Rainbringer: Zora Neale Hurston Against The Lovecraftian Mythos

May 4th will see the release of my collection (really, a novel in eight stories) RAINBRINGER: ZORA NEALE HURSTON AGAINST THE LOVECRAFTIAN MYTHOS, which bundles together three previously published stories and five never before seen, all featuring the Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston (read about her here) reimagined as a Mythos detective.

You can preorder the book here. https://www.amazon.com/Rainbringer-Hurston-Against-Lovecraftian-Mythos-ebook/dp/B08YNH7JQ2/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=rainbringer+erdelac&qid=1616448793&sr=8-1

In the next seven weeks leading up to release, I’ll be posting a little bit about each included story as well as the opening paragraph, beginning today with LEAVES FLOATING IN A DREAM’S WAKE, which is an epistolary story I wrote to kick off this collection.

It finds Zora in New York City in 1925, having just transferred from the historically black Howard University in Washington, DC to enroll in Barnard College as its first African American student. She is pursuing her studies and aspiring to write, looking back at the love she left behind, and struggling to make ends meet when she experiences a peculiar prophetic dream during an earthquake on the night of February 28, 1925, a dream shared not just by several Harlem artists, but unknown to her, receptive creatives around the globe.

The earthquake in question is the 6.2 Charlevoix-Kamouraska earthquake which was felt in New York City (and, Lovecraftian afficionados will recognize as the likely source of the quake mentioned in THE CALL OF CTHULHU).
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January 19th, 1925

Dearest Herbert,

Thank you kindly for your sincere well wishes on the occasion of my latest and what I hope will be my greatest run around the sun. I am well as can be and hope most ardently that you are the same. I was reluctant to write you. I wanted to give you your space after all. I guess the distance between Chicago and New York City should probably be all the space anybody would ever want, but of course, I meant time. I think of you more often than I like, if I am being honest, which, with you, I always am.

Tell me how your courses are going at Rush. I know Chi is the Windy City, so I can’t even imagine the level of gales that blow through your clothes. Here in Harlem it is cold, cold cold! And you know how my teeth used to chatter walking home from S Street! My Florida blood is too thin for these northern winds. I wish you were here to warm me.

Yet, I am not so lonely that I will be throwing myself from my window. No, not even over you, my doctor to be. Harlem is a dream, and calls to mind old Eatonville, but dressed up in grown folks’ clothes. My people here don’t slouch when they walk, and standing on the corner of Seventh and 135th is like people watching in front of my family’s house again.

Negroes flow by like a great muddy river, in every lovely shade of beautiful black, and it is tempting to jump on the running boards of the shiny cars or slip my arms through stranger’s elbows, just to lose myself in the current and float down whatever eddy is moving swiftest.

Oh, and I am. I am dancing with poets, singers, jazz men and other liars. Every tongue and every spine is loose. I saw none other than Duke Ellington play at a rent party last Saturday night. The next time you are in town I will take you to a buffet flat, but don’t ask what that is – I want to see the look on your face. I imagine it will be much like my own was the first time I went with Angelina Grimke.

Yes, I have reconnected with a few of the old Saturday Nighters here. James Johnson is only a few blocks down from me. Of course I am in contact with Dr. Locke, and have been over to Dr. Johnson’s home for dinner a few times. His wife is a lovely person and a tremendous cook. Whenever I dine with them and I at last push away in surrender from their bounteous table, I expect to see a bill waiting to be paid, but so far so good, which is good, because brother, I am broke and it is no joke.

I’ve been working as a manicurist again to make ends meet, wearing down my own nails at night on the typewriter. I’m working on a story, Spunk, which I hope Dr. Johnson will go for, and kicking around the idea of a play. Dr. Locke is guest editing an all-Negro issue of Survey Graphic in March and will be showcasing a number of Negro writers, so I hope to have something in that.

I’m not at the Nicholas Avenue address anymore. Use this one instead.

                                                                                                                                 Devotedly,

                                                                                                                            Zora Neale Hurston


In 1928 Zora Neale Hurston was in New Orleans collecting data for what would become MULES AND MEN, her monumental ethnographic study of African American folklore in the south. For me, that culminated in her chapters on the Hoodoo phenomenon.

Zora submitted herself to the tutelage of Doc Luke Turner, a prominent Hoodoo man and relation of legendary New Orleans Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. She spent sixty nine hours naked on a couch draped in snakeskin without food or water…

… I was stretched, face downwards, my navel to the snake skin cover, and began my three day search for the spirit that he might accept me or reject me according to his will. Three days my body must lie silent and fasting while my spirit went wherever spirits must go that seek answers never given to men as men.

I could have no food, but a pitcher of water was placed on a small table at the head of the couch, that my spirit might not waste time in search of water which should be spent in search of the Power-Giver. The spirit must have water, and if none had been provided it would wander in search of it. And evil spirits might attack it as it wandered about dangerous places. If it should be seriously injured, it might never return to me.

For sixty-nine hours I lay there. I had five psychic experiences and awoke at last with no feeling of hunger, only one of exaltation. – Mules And Men

In the end, the spirit she sought granted her the name Rain-Bringer, for which this collection is titled. It prophesized that she would ‘make her way with lightning and thunder.’ The secret name of her spritual patron will be familiar to readers of Lovecraftiana.

