Friday, December 16, 2011

TC Book Review: By The Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends, a Novel by J. David Osborne

J. David Osborne is a thief, a liar, and a drug addict.  And, he's almost certainly insane.

I say this not because I want to disparage a fellow writer, or get dragged through libel proceedings, but because there is no other rational explanation for how Osborne wrote By the Time we Leave Here, We'll Be Friends (Swallowdown Press, 2010), a brutal, sometimes surreal tale set within a Soviet gulag, with such an unsettling incisiveness and an insider's verve.  It's as if he's trudged the Siberian wastes of plasticine snow, and lived behind that black widow's web of barbed wire.  He's tasted the chemicals and smelled the stink of trapped death, while facing down unending damnation inside a drape of junked out veins and tattooed skin.

He must have.  There's no other explanation otherwise.

Maybe he's Alek Karriker, a Muscovite con turned camp employee, who courts daily death for being a traitor to his kind - a scabrous collection of petty thieves, rapists, murderers, and muscle for the Russian mafia - while contemplating the strange writing that appears on his walls through a hazy veil of opium smoke. The man with a secret inside of his neck.

Or maybe he's Ilya Bogrov, the socially challenged sociopath and bathing enthusiast, who floats through the gulag barracks, weaving through pockets of startling violence and camp politics like a deadly ghost, hiding his forehead from the world while biding his time, looking for a trail over the tundra. 

Or he could be the hapless Pole Hipolit, passed around like a powergrab fucktoy, looking for a heart that had been removed long before he was sentenced to a living death inside a frozen prison melting under the weight of the monsters who inhabit it.

Or, perhaps he's old Anton Nikitin, the kindly guard, who only pines for time to read his paperbacks and to marvel at the wonder of the canine mind.

Or maybe he's Tatyana, Nikitin's German Shepherd, obsessed with digging a hole into the permafrost to find what lies beneath.

Or, in the end, maybe he's the calf, or the wolf that walks beside it, keeping its burning eyes on the prize... Maybe we're all calves, waiting for our invite to dinner...

It's hard to know who or what Osborne is, to craft such characters doing such things from so far away; or who we become as readers, when the cold and the drugs and the violence and chewingchewingchewing of sharpened teeth through masticated bread begin to spit-scatter our memories of a warm, free life like the blowing ash of burning, meatless skeletons.  Snowflakes of atrocity, mixing with the ice, digging down into the earth.

We'll never know who he really is, or was, as J. David Osborne tells us that he's a twentysomething living in Norman, Oklahoma, rapidly building a career as one of the finest Bizarro writers of his generation.  Hiding in plain sight, like a Soviet spy.   A Cold War never thaws, no matter how much heat is applied...
Whoever he is, Osborne writes with the restrained punch of a barroom brawler adept in secretive martial arts.  Garrulous haymakers peppered with quick, damaging blows, economically targeting the organs, taking out a joint, locking up a victim just long enough to smile in his face before flicking his cigarette and delivering a head butt.

His prose is like a 12 gauge blast of icy rock salt, flecked with gravel and forgotten bones, unloaded into your grill at point blank range. It won't kill you, but it'll cut you down, tear off that first layer of skin, letting you remember how it felt.  As you lay on the ground, tasting your own blood and wondering just what the fuck just hit you, you feel a hand on your shoulder, helping you up and leading you back to the card game inside.  Back into the warmth and the sweat and the stink and the glaring eyes.  It's not time to die alone in the cold.  There will be plenty of time for that later.  Right now, we drink and burn opium.  Plenty of time...

Chapters in the book are broken down into mini-scenes, almost vignettes, adding to the claustrophobia of the read and characters, suffocating amid the wide open tundra under prison gray skies.

Stand out sections among these are "Dead Cow Eye" and "Whale," which serve as sizzling plates of some of the best modern Weird fiction I've read in quite some time.

Osborne has a gift that he doesn't present like a preening peacock.  He measures his poetry, leafing it in amongst the grit and grime like a patient painter.  It's a strong, confident style, made all the more amazing by the fact that By The Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends is his debut novel.  This bodes well for writer and us readers alike, as he is currently working on his follow-up.  One can only wonder what he has in store for us next time; where he'll take us, and who won't be coming back.

I'm still mulling over the ending, as it threw me for a loop (and judging from the Afterword by Swallowdown Press head honcho Jeremy Robert Johnson, I wasn't the only one).  Perhaps I'll read the book again, running from the sun and back to Siberia.  The first soul in history who willingly returned to the gulag, filled with the the zeks and vors, the urkis and the sukas, all gathering around a battered furnace like shark-toothed moths, eying the history on each others' skin, looking for clues, looking for a weakness, looking for a way to pass the time before they die.

