Tag Archives: horror

One Week Left For “Black Labyrinth: Book II” Kickstarter

Cover of "Bubba Ho-Tep (Limited Collector...

Cover via Amazon

Joe R. Lansdale, Santiago Caruso, and Dark Regions Press working on a new Black Labyrinth, and he needs your help:

PORTLAND, OR. October 25rd, 2013 – Dark Regions Press, a specialty publisher in business since 1985 has launched a new Kickstarter campaign supporting a new book project by Joe R. Lansdale, award-winning author of Edge of Dark Water, The Thicket, The Bottoms, Bubba Ho-Tep, the Hap and Leonard series, Incident On and Off a Mountain Road and many other novels, short stories, comic books and screenplays. The book will be lavishly illustrated by Santiago Caruso, a renowned surrealist artist of the macabre and fantastique from Argentina.

The new Joe Lansdale novella is slated to be Book II in the Black Labyrinth imprint published by Dark Regions Press.

Black Labyrinth is an imprint of ten original psychological horror novels and novellas from the living masters of horror and dark fiction all illustrated by surrealist artist Santiago Caruso. The first book in the imprint, The Walls of the Castle by Tom Piccirilli has been met with wide critical acclaim, and the hardcovers are considered some of the finest that Dark Regions Press has produced.

The Kickstarter campaign for Black Labyrinth Book II: Joe R. Lansdale began on Tuesday, October 8th and will run until Sunday, November 10th. As of Friday, October 25th the campaign has reached 54% of its funding goal. The campaign can be found by searching “Black Labyrinth” on Kickstarter.com or by visiting the campaign page directly at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/chrismorey/black-labyrinth-book-ii-joe-r-lansdale

Join Dark Regions Press in bringing a new novella by one of the most well-respected authors of horror and dark fiction in the world: Joe R. Lansdale. Accompanied by the fantastic artwork of surrealist artist Santiago Caruso, this is going to be a very special book that readers of Joe Lansdale and art lovers will celebrate.

So hit the link in the press release above, the banner below, or the image in the sidebar over to the right and give what you can…it would be a damnable shame to miss out on something like this.

Kickstarter campaign for Black Labyrinth Book II: Joe R. Lansdale

She Never Slept Needs Your Help!

English:

One of my favorite sites focused on weird fiction, She Never Slept, is going through some serious financial difficulties, and could use your help. This site has featured interviews with some of the true greats of modern weird

literature, and reviews both new and old movies and books. I urge all of my readers to check out the site, and to make donations; the link for donations is on the left-hand side of the page and says “Support SNS” (I can’t just give you the link because there is no separate page.)

Please support weird literature and art: support She Never Slept!

Politics in Speculative Fiction

Over at SF Signal, a blog I think every fan of speculative fiction should read, they have an interesting round table on politics in science fiction. The question is:

Q: How should SF writers respond to the politics of their time, if at all?

The various authors responded in various ways, as one would expect. The industry is such that if you ask five writers one question you’ll get seven answers; it’s just the way we roll. However, the question led me to consider how I have dealt with politics in my work in the past, and how I intend to deal with it in the future.

Many of you might know that I have a history of political activism. I was involved with Free Radio Santa Cruz in the late nineties and did labor organizing, helped feed the homeless, and helped organize and run an infoshop, which is a combination library and event/organizing center for activists. Politics have been an ongoing issue for me…growing up poor, several years of homelessness, and generally being a weirdo have led to an acute awareness of how American culture, with its mythology of freedom and individuality, often acts to persecute and punish people for using their freedoms and acting as individuals.

However, in my fiction and poetry, I have always placed emphasis on the experiences of individuals and small groups. When politics and power dynamics are explored, it happens in extremely situated ways that do little to point out any specific, larger political or historical issues. The reasons for this tendency has varied throughout my writing life. When I was younger it was because I hated the way my fellow activists would use poetry and fiction (especially poetry) as an excuse to rant about politics and spew catchphrases. I feel that the art of poetry and prose shouldn’t be whored out to politics and movements; it ceases to be art and becomes propaganda.

