With a couple exceptions, I wrote most of the stories included in Peel Back and See between 2018 and 2021. As it happens, those years were by far the most taxing and transformative of my life, a fact that I see reflected in the fiction I wrote during that time. Of course, 2020 and 2021 have presented a more macro-level trauma in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic, whose effects rage on to this day (thanks in no small part to anti-vaxxers and the strategically manufactured, algorithm-curated alternate realities that social media presents). The pandemic is there in Peel Back and See (most explicitly in the first and last stories, “Havoc” and “Fade to White”), but I had no interest in writing explicitly pandemic-focused stories; what the hell could I say that hasn’t already been said? Instead, I tried to situate my narratives within the matter-of-fact nature of our dire contemporary circumstances: not only the pandemic and the disturbing realities it has revealed about our social structures, but also the increasing transparency of systemic corruption and oppression writ large, the unspeakable social/psychological ruptures created by social media, and the rapidly worsening climate emergency and other environmental catastrophes. This is a bleak book written during bleak times. What I have sought to do here is curate a sonic representation of its tone.
Listen here: Peel Back and See Spotify Playlist
About Peel Back and See
In spaces both familiar and strange, unknowable horrors lurk.
From the recesses of the Internet, where cosmic terror shows its face on an endless live feed, to a museum celebrating the sordid legacy of an occultist painter, this chilling collection of sixteen short stories will plunge you into the eerie, pessimistic imagination of Mike Thorn.
Peel Back and See urges its readers to look closer, to push past surface-level appearances and face the things that stir below.
Praise for Peel Back and See
“Mike Thorn’s Peel Back and See is a stunning show-stopper of a fiction collection. Eclectic and truly unnerving, I’ll be thinking of these tales for years to come.”
— Eric LaRocca, author of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke
“Reminiscent of the very best of Lovecraft, Thorn’s ability to render internal terrors of the mind is startling in its efficiency and ruthlessness. Immediately establishing a sense of dread and impending doom, Thorn counterpunches by conjuring up deeply terrifying imagery experienced through the lens of increasingly internalised mental anguish. We experience a dead drop into existential horror so bleak that one can hardly imagine a darker fate.”
— Jamie Blanks, director of Urban Legend and Valentine
“Mike Thorn brings his masterful skill with immersive language and style to this beautiful and disturbing collection. No two stories are the same, and each world he creates grabs the reader and pulls them into the inexorable nightmare with unmatched speed and dexterity, leaving them with a haunting fear of what they’ll find when they PEEL BACK AND SEE.”
— Laurel Hightower, author of Crossroads and Whispers in the Dark
“Mike Thorn remains a marvel, a pensive adult with an adolescent’s lust for the dangerously macabre. Who could resist all this literary sophistication (and illimitable intellect) awash in philosophical trauma? We love pain. Observe the victimized characters in these stories, all these souls passively sunk in crisis mode: suicide and homicide, all profoundly disturbing, and ultimately just profound, blended with wild stabs of the oddest humor. Again, who could resist?”
— Robert Dunbar, author of The Pines and Willy
“With Peel Back and See, Mike Thorn plants one bloody foot in the history of horror and the other firmly in its future. Thorn is a forward-thinking master of the craft and if you haven’t read his work yet, now’s the time to catch the fuck up.”
— Sam Richard, author of Sabbath of the Fox-Devils and To Wallow in Ash & Other Sorrows
About Mike Thorn
Mike Thorn is the author of Shelter for the Damned, Darkest Hours, and Peel Back and See. The Spanish translation of Shelter for the Damned will be released by Dilatando Mentes in 2022. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, including Vastarien, Dark Moon Digest, and The NoSleep Podcast. His essays and articles have been published in American Twilight: The Cinema of Tobe Hooper (University of Texas Press), Beyond Empowertainment: Exploring Feminist Horror (Seventh Row), MUBI Notebook, The Film Stage, and elsewhere. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Creative Writing at the University of New Brunswick.