Old Moon Quarterly is a magazine of weird sword-and-sorcery fantasy. In the tradition of Clark Ashton Smith, Tanith Lee and Karl Edward Wagner, it contains stories of strange vistas, eldritch beings, and the bloody dispute thereof by swordsmen and swordswomen both.
Old Moon Quarterly emerged in 2022. This reviews the four stories inside the Winter 2023 issue (Vol III), which delivers solid doses of the weird adventure it promises. The Editor-in-Chief is Julian Barona, flanked by Assistant Editors Caitlyn Emily Wilcox and Graham Thomas Wilcox (who recently debuted here on Black Gate with his review of John Langan’s Corpsemouth and Other Autobiographies, so I gleefully checked this out). Excerpts best convey the style and elements of what to expect, so you’ll get those here!
- “Evil Honey” by James Enge
- “Knife, Lace, Prayer” by T.R. Siebert
- “Singing the Long Retreat” by R.K. Duncan
- “The Feast of Saint Ottmer” by Graham Thomas Wilcox
- A review of Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles, edited by Ellen Datlow.
“Evil Honey” by James Enge
“Evil Honey” reads as if Kafka rewrote his The Metamorphosis for a comedy club. James Enge dishes out another splendid Morlock Ambrosius adventure (these have six novels and are actively appearing in magazines such as Fantasy and Science Fiction and Tales from the Magician’s Skull.) Morlock is such a down-to-earth character one cannot help but empathize. I laughed several times. Excerpt:
“You know my name?” Morlock asked the boy.
“I know everything,” the boy said impatiently. “Everything that crosses these fields, anyway. I am — Snatrec Sumitpo.”
“I am sorry to hear that.”
“Yes, and — Were you making fun of my name?”
“Not at all.” Morlock, scrupulously honest when sober, lied glibly when drunk. — p10
“Knife, Lace, Prayer” by T.R. Siebert
Like the first entry, we have a protagonist contacting the gods but this tone is more serious and pits a girl against her own maker. This apocalyptic adventure resonates with elements of Grimm’s fairy tales, and the elements of creating life are paralleled with that of creating art.
Her god was done with this world.
She tried to walk but her steps were clumsy, her balance off. She stumbled over the bones that used to carry her. The pelt, once fire, now lay dull and damp with Agatha’s blood. The claws, still sharp and gleaming in the fading light. And there, in the mess of it all, she spotted the small white square of Agatha’s prayer. The blood had left just the thinnest red line, a small mark on the edge of it. If she didn’t open it, she’d keep the prayer safe inside — Agatha’s drawings untouched. — p47
“Singing the Long Retreat” by R.K. Duncan
As invaders crush the landscape, heroic warriors slow the advance. This reads like a retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae but with the Spartans replaced with magical poets, destined to become singing Valkyries. Emotive stuff.
None of the young ones would join the Prepared after the women who stood around Fatima died. This bitter generation would leave no legacy, and the tears shed for their deaths had already been drunk by the dry soil. That was their strength: to know that they would die, and to sing the glory of their endings as a sword of fire. — p56
“The Feast of Saint Ottmer” by Graham Thomas Wilcox
The longest entry is a grimdark novella. If one were to mix Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur with Clive Barker’s Hellraiser script, then you’d get this wonderful amalgam of poetic, bloody chivalry. This pits our protagonist Hieronymus against his family’s legacy, independence, and the Church. Given that I consume this blend of fiction regularly, and even interview authors on the topic of “Beauty in Weird Fiction“, I adored this (i.e., I have the author on my radar for an interview). Excerpts below:
Explicitly Awful & Beautiful
… I wondered then what devilry might await us.
Something awful, a part of me said. My lesser humors, perhaps. Curs’d unknightly things.
Something beautiful, offered a different part, something glorious. That part that thrills to taste blood, to rend flesh, to crack skulls like oysters and suckle upon the dark gore within.
The knight of the Dragon kicked free his sword, the axe yet bouncing in his side like some obscenity from a passion play. Without fanfare he grabbed the haft, twisted, tugged and with a bloody pop — a metallic squeal — it uncorked from his body. The axe’s pike glistened, red to the root, but no gush of mortal liquor accompanied this chirurgery. Just a thin, brookish trickle, soon stoppered.
Among the carnage, a single Kienhorster remained…. “Yield,” he sobbed, “I yield.”
The knight did not hesitate… advancing, he took the weeping man’s face in his hands, smearing blood like Easter ash across his cheeks. A gentle touch, as of a father to his son.
“O quam misericors est Deus,” the knight said, voice thick with something like sorrow, or hunger. The Kienhorster’s weeping stuttered to a halt. He gazed up at the knight, eyes shinning.
And the knight squeezed and the man’s head split… — p88
On the walls around the yard, monks and priests clumped in fungal knots. Naked to the waist, their capirotes tall and pointed as spires, they whipped each other and growled strange prayers to an unquiet heaven. Above them, banners flogged the sky and the moon shone pale alongside its mated sun and below them all, corpses dangled from breaking-wheels. – p92
I coughed up blood, and saw the men carrying me were no men at all but rather the ebon-armored dead of legend, smoking and hunched like the very sentinels of Pandaemonium, whose eyes catch within them something other than the stars. But I coughed again, and they became men once more, burdened and slouching amid the dripping stone… — p107
Old Moon Quarterly is gaining momentum as it closes its first year. Vol IV is currently under construction. Check out their submission tab to contribute for future issues.
Old Moon Quarterly: Vol I, Summer 2022 Contents:
- “A Town Called Trepidation” by Paula Hammond.
- “Stella Splendens” by Graham Thomas Wilcox (offered online for free).
- “The Questing Beast” by Carys Crossen.
- “Brightstar” by Mob.
Old Moon Quarterly: Vol II, Autumn 2022 Contents:
- “The Last Line” by Jonathan Olfert
- “The Bloody Staircase” by Gabriella Officer-Narvasa (offered online for free)
- “The Silence of the Rogue” by Jason Ray Carney
- “The Hoard” by Matthew Castleman
- Interviews with (a) acclaimed horror author John Langan and (b) prominent pulp author/editor D.M. Ritzlin,
- Review of John R. Fultz’s Worlds Beyond Worlds.
S.E. Lindberg is a Managing Editor at Black Gate, regularly reviewing books and interviewing authors on the topic of “Beauty & Art in Weird-Fantasy Fiction.” He is also the lead moderator of the Goodreads Sword & Sorcery Group and an intern for Tales from the Magician’s Skull magazine. As for crafting stories, he has contributed six entries across Perseid Press’s Heroes in Hell and Heroika series, has an entry in Weirdbook Annual #3: Zombies He independently publishes novels under the banner Dyscrasia Fiction; short stories of Dyscrasia Fiction have appeared in Whetstone, Swords & Sorcery online magazine, Rogues In the House Podcast’s A Book of Blades, DMR’s Terra Incognita, and the 9th issue of Tales From the Magician’s Skull.