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Tis the Season of Good Will to All

Unless that is you happen to be homeless in Derbyshire.

The poster above is part of a campaign to stop people giving money to people begging on the streets. This coalition of bastardry includes the local police, the city council, and even local homelessness charities. You can read the fuckers gloating about their bastardry in the Derby Telegraph here.

I’ve written before about self righteous bam pots reinforcing the notion of the deserving and underserving poor, you can read that here if you like, and this is the flip side of that same coin.

There are so many things about this campaign that are wrong headed that I’m going to have to resort to bullet points lest this post should descend into nothing more than inarticulate rage and me simply repeating the word CUNTS over and over again. In bold. With CAPS LOCK on.

  • Beggars make a lot of money at Christmas: So fucking what? If someone is reliant on asking for money from strangers then they are going to be fucked in the month of January when people realise quite how much they spunked on buying plastic bullshit for the kids at Christmas and when the first credit card bills come in. People reliant on making money on the street need the extra cash from Christmas good will because they won’t make much for weeks after people have sobered up come New Year’s Day.
  • They’ll just spend it on drink and/or drugs: Again I ask, so fucking what? As if it’s any of your business what a person spends their money on. I’ve lived on the streets and made money by begging, busking and selling the Big Issue. I’ll tell you one thing for a fact. I spent far more money on drink and drugs when I was living in a house and working. Was it anyone else’s business what I spent my wages on? No it fucking wasn’t. If someone is desperate enough to ask for money on the street then they need help. Give it to them. Cunts.
  • They’ll just spend it on drink and/or drugs: Two bullet points for this one as it is trotted out by wankers so often. This also presupposes that people begging or otherwise making money on the streets are alcoholics or are addicted to other drugs. There are many, many reasons why someone could be begging. They could have had their benefits stopped, that’s hardly unheard of is it? They could have mental health issues and have been failed by those supposed to offer them support, again, this is hardly unheard of. They could just be completely skint and want to buy something nice for their kids. There are as many possible reasons for someone to be begging as there are people. Stop being a judgemental bigoted cunt.
  • They’ll just spend it on drink and/or drugs: OK, three. ALSO, if someone does have an issue with substance use then they are likely going to be having a pretty shit time of it if it has gotten so bad that they have to ask strangers for money on the street. They are likely in pain or are going to be in pain if they don’t find a way to fend off withdrawal. If you can stop someone being in pain then you should do it. Unless you’re a cunt. It’s true that they maybe should seek help in sobering up but you’re not an addiction support service are you? You’re just some schmoe walking down the street. The only way that you can help is by giving them a quid. Fuck it, it’s Christmas. Give them a tenner and make their fucking day.
  • You should give to registered charities instead: Really? See, I spent a lot of time skippering out in various cities in Britain and Ireland in my teens and twenties. You know how much help I had from registered charities? Fuck all. Sure, there are people who do get a lot of help and support from various charities but not everyone either can access that help and not everyone wants to access it. So yeah, bung a quid in the collecting pot for Shelter or Crisis or whoever but also give a couple of quid to the lad down the street who’s hanging on a ten bag and feels like his skin is trying to crawl off his flesh. Doing the latter will actually make a difference in someone’s life.
  • Some of them aren’t even really homeless: This one is really fucking insidious. It’s functionally the same as the bullshit we see with regards the unemployed and those who need incapacity/sickness benefits. Insinuating that an unspecified number are ‘cheats’ and therefore casting suspicion on all. Aye, I’m sure that there are one or two ‘professional’ beggars out there, just as there are a handful of benefits ‘cheats’, but the number is statistically so low that they may as well not exist. So if anyone says this to you smack them upside the head and do math at them. Then call them a cunt.

    There is a massive housing crisis in this country, despite there being a plethora of empty houses, and it is going to keep getting worse. The benefits system has been completely decimated by both the Labour and Conservative parties and so we are going to see more and more people made homeless with no recourse to benefits. We are therefore going to see more and more people forced to swallow their pride and beg for money on the streets. If people buy into the sort of bullshit peddled by scum like Derby Police, the City Council, and these cash grabbing bastard charities then we are never going to move towards taking those actually responsible for the increasingly shit situation to task.

