Michael Bailey Talks Award-Winning Horror Anthology 'Chiral Mad'


Michael Bailey is the author of the collection Scales and Petals, and he is the editor of a new anthology titled Chiral Mad. Chiral gathers together some of the finest names in horror, as well as some newer writers, and has been well-received. For FEARnet, Michael explains the concept behind Chiral Mad and his love for psychological horror.

You have a new anthology out, Chiral Mad. What's the theme and what does the title mean?
Chiral Mad is an anthology of psychological horror. The theme can be derived from the title. Chirality is a word used to describe an object incapable of superimposing onto its mirror image. In fiction, this can flower many original concepts, which was the intention. What is chiral? Think hands and put them together. Hands look similar, one able to press against the other symmetrically, but they have idiosyncrasies setting them apart: length, scars, fingerprints, any number of things. Reflections are another example. A mirror image may seem identical, but one’s left is the other’s right in the refection. The word mad also has numerous interpretations, whether it’s derangement, insanity, dementia, rage, or all sorts of irrationalities. Put the two words together, chiral and mad, and there’s an entire literary world to explore.

Which authors are featured?
Brilliant writers fill this anthology. I have personally met 16 of the 28 contributors of Chiral Mad and can attest to this. These are extraordinary individuals. The anthology features an introduction by legend Thomas F. Monteleone and includes horror greats like Jack Ketchum, Gary A. Braunbeck, Gene O’Neill, Jeff Strand, Gord Rollo and Gary McMahon, as well as names you will eventually recognize, such as Erik T. Johnson, John Palisano, P. Gardner Goldsmith, Christian A. Larsen, Jon Michael Kelley and many more. In fact, you need to know the rest of their names: Ian Shoebridge, Andrew Hook, Monica J. O’Rourke, Amanda Ottino, Chris Hertz, David Hearn, Barry Jay Kaplan, Eric J. Guignard, Julie Stipes, Patrick O’Neill, A.A. Garrison, Aaron J. French, Meghan Arcuri, Patrick Lacey, R.B. Payne and Pat R. Steiner. That should cover it. Seek out their work.

How has the anthology been received so far?
Everyone wants to get their hands on Chiral Mad. All proceeds from the anthology go to Down syndrome charities, every cent, so the attention is a blessing. While people are appreciating the cause, most also seem to think it’s a damn fine book. The anthology has received nothing but praise from reviewers at Kirkus, Hellnotes, Horror World, Rue Morgue, and the San Francisco Book Review, with more reviews on the way. The book was an Honorable Mention at the Halloween Book Festival, an Award-finalist for USA Book News' USA Best Book Awards (both in Fiction: Anthologies and Cover Design), Winner at the London Book Festival (compilations / anthologies), and is currently nominated for Anthology of the Year by This is Horror. Word of mouth is strong for this one. Most importantly, the book is raising a lot of money and awareness for Down syndrome.

How did this all come together?
Chiral Mad is a follow-up to Pellucid Lunacy, the first charity anthology by Written Backwards. With Chiral Mad, I handled things a bit differently with submissions, seeking out the 20 whose work appeared in the first book, as well as 20 well-respected horror authors. I provided information about the cause, the theme, and then magic happened. Nearly everyone invited to write for the anthology responded. After securing a dozen stories and a decent maybe pile, I opened submissions to the public and received about 200. A teaser book trailer and clever viral marketing garnered over 200 more. I had a lot of material to work with, enough to warrant expanding the anthology from 20 stories to 28. I had some big names in horror fiction knocking at my submissions door. Those who submitted to Chiral Mad are already wanting to contribute to a follow-up anthology.

Your work deals a lot with the "dark side" of the mind. Can you elaborate a bit on that?
The world is unfortunately littered with dangerous people, which is why I primarily write and publish psychological horror. Mainstream horror monster tropes (zombies, vampires, werewolves, haunted houses, etc.) are fun, but they are not as frightening as the real monsters hiding in plain sight. I always use the analogy of a little girl holding a knife (could be your daughter or some random girl), and a boogeyman, and which would scare you most if visiting your bedside in the middle of the night. The answer is the little girl, of course, because she can be real. The horror is hidden in her mind. Human emotion and psychological imbalance, and nastier things responsible for forming the "dark side" of one’s mind, shape the ugliest of monsters living amongst us.

Of all your works, which do you think would best translate to screen?
Honestly, none of them, which is probably a horrible thing to mention to FEARnet. My novels are nonlinear with multiple characters and viewpoints smashed together like puzzle pieces to compose rather complex narratives of psychological horror. This style would be difficult to adapt to screen, unless handled by Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia), or the Wachowskis (Cloud Atlas), or even Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation). My work in progress, a short novel called Psychotropic Dragon, would translate better to screen, or perhaps some of my short fiction. Who knows? Maybe someone out there is willing to adapt my work.

What others works do you currently have out?
The backlist includes the novels Palindrome Hannah and Phoenix Rose, a short story and poetry collection, Scales and Petals, and my first edited charity anthology, Pellucid Lunacy. These four books have resulted in two International Book Awards, two USA Book News Best Books Awards, the Kirkus Star (awarded to books of remarkable merit), and an Independent Publisher Book Awards coin ticker to slap on the covers of my first novel. All four titles are currently available in trade paperback and Kindle format. Two of my favorite short stories, Bootstrap / The Binds of Lasolastica (inspired by Mary Shelley and Michael Crichton) and the multilingual Primal Tongue (inspired by and featuring some Ray Bradbury), are featured in the Zippered Flesh anthologies by Smart Rhino Publications.

What else are you working on?
Psychotropic Dragon is first on my list to complete. I have battled this novel for four years (fourteen if you consider conception), so it’s time to get this book in print. Rights will revert back to me for the short fiction and poetry published over the last few years, so a second collection, Inkblots and Blood Spots, is currently in the works. I will also edit a third charity anthology later this year, but will most likely hold off on writing short fiction for a while to focus on the bigger projects.

Anything else you want to add?
I have fortunately had the opportunity to work with many horror writers over the years, and have hung out with most on a more personal level at conferences and whatnot. We are all a bit crazy in the head because we are creators delving in the dark, but we are a close bunch and appreciate one another. Horror gets a bad rap outside of the horror world. Whether it’s Stephen King, Jack Ketchum or Jill Newcomer, horror writers are good people. We may have dark minds, but we have warm hearts, and it shows when we join forces to create something beautiful for a good cause, such as Chiral Mad.

Nancy O. Greene started writing at the age of nine. Her short story collection, Portraits in the Dark, received a brief mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007. Other works have appeared or will appear in ChiZine; Lovecraft eZine; Cemetery Dance; Tales of Blood and Roses; Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror; Shroud Publishing's The Terror at Miskatonic Falls; Dark Recesses; Flames Rising; Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore!; and others. She has a BA in Cinema (Critical Studies) and a minor in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Southern California, and is a Film Independent: Project Involve Fellow.