Goth Chick News: Quarantine Ghost Patrol…

Thursday, April 30th, 2020 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Goth Chick get your butt home

One of my good friends from college works for the Canadian embassy in Jakarta, so when I heard this, I had to contact him to see if it was really a thing.

And it is.

Apparently, ghosts are a very real deal in Indonesia, and like everywhere else in the world, so is the continuing threat of Covid-19. The country is in fear of its economy and healthcare system being overwhelmed. Why? Because it has a population of 267 million located on 735,400 square miles. As opposed to the U.S., which has 382 million people on 3.8 million spacious square miles.

So it’s easy to see how devastating the virus could be to a small, densely populated island, which is why the authorities there have very little tolerance for quarantine violators.

An article in the Jakarta Post from last week quotes Kusdinar Untung Yuni Sukowati, an Indonesian politician, as saying, “If there’s an empty and haunted house in the village, put people in there and lock them up.” Yep, you read that right. And she’s not talking about the Halloween-funhouse kind either. Belief in the presence of spirits, called ruh, is deeply rooted in all the Malaysian cultures, with each region having its own variations. Though many spirits are harmless, a quick internet search turned up no less than 81 named Malaysian demons. People there take their supernatural entities seriously.

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Polygon on 17 New Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Check Out in April

Thursday, April 30th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Bonds of Brass-small The Ranger of Marzanna-small Repo Virtual-small

It’s good to see Andrew Liptak back in the saddle, doing what he does best — telling the world about great SF books. Liptak left The Verge last August, but it wasn’t long before he landed at Polygon, and his book column doesn’t seem to have suffered for it. His list of the best books for April includes nine we’ve already discussed here — such as Titan’s Day by Dan Stout, Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang, and Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett — but more than a few tantalizing titles we somehow managed to overlook. Here’s three of the most interesting.

Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie (Del Rey, 320 pages, $27 in hardcover, $11.99 in digital formats, April 7, 2020)

Bonds of Brass is the first installment of Emily Skrutskie’s Bloodright trilogy. Set in the far future, the book introduces 10-year-old Ettian Nassun, whose life was turned upside-down when the oppressive Umber Empire invaded his homeworld as it fought against the Archon Empire. Years later, Ettian enters the Empire’s military academy — a way for a war orphan like himself to move up in society. There he meets and befriends Gal Veres, the heir to the empire that irrevocably changed his life. When their classmates try to assassinate Gal, Ettian comes to his aid, then is forced to make a devastating choice: side with the man who stands to inherit the system that killed his parents, or join the growing rebellion to take it down.

Kirkus Reviews says that Skrutskie’s “thoughtful SF portrayal of children navigating war, displacement, and PTSD while finding love and friendship in unimaginable circumstances is very much worth the read.”

Read an excerpt.

Emily Skrutskie is the author of Hullmetal Girls and The Abyss Surrounds Us, both of which were reviewed right here by Elizabeth Galewski.

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Breaking News: HBO’s The Plot Against America Parts 4-6

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020 | Posted by James Enge


The story so far: in this tale of an alternate America, based on a pseudo-memoir written by Philip Roth, anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh was elected president in 1940, keeping the USA out of the war in its darkest hours and inaugurating a scary time for American Jews, especially 9-year-old Philip Levin (Azhy Robertson).

Feelings about the Lindbergh administration vary through America’s Jewish community. For some, like Rabbi Bengelsdorf (John Tuturro) and his new bride Evelyn (Winona Ryder), it’s an opportunity for social climbing and collaboration. To some, like young Sandy Levin (Caleb Malis), Lindbergh is a hero and any concerns to the contrary come from ignorant frightened “ghetto Jews” — like his parents. For some, like Philip’s overbearing Uncle Monty (David Krumholz), business is good; the nation is at peace; there are worse things than President Lindbergh.

Others (young Philip’s parents, played by Morgan Spector and Zoe Kazan, and his cousin Alvin, played by Anthony Boyle) are intent on resisting the tide of anti-Semitism rising in America and the rest of the world. But, tragically, they can’t agree on what should be done and end up fighting with each other as much or more than with the real enemy.

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Future Treasures: Lake of Darkness by Scott Kenemore

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Lake of Darkness-smallIt’s always nice to read a book set in my hometown. Scott Kenemore’s Lake of Darkness, arriving next week in hardcover, has the added appeal of being set in lawless WWI-era Chicago, an era already rich with racial tension, drama, and larger-than-life characters. Layer in a creepy serial killer and a detective with a fascinating crew of magicians and mystics, and you’ve got all the elements of great tale.

Scott Kenemore’s previous books include the Zombie trilogy (Zombie, Ohio, Zombie, Illinois, and Zombie, Indiana) and The Grand Hotel, but his latest book is getting a lot more attention. Simon Strantzas says Lake of Darkness is a “Chicago tale as strange and bizarre as the twin murders at its heart… an exceptional read,” and Dean Jobb (Empire of Deception) calls it “a fast-paced tale of madness, murder, and a streetwise detective on the trail of a depraved serial killer… a stylish, clever whodunit.”

