“Horror is not a genre like the mystery or science fiction or the western. . . Horror is an emotion.” – Douglas E. Winter “That didn’t scare me.” This level of criticism grates my sensibilities. That didn’t scare me. It’s the sort of comment you overhear when leaving the cinema or that you might witness […]“That Didn’t Scare Me”: Thoughts on Horror Fiction
No posts since March 2020? Really? To claim it was Covid-related would be an understatement.
The year, plague year 2020, has been catastrophic on all levels for many people. I have to report that I have been one of the fortunate ones. As a professor in higher-ed., it has been quite a task alone to work through these times, but many things have happened, and some have fallen by the wayside. In a year of pandemic, upheaval, and tumult, I have been uplifted by all the writers and publishers who have not been daunted by 2020. Here’s my year-end work summation:
Picking up from March 2020 I was scheduled to read some poems for the GRCC Public ENG DEPT Reading Event on Mar 26 but this was cancelled due to Covid. I found a new market with the incredibly prolific and subversive ALIEN BUDDHA PRESS and published the following poems: “Eviscerated” and “Private Hell Perdition” in Alien Buddha Press Gets Rejected, “Nightmare Tracks” in Alien Buddha Press HOUSE OF HORRORS 3, followed with a SONGS OF SELAH podcast reading live on Halloween, and “From The Office Of Dead Letters” THE ALIEN BUDDHA WEARS A BLACK BANDANA.
My work in the Weird Fiction and Art community has continued with: A review of Matt Cardin’s TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN “Epistemological Alchemy” in DEAD RECKONINGS #27 from Hippocampus Press Spring 2020 and reviewed Richard Gavin’s GROTESQUERIE from Undertow Publications “A Weird Tarot Deck” and Robert Eggers’ film THE LIGHTHOUSE “The Light That Never Warms” in DEAD RECKONINGS #28 Hippocampus Press Fall 2020 . I was delighted to be accepted in S. T. Joshi’s new scholarly journal of Weird Fiction with “The Cosmicism of Elfland” in PENUMBRA No. 1 also from Hippocampus Press!
Fell short on a short story publication this year but managed to make my goal of tripling last year’s output. There have been other derailed projects. As lockdowns have devastated the music industry nothing has been done or has happened with THE HICKKICKERS or other music side projects. Along with that, the release of what was REALMS OF FANTASY 2020 by Mythopoeia Games Publications has been delayed to 2021 and will be retitled REALMS OF FANTASY COMPLETE. Lastly, the “Bullets For Breakfast” script is all but over on its path to production.
We have two new cats — VINCENT and VICTOR in the home to make the year and I have been admitted to the Esoteric Order of Dagon (literary branch). Lastly I will be writing in the 2021 MARCH PLAIDNESS competition writing for HELMET and their song “Unsung.”
Accolades to everyone else that has endured through plague year 2020. On to 2021!
I am pleased to announce Mythopoeia Games Publications has made the following RPG supplements I authored available to help with our isolation: “Games are great way to get through isolation. Why not try a new RPG to help pass the time? For the next 15 days (through April 1st) we have made our We Hate Bards tested core Apocalyptic Fantasy RPG E-Book “Wizards & Warriors” pay what you want at DriveThruRPG (that means FREE if you wish) and all our supporting e-book supplements are ninety-nine cents. We may extend this even longer to weather the upheaval in pursuit of games (and adventure). If you play a session share it at Realms Of Fantasy RPG.” Enjoy!
On January 22nd 2020 special one-day only screenings of Richard Stanley’s Color Out Of Space (an adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Colour out of Space”) extended cut will be shown in select theaters across America.
I have been asked to give opening comments for the screening at the UICA (Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts) part of KCAD (Kendall College of Art and Design). It was quite a pleasure to teach this story a year ago at KCAD in Genre Studies: Weird Fiction, learn the film was in production, then have our own theater be selected to house the film.
Review will be posted later.
(PS – special shout out to HPLHS.)
