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The Labyrinth Index (Laundry Files, #9)The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This ninth & latest entry in the Laundry Files is narrated by Mhari Murphy, head of the Lords Select Committee on Sanguinary Affairs, and thoroughly cynical PHANG. (Yes, PHANG means exactly what you think it does -- but if you are not familiar with Charles Stross's Lovecraft-flavored version of vampires, this is not the place to start. The Laundry Files are definitely best read in order. Begin with The Atrocity Archives. )

The overall mission this time takes Mhari & several other unhappy Laundry operatives to the USA, where the whole country has forgotten its President. An occult American intelligence service is also trying to bring back Cthulhu from His watery grave -- thus annoying Nyarlathotep, currently in charge of the UK. And potentially destroying our planet.

Are we having fun yet?

Yes, we are. Or at least I was. Stross is at his wittiest & snarkiest when describing some aspects of the US, though he never lets the snark overshadow the dark. This Lovecraftian post-apocalypse spy thriller delivers pretty much everything fans of this series expect, though I found personal relationships occasionally overshadowing the action. Mhari's POV still works for me as a female reader, & I'll be preordering the next Laundry File when it's announced.

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I'm a happy weirdie!

Weird Fiction Review #9 (listed as Fall 2018, but appearing in early 2019) and Spectral Realms #10 (Winter 2019), both edited by S.T. Joshi, are now available.

And I've got new poems in both of them.

Weird Fiction Review #9 -- a truly massive (over 400 pp.!) annual compilation of fiction, poetry, articles, & reviews -- is available from Colorado publisher Centipede Press. Find more information & a sale price here:

Spectral Realms #10, THE twice-yearly journal of weird verse & reviews, is available from Hippocampus Press. This issue offers a full index to issues #1-10. Find ToC & ordering information here:
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Winter Tide (The Innsmouth Legacy, #1)Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very different & character-driven Mythos novel, set in America's Cold War era. Aphra Marsh, the tale's first-person POV, is about as far from a standard Lovecraftian narrator as one can imagine, but perfect for this complex story.

Spy-hunting, Red Scare paranoia, and deadly serious practitioners of both dark & (semi?) white magic all figure into this one, along with references to America's Japanese internment camps. Race relations of the time also inform the plot -- as does the status of women, and the very perilous status of non-straight folks (male and female). That's a lot of (justifiable) social commentary, but it never quite gets in the way of the pure fun of a well-crafted Lovecraftian world, Miskatonic University and all.

The references here go way deeper than your standard Call of Cthulhu gaming chrome. Emrys has obviously done her research (both Lovecraftian and historical), managing to tie in most of HPL's major Mythos tales, plus one or two I wasn't expecting. I'll definitely be putting the sequel, Deep Roots, on my Want to Read (or perhaps listen to) list.

Recommended for Lovecraftians open to social comment and history in their Mythos fiction. I'm not sure that those completely unfamiliar with Lovecraft's work would get the most out of this novel, but they might still appreciate the world-building, history, and magic.

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A Night in the Lonesome OctoberA Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This dark & frothy bit of holiday entertainment really stands up to rereading.

Broken into 31 dated chapters, this outwardly straightforward tale of a ritual to be performed (or stopped) under a rare full Halloween moon is anything but. Zelazny gives the reader a dazzling cast of characters from literary horror and horrific history, adds a generous dose of Lovecraft, and turns up the paranoia every chapter.

There are so many in-jokes and literary references, it's a bit hard to keep up. However, Zelazny never fails to keep his primary characters sympathetic (which is a trick, since one of them is the Ripper!) and worth worrying about. Then there's Snuff, our narrator with a dog's-eye view of it all. . . .

Highly recommended for dark fantasy or horror fans open to being amused & spooked at the same time. Lovecraftians are likely to have a slightly better experience, or at least to get more of the jokes.

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My most recent Cassie Barrett tale, "Pothunters," just received an Honorable Mention in Vol. 10 of Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year!

"Pothunters" first appeared in Black Wings VI (PS Publishing, 2017) , edited by S.T. Joshi.

And I'm scaring my poor Corgi with my home office happy dance.
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To celebrate, here's something from my last collection, Dark Energies (P'rea Press 2015).

