko Smith, Christina Sng, Jeanne C. Stein, Tim Waggoner, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Mercedes M. Yardley, Jane Yolen, E. Lily Yu, and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro.

Pretty cool, isn’t it?

The open call will be held from June 21 to June 27, 2021. Anything sent BEFORE or AFTER these dates will be deleted unread. If you want to get a jump start on your submission, here is a bit about the theme:

Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas will be a collection of dark tales intrinsically rooted in the places from which they’ve sprung. We seek haunting and folkloric tales where setting is character and landscape is an essential part of the story. We want stories that draw from the wellspring of cultural destinations and local folklore in their shaping – most especially, stories that are tied to a specific and concrete location. This can include places that never existed, or those with connections created by the author, but they must take place in South America. Original tales, mash-ups, and new takes on known folkloric elements/cryptids/legends are all welcome.

There is an old saying that wisdom sits in places. Open an atlas across the Americas, and you will soon discover this knowledge hidden in fragments of shared memory marked on maps. The ancient peoples knew which areas to avoid, which spirits to appease. Later, invasive superstitions from far-flung countries seeded into the landscape. In order to survive, newcomers learned the cautionary tales and secret lore linked to the terrain. But not all paid heed to superstitions. These are their stories, each tale a new entry in the field guide to dark landscapes. From folk to urban horror, tell us about the places that leave their mark on the human psyche, those that resonate deep inside and leave something behind in return.

Shadow Atlas Submissions

We are seeking short stories exclusively set in South America.

We are seeking poetry set in the CaribbeanCentral AmericaMexico, and South America.

Payment: $250 for short fiction; $25 for poetry
Rights: Exclusive rights for 18 months after publication
Length: 2500 to 3000 words for short fiction; up to 35 lines for poetry
Submission Period: June 21 to June 27, 2021
Expected Release Date: October 2021
No reprints, multiple or simultaneous subs

Use classic Shunn formatting. Send as an attachment in doc or docx. In the subject line, put “Shadow Atlas,” the name of your story or poem, and author name. Example: Shadow Atlas – Story/Poem Title – Author Name.

Please send submissions to Include a short bio.

Everything submitted outside of the open call dates will be deleted.

We will be posting links to our featured authors, updates on our progress, and tidbits and tips on Hex Publishers’ social media platforms. Stay tuned!