The second story in RAINBRINGER, BEYOND THE BLACK ARCADE, also originates in something from THE CALL OF CTHULHU. One of the scenes of Lovecraft’s story that stood out for me was Inspector Legrasse’s raid on the bayou worshipers. What if the New Orleans’ police confiscating the Cthuhlu idol had unexpected consequences for the surrounding area? What if the cult of Cthulhu was enacting its horrific rituals at that lonely spot in the swamp to hold back some other malignant terror?

Here’s the excerpt.
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Under high arches of twisting, moss garnished cypress and through sucking, chill waters we waded, me feeling the cool, brackish slime on my bare legs and Doc Turner leading the way without any light but what stars could be glimpsed through the tangled boughs overhead. Things moved away from us in the water which I supposed were alligators.

Out of the dark came a high, child’s wail and a shout that made my skin prickle up. There was a commotion of cracking wood, like the sound of falling trees I knew from the lumber camps around Eatonville. I could not imagine who should be way out here in the bayou pitching such a fit, and I wished I had thought to bring the .44 I had toted around the turpentine camps to convince folks I was a bootlegger.

Two shotgun blasts boomed like thunder, and I saw the flashes of the muzzle a ways off.

Against common sense, Doc Turner made for the sound, though in no hurry.

This was to be my test, then; the test of Great Yig.


In EKWENSU’S LULLABY, it’s 1935 and Zora has teamed up with ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax and folklorist Mary Elizabeth Barnicle to gather and preserve the songs and stories of the Gullah people of St. Simon’s Island, Georgia.

After a brief, startling encounter with a shambling creature the locals call ‘Ol Cootah, they record the legend of the flying Africans, slaves who revolted aboard their transport and killed the crew. Then a mysterious man tells them the true history behind the tale, and of the existence of a creature sunk in the deepest point of the river, a creature whose cry instills the listener with irresistably violent urges…..

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The first time the Georgia State Police pulled us over we were the subject of such intense scrutiny that we lost a good two hours of travel time and came upon the lights of Savannah bleary-eyed and half mesmerized by the road.

They were convinced our party, a young white gentleman with a Texas driver’s license, his mature white lady companion from Rhode Island, and I, a conspicuously independent Florida Negress, were some kind of Yankee loving rabble rousers come down to stir up trouble among their niggers. It took some shuffling on my part and not a little bit of the WPA’s money to convince the beady-blue-eyed deputy sheriffs that the sole purpose of our Airstream trailer full of recording equipment was to capture the songs and stories peculiar to the remote Negro communities of their state, mainly, I am sure, because they themselves could see no value in such an enterprise.

I presented myself in the manner to which they were accustomed, telling them the whole truth in the simplest terms they could understand, surreptitiously encouraging Alan and Mary to correct my rude, affected speech and deliberate omissions and explain more clearly that Alan was the son of the renowned folklorist John Lomax, discoverer of the nationally renowned Leadbelly, who had famously sung his way out of a prison sentence at Angola. Miss Mary Elizabeth Barnicle, professor of folk music at NYU, became his deferring assistant. Most importantly, I explained that I, a native of Eatonville, Florida, had been selected by ‘Mass Alan’ to act in the capacity of a native guide, a Sacajawea to he and Mary’s Lewis and Clarke, gone adventuring among the dark primitives.

I brought this across in the most common manner I could muster, bobbing my head meekly and averting my eyes as though I were addressing the burning bush and not some scowling cracker, saying all my ‘yassuhs’ and ‘nossuhs’ like they were ‘Amens.’ Thus realigned into a hierarchy the deputies could understand (and again, with their palms liberally greased), we became less interesting to them, and they agreed to let us pass.

When they finally departed with a genial ‘y’all have a good night now,’ and we stood by the side of the black road watching their taillights recede like the burning eyes of sated serpents slipping back into their deep dens, I straightened my previously hunched posture, lit a cigarette, stuck out my hip, and arched my eyebrow at my two astonished white colleagues.

“Good Lord, Zora!” Mary exclaimed, spreading her fingers over her heart with a nervous laugh. “If I didn’t know you, I would have believed you myself.”

Believed what? I wanted to say.

Now I, Zora Neale Hurston, am a grand champion liar, but like all accomplished liars, I get my feathers ruffled when I’m telling the truth and get accused of practicing my vocation. I had told no lies, but I knew what Mary Barnicle meant. She meant that had she not known me as an authoress and educated woman of the Harlem mode (a lie of omission to the deputies at best), she would have mistaken me for the dumb country woman I had been playing. I was not truly playing, however, nor, like most country women I have known, was I dumb. But the white unit of measure for intelligence is very different.


In 1935 Zora was on the cusp of the release of Mules And Men, her first seminal folkloric work, collecting the stories and traditions she gathered on her extensive southern travels. To make ends meet, she landed a job as a dramatic coach with the Federal Theater Project in New York City.

In King Yeller, Zora is assigned to first-time director Orson Welles’ all-black production of Macbeth staged at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem. Historically, Welles’ star-making production, nicknamed ‘Voodoo Macbeth’ was concieved as a reimagining of the Scottish play set in Henri Christophe’s Haiti, and starred Jack Carter, Canada Lee, Edna Thomas and Eric Burroughs. A rousing success, it defied the racist expectations of white critics, packed the house in Harlem, and cemented Welles early career.

