The original King Kong (1933) is a singular movie for all sorts of reasons, and it remains one of the best monster and adventure movies ever made. No small part of this can be laid at the feet of special effects pioneer Willis O’Brien, who did the stop-motion effects for Kong.

In fact, the effects were good enough – and novel enough – that plenty of people supposedly believed that the big ape was played by a guy in a suit, which was the standard way of making an ape movie by 1933. (Another rumor has it that the filmmakers had originally wanted Kong to be played by an actual ape, though that proved logistically unfeasible.)

The mark Kong left on movies was immediate. The sequel, Son of Kong, hit theaters later the same year as its predecessor – a quick turnaround, even for Golden Age Hollywood – and plenty of spoofs and imitators followed both immediately and for years to come. Kong would get remade a bunch of times (some of those remakes getting their own sequels), ripped-off by everyone from Britain to South Korea, and borrowed by Toho to go toe-to-toe with Godzilla (which he then did again here recently, only back in Hollywood this time).

One of the earliest of those spoofs, homages, and so on was an ultimately unfinished, one-reel musical called The Lost Island, which was slated for release in 1934, just a year after Kong had first hit the screen. What makes The Lost Island stand out among the litany of imitators and send-ups of King Kong – both made and otherwise – is that it basically flips the special effects formula of the original film on its head.

Here, Kong is, indeed, played by a guy in a suit – specifically, Charles Gemora, who had basically made a career out of playing apes in movies – and so are the dinosaurs that he skirmishes with. The humans, on the other hand, are puppets. That’s right, in this deliriously weird-sounding lost film, all the human characters of King Kong – Ann Darrow, Carl Denham, and the rest – would have been literal marionettes, doing song-and-dance numbers while a “giant” guy in a gorilla suit wrestled with a guy in a dinosaur costume in their midst.

Sadly, all that survives of the uncompleted picture are a handful of production stills, but they look every bit as surreal as you might expect from that description. It was also intended to be the first short film released in Technicolor.

All this doesn’t come up from nothing. I just watched a 35-minute short film from 2019 called Howl from Beyond the Fog. It’s a kaiju film unlike any other – set in 1909 and made entirely with puppets. It also hearkens back to the earliest origins of the kaiju film. Not King Kong, in this case, but Ray Bradbury’s 1951 short story “The Fog Horn,” which was adapted into the 1953 film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, which is widely believed to have influenced the creation of Godzilla, which came out the following year. (Beast also had stop motion effects by Ray Harryhausen, probably history’s greatest practitioner of the form, who was himself inspired by seeing King Kong when he was younger.)

For those who have Amazon Prime, Howl from Beyond the Fog is on there for free right now, and I believe it’s also on Tubi. The runtime is a bit misleading, though. The short film is only 35 minutes long. The rest of the 70 minutes on Prime is behind-the-scenes features.

I grew up with Warhammer. While I was too poor to play, I was into the game, its world and its army books, its setting fluff and maps and stupid little models, from very early days. Before I had ever read The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, before I had ever rolled a die in D&D, I had bought my first White Dwarf. (It was this one, by the way.)

So I have an affection for Games Workshop’s products that goes back a long way, and their take on what a bog standard fantasy setting looked like helped to shape my expectations of same. Which means that I am likely to give them a pass in places where they may not deserve one. At the same time, something that initially pulled me into Warhammer was that, even as a kid, I saw the satire in it.

This was not a story about Good versus Evil, even if the Empire or the Imperium or whoever you were talking to at the moment might want you to think it was. Sure, Chaos might be evil, but the alternative was little (maybe no) better, and at least Chaos wasn’t a bunch of hypocrites.

It was deployed with varying degrees of nuance and skill, but always there was something tongue in cheek about the setting, whether that setting was the Old World of Warhammer Fantasy Battles or the grim darkness of the far future. You could spot it in sometimes unlikely places, like the company’s genuine affection for the mindlessly destructive orks or orcs or orruks or whatever.

The “good guys” were mostly fascists, and they spent human life like it was going out of style. They portrayed this as a grim necessity, but the game knew better, and let you in on the joke in various little ways. It was (perhaps unsurprisingly) satire in the Verhoeven or Judge Dredd vein – all too easy to misapply and turn into lionization.

