A Stroke Of Lightning In The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias from LVP!

Lycan Valley Publications is set to release their new anthology The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias, edited by MJ Sydney, with interior illustrations by Luke Spooner and a cover from Kealan Patrick Burke.

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From the publisher:

Phobias are defined as an irrational and extreme fear to something. It could be anything as long as it causes an intense and debilitating fear.

What happens when these irrational fears/phobias become reality? When the irrational becomes rational and there’s a reason to be scared? Find out in The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias.

We’ve created an A to Z phobia list and elevated each one to a new level of fear. These stories come to life in ways that will make you want to sleep with the light on, double check the locks on your door, and think twice before dismissing your fear as irrational.

A — A TOUCH OF MADNESS — Tim Waggoner
B — IT CAME FROM THE GRAVE — James Pyne
C — ENTWINED — Colleen Anderson
D — DESTINY’S ROAD TRIP — Jay Troy Seate
E — MORBID DREAD OF THE DAWN — Philip Athans
F — MUTUAL POSSESSION — WT Paterson
G — RIGHT OF CROSSING — James Chambers
H — PASSING JUDGEMENT — Chad Lutzke
I — THE CLINIC — Asher Ellis
J — NOT JUST DESSERTS — Jonah Buck
K — THE MAN WHO FEARED THE SKY — John Skipp
L — CHILDREN OF BLOOD — Greg Chapman
M — THE YEARNING JADE — Hank Schwaeble
N — THE CEMETERY MAN — JG Faherty
O — WHITE TO BLACK — Michael Bailey
P — THE HUNCH — Richard Chizmar
Q — FIVE IN THE SIX — Sephera Giron
R — THE TOXIC MAGICIAN — Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel
S — FEEDING THE ORISHAS — Gabino Iglesias
T — MUNCHAUSEN — Max Booth III
U — TRUE CONFESSIONS OF THE HAPPIEST PISTACHIO — Mehitobel Wilson
V — BEAUTIFUL WOMEN — Ray Garton
W — A BOLT OF LIGHTNING — Edward M. Erdelac
X — HALFPENNY — Steven M. Vance
Y — TOO HOT IN BOILERTOWN — Jill-Hand
Z — THE CATALYST TO GROW SOME GUTS — Kerry Lipp

My contribution, A Stroke Of Lightning (a nod to Ray Bradbury’s ‘A Sound of Thunder’), follows a grad student buried under a mountain of debt seduced by a fantastically wealthy entrepreneur into participating in a radical time travel engineering project and explores the niggling fear of such an endeavor actually coming to fruition, with all its attendant ramifications.

Here’s an excerpt:

On Thursday, November 16, 2018, Martin Emmet finally solved the equation that would make time travel possible.

But he didn’t share it with anybody.

He’d been a twenty four year old physicist at Berkely finishing up a doctorate with a pending application at CERN when the wild-haired, white bearded Dr. Gavan Columbarius had burst into his lab like some eccentric Gandalf in tweed and scuffed Oxfords firing off a volley of rapid-fire questions about altering the mass and gravity of harnessed microsingularities utilizing a hypothetical electron injection manifold.

Martin had been amused and played along, thinking the bizarre old man part of some prank put on by his colleagues. After some engaging back and forth, Columbarius had pushed a plain business card into his hand and offered him a place on an independent research team in Chicago for five times what CERN was paying.

Skeptical, Martin had shown Columbarius’ card around Berkely.

“Sure, Columbarius,” said one of his colleagues, looking over the business card. “The guy’s some kind of independently wealthy nutjob. Got booted from, I think it was UIC particle physics, years ago. What he does, he insinuates himself into the lives of exceptional young scientists and coaxes them from legitimate avenues of study into his crazy pseudo-scientific experiments. He’s a good way to make a quick buck, if you’re not above bilking a senile old crackpot.” He’d handed the card back.  “Ask one of the professors.”

He had.

“A scientific Bluebeard,” said his instructor, rather over dramatically, Martin thought. “That old man’s a serial killer of reputations. He baits gullible theorists struggling under college debt with dollar signs and then strangles their best years with his dead-end navel gazing projects. If you’re smart, you’ll forget about him.”

Neither of them knew exactly what his projects were, however, because upon further questioning, both had admitted that they’d actually never been personally approached by Columbarius.

The man was eccentric, sure. Martin had pegged him as that from the first, unexpected meeting. But despite his perpetually frazzled appearance and his unsavory reputation, Columbarius had known what he was talking about, which was not something Martin could say a hundred percent of the time about his peers.

And there had been the money.

Martin had more than student loans to worry over. Jay, his eight year old kid brother, had terminal cancer and his mother was struggling to ease the boy out of this life as smoothly as possible on a substitute teacher’s wages. Chemotherapy, nurse visits, escalating medical bills, maybe Columbarius wasn’t as prestigious as CERN, but he could wipe a good portion of that worry away. It would mean leaving behind steady employment and cutting short his studies, but after his brother Jay died he could always return, and debt free.

The next time he took Columbarius’ card out of his wallet, it was to call and accept the position in Chicago.

Columbarius’ lab was located in a palatial house on Sheridan Road in Kenilworth, a wealthy North Shore village bordering Lake Michigan, about a half hour north of the city proper.

Columbarius had introduced him to the rest of the team, which read like a list of Bermuda triangle victims. They were respected names who had mysteriously dropped out of the scientific community over the years.  David Eccleston, applied lasers, from Princeton, nuclear physicist Anna Wells from Stanford, Taniguchi, the genius engineer and designer from the frontier sciences department at University of Tokyo, a few others. All of them had been lured to Columbarius by money, though, he found, they universally asserted that they had stayed for the stimulating nature of the work.

And what was the purpose of that work?