I don't know if By the Time we Leave Here, We'll Be Friends is Bizarro, The New Weird, speculative fiction, or what.  I'm not that intelligent or well versed in the minutiae of genre labels to make this sort of determination.  Nor do I care.  What I do know is that this book, Osborne's first, is easily one of the best I've read this year, if not the last several. 

So, in the end, perhaps J. David Osborne isn't a thief, a liar, or a drug addict, as all three pursuits are terribly time consuming, allowing little free time to write exceptional books.  And perhaps he is totally sane, allowing him to contemplate insanity in a way that can be terrifying, because HE is terrified by what he sees and what can be.  What has already been.  Crazy don't scare, you see... I don't know.  It's just a theory.  I'm still working over that ending...

What I do know is that J. David Osborne is on the come - or hell, maybe even already arrived.  A young Titan poised to stand at full height and cast his shadow over the muttering landscape that none will be able to ignore.  He's a force, and I can't wait to see where he takes us next, and what friends and corpses will be waiting for us when we get there.
JDO - Moonlighting as an Abercrombie model when not gashing his name into the annals of the Weird fiction canon
(By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends features an amazing cover by renowned artist Alex Pardee, is published by Jeremy Robert Johnson's Swallowdown Press, and is available all over the innerwebs, including at Goodreads here, as well as Amazon a little to the left, meaning right here.  You can find J. David's blog roundabout here).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Friends of The Cosmicomicon: Strange Aeons Wins Best Small Press Anthology of 2011

"Rise of Cthulhu" (c) by Tim Vigil
We appreciate our friends here at The Cosmicomicon, and none have been nearer or dearer in this last year than Strange Aeons Magazine, which was the first (and hopefully not the last) print publication to cover this slice of swirling ether, featuring a write-up on The Cosmicomicon in Strange Aeons Issue 5 (giddily discussed by yours truly on the verge of a rhapsodic fit right here).

Tonight, I'm happy to report that this week Strange Aeons was named the Best Small Press Anthology of 2011 by From The Tomb Magazine, through their annual Decapitated Dan's Best of 2011, a coveted prize for devoted horrorheads and comic book nuts.

Witness and let loose your laurels (and possibly your morals):
Best Small Press Anthology: Strange Aeons Magazine

If you are a Lovecraft fan you had better have this magazine on your list of things to check out in 2012. No wait, why do you not know about this magazine yet? Strange Aeons is a quarterly title that deserves more recognition and needs to be on any horror comic fans radar. Combining the large monsters you expect with original stories on Lovecraftian themes this one is a can’t miss.
Honorable Mentions:  Blokes Tomb of Horror Annual 2011, Strange Kids Club, ZombieBomb
So, please join me in raising your glass, and sounding out a hearty round of congratulatory gibberings and celebratory howls for natty gadfly K.L. Young, the mysterious Rick Tillman, the leggy and lascivious Nick "The Hat" Gucker, and all the rest of the Strange Aeons crew up Seattle way, who roll out the Weird and beautifully disturbing through pictures and words four times a year in ways that no one else can match.  

I've said it before and I write it here again - Strange Aeons seems like a classic already, a prizefighter who burst from the womb full mature and swinging for your neck.  It's a fiction, art, news, and dark animation magazine that feels like its always been around, and always will be.  It's the New Pulp of the X, Y, Z, and Pie generation, currently clearing a bit of room on the mantle for the first of what will be many accolades to come.
Strange Aeons, Issue 7, cover art (c) by Mike Dubisch

Saturday, December 10, 2011

'Tis The Season To Be Culty: Red Wasp Design Unveils Two Digital Cthulhuvian Releases Just in Time for the Holidays

Ah, kids these days... Just nutty about the smart phone apps and the video games.  And the hippity hop.  But mostly the smart phone apps and video games... set to a soundtrack of the hippity hop.

Understanding this, and endeavoring to give "the kids" - meaning, well, EVERYONE with a mobile phone and a jones for electronic gaming - exactly what they want, Red Wasp Design, the critically acclaimed, proudly indie games development studio based in Bristol, England (home of the semi-mythical yet somehow still fully vicious Chicken of Bristol), has just released a brand new holiday-themed calendar app, and will be launching an anticipated video game in the coming months.  What both share, aside from a digital womb nestled deep inside Red Wasp Design studios, is a celebration of the God(s)father of Cosmic Horror, one Howard Philips Lovecraft, and his beloved Golden (Greenish Gray?) Boy, Cthulhu.