As I’ve gotten back into the gaming sphere in recent years, I’ve seen (and occasionally fielded) a lot of questions about whether or not this was still true. This blog post, which is actually about a game called Kriegsmesser and only tangentially about Warhammer at all, makes a lot of those concerns explicit: over the years, much of the satire has seemingly bled away, replaced by an inadvertent celebration of fascism that is, unfortunately, probably too often embraced by fans as a good thing, actually.

To some extent, this is maybe inevitable. It’s hard to sustain satire when you’re building a massive brand across dozens of games, numerous video games, novels, toy lines, you name it. There’s a reason why punk rock was always afraid of selling out, and it isn’t just that it’s hard to be anti-corporate when you’re a corporation. Satire works well in small, bitter pills. Spread it too thin, and the sting dissipates, to become what it was satirizing in the first place. (See also: RoboCop becoming a toy line, a cartoon series, etc.)

So, is modern Warhammer pro-fascist? I wouldn’t go that far. The satire is still alive, if not necessarily alive and well.

The Imperium is still a bureaucratic nightmare that wipes out entire worlds due to clerical errors, but the barbs which were once the beating heart of Warhammer’s various settings now all too often wither on the vine. And while Age of Sigmar may lean hard into its Moorcockian underpinnings, the ambiguity of those stories is often obscured, when it’s not lacking altogether.

I don’t know the people behind Games Workshop in its modern incarnation, any more than I did the ones behind its earliest ones, but I don’t get the impression that any of this is intentional, or a sop to the worst impulses of their fanbase. Instead, I feel like it is the… if not inevitable, then at least most likely casualty of their own success.

To paraphrase the Green Goblin, you either die a satire, or you live long enough to see yourself become the very thing you were a satire of.

When you become a writer of spooky weird stories, something you resign yourself to early on is that you’re never going to have the kinds of career milestones that most people can even understand. Sure, there are the obvious ones like your first professional sale, your first book coming out, when you break into a long-coveted market, the first time you get featured in The Best Horror of the Year, the hypothetical future date when maybe you win an award, when you make the bestseller list, those kinds of things. But there are some milestones that you just accept that you’ll probably never hit. Like getting lampooned on the Midnight Society Twitter.

Still, a skeleton can dream.

For various reasons, I’ve had dungeons (and possibly also, to a lesser extent, dragons) on my mind of late, which I’ve already posted a bit about on here. While I’m known today as a horror writer, to those who know of me at all, I grew up with sword and sorcery every bit as much as I did with horror, and especially sword and sorcery as filtered through D&D, Warhammer, and various adjacent games – not to mention countless JRPGs played on the Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Playstation, and so on.

Those who have been following my aesthetic thread on Twitter or my board game coverage at Unwinnable, or, indeed, just following along around these parts, may not find any of this surprising, especially since, over on Twitter, I posted some art from some particularly formative JRPGs such as the various Shining Force games.

Indeed, this may also not be news to anyone who follows my writing closely, as, even before I started working on the new, 5e-compatible Iron Kingdoms: Requiem books, I had already done a considerable amount of work for Privateer Press over the years on their Warmachine and Hordes games, as well as their previous Iron Kingdoms RPG. In fact, my first ever novel – and, until recently, the only one I had ever published, though my occult cyberpunk (another perhaps unlikely subgenre) novel is currently being serialized on the Broken Eye Books Patreon – was a fantasy tome written for Privateer Press, set in their Warmachine universe.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying that, while you won’t find much “gothic fantasy” in the Ravenloft vein in a lot of my work, my fascination with pulp horror and pulp fantasy has always existed side-by-side and intertwined, even while I tend to like my fantasy brighter even as I like my horror fun – not that there aren’t exceptions, after all, as Castlevania (the video games, not the Netflix cartoon) remains one of my favorite things ever.

Recently, for various reasons, I’ve been crossing the wires a little more often, resulting in things like my column in the latest issue of Weird Horror from Undertow Publications, in which I discuss a few of my favorite recurring themes, such as dungeon crawls, hollow earths, and, of course, the monsters that call both home.

