Less than a week to go before the start of the open reading period for Fungi, the anthology of weird fungal fiction (guidelines here) that I’ll be co-editing with Silvia Moreno-Garcia for Innsmouth Free Press. (The open reading period is January 15th through February 15th, in case you missed it.) I’ve already talked a little bit about what I’m hoping to see in the slush, but I promised that you’d be hearing more from me before the reading period began about some of my favorite fungus stories and creatures, so, without further ado, let me talk about a few of those in brief.
Of course any discussion of weird fungal fiction pretty much has to start with William Hope Hodgson’s “The Voice in the Night.” If you haven’t already read it, I’d definitely recommend giving it a look or, if you’re so inclined, a listen, since the fine folks at Pseudopod recently did a production of it. I also recommend checking out the Toho movie adaptation Matango (aka Attack of the Mushroom People, aka Fungus of Terror). It’s surprisingly effective, wonderfully bizarre, and a major favorite of mine. Also, it has some of the best fungus creatures you’re ever likely to find, especially in cinema, where fungus creatures experience a sad dearth.
Where is there not a dearth of fungus creatures, you might ask? Well, video games seem to boast a larger roster of them than just about anyplace else. One of my favorites of those are the “moldy corpse” enemies from Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin. Described in the in-game bestiary as “A human consumed by evil after eating a cursed mushroom,” the moldy corpses look like purple zombies with blue hair who stumble toward you and then keel over, dropping to their hands and knees as giant, vibrantly-colored mushrooms burst from their back and they crawl forward under their new fungal weight.
I’m certainly not the only person fascinated by Hodgson and “The Voice in the Night.” I was actually turned on to Hodgson’s work by Mike Mignola, who has mentioned Hodgson many times, and put a couple of homages to Hodgson’s Sargasso Sea stories (and “Voice in the Night” specifically) in his comics. The first one was the Hellboy mini-series “The Island,” which was originally supposed to be much more Hodgson-inspired than the final product turned out to be. See the back matter of the Strange Places collection, where you can see pages from the uncompleted original version of “The Island,” which feature some really brilliant fungus people in all their Jack Kirby-by-way-of-Hanna-Barbera glory.
Mignola dipped back into the Hodgson fungus creature well with his first Baltimore comic mini-series, and from the looks of the covers we may be getting some more fungal horror from Mignola very soon in the forthcoming B.P.R.D. mini-series “The Pickens County Horror.”
That’s just a tiny sliver of the fungal stories and monsters I’ve enjoyed, without even dipping into things like myconids, the writings of Jeff VanderMeer, or short stories like Brian Lumley’s “Fruiting Bodies,” to name just a few, but hopefully it’s a place to start. I plan to update throughout the open reading period, giving some insight into the process and what I’m seeing in the slush, and I can’t wait to read as many fungal stories as possible, so if you’re on the fence about submitting, please, pile them on!