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Yesterday was the official book birthday for It Came from the Multiplex, an anthology of stories inspired by ’80s midnight movies and the places where we watched them, edited by Josh Viola and released by Hex Publishing.

Back when I was first approached to contribute a story for this anthology, the plan was to release it in tandem with the Colorado Festival of Horror. Then 2020 happened. But, even if we’re stuck in our homes, menaced by an invisible threat and devastated by natural disasters, at least you can still read about movies and monsters and monster movies.

My story “Screen Haunt” follows a filmmaker whose best friend vanished years ago, making a movie inspired by notes in her missing friend’s journal, and maybe conjuring up more than just memories.

I’m far from the only name in the credits, though. My story is joined by tales from the likes of Betty Rocksteady, Stephen Graham Jones, Mario Acevedo, Steve Rasnic Tem, and others. Plus, the book looks amazing, with a cover by AJ Nazzaro and interior illustrations by Xander Smith.

While some copies have already made their way out into the world, you can order yours now by clicking right here.

Speaking of great-looking books, Word Horde always puts ’em out, and now you can try an impressive sampling of their titles, including my own Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales, on the cheap – while also supporting Planned Parenthood, if you feel like it!

I haven’t read all of the books included in this impressive Storybundle, curated by Molly Tanzer, but I can vouch for Word Horde, in general, and tell you that everything I have read from them has been imminently worth your time. (And I’m not just saying that because they often publish my stuff.)

Paying just $5 gets you a pretty nice spread, including John Langan’s must-read epic novel of cosmic horror, The Fisherman, as well as Nadia Bulkin’s bombshell of a collection, She Said Destroy, and three other titles.

For the full effect, though, and to snag a copy of Guignol, you’ll only need to pony up $15, which will get you Kristi DeMeester’s Beneath, Tony McMillen’s An Augmented Fourth, Scott R. Jones’ Stonefish, Livia Llewellyn’s Furnace, Molly Tanzer’s Vermillion, and others. It’s a hell of a deal, and should keep you in good, shivery stories long into the night for many nights ahead.

Speaking, as I was back toward the beginning of this post, of film festivals, we’re coming up on the Halloween season, and with it the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon. Normally, I try to make it out to the show, an event I love so much that it features prominently in the opening story of Guignol, but this year, the show is going online instead of in person, which has the advantage, for everyone who can’t make it out to Portland (which is currently on fire anyway), of being much easier to attend.

If you want to get your tickets and support some cool, weird cinema, you can do so by hitting up their Kickstarter, which is live as I write this. Because of the streaming nature of the event, airtime is at a premium, so I am not currently planning to do any panels or readings this year, though that’s subject to possible change.

What I am hoping to be involved in is the Screenland Armour’s annual Shocktober programming, which will be happening via a dynamic and mixed methodology in order to try to still have Halloween in the midst of social distancing.

I’ll have more news on that as it develops, but for Kansas City readers of “Screen Haunt” in It Came from the Multiplex, let’s just say that the Galileo theatre in that story may seem pretty familiar to devotees of the Screenland…

“If you make things too real, sometimes you bring it down to the mundane.”
– Ray Harryhausen

Seven years ago today, I was home from a very pleasant trip to Portland for an off-season H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival, which had ended with me hearing about the passing of Ray Harryhausen. I was watching It Came from Beneath the Sea to mark the event.

A little less than three years ago, on December 2nd, 2017, I was in Oklahoma City for an exhibit of Harryhausen’s work, thanks to lots of help and patience from my wonderful spouse and partner. I made it on literally the last day of the exhibition, and barely that, due to recovering from emergency surgery that year.

The exhibit was life changing, and not just because I came so close to not being alive to experience it. Harryhausen has always been one of my biggest inspirations and, for my money, one of the greatest monster designers to ever live. It may be weird for a writer to cite such a visual artist, but Harryhausen was a storyteller, as well as an animator, even if his name wasn’t on the director or screenplay lines.

A little under two months from now would have been Harryhausen’s 100th birthday. In a century, cinema has changed a great deal, but its debt to Harryhausen hasn’t slackened one bit – nor has the debt that my own work owes to his.

Harryhausen - SkeletonWhile my licensed novel was dedicated to him, the place where his influence is probably most obviously felt is in my story, “Baron von Werewolf Presents: Frankenstein Against the Phantom Planet,” which is available in Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales.

It’s there in less-obvious places, too, though. In the way that the monster moves at the end of The Cult of Headless Men, also available in Guignol.  In the dinosaur statues of “Prehistoric Animals,” my recent tale in the latest Weird Fiction Review.

