Jon Padgett is a professional–though lapsed–ventriloquist who lives in New Orleans with his spouse, their daughter, and a rescue dog and cat. He is the Co-Editor-In-Chief of Vastarien, a source of critical study and creative response to the work of Thomas Ligotti. Padgett’s first short story collection, The Secret of Ventriloquism, was named the Best Fiction Book of 2016 by Rue Morgue Magazine. He has work out or forthcoming in PseudoPod, Lovecraft eZine, Xnoybis, and the anthologies A Walk on the Weird Side, Wound of Wounds, Phantasm/Chimera, and For Mortal Things Unsung.
“…for those who enjoy fiction of a weird nature with a capital ‘w’ The Secret of Ventriloquism should not be missed.” —Kev Harrison, This Is Horror
“There’s quite enough variety of tone, setting, and focus here to surprise and disconcert any reader, and leave preconceived expectations flopping and gasping in the cold black mud of Padgett’s imagination…Padgett is a chilling master in his own right.” —Paul StJohn Mackintosh, Associate Editor of Teleread
“Jon Padgett… satisfied ALL of my wants and needs as a reader of dark and weird fiction. These stories… are as utterly satisfying as short fiction can be.” —Charlene Cocrane, Horror After Dark
“This collection is the work of an extremely talented and intelligent writer… the constant change[s] in form give the impression that the book is evolving as you go along, especially [given] the ever-increasing number of references to previous stories… It’s like the creation of a hive-mind.” —Kayleigh Marie Edwards, Ginger Nuts of Horror
“Jon Padgett’s The Secret of Ventriloquism may very well be at the vanguard of a new movement in American Weird,where the lessons of Thomas Ligotti are recontextualized and used to birth something as frightening and bizarre as it is different.” —Simon Strantzas, author of Burnt Black Suns
“…let me guarantee you one thing about Jon Padgett’s writing: It will lead you outside your comfort zone like a creepy stranger leads you away from home. Padgett both knows how to tell a story and how to scare people and The Secret of Ventriloquism is an intoxicating display of these two skills.” —Benoit Lelievre, Dead End Follies
Selected as the Best Fiction Book of 2016 by Rue Morgue Magazine.
“Jon Padgett’s The Secret of Ventriloquism is a horror revelation. The interconnected short stories are ghastly, clever, dryly witty, but also genuinely and bone-rattlingly creepy and disturbing. Sure, going in, I was already afraid of ventriloquist dummies, but now I’m deathly afraid of Jon Padgett.” –Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock.
“The Secret of Ventriloquism is horror with a capital H. Some of Padgett’s lines raised the hair on my neck. The stories radiate darkness… In a year of exceptional weird fiction, this is a mattock-handle-wrapped-in-barbed-wire heavy hitter.” –Laird Barron, author of Swift to Chase
“Padgett proves with his stunning debut collection to be a worthy successor to Thomas Ligotti. There’s no gristle, no bone, no dilly-dallying here: only pure meat whose terrors seamlessly grow into the metaphysical. This volume is jam-packed with the stuff that nightmares are made of.” –Dejan Ognjanovic, Rue Morgue Magazine
“…Greater Ventriloquism is the fictional philosophy cutting through all of the stories in this collection, giving them a much appreciated spine of intent and eerie energy. When we understand that we are no better than dummies–when we see the strings that move us and hear the voice that animates us–we become the uncanny object, as opposed to the dummy. Our own embodiment thus becomes a vessel for great horrors.”
Jon Padgett’s debut collection, The Secret of Ventriloquism, was released by Dunhams Manor in late 2016, and enjoyed instant success among readers of the horrific and the weird. Padgett’s work is relentlessly creepy, exploring themes of altered realities, human simulacra, and occult conspiracy, among others. Perhaps most impressive, though, is Padgett’s ability to elevate these concerns above the usual fray of the genre, subsequently tapping into the utter strangeness of the things that lie in wait beneath the world. As the founder and longtime operator of Thomas Ligotti Online, perhaps the web’s most significant hub for the weird minded, the publication of TSoV was something of an event, selling out its initial run in hardcover, and finding additional and well-deserved success as a destined-to-be-classic audiobook.
Like Schulz’s Street of Crocodiles, Ligotti’s first collection, Songs of a Dread Dreamer, or Laird Barron’s recent Swift to Chase, the whole of Padgett’s book is greater than the sum of its parts. The stories often overlap or recall one another in unexpected ways. Reading a collection from cover to cover is perhaps the litmus test for whether or not it “works,” whether or not it coheres into something with vision and voice, and where so many other collections fail, Padgett’s succeeds. This success is even more impressive once you take into consideration how fully developed and unique each individual story is. Take “Organ Void,” for instance, which seamlessly blends a Ballardian fixation on concrete overpasses and urban sprawl with “junk-sick” body horror; or “Murmurs of a Voice Foreknown,” a coming-of-age story about cruelty and the bonds of brotherhood that settles on delicate and unnerving truths; or the collection’s centerpiece, “20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism,” a sublime meditation on being with a capital “B” and the illusion of human agency.