But what if, in the six month span of rehearsals, Welles was anonymously passed a copy of another notoriously ill-fated play, and became obsessed with staging it instead? That’s the central conceit of King Yeller, in which Zora learns the secret of The King In Yellow and must prevent an obsessed Orson Welles and cast from enacting its terrible secret rite.


Tormented into desperation, Lear the frantic King tears off the mask, and speaks the sane madness of vital truth. – Herman Melville, Hawthorne and His Mosses from The Literary World, August 17 and 24, 1850 by a Virginian spending July in Vermont.

The past few months had been something of a brick lick to the jaw.

My turgid on again-off again love affair with my magnificent young minister-in-training Percival Punter had at last succumbed to the laws of gravity and come crashing down. In short order the two-year $3,000 Rosenwald Fellowship I had won to earn my anthropology doctorate at Columbia went tumbling after. I had just returned from an eventful trip with Alan Lomax and a certain NYU English professor who shall no longer be named collecting folk music down in Florida, which had soured in the end. All of this had conspired to leave me down on the whole notion of formal academia.

I was in a low valley and once again wished that damn fool Langston was still around to cheer me, but he and I had had a falling out over the authorship of our play, Mule Bone and he was off on the West Coast somewhere. I had also broken ties with my dear white Godmother in order to wrest the folklore I had gathered for Mules And Men out from under her terrible weight. With that book still a month away from publication and the residuals from my novel Jonah’s Gourd Vine now slowing to a trickle, I had no real means of drawing myself up from my rut. I had pressed Dr. Boas about my application for a Guggenheim to study obeah practices in Jamaica and Haiti, but having chased that rabbit before, it was as unreliable a prospect as a catching hold of a cloud in the breeze.

It was strange how a mundane thing like being broke of heart and pocketbook in an empty apartment can make one forget one’s self worth. Last June I had wrested young Alan Lomax from the wiles of a prehistoric creature. Only a few years earlier I had got the better of a fledgling god in the Louisiana bayou, and refused the call of Yig and the power of the Ring of Set. Hell, I had had a novel published! Now I found myself wishing I had hung on to that antediluvian doodad, for battling the cold indifference of an unfriendly New York City was very much like facing the cosmic indifference of a ravenous Old One.

The Rain-Bringer was bowing her head beneath the rain.

Unsurprisingly, listening to my Bessie Smith records didn’t help, so I ventured out into the September morning gloom of Harlem for a bite to eat, pining for the brassy brightness of New Orleans or the shady green trees of old Eatonville and for other, more intimate things I would not know again.


In 1937 Zora was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship which funded her research trip studying Obeah and Vodoun practices in Jamaica and Haiti respectively.

In GODS OF THE GRIM NATION, while attending the Fete Ghede celebration, she learns of an influential plantation owner who has enacted a ba moun pact that requires the sacrifice of a family member in exchange for wealth and fortune. The sorcerer has run dry of relatives and has turned to an obscure cult and its powerful patron entity to duck his spiritual debt – an entity it is death and madness to lay eyes upon. Zora and a handsome young Vodoun priest join forces to raise an army of the dead to push the fell god back into its own dimension…

Incidentally, GODS OF THE GRIM NATION was the first Zora story I wrote for Golden Goblin Press’ anthology DREAD SHADOWS IN PARADISE. I highly recommend reading Hurston’s fascinating account of her travels, TELL MY HORSE.


East of Port-au-Prince in early November the night was moonless. The clouds of a budding storm doused the green land in darkness. Each of the adepts was a god bringing forth light by their ignition of the twenty white candles surrounding Papa Ghede’s cross in the yard of the silent Hounfort.

I was by now used to the joyous noise and magic heat of the Voodoo service, and this solemn ritual at first seemed comparatively incongruous. Voodoo to me was shining bodies cavorting about the gaily painted peristyle in the closeness of the Hounfort, hidden from the white man’s eyes; it was the thunder of drums, beating out a divine rhythm which the hearts of humans could only aspire to, like the pulses of giant hummingbirds; the heartbeats of the gods of Haiti which the devoted hounsi hoped to accommodate as long as his or her mortal frame could withstand them.

This preparation seemed more in line with the Catholic novenas I had seen in New Orleans, replete with flickering votive candles, a cross, and the pious, white face of haloed St. Martin De Porres peering out from the oval frame of his portrait at the intersection of the cross. The warm breeze stirred our white and purple garb, and hissed through the trees.

Papa Ghede, León assured me, was an informal god. He was the loa of the penniless, unobserved by the upper class mulattoes and revered by back country peasants. He was the only loa to have sprung from Haiti herself.

I was nearly two months in the Black Republic on my Guggenheim Fellowship under the direction of Doctors Herskovits and Boaz. After finding myself traveling in the wake of Herskovitz’s other field researcher Katie Dunham, I had decided to strike deeper into the mysteries of Voodoo than my predecessor, so as to better differentiate my own work.

You got to go there to know there, I always say.


