Lately, work has been a lot like slaying hydras. For every job that I finish, two more seem to take its place. This is what we in the business call “good problems.”

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However, it has still been a lot, and there’s every chance that something has fallen through the cracks. If you’re waiting on me for something, thank you for your patience, and please feel free to nudge me. I will, at worst, tell you that you’ll have to wait a little longer.

When I originally posted this yesterday, I didn’t realize (see above re: being busy) that today was the birthday of the late, great Ray Harryhausen, one of the best monster guys of all time. So, in honor of the occasion, take a break for me and watch a Harryhausen flick. They’re all good.

While we’re on the subject, here’s a link to a couple of years ago when I got to visit the Ray Harryhausen exhibit, in spite of being laid up from surgery.

Through it all, I did make it out to a few movies, including Annabelle Comes Home, which was great, and The Dead Don’t Die, which… probably wasn’t great, but I had fun. I also reviewed the second volume of Arrow Video’s American Horror Project, which is its own whole weird thing, and the Unearthed Films release of The Dark Side of the Moon, which is Event Horizon before Event Horizon and/or a Dennis Wheatley novel in spaaaace.

More soon, once these hydra heads stop multiplying…

Because I am me, I went to see Godzilla: King of the Monsters on opening weekend, and probably the best part was that it put me in a position to reconsider my opinion on the 2014 Godzilla. I don’t want to be one who piles onto a movie that’s already getting rather lackluster reviews, but I have to say that King of the Monsters let me down a bit. Now all I have left is Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, which at least got a delicious new trailer recently.

As I said in my review, I have found myself falling more and more in love with each subsequent viewing of Michael Dougherty’s other two features, and so there’s a possibility that the same may happen with King of the Monsters. If nothing else, I’m looking forward to listening to a commentary track one of these days.

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Lest you think that all I’ve been doing with my time lately is dodging tornadoes and watching kaiju movies, however, I’ve also had a few other recent movie reviews go live. Most recent of all is The Andromeda Strain, which I watched for the first time on the new Arrow Video Blu-ray. Before that, I had reviews of Takashi Miike’s take on Starship TroopersTerraformars and the delightful Sister Street Fighter collection over at Unwinnable.

Also at Unwinnable, I wrote up Showdown, a ’90s take on the Karate Kid idea starring Tae Bo inventor Billy Blanks, while at Signal Horizon I covered a wide range of mid-list (if that) horror product including KolobosStrip Nude for Your Killer, and Pigeons from Hell Scared Stiff, all from Arrow. Never heard of them? Not to worry; I’ve got you covered.

I’ve got a few more in the chamber, too, including looks at Svaha, a Korean cult film that just hit Netflix, and The Big Clock, a film noir from 1948 starring Ray Milland and Charles Laughton, so stay tuned. Or better yet, subscribe to Unwinnable and follow Signal Horizon to catch the latest stuff as it happens.

And if you can’t get enough of me rambling about (specifically old monster) movies, you’ll be happy to know that pre-orders are now back open on Revenge of Monsters from the Vault, at least in e-book form, where you can get it on your Kindle or Kobo or whatever device you so desire, as far as I know. The print edition will be out in time for NecronomiCon Providence, where I will be a guest and I just might be hosting a secret movie screening.

Not directly related to any of the above, but we’re about halfway through the Kickstarter for the hardcover reissue of The Willows magazine, which I mentioned earlier, and it still has a ways to go.  So if you’d like to see some old stuff by me and other writers, not to mention new stories from me, John Langan, Gemma Files, Jesse Bullington, and Brian Evenson, consider throwing a few bucks into the pot to get a cool book that your friends will envy and your enemies will covet.

In 1991, I was living not too far from Andover when an F5 tornado devastated the town. We could see the main tornado of the cell, which got to be around 600 yards wide. My house and the house right next to mine were largely undamaged; the house right next to that, however, was gone entirely, razed to its foundations. The only thing that was left was the dining room table, place settings still intact, with a vase sitting in the middle of the table holding roses, all their petals still on them. It’s something I would have struggled to believe if I hadn’t seen it firsthand.

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I’ve lived in Kansas all my life, and when I lived outside El Dorado, which I did for much of my childhood. tornadoes were a regular occurrence. Since moving to Kansas City, I haven’t encountered as many, but I am still somewhat accustomed to them. Last night’s was a unique experience, nevertheless.

Last night, I left the house and headed north toward the Screenland Armour theatre for a special heavy metal installment of Horror Roulette, a monthly event where a single horror movie is picked at random from a themed list. This one was co-hosted by Blair, its usual MC, and Eli, who hosts Analog Sunday, which has rapidly become one of my favorite monthly activities.

