Today on the Dark Phantom Review is Rhonda Parrish, editor and founder of the new horror ezine, Niteblade. Tell us a bit about Niteblade. When and how did it get started?
Niteblade is quite new, the June issue will be the fourth one out. I started Niteblade in May of 2007. I’d heard people claim that fantasy and horror were dying genres and I wanted to prove that wrong – I also wanted to see what it felt like to be on the other side of the submission process. Boy, it’s been eye-opening.
What type of horror fiction do you consider? Are you open to submissions?
I am open to submissions year round except the months of November and May which I take off to catch up on my slush pile and participate in writing challenges and I consider any type of horror stories.
If you could narrow down to three the elements that make a great horror story, what would those be?
I think characters are key. You need to have engaging characters that feel real, or it doesn’t matter what happens, I, as a reader, am not going to care because I’m not going to believe it. That’s the second key thing, I think, suspending disbelief. It’s vital that the story flow and not have typos or anything else that will jar me out of it. Once my attention is lost for even a second, the story has to work to get me re-engaged. Sad but true. I think the third element needed for a horror story is, of course, horror. It doesn’t need to be of the blood and guts variety, but there needs to be something horrific in the story…or else why would it be called a horror story?
What are the most common flaws you encounter when reading submissions.
The most common, and most irritating flaw I find when reading submissions is that people have obviously not read the submissions guidelines. Things like addressing me as ‘sir’ or miss-spelling the name of the magazine just don’t put me in a happy-bunny mood, which doesn’t really work in the submitter’s favour, oddly enough. Other than that, I see quite a few typos in submissions, which doesn’t irritate me but does make me wonder if I’m reading a first draft or a polished copy.
Niteblade reviews two books per issue – one fantasy and one horror. If an author would like a review of their book by a Niteblade reviewer, they need only drop me an email at Rhonda at jofigure dot com and I’ll get back to them. Because we only have two slots it can sometimes take more than four months for a review to appear in the magazine, so it’s best to contact me sooner rather than later.
There are so many horror sub-genres—cutting edge, dark fantasy, extreme, supernatural, quiet, psychological, etc.. Do you think some have higher literary value than others? Which one do you think is more popular at the moment?
Phrases like ‘higher literary value’ tend to irritate me. I don’t think it’s up to anyone to judge the merit of one genre (or sub-genre) over another. My sincere and honest opinion is that anything which encourages people to read is a good thing. I volunteer in a grade two classroom one day a week and I see enough reluctant readers that I can’t possibly imagine telling someone what they are reading is inferior or has ‘lesser literary value’ than something else whether they are an adult or a child.
As for what is popular, it seems to me that gross-out horror has peeked recently, though that seems to be slightly less popular than it was a couple years ago. It will be interesting to see what sub-genre moves in to fill it’s place for the next couple years.
Do you think the horror fiction market has declined, reached a plateau, or is still climbing?
Honestly? I have no idea. I know Niteblade gets enough traffic and has enough readers to convince me that the horror fiction market is not declining, but whether it’s hit a plateau or is still climbing is beyond my ability to answer intelligibly.
How hard is it to market and promote a small horror publication like Niteblade when faced with the competition?
I’ve found that my “competition” is one of the greatest resources Niteblade has when it comes to marketing and promotion. I’ve made friends with several small press editors and we exchange links, ideas and traffic with one another. It’s wonderful.
Could you tell us about the advertising and promotional opportunities Niteblade offers authors?
Right now I’m primarily using Project Wonderful to host ads on Niteblade. Through them advertisers can buy ad space for as little as one cent a day, or, if you’re lucky, you can even get free advertisements. Of course, the links aren’t hard-coded and they aren’t permanent so it’s not great for search engine optimization, so I also offer hard-coded permanent ad slots for sale at
What is the scariest book you’ve ever read?
Truthfully I find non-fiction far scarier than any fictional story I’ve ever read.
Which authors, in your opinion, will be remembered as the best horror writers of the 20th Century?
This is an impossible question for me to answer. I respect and admire so many writers work – big name and small. If I were to start listing people I thought would be the best horror writers of the 20th century the list would be immense, or else I’d forget someone and feel horribly about it forever after.
Guessing who history might remember as the best horror writers is even more difficult. I’m scared to even guess. Truly.