In SHADOW IN THE CHAPEL OF EASE, it’s 1940 and Zora is down in Beaufort, South Carolina directing a film crew, sent by Dr. Maragaret Mead and Jane Belo to record the services of the local black Sanctified Churches, particularly the speaking-in-tongues phenomenon for a comparitive study on religious ecstasy. Hearing rumors of a secretive congregation way out in the low country that practices the ‘Old Religion’ in the ruins of a plantation chapel, she secures an invitation to observe and record one of their ceremonies from an unexpected quarter; her estranged ex-husband…

As an aside, this was a remarkable historic achievement in Zora’s life, an African American woman directing a white male film crew, and establishes her as one of America’s earliest black female filmmakers (though she had previously filmed Vodoun rituals in Haiti in 1935).



It was Sunday evening at the Commandment Keeper Seventh Day Church of God and Reverend George had fired up the congregation with a story about being bit on the leg by a rattlesnake while out picking huckleberries, and taking comfort in Mark 16:18.

“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

I thought briefly of Father Yig.

We had got down on our knees on the floorboards, elbows on the hard benches. We clasped our hands together, praying fervently for wisdom and understanding under Rev. George’s rhythmic guidance.

He finished his prayer with;

“And now we gonna sing a hymn. Because God knows, current events these days, they need a hymn sung for ‘em. Ain’t that so?”

We agreed resoundingly and lit into vibrant song. Carrie Belle’s tambourine shook like a heavenly rattlesnake warning the devils from the huckleberries of glory. Miss Izora beat out the rhythm of the saints on her guitar. The boys in their too-big ties and starched white shirts scrubbed the washboards with their thimble-fingers, scouring sin from the souls of the sanctified with a snare rattle backbeat.

Norman Chaflin, the youngest of my recording crew, manning the grinding field recorder and pressing his earphones to his head, nodded and gave me the thumbs up as I hammered the drums with a pair of rattle-goers and sang along into the silvery microphone set before us.

I had brought three of the four white men observing the service into the church. They were Norman, Bob Lawrence, and Lou Brandt, a film crew down from New York City at the behest of Jane Belo, here to record instances of religious ecstasy under my direction for Margaret Mead’s comparative anthropological study. The fourth was the old portrait of General ‘Black Dave’ Hunter looking on stoically from the frame behind Rev. George’s pulpit.

The church was situated inside the general’s namesake hall, Post Number 9 of the Grand Army of The Republic, the Union Civil War veterans association. The most famous member of Post 9 had been Beaufort’s beloved native son Captain Robert Smalls, the Gullah hero who had piloted a Confederate troop transport to freedom with his family smuggled aboard, served two terms in the House of Representatives, and bought his old master’s house over on Prince Street to move his mama in.

The post had seen better days. Whole hunks of plaster had fallen away from the clapboard, and at every stomp of the faithful, I feared more of the infrastructure would flake off. There was no electricity; strictly snake-hissing kerosene light, so Norman had to run a length of cable out to a neighboring farmhouse to power the lights and the recording equipment. Bob and Lou hand cranked the camera like an old-timey Charlie Chaplin endeavor.

I hoped it came out alright.

Sister Julia hopped to her feet then and began to whirl and shake, Spirit moving all through her in the same way I had seen the loa mount the chevaux at Plain de Cul de Sac.

Was the Spirit here in this room kin to Damballah Wedo, to Erzulie, to Yig? Was this phenomenon related to the Balinese trances Jane Belo had observed? I couldn’t say for sure, but I leaned toward yes.

It was undeniable that there was a ribald line of benevolent entities that played in the bodies of humanity when welcomed in, and as chaste and as self-abnegating as every church I’d been to from my girlhood on liked to proclaim they were, there were also hints of hot bloodedness to Sister Julia’s posturing that I had seen on display in countless jukes and Hounfours.

The tambourine boys saw it too, and I caught them appreciating the swelling seams of her stockings with a secret delight that Rev. George would have called sinful and Lady Erzulie would have thought fine and proper. A people can’t live and move on without lust and love after all. Ah bo bo!

Sister Julia shut her eyes and erupted in Hallelujahs, responding to shouts of Glory! with violent racks of her narrow shoulders and electrified, spastic shimmying, her head bobbing intonations of Jesus and Lawd and falling at last to inscrutable mutterings only the angels could parse.

I smiled and nodded my head, losing myself to the holy rhythm, the sacred beat that stretched back through generations, the pulse of my people answering the exultant shouts of our own gods, back before they were pushed like dough into cross shapes and powdered white, tattooed on the leaves of dead trees by pale hands.

Hatred!” Sister Julia moaned then, and gripped her own elbows as though chilled by a cold wind, even though I knew the film crew’s hot lights were popping beads of sweat out on all of us. “Lawd, Lawd! I feel hatred!”

I glanced at Reverend George, who had screwed up his face at that, and though he shouted “Awright, sister!” he gestured with his fingers for Deacon Moore to come over. “Awright!”

Deacon Moore stood up from the circle and rushed over to catch Sister Julia as she moaned and swayed back and forth, tilting dangerously.

Then she went rigid and threw herself backwards into the deacon’s arms. She flung out her hand and pointed her finger at the dark window, where the headlights of a car turning off Prince Street swept and flared at us at that moment like the eyes of God searching the Garden.

“He’s here for her! He’s lookin! He’s here!”

Then all the lights went out completely and the big field recorder stopped cutting into the acetate.


