Thursday, April 26, 2012

They Are (in) Providence: John Langan's Walking Tour of Mr. Lovecraft's Neighborhood

"I am Providence" might have been the last bit of unusually restrained, intentionally published writing H.P. Lovecraft ever undertook, leaving it carved into his modest headstone marking his remains buried below the ground at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, Rhode Island.  In many ways, this bold and audacious claim is true, as no one person (or even place or thing) springs to mind more quickly than Lovecraft when the city of Providence is mentioned.

Due to its veneration in florid verse, and what essential salts have now filtered into the soil, Providence holds the distinction - at least in my fevered mind - of reigning as the sun dappled Mecca of cosmic horror, demanding a personal Lovecraftian hajj before I'm allowed to pass on to the Other Side to meet either Paradise or Oblivion.  Regardless, I'm getting my pasty ass to Providence while the getting is still good, most likely to coincide with Readercon (possibly this year, but certainly next).  The city should be nice and ripe 'round mid July.  Blooming with greenery, whispered locales of dubious renowned, and centuried secrets waiting further exploration.

To give us good pilgrims a glimpse of what to expect, upstate New York-based horror writer John Langan lashed Laird Barron to the hood of his car and headed east, joining Paul Tremblay, Jack Haringa, John Harvey, and Geoffrey Goodwin for a walking tour around the Old Gentleman's haunts.  Langan captured it on the video above, giving a face (and gambrel roof) to many of Lovecraft's famed locations made legendary through his prose.  Locations mentioned in "The Call of Cthulhu", "The Shunned House", "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward", and "The Haunter in the Dark" (the latter of which was HPL's last terrestrial abode) feature in the video.

Thanks to John for posting up the video for all of us to enjoy, and to the rest of the squamous assemblage for making the trek up the perilous and lung clutching Jenke Street hill.  BTW, Paul Tremblay assures us that the soundtrack is him strumming a six string with his feet.

Text from John Langan's YouTube posting:

On March 18, 2012, Laird Barron and I took a ride over to Providence, RI, to meet up with some friends including Paul Tremblay, Jack Haringa, John Harvey, and Geoffrey Goodwin. The lot of us wandered around some of the city's Lovecraft-related sites; this short video records the silliness that ensued. Afterwards, there were burgers with Paul Di Filippo and Barry Lee Dejasu, and a trip to Ben & Jerry's; though there was no video taken of any of that.

(A side note:  A song by DisneyPop kiddie band Lemonade Mouth was suggested/linked on the right hand side of the YouTube page for Langan's video "In the Mouth of--Oh, Wait".  Talk about unnameable madness...)

It's fascinating, at least to me, to see these places previously only constructed in my mind appear as they really are today, and probably were back in Lovecraft's time.

Click here for detailed list of Lovecraftian sites and sights waiting dead but dreaming for you in Rhode Island, a haunted corner of weird Americania proving time and time again that size truly doesn't matter.  Unless we're talking pizza...  Oh, and penis size, too.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities ARC Now Available for Official Review

As of the break of this misty, warm morning, I currently have in my possession an ARC of Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities, which I will send to legitimate book reviewers, review sites, genre-centric blogs, and publications, albeit after a lengthy and most likely painful vetting process that is sure to involve goatskin documents signed in blood.

To receive your PDF copy, which will systematically self-destruct upon reading the last word on the final page, please contact me at

The book itself, which contains my tale "The Screamer", is a gritty, beautiful beast, with fantastic interior art adorning stories by high level practitioners of the Eldritch Arts (listed here), housed inside a cover by Mythos Master Paul Carrick.  Put simply, your efforts will not go unrewarded.

For those who are link-blind, Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities can and should definitely be ordered here.

Thanks in advance for doing your part.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lovecraft eZine Flyer: Print, Paste, and Join Operation 'Spread the Dread'

The Lovecraft eZine, founded by Mike Davis and co-edited by A.J. French, is blowing up in every wonderful sense of the word.