If you want to get in touch with any of the people or groups responsible for this utterly horrible piece of shit campaign then you will likely find the following phone numbers useful. Be polite, or don’t, I don’t care, they’re cunts aren’t they?

  • The Padley Group: 01332 774480
  • No Second Night Out: 020 7710 0550
  • Derby City Mission: 01332 460346
  • Derby Homes: 01332 888777
  • City Councellor Asaf Afzal: 01332 643635 (Mobile: 07812 301437)

‘after’ by Scott Nicolay

Scott Nicolay‘s novella ‘after’ was released by Dim Shores a couple of months ago at the same time as they published ‘Rangel’ by Matthew M. Bartlett which I discussed briefly here. I have only just, shame on me, managed to find the time to read Scott’s story and, as ever with both Scott’s work and the stories put out by Dim Shores, I was impressed. This review contains some spoilers so feel free to skip to the tl;dr by clicking here or scroll past the image below to read on.

Still here?
Good.

‘after’ is set in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy which was a hurricane, don’t know why American’s would want to call it a ‘superstorm’ when it already has a perfectly good name. It also shows something of a lack of imagination. Seriously, if you’re going to rename something at last be a bit witty about it: see here. A lack of imagination however is not something one could accuse Scott Nicolay of and, my bad taste quips aside, Hurrican Sandy devastated parts of the north-east American coast and caused immense suffering and hardship to those caught in its path. In fact Nicolay dedicates his story thus

With compassion toward all those who suffered in the path of Superstorm Sandy and contempt toward all those who sought to profit from their suffering.

Cards on the table eh Scott?

‘after’ follows the experiences of Colleen, a middle aged woman whose holiday home on the Jersey Shore was in an area that suffered the attentions of Sandy and who is being allowed, along with some of her neighbours, to return to the area in order to ascertain the damage done to her property and to recover anything that she can. The area is under curfew and so she will have to return on the bus provided by the authorities at the end of the day.
One thing that I have noticed with the writing of Scott Nicolay is that he is never in a hurry for his story to get where it is going. He prefers instead to take his time, building both character, setting and, in the case of ‘after’, a sense of grim claustrophobia.

As Colleen travels back to Jersey Shore and walks through the unfamiliar familiar landscape of her neighbourhood we go on a much longer journey through her life and the events that led her to where we meet her. To the point where she is travelling, without her husband, into an situation of uncertainty and, potential, danger. The husband, and the reason for his absence, is the dark centre around which this story revolves. He is a drunk who has, in the past, assaulted her and from whom there is always the threat of violence making Colleen’s home life one of tension and fear. This is why she has chosen to travel to the holiday home alone and why, on the spur of the moment when waiting to return on the bus, she decides that she is going to remain in her house which has no power and no gas.

At its most basic level ‘after’ is a monster story. Colleen, whilst exploring the town turned upside down in search of supplies, encounters an immense creature which, upon noticing her, gives chase. Colleen manages to outrun it only to discover that it has set up home in the basement of her house. So begins the ‘meat’ of the story as Colleen attempts to fit her time in what should have been a sanctuary around this monster’s presence.

Of course, this being Scott Nicolay, ‘after’ isn’t just a monster story. There are two monsters present in the work; both of whom instil conflicting dreads in Colleen as she weighs up the threat from the monster that she knows against that from the monster she doesn’t. It is here that we get the real meat of the story. Not in the threat from the creeper, as Colleen refers to the creature, but in the sense of hemmed in isolation that she experiences. The fear of the beast in the basement and the regularity, at first, of its movements are bleakly similar the fear of her husband; though the apparent randomness of his alcohol fuelled abuse is why the monster wins out as a choice of housemate.