In 1947, Zora used her advance for her infamous ‘white’ novel Seraph On The Suwanee to sail to Honduras in pursuit of a legendary City of The Monkey God – a lost native metropolis Charles Lindbergh sighted while flying over the jungle, said to have been a refuge for the native populace escaping the depradations of the conquistadores.

History records that Zora spent the rainy season pounding out her novel in a hotel in Puerto Cortes while her British partner failed to kick off the expedition. She quietly returned home with a completed manuscript only to find a spurrious accusation of child molestation awaiting her, an incident which sadly broke her spirit and set much of the tone for the remaining decades of her life.

Honduras was to be one of her last great adventures.

In BLACK WOMAN, WHITE CITY, Zora does embark on her quest to find the City of The Monkey God, and discovers a horrific secret waiting there, as well as its monstrous custodians….

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Catholicism was forced on the Indians by the Spaniards, and their old temples wrecked as far as the Spaniards knew about them. It is frankly admitted that they remained pagan in spite of that, and the conquerors frequently found them holding pagan rites even as late as the middle of the last century. They still do. You follow me, I know. There might be something back in there that is not meant for the Blanco’s eyes.

 – Letter to Burroughs Mitchell.

It was at the request of Reggie Brett, an English gold miner lately employed at the Rosario Mining Company down in Tegucigalpa that I found myself squatting beneath the mangroves of a Miskito village deep in the Honduran jungle up beyond Perder La Esperanza, awaiting the commencement of the Dance of The Dead Monkeys.

Reggie was sozzled on native misla beer and our mestizo guide Tomas clutched a stapled, wrinkled copy of Daily Watchwords like the Bible itself in his fists, muttering low, incessant prayers.

As for myself, I was half broke, half stranded, and at fifty six, half dead after two rainy weeks paddling up the Rio Patuca, but for once I was all Zora Neale Hurston. More so I think, than I had been in that little cellar room on 124th street, which I had gladly fled like Lazarus vacating his tomb.

That last gray New York winter I had become a doomed empress poisoned by haphazard assassins, awoken to find myself sealed prematurely in a cold, silent tomb, all the accoutrements of my life collecting dust around me. There was little ‘new’ about New York when you got right down to it. Even the eyes of the children on the drab streets, whose feet have never known the tickle of green grass, seemed old as the illegible epitaphs on fading gravestones.

Here, the people were fresh from the oven, golden brown in their laughter and drunk on the fiery African, Spanish, and Indian blood that jetted through their veins like gasoline. I didn’t always know what they were saying, but when they laughed we understood each other, and that was enough.

I was glad to laugh after the past couple years. My novel Mrs. Doctor had been rejected by Lippincott. You put so much of yourself into your art, when nobody wants it, it gets to feeling like nobody wants you. You wake deep in the pit of the night, because sleep feels like a luxury, and failure is as plain as the roaches strutting day and night up the kitchen wall. It seemed like the sunlight of neither man nor God would shine on my face again.

But here the nights were blink short, and the sun always shined.

Well, almost.

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Zora ended her days in the St. Lucie County Welfare Home in Florida in 1960.

But in THE DEATHLESS SNAKE, her end is far from ignominous, and her services to a certain deity do not go unrewarded….
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 “Didn’t you know that wise men do not die? When they have attained a certain stage of wisdom they enter the serpents.” – Moses, Man of The Mountain.

I am sitting on the fencepost outside my house in the shade of the chinaberry trees, calling out to the people on the road to Orlando who pass close.

“Good morning! Where you going?”

Grandma calls me inside, furious.

“Don’t be talking to those white people, Zora! You’ll get in trouble!”

I don’t care if they are black or white. Why should they care what color I am?

“Hello!” I call. “Don’t you want me to ride with you a little ways?”

 “Where we going, Miss Zora?”

I blink my eyes. It’s not the blue skies of Eatonville, but the dank, basement ceiling of a sickly little room. Where am I?

 Is it Mayme Allen’s place on 124th during that starving dog New York winter where I made the mistake of suggesting she take her son Billy to Bellevue? Or am I staring up at the ceiling of the jailhouse on the very day Seraph On The Suwanee is released, shaking my head at the charges of child molestation leveled at me by that bitter bitch?

“Check my passport and see – I was in Honduras at the time!”

No, no, it’s not that either.

It’s another basement room, though. I remember that I am in the little blue-walled room of Lincoln Park; St. Lucie County’s Welfare Home – the last I will ever occupy, until I take up residency in a lower place. Always underground come my sorrows, seeping up from the depths like flood water in a basement. I remember a succession of gloomy basement rooms, and the stirring of black pools beneath the Temple of The Monkeys’ God in The White City.

But that’s not entirely true. Low places were not always evil. I used to play under my house in Eatonville….

Beneath the house, Reverend Door Knob is marrying Miss Corn Shuck to Mr. Sweet Smell, and all the spool folks from Mama’s sewing drawer are in attendance.

Daddy Gopher Snake tries to slither in and raise objection, but I stop him at the church doors with the blade of my hand and whisper to him that Miss Corn Shuck is in love now and has left him behind, and he has just got to move on. His tongue tickles the back of my hand, but he sits quiet through the rest of the ceremony in the back. He is a natural born wolf though, and he cuddles up to fat Lady Egg and winds up swallowing her whole. She was starting to smell bad anyway, so I don’t say anything, but I giggle into my fingers at their shamelessness.

