The Horror of Public Transportation: Recent Reads

One of the advantages of taking the bus when your commute is 45 minutes to an hour? Well, besides stealing all sorts of interesting characterization from your fellow bus-riders, you can read. A lot.

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Pathfinder RPG: Horror Adventures

I’ve been getting back into tabletop roleplaying, specifically the Pathfinder RPG, with a group of coworkers. I picked this 2016 release up last month (before I started riding the bus, admittedly), and I don’t regret it. It’s a great supplement to the game (think Dungeons & Dragons) that takes Pathfinder one step closer to Call of Cthulhu territory. I also recommend this as an inspiration tome for horror writers. Every page has awesome horror ideas and hooks. Check out our most recent episode of Spooklights for the full take: Spooklights #13: The Book of Blasphemous Words Continue reading “The Horror of Public Transportation: Recent Reads”

All Muzzleland Press titles on sale

We hit the World Horror Convention in Provo, UT this weekend. I was very excited about it – I heard great things about attendance, guests, and writer/publisher success. In previous years, I’m sure this was the case.

But this year was a bust. We heard rumors that attendance was as high as 200 people. I’m almost certain that includes the vendors, committee, special guest, and non-paying walkthroughs.

Regardless, our inventory is a bit overloaded. And I recognize how much cheaper/easier it is to just buy a book off Amazon (which is fine, we appreciate all sales). But for the foreseeable future, our print books are priced to be competitive or beat those prices and make it easier to support us by buying directly from us.

Visit our store and check out our reduced-price titles, including Creeping Waves, High Strange Horror, and The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre.

Thank you!

See you at local Denver-area craft fairs for the rest of the year…

Jonathan

Food for Thought: a Review of Nothing Is Strange by Mike Russell

Review by: R. L. Jones

Published by Strange Books (UK)

Mike Russell’s Nothing Is Strange is a series of 20 one-shots of varying degrees of eeriness, but all with a distinct surreal feel. The book’s tone, and some of the stories, reminded me of episodes of Dark Mirror, though not as dark or disturbing. It’s a quick read and can be comfortably read at night without worry of fright. No, these stories left me more pensive than disturbed or scared. I enjoyed some of the subtle and clever twists the stories took, presenting themes on humanity, society, and the individual, one utilizing a giant flesh-and-bone creature in the sky known as the Living Crown.

Russell’s writing is simple and effective; he’s not weighed down with extraneous detail or description of the nothing1characters or places. The characters are named, the setting stated, and the story commences, sometimes the reader is the character of the story as Russell uses second person for some of the stories. I found this simplistic style refreshing, as it allows the reader to supply the detail and characterization making the reader personalize each story as they go along. The structure of the book flows well from one story to the next, though none are connected. I found myself pausing between chapters to reflect on each story and the food for thought it presented.

Overall, this collection of stories is a fun wander down the strange side alleys of Russell’s imagination that leaves a lingering taste of the surreal. You may even find yourself noticing some residual strangeness in your own life.

Book Review: Giallo Fantastique

Edited by Ross E. Lockhart

Published by Word Horde

Review by Mer Whinery

Picture it:

1984.

Three thirteen year-old boys in a shadowed living room, huddled around a flickering television set gorging themselves on block-cheese nachos, all hopped up on a case of Mountain Dew. On the screen, a beautiful young woman is admiring herself in a mirror. Suddenly, a wall of dissonant music overpowers the scene; a pair of demonic eyes appear outside her window. The stage is set for ultimate terror.

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This was my first exposure to the genre of film known as giallo. The movie was Dario Argento’s Suspiria. It was broadcast into my best friend’s living room courtesy of a hacked satellite dish.  For the uninitiated, “giallo” is the Italian word for yellow, and is a genre of film trapped somewhere between murder mystery and slasher horror, often served with a side helping of supernatural gravy and kinky sex. It eschews coherence and logical plot in favor of style and shock, leaning far into the realm of the surreal. Giallo often features storytelling through melodramatic music and overwrought imagery. After Suspiria came others. Argento’s Deep Red, Mario Bava’s Twitch of the Death Nerve, Lucio Fulci’s Don’t Torture a Duckling, and even films shot outside of Italy such as England’s Don’t Look Now, directed by Nicholas Roeg. These movies had a profound impact on me both as a writer and a lover of cinema.

Giallo Fantastique, the new collection of short fiction compiled and edited by Ross E. Lockhart, attempts to capture the feel and tone of those films and transfer them to the written word. However, this collection also seeks to marry the giallo with a French genre of fiction called fantastique. Fantastique is a variety of fiction with blatant supernatural overtones, more closely related to weird fiction than any other categorization. The results are mixed, but ultimately satisfying, with a few tales that skirt tantalizingly close to brilliance.