This is the strength of Scott’s work with ‘after’; his unflinching look at domestic abuse and the survival mechanisms which a person living in such a situation develops in order to survive and his graphic illustration of the feeling that the person doing the abuse is actually protecting the victim from something much worse: when the creature consumes a would be rapist. ‘after’ is definitely the strongest work that I’ve read by Nicolay and continues on the trajectory of exploring the effects of masculinity through the medium of the weird as hinted at in his debut collection ‘Ana Kai Tangata’. I am now thoroughly looking forward to reading Scott’s next collection.
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tl;dr
This is a great monster story but it’s also about domestic abuse and survival.
Unfortunately the Dim Shores edition of ‘after’ sold out extremely quickly however I believe that ‘after’ will be in Nicolay’s next collection which should be out in 2017.

Scott Nicolay hosts The Outer Dark podcast (now with added Justin Steele) and is currently highlighting on his blog classic weird fiction stories that do not receive the attention they deserve. He is doing this in conjunction with Michael Bukowski who provided the illustration for ‘after’.

Help Needed: Dunkirk Refugee Solidarity

On Monday morning some friends of mine left South Wales to head to France and the refugee camp that has grown near Dunkirk. For the most part these are people that have fled the horror that, thanks to the fascists of Daesh, is now Syria.

The camp is little more than a muddy field with few amenities and thousands of people, amongst them families with small children, who are living in tents. Living in tents, in northern Europe, in December, having just fled the Middle East. It is going to be a cold, wet, and harsh winter.

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One of the shelters erected on Monday 30-11-15 by volunteers.

Despite the way that the Middle by the media, as some sort of permanently bombed out hell hole, these people at the Dunkirk camp aren’t the veterans some of grim post-apocalyptic survival ordeal. They aren’t fighters, they aren’t Mad Max or Daryl Dixon. They are ordinary people who until recently were going to work in the morning when they sent their kids to school, they were worrying about bills, and work, and their kids getting good grades at school. They were just like you and me. Now ask yourself; not only what would make you flee your home but also: How fucking bad must home be to make living in a tent in a muddy field in France, in the middle of winter, a better option?

One of the shelters being constructed.
One of the shelters being constructed.

The shelters that are being erected by volunteers are miles better than the tents that people are presently living in but they are still not enough. Made from tarpaulin and bent over saplings with wooden pallets for floors they are still extremely basic.

We need more supplies, more people, more skills. We need more money. Please, if you can help out in any way then do. Please donate and share the fundraising page or, if you can help with practical skills and supplies then get in touch. If you comment on this post saying how you can help then I will get your email address and be in touch.

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The governments of Europe are doing squat to help these people -and in fact seem dead set on making the situation worse- so it is up to us. It is up to regular, ordinary people to step up, as we always do, and do the right thing where governments are incapable and unwilling.

You can support the effort by clicking here and donating to our fund raiser.
(and don’t forget to share in on Facebook, Twitter, etc…)

Follow On, Boys

Follow on, boys
follow on
With the rattling dust
of bones pro patria
follow on.

An angel with
a sword of flame and cries of war.
Lion, bloodied and rampant, by her side.

Follow on, boys
Follow on
Beat back the desert’s spread
With fist and coward cry
Follow on.

Forget for now
That I, Enheduanna, was and
words, healing, and numbers were my gift

Follow on, boys
Follow on
For you know me well
For love, boys, strike me down
Follow on.

RITE BETTERER

YA author Diana Urban has a list of 43 words that one should exorcise from one’s writing in order to improve your work. I read it and I have to say tish and tosh, what a load of old balderdash. Therefore here are all 43 of those words crammed like crammed things into a teensy piece of flash fiction.

And also, you said, you replied, in a virtually committal manner, before you paused to ponder upon the question as yet asked. You sit down. Down, down inside each breath you think: inhale/exhale (breathe) as you actually begin to realise that the somewhat futile venture of putting the answer before the horse was literally getting you nowhen. To understand you try something new. Stand up! And slip into third with a nod.

And also, the answerer, who was actually, really, very much the questioner, thought, somehow, that a new perspective on things, virtually speaking, had already begun to help. Just then a rather unexpected, and probably, they felt, quite unnecessary, first began to completely dominate the proceedings.

And also, I couldn’t help but feel from the start that I was basically a tool totally under the control of the maker of words. I was absolutely, from the start, never to wonder -certainly never to think nor ponder- about what it was I was to reach for. What was the answer? I was certainly never going to find the question and so the answer would definitely elude me. What else was there for me to do but shrug?

