Hey nerds! My latest collection, The Dead Ride Fast, is available at Amazon and Kobo.
It certainly feels like there’s been a recent abundance of weird Western fiction. Just this past summer alone severalanthologies appeared on shelves, and even straitlaced historical magazines like True West have published listicles celebrating the genre.
Yet oddly we seem to have hit peak weird West way back in 2014, with searches today chugging along at 50 percent of that frequency. Still, the fact that searches haven’t dropped precipitously suggests a steady and abiding interest in cowpokes and aliens and zombies.
The Dead Ride Fast bundles together five previously published short stories of mine that appeared in Black Static and anthologies such as Eric Guignard’s Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations (nominated for a Stoker!). Also included is an original story involving a spoopy haunted house.
A gang of bank robbers arrives in a town where everyone knows the future. A prospector discovers the cost of gold is the loss of himself. An abandoned ranch house conceals a dark history. An ailing sailor is initiated into a secret world after consuming an unusual medicine. A businessman reopens a silver mine that should have been left sealed. Two young girls confront a string of unnoticed disappearances.
Just in time for Halloween! Makes a great gift!
If you’re interested in the collection’s provenance — how the book came together and the stories behind the stories — I’ve been blabbering about it at my blog.
The Black Witch, a debut young-adult fantasy novel by Laurie Forest, was still seven weeks from its May 1 publication date, but positive buzz was already building, with early reviews calling it “an intoxicating tale of rebellion and star-crossed romance,” “a massive page-turner that leaves readers longing for more,” and “an uncompromising condemnation of prejudice and injustice.”
The hype train was derailed in mid-March, however, by Shauna Sinyard, a bookstore employee and blogger who writes primarily about YA and had a different take: “The Black Witch is the most dangerous, offensive book I have ever read,” she wrote in a nearly 9,000-word review that blasted the novel as an end-to-end mess of unadulterated bigotry…
In a tweet that would be retweeted nearly 500 times, Sinyard asked people to spread the word about The Black Witch by sharing her review — a clarion call for YA Twitter, which regularly identifies and denounces books for being problematic (an all-purpose umbrella term for describing texts that engage improperly with race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other marginalizations)…
Based almost solely on Sinyard’s opinion, the novel became the object of sustained, aggressive opposition in the weeks leading up its release. Its publisher, Harlequin Teen, was bombarded with angry emails demanding they pull the book. The Black Witch’s Goodreads rating dropped to an abysmal 1.71 thanks to a mass coordinated campaign of one-star reviews, mostly from people who admitted to not having read it…
Positive buzz all but died off, as community members began confronting The Black Witch’s supporters, demanding to know why they insisted on reading a racist book. When Kirkus gave the novel a glowing starred review, dozens of commenters demanded a retraction…
Where the Time Goes
by Jeffrey E. Barlough
Gresham & Doyle (337 pages, $14.95 trade paperback, October 2016)
If you’ve been looking to jump into Jeffrey Barlough’s Western Lights series, his ninth and latest installment makes a good diving board. The books are set in a post-apocalyptic alternate history where woolly mammoths and monsters from Greek and Etruscan legend rub elbows with ghosts, spirits, and worse, but Where the Time Goes adds a third genre to the cake batter: time travel.
Philip Earnscliff, a junior partner in the firm Bagwash and Bladdergowl, has been summoned to the country estate of the elderly Hugh Calendar to put Calendar’s affairs in order; Calendar has been in a coma for some weeks and appears unlikely to recover. The lawyer spends his hours paging through Calendar’s papers, gazing out the window at a neighboring estate called the Moorings — abandoned and ruined following an accident during Calendar’s youth — and taking nightmare-plagued naps. Earnscliff has no reason to think anything is amiss, at least not until he walks in upon Miss Carswell, Calendar’s young and attractive acquaintance, with a syringe full of sleeping elixir stuck between Calendar’s lips. Soon enough Earnscliff finds himself back in time, trying to repair the tragedies of the past while, as a side quest, solving the mystery of a local serial killer that strikes every six years.