“What’s so funny now, Miss Zora?”

What’s funny? What isn’t? My life is light and laughter. I walk hand in hand with High John De Conquer. I sip sunshine-y lemonade with B’rer Rabbit in his Laffin’ Place. I set the juke joints roaring and the Harlem parlors, and Fannie Hurst and I are trying not to laugh when she tells the matire d’ of an upscale white restaurant that I’m an African princess and we watch their disapproving scowls turn to sycophantic apologies. That is when I realize that class can trump color for some folks. Langston is laughing. Carl and Ernest are laughing. Alan and Mary are laughing as I rub their faces with walnut oil, and Myborn and all the Geechee folks are laughing when they see my handiwork.

Big Willie Sewell gallantly offers me chicken and Mayor Hiram says we’re out. Big Willie says there was some chicken here when he passed by and Hiram says there ain’t no use in offering a hungry gal ‘chicken was’ when what she wants is ‘chicken is’ and I’m laughing till my growling belly aches. I’m back laughing in the basement with Orson and Virginia, Edna and Jack. When you’re white it’s not a basement, it’s a garden apartment, though. Canada tells me this in bed and I laugh. But it’s not Canada. It’s Percy. Percy and we’re in bed and Lord, Lord, it’s no laughing matter….

I am nine and Mama is dying in her big featherbed that she brought down from her daddy’s place. Her eyes are sunk in her head and her hands are like wintry branches clutching mine.

“Don’t let ‘em turn Mama’s bed east, Zora honey. Don’t let ‘em cover the mirrors or the clock.”

But I am nine. I can’t stop nobody from doing nothing, even though I scream and I wail and I pound them with my fists until Daddy pulls me back. I see those sunken eyes look to me as the women lift and turn Mama’s bed and I scream as I am dragged away.


Published in: on March 22, 2021 at 2:45 pm  Comments (3)  
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Five To One in Summer of Lovecraft

Dark Regions Press has put out an anthology of 1960’s era cosmic horror, which features my latest offering, Five To One, a story about a student protest on the Miskatonic University campus that goes horribly awry.
Image result for summer of lovecraft erdelac

I love these ‘decade’ books Brian Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass put out (Atomic Age Cthulhu was the preceding book, and I think there are still rumblings about a 70’s era antho if this one works out).

Other stories include –

Night Trippers by Lois H. Gresh
Operation Alice by Pete Rawlik
The Summer of Love by C.J. Henderson
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Sullivan by Lee Clarke Zumpe
Dreamland by David Dunwoody
Lost In the Poppy-Fields of Flesh by Konstantine Paradias
Keeping the Faith by Sam (Samantha) Stone
Mud Men by Sean Hoade
Misconception by Jamie D. Jenkins
No Colors Anymore by Joe L. Murr
Shimmer and Sway by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Short Wave by Stephen Mark Rainey
The Song that Crystal Sang by Tom Lynch
Through a Looking Glass Darkly by Glynn Owen Barrass and Brian M. Sammons
The Color from the Deep by William Meikle
The Long Fine Flash by Edward Morris
Just Another Afternoon in Arkham, Brought to You in Living Color by Mark McLaughlin and Michael Sheehan, Jr.
Crystal Blue Persuasion by Jeffrey Thomas

For Five To One, I knew right from the announcement that I wanted to do a student protest at MU, and tie in the Timothy Leary tune in drop out movement somehow. The turbulence spreading across American campuses in the 60’s was surely a thing MU would have experienced, and Arkham as a college town felt like an angle I hadn’t personally seen before.

I also played with the idea that a lot of the same family names would turn up again and again.

Here’s the opening…..

 

The jeep squealed to a stop at the south end of the Miskatonic University campus, just ahead of the National Guardsmen of Battery B of the 101st Field Artilley.

Lt. John Iwanicki watched the column of inky smoke rising from the west half of the quad.

He had done all he could to get away from Arkham, from a drunken, brutal father. Now here he was, back again, about to march on his old alma matter.

Iwanicki shaved twelve men off to hold back the pressing crowd gathered there so the rest of the men could pass through. It was a mix of camera-faced press and rubberneckers, with some campus administrators and students.

Past the dormitories and athletic fields the campus dipped into a grassy, tree-lined depression in which Armitage Commons was centrally located, with the administration building and lecture halls to the north, and various specialty buildings clustered all around. Down the hill, across the quad and to the west, the brick ROTC building was awash in streaming flame. The crowd of students held back a respective distance around the old bronze statue of Professor Armitage. A team of Arkham firefighters were bustling about their engine, attacking the fire with a deluge cannon to little effect.

Image result for miskatonic university

“Goddammit, the little shits used napalm,” Sgt. Pasternack said, snorting the air. “I can smell it. Don’t those dumbass yokels know water ain’t gonna put it out?”

Pasternack was a veteran of Korea who’d done two tours in Vietnam and then entered the Guard when a leg wound had kept him from re-upping for active duty again. He spent all his off time cussing at the rec room television. When the priests who had marched into the draft office in Catonsville and burned all the draft cards had been on the news last May, the MP’s had had to stop him from taking his .45 to the TV. He was a crew-cut John Wayne type, only a few outbursts shy of a Section 8.

