Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Delectable Darkness: Dark Delicacies Keeps Los Angeles Quaking, and Bibliophiles Booked

Along a quiet, tree-lined street doth lurk...
As much as it brings convenience to our silly, self important lives, technology kills a great many beautiful things.  The hiss of steam engines.  The clack of a typewriter.  Actually looking at your surroundings while outside, instead of staring down at that glowing rectangle clutched in your hand.

But one of the greatest harms wrought by the explosion of Electronic Everything is the slow bloodletting of the local bookshop trade.  What Amazon couldn't kill by making an impulse book purchase just a mere  click away, eBooks have nearly snuffed by beaming printed page into another one of those damnable glowing rectangles.  Your average Joe Ma & Pa book retailer - hell, even the gargantuan book chains - just can't keep the lights on in an environment such as this.  Humans are fickle, easily distracted water sacks, jonesing for the next toy rather than realizing the toys we already have are more than could possibly ever need.

So how wonderful is it that not only is an independent bookseller thriving in media-addled Los Angeles (okay, Burbank, to be exact), but an indie book shop devoted entirely to horror fiction and related ghoulish media.  That's what Dark Delicacies does, and has done, since 1994, when Del and Sue Howison creaked open the crypt doors and shared with the lighted world one of the most comprehensive shops devoted to the gruesome and macabre the west coast had - and has - ever seen.  Dark Delicacies is the home for horrorheads in Los Angeles.

I'm not proud to say that up until about a month ago, when chum and colleague John Palisano had his book signing there, I had not yet darkened the door of Dark Delicacies.  Ives and I had been meaning to get out there several times, but the vagaries of schedule, and weekends devoted almost entirely to either family or writing/editing the last few years, have kept casual browsing time among haunted stacks to a nearly non-existent minimum.  So, I was super excited and happy for the excuse that John's release and signing of his debut novel Nerves afforded me.  To the darkest heart of Burbank I sojourned....
This is Dark Delicacies - HorrorHead ground zero in L.A.
I was not disappointed.  After queuing up and waiting while John chatted with fans new and old, I ducked down aisles and poked around in corners, finding pretty much anything a devoted fan of horror would ever want.  Books, toys, movies, t-shirts, fragrances, collectibles, graphic novels, antiques, oddities, bizarrities, rarities, and novelties.  And lots and lots of signed merchandise, as all dark roads through Southern California eventually travel through Dark Delicacies, bringing in hundreds of individuals devoted to horror and dark fantasy in fiction, film, television, and the visual arts to launch and/or sign their creations.

This place had - and has - everything I've always wanted in one store but dared not dream to discover.  I felt like a gearhead at Pep Boys.  A stoner in a donut shop.  A redneck at a gun show...  I felt giddy, and in between reaching for my wallet as yet another coveted item caught my eye, I felt like I had come home.

To give you a better feel of this unique hollow of beautiful shade, please enjoy a mini-gallery of photos, without the cloying nature of my reportage:

Readers really fucking rule.
This is the closest Cthulhu has stood next to Sweeney Todd without violating a restraining order
The inestimable Jeffrey Thomas gets some well deserved top-o'-the-stacks rack space.
If they can sell 'em, why the hell not make 'em?
We do love our toys, don't we?
'Dark Delicacies III' gets my hornish seal of approval.  
Every horror film worth watching, both great and small
Doing my best to insert myself in the cabinet of interesting horrors
The Dark Del Himself - as in Howison
Every bookstore I enter must endure the Laird Check.  Dark Delicacies passes with flying colors.

Meanwhile, at the signing...

Stoker Award nominated author John Palisano, signing my copy of his debut novel 'Nerves.'
I paid Palisano 60 bucks and Coffee Bean Groupon to stick his hand up my bum and make me his Puppet Boy

Go here for more information on Dark Delicacies, and here for more on John Palisano's Nerves, published by the esteemed Bad Moon Books.  Go here for pictures of a dude pulling his eyes off of his face, and here for a delicious green been casserole recipe (you're welcome).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Strange Aeons: Issue #9 Now Available, Featuring Comics, News, Reviews, Art, and Original Fiction by Stephen Graham Jones

cover by JD Busch
Sometimes its better to be lucky than good.

