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Mummy 01To say that A Lot has been going on in the world lately is to engage in the most ridiculous understatement. We are living in unprecedented times, and things have taken a turn for the very strange and, let’s face it, probably very tragic, no matter how they shake out.

With any luck, we will manage to prevent the loss of countless lives to COVID-19, but some will still die (some already have), businesses will close, and people will suffer. The future is not necessarily bleak, but it does promise to be difficult.

Everyone has been coping with the pandemic and being on essentially house arrest in their own ways, some better than others. For me, not that much has changed. As a freelancer, I work from home anyway, so it’s just been business as usual, more or less, with the most significant difference being that Grace is currently furloughed and so I’m the only one gainfully employed at the moment – not something you ever want to say, when you’re a freelancer.

Ultra - ReigubasOne thing that’s been helping to keep my days a little brighter, though, and that I’ve been sharing on my various social media timelines in order to, hopefully, brighten the days of my friends and followers, is that Mike Mignola has been doing daily sketches.

The subjects of these sketches have ranged from The Flintstones to Ultraman monsters to a day of mummies to Godzilla and Gamera to Jack Kirby monsters to, most recently, figures from Ray Harryhausen movies. There hasn’t been a Ymir yet, but I’m keeping all my digits crossed.

RommbuThere’s not much of a news post to go with this. Just letting you know that I’m still here, and sharing a few of the drawings that have been helping me to keep my head up as the days of the pandemic tick by.

Between freelance assignments, I’ve been working on a longish project that unfortunately has to remain secret for now, and making good headway. I’ve written a few reviews and other nonfiction things that will be appearing in various places in the near future. Beyond that, there’s not a lot to report.

 

There is a gag in the MST of Hobgoblins where, after the film’s cold opening, the titles come up and Tom Servo goes, “Hey, the end credits! Well, it was a terrible movie, but at least it was short.” To which Mike replies, “These are the beginning credits,” and Servo says, “Oh, well, then kill me, please?”

Remember that, cuz we’ll come back to it.

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I don’t know if the turning of the new year is really a time when people make ill-fated resolutions to improve their lives, or if that was just a gimmick cooked up to sell gym memberships. But I do know that this time in the dead of winter – from Christmas Eve until … well, it varies, year to year, but sometimes the end of February – has routinely not been a great time of year for me.

Unfortunately, so far 2020 is no exception. In fact this whole first week (!) feels like every day has been about a year long by itself. Each time I realize that we’re only a week in, it feels like that gag from Hobgoblins that I mentioned above.

Years ago, Grace and I had to let go of our first cat, Corwin, in a fairly sudden and traumatic fashion on Christmas Eve. Yesterday, we had to say goodbye to our cat Abracadabra, or Abby, who we’ve had for twelve years – nearly a third of my life.

It was time, and I’m grateful that she’s no longer suffering, but it was terribly hard to say goodbye, and we already miss her so much. That was the year’s biggest kick in the teeth to me, personally, so far, but it was far from the only one.

Meanwhile, I’ve still got this hacking cough that I have had since October 30, the world is on fire in a way that’s more literal than usual, America’s warmongering and imperialism threatens to escalate a war that has, for all intents and purposes, been going on for most of my lifetime, and I’m sure there’s plenty that I’m forgetting.

I don’t know if all ages are as apocalypse-haunted as my generation, but it seems like I’ve grown up always in the shadow of the end of the world. I was a kid in the tail-end of the Cold War, and the threat of nuclear annihilation loomed large. The Day After was set and filmed not far from where I live now.

Our movies were preoccupied with life in the wake of a future that was sometimes literally post-apocalyptic, other times caught in the midst of the inevitable aftermath of late stage capitalism and its ravages on the planet. A world in which a handful of people lived in comfort while everyone else survived in the gutters, when they survived at all.

I graduated class of 2000, which means that I remember, vividly, the Y2K scare. I remember the fear of global pandemics. Outbreak came out when I was fourteen years old.

