A Voice from the Tomb

Given my output of late, it would not be strange to find some people think I am dead. I was laid somewhat low by our current plague last summer, indeed, and if the solipsists turn out to be right I might well have died then and all since has been mere residue.

That wouldn’t explain the previous couple of years, though.

What moved me to break this deadly silence is a suddenly-felt need to address the death of the artist. You know the concept, I’m sure– once art is released into the world, the artist’s opinion of it is only part of the art’s interpretation. This notion survived George Lucas’s efforts to snuff it out (Han did, indeed, shoot first) so I’m unlikely to affect it much… and yet, I will yowl from the depths of my shrouds and rattle my chains.

Social media has lately been full of argument between supporters and detractors of AI-generated art. Or “art” as some would prefer. I thought it might be worth reminding the world at large of a story I wrote a few years back which was a contemplation of how essentially human the idea of Art is.

Thus, I plopped a link to Harmonic Aliasing onto social media. I re-read it, too, since I’ve haven’t looked at it much since I wrote it in 2016. As I read, I realized that in chasing the point I had in view, I had also created something that could suggest a stance which I really don’t occupy.

It could, without any violent mental gymnastics, be viewed as a bit of a screed against transgender transitioning. When I wrote the story, there was rather less open opposition to transgender people living their lives as they see fit– big dumb cishet objects like me, even when sympathetic, might think that there wasn’t anything at all being said on the topic prior to 2018 at earliest, and it wasn’t until 2020 that a specific popular children’s fantasy writer started barking chauvinisms into the all-encompassing ear of Twitter. Like an elephant walking through a field of rabbits, I was entirely unaware of the harm I might be doing.

Now, though… well, I run into the clash of world-views between people trying to be themselves and people who really don’t want them to do that pretty regularly. I am, after all, a dweller in the outer reaches of the writing community (I am well aware how how bright a light I represent), my wife has been a theatre kid since she was a kid in truth, and we are thus in regular conversation with people of diverse gender expressions. We are not required to take a side in this conflict, but… well, as another ghost once pointed out, mankind should be our business.

Moan, wail, rattle! The artist, dead these seven years, lurches through the fabric of the locked door. He unwinds the bandage which keeps his jaw from flopping about, and out of the gaping yawn that results these words emerge in his mossy voice:

“Trans rights are human rights. Cursed be they who imply I have ever thought otherwise!”

I Bow to No Calendar!

The last of my solstice-adjacent-festival offerings probably should have swapped places with the last one, since it concerns the feast of St. Nicholas. However, since I’m living in North America and not a Christian, it pleases me best to put this most overtly Yuletidy of the three stories past their exclusivity period within sight of the big day itself.

So, gather close to the fire and read about the festive fun that is the dance of the Wilden Klausen.

I once again wonder if I’m wandering close to folk horror without actually entering it. Tricky business.

I will once again plug the story’s original home, Mistletoes and Mayhem, which is available here. Last year I mentioned that the cover was not entirely indicative of the nature of the contents (thus the old saying about judging books), and now I mention it again.

Another Festive Freebie!

Just slightly too late for Sinterklaasje, I’m offering another reprint for your winter’s evening amusement.

Unlike “The Moon Forest”, Without Fear, Favor or Affection is set in the past and requires its characters to labour under seasonal weather.

…it was only just the start of December, and winter had gone on as long as he could remember.

I find myself wondering if this story counts as folk horror– it has many of the elements (even police sergeants!) but I’m not sure if the setting and the lack of jolly small-town pagan ritual exclude it.

Entirely like “The Moon Forest”, the original home of this story, Creatures in Canada: A Darkling Around the World Anthology, is still available for purchase, although only as an e-book.

A final note– if you prefer true crime to fictional horror, having a look at the sort of stuff that went on at Government House in Battleford will fulfill your desires, as long as you accept that a government can commit crimes against people under its rule.

Loose Upon The World

I came to a realization this week– I have some published stories which are out of their exclusivity period. And that means I should share them!

The first of these is from Monsters in Spaaaace, an anthology which I was very pleased to have been included in.

Remember this guy?

The actual book itself is still available here, as well as the all-data version, and while I’m happy to let you read my contribution to it here and for free, I encourage you to seriously think about buying a copy (or two! Christmas looms!). As I mentioned back when it first came out, I get no monetary benefit from any sales, no royalties what ever… except for the notional future opportunity of sending a story to a publisher who was encouraged to remain in business by persistant income.

Enough of my blather– strap in for a trip to The Moon Forest!

Hallowe’en Grapples!

I have been quiet, have I not? The dread scourge of writer’s block entered into alliance with depression (built in) and stress (external, mainly the pandemic) and rendered me somewhat unproductive.

Happily, the most magical time of the year has come to my rescue– it’s Hallowe’en! Spooky scary skeletons, unconcerned with current events! Unspeakable creatures that didn’t seek elected office! So much joy! It has struck (or at least loosened) the shackles from my creative organs, and the first thing I’m doing is giving back with a fresh free story.

I’m going to give some background on the genesis of “The Centennial Legacy” but there’s something of a spoiler involved. So, I’m going to post a large picture of a cat hanging out with some esoteric stuff to act as a spacer. Don’t want the spoiler? Just click that title and get reading.

…although it occurs to me that I should mention that this is something of a fan fiction, taking inspiration and setting from a story by the guy that keeps the fire on under the “Artist is not the Art” pot, H. P. Lovecraft. After the idea came up, I found that the events in his story were set one hundred years ago almost to the week, so it had to be written.