It’s been a long strange trip for Barlough’s Western Lights since their 2000 debut, Dark Sleeper. The early books with Ace were sinister and Gothic, yet since moving to Gresham & Doyle they’ve generally trended toward cozy mysteries with supernatural elements. 2011’s A Tangle in Slops was more Midsummer Night’s comedy than horror; and the last two installments — What I Found at Hoole and The Cobbler of Ridingham — could have been written by the lovechild of Agatha Christie and M.R. James.
by Matt Ruff
Harper (384 pages, $26.99 hardback, $7.99 digital, February 2016)
Pam Noles grew up the daughter of a mother who was very active in the NAACP and a father who, because of his color, had to sue their city after being turned down eight times for a firefighting job. Noles also grew up loving all things science fiction — books and B movies — even though nobody on those book covers or in those movies resembled her family.
On Saturday nights Noles watched schlocky movies hosted by an Elvira knockoff called The Ghoul, backed by a cast of weirdos (every big market had something similar — in Philly we had Saturday Night Dead, hosted by Stella “The Maneater From Manayunk”). During breaks in the movie they performed skits.
Usually it would be just me in the basement sprawled on the floor surrounded by snacks, Legos and books to read during the commercials. If he was off shift, sometimes Dad would come down and join me in his leather recliner by the stairs. Every once in a while Mom called down from the kitchen Are you letting her watch those weird things? And we’d lie in unison, No. If she came down to check for herself, Dad would get in trouble.
Dad had his own names for the movies.
What’s this? ‘Escape to a White Planet?’
It’s called ‘When Worlds Collide.’ I’m sure I sounded indignant.
‘Mars Kills the White People.’ I love this one.
Daaaaad. It says it right there. ‘War of the Worlds’. I know I sighed heavily, but was careful to turn back to the tv before rolling my eyes.
Once he asked me which was more real, the movie or the skits between. I didn’t get it, and told him that they were both stories, so they were both fake. He didn’t bring it up again until a skit came on. I can’t remember if it was a ‘Soulman’ skit or one of the caveman gags (the cavemen were multicultural — basic white, Polish, Italian, and black). But I remember Dad saying, how come you never see anybody like that in the stories you like? And I remember answering, maybe they didn’t have black people back then. He said there’s always been black people. I said but black people can’t be wizards and space people and they can’t fight evil, so they can’t be in the story. When he didn’t say anything back I turned around. He was in full recline mode in his chair and he was very still, looking at me. He didn’t say anything else.
The starting point for this document was The Art of Magic: The Gathering—Innistrad. Consider that book to be a useful resource in creating your Innistrad campaign, but not strictly necessary. An abundance of lore about Innistrad can be found on the Magic web-site. This document is designed to help you turn the book’s adventure hooks and story seeds into a resource for your campaign with a minimum of changes to the fifth edition D&D rules.
It’s hard to determine where the snake’s head begins and its tail ends here: Innistrad was MtG’s version of D&D’s Ravenloft, which itself has gone through umpteen editions, the most recent being WotC’s Curse of Strahd hardback; and Plane Shift: Innistrad contains suggestions for moving the action of Curse of Strahd from Barovia to Innistrad.
Finally! A market for my Drizzt/Wulfgar slash adventure where the heroes discover the greatest treasure of all: love.
Wizards of the Coast has just announced the “Dungeon Masters Guild,” an e-publishing site for self-publishing D&D adventures and other content set in the Forgotten Realms. … The Dungeon Masters Guild seems similar to Amazon’s Kindle Worlds — a way that creators can be permitted to use licensed intellectual property and at the same time make a little money on it. In this case, the intellectual property is D&D‘s venerable Forgotten Realms setting. There are just a few restrictions on these adventures. The main restriction is that they must use the 5th Edition D&D rule set. Apart from that, they’re about what you’d expect — no offensive or pornographic material, no copyright or trademark violations, and nothing libelous.
Writers receive a 50-percent royalty, less than Amazon’s 70 percent yet recalling an earlier age when publishers regarded writers as partners and not grovelling slaves (halfsies was the same cut Melville received for Moby-Dick). The rest of the money is split between WotC and OneBookshelf, which runs the Dungeon Masters Guild site. Full story here.
