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Hallowen: Magic, Mystery & the Macabre Trick or Treating with Friends

September 8th, 2013

HalloweenMagicMysMacabre-500Halloween comes early this year, with the September release of Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre – another terrific anthology from award-winning editor Paula Guran and the good people at Prime Books.

The book is a follow up to Paula’s 2011 anthology Halloween, which featured 33 classic reprints by the likes of Ray Bradbury, H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and F. Paul Wilson. It also featured a thoughtful essay about the origins and traditions of Halloween, which you can read here.

Unlike its predecessor, the new book features all-new Halloween-themed stories. I’ve just finished reading my copy, and it’s a terrific book – perfect material for a cool autumn night.

scent-of-magicAmong the standouts is “The Halloween Men,” a horror story by my good friend Maria V. Snyder, a writer more often associated with romantic fantasy than horror fiction. She and I currently serve as residency writers in the Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University, and at this summer’s residency she attributed her foray into the macabre to hanging out with Michael A. Arnzen and me. She was being generous, of course. But regardless of how the story came to be, it’s a terrific read. Set in a strange world where the wearing of masks is enforced by mysterious men in black robes, “The Halloween Men” displays the kind of spare yet fully-realized fantasy that has made Maria one of the best fantasy writers working today. If you haven’t discovered her yet, consider checking out her books Scent of Magic, Poison Study, Touch of Power, and all the other titles that you can read about at MariaVSnyder.com. Good reading awaits.

TimeAnother standout story is “All Souls Day” by Barbara Roden, who in recent years has established herself as one of the contemporary masters of short fiction. Publishers Weekly, in a review of her collection Northwest Passages, refers to her work as “deftly executed tales of subtle horror,” and her story in this collection continues that tradition. Barbara is also a multi-award winning editor who, along with her husband Christopher Roden, has been running critically acclaimed Ash-Tree Press since its inception in 1994. I first met Barbara and Christopher at World Fantasy 2007, and we’ve been good friends ever since, getting together at the major conventions at least once or twice a year. In 2010 they edited and published This Way to Egress, the definitive collection of my horror stories.

Jack Pumpkinhead by William Wallace DenslowHalloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre also features terrific new stories by Laird Barron, Laura Bickle, Jay Caselberg, Brenda Cooper, Brian Hodge, Stephen Graham Jones, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Nancy Kilpatrick, Jonathan Maberry, Norman Partridge, John Shirley, Steve Rasnic Tem & Melanie Tem, Carrie Vaughn, A.C. Wise, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro – some of the modern masters of magic, mystery, and the macabre.

Oh yes, it also contains one of my stories – a new tale of physiological horror titled “Pumpkin Head Escapes.” And since the book releases this week, my friends and I get to do some early trick-or-treating.

Care to join us?

Image Credits:

Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre,  Prime Books 2013. Scent of Magic, Harlequin 2013. Northwest Passages, Prime Books 2010. Jack Pumpkin Head, illustration detail by William Wallace Dinslow from L. Frank Baum’s The Road to Oz (1909).

Twilight Zone Magazine Remembered: Then & Now @ WFC 2012

November 9th, 2012

Last Thursday I returned to the Twilight Zone.

But I didn’t go alone.

Also along for the journey were Scott Edelman, Nancy Baker, Darrell Schweitzer, and Elizabeth Hand – fellow contributors to Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine, the legendary publication that dominated the fantasy landscape in the 1980s

Christopher Roden of Ash-Tree Press introduced our panel at World Fantasy 2012 (November 1 @ 9:00 p.m.), treating the audience to a PowerPoint presentation that featured a string of youthful photos of the panelists, all taken from the pages of the magazine. It was great seeing those kids again, looking back from the high ground of 2012.

After the introductions, Chris let the PowerPoint run on its own, displaying a string of vintage Twilight Zone covers. Thus, while the panelists reminisced, the screen became a window to the past: a simple but effective touch.

Afterward, we got together for a couple of photo ops, one in which we all lined up with issues containing our stories, and a second that featured each of us standing beside photographs from the magazine’s contributor pages — making for some interesting then-and-now comparisons.

For me, that second op made for a real Twilight Zone moment, standing beside the image of a kid who at the time had sold barely a half-dozen stories. It’s nice to be still in the game.

The same can certainly be said for Elizabeth Hand, this year’s WFC author guest of honor, who has gone on to win three World Fantasy Awards, two Nebula Awards, two International Horror Guild Awards, and others. Recently, Publishers Weekly named her novel Available Dark one of the Top 10 Mystery/Thrillers of the season.

Nancy Baker’s first sale to the magazine was “The Party Over There,” which appeared in the June 1988 issue. (In my previous post, “Remembering The Twilight Zone @ World Fantasy 2012,” I erroneously identified that story as “Exodus 22:18,” which was her second TZ story, appearing in June 1989.) Nancy has gone on to write three well-receive vampire novels: The Night InsideBlood and Chrysanthemums, and A Terrible Beauty.  She is currently working on a fourth book, which she tells us has nothing to do with vampires.

Scott Edelman was already active in fantasy publishing by the time he made his first TZ sale in 1983. In the 70s he wrote for both Marvel and DC Comics, creating The Scarecrow (a.k.a. Straw Man) for the Marvel universe. He has edited Science Fiction Weekly (the online magazine of the Sci Fi Channel) since 2000.

