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 Fear.com 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. WFR.com 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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The Ash-Tree Anthologies, edited by Barbara Roden and Christopher Roden

Sunday, February 2nd, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Acquainted with the Night-smaller At Ease With the Dead-smaller Shades of Darkness-smaller

Covers by Jason Van Hollander

Ash-Tree Press was a highly respected small press publisher of ghostly fiction. It was founded in Ashcroft, British Columbia, in 1994 by Christopher and Barbara Roden, and over the next 20 years produced 160+ collections, anthologies and novels of supernatural fiction, mostly reprints. They published volumes by M. R. James, H. R. Wakefield, A. M. Burrage, David G. Rowlands, Richard Marsh, Robert W. Chambers, E. F. Benson, Margery Lawrence, Marjorie Bowen, Alice Askew and Claude Askew, Jonathan Aycliffe, Frederick Cowles, and many, many others. Their handsome books, produced in very small print runs (anywhere from 5-500 copies, but typically  200-300), were usually outside my price range, but I certainly coveted them. The last one appeared in 2013.

In addition to premium reprints aimed at the collectors market, the Rodens had a keen interest in modern ghost fiction, and they published a lot of it. They took over the reins of All Hallows, the Journal Of The Ghost Story Society, with issue #6 in June 1994, and turned it into a thick regular anthology (the last issue, #43, was a whopping 304 pages) published every four months. And they produced five original anthologies between 1997 – 2008, including three nicely affordable paperback editions: Acquainted with the Night, At Ease with the Dead, and Shades of Darkness. All three had delightful covers by Jason Van Hollander.

Van Hollander’s intricate cover paintings are both modern and traditional in the best sense. They’re strangely detailed portraits of overcrowded medieval towns, with houses that huddle together in fear (or maybe just to gossip). The townsfolk remind me of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas — garrulous small town characters with colorful personalities, hurrying through the streets on mundane tasks, and who for the most part are dead. Ghosts drift through eaves, long tendrils of mist coil out of the river, brightly adorned skeletons wave to neighbours, and inhuman watchmen shuffle through the night streets, clutching lanterns.

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Future Treasures: The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2019 edited by Paula Guran

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2019

Usually when I write a Future Treasures piece, it’s about a book that hasn’t been published yet. And that applies in this case. The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2019, the tenth volume in Paula Guran’s excellent anthology series, definitely ain’t out yet.

Now, the official publication date was yesterday, so this is a little frustrating. I look forward to this book every year. It’s the companion to my favorite Year’s Best volume, Rich Horton’s Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, and Paula is one of the most experienced editors in the business. She has a sharp eye for delightful and surprising fiction, and this year’s volume — with stories by Tim Powers, Jeffrey Ford, Simon Strantzas, Tim Lebbon, Naomi Kritzer, Mary Robinette Kowal, E. Lily Yu, Isabel Yap, Michael Wehunt, Steve Rasnic Tem, Brian Hodge, Robert Shearman, Angela Slatter, M. Rickert, and many others — looks like a terrific package. But despite having an official pub date of November 19, it’s listed as unavailable at every online outlet I’ve checked.

I assume this is something that the publisher, Prime Books, will sort out in the next few weeks (they usually do). In the meantime I shall wait patiently, as I look over the delicious Table of Contents with great anticipation. Here it is.

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New Treasures: Straight Outta Deadwood, edited by David Boop

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

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Cover art by Dominic Harman

I was impressed with David Boop’s 2017 anthology Straight Outta Tombstone, one of the better Weird Western volumes of the last few years. So I was excited to see the sequel, Straight Outta Deadwood, arrive this week from Bean. Boop gives us a taste of what to expect in his Foreword, “Histories Mysteries.”

My directive to all the authors in these anthologies [was] to give me the Old West the way it really was, where applicable. I wanted the history within to be accurate, the voices authentic… But I also asked them to give me, and you the readers, the world we wished to see: dragons flying overhead, or the ability to drink with dwarves, or hear how grandpappy fought off zombies in Deadwood…

For those of you who read read Straight Outta Tombstone, this second anthology is my Empire Strikes Back. It’s darker, and include a couple pieces that left me shaken afterward… Don’t worry if you get scared easily, though. I have broken the narrative up with humor, victories over evil, and gunfights.

Lots of gunfights.

There’s been a distinct lack of decent Weird Western recently, and Straight Outta Deadwood addresses that nicely. It contains brand new short fiction by Steve Rasnic Tem, Charlaine Harris, Stephen Graham Jones, Lacy Hensley, Jane Lindskold, Cliff Winnig, D.J. Butler, and many others. Here’s the complete table of contents.

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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

Best New Horror 29 slipcase-small

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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