Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Publishing News: A Blog About a Blog About a Blog and the Aklonomicon... And Paul Carrick

In case you haven't noticed, I've written about Paul Carrick before.  And yes, by now, everyone knows about my mad Mythos-crush on the artist who first allowed me to dare to dream what Lovecraft's creatures could be, in terms of scope, size, and texture.  I mean, hell, just take a gander at my "Words in the Wheelhouse" section of The Cosmicomicon and witness how many times Paul's name - prior to publishing this blog - has popped up on these very pages:

H.P. Lovecraft (8) Lovecraftian (8) God (5) Miskatonic River Press (5) Publishing News (5) Cthulhu (4) Dead But Dreaming 2 (4) Paul Carrick (4) zombies (4) Aklonomicon 

So, you as you can see, I place him in high regard, just below a Great Old One, and just above the trendiest new undead craze this side of preening teen vampires sporting eyeliner and crushing ennui.  More seriously, this shows just what I think of Paul's work not just as an artist, but also as a devoted and long-time Lovecraftian.  He's important to The Scene.  He's part of the New Roots.

I've already spilled the beans about Paul supplying not one but two pieces of original artwork for my respective stories "Flutes" and "In the Cave, She Sang," which will be published this summer in the toothy, hugely anticipated anthology the Aklonomicon, edited by artist/publisher Ivan McCann and award-winning mad poet and bEast of Berlin Joseph S. Pulver Sr. for Aklo Press.

Well, Paul recently unveiled his two pieces created specifically for my work via his Nightserpent blog.  I now return the favor, creating some sort of reverse linkage, blogging about a blog and a blog and now this blog that just makes my head hurt.  But I sometimes like it when my head hurts.  It means that I'm still alive, and often that something PROFOUND is taking place inside (or just acts as a reminder that I'm getting old and hangovers appreciate with age).

I first viewed his two Aklonomicon pieces a few weeks back, and have since peeled myself off the wall in gibbering excitement.  Now that Paul unleashed his noxious babies into the ether, I figure it's my turn to beam a little with coattail-riding pride at the stellar work he has done, born - in part - by the imagery of my prose.  So...


This first piece is for my story titled "Flutes," which gives a glimpse at what might go wrong when humans start smashing very tiny particles in giant machines deep under the ground.

This second piece is for my story "In the Cave, She Sang..." about the fateful night on New Years Eve, 1968, when Charles Manson trudged up into the hills of Death Valley with a few worms in his pocket to decide the fate of the world.  It could have gone either way, until he heard that song in the cave....  This story was inspired by a seed implanted in my brain by one Mr. Pulver himself.  As a way to pay homage, That Which Paul Wrought above is my nod to him by way of Mythosian avatar (no, not the animated series or the billion dollar movie, silly).  It's beyond exciting to see what has only lived inside your (sometimes throbbing) gourd leap into line, color, and shadow and light.  Into writhing, pulsating life.  It's a writer's dream.

Keep your peeled grapes glued to this space for more announcements about the Aklonomicon and Aklo Press, as the summer heats up, trees die so books can live, and the nights get darker later, and far noisier, as things crawl to the surface to breath the humid air and bask under queer stars...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ether Made Print: The Cosmicomicon Gets Write-Up in Strange Aeons #5

Okay, I've been geeking out over this cover for weeks, as soon as it was announced by Strange Aeons Executive Editor K.L Young.  Happily, it arrived - hugging Issue #5 - in my snail mail box just tonight, a full day earlier than expected.  Behold, Weirdlings.... THIS:

In this incredible wrap-around cover piece, ace concept artist and illustrator Brett MacDonald truly captures the essence of the massive size and scale of the Cthulhu Mystique (did I just coin something there?), which was a key component in what originally drew me to H.P. Lovecraft's work in the first place.  I've always been horrified by the impossibly large, the infinitely massive, the incalculably vast.  Cthulhu, to me, always embodied that, as do the other Great Old Ones and, of course, their incomprehensible liege lords, the nebulous Outer Gods.

So, the freshly minted edition of Strange Aeons arrives, populating a gift basket (box) that includes a few missing back issues, and matching Strange Aeons T-shirts (scroll down to the bottom) of staggeringly different size, so my girl Ives and I can stroll through the neighborhood looking like two loons gone prematurely old-people-batshit, when dressing in matching outfits becomes the norm among the early morning power walking mall circuit.

This was a waiting package worth running a few red lights and treating the 110 Freeway like my own slice of poorly paved Autobahn.  And it didn't disappoint...  Lords above, didn't it ever...