As I got older, I also began to feel that the locus of political discussions, which always end up being about politicians, national policies, and ideological movements, is missing the point. People don’t live their lives on a national or international level, or over decades of historical and sociopolitical trends. They live one a day to day basis in small communities of affinity and care. I came to believe that the “big picture” is a symptom, but our true illness lives in our day-to-day lives…how we treat our families, spouses, parents, best friends, and neighbors. When I want to address peace I don’t want to talk about war, because war is too big, it’s too many people doing too many things. The “big picture” obscures the moments, the little bits of narcissism, greed, cruelty, and pain that, when added up, equal the wars and political issues. I don’t want to write about nations, I want to write about people, because people are what really exist; nations are a fantasy.

So when some poetry-slam-happy-hippie spends fifteen minutes “performing” their most recent poem about how awful capitalism is, it makes me want to retch…not because I am a big fan of capitalism (I’m not…taken to its logical conclusion it glorifies and rewards the worst behaviors humanity is capable of; the biggest winner is the biggest sociopath), but because talking about capitalism as a whole, whether in favor or against, is ignoring the real issues of empathy vs. self-involvement, greed vs. generosity, and the personal connections between people that can either damn or redeem us, here and now, with no Heaven or Hell necessary.

So, to my mind, the proper object of art is never going to be the “big picture”, but the little pictures that together make up the big picture. None of us can force our politicians to be honest, kind, or empathetic to whatever “other” or “enemy” has been picked out this week. But we can choose to be honest or lie, to be kind or cruel, and to try to see the world through the eyes of the “other” that the “big picture” is always striving to tell us we are to despise. The true object of art is people, not nations, because nations don’t exist, not really. They are an abstraction at best, a lie at worst. The worst moments of history have come about when people have forgotten they were people and given into the phantasm of the citizen. To whatever degree literature can be healing or constructive to our species, I believe that it is in pointing out the people and their real, lived connections; the abstraction of nations, races, and ideologies hides those connections or redefines them in terms of what benefits or harms the nation, race, or ideology. There will be an end to war when people refuse to be defined as citizens and refuse to see the “other” as citizens, as well. Our nations will become healthy when we, as individuals connected to other individuals, become healthy.

But at the same time, I am an embodied being, the product of my culture and the social and historical context within which I have lived. There is no way to avoid some political cast to my work, especially in light of how stringent modern ideologies have become. Simply by emphasizing empathy and relationships rather than power and wealth, I am declaring a political stance. By challenging the very notion of national identity, I am “unpatriotic” and by denying the existence of the “other”, the “enemy”, I am a traitor. So much of the identity of my country is based on who we hate, rather than who we love, that by refusing to hate I am excluded from what some would say is an important part of being an American. By refusing to turn life and death into a game, I no longer have a “team”.

This recently came out in my exchanges regarding the scandalous (or rather, they should be scandalous, but they aren’t) revelation of a picture of our soldiers urinating on the corpses of the “enemy”. To my mind, the dehumanizing of other people is unacceptable, regardless of circumstance, and desecration of the dead is one of the most dehumanizing and offensive things I can imagine. But apparently, to many people, this is a debatable issue. When our “team” does it, it’s different. Just like when we torture, or detain people without trial, or use secret evidence, or assassinate people. All of these things are horrible inhumanities when other people do it to us, but when we do it, somehow they become okay. By choosing empathy over nationalism, I have excluded myself from the “team”. And because of that choice, I also lost one of my oldest friends. She’s one of those that just can’t bring herself to judge the morality of soldiers…no matter what they do, she “supports the troops”. But armies, like nations, are abstractions; all that exists are people and what they do to each other, and these people who urinated on the corpses of their fallen fellow humans, are monsters and deserve to be called out as such.

In my stories it could be argued that everyone is a monster, or at least has the potential to be. Again and again, I return to the simple theme of empathy and the lack of it, again and again I return to the simple act of choosing to care…even when it makes no sense, even when the object of that caring doesn’t deserve it (whatever that means). In my world, the world inside my head and heart that I try to express in my work, everyone has the choice, every moment, to be a monster or a human, a demon or an angel. So in that sense, I feel that all of my work is political, while at the same time avoiding the language of political thought and philosophy. I am more interested in how one person treats another person than how a given nation treats another nation…but all those little choices, all those people, add up to The People.