Dedicated readers will probably also remember that I wrote a few stories in what I called a “story cycle” dealing with the Hollow Earth and other things, one of which was “No Exit,” which made it into the Best Horror of the Year. I’m not done with that cycle just yet, though COVID and other things have delayed the planned timeline a bit. There’s still more stories coming, though, and I have plans. Just you wait.

In the meantime, I’ve been playing games more, sometimes solo and sometimes just with one other person (thanks again, COVID) but as vaccinations have all happened ’round these parts, we can start getting together in groups more, playing actual D&D and the like. All this, along with other factors, including that aforementioned board game coverage at Unwinnable, has led me to a few conclusions about the dungeon crawl and my relationship to it.

The dungeon crawl is, at its base, colonialist. We have to grapple with this, just as we have to acknowledge the fact that Lovecraft was a fucking racist if we’re going to enjoy his work responsibly. But it has an undeniable appeal, even to (some of) those of us who oppose colonialism and its various fruits. There’s something about that subterranean ecosystem – something that I tried to capture in that Weird Horror essay, something that I’ve tried to capture in some of those “Hollow Earth” stories – that keeps my monster-loving heart circling back to it time and again.

In some ways, this can be epitomized by a video game I haven’t previously mentioned here: Torchlight, which I became taken with some years back. Its first sequel provided an improvement in pretty much every aspect of gameplay while also adding in overworld areas that opened up the setting considerably. In so doing, however, it also lost a little something: that idea of a multi-level dungeon beneath the eponymous town, each level something entirely different from the one before, all buried in sedimentary layers beneath the small burg with its adventurer-centric economy. There’s a magic there.

Plenty of board games have been made that explore this idea in various ways, some better than others. And I’ve been infatuated them since before I ever even tried to roll the dice in a game of actual D&D. Since the days of HeroQuest, whose box art and board decorate my writing space, I have been dreaming of taking journeys in the dark.

One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that in spite of this, I seem to not be the target audience for most modern dungeon crawl board games. More and more, these games seem to try to get as close as possible to the experience of playing a campaign of D&D, without (in some cases) the need for a dungeon master. But if I want to just play a game of D&D, I’ll do that. No, when I come to a board game dungeon crawl, I want something else.

Thanks in part to Massive Darkness, which I wrote up for Unwinnable a while back, and in part to Warhammer Quest: Cursed City, which I was thrilled to pick up when it came out, I think I’ve nailed down what it is. Most of these games advertise their wares by offering increasingly lengthy and immersive experiences. If they’re offering a single campaign that lasts 30 hours, what I actually want is 30 different adventures that are less than an hour each.

I don’t want the commitment and the time sink. I don’t want to sort through a thousand cards and a million tokens, playing the same game across a dozen nights. I want something that’s ready to plug-and-play. Earlier games of Warhammer Quest (mainly Silver Tower, and its previous un-subtitled incarnation) nail that in ways that Blackstone Fortress and Cursed City have moved away from. Massive Darkness, with its on-the-run leveling, nails it in some ways even more.

But, again, I seem to be in the minority in a climate where most games are striving to be the massive boxed experience that is, say, Gloomhaven. And there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with that experience – it merely isn’t, I’m coming to learn, what draws me to the game. Of course, the great thing about the moment we live in is that it’s got Massive Darknesses and Gloomhavens (and everything in-betweens) rubbing shoulders, so there’s something out there for everyone.

If you’re willing to dig for it…

For those not familiar with the hashtag, #kaijune is for artists to draw illustrations of kaiju, as one might well imagine; one a day, for the entire month of June. This year, in spite of drowning in a deluge of work, I decided to play along. Except that I can’t draw my way out of a wet paper sack, so instead, I wrote a piece of Twitter-length flash fiction every day for the entire month, working off the list of prompts that Alan Cortes posted.

Thanks to anyone and everyone who followed along as I worked through the month, and for those who missed it, here are all my #kaijune pieces:

1. Brute

It came out of the sea, huge and indestructible. When it rose first, just eye stalks, we thought maybe, but as the battleships rolled off its chitinous shoulders, we knew better. Then we saw the first claw…

2. Fortress

Even when the planes and the tanks finally brought it down, what were we to do with it? The city was rubble beneath its bulk and there was no hope of a machine big enough to ever shift it, so we moved into what was left and made new homes within its bones.