Revisiting the movies that I grew up on, I’m often flabbergasted by how quickly they expected the end to come. When you’re making a movie about a blasted future where humanity survives in dregs, and you set it a decade out? Let’s just say, that ain’t optimism.

I’m no kind of historian, but I do routinely consume media, both for work and pleasure, from a lot of different decades. And one thing I’ve learned is that the problems that we face now are, for the most part, the same as the problems we’ve faced all my life. Take a movie from two, three decades ago, strip away the markers of its moment in time, and you’ll find the same themes.

We knew that climate change was going to doom us all if we didn’t do something about it. We knew that the wealth gap was growing. We knew that our warmongering would only ever lead to more and more violence. We knew the self-serving hypocrisy of the “moral majority.” We knew that white supremacy underpinned much of our society – and that it was a trap that held both whites and PoC alike.

Sometimes it’s comforting to see how little has changed, and sometimes it’s terrifying.

Knowing that the fin absolue du monde has hung over us for longer than I’ve been alive helps me to not give in to the apocalyptic mindset that the news often seems so keen to engender, but I can’t deny that the images of Australia, in particular, have an immediacy and ferocity that is hard to ignore.

On the plus side, I made my first sale of the year this week, which is a nice, early start. 2020 may have punched us in the mouth right out of the gate, but sometimes the only thing you can do then is grin with blood in your teeth.

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?

I got so wrapped up in the fulfilling of pre-orders and the like (not to mention the run up to NecronomiCon, which is in less than a week somehow) that I almost forgot to acknowledge the fact that today is actually the official book birthday of Revenge of Monsters from the Vault!

If you pre-ordered your copy direct form the publisher, it should be hitting your mailbox any day now, if it hasn’t already. If you didn’t, well, there’s not time like the present to correct that deficiency.

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I love writing spooky short stories, but I also love writing about monster movies – on my best days, I manage to smash the two together to relatively satisfactory results. In my freelance work, I am lucky enough to write occasionally about movies both modern and antique, but one of my favorite things to do is to just share the joy that I get from tracking down some moth-bitten old movie filled with cobwebbed sets and some painted monsters.

Those are the movies that, as Joe R. Lansdale hisownself once put it better than I ever could, “kick open doors to light and shadow and let us view something that otherwise we might not see”.

I’ve been lucky enough to get to write about a lot of them and, with any luck, I’ll get to write about a lot more before I go to wherever good skeletons finally go, but Revenge of Monsters from the Vault closes the door on a chapter, to be sure.

When I first started writing for Innsmouth Free Press, I wasn’t yet a very established voice in the field. Silvia Moreno-Garcia was kind enough to give me a soapbox from which I could share my love for these delightfully creaky old movies, and she was even kinder to add another step to that soapbox by re-publishing all those columns in Monsters from the Vault.

Now, together, we’ve gone a step farther yet. With any luck, Revenge of Monsters from the Vault won’t be the last time I write about these movies, but it will probably be our last trip to the Vault of Secrets. We’re sealing up that tomb and moving on to unearth another.

It’s not an occasion for mourning, however, but celebration. I got to write about Mystery of the Wax Museum and Horror Island and The Return of the Vampire and Zombies of Mora Tau and The World of Vampires and Yog, Monster from Space. And, what’s more, somebody put all of that writing into not one book but two.Most poor skeletons never even get half so lucky.

I hope, if you choose to read either of these volumes, that you come away from them with a new favorite movie that you otherwise might not have seen. I think I agree with Mr. Lansdale that that’s the purpose of all great art, and while I don’t think these books are necessarily great art, hopefully they can be your portal to some.

Long, long ago, as the internet reckons time, I was a contributor for a magazine called The Willows, which also has a role to play in my secret origins. Named for the Algernon Blackwood story, the remit of The Willows was to publish weird fiction in the classic style. What this meant, in practice, was partly stories inspired by the weird fiction of the turn-of-the-century and partly stories that were set prior to 1920 or thereabouts.