 

I should add that I know nothing of Diana Urban beyond this article and I’m sure that she’s more than likely an absolutely lovely person and a fine writer of words.

AND SO…

This.

Liberate Tutemet

And so…YOU’RE GONNA write another story. Flash fiction? A novella? You don’t know – having not yet decided (and you’re buggered if you even know WHAT the fuck it’ll be about).

And so, you’ll begin a sentence with ‘and so’, firstly: just because you CAN – and secondly because the rules are supposed to be fucked with. <<<Let those modifiers and participles dangle. If you LIKE the sound of ‘em, let ‘em swaaaaay.

You also like to see sticklers shudder when they see you giving a big YES to one of their no-nos. It would be worth mentioning at this point that BECAUSE you refuse to adhere to the laws and destructions, neither can you not employ double negatives.

Also this: the subject’s not THAT important to you. The theme, the structure, the characterisation….it’ll all just COME together as it always does; as it has done many times before. You…

View original post 412 more words

On Paris

I’ve just woken up to the horrible news from Paris, I’ve not seen the news from elsewhere yet but it seems that equally horrifying things have happened in other parts of the world too, and, well.. fucking hell my Facebook feed is alive with sorrow. Which is to be expected.

Unfortunately what is also to be expected is a backlash of people blaming the refugees who have fled to our shores for the attack. I’m 100% certain that we are going to see further calls to build up the walls around fortress Europe in order to prevent this happening again. I’m equally certain that the far right are going to use this as an excuse to attack refugees and minority groups and that whilst most, otherwise right thinking people, will not agree with the far right they will “understand” –as though the refugees were somehow responsible for the attacks.

What these people do not understand is that the horror from the streets of France is exactly why we need to be doing our utmost to help the people fleeing across the Mediterranean and trying to find safe harbour with us. The violence we have seen in Paris is exactly what these people are fleeing and has, by the sounds of it, been perpetrated by the same fascists, or their sympathisers, that the refugees are fleeing.

I’ve read reports of people in Paris taking strangers, many strangers, into their homes to help them escape the streets. Solidarity. Mutual Aid. Humanity. This is a perfect illustration of both what we, as people, do at times like this and what we, as people, need to do on a larger scale.

Now that we in Europe have had a taste of the horror, of the violence, that these fascists wreak then what other choice do we have, if we want to retain our humanity, other than to do all that we can to help? We need boats to get people to safety, we need accommodation for people when they get here and, if we want to help them return to their homes, we need to arm the people who are fighting the fascists on the home front.

Open the borders, arm the Kurds, and help them to rebuild afterwards.

Holy Howie, What a Furore!

I’ve eaten so much popcorn recently my stomach hurts. Actually, that’s a bit of a fib. I’ve actually been reading the internet a lot and doing this:

jackson popcorn

The reason for this is that at the weekend’s World Fantasy Awards it was announced that the award in its present form, a bust of the great author H.P. Lovecraft, will be being changed. The reason for this change is that Lovecraft held some odious views that were rather extreme -even for the early 20th Century- and it was felt that an award which seeks to honour the best in the fantastical writing of the “world” shouldn’t be an image of someone who detested quite so many of the world’s inhabitants. I’ve written about this a wee bit in the past, see here and here and here and here, and so in this post I am probably going to tread over some things that I have already discussed.

The decision to change the form of the award has, tiresomely and inevitably, led to some in the weird fiction/spec lit community losing their proverbial shit. Something that I have found deeply amusing -hence the popcorn.

The complaints about the change in form of the award have a number of common elements that I’ll discuss briefly here.

  • Censorship: You’re trying to stop people reading Lovecraft!
  • Political Correctness: It’s gone mad I tell ye!
  • Chronobigotry: You can’t judge people of the past by our standards.
  • Pseudotradtionalism: The award has always been the old racist from Providence!
  • Generalised Historical Douchery: What about other problematic authors who have awards?

Once I’ve had a wee chat about the shit losing then I’ll talk about why the bust should have been changed, why it doesn’t matter that it’s changed, and the form I feel that it should take in the future.