3. Shell

I remember my son, asking how mountains form, as I tried to explain things like magma and plate tectonics. Looking out the window now, at the shell that rises up like a new peak from the sea, I wonder which of our other mountains are just waiting to move…

4. Burrow

When we finally defeated the thing that the leader of the mole people called Burrox, a ragged cheer went up from what remained of the defenders. Then we felt the rumbling of all the others beneath us…

5. Frozen

“How would you know a god if you saw one?” she had asked me. Looking up at the expanse of the thing, where it curled in the glacier, I finally knew why.

6. Apex

We thought we had seen the worst of it when they came, like trilobites large enough to bulldoze cities. Then the big one appeared – the new one, the different one – and began hunting the others…

7. Leech

It came from the swamp; black and green, yellow and red. They saw the top of it first, the suckers like eyes, the moving mouth parts, then it came up onto land. “I just didn’t expect it to have legs,” Toby said, as it waded into the city.

8. Colossal

The metallic purple worm crashed down into the Gulf of Mexico. Eyeless, blind, but so big around you couldn’t seen one side of it from the other, even with planes and choppers. Another followed, then another, and we realized they weren’t worms, but fingers.

9. Poison

“Sir,” he said, “the latest reports are in. It’s stopped moving but sir, that isn’t the main thing.”

“Out with it, private.”

“All the people who’ve come into contact with it; who’ve come into contact with places it passed over. Sir … they’re changing.”

10. Brittle

The rocks grew with the rain until they formed massive towers so tall they fell and shattered, littering the desert floor with more rocks that all began to grow in turn. The people in their path watched the weather report with horror.

(A nod to one of my favorite of the “big bug” and adjacents subgenre of movies popular in the ’50s.)

11. Insect

“How did you make the sound?” Tara was asking, her finger pressed up against the screen of the portable TV showing THEY CRAWL.

“You’ll hear soon enough,” was all the director said, his dark green raincoat hunched around his shoulders. He was right.

12. Shadow

It started at 115th Street. A pool of dark gathering between the buildings, growing, stretching, in spite of the noonday sun.

It wasn’t until it reached 87th Street that the buildings began to fall into it.

13. Amphibious

Frogor, King of Toads, crawls forth from the swamp. With three bulbous eyes, he scans his surroundings, where housing developments have grown up while he slumbered. Their tiny, pink inhabitants run and shriek as they spot him, and Frogor licks his lips…

14. Mutant

What came out of the portal was like a mass of chewed bubblegum, its surfaced studded with strange, metallic protrusions. “What is it?” Jiro asked, but even as he said it he thought he recognized a name on what he now realized were helmets…

15. Free Space

“It looks like… I don’t even know how to describe it, folks. Like geometry and trigonometry come to life. It’s making a sound that seems like talking, but not in any language I know. And everything it touches just disappears.”

16. Feathered

We once believed Venus to be a planet of lush jungles. We later learned that it rains sulfuric acid. What we were not prepared for was the serpent that came when our mining robots cracked open the planet’s core, its body shining with jeweled feathers.

17. Cosmic

Movies and video games had taught me to expect giant reptiles, mutated insects, anime robots. This… it was like a tear in the picture of reality lurching through the city, through which I could see only unfamiliar stars.

18. Prehistoric

Over time I guess we kind of got used to the occasional rampages of the atomic lizards, the titanic insects, the giant apes. It never occurred to us that there would be something that was to them as dinosaurs were to our modern chickens…

19. Mimic

I was walking down 117th, I guess, and the edge of the Warren Building just… peeled off, like. The shadows changed and we looked up and what had been windows were now a wing, and beneath that a mouth opening wider and wider…

20. Fungal

One needn’t cook up a giant fungus for #kaijune. It already exists, larger than 200 whales, spreading its hyphae beneath the west coast, waiting for the world above to die so it can feed.

21. Crowned

When the Summer Queen expired, the faerie folk all gathered to see who among their number would manifest the glowing crown. None expected the enormous gator that crawled from the swamp, exhaling butterflies as she came.