“A time machine,” Columbarius had told him in his rich, wood paneled office looking out on the lake after Martin had made the rounds, seen the extensive research lab, and settled in the leather chair before the old oak desk. “Specifically, a temporal tunnel generator, a projector, utilizing elements of the Tipler cylinder theory. I’m calling it a Merlin Tunnel. It’s the right of the man with the money to slap a name on the end product, and it’s so much less of a mouthful than Columbarius Tunnel, don’t you think? Have you ever heard of the Garden of Joy? It’s from Arthuriana, a magical forest planted by the wizard Merlin. Via the Garden, one could step through a hedge and emerge in any forest in the world. That’s what we’re building here, really. A time travel station. A hub that will allow us to pass through any point in time. “

Martin had chuckled, but the old man had met that response without a hint of mirth.

“Stop there,” Columbarius warned, holding up one hand. “We’re in the latter stages of producing a working protoype, Mr. Emmett.  What we need help with is building a computer that can calculate gravitational field fluctuations and make corrective spatial navigational decisions instantly. Time can be traversed, but we have to account for the movement of planetary bodies, else our first chrononaut will step out of the Merlin Tunnel into a space along our planet’s orbit which the earth unfortunately no longer occupies. It would be like jumping from a bridge onto a moving train after it’s already passed.  I’ve enlisted you to work in tandem with Dr. Taniguchi in fine tuning a gravity sensor of his design. I’ll also ask you to assist from time to time in contributing calculations to the development of that manifold we spoke of on our first meeting.”

Martin had stifled his instinct to grin, remembering what they’d said about Columbarius at Berkely. This was how he was going to earn the money to help his kid brother.

“That’s….a lot of variance in work,” he managed.

“I believe you’re capable of it,” Columbarius said, “and I’m paying you a great deal. You may live here at my estate. A suite’s been prepared. If you find that disagreeable you may elect to stay elsewhere nearby and I will send a car for you each day, but I will deduct your rent from your pay accordingly. Do you need to make any arrangements for direct deposit or anything like that?”

“Well,” Martin had said, “I would like to have a percentage diverted to my family back home.”

“Of course. Biola, California, isn’t it?”

Martin hadn’t bothered asking him where he’d found that out. Any reasonably proficient web surfer could have learned that in five minutes.

He had nodded.

“I’ll have someone take your bank information.  Are you ready to get to work?”

Really, he hadn’t expected much from the work. He’d imagined the other researchers were daily engaged in a high stakes game of a distraction to keep themselves on staff, a long running con. He expected humoring Columbarius would be challenging given the old man’s learning, but ultimately it would be possible to drag the project out indefinitely given the extent of his delusion. He had already spent millions of dollars outfitting and staffing a state of the art facility dedicated to his obsession, after all.

Time travel.

But after a few days working with the team, Martin had realized they weren’t just taking advantage of the old man’s limitless resources. They were all quite sincere.

And more, they truly were working towards a real breakthrough.

It seemed fantastic at first, but the proof was there. The calculations were solid, the engineering radical but sound.

Eccleston proudly demonstrated an elaborate emitter that could project a focused, visible blue beam at the lab’s mascot, a white rat called Dorian. At first the beam appeared to disintegrate Dorian, then, miraculously, reconstitute him. But a second look at the process via video played back at a slower speed showed the rat aging rapidly to the point of death and decomposition, and then, somehow, reversing its course, flesh and fur regenerating at an astounding rate.

“We can even make him younger,” Eccleston had said proudly. “This is just an offshoot of our research. We only threw it together to impress the noobs. We’re calling it a Chronal Pulse Ray till we can come up with an acronym that won’t be confused with Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.”

Martin had come away more than impressed.

He’d come away terrified.

Pick it up here!
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1645629511/

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An Inner Darkness Kickstarter: Last Chance!

Hey gang, Oscar Rios, Brian Sammons and Golden Goblin Press have put together another winning Lovecraftian anthology, An Inner Darkness, centered around social injustice in the 1920’s with a dash of cosmic dread. My own offering, By Unknown Hands, sees an unscrupulous conman murdering Osage Indians for their oil headrights in Oklahoma. He gets more than he bargained for when he targets a reclusive Osage woman….the anthology is a mere eight hundred bucks away from happening, so if you’re reading this, head over here and kick a buck as we’re in the final two hours.

