Friday, February 24, 2012

Coming Soon: Laird Barron's Debut Full-Length Novel 'The Croning' from Night Shade Books, Now Available for Pre-Order

I love me some Laird Barron.  Yes, I know.  How very original.  It's like saying, "Lovecraft did some good work," or "Kubrick really knew his way around a camera."  Barron has garnered awards, accolades, and acclaim by the bushel basket, and all of it has been well deserved.  Hype doesn't get you very far when the proof is right there stained in black and white.  He has the rep because he's earned it.

Laird Barron was one of the first living writers of speculative fiction that I read after making the leap from Lovecraft (aka "The Foundation"), and ever since then, I voraciously read and carefully collect his works like I do the old Weirdling Masters of  the Pulp Golden Age - or more recently, Grau Haus faves Thomas Ligotti and T.E.D Klein.  He's one of those "instant classic" sort of writers, who only come along a few times a generation.  Luckily for us, he came of literary age during our time, so we can all lean back in our nano-powered rocking chairs some decades hence, whistle through our noses, and let fly a nostalgic "I remember when..."

Barron just makes it look easy.  His effortless blend of the coldly cosmic with the uncomfortable heat and grit of the natural world make the everyday happenstance or forgotten patch of flyover wilderness a brush with the brutally unsettling.  Danger can lurk within any shadowed vale where the old psalms are still sung.  Incalculable danger waits at the end of every weed-choked country driveway.  Mankind has been driven quietly mad, and is seeking to bring down Everything by unlocking the doors that were never meant to be opened.  Dread drenches the Barronic air, which is what makes his fiction so engrossing, and so terrifying.  I sometimes heave a sigh of relief at the end of one of his stories - not because I'm glad it's over, but that I'm glad that the poor, unlucky sap I've just been reading about for thirty pages isn't me.  It's like finally waking up after a seemingly real nightmare and kissing the bedroom carpet because none of it was real.

That's what Laird Barron does.  He writes nightmares that we can walk away from.  And thank the mute gods, we can walk back to them, as well.

We covered the release of Barron's last book, the novella The Light is the Darkness (with a titular nod to my current musical obsession Lustmord) - masterfully crafted, bound, and published by Infernal House and Miskatonic Books - through a review by Cosmicomicon regular Alex Lugo published here back in November.  Today, I'm here to bring you news of The Croning, which is his first full-length novel, published by the good peeps at Night Shade Books (who most recently brought us the fantastic The Book of Cthulhu, edited by Ross E. Lockhart, which contains the epic Laird Barron tale "The Men From Porlock", which will surely go down in the annals as one of the most celebrated stories in the modern era of the genre).

From the Night Shade Books presser:

Strange things exist on the periphery of our existence, haunting us from the darkness looming beyond our firelight. Black magic, weird cults and worse things loom in the shadows. The Children of Old Leech have been with us from time immemorial. And they love us... Coming May 2012  
Donald Miller, geologist and academic, has walked along the edge of a chasm for most of his nearly eighty years, leading a charmed life between endearing absent-mindedness and sanity-shattering realization. Now, all things must converge. Donald will discover the dark secrets along the edges, unearthing savage truths about his wife Michelle, their adult twins, and all he knows and trusts. For Donald is about to stumble on the secret...  
... of The Croning.  
From Laird Barron, Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of The Imago Sequence and Occultation, comes The Croning, a debut novel of cosmic horror. 

The Croning can be pre-ordered now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other larger electronic outlets.
Laird Barron by JD Busch

Just a word of caution to procrastinators:  Barron's books sell out rather quickly, so don't sleep on The Croning.  You need to jump on this now, before you're combing eBay for out-of-print copies, cursing your lack of foresight while bemoaning your separation from the dark, strange places that only a few left on earth can show you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Editing News: T.E. Grau Named New Fiction Editor For Strange Aeons Magazine

"Rise of Cthulhu" by Tim Vigil
Sorry to go all third person douchey in the title. I played with several different iterations, but finally just went with the facts, as I couldn't wait for propriety to strike before sharing this hugely exciting news. Truly exciting for me, obviously, but also hopefully for you as well, as I'll endeavor to cull the darkest shadows, scrape the walls of the deepest crypts, and coax the shapes that uncoil in the indecipherable void for the best speculative fiction being produced today.