Like so many of my inspirations, Harryhausen is also part of a thread that runs backward and forward. His own work is heavily inspired by King Kong and the engravings of Gustave Dore, and in his recent series of daily quarantine sketches, Mike Mignola drew a host of Harryhausen creatures, not to mention some other sketches that obviously owe a debt to Ray.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with any of this, save to mark Ray Harryhausen’s passing on what should have been his hundredth year on this plane. He is seven years gone now and, to the best of my knowledge, he still hasn’t gotten a tribute anthology. Maybe I need to start talking to someone about that…

 

Today, I learned that Stuart Gordon has passed into the Beyond at the age of 72. In a recent (and, as yet, unpublished) interview, Marta Oliehoek-Samitowska asked me about Stuart Gordon, his influence on my work, and why “anyone interested in horror” should see his films. I think I said it as well there as I ever could here, so I’m just going to give you a sneak peek at the (extensive and wide-ranging) interview:

Probably the best thing about Stuart Gordon’s films is the energy of them. Anyone who pays attention to me for very long will discover that I love theatricality; I love it when things brush up against—or stumble all the way over into—camp, and I think some of the best horror out there uses camp, uses familiarity and clichés, like we talked about up above, to put you at ease so that it can sneak in something more subversive or strange than it would otherwise be able to get away with.

Plus, Gordon’s films are just so delightfully lurid and weird. So many horror paperbacks, movie posters, and VHS covers promise this gonzo experience, and so few of them can actually deliver it. Gordon’s films usually can.

If you’re intrigued, you can read the whole interview in Marta’s forthcoming book of interviews and pencil portraits, Horror in the Eye of the Beholder, which is coming out soon, albeit possibly only in digital form.

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Gordon was a visionary, for better or (sometimes, maybe) worse. His films informed the early fabric of my understanding of horror cinema, of my tastes, of my aesthetic, easily every bit as much as someone like John Carpenter.

I joked on social media that “he had so many more uncomfortably horny Lovecraftian movies to show us,” but I honestly don’t know how much of the horny-on-main-ness of Gordon’s films was him and how much was his frequent collaborator, Brian Yuzna. I’m sure it was a little of both.

Gordon (and Yuzna) may have been known for the uncomfortable horniness of their flicks, but I think even that aspect served a purpose besides “the writer’s barely-disguised fetish.” They made the films feel like outsider art – lurid and unsanitized and occasionally problematic, as Lovecraft adaptations probably should be, at least a bit.

If you’re looking for something of Gordon’s to watch today, to mark his passing, you may be surprised to learn that my favorite of his films is neither Lovecraftian nor particularly horny. It’s actually his oddball take on the old dark house genre Dolls, which inspired the title story of my third collection, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales and which is currently streaming for free on Amazon Prime.

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Unknown SkeletonAt the start of this decade, I made my first-ever professionally-qualifying sale. (Pro rates were somehow even lower then than they are now.) I had been writing since I learned how, and seriously attempting to publish since I graduated college not quite a decade before that.

In 2012, the first edition of my first collection, Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, came out. In five years it would be out of print, then back in print, in a new, hardcover deluxe edition from Strix Publishing.

Looking back, it came out too soon. Not that I’m not proud of the collection – I am, completely, if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have allowed it to be reissued. I just wasn’t at the “first collection” stage in my career quite yet, but I didn’t know that then.

In the years since, I’ve published two more collections of stories, both with Ross Lockhart’s Word Horde press, not to mention two collections of essays on vintage horror films, both with Innsmouth Free Press. I’ve published more than fifty short stories, and been in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year three times.

I co-edited my first anthology with Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which got translated into Japanese.

I’ve done work for Privateer Press, writing short fiction and in-game content, adventures, and even a licensed novel that is technically my first published novel-length work. In the last year alone I’ve written nearly fifty movie reviews for Unwinnable and Signal Horizon, where I also now co-host a podcast.

I’ve written introductions for reissues of some of my favorite books, including Benighted and collections by Robert Westall, from Valancourt Books, and introductions to collections by some of my favorite contemporaries, including Nick Mamatas and Amanda Downum. I have nonfiction bylines in places like Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, and Nightmare Magazine.

I’ve been a guest at several wonderful conventions and festivals, gone on a great many podcasts, introduced movies at the local movie theatres, and much more. There are so many things on this list that, had you told me about them ten years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Of all the many surprising things that have happened to me over the course of the last decade, though, perhaps the most surprising is that I quit my day job to write full-time all the way back in 2013, and I haven’t had to give it up yet.

Fiction writing certainly doesn’t pay the bills, so most of my time is dedicated to freelancing, but, as they say in Major League 2, a day of playing baseball is better than whatever most people have to do for a living.