Tapping into the whole "cute Cthulhu" craze that is morphing tiny, bright eyed children into unwitting fans of HPL's eternally grumpy and chronically sociopathic Great Old Ones, Red Wasp has conjured up a fun advent calendar app titled "Cthulhu Christmas Calendar" that is rooted in enough sanity-sucking horror to appeal to both hardcore Lovecraftians who eagerly snap up anything remotely Outer Goddish, and also those uninitiated few who appreciate cuddly monsters bent on cosmic destruction set in the cheery key of pastel and holly.

"Cthulhu Christmas Calendar" is now available for your iPhone, iPad, and Android phone (the latter of which is also easily purloined through this link to
The "secret ingredient" to a successful fruitcake is finally revealed
Please note the official Red Wasp Design press release below, generously provided for The Cosmicomicon by Red Wasp's own Debbie Connor:
Press Release

Cthulhu's Crazy Nightmare Before Christmas (for immediate release)

Fans of the meme-monster Cthulhu and other creations of cult horror novelist H.P. Lovecraft can get a little extra help in counting down to Christmas, thanks to a new mobile advent calendar app. Titled 'Cthulhu Christmas Calendar', it features 25 original pieces of artwork - one for each day in December until Christmas Day. Each image presents a fun mashup of festive icons like Santa into the Cyclopean world of the great Cthulhu, the malevolent Mi-Go and the dark god Nyarlathotep.
Indie developer Red Wasp Design today released the Cthulhu Christmas Calendar for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android. As well as featuring a new and original creation of art for each day, it also features quiz questions related to the images. Fans will find out their 'Mythos rating' on the 25th when their scores are revealed along with the final festive- horror image.

The app is available now from the App Store for iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone. It is also available for Android from the Android Market. It is priced at:
  • iPhone & iPod Touch ($0.99/£0.69/€0.79) iPad 1 & 2 ($1.99/£1.49;/€1.59) Android Store ($0.99/£0.69/€0.79) Amazon App Store (coming soon!)
There is more information on the Cthulhu Christmas Calendar page and you can chat about it with fellow cultists on its own Facebook page.
The Great Priest - The only Being sorta' alive who is impervious to the unbridled joy of party hats

And now the electric lights dim and the candle smoke billows, as we turn our heads from the glittering holiday trappings and gaiety, and delve back a bit deeper, looking into our past for a glimpse into our future.

A dystopian land, wrecked by cosmic forces beyond human comprehension, but somehow distantly remembered.  Monsters roaming the blasted hilltops.  A handful of .30 caliber shells in your calloused palm.  The sunlight dims... Figures dance behind the cover of smoking corpses.  The battle begins anew.  You are the last hope for us all....

This is "Call of Cthulhu: Wasted Land."  This is what you've been waiting for, Lovecraftians.  Check these badass sneak peek screen shots below:

Press Release First 'Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land' Screenshots Released (for immediate release)

Indie developer Red Wasp Design today released the first screenshots from their anticipated upcoming game, Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land'. These screenshots are taken from the Standard Definition (SD) iPhone version of the game and are, the developer says, a work in progress. A High Definition (HD) version will follow. They show characters from the game under attack by the undead, and the Dark Young. As the characters fight these legions of horror they will have their sanity eroded away as the game's designer Tomas Rawlings noted, “Lovecraft and his peers created really iconic monsters that tap into our deepest fears. As huge fans of his stories, we've worked really hard to transfer the essence of these alien horrors into a game form. We're blending the core ideas of the classic role-playing game along with our experience of gameplay design all wrapped in our new 3D engine to craft what we hope is a gaming experience of malignant evil!”
Announced in May this year and set to launch initially on iPhone and iPod (both SD and HD versions), Red Wasp Design plan to infect other platforms such as iPad, Android, PC and consoles with their World War One themed turn-based strategy horror. The game has been developed in co-operation with Chaosium, the purveyors of the cult horror role playing game based on Lovecraft's work, Call of Cthulhu. The much loved RPG marks it's 30th year of publication this year, which Chaosium has been celebrating with the launch of a limited edition release of Call of Cthulhu. Dustin Wright from Chaosium said, "We're very excited to be working with Red Wasp Design to bring the Call of Cthulhu world to gaming devices. It's a great time to be a fan of H.P. Lovecraft gaming."
A final release date, pricing and other information has yet to be announced by Red Wasp Design, but you can be kept in the loop via Facebook (, Twitter (@redwaspdesign) and on their site (


Happy Holidays, fellow Lovecraftians, Weirdlings, video gamers, hippity hopists, and smartphonists.  Red Wasp Design has everything you need... possibly sans the hippity hop, but give those folks time...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Publishing News: 'Horror For The Holidays' Now Available For Pre-Order from Miskatonic River Press, Just in Time for the... Well, You Know

Greetings once again, gentle readers.  I come to you inside the cozy bunker, deeply and happily entrenched in the wonderful womb of the holiday season, which at Grau Haus stretches from All Hallows Eve until the bleary dawn of New Years Day.

