Tag Archives: horror

Revisiting the American Horror Story Title Rankings

Revisiting My American Horror Story Title Rankings

A year ago, I sat down and ranked all seven of the title sequences for FX’s anthology horror series American Horror Story. It was a fun project. While I’ve never considered myself a die-hard fan of the show, I’m always drawn in by those opening titles.

Here we are a little over a year later, and FX has released American Horror Story Season 8: Apocalypse and it looks to be a doozy. Of course, with a new season came a new title sequence and this prompted me to revisit my rankings and decided once again which title sequence reigns supreme. So which was it? See my updated list here.

How would you rank them? Shoot me an email or leave a comment below.


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Visual Inspiration: Brian Coldrick

Visual Inspiration: Brian Coldrick

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. It’s a book that contained a series of images, each was accompanied by a few lines of text that sent one’s imagination soaring. These small one-shot scenarios were fascinating to a younger-me and were often more imaginative than many of the novels I’ve read in later years. I’ve thought about them often over the years.

So, imagine how delighted I was when I stumbled across the art of Irish-illustrator and sloth-enthusiast Brian Coldrick and his unsettling series Behind You. These single-shot stories follow a similar method to Burdick but the stories themselves skew towards the modern horror or creepypasta—and damn, are they ever compelling.

Behind You is extensive—there are so many pieces it’s difficult to pick a favorite and the series is still ongoing. The loose style and muted colors work remarkably well, blending the fantastic with the realistic and letting the narrative fill in the spaces in between. You’ll find yourself enthralled.

If the static illustration wasn’t enough, Behind You now includes subtle animations as well, which only further each pieces’ effectiveness. You can see a few of my favorites below, click on any image to view it larger. Or just start at the beginning.

That’s only a tiny portion of the entire series and you should take some time and explore the narratives. Recently, many of these images have been collected into the book Behind You: One-Shot Horror Stories, which I recommend buying (link takes you to Amazon, but I’m sure you can get it all over the place.) As I mentioned above, Behind You is still ongoing and can be viewed at Tapastic or Tumblr. Making cool art isn’t free—Coldrick has a Patreon (of which I’m a member) and I’d encourage you to throw a few bucks his way so he can keep making these delightful terrors. You can buy prints of his work from Society6. Finally, be sure to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Deviant Art, and Instagram.


If you like Brian Coldrick’s work be sure to check out some of the other artists who I’ve found inspiring in the past. While there’s certainly a theme to the art that inspires me, you’ll find lots of different styles, tones, mediums, and moods.


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

Sebastien Ecosse

Visual Inspiration: Sebastien Ecosse

Recently, as I’ve been ramping up my research for Book IV of the Bell Forging Cycle, I came across the work of illustrator Sebastien Ecosse. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of genre and concept art, longtime readers will immediately understand why Ecosse’s work stands out for me.

I was first drawn in by his landscapes, his cityscapes in particular. They’re layered, rich, and beautifully textured. Places of light and shadows. You can almost feel the humid air against your skin, smell the mix of bizarre aromas, and hear the tapestry of sounds echoing throughout. In many ways, they could be cousins to the megalopolis of Lovat from my novels. With his other work, Ecosse manages to capture a sense of foreboding and dread that lends itself well to horror—in particular, his Lovecraftian work. I’ve posted some of my favorites below, as always you can click to view them larger.

Ecosse has prints available for purchase, and you can see much more of his work over on his website: sebastienecosse.com. You can also find him on ArtStation and Deviant Art. Be sure to check him out on Facebook or over follow him over on Twitter. Perhaps, like me, you’ll find yourself inspired.

💀 🎨 💀


If you like Sebastien Ecosse’s work be sure to check out some other illustrators and concept artists I’ve shared in the past:


American Horror Story's Main Titles Ranked

Ranking American Horror Story’s Title Sequences

[Note: This post was originally written in October 2017 and at that time only ranked American Horror Story Seasons 1–7, since then it has been updated to include the title sequence from 2018’s Apocalypse.]

