Monday, December 27, 2010

Publishing News: Dead But thankfully still Dreaming

 Howdy, weirdos.

Just wanted to take a break from various end-of-year writing deadlines, holiday highjinx, and NOT blogging on The Cosmicomicon to send out a quick publishing update:

Dead But Dreaming 2, the much anticipated follow-up to Dead But Dreaming, recently closed submissions, culled the lot, and shipped off the locked anthology to the Miskatonic River Press Mothership, with my story "Transmission" stowed away aboard.

I really couldn't be happier.  I've always been a fan of Miskatonic River Press, which is deftly tended by the eternally patient and always gracious Tom Lynch, who serves as President and Managing Editor.  Tom, and everyone at MRP (what the cool kids call it), toil endlessly in loving memory of Keith "Doc" Herber, Editor in Chief and CEO of Miskatonic River Press (and co-editor with Ross on Dead But Dreaming), who passed from this dimension on March 13th of 2009.  What Doc left behind was a sizable legacy and rare standard of quality that has made Miskatonic River Press one of the consistently excellent publishers of Lovecraftian fiction and Call of Cthluhu RPG monographs, scenarios, and other gaming materials.
I hear tell that MRP's Kevin Ross, editor of both Dead But Dreaming and Dead But Dreaming 2, doesn't suffer fools lightly, is quite "selective" with what he considers quality Lovecraftian fiction (eschewing simple pastiche), and is certainly no slouch or newby to the weird fiction and Lovecrafitian game based on his impressive resume, which only makes one wonder how my goofy ass got one through the door.  This review from was particularly telling, and indicative of the high standards of the first Dead But Dreaming, and Ross as an editor:

Dead but Dreaming is the finest Lovecraftian/Cthulhu Mythos anthology to see print in a very, very long time (in a strange aeon, if I may...!). Writing in this often-muddled genre gets no better than this. You won't find a lot of "names" herein, but don't let that stop you from buying and reading this amazing tome. Editor Ross set out to collect stories that paid homage to Lovecraft without being trite slaves to his style. This IS, indeed, a collection of Lovecraftian horror, NOT a jumble of pastiches and old-formula Cthulhu Mythos tales. No, this is fresh and enjoyable, with more than a few surprises in store for the reader. Of the fifteen tales presented, there were but a few that didn't "grab" me, and only one that I can actually say I disliked. The majority here are keepers, for sure. As an author, editor, and small press publisher, myself, I have to admit to jealousy on my part: I wish I had been responsible for this book! If you are a fan of H.P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu Mythos treat yourself to something very special and buy this book!

Regardless of how it all went down, I'm extremely excited to be included in Dead But Dreaming 2, and eternally grateful for the opportunity to join the hallowed halls of Dead But Dreaming authors, which includes such names as Stephen Mark Rainey, Darrell Schweitzer, Adam Niswander, Mike Minnis, Lisa Morton, Patrick Lestewka, David Barr Kirtley,Walt Jarvis, Brian Scott Hiebert, David Bain, Robin Morris, Mehitobel Wilson, David Annandale, and some British dude named Ramsey Campbell (I've gotta look into him, see if he's done much).

As Kevin Ross would say in his Kevin Ross way, "Okay squids, keep an eye out for this book."

You heard the man.
Tom Lynch, MRP writer/editor/wundkind Oscar Rios, and iconic Lovecraftian artist Paul Carrick (not/rarely pictured, Kevin Ross)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Birthed From Poison - Not ET, But Something Possibly Just as Extraordinary

To follow up on my posting yesterday:  Those amazing little guys up above, discovered in the brine choked, ominously-named Mono Lake in the shadow of God-kissed Yosemite National Park....
... have just turned the biological world sideway, as - for the first time in scientific history - a terrestrial life form has been discovered that utilizes arsenic (read as: "FUCKING POISON") to create DNA and synthesize proteins.  Or, put simply, they turn poison into life.

This is a truly earth-shattering discovery, as the GFAJ-1 strain of extremophilic bacteria shows that life doesn't necessarily need to cleave to the Big Six building blocks essential for most known life, those being carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus.  So, if that's possible on Earth, held in the thrall of the Big Six for eons, what does that mean for the prospect of life developing in different, non-Earth-like environments spread across 11 dimensions?  Class?  Yes, that's right.  It RAISES the prospect.  It basically announces that the sky - and limitless light years beyond the sky - is truly the limit, and the possibilities endless. 

As we delve deeper into the land and sea with one hand, while reaching further into space with the other, we are going to keep finding new discoveries that challenge the status quo.  How we handle these sharp 180's will dictate how we evolve and grow as a species.  Do we roll with the New Knowledge, or shut down and pick up our pitchforks?  I think I know how it'll go down, but don't want to jinx it...