Whenever I get a new issue of Strange Aeons, I always do the wide-eyed quick scan first, as I need to see and feel EVERY PAGE before I can cool my 8 cylinder engine long enough to actually read and absorb the entire magazine.  So - after moving through the Eldritch Words and Forbidden Lore sections, amazing graphic novelry, Nick "The Hat" Gucker's fantastic "The Strange High House in the Mist" (oddly, a story I just read in our garden this last weekend) classic movie poster insert, and Robert M. Price's "Lost Gods of Lemuria" short story (art by Nick Gucker) - imagine my shock and awe when I flipped to page 48, the always interesting "Unearthed" section of Strange Aeons (fixed with the truthy sub-header:  "How can you not already know about this stuff???"), and my already misty eyes were instantly drawn to the now-familiar image (created by artist/writer Ives Hovanessian) that not only hangs on our wall, but has truly become my eternal logo and Badge O' The Weird:
To the left of "The Ives Cthulhu" was this bit of delicious and totally unexpected verbiage:
"The Cosmicomicon!  Author T.E. Grau's blog site is an electronic repository for all things cosmic, terrifying, and strange. In this little corner of darkened space, Grau explores the mind bending and possibly terrifying realities that await us as we push forward as a species, discusses speculative fiction, horror cinema and artwork, and tracks real-life news of the weird and unexplained.  A must for Mythos fans, as Grau has his finger on the creative pulse of Cthulhiana."
You could have knocked over my oddly thick, sturdy ass with a feather.  My wife and daughter had to fan me back to semi-consciousness, then we all took shots of Irish whiskey.  Okay, TWO of us did.  Angelina downed her cranberry juice like a pro.  No chaser.

When I regained my rational senses, I noticed that on the same page was a mention of Nick "The Hat" Gucker's amazing blog, and on the next page was an advert for Joseph S. Pulver's masterful, nightmarish new tome Sin & Ashes by Hippocampus Press, together with glowing S&A reviews from such horror heavyweights as Laird Barron, Simon Strantzas, and Paul Tremblay.  I felt like I was invited to a surprise party where all my favorite friends and heroes were in attendance.  Yes, that might sound like a bit much, but that's how I felt.

Getting a surprise write-up in your favorite Lovecraftian magazine is almost indescribable, so I won't even try here.  Simple words will fail me.  But, what I CAN say is that I want to extend a HUGE thanks to Strange Aeons, and all my readers and fellow writers.  This is a lovely moment, and one that I shall never forget.  I tip my fermented Irish grains to you all.  After all, it was in Gonzo that I was born, and in Lovecraft that I was baptized.  The evolution continues...

IA!!  IA!!

p.s. The preceding blog was written with my loyal and all-business battle bunny Cthulhu "Lulu" Grau guarding my feet from any underneath Dhole attack.
p.p.s.  Always end a good blog with a bunny pic.  Okay, not quite "end," because...

p.p.p.s  Please check out Brett MacDonald's artwork.  He's truly an under-appreciated genius.  I mean look at this:
(c) Brett MacDonald

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Win a Signed, Limited Copy of William Meikle's "The Creeping Kelp" from Dark Regions Press

William Meikle is a Speculative Fiction force of nature, boasting ten published novels and over 200 short story credits in thirteen countries and multiple anthologies.  Indeed, his commercial bibliography is as impressive as it is extensive.

Dark Regions Press is a top flight publisher of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, which was recently featured on these very pages, and will no doubt continue to be featured in the future here at The Cosmicomicon, as one of the most vigorous and active genre publishers going.

Put the two together, and you have a killer combination, and a cool contest that could win you a fabulous tome.

Indeed, just days ago, Dark Regions Press announced a competition to win a $45 Signed and Numbered Limited Hardcover of William Meikle's next book THE CREEPING KELP.

From DRP Central:
"Get a chance at winning a Signed and Numbered Limited Hardcover edition of our latest upcoming novel The Creeping Kelp by William Meikle with a retail value of $45 simply for making the cover art your default profile image on Facebook for a week and making a single Facebook status update on Tuesday, May 31st (that we will provide for you to copy and paste)."
The downloadable cover art can be found here, whilst their very "Like"-able Dark Regions Press Facebook page can be found here.
The book will be available for preorder on May 31st, 2011 (a solid ten days after the echoes of the thud that was The Rapture have dissipated) in Deluxe Hardcover (only THIRTEEN to be produced), Limited Edition Hardcover (50 to be produced) and Trade Paperback.   Details of how and where to order will be available next week when Dark Regions make their announcement.  I'll update here at The Cosmicomicon.  Watch closely this roiling space.

As for "The Creeping Kelp," here's a primer, sent straight from the author's stained quill:
During World War 2 a scientist at the MOD genetically manipulates some seaweed to try to make a defensive, harbour-clogging weapon and incorporates some material from a beast found in the Antarctic on the Peabodie expedition. All too soon it is obvious they have created not a weapon, but a monster. The menace is controlled, but not without loss of life, and a sample sent by boat to the USA.

The sample is lost at sea, and for nearly seventy years all is quiet... until a storm in the North Atlantic frees the sample that has been dormant inside an old wreck.

