Killer Con and the 2021 Splatterpunk Awards

Killer Con 2021 has come and gone. Based in Austin Texas, the annual extreme horror convention was conceived by Wrath James White and Brain Keene as a way to recognize the talented authors in the sub genres of splatterpunk (that’s me!) and extreme horror.  This year’s annual extreme horror convention was a virtual festival, using zoom meetings and discord for vendor rooms. Three days of exceptional programming, overseen by the amazing John Baltisberger (I was impressed he was able to do all this AND still stabberger Nazis in the same weekend!) were capped off by an awards ceremony recognizing those whose works stood out as exceptional over the last year, and a gross out contest that lived up to its name.

The winners of the fourth Annual Splatterpunk Awards were announced on Saturday evening.  Here is the press release from Brian Keene:

For Immediate Release

Founders Wrath James White and Brian Keene announced the winners of the 4th annual Splatterpunk Awards — honoring superior achievement in horror fictions’ Splatterpunk and Extreme Horror categories published in 2020 — on Saturday, August 21, 2021.

The Splatterpunk Award nominations are suggested by readers and fans. The final ballot is made up of the top seven nominations for each category. Then, a rotating jury of critics and academics read the works on the ballot and vote on the winners.

The winners for this year are:

Best Novel: The Magpie Coffin – Wile E. Young (Deaths Head Press)

Best Novella: True Crime – Samantha Kolesnik (Grindhouse Press)

Best Short Story: “My Body” – Wesley Southard (from Midnight In The Pentagram, Silver Shamrock Publishing)

Best Collection: The Essential Sick Stuff – Ronald Kelly (Silver Shamrock Publishing)

Best Anthology: Worst Laid Plans – Samantha Kolesnik (Grindhouse Press)

In addition, John Skipp was presented with the J.F. Gonzalez Lifetime Achievement Award. Previous LAA recipients are David J. Schow, David G. Barnett, and Edward Lee.

White and Keene also announced the formation of the Splatterpunk Awards Hall of Fame – a physical, traveling memorial and showcase honoring those who have left their mark on the fields of Splatterpunk and Extreme Horror. The initial Splatterpunk Award Hall of Fame Inductees will be: David J. Schow, David Barnett, Edward Lee, John Skipp. Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, Charlee Jacob, John Pelan, and J.F. Gonzalez. The Hall of Fame will debut in Austin, Texas next August.

I was honored to be both a nominee for an award (for Best Novella) and participant in the Gross out contest. And though I didn’t win any awards or competitions, I didn’t lose a Goddamn thing. Why? Because being nominated for an award, is- in and of itself- a win in the first place. It shows your peers have noticed you. Oh – and let me tell you, having the opportunity to try and gross people out was a fucking blast. And the winners? HOLY CRAP! Nigel Parkin’s anniversary delicacy will forever make me look twice at any cheese product, and Danny “The Fox” Volpe’s strawberry shortcake… um recipe(?), blasted all of us out of the water. 

I’m happy as pig in shit for Wile E. Young, who won the Splatterpunk Award for best novel. Four years ago, I made 2 great friendships in the horror creative community while in a Borderlands Bootcamp writing workshop. Here I am, sitting in the back of the class with two other guys, like the bad kids in school. Skip Novak, who I talk to almost every day, and Wile E. Young, who I admire a great deal as a peer. I love this kid so much I named an important character after him  in THE GOD PROVIDES. If you know his shoot name, you know which character.

Wile E.’s writing voice is built to tell stories, to capture you and enthrall you. If you take Joe R. Lansdale’s East Texas verbiage, add a bit of Brian Keene’s way of characterization, sprinkle the ashes of JF Gonzalez across the top, and shake it all up in Robert E. Howard’s casket before pouring it into HP Lovecraft’s grave… you will have none other than Wile E. Young. I can hear him talking when I read his words.

He came out of the gate firing on all cylinders with Catfish in the Cradle, and followed that up with a book I adore, it was my book of the year for 2020, this year’s best splatterpunk book and the lead in volume of the SplatterWestern series from Death’s Head Press: 

The Magpie Coffin.

If Michael Moorcock wrote a western with Joe R. Lansdale, it would be this book. And I am eagerly awaiting its follow up. I love the character of Salem, and that gun of his…. think Elric and Stormbringer in a western setting. And as much as this is a western in marketing and setting, underneath it all, fundamentally it’s a sword & sorcery story at heart. Wile E. has achieved something more than winning an award with this book. He’s created an iconic character. He can keep on writing Salem stories as far as I’m concerned. He’s discovered his Conan, his Solomon Kane, his Hap & Leonard, his Levi Stoltzfus… or maybe The Exit is more appropriate, considering.

I’m not ignoring the other winners. How about Sam winning TWO awards? You go girl! I cracked some humor early one when the awards were announced, calling them the Kristopher Triana awards – when in truth they turned out to be the Samantha Kolesnik awards. It’s good to see a female voice dominating a genre where female contributors are a minority. Wes Southard, who won for best short story, is another writer I admire and strive to emulate. He and his wife are animal advocates, and as a result I have a huge amount of respect for both of them. Oh, and how about one of the sages of horror fiction making a comeback? Ron Kelly, another old school influence on me. And how about John Skipp winning a lifetime Achievement award? I look up to Skipp, as everyone else in this community does, and feel this honor was well deserved. So much talent, and all positive role models, to be surrounded with is mindblowing. I feel blessed.

Next year, I hope the convention will be face to face.

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