I also like the ideas of finding a "second genesis" and a "shadow biosphere" discussed in the linked NatGeo article, which was the scientific inspiration of the exploratory mission on Mono Lake.  Sounds like something out of a Lovecraftian or other "weird fiction" story.  We dig shit like that.  It serves as inspiration for what WE do.

Overall, I think this exciting discovery again reminds us that sometimes the biggest secrets are found within the smallest amongst us.  And, sometimes, we can find the alien, the bizarre, and truly otherworldly right in our own backyard, if we keep our eyes and ears open and tuned to the proper frequency.

The Weird is all around us, as we spin like madmen at 1.3 million miles an hour around our sun, around our galactic axis, around the center of the universe and all space and time, where Azathoth slumbers in his easy chair to the sounds of muzak piping.  In these strange and uncertain times, lets remember to appreciate the extraordinary and the bizarre that is close to home while still peering into the furthest abyss, and never stop searching for the truth as we can comprehend it.  It's what we do, we fragile, smart-mouthed "bags of mostly water."  Why stop now?  Why not boldly go, and see where we end up?  Why not touch the face of God?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Yuggoth Calling, or Another Wrong Number?

NASA is holding a press conference tomorrow to discuss the possible discovery of evidence of ET life, as noted by this linked report:

WASHINGTON -- NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe. 

The news conference will be held at the NASA Headquarters auditorium at 300 E St. SW, in Washington. It will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency's website at

What did those beautiful geniuses find?  Fossilized microbes on Mars? Cigarette butts on Titan?  A rickety amusement park full of amphibious, slack jawed yokels on Europa?

I'm thinking more along the lines of this...
.... than this ----------->
 Although the latter could probably also mean a little bit of this:

And hopefully a whole hell of a lot of this:

But, I guess we'll see tomorrow.

Would the discovery of life on other planets change us as a species?  Not physically, mind you (although the possibilities are there), but as a functioning society, with entrenched belief systems, born out of science and religion?
As a hesitant Panspermian (which also doubles as my hypothetical Armenian last name), I think it's just a matter of time before we discover similar signs of primordial life, that may have landed on planets that were inhospitable or entirely unsuited to support the rise of simple organisms.  Thank all that's holy and sane that the Earth provided just the right balance of elemental materials, atmosphere and water to launch such an array of extraordinary flora and fauna.  

It would be such a waste if this planet just spun about lonely, all pretty and blue, without anything crawling across its warm, supple skin to appreciate its curves and sass.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Zombies from the Old School - Clark Ashton Smith

This morning at the gym, while fighting a pitched battle against five consecutive days (and counting) of starch and gravy, I read "The Isle of the Torturers," by Auburn, California's favorite wizard of the weird, Clark Ashton Smith (first published in the March, 1933 edition of Weird Tales).

In the story, the young king of Yoros is one of the scant few survivors of an astral plague ("The Silver Death"), and in his attempt to flee to a secluded safe haven across the sea, ends up being washed ashore on the Isle of Uccastrog, better known amongst sailors and whispering wanderers as the Isle of the Torturers.

After watching five glorious weeks of the superb, refreshingly elegant "The Walking Dead," I've lately been in a zombie state of mind, and so was struck immediately by CAS's often use of zombies in his 1930's dark and fantastical fiction, particularly in his expansive collection of Zothique Tales, first conjured in 1932, which comprised of sixteen finished stories, a poem, and a one-act play, all taking place on the doomed continent of Zothique.

According to Black Gate Magazine:

In a letter to H. P. Lovecraft, Smith gave a tongue-in-cheek description of Zothique:
I have heard it hinted in certain archaic and obscure prophecies that the far future continent called Gnydron [Smith's abortive early name for the continent] by some and Zothique by others, which will arise millions of years hence… and will witness the intrusions of things from galaxies not yet visible…
Very cosmic horror.  Very Lovecraftian.  Very Clark Ashton Smith.

My morning discovery of "The Isle of the Torturers," and the appearance of bloated, flayed zombies in dire need of eyelids (no spoilers here, folks), reminded me of "Empire of the Necromancers," which was the very first CAS tale I'd ever read, and which immediately hooked me into Smith fandom forever with its combination of fantasy, sorcery, and brutal, charnel house horror (first published in the September, 1932 edition of Weird Tales).

After being immersed nearly exclusively in Lovecraft, discovering Clark Ashton Smith opened a whole new vista into the horrifying and bizarre, and bridged a needed gap between my youth spent in the thrall of fantasy adventure, and my adult sojourn down the darkest halls of cosmic horror and speculative fiction.

And - to stay on topic - "Empire of the Necromancers" has an entire KINGDOM of magically re-animated zombies (and mummies and skeletons), who aren't necessarily your garden variety, brain-dead shamblers.  Some of these staggering dead are long term thinkers, and possessed of a generational pride not often found in contemporary zombie fare.

