I have, as of this writing, seen the vast majority of the live action properties that have been adapted from the works of Junji Ito, but precious few of the animated ones. When it comes to live action films, virtually the only gaps in my viewing record are Scarecrow from 2001 and 2011’s Tomio, directed by Ito himself, whilst Junji Ito: Maniac is the first of the various anime adaptations I’ve seen, skipping over Gyo and the previous Junji Ito Collection, the latter because I have heard… not good things.

Was I excited about Junji Ito: Maniac, which actually has an incredibly unwieldy title that adds a whole extra clause that I won’t bother reproducing here? Cautiously. At least the key art that they had trotted out for the show seemed good and, honestly, if the series had ever lived up to any of that key art, we might have had something special on our hands here.

Unfortunately, some of the same people behind the Junji Ito Collection are responsible for this one, and Junji Ito: Maniac certainly gets off to a rocky start, beginning with one of the most inappropriate opening songs I’ve heard in a while. For one thing, the show makes the decision to adapt several of Ito’s more comic stories, including two featuring the morbid Soichi, as well as the first episode, “The Strange Hikizuri Siblings.” We can debate the effectiveness of Ito’s humorous tales, but for me they number among his weakest even while, in the context of his overall oeuvre, they serve a similar function to the “hot and cold showers” of the Grand Guignol. More to the point, “Hikizuri Siblings,” as it is presented in the anime, is handily the worst episode of the bunch.

In fact, it takes until episode 3, a faithful adaptation of “Hanging Balloons,” one of Ito’s most classically Ito stories, before the series really tackles anything that feels more that slight. Even here, however, we see one of the key difficulties of adapting Ito to the screen. The style of animation used for Junji Ito: Maniac is generic to the point of feeling almost sterile – an approach that could potentially work, if the style took a sharp turn during each episode’s reveals of horrific scenes, in order to deliver some extra punch. However, that’s mostly not the case here, and even Ito’s most disturbing panels are rendered inert as a result.

It isn’t until “Intruder,” in episode 5, that the series rises above “literal but uninspiring adaptation.” The original story behind “Intruder” was part of a series of linked pieces, and here it feels like it ends prematurely, but the music and production decisions here at least make “Intruder” feel like its own thing in ways that help to distinguish it from the manga while also working on their own merits. It’s something the show will pull off all-too-seldom, with one other notable example being “Unendurable Labyrinth” in episode 10.

More than perhaps anything else, Maniac is a case study in why adaptation is about more than merely reproducing things as directly as possible. The stories follow Ito’s manga almost exactly and, as such, many of them are spooky enough on their own merits, especially if you’ve never read the original story. (“Tomb Town” was a new one for me, for instance, and kept me involved the whole time as a result.) But they all still feel like pale reproductions of something much better, even when they’re at their best.

Indeed, this has generally been the case with adaptations of Ito’s work, which struggle to find ways to bring to a new medium what makes his pieces so effective and affecting in their original format. Pretty much the only Ito adaptations I have seen that really justify their own existence are the live-action Long Dream and Uzumaki from 2000, both of which were helmed by the same director, who managed to bring their own sense of indelible weirdness to the proceedings, capturing the feel of an Ito manga, rather than merely the text of one.

What a quiet and uneventful year 2023 has been so far in the tabletop gaming space, huh folks?

I’m honestly not sure I’m equipped to even provide background here. Back near the beginning of January, a leaked document from Wizards of the Coast, owners (under Hasbro) of Dungeons & Dragons, revealed draconic (pun intended) planned changes to the Open Gaming License, or OGL, which the company first rolled out back in 2000 when the “world’s most popular roleplaying game” was still only on its 3rd edition.

In a nutshell, the OGL was a license for third-party companies to make and distribute stuff using certain select parts of D&D’s product line. It’s something of a weird area, because game mechanics are already not copyrightable, so the ability (or not) for people to do that even without the license is somewhat nebulous and always has been.

