Today sees the launch of a new podcast series from weird renaissance author Scott Nicolay, you can read my review of his fantastic collection Ana Kai Tangatahere, which will feature weekly interviews with people working in the weird/horror field. Today’s inaugural show features an interview with Livia Llewellyn, who I have raved about here in the past, which will make for a really interesting listen.
[audio www.projectiradio.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/tOS_1_LiviaLlewellyn_mixdown.mp3 ]
…in which horror author Livia Llewellyn discusses the evolution of her Shirley Jackson Award nominated collected Engines of Desire, the genesis of her forthcoming collection Furnace from Word Horde Press, the influence of Shakespearean tragedy, method acting, and swarming insects on her creative process, body horror and the horror of women’s bodies, the link between bad writing and bad erotica, the terrible things done to Scully’s body on the X-Files,Tales of the Black Century–the collection of dark erotica she is building story by story on Patreon, her semi-secret in-progress novel of literary erotic horror (even though literary erotic horror doesn’t officially exist), why you should be reading Peter Dubé, and hints at even darker things to come.
After today’s show Scott will be interviewing a cracking line up of authors.
Volume 2 of Dunham’s Manor’s new journal of Weird Fiction XNOYBIS will be released in the coming months and Jordan Krall, the editor and owner of Dunham’s Manor, last night announced the final table of contents.
THE INDOOR SWAMPS by Jon Padgett
THOSE WHO DWELL IN THE PERIPHERY by John Claude Smith
THE RINGERS by Rebecca LLoyd
HIS FIRST PARADE by Tom Lynch
A GIRL AND HER DOG by Anya Martin
ETYMOLOGY OF THE ADJECTIVE ‘DIVINE’ by Kurt Fawver
A LIGHT IN THE DOLLHOUSE WINDOW by Chris Shearer
AND THE FILTH FLOWS… ALWAYS by A (.W.) Hendry
DAUGHTERS OF HECATE by Kristi DeMeester
MEDUSA’S MIRROR by Ashley Dioses
MOON WAKE DIRGE by Kelda Crich
PLUS nonfiction by Selena Chambers, Jon Padgett, and Joe Zanetti
Oh look, who’s that tucked in between Chris Shearer and Kristi DeMeester? Why, that would be little old me. I have to admit that I did get really excited last night when I saw Jordan post this as not only will it be the first time that my fiction has appeared in actual bona fide print form but just look at that line up! Not only am I real stoked to be in this journal but I can’t wait to get my hands on my author copy so that I can read the rest of the stories! I’ve read Anya Martin’s ‘A Girl and her Dog’ and that’s a fantastic story so I’m really looking forward to the rest. 🙂
My wee eBook, Hinterland, is now available as an epub (LINK) for the measly price of £1. It would have originally been available in all formats but I foolishly signed up for an Amazon scheme that gave absolutely no benefits to me but prevented me from releasing the book on other platforms. I won’t be making that mistake again. The collection will also be being released in paperback via Lulu once I’ve had the chance to look over the proof copy.
Secondly, I’m working on a second, more substantial, collection of 16 stories which will hopefully be available this autumn as an eBook and regular old fashioned proper book. The working title for the collection is Sing Along With the Sad Song and the table of contents is thus:
Final March to the Beginning
For What is Sweet, and What is Right
in these ways we remember
The Downfall of the Good Worker Laura MacTavish
The Giant Who Fell in Love With a Storm
A Song of Work and Ire
The Corpse on the Clyde
You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next
The Horrible Old Man
On the Wasteland
Fall of the Squat of Usher
Of course, all of these titles are likely to change and some stories may be added or removed on naught but a whom of mine own. I also have an idea for the cover, what do you think? Pretty or gaudy?
I wrote a little while ago about Scott Nicolay‘s collection Ana Kai Tangata and quite how great it is. Well, good new -for me at least- as Scott has a new book coming out this October from King Shot Press. The book is called Noctuidae and has been described as a kaiju story as written by Beckett. Which is, obviously, all sorts of exciting. Adding to just how fantastic a piece of news this is is the fact that this is a collaboration with Portland artist Kim Bo Yung and you can see some of her concept art below.
Scott gave a quick interview recently to the Project I Radio folks and you can hear that below where he talks about Noctuidae, co-writing his tribute to Laird Barron with his freight train hopping hobo son, and explains -probably for the thousandth time- how to pronounce Ana Kai Tangata.
