Mike Allen works and lives in Roanoke, Va. He's the editor of the poetry journal Mythic Delirium and the anthology series Clockwork Phoenix. He's a three-time winner of the Rhysling Award for his poetry, which has appeared in venues like Apex, Asimov's and Strange Horizons, and his short fiction has appeared in Interzone, Weird Tales, Pseudopod and been nominated for the Nebula Award.
Halloween Horror E-Book Sale at Mythic Delirium Books
My Mythic Delirium Books micropress and I went all in on horror for 2020, and I want to emphasize that it’s the fun horror, the kind you consume for imaginative shocks and chills, not the kind that weighs on you like the stones that killed Giles Corey in The Crucible as you helplessly doomscroll through social media.
There’s lots going on this October, to say the least, but October is the month to celebrate specters, haints and Elder Things, and we at Mythic Delirium are determined to do our part. That’s why we’ve dropped the price of our three spookiest e-books down to 99 cents. And anyone who follows the directions can get a fourth e-book free. (More about how that works below.)
Hello, Black Gate readers. You folks showed a lot of love for my dark, dark, dark fantasy novel The Black Fire Concerto when it was excerpted here last year, and so I thought you might want to know about my debut collection of horror stories, Unseaming, due out this October.
Luckily for me, I don’t have to struggle for words to describe Unseaming. Instead, I can pluck excerpts from the introduction to my book by horror master Laird Barron:
There are images within these pages that once glimpsed will imprint themselves upon your consciousness, etch themselves into your soft brain matter. … His darkest fascinations rival anything committed to paper by the likes of contemporary masters such as Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, or Caitlín Kiernan. This is raw, visceral, and sometimes bloody stuff. Primal stuff.
Laird said it, not me! But boy am I honored. To whet folks’ appetite, I’m holding a Goodreads giveaway of Unseaming: twenty paperback advance reading copies are up for grabs. And to promote that giveaway, I thought I would expand it with a few more.
Yet obviously music’s important to the story too and Black Gate overlord John O’Neill has asked me to share my musical inspirations. Once again, I’m grateful to him for allowing me a platform.
If you asked me to hum the concerto that’s central to the book, I couldn’t do it; though I like to think I’d know it if I heard it.
My heroine Olyssa plays a magical pipe that doubles as a rifle that never misses (and if you’re wondering how that works, this excerpt at the Haunted Stars Publishing website will tell you everything you need to know.)
Her sidekick Erzelle plays a harp formed of magical energy that manifests as black fire. I can at least share an illustration my wife Anita and I created to approximate what the harp looks like.
When it comes to monsters, one of the best things about writing dark fantasy fiction is that it gives you a chance to build your own.
My first novel, The Black Fire Concerto, is packed with monsters. Black Gate overlord John O’Neill has generously invited me to talk about where my creatures came from, in the spirit of the MonstrousPosts onMonsters series I wrote many moons ago for all you denizens of the shadowlands.
The world of The Black Fire Concerto has been ravaged by a ghoul plague (though one could argue that’s the least of its problems.)
My ghouls are yet another riff on the zombie motif (now, now, no need to roll your eyes, just hear me out.) Most zombie plagues in film and in books pay a lip service of sorts to science fiction – the agent that gets dead flesh moving again is a virus, or an alien undeath ray, or something cut from that pseudo-scientific cloth.
Zombie epidemics have become so pervasive in popular culture, at least here in the U.S., that we only need a little hand-waving in the direction of chemical weapons and government conspiracies to suspend our disbelief – never mind that basic biology tells us the concept is ridiculous.
Hello, Black Gatedenizens! Has it really been a year since I posted here?
Just about. The last time I did a guest post here, it was to talk about a Kickstarter I was running for an anthology called Clockwork Phoenix 4. In that campaign, I asked for $5,000 to fund the publication of the volume and ultimately raised more than $10,000.
And guess what: all those backers have received their rewards, and the anthology has been published.
Ever since the campaign finished, Black Gate overlord John O’Neill has been asking me for a guest post in which I’d talk about what I’ve learned about Kickstarter. I’ve always intended to do so, but I’ve never been able to budget the time.
So here’s one lesson: A Kickstarter is all-consuming, both when you’re running it and afterward.
