Dark Dreams in Red Dirt

Sunday, February 26th, 2017 | Posted by Mark Finn

Chicken Fried Cthulhu

It started with Arkham House, of course. The original Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos anthology strove to collect, and maybe even codify, the various stories written by Lovecraft’s contemporaries during their heyday; Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Frank Belknap Long, Robert Bloch, August Derleth, and others. That was back in 1969, right in the middle of the epic fantasy and sword and sorcery boom. Other anthologies of a similar nature followed, attempting to trace antecedents and well as descendants.

When the horror boom swept in during the 1980s, authors like Ramsey Campbell and Robert Bloch were releasing collections of nothing but their mythos stories. As the popularity and notoriety of Lovecraft’s works increased, smaller publishing efforts like Chaosium’s early collections themed around a particular Great Old One — The Azathoth Cycle, say — sold briskly.

Then things got a little nutty. Sherlock Holmes vs Cthulhu. Hardboiled Cthulhu, Frontier Cthulhu, High Seas Cthulhu, Cthulhu in Space, Cthulhu in the Future, and even erotic Cthulhu Mythos fiction (you’re on your own, there, pardner). There’s a List Challenge you can take, if you are so inclined, to see how many of these books you own or have read. I’d be very surprised if you have read them all. I’m into this stuff, and there’s a bunch I haven’t even heard of.

So, with all that being a given, why on Earth are we trying to publish Chicken Fried Cthulhu? What’s so special about the Southwest, anyway? It’s a great question. Let me give you the short answer: Joe R. Lansdale.

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Nancy Willard, June 26, 1936 – February 19, 2017

Saturday, February 25th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Things Invisible to See Nancy Willard-small Pish, Posh, Said Hieronymus Bosch Sister Water Nancy Willard paperback-small

Nancy Willard was the author of more than 70 books, including more than 40 books for children, such as the Anatole trilogy, Firebrat (1988), East of the Sun and West of the Moon: A Play (1989), and Pish, Posh Said Hieronymus Bosch (1991), illustrated by the Dillons. She won the Newbery Award in 1982 for her book of poetry, William Blake’s Inn, illustrated by Alice & Martin Provensen. It was the first book of poetry to win the Newbery.

She also wrote a handful of fantasy novels for adults, including Things Invisible to See (1985), which I bought in Ottawa in the Bantam Spectra paperback edition in 1986 (above left; cover by Todd Schorr). Set in her home town of Ann Arbor in the 1940s, it tells the tale of two brothers who meet a paralyzed young woman, and ends with a baseball game featuring some of the sport’s most famous players. Sister Water (1993) was called “Heavenly…Marvelous… A kind of miracle,” by People magazine (see the back cover of the Wayne State edition here).

Nancy Willard was born on June 26, 1936 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She earned a Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, and became a professor at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1965. She retired from Vassar in 2013. Her last children’s book will be released this fall. She died peacefully at her home in Poughkeepsie on February 19. She was 80 years old. Read her obituary at the Poughkeepsie Journal.

New Treasures: Prophets of the Ghost Ants by Clark Thomas Carlton

Saturday, February 25th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Prophet of the Ghost Ants-small Prophet of the Ghost Ants-back-small

Clark Thomas Carlton is the author of precisely one previous book, the novelization of the John Travolta/Nicolas Cage film Face/Off, which was published 20 years ago. His newest novel is completely different, a science fantasy set a billion years in the future, which Carlton says was “inspired during a trip to the Yucatan when I witnessed a battle for a Spanish peanut by two different tribes of ants.” It’s perhaps the most fascinating premise of any novel I’ve seen so far this year. It was published as a 598-page mass market paperback by Harper Voyager last month. Annalee Newitz, reviewing the self-published paperback edition in 2011 at io9, wrote:

I’m fascinated by the worldbuilding in Clark T. Carlton’s novel Prophets of the Ghost Ants, which Carlton says “takes place a billion years in the future when the human race has been reduced to the size of rice grains and has intertwined with the insect world in order survive, essentially becoming the parasites of ants…” Journey into a strange future of insect battalions and a power-mad aristocracy that’s more antlike than human.

