In 500 Words or Less: It’s Not the End and Other Lies by Matt Moore

Friday, September 21st, 2018 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

oie_2002521f3K3WVh7It’s Not the End and Other Lies
by Matt Moore
ChiZine Publications (300 pages, $17.99 paperback, $10.99 eBook, July 2018)

When I was newly-arrived in Ottawa, starting my first year as a high school teacher and still struggling to “break in” as a writer, I subscribed to On Spec, Canada’s premier magazine for short speculative fiction. One of the first issues I received was On Spec #92 in spring 2013, containing an op-ed titled “Next Stop: Suburban Fantasy” that discussed the popularity of urban fantasy and how the subgenre might evolve. It’s sitting on my office bookshelf right now, and rereading it this week I’m just as impressed as I was over five years ago.

That first read was long before I became friends with Matt Moore, whose recent story collection It’s Not the End and Other Lies proves several of the points he made in his op-ed, including that the urban sprawl we find ourselves in today can be just as bizarre and terrifying as the wilderness humanity has left behind. What I’ve loved about Matt’s work for a long time is his ability to combine an everyday suburban setting and make it the perfect place for something uncanny. The core of “Only at the End Do You See What Follows,” for example, is really a widower struggling over what to do with his house – except that his dead wife somehow predicted every person who would come to see it. The supernatural element isn’t really the hook, though; instead, it’s the protagonist’s relationship with his wife, a malicious cheater who’s borderline emotionally abusive, and the question of whether he’s hearing her from beyond the grave at all.

Like the best science fiction or horror writers out there, Moore’s talent doesn’t stop at combining the everyday with the speculative – the real magic is his character work. The supernatural force killing townspeople in “The Leaving” is just the vehicle; the real intrigue is waitress Georgina, desperate to atone for sending an ex-lover out into the night to die. Whether “Of the Endangered” is alternate history, slipstream or far-future SF is a mystery right to the end, but so is Noah, the Gunslinger-esque hunter chasing a backwoods demon. The fallen sky in “Touch the Sky, They Say” is a beautiful concept, but only because of the people wanting to press their hands against the stratosphere. But my personal favorite (I think) is “Brief Candles,” focusing on a couple desperate to have children in a post-Vietnam suburb, but forced to wait until they get a candle holding a soul that can be given new life through reincarnation. Whether the Cycle in this world is fact or fiction is never established; the important thing is what these characters believe, and what they’re willing to do because of it.

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Birthday Reviews: Andy Duncan’s “Santa Cruz”

Friday, September 21st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Shawn T. King

Cover by Shawn T. King

Andy Duncan was born on September 21, 1961.

In 1998, he was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Duncan has won the World Fantasy Award twice, for his collection Beluthahatchie and Other Stories in 2001 and for his novella “Wakulla Springs,” co-written with Ellen Klages, in 2014. “Wakulla Springs” was also nominated for the Nebula and Hugo Awards. Duncan did win a Nebula Award in 2013 for his Novelette “Close Encounter” and he has a total of 8 nominations for the Nebula Award and three for the Hugo Award. He also won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for his Novella “The Chief Designer,” which was also up for the Hugo and Nebula. Duncan has won the Southeastern SF Achievement Award twice, for “The Chief Designer” and “The Big Rock Candy Mountain.” He is currently on the Board of SFWA.

“Santa Cruz: A True Story” was published in Jaym Gates’s anthology Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place in 2016. The original publication received poor distribution and there are currently plans in the works to re-release the volume through another publisher with better distribution. The story has not yet been reprinted.

Duncan relates “Santa Cruz: A True Story” as if it had happened to him. The fictionalized version of Duncan is on a trip through California and stops in Santa Cruz, just south of San Jose, to visit with an old friend, Rob, who wound up settling in the city because there was something magical about the place that spoke to him, even if he couldn’t quite explain what it was.

