New Treasures: Figures Unseen by Steve Rasnic Tem

Monday, January 7th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Figures Unseen Steve Rasnic Tem-small Figures Unseen Steve Rasnic Tem-back-small

I’m still sorting through all the books I brought back from the World Fantasy Convention this year (which is kinda par for the course — it usually takes me 4-8 months to unpack from that con). Based on reading time and enjoyment over the past few months, my most productive period of the entire convention was the 10 minutes I spent in the Valancourt Booth.

I’ve already talked about several of the books I purchased there, including Michael McDowell’s The Complete Blackwater Saga and Harry Adam Knight’s The Fungus. But I haven’t yet mentioned Steve Rasnic Tem’s new book Figures Unseen, a fabulous collection of 35 of his best tales, as selected by the author.

In his long career Tem has received the World Fantasy, British Fantasy and Bram Stoker Awards. His novels include Excavation (1987), The Man on the Ceiling (2008, with Melanie Tem) and Blood Kin (2014), and his many collections include City Fishing (1999), The Far Side of the Lake (2001), Celestial Inventories (2013), and Out of the Dark (2016). Dan Simmons calls Tem “One of the finest and most productive writers of imaginative literature in North America,” and this collection is the perfect place to start if you want to sample some of his finest work. It includes many of my favorites — including the brilliant “City Fishing,” the tale of a father who takes his son on a very unusual fishing trip in the heart of an ancient city.

Figures Unseen also includes a fine introduction by Simon Strantzas, which I think explicates the effectiveness of Tem’s work better than anything else I’ve read. Here’s a small excerpt.

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Birthday Reviews: Steve Rasnic Tem’s “Cubs”

Friday, September 14th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Chris Nurse

Cover by Chris Nurse

Steve Rasnic Tem was born Steve Rasnic on September 14, 1950. He often collaborated with his wife, Melanie, and the two took on the joint surname Tem. Melanie Tem died in 2015.

The Tems jointly won the World Fantasy Award in 2001 for the novella The Man on the Ceiling, which also earned them a Bram Stoker Award and an International Horror Guild Award. They won a second joint Stoker Award for “Imagination Box” and Tem won solo Stokers for In These Final Days of Sales and Blood Kin. His Short Story “Leaks” won the 1988 British Fantasy Award. Tem also won an International Horror Guild Award for his collection City Fishing in 2001.

“Cubs” made its original appearance in the anthology Hideous Progeny, edited by Brian Willis in 2000. The stories in the book were all based on the Frankenstein story. Tem included the story in his 2013 collection Twember.

Prior to the beginning of “Cubs” Billy suffered a mortal accident, yet his parents were able to bring him back using an undiscussed technique that requires him to wear an energy pack that needs to retain a charge. One of the side effects of Billy’s mechanical resurrection is that occasionally he sees normal things break apart, which isn’t necessarily happening. His semi-undead state also means that he is treated differently by people, including his mother, although she tries to hide the fact from him.

Because these kids are seen as outcasts, there are group outings of scouts specifically for them, but Billy clearly understands that even among the scouts, there is a pecking order and he isn’t at the top. Nevertheless, there is a camaraderie among them based on their status as outcasts. Of course, someone had to be at the bottom of the pecking order and it was the boy they referred to as “the dead kid” because the process wasn’t completely successful with him and he didn’t appear even as lifelike as the rest of the boys.

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New Treasures: Ubo by Steve Rasnic Tem

Monday, August 13th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Ubo Steve Rasnic Tem-smallSteve Rasnic Tem is one of the most acclaimed writers in modern horror. His novels include Deadfall Hotel (2012) and the Bram Stoker Award-winner Blood Kin (2014), and he’s produced over half a dozen collections, including City Fishing (2000) and Figures Unseen (2018). He’s written over 350 short stories and his fiction has won the Bram Stoker, International Horror Guild, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy Awards.