Soon the new creature finds that is is hungry. Our plastics-oriented society has given it an abundant supply of food... more than enough for it to grow, and build, and spread.

All along the Southern coast of Britain coastal communities are overrun, and rampant mutated Shoggoths fill the Thames and head up river.

Can anyone escape the terror that is... THE CREEPING KELP?
Weaponized algae?  Ravenous Shoggoths?  Weird Old London battling forces From Beyond?  Sign me the hell up.  

Visit William's blog, as well as his snazzy website, and find out what the keen-eyed Scotsman sees as he gazes out upon the moaning moors, the Pictish ruins, and the centuried mists of the fabled North Sea.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Guest Blogger: Jeffrey Thomas Reviews "Engines of Desire" by Livia Llewellyn

On this eve of long promised, righteous destruction, The Cosmicomicon continues its much talked about, days old tradition of bringing you the best guest bloggers working and lurking in the murky biz. 
This week is no different, as noted author/artist and Punktown creator Jeffrey Thomas (featured recently in Alex Luggo's guest blog review on pages prior) marvels at the roar and hum of Livia Llewellyn's widely celebrated Engines of Desire: 
A Review of ENGINES OF DESIRE by Livia Llewellyn
- Jeffrey Thomas

     It’s no novel observation that it’s always exciting to discover a writer you’ve never read before; what greater satisfaction could account for one’s love of reading? Sometimes the pleasure comes from discovering someone others discovered quite a while before you. Last month, for instance, I completed BRAVE NEW WORLD, and in January I came across this guy named Cormac McCarthy. (I always feel a bit late to the game when it comes to movies and music, too -- but better than never, and all that.) Other times, the author you discovered is relatively new, or at least wholly new to you. Recently, writers who became favorites of mine with just one book were Richard Gavin (with OMENS) in 2009, Otsuichi (ZOO) in 2010, and Simon Strantzas (BENEATH THE SURFACE), earlier this year. And now, maybe not too late this time, here I am discovering Livia Llewellyn, via her new collection ENGINES OF DESIRE (Lethe Press).

     There’s a lot to admire here, and where to begin? I’m always impressed when a writer can work confidently within multiple genres or subgenres, and the stories in ENGINES OF DESIRE could be called a mix of horror, dark fantasy, science fiction -- though I wouldn’t blame Llewellyn if she’s as uncomfortable with such limiting categorizations as I am. Better to say, then, that she’s unfettered by genre. The stories tend to be either quite long or quite short, which again impresses; she’s going to let this story be the length it wants to be, whereas many other writers seem to weigh their efforts on the scale of whatever is going to fit the word range of the next zombie anthology. And where so many writers go through the motions of being shocking and edgy, Llewellyn makes them look like posers, writing as she does unflinchingly of infanticide, incest, madness and self-destruction. Her female protagonists are both empowered and compromised. Childbirth is a repeated subject matter, and repeatedly viewed not as a means of bringing joy and promise into the world but perpetuating the suffering of the doomed and damned.

     Among the standouts in these ten stories, we have the grim, apocalyptic “Horses” (and I’ll just stop introducing each story as grim right now -- that’s a given; this is not a feel-good bunch of tales), about a woman discovering the most basic imperatives of a human being, at the hour of human extinction; “The Engine of Desire,” a chilling tale of erotic obsession, the reading of which is like watching a film of a tornado brewing in reverse, from terrible aftermath to the first churning storm clouds; the increasingly nightmarish “Jetsam,” one of my favorites, about the resonance of 9/11; “The Four Hundred Thousand,” about a future civilization where young women are used to spawn whole armies that serve as a metaphor for the pointless sacrifices of war; the eerie, icky, enigmatic “Omphalos,” about the implosion of a most insular family; and easily my favorite, the concluding novella “Her Deepness.”

     “Her Deepness” is about as New Weird as New Weird can be, and again I hate categorizing here. That subgenre has been declared dead before it was even declared legitimate. I think some of those pronouncing it dead did so for their own purposes, owing to their competition with or envy of other authors whose future work they hoped to thwart by labeling it passé in advance. Politics, don’t you know. But categories do have their use when taken with a grain of salt, helping us stumble into the vicinity of things we’re going to like, and I was pleasantly surprised to find something of this particular flavor in Llewellyn’s book. “Her Deepness” could also be called Lovecraftian, but again that would be limiting it too much. It’s a dense, complex story about a sculptress with mysterious powers of shaping stone, called to the outer reaches of an impossibly vast, gritty, alternate Earth megalopolis to release a god-like being said to be trapped within rock, like some sentient fossil. In this tale most especially, Llewellyn indulges her considerable powers of description and setting, her ability to craft hard-edged characters who might not often be likable but are all the more fully real for that, her abundant and fresh imagination, her ability to generate an atmosphere heavy with a true sense of doom, and a prose voice full of glittering black poetry. Like many of the stories here, “Her Deepness” flirts with and ultimately plunges into the hallucinatory. It’s a heady experience. Forget I called it New Weird. Writing like this can never be passé, so I don’t want to run the risk of giving the wrong impression. I will say, I think Livia Llewellyn can hold her own alongside a China Mieville or a Jeff VanderMeer. I will say that much.

