Die GerĂŒchte meines Todes …

Yet again it has been months since I’ve written anything on here, and even longer since I abandoned the blue time-suck of doom (Faceache) and for that I feel kinda bad. Kinda. Hahaha. (Apologies if you’ve tagged me or messaged me in the last six months or so. I promise that I’ll get around to logging back in properly to check that sort of stuff at some point.) As it is every time that I log in I see the screamingly awful amount of notifications &c. that I have and just back away from the computer slowly…

Anyhoo, I’ve been up to all sorts over the last few months here in Deutschland, want to know what? Of course you don’t but I’m going to put it down here anyway. 😛

First a bit of news about my writing. Last week my prose poem ‘This Creature, This Creature, This Wonderful Creature’ was released on the world’s premier horror fiction podcast Pseudopod, read by Christopher Reynaga of Point Mystic. You can listen to it below, or click here to listen to the entire episode.

The piece is about addiction, obsession, loss, and lovely stuff like that.

I also received an absolutely amazing review of my chapbooks Hinterland and We are the Makers of Maps from Acep Hale on the Lovecraft Ezine. A review that totally blew me away to honest. You can read that by clicking here but I think one of my favourite things in the review is this.

This slight volume simply begs to be read again and like a piece by Satie these simple phrases build and assert themselves with greater force as you read and re-read. Baader’s fiction colors and infects the reader’s view of the world.

Fucking awesome.

My story ‘Calan Mai’, a weird folk horror piece set in South Wales, has also been accepted by another well known horror fiction venue but as the contract hasn’t been signed, and I don’t know when it will be published, I’ll have to wait til a later date to announce that properly.

My next collection of stories and poems is still ‘under construction’, as it were, and will be released at some point in the future. I’ve thrown pieces out, put them back in, edited and unedited, and generally fucked around with it so much that it’s quite different to how I originally envisioned it. Therefore I’ll probably end up renaming it.

I’m also working on a couple of longer pieces that are coming along super slowly but that I’m really rather excited by. The first, Kolera, is about a city that thinks itself and empire and the second, Five Days in Traumstadt, about a city poised at the edge of dreaming. Like I said though, they are coming along slowly. Even for me.

Now, ze Germany…

Well, this place is certainly interesting. I’ll give it that. Before coming here I always thought of Germany as being a tad more modern than the UK, and in many ways it is, but here everything is still closed on Sundays. Something that hasn’t been the case in the UK since I was a nipper, which is a long time ago. This is rather nice to be honest but it’s super frustrating when you are working on a Saturday and lunch out getting stuff in for Sunday dinner as you’re knackered. Knackered being something that I quite often am after work, oh my poor old bones.

Since getting here I’ve been putting my Archaeology degree to good use by working as a stage hand. All those years of studying and my immense student debt all seem worth it now. Hahahahahaha. It seems that there isn’t much use for an Archaeologist that sprechen nur Englisch for some reason. Also there isn’t the same level of commercial involvement in Archaeology here and you tend to need a post-graduate qualification of some kind to get even basic digging work. Ach well.

There also isn’t the same level of engagement with prehistory here that there is in the UK. Last winter K____ and I went to visit the Straße der Megalithkultur; a tourist route near Bremen featuring, you guessed it, megaliths. I was surprised by how hidden many of the sites are. Surrounded by forest on all sides with only minimal information in the form of info boards. The monuments seemed hidden from view as though they were something to be ashamed of. As though, whilst they had to be preserved, they were not something of which people were to be reminded. Something that, given the misuse of prehistory and ancient culture here in the recent past, isn’t something one should be too surprised by.

The interesting thing about this seeming hiding away of monuments is that it brought to mind on of the main criticism of Christopher Tilley’s phenomenological approaches to megalithic monuments. I’ve written about, and criticised, Tilley’s approach before (click here if you’re interested) but the complete arboreal immersion of these sites illustrates quite well the fact that we don’t have the foggiest, for the most part, where Britain’s ancient forests were and where they were not. We therefore can rarely say with any certainty which monuments were visible and from where. In the UK these monuments are generally in well a heavily farmed and open landscape where the view is not obscured by dense forestry.

The Visbek Bride’s “train”, a massive burial monument surrounded by forest.

Tl;dr: Six years later I still think that Chris Tilley was talking mince.