Censorship

This argument, and here I use the term extremely loosely, goes something along the lines of: “By having the form of this award changed you are trying to erase Lovecraft from the canon of literature and stop people reading him.”  Now; I am sure that there are some people who would like to see Lovecraft erased from the canon and for people not to read him because of his virulent racism. These people are, however, extremely marginal voices: many of whom have probably read little, or any, Lovecraft and are simply reacting in classic internet style to things. The majority of people don’t want to stop people from reading Lovecraft -perish the thought- nor want to erase him from the canon. Even the most ardent of critics much surely agree that he has had a tremendous effect upon the writing of fantastic literature throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries.

To censor something is to physically prevent someone from experiencing something: to prevent them from reading, watching, or hearing something. To have Lovecraft censored would mean to have his books pulled off the shelves, removed from libraries, not discussed in schools or universities. Something that is patently not happening, that is not going to happen, and that nobody wants to happen. Lovecraft’s books will continue to fill the shelves of bookstores, they will continue to be studied and taught, there will still be conventions inspired by and in honour of him. Even if censorship were truly possible at this moment in the 21st Century it is so palpably clear that there is no censorship going on with regards Lovecraft that this argument seems almost demented. Perhaps the works of old HPL were a little too effective on these particular fans?

Political Correctness

Political correctness has long been a phantasm for the right wing to rail against and it is an accusation that is often closely tied to that of censorship. To the right ‘political correctness’ is a weapon used by liberals and the left to silence those who hold opposing views. So strident have the right been in their domination of the cultural discourse around political correctness that the term itself is now rendered almost meaningless.

In the case of the World Fantasy Award and the Lovecraft fanboys this term is often wheeled out in conjunction with the term “Social Justice Warrior”. Social Justice Warriorism being a very vocal trend within, mostly, American, mostly, liberalism that has seized upon radical and semi-radical ideas but attempts to apply them to situations in a manner that is completely bereft of any wider, or deeper, class analysis. They are more concerned with the appearance of a problem than with addressing the structural issues through actual workplace or community organising.

With the brouhaha over the World Fantasy Award I daresay that there has been a large element of this. However the drive to change the form of the award was mostly fuelled by people who think that an award such as the WFA should be inclusive rather than divisive. Not to exclude those who are fans of Lovecraft nor those who write in the fantastically horrible universe he shared with the world.

I think that the English comedian Stewart Lee has it covered when it comes to political correctness so I’ll leave it up to him to explain why it isn’t a bad thing.

Chronobigotry

I think that I just coined a word. Chronobigotry is what I’m going to call it when people make bigoted judgements of people and cultures of the past. An example of this could be those who refuse to accept that ancient peoples were capable of great feats of engineering and so it must have been aliens that built the Great Pyramids, Stonehenge, and so on. Chronobigotry is also what those who are upset over the change in the form of the WFA are accusing those who sought the change of. That they/we are guilty of not taking into account the time and culture that HP Lovecraft lived in and so are overreacting to his views on race, class, and so on.

I would actually like to turn this accusation on its head and point out that it is those who are making this claim who are misunderstanding the times in which Lovecraft lived. It is the blanket assumption of the chronobigots that everyone was a massive racist dick in the early 20th Century and before and that Lovecraft was merely expressing the commonly held views of the majority of the populace. This doesn’t take into account however that many of Lovecraft’s close personal friends were astounded by his beliefs and some even pulled him up on them as being beyond the pale. His views were so extreme that they even managed to make the racist, and good friend of HPL, Robert E. Howard soften his own views on the matter.

There’s also the fact that the early 20th Century was a time of great social flux and there were many people who were trying to use race, as they ever do, as a means to weaken working class struggles. Something vigorously resisted by unions such as The Industrial Workers of the World who sought to organise all workers regardless of race.

Lovecraft may very well have been a “man of his time” but so were all the people fighting against racism. Their existence, and their successes, put to lie the excuses made by those in the 21st Century about the acceptability of Lovecraft’s bigotry.