During our panel, Scott reminisced about the lobby of the Twilight Zone offices, which TZ shared with Gallery (a magazine that catered to a decidedly different kind of fantasy).

One side of the lobby displayed Gallery covers featuring scantily-clad women, while the other side was dominated by the much more sublime and surreal covers of Twilight Zone. Teasy vs. TZ? Ah, gotta love the 80s!

Our fifth panelist was writer, editor, and critic Derrell Schweitzer, who spoke insightfully about the role that Publishers Clearing House played in the magazine’s demise. According to Derrell, PCH oversold underpriced subscriptions, resulting in cash-flow problems.

And so today we are left with fond memories, not to mention careers that began with Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine.

What do you think? Do you remember the magazine? Thoughts, comments, and corrections are always welcome. Use the comment box below or the Facebook tab at the top of the page.

Rock on!

Airships and Sherlock Holmes

October 22nd, 2011

The master sleuth and Master of the World.

What’s not to love?

The World Fantasy Convention has just released its program schedule for 2011, one that offers an impressive blend of topics centering on this year’s theme: Sailing the Seas of Imagination.

At the con, I’ll be joining a discussion about airships and reading from my latest Sherlock Holmes mystery “The Executioner.”

First up, I’ll be joining  Jetse de Vries, Eric Flint, Charles Gannon, and Cliff Winnig for a panel titled “To Sail Above the Clouds: Airships.” Here’s the description:

With Steampunk’s popularity, airships are rising too. Sometimes they’re treated just like sailing ships. (Airship pirates!). Sometimes more like trains or planes. What is unique about this form of transportation that’s grabbed the attention of Steampunk? What has literature done with it and what does literature get wrong and right? (Friday 2:00 PM)

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about airships, working on a new story tentatively titled “Zeppelin to the Moon,” which brings together Professor Challenger (The Lost World), Mr. Bedford (First Men in the Moon), and Count von Zeppelin (the renowned airship designer) on a mission to rescue the inventor of cavorite from the clutches of the Grand Lunar. Sound interesting?

 “To Sail Above the Clouds” will mark my second appearance on a steampunk-themed panel this year. The first was two months ago when I joined my good friends Paul Genesse, Anton Strout, Gregory Wilson, and Maurice Broaddus at GenCon for a presentation titled “Make it Steamy: A Look at the Steampunk Genre.” That event really packed them in, with nearly 100 people in attendance. One of the highlights was Maurice’s account of his forthcoming “steampunk story with all black characters.” It’s title: Pimp My Airship. Looking forward to that one!

Paul and I also got the chance to reminisce about works that introduced us to the tropes of steampunk. His was the Ray Harryhausen 1961 film Mysterious Island (soon to be released in a limited-edition Blu-Ray  from Twilight Time). Mine was Karl Zerman’s 1958 Vynález zkázy, released in the States as The Fabulous World of Jules Verne. I remember catching that one at a drive-in near Philadelphia. The world has never been the same.

Also on the bill at this year’s World Fantasy will be a Saturday night book launch and party hosted by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.  This will be the big debut for Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes, the third in the critically-acclaimed series of anthologies edited by Charles Prepolec and J. R. Campbell. I understand that Paul Kane will also be there, reading from his entry “The Greatest Mystery” – one of the anthology’s standout horror stories.

And of course, as always, there will be the WFC mass-autograph session on Friday night, where I’ll be looking forward to meeting old friends, making new ones, and signing copies of Gaslight Arcanum, as well as Veins, Vipers, Visions, and last year’s collection This Way to Egress. (All titles will be available in the dealers room.) I also hope to have some preview material for the forthcoming Voices: Tales of Horror, which Fantasist Enterprises will be releasing later this year.

If you’re one of the thousand or so people lucky enough to be attending this year’s World Fantasy Convention (memberships sold out last winter, making this year’s con one of the hottest tickets around), I’ll look forward to seeing you there.

Oh yes, and did I mention Neil Gaiman is this year’s Guest of Honor? Should be a good time.

Whether you’re attending or not, please consider leaving a comment below. I’m particularly interested in hearing about when you first encountered the wonders of steampunk.

Perhaps it was Mysterious Island or The Fabulous World of Jules Verne, or maybe it was with more recent works, ones actually published under the steampunk banner. Either way, feel free to chime in. 

Upcoming Appearances

September 19th, 2011

September 24, 3:00 PM

Eljay’s Books
3233 West Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216

I’m really looking forward to this one.

It’s my penultimate event for 2011, winding down a tour of eight states that started with the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando this past spring and concluding next month with World Fantasy in San Diego. During that time I’ve also been working on two books, the soon-to-be-released collection Voices (due out late this year) and the third book in the Veins Cycle (currently titled Vortex) and some new stories for some high profile anthologies. More on those a little later.

The intimate setting at Eljay’s is the perfect venue for the 21st Century Scop (and if you don’t know what that is, please check out Scop 101). I plan to try out some new material, share some favorite stories, and chat with like-mined people in one of the city’s best indie bookstores. What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?

Eljay’s has plenty of copies of Veins, Vipers, Visions, and This Way to Egress, as well as the ambient rock / spoken word CD Veins; the Soundtrack. And I’ll be bringing along some fun giveaways and a surprise of two. In all, it should be a terrific time.

Hope to see you there!