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Best Ghost Stories of Algernon BlackwoodBest Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood by Algernon Blackwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent introduction to Blackwood for those who – like me – either haven’t read this notable British writer much, or possibly haven’t read him at all. Most of the stories here (other than “Max Hensig,” a crime tale with psychic overtones) were written before 1916, and combine traditional slow-burn horror with some of the finest atmospherics around.

Two of the longer tales – “The Willows” and “The Wendigo” – are weird fiction classics, and worth the very reasonable price of this collection all by themselves. The rest ring a wide variety of changes on the traditional ghost story. Some are distinctly horrific (I found “Secret Worship,” “The Listener,” and “The Empty House” particularly disturbing), while others focus on the pure experience of being haunted

Blackwood’s style is thoroughly English -- literary & “chewy.” His endings might be a little quiet for modern tastes, but he delivers some serious chills along the way.

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I am (incredibly) happy to report that Hippocampus Press is now taking preorders for my second weird / Lovecraftian fiction collection, Dark Equinox. Find all the details – and a draft version of creepy Southwestern cover art by Lyndsay Harper! – here.

For May, at least, Hippocampus Press is also offering a package deal on Dark Equinox & my omnibus weird poetry collection Twisted in Dream. Find details here. This one came out in 2011, & includes my very SF 36-sonnet sequence In the Yaddith Time.

I’ll be posting more details & a real “cover reveal” later. For now, happy Mother’s Day weekend to any & all moms reading. Stay weird!

Preorders are now being taken for Cthulhu Fhtagn! (ed. Ross E. Lockhart) , due out in August from Word Horde, & available from both independent booksellers & online retailers.

Signed copies can be preordered direct from Word Horde, here.

[Truth in LJing: why, yes, I do have a story in this one. “Dead Canyons” is a tale of Mars, the Mythos, & a slight nod to “At the Mountains of Madness” . . . all set in Boulder, CO.]


Ankh, Scarab

Earth Day, somewhen

Posted on 2015.04.22 at 11:54
Tags: ,
teacher points
on the star chart
Earth Day

                           -- Ann K. Schwader

We’re a little more than halfway through National Poetry Month (in the US), but new reading opportunities for speculative poetry lovers keep popping up online! Here are two to start off your weekend:

1. Issue #16 of the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s online journal Eye to the Telescope is up! This one is music-themed, & guest-edited by Diane Severson divadiane1. It’s a big issue – 22 poems – featuring both Usual Suspects & newer names in the spec poetry field. The poems themselves range widely, from free verse to haiku to various flavors of formal. Find it all right here.

(Truth in LiveJournaling: I have the lead-off poem in this one. It’s a pantoum, "Siren Stars.")

2. is celebrating National Poetry Month with poems from “notable names in the science fiction and fantasy fields.” The most recent post is “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Dragon” by Mari Ness, but they’ve been doing this since 2011 – from what I can tell. Find the whole fascinating assortment here.

Dreams from a Black NebulaDreams from a Black Nebula by Wade German

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a generously-sized collection of (mainly) formal dark verse, skewing toward the Clark Ashton Smith end of the weirdness spectrum. The poems are divided into five sections, one of which seemed to be a loosely-connected sequence (“Songs from the Nameless Hermitage”).

Wade German is a relative newcomer to weird poetry, but he’s a fine technician in a wide variety of forms – sonnets are a particular favorite in this collection – and knows how to vary them for effect. His free verse is also well-structured and effective, though possibly less musical.
The overall effect of these poems is rich and dreamlike, and I found myself taking them a few at a time rather than rushing through.

Recommended for fans of traditional genre poetry, Weird Tales-style dark fantasy, or both.

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Editor/ publisher Ross E. Lockhart of Word Horde has announced the full table of contents for Cthulhu Fhtagn! It’s due out from the Horde in August, in honor of H.P. Lovecraft’s 125th birthday.