I actually got involved with the magazine because I wrote to its publisher, Ben Thomas, with my complaint that I felt that these two guidelines were not intrinsically tied together — by which I mean that I thought it was possible to write classic-style weird fiction that was set in modern times. The dialogue that followed developed into a friendship that has persisted these many years, though Ben and I never met in person until this year’s Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird.

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“Contributor” in this case means that I published a couple of stories in The Willows, to be sure, but it also means that I occasionally helped out in other logistical and editorial capacities, and that I wrote an infrequent column called something like “Sir Orrin Grey’s Cabinet of Esoteric Manuscripts,” one installment of which was later re-adapted into what became my first major non-fiction sale, “The Condition of a Monster: A Personal Taxonomy of Supernatural Fiction” at Strange Horizons.

While my own poor contributions to The Willows are probably best consigned to the dustbin of history, the same isn’t true for all of my fellow contributors–writers, poets, and artists of the decadent and Weird, thriving around the turn of another century, in a time that seems almost as long ago as the Victorians we were aping. Now, however, that time can be resurrected.

Ben has returned from his globe-spanning adventures with a scheme to bring The Willows back into print in the form of an attractive hardbound volume collecting all the extant issues of the magazine, along with new stories by yours truly, Gemma Files, Brian Evenson, John Langan, and Jesse Bullington. He just needs a bit of your help to do it.

It seems that all the original files of the magazine were lost during one of Ben’s many excursions into strange, far places. Fortunately, I still had all my print copies of the magazine, which I handed off to him at that fateful meeting at the Outer Dark Symposium, itself so much like something from the annals of Weird history. Now, all that remains is to raise the funds to bring The Willows back in a new and more glorious form.

For my fans, this means a new story, but it also means a glimpse at some juvenalia unavailable in any other location. For my enemies, some ammunition to back up any claims that I am a hack writer not worthy of the epithet. For everyone else, plenty of work by other luminaries of the field, not to mention forgotten gems lost to the ravages of time.

All you have to do is click this link, and your journey into mystery will begin…

 

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A large number of years ago (let’s not worry ourselves overmuch about how many) I started writing a column for Innsmouth Free Press. In it, I had the fairly wide charter of writing about “vintage” horror films, which meant, in practice, everything from the silents to the ’70s. We called it the Vault of Secrets, and I wrote it for five years.

Around the end of that time, Silvia, my publisher at IFP, approached me about the idea of collecting those columns into a book, and Monsters from the Vault was born. What we didn’t know, as we were putting the book together, was that the Vault of Secrets was about to shut down, as IFP ceased online publication. Hence, Monsters from the Vault collected every Vault of Secrets column that was ever published into one convenient tome.

However, being me, I didn’t write my Vault of Secrets columns one a month as they came out. Instead, I ran ahead, and there were several columns I had written before the publication of Monsters from the Vault that hadn’t ever seen the light of day.

For a while, I was unsure what to do with these columns. I considered publishing them on my own website or offering them as rewards on my short-lived Patreon, but ultimately nothing felt quite right, until I hit upon the idea of adding to them and putting out a companion volume to Monsters from the Vault.

Revenge of Monsters from the Vault collects those orphaned columns, sure, but they represent only a tiny fragment of its total page count. A few of the pieces collected here have even shown up online in one place or another, but not many. Most of this book is made up of totally new stuff, written specifically for this volume.

Beginning with a beautiful but underseen film released in 1926 and ending with Toho’s “Bloodthirsty Trilogy” of vampire movies from the 1970s, Revenge of Monsters from the Vault covers a lot of territory. There are sixty films packed into these pages, which is fewer than last time, but each entry is longer, on average, with the shortest entries in Revenge averaging about as long as the longest entries in the previous volume.

Within these pages you’ll find ape fiends, invisible dinosaurs, wax museums, devil bats, zombies, hunchbacks, haunted stranglers, cat people, flying serpents, creatures with an atom brain, terrors from beyond space, cities of the dead, snake women, men with x-ray eyes, and weirder things. There are four films from producer Sam Katzman, a couple from director William Castle, and an exploration of all four of the movies that spun out from Roger Corman’s purchase of the Yugoslavian crime film Operation Titian, to name just a few.