I have a love/hate relationship with the ultra-stylized American Horror Story. On the one hand, it has legitimized horror and has helped bring the genre to the small screen. But, on the other hand, I’ve tried watching it a few times, and it hasn’t yet drawn me in. So, while I’m not a ravenous fan, I do appreciate its existence, and I dig its style. Especially, its title sequences.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I am a fan of title sequences. For years, I’ve been a Patreon supporter of Art of the Title—a site dedicated to the artform. (They do good work, and you should support them.) So, it will come as no surprise that I unabashedly love AHS main title sequence. Part of its draw is that it changes. It’s different each season. There are connections between each, most notably the amazing AHS theme music—the heavy notes remain constant as do the harsh buzzes that rasp as players get introduced. As a set, they’re remarkable, and a few stand out as truly great. Since it’s the month of Halloween, I figured it would be fun to rank the American Horror Story title sequences. Let’s start at the bottom.


8. Roanoke (Season 6)

Of course, this will be rated dead last. Roanoke had no title sequence. In her piece American Horror Story: 7 Seasons of Title Design for Art of the Title, Alexandra West asks AHS Executive Producer Alexis Martin Woodall and Title Designer Kyle Cooper why it was missing. (Go read the article. It’s good.) Their answer is interesting and valid, but since this is a list ranking sequences, Roanoke will remain an aberration and at the bottom of the list.


7. Hotel (Season 5)

Hotel lacks subtlety. It’s brash and over the top. It comes across as silly, and to me, it doesn’t set the mood the way other sequences do. The heavy-handed neon Ten Commandments do not help, although they are a neat visual juxtaposition. However, it’s the repeated thing-in-the-mattress motif that loses me. It’s creepy at first, but its impact falters after the third, fourth, or fifth flash. And it doesn’t stop; it’s used at least nine times.


6. Cult (Season 7)

In 2017 AHS returned with Cult, and it doesn’t improve on Hotel’s failings. Americana interplays with odd and sometimes violent scenes that are common in the series. This, however, is less horror and more gore. Modern political instability is channeled and rightly so, and the classic AHS music mixes with a fife and drum sound that is reminiscent of national anthems. It’s a nice touch, which lifts it higher than Hotel.


5. Asylum (Season 2)

Building off the success of the first season, Asylum took the style from Murder House and turned it up a notch. It’s darker, it’s grittier, but it’s less nuanced. Some of the impacts from Season 1 are lost, and it feels a little samey. Murder House works so well because it was unexpected. Especially for television. Horror isn’t about the “thing”; it’s the emotions and the anticipation, and I had anticipated Asylum’s title sequence well in advance.


4. Freakshow (Season 4)

The stop-motion stylization was a nice change of pace, and I think it sets the tone well for a series involving an evil circus. There is an evocation of a corrupted childhood at play here, toys behaving in a way that is unexpected which puts the viewer on edge. It’s was an excellent choice to move in a different direction, and it helped Freakshow stand out.


3. Apocalypse (Season 8)

Many of the trappings are here (as well as some reused visuals) but the interplay between two similar but distinct themes works rather well. The combination of visuals from a Biblical Apocalypse featuring the expected woodcuts and iconography is woven through images of a nuclear apocalypse with gas masks, test footage, and mushroom clouds. It all works rather well. The melting candle motif might be important to the plot but it comes across a bit hamfisted. That said, Apocalypse is one of the stronger title sequences AHS has had for some time and it’s nice to see the series return to form.


2. Murder House (Season 1)

The first opening title sequence for AHS channels a raw homemade style that works perfectly. I’ve never had high hopes for television horror, but this was a welcome surprise. Cesar Davila-Irizarry’s theme music stunned me and instantly became one of the most memorable themes. The visuals hint at the underlying concepts of the show without revealing too much, and it really nailed the mood.