Daily postings and updates keep the feed fresh, while each new official issue of the eZine publishes some of the finest Lovecraftian fiction available anywhere, either electronically or in print, featuring fantastic cover and interior art, and audio recordings of each story.  It's a multimedia banquet of madness, by Jove.

Now it's up to you and I and everyone who appreciates cosmic horror, dark fantasy, and apocalyptic fiction to push the shockwaves further.  eZine design artists Leslie Herzfeld recently concocted the flyer show above, allowing us all the opportunity to paper the city, town, hamlet, and city block that we call home.  Hit up the horror con and lit fair.  Film festival and art show.  College dorm and local book store and comic shop.  Paste this flyer to every vertical and slanted space that will hold papyrus and spread the dread.  Hell, I'll even capitalize "Spread the Dread" and throw it in quotations, just to make it more official sounding.  This could be first buddings of a bona fide movement we have here, folks.

Joining such sister publications as Innsmouth Magazine, Lore, and my beloved Strange Aeons (more on SA in the coming days as we finalize the first issue for which I served as Fiction Editor), hopefully this creeper campaign that I think I just created will sprout wings, tentacles, and other terrifying means of locomotion and spread throughout the globe, seeping into the cracks and staining them good and proper black.

Click the links.  Print the flyer.  Spread the Dread.  It just feels right, doesn't it?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Aklonomicon: Quality Reading for the Entire Family... If Your Family is Anything Like Mine

Either Ives and I are the parents of the decade and deserve some sort of award (I'd settle for a coffee mug proclaiming "#1 Dad!"), or criminally negligent sociopaths who need to be immediately incarcerated.

I guess we'll know in a few years once Fish figures out that it's cool to hate her parents.  As for now, she's 7 going on eternal and in love with everything in a benign world full of flowers, butterflies, and friendly creatures from beyond the stars.

Anyway, here is our daughter enjoying a little light reading before bedtime.  She chuckles at the "really scary parts", and digs all the "awesome!" artwork.  And even though she begged, I just won't allow her to read my story "In the Cave, She Sang," because, well... A cozy yarn about Charlie Manson traipsing through Death Valley, high on mescaline and pondering the end of humanity, replete with "f words" and "adult activities" that HBO would brand as "SC", just isn't something I want to shoehorn into that amazing mind of hers that is so filled with magic and light and true belief in all the good things in the Universe. Maybe I'll let her read "Flutes."  The dangers of secretive underground atom smashers sounds child-friendly enough, right?  Okay, we'll keep her on a steady diet of Shel Silverstein, for now...

"Creating a monster" doesn't even come close to describing what's going down at Grau Haus.  When Fish takes over the world, I just pray that she goes easy on her ol' pops. Maybe this picture will be "Exhibit A."  In what context the exhibit is presented (court room or stay of dictatorial execution) remains to be seen...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Publishing News: Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities Released Today by H. Harksen Productions, Featuring 'The Screamer' and a Cover by Paul Carrick

Cover art (c) by Paul Carrick
As of Tuesday, April 10th, you are now literally days away (depending on shipping time to whatever far flung location you call home) from consuming Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities, edited by Henrik Sanbeck Harksen and published through his stellar imprint H. Harksen Productions, in the cozy comfort and relative safety of the six walls that surround you.

I've been anxiously awaiting this release for months, as I'm quite excited to share my story "The Screamer" with a wider audience.  It's the longest piece I've ever written, and was the most grueling to construct and refine.  Special thanks to my beloved Ives for the incredibly thorough editing she did on the tale, and for unlocking the ending that had been plaguing me for so long.  I wouldn't have found "The Screamer" without her.

Check back through these past two blogs (here and here) to get further information and other pretty pictures, or better yet, click your happy ass over to (link to Amazon coming soon) to order Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities while the first printing is still available to the gibbering masses.  The Aklonomicon recently sold out of its first run, and I can foresee the same happening for this anticipated monster.