This review should have been published yesterday on the day that this awesome collection of King in Yellow inspired stories was published. Unfortunately a poorly Little Ms. X was more important than the timely publishing of reviews. So sorry I didn’t get this out yesterday which, fittingly ,was also the 150th anniversary of the birth of Robert W. Chambers.
tl;dr: This is amazing, buy this book.
Joseph S. Pulver is the King in Yellow –sorry True Detective fans; the Yellow King does not reside in Louisiana where he drives a power mower. No; this particular bEast resides in Berlin where he writes a form of Weird Fiction that seamlessly blends Noir, Beat, and Decadence with a cosmic kind of horror which can in turns wash over you with deliciously off kilter poetics before filling you with a dread that works its way into the darker, most hidden, reaches of your psyche.
The King in Yellow is a collection of short stories in the French Decadent tradition written by an American, Robert W. Chambers, in the 1890s. Pulver has been producing work which riffs off of the King in Yellow stories for decades and he is the person most responsible for keeping the yellow flame alive as a field of literary exploration in its own right for all that time. During the 20th Century Chambers’ work was brought into the mythology created by H.P. Lovecraft and the strange denizens that wreak havoc in Chambers’ work were turned into ancient and terrible alien gods by the acolytes of Lovecraft, even though he only made passing reference to them in his own work. Pulver has all but severed these ties to Lovecraft and instead seeks to explore the maddening influence of the more mysterious aspects of Chambers’ work: the titular play which drives mad any who witness or read the second act, and the Yellow Sign which casts a baleful influence over all who are unfortunate enough to encounter it.
That’s not to say that Pulver has abandoned all Lovecraftian elements; the first story proper in this collection, ‘Choosing’, is a post apocalyptic nightmare merging both mythologies into a bewildering scream of frustration and pain. Frustration at one’s powerlessness to resist horrors heaped down upon us by those protected by power and tradition; pain at the suffering inflicted upon those about whom we care by those stronger than us. To me this story seemed to speak of the way in which women, as a body of people, are abused and maltreated by society and the powerlessness of individuals to confront and challenge this maltreatment. Of course the story is also a brilliant horror tale and it’s testament to Pulver’s skill as a writer that his works can be read in different ways and to varying depths.
“To no particular where, just went. Stepped right into August like it was a voyage or a baptism. Stopped in his cheap room, grabbed his stuff and left. Somewhere down the road he’d find her. The wind would take him to her”
-‘Carl Lee & Cassilda’
Pulver’s hard-boiled, noir infected, prose in the ‘Carl Lee & Cassilda’ triptych of stories takes Chambers’ creations and places them firmly into America’s bourbon soaked underbelly of hustlers, hookers, lunacy and bloody murder. This dark sensibility and affinity for the broken refugees and cast-offs of society permeates much of Pulver’s work and his characters reflect this darkness. You will not like some, or many, of the characters in this book but then: you’re not supposed to. These are the stories, after all, that lurk in rain drenched alleyways waiting to seize an unsuspecting passerby and to turn their world upside down.
Joe Pulver is no a fearful writer and his prose in this collection illustrates this eagerly as he experiments with the form and function of the English language. Happily jumping from beat infused noir to decadent stage plays and poetic verse. His playing with form suggests to me that the printed page is going to give the reader the greatest appreciation for his work –though a regular e-reader may render the prose as it was initially meant to be read, I read this on my smartphone and the reflowing of some of his more poetic tales has guaranteed that I am also going to seek this collection out in paperback.
In ‘Saint Nicholas Hall’, dedicated to America’s Kafka –Michael Cisco, Pulver takes his creative muse and uses is as a scalpel to hone a beautifully realised modernist(?) prose poem that again plays with the form of the written word to fashion a phantasmagoric Carcosan cityscape through which the protagonist travels towards his confrontation with loss.
These are just a handful of the stories that make up this first volume of Jospeh Pulver Sr.’s collected King in Yellow tales. I highlighted these few as I feel they illustrate quite how deep a literary well Pulver is drawing from. This collection is an absolute must for anyone with an interest in the renaissance of weird fiction which has been underway these last few years. Pulver is a master of his art and you deserve to read him.
Info on where to buy the book in print or as an ebook can be found here(LINK).