Most of the tales entombed within Giallo Fantastique lean more toward the fantastique than giallo. Mixing the two is not as easy as it sounds. Many of the stories get bogged down in shock for the sake of shock, and an over-reliance on the surreal, which is not uncommon for a giallo. However, since the goal of the collection is an attempt to merge the two genres together, a stronger balance needs to be struck. The majority of the stories are well written and a few are very clever, but only a handful really set themselves apart from the dark flock. But oh, what a handful of darkly delicious doozies are they!

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My favorite selection would have to be the enigmatic, and oh-so-gialloesquely named “The Strange Vice of ZLA-313” by MP Johnson. Johnson totally nails the spirit of the giallo but adds his own twist, setting the mayhem in the future. It’s fantastique, sci-fi, and horror all rolled into one delightful, sexy, and creepy chimichanga. Here is a writer who understands the genre and elevates it to new and exciting heights. I would have loved it to be longer.

“Sensoria” by Anya Martin is a little less far-reaching, but no less compelling. A cocktail of weird fiction ala Lovecraft and Argento-ish psychedelia, it sits with the reader long after the final page has turned. Out of all of the tales within Giallo Fantastique, “Sensoria” is the most cinematic, practically begging to be lensed by David Lynch.

High marks go to Michael Kazepis’s “Minerva,” a straight-up balls-to-the-wall giallo, and Orrin Grey’s “The Red Church,” a creepy little number which digs deep into the hallowed territory of Robert W. Chambers. Brian Keene’s “Exit Strategies” rounds out the collection as a chilling exposé of the secret occult history of the U.S. Transportation system that, honestly, doesn’t really lock into either the giallo or fantastique genre yet, somehow, fits perfectly into the collection. It’s a wonderful closing number.

Enough cannot be said about the excellent introduction by editor Ross E. Lockhart. The man knows his stuff, and his thoughtful and thankfully entertaining explanation of the entangled genres at play here makes sense of what is presented. Lockhart’s introduction makes the book much easier to digest and appreciate, especially for readers who may not be as familiar with Italian cinema.

4/5 Geysers of Fake-Looking Blood

Mer Whinery is the author of The Little Dixie Horror Show and  Phantasmagoria Blues, which is available for pre-order here. His short story “The Projectionist” also appears in our latest anthology, High Strange Horror, available now.

High Strange Horror – Weird Tales of Paranoia and the Damned

High Strange Horror is now available for pre-order through Amazon. The Kindle version is a measly $2.99; the terrifying paperback version is an unlucky $13.

The book will also be available as an e-book through Barnes & Noble, the Apple Store, and other online retailers.

The book will be released on April 20th, but advance copies will be available at MiniCon in Minneapolis, MN on April 2-5, and at StarFest Denver April 17-19.

Table of Contents:

On the Weird and the Damned (introduction) by Jonathan Raab

Investigations by Michael Bryant

So You’ve Lost Your Edge. Now What? by Charles Martin and Will Weinke

Frosty Pyramid Treats by Jonathan Raab

The Dead Wait by Toni Nicolino

The Keepers by David A. Owens

Night Dog by Matthew M. Bartlett

The Pirate-Ghost of Hole 19 by Doctor Gaines

The Lights Are Off by Christopher Fraser

Púca by C.R.J. Smith

Brought Low by J. Howard Shannon

Black-Eyed Children, Blue-Eyed Child by Billy Lyons

The Vampire Sea by Amberle L. Husbands

Ascendance by Julie Godard

Cats by Jake Skillings

The Projectionist by Mer Whinery

Excerpt from Look For Me by Colin Scharf

I Want to Believe (post-script essay) by Colin Scharf

What is “High Strange”? 

It’s the men in black erasing your UFO research. It’s a corporate takeover by bio-occult horrors. It’s losing your edge, and finding it again at the bottom of the cosmos. It’s your television telling you to eat your government-approved genetically-modified breakfast cereal. It’s the unexplained lights in the sky and the faceless gray woman haunting your dreams. It’s ancient legends working under contract. It’s the forbidden film playing at a haunted movie theater. It’s the medical staff making sure you stay crazy. It’s the 19th round of mini golf with a disembodied pirate. It’s the outer reaches of human experience.

Where conventional reality ends, High Strange begins.

Over a dozen authors mine the deepest reaches of consciousness and Fortean phenomena.

Are you ready to see what lies beyond the veil?

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