cool stuff

I’m a few days back from the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and sufficiently recovered as to make a token effort at a wrap-up post. As always, I had a great time at what is consistently my favorite convention/festival/gathering of the year, with my only complaint being that there is never enough time for all the people I want to see, movies I want to watch, and things I want to do. (Nor, for that matter, enough money for all the things I want to buy.)

Of course, the big news for me this year is that Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts is now a real, actual, physical book that real human beings (including myself) have now seen and touched and–given how long some peoples’ flights home were–maybe even read! My fantastic publisher was in attendance, and he brought a box of books so that we had copies to sell and sign at the mass author signing event on Saturday morning. I got to flip through my new book–which, if anything, looks even better in person–and smell that new book smell. It remains a pretty heady experience.

I actually flew into Portland on Wednesday night, and Mike and Lena Griffin were kind enough to pick me up from the airport and give me the run of their place Wednesday night and all day Thursday until it was time to fetch Justin Steele from the airport and deposit me at the Banfield, where I was rooming with some of my oldest and dearest friends, Reyna and Gavin Sparby. Our room at the Banfield this year was remarkably free of kicked-in doors, blood stains, or millipedes, though we overheard someone reporting a “mysterious pool of liquid” in one of the other rooms, which sounded about right. The greatest mysteries our room contained were a massive, faux-leather headboard about as big as the bed itself, a missing toilet paper roll holder, and a bathroom mirror that was clearly doing an inadequate job of covering up a hole in the wall. Oh Banfield, you are as inextricably a part of the HPLFF experience as anything.

While we were waiting for the HPLFF proper to kick off, the Kickstarter for Simon Berman’s latest project The Book of Starry Wisdom launched on October 1. I contributed an essay to this incredible tome, in which I talk about “The Call of Cthulhu,” Descartes, In the Mouth of Madness, and epistemological certainty. You’ve got until the end of the month to get this thing backed, and there are some nice stretch goals waiting in the wings, so everybody take a break from reading this and go throw some money into Simon’s hat so he’ll stop beating me.

The biggest change between this HPLFF and previous years is that I actually watched any movies this year. I had gone in with one big goal: to see City of the Dead aka Horror Hotel, a black-and-white 1960 Christopher Lee picture that I’d never seen before. Unfortunately, fate stood in the way, and my reading was scheduled opposite its only showing on Friday night. And because Amanda Downum and I are real, big time professionals, we did not put up an “IOU one reading” sign and go see Christopher Lee instead.

Later that evening, however, I did see the first of four feature films and a handful of shorts that I would watch over the weekend, making my total HPLFF 2015 film viewing almost fully double the sum of all the film viewing I did at both previous HPLFFs. That first night was Extraordinary Tales, and I also caught Final Prayer (aka The Borderlands), which Trevor Henderson has been on me to watch forever, as well as Black Mountain Side and a Greek film called The Winter. All of them were solid except The Winter, which would have made a good short, but felt stretched at 105 minutes. Black Mountain Side–about which I knew literally nothing going in–turned out to be my favorite film of the fest, and it seems that I wasn’t alone, since it took home the statue for Best Feature Film. Most of the actual shorts I saw were disappointing, and I was unfortunately compelled to miss The Mill at Calder’s End, since I was moderating a panel on cosmic horror in film at the time.

Maybe the best thing I got to see at the whole festival, though, was a live performance of Ask Lovecraft, in which I got to ask Lovecraft how many fish he could name. I am ashamed to say that I had never actually watched any episodes of Ask Lovecraft prior to this, though I knew Leeman from Facebook and from the TOC of Resonator and various other interactions, and getting to hang out with him in person–both in and out of character–was one of the real treats of the whole festival for me. In some ways, I’m glad that this was my first exposure to Ask Lovecraft, because getting to see it live for the first time was a unique pleasure.

The festival had a lot of other highlights, including a big robot named D.A.G.O.N. that hugged Simon and told him “There there, human. It’s okay that your life has no meaning.” As has been the case at previous festivals, most of the time that I didn’t spend doing something else I spent eating delicious food or hanging out on the back patio of the Moon & Sixpence. There were people I got to see a lot of and, as always, lots more people I didn’t see nearly as often as I would have liked. I did shake Jeffrey Combs’ hand, and also ran into him in the upstairs bathroom of the Hollywood Theatre. I know that he got passed a copy of the special HPLFF issue of Strange Aeons magazine, in which I wrote an extensive appreciation of his work, but it might be for the best if he never reads it, since I lovingly discussed Doctor Mordrid at some length.

Speaking of extensive, Monday while I was still wrapping up my festival, a very lengthy round table that I did with Adam Cesare before leaving went live on his monthly Paper Cuts column over at Cemetery Dance Online. In it, we hash out our favorite movie monsters of each decade, and discuss items of important interest like whether or not Michael Myers is a monster, my panhandling skills, swearing in PG-13 movies, whether or not metaphors count as monsters, and that comic book rack from The Mist. Because we are really good at staying on topic, is what I’m saying.