Table of Contents
Introduction by Rick Lai
A Line of Questions
Carl Lee & Cassilda
An American Tango Ending in Madness
Hello is a Yellow Kiss
The Last Few Nights in a Life of Frost
Last Year in Carcosa
An Engagement of Hearts
Saint Nicholas Hall
A Spider in the Distance
Under the Mask Another Mask
Epilogue for Two Voices
Yvrain’s “Black Dancers”
The Songs Cassilda Shall Sing, Where Flap the Tatters of the King
Ana Kai Tangata: Tales of the outer, the Other, the Damned, and the Doomed is the début collection of short stories and novellas from American author Scott Nicolay. The title means ‘The Cave that Devoured Man’ in Pascuan, the language of Rapa Nui. Whilst there are only eight stories in this collection (alligators, The Bad Outer Space, Ana Kai Tangata, Eyes Exchange Bank, Phragmites, The Soft Frogs, Geschäfte, and Tuckahoe) this by no means implies that this volume is slim pickings -not by any means at all. Scott Nicolay’s stories are a slow burn that take exactly as long as they need to steer you gently off the map and into territories that are familiar yet strange -strange and terrifying. In this Nicolay reminds me another modern great in the world of weird fiction: John Langan; whose tales are also slow burning explorations of the weird.
I had read a couple of these stories before reading this collection: ‘alligators’, the opening tale of the collection, was published on the Lovecraft Ezine (LINK), and ‘Eyes Exchange Bank’ featured in Joe Pulver’s Shirley Jackson Award winning tribute to Thomas Ligotti The Grimscribe’s Puppets; and so I was really looking forward to getting stuck into this collection. My excitement at the thought of this collection was exacerbated by the way that Nicolay seems to have a similar approach to the concept of the weird as I do myself. I found his Dogme 2011 for Weird Fiction (LINK) to be both a humorous and creative approach to ensuring that weird tales don’t stray into the realms of traditional horror and that they can break free of the shackles of the earlier manifestations of the weird.
You should probably go and read ‘alligators’ now and then I can carry on talking about the book without you being in a state of complete and utter ignorance. On you go now, it’s fine -I’ll wait, I’m not busy or anything. No, no, I insist, here’s the link again (LINK) and I’ll see you when you get back.
Ah, there you are. No, no, no, it’s fine. I kept myself amused with my friend Estragon here. Anyway, what did you think? Do you see what I mean about it being a slow burn as the story swings gently between the past and present, between dreams and reality, between the world of the Reservation and the world of new Jersey, as it slowly and inexorably draws you away from the well worn track and into the the undergrowth that scratches and claws at your exposed skin, that pulls at your hair and clothes -warning you that there are reasons most people stay on the track.
Kids are fucking odd aren’t they? (Nice segue there Andy) Anyone who has spent much time with little kids can testify to this; their imaginations are far far bigger than their minuscule, imp like, forms would suggest is possible. ‘The Bad Outer Space’, originally published as a limited edition chapbook from Dunham’s Manor Press in 2013, is told entirely from the perspective of a very small child -I’m not sure of the way that American schools work but I would guess the child to be around four or five years old, and the story is rendered all the stranger for that. It seems to me to be quite a brave move to tell a horror story entirely from the perspective of someone so very young but Nicolay manages to pull it off with ease.
These two opening tales couldn’t be more different but they both bear the indelible mark of an author who is confident in their ability to craft unsettling tales that strip away that which we find familiar about the world; replacing it with something both new and old, monstrous and sublime. I really can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you’re interested in what is happening with the ongoing development of the renaissance of weird fiction then you have to get this book. If you’re wanting to read dark and disturbing fiction that is free of all of the tropes which we have come to expect from mainstream horror literature then you have to get this book. Basically, if you’re the sort of person that reads this blog then you absolutely have to get this book.
You can read another story of Scott’s, ‘In the Tank’, over at the Lovecraft Ezine (LINK) and there’s a really cool panel discussion with Scott on the Ezine’s web show from 2014 which you can watch below. Ana Kai Tangata is available from Fedogan and Bremer in a limited edition hardback (LINK), as well as in regular hardback and as an ebook from all the usual places.
