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Weird Fiction Review #8 has escaped

Posted on 2018.01.10 at 15:55
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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:


The Mistletoe Murder And Other StoriesThe Mistletoe Murder And Other Stories by P.D. James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is good -- if light -- holiday entertainment for P.D. James fans and anyone else who appreciates an elegantly written short murder tale. It offers four stories, only three of them distinctively Christmas tales. Two feature James' continuing character Adam Dalgliesh. So far as I know, all are reprints from various magazines that commissioned the author to produce a special holiday mystery.

All the stories are well-crafted, though I actually enjoyed the Dalgliesh cases a bit less than the other two. (Yes, this is heresy.) Although the prose style makes up for any deficiencies elsewhere, I must admit that I prefer P.D. James at novel length. She just didn't seem to have enough space to let her intricate plotting expand, and the Dalgliesh stories in particular ended a bit abruptly for my taste.

That said, there are quotable observations and brilliantly snarky comments on human nature in all these stories -- and who doesn't need a little homicide this time of year? Recommended for P.D. James fans and lovers of old-school British mystery.

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Alien: River of Pain: An Audible Original Drama (Canonical Alien Trilogy, #3)Alien: River of Pain: An Audible Original Drama by Christopher Golden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A little harder to follow as an audio drama than the previous Audible installment of this series, but still a great way to make the miles pass quickly on long holiday car trips! General lack of F-bombs might make this slightly more family-friendly, as well, but the menace of the original series is still present & enhanced by the theater of the mind.

I did think that the corporate villains this time around were a bit two-dimensional, but that's a minor complaint. Production values are excellent, & voices well-chosen for the characters (particularly the "voice" of Ellen Ripley.) Recommended for all fans of the Alien mythos, especially those facing a long car journey.

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My Goodreads review: Penric's Fox

Posted on 2017.12.12 at 14:53
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Penric's Fox (Penric and Desdemona, #5)Penric's Fox by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This direct sequel to Penric and the Shaman offers a straight-up murder investigation as filtered through both sorcerous & shamanic magics. There's a good bit of well-written action, and readers learn exactly what a chaos demon can do to an enemy when its sorcerer's life is on the line.

For those interested in Bujold's very logical working-through of magic / religion in her Five Gods "universe," this contains quite a bit of new information. For those who enjoy Penric's increasingly complicated relationship with his demon Desdemona, maybe not so much. However, readers should keep in mind that this novella comes BEFORE the Penric's Mission story arc, so the limited interaction may make sense.

Any new Penric novella is good news for Bujold fans, and this one is no exception. To me, however, it seemed a bit simpler and shorter than most of the previous offerings.

This series remains a "must buy" for me.

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My Goodreads review: I Wish I Was Like You

Posted on 2017.11.29 at 12:36
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I Wish I Was Like YouI Wish I Was Like You by S.P. Miskowski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is either a very literary ghost story or an intermittently haunted literary novel, though for me it worked best when the supernatural element was present. Either way, it's a remarkably strange and well-crafted read for those looking to expand their horizons past the normal range of horror.

I did find that the pace slackened a bit in the middle of the book, and that the supernatural nature of the plot wasn't explained until later in the novel than this reader would have liked. (Of course, This Reader is fonder of dark fiction than of mainstream literary novels . .. ) However, the slow-burning sense of dread kept me clicking pages, and the end payoff was well worth it.

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My Goodreads review: Hillbilly Elegy

Posted on 2017.11.20 at 15:41
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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in CrisisHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm glad I read (listened to) this book, & it was refreshing to hear someone examining the problems of his own cultural group without placing all the blame elsewhere. Vance is honest & thorough about reporting his experiences growing up, though many of his "life lessons" aren't uncommon for most of us. They just happen to be uncommon for many of the people he grew up around, which was an important realization. I came away feeling as though I'd learned a lot about working class white folks from a certain part of the country.

That said, I wanted to like this one more than I did. Despite J. D. Vance's excellent narration, I found it difficult to get through. There was quite a bit of repetition -- possibly because the same things really did keep happening over and over! -- and it was hard to accept that some of the people he cared about most just weren't ever going to get better. This may be a personal take on a book many people seem to be raving about, but it wound up being one I finished because I knew I ought to. YMMV.

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Yes, it's a real -- though very new -- thing, thanks to the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, and officially proclaimed by the Governor of Minnesota. Find out more here:


November 3rd was selected to honor the 60th anniversary of space dog Laika's historic mission aboard Sputnik 2. She was (thank you, Wikipedia) the first animal to orbit our planet -- and also the first Terran female in space:


In honor of International Speculative Poetry Day, the SFPA has put up a special page of poems (and one lovely artwork) remembering Laika. One of them is mine.


Please go read, enjoy, & remember.

HWA Poetry Showcase Volume IVHWA Poetry Showcase Volume IV by David E. Cowen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I have a poem in this collection. Furthermore, it's one of the "special mention" poems the jurors chose to recognize this year. Please consider this review as more of a buyers' guide.]

This year's HWA Poetry Showcase celebrates the poetic side of the Dark Art of horror writing, as practiced by the HWA membership. It functions as both a contest and a showcase -- there are 3 Featured Poems (winners) and 3 Special Mention poems ( runners-up). The Kindle edition is fully indexed, and all the poems appear to have survived the conversion from print -- at least, so far as I could tell by comparing to a PDF copy. This in itself is notable!

The poems themselves are very diverse -- mainly free verse, but with a fair number of formal works as well. Most of the poems here are narrative. Subject matter and tone vary widely, though there was quite a bit of graveyard/ body horror. Almost all the works here would be very accessible to readers of prose horror.

An optimistic "Note from the Editor" -- David E. Cowen -- celebrates and comments upon the survival of dark poetry and other speculative verse, even in a time when mainstream poetry seems to be struggling in America.

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My Goodreads review: Midnight Crossroad

Posted on 2017.10.16 at 16:08
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Midnight Crossroad (Midnight, Texas #1)Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this because I enjoyed the TV series Midnight, Texas a lot this past summer, and was curious about the novels that inspired this series. So far, I've only read the first of three, but can already report that the reading experience was much different than the viewing experience.

The viewing experience, for me, was a fast, fun, guilty-pleasure throwback to shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Midnight Crossroad is more like reading an occult-flavored cozy mystery. The same cast of characters is involved -- though a couple of them are not the same ethnicity as they were in the series -- and the mystery will be familiar to series viewers. However, not all of the characters' occult identities are fully revealed. This might be interesting for those who have watched the series, but confusing for others.

I also noticed several abrupt switches of viewpoint during the novel, sometimes without a great deal of warning. It was always clear whose viewpoint the reader was getting, but I wasn't always sure why Harris had chosen to switch POV at that particular point.

I'm not sure how much of my mixed reaction to this mystery was due to previous exposure to the series, but I found it to be a rather toned-down and somewhat confusing read. Those new to the Midnight world might have an entirely different experience.

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My haiku up today on Haikuniverse

Posted on 2017.10.02 at 16:44
I have a haiku -- my second -- up today, October 2nd, on Haikuniverse. This one is both speculative (I hope only speculative!) & decidedly dark.

Find it here:


If you're visiting the site after today, it will give you an option to view previous haiku.

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