Just as a refresher, I'll provide the table of contents below:
“Dancer of the Dying” by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
“The Neighbors Upstairs” by John Goodrich
“Carcosapunk” by Glynn Owen Barrass
“Architect Eyes” by Thomas Strømsholt
“Slou” by Robert Tangiers
“Ozeelah’s Lake” by Morten Carlsen
“The Statement of Frank Elwood” by Pete Rawlik
“In the Shadow of Bh’Yhlun” by Ian Davey
“The Screamer” by T. E. Grau
“Night Life” by Henrik Sandbeck Harksen
“the guilt of each … at the end…” by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.

And here is the back cover blurb, for those who aren't keen to squint at the wraparound cover art above (the next size up for the cover image nearly ate the top of my top):

What lurks in the damp recesses of urban existence? 
These new tales of weird fiction are a blend of urban horror, pulp noir and dark fantasy. Lovecraftian horrors and Cthulhu Mythos monsters have never been this gritty. 
From haunted Kingsport across the globe to shadowy Berlin and the otherworldly music of Bangalore. From kind, sexy neighbors to cyberpunk paranoia an The King in Yellow. A journalist's search with unexpected results. What really happened to Walter Gilman, and what is the origin of the witch Keziah Mason? And witness humanity fail against the forces from beyond  
From weird sounds to screams of madness. 
Entropy. Chaos. Disorder. Death.  
Beneath cities, on the outskirts of ruined, aeon-old cities and INSIDE cities. The stench, the decay, the hopelesness... it is everywhere.  

As mentioned in the header, the cover is by one of my personal fave Mythos artists Paul Carrick, who shows us how nightmares are made in stop motion below:

If you are a fan of Lovecraftian fiction, cosmic horror, dark urban fantasy, or just twisted shit that happens on the land paved over by human (and sometimes inhuman) hands, order Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities right friggin' now.

It's better to bring it home, than to have it find you.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Eve Brain Soup Mash-Up, Zombie Style

Til Death Do us Part is for Pussies - Photography and photo design by Ives Hovanessian
On the eve of the celebration of a hugely famous and even more hugely misunderstood person rising from the dead and freaking out many, I think it's only fitting that The Cosmicomicon pays tribute to zombies and zombism everywhere, high and low.

The first item of interest is this cool service called, the free zombie generator.  On this site, you can get a little preview of just how you might look if stricken by a zombie plague, or lovingly nibbled upon by the living dead.  Some people "cry ugly."  Now you can see if you die ugly ("die" being a relative concept).

The creation that I came up with was a valiant effort, considering the software and the fact that I have elbows for fingers, but it did serve to inspire my wife Ives to try her hand at doing the same on her own.  Her results were typically brilliant, totally fucking rad, and offered to you all up above.  From Addams Family to Zombie Couple Painting The Town Red, this Horror stuff runs thick in our blood, binding us together and throwing us in the back of a cramped trunk.  Trunks can be cozy when you're with your soul mate.

The second story involves the militaristic and the absurd, as truth rapidly tries - and usually succeeds - in out-strangeing fiction.  Dear readers, I present to you the Russian Zombie Gun.

Okay, so that description is just a bit misleading, as according to the actual article, this...

... won't necessarily turn you into this...

But hey, when "Zombie" makes it into international, geopolitical news headlines, you know that something once relegated to the dingy shadows of horrorhead geekery has truly gone mainstream, and is now used to garner eyeballs with the same effectiveness as new relating to insipid talent shows, aristocratic scandal, and "shame for fame" proto-starlet trainwrecks.

Finally, and inevitably - the force of unnatural nature that is The Walking Dead.  Never, to my knowledge, has one television show done more for Horror in general and zombies in particular than The Walking Dead.  Friends who wouldn't be caught dead (and/or decaying) near any zombie product are not just occasionally watching the show, but now rabid, committed fans.  I believe that I've mentioned this before, but Ives, who always thought zombie films were silly, redundant, not-scary, and totally boring, is now obsessed with The Walking Dead, as the writers and creatives involved in the series have truly humanized not only the group of humans battling for survival amid a nightmarish holocaust, but the zombies themselves, who are victims as well.

Chomp your rotting teeth down right here for a list of links that tease the ridiculously anticipated Season 3, which starts shooting next month in May.

