the city can change so quickly: An interview with Alex Smith, author of HIVE

Alex Smith is the author of Muzzleland Press’ latest novella, HIVE, a Cronenbergian descent into urban paranoia, reproduction, body horror, abortion, and so much more.

Consider supporting the press by purchasing the book for Kindle here or in paperback.

What is HIVE?

HIVE is a short book about a couple that move to a nice new apartment in Queens, only to find their darkest fears about parenthood, life, death, and birth will be realized. HIVE is so short that saying more gives it away. I had this great experience of reading a short book called The Beckoning Fair One from start to finish on a flight from New York to Las Vegas. I wanted to write something that could be read in one or two sittings (with or without air travel) but that had enough substance to feel like a light meal, not a snack. I like to think of HIVE as a horror story where the characters matter as much as the horror.

Continue reading “the city can change so quickly: An interview with Alex Smith, author of HIVE”

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New Release: HIVE by Alex Smith

Muzzleland Press is proud to announce the release of HIVE by Alex Smith, a descent into urban and body horror. Now available on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback.

“Alex Smith takes the bleakest feelings of forced change and weaves into it the monstrous embodiment of creation, of wicked evolution. HIVE is a gruesome reminder that our cyclical lives are constantly thrust into this terrifying, blood-soaked battle of rebirth, of emergence, against the dark evils we must defeat if we have any chance of surviving the chrysalis.”
– Philip Fracassi, author of ALTAR and MOTHER

“Rarely have I encountered such a fantastic debut. A deliriously dark masterpiece worthy of Cronenberg, HIVE is a shining black gem in this weird world.”
-Brian O’Connell, Editor at the Conqueror Weird

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Behold the Vermin, Mine Own Heart: a review of Danger Slater’s I WILL ROT WITHOUT YOU

I Will Rot Without You by Danger Slater
Published by Fungasm Press/Eraserhead Press
Available February 8, 2016

Danger Slater wants to make you uncomfortable. And he’s damn good at it. I Will Rot Without You is not some metaphorical title. It very much describes what’s happening to its anxiety-ridden, sickly narrator. The rot in question is threefold: one, The City in which the story takes place is under threat from an apocalyptic storm. Two, the narrator’s crumbling apartment building is being overrun by a sentient hive-mind of malicious cockroaches and overgrown fungus. And three, the narrator has some sort of illness that starts in his hand and works its way up and out, until he’s literally falling apart.

The rot is also emotional, of course. Our narrator is a hot mess. Bills he can’t hope to pay are pouring out of his mailbox. His ex-girlfriend wants nothing to do with him. He’s a coward, penniless, and everything is collapsing around him. This book is profoundly humorous, horrifying, sad, and gross in equal measure. Not since Nick Cutter’s The Deep have I found a book so focused on body horror.

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This is the gross-out for the gross-out’s sake, so if bizarro body horror isn’t your cup of entrails, pass this one by. While I am not usually a fan of this type of writing, Slater’s sense of humor and on-the-nose characterization of both the narrator and his degenerate neighbors won me over. This is a book very much about slacker/urban anxiety. It’s all of your worst anxieties, fears, self-doubts, and sense of being overwhelmed externalized.

It’s also very, very funny. I found myself shaking my head or speaking out in protest at the gluttony of horrors described on each page. The plot is an upward curve of exponential degradation, heartbreak, and fungoid slime—but the story is fast-paced, the writing so vivid, and the humor so poignant and cutting that it never overstays its welcome. By the time the climax hits, you’ll be ready to watch it all drown. Cathartic, ridiculous, and emotionally satisfying, I Will Rot Without You is a funhouse ride through one man’s insecurities and broken heart.

Recommended for fans of bizarro, body horror, and for anybody who’s ever felt like they might fall apart. Literally.

I was provided an advance review copy, and the book will not be available until February 8th. Please check the author’s blog for information on when the book is available for purchase.