     And I will say this: I have another favorite writer. Ah…so this is why I read.

Preserved Brain of Those Waiting for Saturday's Rapture FOUND!

And that's actual size, folks.  Thanks to Etsy for once again bringing the goods, and the goodness gracious.

As anyone who isn't presently living under a rock, a rather rotund sexual partner, or in a northwestern Pakistani cave NOT populated by Osama's ghost already knows, questionably lucid octogenarian Harold Camping and the good, salt-of-the-earth folks at Family Radio have crunched the Biblical numbers via some not just fuzzy math, but downright BLURRY math, and come up with the exact date of the Rapture, when all the good, "right kind of" Christians will be taken up into the nimbus clouds to shuck and jive with Jesus, while the uninitiated dregs of humanity must endure The Tribulation, the brutal boot of the AntiChrist (much like the Republicans, still looking for viable candidates), and Satan's unfettered reign on this tired planet.

This Rapture, this crazy, crazy Rapture...  It's all going down on Saturday, May 21st, 2011, hopefully during or just after the monologue of the season finale of SNL (11:35 pm PST), cuz, you know, Justin Timberlake is hosting.

These Family Radio jackalopes must have missed the whole "Jesus will come like a thief in the night" part of Thessalonian scripture, and wanted to be the frontrunners of the Apocalypse.  I previously covered this puzzling - but not surprising - movement here, but wanted to give a refresher to my beloved readers of The Cosmicomicon on the Near Eve of Destruction.

But back to the mini-brains under glass...  I've been thinking of additional uses, coming up with zombie bonbons, earrings for the "so very over it" Goth Hipster in your life, and/or Christmas ornaments for your favorite neurosurgeon.  I've always been partial to the hunky Dr. Kelly Foote:
Collect the whole set!   errr.... Of tiny organs AND neurosurgeon trading cards!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Guest Blogger: Brian M. Sammons Toasts Friday The 13th Like Only He Can

Today being what it is and about what it's about, this week's guest blogger is none other than noted author, critic and reviewer of all things dark, violent and strange - Brian M. Sammons, who was kind enough to share with us his passion (okay, OBSESSION) with the blood-soaked cinematic genre of the Slasher Film.  In what other style of film can both the bully AND the slut get terrorized by a faceless killer before being impaled by a creative use of garden tools?  No other style, that's what.  Which is why we love the Slasher Film.  Well, that and because it's super fun to be scared shitless.  DON'T OPEN THAT DOOR, DUMMY!

Special thanks to Brian for taking time out of his busy scribbling schedule to send forth this tasty hunk of meat, on this meatiest of tasty days.  Absolutely ZERO thanks to Blogger for squarely kicking in the nuts my plan to post this at midnight last night (and for eating my post from Wednesday).  Stay golden, Google.

Now, I hand over the page to Brian, the master of the mask, sharpened metal, and chainsaw grease...

In honor of the upcoming Friday the 13th (or the just past Friday the 13th, depending upon when you read this) I thought I would discuss a topic near and dear to me; slasher films from the 1980s. But first, as this is my inaugural appearance on my buddy Ted’s way wicked website, here’s a brief into of just who I am.

Hello, my name is Brian Sammons, and I am a slasherholic. My addiction began at the tender (and appropriate) age of 13 with an old VHS copy of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER. To say that movie changed my life would not just be empty hyperbole. Before seeing the big man in the hockey mask doing horrible things to young people for the first time, my idea of horror movies were old 50s sci-fi giant bug flicks or heavily edited Hammer films on the Saturday afternoon Creature Feature on TV.  Afterward, well that movie was a gateway drug to all things spooky in film, literature, and even music. Yep the first rock musician I really got into was Alice Cooper. Why? Because he was spooky.  So while I’m under no delusions that these movies are great cinema, I do love them so and they will always have a place in my cold, twisted heart.

And if any of the movies I’m about to discuss don’t sound familiar to you, good, that’s the point. Jason, Michael, Freddy, Leatherface, and even cute, cuddly Chucky have all had enough press and if you don’t already know all about them, I’ve just got to ask, were you living in a cave for the last thirty years? Anyway, in an effort to shine a sputtery flashlight on a few masked maniacs that might otherwise go unnoticed, I present to you three slasher flicks that deserve a little bit of love too.
Let’s kick things off with the only slasher film set and filmed in my home state of Michigan. Ok, SCREAM 4 was also shot in Michigan (yay, I guess) but 1989’s INTRUDER was the first. Coming in at the end of the golden age of slashers, this movie was directed by Scott Spiegel who was a longtime friend and associate of Sam Raimi and the trademark “Raimi style” is all over this movie. Thankfully it’s more EVIL DEAD and far less SPIDER-MAN. The unconventional camera angles and trick shots are all over this movie and make it really fun just to watch, regardless of what’s actually happening on the screen. Luckily for us there’s a lot of good stuff going on here.