Speaking of work, I’m earning here about what I would be earning in the UK for the same job but bugger me does the cash go further. I’m able to live as if I was working a full time job in the UK but only working 2-3 days a week. Almost everything here is cheaper than the UK. Rent, food, beer, you know, the important stuff costs comparatively sweet FA. The only thing that I’ve noticed being more expensive is electronics and seeing as I rarely buy electronic doo-dads that doesn’t matter.

Cheaper still than Germany is Czech. K____ and I went to Kalovy Vary in Czechia for a few days last month and even though Kalovy Vary is a tourist destination (favoured by a bunch of Russian oligarchs apparently) it’s still markedly cheaper. Czechia is also absolutely gorgeous.

Kalovy Vary is surrounded by hills and the view from above the town is an absolutely spectacular of something I’ve recently discovered is known as a landskein. The interweaving of hills into the distance.

Not put through a dozen filters at all, honest guv.

The town is also known for its hot springs, the water of which people drink for their supposed health giving properties. I gave it a try. I would suggest, should you ever visit, that you don’t. Just. Fucking. Don’t. It’s like drinking the bath water after Satan has been washing his ringpiece.

Another thing that struck me as we drove to Kalvy Vary is quite how fucked the surrounding towns are compared to Kalovy Vary itself. One town not far from the German border, the name of which escapes me at present, was so dishevelled I thought that it was abandoned until I saw someone emerging from a house. The fall of Communism has clearly not been a boon for a great many people.

We also discovered a wonderful autobahn junction that was like driving along a Moebius Strip, it just seemed to keep on looping back on itself until it deemed fit to spew you forth onto the autobahn.

On the way back from Czechia we called in to Schwarzenberg to see K____’s parents and I got the chance to see their local space museum in Muldenhammer. The museums had some pretty cool stuff, like a bust of Yuri Gagrin, but the most fun thing for me was the life size model of one of the modules from the Mir Space Station. #geekjoy

There’s plenty more that I could write about but I’m going to leave it at this for now. I may post some more stuff soon, but knowing me I probably won’t. Hahahaha.

Are We a Wave?

Recently the Canadian author Simon Strantzas issued his Weird Manifesto, see below, I would like to string a few words together to contribute to the discussion. Some, or all, of these words may be utter baloney and I look forward to hearing why.

Simon Strantzas Manifesto

I posit that if ‘The Weird’ is indeed a thing which is a part of, but distinguishable within, the wider horror literature it has grown from Nicolay’s ‘Weird Renaissance’ which we have seen unfolding over the last decade or so and that it has emerged as a reaction to the malaise which currently infects the world. The anglophone world at least.

If there is a New Wave of Horror called The Weird then it has emerged from the long in the tooth tradition of Weird Fiction; which dates back over a century to the works of Arthur Machen and Robert W. Chambers and continues on to the modern works of people like W.H. Pugmire, Laird Barron, and Joseph Pulver Sr. What would this New Wave be, where has it come from, and what is it that differentiates it from both Weird Fiction and the wider Horror milieu?

Before I begin this, what is sure to be, rambling and malt fuelled exegesis I should point out that to imply that a work is a part of this New Wave is no judgement of quality of the work nor is a condemnation of work which may not fall within the definition I am about to try and eke out. Texts may fulfill many and varied functions, some of which may place them within The Weird/New Wave and some of which may not.

Sometimes the function of a text may be seemingly contradictory such as the role Homer’s Odyssey plays in both reinforcing the Greek masculine heroic tradition whilst also lampooning it. Or like Spenser’s Fairy Queen which is both an fantastical poem of adventure and an expression of courtly love from Spenser towards Queen Elizabeth I and therefore both an exercise in myth making and a piece of political maneuvering. A story that is New Wave can be both a horror story and something aside from a horror story. It can be this consciously, as in the case of Spenser’s political maneuvering, or perhaps unconsciously, as in Homer’s ridiculing of Athenian machismo.

The Weird/New Wave of Horror(WNW) is a current within the Horror field that flows from the Weird Renaissance and is notable for being socially conscious. By that I don’t necessarily mean that it a social conscience but that it is aware of, and consciously influenced by, social issues. It is concerned not only with telling terrifying tales but with imbuing them with something more. In the same way that New Wave Science Fiction was about more than dazzling space adventures and fantastic technological marvels so WNW is weird fiction plus


I would like to forward a few points that I think may be able to help identify WNW.