There has already been considerable writing, both before and after the leaked OGL draft, about whether or not the OGL was ever actually good for anything besides helping D&D to achieve and maintain market dominance, and I am neither a lawyer nor an industry insider, so there are certainly better voices than mine that you should be listening to in the midst of all this.

What’s relevant here is that this bombshell leak showed the hand of Wizards of the Coast in a way that seemingly destroyed a decade’s goodwill in one fell swoop. The fallout was immediate and considerable. So many people canceled their D&D Beyond subscriptions that it forced the company to do some damage control by attempting to backpedal the most egregious aspects of the proposed new OGL, which they did in a pair of statements released after a damning week of silence.

The damage had already been done, however. In the time between the initial leak and WotC’s statements, easily half-a-dozen of their largest competitors had already announced plans for OGLs of their own, and seemingly everyone in the tabletop hobby space had drawn battle lines in response to the proposed changes.

Those who have been following along for some time know that I’ve been working on and off in the tabletop field for some years now, primarily for Privateer Press. In that time, I’ve worked on several 5e-adjacent books for the new Iron Kingdoms: Requiem setting and system, all of which have made use of the OGL. In fact, I’m in the midst of a new project in that vein as I write this, which is partly why I’m just now getting to it. As such, it seems that I’m obliged to have at least some opinion on this.

I like 5e. It’s been easy to work with, and while it has its drawbacks, it’s fun to play. And I’m still extremely proud of the work that I and others have done on the three sets (and counting) of books for Iron Kingdoms: Requiem. I hope IK:R keeps going for a long, long time, in whatever ultimate form.

But I also recognize what WotC doesn’t seem to, which is that the OGL was, in actual fact, a boon to them more than anyone. Sure, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons may have achieved a similar market saturation back in the ’80s, without the aid of an OGL. (I’m not sure we’ve quite hit “D&D big wheel” levels in 5e just yet, honestly.) But it’s also true that both 3e and 5e would probably not have enjoyed their respective popularities had it not been for the OGL, and D&D’s current dominance of the field is likely as much a result of that as Hasbro’s considerable marketing budget.

Again, I am not a lawyer nor principally a game designer, but as near as I can tell, the biggest benefit that the OGL brought to the community was community itself – a way for lots of folks operating in disparate circles to speak the same language. It made things welcoming that might have previously been opaque, while also opening up the scene for countless newcomers.

I don’t know what the way forward is, really. The damage that WotC has done to their product and their brand is considerable – and maybe insurmountable. If that’s so, I hope that the folks who next pick up the reins are better stewards. What I will say is this: Over the last few years, I’ve gotten back into tabletop gaming in ways that I haven’t been in close to two decades, and in that time, some of my best experiences have come from games that were built only to do what they do, not to be the sort of one-size-fits-all solution that the OGL has often prompted.

Take, for example, the short campaign I played in the Alien RPG from Free League. Though built on their Year Zero engine, the game incorporated plenty of things that would really only work in a survival horror type setting – but in that setting, they worked like gangbusters.

What I’m saying is, whatever happens with D&D, it’s always been good that it isn’t the only game out there, and hopefully, if nothing else, this will remind us all to look to other pastures now and again.

As I write this, we are less than two days away from the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023. I’m not going to pretend that 2022 has been an especially good or easy year for… well, anyone, really. Or that 2023 looks inclined to change that trajectory overmuch. But some big things happened for me this year, most of them in the last couple of months.

Earlier in the year, the third set of books for the Iron Kingdoms: Requiem 5e RPG setting hit Kickstarter. As was the case in the previous two installments, I wrote a huge amount for these books, including some very fun stuff that I’m really looking forward to people getting to see. And, as I write this, I’m working on some future stuff in the IK setting, as well.