His latest novel Ubo is a strange one, a hallucinatory tale of giant bugs and another world. In “Violence is My Biggest Fear,” an guest post at SciFiNow last year, Steve wrote:

Ubo is a dark science fictional meditation on violence and its origins. During the course of this novel I inhabit the viewpoints of some of history’s most violent figures: Jack the Ripper, Josef Stalin, and Heinrich Himmler among others. I’m not a social scientist, I’m a writer of fiction — I don’t pretend to offer any ingenious new solutions to the issue of human violence. What I do offer is an exploration, a range of eyes and angles through which to view the problem. Perhaps some readers will find their own imaginations triggered, allowing them to view violence in a somewhat different way.

Here’s the description.

Daniel is trapped in Ubo. He has no idea how long he has been imprisoned there by the roaches. Every resident has a similar memory of the journey to Ubo: a dream of dry, chitinous wings crossing the moon, the gigantic insects dropping swiftly over the houses of the neighborhood, passing through walls and windows as if by magic, or science. The creatures, like a deck of baroquely ornamented cards, fanning themselves from one hidden world into the next. And now each day they force Daniel to play a different figure from humanity’s violent history, from a frenzied Jack the Ripper to a stumbling and confused Stalin to a self-proclaimed god executing survivors atop the ruins of the world. The scenarios mutate day after day in this camp somewhere beyond the rules of time. As skies burn and prisoners go mad, identities dissolve as the experiments evolve, and no one can foretell their mysterious end.

Ubo was published by Solaris on February 9, 2017. It is 320 pages, priced at $14.99 in trade paperback and $6.99 for the digital edition. The disturbing cover is by Sam Gretton. Read Steve’s Locus essay “The Long Gestation Period of Ubo” here.

New Treasures: Deadfall Hotel by Steve Rasnic Tem

Thursday, May 31st, 2012 | Posted by John ONeill

deadfall-hotelI don’t get to cover horror fiction as often as I like to — mostly because I don’t get to read much these days. So it’s always a delight when a surprise like Deadfall Hotel arrives at my door. The seed of the novel was the acclaimed short story “Bloodwolf,” published by Charles L. Grant in his anthology Shadows 9 back in 1986. For over 25 years author Steve Rasnic Tem has nurtured that seed, and it has finally grown into a complex and original horror novel.

This is the hotel where our nightmares go… It’s where horrors come to be themselves, and the dead pause to rest between worlds. Recently widowed and unemployed, Richard Carter finds a new job, and a new life for him and his daughter Serena, as manager of the mysterious Deadfall Hotel. Jacob Ascher, the caretaker, is there to show Richard the ropes, and to tell him the many rules and traditions, but from the beginning, their new world haunts and transforms them.

It’s a terrible place. As the seasons pass, the supernatural and the sublime become a part of life, as routine as a morning cup of coffee, but it’s not safe, by any means. Deadfall Hotel is where Richard and Serena will rebuild the life that was taken from them… if it doesn’t kill them first.

Weird Fiction Review had this to say about Deadfall Hotel:

The novel provides a smorgasbord of sweet spots for the weird fiction connoisseur. Nightmares, supernatural creatures, cults, eccentric characters, and the atmosphere of the titular hotel all combine for a fascinating read. With the popularity of TV shows like American Horror Story, the timing seems right, as well (although we think Deadfall is much more interesting.)

And raves:

Horror legend Steve Rasnic Tem returns with Deadfall Hotel, a modern fairytale, haunted house story, vampire novel, cult novel, werewolf novel, zombie story, and just plain old “weird tale”… It’s a masterful hodgepodge of genre tropes and devices that — much like Peter Straub’s magnificent Floating Dragon — in the hands of a lesser writer would have collapsed… Deadfall Hotel is everything a horror novel should be. Steve Rasnic Tem is at the height of his powers with this effort.

Deadfall Hotel is 301 pages in paperback for $9.99. It was published by Solaris on April 17. It is illustrated by Danish artist John Kenn Mortensen, whose creepy, Edward Gory-like style is both classic and richly modern — click on the cover above to get a closer look at his work. offers a long self-contained excerpt, “The King of the Cats,” presented in four parts that you can sample here.