Dungeons & Dragons has to be the most mismanaged IP in existence; its history is one long sitcom of bungling and idiocy. As the article points out, TSR spent much of the mid-90s sticking its fingers in the holes of the Internet spaghetti drainer, even going so far as to claim copyright over out-of-the-barn horses like “armor class” and “hit points.” It’s good to see WotC, in anno Domini 2016, finally join ’em instead of trying to beat ’em, even if they, like most publishers, continue to be the last across the innovation finish line.
HP Lovecraft’s biographer ST Joshi has returned his two World Fantasy awards following the organisers’ decision to stop using a bust of the author for the annual trophy – a move the Lovecraft expert called “a craven yielding to the worst sort of political correctness”.
The change was announced on Sunday. It follows a year-long campaign led by the author Daniel José Older, who launched a petition calling for the awards to end their trophy’s association with “avowed racist” Lovecraft.
You don’t have Joshi to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is his last WFC. Writing to WFC co-chairman David G. Hartwell, Joshi said:
Please make sure that I am not nominated for any future World Fantasy Award. I will not accept the award if it is bestowed upon me.
I will never attend another World Fantasy Convention as long as I live. And I will do everything in my power to urge a boycott of the World Fantasy Convention among my many friends and colleagues.
When I first read it, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” was not among my favorite H.P. Lovecraft stories; I was drawn to more cosmic works like “The Whisperer in Darkness” and “The Shadow Out of Time.” But “Innsmouth” has grown on me over the years, in part because I can better appreciate its sophistication and in part because technology has evolved to the point where the story is as much prescience as fantasy horror. Ken Hite’s discussion of Robert M. Price’s essay prefacing The Innsmouth Cycle made me realize the story is more than just a guy being chased by a bunch of inbred townies:
Among other things, Price makes the point that Obed Marsh is the prophet of a Cargo Cult, one which implicitly casts Lovecraft’s New England as a primitive backwater. … Lovecraft’s story brilliantly inverts the colonialist understanding of the Cargo Cult by demonstrating that the Other (the non-white, the “Kanak,” the foreign) is the far more sophisticated myth, one with a better claim both on the past and the future than white Massachusetts Protestant Christianity.
If you haven’t read the story, then spoilers crawlin’ an’ bleatin’ an’ barkin’ an’ hoppin’ after the jump!
Winter is the best time to appreciate Jeffrey E. Barlough, perhaps none more so than the current brutality we’ve been experiencing in New England. Day after day of snow blowing past the windows makes it easy to imagine oneself in Barlough’s alternate history of an ice age that never fully receded; and a fire in the grate and a cup of hot coffee at hand while the wind howls beyond the lattices blurs the distinction between this reality and living in a separate megafauna-filled America settled by Victorian doomsday survivors swaddled in coats and mufflers.
In Barlough’s latest novel, The Cobbler of Ridingham, Richard Hathaway comes to Haigh Hall to examine some letters penned by Pharnaby Crust, an overlooked composer whom Hathaway intends to rescue from obscurity with a thorough biography. While studying in the Hall’s library, Hathaway observes a lurking shadow without source and is soon immersed in the curse of Crispin Nightshade, the infamous cobbler of nearby Ridingham. Nightshade used something known as haunted leather to fashion shoes which, when placed on the feet of corpses, could make the dead walk again. There are bumps in the night, unexplained footprints, a boot found in a snow bank, and more, all involving Barlough’s typical cast of well-sketched characters from upstairs and down.
[O]nce Narragansett came up with the idea to release a line of H.P. Lovecraft beers, it made sense. “The Festival” is generally acknowledged as the first story in the Cthulhu Mythos. It was published in January of 1925, almost 90 years ago exactly. And the Cthulhu Mythos has a name for the stuff that Kingsport’s residents drink to allow them to survive the ride across interstellar space on the back of the Byakhee: space mead.
“Our head brewmaster, Sean Larkin, was just fascinated with this idea of space mead,” says Hellendrung. “So he tried to come up with a recipe, inspired by the honey meads that were popular in Lovecraft’s time.” The finished beer is a robust dark ale with an edge of sweetness, brewed from five malts and two different kinds of hops.