————————————————————–
Here’s a taste of By Unknown Hands….
I never set out to kill no Indians. It was just something I fell into.
After the war, I came back to Tulsa County to find my old maw dead and gone, and our Sooner land sold off to the oil company. I don’t know who they paid for it, but it wasn’t me. The house was just gone, which explains why none of my letters were ever answered.
I worked for a while as a wildcatter, but that got to feeling too much like being back in the Army. Most jobs did, when you got right down to it. I had brought home a deep unease with me that I just couldn’t shed. Thunder made me jump inside, and open spaces made me fret. I had little patience for men, women, and beasts. Though I had cropped my hair short since I was a boy, it was like somehow they could smell the Indian in me. Maybe it was all that sun from working outside. I left a lot of them bleeding.
In late summer ’21 I drifted west, headed for California, but got tripped up by the Osage Hills and wound up on a ranch on the west edge of the big Indian reservation, manning a 500 gallon copper still for a fellow named Henry Grammer, the world steer roping champion and the biggest bootlegger around.
There were some rough customers among Grammer’s bunch, many who had been bank and train robbers in their day.
One of them, a wind-burned older fellow with nickel blue eyes and an easy manner named Casey Matheson approached me one day while I sat smoking under the blackjack.
“Where are you from, boy?” he asked.
“Berryhill,” I answered, “and leave out that ‘boy’ talk.”
There was threat in that, but he didn’t seem to mind.
“You ain’t no moonshiner,” he went on. “What’d you do before?”
“All kinds of things.”
“You was in the Army though.”
“How’d you know that?”
“You just got that look about you. Makin’ shine don’t fit your pistol, does it?”
“Nothing much does anymore,” I said, tossing my butt away.
“I bet you don’t like sleepin’ in that bunkhouse neither.”
All Grammer’s employees slept in the ranch bunkhouse off the main house, cowboy and moonshiner alike. It was drafty, and the Negro handyman was stingy with caulk, boards, and nails.
“You see that car over there?” Casey said, pointing to a grey Bearcat I had seen about the place once in a while. “That’s a thirty nine hundred dollar automobile, and I got it for a day’s work.”
“Running shine?”
He laughed.
“Hell no. Killin’ Indians.”
He watched me for a minute, gauging my reaction. I tensed for a fight, but said nothing.
“You know how to drive?” he asked.
I did.
“You wanna take a ride?”
It beat squatting over the still.
My hands shuddered on the wheel till we left the gravel drive behind and hit the pavement. I opened her up and whipped those 6-cylinders to galloping, leaving the blackjack hills behind. I hadn’t moved this fast in years. The wind blew over me, roaring in my ears, and those big empty plains of bluestem and spiderwort flew past. I lost my hat, but I didn’t care.
After a bit, Casey waved for me to pull over so he could be heard.
He lit a cigarette, offered me one. I saw he was missing the last two fingers on his left hand.
“Meanin’ no offense, but you got some Indian in you, don’t you?”
I took the cigarette, stared at him. I had a great-grandfather on my mother’s side who was Choctaw.
“Berryhill,” the old man mused, when I didn’t say anything. “What’re you? Quarter Cherokee?”
“Eighth Choc,” I allowed, waiting to see if I’d have to lay him out.
He nodded and waved his cigarette across the big empty prairie, trailing smoke.
“We’re on the Osage reservation now. You notice anything?”
I put my foot on the running board and looked. I could see far, to the towns northeast; to Fairfax and Grey Horse. In between were clunking derricks, laboring like giant metal picks rising and falling on the earth.
“Just oil.”

“That’s right,” said Casey, grinning. “That’s sharp. Most folks’d say ‘nothing.’ Government shuffled these Indians around, stuck ‘em on the barest, rockiest patch of nothing they could find. Only they didn’t figure on what was underneath it. Devil’s tar. Lakes and lakes of it. The Underground Reservation. And the lawyers fixed it so every full-blooded member of the Osage tribe got headrights. Six hundred and fifty seven acres, every man, woman, and child, and mineral rights for leasin’ to the oil companies.” He spat. “Devil must’ve been runnin’ the government back then. Come on, Buckwheat, let’s go into Pawhuska. I wanna show you something….”

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An Update: I just got word that this project funded! Thanks to all who supported it. I’ll have a link up to the actual anthology as soon as it becomes available, so watch this space. Ia! Ia!
Published in: on April 14, 2019 at 6:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Merkabah Rider 2: The Mensch With No Name Is Now Available

Book 2 of my Merkabah Rider series, The Mensch With No Name, is now once again available in paperback and Kindle.

In this installment, The Rider discovers the nature of The Great Old Ones he’s been hearing so much about, and begins to question all he has been taught up to this point.

In THE INFERNAL NAPOLEON, The Rider and a young traveling strongman rally a group of cowboys in a showdown with a gang of half-demon outlaws in a remote desert town.In THE DAMNED DINGUS, The Rider is robbed of his mystic Volcanic pistol and teams up with the infamous Doc Holliday to track down the thief, but must contend with a strange, invisible menace.

In THE OUTLAW GODS, a group of Apache recruits The Rider to combat a two hundred year old menace plaguing their tribe, and bring him face to face with the mind bending horror of The Great Old Ones.

Finally, at the edge of death, The Rider descends into Hell itself to confront the Adversary Lucifer and learn the full scope of his master Adon’s betrayal. But can there be any return from THE PANDAEMONIUM RIDE?

Featuring cover art by Juri Umagami and interior illustrations by M. Wayne Miller.

Follow the link –

Published in: on April 2, 2019 at 8:12 am  Leave a Comment  

#Batman

It’s the 80th birthday of Batman and the 1000th issue of Detective Comics!Related image

I grew up watching the campy Batman of Adam West and the Super Friends who guest starred on Scooby Doo once in awhile. I didn’t really get into the serious iteration until The Dark Knight Returns and later, the seminal Batman The Animated Series.

One thing I’ve always felt about Batman….OK, I love his rogue’s gallery. It’s the best bunch of nemeses in comics. Only Spider-Man’s comes close.

They’re so great that, for me anyway, Batman himself has kinda paled in comparison in terms of interest.  Of course they don’t exist without him. He’s the linchpin that brings them together. But I’ve always been a bit bored of billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and his nocturnal, perennial one-upper persona (at least, as he seems to be portrayed in the last decade or so).

So I got to talking about this just for fun with my buddy Elliott McMillan – how could one make Bruce Wayne more interesting?Image result for batman bruce wayne

We live in an age of instant gratification and internet pseudo-celebrity. People can make a living and get famous opening boxes of toys on Youtube or ‘influencing’ a bevvy of followers into buying some company’s latest shoe or scent, or scented shoe, whatever. Thousands of people can be herded to a remote island and fleeced without facilities simply because a model pursed her lips on a beach.Image result for the shadow unmasks

Now the original inspiration for Bruce Wayne/Batman and Lamont Cranston/The Shadow and a bevy of other moonlighting capitalists has always been  the 1919 All-Pulp serialized adventure novel The Curse of Capistrano, later republished in the 20s under its more well-known name, The Mark of Zorro. I’m sure there have been other characters, but Zorro/Don Diego Vega is Batman’s direct literary ancestor.
Image result for tyrone power don diego

The central and enduring conceit of the playboy turned masked vigilante was that Don Diego was something of a fop. Watch The Mark of Zorro with Tyrone Power.  Don Diego is a well-dressed, handsome, wealthy guy, impeccably groomed whom no one suspects as Zorro, because he practically faints at the sight of blood, and is quick to dab his forehead with a lacy handkerchief at the mention of violence.  How could a guy like that be the daring, swashbuckling Zorro?

