Monday, October 17, 2016

recent read; Best New Horror: Volume 25 edited by Stephen Jones

It's hard to go wrong with any of these The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror anthologies from Stephen Jones.

This volume came out in 2014, and contains stories from 2013. It also includes a dense "Introduction: Horror in 2013" which informs about all manner of publications in the horror field for 2013. The only drawback is that titles are embedded in the prose. You'll need to distill your own list, if you are interested in following up on any of the mentioned books.

The stories are all quality, I don't need to review each one. A few weren't to my taste, which is nearly always a given with any anthology. Some of my favorites were "Click-clack the Rattlebag" by Neil Gaiman, "The Middle Park" by Michael Chislett, "Into The Water" by Simon Kurt Unsworth (an Innsmouthian tale,) and "The Sixteenth Step" by Robert Shearman.

The volume also includes the entire novella, "Whitstable" by Stephen Volk, featuring a fictionalized account of Peter Cushing's off-screen life as he deals with a real life monster. Well done and worth the read.

The thick volume ends with "Necrology: 2013," which, sadly, is an "in memoriam" essay. Many people were lost to the horror field in 2013.

As I said at the top, you can't really go wrong with any of these. Worth having. Worth reading.

p.s.; Jones has been republishing earlier volumes through PS Publishing for e-book editions. New ones are e-book and hardcover. (Dropping the The Mammoth Book Of... moniker.) They have new EC Comic style covers, too.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Vlad and Bran Mak Morn

For this October, I am listening to Fred Saberhagen's THE DRACULA TAPE. It is a retelling of DRACULA from Vlad's point-of-view. Parts of the original novel are quoted/re-used. This morning I listened to Dracula's speech of his race. Re-reading the original speech (from DRACULA online at I find the speech would fit into a Robert E. Howard story.

“We Szekelys have a right to be proud, for in our veins flows the blood of many brave races who fought as the lion fights, for lordship. Here, in the whirlpool of European races, the Ugric tribe bore down from Iceland the fighting spirit which Thor and Wodin gave them, which their Berserkers displayed to such fell intent on the seaboards of Europe, ay, and of Asia and Africa too, till the peoples thought that the were-wolves themselves had come. Here, too, when they came, they found the Huns, whose warlike fury had swept the earth like a living flame, till the dying peoples held that in their veins ran the blood of those old witches, who, expelled from Scythia had mated with the devils in the desert. Fools, fools! What devil or what witch was ever so great as Attila, whose blood is in these veins?” He held up his arms. “Is it a wonder that we were a conquering race; that we were proud; that when the Magyar, the Lombard, the Avar, the Bulgar, or the Turk poured his thousands on our frontiers, we drove them back? Is it strange that when Arpad and his legions swept through the Hungarian fatherland he found us here when he reached the frontier; that the Honfoglalas was completed there? And when the Hungarian flood swept eastward, the Szekelys were claimed as kindred by the victorious Magyars, and to us for centuries was trusted the guarding of the frontier of Turkey-land; ay, and more than that, endless duty of the frontier guard, for, as the Turks say, ‘water sleeps, and enemy is sleepless.’ Who more gladly than we throughout the Four Nations received the ‘bloody sword,’ or at its warlike call flocked quicker to the standard of the King? When was redeemed that great shame of my nation, the shame of Cassova, when the flags of the Wallach and the Magyar went down beneath the Crescent? Who was it but one of my own race who as Voivode crossed the Danube and beat the Turk on his own ground? This was a Dracula indeed! Woe was it that his own unworthy brother, when he had fallen, sold his people to the Turk and brought the shame of slavery on them! Was it not this Dracula, indeed, who inspired that other of his race who in a later age again and again brought his forces over the great river into Turkey-land; who, when he was beaten back, came again, and again, and again, though he had to come alone from the bloody field where his troops were being slaughtered, since he knew that he alone could ultimately triumph! They said that he thought only of himself. Bah! what good are peasants without a leader? Where ends the war without a brain and heart to conduct it? Again, when, after the battle of Mohács, we threw off the Hungarian yoke, we of the Dracula blood were amongst their leaders, for our spirit would not brook that we were not free. Ah, young sir, the Szekelys—and the Dracula as their heart’s blood, their brains, and their swords—can boast a record that mushroom growths like the Hapsburgs and the Romanoffs can never reach. The warlike days are over. Blood is too precious a thing in these days of dishonourable peace; and the glories of the great races are as a tale that is told.”

I don't think this speech is too far afield from something Bran Mak Morn might say - lamenting his proud race (the Picts) and their achievements that have been eroded by history and the passing of time.