As for the story, it’s pretty standard Slasher 101 fare. A bunch of people are working late in a grocery store (ok, I guess the location is pretty unique) when they are given the bad news that the store is being sold and they will all soon be out of work. To make matters worse, some unknown madman starts hacking everyone up in a variety of creative ways. And… well that’s about it. Yeah the story is not very deep, but there are many highlights to this slasher flick. The brothers Raimi (both Sam and Ted) ham it up as some of the assembled knife fodder, and you know that wherever Sam goes, Bruce Campbell isn’t far behind. But ah, don’t believe the hype on the DVD box that gives Bruce top billing as he only pops up in a cameo at the very end. However, hands down what sets this movie on the “Must Watch” list of any splatter fan are all the wonderful kills and gore gags. While this movie was for a long time only available in a heavily edited version, Wizard Entertainment brought out a DVD of INTRUDER a few years back with all the cool red stuff intact. So for gorgeous gore, the Raimi bros, a little slice of Campbell, a hint of Michigan (hey, that’s important too), and plenty of visual style to spare, INTRUDER is not a movie to be missed.
Next we have an international effort from 1982, the outlandishly weird PIECES with the great tagline of: “You Don't Have To Go To Texas For A Chainsaw Massacre!” Written by Americans, directed by Juan Piquer Simón from Spain, and staring a mix of Spanish and American actors, including Christopher George who was born in Michigan (sorry, can’t help myself), PIECES is a mix of styles and sensibilities and the end result is something truly crazy and memorable. 

The story begins with a little boy assembling a nudie jigsaw puzzle. His mom objects and smacks him one. The boy objects and smacks mommy with an axe a couple of times. Years later and the boy is all grown up and he still wants to assemble a naked lady out of bits and pieces. So he does the only logical thing: he grabs a chainsaw and starts cutting up college coeds while dressed as The Shadow from the 1930s. Yep, makes perfect sense to me.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “sure that sounds strange, but I’ve seen weirder.” Well add to that general outline a girl roller skating through a mirror for some unknown reason, the killer sneaking onto an elevator with a victim (again, dressed like a 30s pulp hero, but she doesn’t seem to notice) with his chainsaw held behind his back, and Lynda Day George’s awesome reading of the line, “That bastard…bastard…BASTARD!”. Then there is the piece de resistance of the odd where a Bruce Lee impersonator jumps out of the bushes at the lead actress, does two minutes of a karate routine in front of her by punching and kicking at the air, then says, “oh, excuse me” and just walks away, leaving the woman, and we the audience, asking WTF? So if you’re looking for a slasher flick with plenty of “boy, I’ve never seen that before” moments, then PIECES is that flick. Oh and if you factor in that Grindhouse Releasing has a pretty cool double DVD set of this movie with a bunch of extras and all the previously cut gore poured back into the film, and you have another must for slasher fanatics.
Well I’m not going to be able to out crazy PIECES, so I’m not going to even try. Instead I figure I’ll tell you about the most recent old school slasher to come out on disc. The movie is another form 1982 called THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, also known as PRANKS, also known as DEATH DORM. So between those three titles, you might have seen this film, but even if you have, I bet you never saw it uncut or in High-Def. Well now thanks to Synapse Films and their brand new Blu-ray release of this movie, uncensored for the first time ever, you can. But would you want to? Well I think so, but keep reading and let’s see if I can convince you.

In DORM a group of college kids volunteer to help close up an old dorm building before it’s scheduled to be demolished but unfortunately for them a mysterious psycho is bumping them off one by one. And well, that’s it for the story. Ok, there’s a little bit more, but not all that much. There’s a decent group of kids for the slaughter playing up the usual slasher stereotypes of good girl, wise-cracking clown, tough guy, etc. What sets this movie apart, just like any good slasher flick, is the kills, how creative and gory they are. Luckily DORM delivers the goods now that the blood and guts has been restored. The infamous power drill scene is a clear standout but a baseball bat with nails pounded through it and a very large pressure cooker are all used to good effect.