Well, enough pontification. What are your thoughts, Faithful Reader, on the role of politics in science fiction, and indeed, speculative fiction as a whole? I’m eager to hear from you.

Let’s talk about fear.

The Werewolf of Fever Swamp (TV special)

Image via Wikipedia. This is what our monsters have become.

Hidey-ho, Faithful Readers! I know I have been pretty silent lately, and I beg your forgiveness. As many of you know, last spring I woke up in hideous pain, and it turned out I have a degenerative spinal disease. Since then, I have been trying to deal with pain management and the emotional/mental fallout of being permanently disabled in my early thirties. Slowly but surely, I have been getting a handle on all of this and recovering from the depression and anxiety set off by all of this. I am writing again, and the promised novels, poetry, and short story collection will be coming along…just more slowly.

But while I wanted to reassure my readers and fans that I haven’t died, disappeared, or retired, that is not the point of this post. What I want to do right now is talk about fear…fear in all its forms, flavors, and textures. I want to talk about fear because I feel that the horror genre, as a whole, is suffering from major problems right now. I watch every new horror movie that comes out, mainstream and independent. I also read a lot of the new work coming out and watch the so-called horror TV shows. And I have to say, we have a problem, Faithful Readers, and that problem can be summed up in a single question:

When was the last time you were scared?

I don’t mean scared of not being able to pay the rent or put food on the table. We are living in a period of economic and political instability, and if you aren’t anxious about those issues you either aren’t paying attention or have specifically chosen not to engage with these fears. I also don’t mean the fear of getting robbed in a bad neighborhood or that your spouse/partner will leave you. I mean real fear. Terror. The kind of fear that makes reality itself slip sideways and makes you lay awake in the dark, terrified to move lest “they” realize you’re there. Horror. Terror. Awe. Real fear that used to be the kind of thing writers like myself were trying to tap into.

I can’t remember the last time I was truly afraid in this way. I get glimmers of it every now and then, but those glimmers never come from what the so-called professionals are putting out. Horror movies now are either pathetic remakes of movies from 30 years ago or attempts to make “safe” horror…horror that entertains, that makes us laugh, but does not induce us to sleep with the lights on or question our priorities in life. Horror used to not be safe, remember? Horror used to be able to change us.

The only places I find horror capable of causing these sort of frissons, of inspiring this sort of instability in our personal realities, are the least professional works that exist: the genre of internet media called “creepypasta”…bits of stories and lore patched together on usenet, forums, blogs, and through ARGs (Alternate Reality Games). These works, especially the ones that end up creating an entire mythos unto themselves (check out the Slender Man mythos or “Ben Drowned” for examples of what I am talking about), actually inspire real terror, real fear, as do the blogs and forums that are (ostensibly) telling people’s true stories of interaction with the paranormal (check out From the Shadows, one of the best paranormal blogs I know of, for examples). Indeed, these two genres, the “true” paranormal stories and the creepypasta, overlap…it’s difficult to know what is real and what is meant to be fiction sometimes. And this, of course, leads to a better scare.

It seems to me that the horror genre has gotten stuck in old fears. People in the movies and stories react almost like caricatures of people, rather than resonating with the depth and complexity of real human beings. The fears the stories take up, vampires, werewolves, zombies, and the like…we’re not really afraid of these things. We romanticize them, we reinterpret them, we do any number of things, but it’s pretty safe to say that the stand-by monsters of horror simply aren’t frightening anymore. Serial killers aren’t frightening anymore. Possession isn’t frightening anymore.

Why not? Well, I have a number of theories, and I’m always creating new ones, but the main reason I think these things aren’t frightening anymore is that they are predictable. We have seen them so much and so often that they just don’t scare us. Cthulhu was on South Park and has been made into plushy toys. The most popular vampire of the modern era sparkles in the sunlight, goes to high school at over a century old, and really just wants to be loved. The most popular werewolf is not feared…he is idolized or romantically desired. The zombie is being deconstructed, and we have begun to see movies and shows where zombies are likeable, lovable, funny, and most of all…not scary.