Needless to say, I’m very proud & happy to be a part of this:

Cthulhu Fhtagn!
Table of Contents

Introduction: In His House at R’lyeh… – Ross E. Lockhart
The Lightning Splitter – Walter Greatshell
Dead Canyons – Ann K. Schwader
Delirium Sings at the Maelstrom Window – Michael Griffin
Into Ye Smoke-Wreath’d World of Dream – W. H. Pugmire
The Lurker In the Shadows – Nathan Carson
The Insectivore – Orrin Grey
The Body Shop – Richard Lee Byers
On a Kansas Plain – Michael J. Martinez
The Prince of Lyghes – Anya Martin
The Curious Death of Sir Arthur Turnbridge – G. D. Falksen
Aerkheim’s Horror – Christine Morgan
Return of the Prodigy – T.E. Grau
The Curse of the Old Ones – Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington
Love Will Save You – Cameron Pierce
Assemblage Point – Scott R. Jones
The Return of Sarnath – Gord Sellar
The Long Dark – Wendy N. Wagner
Green Revolution – Cody Goodfellow
Don’t Make Me Assume My Ultimate Form – Laird Barron

Find a few more details – plus a sketch of Cthulhu by HPL himself – here.

Ankh, Scarab

My Goodreads review: Bird Box

Posted on 2015.03.30 at 16:16
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Bird BoxBird Box by Josh Malerman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the author during Bram Stoker Awards season.]

It’s hard to categorize this one: dark thriller? Post-apocalypse dystopia? Cosmic horror? Whatever Josh Malerman has created, it’s a well-crafted thrill ride – though a bit of a slow burn. If you’re looking for in-your-face horror right out of the (bird) box, this is probably not your cup of Darjeeling.

Those with more patience will appreciate the nonlinear storytelling style, the effective building of atmosphere, and the spare yet lyrical prose. The central idea is something I’ve not seen elsewhere, though explaining much about how this world came apart would involve spoilers. The young female protagonist is refreshingly believable – neither victim nor avenger – and her efforts to get herself plus two small children to some possible sanctuary held my attention throughout the narrative’s multiple flips between past and present.

I did find the journey more compelling than the eventual destination, though that’s probably personal taste. There is also the matter of Bad Things Happening to Dogs. If this is a problem for you (as it is for me), be warned. The incidents aren’t gratuitous, but they’re there.

All in all, I’d recommend this for those who like their scares on the literary side. It’s a lean, mean, creepy little read.

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There’s been a certain amount of discussion on LJ lately about a dearth of older characters – particularly older female characters – in SF/F. To add a more hopeful note, I’d like to recommend Episode 379 of Tony C. Smith’s venerable StarShipSofa podcast. The Main Fiction – “Neighbours,” by Megan Lindholm / Robin Hobb – is one of the best things I’ve read or heard in this category in a very long time.

Find it here, but be sure to have some Kleenex handy when you listen. Trust me on this.

Also from the Sofa, in Episode 377, is a brilliant segment of Looking Back on Genre History. Dr. Amy H. Sturgis eldritchhobbit offers the first of a series of articles on the considerable contributions of Mary Shelley & her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft. This monthly segment is always well worth the time spent listening, but anyone interested in women’s history (hey, it’s still Women’s History Month!) , SF history, or both shouldn’t miss this one. Find it here.

As usual, these episodes are also available for free on iTunes & elsewhere.

Ankh, Scarab

My Goodreads review: The Golem

Posted on 2015.03.12 at 15:24
Tags: , , ,
The GolemThe Golem by Gustav Meyrink

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This “review” is more in the nature of a few comments on my first-time reading experience. I am frankly not qualified to discuss German language literature – even in what I’m told is an excellent translation. I know little about Gustav Meyrink, beyond a couple of biographical articles, and I’ve never read anything by him before.

That said, I’ve just had a truly mind-bending excursion through the Jewish ghetto of pre-WW I Prague. The atmosphere is pure Gothic. The narrator is thoroughly unreliable, even to himself. He may or may not be dreaming the entire story – though he denies it – and he spends a lot of that time in various altered states. In the process, he is introduced to a dizzying variety of occult concepts (and traditions!). He falls in and out of love, meets up with a cast of grotesque villains and hapless heroes, gets drawn into a murder plot, finds himself imprisoned . . . on and on, in the sort of dream-logic plot that never fully resolves.

Or maybe it does, and I was just too bewildered to recognize that.

I can’t say that this was the clearest narrative I’ve ever read, but it was definitely one of the weirdest (in a very good way). The Golem is currently celebrating its hundredth year since publication, so this one’s got staying power. If you enjoy the Gothic, the weird, or the dark esoteric, it’s probably well worth your time.

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