22. Laser

“What is a laser,” Professor Shimizu was saying, “but light applied to a minute point? Why not, then, light applied to something much larger?”

By then, however, no one was listening, because the Laser Beast was already blazing its way out of the warehouse.

23. Beast

Dr. Bradus had convinced me it was the only way to defeat the invaders. Transfer my intellect into the body of the giant ape he had created. Once inside that huge frame, however, I found myself wanting nothing but to destroy…

24. Atomic

We didn’t design 8-6, five meters of metal wrapped around a compact atomic core, to fight the trolls. We didn’t really design it for anything. But when the trolls invaded from Jotunheim, we hoped that maybe it had found its purpose, after all.

25. Horror

We knew we had killed it. The experimental bomb Dr. Kozen developed had done its job. So when the waters began to boil we wondered: did it have a child?

The truth was much worse. We had killed it, but we hadn’t stopped it…

26. Savage

“I thought that magnetic collar of yours was supposed to make it more docile,” General Murphy shouted over the carnage.

“Believe me, General,” I replied, “compared to its normal behavior, this is docile.”

27. Ablaze

Robo-17 threw Mozura into the reactors and in the explosion that followed we thought, we hoped, that would be the end of it.

What came out of the blaze, enraged and burning, was so much worse than what had gone in…

28. Conjoined

There is a hush as the two giants finally clash. Our last hope is that they will somehow crush one another.

Instead, their flesh begins to flow like wax as they come together, merge, become one, bigger and more destructive than the sum of its parts.

29. Maw

We always figured that there was something special about the big, red sandstone formation on grandpa’s land.

Then, one day, it opened its eyes, hinged upward from the ground, and revealed its teeth.

30. Transform

“I am Gorgoth,” it bellowed, its wings folding into its body as a second head sprouted above the mouth in its stomach, “the Master of the Id. I can be anything.”

And it was.

A while back, I got briefly really obsessed with Bloodstone Gnomes miniatures from Reaper, which I gather are ostensibly for Warlord, a game I both don’t play and don’t know anything about. Indeed, I’m not even terribly positive about the name, or that said gnomes are actually for it.

I picked them up as generic goblin/gnome-size critters for games of D&D or whatever. At least, that was the justification I gave myself. Really, I just picked them up because I thought they looked great. One of them is even riding a beetle! Only later did I realize why I liked the look of them so much: it turns out they were designed by Wayne Reynolds.

Anyone who has ever picked up a Pathfinder book or, indeed, looked at an RPG-adjacent tome in the past twenty years or so is familiar with Reynolds’ artwork. Around the same time I learned this fact about the Bloodstone Gnomes, I was also posting a string of RPG-related artworks to my year-long daily aesthetic thread over on Twitter, including a couple of pieces by Reynolds.

In the process, I learned that a lot of folks really don’t like his stuff – though the ubiquity of it would suggest that those folks are probably in the minority. I like his work for a number of reasons, with perhaps the most significant being his knack for absolutely layering his characters in bits and bobs while still making the art feel clean and sharp. His adventurers look like what I think adventurers ought to look like. He’s got an immediately recognizable style, and draws great gribbly monsters – witness the popularity of his Pathfinder goblins – which also endears him to me more than a little.

All those traits combine in the Bloodstone Gnomes, which probably helps to explain why I like them so much, even if the models lose some of that crisp definition. They also make good stand-ins for goblins. And I do love goblins.

Ever since the pandemic started, just about the first question anyone asks who hasn’t talked to me in a while is, “Have you been keeping busy?” To some extent, that’s a time-honored placeholder question, but in my case, it’s also often a question about my overall stability, since I freelance full time and work tends to happen either in drips or in floods.

Happily for me, pretty much ever since the pandemic started, it’s been the latter, rather than the former. There were a few months in there where clients were tightening their belts and I saw some lean moments, but for the most part it’s been feast, rather than famine, when it honestly could have gone either way. Turns out, when everyone is stuck at home consuming content, it can be a good time for the content creators.