So, Happy Easter, meat sacks.  May your body someday gently fall to dust, rather than to the bottom of a fetid, reanimated intestinal tract, bite by bite, piece by piece...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

TC Book Review & Interview: Simon Strantzas Brings The Horror Home in 'Nightingale Songs' for Dark Regions Press

The genre of popular literature commonly known as Supernatural or Horror Fiction is going through somewhat of a Renaissance these days, and in doing so, its practitioners, consumers, and overall celebrants threaten to unknowingly abandon part of Horror Fiction's past in favor of a seemingly new incarnation that is really just the same creature dressed in a different set of clothing.  Smaller hats and longer sleeves, to hide the scars and the rad tattoos purchased back in more classic yet looser time.  A time before irony and paralyzing self consciousness. 

Slasher cinema and the "YA-ing" of centuries-old supernatural creatures and tropes seems to be one of the biggest culprits in this unspoken yet readily apparent re-branding, but so too are the pop culture success stories of certain writers of "horror books" that sometimes cut as deep as a Bic razor, with scars that last about as long.  In an unrelated artistic field, it brings to mind so many modern/hipster bands fleeing the sexy, dangerous roots of rock 'n roll, so as not to be associated with the embarrassing lipstick and Aqua Net years of super popular hair metal.  The sad part of this is that rock music will always be rock music, and the swagger and smoke of its founding should never be fully forgotten, even if it eventually wore spandex.

Put it simply (and with far less digression):  Horror is out.  The Weird is in.

Indeed, Horror or Supernatural Fiction is now better known to fledgling readers as Weird Fiction.  I, too, am guilty of aiding this re-christening of that tasty miasma of Dark Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror Fiction as a monolithic product better known as The Weird, for reasons that have as much to do with interpretation as they do with a lazy sort of short hand (Speculative Fiction is also an increasingly popular catch-all phrase, also liberally employed by yours truly... I'm nothing if not honest).

With that clumsily rendered primer expressed, I'd like to announce Simon Strantzas as an unabashed champion of straight up Horror Fiction, and for that, he should be applauded.  He should also be applauded for his own unsettling tales and contributions to the above, which are meditative explorations of the dark and chilling, which touch on diverse foundational points that make up the creaking yet sturdy skeleton of Horror past, present, and future.  He kicks stereotypes in the nuts with his clean, confident carving of the subtle bizarre that doesn't dance on the horizon, but does a jerky, beady-eyed soft shoe through your living room during Sunday family dinner.  He isn't a barking merchant of swirling, universal doom.  He's whispered death amongst the hydrangeas in your own goddamn backyard.  He's a '57 Chevy, a Colt six shooter.  He's a Horror writer.

Strantzas, the Toronto-based, British Fantasy Award-nominated author of the critically hailed Cold to the Touch (currently out of print and selling privately for upwards of $170) and Beneath the Surface, recently released his anticipated third collection, Nightingale Songs, which explores all those great themes that make up great Horror Fiction - madness, ghosts, hauntings, misshapen freaks, deadly creatures, old houses that are a threat by their very lean and aspect.  Strantzas' horror unspools in the bedroom, the musty basement, the decrepit hotel room, that claustrophobic cabin in the woods, in the backstage area of that poorly lit nightclub, around that piano that always sits empty.  He has an introspective, sometimes existential style, deeply exploring the mental and physical breakdown that often manifest before or because of some jarring, unexplainable event.  The outside world rarely invades these intimate scenes, nor is it effected by the terrible things that occur... at least not yet.  What is effected are those few, intertwined individuals caught in this strange, terrifying nightmare without end or rational resolution other than oblivion.

In Nightingale Songs, Strantzas' horror can be nameless, but rarely is it from the stars.  Insanity lurks, but it comes not from ageless, whispering gods from another dimension.  These terrors creep from someplace far closer - from the nearby wilderness, from across the street, or even from within.  His monsters are those that lurk in the dark, ignored places, both inside us and out.  Danger to ourselves and those we love - which, for my money, is the heart of all Horror - has no one single origination, nor any real solution, creating a frustration of dread, of the grinding inevitable that the protagonist is powerless to change.  Much like Alfred Hitchcock took great relish in horrorizing those mundane, often comforting things we deal with every day (a bathroom shower, a flock of birds, an innocuous chat with an old friend), so too does Strantzas inject the bizarre into the commonplace, with devastating results.