Actually, what the Strange Aeons brass and I have been discussing in terms of the sort of fiction that will define that section of the magazine could better be termed as "Strange" (which  flows a bit better than "Aeony").  Thomas Ligotti - in a recent interview with Ann & Jeff VanderMeer's Weird Fiction Review - described his writing as being best defined as "uncanny," which differs slightly from your garden variety Weird lit.  This is how I view the fiction that will be requested, and ultimately accepted, for publication in Strange Aeons.  We want something totally unique, edgy, genre-defying.  Something horrific, unsettling, eminently mind bending.  It can be loud.  It can be quiet.  It can be both, or neither.  We desire something uniquely Strange, which often means we won't know what we want until we see it.  That's both terrifying and thrilling as an editor.  As a writer, this is understandably frustrating, as specifics and genre/tonal guidelines are often helpful.  Regardless, that's the queer path that Strange Aeons will be taking in terms of fiction, hoping to crack open some stunning new vistas into both the Beyond and the Within.

But back to my regularly scheduled giddiness...  As regular readers of The Cosmicomicon can attest, I've been a gooey, tittering fanboy of Strange Aeons since I first stumbled across issue #3 last year, as it hearkens back to those gloriously violent, saucy comic and pulp fantasy mags of the 1970's, before the rise of irony and the submission of the fantastic in an effort to be cool.  Bollocks to all that.  Strange Aeons is a tongue kiss with the bizarre, a roared salute to doom amid a room full of reserved hipsters trying to keep their enthusiasm in check.  It's a printed celebration of everything that is horror, fantasy, and sci-fi, which has transmuted into one gorgeous monster populating the cosmos with a multitude of young.  In short, it's one kick ass mag, and based on the bold plans of the bossfolk upstairs, it's only getting warmed up.  Luckily, I hopped on the caboose just as it sped from the station.

In honor of the occasion, I recently sat down with Strange Aeons Executive Editor K.L. Young - and by "sat down," I mean I e-mailed him questions from a sitting position, which he gracious answered from what I assume was a similar posture - to get a little background on the magazine, discuss the present, and get a glimpse of the future of the magazine as it prepares to take that next step toward crushing your skull.  Enjoy!

Hi, Kelly. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with The Cosmicomicon. To start thing off, give us a little bit of background on Strange Aeons and how it came to be.

Sure. Strange Aeons started off as Planet Lovecraft about five years ago. I kept finding all of these amazing artists dabbling online with Cosmic Horror and Lovecraftian themes, and they just weren’t getting any notice. So I started researching what it would take to publish these comics, and as I got further into it, I realized I could start publishing a magazine like the ones I dug when I was a kid – Eerie, Creepy, Heavy Metal and Epic.

After two issues, I had signed a deal with Enemi Entertainment and Haven Distro to get the book into comic stores all over the US, but there just weren’t enough sales to justify the cost of the printing.

Enter Rick Tillman, who was a filmmaker friend and fan of Planet Lovecraft. We sat down and discussed a complete re-launch of the book with a new title and new look, incorporating all the things we really liked about Heavy Metal and Epic Magazines from the Eighties, including fiction, reviews, game supplements and exclusive freebies. His input really cemented the “Strange Aeons look”. The magazine debuted at the Emerald City Comic Con in 2010, and we knew we had something special when we sold a couple copies to excited people in the elevator as we were on our way to the convention floor.

What is your earliest brush with Weird/Lovecraftian/Speculative (WLS) fiction? How did this influence you in your creative endeavors?