Finally, it’s worth noting that this interview was conducted via email over the course of several months. Devising the questions and waiting for answers sometimes took weeks. I believe that this is indicative of the care and attention to detail that Jon puts into his work.
So I was honored to participate in the Thomas Ligotti panel at NecronomiCon Providence, 2017. I won’t say I wasn’t nervous.
Once I arrived at the 17th floor of the Biltmore, though, my fear disappeared. It was a huge kick sitting at the table with Michaels Cisco and Calia, Brother Matthew M. Bartlett, and Alex Houstoun before the panel, watching the ballroom fill up almost to capacity (the largest gathering I saw aside from the very last panel of the convention). It was impossible not to be moved. Thomas Ligotti, who twenty years ago and more before that moment I had despaired was not getting the attention he deserved, now has a dedicated following from a significant group of sensitive readers who love and feel connected to his work, often as intensely and intimately as I do. Here we all were in Providence, celebrating that work together. It was a magical hour and fifteen minutes. Eternal thanks to Scott Desmarais for filming it.
Ligotti himself responded to the video: “I have a pretty good computer sound system, so I didn’t miss much of what was said. I watched it nervously, because seeing people I know speak in public in almost as bad as doing it myself—or so I imagine since I’ve managed to avoid being in that situation all my life. You guys did an amazing job, and I’m humbly grateful. And while knowing you for as long as I have has been its own reward, Jonathan, your participation on that panel was a real bonus.”
That’s Tom: a quality human being.
Recently, I was interview by the This Is Horror podcast hosts, Michael David Wilson and Bob Pastorella. It was a highly enjoyable two hours or so of conversation.
Last night I appeared on Lovecraft eZine’s podcast. It also included writers/editors/publishers Mike Davis, Acep Hale, S.P. Miskowski, Joe Pulver, Derrick Hussey (who gave a major Hippocampus Press update), Philip Fracassi, Matthew Carpenter, and Peter Rawlik.
Reggie McRascal, my ventriloquist dummy, also made several appearances, and there was singing.
Otherwise, we talked for well over an hour about the genesis of my chief fears, my writing endeavors, Matt Cardin, Thomas Ligotti Online, and–of course–Tom and his work. I think it’s well worth your while.
Bram Stoker Award winning author, Paul Tremblay, had the following to say about my collection:
“Jon Padgett’s The Secret of Ventriloquism is a horror revelation. The interconnected short stories are ghastly, clever, dryly witty, but also genuinely and bone-rattlingly creepy and disturbing. Sure, going in, I was already afraid of ventriloquist dummies, but now I’m deathly afraid of Jon Padgett.”
“Jon Padgett… satisfied ALL of my wants and needs as a reader of dark and weird fiction. These stories… are as utterly satisfying as short fiction can be.”
My book, The Secret of Ventriloquism, is at the head of UNWINNABLE’S February reading list, next to The Secret History of Twin Peaks, by Mark Frost! Pretty humbling having my work recommended alongside the likes of him, Margaret Atwood, Gertrude Stein and Haruki Murakami. Thanks to Stu Horvath and the rest of the staff at UNWINNABLE!
It occurred to me this morning that I haven’t mentioned female horror writers enough this month. The following are some of the best contemporary horror authors I’ve been reading in recent years, full stop.
Livia Llewellyn. A master of voice and atmosphere. Always wonderfully, fearlessly personal. Her “Furnace” is a Ligottian masterpiece of slow, hallucinatory, maternal suffocation, and her recent collection with the same title is equally essential. I have no doubt that Llewellyn is one of the best authors in any genre out there.
Kristi DeMeester. I came in contact with DeMeester’s work in Nightscript, Volume 1. She leads off this stellar anthology with “Everything That’s Underneath,” an unforgettable and heartbreaking tale of quiet horror and inescapable dread. Everything DeMeester touches turns to gold.
Anya Martin. Another brilliant wordsmith with a distinctive voice. I was first taken with “A Girl and Her Dog,” in Xnoybis, issue 2, but her Dim Shores chapbook, Grass, blew me out of the water with its unclassifiable, speculative weirdness. The voice is distinctly Southern, and reminded me of a younger Joyce Carol Oates as well. I can’t wait to read more.
Dagny Paul. New on the scene, but a powerful voice in horror. Check out her “There Is No Road through the Woods.” I was put in mind of both Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space” and Ligotti’s “The Shadow at the Bottom of the World,” not only because of the blighting environmental horror but because of Paul’s gorgeous, haunting imagery.
P. Miskowski. Her Dunhams Manor chapbook, Muscadines, is Flannery O’Connor and Neil Gaiman’s love child on quality grade acid. Experimental, accordion-like narratives within narratives. A masterful command of narrative voice holds it all together. I can’t wait to dig further into her work.
The audiobook version of The Secret of Ventriloquism is finally available (via Amazon, Audible, iTunes).
It was recorded/produced by me, with a creepy singing assist by author/Pseudopod Associate Editor, Dagny Paul. Even if you’ve read the book already, I believe that hearing the stories aloud lends a dimension to the collection that the text alone cannot offer.