Pre-order today and you can get signed copies of both Revenge of Monsters from the Vault and its progenitor, not to mention some cool swag including a bookmark, postcard, and sticker, all for just $22 plus shipping!

If you’re already a proud owner of Monsters from the Vault, you can always pick up just the new one, which boasts matching cover art from Thomas Boatwright, and keep them both on your entertainment system for quick reference as you’re unearthing old, spooky movies to watch on a dark and stormy night…

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52917318_10215725451503426_1097449420703662080_nIt’s been a few days since this got announced on social media, so lots of people have probably seen it already, but I’ve been busy so it hasn’t made its way onto my blog until just now, but: My story “No Exit” made it into Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year Volume 11!!

This is my third time in Ellen’s Best Horror series, which is an honor that I, honestly, never thought I would manage even once, and I could not be more thrilled to be sharing a table of contents with so many fantastic writers.

“No Exit” originally appeared in Lost Highways from Crystal Lake Publishing, edited by D. Alexander Ward, and is part of my as-yet-unnamed “Hollow Earth cycle” of linked short stories. But don’t worry, you don’t need to have read any of the others to understand what’s going on in “No Exit.”

If you want to read some of the other stories, however, other tales in the cycle are currently available in Chthonic from Martian Migraine Press, Cthlhu Fhtagn! from Word Horde, and For Mortal Things Unsung from Pseudopod, with others coming soon.

Speaking of For Mortal Things Unsung, which is currently the only place you can read my story “New and Strangely Bodied,” it’s available to anyone who pledges $20 or more to the IndieGoGo for The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird.

I’ll be at the Symposium near the end of March (on Hellboy Day, in fact) in Atlanta, Georgia, where we’ll be talking about all things Weird. If you’re thinking of attending or backing the IndieGoGo, you can get lots of cool stuff, including several of my books (signed, of course) not to mention a signed photo of Linnea Quigley with a chainsaw.

There’s another big announcement that will be coming in the next few days, but if you follow me on Facebook, or are an astute reader of interviews, you may have seen some mention of it already…

Panic Fest is in the rear view and everything else is up ahead, so it’s been a week or so of catching up around here. There’s been a lot to catch up to, as well, as a lot has been going on kind of while I wasn’t looking.

For starters, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales received a very generous review from Christine Morgan over at The Horror Fiction Review, which refers to my “consistently excellent quality and skill,” so of course I appreciate that. I also learned that my story “The Granfalloon,” which originally appeared in Darker Companions before being reprinted in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year Volume 10, is being taught in an Advanced Creative Writing workshop that’s being offered by Richard Thomas!

Speaking of stories doing well for me, my story “The Hurrah (aka Corpse Scene)” made the Locus Recommended Reading List. I think this may be my first time on the list, and right now you can vote for my story (along with stories and books by lots of other authors) right here. (You don’t have to have a subscriber number, just a name and email address.)

I was interviewed by author Gwendolyn Kiste (whose novella Pretty Marys All in a Row I really enjoyed) at her website, and I was able to sneak in the first official mention, I think, of my next book-length project, which is a sequel to Monsters from the Vault called (of course) Revenge of Monsters from the Vault. It should be out later this year, covering 60 more classic (and not-so-classic) horror and monster movies from the silents to the ’70s including devil bats, ape fiends, space invaders, old dark houses, haunted stranglers, invisible dinosaurs, and a whole lot more!

(On the subject of my film writing, I also unwittingly discovered that I am cited extensively in the Wikipedia entry for John Carpenter’s The Thing. This thing I wrote eight years ago is getting me a lot of traction lately. It was also mentioned in the commentary track for the Scream Factory Blu of Someone’s Watching Me! and quoted in the Devil’s Advocate volume for In the Mouth of Madness.)

Most recently, the full table of contents was announced for Pluto in Furs, an anthology forthcoming from Plutonian Press, which will feature my story “Stygian Chambers” alongside tales by Gemma Files, Jeffrey Thomas, Adam Golaski, Richard Gavin, and many more.