He bends supernaturality (if I may coin a word) to its breaking point, but doesn't snap it, allowing the Horror he writes - no matter how fantastic or shocking the outcome - to assume the trappings of reality.  This stuff could happen, he'll have us believe, and MUST, to people who seem familiar enough to be glaring back at us in the mirror each day.  This isn't fantasy casting, folks.  This is the PTA, the corner table of muttering hipsters, the person sleeping next to you.  Strantzas' characters have deep, meaningful, loving relationships (a rarity in Horror, it seems), steady jobs, friends and family.  They are us, which makes what happens to them/us all the more visceral.  These twelve tales place horror on our lap, daggers wrapped in velvet.

To again parallel Hitchcock, Strantzas creates a thinking person's style of Horror and Weird (sorry) Fiction that is patient and trusting enough to let the audience connect the pattern in the wood grain, and write the coda in their own mind long after the nightingale's song has ended.  That is the essence of Horror - that personal, insidious presentation that inspires an unsettling mindfuck created unconsciously but no less powerfully by the mind of the readers themselves.  Once the door is opened, we always scare ourselves best.  Simon Strantzas, bless him, opens many doors.

In Nightingale Songs, Strantzas' stories run the dusky gamut, drawing in varied notes and thematic flourishes from around the creepy spectrum like jaunty, oddly grinning pianist working the ivories (as an aside:  pianos feature in two of the stories in this collection, and somehow Strantzas has permanently knocked the docile instrument out of alignment and left it forever latently menacing).  In "Pale Light in the Jungle," Strantzas comments on the stultifying power of television and other technological noise, the eeriness of new quiet, and how boredom and apathetic rot masked by electronic media can have dire consequences.  "The Nightingale" and "Something New", while differing greatly plot-wise, both share veins of longing turned to unexpected obsession, and are just as unnerving and Weird as anything you'll read today.  These are two grisly, Lynchian nightmares bolstered by a Ligottian backbeat, set in Midtown of Anytown and yet No Town where I'd want to live, but probably do.  "Her Father's Daughter" embraces classic Horror themes and situations from both the page and screen (car breakdown on abandoned road, cell phone trouble, creepy-ass farm house) with a dash of the supernatural, and while the setting is chilling, I wanted a bit more out of the ending.

I don't think I'm alone in saying that Strantzas is at his best when constructing his tales atop the relationship scaffolding built between a man and a woman, which are often quite powerful and surprisingly passionate.  This is refreshing, as one doesn't tend to see that in a lot of modern Horror of Weird Fiction (and next to never in Lovecraftian fiction), which often cavort with anti-heroes and outcasts, loners and four-time losers at love.  Strantzas, on the other hand, seems to almost be a "Big R" Romantic, celebrating the power of real, abiding love, and showing you what can happen because of it, or due to a sudden lack of it.  "An Indelible Stain Upon the Sky" (recently selected for inclusion in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 23, edited by the renowned Stephen Jones) and "When Sorrows Come" truly hum on the page, creating a duet of profound heartache that echo long after like a dirge.  The protagonists are gutted by lost love, allowing the noxious blackness to seep into the empty spaces between the cracks.  "Tend Your Own Garden" takes a different angle on relationships, and crafts a bold, frightening metaphor of bitter breakup and betrayal embodied by a once shared house.  These three tales anchor Nightingale Songs, and provide a thematic melody present throughout the collection.

In addition to the Romantic, Strantzas work can also get close to you through nostalgia.  "Out of Touch", which starts out the collection, brings to mind an era familiar to me, when children still explored their suburban neighborhoods and the wilder places just beyond on bikes that could have been chariots. The critically acclaimed "Mr. Kneale," another stand-out, allows Stantzas to comment on the Horror Fiction industry in general - and inspiration in particular - by setting his story in the realm of the horror convention.  It's a truly spooky tale, with plenty of multilevel bite.