As usual, I wrote a lot of movie reviews (mostly for older movies getting released onto Blu-ray) and attended Panic Fest back in April, covering it for The Pitch. I also became the movies editor for Exploits, an Unwinnable publication, and acquired some fun essays on movies like The Monster Club, Night of the Devils, Anna and the Apocalypse, The Ghosts of Hanley House, and more. In fact, I kicked off my tenure by immediately making them regret putting me on staff, acquiring an essay from Perry Ruhland on Mermaid in a Manhole. And I “helped” (by not actually contributing much, ultimately) with the movie programming for the NecronomiCon in Providence, even though I then wasn’t actually able to attend due to various circumstances beyond my control.

I also continued to write three regular columns (two monthlies and one quarterly) and added another monthly, while I was at it. So, currently, I write about board games at Unwinnable, folk horror and old anthology TV shows at Signal Horizon, and whatever tickles my fancy, pretty much, at Weird Horror. (You can read my latest, on Man-Thing and Swamp Thing and the weird history of muck monsters, here.)

I continued to co-host the Horror Pod Class with Tyler Unsell of Signal Horizon and, more to the point, we switched over from just doing a standard talking heads podcast to actually hosting the movies we discuss and then recording live at the Stray Cat Film Center. We kicked that off back in March with 976-Evil, and since then we’ve shown Someone’s Watching Me!, Doctor Mordrid, The Mask (not the Jim Carrey one), Night of the Creeps, Uzumaki, Ghostwatch, Yellowbrickroad, and we sadly had to cancel Bloody New Year due to inclement weather. We’ll be kicking off the first part of our 2023 season with The Undying Monster on January 26, so if you’re local, come join us at the Stray Cat for one of my favorite werewolf (?) movies from the ’40s!

Over the course of 2022, I read 42 books, the lion’s share of which were graphic novels. That’s… far from ideal, but here we are. Of those, some notable titles include Jonathan Raab’s The Haunting of Camp Winter Falcon, Victoria Dalpe’s collection Les Femmes Grotesques, Abby Howard’s 2020 graphic novel The Crossroads at Midnight, all of the Orochi volumes that Viz has put out so far, and John Dickson Carr’s 1932 novel The Corpse in the Waxworks.

I also watched an impressive 345 movies so far in the year, though that number may increase by, like, one or two before the year is out. That’s also perilously close to an average of a movie a day, a feat only accomplished by a few days in which I watched several movies in 24 hours, such as during Panic Fest and my annual attendance of Nerdoween. At a glance, that appears to be the most I’ve watched in a single year since I started keeping a journal, which I guess is an accomplishment.

Of those, more than 265 were first-time watches for me, easily demolishing my goal of keeping to at least half “new-to-me” movies each year. Of those, some of my favorites that didn’t come out this year were The Medusa Touch (1978), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Glass Key (1942), The Psychic (1977), Jigsaw (1962), War of the Gargantuas (1966), The Flying Phantom Ship (1969), and Mute Witness (1995). You can see the rest of the list over here. By far the best new-to-me movie that I saw in 2022, however, was The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre (1964), one of my favorite new discoveries in a long, long time.

As for movies that came out in 2022, I saw a surprising number of those, as well. Around 35, in fact. We’ll be discussing our favorites on the Horror Pod Class in January, so I won’t do a top 5 or anything, but despite a lot of perfectly good movies this year, very few of the year’s new releases (that I saw) were anything that I fell in love with. There was no Malignant this year, is what I’m saying.

So, that’s all the (substantial, as it turns out) bookkeeping stuff taken care of. With all that going on, it is perhaps unsurprising that I didn’t publish a lot of new fiction in 2022, and of the five or so stories I did put out, two are original to my newest collection. And maybe that’s the biggest news, at least from a professional standpoint: How to See Ghosts & Other Figments, my third collection from Word Horde and my fourth overall, came out in October, though at the time I was a little distracted.

You see, in October we also bought a new house! And I’ve been a little distracted ever since then because, to be frank, a lot has gone wrong since we moved in. We still love the house, though! It just seems that the people who sold it to us don’t particularly love us. (And we’re not terribly fond of them, at this point.)