Prophets of the Ghost Ants is described as Book One of the Antasy Series (although it first appeared six years ago, and there’s been no sign of a second one, so take that with a grain of salt). It was published by Warner Aspect on January 24, 2017. It is 598 pages, priced at $7.99 in paperback and $3.99 for the digital version. The cover artist is not credited. Read the prologue and the first three chapters at WattPad.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar Saga: Tanar of Pellucidar

Saturday, February 25th, 2017 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

tanar-of-pellucidar-original-printing-coverA long time has passed, both on the surface of the Earth’s sphere and within it. On the surface, it’s been almost fifteen years since Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the second of his inner world adventures, Pellucidar. During this time, ERB penned another ten Tarzan novels, a couple more Martian ones, and a few of his finest standalone tales. Burroughs incorporated himself and set up the offices of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. in a part of the San Fernando Valley soon to be named Tarzana. It seemed unlikely he would return to writing about Pellucidar after almost a decade and a half… but then he hatched a plan to give the Tarzan series a boost using the fuel of the Earth’s Core.

Our Saga: Beneath our feet lies a realm beyond the most vivid daydreams of the fantastic … Pellucidar. A subterranean world formed along the concave curve inside the earth’s crust, surrounding an eternally stationary sun that eliminates the concept of time. A land of savage humanoids, fierce beasts, and reptilian overlords, Pellucidar is the weird stage for adventurers from the topside layer — including a certain Lord Greystoke. The series consists of six novels, one which crosses over with the Tarzan series, plus a volume of linked novellas, published between 1914 and 1963.

Today’s Installment: Tanar of Pellucidar (1929)

Previous Installments: At the Earth’s Core (1914), Pellucidar (1915)

The Backstory

The gap between Pellucidar and Tanar of Pellucidar is fourteen years, the longest hiatus for any of ERB’s major series. Despite numerous pleas from readers, Burroughs apparently had no intention to explore Pellucidar further. But at the end of the 1920s, he devised a plan to jolt life back into the Tarzan books by sending the Lord of the Apes somewhere stranger than the usual lost jungle cities. He already had that “somewhere stranger” waiting to be used: Pellucidar was the perfect Tarzan destination vacation!

But first, Pellucidar needed a bit of a dusting-off to set it up for Lord Greystoke’s arrival, as well as to remind the reading public that the setting existed. Burroughs put into action a two-book plan, starting with a new standalone Pellucidar novel to lure readers into the upcoming Tarzan adventure.

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In 500 Words or Less: The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

Friday, February 24th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

The Heroes Joe Abercrombie-smallThe Heroes
By Joe Abercrombie
Orbit (592 pages, $11.46 paperback, October 2011)

(This one is a little above 500 words because of an excerpt. Just roll with it.)

The last time I discussed Joe Abercrombie in this column, my disappointment in Best Served Cold earned a few comments from the community. (Side note: I love getting comments, so keep them coming.) You might be happy to learn that, as promised, I gave the next First Law book a chance. And I loved it.

The Heroes is everything that I appreciate from Abercrombie, including the bits that were missing from Best Served Cold. It has the same sort of darkness, openly focusing on the idea that there’s no such thing as a hero in any conflict, balanced with the rich humor that originally hooked me on Abercrombie’s work. The entire story is basically an epic battle staged over a series of days, but the action is never boring, and always does something to advance the story. What’s really interesting is several chapters where Abercrombie starts the POV on a character on one side of the conflict, who then dies at the hands of another character who takes over the POV, who then dies … and so on. Some of these characters are newly-introduced – but we’re made to care about them with a Tom Clancy-level of talent – and then suddenly a character we’re familiar with will appear, which doesn’t exactly bode well once you figure out what Abercrombie is doing.