This is, I think, where the writers of Batman have kinda gotten away from the concept.

Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy, is usually portrayed as more of a James Bond type than a Don Diego. He’s ridiculously handsome and charming, yes, a proven lady’s man, a world traveler, and usually the fittest guy in the room.  Everybody wants to be him.

How does anybody in Gotham not know he’s Batman?

Batman – the crimefighter, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. He would stay the way he is.

But how could you make Bruce Wayne completely unrecognizable as Batman?

The answer jumped out at me.

Make him a Kardasshian.

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Bruce Wayne is from the rich set.

What if he’s constantly posting shirtless selfies on Instagram with models in exotic locales and exclusive clubs?

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Count the sixer! #BDubya #Gettinshredded #Yolo

What if he’s an obnoxious social media guru who goes by B-Dubya, a witless narcissist whom his detractors say rode the initial sympathy over his parents’ double murder to pseudo-celebrity?

“The apple has fallen very far from the tree, Mr. Wayne.”

I’ve heard this line used a couple times, but it never quite strikes true for me. There’s usually no reason for anybody to disparage Bruce Wayne.

But what if he was that privileged, talent-less one per center everybody loves to hate? The shallow, wealth porn wastrel who seems to be on the internet 24/7 pushing products and influencing his millions of devout followers, alternately lamenting some trendy pet cause and flashing expensive wristwatches and magnums of Cristal?

Ooo you’d hate him. Gotham would hate him.

How could a guy like that ever be Batman? With all the posting he does about The Bachelor, he’d never have the time.

Image result for instagram the bachelor

Related imageExcept it’s Alfred, sitting comfily in his easy chair at Wayne Manor, putting aside the Emerson he’s reading during the commercial breaks, to tweet under Bruce’s account about Colton’s dubious taste in women.

It’s Alfred posting a set of pre-prepared selfies taken in the VIP booth of Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge with a passel of fawning starlets, perhaps tagged with mindless webspeak drafted by Bruce or young Dick Grayson, B-Dubya’s obnoxious ‘pet’ orphan, a Jaden Smith style freshman philosopher molded in Bruce’s image.

Bruce snaps a fresh from the shower selfie, duck lipping at his phone….then hands it to his butler.

“Alfred, I want the first one posted in a half an hour. The windsurfing stuff at 3:30. Spread the club shots out over the rest of the night. I’m in Montevideo, so remember the time change.”

And then he pulls back the bust of Beethoven and slides down the pole to the Batcave…

Maybe Jim Gordon is the only cop to suspect anything – because what kind of ally/foil would he be otherwise? Maybe he spots a baseball game on a TV in the background of one of Bruce’s live tweets – a game that actually aired three days ago…(WTF is Batman? #BDubya #1Luv)

Now as I said, I love Batman’s rogues gallery, so in the universe of Hashtag Batman, what are the villains up to?Image result for batman rogues galleryHarvey Dent – Bruce’s frat buddy in college. He came from humble beginnings, and unknown to him, Bruce paid his way through law school via various dummy foundations. Seen as the straight edge, the good one of the so-called ‘dynamic duo.’ The guy who stayed home at night and stuck to the books while the future B-Dubya went out partying. Eventually Bruce dropped out and went traveling for a year. Now Harvey’s Gotham’s star prosecutor….for a little while, anyway. When he goes beyond the law to prosecute one of Gotham’s worst mobsters, the guy’s wife flings acid in his face in front of the courthouse and his inner instabilities come crashing to the front.

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Harley Quinn – An in demand criminal psychiatrist, regularly called upon by Harvey to give weighed psychiatric evidence to get otherwise legally insane suspects jail time. When Harvey’s racket is exposed, she is discredited, and winds up on the Arkham Asylum staff as only Hugo Strange will hire her. Just in time to meet the love of her life…

TRelated imagehe Penguin – The second wealthiest man in Gotham, a sleezebag who made his fortune as a Hollywood producer, a salacious Harvey Weinstein running a popular garish nightspot, The Iceberg Lounge, where women parade around in skimpy penguin costumes and anything goes in the VIP areas. A blackmailer whose club is wired for sound and video. He’s got something on everybody who passes through his doors.

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Art by DanniSketches

Poison Ivy – An extreme eco-terrorist at the head of a pagan, earth worshipping movement who also leads an Anonymous-style legion of radical cyber-terrorists intent on bringing down the lumber and farming industry.  Because I’ve always felt…if Ivy reveres the life of plants, she wouldn’t be a vegetarian at all.

The Riddler – A once brilliant young video game designer (I admit I borrowed this from Batman TAS) fired and disgraced in a Gamergate-like scandal after Bruce Wayne responded to a comment on one of his Instagram posts (“Hey B-Dubya, what do you have to say about the misogynist Ed Nymga, who encourages the harassment of his female co-workers in the Triple A game company Wayne Industries owns?” “I say Ed Nygma’s fired. #BDubya #YaDoneSon #MeToo”). Now he’s been banished to the fringe of Youtube, a raving, alt-right misogynist with a personal beef against Bruce Wayne (“Riddle me this, friends! How does a rich wastrel with no formal training lord it over us all from the headquarters of a mega-billion dollar company? Answer: He spends his dead parents’ goodwill credit. But not for long!”).