I was just crossing the river when the radio alerted me to the presence of a tornado on the ground near Lawrence, KS. I don’t expect readers to necessarily know where any of these places are, but Lawrence is maybe a half-hour drive from my house, and several of my friends live there. The tornado was headed my way.

As the night wore on, it skirted the edges of Lawrence, devastated Linwood, and hit several other small towns, making a beeline for the Kansas City metro. At present, I still haven’t heard a definitive estimate as to the scope of the tornado, but I’m hearing EF4.

At first, I was concerned for Grace and the cats, who were still at home, but once it became apparent that the tornado was going north of them, concern shifted to, well, me.

Fortunately, I was at the theatre by then, and I figured a brick building with no windows, surrounded by other people, was about the safest place I could conveniently think of. When it became clear that the storm was headed our way, the staff got all of us down into the basement for an impromptu tornado party.

None of it lasted very long, and thankfully the tornado blew itself out before it crashed into the KC metro. After a little time in the basement, we all headed back upstairs, and those of us who were there for Horror Roulette spun the wheel and watched Black Roses. It certainly made for a memorable evening.

Today, Grace was deployed by the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), of which she is a member, to help with cleanup, so she’s doing that while I’m here, working.

I haven’t heard much about the scope of the damages, and haven’t seen any damage at all firsthand, but I’m grateful that myself and everyone I know seems to be okay. Living in tornado alley all of my life may have made me used to them, but it hasn’t done anything to dull my awareness of how fortunate I am each time I dodge that big, windy bullet. If anything, I think it’s keener than it might otherwise have been.

 

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…

 

If anything defines semi-personal blogging in this, the far-flung future of 2019, it is opening every single post with an apology (even if veiled or joking) about how long it’s been since your last post. “Forgive me, Father,” and all that. But all joking and acquiescence to form aside, I have no idea what has happened to most of May.

If you’ve been following along on social media, where updates are somewhat less sporadic, you’ll probably have noticed that it’s mostly been nothing but pictures and links and the occasional notation of what I’ve been watching. I’d love to say that this was an explanation, but I don’t know that I have one.

I know that I’ve been busy with this and that bit of freelance work. I know that I’ve taken a couple of non-work-related out-of-town trips that haven’t required me to go very far but have sapped a fair amount of my energy. I know that my household suffered through about a week of feeling generally under-the-weather and that, in fact, 21 days is only three weeks all told, but still, it really seems like there must be something I’m leaving out.

If there is, though, I’m afraid that I am as in the dark about it as you are. Direct pre-orders closed on Revenge of Monsters from the Vault, and while we didn’t quite hit the goal we were aiming for, we got pretty close. Normal pre-orders will be up soon enough, and the book and myself will both be present at NecronomiCon Providence in a few months.

There are some story announcements in the pipeline, but nothing new to report just yet. Freelance work has been occupying most of my time, though I did recently get hired to do a bit of work that was more than usually in my wheelhouse. If you like my writing about old monster movies, a reminder that, while it is currently not available for pre-order, Revenge of Monsters from the Vault is going to be nothing but that for more than 200 pages, so keep an eye on this space!

Today, I finally made it out to the theatre to catch Avengers: Endgame, which means that I have now seen all 22 of the “Infinity Saga” (or whatever they’re calling it) films in the theatre, and I have done my duty by them (and they by me). I know that technically Phase 3 isn’t over until Spider-Man: Far From Home, but while I have every reason to assume I will see that in a theatre, too, this feels like the ending to me, and I’m good with that.

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I’m not really here to talk about Endgame, though. I’m here to talk about my books. Today is also the last day to pre-order Revenge of Monsters from the Vault direct from the publisher. The book will still be for sale through the regular channels when it launches in August, but we appreciate direct sales, and they put more money into my pocket. So if you’re thinking about buying Revenge of Monsters from the Vault (and I sincerely hope that you are) now is the ideal time to do it. But please hurry!

If you’re just coming here from… somewhere else, Revenge of Monsters from the Vault is the follow-up to my 2016 book Monsters from the Vault and, as such, it’s a collection of a whole bunch of essays about various classic (and not-so-classic) horror films from the silents to the ’70s, including such beloved and obscure titles as Condemned to LiveRevolt of the ZombiesThe Devil Bat, not one but two versions of The Black CatReturn of the VampireThe Giant ClawZombies of Mora TauDark IntruderX: The Man with X-Ray EyesBrotherhood of SatanThe Creeping Flesh, and lots more. If you’d like a taste of what you’re in for, you can read my essay on Toho’s “Bloodthirsty Trilogy” of Dracula movies right here.