It wasn’t until Grace was asking me if I was planning to do some kind of decade-in-review that I realized how much my life has changed in these past ten years, so it seemed worth taking note. I went from being virtually unpublished (I had sold a few stories, but not many) to having six or more books (depending on how you count) with my name on the spine and writing for a living.

Not too shabby, all in all.

For various reasons, the last couple of months have been largely a dry spell for me when it comes to producing new fiction. But that doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to do without.

“When a Beast Looks Up at the Stars,” one of the four original stories in Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales, was just broadcast at Pseudopod, read by the great Jon Padgett. The story, which is one of the most personal I have ever written, closes out that particular collection, and shows that, while you can go home again, maybe you shouldn’t…

That’s it for new fiction at the moment – “new” here only if you haven’t already bought a copy of Guignol which, while I’m on the subject, if you haven’t already bought your copy of Guignol or, for that matter, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, now is a perfect time! Why? Because Word Horde is having a 20% off sale!

If you do already own copies of both of those books, why not pick up one of their other titles? A Spectral Hue by Craig L. Gidney? John Langan’s award-winning weird masterpiece The Fisherman? A collection by Livia Llewellyn or Nadia Bulkin or Jeffrey Thomas?

If you like my mixture of lost films and weird horror, you might dig Brian Hauser’s Memento Mori. If, like me, you enjoy The Thing and epic stories about rock bands snowed in at hotels, then Tony McMillen’s An Augmented Fourth may be perfect for you!

Frankly, anything Word Horde puts out is probably good. Ross is a hell of an editor – and I don’t say that just because he’s been goodly enough to publish me a few times.

I said that was it for new fiction, and it’s mostly true, but if you just can’t get enough, you can also hear me reading an as-yet-unpublished story at The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird earlier this year in the latest installment of the Outer Dark podcast.

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So, that’s fiction taken care of, now on to movies. I’ve had a few reviews go live lately. In fact, over at Unwinnable, last week was all Orrin Grey all the time. I kicked it off with Knives Out, that rare review of a movie that isn’t at least a few decades old – go see it, if you haven’t, and then come back and read the review. It’s good, I promise. Then I followed that up with a review of the latest of many Blu-ray releases of RoboCop.

From there, you can read about Donald Sutherland’s mustache doin’ some powwow magic with the help of the Long Lost Friend in the underseen 1988 hex murder movie Apprentice to Murder, or read about James Cagney doing his best Lon Chaney impression in 1957’s Man of a Thousand Faces.

Before that, I had reviewed both the latest release of An American Werewolf in London and the entire Ringu Collection over at Signal Horizon. So, if you like me writing about variously old movies, I have got you covered in that department, at any rate.

And if even that isn’t enough for you, you can also listen to me and Tyler Unsell talk about The Tingler and phenomenology on the latest episode of the Horror Pod Class. What more could you ask for?

A few years ago, I did a thing where I picked a movie that would make a good double-feature with one of the stories in my then-newest collection, Painted Monsters. This year, for the Countdown to Halloween, I thought it might be fun to do the same thing, but with my now-newest collection, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales.

The final story in Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales acts as a bookend with the first story. Here, another narrator who is a thinly fictionalized version of me goes on a trip that has to do with film. In this case, it’s a trip back to his home town, which is, of course, a thinly fictionalized version of my own home town. The Gorka Theatre was really called the Gregg Theater, and as far as I know it’s still there, though it’s probably less accursed than the one in this story.

Because the narrator of “When a Beast Looks Up at the Stars” is a film writer, he talks a lot about film in the course of the story, and even the title is lifted from a really good 2014 flick called Black Mountain Side, which I highly recommend, even if you don’t pair it with this story.

For all that there are several cinematic references in “When a Beast,” there is one that seems more obvious to pair with it than the others. I make a very specific reference to one particular scene in Hammer’s The Devil Rides Out, which is one of my favorite Hammer flicks.

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But even that’s not the film I’m actually going to suggest for tonight, Halloween night, to go along with the last story in Guignol. Instead, I’m going to suggest a movie that I hadn’t even seen when I wrote this story. Norman J. Warren’s 1976 film Satan’s Slave not only involves the kind of low-rent goat-headed black mass that these kinds of stories demand, but it has the added family Satanism angle to make it all the more apt a companion piece.

If you haven’t seen it or The Devil Rides Out, watch both and make it a double-feature!

A few years ago, I did a thing where I picked a movie that would make a good double-feature with one of the stories in my then-newest collection, Painted Monsters. This year, for the Countdown to Halloween, I thought it might be fun to do the same thing, but with my now-newest collection, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales.

“The Cult of Headless Men” is another story that has an obvious cinematic antecedent. The whole thing got started because of The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake, a creaky 1959 favorite of mine.