Those have been the two biggest changes in a year filled with personal milestones – my twentieth wedding anniversary was also earlier this year, for example. As I said, 2023 promises to be filled with new challenges along with a bunch of the same old challenges and honestly, the world is probably just going to be on fire for the foreseeable future. But I’m hopeful that I can achieve some more milestones, too. My goals for 2023 include more reading, publishing more stories, and hopefully some exciting surprises for my readers. Plus, of course, more of the same, too.

As you may have noticed, things have been a bit quiet on my end. This is not so much due to not being busy as the exact opposite, but much of what has kept me occupied is the new house and the various trials and tribulations that come along with it. For the most part, things have been good, though a number of expensive problems have cropped up that are often part and parcel of new home ownership, especially for a house as old as this one.

That said, it isn’t as if other things haven’t been going on behind the scenes, with the most notable being the actual release of How to See Ghosts & Other Figments. My fourth full-length collection of short stories, and my third from Word Horde, How to See Ghosts collects everything from some of my most recent pieces to oddities from the earliest days of my writing career, some of them never seen before. I think they all hold together well, and produce a strong collection that takes some different risks than previous things I’ve done. Hopefully, you’ll agree.

I didn’t just come here to say “buy my book,” though. (You should, however. Buy my book, that is. Please do.) I wanted to remind you that, for most of my readers, the holidays are coming up. And most people buy and receive gifts during the holidays. And books make great gifts, whether they’re mine or someone else’s. Notably, why not buy something from Word Horde, who are not only my most frequent publisher but also now an actual brick-and-mortar store filled with all kinds of cool stuff perfect for the weirdo on your list.

Aside from How to See Ghosts, not to mention my two previous collections, if you don’t already have those, they’ve got recent novels by folks like S. L. Edwards and Nicole Cushing, the latest collections from Scott Nicolay and John Langan, and anthologies galore! If you have readers on your list who don’t like scary stories as much – or movie lovers who do – my two books on vintage horror films from Innsmouth Free Press are great stocking stuffers! Monsters from the Vault and its inevitable sequel are both fun, affordable, and compact. Perfect for the monster kid on your list.

And speaking, as I was, about Scott Nicolay, it wouldn’t be a proper list of book recommendations from me if I didn’t mention his continuing work translating the weird fiction of Jean Ray. Buy any of the Jean Ray titles from Wakefield Press to get an idea of the magnificent work he’s doing to bring one of the best writers of the classic weird tale to Anglophone readers like myself. They’re some of my most immediate must-buy books every time a new one is released.

After all, the holiday season is a time for ghost stories. Always has been. The days are short, the nights are long, and it’s good to huddle up and remember why we once feared the dark. If you want my own most recent take on the classic Christmas ghost story, you can find it in How to See Ghosts or listen to it at Pseudopod. A couple of my stories also made it onto Ellen Datlow’s longlist for the Best Horror of the Year this year, including one that’s in How to See Ghosts and another that you can read online at Nightmare magazine.

I’ll be back with more, probably before the end of the year and certainly in 2023. Until then, though, stay warm and read something spooky…

Anyone who knows me at all knows that one of my favorite movies of all time is John Carpenter’s 1982 classic The Thing. And I’m far from the only one. Someone I met years ago and have worked closely with ever since is probably an even bigger fan of The Thing than I am.

Steve Scearce has a copy of the hat MacReady wore in The Thing. He’s practically got the movie memorized, beat for beat. One of my great pleasures was taking him out to see it in 35mm when it was making the rounds a few years back. Our shared love of the Antarctic-set creature feature is one of the things we bonded over early on, and I’ve worked with him, as I mentioned, for years now on countless freelance projects.

One project that I did not work on is his podcast, Station 151. On that, he collaborated with his brother, Andy, and with Bear Weiter, another friend I’ve known and worked with for years. To suggest that Station 151 is anything but a labor of love, inspired heavily by Steve’s affection for The Thing, would be to engage in dishonesty. But at the same time, to imply that it was nothing more than a pastiche of that excellent film would also be to do the project a disservice.