All right. Here we go. CAT!

No description available.

If you’re still with me, I will now reveal that the inspiring story is “The Lurking Fear” and yes, it sort of leans on eugenics for its horror and thus is an excellent example of why sensible fans of Ol’ Providence are a little hesitant to own their fan-ness.

But it’s also a good yarn about really awful monsters which are entirely natural. While H.P. fell back on his usual “indescribable, shapeless, unnameable” and some curtain-dropping faints, these monsters are living creatures of an earthly origin… if you consider the Netherlands part of Earth.

What prompted the story was listening to a weather report about a month ago promising yet more smoke from yet another forest fire. The undisciplined mind wandered a bit, and after touching on “glad I don’t live in a forest” some hidden relays closed and I was presented with a mental picture of the horrors in “The Lurking Fear” suddenly being made to join Bambi and Susanna Moodie in headlong flight from a forest fire.

And then I thought hard about the conclusion of “The Lurking Fear”. The narrator declares that he’s wiped out the thousands of creepy descendants of inbred Dutchmen… but did he really check that hard? What if… let’s say 25 of them avoided the extermination. Taking that, a narrow assumption about what age they start and stop bearing children and a pretty pessimistic view of infant mortality among the Martenses, and plugged them into a handy online calculator.

In a hundred years, you’d have more than seven thousand of the buggers. Yike. That’s plenty of scary.

Before I stop flapping my fingers, I’ll mention that I tried the numbers running from the last date of contact in Lovecraft’s story to the year it was set (1810 to 1921, if you’re wondering) and it turns out that there could have been 10,000 to 15,000 of the damn things down there. Turns out he wasn’t exaggerating the numbers he has his narrator offering.

Am I Shallow?

The answer is “probably,” with a well-rolled R.

Why do I say this? Because I’m about to engage in a small spot of self-promotion:

Why, yes… that is my name on the cover

This delightful compendium has just been put where the public can get at it, over at Cloud Lake Literary’s site, where you can buy it as a single item or subscribe to the journal.

…and if you’re wondering how a genre goofus like me managed to sneak into the walled garden of a literary journal, I will prove my egoism by putting my thumbs in my suspenders and say, “Hey, I’m pretty good at this.”

I will then wait to see if you laugh right in my face or give me a gentle sigh of annoyance. Either is appropriate.

With Mere Moments to Spare!

One of the problems with being very busy, I find, is not only is all your time taken up with those duties that make the busy-ness, but all non-duty stuff is crushed out of the mind.

So when I got some very good advice about running up an award eligibility post at the beginning of the month, the ensuing profoundly busy weeks knocked my intention to do so once “Palmer’s Folly” was published right out of my head.

Thus– I have two stories eligible for awards in 2020:

  • “Wilden Klausen” in Mistletoes and Mayhem (Dragon Soul Press), which is alas only available on Kindle via this link.
  • “Palmer’s Folly” in NewMyths.com issue 53, freely available here.

Not a huge year, but two stories I’m very proud of.

I was reminded to do this by a sudden crash of neurons which did not lead directly here, but as fall-out from a sudden lurching realization that I needed to renew my membership in the Horror Writer’s association.

Which I have done, also. My duties to myself are, at last, complete for the year (barring getting a couple of more meals down my gullet…).

Christmas Bonus!

I am not referring to the famous Roman general Crismus Bonus (northwest Gaul on the border of Goscinny and Uderzo, c. 50BC), but to my latest published work! As I said in the last entry, this appears to be the time of year for me.

The new appearance was actually put under contract about a year ago, and this is probably the truest experience of publishing I’ve yet had. I am, though, a student of patience (having waited so long to start a writing career, I can hardly complain about a space of months between contract and consumation). The wait was definitely worth it.

But enough of my waffling! Please head on over to NewMyths.com, where the freshly manifested issue 53 awaits your reading pleasure. In the Jamesian tradition, it’s a spooky story uttered close to Christmas, but not Christmas themed, called “Palmer’s Folly.” You’ll find it right smack in the middle of the fiction portion of the table of contents, lodged between some other stories to fill the long, cold solstice-proximate nights (northern hemisphere only, locations near and south of the equator may not find conditions as indicated).

For an extra chill, there’s an author profile with a recent picture– chilling. Not even a beard to hide his unspeakable deformity, it having fallen to the razor in deference to sealing a mask more effectively.

Just in Time for Christmas!

It seems that December is when I get published. First, and I’ll mention it again next week when it actually happens, I have a story appearing in the next issue of NewMyths.com— issue 53 goes live, assuming no contrary word from Fate, on 15 December.

Live right now is a link to pre-order an anthology I’m in. I’m even named on the cover!

I will say right now that the image on the cover… does not represent my contribution, I will say, although “Wilden Klausen” does involve wearing a costume for a seasonal tradition.

I should also mention that the profits for this collection are going to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which given the situation of the world over the last… dozen or two months, at least… seems like a service which could definitely use some funding. Since I’m not in the US, I will mention for those who wish to give directly that there is a Canadian version of the same thing.

The Big Finale (with a small mystery)

The last of the October spook-lets is up, although you will discover there is no 27 October.

Was that day? Did it actually happen? I have no memory of missing a day. Did I cease existing then? Was there insufficient belief in me?

I’m going to go eat some tiny chocolate bars rather than ponder further.