EDIT: Deuce Richardson tipped me off to this addendum to my observation, too;

Friday, September 30, 2016

recent listen; SNOWBLIND by Christopher Golden

It would be hard to review this one without using words that might be mistaken as puns. But, make no mistake, this is a chilling novel. It is chilling in the horror, the suspense and the absolute veracity Golden brings to his descriptions of howling blizzards.

In the city of Coventry, Massachusetts, a blizzard arrives. This storm comes with more than snow, wind and cold. Creatures exist in the storm. They are strange, ephemeral and deadly. By the time the storm winds down, multiple mysterious deaths from the storm rock the community.

Twelve years later, another storm threatens, and the dead do not rest easy. They know what the storm is bringing. They are scared. And if the ghosts are scared, what horrors await the living?

Golden does a great job of putting the cold of this story into your bones. He establishes a solid cast of characters. They are believable, and distinct. The tension really ratchets up as the book heads toward its conclusion.

Highly recommended.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Reading all over the map

Summer isn't quite done, but I'm anxious for autumn. Mostly, I want to get in the right (write) mood for drafting horror and ghost stories. Sure, I can do it anytime, but atmosphere helps.

I signed up (i.e.; spent money) and joined Audible, so any full novel 'reads' I do for a while will be in that manner. I've already been through James A. Moore's THE SILENT ARMY, the first Sherlock Holmes, A STUDY IN SCARLET and I just finished THE BEASTS OF TARZAN.

For real reading, I'm jumping around various anthologies and collections, mostly horror. Algernon Blackwood's ANCIENT SORCERIES. THE BEST OF NEW HORROR Vol. 25.  Reading my co-authors in CARNACKI: THE LOST CASES.

Plus some comics. Got in the mood for Iron Man last night, so started on IRON MAN, ESSENTIAL VOL 2.

Oh, and going back to my Weird New England roots - also reading about THE GREAT NEW ENGLAND SEA SERPENT. (blame that one on the whale watch we went on last week)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Cold War memories

Last night, we had heavy weather in our county. Rain thunder and wind. Potential for tornadoes. Some places had damage, fortunately we did not.

Some of my friends reported their smartphone weather apps squawking in the middle of the night.

But for me, it was a little different.

We leave our daughter’s radio on the classical station overnight. I was awoken at 3:30AM by the emergency broadcast signal. The old-fashioned way.

I thought about it this morning and realized that is the first time in my life I’ve heard that signal for real and not just as a test. I can remember having afternoon cartoons interrupted by that squeal for testing. For someone who grew up in New England, hearing that signal for real was a little weird. In the midwest or South or areas more prone to tornadoes or other bad weather, you might have heard the signal otherwise.

This heightened weather awareness in our local media came a few years ago when a tornado touched down and there were fatalities. Tornadoes are still a very rare phenomena around these parts, though we get our share of wind microbursts. But now we get reports and weather notices and live hype, of course.

Pondering it a little more, I probably rarely thought of that signal as weather-related. Growing up under the Cold War, if we were ever to hear that signal for real - it was more likely that the missiles would be flying, and we would be screwed.

Friday, August 12, 2016

recent read; Honourkeeper by Nick Kyme

For a while, Black Library kept intriguing me with back cover synopses and I was buying them like crazy. I made myself stop, but I still have a shelf full. It occurred to me it had been a long time since I read a Warhammer, so I picked one.

Irascible dwarfs almost always get my attention in fantasy works. I went with Nick Kyme's Honourkeeper, the third title in a loose trilogy concerning dwarfs in the world of Warhammer.

In the ancient days of the Old World, long before the time of men, the dwarfs and elves are at the height of their prosperity. As King Bagrik of the dwarfs and Prince Ithalred of the elves forge a trade pact, a vast horde of northmen attacks the elf settlement. When King Bagrik's son is slain, the dwarfs join forces with the elves, eager for vengeance. Can the dwarfs and the elves put aside their differences long enough to prevail over foe?

Much like its predecessor, Oathbreaker, this novel delivers on the sweeping battlefields, amazing dwarf halls, aloof elves, bloody Northmen of Chaos. I really liked the dwarf queen. There is also drama and intrigue between the two races - elves and dwarfs. They are attempting for forge a trade alliance, but they get along about as well as oil and water from the start.

I enjoyed this one.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Eh, not much new but I haven't posted since mid-July.

I've had some fun reads, I've signed up for Audible - trying to shift some 'reading' time to my new, longer commute to leave me more writing time at home.

Attended NECON which was a hoot (and sold out) as always. A bunch of us have already registered for next summer's NECON 37. I'm really riding the post-NECON bump this time and committing even more effort to my writing.

Hopefully, I'll have more interesting things to post in the near future.