Or “good,” anyway. I haven’t churned out a lot of fiction in this time because, let’s face it, my productivity, indeed my general habits and life cycle, have taken a weird hit from all of this, like they have for everyone. But I’ve kept busy with freelance work, the kind that pays the bills, and that’s not nothing.

Right now, I’m buried under one big project that I can’t really talk about, in addition to the usual stuff, and it’s only going to get heavier as its looming deadline continues to loom ever nearer. It’s good stuff – the kind of work that is both fun to do and will be fun to announce, when that’s possible – but it’s also stressful, as any big project always is.

Add to that a number of other factors – most of them secret identity stuff that I don’t really want to get into here right now – and, well, see the subject line of this post. You can see it on my Letterboxd, where May was the lightest month of the year so far, with only 13 movies clocked in the whole month. Unlucky, for some…

And I can feel it in, well, just about everything – a weight that presses down without surcease, a exhaustion that sleep can only do so much to cure. Insert that panel from Watchmen, about being tired of Earth and of these people, the tangle of their lives, etc. It’s not as bad as all that, though. Some of those external frustrations I was talking about are just putting extra weight on what is already a busy period – not only adding stress on top of stress, but making work harder to focus on, harder to do.

Which is all a long way of saying that I might be a little scarce; not that my being a little scarce looks, honestly, all that much different from my being here a lot. I’m still posting to Twitter every day, continuing my year-long daily aesthetic thread, sure, but also posting daily tweet-length flash pieces about giant monsters for the entire month of June. My usual columns and reviews will be popping up, and I’ll be doing other things. Movies at the movie theatre are becoming a thing again, which means the triumphant return of #AnalogSunday, the thing that I missed most of all the many things I missed during the pandemic.

In short, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll just be under the gun a bit, is all.

As an aficionado of fungal horror and co-editor (with Silvia Moreno-Garcia) of Fungi, I have long wanted to get my hands on the first issue of Tales of Ghost Castle, a short-lived DC horror anthology comic from 1975, intended as a companion to House of Mystery and House of Secrets. The reason? Just check out that cover.

It turns out that the story that goes along with the cover is, as is often the case with these old horror comics, considerably more prosaic than what that promises, but it’s still of interest to the connoisseur of fungal terror.

A fairly standard “revenge from beyond the grave” tale, “The Mushroom Man” sees a gourmet who raises rare mushrooms strangled to death by his ne’er-do-well nephew Brian in search of an inheritance.

You can tell that Brian is a decadent layabout because he dresses like a mod version of Dr. Strange. He initially comes to his uncle looking for a loan to pay off his gambling debts before some dangerous Las Vegas bruisers show up to “[mess] up th’ rug with yer blood!”

His uncle refuses to pay, on the grounds that Brian is the aforementioned ne’er-do-well and layabout, but the breaking point comes after Uncle Jannis discovers a formula to grow the rarest mushrooms in the world, called “Nightdreamers,” which are impossible to market because they’re only ripe for three hours.

Brian wants to use the new formula to go into business, but his uncle wants to give it away. “Would you sell a cure for cancer?” he asks. “Make a blind man pay to have his sight restored?”

Not sure Uncle Jannis is familiar with the United States healthcare system.

Brian snaps and strangles his uncle to death with that fancy scarf, then buries him in one of his own flower beds. Months later, Brian is in charge of his uncle’s business, and living in his “palatial mansion,” which, since this is an old horror comic, is some sort of spooky old plantation house.

In the intervening months, the fungal beds in the basement have lain fallow, and now only one is sprouting any fruiting bodies – the one, naturally, where Brian buried his uncle.

The mushrooms growing from it are huge and red and ominous, so of course the cook puts some in Brian’s crab Oregonian (a dish that had no results when I tried to Google it) that night.

Upon eating the fateful mushrooms, Brian becomes terribly sick and, when the maid comes to clean his room the next morning, she finds a suitably frightful sight…

The rest of the issue is pretty standard fare for mainstream horror comics at the time; filled with jokey interludes and well-earned comeuppances and featuring art by Nestor Redondo among others. (Art chores in “The Mushroom Man” are handled by Buddy Gernale.) There’s a jab at dentists that I’m sure dentists don’t appreciate and a story of adoption horror that makes Jaume Collet-Serra’s Orphan seem positively buoyant by comparison.

