fungus of terror

For yesterday’s Next Big Thing post, I focused mainly on Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, but today I’m going to talk a little about my other book that’s coming out in just a couple of weeks, Fungi. I needed to talk about it anyway, to remind everyone that the pre-sale for it ends tomorrow, so if you want to pick it up at a 20% discount and ensure your copy of the extra-content hardcover, now’s the time! But a fortuitous circumstance occurred to go ahead and prompt this post, which is that (as the Internet informed me, it’s good about that sort of thing) today is the birthday of William Hope Hodgson.

For those who may yet be unfamiliar with Hodgson, he’s the single writer most responsible for inspiring Silvia and I to put Fungi together and, in fact, for there being a thread of weird fungal fiction in the first place. Here’s a link to a post I made some time ago about Hodgson and fungal fiction and his influence on Fungi.

Hodgson is pretty well known in weird fiction circles, but his praises remain undersung elsewhere. His prose style can get pretty stilted at times, but he writes about the best stuff. He was an early practitioner of cosmic horror, and he wrote about monsters better than just about anyone else before or since. In addition to kicking off my love of fungal fiction, he was a big influence on my own writing in a lot of ways, and specifically my story “The Labyrinth of Sleep” in Future Lovecraft owes a lot to Hodgson’s weird novel The House on the Borderland. If you want to check him out and never have, I recommend beginning with “The Voice in the Night,” which is available here in audio form from Pseudopod, and if that whets your appetite, Nightshade Books just put out an attractive-looking best of volume.

I’ve got two books coming out this year. One of them I wrote, the other I co-edited. I’d be hard pressed to tell you which one I’m more proud of.

The first is my debut short story collection Never Bet the Devil and Other Warnings, due out pretty much any day now from Evileye Books. What you see up above there is the full cover spread for the collection, and over the weekend I got the uncorrected proofs in PDF. As soon as I get through those and get any notes sent back to the publisher, it should be on its way to the printers. It features ten stories (including my out-of-print novella The Mysterious Flame) and every story has an illustration by the great Bernie Gonzalez, whose work you can also see there on the front cover. It’ll be available in paperback and ebook formats, and I’ll be posting more about it just as soon as it’s ready to order.

The second is Fungi, the anthology of fungus-themed stories that I co-edited with Silvia Moreno-Garcia for Innsmouth Free Press. I’ve talked about it at some length before, and you can learn more and see the full table of contents at its website. It’s going to be coming out in ebook, paperback, and hardcover (what you see above is the cover spread for the hardcover edition), and it’s available for pre-order at 20% off the cover price from now until November 16. I know that I’m a bit biased, but personally I’d recommend picking up the hardcover. It’s got three extra stories, and ten illustrations, these also by Bernie!

As you can imagine, October is a busy season around our household, and this year that’s been especially true. Last weekend, Grace and I got dolled up and went out to see a ballet interpretation of the Carmina Burana at the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. It was the first professional ballet for either of us, and we were duly impressed. (The Kauffman Center was pretty nice, too.) Tonight, we’re heading to the Plaza to see The Oatmeal talk about his new book. And this coming Saturday we’re having some people over to watch Monster Squad, since the Alamo Drafthouse is being renovated for the month of October.

In spite of all that, I still managed to watch The Tall Man, Pascal Laugier’s follow-up to Martyrs. While it was pretty enjoyable, it wasn’t really as suitable for Halloween viewing as I had hoped. (For those of you thinking maybe it has something to do with Phantasm, sorry to disillusion you.) It’s really only a horror movie for about the first third, before it switches pretty sharply into something else entirely. It didn’t keep me as on my toes as Martyrs did, but I certainly wouldn’t have guessed where it was headed from the first reel, and that’s something.

There’s been a lot of stuff happening that relates in some way to books that I’ve been meaning to mention but, frankly, just haven’t had the time. Still don’t, really, but I’m going to try to wedge as much of it as I can conveniently remember in here. Bear with me.