In short, Simon Strantzas is a writer in full bloom, and Nightingale Songs shows all of his varied foliage.  These are powerful stories, adroitly told, which serve to stack him up favorably with anyone writing Horror/Weird fiction today.  

Shifting gears just slightly, I'd like to announce that this is the first of what is now called The Cosmicomicon Review & Interview, where I personally read their writing or check out their art and then annoy a writer and/or artist with a series of hackneyed, superficial questions to go along with my review of their work.  Think of it as a poorly moderated Q & A panel at your favorite con, sans cocktails (although you're certainly welcome to enjoy one whilst reading).

I hope you enjoy the interview below, and thank you to Simon for agreeing to spend time with blue card questions better left on the floor under James Lipton's desk.

TC:  Hi, Simon.  Thanks for sitting down with The Cosmicomicon, especially in March, as I know that the debauched revelry and dark ritual of Commonwealth Day can last well into summer…  Speaking of things uniquely Canadian, what is it about Canada that seems to breed comedy, affability, and horror in equal measure?

SS:  Canada is an interesting place. We have all manner of influences coming at us from every direction, whether it's our Commonwealth heritage or the influence of American media upon our daily lives. The country is enormous, and its population so spread out that by its very nature it breeds a certain isolation. All these factors add up to a nation of quirks, something our American cousins don't quite fully grasp. I'd wager your country knows more about England than it does what goes on north of the 49th.

TC:  You’re also an artist/illustrator.  Why did you choose to turn your talents almost exclusively to the written word, rather than the drawn image?

SS:  I spent a good time of youth drawing, painting, etc., but realized early in my 20's that I was not cut out for that world, that my talents were mediocre in comparison to what others were doing. So, I simply stopped. For a few dark years, I did little of anything creative until a crisis of the soul brought me into the fold of writing, and it's something from which I have not looked back.

But, more practically, I'm a firm believer in conveying a clear message, and once an artist starts mixing mediums it tends to water down their impact. For example, Ted, are you a filmmaker or a prose writer? Do you identify yourself as one or the other? Do you worry readers aware of your film work will think "Oh, Grau is slumming it with prose" or think you some sort of "poser"? I worry about these things, and to focus on art now would inevitably undermine my attempts at forging a writing career. Perhaps I'm misguided in this belief, but so far I've seen nothing that convinces me otherwise.

TC:  The term “Weird fiction” gets thrown around a lot these days (with few throwing more than I).  Thomas Ligotti describes his own writing as “uncanny” fiction.  How would you personally describe your writing in terms of genre and/or style?

SS:  I suppose I consider my fiction "strange stories", not accidentally because that's the term Aickman bandied around. In my heart, I simply call it horror, but outside, in the world, the term carries with it so many negative connotations that I hesitate to use it. In the end, despite my stumbles and stutters when asked the question, I do ultimately use the term Horror, because I feel it's up to those of us on the genre's fringes to reclaim it. If we don't associate with the genre, all we do is reinforce the belief the genre is made up of its worst elements. Science Fiction has managed to escape into the mainstream and into "literature", as has the Western. Horror is due its share in the serious limelight. I think it's within our reach if only we hold faith in it. Ramsey Campbell often says that he has yet to explore everything a horror story can tell. I like to believe the genre is as endless as he says. And, really, who would know better?

TC:  Your fiction focuses a lot on the internal, the personal/individual, or the interplay of a relationship in an almost microcosmic sense, which is an angle that is quite different than that of macrocosmic horror and the works of Lovecraft.  Which writers do you view as inspirations, or thematically/stylistically similar to yourself?

SS:  My fiction comes from a large number of approaches, all synthesized into my own. Ligotti, Lovecraft, Lieber, Aickman, Campbell, Tuttle, Tem ... these are genre names that rattle in my head, but even beyond horror's walls voices like Millhauser and Auster and Borges and Jackson ring certain notes. There can be a terseness from Miller, the puzzle-box plotting of Moore, all sorts of different masters fighting for dominance. In terms of the "microcosmic", I'm not sure who my literary forebearers are. For me, as an introspective person, it seems only natural to obsess over the tiny movements of a hand, the shifting viewpoints of someone in doubt. Understanding what's happening, regardless of how fantastic that happening is, is really what interests me most.

