Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Review: Dead But Dreaming 2, by Alex Lugo

As most of you not living under a piece of rusted sheet metal or inside a Rapture shelter now know, Dead But Dreaming 2 thundered out onto the streets last Friday, and Alex Lugo, living in such close proximity to the home office of Miskatonic River Press, was one of the first individuals on the planet to receive his copy.

Fittingly, and just days later, Alex - being the voracious consumer of all manner of weird, speculative, and Lovecraftian fiction that he is - had not just read the anthology from cover to cover, but had also written up a review for publication here at The Cosmicomicon.

Big thanks to Alex (who had previously reviewed Jeffrey Thomas' novel Thought Forms in early May) for his review, and just know that although it might not seem that way, I IN NO WAY bribed him with filthy lucre, bauble, or trinket to write such lovely things about my story "Transmission."  Either he's totally cracked, or possessed of exceptionally refined literary taste.  I'm not certain which is true, and dare not contemplate...  Instead, I'll just be grateful and humbled.

Review of Dead but Dreaming 2
By Alex Lugo
     Dead but Dreaming 2 is the second installment in a series of wonderful, Lovecraftian anthologies published by Miskatonic River Press. The first Dead but Dreaming was a cult hit, considered by many to be the finest collection of Lovecraftian and Cthulhu Mythos tales ever published. Knowing that, you can probably assume that Dead but Dreaming 2 has quite a lot of expectation to live up to, and it does.  But, I'm very happy to report that it delivers on every single promise, and then some. Within the pages of this eldritch tome are 22 tales written by the modern masters of horror. Each story is a take on Lovecraftian themes, and each one is executed with impressive craftmanship. Honestly, there wasn't one piece in this collection that I disliked. Every single story evoked the power and the horror of Lovecraft’s mind bending realms, while also shining with originality.

     If you're new to Lovecraftian and Cthulhu Mythos fiction, you may think it is impossible for a Lovecraftian tale to be original. Is it not just mere pastiche? Not at all! If one simply copies Lovecraft’s prose and clichés, the story will fail miserably.  Conversely, a good writer of Lovecraftian or Cthulhu Mythos fiction must be extremely original so that his or her own ideas and style can shine through the master's shadow - ergo the reader sees more of the author’s voice than Lovecraft’s, but can still feel the vibe of the gentleman from Providence. Because of this delicate balancing act of tribute and discovery, I believe that the great modern writers of Lovecraftian fiction are actually more original than most of their fiction writing peers because they have to achieve a goal that is somehow familiar but not just another pastiche. It is because of this that Dead but Dreaming 2 is so great, because each tale is an exceptional, unique take on Lovecraftiana, and as such, the book overflows with impressive originality. Although I enjoyed every single story, three really tickled my fancy.
     First off is "Your Ivory Hollow" by ye queen of eldritch horror, W.H. Pugmire. The tale is a semi-sequel to Robert Bloch’s "The Skull of the Marquis de Sade", and in the span of six pages, you become one of the pivotal characters in the story. Like the style of Lovecraft’s "Pickman’s Model", the speaker addresses you like you are an integral part of the unfolding story. This makes the tale more engrossing, and ultimately scarier. In only a half dozen pages, you will read of strange magick, infernal gems, suicide-inducing poetry, and utmost - insanity. Pugmire’s work never fails to amaze and enthrall me. His writing is like a paradox, as his tales both mystify and horrify the reader.

      My second favorite story, although not in order of best to least best, is "Father’s Day" by Brian M. Sammons. This was my first time reading a tale from Mr. Sammons, and I am confident it shall not be my last. The story introduces the reader to a strange, nameless boy brought up by his mother, who one day decides to venture to Innsmouth, Massachusetts (the setting for Lovecraft’s epic tale "The Shadow over Innsmouth") to find his father.  I will not spoil anything, but if you are familiar with Innsmouth’s abhorrent secret, you should get the gist of the boy’s situation. The tale is a sad mini-epic, and you will find yourself sympathetic towards a very strange boy who is far more than just "weird".
     Last, but not in any way least, is "Transmission" by T.E. Grau, proprietor of the unholy Cosmicomicon! This is T.E. Grau’s first tale published in print, and I can assure that there is much more to come! The story begins with a man wandering west to California. He does not look for fortune or fame, but simply a greater meaning to his shiftless, vagabond life. While driving in the deserts of Nevada, the main character picks up a radio transmission of what seems to be just another stupid religious fanatic crowding the AM dial. Yes, he is a religious fanatic, but quite the opposite of stupid. He is a messenger of the Meaning, something for which the main character has desperately sought, but the meaning of the Message, transmitted out into the desert night, is too horrifying and cosmic to even describe. The tale starts off with a rough and tumble prose style, which then becomes more mysterious, and, towards the conclusion, morphs into a tale of extremely well crafted atmospherics that is both mesmerizing and terrifying. The story ends with a twist that nobody will see coming. I can rightfully say that T.E. Grau is a strong force in weird fiction, and he has only just begun. Hear me and listen: T.E. Grau is THE one to watch!

      Dead but Dreaming 2 is an extraordinary anthology of fantastic, original Lovecraftian fiction. Within these pages you will find masterpieces of the weird tale from writers such as the incredible Donn Webb, and the remarkable Joseph S. Pulver Sr.

