Progress Report

I’m happy to report the first show of the new shows is coming together. I’m shooting for the 23rd of each month as the release date, and I’m on track for that now. After contacting a handful of folks in the weird fiction community to solicit their participation, I’ve gotten some encouraging responses. I’m not ready to wave around a guest list, or who might appear when, but I’m so pleased to be able to include this to the programming. It was a large part of my renewed vigor for the show and something I really think you’ll enjoy.

Grand Reopening

Professor Gruntsplatter’s Spookatorium had its first fitful run from September 2006 to October 2008. Now, five years after it first aired, I have decided to revive it. The entire archives from the old site are here, as well as some cross-posted goodies from my main site that fit the premise.

I’m starting to plan the first new episode now, Episode 027. The Spookatorium will pick up where it left off. I already owned the domain and the name still works with some of my new ideas. In the past, I was trying to maintain a schedule that was ultimately unrealistic. This time around, I’m shooting for one strong episode a month.

The show will continue to feature a variety of great music that speaks to the themes in one way or another, stories of the peculiar and bizarre, and new to this incarnation, I will be giving some attention to how these ideas surface in literature and art.

We’ll see how this goes. Stay tuned for more information as I figure it out.

“The Black Gondolier & Other Stories” by Fritz Leiber

I have finally introduced myself to the weird fiction of Fritz Leiber via the collection, The Black Gondolier & Other Stories. It has impressed the hell out of me.  The title piece alone has been a revelation. Edited by John Pelan & Steve Saville it was originally released by Midnight House as a limited hardcover. Though this has since gone OOP, the editors reissued it digitally through E-Reads. It’s available from all the usual suspects.

Leiber stirs character, atmosphere, insight and entertainment in to a roiling cauldron of delicious poison. He makes it look easy, the stories are fluid and seamless. Even in the instances where the endings are visible on the horizon they are not a disappointment because they are inevitable. His authenticity, and the natural course of the prose validate the things you encounter along the way.

He stitches his underlying themes together in a way that is never overbearing, and for me was perhaps his most enviable trait. Leiber’s genius is no secret, he was awarded every prestigious honor through his life that was out there. I’m just late to the celebration.

While there were stories I preferred over others here, I enjoyed them all. I wouldn’t hesitate to call The Black Gondolier a masterpiece. Supernatural dread, conspiracy, and awkward friendship drape each other in this tale that remains relevant and powerful. Without going into details, Leiber infuses the world with a logic that other authors might leave open to the unknowable. Whether the logic of the enlightened or the mad, it informs the tale and makes this a potent classic I will re-read over and over both for entertainment and study.

Other highlights: The Dreams Of Albert MorelandLie Still, Snow White, Spider Mansion, The Dead Man, The Secret Songs and others.

More Please.

Cross-posted from The Aberrant Laboratory

“A Choir Of Ill Children” by Tom Piccirilli

It was that title that caught my interest. It’s brilliant, evocative, and I wish I had thought of it. What a perfect Gruntsplatter song title. . . and so it fermented my brain, teasing and prodding my curiosity

I stumbled on a used copy of the Night Shade hardcover edition, in great shape, for $10 a few months ago and snatched it up. I’d draw it from the shelf now and then to admire the title and Caniglia cover art, then put it back for another day.

An opportunity to have a story critiqued by Mr. Piccirilli is what got me to excavate it from the “to be read” pile. I had only read a handful of his short stories, and I wanted to get a better idea of where his vision was coming from before I saw his critique.

It’s an impressive vision. A Choir Of Ill Children takes place deep in the superstitious bayou. It’s a degenerate world of swamp witchery, the ghosts and demons of family, and transcendent loyalty.

It’s Piccirilli’s sense of place and characterization that impressed me. He’s sculpted a rich world steeped in the sense of history that’s so important to the numerous story threads.  His character’s, each of them haunted in their own way, are authentic. The story weaves in a lot of things I have a personal affection for  – bog witches, the resonance of landmarks, the inherent creepiness of small towns, shabby carnivals, and so on – Piccirilli paints them with vivid colors.

The story is dense, some threads that seem crucial at the beginning end up not being as significant as the book evolves. They are introduced as catalysts for something else, and then fade into the background. If I had a gripe, it would be that. There is more that could have been done with some of the threads, or they could have been removed if they weren’t as important as suggested. They do add to the texture of the world and the personality of the large cast though, and that texture and personality is how A Choir Of Ill Children worms into your guts.