This is exactly how I feel about my current position as the Fiction Editor of Strange Aeons magazine, which was a favorite, four-time-a-year read of mine long before I was set up with a SA e-mail account.

As a child of the late 70's/early 80's who haunted dingy book stores and "hobby shops" - as retailers devoted to RPGs, lead figurines, models, comics, fiction, and other geekery were known back then - whenever I could get my mother to drop me off for a few hours, my foundation is girded with the aesthetic of pulpy fantasy/sci fi mags like Heavy Metal, oversize horror comics like Eerie and Creepy, wargaming journals like Dragon and White Dwarf, and brawny, ultra violent sword & sorcery black and whites like Savage Sword of Conan.  My inner world of fantasy was carved out by illustrators and writers of the ghastly and the fantastic, at that age when my mind was a sponge and imagination was my dearest friend.  As such, these images and textures are ingrained in me, bonded with that peculiar childhood DNA that shades the rest of one's days.

This was before I knew who H.P. Lovecraft was (although I was absorbing his echoes almost everywhere), or that Weird fiction existed as a vibrant, established scene, with proud roots, a present, and a future.  This was before I knew that I wanted to be a writer (or an editor), but I was certain - then, and now - that I loved to live in those dark, haunting, exhilarating worlds more than any other. Reality for me was doomed in the face of such unconquerable competition.  Fantasy, and all of its far flung outposts, would be my mental escape route when the dulling grind of reality threatened to pull me down in the morass of the crushingly common.

So, imagine my childish glee when I stumbled across Strange Aeons a few years ago, just as I embarked on my creative journey back home to my roots. It took me back to those cramped, out of the way shops, to that distinctive smell of moldering paper and ink and musty air spiced with junk food wrappers stuffing the bin behind the counter. Strange Aeons seemed like a throwback to those times, and celebrated a tradition of fantasticism and FUN (a concept often forgotten in this often grim, post ironic days) that I had missed so much.

Making the Masthead, flanking a stellar ToC
I quickly became a fanboy of the magazine, and struck up a professional relationship with Strange Aeons creator K.L. Young, who - along with Rick Tillman and Laurence Amiotte - made up the magazine's core at the time.  Content in my glorification of the lost art of the Pulps on the pages of Strange Aeons, which has featured some of the best in Lovecraftian, horror, and Weird fiction writers, artists, craftsman, retailers, and newsmakers since its worldwide launch in the spring of 2010, it came as an unexpected shock when Young invited me to come aboard as Fiction Editor earlier this year.  I couldn't believe my luck, and still can't, but won't question the movements of the stars, both visible and waiting.  For now, I'll count my blessings and pledge to uphold the tradition of excellence forged so long ago, and continued on the pages of Strange Aeons.  Our humble magazine isn't the first to do what we do, but we think we are doing it as good or better than anyone else out there right now, and we're just getting started.  Plans are afoot (and a-wing) for expansion, including a rumored all-fiction issue, electronic circulation through additional platforms, and other multimedia delights.

Stay tuned, true believers, and bring that inner child in from outside.  Playing football in the street is fun, but we have so many things to show you best seen under lamplight in a darkened room, while the rest of the flat world sighs.

And now, a walking tour gallery of page shots taken from Strange Aeons Issue #9.  Enjoy, and realize that until you feel that paper between your greasy fingers, you ain't seen nothing yet:

After a very tough selection process, in which I read the works of many of THE top Weird/horror/sci fi fiction writers working today, I finally settled on "Welcome to the Reptile House," by the unparalleled Stephen Graham Jones.  Having an original, fresh-off-the-brain piece from a true rock star of the speculative fiction scene mark my first issue as Fiction Editor is something I never could have dreamed, and makes me so incredibly proud.   Mostly, it serves as concrete testament to the reputation of Strange Aeons among the top level creatives working in the industry.
The first page to SGJ's spanking new story, featuring art by The Hat
In "The Corpse's Crusade", you are treated to a further tale of Zothique, Clark Ashton Smith's fabled land of charnel gods, necromancy, and bloodied steel, wrought from the poisoned pen of Cody Goodfellow, who once again joins up with long time collaborator Mike Dubisch to create a boldly illustrated tale that hearkens back to the best of the Pulps and graphic novels that truly are exactly that.
Evil tyrants, flesh eaters, and corpse humpers - Must be another Strange Aeons tale!
Issue #9 brings to our regular readers the first regular installment of "Anno Ktulu" (written by K.L. Young and Vincent Ferrante, pencils by Ben "1314" Hansen, graytones by Chris Hagerman, letters by Eduardo Martinez) recently launched with the special edition, oversize one-shot currently available at the Strange Aeons website, which premiered to resounding acclaim at Crypticon Seattle and the 2012 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland last month.  The one-shot ties into the ongoing "Anno Ktulu" storyline that will be running all year in Strange Aeons.  Get in on this innovative story of superheroes set in a Lovecraftian universe now, as you definitely don't want to miss this.

With "Hell Dorado", SA's own cigar chomping Editor-In-Chief Laurence Amiotte pens a story of gunslingers and hellish monsters in the new old west, illustrated by Rob Corless.

Double threat Lee Davis offers up Part 3 of his supernatural zombiedrama "Bloodworm."

Eric York brings to life an excerpt from H.P. Lovecraft's epic poem "Fungi From Yuggoth" with his distinctive artistic style.

The Eldritch Words segment starts out each issue, giving a lowdown around Strange Aeons HQ, providing a bit of staff and related news, and introducing the wonders in the pages to come. Notice the smiling gent on the right. That's Strange Aeons staff artist Nick "The Hat" Gucker, who has decided that 2012 is now officially his.  Thank goodness he likes to share.

Also included in Issue #9 is an official report taken from Portland's recent H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, where SA's own Nick Gucker won the first annual "Pickman's Apprentice" competition, besting such worthy adversaries as renowned artists (and Strange Aeons favorites) Mike Dubisch and Lee Moyer.  Congrats to The Hat, and to all of us, as we're all winners based on the three mind bending end results.  YAY for everyone, and puppies too!

Book reviews are "Forbidden Lore" to us.  In this this issue, we give the business to Rough Music by Simon Kurt Unsworth, Lucky Bastard by S.G. Browne, and Laird Barron's The Croning, with a shout to All Monster Action by the above mentioned Cody Goodfellow, Nick Gucker, and Mike Dubisch in the "Currently Reading" circle.

Our "Unearthed" section features all the cool shit you need to know about, including the Monopoly-style board The Doom That Came to Atlantic City (which absolutely destroyed its goal on Kickstarter), the always fantastic Lovecraft eZine (which has featured work by yours truly), and this wonderful reproduction of Lovecraft's ghost written Weird Tales piece for Harry Houdini titled "Under the Pyramids" (aka "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs"), complete with a working lock and vintage-style U.S. mailbags, featuring art by our global landlord Nick Gucker (who proffers more info here).

In each issue, we always include something extra, from lobby cards to mini posters to your very own kitten (I MIGHT be fibbing a bit about one of those).  In Issue #9, the staff of printing gnomes stashes two "Anno Ktulu" trading cards by some guy named Nick Gucker into each magazine before mailing.  Collect them all, and trade with your friends.  Way cooler than the seventeen Ken Griffey Jr. cards doing exactly nothing in a cigar box in my parents' basement.

Well, that's the penny tour, kids.  Interested?  Goddamn right you are.  Now click through here and pick up the latest Strange Aeons, then work backwards on the previous issues, like any good collector of comics and the Pulps.  We're just getting warmed up, so watch us grow tall, dark, and infinitely monstrous.  We have such Things we'd like to show you...

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer of Zombie Blog Tour 2012 Stops By The Cosmicomicon and Dispenses Zombie Lit Wisdom from Author and Editor Todd Brown

The summer is a time for many outdoor activities.  Picnics, trips to beach, the eating of flesh under the naked sun.  Unattended meat does fester more rapidly as the temperature climbs, so be sure to dine quickly, and don't leave anything left behind to rot.  That would just stink up the place, and attract all sorts of unsavory attention.