Progress on my own two books is still proceeding apace, and they should both be out this year. Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings any day now, and Fungi in December. Fungi has a website, which Silvia and I are updating every Friday with tidbits about the book, authors talking about why they wrote their fungal stories, and other bits of fungal weirdness.

Speaking of Silvia and the good people of Innsmouth Free Press, they’re currently doing a campaign to fund their next anthology, the very-excitingly-themed Sword & Mythos, and there’s only five days or so left to contribute, so toss some coins into that bucket. If you contribute at the right level, you can even pre-order a copy of Fungi that way. I’m not directly involved in this one in any way (besides that I hope to sub a story, if it gets off the ground), but I’m excited about the theme, and I know that the Innsmouth folks do good work. (And I’m not just saying that because they frequently buy mine.)

Speaking of the Mythos and books with which I am at least tangentially involved, The Book of Cthulhu II, which features a reprint of my story “Black Hill,” is now shipping from Amazon. I haven’t seen my copy yet, but I’ve talked to folks who got theirs. The Book of Cthulhu II also features a new story by Molly Tanzer, which continues the bizarre genealogy she began in “The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins,” one of my favorite new short stories in years. The rest of that mad family history can be found in her new book A Pretty Mouth, which, as fate would have it, is also shipping from Amazon, and early to boot. It’s like Christmas in September. If Christmas were a lot more squamous and eldritch.

Molly’s book is one of my most anticipated releases of the year, which is pretty impressive, since this is a year that’s seeing a lot of great stuff coming out, including a new collection by Richard Gavin, as well as John Langan’s second collection, both from Hippocampus Press. (Langan’s collection doesn’t seem to have a spot on their website yet, but I have it on good authority that it’ll be out soon, and I know from the stories in it that I’ve already read in their natural habitat that it’s going to be simply amazing.)

There’s a ton of other exciting stuff, either out now or on the horizon (including this incredible-sounding anthology, which is also available from Amazon, so you could grab it and the other two I mentioned and get super-saver shipping!) but I’m running out of time, so I’ll wrap this up and say my apologies to anyone I forgot to mention in this quick-and-dirty recap of exciting book times. More soon!

Well, it’s been close to a month. So what’s been going on? Well, quite a lot, but not much that actually bears talking about. I was going to come at you with some links to a bunch of the movie trailers I’ve been watching and enjoying lately, and I may yet do that down the road, but some actual business came up first, so I figured I’d better go with that.

The official release dates and pricing have been announced for Fungi, the anthology of fungal fiction that I’m co-editing with Silvia Moreno-Garcia for Innsmouth Free Press. It’ll be out in December, which should be right on the heels of my collection, which is expecting a late-October or November release in paperback. As a further connection, I can now finally reveal that the (very reasonably priced!) hardcover version of Fungi will feature, in addition to three additional stories, ten new illustrations by the great Bernie Gonzalez, who’s also doing the illustrations for my collection. So when the time comes to pre-order, you should get that version, is what I’m saying.

I’m very proud to announce the official table of contents for Fungi, the anthology of fungus-themed stories that I’ve been co-editing with Silvia Moreno-Garcia for Innsmouth Free Press. We had a lot of great writers contribute a lot of great stories, and if logistics had permitted we could have put together an anthology twice as thick as this one. As it was, we had to leave more great stories than we’d have liked on the cutting room floor, but I think the final table of contents is really awesome, if I do say so myself.