The holidays are a special time, aren't they?

Easter.  Armenian Christmas.  Hallowmas.  All Souls Day.  Lantern Festival.  Tomb Sweeping Day.  Children's Day.  Ascension Day.  Ash Wednesday.  Pentecost.  Boxing Day.   (yes, I've done my hasty goddamn research)

Holidays, these.  Sacred, all...

In a normal, well ordered universe, holidays are a lovely event.  A time for celebration, mirth, warmth.  Laughter and breathless anecdotes weaving through the pleasant tinkling of tiny glasses and clanking brown bottles.  A lighted hearth, a backyard barbeque, a laden table surrounded by family, friends, and other loved ones.  Shared times of collective goodness, all bound up in that all-important element of stolid TRADITION.
These are our holidays.  They bring us a sense of stability and security.  A normalcy in an increasingly confusing world.

But, to be frank, in the realm of The Weird, this won't do.  Won't do at all. 

Much like Hitchcock sought to bring horror to the mundane and everyday occurrences (such as innocuous flock of birds, or an innocent shower), so too do the writers of The Weird seek to undermine even the most blessed and innocent holiday.  We want to bring Horror to your Holidays.  And I think we have.

As we approach the Christmas, Hanuka, Kwanza, and a variety of other Christ/Santa/Father Christmas/Winter Grandfather holiday celebrations, it only seems fitting that Miskatonic River Press release their long await anthology, Horror for the Holidays, edited by renowned editor/writer and caretaker of The House of Secrets Scott David Aniolowski, which is now available for pre-order here.  MRP Head Tentacle Tom Lynch just shared that print runs start early next week. So let's move those appendages, okay squids?

Take a gander at this impressive, recently released table of contents, and shudder at the collection of award winning and critically acclaimed scribes who have chosen to thumb their noses and other pointy bits at holiday conventions:
Horror for the Holidays
Table of Contents
Introduction by Scott David Aniolowski

The Tomb of Oscar Wilde by W.H. Pugmire

Love and Darkness by Oscar Rios
Be Mine by Brian Sammons

Cthulhu Mhy’os by Lois H. Gresh

And the Angels Sing by Cody Goodfellow
The Last Communion of Allyn Hill by Pete Rawlik
Mrs. Spriggs’ Easter Attire by Joseph S. Pulver Sr. and Tara VanFlower
Seasons of Sacrifice and Resurrection by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Mother’s Night by Ann K. Schwader

Free Fireworks by T.E. Grau
Doc Corman’s Haunted Palace One Fourth of July by Don Webb

Translator by James Robert Smith

Hallowe’en in a Suburb by H.P. Lovecraft
Moonday by Will Murray
The Trick by Ramsey Campbell

El Dia De Los Muertos by Kevin Ross

Treason and Plot by William Meikle

The Dreaming Dead by Joshua Reynolds

Entrée by Donald R. Burleson

Keeping Festival by Mollie Burleson
Wassail by Tom Lynch

Krampusnacht by Joshua Reynolds
The Christmas Eves of Aunt Elise by Thomas Ligotti
Letters to Santa by Scott David Aniolowski
Keeping Christmas by Michael G. Szymanski
The Nativity of the Avatar by Robert M. Price
As noted above, my humble contribution centers around the 4th of July, and gives what I hope is a new take on Independence Day.  I'd love to provide more detail, but I fear it would give something away.  Instead, pick up the tome, and dive in head first.  Trust that it'll be suitably Odd and hopefully more than a bit shocking.  It's what We do, you see...
In "Free Fireworks," I imagine it will look something like the above, and possibly the below, with a little added twist...
Happy Holidays, Weirdlings.  Make it a bit brighter by bringing home some sacred Darkness, as it's all about the Balance.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Toys For Tots - Horror Style: Give a Gift to a Child, Win a Library of Signed Tomes

Artwork (c) by David Anderson
Today is Thanksgiving, one of those distinctly American holidays with a past shrouded in blood and pain, but showing a pleasing face to the world that stands for something better - a dreamy ideal easily embraced that makes a holiday worth celebrating.