Then there’s Daphne Zuniga playing one of the coeds. If you had a thing for her during the 80s like I did, then you’ll enjoy her here, slumming it in a horror movie to pay her dues. Yeah she’s not in the movie for long (oops I guess I should have given a spoiler warning or something, but just watching the movie you can figure that out pretty quickly) but what little she does, she does well.
And hell, I’ve had so much fun tripping down memory lane that here’s an extra honorable mention for free: GIRLS NITE OUT from 1984. Yeah it’s not all that original, bloody, scary, or even good, but it does have a killer in a bear suite. No really, the movie is set at a college during an all-night scavenger hunt and instead of wearing a hockey, gas, dead skin, or white Shatner mask, the murderer bumps off the school’s mascot, takes his goofy bear costume, makes himself a steak-knife-bear-claw a la Freddy Kruger, and starts slashing the titular girls because they are all “dirty sluts”. It’s not as crazy as PIECES, as gory as INTRUDER, or old school fun as DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, but it does have a few moments going for it. The appropriately named Guilty Pleasures released this movie on DVD a few years back and if you want to see a teddy bear clad killer you can find copies of it cheap on eBay. I got my copy there for two bucks.    

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

By The Weird Whims of Tito: The Forgotten Monuments of The Balkans

What magnificent creation and spectacular destruction can spring from the heady stew of nationalism and hubris.

The Broz - Authoritarian, Communist, Smiley Pants
Former Yugoslavian President and long moldering corpse Josip Broz Tito ("Broz" obviously kept as a middle name to bolster street cred amongst the brothers) knew this all too well, as he was responsible for both.

Since this isn't a foreign policy or military history blog (dare to dream), I won't get into the destruction wreaked by this controversial Socialist dictator.  But, since this IS a blog devoted to the strange and often creepy, I will focus on the nationalistic and commemorative monuments erected at Tito's command in the 1960's and 70's - the overlapping decades when The Weird went Pro around the world -  which yielded some quite extraordinary results, including the picture heading this post, recalling anything from an inter-dimensional portal to a Skynet cast-off from the Terminator series.

Indeed, according to this posting on the oddly formatted website/blog Crack Two:  
These structures were commissioned by former Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito in the 1960s and 70s to commemorate sites where WWII battles took place (like Tjentište, Kozara and Kadinjača), or where concentration camps stood (like Jasenovac and Niš). They were designed by different sculptors (Dušan Džamonja, Vojin Bakić, Miodrag Živković, Jordan and Iskra Grabul, to name a few) and architects (Bogdan Bogdanović, Gradimir Medaković...), conveying powerful visual impact to show the confidence and strength of the Socialist Republic. In the 1980s, these monuments attracted millions of visitors per year, especially young pioneers for their "patriotic education." After the Republic dissolved in early 1990s, they were completely abandoned, and their symbolic meanings were forever lost.
And here's what Tito wrought... possibly to show up Marlon, Jermaine, Jackie, and that fucking showoff Michael:

To me, they look like either inter-connected outposts, or colossal puzzle pieces scattered across the countryside, waiting to be assembled into a massive machine with truly cosmic implications.

Gargantuan, mysterious, and slightly menacing, in an alien sort of way, nodding to possible architectural inspiration that seems to be decidedly - dare I say - non-Euclidean in nature.  Hmm.....

But, while we're caught up in the awesomeness of Yugoslav design, let us never forget:
Maybe the Balkans need another pipe-smoking strongman (sans the ethnic cleansing) to raise magic from the ground again.  It could only improve the view.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Grand Master Jack: The "Scariest Man in America" Receives Highest Accolade at WHC '11

What is truly "scary" and in whom it strikes fear is a very subjective notion. It can be a person, place, or thing. Or it can be the absence of all three.

For some, it's the sight of clowns. For others, it's crowds. For still others, desolate aloneness. For my wife's uncle - an imposing, dare-deviling ass kicker - it's the very notion of fresh peaches.
One Man's Horror is Another Man's Fruit Salad
It can be monsters it can be angels it can be human it can be alien it can be living it can be dead it can be the undead.

For me, what is truly "scary" runs the gamut, and is rarely specific. A knocking behind a wall.  The staring of unfamiliar, unblinking eyes.  Cramped, inescapable spaces.  The monstrously large.  The incalculable Void.  And clowns, of course. Hence, my embrace of Lovecraftian and Weird fiction and Cosmic Horror... and my aversion for circus tents and eye exams.

In the category of "person," Stephen King once dubbed veteran horror author Jack Ketchum  - creator of such notable books, films, and short stories as Off Season, The Girl Next Door, Red, The Crossings, and "The Box" - as "the scariest man in America," most likely unseating ol' Dick "Scattershot" Cheney at the time of the weighty utterance.

Well, ol' Scary Jack was just anointed Horror Horror Grand Master for "outstanding contribution to the horror genre" at the recent 2011 World Horror Convention held in Austin (aka the Oasis of Weird amongst the dusty brambles of otherwise straight-laced Texas).
Courtesy of the Austin Post, here is video of Ketchum graciously accepting the title.  In his speech, he discusses the nature of terror in a post 9/11 world, what we as writers must and need to tap into and dig up to create quality horror writing, and even throws in an anecdote about quite possibly the scariest WOMAN(ish) in America, Lady Gaga (nee Stefani Germanotta).   