Pseudotraditionalism

There are also those who have, as part of their complaint, the argument that the bust is “The Howie” and was always meant to be so. That it is an award in Lovecraft’s honour. This is simply not the case. The first meeting of the World Fantasy Convention was in Providence and so it was decided that the World Fantasy Award should, for that year, represent Providence’s most well known author of the fantastic: Howard Phillips Lovecraft. It was never the intention that the award should remain in that form and the form was chosen because of the place of the conference rather than because of Lovecraft’s massive contribution to the field.

I don’t know why it didn’t change the next year -I’m assuming that organising a conference is quite a stressful and time consuming endeavour. This being the case I can quite imaging a stressed out and overworked committee having a meeting and deciding: “Fuck it, let’s just use the same one as last year.” Which is a fantastic tribute to the legacy of the man: “Fuck it…”

There’s also the fact that traditions can, and do, change and that some, for better or worse, disappear. In Holland there’s a tradition of people wearing blackface and dressing up as Schwarz Pete -Santa Claus’ assistant. This is, obviously, unacceptable and is a tradition that is best relegated to museums and textbooks. So the argument from tradition is one that misunderstands the origin of the award, does a disservice to Lovecraft, and in general hasn’t got a leg to stand on.

Generalised Historical Douchery

This argument is similar to the chronobigotry argument but it is specific to the various authors who have awards named after them who also held vile views or partook in vile activities. It generally goes along the lines of: “But X author was a racist and they have an award named after them!” A prime example could be The Edgar Allen Poe award given out by the Mystery Writers of America. Poe was a nonce. He married his 13 year old cousin. Which is extremely icky, to say the least. However Poe did not write stories littered with references to pubescent girls.

This is the issue with Lovecraft. That he was so extreme in his prejudice, so strident in his racism, that it does seep into his work, overtly and covertly, time and time again. His racism reaches down the decades long after his death and smacks us about the face.

There’s also the matter that the awards named for other ‘problematic’* figures are, in general, in other fields. We are talking about the field of the fantastical which is, broadly speaking, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror and all the bits in between these categories. So why people not involved in these other fields should be wanting to clean up other people’s houses, as it were, is beyond me. We focus on the things that we care about and those people who have been pushing for the bust to be changed clearly care about the field of the fantastic.

There’s also the rather awkward matter that the World Fantasy Award isn’t *actually* named after Lovecraft… Just sayin’.

Why the bust should have been changed, why it doesn’t matter, and what form the award should take

This one should be a no brainer to be honest, even leaving aside Lovecraft’s vile beliefs. The award is supposed to be the World Fantasy Awards, the emphasis here being on the word “World”. If the award is to be signifying the achievements of authors from all across the world then why should it take the form of a long dead white Protestant American man? Why should it take the form of any individual person from any country or culture when it is supposed to signify a global field of literature? The Poe award, at least, is only focussed on work published in America. The award should never have remained as Lovecraft after that first convention in Providence and that it has taken decades to address this is a failing of the World Fantasy Convention.

The reason that the changing of the bust doesn’t really matter is that, at present, the World Fantasy Convention is an almost solely anglophone affair. It issues awards to books published in English in English speaking parts of the world. To call itself the World Fantasy Convention is a joke. In its 40 year history the convention has only taken place outside the USA five times -in England and in Canada. Until the convention takes into account the rest of the world then it doesn’t really matter what form the award takes as it has little to do with the majority of the world.

Should the convention spread out from the anglophone world however, something that I would love to see, then it would be rather important what form the award takes and the form of a dead, racist, white American would not be suitable in the slightest. The award would have to represent the deep history and global scope of fantastical storytelling. Because of this, and as I have said since the brouhaha kicked off last year, I feel that the award should take the form of a cuneiform tablet bearing the opening of the Epic of Gilgamesh. The world’s oldest recorded fantastical story. A story from the cradle of civilisation. Which just so happens to be the Middle East which will, no doubt, piss off all the racists and douchebags no end.

So; yay, the award is changing and meh, who cares really? Well, I possibly do as I’ve just written a bucketload of words about it…

*God, I hate how the word ‘problematic’ has been ruined by internet douchebags.