27. Phantasm II (1988)

27. Phantasm II (1988). One of the few sequels on my list. It takes the Phantasm epic into action-adventure territory, and expands the mythos in new, weird, and bipolar directions. More maniac Jawas, a double-super-shotgun, killer silver orbs, horrific body-horror monsters, the menacing Tall Man, and, yes, a chainsaw duel! Angus Scrimm (an Oscar-winning liner note writer, natch) is equal parts ridiculous and menacing. Half the time he doesn’t look like he quite understands what’s going on, like he stumbled into an iconic horror movie role on his way to the opera – which makes him seem all the more alien. If you want to get nitpicky about it, there’s plenty to criticize, but I think this movie is pure weird, spooky fun. Believe it or not, these movies have had a pretty strong influence on my writing lately, too. Here’s hoping Phantasm: RaVager lives up to the legacy of the first two films of the franchise. I mean, 4 was okay, but 3? Just awful. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOY

Book Review: Resonator – New Lovecraftian Tales From Beyond

Edited by Scott R. Jones; Published by Martian Migraine Press

Available for pre-order now

“From Beyond” is a Lovecraft story that, while lacking the elegance and polish of some of his other works, is effective precisely because it presses the right buttons in very few words. It’s profoundly Lovecraftian in the hidden-world-higher-dark-power aspect. Human beings stumble blindly through magic and forbidden science to open up a dangerous and increasingly hostile new world that is always just out of sight. It’s only a few pages long, with most of the terrors generated by the reader’s mind. Lovecraft supplies us with just enough details to stoke the fires of imagination.

The film From Beyond, conversely, shows quite a bit—and liberally dumps buckets of slime and blood everywhere—while also under-explaining the true nature of the creepy-crawlies that float, bite, suck, consume, and ultimately corrupt and metamorphize the humans who come in contact with the infamous Resonator. Or, is it the bodies of that characters themselves that cause the corruption? Does the pineal gland, once stimulated, assume a life of its own, pushing the characters into new states of abominable evolution?

Martian Migraine Press has assembled an all-star team of horror writers who tackle these themes. In Resonator -New Lovecraftian Tales From Beyond, these writers pick up where Lovecraft and Gordon left off, tracking the fate of the Tillinghast family and the Resonator technology through a variety of weird and slimy tales of lurid erotica, old-fashioned splatterpunk, and paranoid science fiction-horror.

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I feared that the collection would at one point run out of steam—after all, how many different ways can you rebuild and re-frame a concept like the Resonator technology? The writers of this collection—expertly assembled by Scott R. Jones—managed to write stories with common themes and gross-outs, but that stand on their own in setting, characterization, and creativity. None of these stories feel like repeats or filler; each new story has a fresh and viscous take on the terrors that lurk in the branes beyond and within the human heart.

While there are reasons to like every story in this collection, I have a few personal favorites.

“IPO” by Darrin Brightman explores the Post-9/11 commercialization of the Resonator technology. Brightman’s social critique is so on-the-nose it’s easy to miss: the very machines meant to protect us make us see monsters, everywhere.

“Film Maudit” by Christopher Slatsky explores one of my favorite horror tropes: that of a forbidden film and/or a haunted movie theater (see Mer Whinery’s “The Projectionist” in our upcoming High Strange Horror release). A gorehound who has seen it all attends a special screening of a supposedly lost art house/snuff film, with the experience enhanced by the RestoRed Oscillator, an almost-forgotten spookshow gimmick that thrills the audience in new and horrifying ways.

“Bug Zapper” by Richard Lee Byers follows a scientist and a team of Army Rangers—wearing armor and popping pills to keep them motivated—as they try to destroy a special tower the government built to keep the invisible monsters away. Turns out, we are far more connected to that invisible ecosystem than even Tillinghast could have imagined, and mucking around in t-space wasn’t the best idea after all.

“Parasitosis” by Lyndsey Holder is about a man with unexplained psychological issues—including the ability to see emotions and psychological states—exploring the meaning of memory and current experiential reality, one moment at a time. This story is disorienting as it is frightening.