John has also given me permission to plug the Kindle story promotion that I’m in the midst of. (John is a generous guy. Charming, too!) There is some topical relevance, as there’s an excerpt from my weird fantasy novel The Black Fire Concerto slated to appear in the Black Gate online fiction lineup in the not-too-distant future, so here’s a way to get a sample of what I do.
So here’s how it goes: through Tuesday night, I’m offering my weird science fiction novelette “Stolen Souls,” my weird fantasy story “She Who Runs” and my even weirder clockpunk novelette “Sleepless, Burning Life” free to all through Amazon Kindle. Just click on the story titles or the cover art above to nab them. (And if you’re interested but don’t have a Kindle, e-mail me and we’ll work something out.)
Hi, folks! Mike Allen here. When I last came through, I bloggedaboutmonsters. I want to thankBlack Gateoverlord John O’Neill for granting me leave to return to this space and shill my new project.
Among the many things I do, I’m the editor of a series of fantasy anthologies called Clockwork Phoenix. At least, the first three books were marketed as fantasy by my previous publisher, even though I included some strange science fiction in their pages as well. (Though I’m someone who sees science fiction as a subset of fantasy rather than a whole separate thing, one of the reasons I’ll use them if they’re odd enough.)
And I’m going to be editing and publishing a fourth volume in the series, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign that’s still underway. As of this writing I’m closing in on an $8,000 goal that will let me for the first time pay five cents a word for fiction – we’re going pro. If we keep going past that, I hope to launch a webzine that will be a companion to Clockwork Phoenix and the poetry journal I also edit and publish, Mythic Delirium, creating even more space for the kind of writing I love to thrive.But we’ll blow up that bridge when we come to it, eh?
John suggested I talk to you folks about how Clockwork Phoenix functions as a fantasy market, and I think that’s a fair question, given what Black Gate is all about.
Put bluntly, Clockwork Phoenix is a market for those who want to push the boundaries of what fantasy can be. I encourage stylistic experiments but insist the stories should also be compelling.
I want to point out that this gives me also sorts of freedom to include material that can’t be easily classified, I wouldn’t call it a break with long standing tradition in our field, at least as I’ve experienced said traditions.
I want to tell you how I was first introduced to short fiction that carries the fantasy label. I’m pretty sure then you’ll see what I mean.
Have you read Nicole Kornher-Stace’s wickedly twisted fairy tale retelling The Winter Triptych?
I have, and this is what I had to say about it.
“Nicole Kornher-Stace ‘The Winter Triptych’ is an icily glittering marvel of storytelling construction. This wicked tale of evil queens, mad huntsmen, martyred witches and a terrible curse that unfolds over a century executes its sleight-of-hand in diabolical layers. The immediate tableau before your eyes never flags as it pulls you in with its sweeping cast of characters, coldly terrifying villains and earnestly compelling heroines. And underneath it all, piece after piece locks and turns into place, until the entire triptych unfolds in a stunning revelation of inexorable fate, time-bending wonder and blood-curdling horror. I hold Nicole in both awe and envy: at the start of her career, she has already produced a masterwork.”
Although it’s hard to beat this line from Black Gate editrix C.S.E. Cooney:
Nicole Kornher-Stace plays with Time like it was her very own Tetris game.
As you can see, many monstrosities were discussed, but little from the preferred topic of this here Black Gate blog.
However, as those comments were coming in, I also received an email from one Massimiliano Izzo of Genova, Italy, who dealt out all sorts of fantastical fantasy monsters the way Grendel dealt out death to drunken Danes — in large amounts, with enthusiasm.
Here is how this morsel describes himself: “You can just say that I became addicted to fantasy when I was 13 and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ blew me away…since then I’ve read a little bit of everything from William Morris and Dunsany to recent authors like Erikson and Robin Hobb, but I still do prefer the old school (before-Brooks). I’m also interested in mythologies from all over the world (by the way, Filipino folklore rocks! They have some terrific monsters.)
“Currently I’m a little bit bored with multi-volume series and I prefer standalone books. My favoutite authors, besides Tolkien are Patricia McKillip (hands down!!), Jack Vance and GRRMartin. I could add R.E. Howard, J.K. Rowling and another thousand of pretty predictable names but I’m stopping here… Ah, and I love old school hard rock/heavy metal/AOR.”