At this time, I’ve only heard parts of the podcast’s first season, which is currently on Kickstarter until December 9. But I’ve been privy to some of the behind-the-scenes work that has gone into it, and I know that this is a project that everyone involved has poured their hearts and souls into. So, if you like weird, sci-fi tinged audio drama set in the frigid and unforgiving expanse of Antarctica (and really, who doesn’t) consider throwing a few coins into their hat to help keep the lights on at Station 151.

At least check out the Kickstarter, while you’re here. You won’t be sorry you did.

Over the month of October I bought a house. It wasn’t something that was on my to-do list, at least not for another year or so, and I definitely wasn’t planning on doing it during what is historically one of my busiest months. But we accidentally found a house and fell in love and now we live here, for the last five days or so.

Buying a house, selling our old house, and moving all within a few weeks has been hectic, to say the least. This has been complicated by the fact that the house we bought is more than a hundred years old, although the interior has been entirely refurbished, and it brings with it some… idiosyncrasies, we’ll say. Which have been expensive, exhausting, time-consuming, and stressful – none of which makes the house itself any less delightful, which it absolutely is.

There’s still so much to do, both fun and not-so-fun. There are boxes everywhere, of course, and endless amounts of work to be done. There are expenses and problems that can feel frankly overwhelming at times. And there’s the future to look toward – our lot is huge and it’s going to be a dream to decorate for Halloween next year! In some ways, I am happy that we didn’t get it in time to have Halloween here this year. It would have been too much but also so tempting.

The house itself is special to me. My dentist’s office is right down the street, and every time I have driven by I have admired the property, with its long stone wall out front. The idea that I live here now is a dream come true, and it’ll be worth an awful lot of hardship and sacrifice – which is good, because a lot is coming, and much is already here.

For the most part, though, this has been a happy, exhausting flurry. It’s what I’ve been alluding to for most of the past month, and it has impacted almost everything I’ve done (or not done) for some time, and will continue to do so for the future. Not much of that will likely affect you, dear reader, but it’s a momentous occasion for me and deserves to be properly recorded for posterity. Also, if you’re someone who already has my address, I have a new one now, so if I don’t think to update it, ask before you send me anything.

In some ways, this Halloween marks the end of an era. As I already mentioned, some things are going on that I can’t talk about just yet, but they’re leading to changes that won’t impact you, dear reader, too much, but will have a big impact on me. So, this Halloween has been unusual, in that I haven’t celebrated in some of the ways that I have in the past, even while other traditions have held firm.

It’s a stretch to say that it wouldn’t be Halloween without a new book with my name on it coming out, but that’s closer to true than not, over the last decade. This time around, as it happens, there is a new Orrin Grey book out. How to See Ghosts & Other Figments officially launches today. Electronic copies are available now, and print copies should be shipping directly. But that isn’t all. Elijah LaFollette of Magnetic Magic Rentals and I teamed up to bring you a special Halloween treat – a new story by yours truly, illustrated and designed by him.

“Familiar” is a very short, never-before-seen tale that should be suitable for the spooky season, laid out and presented immaculately by Eli only at Nightclub Zine. Hopefully that will help tide folks over until How to See Ghosts shows up on your doorstep in the middle of the night. Or at least give you something to read this evening between trick-or-treaters.

In spite of distractions, I’ve had a good and festive Halloween month. I watched something like 40 movies this month, if you count each installment of GDT’s Cabinet of Curiosities as a movie. Of those, the vast majority were first-time-watches for me, and many took place on or around Halloween. Some highlights include hosting Ghostwatch at the Stray Cat Film Center as part of the Horror Pod Class, They See You (2022), Werewolf by Night (2022), hosting House on Haunted Hill (1999), Nerdoween (of course), an Analog Sunday double-feature, and seeing Flying Phantom Ship for the first time thanks to the Blu-ray from Discotek. For those who aren’t familiar, Flying Phantom Ship is a 1969 anime that Hayao Miyazaki worked on, and it has to be seen to be believed.