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying:

This superb blend of noir and horror from Kenemore (Zombie, Ohio) centers on the search for a serial killer who targets twins in WWI-era Chicago, starting with two 10-year-old African-Americans, a brother and sister, whose heads are cut off and switched. Other murders follow in which black children’s heads are severed and then attached to their siblings’ torsos. Mayor Big Bill Thompson, who has eyes on the White House, is concerned that the killings could harm Chicago’s reputation and stem the migration of African-Americans from the South. Thompson gives Joe “Flip” Flippity, one of Chicago’s few black cops, carte blanche to solve the case. Flip is aided by such unusual allies as the Amazing Drextel Tark, a magician whose illusions employ his own twin brother, and elderly Ursula Green, who uses a crystal ball animated by a supernatural force “larger and stronger than herself.” Kenemore keeps the tension high throughout…

Lake of Darkness will be published by Talos on May 5, 2020. It is 264 pages, priced at $15.99 in paperback and $11.99 in digital formats. Get more details at the publisher’s website here.

See all our recent coverage of the best upcoming fantasy and horror here.

Wordsmiths: Interview with Charlie Jane Anders, Recorded Live at Can*Con 2019

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

2019 feels like a long time ago, doesn’t it? One of my other roles is Programming Lead for Can*Con, Ottawa’s annual conference on science fiction, fantasy and horror literature. I’ve had the great fortune to sit down for one-on-one interviews with a few Guests of Honor, most recently a fabulous conversation with Charlie Jane Anders at Can*Con 2019.

Charlie Jane is the author of The City in the Middle of the Night (Tor, 2019), co-host of the Hugo-winning podcast Our Opinions Are Correct, and has contributed work to a variety of anthologies and collections. We get into her short fiction, her work with io9, her thoughts on genre and community, and more.

This was a blast, and I hope you enjoy it, too!

An Ottawa teacher by day, Brandon has been published in On SpecPulp Literature, Electric Athenaeum, and elsewhere. His latest publications include his first comic, “True Balance,” available on Comixology and DriveThruComics, and a reprint of his short story “Rainclouds,” in A Dying Planet from Flame Tree Press. You can follow Brandon at or on Twitter: @B_Crilly.

New Treasures: Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Things in Jars-back-small Things in Jars-small

What is it about the Victorian Era that entrances modern readers? I’m not sure exactly, but something about investigating ghastly crimes on the gas-lit streets of London at midnight appeals to us all, I think. It certainly appeals to Jess Kidd, anyway. Her latest novel is Things in Jars — love that title! — which Kirkus Reviews calls “Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.”

Things in Jars is the tale of a formidable female sleuth in Victorian London (with a ghostly suitor) who is pulled into the macabre world of fanatical anatomists and crooked surgeons while investigating the kidnapping of a very special child. The Guardian offers a more substantial summary, calling it:

High-camp crime… A pipe-smokin’, crypt-crashin’ heroine brings originality and freshness to this Victorian detective drama. This pacy piece of Victorian crime fiction delivers chills galore: pickled babies, wicked surgeons, a head in a hatbox and other unsettling discoveries.

Jess Kidd is the author of Himself, a “supernaturally skilled debut” (Vanity Fair) about a haunted Irish town, and Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, a tale of “Irish magical realism… mistaken identities, and a hoarder’s creepy house” (Library Journal), among others. Things in Jars was published in hardcover in February; here’s the description.

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Altered Initiative in the Altered Carbon RPG

Monday, April 27th, 2020 | Posted by Patrick Kanouse

Altered Carbon The Role Playing Game

In February this year, Hunters Entertainment launched a wildly successful Kickstarter for the Altered Carbon tabletop RPG. When it closed in early March, they had raised $372,547, having only asked for $20,000. While the creators finish the product for later this year, they provided a rules summary and scenario, which you can get from their website (where they call it a quick start guide).

The RPG is based on the Netflix series, Altered Carbon, which just released Season 2. In turn, the series took as its source material Richard K. Morgan’s book series, first published in 2002. The series is unabashedly cyberpunk. I recall reading somewhere that Morgan wanted to take every cyberpunk trope and cliche, toss it together, and see what comes out. The spin that the series takes to differentiate it was to turn whole mind upload or uploading our consciousness to a digital source into a routine, cheap task via a device called a cortical stack.

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Brazzaville — The Sequel to Casablanca That Was Never Made

Monday, April 27th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

CasablancaPoster1Now, I think that Casablanca is the greatest movie ever. I’ve seen it far more times than any other movie, and I rarely pass up a chance to sit down and watch it again when TCM runs it. I had never seen a Humphrey Bogart movie until my early twenties. Then, I went to the Ohio Theater, an amazing place on the National  Register of Historic Places, to see Casablanca on a HUGE screen. There was even organ music during the intermission. I was hooked for life and I now own almost every movie Bogart appeared in. I’m a virtual Cliff Claven of Casablanca trivia, and I’ve even written two short stories centered around the movie.