Now, as a writer of speculative fiction of all three types (horror, fantasy, and science fiction), I find myself in a difficult situation. The book that made me want to be a writer was Stephen King’s The Shining. I read it in the first grade (yes, yes, not the best parenting in the world, I know) and I knew, right then, that I wanted to be a writer, and specifically I wanted to be a horror writer. I wanted to be able to inspire the powerful, cathartic terror that changed me forever. Later, I fell in love with other genres and I have written in all of them, but my first love was horror. I wanted to scare people. Not make them laugh, nor make them feel reassured of the moral order they were raised with (horror with a happy ending?). I didn’t want to give pre-teen girls a metaphor for their burgeoning sexuality (or instruct them in how to be a passive, codependent willing victim of abuse…I’m talking to you, Meyer!). I wanted to scare the crap out of people. I wanted them to come out of reading my work forced to view the world differently. I wanted to turn their reality on its ear and leave them screaming.

But how, in the modern era, can I achieve that? The monsters have been used and abused so much that they have turned into inversions and subversions of themselves. The monsters have become metaphors for misunderstood emo kids and fundamentally immature (hence why Edward can fall in love with a teenager and go to high school without it seeming like what it is…creepy pedophilia far beyond Lolita). They stole the monsters that used to plague our nightmares and turned them into ways to sell breakfast cereal.

So what I want to know, Faithful Readers, is this: what scares you? Not a little bit. Not “creeps me out”. Not funny-scary or sexy-scary. Not a metaphor for the insecurity of adolescence or unfamiliar sexuality. Real, unremitting, terror. The sort that, if you were forced to face it, would leave you a drooling, collapsed mess, not inspire you to wear a “Team Edward” t-shirt while writing fan-fiction about the “ultimate bad boy/girl” who changes to a goody-goody because of your pure love. This is the sort of fear I want to hear about. I want to hear about the thoughts, images, and ideas that make death seem like a pleasant release. I want terror.

So tell me. I’m going to leave this post up for a while, so everyone sees it. I want to hear what makes you scream.

Read “Dreams of Fire and Glass Part 2” for Free at the Lovcraft eZine!

The June issue of the Lovecraft eZine is out, Faithful Readers, and you all know what that means…the conclusion of my newest novella, “Dreams of Fire and Glass“, is available to read for FREE. Remember to read Part 1 first if you’re joining us for the first time.

Also appearing in this issue:

The Case of the Galloway Eidolon, by Bruce DurhamThough closed for the evening, the warm, deep shadows cast by the subdued lighting failed to disguise each victim’s grisly demise. Two had received severe chest wounds, their cotton shirts blood-soaked and torn from multiple swings of some bladed instrument. The third had suffered a more ghastly wound, a crushed cranium; the blow slicing bone and opening the forehead down to the mouth. His glazed eyes stared obscenely in opposite directions.  “Ever see anything like it, Holmes?” Lestrade asked…

The Call of the Dance, by William Meikle“What is it Holmes?” I whispered, but my friend did not answer. The glow from the cylinder intensified. At first I thought Holmes was moving in for a closer look, then I saw he was intent on something on the trestle to one side – a journal of some kind. But as he stepped slowly nearer, so the glow grew brighter. I have seen the aurora in Northern climes, and the light that danced there above us in that workshop reminded me of that. But I was not inspired by the same sense of awe – no, this was more like fear, an animal terror of something unworldly, something far beyond my experience...

Unearthly Awakening, by W.H. PugmireAnd so I have come to you, on this foggy day in Providence, and lured you from your little world among the university lads, and held your hand as we walked past the little park adjacent to the shunned house. And we walked the streets where once Poe trod, and climbed down the steps that led to the winding walkway that took us into this enchanting burying ground…

Darius Roy’s Manic Grin, by Brian BarnettDarius Roy shifted his eyes to Dr. Johansson. Dr. Johansson felt his chest tighten. Something about the mania in Mr. Roy’s red-ringed eyes… Something was different about the man. In all his medical years, Dr. Johansson for the first time sat across from a man who he felt threatened by. He, for once, was happy to see a straight jacket in use. But shame bit at him. It was his duty to cure the man, not fear him…

As always, all story artwork is by mimulux!