Life-long horror fan, here. My older brother would break me out of grade school to grab Slurpees (with the awesome plastic Marvel Heroes cups!) and watch horror matinees in Seattle. I read ‘Salem’s Lot in fifth grade and started devouring all the horror fiction I could find. This was 1979, ’80. I lived in a small town in the Pacific Northwest by then, and you had to hit up the used bookstores to find new authors. When I was thirteen, I found a battered copy of a Lovecraft collection called “Cry Horror!”, and from there it was all over. All of the short stories I was writing - horrible King rip-offs – became horrible Lovecraft rip-offs.

Following on the above, why did you choose to work in the arena WLS fiction, which seems to be such a niche market?

Ahh… I don’t think you ever really “choose” to work in the W/L/S arena… or any arena, when it comes down to it. Creative people gravitate towards the things they like, starting with blatant imitations and then growing and (hopefully) finding their own voice. Once I found out that there were other people interested in reading and writing and discussing this kind of fiction, I just naturally ended up here. I enjoy the company.

What is your take on the present state of the genre?

Good or bad, it’s stronger than ever. I see a lot of stuff that I really dig, and a lot of stuff that I don’t. The important part is “a lot of stuff”. But as I get older, I find I’m more excited about the things that have a subtle but conscious nod to Lovecraft rather than those that blatantly ape or mimic his work.

How would you describe Strange Aeons, and what is your stated or implied goal with the magazine?

Others have described it as “The illegitimate love child of a hot tryst between Heavy Metal and Weird Tales”, and I think that’s kind of cool.  Originally, my goal was just to get these amazing artists and writers out to a larger audience. But now that we’re winning awards and publishing original material, I think we’ve decided to take things a little more seriously. We’re looking at getting the mag into more comic stores and bookstores (while they’re still around), and pursuing our digital options, while staying true to the fact that we’re one of the few publishers left that’s willing to print in full-size, magazine format.

Tell me a little bit about Anno Ktulu.

I am ridiculously excited about Anno Ktulu, a four-part story arc that runs throughout the 2012 issues of Strange Aeons. Think about what would happen if the superheroes you’ve grown up with – Superman, Batman, etc – had been published by Warren Comics instead of DC, and they populated the Warren world?

What if, instead of super villains, the heroes of this world evolved to fight the supernatural horrors of vampires, werewolves, and zombies? And then what if they had to face the ultimate alien evil in the form of Lovecraft’s Old Ones? How would Batman deal with the awakening of Cthulhu? How COULD he?

The story is all mine, the scripting is by Vincent Ferrante of Witch Hunter fame, and the artwork is Ben “1314” Hansen, who’s done some pretty cool work for a lot of companies, and a couple great covers for Strange Aeons.

Besides the four-part story arc, there’s a very cool Anno Ktulu “Zero Issue” coming out near the end of March, and this thing is awesome. Four short comics featuring the heroes of this horror-world, illustrated by Tim Sparvero, Ben “1314” Hansen, Nick “The Hat” Gucker, and John Fulton. And it’s oversized, like the old Marvel Comics Super Specials. I have no idea how we’re going to ship these things, but they look SO cool.
Anno Ktulu - Coming Soon
What is your submission policy for fiction, art, comics, etc.? What sort of creative material are you looking for from contributors?

We’ve always had an “Invitation Only” policy for fiction, mostly because we’re just really, really picky with the fiction we print. We’re a quarterly ‘zine, and there’s generally only one piece of fiction per issue. That’s only four pieces per year, so we really want to make them stand out. So far, I think we’ve succeeded. I’m sure our new Fiction Editor can fill in the details as far as that goes.

For comics, we’re looking for completed stories, five to fifteen pages in length. We don’t pair up an artist with a writer or anything like that – there’s just too much involved in that kind of stuff for a small-press like us.