One of my main issues with Best Served Cold was connected to characters – not an issue here. Caul Shivers, essentially a cardboard cut-out of another character previously, seems to have changed again, but this time it works. In a story where almost every character is a soldier, each one is distinct, which is not an easy task (I’ve tried). What’s especially delightful is the return of characters from the First Law trilogy, particularly mad wizard Bayaz, who continues to manipulate events; when a character doesn’t know him challenges his authority, I actually held my breath, waiting for Bayaz’s wrath. But the show-stealer for me was Bremer dan Gorst, who we last saw as the opponent of Jezal dan Luthar and later his protector when Jezal is crowned king. I’ve said before that Inquisitor Glokta from the First Law trilogy is possibly the most amusing character I’ve ever read … but damn if Gorst doesn’t come close. His criticisms of the people around him are exactly what you wish you could say to the worst people in your life, made funnier by the hopelessly pathetic existence that Gorst is trapped in.

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue #217 (January 19, 2017)

Friday, February 24th, 2017 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Beneath-Ceaseless-Skies-217-smallOnce again, Beneath Ceaseless Skies delivers a pair of stories that convey a genuine sense of wonder by exposing the reader to ideas and imagery that they never experienced before.

It starts with “Proteus Lost” by Tony Pi, a story about the perils of shapeshifting. So often, magic in fantasy is portrayed in recipe format. Mix these ingredients with those magic words and you get a spell. In this story, we get a genuine sense of the dangers involved in casting a spell on yourself. The “spells” involve a series of conjurations written in a spell book as a list of visual riddles. Get any one riddle wrong and you end up in the wrong shape and need to work your way back to the intermediate shape where you lost your way. Tony Pi pulls off the amazing trick of making two guys sitting in a room reciting spells feel suspenseful.

Next up is “Requiem for the Unchained” by Cae Hawksmoor. I’ll be honest and say that I found the premise of this story to be rather confusing. At its heart, it’s about a captain taking a ship on a dangerous mission rather than losing it. There are old themes here about the old way of doing things being replaced by new ways and a genuinely compelling concept of a sea of ghosts. But the story seemed to have a lot of build-up before the action that didn’t clearly explain what exactly was being done. A smarter reader will probably think I’m just a slow learner, but that was my take on it.

As usual, you can read both stories (as well as a podcast recording and archived story) for free at www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/issues/issue-217, but these publications only survive through financial support. So why not drop ninety-nine cents and actually pay for it?

We last covered Beneath Ceaseless Skies with issue #216.

The Best of a Master Fantasist: The Zoran Zivkovic Collection

Friday, February 24th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Impossible Stories-small Impossible Stories II-small The Papyrus Trilogy-small The Five Wonders of the Danube-small

Serbian master fantasist Zoran Zivkovic has an enviable international reputation. His novels include The Writer (1998), Impossible Encounters (2000), and The Ghostwriter (2009), and his mosaic novel The Library won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella in 2003.

But his appearances in English here in the US has been spotty. Which is one of the reasons I was so delighted to see Cadmus Press publish The Zoran Zivkovic Collection, four gorgeous volumes of his best work, translated into English:

Impossible Stories I — 422 pages, $34, November 10, 2016 (Includes “Time Gifts,” “Impossible Encounters,” “Seven Touches of Music,” “The Library,” and “Steps through the Mist”)
Impossible Stories II — 428 pages, $34, Dec 10, 2016 (Contains the collections Four Stories Till the End, Twelve Collections, The Bridge, Amarcord, and Miss Tamara, the Reade)
The Papyrus Trilogy — 608 pages, $41, August 1, 2016 (The cases of Dejan Lucik. Includes three novels: The Last Book, The Grand Manuscript, and The Compendium of the Dead)
The Five Wonders of the Danube — 198 pages, $26, August 1, 2016

All four are hardcovers featuring striking cover art by Japanese artist Youchan Ito. On his website the author calls them “the first four volumes of The Zoran Živković Collection,” which implies there will be more. The publisher claims all four volumes “will be available in hardcover, trade paperback, and electronic editions,” but for now the hardcover editions are the only ones I can find.

Goth Chick News: A Fan Girl Meltdown Over Amazon’s Good Omens

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 | Posted by Sue Granquist

good-omens-smallI can say with certainty that I almost never get worked up over film adaptations of books, with good reason; they rarely live up to their source material.

But today I make an exception.