The book will be released in paperback and e-book varieties, as well as in a limited-edition hardcover which will feature three extra stories. Without further ado, here’s the lineup:

  • Ann K. Schwader, “Cordyceps zombii” (poem)
  • A.C. Wise, “Where Dead Men Go to Dream”
  • Andrew Penn Romine, “Last Bloom on the Sage”
  • Camille Alexa, “His Sweet Truffle of a Girl”
  • Chadwick Ginther, “First They Came for the Pigs”
  • Daniel Mills, “Dust From a Dark Flower”
  • Ian Rogers, “Out of the Blue”
  • Jane Hertenstein, “Wild Mushrooms”
  • Jeff Vandermeer, “Corpse Mouth and Spore Nose”
  • John Langan, “Hyphae”
  • Julio Toro San Martin, “A Monster In The Midst”
  • Kris Reisz, “The Pilgrims of Parthen”
  • Laird Barron, “Gamma”
  • Lavie Tidhar, “The White Hands”
  • Lisa M. Bradley, “The Pearl in the Oyster and the Oyster Under Glass”
  • Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington, “Tubby McMungus, Fat From Fungus”
  • Nick Mamatas, “The Shaft Through The Middle of It All”
  • Paul Tremblay, “Our Stories Will Live Forever”
  • Polenth Blake, “Letters to a Fungus”
  • Richard Gavin, “Goatsbride”
  • Simon Strantzas, “Go Home Again”
  • Steve Berman, “Kum, Raúl (The Unknown Terror) – b. 1925, d. 1957”
  • W.H. Pugmire, “Midnight Mushrumps”

The three extra stories included in the hardcover edition are:

  • E. Catherine Tobler, “New Feet Within My Garden Go”
  • J.T. Glover, “The Flaming Exodus of the Greifswald Grimoire”
  • Claude Lalumière, “Big Guy and Little Guy’s Survivalist Adventure”

Well, we’re a little over halfway through the open reading period for Fungi, the anthology that I’m co-editing with Silvia Moreno-Garcia. If you’ve still got fungus stories to send in, you’ve got until February 15th to get them to us. (See the guidelines here.)

In the meantime, I’m going to talk a bit about what we’ve already seen in the slush so far, and what we’d like to see more of. Silvia already posted her take here, and I don’t know that I have a ton to add, but I’m going to post anyway, because I’m editing an anthology, dammit, and I’m very professional!

This is my first time reading for an anthology, and so I wasn’t really sure what to expect, and I don’t know how what we’ve gotten stacks up against other anthologies, or slush piles for magazines, or what-have-you. A couple of things I can say is: Please, please, please put your word count in your cover letter? And put your cover letter in the body of your email? I don’t know how other people feel about this, but those two things make life a lot easier on me, anyway.

I’d also like to second and reinforce Silvia’s mention that we’ve been getting way too many then-I-turned-into-a-mushroom-the-end stories. I like mushroom people as much as the next guy (more, obviously), but at this point there definitely needs to be something more going on in the story if we’re going to take it. I’ll also agree that I would love to see a mushroom noir, if anyone’s got it in them.

Anyway, I think it’s shaping up to be a really exciting anthology so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we get in the remaining days!

Fungi, the anthology of fungal fiction that I’m co-editing for Innsmouth Free Press, opened to submissions on Sunday, and on that very same day I came down with a bad cold. Coincidence? Probably, but it’s pretty inconvenient all the same. Nevertheless, I don’t think I’ve fallen too far behind on reading subs.

This is my first time reading slush, or editing an anthology for that matter, so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but it seems to be going well enough so far. That said, while I don’t want to fall any further behind, I definitely want to see fungus subs keep pouring into that inbox, so please, check out the full guidelines here, and if you’ve got something to submit, send it our way!

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!

On the heels of the Fungi anthology guidelines, my co-editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia has made a post about what she’d like to see in the slush, and I figured it would behoove me to attempt something along similar lines. Mine will probably ramble more than hers, and be less immediately helpful and bullet-point-y, but hopefully it’ll be at least a little informative if you’re thinking of submitting to our little fungus anthology. (Please do!)