Congratulations to Jack Ketchum on the well earned laurel, joining such horror/sci-fi/dark fantasy magi as King, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, Joe R. Lansdale, Peter Straub, Clive Barker, and Ray Bradbury, among others. And disappointingly, like in nearly every horror movie and episode of Scooby Doo ever made, the scary monster doesn't seem all that horrifying after seeing it in the light of day, or God forbid, behind a podium. 

But then again, what makes Jack frightening is not who he is, it's what he writes.  I think that's the way it should be.

"We can bleed all over the page... We can be fucking ridiculous." - Jack Ketchum  (WHC 2011)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dead But Dreaming 2 News: Get a Little Slice of Pugmire via MRP Pre-Order and LeZ Contest

From the ebony tower of Miskatonic River Press:  
In an effort to cross-promote our growing fiction line, all who pre-order Dead But Dreaming 2 will get a full-color trifold bookmark signed by none other than the Queen of Eldritch Horror, Wilum Hopfrong Pugmire (one of the authors in DBD2), promoting his upcoming book from MRP: The Strange Dark One, Tales of Nyarlathotep.
(also announced through Google Groups [alt.horror.cthulhu])

On the heels of this proclamation, founder Mike Davis and the good folks at his Lovecraft eZine have just announced a contest to win a free copy of Dead But Dreaming 2, as well as the above-mentioned signed bookmark from the acclaimed Lovecraftian W.H. Pugmire, creator of legend-haunted Sesqua Valley 
Time for another drawing!  Most of you are probably familiar with the first Dead But Dreaming book, called by many the finest Lovecraft anthology to see print in a long time.  Personally, I agree — the stories are first-rate.  If you are a Lovecraftian, Dead But Dreaming is a must own.
Anyway, Kevin Ross is releasing Dead But Dreaming 2, and I’ve just purchased a copy for one lucky winner!  And not only does the winner of this drawing get a free copy of the book, you'll also receive a color bookmark signed by the awesome W.H. Pugmire!
You heard the lads.  Head over to the Miskatonic River Press website and pre-order DBD2, then mosey on by the LeZ to "Like" the hell out of it, and sign up for the contest.  

Even if you already have a copy of Dead But Dreaming 2 reserved and on the way, you can give the extra one as an incredibly thoughtful and tasteful gift, or use it as a projectile to knock over the display of Snooki "books" (you think I'm gonna link that ridiculous waste of dead wood, you're sadly mistaken) at your local lit purveyor.  You'll be a hero to many.

TGIT - Reaching The Golden Precipice

Thursday has always been my favorite day, as I live for anticipation.  The converse, of course, is Sunday night, when the proverbial wad has been shot, various parts of my body ache, and the horror of Monday ticks towards me like a Panzer in low gear.

But Thursday is a whole different bushel basket of creamy, fortified goodness.  It's the 24 hour span that precedes Friday, when all the caged-in hopes and dreams of that week will begin.  Thursday is also the day when the free world loosens its tie a bit.  Exhales in a quiet room.  Takes a magic hour walk on dusky streets.  Maybe heads to the local tavern for a cocktail or two the night before the "fuck yeah!" douchebags and wide-assed weekend warriors belly up for free happy hour food, half price well drinks, and staggered puking sessions in the parking lot.

On a creative level, Thursday always ends up being my most productive, as by that point, I'm fully rested from the halcyon happenings of the weekend prior, I've usually put in 3-4 days at the gym (so all my thews are fully hydrated and my metabolism is smiling back at me), and knocked out enough office work to make me feel like a decent member of the rat race.  Most importantly, it marks the milestone vantage point from which I can finally see the light of that new dawn cresting on the horizon just a few leagues to the starboard side, when anything can (and usually does) happen.

Today was no different.  As soon as I kissed my beauitiful wife goodbye and pulled out of the driveway (taking care to dodge a cadre of tiny men armed with oversize leaf blowers), my brain was humming.  Ideas, snippets of dialogue and description, new angles on old stores, goddamn TITLES (that rarest of epiphanies) were bouncing across my brain as I drove on my well-worn path to work, totally on autopilot.  POP!POP!POP!  I swear I saw phosphorous tracers, as if firing an AK into the central Asian sky.  Not even the shitty music on the radio (a mushy blur of Foreigner and 38 Special or something similarly tired), nor the ever present Tyler Perry bus adverts (featuring the HIGHlarious pull quote "Good afternoont!"  Hahaahahahah-- kill me) could spoil the buzzing wave on which I surfed.  In that odd twist of reality that sometimes rides bareback on a rush of creativity, I didn't want the commute to end, as that little overheated pod of cracked leather seating and faded black paint was an incubator of a 1001 ideas that would hopefully one day grow up to haunt 10,001 nights.  I wrote notes at every stoplight, tittering like a loon as I did.  I got strange stares.  I wished them a happy Thursday.  They shook their head.  

For some people, it's always Sunday night.