1. Coven (Season 3)

Mood and tone abound in the season three opener: gritty black and white shots, strangely animated woodcuts, weird stop-motion, and the creepy hooded figures! (Which yes, totally remind me of the gargoyles from my Bell Forging Cycle.) A good story doesn’t ignore tropes. Instead, it bends them in new and exciting ways. You see that at play in Coven’s title sequences: all the expected visuals are there, but things are unusually bent. The quick cuts to uncomfortably close shots introduce story elements in a way that adds to the sequence: the revelations only help to enhance instead of detracting. I will admit that my design sensibilities lean in a similar direction, and there is a bit of bias. But to me, Coven is the gold standard, the perfected AHS title sequence.


It’s great to see a series play so much with the opening title sequence and elevate the art. I know that the fans appreciate it, as well. (The reactions to Roanoke’s missing sequence were…uh, vocal.) So! Now that I’ve finished my list, why not tell me what you think? How would you rank the AHS title sequences? What did I get wrong? What did I get right? The comments are open! Let me know!


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. Alexander to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

I’m On Horror Brew

Last week I was lucky enough to join Matt and Cat from Horror Brew, one of my favorite horror-themed podcasts for Episode Thirteen! (Yeah, creepy thirteen! Kismet right?) I had a great time and was happy to be apart of the show. We talked about my books and the world of the Bell Forging Cycle. After that we delve into the weird west and then talked about horror in general; everything from Stephen King’s The Mist to Netflix’s Hemlock Grove. Give it a listen. I’ve embedded it below, so you can listen here or click one of the links and be sure to subscribe!


iTunes • Stitcher • PlayerFM • Libsyn


You can follow Matt and Cat on Facebook, Twitter, Letterboxd, and Instagram. Make sure you subscribe and leave them a review. They put out a great show and are a passionate voice for the horror community. If you’re in the Portland area, check out their weekly horror trivia night at Home, A Bar. It’s a good crowd, and there are usually great prizes. Speaking of…

Horror Brew + K.M. Alexander Giveaway

From now until July 17th you can enter to win a signed copy of my first Lovecraftian urban fantasy novel, The Stars Were Right and a Bell Caravans patch. (I’ll probably throw in some other swag as well.) Entering is super easy, and there are ways you can win bonus entries to better your chances for success. All it takes is a few clicks, enter today and tell your friends!

Enter Today →

A Norwescon 39 Debriefing

A Norwescon 39 Debriefing

This past weekend I attended Norwescon 39 in SeaTac, Washington. This was my second year attending and like last year I had an outstanding time. As readers of my blog know with all my convention appearances, I like to do a debriefing wherein I recap the events, share photos, and talk about what I experienced during the con. (Check out my debriefing from last year.)

It was a wild weekend. I ran my table, sold a bunch of books, sat on six panels, and did a reading. Somewhere in there, I tried to get some sleep. Thankfully, unlike last year, I was not alone for the fours days; this time, I had assistance. My friend and fellow author, Steve Tontounghi came out on Friday and Saturday helped me out at my table and talked to people about his forthcoming novel, Join. And my wife Kari-Lise stepped up and pitched in Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. It was fun hanging out with them both. With their help, there weren’t any eleven-hours-on-my-feet days for me to deal with like last year. That alone made my time significantly more enjoyable.

Okay, let’s get to those highlights:

Books, Readings, Swag, and More

  • Once again, I sold a ton of books. Many were to new readers who seemed excited about stories set in a post-Lovecraftian world, and many were to my current readers who loved my books and wanted more. It was wonderful hearing directly from so many people and very encouraging.
  • I love when folks stop by and tell me how much they love my covers. I take a lot of time and effort to make sure they are something you’ll be proud of having on your bookshelf and knowing you notice means a lot.
  • This was the first year I handed out badge ribbons. I brought along three: Roader, Shambler, and Caravan Master (the rare one). I made a bet with my buddy Ace that he wouldn’t be able to collect all three. (I only allowed people to draw once.) He won. *grumble grumble* It was fun, and I think it might become a thing for everyone. Still trying to plot out how to make that work.
  • So many people came to my reading! As many of you know, I had the readers of this very blog choose what I read. As decided by the voters with 56.25% of the votes, I read the prologue from Red Litten World. People enjoyed it in all its grisly details. The next day quite a few attendees came to my table and bought a book because they liked what they heard. That made my con right there.