What I love about this day is that it forces us to stop looking at what might still be out of reach, and assess how lucky were are for what we do have.  It's a time to give thanks.  And so I shall.

I'm thankful for so many things.  My dynamically talented, supportive, and unfathomably beautiful wife, who is my right hand in this journey through the dreamy days of my waking life, and that which only happens when I close my inner eye and my fingers start to dance.  I'm thankful for my startlingly creative and perfectly formed child (she takes after her mother, that one), who surprises me on the daily with the magick she whips up inside that smallish head of hers.  I'm thankful for my friends and family and friends who are family to me. 

And I'm thankful for you - all of you, who take the time to read my hastily typed and poorly proofed blathering on various scattershot topics here at The Cosmicomicon, as well as spend hard earned lucre on my published work as it slowly spins into printed existence.  I've been around the block a time or two - and halfway around the world - and in all of my travels, I've never encountered a warmer, more inclusive, and SUPPORTIVE group of people than those devoted to the creation, celebration, distribution, and/or consumption of what could be commonly referred to as "horror," but is increasingly known simply as The Weird.  I'm honored and moved almost daily by the wonderful acts of kindness and approbation that I see taking place amongst this often mostly virtual community.  It truly is inspiring, and for that, I thank you again.

As Thanksgiving marks the season of both thanks and giving, veteran horror master and bEast of Hell-singed poetics Joseph S. Pulver struck on a wonderful idea to inspire others to give a little to those less fortunate (and no matter how dire our straights, there is ALWAYS someone struggling more and in need of aid), while also offering a priceless prize to all involved that really is without precedent.
Ware the Stare of the bEast from the East
Joe aligned with Toys For Tots - one of the best charities going, overseen by the steely warriors of the United States Marine Corps - and called on all of his countless friends and peers deeply ensconced in the respective yet ultimately intertwined familial realms of horror/dark fantasy/Weird/Bizarro fiction and artwork to create a contest built on giving toys to needy innocents, with a promise of an entire mini-library of hand-signed novels, anthologies, CDs, and other media to those generous souls who make the time and effort to perform an act of absolute goodness.  From this, Toys For Tots - Horror Style was born, and just in time for Black Friday, to balance the yin of consumerism with the yang of beneficence.
By donating a toy to your locale Toys For Tots outlet, you'll be entered to win one of the most valued and impressive collections of signed books I've ever seen.

Regarding the rules and how's and whereby's, I'll let Brother Joe explain, as only he can:
What is Toys For Tots ~ HORROR style?

This is a group of writers/editors/publishers of Horror/Weird/Dark fantasy/etc. who want to do something nice for needy children this year. Each contributor will donate a signed book(s) of theirs [any book, chap, collection, HC, trade, mass market, novel, mag, edited by, etc.][sorry, no “eBooks” as we cannot be certain the winner will have a reading device] and *ONE WINNER* will win them all.

Folks post the pics [2 pics] of them donating to THIS page. One pic showing them holding the toy, one pic of the toy in the box. Sadly, there are a few who might try to cheat and not put the toy in the box, so we need to see the toy really was donated. Take a pic of you holding the toy, then take a 2nd pic of the toy in the box. The donated toy will need to have a price point of at least 5 dollars. I thought a lot of folks have cell phone cams so pics would be easy to take.

How do you enter?

Entrants will need to post a pic of them dropping a toy into a “Toys For Tots” donation box and when all is said and done, say the day after X-Mas, we’ll pick ONE WINNER. Kids get a bunch of toys and we do a little good for those in need in hard times. And someone out there gets a very happy new year! !!

Can a family enter?

YES! You donate a toy, you’re in. Your SO donates one, they’re in! But only one entry per person!

I picked TFT as it’s fairly common and most everywhere in the States. Sadly, due to postage, entrants must live in the States. I also picked this charity as I couldn’t think of another charity where we could be certain we’d be putting something “hard” under trees this year.

We’ll have a predetermined number to pick the winner, between 100 -200 it will be #?, 200-300 will be #?, 300-400, 400-500, 1,000+, etc., etc. [Yes, I hoping for a lot of entries! !!] Then I’ll post the winner’s name here (after X-Mas) and they can message me w/ their address. Then the books will start coming. Each contributor will be mailing the book(s) they’re donating to the winner, so they will not all come at the same time. Books will begin to be shipped after JAN 1st.

We are not a part of *any* group or affiliated w/ any organization. This is just a group of writers/editors/publishers who want to do something nice for children! !! We picked TFT as it will put REAL toys under trees this year!!