Luckily, there's still so much yet to be read, and I'm very much looking forward to digging deeper into CAS's Zothique Tales, and in so doing, am sure to find more extraordinary stories of crypt-crawling ghouls, toadish monstrosities, extraterrestrial monsters, and even a bit of high fantasy.  And freakin' zombies.  That's the magic of this man, who hopefully will some day get his due, like his devoted brothers-in-arms - H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard - are just now beginning to receive.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Seeping Into Your Dreams... and Your Classic Belgian Cartoons

Inspired artist (and obviously devoted Lovecraftian) Murray Groat created a small series of covers for "The Adventures of Tintin," which is one of the most successful and widely-read European comics of the last century, created by Georges Rémi (1907–1983), who wrote under the pen name of Herge.
For those of us who like our cosmic destruction and unutterable horror mixed with a bit of "Aw shucks!" (or however the Belgians say it) European "good old days-ism."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"There's Still Hope For Us Yet" Update #37: H.P. Legocraft

As stated before in these electronic pages, I often feel melancholy when I ruminate upon the human race.  So much potential gifted to such fragile, squishy little water bags that almost uniformly choose to waste their few moments on this amazing planet doing exactly squat.  Why create, when one can consume?  Why build up, when tearing down comes more naturally?  Why be brave, when being scared is safer?  Why do anything, when doing nothing is easier?  Silly, lazy, worthless little water bags.

Then, I stumble across something like this, and my faith is momentarily restored (until my next scrape with  reality television, conversation with a nuclear family member, or simple stroll down the gum stained streets of Northeastern Los Angeles).

I mean, how friggin' badass is this? (Answer:  IMMENSELY badass):
I've always loved Legos, from my early childhood in the 70's, back before they sold many pre-made sets, and you had to build your own castles and space ships and Star Wars figures' backdrops out of the rectangular basics (before walking to school on our face through seven feet of snow during a nuclear winter - and we liked it that way!    /end crotchety old man squawk)
As boring as you want us to be...
As Christmas creeps up, go a little old school and throw some shekels to my Danish peeps across the pond.  Buy some Legos for your wee ones, and let their imaginations soar as they build up, out, and side to side, drilling a damning hole into the abyss of apathy and boredom via the laser beam of self initiated creativity.  My future melancholy may lessen, and we might just evolve out of being silly, lazy, worthless little water bags one of these fine days.

And that doughy little video game monkey you belched into this world just might surprise you, and bust out something like this: 

Dare to dream....  Dare to build....

Every noble work is at first impossible.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When Viewing the Universe With a Certain Set of Eyes... What Will We See?

How about Azathoth chilling at the center of the Milky Way, for starters.
"Azathoth" (c) by Paul Carrick (
What else could you call a roiling, gaseous bubble of elemental forces stretching 50,000 light years from tip to tip, that is billowing out of the center of our galaxy?
We were unable to see this until the development and deployment of the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope, which specializes in the search for gamma radiation, as well as elusive "dark matter," the eldritch stuff that makes up 80% of our known universe, yet has baffled scientists for almost a century.  While on quest, Fermi detected a powerful expulsion of  gamma rays, which are invisible to the naked eye (and capable, apparently, of turning pencil neck scientists into hulking green monsters in tattered purple jorts when agitated), coming from this impossibly massive, bubbling shape towering both above and below our very own galactic plane.  Now, suddenly, we're able to see these mysterious, energy-emitting shapes, which definitely moves us forward in our understanding of the seemingly limitless dimensions of elastic space and time.

Which begs the question:  If this was there all along, looming large, and was only recently seen, what else is out there, or even right HERE, that we cannot see, but is most definitely THERE? Will we see ghosts?  Will we see God?  Will we see GODS?  Should we see ghosts and Gods?  Can our mind handle the knowledge of the things that move unseen around the most likely through us, or are we best left to shortsightedness, boxed up in three ordered dimensions?  Will the extra magnification and the far reaching lenses we send into the very womb of the unknown spacial abyss build us up as a human race, or tear us down with madness and the crushing realization of our own innate insignificance and flimsiness compared to our distant cousins long forgotten, who grew up on the other side of the universal tracks?
With a certain set of eyes, what else will we discover, and will we be glad in our discovery?  Will we one day long for the blindness of ignorance and our old sets of eyes, that saw little, yet kept us safe and blissful in our limited sight, right to the campfire's edge?
Art by Kris Kuksi
What else lurks in the limitless void of darkened chaos that has so far gone unglimpsed?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Visualizing The Indescribable... for these fine parting gifts!

A challenge to create creatures based on the stories of H.P. Lovecraft was issued by Jon Schindehette, a creative art director at Wizards of the Coast, to students at the Rhode Island School of Design.  These are some of the impressive results.

