Matthew M. Bartlett Guest of Honor Intro – Krallcon 2016

Jordan Krall of Dunhams Manor Press asked me to put together a short introductory video for our own Matthew M. Bartlett. He was the guest of honor at this year’s Krallcon, the annual gathering of horror, weird, and bizarro writers in New Jersey.

It was my great pleasure to pay tribute to such a talented writer. We’re publishing Creeping Waves later this month, and I couldn’t be happier to have that book bearing our logo.

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Love, Marriage, and the Weird: A review of Philip Fracassi’s MOTHER

Published by Dunhams Manor Press
Available Here
Review by Billy Lyons

There comes a time in almost every marriage when one’s spouse seems remarkably different from the person they married. The person you thought you knew better than anyone else on earth becomes a stranger, and you wonder if you ever knew them at all. Fortunately, many such marital crises resolve on their own with little or no damage to either party. But there are exceptions. A horrifying example of one such exception is found in Mother, the terrifying new novella from Philip Fracassi.

Mother is the story of Howard and Julie, who meet in college and find happiness in each other’s arms. After three years together, they marry and move far away from their college town to West Virginia (in itself a terrifying proposition), where they hope to build a happy life together.

Unfortunately, things go wrong almost from the start. Howard accepts a teaching position at a local community college, while Julie stays home to concentrate on her art. Howard is happy enough, but Julie becomes dissatisfied almost immediately. She doesn’t fit in with Howard’s friends, and has little success in finding a gallery that will showcase her work. Before long, their once promising partnership falters.

MOTHER

 

As the first years of their marriage pass, Julie goes from being merely bored and distant to exhibiting behavior that is both secretive and bizarre. When Howard discovers her standing naked in her studio amidst some bizarre occult symbols, he very correctly worries that things have gone too far. As he delves deeper into his wife’s hidden affairs, the secrets he uncovers will endanger not only his marriage, but his very soul.

One of the things that makes Mother so successful is Fracassi’s superior writing. His development of the two main characters is superb. I found myself identifying with them early on, and as a result I was invested in their success or failure. When things began to go wrong for Howard and Julie, I found myself genuinely concerned for their future. As a writer, I can tell you that creating such vivid and relatable characters is no easy feat.

Fracassi also does a wonderful job of establishing and building mood. As Howard and Julie’s relationship progressed, I felt my own emotions running the gamut, from happy optimism on their wedding day to general discomfort as their partnership began to collapse, to sheer terror once their story reaches its terrifying climax.

And believe me, it is a terrifying climax, one worthy of Lovecraft himself. The last few pages of Mother scared the hell out of me, and coming from someone who eats, sleeps, and breathes horror, that takes some doing. I also found Mother’s ending to be reminiscent of Stephen King’s Revival, a novel I consider to be this century’s most significant contribution to weird fiction.

Although Philip Fracassi is already an accomplished screenwriter and novelist, Mother is his first attempt at horror. After reading it, I hope it won’t be his last.

You can follow Philip Fracassi at his blog and on Twitter.

Telepathic Dolphins and Von Däniken Pseudoarcheology: A review of Alectryomancer and Other Weird Tales by Christopher Slatsky

Published by Dunhams Manor Press

Available Here

Ancient civilizations are rising from the earth. Pseudo-religious philosophy rewrites itself in your journal. And every myth, rumor, and conspiracy theory you’ve heard, and every creeping suspicion you’ve ever had about yourself and the world—is true. It’s all true, and more.

Grab your dictionary, your alternative history texts, and watch the skies. Alectryomancer and Other Weird Tales by Christopher Slatsky is a compelling, frightening, mind-altering journey into the depths of unknowable outer space and inner space alike. It’s a bad mushroom trip while watching Ancient Aliens intercut with Super 8 footage of your darkest childhood memories.

Each story’s characters, settings, and laws of reality and consciousness are unique. But they all share the same general thematic conceit: as the characters inevitably suffer some sort of apocalyptic psychological breakdown, so too does the world upon which they’ve based their foolish assumptions about cause and effect, good and evil, history and fiction, meaning and chaos.