So I say to you, friends and readers and friendly readers all, may all your creative days be Thursday, and may Friday always loom with immense possibility and wonder around the next bend.  Today is the day.  Can't you feel the energy of anticipation in the air?  Take out your pens and open your notebooks.  Squeeze out some fresh paint onto the palette.  Sharpen your carving tools.  There's still so much to be done, and the time to do it draws nigh.
Somnium diem!  Carpe noctem!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Guest Blogger: Alex Lugo reviews "Thought Forms" by Jeffrey Thomas

Going forward, The Cosmicomicon will feature up to four guest bloggers per month, to add some variety of content, a touch of the multimedia, as well as some slightly different viewpoints of similarly dark corners. 

Leading us off is book reviewer Alex Lugo, who serves as our debut guest blogger, giving us his thoughts on Jeffrey Thomas' latest novel Thought Forms, published by Dark Regions Press, a fantastic publisher of horror, fantasy and sci-fi that boasts a roster shot through by a number of familiar and fantastic names.

So now, without further ado, I turn the page over to Alex....

Thought Forms by Jeffrey Thomas
Review by Alex Lugo

I think it’s safe to say that most readers of horror read horror to be horrified.  Sadly, most horror literature these days just doesn't have it. The horror, that is.  

Thought Forms is not one of those books. I can rightfully say that alongside Laird Barron's Mysterium Tremendum, Thought Forms by Jeffrey Thomas is the scariest piece of literature I have ever read in fourteen years. There are no clichés, no stupid moves by the main characters, and absolutely no predictability. Although Jeffrey Thomas is most famous for his Dark Science Fiction tales set in the universe of Punktown, this novel is an utterly supernatural tale set in eldritch Massachusetts. It is a story of two cousins, Ray and Paul. Both of these men have seemingly different problems, but creatively entwine once the stunning conclusion is revealed. 

At the very beginning of the story, we learn that Ray’s mother and father were butchered by some unknown force when he was very young. A little over twenty years later, Ray moves into the same house where he experienced the bloody slaying of his parents. Sounds kind of silly, but as you eventually learn, all of Ray’s memories of his parents are mainly comprised of drunkenness and abuse, hence he doesn’t feel that much discomfort living in the house where he parents were murdered, since he had no real emotional attachment to them. Instead, he considers his his Aunt and Uncle and his cousin Paul as his true family. Ray spends much of his time in the house drawing, taking care of a dog named Kelly, and firing his arsenal of guns in the surrounding woodlands. He works at a leather goods factory, and, for the first time in his life, begins to develop a romantic interest in a woman named Heidi. 

Everything seems to be going exceedingly well until one night, Ray and the dog notice a dark silhouette of some strange figure standing in his driveway, scrutinizing them with piercing, midnight eyes. And this is just the beginning...  As the days - and nights - pass, the visits from strange, shrouded  figures grow more common, brazen, and bizarre, while his affections for Heidi grow stronger. What originally seemed to be just some lost soul in his driveway morphs into something darker and more sinister, something that seems to be returning to continue a tradition of bloodshed that started over twenty years ago.  But what are they, these dark, silent figures?  What do they want, and why?

At the same time, Ray’s cousin Paul is going through an equally, if not stranger experience. Paul is an artistic individual, much like Ray, but delves into the more elaborate and fantastic with his work, unlike the realistic artwork of Ray. Paul is a self-proclaimed witch - not some attention-seeking, Goth buffoon, but a true worshiper of nature’s beauty and wonder. He works nights at a plastic factory, where he heads up an all-female team of workers.  The day goes by in a seemingly ordinary fashion, until word is spread that a worker saw the infamous factory phantom - a young, blond haired boy seen multiple times by a plethora of workers, including Paul himself, who just earlier in the day could have sworn he saw a similar blond child in the cafeteria. The strangeness builds when a sudden hush settles over the factory.  All is dead silence, save for the distant chatter of the radio on the factory intercom. After a brief inspection, Paul and his team discover that the factory is suddenly deserted, absent of all human life. Ideas spread like wildfire, but after a factory worker is found cowering under a multitude of boxes, near catatonic with fright, Paul knows something is utterly wrong. With every tense moment, Paul learns the terrible truth that some dark, horrid creature is stirring in the factory, a beast as monstrous and bizarre as one of his outlandish paintings.  A beast that is now hunting all those trapped inside the factory until morning. 

As both stories unfold, each cousin must face their own version of ultimate horror, as they come to grips with a mysterious, terrifying enemy devoted solely to their demise.

Thought Forms is many things: tense, horrifying, relentless, violent, magical, masterful, and absolutely wonderful. It is a novel best read under the veil of night. It is a tome so diabolical, I couldn’t read it alone, shamefully. Most importantly, in a time when most of the so-called horror books housed in your local book store fall short, Thought Forms is scary in a way that defines the term.  

Without giving much away, it will make you afraid to think what you think you might be thinking.  

by Alex Lugo