Image result for the scarecrow batmanScarecrow – A legendary horror filmmaking auteur in the vein of Dario Argento, John Carpenter, and George Romero, so obsessed with instilling true fear, he’s employed hallucinogenics and subliminal hypnotic suggestion in his weird experimental films (with the help of collaborator Jervis Tetch). He was fleeced in his career by Penguin and holds a grudge. Now, he’s making a comeback on the internet with his bizarre short films. Horror acting icon Matt Hagen often collaborates with him.

The Ventriloquist/Mr. Scarface – Arnold Wesker is head puppeteer on a wildly popular children’s show, but he is implicated in a sexual scandal and cancelled, re-emerging with the Mr. Scarface puppet persona. The puppet is enamored with his former co-star now partner in crime, Baby Dahl (because how has that great character not made the jump from TAS?).Related image

Now if you’ve gotten this far, you must be wondering about The Joker.

The Joker works best when the audience has no idea who or what he is.

The Joker tells three stories about his origins.

He was an innocent man incarcerated on a trumped up charge and disfigured during a prison assault.

He was a veteran, employed in chemical warfare. When wounded and suffering from PTSD, he returned home to find his government unwilling to give him the medical and psychiatric help he needed. He found solace in the fringes of the internet and in conspiracy theories. He detonated a gas bomb of his own devising and was disfigured in the process.

He was a comedian with gambling debts who had his face slashed by debt collectors.

Later investigations by Batman turn up three individuals with matching stories. All of them were admitted at Arkham Asylum. None of them emerged. Their skeletons are found in the basement.

But what’s the Joker’s angle in the universe of #Batman?

This brings me to Jokerphish.

Image result for the joker digital justice

From Batman Digital Justice – memba THAT?

The comments sections of B-Dubya, The Riddler, and Poison Ivy, as well as various other internet celebrities, are usually rife with discussion. Then a phantom account ‘Joker’ begins trolling every major site, posting the most outrageous stuff, contrary to whatever the popular opinion of the page is (it posts liberal feminist stuff on Riddler’s page, enraging his incel followers, it posts anti-environmental stuff to Ivy’s, etc. Whatever the most contrary opinion is). This invites loads of replies, and every reply initializes a virus that displays a fish with a mouthful of human dentures and locks the system. The virus spreads like wildfire, initiating a temporary shutdown of most major social media sites.

Gotham PD investigates, and Jim Gordon turns up a room of dead hackers, their faces slashed into bloody smiles.

The next day The Joker hits television. He rants about his dislike of the internet and its shallowness, its celebration of mediocrity.  To prove it takes nothing at all to achieve fame there, he demands to be made into the top trending topic on every site, or he will murder ten people a day every day he isn’t trending. His catch is, he won’t set foot on any website. “After all,” he says, “I’d never join a club that would have me as a member. HAHAHAHAHAHAAH!”Image result for joker fish

And the deaths start happening, because Jokerphish has downloaded the personal info of every respondent. Thousands of users have replied. Each one is found dead with a smiling fish on their corpses…

Anyway, happy 80th, Bats.

Monstrumfuhrer Reviewed

I like to draw attention to exceptionally insightful reviews, and this one of my Holocaust horror novel Monstrumfuhrer from The European Review Of Speculative Fiction definitely counts. Give it a read. Stuff like this is salve for a writer’s soul.

Book Review: Monstrumfuhrer

Published in: on March 1, 2019 at 1:13 pm  Comments (3)  

My First Call of Cthulhu Game

Last night I finally had the opportunity to play a game of Chaosium’s renowned Call of Cthulhu RPG in a really unique and appropriate space, The HP Lovecraft Historical Society’s headquarters over in Glendale.

Chaosium provided Sean Branney with a sneak peak at a forthcoming module, and we got to play test.

I’ve played Dark Conspiracy, Palladium’s Rifts, Vampire, HERO, Cyberpunk, and D&D from 1st-5th edition (skipping 4th), and though I’ve even managed to write fiction for Chaosium a few times, somehow over the years Call of Cthulhu the game has always eluded me. Just never been in the vicinity of a group that plays (and haven’t yet attempted playing online).

I armed myself with Seth Skorkowsky’s CoC video primers on Youtube , got a general grasp of skill checks and game flow, and headed out to Glendale.

First, if you’ve never been to visit HPLHS’ HQ, I gotta say outside of Providence it has to be a minor mecca of all things Lovecraftian for HP-heads on the West Coast. Besides a shopfront of their movies, radio plays, t-shirts, and astounding props, the right half of the room is dominated by a reference library that might have been salvaged from The Church of The Starry Wisdom’s attic – not just collections of old HP (though I spied some bagged Weird Tales up there), but a lot of primary period references and neat occult editions.  Sean showed us a particularly cool new two volume set of John Dee’s angelic writings collected fairly recently by Kevin Klein (not the actor) that had me envious.  I noticed a couple of books I had, and LOT I wish I had.

The shelves were also adorned with props from the society’s film adaptations, the Mi-Go puppet and contraptions, and the library sign from (I believe) Whisperer In Darkness. For me the big thrill was getting to play my inaugural game under the deep set eyes of the Cthulhu puppet from their silent masterpiece Call of Cthulhu (the virtues of which I have previously extolled here).

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Anyway, I don’t want to go too much into detail of the actual module and gameplay session as I don’t want to spoil anything, but I decided to stretch my RPG chops (well, a stretch for a guy whose characters usually consist of fast talking thieves and bashy Howardian Barbarians) and played a nervous ex-Catholic nun having a crisis of faith, and man, I had an absolute blast. I’m used to a lot of dice rolling and combat, more story-lite fair, and CoC proved to be a refreshing alternative, heavy on the roleplay and deduction. None of the investigators ever even got into a combat situation at all (though we were told we had taken ourselves to the edge of mayhem by the time we broke at 11 o’clock), yet I still found the gameplay riveting.