Birthday Reviews: September Index

Monday, October 1st, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Sword-and-Sorceress-II-smaller Tomorrow Speculative Fiction 23 November 1996-small Doughnuts Blaylock-small

January index
February index
March index
April index
May index
June index
July index
August index

September 1, C.J. Cherryh: “The Unshadowed Land
September 2, Roland J. Green: “Strings
September 3, Jack Wodhams: “Freeway
September 4, Rick Wilber: “Greggie’s Cup
September 5, James McKimmey, Jr.: “Planet of Dreams
September 6, China Miéville: “Entry Taken from a Medical Encyclopedia

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Alien Artifacts, Cosmic Mystery, and an Impossible Murder Weapon: July/August Print Magazines

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Asimov's Science Fiction July August 2019-small Analog Science Fiction and Fact July August 2019-small Alfred Hitchcock 's Mystery Magazine July August 2019-small

Nick Wolven and Leah Cypess both have stories in Asimov’s SF and Analog this month, which is quite an accomplishment. Chris Willrich, whom BG readers will remember from his story “The Lions of Karthagar” in Black Gate 15, has a short story in Asimov’s, with the intriguing title “Fragments from the Library of Cygnus X-1.”

Asimov’s also manages to cram two long novellas in the July/August double issue, by Suzanne Palmer and Tegan Moore, alongside fiction by Ian McHugh, Harry Turtledove, Dominica Phetteplace, Bruce Boston, and others. Analog has an even more impressive line up, with tales from Greg Egan, Paul Di Filippo, Catherine Wells, Joe M. McDermott, Steve Rasnic Tem, John Vester, Buzz Dixon, and others.

And although I don’t usually buy mystery magazines, I added Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine to the pile at the checkout counter this month, mostly because of the cover. I’ll let you know what I think.

All three are published by Dell Magazines. As usual, all have detailed summaries at their respective websites. Here they are.

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The Many Shades of Horror: Best New Horror #29 edited by Stephen Jones

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019 | Posted by Mario Guslandi

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For twenty-nine years editor Stephen Jones has been selecting the best horror stories of the year. Usually the anthology appears around October; the latest volume, Best New Horror #29, is actually a bit late, being published in February 2019 but showcasing the best of 2017.

As customary the book also includes a comprehensive overview of the books and movies that appeared during the year, and the changes in the horror publishing world (including pertinent obituaries).

The current volume assembles twenty-one stories penned by some of the most acclaimed horror writers in the genre, addressing a variety of themes. One always wonders if the tales are really the best, and comparisons are often made with the choices of other anthologists compiling the year’s best horror stories.

I have long concluded that those are useless questions. With a few exceptions of outstanding quality, on which anyone can agree, at the end of the day  personal taste is what really counts. Therefore, following that same way of thinking, I’ll mention here the stories that I found the best in this particular anthology.

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Mr. Death, a Red Sun, and a Wedding Crasher: Your March/April Science Fiction and Mystery Print Magazines

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Asimov's Science Fiction March April 2019-small Analog Science Fiction and Fact March April 2019-small Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine March April 2019-small

Twenty-five years ago I scoffed at the idea of ordering books on the internet. As if! Well, I’ve come around a bit on that front. But I still very much enjoy browsing the magazine rack in person on a lazy Saturday afternoon, picking up favorite mags and rooting around hopefully behind the gardening periodicals for new discoveries.

Barnes & Noble still has a wonderful magazine selection, vast enough to keep me busy for hours every week. And yes, I do find a few new mags — this week it was 3×3 Illustration Annual No.15, a 420-page full color magazine of the best in innovative commercial illustration, and Parade Magazine’s Best of Star Trek issue, because you can never get enough Star Trek. But as usual, the magazines I took home with me were the old standards: Asimov’s, Analog, and an impulse buy, the latest Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Asimov’s looks particularly appealing this month. It’s a special tribute to Gardner Dozois, who died last year. It features memorials from fourteen of Gardner’s friends, including George R.R. Martin, Connie Willis, Jack Dann, Pat Cadigan, and ten others. There’s also novellas from Greg Egan and Allen M. Steele and short stories by Michael Swan­wick, Jack Dann, Eileen Gunn, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Tom Purdom, and others. But the highlight for me is Lawrence Watt-Evans “How I Found Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers,” the sequel to his Hugo Award-winning “Why I left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers,” one of the finest SF short stories of the past three decades.