Silvia talked about wanting stories that straddle genre. (Steampunk, etc.) And yes, we definitely want those stories. But I also admit to having a soft spot for a good traditionally weird or supernatural tale, and I’d love to see some of those, too. There’s a lot of good places you can go with a science fiction-ish angle on a fungus story, but my particular partiality is for supernatural tales, so I’m hoping to see a good mix of those in the slush, too. If in doubt, aim for menacing and atmospheric and creepy, as well as fun and inventive, and you’ll probably hit my wheelhouse.

The stories that got me interested in this theme in the first place were William Hope Hodgson’s “The Voice in the Night” and the Japanese film adaptation of same Matango. So while we obviously can’t do an anthology of nothing but mushroom people (and wouldn’t if we could), I’ll be very sad if we don’t get at least a few stories along those lines. (Probably no danger of that.) I’ll also be talking sometime in the coming days about some of my favorite fungus monsters from books, movies, video games, etc.

But your fungus monsters certainly don’t have to fit the Hodgson mold (no pun intended) to pique my interest. Feel free to go nuts making the weirdest fungus creatures you can come up with. One of the world’s largest organisms is a fungus, just to give you an idea. Nor are we only looking for stories of fungus monsters. As long as fungus plays a prominent role, then odds are we’re interested in taking a look.

Okay, so that’s some of what I’m looking for. How about what I’m not looking for? I don’t want to go into that too much, because there’s no rule I can make that won’t find an exception if the right author is doing it, but here’s a couple of caveats:

Not necessarily Lovecraftian. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Lovecraft, but this being an Innsmouth Free Press book and Lovecraft’s work being as associated as it is with fungus, I don’t want to give the impression that this is Fungal Lovecraft that we’re doing here. Lovecraftian fungus stories certainly won’t be turned away at the door, and I’m expecting and even hoping to get a few, but don’t feel constrained to that. We’re looking for a wide range of weird fungal spookiness, so go to town.

Think twice about Cordyceps zombies. Again, I’m not saying don’t do them, but they’ve been all over the Internet lately, and I’ve already heard several people talking about them in relation to this anthology, so I have a feeling we’re going to get inundated with them. So if you’ve got a really killer Cordyceps zombie story, by all means, we want to see it, but just be warned that you’ll probably be part of a pretty big crowd.

Like Silvia, I won’t really know what I want until I see it, but this will hopefully help give an idea of where I’m coming from. Like I said, I’ll be posting in the coming days some more about some fungus creatures and stories of which I am particularly fond, and I’ll also try to give updates once the slush starts rolling in. As I’ve said before, this anthology is literally the culmination of a dream I’ve had for many years now, and so I’m very, very excited to see it come together. And if you have any questions or just want to talk fungi, please feel free to contact me here or at any of my various social networking whatevers.

It was a couple of years ago at Readercon when I first pitched the idea of a weird fungus anthology. Not to a publisher or anything, just to the writers around one of the tables in the bar. But even before that, I’d been thinking about it for a long time.

There’s a rich vein of fungal stories that runs through weird fiction, from Hodgson’s “Voice in the Night” through Lovecraft’s “Fungi from Yuggoth” all the way up to Jeff VanderMeer’s Ambergris books and others, but, to the best of my knowledge, it’s never been mined into an anthology gathered around that theme. Until now.

When I first started writing columns for Innsmouth Free Press, one of the first movies I mentioned to Silvia was the Japanese mushroom-person classic Matango, which she said traumatized her for life. The rest, as they say, is history.

Which is all an incredibly long-winded way of saying that, after talking about it and thinking about it for years, I’m finally going to be co-editing an anthology of weird fungus stories, alongside Silvia, for Innsmouth Free Press. To say that I’m excited about this project would be the worst kind of understatement. We’ve solicited some exciting authors, the official guidelines have gone up as of yesterday, and I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing lots and lots of awesome fungus stories come pouring in once the reading period begins. Between now and then–and throughout as well, I’m sure–I’ll be posting more about the anthology, about what I’m looking for as an editor, about some of my favorite fungus monsters, and so on, so stay tuned!