For the most part, the story is completely mundane. Andy and Rob finish a night of reminiscing and while walking across an empty parking lot come across a drunk woman who has been abandoned in the lot. Andy offers her a lift home with Rob following her. Even when the story gets weird, it doesn’t get particularly weird. Andy makes a turn that causes him to lose Rob. The woman gives him drunk directions to a random cul-de-sac and eventually to her home. He manages to extricate himself from her neighborhood in about a tenth of the time it took to get there, and he reconnects with Rob.

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The Underwater Ballroom Society: A Review

Friday, September 21st, 2018 | Posted by C.S.E. Cooney


In The Underwater Ballroom Society, an anthology sprung what-if-ily from a Twitter discussion, Tiffany Trent and Stephanie Burgis have edited a book targeted most righteously to the naiads, nāgas, and merfolk among us. Eleven stories of splendiferous sub-lacunar spectacle await the invited… and we’re all invited! Put on your best fishing net dress, string yourself with drowned doubloons and deep-water pearls, and dive in!

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Goth Chick News: Visiting Chicago’s Own Masters of Disguise

Thursday, September 20th, 2018 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Zagone Studios-small

We first became acquainted with the gents at Zagone Studios way back in 2012 when Tony Kosart (champion of the SyFy channel’s show Face Off) brokered an intro. At that time Tony was using Zagone’s latex prosthetics in his special make-up effects and we were thrilled to learn Zagone creations had a storied history right here in Chicago.

Over 40 years ago, Chicagoland brothers Phil and Bob Zagone realized that nothing ruined the chances of picking up a date on Halloween with a fantastic costume, faster than the sweaty mess you became under a rubber mask.

That — and there was no way to consume adult beverages while wearing one.

Committed to solving this age-old dilemma the brothers started working on several solutions which they eventually proposed to the Godfather of Halloween himself, Don Post of Don Post Studios in California.

Unfortunately (or rather fortunately), Mr. Post was too busy to consider their ideas, but advised the Zagones that if they were so keen to improve the mask industry, they were welcome to start their own company and have at it.

Which was precisely what Phil and Bob did in 1974, here in their hometown of Chicago.

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New Treasures: The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories edited by Stephen Jones

Thursday, September 20th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories-smallI love these Mammoth anthologies. Because they’re mammoth! You can curl up with them for an entire weekend. Or use them as a stepladder to get to those dishes in the top cupboard. They have countless uses around the house.

Stephen Jones’ latest, The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories, arrived earlier this month, and it looks like an essential fall purchase. It’s 528 pages of new and reprint stories from Ramsey Campbell, Steve Rasnic Tem, Joe R. Lansdale, Helen Marshall, Angela Slatter, Neil Gaiman, Storm Constantine, Alison Littlewood, Robert Silverberg, Michael Marshall Smith, Adrian Cole, Christopher Fowler, Scott Bradfield, Robert Shearman, and a dozen more — plus a spooky new poem by Jane Yolen.

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

“Introduction: When Churchyards Yawn”
“October in the Chair” – Neil Gaiman (Conjunctions: 39, The New Wave Fabulists, 2002)
“Reflections in Black” – Steve Rasnic Tem
“The Halloween Monster” – Alison Littlewood
“The Phénakisticope of Decay” – James Ebersole
“Memories of Día de los Muertos” – Nancy Kilpatrick (Dead of Night #8, Fall/Winter 1993)
“Fragile Masks” – Richard Gavin
“Bone Fire” – Storm Constantine
“Queen of the Hunt” – Adrian Cole
“The October Widow” – Angela Slatter (The Spectral Book of Horror Stories, September 2014)
“Before the Parade Passes By” – Marie O’Regan

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Birthday Reviews: James P. Blaylock’s “Doughnuts”

Thursday, September 20th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Phil Parks

Cover by Phil Parks

James P. Blaylock was born on September 20, 1950.