Here’s a little recap of my 2019 year in publishing:
“A Look Behind The Challenge From Beyond” — DEAD RECKONINGS No. 25 — Hippocampus Press
“Lovecraft’s Open Boat” — LOVECRAFT ANNUAL No.12 — Hippocampus Press
“You Know Who The Monster Is” (review of Sam L Edwards WHISKEY AND OTHER UNUSUAL GHOSTS) — DEAD RECKONINGS No. 26 — Hippocampus Press
“Perils & Prowess” — REALMS OF FANTASY RPG SIII — Mythopoeia Games Publications
“Bela Lugosi Lives/Daed S’isogul Aleb” — MARCH VLADNESS ‘– Elite 8
“You Are An Anomaly” (review of Brooke Warra’s LUMINOUS BODY) DIM SHORES (via Goodreads) —
Intent to double my work from last year (two publications) and ended tripling 2018. Next year’s goal: double 2019 — for 12 — 1 per month. So far my poem “Black Wings Return” will be in SPECTRAL REALMS No. 12 Winter 2020. Here’s to good start. Best to all the other writers, editors, and publishers I know, have met, or corresponded with and all their works of 2019.
Are we Cyberpunk enough yet?
At long last I am elated to report that Realms of Fantasy RPG Sourcebook III: Perils & Prowess has finally been published. This was a long arduous task and I hope you’ll enjoy what lurks behind the cover. This entire book is illustrated by the one and only Brook Anderson and also ends my work on this version of the game. The link above takes you to DriveThruRPG where you can order the e-book. Hard copies can be ordered directly thru Mythopoeia Games Publications.
There may be more yet before the month is over.
As Lin would say, Happy Magic!
The latest issue of Dead Reckonings (#26) featuring my review of S. L. Edward’s Whiskey and Other Unusual Ghosts is available at Hippocampus Press. Was a pleasure to read this work as well as working in anecdotes around the Audient Void: A Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy and many luminaries in the field (too many to name here).
What else is brewing this month… Realms of Fantasy SIII: Perils & Prowess is finished and with the editor then on to the printer. Will announce ordering very soon.
So far this month a review of Dim Shores release of Luminous Body by Brooke Warra. Enjoy.
YOU ARE AN ANOMALY
Michael D. Miller
BROOKE WARRA. Luminous Body. Dim Shores, 2019. 56 pp. Advance Uncorrected Proof.
The H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon has just celebrated another year of proving that “the Weird never dies.” Amid the festival of cinematic explorations of Lovecraftian horror are also of course numerous publishers in the field from Hippocampus Press to Word Horde to a publisher that has been keeping the Weird alive as a publishing directive – Dim Shores. On hand at the festival was an advance uncorrected proof of their latest publication: Luminous Body by Pacific Northwest writer, Brooke Warra and it will no doubt be making cosmic waves throughout the universe very soon.
Luminous by definition is (according to Webster’s II) “ adj, 1. emitting light. 2. Lighted : illuminated. 3a. Well-expressed : clear. b. Inspiring.” Body by definition is “1a. The entire material structure and substance of an organism. b. The physical part of a person as opposed to the mind or spirit. c. A corpse or carcass. d. A Human : person.” Luminous Body is all that and much more. Within the first two pages Warra compresses you – the reader – into a projectile chambered in a pistol and blasts you into the narrative, colliding with horror both cosmic and visceral like meteors and asteroids on a collision course with meaning.
Invoking second-person narrative in the opening with an appeal to randomness and survival we are immediately left to question if this is “extraordinary” or “just lucky.” Often modern literary efforts at earth-centered cosmic alienation entwine anthropomorphism with internal conflicts such as depression, addiction, love, loss, and all other monsters of real life but rarely are they taken beyond that into the meaningless processes of the universe but Warra does this with great effect with a powerful prose style that does not let up for a nanosecond for 33 pages. We go at once from the cosmic scale of “You are an aberration, rising from primordial ooze of plasma, proteins, and acid” to a character revealing apartment abode with “the sandwich baggie full of my AP Science teacher’s postmortem ashes in the junk drawer.”