I might actually squee… Well probably not, but still.

Amazon Studios recently announced a six-part adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s novel Good Omens which will debut in 2018.

Insert small squee here.

I first picked up the book Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch in an airport bookstore in 2006. I then proceeded to laugh out loud on my flight from San Jose to Chicago, and laughing out loud at a book is something I haven’t done since my first reading of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Later I picked up of the audio version which I listened to in the car and nearly drove off the road. Finally, in January of 2015 I acquired the BBC Radio 4 dramatization, performed with a full cast and fell in love all over again.

There is no better cure for a bad day then listening to a few chapters of Good Omens.

But what is just so darn amusing about the story?

For me it has all the elements — demons, angels, witches, the Antichrist — all wrapped in a story that boldly showcases the absurdity of it all in the most biting and British of ways.

The book is set “today” but the show will be set in 2018 and in both, the world is on the brink of an apocalypse. But follies ensue when Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a demon, aren’t all that enthusiastic about the end of the world, having grown quite comfortable with their lives on earth. Also, they may have misplaced the Antichrist. And he may just be an ordinary boy who wants to stay in his small town with his gang of friends.

I’m snickering just typing that.

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Tea and Sympathy with the Paranormal: An interview with Steampunk Goddess Gail Carriger

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 | Posted by Elizabeth Crowens


Photo by Vanessa Applegate

Gail Carriger has published several series of best-selling and award-winning novels starting with her Parasol Protectorate Series.

Gail, you have developed what the publishing industry considers as a distinctive brand. Not only have you capitalized on the subgenre of Steampunk, but you’ve also added a distinguishing paranormal twist with many of your major characters being Preternaturals, Werewolves or Vampires. What inspired you to carve out this niche for yourself?

From my perspective, I felt that the real momentum of social media happened around 2007. I knew that to be a published author I’d have to choose to have a social media presence. So, I poked my nose about to see what some of my favorite authors were doing — who was doing a good job of it and who wasn’t — and made pretty thoughtful choices form the get-go about everything from how my website was designed as to how I would appear on social media, as well as my public image. That might sound a bit manipulative, but I’m one of those evil authors that are a bit Machiavellian — that all I’m doing as an author is playing with your emotions.

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Nightmare, Issue 53 (February 2017)

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Nightmare_53_February_2017-smallQuiet horror is a genre that’s a hard sell these days. It’s rarely cinematic, so that you don’t see a lot of film adaptations. And it can be something of an acquired taste. Thankfully, there are some high-profile markets that will take a risk on this sub-genre and, as the February issue of Nightmare demonstrates, those risks can yield darkly wondrous rewards.

We begin with “The Garbage Doll” by Jessica Amanda Salmonson. Dolls are always a creepy and the story is tinged with a sense of regret that comes with age. The dreamlike narrative style might be off-putting to some, but if you read it just before bedtime, you may find yourself wondering where the story ends and your own dreams begin.

“The Dying Season” by Lynda E. Rucker combines the “town with a secret” trope with the “gaslit wife” trope to form an unsettling narrative, where both the reader and the protagonist never quite know what’s going on, even if both agree that getting the hell out of that town is the best course of action.

“Youth Will be Served” by Andrew Fox is another “town with a secret” story, although this secret is only known by a handful of people. Taken as a story about the horrors of growing old, gentrification, or just the sacrifices we’re willing to make for others (and how those sacrifices often benefit us as well), this is a great slow-burn horror/mystery piece.

Once again, Nightmare chooses to save the best for last with “Word Doll” by Jeffrey Ford. Again, dolls are always creepy, but here the author really digs into the concept of dolls and what it means to play with them. There are no simple animated killer toys in this one, but rather something less tangible (and thus more difficult to fight). Unlike so many dark fantasy stories, the “mythology” built up in this story is utterly fascinating.

As with all Nightmare issues, you can certainly read all of the stories online for free, but these publications only survive with financial support, so it’s really better if you drop $2.99 for a copy at www.nightmare-magazine.com/issues/feb-2017-issue-53.

We last covered Nightmare magazine with issue 52.

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