Blaylock won the 1987 Philip K. Dick Award for his novel Homonculus. He won the 1986 World Fantasy Award for the short story “Paper Dragons” and again in 1997 for “Thirteen Phantasms.” Blaylock has also been nominated for the Mythopoeic Award three times, the Nebula Award once, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award once. Blaylock’s most frequent collaborator is Tim Powers and the two have also used the name William Ashbless, which can be used jointly or individually. Ashbless has also been featured as a character in each of their works. Blaylock has also collaborated with Adriana Campoy, Alex Haniford, and Brittany Cox.

“Doughnuts” was originally published as a chapbook by Blaylock through Airtight Seels Allied Productions in 1994, a publishing house set up by James T. Seels in 1992 to publish Seels’s bibliography of Blaylock. The story was reprinted by Subterranean Press as a chapbook in 1997. Blaylock included it in his collections 13 Phantasms (2000) and The Shadow on the Doorstep (2009).

There is really nothing fantastic or science fictional about Blaylock’s “Doughnuts,” although the story, which deals with addiction, does have an horrific element to it as Walt and Amanda each deal with their own addictions and turn on each other when their problems are pointed out. Walt’s wife has informed him that his diet is no longer going to include doughnuts. Although he has been playing along with her ultimatum, he sneaks out of the house before she wakes to go to his local shop, Lew’s Doughnuts, only to discover that Lew has changed his hours. The shop is no longer open twenty-four hours, and Walt will need to wait until 8:00 to get his fix. Eventually, he returns home with a box of doughnuts.

Amanda’s own addiction is shoes. Just as Walt sneaks out early to buy doughnuts, littering the floor of his car with bags from Lew’s, Amanda buys multiple pairs of shoes and hides them in the trunk of her car until she can sneak them into the house. When Walt goes into the trunk to retrieve her car jack and discovers two pairs of the same shoes, he confronts Amanda, setting of a brief but intense fight that roils both of their emotions throughout the day, leading Walt to binge on nearly all the doughnuts he bought that morning. A later discovery of shoes in the trunk that his neighbor identifies as $1,000 Ferragamo’s exacerbates the situation.

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Magical Tomes and Witch Hunting Manuals at the Ashmolean Museum

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

Last week I looked at the new exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, Spellbound: Magic, Ritual & Witchcraft. It’s such a compelling collection of folk magic through the ages that I wanted to look a bit more in detail at a few of the magic books that were included in the exhibition, along with some of the art that belief in witchcraft inspired in pre-modern times.

Microcosmic man (c) Wellcome Library, London

The “microcosmic man” in a German manuscript, c. 1420. © Wellcome Library,
London. The idea that man is a smaller reflection of the greater universe
goes back to Plato and Aristotle, and in the Middle Ages was developed by
astrologers into a system in which certain parts of the body correspond
to signs of the Zodiac. Medical texts used these charts to know whether
or not to bleed a patient. If the moon was in the sign corresponding to
the body part, it was unhealthy to bleed them.

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The Origins of Zombies Need Brains

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018 | Posted by Joshua Palmatier

Zombes Need Brains Portal

There’s one particular question that I get asked a lot once people find out I created a small press called Zombies Need Brains. Mainly, where the name Zombies Need Brains comes from.

It began in 2007, when the World Fantasy Convention was held in Saratoga Springs, NY. That’s basically a few hours drive from where I live. At the time, Patricia Bray was also living in Binghamton and I had just been published by DAW Books. (The Skewed Throne came out in hardcover in January 2006 and The Cracked Throne followed in November 2006.) I was, of course, looking for ways to promote the books and so with WFC so close, Patricia and I came up with a plan to throw a party on Thursday night at the con. We invited S.C. Butler, Barbara Campbell, C.E. Murphy, and Jennifer Dunne to join us (mostly so we could split the costs and make it affordable for all of the authors involved). We planned out the alcohol, the snacks, getting a room at the convention, getting invites printed up to hand out at the con, etc., etc., etc.

But we needed a name for the party.