“The Wizard of OK” by Scott Nicolay shows us an Aleister Crowley devotee as he uses an unspeakable mix of technology and blood sorcery to explore space and time, at the expense of one very lost and damaged woman and her son. There’s a demon-thing-god-worm-creature that defies the imagination, with a psychic and physical presence that preys upon our unsympathetic characters, resonating with both physical and emotional fear.

“The Divide” by Damir Salkovic is the soul-scarring final piece. It’s more of a science fiction sequel to the original story, with a near-utopian future consisting of a wealthy elite seeking greater and greater thrills and experiences that lead them all the way to the center of creation. There they encounter a fate—and a truth—far worse than they could possibly have imagined.

There’s plenty more to like. This is a creative exploration of form and content around the shared conceit of technology/sorcery and third-eye truth. In case you missed the original story, it’s included at the beginning of the collection, so don’t worry about being lost in the shuffle. Each author takes those primordial ideas and conjures up terrors both immediate and existential. In Resonator, merely getting eaten alive by unseen monsters from outside time and space is the least of your concerns, and one of the more noble fates the hapless characters end up suffering.

This book comes with my strongest recommendation for fans of both science fiction-horror and body-horror.

5/5 Resonance Waves

Film Review: The Pineal (Phallus?) Gland’s Revenge

From Beyond (1986) directed by Stuart Gordon

Starring Jeffrey Combs, Ken Foree, Barbara Crampton, Ted Sorel

 Most horror film aficionados love Re-Animator, the first of Stuart Gordon’s many H.P. Lovecraft story adaptations for the big screen. Its follow up, From Beyond, is a lesser-known film, but in many ways superior to the original.

Both films have a lot in common. First and foremost is the performance of Jeffrey Combs, who plays (in both films) a scientist crossing over into unethical and unnatural research. In Re-Animator he is arguably the villain as well as one of the main protagonists; it’s his out-of-control research that invites the terror and splatter that follows. In From Beyond, however, his character is Crawford Tillinghast, now a resident at a psychiatric hospital following his research with his mentor, Dr. Pretorius (a wickedly delightful Ted Sorel).

Crawford wants nothing to do with the house in which they conducted their research; he fears most of all the resonator machine on the top floor, which, when activated, stimulates the pineal gland (or the third eye of mysticism), allowing human beings to see and be seen by creatures in parallel worlds. He claims the activation of the machine drove Pretorius mad and ultimately led to his death at the hands of some monstrous, unspeakable creature.

The opportunity to study Crawford’s apparent psychosis is too much to resist for Dr. Katherine McMichaels (the lovely Barbara Crampton), who arranges for his release on the condition that he accompany her to the house and show her the resonator. They are accompanied by a no-nonsense policeman (Ken Foree, who is the only one making relatively good decisions in the film), and spend several days at the site of the strange research.

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The plot is predictable in its pacing, but the set pieces involving the resonator, human mutation, and sexual deviancy are anything but. The film, while quite funny at times, shocks with its unnerving, gross-out special effects. Fans of Re-Animator, Videodrome, or The Thing’s practical creature effects and body horror will squirm in disgusted delight. Everyone else will be suitably horrified.

The mushroom-trip visuals of the film, quick pacing, and outstanding practical creature and mutation effects, all make this a visual and aural treat for horror fans. From Beyond is an overlooked classic that pushes the limits of the visual medium of cinema—it’s a dark nightmare of absurdism, a grim portrait of humankind’s place in the cosmos, and quite simply the most fun you’ll have with some beers, popcorn, and a couple of friends on a Friday night.

My only real complaint about the film is the sexual bondage motif—it felt shocking for shocking’s sake, meant more to titillate than horrify. If you’re not much of a Puritan, it probably won’t bother you.

All in all, From Beyond is a superior film to Re-Animator, but both are in the same ballpark of greatness in the horror genre. Stuart Gordon doesn’t accurately adapt Lovecraft’s stories, but he does try to capture some of the tone of hopelessness and horror intrinsic in the writer’s work. If you enjoy the film, consider reading the original story here, which is much shorter, but provides plenty of tiny glimpses into a realm of madness and unholy un-life.

5/5 Phallic Snake Brain Glands (You’ll See What I Mean)