Frederick Stephani was a screenwriter who had penned the first Flash Gordon movie that Buster Crabbe starred in. He also did the screenplay for Johnny Holiday, a hardboiled movie starring William Bendix. After the success of Casablanca, Warners had him write a treatment for a sequel, working title Brazzaville – after the Free French garrison that Renault suggests he and Rick visit as they walk away from the airport at the close of the film.


Rick and Renault drive to Rick’s Cafe to find some unhappy Germans waiting for them. The Germans demand that Renault either arrest Rick, or turn him over to them. Rick says he’d rather be arrested. I can see Bogart wryly saying that. Renault smiles and looks at his watch; it’s 6:00.

He asks his aide, presumably Lt. Casselle, how long it takes to get a cable to, and a response from, Vichy. He is told, ‘six hours.’ He asks the Germans what charge is to be made against Rick. That’s reminiscent of him telling Strasser he has no reason to shut down the cafe in Casablanca. The Germans tell him some trumped up charges. Unlike the incident with Strasser, he stands up to them. He explains that Casablanca is still a free territory and they need to substantiate their charges. He adds that anyone can prefer charges, but if they can’t be proven, it will cause trouble for Renault.

The Germans, knowing that Renault is with Vichy, are confident, but don’t see the wink that he gives Rick. Rick then levels some made up charges against them! Rains decides he likes Rick’s charges better and arrests the Germans. They are furious and threaten vengeance. Renault offers to let them use the cables to contact Vichy to complain (Nobody plays cool and urbane like Claude Rains). Bogart is bemused.

Later, in Rains’ office, Bogart tries to find out what Louis is up to, but Renault puts him off and tells him to concentrate on their chess games. Renault is unconcerned by his very unhappy German prisoners.

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Weird Tales Deep Read: July 1933

Sunday, April 26th, 2020 | Posted by John Miller


Somewhat fanciful Brundage cover for “Hand of Glory”

This is the first in a series of posts I’ve wanted to do for awhile now, a detailed look at a single issue of Weird Tales magazine where I do a short analysis of each story, the famous, the infamous, and the forgotten. Just to make things a little confusing, I rate these stories, unlike movies, on a 1-5 scale, with the lower the number, the better the story. You can look at these ratings as A-B-C-D-F, or Excellent – Good – Mediocre – Below Average – Poor.

I wanted to start with a memorable issue, so I chose the July 1933 entry, one of the best I’ve read so far. I’ll start with a short overview and then get into the specifics of each story.

This issue is at the beginning of the Unique Magazine’s (as it sometimes called itself) Golden Age (roughly the early to late 1930’s) with a total of four of the nine stories penned by what I like to think of as the Holy Trinity of Weird Tales writers, Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith. The ubiquitous Seabury Quinn is also present with one of his ninety-three Jules de Grandin stories, along with tales by early giants of science fiction Edmond Hamilton and Jack Williamson. Sheridan Le Fanu contributes a classic reprint. The final story is by Harold Ward, a fairly prolific pulp writer noted for complicated plots often bordering on the incoherent.

The Howard story is one of his slightest, but moderately effective. The Smith, set in what is probably the first shared-world universe in science fiction — the Cthulhu Mythos — is also rather slight, but vastly more imaginative. The Lovecraft story under his byline is one of his classic Cthulhu Mythos tales. His second story in this issue appears under the name of Hazel Heald, which requires a bit of explanation.

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Vintage Treasures: Duel by Richard Matheson

Sunday, April 26th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Duel Terror Stories by Richard Matheson-small Duel Terror Stories by Richard Matheson-back-small

Cover art by Eshkar/Uretsky

Richard Matheson was one of the greatest American horror writers of all time. Films based on his work include I Am Legend (filmed three times, most recently in 2007), Real Steel (2011), The Box (2009), Stir of Echoes (1999), What Dreams May Come (1998), Somewhere in Time (1980), Trilogy of Terror (1975), The Legend of Hell House (1973), Duel (1971), and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957).

Of course, among genre fans he’s mostly remembered for his short fiction. He wrote nearly 100 short stories, and many of those were adapted for the screen as well. He wrote 16 episodes of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, including several of the most famous, such as “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel.” Matheson is still widely read today, and deservedly so. He produced over a dozen collections in his lifetime, including Third from the Sun (1955), The Shores of Space (1957), and Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (2002).

Duel, which gathered 18 of his most famous tales, including “Born of Man and Woman,” “Third from the Sun,” and “Duel,” was published by Tor over seventeen years ago. That pretty firmly makes it a Vintage Treasure in my book. Astonishingly, it is still in print as a mass market paperback, which I don’t mind telling you caused me all kind of editorial confusion. Is it a Vintage Treasure? A New Treasure? May seem trivial to you, but it’s never happened to me before. This thing is nearly two decades old, this shouldn’t be a hard question.

In any event, this is great news for anyone who doesn’t have to face esoteric cataloging dilemmas on a Sunday morning. Duel is a fantastic collection, and somewhere in an alternate timeline frustrated collectors are paying crazy prices for it. Lucky for you, in this timeline brand new copies are available for just $8.99. Take advantage of this strange space-time anomaly, and grab your copy today.

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