RIP, David B.Silva – [From Goodreads and Robert Swartwood]

RIP, David B. Silva

I learned just about a few hours ago that David B. Silva passed away earlier this week. He was 62 years old.

I’m not really sure what else to say about it. It fucking sucks. It sucks when anyone dies, but especially those friends and family close to you. Dave wasn’t just a veteran of the horror field, he was a legend. I guess it would be best to simply share with you his bio:

David B. Silva’s first short story was published in 1981. His short fiction has since appeared in The Year’s Best Horror, The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, and The Best American Mystery Stories. In 1991, he won a Bram Stoker Award for his short story, “The Calling.” His first collection, Through Shattered Glass, was published by Gauntlet Press in 2001. In 2009, Dark Regions published his collection of eleven new stories and one reprint, The Shadows of Kingston Mills. His novels include All the Lonely People, Child of Darkness, Come Thirteen, The Disappeared, The Presence, and The Many.

He is probably best known as the editor of The Horror Show, which was published quarterly from 1982 to 1991. This small-press horror magazine won a World Fantasy Award in 1988 and went on to publish the first early works of some of today’s most talented and influential horror authors, such as Bentley Little, Brian Hodge, and Poppy Z. Brite.

Silva also co-edited (with Paul F. Olson) two anthologies published by St. Martins Press: Post Mortem and Dead End: City Limits. In addition, he edited The Definitive Best of The Horror Show, published by CD Publications in 1992.

From February 1997 until September 2002, and from late 2004 until the present, Silva has served as editor of Hellnotes. Originally a weekly subscription newsletter dedicated to the horror professional and horror fan alike, Hellnotes was recently purchased by JournalStone Publishing and is currently a free blog, updated several times a day by Silva with latest news in the horror genre.

Anybody familiar with this blog knows just how much I loved Dave’s work. I must admit, The Horror Show was before my time, but in high school I read several issues of Cemetery Dance, which I later learned had been inspired by The Horror Show. In fact, when Jesus Gonzalez showed me some past issues of The Horror Show, it was clear that CD had used it as a model — the layout, formatting, everything.

The Horror Show was groundbreaking and seminal and it launched the careers of so many writers. Talk to any horror writer over forty years old and they’re apt to tell you just how much The Horror Show influenced them. In many ways, it helped shape and nurture the horror genre as it is today.

I don’t remember exactly what my first David B. Silva story was. I think maybe it was “Dry Whiskey,” or maybe it was “The Calling.” Whatever it was, I remember being blown away and instantly knowing I needed to read more of his work. There are few writers out there that inspired me as much as Dave’s short fiction did. I looked everywhere for his stuff. And this was before ebooks, so most of his stuff was out of print. I managed to track down his chapbook “The Night in Fog” and I managed to get my hands on a promotional copy of his amazing collection Through Shattered Glass. While I read and enjoyed a few of his novels, it was his short fiction that really shined for me, that always made me want to step up my game.

How we ended up in touch, I can’t remember. Obviously it was me who contacted him, probably to tell him how much I enjoyed his work. Then, later, when I was helping edit Flesh & Blood magazine, I asked him if he would be willing to submit a story — and was thrilled when he said yes. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what that story was called; F&B folded before it ever came out. I do remember reading the story and loving it but thinking there could be one slight change. It was really nothing major — there was mention of a character passing by a movie theater, and the movies on the marquee were The Lord of the Rings and Cheaper by the Dozen. I felt those titles would eventually make the story dated, and suggested he change the titles, perhaps make them something by Hitchcock or something else that was old, as if the theater was showing classic movies.

The reason I remember this so clearly is because I was very hesitant to ask Dave to make this minor change. I mean, just who the hell did I think I was asking him to change anything about his story? He was David B. Fucking Silva. The man behind The Horror Show. One of my all-time favorite short story writers. Who was I to ask him to do anything?

But I took a chance and sent Dave the request and he replied saying sure, no problem at all, that made sense, and I realized that along with being a great writer, Dave was a true professional through and through.

When I wrote my first novel, The Calling, I contacted several writers asking if they would take a look and, if they enjoyed it enough, to possibly provide a blurb. The idea was to use these blurbs when querying agents. Dave was kind enough to agree to look at the book. After a few weeks, or maybe it was a month or more, he sent along a short blurb. I was thrilled, of course, but I could tell the blurb wasn’t overly enthusiastic, just a sentence or two about the book, so I asked him if he had any comments or suggestions to make the book better. He was hesitant at first — the reason, apparently, that many young writers in the past got angry when they were told they weren’t the greatest living writers in the world — but eventually we began a back and forth about the book, and it was one of those priceless learning experiences that every writer needs to get better. Dave didn’t have to look at the book to begin with, and he certainly didn’t have to give me his feedback, but he took the time and because of it I learned what I was doing wrong and how to fix those mistakes. (It’s also one of the reasons why I dedicated my latest book, Real Illusions, to Dave, along with Stewart O’Nan, with these three words: inspiration, guidance, friendship.)

A few years later, I was in Las Vegas for a wedding. Dave happened to live in Vegas. I took a chance and emailed saying if he had time, it would be cool to get together. Dave was normally pretty shy; he almost never went to conventions or conferences, and I’m sure meeting up with a young writer who he’d never officially met wasn’t his first choice on how to spend the day. But for some reason he agreed. We had breakfast at Kahunaville, one of the restaurant at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino, and we talked about writing and books and just the usual stuff writers talk about when they get together. It was a great time.

We stayed in better contact after that. Sometimes we spoke on the phone. Oftentimes we communicated via Gmail chat. He had started releasing his stuff on Kindle and encouraged me to do the same. We bounced different marketing ideas off each other. At some point, I had the crazy idea to collaborate on a project. I figured it would be a novella and that we could do a blog-to-blog serialization, where one week I would post a chapter, then next week he would post a chapter, and so on. I said I thought it would be fun. He said he thought so to. And so we started working on what would eventually become a weird western short novel called Walk the Sky. We also collaborated on a ghost story — “At the Meade Bed & Breakfast” — which was basically just Dave taking an old story of mine and rewriting it and then me taking that rewrite and polishing it a bit.

Walk the Sky was just released by Thunderstorm Books as a limited edition a few weeks ago. Dave and I were gearing up to release the paperback and ebook late next month. Like all writers, we were nervous but looking forward to the release, hoping readers would dig it.

Like many writers, Dave’s financial situation wasn’t the greatest, and his health had been declining. There was a time a few months ago when he wasn’t online, and when I tried calling there had been no answer. It turned out he had been in the hospital for nearly a week.

A few weeks ago his website had gone down. I called to see if he was okay and he mentioned how funds were pretty tight. So this past week or two when I hadn’t seen him online I thought maybe it had to do with his financial situation. I tried calling him yesterday but there was no answer. This morning I woke up and had one of those bad feelings you sometimes get, and I wondered if something did happen to Dave, how would I find out? The pessimistic in me immediately thought the worst, and I tried not thinking about it for most of the day until I finally had a chance to call Dave again. This time someone did answer. It wasn’t Dave, but a female voice (his sister), and immediately I knew either one of two things had happened: Dave had died or he was in the hospital.

I had my fingers crossed that it was the latter.

As it turned out, it was the former.

David B. Silva was a veteran and legend of the horror field. He was an amazing writer. Most importantly, he was a great friend.

You will be missed, Dave.

2 replies on “RIP, David B.Silva – [From Goodreads and Robert Swartwood]”

My condolences in the loss of your friend. How fortunate that you had an opportunity to meet a writer that you admired and then get to work with him on a book project. May the memories sustain you through the years until you meet again.


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