  • WNW tends towards literary experimentation and draws influence from across the literary spectrum as well as the other, not literary, arts.
  • WNW revels in genre convention as much as it  rejects them.
    There may be a vampire in this story but it lives in the upper atmosphere and is a comment on PTSD in veterans.
    This woman may be fleeing from a terrible sea creature but her struggle also reflects the experiences of survivors, and victims, of domestic violence and abuse.
  • WNW is both Modernist and Postmodernist.
  • WNW waxes philosophical. It can be metaphysical or phenomenological, nihilistic or antinatal, epistemological and maybe even esthetic.

Of course many texts that were written before this WNW will feature many of these elements but it is the amount of them that are now being released by authors who talk to one another than I feel may make Stantzas claim true.

 

Why is the Weird Waving Now?

Here I can only speak of the anglophone world as that is the extent of my, albeit limited, knowledge on this subject. I would however be extremely interested in finding out whether anything that I say here rings true elsewhere.

The New Wave of Science Fiction emerged in the 1960s at the height of the long drawn out existential threat that was the Cold War. It was an age of generalised fear but it was also a time of wonder and potential. The space race was in full swing with its attendant technological and engineering wonders, revolutions were erupting across the globe, the civil rights movement was at its peak, new feminisms were emerging. The world was changing amid the threat from the insanity of nuclear war. There was hope as well as fear.

The last fifteen years have been filled with anything but hope. The abject failure of the movement to prevent the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan marks a shift in consciousness for many of the millions involved. If that failed then what can we do? The years since the economic crash of 2008 have been even bleaker as the ongoing assault against our quality of life has been relentless, even when faced with all the resistance people can muster. Suicide rates in the UK are increasing at a terrifying rate amongst those hundreds of thousands forced deeper and deeper into despair as they are forced down in greater and greater poverty. Unemployment is rising as unemployment support is cut to ribbons. Children go to school hungry despite their parents skipping meals in order to feed them. The media is relentless in its demonisation of the poorest in society whilst also equating those poor souls fleeing terror with the very horror from which they run. The far right grows in confidence as the left finds itself unable to become a force of opposition. What left that there is.

Many pin their hopes on the likes of Corbyn or Sanders whilst many more remember the betrayals of supposedly left wing parties. Even those hopeful few must feel the nagging doubt that they are setting themselves up for disappointment. The trade unions are toothless and more concerned with maintaining amicable relationships with the bosses than building a brighter tomorrow for workers.

There is no hope.

Into this malaise, this generalised anxiety, comes The Weird.

Science Fiction, as already mentioned, experienced its New Wave in the 1960s. Horror has never experienced such an event. There was the Horror Boom of the 1980s that saw horror authors such as Clive Barker and Ramsey Campbell become household names and there was a surge of interest in the field. There was however no gestalt shift in relation to the social turmoil of the period. From SF we saw Cyberpunk emerge and from horror there was
 Splatterpunk. There was, so far as I’m aware, no current, no scene, within horror casting a wry eye over the excesses and catastrophes of the day.

Now though there is most definitely a trend emerging within the Horror, and Weird Fiction, scene that is most certainly conscious of the social context in which it is operating. In his essay, ‘Why Weird, Why Now?: On the Rationale for Weird Fiction’s Resurgence’, Kurt Fawver says that:

[…]the weird has, at least in part, experienced a renaissance in the early 21st Century due to its reflection of globalization’s impact upon cultural interchange and connectedness as well as its ability to play an oppositional role to the Information Age’s deluge of explanations and connectedness.

I would add to this that The Weird is also uniquely able to unpick and interrogate the bleakness that surrounds us on a daily basis. Unlike the SF New Wave however The Weird isn’t born in an age of hope and so it offers no promises of escape. Something that, for all the fantastical and often magical events of the stories, offers something of a weird verisimilitude to the reader.

We know that, as things stand, there is little hope in the world. Perhaps The Weird, by throwing its strange light onto the tribulations of the early 21st Century can help us understand the horrors with which we are presently faced.
Of course, it is also highly likely that Strantzas was taking the piss a bit and I’ve just made myself look like a complete twonk. 😀

As much as I enjoy people commenting on my blog I think that, should people wish to discuss this, it would be great if they did so on the Thinking Horror Facebook group. (LINK) Please feel free to pop on by and find this posted there to tell me how wrong I am. 🙂

Kurt Fawver’s essay appeared in Volume One of Thinking Horror: A Journal of Horror Philosophy available in print and as an ebook from Amazon.

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

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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 outrĂ© 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 Ligotti, Rangel 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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