Of One Who Dreamed

The old gods wake! From pole to pole, that cry
Disquiets midnight in a thousand tongues
Both common & unknown to prophesy
Some cataclysm. Since this world was young,
Its gods have come & gone; their praises sung
In temples or in battle, their rites kept
With incense or with sacrifice fresh-wrung
From writhing flesh. Yet elder powers slept
Beneath our seas. Beyond our stars. Adept
At camouflage, they shaped the waking dreams
Of one whose bleak imagination leapt
To correlate its contents -- into reams
Of warning left behind for all who sense
The stirrings of a darker Providence.

--Ann K. Schwader
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Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of SuspenseNight-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I checked this out (in Kindle format) from my local library simply to read "Night-Gaunts," & found myself unable to stop. I'd read a certain amount of Oates in the past, but never a full collection of her tales . . .wow. Definitely a mind-altering experience, though one has to get used to her ambiguous endings. In most cases, the reader is never going to be 100% sure how a particular story ended -- though this is not the same as a story dribbling away into nothing. These definitely end, but with a lot of uncertainty for both the reader and the characters.

The title tale is actually the final one (yes, I read it first), & will probably work best for those with some knowledge of H.P. Lovecraft's life. I didn't agree with all the author's plot choices in this one, but enjoyed it anyhow.

The other five stories do not have a Lovecraftian flavor (at least, they didn't to me), & could probably be appreciated by anyone with a taste for slow-burn creepiness. These are, indeed, tales of suspense rather than horror. Most of the horror is hidden between the lines of breathtakingly elegant prose. All six tales are reprints, but from such obscure sources that most readers won't have encountered more than possibly one of them before.

Highly recommended for fans of quiet/literary horror & suspense, and a great summer read for those of us who find our tastes running to darkness this time of year.

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It was actually published in very late 2017, apparently -- but I am delighted to announce that Black Wings VI: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror (ed. by S.T. Joshi) is out from PS Publishing.

This volume of the Black Wings series includes twenty-two stories & poems (four poems this time, woo!) . TOC as follows:

Introduction S. T. Joshi
Pothunters Ann K. Schwader
The Girl in the Attic Darrell Schweitzer
The Once and Future Waite Jonathan Thomas
Oude Goden Lynne Jamneck
Carnivorous William F. Nolan
On a Dreamland’s Moon Ashley Dioses
Teshtigo Creek Aaron Bittner
Ex Libris Caitlín R. Kiernan
You Shadows That in Darkness Dwell Mark Howard Jones
The Ballad of Asenath Waite Adam Bolivar
The Visitor Nancy Kilpatrick
The Gaunt Tom Lynch
Missing at the Morgue Donald Tyson
The Shard Don Webb
The Mystery of the Cursed Cottage David Hambling
To Court the Night K. A. Opperman
To Move Beneath Autumnal Oaks W. H. Pugmire
Mister Ainsley Steve Rasnic Tem
Satiety Jason V Brock
Provenance Unknown Stephen Woodworth
The Well D. L. Myers

For more information, or to order:

"Pothunters," BTW, is my most recent Cassie Barrett investigation. And yes, I am feeling pretty frabjous about it finding such a good home.
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I am delighted to report that my Lovecraftian cosmic horror story, "Dead Canyons," is now up on the District of Wonders podcast Tales to Terrify (#312). Dr. Amy H. Sturgis is the reader, and she does a brilliant job with this tale of Mars, Mythos, & malignant academia.

"Dead Canyons" originally appeared in Cthulhu Fhtagn! (Word Horde, 2015). It received an Honorable Mention in Best Horror of the Year #8 .

And now, you can listen to it for free!

Find it here:

or on iTunes, or wherever your podcasts lurk.
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Another January, another resounding thump as the latest issue of Weird Fiction Review from Centipede Press lands in my mailbox! This is issue #8, & possibly the largest ever at a whopping 391 pages.

Edited (as usual) by independent Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi, #8 is an homage to classic Weird Tales. Eleven tales, thirteen essays and interviews, and nine poems are included -- including one by Yours Truly. I'm particularly excited about Wade German's "Gorgonum Chaos," five pages of well-crafted narrative blank verse.

The production values of this sewn trade paperback annual are first-rate, and include several sections in color plus a full-color cover. All in all, an excellent choice for the long winter evenings still ahead -- and I'm proud to be a part of it.