Despite his leg, Pasternack scooped up his M1 and vaulted out of the jeep before it had completely stopped. He tucked the strap of his campaign hat under his boxy jaw and barked for the men to form up, pointing to the burning outbuilding and the multicolored cluster of young protestors. Orders were to make a buffer between the students and the firefighters.

Captain Bishop had issued twenty M-79 grenade launchers, and Iwanicki noticed Sgt. Pasternack pulling the men carrying those aside and forming a separate column to the right with a few riflemen.

He got out of the jeep and went over.

“What’s this, Sergeant?” he demanded.

“Just getting a jump on the secondary objective, El-tee,” he said.

“What secondary objective?”

“Once the fire’s out, the Captain’s gonna order us to kick those pinkos off campus. If we send the main body down,” he said, slashing a knife hand toward the flaming building, “we can maneuver a line of bloopers behind them up Garrison Street and down Church, using those trees and buildings as cover. We’ll have ‘em on two sides that way, and when the time comes, we can drive ‘em right back the way we came.”

There was no denying it was a solid plan, but Iwanicki didn’t fully trust Pasternack to initiate the push without busting heads. He was here to kick hippie ass. When they’d gotten Governor Sargent’s call last night he’d practically run ahead of the convoy all the way from Danvers.

Image result for 60s college protestsAbout five hundred students had walked out of class onto the MU quad yesterday afternoon waving the Youth International Party flag. The leader of the local Yippie movement, an Economics major named Daniel Elwood, had read a prepared speech condemning the Defense Department’s announcement that 24,000 troops were being recalled to Vietnam for involuntary second tours. They’d held a funeral for a copy of the Bill Of Rights and marched with the document pinned on a makeshift bier down to the Miskatonic River, burned it on the shore, and scattered the ashes.

Just Yippie posturing, really. They’d sung a few songs and dispersed to the local bars.

The trouble had started when drunk students and, Iwanicki thought quite possibly, a good deal of out of towners in for the protest, had stumbled out of the taverns and begun breaking shop windows and flinging beer bottles at squad cars.

The local police found themselves overwhelmed pretty quickly. The mayor had gotten the Governor on the line, and he had called them in to quell the whole shebang.

Of course Captain Bishop was back at the temporary command center at St. Stanislaus Church, ostensibly holding two squads in reserve to help the Arkham Police keep order in the town and to jump in if thing’s got hairy. He was a Cambridge-taught REMF, the son of the mayor of Deans Corners and a cunning draft dodger who wanted no part of this hornet’s nest, particularly with all the media attention.

Iwanicki was standing there with his hands on his belt looking down through the bare cherry trees at the crowd chanting “Pigs off campus” down on the Commons where he’d spent many lunch hours reading, when, as if out of memory, a familiar figure came rushing across the field with one of the men, Private Carter, in tow and looking flustered as the older man repeatedly slapped his hand away from his elbow.

The man was in his late sixties and dressed accordingly, with a long, aged face. Wisps of cobweb white hair clung to his balding head. He smiled a broad set of too-uniform teeth and held up one liver spotted hand.

Iwanicki found himself smiling too, for the man was his old psychology professor, ‘Old Wing’ Peaslee.

“John Iwanicki, is that you?” he called, slapping Private Carter’s hand away yet again.

“What the fuck is this, Carter?” Pasternack growled, taking a step forward to intercept the spry old man. “Can’t you keep an old man behind a goddamned line?”

“I’m sorry sir, he….”

“I was insistent,” Peaslee finished for the blushing young man. “Please excuse me. I recognized an old student and I just had to say hello.”

Pasternack reached out and grabbed the old man by his scarf, but he shrugged out of it with a mumbled ‘thank you,’ and put his hand out to Iwanicki, as he came on.

Peaslee had been a bit of an eccentric, known to go off on wild, sometimes strange tangents in his lectures, but he had always found the old man fascinating even in his most rambling pontifications. He had been friendly with Iwanicki’s Uncle Jim, the pastor at St. Stanislaus who had practically raised him after his father had stumbled out one morning and drowned himself in the Miskatonic. Peaslee and his uncle had been chess rivals, and his recommendation on Iwanicki’s application had gone a long way towards convincing Admissions to overlook his financial hardship.

“Hello, Professor,” Iwanicki smiled, taking the old man’s hand as Pasternack flung the scarf down in the grass and scowled behind his back. “I’m half surprised you’re not down there with the Yippies,” he said, nodding over his shoulder at the crowd singing down on the Commons.

“It’s them I’d like to speak with you about, if you can spare the time. I tried to see your commanding officer but was turned away.”

Sgt. Pasternack insinuated himself, cradling his M1.

“Lieutenant should I remove this civilian?” It was more of a suggestion than a query.

Maybe the presence of his old professor bolstered his confidence.

“No, Sergeant. Just wait over there a bit.”

“That fire crew’s looking kind of anxious, sir,” Pasternack insisted, not budging.

“You’re right,” he said. “I’ll tell you what. Take the men down there as we discussed. I want all weapons locked. Treat this like a peaceful demonstration, nothing to get excited about. Pass the word down the line.”

“Sir?”

“You said yourself the fire crew isn’t going to put out a napalm blaze the way they’re going. I want you down there advising them,” he said, squaring his shoulders at Pasternack. “Understood?”

“Yes sir,” Pasternack said, pursing his lips and looking like he’d like to take a bite out of his nose.