As we shamble headlong into the summer solstice of 2012, The Cosmicomicon is very proud to have been selected to serve as this week's host of the first annual Summer of Zombie Blog Tour (June 1st through July 31st).  For this third installment, noted zombie/horror author and editor (and founder of May December Publications) Todd "TW" Brown provides some learned advice for not just writers of zom fic (Is that a thing?  I'm going to try to make it a thing), but for those who write and submit horror and overall fiction stories in general.

Wipe your mouth, pull up a chair, and keep a round in the chamber.  It's getting hot outside.

You want to write a story for a zombie anthology
 Todd Brown

You know you want to. C’mon, admit it. I mean, this isn’t like sitting in front of your television watching Shawn White own the half-pipe on his snowboard, Drew Brees dissect a secondary, or Tim Lincecum throw his freakball to strike out Albert Pujols. You want to do it…and what’s more, you know you can. You want to write a story for a zombie anthology.

It is not even a question as to whether or not you’ve read a zombie anthology and thought, “How in the hell do some of these people get published?”  Let’s be honest with ourselves here.  It’s just me…and you…and the flickering computer screen.  So, say it with me. Out loud. Ready? Okay…here goes.

There are some terrible, horrible, mind-numbing, time-devouring, zombie stories being published, and I can do better. 

That, my friend, shall be our mantra. Now, you got it in your head, so it is time to sit down and create THE STORY. Here is where I can be of no help. You have an idea, so run with it. Write it and rewrite it. Put it away for a few days, and then pull it out and clean it, polish it, and rewrite it again.

Okay. Now what?

You need to let your baby go out into the big wide world. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you hear Carrie’s mom chanting, “They’re all going to laugh at you…They’re all going to laugh at you!” Ignore her. She’s crazy. Still, a word of warning, somebody might point…might laugh. If you can’t handle that possibility, stop writing and stick to being a fan or critic.  But that is a subject for an entirely different column. I say save those rejection letters as the badges of honor that they are. (Honestly, if I were Stephanie Meyer, JK Rowling, or Stephen King I’d incorporate those people that rejected me into my Christmas card list—I can be petty.)

You’ve written a story. You’ve cleaned it up as much as possible. Now what? There are a couple of avenues—and a lot of back roads—that you can take. First, I suggest you go to the websites of some of those publishers whose anthologies you have read. Check their sites for announcements about what they have coming up. Additionally, I suggest sites such as Duotrope.  You can also send out a tweet: “anybody know of a zombie anthology that is taking submissions?”  I liken that to standing out on a street corner…and yelling, “Fresh fish!” (Wait, what were you thinking? ooo…somebody has a dirty mind).

Okay, great. Now you know who is accepting. What you have to do next is very important. READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES! That might seem like a silly thing to say, but after compiling my first batch of zombie shorts for May December’s premier anthology, Eye Witness: Zombie I stand humbly corrected.  And thus, I reach the crux of my article.

While it may seem silly, certain aesthetic points (i.e. courier font type, size 12, double-spacing) serve a purpose for editors.  Also, if you read a few hundred thousand words a week, your eyes need as much help as you can give them.

Next, there is the theme.  If the publisher asks for “traditional” (read: Romero-style) zombies, and your opening theme has four zombies in cowboy hats, sitting around a campfire, roasting a California senator, discussing global economic woes...your story DOES NOT FIT! Don’t think, “Yeah, but my story is freaking awesome!”

Real example: I had an anthology in the pipeline, First Time Zombie.  It was for, as of yet, unpublished writers — the chance to bring some new blood to the party if you will. I asked for presently unpublished writers with a zombie story (no type restrictions…fast, slow…writer’s choice et cetera) to submit with the following guidelines: 3,000 -10,000 words; Courier font type; size twelve font; double-space.  I actually received a witch story 1,200 words, single spaced, Times New Roman!  Additionally, this individual had a full page of credits on an attached resume. My only question was, “How has this person ever been seen in print!”  Oh wait…they have a reputation and a “semi-known name”.