October Reading

As the leaves turn to russet gold and red and the wind begins to bite the year begins to turn into the season for reading chilling stories. Barnes and Noble have offered up some suggestions for what they call ‘gothic’ tales to give you a scare this month and so I thought I would add my own five to their list.

The Grimscribe’s Puppets: Joseph S. Pulver Sr. (ed.)

Grimscribe's Puppets cover
Click to buy

The B&N list starts off with the newly released edition of Thomas Ligotti’s two collections Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe. Whilst these are indeed fantastic collections I want to add the Joeseph S Pulver edited collection The Grimscribe’s Puppets. This is an anthology of work inspired by Ligotti and penned by some of the most exciting writers in the world of the weird renaissance, including: Scott Nicolay, Livia Llewellyn, Nicole Cushing, Michael Cisco, Gemma Files, and more. The table of contents really does read like a who’s who of the modern weird.
Stand out stories: ‘Furnace’ by Livia Llewellyn, and ‘Eyes Exchange Bank’ by Scott Nicolay.

Gateways to Abomination: Matthew M. Bartlett

Click to buy

Matthew M. Bartlett’s Gateways to Abomination is one of the most interesting books that I’ve read over the last year or so. Featuring a series of very short stories and vignettes Bartlett paints within this collection a sordid, and extremely creepy, picture of the city of Leeds, Mass. A city whose very fibre is permeated with an ancient witch cult which perverts and debases all who live within the city’s borders and which propagates its malign influence through the local radio station: WXXT.

Stand out story: ‘path’

Ana Kai Tangata – Tales of the Outer, the Other, the Damned, and the Doomed: Scott Nicolay

Click to buy

Scott Nicolay’s fantastic collection Ana Kai Tangata (Meaning ‘the cave that devours man’) contains eight novella length expeditions that take us off the edge of the map. Into the Outer Dark perhaps? 😉 You can read my review of the collection here.
Stand out story: I’ve already tagged ‘Eyes Exchange Bank’ above so here I’ll recommend the titular ‘Ana Kai Tangata’

 

Blood Will Have its Season: Joseph S. Pulver Sr.

Click to buy

As well as being a marvellous curator of weird stories for anthologies Joe Pulver is also one of the Weird’s more outré writers combining, as he does, cosmic horror and noir with a hard boiled beat sensibility. Blood Will Have its Season is the first collection of Pulver’s short fiction, published in 2009, which he has been producing since the 1990s. He’s well known for his love of Robert Chambers’ King in Yellow stories and the decadent aesthetic gets a dark and disturbing overhaul in many of the stories contained in this volume. The collection was also recently reissued as an eBook by the Lovecraft Ezine. You can pick that up here.
Stand out story: ‘Blood Will Have its Season’ (Not for the feint hearted.)

Year’s Best Weird Fiction -Volume One: Laird Barron (ed.)

Click to buy

This collection -the first in a series from Undertow Books- came out last year and was edited by Laird Barron (whose collection The Beautiful Thing That Awaits us All is also highly recommended) and brings together some of the finest work produced in the previous year. There are so many fine tales in this collection that I can’t actually pick one, or two even, to single out: the collection is just that good that you should read them all. You can read my review of it here. There will be a second volume of this series released in the next couple of months; this time curated by Kathe Koja ad I can’t wait to read it.

So, if you want some nice dark and disturbing reading to see you through the death of summer as the air becomes ripe with the pungency of rotting leaves then you wouldn’t go far wrong with any of the above. Enjoy. 🙂

 

Oops

I really have been neglecting this blog haven’t I? It’s been nearly two months since I’ve posted anything, sorry about that. Things have been rather interesting, in a Chinese curse kind of a way, of late and I have found myself saying sayonara Scotland and have moved back to South Wales onto a traveller site. It’s been nearly ten years since I lived on site last and it’s soooooo bloody nice to be back in a community. It also helps that the weather has been absolutely gorgeous. Which, after more than a decade in Scotland, is a rather pleasant change: seriously, it’s October and it’s still t-shirt weather. What the hell? 😀

I'm missing Scotland less and less every day.
I’m missing Scotland less and less every day.