If that sounds heady, it is. It’s also a wild ride. While several of the stories are more experimental and introspective, most of them are also compelling and entertaining. Slatsky’s writing here gives you just enough bread crumbs as you make your way into the nightmare forest, step by anxious step. While his interests in philosophy, alternative history, occultism, cryptozoology, ufology, and high strangeness are all on full display, he doesn’t lose sight of the fact that horror audiences want to be entertained. Sometimes the best form of entertainment is being strung along, first by interesting characters and settings, then by a smattering of hints of the otherworldly, and finally by the promise of seeing what’s behind the pulsing, slime-ridden Door of Mystery. With each story in this collection, Slatsky asks us: Are you sure you want to know what’s on the other side?

About half of the stories here are reprints of his previously published work, including his contributions to anthologies as well as his chapbooks. But even if you’ve read his work before, this collection is still worth picking up, as the new stories are just as strong as his previous work. Put simply, this is one of the best books I’ve read all year. I sincerely look forward to revisiting some of these stories, and have already begun recommending the collection to friends.

Standouts include: “An Infestation of Stars” about occultism and insect worship; “Corporautolysis” which is a tale of fungal infestation and corporate drone horror; “No One is Sleeping in This World” as a tale of urban decay and nihilistic artistic adventurism; “The Ocean is Eating Our Graves” about Native American reservation culture and succeeding waves of genocide and occupation; “Tellurian Façade” about underground civilizations, veteran paranoia, and child abuse; “Film Maudit” about forbidden film and a certain Tillinghast Resonator; and my personal favorite, “A Plague of Naked Movie Stars”, a throwback to childhood Halloweens and Satanic cult paranoia.

Slatsky’s knowledge of the occult, alternative, and conspiratorial dwarfs my own, which is no small feat. His stories seemed almost perfectly tailored to my taste and interest for the High Strange. He often relies on references to the field that may be lost on the average reader (more than a few were lost on me), but those examples only help to hint at the broader, unseen world that so many of us suspect but often cannot see. The title tale, “Alectryomancer”, abuses this conceit somewhat, with not much in the way of payoff. Still, it was a strong story, and more than makes up for the author’s indulgence in pseudoacademic rambling with beautiful, terrifying imagery and bizarre characterizations.

While it may be easy for us to ignore the various references to occultism and conspiratorial history, Slatsky’s characters do not have the luxury of ignorance. What is secret does not remain hidden. Sanity is suddenly a commodity; each world descending into inexplicable, psychedelic chaos, births and deaths, rebirths and undeaths.

Then again, who’s to say any of these characters were sane in the first place?

Who’s to say the same of us?

Tellurian Façades, indeed.

5/5 Hyperboloid Ceilings with Infinite Expansion

Christopher Slatsky talks Alectryomancer, weird influences, and Fortean phenomena

Christopher Slatsky is a horror and weird fiction author with multiple chapbooks to his name, including the 80’s Satanic paranoia story A Plague of Naked Movie Stars, the cosmic horror-tinged No One is Sleeping in This World, and the horror-in-memory work This Fragmented Body, all available from Dunhams Manor Press. His short fiction has appeared in Resonator: New Lovecraftian Tales From Beyond, Xnoybis #1, The Lovecraft eZine, and others.

His newest book, Alectryomancer, also from Dunhams Manor Press, is “A Depression-era Weird tale about California laborers, cock-fighting, time travel, UFO abductions, and more.” Color me crazy if that doesn’t sound like a helluva read.

You’ve been publishing chapbooks with Dunhams Manor Press/Dynatox Ministries for about a year now. What draws you to that format, and what’s it like working with Dunhams Manor Press?

My history with Dunhams Manor Press is certainly the longest in a short career (short for some I suppose) as No One is Sleeping in This World was released in Sept. 2014. I’d never considered the self-publishing route, instead focusing on publishers with a strong track record in releasing novellas and short stories. Dunhams Manor Press was one of the few entities interested in difficult-to-pin-down tales.

Alectryomancer’s description evokes a lot of disparate elements. Could you tell us a little more about the story and characters? What inspired you to write this tale?

Alectryomancer really started with the current popularity of weird westerns. I’d considered writing a story set in 19th century California, but my love of Steinbeck and Nathanael West, as well as the lack of horror stories set during the Great Depression, lured me to a later decade. As is the case with most weird story telling, the atmosphere was my first consideration, so the dingy hardscrabble world of migrant workers in the late 30s offered the most potential.