Tales of Ghost Castle only ran for three issues before being discontinued, but I’m very happy to have added this one to my collection, finally.

It’s all-too-easy to get drawn into the soft undertow of minutia and lose track of how much time has passed, how much has happened, what has changed. The sediment shifts so gradually that it seems like each day is largely the same as the one before, even when they aren’t. So, what’s been going on?

I got my second jab of the Pfizer vaccine a week ago and so far there’s nothing much to report. I was tired right after, and my arm hurt for a day or two, but no other ill effects, save for a disappointing lack of monsterism, as I reported on social media. It’s a surprising weight off my shoulders, honestly, given how low-risk my lifestyle is generally, which is good because my shoulders are going to need that extra weight freed up to hold the giant eyeball I’m hoping to get there.

While the production of new fiction remains throttled, I’ve been working on various freelance stuff apace, including forthcoming game writing projects that, for now, have to remain under wraps. (In case you missed the last game writing stuff I was doing, you can read a bit about it here.) I’ve been doing my usual stuff, too, watching weirdo movies and occasionally reviewing them at Signal Horizon and Unwinnable, as well as continuing to write my regular columns various places, ranging from my column on Friday the 13th: The Series at Signal Horizon to my column on board games at Unwinnable to my column on … whatever the hell at Weird Horror.

I’m also continuing to sort of accidentally co-host the Horror Pod Class at Signal with Tyler Unsell, where we talk about horror movies chosen more-or-less at random and try to apply their lessons haphazardly to the classroom. You can watch it live at the Facebook group or stream it wherever you get podcasts. Speaking of which, I recently bought a new permanent addition to my ensemble from 1000 Dead Draculas, which will be making its Horror Pod Class debut on the upcoming Viy (1967) episode.

In hobby-related news, I’ve played a few games of Warcry and more than a few of Warhammer Underworlds, and I’ve continued collecting the various Underworlds warbands as they’re released. Which means that I’m very excited about the recent announcement of the final warband for this season, Elathain’s Soulraid, because it involves a giant crab!

I’ve said before that Mollog’s Mob is never going to be unseated as my favorite band, and that’s still true. It is basically impossible to top a big, doofy monster with mushrooms growing out of his back who is followed into battle by a gaggle of squiggly beasts. But these guys might end up being a close second. Only time will tell…

I also finally got in my first (solo) game of Cursed City, and while nothing may ever quite top Silver Tower for me in the Warhammer Quest category, Cursed City was fun at first blush and, as with Blackstone Fortress (which I’ve owned for months and still haven’t played), the dynamite miniatures absolutely make it worth it, even without playing.

This time, two years ago, I had recently been a guest on the Nightmare Junkhead podcast to talk about the then-new 2019 Hellboy movie from director Neil Marshall. Since then, I have not revisited the movie even once, which probably tells you all about the flick’s quality that you’ll ever need to know.

As has been a recurring theme of late, it feels indescribably surreal to discuss events at once so temporally near and yet which feel so impossibly distant. I saw Greg and Jenius (altogether too briefly) at Panic Fest, for the first time since October of last year and, before that, the last time I had seen them might well have been the October before.

This is all coming up because tonight is Walpurgisnacht, perhaps the closest thing we have to a second Halloween in the middle of the spring. “Walpurgisnacht” is also the title of one of my more popular stories, which originally saw print in the Laird Barron tribute antho Children of Old Leech and was later reprinted in my second collection, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, which came out lo these six years gone by.

Interestingly, I was reminded of that story recently for reasons other than the date. I’ve been reading the latest Junji Ito manga to receive English-language release, Lovesickness, and the title story in that volume discusses the phenomenon of the Brocken spectre, which figures heavily in my tale, taking place, as it does, atop the peak from which the phenomenon takes its name.

I don’t have any big plans for the occasion this year. Maybe I’ll play a solo game of Cursed City if I become extremely ambitious. More likely, I’ll just work until late and then watch a witchy devil movie like Curse of the Demon, City of the Dead, or Curse of the Crimson Altar. How are you celebrating witch’s night?