Please share this and help spread the word. If you have a blog please consider doing a blog post about this, Tweeting as well. Sharing means word gets out and that puts more toys under trees! !! I know there are no bigger hearts than those of the horror community, so let it bleed!! !

No dealers or booksellers please. This is not for profit in any way, shape, or form. If we find out an entrant is a seller that entry will be not be considered for the drawing.
I’ll be posting what books the winner will receive and adding to the list as I get word of new additions.
Note to any writers and editors and publishers I have not contacted, if you would like to be part of this, please message me here on FB. We would love to have you be part of this! !!

To all the current contributors, my deepest thanks! You make me very proud to be one of you! !!

All my bEastly BEST! !!

Joe Pulver
Artwork (c) by David Anderson
As for the ever growing stash (keep in mind, this movement is only a few days old - more and more books will be forthcoming through contributions as Joe dislodges every rock, manhole cover, and hidden door within his neverending reach), here is the line-up of contributing authors/publishers/publications/artists and their offerings as of November 22, 2011 - a  monstrous roster of notables that will only grow as the holiday season waltzes on:

* Paul Tremblay
* Jeff VanderMeer [a copy of FINCH and a copy of THE WEIRD]
* Simon Strantzas
* Jordan Krall 
* A copy of the 1st issue of “Phantasmagorium”, edited by Laird Barron
* STRANGE AEONS magazine
* Gary McMahon
* Both DEAD BUT DREAMING and DEAD BUT DREAMING 2 anthologies from Miskatonic River Press
* Lois Gresh
* Nick Mamatas
* Daniel Mills
* Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
* C.W. LaSart
* Trent Zelazny
* Roger Zelazny
* John Claude Smith
* Innsmouth Free Press
* G. Edwin Taylor (artist)
* William Meikle
* Richard Gavin
* Ray Garton
* Kaaron Warren
* Jesse Bullington
* David Conyers
* Bruce Memblatt

I'll be updating this list in the days and weeks to come, so be sure to check back every so often to see how it evolves, ever sweetening the already extremely tasty pot.
This is what it's ALWAYS all about

Give thanks today, gentle readers, and hug those who are near and dear, for we've all been blessed with so very much.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

(Special thanks to the talented writer/artist David Anderson for the TfT - HS artwork)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Guest Blogger: Alex Lugo reviews 'The Light Is the Darkness' by Laird Barron

A Cosmicomicon favorite returns, as Alex Lugo - who last reviewed W.H. Pugmire's Some Unknown Gulf of Night in early September - now turns his sights and voracious appetite for The Weird to Laird Barron's much anticipated first novel, The Light is the Darkness, currently available from Infernal House/Bloodletting Press in several magnificent incarnations.  Bloodletting touts itself as "The finest in small press horror."  After a brief glance at their author roster and the beautiful, exacting way they package their books, I'm leaning towards believing them.  Presentation counts, especially in publishing.  Books are always judged by their cover.  Bloodletting Press understands this in spades, making sure the intrigue and quality of the packaging matches the writing waiting inside.

In the spirit of full disclosure, and to the surprise of none of my regular readers, I must admit that Laird is my favorite speculative fiction writer working today.  So, upon reading Alex's review, I wasn't shocked by the effusive praise heaped on Laird's latest, and take his review as further reason to run - not walk - out into the bustling night and purchase this book straightaway.  No one does it like Laird does.  He horrifies as he teaches.  He'll punch you in the gut, if only to show you a different view of the sky once you hit the ground.  He's where we need to be right now.

But, enough of my stroking.  Laird doesn't need it, as Alex explains below...
Review: The Light Is the Darkness by Laird Barron
by Alex Lugo

             Although I haven’t spent too much time on this mortal plane, I’ve spent most of it reading. Usually, I read horror, but I tend try to read a bit of everything. I just want the reader to keep in mind that I’ve read a great many books, and as such, I feel that I know what I am talking about. Having said that, I have just recently come to a conclusion that Laird Barron’s first novel, The Light is the Darkness, is a modern day classic. It’s up there with Frankenstein, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and The Road. Why, you ask? I have a simple answer: the book is perfect. The characters are perfect. The story is perfect. Everything is perfect. Its only flaw is that it ended! The Light is the Darkness can be considered a mix of Lovecraftian horror, philosophy, science, existentialism, gritty-action, and blunt prose, but I’ll just call the book art.