Piccirilli’s vision and captivating prose, earns A Choir Of Ill Children a home among other notable Southern Gothics. There are various editions that have been released since it was first published, and I’m not sure what’s in print and what’s not, but you should go find out.

Cross-p0sted from The Aberrant Laboratory

Mythoscon Recap

Towering, primeval arachnid limbs cloaked within palm trunks, diabolical spores in the shifty guise of citrus fruit, an airport flight path spitting forth chromed Nightgaunts at clockwork intervals and a desk clerk who informed us that in the hotel courtyard we would need not worry about the DEA. (seriously – and for the record, the DEA is about the last thing in the world I worry about.)

Readings I attended:
Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire – Read three sonnets from his forthcoming 37,000 word response to Lovecraft’s Fungi From Yuggoth. Here is some more info on the complete work from Wilum’s site. His presentation was engaging and personal with some entertaining asides, really enjoyable.

Richard Gavin – Richard read The Abject, a new piece slotted to appear in S.T. Joshi’s forthcoming Black Wings II. I look forward to reading this powerful piece in print to fully absorb the atmosphere, powerful visuals and isolation presented in the reading.

Simon Strantzas – Simon read In The Air, A poignant story of grief and loss from the recent reissue of his first book Beneath The Surface from Dark Regions Press. It was nice to hear this read as I had recently finished Beneath The Surface.

Matt Cardin – presented The Stars Shine Without Me from his collection Dark Awakenings issued by Mythos Books. This tale of alienation, the power of absent minded creativity and corporate horror was one of my favorites from his collection, and was a treat to hear read in person.

Michael Cisco – Michael Cisco is someone I hadn’t read going in, but expected I would like once I had. His reading was the highlight of the convention for me. He read, I believe, Violence, Child of Trust from the anthology Black Wings (I know it was from Black Wings, but I didn’t note if it was from the original or the forthcoming edition). It was nearly a one man show in presentation. The delivery and content were as dramatic and emotional as a I think one person sitting behind a small table could be. He was riveting and the prose infectious, I left there knowing I needed to read as much of his work as I can get my hands on.

Rick Dakan – Rather than a reading, Rick spoke of his process of writing and gathering experiences for his novel The Cthulhu Cult: A Novel Of Lovecraftian Obsession that was funny and impressive in its scope. Check out Rick’s Lovecraftian Obsession Podcast if you haven’t for some nice interviews with the likes of Wilum Pugmire, Laird Barron and others.

Panels I Attended:
Contemporary Mythos Fiction I – Featured Wilum Pugmire, Cody Goodfellow, Robert M. Price and Ann Schwader.  They gave folks like Joe Pulver, Sr. Stanley Sargent & Lin Carter a lot of love in their panel.

Contemporary Mythos Fiction II – This featured Richard Gavin, Simon Strantzas, Rick Dakan and Lois M. Gresh. This was another highlight for me (even at 9am Sunday morning). They dealt with the subtler influences of Lovecraft. Gavin sparked a great discussion by raising Alan Moore’s concept of Ideaspace. This was a discussion I was hoping to hear, and one that made a greater impression on me than simply retreading the Mythos and the minutiae of Lovecraft’s life.

Small Press Panel I & II – I was hoping for a little more vision from these panels. There was more mistrust of technology f than I expected and from some members a feeling that the major publishing houses focus on blockbuster books was a good thing for the small press. I’m not sure I agree with that, particularly that limited (expensive) books will keep their niche safe. There wasn’t a lot of talk about reaching out and trying to grow the small press aside from the Perilous Press folks who seem to have a really good perspective on what they are doing. (hmm – tried to link the Perilous Press site and apparently it’s down)

Personal Highlights:

This was the first Mythoscon, and while I suspect the organizers would have liked a larger turnout, Adam Niswander and his crew put together a great event. Adam was a gracious host, and personally stopped 2-3 times just to make sure my wife and I were enjoying ourselves. It was my first convention and his team made created something memorable.

I was able to speak with some of my favorite authors, each of whom were gracious and tolerant of me… stood next to Ramsey Campbell at the buffet… got to see the original artwork for Laird Barron’s Occultation in person… picked up some great books (Centipede Press’s table was as delectable as I feared)

I left feeling invigorated, inspired, and eager to tell stories. I’m hopeful that some of the acquaintances I made or reinforced will continue, and I’m pleased to have had the chance to see first hand the passion for weird tales is alive and well.

Cross-Posted from The Aberrant Laboratory