Analog has stories by James Van Pelt, James Gunn, Jack McDevitt, Bud Sparhawk, and much more — plus “Beneath a Red Sun,” the story responsible for the absolutely stompin’ cover art by Dominic Harman. And Alfred Hitchcock, which I haven’t cracked open yet, has stories by O’Neil De Noux, Eric Rutter, Mat Coward, and many others.

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The Tome of the Living Dead: Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! edited by Otto Penzler

Saturday, January 5th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

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For Christmas this year I got Alice a copy of The Big Book of Female Detectives, a 1136-page anthology edited by Otto Penzler. It’s the 13th (I think?) of Penzler’s massive pulp-style anthologies from Vintage, which he’s published one per year (roughly) since 2007. I’ve been cataloging them here as I stealthily acquire them all. They are:

The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps — 2007
The Vampire Archives — 2009
The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories — 2010
Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! — 2011
The Big Book of Adventure Stories — 2011
The Big Book of Ghost Stories — 2012
The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries — 2013
The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries — 2014
The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories — 2015
The Big Book of Jack the Ripper — 2016
The Big Book of Rogues and Villains –- 2017
The Big Book of Female Detectives — 2018

An oversight in my survey so far has been Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!, Penzler’s 2011 tribute to everyone’s favorite undead (“It’s so good, it’s a no-brainer.”) This one is packed with stories by Stephen King, Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, HP Lovecraft, Hugh B. Cave, Robert Bloch, Manly Wade Wellman, Robert McCammon, Theodore Sturgeon, Seabury Quinn, Gahan Wilson, Ramsey Campbell, Micheal Swanwick, Joe R. Lansdale, Steve Rasnic Tem, Dale Bailey, Edgar Allen Poe, and many, many more — including a complete novel by Theodore Roscoe, Z is for Zombie (1989). I ordered a copy last year, and it turns out to be just as much fun as the previous volumes. Packed with fascinating intros and delicious pulp spot art, it makes an irresistible addition to your horror collection.

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The Return of a Fantasy Landmark: The Unfortunate Fursey by Mervyn Wall

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The Unfortunate Fursey-small The Return of Fursey-small

While I was standing in front of the Valancourt Books booth at the World Fantasy Convention (so I could buy a copy of the classic horror novel The Fungus by Harry Adam Knight, as I reported last week), I took the time to look over all their latest releases. Valancourt is one of the great treasures of the genre — their editorial team has excellent taste, and they scour 20th Century paperback backlists to bring long-neglected classics back into print. I’m pretty familiar with 20th Century genre stuff, but they consistently surprise me with their diverse and excellent selections.

I ended up taking home a pile of books, including the one-volume edition of Michael McDowell’s complete Blackwater Saga and Steve Rasnic Tem’s new collection Figures Unseen. But I was hoping for new discoveries, and I wasn’t disappointed. There were plenty of eye-catching titles vying for my attention, but the most interesting — and the ones I ended up taking home with me –was the pair of novels above.

Set in 11th century Ireland, where demonic forces have launched an assault on the monastery of Clonmacnoise, The Unfortunate Fursey was originally published in 1946. The sequel The Return of Fursey followed in 1948. Written by Irish writer Mervyn Wall, they were praised as “landmark book in the history of fantasy,” by Year’s Best SF editor E. F. Bleiler. More recently, Black Gate author Darrell Schweitzer wrote:

The Unfortunate Fursey and The Return of Fursey are not quaint esoterica for the specialist, folks, they are living masterpieces. They haven’t dated slightly and are as fresh and as powerful as when they were first written.

Both novels were reprinted in handsome trade paperback editions by Valancourt last year, with new introductions by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Dirda.

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