            There is no easy way to provide a synopsis of the story, but here goes nothing. Conrad, a champion of a modern-day, underground blood-sport competition whose matches are held across the globe, is traveling around the world in search of his sister Imogene, an F.B.I. agent who goes searching after the mysterious Dr. Drake, who killed their brother Ezra in some foul experiment. Along the way, Conrad learns the meaning of life, and begins a transition into something much more than human, which is a theme present in a couple other stories from Laird Barron, but never on such a grand scale as in The Light is the Darkness

            The book's prose is very blunt, elegantly simplistic, almost brutish, but the words themselves sing of a bleak, gritty world, with much bleaker, grittier themes. Barron makes you feel so small and insignificant, as if the cosmos and all the horrors within them are looking directly at you. The Light is the Darkness forces you to look right into the abyss, to jump in it, swim around, and come out realizing that what looked back at you may have been some mangled portrait of your own, alien self. There are scenes in this book that will haunt and scar the reader. There was one particular incident that gave me such chills, my eyes nearly watered. The book will not give you cheap thrills from the occasional gory episode. Instead, Laird Barron describes some of the most complex and primal actions in ways that scare the living daylights out of you, or make you recline in your chair and think for awhile.  

           The Light is the Darkness is as smart, scientific, and philosophical as it is eerie, horrifying, and downright disturbing. Think of it as a combination of Friedrich Nietzsche, Ernest Hemmingway, and H.P. Lovecraft, and mix that with the bold, blunt, and tough style Laird Barron is known for. I won’t be surprised if there will be a Penguin Classics edition in a strange aeon or two.
            If you’re a fan of Laird Barron, you need this book. Barron fans will appreciate his references to his past tales, such as "The Imago Sequence", "Six Six Six", "Hallucigenia", "Old Virginia", and perhaps even "Shiva, Open your Eye". I can also recommend this to honestly anyone interested in fine, complex, dark fiction. I cannot recommend this to lovers of a specific genre because it is a combination of so many genres. If you truly love literature, you will love this book. Not only is the books simply immaculate, but the design is impeccable. The book is published by Infernal House, which is run by one of the best publishers on this plane of existence, Larry Roberts. The book is bond in the most exquisite leather, and comes in a luxurious traycase. David Ho drew some fine illustrations for the book, my personal favorite being a mouth eating the universe. I could probably write an entire other review on the design of the book! Hopefully Larry Roberts and Laird Barron will work on another project in the future. 

            The Light is the Darkness shows how insanely godlike Laird Barron is as a writer. As noted above, this book ranks among some of the best books ever written, in my opinion. If you want a real treat for all of your senses, go pick up a copy of the Infernal House edition and immerse yourself. It is worth every single penny. For the design, the book is a ten out of ten, and for the actual story itself, I honestly cannot give it a number. It is that incredible. The Light is the Darkness will take you to the darkest corners of the earth, and when you come back from this adventure, you will go through a metamorphosis of your own. 

The caterpillar enters the cocoon. Ouroboros bites its tail.


Allow me to jump back in and piggy back on Alex's great review, if only to provide more information on The Light is the Darkness.

Miskatonic Books is also selling the book through this link, which takes you to the extraordinary lettered addition hardcover, with the following stats to support the detail photos below taken from the Bloodletting Press website:
  • Bound in Moroccan  (goat skin)
  • The book will have metal corners and clasps on the boards
  • Exotic custom traycase
  • Sewn in silk ribbon marker
  • Custom signed signature sheet signed by both the author.
  • This edition will be strictly limited to only 26 copies.
  • And some very special surprises. 

THAT is craftsmanship, my friends, hearkening back to a time when books mattered above all else, and were put together by artisans to inspire, to display, to keep forever, passed down through generations like heirlooms.  I'm just so damn impressed by what Infernal House/Bloodletting Press is doing with their compendiums, and love that they will put out an ultra deluxe edition for twelve hundred bucks.  I think that's a wonderfully ballsy move.  And a 1000% worth it.  May others take heed around the industry, re-elevating the bound printed page to its proper status in society.  And may confident publishers like Infernal House/Bloodletting Press make a billion dollars. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Publishing News: 'The Screamer' Accepted For Publication in Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities

I've had the ridiculously good fortune to be either published and/or accepted for publication in a number of stellar anthologies in 2011, and the latest is certainly no exception. 

My story "The Screamer" - a sizable tale that attempted to hobble me a number of insidious ways during the birthing process - was recently accepted for inclusion in Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities, edited by devoted Danish Lovecraftian Henrik Sandbeck Harksen and published by his critically acclaimed small press H. Harksen Productions, with a tentative release date of January 2012.