For full details, or to order:
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The Delirium Brief (Laundry Files, #8)The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stross pulls out all the stops -- & many of his previous story arcs -- for this eighth entry in the Laundry Files series. Bob Howard is back as the main protagonist at last, & he has Serious Eldritch Problems. In fact, the entire UK has Serious Eldritch Problems, and the United States isn't doing too well either. (Yes, there did seem to be a few sideways political comments -- but they never got in the way of Stross's storytelling.)

The Delirium Brief suffers from a few too many characters to keep track of, but otherwise delivers the most satisfying Laundry experience I can remember having for at least the past few novels. Plot descriptions would be too much of a spoiler, here, but suffice it to say that you really should read #1-7 before even thinking about trying this one.

This is a "stars turn right" apocalypse tale that pushes its Lovecraft/le Carre flavor to the limit -- with an ending that left me wondering exactly what Stross intends to do with his Laundry universe next. And, of course, determined to preorder Laundry Files #9, because I really have to find out.

View all my reviews
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Just in time for H.P. Lovecraft's birthday (August 20th), Spectral Realms #7 is now available from Hippocampus Press . Edited by S.T. Joshi, this latest issue of the twice-yearly journal of weird verse offers over 120 pages of poems and related articles from old hands and newer practitioners.

Contributing poets include Richard L. Tierney, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, John Shirley, Ashley Dioses, K.A. Opperman, David Barker, F.J. Bergman, and Yours Truly -- among others. (Full disclosure: I have three poems in this issue, all previously unpublished.)

Spectral Realms is published in attractive trade paperback format, with a classic Gustave Doré cover this time around.
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Agents of DreamlandAgents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the most elegant bits of Lovecraftian writing I've read in some time. Kiernan delivers a genuinely chilling riff on "The Whisperer in Darkness" with a touch of the X-Files (or a close approximation) and a dose of botany, all set in the farthest reaches of the Southwest. A mysterious agent known as the Signalman is investigating the aftermath of a cult gone wrong, but is he already too late? And for whom is he too late?

There's quite a bit of time-shifting and viewpoint-shifting here, and not all loose ends are neatly tied up by the novella's bleak conclusion. For me, at least, the prose style (verging on prose poetry) more than made up for a little uncertainty. The plot may be slightly predictable in an apocalyptic way, but the beauty of the writing carries it.

One caution: this one is definitely for those familiar with Lovecraft. It might or might not work as well for horror/dark fantasy fans coming in cold. As with much of this kind of fiction (Charles Stross's Laundry series comes to mind), the more you know, the more entertaining it is.

View all my reviews
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I'm still catching up with contributors' copies, etc. from the end-of-year deluge, but wanted to mention that Colorado's own Centipede Press has recently released Weird Fiction Review #7.

This annual journal -- so big that my contrib arrived in a box of its own! -- is edited by S.T. Joshi, and offers over 350 pp. of fiction, poetry, essays, interviews, reviews, and artwork, all in a very handsome sewn paperback edition with color covers & much interior color.

The fiction this time around is by Steve Rasnic Tem, Mark Howard Jones, Jonathan Thomas, John Shirley & Don Webb, and Nicole Cushing. Poetry is by Christina Sng, Ian Futter, K.A. Opperman, John Shirley, Wade German, Ashley Dioses, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard -- & Yours Truly.

There are also articles by Charles A. Gramlich, Jason V. Brock, Chad Hensley, and others; a column by John Pelan, and more.

For more information, or to order at a discount, please check here.
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When it comes to reviews, glad tidings are always welcome!

Hippocampus Press publisher Derrick Hussey recently let me know about some very kind words re my 2015 fiction collection Dark Equinox & Other Tales of Lovecraftian Horror. In Wormwood #27, reviewer John Howard finds that

. . . Schwader unflinchingly shows the disintegration of the personal and the cosmic: and nothing is, or ever again can be, secure. (re 'When the Stars Run Away')

Intense and with a superb sense of place, each tale refers obliquely back to one or more stories or concepts from the Cthulhu Mythos, and runs with it in a refreshingly distinctive way. Lively and intriguing, they are utterly Lovecraftian in spirit. (re my five linked tales of Cassie Barrett)

Dark Equinox is available from the publisher, or from Amazon in both print and Kindle formats.
ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
The Nightmare Stacks (Laundry Files, #7)The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Charles Stross just keeps ringing new changes on his popular Laundry Files. This time around, he's added urban fantasy. Or rather, the Secret History behind it. As newly minted Laundry employee -- and PHANG -- Dr. Alex Schwartz discovers, elves are not only quite real, but remarkably unpleasant. At least, most of them are . . .