The whole ‘interesting’ nature of the last couple of months has meant that, as I’ve been somewhat distracted, I’ve not been writing anywhere near as much as I should have been. I’ve also been without a computer for the last couple of months which doesn’t help. Yeah, yeah, I know I could have been hand writing things, or carving stories in the bleached bones of my enemies or something but a) that takes forever -I type much faster than I carve, b) I really can’t get into writing by hand, I need to be able to delete, retype, re-delete constantly, and finally c) I don’t wanna. :p

Thankfully however a pal of mine, take a bow Mr Mcherpes, has sorted me out with a laptop that I can now use to vomit forth words. So thanks for that man. 🙂 I owe you a Brew or two so I do.

The one positive of not being able to write is that I’ve spent a lot more time reading new stuff. It has to be new as all of my books are presently in boxes in Scotland and so I’ve only had the odd thing to read which I’ve picked up since leaving the land of the leal. Thanks to this I’ve now discovered the amazingly strange and creepy work of Matthew M. Bartlett and the weird goings on in Leeds, Massachusetts.

Bartlett Books

His first two books Gateways to Abomination and The Witch-Cult in Western Massachusetts were both self published and really do trash the notion that all self published material is garbage. Gateways is probably one of the most interesting works to have been released over the last year or so as part of this weird renaissance that we are currently experiencing. Comprised of a number of vignettes and short stories loosely tied together by the bizarre occult radio station WXXT it reads more like a novel composed of disjointed fragments than a collection of short fiction. I really can’t recommend this highly enough and at some point I’m going to write a little something looking at the story ‘path’ which has some really nice feminist things going on.

Bartlett’s second collection, The Witch-Cult in Western Massachusetts, is a who’s who of the devilry and macabre shenanigans of Leeds and the wider area. This wee chapbook is a blackly humorous read and makes for a nice and funny companion piece to the, at times bleakly disturbing, fictions of Gateways.

The third work of Matthew’s that I’ve read recently is the utterly fantastic Rangel. A novella length piece concerning a young girl who disappeared decades ago, her brother who has never been able to get over his sister’s disappearance and -as ever- the dark goings on in Leeds. As with all of Bartlett’s writing this is a wonderful piece to read and he makes great use of the extra space a novella allows in order to build both character and setting with a skill that reinforces him as a WR author to keep a keen eye on. If I have any misgivings about Rangel it’s that t felt like it could have done with being longer. I would have been more than happy if this story were at least twice the length.

Rangel, unlike Gateways and Witch-Cult, was not self published and was released via Sam Cowan’s new publishing house Dim Shores. Dim Shores has been putting out some stellar fiction since its inception just a few months ago. The first piece released was Ghosts in Amber by Jeffrey Thomas (an author who deserves far more recognition and exposure than he has so far received) which, like Rangel, is novella length. Ghosts explores the existential horror of a life wasted through the medium of a middle aged man looking for life outside the one which he has made for himself. It’s a beautifully depressing story -well, it was for me- which unfortunately you will be unlikely to be able to read as it has well and truly sold out as Dim Shores publications are so far limited print runs.

Dim Shores have also published a long novella by Scott Nicolay entitled after which I haven’t read yet but will be doing so shortly. after is set in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into it. One thing that I already like about the novella, before even starting to read it, is the dedication on the opening page.

 

 

With compassion toward all those who suffered in the path of Superstorm Sandy and contempt toward all those who sought to suffer from their suffering.

Seriously, how can anyone not love Nicolay? 😀

All of the Dim Shores releases are illustrated with Ghosts in Amber featuring work by Serhiy Krykun, best known perhaps for his portrait of horror master Thomas LigottiRangel by Aeron Alfrey, and after by Michael Bukowski. As with the writing the illustrations are top notch and all add a great deal to the work.

So, yeah, I’ve not vanished completely. I’ve been doing stuff and reading stuff but I’ve just not been writing stuff. This is something that is now changing. I’m going to try and get back into updating this here blog on a more regular basis and will hopefully have some more fiction heading your way soon.

See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya. ;

___

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