As I type this, the afternoon of Halloween is wearing on toward evening, that lazy, golden time so well captured in John Carpenter’s classic film. I don’t have a lot planned to close out the day, but it’s been a good month. I hope you have a spooky Halloween night and lots of spooky days and nights to come…

I feel like I probably don’t need to explain why I was excited about Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities (it’s always weird to me that his name is part of the title). Del Toro is one of my favorite contemporary directors and, more to the point, one whose sensibilities very often line up with my own. I love ambitious anthology horror series. This was a big deal for me.

And like any horror anthology series, it was hit and miss. I’d say the eight episodes that dropped on Netflix across four days were about 50/50 for me, but the good half were quite good, and even the ones I didn’t like as much were generally interesting. Of the eight episodes, I was most excited about “Graveyard Rats” going in, just because I love the story and think it would translate really well to film in the short form. And maybe it would, done another way, but this wasn’t it… at least for me. (I’m told there’s a black-and-white version available, and I’m very curious to check that out.)

A lot of other people seem to have loved it, so maybe my high hopes contributed to my disappointment. It’s certainly got a lot of critters in it, anyway. And that’s part of the thing with Cabinet of Curiosities; with the exception of Jennifer Kent’s “The Murmuring,” every episode has at least one or two monsters of some sort. And they’re usually quite good. “The Viewing” is another one I didn’t care for (not a Panos Cosmatos fan), but the monster in it was great.

So, which ones did I like? Well, I liked the first episode, “Lot 36,” and thought it started the series off on a strong footing, even if its lore was a little muddled and its monster relied perhaps too much on CGI. And I loved “Pickman’s Model” (that ghoul!), even though it doesn’t seem like most other folks dug it as much as me. Chalk that up to me liking the story, I guess, and also thinking it adapts well. But also, I mean, there are a lot of monsters and grotesques and such in this take on “Pickman’s Model,” and for striking imagery, it wins the show hands down, IMO. And I could listen to Crispin Glover’s Boston-ish accent all day long.

This is also reflective of something about this show, as a whole. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Masters of Horror. For some obvious reasons: both were pure anthology shows with each segment roughly an hour long and helmed by a different, generally well-established horror director. But there’s more to it than that. Like Masters of Horror, Cabinet of Curiosities has a certain amount of shared aesthetic from one episode to the next, even as the stories (and the directors) pull them in different directions.

In Cabinet of Curiosities you can lay that at least partly at the feet of showrunner Del Toro, most likely, but it also highlights some of the stars of the show, which are the people working behind the scenes. Guy Davis was a concept artist for pretty much the whole series, as I understand it, while Kevin McTurk puppeteered many of the monsters. And those are just two of the ones whose work I was already familiar with. For “Pickman’s Model,” for instance, you need examples of Pickman’s paintings, and in this case many of those were provided by Vincent Proce.

Besides the Masters of Horror of it all, there are some interesting decisions made in Cabinet of Curiosities. Of course, I am thrilled that GDT decided to go full Rod Serling and host the series himself. There’s also the fact that literally every episode is a period piece. Not all of them are the turn-of-the-century Victoriana of “Graveyard Rats” or “Pickman’s Model.” The first episode is set Stateside during the Gulf War. Panos Cosmatos’ segment is set in the ’70s. “The Murmuring” in the ’50s. And so on. But not one is set in the present, with the weird, indefinite period of Ana Lily Amirpour’s “The Outside” coming closest.

There are probably lots of reasons for this – I’ve already seen at least one person online trot out the “no cellphones” cliche – but what I find interesting about it is that it taps (perhaps accidentally) into the antiquarian bent that informs so many classic ghost stories but also the cabinets of curiosities for which the show is named. These episodes, then, become artifacts from another time; capturing, in at least some cases, perhaps an older style of horror.