We’re looking for all kinds of material – horror, dark sci-fi and fantasy, black humor, whatever you’ve got, as long as it’s interesting and well done. We took the name Strange Aeons as a nod to our Cosmic Horror beginnings, but also so that we could branch out into more mainstream horror and sci-fi. So, it doesn’t HAVE to be Lovecraftian to make it into the mag.

What is the publishing timetable for Strange Aeons? Meaning, when should fans and readers look for new issues of the magazine? Where is it available?

We’re extremely proud of the fact that we’re a small press quarterly that comes out with a regular schedule! We follow the seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, which gives us a little leeway if we want to release an issue to coincide with a convention or festival we’re attending.

Your best bet is to buy the magazine online at, or at There are a few comic stores across the country that carry it – and if you want YOUR comic store to carry it, let them know that we have retailer discounts!

How has Strange Aeons evolved from its inception, and what do you see for it in the future?

It’s definitely a more predictable beast. I think we were finding our sea legs with the first couple of issues as far as design and content went – and I’m very proud of those issues – but with the second year we really tightened our design down, and as we start our third year, I’m very excited about the content we have coming up.

We’re also gearing up to get the magazine into digital formats for eReaders and the like, and getting a more interactive website up.

Who would you rather face in a spirited, shirtless arm wrestling match? Present day Jean Claude Van Damme or "TJ Hooker"-era William Shatner?

Uh… present day William Shatner.  I saw Van Damme recently and he still looks like he can kick ass. The Shat… not so much. And if he pulls anything, I’ll give him the Kirkie.

If you like Strange Aeons, and I sure as shite know that you do, go make it official by declaring so publicly here.

Then order, if you already haven't, Issue #8 here, which features incredible cover art by none other than Tim Vigil, encasing 56 pages of gorgeous black & white and color comics by Lee Davis, Eric York, Rob Corless, Phil McClorey, and Vincent Ferrante; short fiction by the award-winning Peter Watts, accompanied by illustrations from hunky teen heartthrob and soup enthusiast Nick "The Hat" Gucker; yet another limited edition 'Lost Lovecraft Film' mini movie poster replica; book reviews; "Forbidden Lore"; news of the Weird-o-Verse in the "Unearthed" section; and so much more.  Also included in this issue is another exclusive rule-set for "Strange Aeons", the eldritch miniature game.

After that, look for the Beatlesque-sounding Strange Aeons Issue #9 to hit newsstands and the back of your eyeballs in May 2012, which will feature my debut as Fiction Editor. Whether it's a resounding success or a monumental trainwreck, I'm pretty sure you don't want to miss it.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Now Available - Chaosium & Red Wasp Design Team Up For Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land

Straighten your twisted spines, Call of Cthulhu gamers and digital Lovecraftian vidheads, as after a year of wandering the moldering wastes, the hugely anticipated Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land is now available for iOS, the resultant spawn of the perfect alchemy achieved by CoC legend Chaosium and brilliant upstarts Red Wasp Design.  The game is a universal app, easily workable  iPad, iPhone SD & HD.

I've covered the game briefly in the past, and so as to not sound redundant, I'll let the official Red Wasp Press Release do the writing for me:
The Stars are Right as 'Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land' Launches!

(for immediate release)

After a year of intensive development, the small indie team of Red Wasp Design have announced that their anticipated title, Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land has launched on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The game is a turn-based strategy RPG inspired by the works of cult horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and developed in co-operation with Chaosium, the publishers of the cult horror role playing game, Call of Cthulhu.

The game is now out on iTunes and is a universal iOS app so the same game works for iPhone and iPod Touch both SD & HD and for iPad, and carries graphics optimised for each of those platforms. It is priced $4.99, £2.99 & €3.99 for the full universal app. The game's designer, Tomas Rawlings said, “We've put a vast amount of our time, energy and ideas into this game over the last year. It's been a long journey for us because we want to get it right. We're not a huge studio, but I hope that fellow gamers will appreciate what we've achieved with The Wasted Land.”