[Edit] There is a great piece by Brittany Lloyd ‘”As if the Earth Under Our Feet Were an Excrement of Some Sky:” an Ecofeminist Readng of Cave Symbolism in Scott Nicolay’s Ana Kai Tangata and Isabel Allende’s Zorro” over on The Patron Saint of Superheroes (LINK)
Sorry for the somewhat truncated form of this review; I’m writing in between customers at work due to the somewhat sorry state of my home computing affairs. I’m definitely going to come back to write more about this book -the titular tale in particular, as well as Nicolay’s Ligottian ‘Eyes Exchange Bank’.
Men can see nothing around them that is not their own image; everything speaks to them of themselves. Their very landscape is alive.
-Guy Debord masquerading as Karl Marx: ‘Theory of the Dérive’ in Les Lèvres Nues #9 (November 1956)
Cartographic destabilization creates the sense of weirdness by projecting symbols and metaphors that signify dislocation and disorientation within the literature. Language is the map in which we follow literature by and if we cannot form our own stable cognitive map in our reading of said language, our sense of place becomes disturbed and uncanny.
-William J. Hugel ‘Developing Weirdness Through Cartographic Destabilization in Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation‘
William J. Hugel has an extremely interesting essay on Student Pulse –LINK, in which he looks at the use of landscape as a tool to disorient the reader of weird fiction. This sense of disorientation, the destabilisation of the reader’s sense of place, is something that I have elsewhere referred to as discombobulation -an unsettling of the reader’s relationship with reality as mediated by the text, whereby the author is able to site a story within a world that is seemingly mundane yet with the map that is the text being an unreliable narrator in and of itself. As though Borge’s map had been laid out perfectly and rotated a mere one or two degrees so that as soon as one has taken a step or two the map, that with which we are most familiar, begins to deviate wildly from the territory in which we find ourselves. Which is an unsettling experience for creatures such as ourselves who use, and are so reliant upon, representation for our interpretation and communication of reality.
This defamiliarisation which occurs in some works of weird fiction seems to me to serve as an literary manifestation of the Lettrist/Situationist concept of ‘Psychogeography’ and especially the psychogeographical technique of the dérive. Psychogeography is the study of the psychological effects of the environment, built or otherwise, on the humans that exist within a given geography. The dérive is a method of geographical exploration that, through the participation in the random or semi-random dérive -or ‘drift’- through the landscape, seeks to allow the psychogeographer to experience their environment in a radically different and newly authentic manner and in doing so come to understand it and to interact with it in ways outside those proscribed by those who control and structure our environment.
In a similar manner certain works of weird fiction serve to act as a dérive through the familiar world of literature and allow the reader to engage in a radically new way with the medium.
Votu is reached by crossing a high steppe plateau of long green grass. Like a glacier, the city flows from an inaccessible source high in the mountains, and extends down onto the plain. A boundary separates the piedmont zone from the upper city, and, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, nobody lives above the boundary. Looking up, the people of Votu watch as the future city arrives, having already existed from time immemorial and thus being older than the city they’ve come to know, sliding inexorably down the slope and piling up on top of them. People move into new buildings and adapt to the new streets as they cross the boundary into the habitable zone, while the older structures opposite are driven down and crushed together, collapsing to form a sort of rubbery scrim at the city’s lowest extremity. The compacted past city forms a dense integument, not unlike a callous, that makes the erection of an outer wall unnecessary along that side.
-Michael Cisco, Celebrant
In the passage above Michael Cisco introduces us to the imaginary, in the story, city of Votu which the protagonist, deKlend, learns of upon reading a geographical encyclopedia of invented countries and for which he endeavors to search. In Votu, where time runs backwards, we see an inversion in the development process of the city as the older parts of the city push aside and destroy the newer parts in which the inhabitants live. The slow, glacial, destruction of the older parts of the city is familiar to us but the inversion of the process forces the reader to consider the ways in which people have to adapt to the changes forced upon their environment by the seemingly unstoppable forces of capitalist development. In this the city of Votu is recognisable to the reader but it is also dislocated from mundane reality -a defining feature of The Weird as defined by Laird Barron in his introduction to 2014’s The Year’s Best Weird Fiction- and so the reader must engage with it from an unfamiliar -a discomfited- position.
This use of a radicalised and offset spatiality is one of the more powerful affects utilised by writers of weird fiction in their attempt to elicit unease in the reader and to open up the reader to a new literary experience in the mode of the weird. It allows the writer to present a new yet familiar world and, in doing so, gifts the reader a whole new territory to explore which perhaps allows access to a more authentically human experience than other literary forms.