I haven’t yet mentioned “The Autopsy,” which was, for a lot of viewers, their favorite episode. It was my second-favorite. But if I’m being entirely honest, the first half of “The Autopsy” is my favorite episode of the entire series. It’s only in its second half that it falters. And that’s not really a condemnation of the episode itself. I’m just less interested in where the story goes than in the journey it takes to get there. That was true of the original short story by Michael Shea, as well, if memory serves. That journey, though? So good.

So, all in all, was Cabinet of Curiosities a triumph? Yes and no. It was not a perfect series. Few series are. It had episodes that landed with resounding thuds for me, but I almost always found them interesting, even then. But it was an absolute triumph in at least one sense. We need more well-funded anthology horror in the world, especially when it brings in the talents of some of the best in the business, both in front of and behind the scenes.

And if anyone wants my opinions, I’ve got some suggestions for stories to adapt for season two…

How to See Ghosts & Other Figments by Orrin Grey conjures forth more monsters, ghouls and ghosts than any midnight horror show in memory, but with real emotional depths to back them up. It’s like peering through the eyeholes of a cheap Halloween monster mask to see the tangible and very human sadness lurking just beneath.”

That’s the blurb, very kindly provided by the great Trevor Henderson, that decorates the back cover of my latest collection, which is now available to pre-order direct from the publisher, just in time for Halloween. Those who have been following along for a while now will note that this is the time of year when my collections generally come out, for reasons that I hope are obvious.

Along with the pre-order link, the cover art by Nick Gucker was just revealed. Again, those who have been paying attention already know that Nick did the covers for my last two books from Word Horde. He always makes my books look amazing, and this is no exception. I’ve joked before that Nick’s covers sell more copies of my books than I do, but it isn’t actually a joke.

This time around, we took inspiration from my favorite cover of Jean Ray’s classic weird novel Malpertuis. Which is great, by the way, and was recently re-issued, with new annotations and afterword by Scott Nicolay, from Wakefield Press, part of their ongoing mission of releasing translations of Jean Ray’s weird tales, which are all instant must-buys for me.

As for my own book, How to See Ghosts & Other Figments is perhaps my most eclectic collection to date, with all he usual author’s notes and afterwords and a new introduction by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who was one of the earliest editors to publish one of my stories.

The eighteen tales contained within span from some of my shortest to some of my longest, including the novelette “The Drunkard’s Dream.” They also include stories dating back to when I was in college, all the way up to stories that were first published earlier this year. Included among those are several pieces that border on juvenilia, repurposed and (I hope) revitalized in a way that makes them feel right at home alongside my more recent work.

The reasons I chose these stories are often ones that I get into in the author’s notes, but they all seemed to fit to me in ways that I hoped strengthened the entire book. There are themes that bind them all together, ones that I noticed (as is my usual wont) only as I was collecting the stories and writing the author’s notes, and I hope that the result is a whole as cohesive as any of my tighter previous collections. So far, the reactions seem to indicate that I managed it.

“When I think of the world of horror, I think of Grey’s world.”

That quote is from the first (as far as I know) official review of the book, which came from Shane Burley writing for Full Stop. The review also calls How to See Ghosts my “biggest step forward to date,” which is sort of what you’re always hoping each new book will be, while simultaneously dreading that you’ve maybe already plateaued. It is a really kind and extensive review, and I’m very glad to see folks already enjoying the book.

For those of you reading this but not yet enjoying the book, it should be in your hands very soon, assuming you’ve already pre-ordered. And if you haven’t, there’s still time! Pre-orders will get a signature sheet sticker that I recently signed while watching Halloween 5, but please don’t let that dissuade you. And if you prefer ebooks or the like, all those options will be available soon.