Sean made the whole thing a great experience. I don’t know his background but from his NPC’s, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s encountered a lot of rural Midwest types in his day – and if he hasn’t, well, he’s a helluva gamemaster. Ah, he’s a helluva gamemaster anyway.\

So, thanks to the HPHLS and Chaosium for the unique opportunity. I came away with a very positive impression. Hope to return soon and finish out Sister Mary’s investigation, and generally play more Call of Cthulhu in the future.

Published in: on February 22, 2019 at 8:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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Blueshift Drive in Transmissions From Punktown

Dark Regions Press has released a new anthology of stories set in the neon-lit avenues of Jeffrey Thomas’ wildly imaginative futuristic megalopolis Punktown, where a dizzying array of extraterrestrial and extra-dimensional species co-mingle and sometimes collide.

Edited by the ever-lovin’ Brian Sammons, this whopping, worthy TOC is as diverse as a street corner in downtown Paxton.

“Dreaming the City” – Jeffrey Thomas
“The Cyclops: Part One” – Jeffrey Thomas
“The Dilky Never Landed” – Paul Tremblay
“Bedbug Radio” – Ian Rogers
“Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring” – Nick Mamatas
“Growth Spurt” – Richard Lee Byers
“Novah On The Run (Her Blue Monday)” – Glynn Owen Barrass
“Ritual of Adoration” – W.H. Pugmire
“The Over and Under” – D.A. Madigan
“Lacunae and Nocturnes” – William Meikle
“Riding the Rainbow” – Don Webb
“Not For Human Consumption” – Peter Rawlik
“Sunup Over Misery Street” – Konstantine Paradias
“Aftermath of an Industrial Accident” – Mike Allen
“Less, Then Zero” – Jeff C. Carter
“Baphomet Descendent” – Scott R. Jones
“Crow-picked” – Christine Morgan
“The Monochromatic Betrayal of Frank Xerox” – Neil Baker
“Ksenija’s Pirate Prince” – Lee Clark Zumpe
“The Cherry” – Tom Lynch
“Payment for a Scar” – Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
“The Extremities of Godfrey Aquinas” – Michael Griffin
“The Cyclops: Part Two” – Jeffrey Thomas

I’m pleased to announce I managed to land a story in these pages too. It’s called Blueshift Drive, and relates the story of a pair of clones’ enacting revenge on an old enemy via a dangerous cross-city helicar race, the Peace Cross. I had a great time writing this one. You’ll note maybe, in this excerpt, the brand of the main character’s ride, a nod to one of my favorite ‘race’ movies, Ben-Hur.

The streets of Punktown were a blast to poke around in, and I have to here thank Brian and Jeffrey for letting me in the city limits.

Anyway, check out the excerpt after taking a gander at Aeron Alfrey’s cover, rendered in glorious shran.

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Gotheo Repass brought the bright orange Boyd-Heston LIX through the heavy plume of industrial smoke that billowed from the Sensamill Textile stacks and eased the helicar into a slow 360 degree descent, letting the gaggle of onlookers, but especially the drivers of the seven helicars parked in the wide street below get a good, lingering look at his flashing silver quad rotors and chromed-out repulsor emitters as they fired alternately, responding to the micro-corrections of his deft hand.

More than half the streetlamps in Warehouse Way were on the blink, so this strip of street was an oasis of light in the dangerous dark otherwise illuminated intermittently by flickering lights and trashcan fires. Nobody parked a helicar in this neighborhood, at least, not for long.

Gotheo fired the ground repulsors to scatter the upturned faces below, red-lit by his landing lights, and set neatly down in place between a trim Delaney Rapidité with a mirror-sheen finish as upscale as its shapely blonde, silver-clad driver, and a sunflower yellow Miniosis Motors Hyper Coupe Deportes with purple Forma Street Shifters decals.

He revved the big engine a few times, letting those inclined to listen hear the thrum of the gut-quaking quad drivers, watching his lucky plastic Raloom bobblehead tremble in ecstasy on the dashboard. He peered through his one-way windscreen at the gathering Punktowners drawing near. They were a mix of shabby Tin Town muties in their Saturday night best, bleary-eyed Warehouse Way cast-offs, inscrutable offworlders, and earthers in pastel active wear with elaborate hair; the typical weekend backstreet race crowd. He saw a flock of gently whirring, floating iBall cameras too; that was how the big money kept an eye on their wagers.

He picked out a face he knew; Archez Bolan, a black skinned, seven foot tall slab of Keezee muscle, the personal driver and bodyguard of Wagney Cogswendt, CEO of Allavanchetti Consumer Products, makers of the most popular brand of anti-ad spray on the market. Archez had the hood of his black Gibsller 79 propped open, showing off the massive blower to the heli-heads crowding around. He let it drop and stared at the newcomer with his beady doll eyes, the ends of his wide, shark toothed jaws turned down in disapproval.

The platinum blonde earther in the expensive, form-fitting silver drivers’ jumpsuit unzipped to reveal a V of skin down to her waist, leaned over to peer into his passenger window. Though he was pretty sure she couldn’t see in, you never could tell with the advances in artificial eye tech. She had narrow, slanting eyes. Gotheo appreciated the generous view of her plunging cleavage the attitude of her body afforded, right down to the pink jeweled stud in her flat belly. She had a wide face, high cheekbones, and wild, excessively curly hair, like soap bubbles.

“Somethin’ about that girl,” Tertius muttered in his ear via their link.

“I hear ya,” Gotheo murmured.

Archez had sauntered over to the driver’s side of the car. He rapped the back of his tremendous knuckles on the glass.

Gotheo undid his harness.

Archez took a step back as the gull-wing door lifted. Gotheo stepped out beneath the buzzing streetlights, the heli-heads shuffling closer to get a look at him, as if he were a celebrity at a VT gala emerging from a stretch hoverlimo.