Since I didn’t fly out until Monday afternoon, Amanda and Josh and I went exploring at the Witch House, which was down a long trail full of fallen trees straight out of the spider pit sequence from King Kong. In spite of everything that movies and stories have taught us, we survived the experience, and Josh even found $20, which we assume meant that the witches were pleased with us. We also made the obligatory stop by Powell’s books, and discussed the necessity of an app that replaces the navigational voice on our phones with the Deer God from Black Mountain Side.

Upon arriving home, I had the pleasure of announcing that I’ll be hosting a FREE screening of Dario Argento’s Deep Red at the Tapcade here in KC, where you’ll have a chance to win copies of both Painted Monsters and Giallo Fantastique! More on that as it draws closer, and I return ever more to what passes for a human state around these parts. As for the HPLFF, apologies to all the people I failed to mention in this post, it was a joy and a pleasure as always, and I’m already looking forward to next year!

As was the case last year, I worked the Downright Creepy/Rotten Rentals booth at Panic Fest at the lovely and fantastic Screenland Armour over the weekend, once more in the face of some less-than-optimal weather, though much better than last year’s ice storm. Unlike last year, I actually got to see a couple of movies this time, including a double-feature of WolfCop and The Editor which kept me out until 2am on Friday (I guess technically Saturday morning, by the end there).

WolfCop was considerably better–and considerably weirder–than I had expected, in spite of containing more pee gags than is my usual threshold (which is roughly zero). Though the plot also did not go where I would have anticipated just from the synopsis, I think I was maybe most surprised by how good the film looked, especially some particularly nice crane and/or helicopter shots. If you get a chance to check it out, I think it’s probably worth your time.

The Editor I described on Twitter immediately after watching it as “if Anchorman had been a Giallo,” and I pretty much stick by that. If that makes you want to see the movie, then you’ll probably dig it. I struggle with exactly saying that I liked it, but I’m glad I saw it, and it was pretty hilarious, and if I was going to see it, at midnight in a movie theatre full* of excited Panic Fest attendees was the optimal way to do so. For those who haven’t seen it and are not of a prurient bent, be warned, it has more nudity than some pornos. Just a heads up.

*For values of full that include the dozen or so of us dumb enough to stay up til 2 in the morning to watch a movie we could have watched at some more reasonable hour later in the festival.

I’ve got a lot of other stuff going on right now, not all of which is great, some of which I’ll probably post more about later in the week. In the mean time, since I’m talking about Giallo, it seems apropos to point out that today is the birthday of Dario Argento’s Suspiria, which is probably my favorite Giallo film and, as fate would have it, Ross Lockhart will be unveiling the cover and table of contents for Giallo Fantastique sometime tomorrow, so keep an eye out on my various social media streams for that.

And while I’m on the subject, I’ve been obsessing over John Carpenter’s Lost Themes album, which drops in a couple of days and which I’ve already pre-ordered but which I have been (and you can be) listening to in its entirety here. I wish I’d had the “Mystery” track when I wrote my story for Giallo Fantastique, but the only solution to that problem is that I’ll just have to write more Giallo-inspired stories in the future.

Some time back, my friend Mike Corley approached me with an idea: He was drawing spooky houses, and he suggested that I should write descriptions of them and we’d put them together into a fake real estate pamphlet. I’d been a fan of Mike’s work since way before I ever got to know him online, and had been wanting to do a project with him forever, and as anyone who knows me knows there’s very few things I love more than writing about spooky houses, so I jumped at the chance. Thus, about a year later, Gardinel’s Real Estate was born!

Mike drew the houses and sent them to me, and I came up with a suitably haunted history for each ominous domicile, all narrated by our estate agent, Cedric Gardinel. We printed it up ourselves (with Mike handling the lion’s share of that end) and the result is a sharp-looking 32 page ‘zine that we’ll be offering in a limited print run of 100 signed, hand-numbered copies, 50 of which just showed up on my doorstep today. Thirteen houses, beautifully illustrated by Mike, with words by me, including stories of witchcraft, hidden fortunes, accusations of vampirism, demonic portraits, a haunted chair, and several experiments of a “most unusual nature.”

Gardinel’s Real Estate will go on sale from both Mike and myself on October 1, just in time for Halloween. More details will be forthcoming then.

[UPDATE: On sale now, here’s the link!]


Recently, I was invited by the extraordinarily talented and awesome Mike Bukowski to be one of a handful of authors participating in a special Nyarlathotep project at his website, Yog-Blogsoth. If you’ve never checked out Mike’s work before, you’re in for a treat, though I must warn you, much of it is not exactly safe for work. For some time now, he’s been drawing pretty much every creature that Lovecraft ever mentioned (over 400 of them now, I believe) and recently he went on a kick drawing various avatars of Nyarlathotep. To crown the project, he came up with the idea of inviting several contemporary authors to contribute their own original Nyarlathotep avatars, yours truly included. You can read a little more about the project here.

As you can see from that lineup, I’m in the company of some absolutely incredible authors here, and I’m honored to be included. I’m especially proud of my involvement in this project because I was able to help facilitate the inclusion of a few of the other authors, and getting cool people together to work on fantastic projects is maybe the best part about doing what I do.