Friends & Fellow Authors


Oh, The Panels!NWC39_Set4

  • The Sci-Fi/Fantasy Battle Royale was easily the best panel I was on, I know I’m not alone in thinking this, here’s proof. It was hilarious, snarky, and a total blast. Big thanks to Matt Youngmark for putting it together and keeping things organized. The format was a bracket-style who-would-win-in-a-fight “discussion” in the end it came down to Rey from The Force Awakens and Marvel’s Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers. I was on team Rey in the final matchup, and sadly by popular vote, she lost. Maybe next year. #ReyWasRobbed. Agree? Feel different? Leave a comment and let me know why!
  • The horror track was really well put together. I was lucky enough to sit in on four different panels and had some incredible conversations about location, inspiration, and how horror is often a reflection of the time in which it is written. The first panel, expertly moderated by Logan Masterson, was about horror’s fantasy roots and stood out as the best of them, a lot of intelligent discussion.
  • The last panel I attended was ‘Level Up Your Self-Publishing Skills’ moderated by Elliot Kay. It was packed, and there was a lot of great questions from those in attendance. I wish it could have been more than an hour. There’s so much more all of us authors on that panel could have said, I wish we had more time. If you ever have a question about self/indie publishing you are always more than welcome to email me at hello@kmalexander.com. I’m happy to offer tips or advice where and when I can. As always, the best advice I can give is this: keep at it, write what you love, and never give up.

Cosplay & Norwesconners

  • Have I mentioned the incredible cosplay, yet? Well, as always it was fantastic, people put in a lot of time and effort, and it showed.
  • Tiny Rey was easily the most adorable cosplayer I saw. Let me go on record saying that I am so stoked to see another female character in Star Wars that young girls can emulate. Mad props to the writers for making that decision. It was needed.
  • Rorschach and I recreated out selfie photo from last year. Here was the photo from Norwescon 39 and the photo from last year, Norwescon 38. Kari-Lise pointed out that they are mirror images of each other. Not intentional and kind of funny.
  • I got a quest from an NPC. It was hilarious. That card is now pinned to my cork board above my desk. Someday I’ll find you drunken ghost.
  • I mentioned this last year, but it’s worth mentioning again. It’s remarkable to see the diversity, openness, and acceptance between Norwesconners. The world outside of a convention can be mean. It’s nice to see a place where everyone is super considerate and goes out of their way to be encouraging and welcoming. Norwescon is unique like that.

Little Incidental Highlights

  • The Philip K. Dick Awards, I had a panel and was running a table, so I didn’t get to attend. But congratulations to Ramez Naam for his novel Apex winning the award. Also, congratulations to the special citation winner, Marguerite Reed for her novel Archangel.
  • Sunday’s cello accompaniment was lovely. Is this a regular thing? I remember there was music last year as well.
  • The green room staff, wonderful people there. They made the room a nice respite before and after panels.
  • The Norwescon staff were all really great. Thanks to everyone for making the event such a success. It’s a lot of hard work. Next time you see a volunteer, thank them.

It was a packed weekend, but so worth it. I’m already missing the whole buzz of the convention halls and the enthusiasm from my fellow attendees. There were a few times I wanted to get into the nitty-gritty details of writing horror and time just didn’t allow it. It would have been great to have sat in on a panel that was specific to cosmic horror/weird fiction and Lovecraftian mythos, but that might be too narrow for a general sci-fi/fantasy convention like Norwescon.

Sunday night Kari-Lise and I came home exhausted but feeling accomplished. Monday morning, I rolled right from convention mode back into work mode. No rest for the wicked. I’ll see you again Norwescon, until then, it’s back to writing. Time is wasting, and I have many more stories to tell.