As intimidating as that oblong maw of sharp teeth was, Archez could barely part his black lips. There was a chrome plated ornamented translator dangling from a thick gold chain between his bulging pectorals, and the type of rock bottom voice you’d expect to come out of a giant like this came earthshakingly loud through the silver mesh of the speaker, making Gotheo wince. The chip that detected inflection in the translator had correctly deduced the Keezee’s intent to intimidate and raised the volume accordingly.

“This spot’s reserved, hotshot. You best take your daddy’s car back to Beaumonde Square before somebody shoots their name in the side of it.”

“I heard there was a race about to kick off,” Gotheo said with a smirk, keeping his chin to his chest, the hood of his jacket up.

“If there was,” Archez said, tensing his massive shoulders, “you best believe it ain’t open to no live-large, trust fund booshi out cruisin’ for Lobu poon.”

“Oh so what, it’s invitation only?” Gotheo said, taking off his hood.

The Keezee turned his head sideways twice, to get a good look at him with both eyes, the silver beads in his long hair clacking and catching the light.

“Smiley?”

Gotheo let his wide, ear to ear Choom grin split his own face.

“In the flesh.”

A good facsimile of boisterous laughter crackled out of the translator substantially lower in volume. Gotheo found himself hoisted up in the Keezee’s arms in an embrace that made his eyes water.

Behind Archez, the segmented spiral door of the yellow Deportes clacked open and the squat, beetle-like driver slithered out, six jointed appendages lifting it from the car, the alien head cocking and clicking its mandibles in Coleopterid surprise.

All Bedbugs looked alike to most people, but Gotheo knew by the red plastic grips of the two .340 Decimators strapped under his topmost arms that this had to be Chitterdet Chikktarn, a lieutenant of the Forma Street Shifters gang, whose car was paid for with munit he earned slinging Purple Vortex to the Bliss who frequented the races.

“Hey CC,” Gotheo grunted over Archez’s shoulder. “What’s the word?”

“Resurrection, Smiley,” rasped the Bedbug. “Ain’t seen your big ugly grin on the streets in cycles.”

“Yeah, what’s up with that, Choom?” Archez said, letting Gotheo breathe. “Last time I saw you was in that run with Devilsperm….blast, two years ago. I heard you got outta traction but you was brushin’ up on pinecones.”

‘Brushing up on pinecones’ was street talk. Nobody on Oasis knew what a pinecone was, but inmates of the Paxton Maximum Security Prison soon learned because the building’s architecture was adorned with carvings of them for some reason. In the years you spent staring at the strange things, you invariably asked somebody what they were.

“I did my time,” Gotheo said, shrugging, his hands in his pockets, “got out. I been drivin’ a hoverhack the past year.”

“Where’d you get the munits for this chariot?” CC asked, coming over to run four clicking appendages appreciatively down the aerodynamic orange hood of the Boyd-Heston.

“Lots of overtime,” Gotheo said, drawing his wide mouth closed in a tight, broad smile.

“Blast,” CC chittered. “Looks like I’m in the wrong line of work.”

“You must be the mystery man,” said a clear-as-ice water woman’s voice.

The blonde in silver had one rounded hip against his rear quarter panel, and was sizing him up.

She came closer, hips rolling, eyes never leaving him. She was the kind of woman he’d consider having his jaws reduced for. Sometimes earther girls were put off by Chooms. This one didn’t seem to be. Her skin was clean and unmarked, perfect, like it’d never known a blemish or a scar. She had one of those tiny bow mouths he found so exotic in earthers.

“I heard we had a late entry.”

She stopped a couple inches from him and folded her slender arms. Gotheo couldn’t tell one flower from the next but he suspected her scent would’ve impressed a connoisseur . The smell of her made him think of clean, soft bedsheets and pricey liquor.

“Won’t you introduce us, Archez?” There was a twinge to her accent he couldn’t place, never having been anywhere.

Her eyes were violet. He wondered again if they were real.

“Smiley Repass, Ms. Amiya Tadakamensch.”

Miz? That was a weird bit of decorum for Archez. Gotheo noticed he’d stiffened at her approach too, like his boss had come around.

“Oh, the one that put his helicar through the dome of the Canberra Mall a couple years ago. Do me a favor and stay away from me up there.”

Anybody else had said that to him, they would’ve been in the middle of the street. The way she said it though, he didn’t mind so much.  The jewel in her belly twinkled, a pink star.

“You won’t have to worry about that, baby,” Gotheo said. “You won’t see anything of me except my taillights.”

She smiled at that. It was the kind of clean smile they put on holo ads.

She turned in place, giving him the same view he’d given the crowd of his car. She sashayed back to her car.

“Maybe that’s the best side to see,” she called.

Pick up Transmissions From Punktown here –

Top Movies of 2018

Everybody’s making a list of top movie watches for 2018 and I’m no different!