TC:  What sort of reaction do you want to elicit from your readers?  Name your ideal reader reaction, then one which would appeal to you the least.

SS:  I want my readers to react however they'd like. Any reaction is pleasing to me, from laughter to tears. I can tell you though that what I care about doing least -- what I spend little to no time attempting -- is frightening my readers. It's sacrilege, in this genre, to say that. So many people want only to evoke that sensation. I care more about eliciting awe in my readers, or if I can't get awe, then at least make them think a bit longer than they might normally. I want them to question their world, their own feelings. I want to evoke an image that even when the story is done stays with them. I want to change my reader in some way. The rest, the entertainment, the show, the rollercoaster -- it holds little importance to me. I care only enough to keep the reader involved in the story. After all, no matter how much a story can deliver on the second or third reading, if it's not interesting on the first read no one is likely to return.

TC:  What was the first bit of fiction you completed, and how did that first finished piece play into your current career?

SS:  There are different answers to this, of course. The first bit of fiction I wrote was no doubt as a child, and remember no one of it. The first published piece appeared in a university alternative newspaper, and is best left unearthed. The first proper story, under my name, to see print happened about a decade ago in All Hallows, and it has subsequently appeared in my collection "Cold to the Touch" to positive reviews. In truth, I don't think that single story did much for my career, other than allow me to achieve a goal I'd set for myself at its outset -- namely, get published in All Hallows. By the time it saw print, though, I'd already sold a few more, but I'll tell you, finally seeing my name in print was something it took a long time to get over. Even now, I'm not quite so jaded that I don't enjoy the sensation of cracking a book open and seeing that.

TC:  I ask this a lot, but I truly have an interest in this -- What is your impression of the small press speculative fiction scene, both from the POV of a writer/editor, and as a reader/fan?

SS:  The small press is a necessary evil for the horror genre. Horror, despite what I might have suggested previously, is not really made for the mass market. By its nature it fits in better on the edges of the world, in the shadows. Good horror is transgressive, it questions everything, it challenges right from wrong, and the grander concepts it explores aren't something most average people want to encounter. Except for a brief bubble in the eighties, horror fiction has never been popular, and will always be something sought out by sympathetic readers. They are enough only to fill a small pond, so I consider us lucky the world of technology has allowed even the smallest of ponds professional level production values. Do I enjoy the ephemeral nature of most markets in horror? Not particularly, but in honesty I spend little time in the small press magazine world anymore anyway. Most of what I write nowadays is solicited, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

TC:  I asked Stuart “Re-Animator” Gordon this once, and I think I’ll use it as a Liptonesque tag in my interviews --  What scares you?  (BTW, Gordon said “Everything”)

Nothing interesting scares me. My fears are boring and common.

TC:  To follow up on that, what DOESN’T scare you?

Horror fiction.

TC:  This sounds a bit “job interviewy,” but what do you see yourself writing in 10 years?  30?

SS:  If the dark heavens allow, I'll be writing forever exactly what I'm writing now. Just, I hope, with a bigger audience.

TC:  What do you have on the docket as far as upcoming projects?

SS:  I have more than a few irons in the fire, many of which I can't (or won't) discuss. I will tell you though that I have fiction appearing this year in two anthologies from Stephen Jones. The first, the sequel to the mosaic novel, "Zombie Apocalypse", the second, a reprint in this year's "Best New Horror" volume. As well, I have a piece in the just printed "Aklonomicon", and work in the two tribute volumes from Joe Pulver, "The Grimscribe's Puppets" and "A Season in Carcosa".  And let's not forget the reprint of one of my stories in the upcoming "Night Land" magazine in Japan. Wow, that's a lot, and there is more yet I have to keep under my hat. Let's just say I'm keeping busy.

TC:  Finally:  Bob and Doug McKenzie - a great Canadian impression, or the GREATEST Canadian impression?

SS:  What do you mean by "impression"? That's what we're all like up here. You Hoser.