And here is where I plug my own company.  At May December Publications, we don’t care what your name is.  Now, before you get “more” offended, let me explain.  All submissions for MDP anthologies are forwarded to a review team—minus a byline or anything that identifies WHO wrote the story being considered.  We don’t know who we accept or reject until after the story has been read and voted “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down”.  But I can assure you, no matter the publisher, if they want cowboys and you give aliens…your story will be dumped in the garbage can.  If you don’t have the luxury of anonymity, you can find your name on a “black-list”.

So what have we learned here? Try hard, read the rules, and don’t take it personal if you’re rejected.  It’s not brain surgery, folks. And one more thing…support your favorite press, be it Permuted, Rymfire Books…or even May December.

*   *   *   *   *

All six of us - Todd Brown, Mark Tufo, Ian Woodhead, Armand Rosamilia, John O'Brien and Dave Jeffery - hope you'll keep following us on the Summer of Zombie blog tour, and comment as we go along.

And… one lucky commenter for each blog will receive a Free eBook or Print book from one of the authors! Simply leave a comment with your e-mail address and we'll pick a random winner each day! Simple as that!

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Work is the Writer and the Writer is the Work: "Today I Write Lovecraftian" by Peter Rawlik

By next year, it will be nigh impossible to pick up an anthology of new Lovecraftian fiction without finding a Peter Rawlik story inside.  The phrase "successfully prolific" was invented to describe his blistering output, which seems to have no end in sight.  Some arrive on the scene.  Rawlik kicked in the door, shot up the joint, then sat down to a nice steak dinner.

I mean, feast ye febrile eyes on this bibliography, which isn't even complete, as a few as-yet-unannounced credits have been redacted to spare lives:

Published Fiction
“Urban Shaman” (poem) in SFSFS Shuttle #119, May/June 1995
“Take Me Home” in SFSFS Shuttle #121, September/October 1995
“Requiem for Leibowitz” (poem) in SFSFS Shuttle #124, March/April 1996
“On the Far Side of the Apocalypse” in Talebones #7, 1997
“Fashion Thing” in SFSFS Shuttle #136, September/October 1998
and in Ibid #105, Winter 1998/99
“The Tale of the Horn Gate” in Tropicon XVII Program Book, 1998
“A History of Miskatonic Valley Part One” in Crypt of Cthulhu #104 (19/2), 2001
“The Masquerade in Exile” in Tales of the Shadowmen 7 Femme Fatales, Black Coat Press, 2010; also as “La Mascarade Oubliee” in Los Compagnons de L’Ombre 8, Black Coat Press, 2011
“Here be Monsters” in Dead but Dreaming 2, Miskatonic River Press, 2011
“All the Other Reindeer” in Morpheus Tales Christmas Horror Special, December 2011
“In the Hall of the Yellow King” in Future Lovecraft, Innsmouth Free Press, November 2011, also reprinted in Future Lovecraft, Prime Books August 2012
“Before the War, Five Dragons Roar” in Tales of the Shadowmen 8 Agents Provocateur, Black Coat Press, 2011
“The Last Communion of Allyn Hall” in Horror for the Holidays, Miskatonic River Press, 2011
“A Man of Letters” in Innsmouth Magazine, February 2012
“The Statement of Frank Elwood” in Urban Cthulhu, Nightmare Cities, H. Harksen Productions, 2012

Fiction Accepted for Publication
“The Thing in the Depths” in Lovecraft Ezine 2012
 “The Statement of Frank Elwood” in Worlds of Cthulhu, Fedogan & Bremer, 2012
“Journal of Thomas Gedney” in Worlds of Cthulhu, Fedogan & Bremer, 2012
“North of the Arctic Circle” in Undead and Unbound, Chaosium, 2012
“The Battle of Arkham” in Eldritch Chrome, Chaosium 2012
“Looking for Joey Shoggoth” in Techno-Goth Cthulhu, Red Skies Press, 2012
“Pickman’s Marble” with Mandy Rawlik in Lovecraft Ezine 2012
“Under the Mountains of Madness” in Over the Mountains of Madness, Dark Quest Press 2012
“Amongst the Stars I Dream” poem in Anno Klarkash-Ton edited by Glynn Barrass, P’Rea Press 2013
“Facts in the Case of Dr. Rafael Munoz” in Tales of the Weird and Uncanny # 3 edited by Steve Lines, 2012

I'm winded just reading that list, and feel my fingers and wrist throb as the combined word count stretches to the stratosphere (and nearly wore out my mouse linking all those suckers).