In no particular order –

Bandersnatch – Netflix’s UK technophobia show produced this dizzying concept: a self aware choose your own adventure movie you operate via your remote control, about a young computer game programmer in the 1980s spiraling deeper and deeper into a philosophical labyrinth as he works on an adaptation of a science fiction novel called Bandersnatch.  This technology had so far been relegated to Scooby Doo cartoons and extras on my kids’ DVD’s, but this is a monumental, groundbreaking accomplishment that had me chuckling (try going down the path where you explain to the character he’s in a Netflix movie), sometimes nervously. It took me back to the books and games of my youth – Zork and Infidel and Microsoft Adventure, but has a dark underpinning that almost makes you look over your shoulder and wonder at your own choices.
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Hereditary – A stark, absorbing family tragedy that takes a dark, occult turn. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever squinted at a movie screen and checked my aisle to see if I’d inconvenience anybody if I got up and walked out. The last fifteen minutes are absolutely terrifying. Toni Collette turns in an Oscar-worthy performance.
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The Clovehitch Killer – A boy suspects his scout leader father may be a notorious serial killer. Charlie Plummer gives a terrific performance as the son, but the standout is Dad, played by Dylan McDermott. Top drawer suspense thriller.
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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – The Cohen Brothers’ Netflix western anthology is a masterpiece that starts off with a bang as Tim Blake Nelson plays the titular character, an ingenious cross between Roy Rogers and The Man With No Name, and gets into increasingly more somber territory as it goes along, with fantastic showings by Tom Waits and Brendan Gleeson along the way.
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Spider-Man Into The Spiderverse – A glorious, high art masterwork of animation, a direct descendant of early NYC street art, hip hop, and comic books that’s entertaining to boot and features one of the year’s most vibrant soundtracks.
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Blindspotting – At times hilarious and harrowing drama from Daveed Diggs and Rafael Callas about two childhood friends in Oakland, one white, one black, one of whom witnesses a policeman shooting an unarmed black man. A fantastic meditation on perception and identity, and one of the most empathetic portrayals of the fear of police I’ve ever seen. The scene where Diggs walks alone on a dark street with a searchlight playing on his back is one of the most suspenseful things I saw this year.Related image
Eighth Grade – Heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting coming of age story about a girl transitioning from middle school to high school in the age of social media, agonizing over every selfie and post, rehearsing every single interaction in her desperation to make some kind of impression on the people around her.  Brilliant movie.Related image

Solo – If you skipped out on this after the lackluster Disney ‘episodes,’ you missed one of the most enjoyable adventure movies of the year, and the finest Star Wars film since the originals. Alden Ehreinreich is honestly a better Han Solo than Ford (who admit it, gave one and a half great performances and phoned it on on two more – he just didn’t enjoy the character).  Plenty of eye-popping set pieces and a few genuinely affecting nostalgic moments. Great score, and great supporting cast. Marred just a bit by the surprise cameo at the end (shoulda been Jabba).

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Black KkKlansman – John David Washington and Adam Driver together make a great Klansman, tangling with the Hidden Empire and pulling David Duke’s chain as FBI agents at the height of the black/white power movement. Spike Lee directed one of the most timely and prescient movies of his career in this direct critique of our troubled times.
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Deadpool 2 – Much funnier than the last outing, possibly because of the welcome interplay between DP and Rob Liefeld’s illustrious ‘pantheon.’ Zazie Beets’ Domino is a highlight. Surprisingly more heart than I expected. Maybe I’m just a softy for Cher.
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Mandy – Panos Cosmatos, who so impressed me with Beyond The Black Rainbow, returned with the most visually insane movie of the year, and coaxed another great performance from one of my favorite actors, Nick Cage, in a movie ostensibly about a man seeking revenge for the murder of his wife by a Helter Skelter-style cult.
Related imageRevenge – Bloodsoaked, gonzo survival thriller about a wealthy man’s mistress brutalized by his pals and left for dead out in the desert who returns to wreak havoc on them. One of the craziest, tensest climax sequences I’ve seen in years.Image result for revenge movie
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – Moving, intimate documentary about the man who saved public television and was surrogate father to a generation of TV watching kids – including yours truly. Faith affirming, and ultimately sad, given Rogers’ bafflement and self-doubt at the state of the world at the time of his passing.Related image

Sicario: Day of The Soldado – Benicio Del Toro’s shadowy south of the border operative returns, pulling a kind of Mexican Lone Wolf and Cub as he escorts a cartel leader’s daughter. Great follow up, and I can’t wait to see the next one.

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Stephanie – A young girl left alone in her house with the corpse of her elder brother hides from a mysterious threat. Then her mother and father come home. A neat little surprise monster movie.
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Await Further Instructions – UK horror movie about a xenophobic family trapped in their house on Christmas by strange black chords encircling their house. Their television gives them increasingly strange instructions from the purported authorities. Sort of a cross between Videodrome and Compliance.

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Castle of Blood – Antonio Margheriti and Sergio Corbucci’s 1964 haunted house movie was my top watch of Halloween, a sumptuous, effective little movie about a skeptic who takes a bet from Edgar Allen Poe to spend the night in a haunted house and starts interacting with a slew of the place’s previous occupants.

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Batman Ninja – My other favorite animated movie of 2018. Batman follows his villains through time and space into feudal Japan. This ferally inventive, hyperkinetic melange may seem a bit light on logic, but visually, it’s a thrilling work of art blending various anime styles. A celebration of both anime and Batman. A fascinating look at how an American icon passes through another culture’s lens.

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What I intended to see but missed: First Reformed, Superfly, Woman Walks Ahead, Christopher Robin, The Meg, Patti Cake$, A Prayer Before Dawn, White Boy Rick, The House With A Clock In Its Walls, The Sisters Brothers, Farenheit 11/9, Suspiria, Overlord, Widows, Thoroughbreds, The House That Jack Built, Climax.

The Knight With Two Swords Is Out

The paperback edition of The Knight With Two Swords has been released today.

I spoke a little about the lesser known female characters of the book (and Arthurian lore) over here on Cat Rambo’s blog.

Ebook edition to follow on December 26th.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1726454770?pf_rd_p=c2945051-950f-485c-b4df-15aac5223b10&pf_rd_r=3D2MK38MG4AFZZJQ9B0Z

 

Published in: on December 21, 2018 at 3:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cover Reveal: Merkabah Rider: The Mensch With No Name

Here’s the cover for Merkabah Rider 2: The Mensch With No Name. Look for this one sometime in late March or early April.

Art by Juri Umagami, design by Shawn T. King.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 5.47.40 PM

Published in: on December 20, 2018 at 11:14 pm  Leave a Comment