While this auspicious occasion will mark the typesetting of my longest narrative to date (8,700 words), it will also count as the first time I'll be published in a language other than English (if a Danish version is released in addition to the English language version, which I'm assuming/hoping), and a Scandinavian language at that.  As a proud Teuton whose ancestors finally skittered to a stop in the Schleswig Holstein area of northern Germany (just a catapult throw from the Danish border) before bailing for the New World, I've always felt a special affinity for Denmark, where - regardless of what that mother-loving emo Hamlet said - something is rarely rotten.  Hell, for a number of mystifying and silly reasons, my dad claims to be Danish instead of German, so I could possibly be (great)grandfathered in as a full-on Dane.
Anyway, I'm very excited and proud to be a part of what looks to be a fantastic line-up of Cthulhoid asskickers, including several friends and antho comrades with whom I've shared a ToC or two in the past, and some new names that I'm very keen to read.  

Here's Henrik's most recent announcement regarding the dread folio:

Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities ( Vol. 2) Update

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post today, Vol. 2 of the much anticipated Series, Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities, is scheduled for publication January 2012. I could probably publish it earlier but I want the result to be worthwhile — so I am going for the safer bet. The stories deserve the best possible design etc., and not something rushed through.
Here’s an updated Table of Contents:
  • “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 Ted E. Grau
  • “Night Life” by Henrik Sandbeck Harksen
  • “the guilt of each … at the end…” by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
Believe me, it’s worth the wait!

For comparison's sake, here's an announcement Henrik made back in May , when "The Screamer" was still just a barely meeping fetus, looking for a way out of the womb inside my skull:

Announcement: URBAN CTHULHU stories found

I know you have been waiting, holding your breath — close to dying — wanting to find out what stories and authors you can find in Volume 2 of my Series, Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities. Well, rest at ease at long last, my shadow friends on the web. The final decisions have been made, and here are the tales you will find:

  • “the guilt of each… at the end…” by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
  • “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
  • “Night Life” by Henrik Sandbeck Harksen
  • (I expect a couple of more confirmations, but will reserve the mentioning of those stories till I’ve heard from the authors;-))
I am really, really impressed by this collection. In all modesty (or not) I think this will truly be a fine addition to the Cthulhu Mythos & Lovecraftian publications that sprawl the world. And any interested reader will find tales that reveal a new, hitherto unexamined corner of this genre — the urban Cthulhu area. (And yes, the .com site will be updated with this information, but it will take a few days longer.)
A deeply felt thank you to all contributors.

Needless to say, I'm tickled a pleasing shade of pink about this one, and must say working with Henrik has been a breeze.  His patience and trust, allowing me the time and space to explore every labyrinthine turn, and stare down every unnatural shadow in the room, was a wonderful experience.  He's a fine one, he is.

As I creak toward a new decade of life in January, it looks like I'll have something other than bad joints and panicked feelings of mortality leering back at me.  I'll have "The Screamer," waiting in a Nightmare City, holding its breath while I blow out the candles and cloak the room in darkness once again.
Artwork (c) by Jon Foster -

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

All Hallows' Eve 2011: Grau Haus, In Pictures

I've yammered like a retreating jackal for well over a year now on these very pages, spilling out tens of thousands of words in fits and starts (mostly fits lately, with few starts), all in an attempt to purge my brain and hopefully entertain.

I'll very soon get back to my frantic typing in your general direction (yes, I know... this is the longest wind-up in pitching history), but in the meantime - as I gear up to swan dive back into the bloggy pool and paddle like mad for the deep end - I'll let a few pictures of the recently passed All Hallows' Eve at Grau Haus (birthplace and home of The Cosmicomicon) entertain your eyeballs, as the last howls of the season echo off into the ether.  I'll spare the party shots (but know that it was epic), and focus on the design elements that were three months in the making, and are still be enjoyed this very minute.

All thanks goes to my Ives - Grau Haus High Priestess of Design, Sass, and Interesting Footwear - for creating new vistas of dusky magic, wrapped in a singular chicness that I've honestly never seen before.  Never imagined could be combined so effortlessly with elements of horror.  You can really see in her designs (ALL hand-made, BTW, and at such a tiny budget you wouldn't even believe me) her love of classic Gothic motifs, Poe, Tim Burton, Steampunk, Noir, and The Weird.  It's an effortless blend that creates a whole new style of Dark Design all her own.  She truly is the Queen o' Halloween.

Sit forward and enjoy while you can, my Darklings.  Hallowmass 2012 is only 51 1/2 weeks away, and it's time to get to work on next year...

There She Is...
And there I am, Tebowing like my girl's life depends on it (which it did)
Sent off with a kiss, capping the perfect gathering for our favorite time of year