As I mentioned earlier, this October has been a bit hectic and unusual, for mostly good reasons, but of course a new book coming out is always big news, and it bears repeating. I don’t actually have copies of this one in my hands yet, either, but everything has been done on our end, and it should be shipping out forthwith. When copies arrive at my doorstep, be sure that you’ll be hearing more about it, and until then, stay spooky and, if you don’t hear from me before then (you probably will), happy Halloween!

“It was the start of the year in our old Celtic lands, and we’d be waiting in our houses of wattles and clay. The barriers would be down, you see, between the real and the unreal, and the dead might be looking in to sit by our fires of turf.”
Halloween 3 (1982)

However you feel about them, traditions are one of the ways we anchor ourselves – to the past, to our families and friends, to the world we know. From traditions that are part of cultural norms (presents at Christmas, fireworks at the 4th of July, the basic structures of weddings and funerals) to personal rituals that are bespoke for each individual, we all have them.

For me, one tradition that has settled in over the past decade is Nerdoween. It happens every October, hosted by the gents from the Nightmare Junkhead podcast. A themed triple-feature of horror movies, with the titles a mystery until the picture begins to roll. I went to the very first one, eight years ago now, and saw both Demons and Night of the Demons for the first time. (The third film on the docket was Demon Knight, but by then it was early morning and I had just watched Demon Knight the week before, as it happened.)

My adopted brother, Jay, came with me to that first Nerdoween, and he’s been with me at every one since. Over the course of the intervening years, I’ve seen twenty more movies courtesy of Nerdoween, skipping out on only one, for similar reasons to why I missed Demon Knight that first time around. Of those movies, 22 in total, counting that first year, nine were first-time watches. Which, given how many horror movies I’ve consumed, is a pretty good average. Every year but two I saw at least one movie for the first time.

This year’s theme was eating, and the movie I saw for the first time was Gnaw: The Food of the Gods 2 (1989), which was an experience. I did that over this previous weekend, when I also partook of a somewhat less long-lived but equally vital Halloween tradition: an Analog Sunday double feature, this time watching Dead Inn (1997) and Witches Sabbath (2005).

For those who have been following along for a while, you’ll know that Analog Sunday has become an important part of my life over the last few years. Through it, I’ve seen all sorts of movies I would probably otherwise never have experienced and, even more importantly, made some of my closest friends. Recently, it has moved into the Rewind bar in the basement of the Screenland Armour, which has been accompanied by some growing pains, but this double-feature was back upstairs and felt like a return to old times.

After watching five movies at the Screenland in two days, I drove back just two days later and hosted a screening of House on Haunted Hill (1999), a movie that has been a favorite since I first saw it in its Halloween theatrical run. Back then, I had never seen the original 1959 version, which has since become my literal favorite movie of all time.

The screening was fun. Haunted Hill ’99 makes for good seasonal programming. Spooky and campy and occasionally genuinely deranged. We had a good crowd, including one person who was seeing her first horror movie in a theatre. I think she picked a good one to start.

Eli, who hosts Analog Sunday, loaned me his tombstone props, and so I was able to decorate the place for some ambiance – harkening back to when I first saw the much worse haunted house movie of 1999, Jan de Bont’s frankly terrible remake of The Haunting, on opening night in a Wichita theatre whose lobby was decked out in fog machines and fake headstones.

That’s almost it for me this Halloween season, when it comes to appearances and theatrical endeavors. There’s just one left – another thing that has become a monthly staple, hosting a movie followed by a live podcast at the Stray Cat Film Center. It’s something that we’ve only been doing for a short while now, but it’s going strong. Last month, we did Uzumaki, which had our best turn-out to date. For Halloween, on October 27, we’re showing the movie that I’m probably most excited about of anything we’ve done yet: the 1992 faux newscast Ghostwatch.

It’s going to be a special night. And, in a lot of ways, the culmination of what has felt like a special Halloween season, despite some behind-the-scenes things that have kept me busier and less engaged than I might otherwise be. And the season isn’t over yet. There should be some news about my next collection, How to See Ghosts & Other Figments, coming very soon now…