Please remember that if you like the Lovecraft eZine to LIKE it on Facebook, follow the creator and editor-in-chief Mike Davis @misanthropemike , and to share it with your friends. This is an amazing new publication producing some of the best in underground cosmic horror…give it the support it deserves!

Read Part 1 of “Dreams of Fire and Glass” For Free!

Dreams of Fire and GlassHello, faithful readers! I have a special treat for you to start your weekend with. Not only do you get the first half of my new novella, “Dreams of Fire and Glass” for free over at the Lovecraft eZine, but four other tales of cosmic horror and the macabre:

All the Gold, by Joseph S. Pulver, is a sequel of sorts to his story in last month’s issue, A Meeting On the Trail to Hot Iron: Lotta men throwing their lives around down there under the snowline. Speaking of death and born and suffering. They drink but don’t cross the distance of a prayer. All they carry bleeding in their eyes…

Dreams of Fire and Glass, by Neal Jansons, is part 1 of 2.  It is longer than the typical story that I publish here, but I was so mesmerized by this tale that I knew I had to share it with my readers, hence the decision to publish it into 2 parts: The name of the game was Fire and Glass, and it was brilliant.  That was the only way to describe it. A massively-multiplayer online role-playing game that would make Warcraft look like Hello Kitty Online. The details provided were flawless and omitted nothing, right down to the placement of the stars. The premise: a world much like our own, with normal people leading normal lives, but melded and interspersed with the world of dreams. Ancient cities of crystal and glass shared space with skyscrapers. Eldritch monsters, long forgotten in the ancestral memories of our earliest mammalian ancestors, stalked the shadows alongside muggers and corrupt policemen. Within this realm, one part noir and two parts myth, players lived a life of wonder, fighting monsters, exploring ancient ruins, discovering bizarre creatures, and living out any fantasy…

O, Lad of Memory and Shadow, by W.H. Pugmire. What can I say about Wilum Pugmire?  I love his writing; it’s so surreal.  Reading his stories is like being in a dream: I crept like a frightened girl on silver-sandalled feet beneath an arc of moonlight, toward the House of Shadows. The street of sorrow on which I crept was as hard and cold as reality, and I was eager to be off it. Finally, I arrived at the porch that would lead me into the infamous dwelling, and so I hopped onto its first step…

Draon Star Lucky Food, by John Medaille.  And speaking of surreal, I know you’ll enjoy John’s story.  It can’t be described, it can only be read: So, honey.  So, I went to that Chinese grocery store, that one you don’t like to go to because you think it smells weird.  It used to be an Alpha-Beta.  I had some time to kill and I’ve always liked things that are exotic and cheap.  I guess I was kind of just loitering around…

Curse the Child, by David J. West, is a story I’m told that made it to the final round of the Historical Lovecraft anthology.  I’m happy to have been given the chance to publish it, and I know you’ll enjoy reading it: Declaring the stars were right, Solomon, Sheba and the boy prepared the invocation of the Outer Gods. The world would be reborn, reorganized in their image. In the garden and vineyards of Gehenna, signs were drawn in blood and glyphs carved into stone and wood. The moon hung overhead uncaring…

So get over to the Lovecraft eZine and take a journey into cosmic horror and remember: if you like what you read, pass it on!

Upcoming: Dreams of Fire and Glass

H.P. LovecraftMy newest novella of the weird and macabre, “Dreams of Fire and Glass” will be appearing in serial form in the May and June issues of the Lovecraft eZine, a wonderful publication that has already showcased the work of such small-press luminaries as W.H. Pugmire, William Meikle, and Simon Kurt Unsworth. I am truly honored to have my work published alongside these writers, and I encourage everyone out there to read their stories in the eZine and to check out their work on Amazon. I was especially impressed with “A Different Morecambe“, a dark little tale of a father out for a drive with his son.

Dreams of Fire and Glass

Young Jason Raene took the coding job with nothing more than a paycheck in mind. But when the game he helped make begins to invade his dreams and waking life, the boundary between fantasy and reality begins to thin…to horrifying consequences.

Read “Dreams of Fire and Glass” soon, exclusively at the Lovecraft Ezine!