That’s what’s been going on in the last few days, and there’s more on the way. I have other story sales that I can’t announce just yet, not to mention my appearance next month at The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird in Atlanta. I’ll also be a guest at the NecronomiCon in Providence in August, but more on that later…

 

I published my customary year end wrap-up back at the end of December, but in it I realize that I perhaps gave somewhat short shrift to my publishing accomplishments for the year, so I decided that a more in-depth post on the subject was in order.

Of course, the biggest writing news of 2018 was the publication of Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales, my third collection of short stories about ghosts, monsters, and sometimes the ghosts of monsters, and my second through Word HordeGuignol contains fourteen (14) strange tales, four (4) of them appearing in print for the first time.

Counting those four new stories, the total number of new stories I published in 2018 is nine (9). I also had two (2) reprints this year. “Goblins,” which originally appeared as a bonus story in the deluxe edition of Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings from Strix Publishing was podcast at Pseudopod just in time for Halloween, read by none other than the Old Gent himself, Leeman Kessler, and my story “The Granfalloon,” originally in Darker Companions, was reprinted in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, marking the second time one of my stories has made it into that esteemed volume.

Other stories that came out in 2018 include “Hollow Earths” in Chthonic from Martian Migraine Press, “The Pepys Lake Monster” in Test Patterns: Creature Features from Planet X Publishing, “No Exit” in Lost Highways from Crystal Lake, “Masks” in the second issue of Forbidden Futures, and “The Hurrah (aka Corpse Scene)” at The Dark. That doesn’t seem like a ton of new fiction, but I’m proud of every one of them, and of the original stories that appeared in Guignol. I’ve also been hard at work on some other stories and projects that should be seeing the light of day in 2019.

In 2018, I was also lucky enough to get to pen the introduction to Amanda Downum’s long-awaited short story collection Still So Strange and I started publishing more of my film writing in places other than here, including reviews at Signal Horizon and Unwinnable. I’m particularly proud of this one.

There’s more stories, more film writing, and more monsters coming in 2019. In the meantime, if you’re so inclined, you could always throw a few bucks into my proverbial tip jar to help me keep doing this.

So, last night I sat on couches detailed like the spacesuits from Planet of the Vampires and watched three John Carpenter movies that I have seen roughly 1,000 times each (and, in at least one case, been quoted in a book about) with a bunch of other movie nerds at the third annual CarpenterFest at the Screenland Armour and it was great. We saw Assault on Precinct 13 and Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness. It was hosted by Greg and Jenius of the Nerds of Nostalgia/Nightmare Junkhead podcast, who were kind enough to single me out for some praise before the last movie.

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Before the event, I called CarpenterFest the film fest that I am duty bound to attend while also being able to recreate it in my living room at a moment’s notice. That proved true in this case, but watching movies in my living room is a very different experience from watching them in a theater full of people. And in spite of the aforementioned having seen them 1,000 times, I had actually forgotten that Prince of Darkness ends on a “top still spinning” scene, just as The Thing does.

In the run-up to CarpenterFest, I had a couple of things drop that I haven’t gotten a chance to post about before now. My review of Torso and The Wizard of Gore went live over at Unwinnable, and while I’m not supposed to pick favorites from my own writing, I’m really happy with how this double-review turned out.

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Also, a little while ago, I was asked to guest-host an episode of Pseudopod. I was happy to do it, especially when they told me that the episode they wanted me to introduce was two stories by Manly Wade Wellman. As I say in the intro, there are three “old dead white guy” writers who I think are probably the biggest influences on the way I write today, and those writers are E.F. Benson, William Hope Hodgson, and Manly Wade Wellman. The two stories are “These Doth the Lord Hate” and “The Golgotha Dancers,” both pretty great, and the latter an excellent example of Wellman’s aptitude for weird creatures.

If you aren’t already familiar with Wellman’s work and this episode piques your interest, I cannot recommend him highly enough, and would suggest starting with his Silver John stories or the recent Shadowridge Press reissue of Worse Things Waiting, complete with the original illustrations by Lee Brown Coye.