For my contribution, which Mike dubbed the “most ridiculous,” a badge I will wear with great pride, I tried to design something that I thought Mike would enjoy drawing, and something that I’d love to see done in his inimitable style, and also something different than any of the other monsters I’d described in any of my stories. The result is probably the closest I’ve ever come to designing a Castlevania boss fight, so I’m pretty happy.

The excerpt describing the creature is from a story that hasn’t been written yet. Before Mike asked me to contribute to this, it wasn’t even an idea in my notebook, though now it certainly is. Inspired in part by The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake, which I wrote about in my Vault of Secrets column recently, “The Cult of Headless Men” is definitely a story that you’ll see from me one of these days, it’s just a matter of getting the time to actually write it. (And yes, for readers familiar with “The Barghest” from Never Bet the Devil, I do just steal all my ideas from questionable old B movies.)

The first week of the Nyarlathotep project wrapped up today with a contribution from Molly Tanzer, and also featured Nyarlathoteps by Laird Barron, John Langan, and Victoria Dalpe. Keep an eye on the ‘blog, though, because next week will feature another batch, with Nyarlathoteps by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Phil Gelatt, Livia Llewellyn, Wilum Pugmire, and Gemma Files!

While the big talk around these parts lately has been me quitting my day job for the life of the full-time writer, there’s also been some other major news that I’ve had to keep under wraps until just now:

I’ve been approached to write some fiction for Skull Island eXpeditions, the fiction arm of Privateer Press. Those who know me know that this is a big deal for me, because I’ve been a fan of Privateer Press, their games and settings, since about forever. So writing licensed fiction in that world is a dream come true. Aside from Mike Mignola’s Hellboy universe, I can’t really imagine a setting that I’d rather be writing licensed stories in, frankly.

The first piece I’ve written for them is going to be out soon in Called to Battle: Volume OneIt’s a 10k story about General Gerlak Slaughterborn, and I had a hell of a good time writing it. But it’s also just the beginning. There’s already been wheels set into motion for bigger and even more exciting things to come from me and the folks at Skull Island, so keep a weather eye on the horizon and I’ll let you know more as soon as I know it!

Also, over the weekend we had a little get-together in part to celebrate the beginning of my new life as a freelancer, and as part of the festivities my wife presented me with a present she’d gotten me. As part of the recent Kickstarter for the Fantastic Fiction reading series at KGB Bar, one of the rewards was the incomparable John Langan doing a story about a monster of your choice. Of course I wanted that, but I didn’t get it snapped up in time. It turns out that the reason I didn’t is because my lovely and amazing wife had beaten me to it, and at the party this weekend she presented me the award in the form of this video, which John was kind enough to put together for the occasion:

Thanks to Grace and John and everyone who’s supported me already. Only two days in to this freelancing thing, and already I feel like, whatever else happens, at least I’ll have my friends along for the ride.

How to sum up Crypticon KC? I split a table with the inestimable Sean Demory, who is a gentleman and a scholar. I sold a few books. I got to participate in a guerilla reading, thanks to the generosity of author guests Brett Williams and Alan Ryker. I saw a guy on stilts dressed as Pyramid Head, a giant decaying clown, Tiny Freddy Krueger, and Stargate Wolverine. My compatriot Lydia got to make out with the Predator. I got interviewed by a zombie ballerina. Our table was right across from Richard Kiel, and Bai Ling asked me to break a twenty. I gave Doug Jones a copy of Never Bet the Devil, signed “Thanks for all the monsters,” and this is what I got in return:

doug jonesAs this was my first Crypticon, I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I ended up having a really good time, in spite of it falling right in the middle of the most stressful of a string of really stressful recent months. The con was varied, dynamic, and a lot of fun, and I’ll definitely be back next year in some capacity. Thanks to everyone who put the con together, to all the vendors and guests, to everyone who came by our booth and said hello, and special thanks to everyone who bought a book or two! If you didn’t make it by, I recommend checking out something by my table-mate Sean Demory. His Ballad of the Wayfaring Stranger and the Dead Man’s Whore recently snagged an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, and Zobop Bebop is a Voodoo gangster novel. What more do you need?

I’m sure there are scads of things that I’m forgetting to mention, and I know there are some incriminating photos floating around on social media, so chances are you haven’t heard the last of this, though you have for now!

As a result of a conversation on Facebook some three months or so ago, several of my friends recently presented me with my very own, framed, official certificate of monster expertise. So now it’s official! Here’s a look at the certificate:

Monster Certificate

Thanks to Bear Weiter, Steve Scearce, Jeremy Tolbert, Marlyse Comte, Selena Chambers, Molly Tanzer, and anyone else who had any hand in this! I have the best friends!

In other news, some publication-related announcements. First off, Tales of Jack the Ripper, featuring my story “Ripperology,” is now up on Goodreads, so you can add it to your lists. It should be out in August. You can also catch a glimpse of the finished cover there, featuring some of the many fine authors with whom I’ll be sharing company.

A bit farther down the road, “The Lesser Keys,” my Lovecraftian Goetic demonology story set in 1920s Kansas City, will be appearing in Jazz Age Cthulhu in 2014, alongside new novelettes by Jennifer Brozek and Avery Cahill.


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