To say how the two tie together would be to delve into spoilers for the weird flick that are perhaps better discovered on your own, if you haven’t already seen it, but suffice it to say that I borrowed the title wholesale from the movie.

Originally, this novelette was nothing more than a fragment that I had written for Michael Bukowski, who approached me and several other authors to contribute our own forms for Nyarlathotep. However, I liked the ideas present in the fragment, and eventually expanded it into an actual story.

To do so, I brought in Kirby Marsh, the film producer grandfather of the protagonist of the title story from Painted Monsters. Once I had a film producer, of course he needed to be working on some films, taking over an English manor house to produce some quick-to-market horror schlock to compete with the likes of Hammer.

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So, while The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake still may be the ideal pairing with “The Cult of Headless Men,” it could also be set alongside just about any British horror film of the era. Except that many of them, the Hammer films especially, might have a little too much class for a Kirby Marsh production. For that vibe, maybe try Norman J. Warren’s 1978 film Terror, in which a film production about witches in an English manor house is plagued by actual witchcraft.

A few years ago, I did a thing where I picked a movie that would make a good double-feature with one of the stories in my then-newest collection, Painted Monsters. This year, for the Countdown to Halloween, I thought it might be fun to do the same thing, but with my now-newest collection, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales.

This is a story that has an obvious cinematic counterpart, but that movie doesn’t actually exist. This story, which was written for Ross E. Lockhart’s Eternal Frankenstein anthology, owes its origins to Willis O’Brien’s failed attempts to make a King Kong vs. Frankenstein flick.

The sketches and such for that film served as the inspiration for this one’s aesthetic, though I obviously went pretty far afield with them before all was said and done. There are monsters in here from the lost spider pit sequence in the original King Kong as well as The Black Scorpion, which I believe, without evidence, borrowed some of those same models for its cave sequences.

Obviously, just about any stop-motion film can be paired with this story and you’ll get the right general idea, and for some of the kinds of sci-fi imagery that you’ll see on the Phantom Planet itself, try Harryhausen’s First Men in the Moon. If I had to pick one film to pair with “Frankenstein Against the Phantom Planet,” though–one film that actually exists, that is–I’d probably have to go with The Son of Kong.

There’s a reason I credited O’Brien’s fictional protege from the story with having worked on this delightful and too-often-overlooked sequel that came out later the same year as its predecessor, after all.

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A few years ago, I did a thing where I picked a movie that would make a good double-feature with one of the stories in my then-newest collection, Painted Monsters. This year, for the Countdown to Halloween, I thought it might be fun to do the same thing, but with my now-newest collection, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales.

The obvious answer here is The Last Starfighter, right? But I’m gonna be honest and say that I haven’t seen The Last Starfighter in a very, very, very long time. For something kinda similar but more in my immediate memory, try Joe Dante’s Explorers from the following year.

You know a movie that probably doesn’t seem too obvious but that hangs over the writing of “Invaders of Gla’aki” as much as any other? The Dark Crystal. When I was the age of the protagonists, living in more-or-less the same trailer park they occupy, walking up the road to play Street Fighter II at the gas station, I had a copy not of the movie The Dark Crystal, but a floppy, illustrated book version with art by Bruce McNally.

I’m not necessarily saying that The Dark Crystal makes a good companion piece to the sci-fi tinged “Invaders of Gla’aki,” just kinda telling an anecdote. Here’s a better recommendation for a double-feature with this story: The Gate.

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Yeah, yeah, the video game stuff isn’t there, nor is the spaceship stuff, but I think the kid stuff is, and the desperation that comes with trying to deal with things that are way outside anything you’ve been emotionally prepared to handle. Plus, that sequence near the end of The Gate, when whatever-it-is gets into his hand, there’s a little bit of that in “Invaders,” right? Maybe?

A few years ago, I did a thing where I picked a movie that would make a good double-feature with one of the stories in my then-newest collection, Painted Monsters. This year, for the Countdown to Halloween, I thought it might be fun to do the same thing, but with my now-newest collection, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales.

The film to pair with “Dark and Deep” is, in fact, so obvious that I put a disclaimer in my author’s notes saying that I had actually written the story before Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water ever came out. Still, there’s no denying that it would make a great companion piece to this elegiac little story about a mummified merman.

It’s true that I wrote the story long before Shape of Water, though, so I wasn’t thinking about that movie when I wrote it. I was thinking about the 2001 remake of Edward L. Cahn’s campy 1956 carnival sideshow The She-Creature, and about the sort of ur-boardwalk it-came-from-the-sea film, Curtis Harrington’s Night Tide.

For all that it definitely influenced this story, though, I couldn’t swear that I’ve actually seen all of the 2001 version of She Creature. I should rectify that soon, though. It obviously stuck with me.

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