     If you have any level of interest in Lovecraft and weird fiction, this is the book for you. ____________________________________________________________________________

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Publishing News: Dead But Dreaming 2 Shipping This Week, Last Chance to Pre-Order for Free Limited Edition Pugmire Bookmark

A raven arrived on my window ledge just minutes ago, carrying word that Dead But Dreaming 2 is shipping internationally at the end of this very week.
This means that while we all know that you're going to buy this book, it would behoove (if not behoof, for my Midwestern readers) you to PRE-ORDER the book, like, TODAY, as in doing so, you not only get the book via the first wave of shipping, but you also receive this limited edition bookmark, hand signed in something dark and viscous by the right Queen of Eldritch Horror, W. H. Pugmire.
As you can see, the bookmark features Pugmire's actual signature (not a stamp), as well as a sneak peek at his debut tome with Miskatonic River Press, The Strange Dark One: Tales of Nyarlathotep, featuring cover and interior art by acclaimed writer, artist, publisher and Cosmicomicon guest blogger, Jeffrey Thomas.  More on this in the coming days, once the furor around DBD2 has calmed a little...  Track Pugmire's numerous Lovecraftian and Mythos projects, videos, and blog postings at his A View From Sesqua Valley.
A copy of the original, unsigned Dead But Dreaming recently sold for $150 on eBay (and signed editions have gone for well over $250), showing the demand for this collectors item made scarce and valuable due to the quality of the writing containing within, selected and edited by Keith "Doc" Herber and Kevin Ross.  What will Dead But Dreaming 2 - again edited by Ross, albeit solo, after the tragic passing of Doc just two years ago - be worth a decade from now?  Punch your ticket and find out, you curious cuttlefish.

As for the bookmark, it's sure to be an instant collectors item once the pre-order period is completed, so don't be snookered by indecision.  Buy the book today, and get a snazzy, limited edition bookmark to hold your page while you shiver under your covers between Dead But Dreaming 2 stories.  

There's no shame in being afraid.  There is in losing your place.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Publishing News: "Low Hanging Clouds" Published Today at Eschatology Journal

My second flash fiction piece, "Low Hanging Clouds", was published today at Eschatology Journal, the fantastic online journal of Lovecraftian and apocalyptic flash fiction.  The site is run by devoted weirdling and editor Bruce Priddy (who recently joined forces with Mike Davis at the white hot Lovecraft eZine), offering writers a wonderful canvas on which to paint short, punchy pieces that can haunt, chill, or drill a hole through your forehead in under 1,000 words.

I wrote the skeleton of the story in a matter of minutes after arriving to work one morning in the middle of February (just days before "Downhill" was published in Eschatology, shared here), which is smack dab in the middle of the rare, three or four month window for rain in Los Angeles.  That gorgeously gloomy, rainy morning, the top of the twin Century Plaza Towers that mark the white collar enclave of Century City (which boasts as its biggest claim to fame - at least in my mind - as being the primary location of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, almost immediately after it was constructed), and the upper floors of all other modest skyscrapers in the area, including my own office building, were swaddled tight by a thick layer of viscous, bright white clouds, that reminded me of a cappuccino, or, as my story details, something far more sinister but no less tasty.

I love finding the horror in the benign, the dread in the beautiful.  From religion to home to a burst of welcome weather, disrupting the security of the common and cozy is one of my top goals as a speculative fiction writer.  Yes, I'm an asshole.  Just hopefully an entertaining and slightly interesting one.  :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Publishing News: DBD2 - Now Live, In Colo[u]r, and Splayed Across a Sheaf of Dead Trees

I'll let the pictures tell the tale..

Dead But Dreaming 2 is shipping in a week (or so).  More from my brainpan when it arrives, and I recover, with the aid of smelling salts, "essential salts," and maybe even a dash or two of garlic and onion salts.

DON'T MISS THIS BOOK!!  I'm sensing that the first run could could go very quickly, based on the buzz from the street, and amid the swirling and unquiet ether...


Monday, June 6, 2011

Publishing News: Dead But Dreaming 2 Just Weeks Away From Worldwide Release

Misktonic River Press announced today that Dead But Dreaming 2 - the much anticipated follow up to the critically hailed Dead But Dreaming (now considered a collectors item in the genre) - is just weeks away from hitting the streets.

A deciphered smoke signal from MRP Brass reads as such:
Currently awaiting proofs for Dead But Dreaming 2 from the printer. We're mere weeks away from shipping the book out!

Herein are 22 tales of Lovecraftian horror from the modern masters of Cthulhu Mythos fiction: Scott David Aniolowski, David Annandale, Donald R. Burleson, Cody Goodfellow, John Goodrich, T.E. Grau, Rick Hautala, Walt Jarvis, Erik T. Johnson, William Meikle, Will Murray, Daniel W. Powell, Wilum Pugmire, Joseph S. Pulver Sr, Pete Rawlik, Kevin Ross, Brian Sammons, Darrell Schweitzer, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Michael Tice, and Don Webb.
Folks, I'm telling you.  This is one of THE anthologies - Lovecraftian or otherwise - of 2011, and beyond.  The talent pool assembled is wickedly deep and monstrously dark, orchestrated by editor Kevin Ross, who isn't one to go for the obviously slithery, nor fall for repeated use of the word "eldtritch."   This is Mythos fiction all grown up.

Don't miss out.  Get Dead But Dreaming 2 when - or BEFORE! - the rest of the world does, lest you have to do the sad Charlie Brown walk all the way home for the remainder of your silly, ill-spent life...
Give a hoot.  Buy good books.