Anyway, I don't post this to make the rest of you feel bad for your - and our - sluggish scribbling pace, but I just wanted to give some context on this talented writer who has burst from the shadows to shake down the dead stars and look for clues, and to post something he whipped up last week that I thought was creative and pretty cool:

So, I wrote this piece a few weeks ago. It is completely unmarketable, but so frigging fun, feel free to share it, but please give me credit.

Apologies for any sleights in advance to AKS, Joe Pulver, Thomas Ligotti, Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire, T. E. Grau, Robert M. Price, Caitlín Rebekah Kiernan, Peter Straub, Michael Cisco, Simon Strantzas, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, Colin Wilson, Karl Edward Wagner, Stan Sargent, Lin Carter, Franklyn Searight, Peter Worthy, Gary Myers, Scott David Aniolowski, Don Webb, Michael Shea, Dan Harms, Glynn Owen Barrass, Brian M. Sammons, David Conyers, John Sunseri, Charles Stross, John Tynes, David Drake, Peter Cannon, Pierre Comtois, TED Klein, David Langford, Robert Weinberg, Laird Barron, Donald Wandrei, William Jones, James Ambuehl and ST Joshi.

Today I Write Lovecraftian 
By Pete Rawlik

I Schwader through the morning (w)rite; short, vivid lines that merge and grow into sharp paragraphs that cut with mythic iconography and unsettling imagery. My eyes are cloudy and my hands unsure as they try to caress something out of the page. Things get better after java and nicotine, and the page Pulverizes into stream of consciousness, odd punctuations and words with far too many consonants. It’s a frenetic pace, unsustainable, chaotic, and filled with alien memes and literary allusions, uncomfortable metaphors and unwelcoming truths! When I finally find my Ligotti it’s a welcome relief. The page fills with language, forgotten vocabulary and loquacious delights. The text is rich, dark and liquid, a molasses of verbal virality that infects and festers in the mind. The intertextual prions highjack my precious literary coding and force it to spawn, replicate, a miscegenetic mutation and transformation. I shudder free of my metatextual cocoon and spend the late morning as Pugmire. The words become self-reflexive, the page a corrupting mirror, aged yellow with decadence, and (in all senses of the word) queer.

Lunch, and I Grau through a post-food coma until I am able to Joshi through a rather difficult paragraph. As the drowse wears away I Price back and forth until I can Kiernan into something prevalent with ghouls, but is neither the horrific nor the literary meta-fiction others so hungrily desire. It is instead meta-fantastic, and I dip into Straub before sashaying into a bit of late afternoon Cisco, with all its flash and lilting beats. I try to slow things down, make myself a Bailey’s, and that slides me into a slow introspective Strantzas that gives way to Campbell before sputtering into a Lumley. I linger there, filled with the cool comfort of alien vampires and psychic nemeses. At some point I play with Wilson, but I fall into psycho-babble and pseudo-sociology that leaves the pages dry and sterile. There is meaning here, I just can’t find it. Self-doubt creeps in; I pause and find a bottle to crawl into. I spend twenty minutes pulling a Wagner before I come back to the desk feeling my Sargent rise. 

Dusk, and I Carter through an homage that could easily be parody before I Searight a steak. Post-partum I search for my inner Myers but instead find myself Worthy. It doesn’t last long and soon I’m Aniolowskied on the couch, caught in a Webb of Shea and Harms. I Jones my way back, and find myself Barrass and Sammons with a dash of Conyers. I Sunseri a few pages, but they end up all Stross and Tynes and I have to Drake through the last chapter. Suddenly I catch my stride and Cannon off five thousand words before I Comtois in front of the television. The evening news is a Weinberg, and I end the day drifting into a blissful Klein. As I Langford myself to sleep, an Ambuehl of Scotch in my hand, my mind Wandreis, and I find comfort in the blissful Barrony of sleep.

The Writing Rawlik, when not squinting into a computer screen and melting down a keyboard