What Luminous Body does with its confrontation with weirdness is to examine life (pregnancy) and death (cancer) against cosmicism. For needed proof consider this description expressed from the first-person narrator Mo (Melissa) describing the diner where she works and her morning sickness that follows. “We serve coffee that resembles battery acid, runny egg sandwiches, and something called ‘burgerdogs’… The thought of food has me retching again. The last of my sugar cereal comes up, swirls in the toilet bowl like a neon-blue nebula. I place my hand over my belly and imagine the baby. The fetus. Floating around in there, in the dark, like the world’s tiniest cosmonaut.”
That is the universe of Luminous Body. Melissa struggles with correlating contents of a life coming to an end seeking to associate knowledge into meaning. Past and current relationships are measured by their meaninglessness like comets and asteroids colliding into each other in the vastness of space. This piecing together of memory is all for the purpose of giving some sense or meaning or order to Melissa’s unborn child before the cancerous tumor she also carries takes her life. (Melissa’s own mother died of cancer, her father waked out on them years before.) As if this dramatic dirge were not enough to carry a narrative, we of course must cross the threshold into the weird.
In true Lovecraftian execution the narrator and all the characters have their human qualities without restraint to set us up for the “hideous unknown.” Warra merges Mo’s cancer and pregnancy into something “where the hip meets pubic bone meets belly, the lump wriggles and sighs. It has grown teeth.” This entity grows with the narrative. Becomes her. Becomes “misshapen, angry, and always cold to the touch. There is hair, and teeth, and blue eyes like mine. She is pink like me.” We also enter a post-Lovecraftian denouement, where light replaces madness and new dark ages. Where entities leave “no more stars inside my skin… I can see them in her. I am hollowed out, empty. She is so bright.” Where metamorphosis into a new form is embraced and accepted.
Warra’s prose is etched together in bursts of short and long sentences as are the paragraph beats of the narrative. Dim Shores has also given the chapbook a comet insignia for the sporadic time transitions and accentuates the work with the surreal black and white illustrations of Zoe Leigh wrapped in an appealing color cover with a human eye against the background of starlit space. If any critique must be at hand it might ask, is the threshold of weirdness crossed at the perfect moment or flawlessly transitioned in a narrative that wanders in moments across a short lifetime? Perhaps not but that might be the point. Weirdness is what weirdness is. What more than compensates is Warra’s delivery on the rapid-fire voice of her protagonist. Can it be held for the length of the narrative where many try this vivid panache and fail? The answer is a convincing yes. The narrative retains a relentless grip on the reader throughout as Mo gives final birth, becoming a mother as she reaches unity with her own mother’s death.
Luminous Body is a memorable work, searing empathy into the reader amid an apathetic universe. Every moment is shaped as a perfect encounter forming a body of its own. No line says it better than this: “We circle each other like so many satellites, orbiting dangerously close, always just moments away from violent collision.” As Poe articulated in his theory of the single-effect in a prose tale, every sentence must serve to the effect starting with the first. The effect served is anomaly. Dim Shores has a delivered a reading experience you will not easily forget.
The prolific Hippocampus Press has just released Lovecraft Annual No. 13 2019 containing this years’ latest Lovecraft scholarship including my article on Lovecraft and Stephen Crane: “Lovecraft’s Open Boat.”
These last many weeks have been a blaze of activity. My next poem for Spectral Realms will be out in issue #12, still laboring along with the last sourcebook for Mythopoeia Games Publications: Perils & Prowess. In negotiations for a monthly streaming game with The Gamer’s Wharf. Deeply at work on a few things hopefully for Robert M. Price and Necronomicon Press.
Bullets for Breakfast is no longer optioned and is free of all entanglements. However, we have moved on to something new which hopefully I can announce later this fall…
As for the rest, last week we had a major heatwave followed by a 70 mph storm knocking out trees (and power — no AC) while helping move a good friend and family back to MI. This month is starting of with a trip to visit another friend after a 24 year absence and a family gathering for burial services for my grand uncle in Mackinac. Also wrapping up my summer course (July/Aug) in Film Studies: Popular and Unpopular Genres at KCAD. (Great to see that Sunset Boulevard and 2001: A Space Odyssey are still resonating with first time young viewers…)
The remaining weeks before school have yet to be determined.
PS – 1,000 words a day – minimum – no matter what else!