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Birthday Reviews: Damon Knight’s “Backward, O Time”

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Virgil Finlay

Cover by Virgil Finlay

Damon Knight was born on September 19, 1922 and died on April 15, 2002. He was married to author Kate Wilhelm. Over the years, he used the pseudonyms Stuart Fleming and Donald Laverty. As an author, he collaborated with James Blish and Kenneth Bulmer. He edited a variety of anthologies and magazines with Martin H. Greenberg, Bill Evans, and Joseph D. Olander. A member of the Futurians, Knight published a history of the organization and also inspired the founding of the fannish group the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F) and founded the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), and the Milford Writer’s Workshop which gave birth to the Clarion Workshop.

Damon Knight won a Hugo Award for Best Reviewer in 1956 and in 2001 his story “To Serve Man” was awarded a Retro Hugo Award. He won a Jupiter Award in 1977 for his short story “I See You.” The Science Fiction Research Association presented him with a Pilgrim Award in 1975 for Lifetime Contribution to Scholarship. He and Wilhelm both received the Gallun Award from I-Con in 1996. In 1995, he was named a SFWA Grand Master. The award’s name was changed to the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award following his death in 2002 and in 2003 he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Knight, along with Wilhelm, were the guests of honor at Noreascon II, the 1980 Worldcon in Boston.

Knight published “This Way to the Regress” in the August 1956 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, edited by H.L. Gold. The story was also translated for the February 1958 French language edition of the magazine. By the time Knight included it in his 1966 collection Turning On: Thirteen Stories, Knight had changed the title to “Backward, O Time.” The first title, of course, is a play on the sign P.T. Barnum used in his side shows, the latter comes from a hymn written by Elizabeth Akers Allen. The story appeared in French again in 1970 and 1976 as well as in English in 1976 in The Best of Damon Knight. The latter book was translated into both Spanish and Dutch, meaning additional versions of the story. In 2014 it was included in the Gollancz collection of Knight’s works Far Out/In Deep/Off Centre/Turning On, which was an omnibus edition of his first four collections.

As the title would suggest, “Backward, O Time” is a time slippage story in which the main character, and probably all the other characters, live their lives backwards. Knight follows the life of Lawrence Sullivan from the moment of his birth in a car accident to his eventual death, being inserted into his mother’s womb. At first, the reader is under the impression that in his moment of death, Sullivan flashes back on his life, but it becomes clear that what Knight is doing is much more experimental.

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When Philip K. Dick Reports You to the FBI: Thomas M. Disch’s Camp Concentration

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Camp Concentration-small Camp Concentration-back-small

Thomas M. Disch is a tragic figure. An enormously talented writer who won the enduring respect of his peers — with nine Nebula nominations and two Hugo nominations to his credit, plus a John W. Campbell Award and Rhysling Award, among many other accolades — his work was long ignored by the public. Success eluded him for virtually his entire career, and he gave up writing almost entirely near the end of his life. After the death of his partner in 2005 he lost his house, fought eviction from his apartment, and eventually killed himself in 2008. In the Science Fiction Encyclopedia John Clute wrote of Disch:

Because of his intellectual audacity, the chillingly distanced mannerism of his narrative art, the austerity of the pleasures he affords, and the fine cruelty of his wit, Disch was perhaps the most respected, least trusted, most envied and least read of all modern sf writers of the first rank.

Certainly his most commercially successful work was the novella “The Brave Little Toaster,” which appeared first in the August 1980 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and was nominated for both a Hugo and Nebula. Famed animation director John Lasseter (Toy Story, A Bug’s Life) recalls how he was fired from Disney ten minutes after making a pitch for a film version; Hyperion Pictures eventually produced animated versions of The Brave Little Toaster (1987) and Disch’s sequel, The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (1998).

Perhaps his most successful adult novel was Camp Concentration, which has seen nearly a dozen editions in English since it first appeared in 1968. Alongside On Wings of Song (1979) it’s one of his most acclaimed novels, anyway, and I figure it makes a solid starting point to start reading Disch. It’s interesting for another reason as well — the novel figures prominently in one of the most infamous incidents involving Philip K. Dick, who was so alarmed by Camp Concentration that he wrote a letter to the FBI about it.

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