The Laundry, Leeds, and possibly the planet are all under attack in this one, as CASE NIGHTMARE RED (alien invasion) picks an otherwise ordinary weekend to manifest. The result is a bizarre but satisfying blend of military thriller, occult adventure, & just a touch of very strange romance.

Regular readers of this series won't be disappointed, though some may find Stross's worldbuilding into the fey realm a bit of a stretch. (I did not.)

View all my reviews
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Editor S/T. Joshi has announced the full TOC of the newly completed Black Wings VI: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror. As per his blog post of 10/4/16, here it is:

Pothunters -- Ann K. Schwader
The Girl in the Attic -- Darrell Schweitzer
The Once and Future Waite -- Jonathan Thomas
Oude Goden --Lynne Jamneck
Carnivorous -- William F. Nolan
On a Dreamland’s Moon --Ashley Dioses
Teshtigo Creek -- Aaron Bittner
Ex Libris -- Caitlín R. Kiernan
You Shadows That in Darkness Dwell -- Mark Howard Jones
Mask of the Imago -- John Salonia
The Ballad of Asenath Waite --  Adam Bolivar
The Visitor --Nancy Kilpatrick
The Gaunt -- Tom Lynch
Missing at the Morgue -- Donald Tyson
The Shard -- Don Webb
The Mystery of the Cursed Cottage -- David Hambling
To Court the Night -- K. A. Opperman
To Move Beneath Autumnal Oaks -- W. H. Pugmire
Mister Ainsley -- Steve Rasnic Tem
Satiety -- Jason V Brock
Provenance Unknown -- Stephen Woodworth
The Well -- D. L. Myers

I'm happy to report that there are no fewer than four poems in this anthology, though none of them are mine. Ashley Dioses, Adam Bolivar, K.A. Opperman, & D.L. Myers are the contributors.

"Pothunters" is a new (sixth!) installment in the continuing adventures of Cassie Barrett, my Wyoming-based Mythos investigator.

A firm publication date has not been announced by PS Publishing, but Black Wings VI is likely to fly some time late next year.
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I don't make a habit of posting about -- or participating in -- crowdfunding projects.

However, the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council in Providence, RI is trying to get that city a statue of its literary native son -- using no public funds whatsoever. Only a page on Generosity by Indiegogo, which opened for donations about two months ago.

No, there is no statue of H.P. Lovecraft in Providence.


But there will be, if enough advocates of the weird want there to be. It's a well-planned endeavor, featuring the work of a local artist who will be paid fairly. For more info about the Lovecraft Providence Statue Project (and a spooky video!), check here. Or here. And if you can, please consider helping. I have.
ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)

It’s World Fantasy Award season again, and I’m thrilled to note that three anthologies I’m in have been nominated. (One of them was nominated for two WFAs!)

Cassilda’s Song (Chaosium) , edited by Joseph S. Pulver Sr., has been nominated for Anthology and -- thanks to Selena Chambers’ The Neurastheniac”-- Short Fiction.

Black Wings IV (PS Publishing), edited by S.T. Joshi, has been nominated for Anthology.

She Walks in Shadows (Innsmouth Free Press), edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia & Paula R. Stiles, has been nominated for Anthology.

For the full list of finalists, check here.

Best of luck to everyone in October!
ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
OK, it’s actually spring here in the Northern Hemisphere. So what? I’m still delighted to announce that the long-awaited Autumn Cthulhu anthology (edited by Mike Davis) is available now from Lovecraft eZine Press!

This one has a killer TOC, with 18 stories and one poem celebrating the darkest and most Lovecraftian aspects of the season. It’s available in both paperback & Kindle formats. And, yes, I do have an item in it. Where did you think that poem came from?

For more information, & to order, check here.

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