Not already familiar with the previous volume? Not to worry, you can actually pick it up in a package deal with Revenge of Monsters from the Vault if you pre-order right now!

Today is also Walpurgisnacht. As most of you know, I wrote a story called “Walpurgisnacht” which originally appeared in the Laird Barron tribute anthology Children of Old Leech, and has since been reprinted in my second collection, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts. If you’ve already read that one, though, plenty of other seasonally appropriate stuff can be found in my latest collection, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales. I think “When a Beast Looks Up at the Stars” would be particularly well suited to the evening’s festivities, don’t you?

Speaking of witches, I was also a guest on the latest episode of the Nightmare Junkhead podcast where I talked in some rambling detail about my feelings on the new Hellboy movie (which has more than a few witches), the comics, Brian Lumley, and lots of other topics of occult interest. Greg D. and Jenius McGee of the Nightmare Junkhead podcast are the same cool folks who put on the Nerdoween Triple Feature that has become my birthday/Halloween staple every year, so it was a real pleasure to finally sit down with them in their inner sanctum.

Let us not bury the lede here: There is just over a week left to pre-order Revenge of Monsters from the VaultYou can get it direct from the publisher, avoid putting money in Amazon’s pocket by putting a little extra in mine, and get some special deals that you won’t be able to get any other way. If you’re planning to order, pre-ordering now is definitely the best way to do it! Go forth! Click!

It has obviously been a little while since I updated here. I didn’t post any kind of wrap-up of the Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird in Atlanta because, frankly, the trip was a bit of a whirlwind, and I’m just now getting more-or-less fully recovered. Tyler Unsell of Signal Horizon and I drove overnight to get there, had a full day of programming, and then drove all day coming back. Not an ideal itinerary for restful cogitation.

Highlights, of course, include the various panels and readings of the Symposium itself, meeting Ben Thomas for the first time face-to-skull, hanging out with old friends like Jesse and Selena, and, of course, the Silver Scream FX lab where the Symposium was held, which was piled to the brim with monsters and magicians. Any more in-depth an exploration is simply beyond my capabilities at present.

monsters single coverI managed to come home without loading up on too many books, though I did pick up a copy of Whiskey Tales. I’ve been a fan of Jean Ray’s weird fiction ever since reading “The Mainz Psalter” and his classic weird novel Malpertuis, and I have been frustrated by the paucity of Ray stories that have been readily available in English, so it was with great pleasure that I learned that Scott Nicolay was taking it upon himself to translate the body of that writer’s collection of tales of the fantastique and with equal enjoyment that I read through this first installment, even if the stories themselves are a tad more prosaic than his more famous works–and a lot more anti-Semitic, more’s the pity.

In the time since my return from Atlanta, several things have happened that are worth noting, at least in brief. For starters, I received the gargantuan box containing the first part of my Hellboy boardgame, which I Kickstarted from Mantic Games some time ago. The box is as enormous as predicted, and filled with room tiles, miniatures, delightful cards, and all manner of fun stuff. To date, I’ve only essayed a couple of missions, but it has been a great deal of fun so far.

Speaking of all things Hellboy, well, there are lots of things Hellboy to speak of. Hellboy Day, marking the 25th anniversary of the series, happened while I was in Atlanta, and I was forced to miss the festivities, though I marked them as best I was able with an essay in appreciation of Mignola’s work that is included in the Symposium program book, alongside an illustration by Mignola himself.

Then, last weekend, the latest attempt at transposing the comics onto the big screen, this time helmed by Neil Marshall, hit theaters. So of course I went to see it. My reaction was… complicated. If that’s not enough of me rambling about it, you’ll be able to hear more when I’m a guest on the Nightmare Junkhead podcast soon, where we’ll be talking about the movie.

What’s more, yesterday saw the publication of the last issue of the regular B.P.R.D. series, which rings down the curtain on at least the “present day” of the Mignolaverse titles. There’s plenty of “Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.”-style adventures still left to see print, I’m sure, but this is certainly the end of an era, and it was delivered with sufficient pomp and circumstance.

I also published a few more reviews of older films for Signal Horizon and have penned more that are forthcoming over at Unwinnable, and I appeared on Monster Kid Radio talking about The Vampire Doll. If you like what you hear there, The Vampire Doll is just one of the many, many, many classic (and not-so-classic) monster movies I cover in Revenge of Monsters from the Vault, which, once again, you can pre-order right now!