Rey represents my attempt to convey the plight of the laborer far from home, exploited in a foreign land, his photographs and strange journal are his only link to the past, a past distorted by odd circumstances. I tried to convey a sense of occult machinations behind the façade of everything, a hint of grandeur and cosmic conspiracies the characters are incapable of fully grasping, while the reader is allowed a bit more understanding, but the entirety of these forces are kept tantalizingly ambiguous. I’m fascinated by origin of life narratives, and Alectryomancer was my attempt to convey an alternative creation fable. I’ve never mapped out any sort of mythos or rules or checklist, but I do have a template that gently guides most of my stories.

AlectryomancerI have a strong interest in ufology, conspiracy theories, and how sociology affects and is affected by both. How much of your own interest in these subjects informed Alectryomancer?

Very influential. I’ve been obsessed with the paranormal, Fortean phenomena, pseudo-anthropology, In Search of…, and such since I was a kid. The idea of pocket universes, alternative explanations for proto-human’s evolutionary lineage, and UFOs of course, all came together in Alectryomancer.

Have you had any otherworldly experiences? Are you a believer, a skeptic, or somewhere in between?

I don’t believe so, as I defer to Occam’s Razor as my default in interpreting anomalous experiences. While I certainly don’t have all the answers, and it could be argued that epistemology necessitates all anthropocentric cultivated data as flawed, I would argue that anything violating well-established physical laws had best present a solid case before accepting anything like psychics, UFOs, or an afterlife. I’m an atheist and skeptic who doesn’t accept the existence of anything beyond the foundation of mechanistic processes that govern the universe’s activities, including the life forms composed of these physical constituents. I’d love the evidence to be such that I’m wrong, but the universe has yet to give any hint of a ghost in the machine, a Bigfoot in the PNW, or a ghost in the dilapidated mansion.

Writers tend to explore and focus on certain themes during different arcs of their careers. What patterns do you see developing in your own work? How do they relate to the broader resurgence independent horror literature is experiencing?

At the risk of sounding incredibly pretentious, which may have happened already, I’m interested in exploring the nature of God, consciousness and memory. I’m fascinated by the universe as described above, but also curious as to how the world would be different if these processes resulted in something that upended well-accepted physical laws (like a mind or soul), or, contravene that with how the world would operate if these laws were only the thin veneer of reality disguising far more profound forces that elude any attempt at labeling them—i.e., a Creator or creators. Everything is so intimately wrapped up in how we remember how things were, or remember how we want them to eventually become, that any hiccup along the way offers so much potential for the weird to crack the firmament and allow the intrusion of wonder and apprehension.

While acknowledging the contentious nature of labels, I see the broader aspects of weird fiction as an acknowledgement that genre is all too often stifling, not revelatory, and that one may be as influenced by Flannery O’Connor as they are Poe, Jackson as they are Sebald, or Langston Hughes as they are King. I’m proud to be associated with the weird renaissance, horror, or whatever label fits. I hope I can contribute something meaningful. There’s a wealth of exciting, diverse voices as of late.

I first read your work in Resonator: New Lovecraftian Tales From Beyond. “Film Maudit” was one of the best stories in a very, very strong book. It reminded me of haunted film/haunted theater movies like John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness and Cigarette Burns, as well as Lamberto Bava’s Demons, but with a classic 50s and 60s spookshow gimmick sensibility. Where did you draw inspiration for the tale?

Thank you!

Maya Derren’s work and Canawati’s “haunted film” Return to Babylon were instrumental in actually forcing me to write the story down. I’m a movie buff fascinated by lost films, and cult, transgressive cinema in general. All of that and my love of Ramsey Campbell meant “Film Maudit” was always in my head in some capacity and I just needed an appropriate anthology to submit. I was very fortunate that Scott R. Jones, an editor I expect to become more and more known, and an author whose works I admire, accepted it.

What’s your next project about?

A limited edition hardback of Alectryomancer and Other Tales will be released in April 2016 with a new cover and interior art by Dave Felton. It will also contain two unpublished stories: Sparagmos, Ltd., and a novelette, a spiritual prequel to No One Is Sleeping in This World and sequel to Alectryomancer, titled No One May See Me and Live. I also have a story in the upcoming anthology Summer of Lovecraft.