The game features nine 3D levels set in the trenches of World War One. The player controls a team of up to six investigators charged with uncovering a deadly inhuman conspiracy underlying the clash of empires of the Great War. Barbed wire, mustard gas and machines guns will prove to be the least dangerous thing that the investigators will encounter as they venture out into no-man's land to solve the mystery of the Wasted Land. As the game progresses, the player can build up the skills, weapons and equipment of the team to suit their playing style. As well as the physical danger, the investigators must guard their sanity against the myriad horrors that threaten to destroy it.

To stay in touch with the developers and get updates on the game, help and strategy guides and more you may want to connect to Red Wasp Design on Facebook, Twitter (@redwaspdesign) and on their site at

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Publishing News: Aklonomicon Unveils Cover by Dave Carson, Anthology Now Available for Pre-Order Direct from Publisher Aklo Press

Aklonomicon cover art by the legendary Dave Carson
The day draws nigh, true Believers, when the language of Aklo shall be once again loosed upon this unprepared land.

For those new to this world, who have forgotten the last several cycles, Aklo is - according to ChtulhuWiki (courtesy of the beloved - briefly described as the following:
The Aklo language is a fictional language system which appeared in Arthur Machen's short story The White People.  H.P. Lovecraft used the Aklo in a number of his stories, most notably The Dunwich Horror and The Diary of Alonzo Typer. 
...  Although Aklo can be used for communication its primary usage is in incantations and prayers...
"Incantations and prayers"...  Conjuring.  Magick.  The language of Forgotten Gods sleeping in the shadow of dead stars, who can still hear the pleas of those who know how to ask as they dream their way toward us.


This foul gibbering of primal origin is spoken by warp riders Ivan McCann and Joseph S. Pulver, who have gathered together others of a similar ken, to sing their songs in nighted clearings dotted with curiously arranged stones.  Together, McCann and Pulver have expertly orchestrated this unhallowed chorus like maestro Magi, transcribing these terrifying psalms into nearly FIVE HUNDRED PAGES of paeans to the dark, the dreadful, the unclean. Writers, poets, painters, illustrators, and other mad creatives from around the globe received the sharp, suddenly tap on the shoulder to add their pound of flesh to this newly minted black book, and all responded with feverish zeal.

Thus was born the Aklonomicon, populated by the finest practitioners of the darkly written and bloody visual arts, who have built a singular dread folio that should blow the nailed-shut doors off of all that has come before it.  The unquiet ghosts of von Junzt, of Alhazred himself, will sit up and take notice once these pages are exposed to the outside air.

Ware the Aklonomicon, for it is unwholesome and able.

Ware the Aklonomicon, for it seeks to unmake you.

For those bold enough to wade in, neck deep, as the ground drops away below, the Aklonomicon can currently be pre-ordered by contacting Ivan McCann directly through his Facebook page.  If you're not on Facebook, you are to be both praised and mocked in equal fashion.  After this odd dressing up and dressing down, contact me at, and I'll make the necessary arrangements to hook up your sweet-ass pre-order.

For more on the inestimable Dave Carson, check out his home page at

As noted in blogs previous (here and here), I'm blessed to have two respective tales published in the Aklonomicon, "Flutes," and "In the Cave, She Sang," both of which feature specially crafted artwork by Mythos icon and uncoiling nightserpant Paul Carrick (previously posted here).

Don't let this one slip through your cold, clattering claws, gentle readers.  I'm a pretty excitable fella, but I can say without hyperbole that the Aklonomicon is going to be a multi-media, printed and bound EVENT that you dare not miss.  The scope, vision and pure balls of this undertaking is something that will echo down through the ages.

You're not imagining things.  Those strange whispers in a language both repugnant yet somehow familiar are real.  Something small inside you remembers, even if everything else refuses.  Aklo...

Get It, before It gets you.  Or before we do.