Is it just me, or is there something distinctly "fishy" about this fine Innsmouth gent?
Baby Yoggie?
Shade passes over the frozen Plateau of Leng

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day Tripping to Yoh-Vombis

"If the doctors are correct in their prognostication, I have only a few Martian hours of life remaining to me. In those hours I shall endeavor to relate, as a warning to others who might follow in our footsteps, the singular and frightful happenings that terminated our researches among the ruins of Yoh-Vombis. Somehow, even in my extremity, I shall contrive to tell the story; since there is no one else to do it. But the telling will be toilsome and broken; and after I am done, the madness will recur, and several men will restrain me, lest I should leave the hospital and return across many desert leagues to those abominable vaults beneath the compulsion of the malignant and malevolent virus which is permeating my brain. Perhaps death will release me from that abhorrent control, which would urge me down to bottomless underworld warrens of terror for which the saner planets of the solar system can have no analogue. I say perhaps . . . for, remembering what I have seen, I am not sure that even death will end my bondage . . . ."

When I recently read this article, about NASA's plans to launch one-way missions to Mars, I immediately though of one of my favorite masters of the pen, clay and ink, Clark Ashton Smith, and his fascination with the possibly menacing nature of Mars, most famously explored in his The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis, which has come to be his second-most famous story (after the dark fantasy masterpiece The City of Singing Flame, which, in my humble opinion, rivals anything written by Smith's contemporaries, including HPL).

Smith - hereafter referred to as "CAS," as he's known to all annoying fanboys like me - completed the original version of "Yoh-Vombis" on the 12th of September, 1931, and after several frustrating re-writes at the behest of Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright, the magazine finally accepted a pared-down version of the story in late October.

"The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis" was later published by Arkham House as the 19th tale in the CAS anthology Out of Space and Time, first released in 1942 with a print run of just over 1,000 copies.

Later editions were also published by Arkham House.

In "The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis," CAS describes an ancient cosmic horror that dwells under the ruined Martian city of Yoh-Vombis, discovered by a group of intrepid archeologists, after being abandoned by their two hesitant Martian guides.  I don't want to give away the plot points, but let's just say they don't discover grumpy little creatures with broom-topped green helmets and oversize sneakers.
With NASA's push to Mars, we might uncover something a bit more... "substantial" and less Warner Bros. in the dusty dark of the Red Planet that doesn't necessarily cotton to the sudden presence of biped humanity - or worse yet, decides to do something about it.
Sending squishy human beings to Mars without a return ticket could leave us at the mercy of things unimaginably strange, and potentially quite nasty.  Or, we could just find ancient, dried out waterways and lifeless rock.  We don't really now.  Yet, we MUST know.  Isn't that what drives us?  Isn't that why Eve plucked the apple (and then quickly invented biodegradable pasties)?  The constant quest to uncover the Unknown, and possibly even the Unknowable?  In the last fifty years, we've just taken the first, shaky baby step into physically exploring the cosmos.  What if don't like what we find?  Worse yet, what if we jostle something that was best left undisturbed?

It's the height of human hubris to believe that we could the only possible sentient life in this vast, immeasurable and constantly expanding universe (without taking into account dimensions and spheres beyond our reckoning, understanding, and ability to locate).

That brash arrogance will be tested very soon...


Oh, and read some Clark Ashton Smith very soon.  He's old school tough, a rough hewn American badass and naturalist gentleman of the weird and wonderful.
One of the Godfathers of the Cosmic - Clark Ashton Smith

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Zombies Go (Almost) Mainstream... and Threaten to Vanquish Liberalism

AMC, birthplace of such fantastic and ballsy (and fantastically ballsy) television as "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" (haven't had a chance to catch "Rubicon" with the great James Badge Dale from "The Pacific"), debuted their highly anticipated pilot for "The Walking Dead," based on the comic books by writer Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore (Image Comics), which looked a little like this....

and like this...

Before it started to look like this....

and like this....

and like this...

and like this...

Anyway, the series debuted on Sunday night, and scored higher ratings than my boys Colbert and Stewart.

I'm not really sure how I feel about that, other than having a sneaking suspicion that zombies are part of a vast Right Wing Conspiracy to spit putrified intestinal gore into the Lefty/Pinko punch.

Ah, well... We've all gotta' die someday.  I just hope I stay down when I do.  I could use the rest.

Oh yeah, the pilot was fantastic.  Measured, patient, well acted/written (after the ham handed opening convo between the two sheriffs), and not overly giddy with its own "zombieness," which I think overpowers and undercuts most inferior, clumsily handled fare in the genre.

I think it'll be a smashing series, which apparently is only six episodes long, although it's rumored that a second season has already been greenlit.

Sunday night has long been the best night for television (just ask Paul Rudd in "I Love You Man").  Now, it just got a little more noxious.