He wheeled and stabbed a finger at Carter.

“Get your ass in gear, Private.”

Iwanicki watched Pasternack holler orders at the men, and pretty soon they were marching down the hill through the rustling autumn leaves toward the fire.

The twenty men with grenade launchers watched them go, fidgeting.

“Listen, Professor,” Iwanicki said. “If you’re here to impress caution on me, believe me, I’m doing all I can.”

“I’m afraid it’s graver than that, John. Do you know who’s behind all this unrest?”

“Yeah, the administrators gave my CO a name. Elwood. Some student activist.”

“Mr. Elwood has organized much of the peaceful arm of the demonstrations, it’s true, but neither he nor any of his followers had anything to do with setting fire to the ROTC building.”

“Who did?”

“Have you ever heard of Traxton Olney?”

Iwanicki had read all about Olney in Time magazine. He had been a psychiatric researcher for the Kaiser Family Foundation and had spent a few years abroad in Cambodia, doing field work with some kind of entheogenic substance used in ritual worship by an obscure hill tribe; an hallucinogenic compound called Liao, which he claimed was more potent than LSD. Upon returning to the US he had worked under Timothy Leary at Harvard as part of their Psylocibin Project, but after falling out, he’d struck out on his own, championing the benefits of Liao over acid.

He had overseen a series of rehabilitation experiments with Liao on Arkham Sanitarium patients and achieved a good deal of success and attention in 1960 when he wrote a book called The New Lotus Eaters: Adventures In Supernautical Exploration, detailing his own use of the drug. He’d been in a tent at the big hippie gathering at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, hosting Liao ‘in-peditions.’

“Sure,” said Iwanicki. “The Liao guy. Wasn’t he lecturing here at MU a while back?”

“He was,” said Peaslee, his tone and demeanor darkening noticeably. “Just after you graduated in ’65. He was apprehended by campus security trying to abscond with a rare volume from the library’s reference collection and dismissed. He took some of his followers among the staff and student body and formed a kind of neo-pagan group. They set themselves up in a commune at a certain cottage overlooking Olney’s native Kingsport. They call themselves NASA. Nedon’s Astral and Supernautics Amalgam.”

“Nee-don?”

“Olney claims it’s the name of their spiritual guide.”

“So what does Olney have to do with all this?” he asked impatiently.

Over Peaslee’s shoulder, he saw the line of soldiers tramping down to the fire, helmets and muzzles bobbing. The students were recoiling as though they were one organism reacting to the introduction of a foreign virus.

“While he was employed here, Olney professed some rather radical notions,” Peaslee said. “He believes in sharing the dreams of the Black Lotus with mankind whether they are receptive to it or no. During one of his lectures he exposed his students to Liao fumes to observe the results. Thankfully none of the class pressed charges. Most wound up joining him.”

“You said you knew who started the fire,” said Iwanicki. “Are you saying it was Olney?”

“I saw him myself early this morning, along with some of his followers, loitering about the quad, very near the ROTC building before it caught fire.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes,” said Peaslee. “I saw him clearly from the window of my office. By the time I came downstairs, the fire had already started. I have no doubt it is a distraction, meant to keep your soldiers occupied.”

“What do you think he intends?”

——————————–

Pick it up on Amazon or here from Dark Regions Press.

Summer of Lovecraft: Cosmic Horror in the 1960s

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).

No photo description available.

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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The Allclear in Return Of The Old Ones

rotoo-cover-800px-1Dark Regions Press has three new titles up for preorder via Indiegogo – You, Human, The Children of Gla’aki, and Return of The Old Ones, an anthology of Lovecraftian fiction taking place before, during, and after the awakening of the Old Ones. Return of The Old Ones features new stories from a gaggle of great writers. Check the TOC –

Around the Corner – Jeffrey Thomas
Tick Tock – Don Webb
Causality Revelation – Glynn Owen Barrass
The Hidden – Scott T. Goudsward
The Gentleman Caller – Lucy A. Snyder
Scratching from the Outer Darkness – Tim Curran
Messages from a Dark Deity – Stephen Mark Rainey

Time Flies – Pete Rawlik
Sorrow Road – Tim Waggoner
The Call of the Deep – William Meikle
Howling Synchronicities – Konstantine Paradias
Chimera – Sam Gafford
The Last Night on Earth – Edward Morris
The Incessant Drone – Neil Baker

Breaking Point – Sam Stone
The Keeper of Memory – Christine Morgan
Shout / Kill / Revel / Repeat – by Scott R Jones
Strangers Die Every Day – Cody Goodfellow

My story, The Allclear, is the post-apocalyptic tale of an underground society enacting a quasi-religious annual tradition in which they elect one of their number as Holy Scout. The Scout is pampered and indulged for a full year and then ascends the Elly Vader to perform the Great Reckon on the blasted surface world, the Hellabove. Except this year, as the new Scout prepares to fulfill her obligation, the previous year’s Scout returns….

Here’s an excerpt.

————————————————————————-

In the morning, Nougat would go up Elly Vader. She would see the Upper World, smell it, feel it. Probably she would taste the poison of Ray Dio, the last communion.

She wasn’t too scared. She had prepared for a year, a very good year.  The year of Nougat. She had filled her stomach with the best spinach and avocado, she had drunk as much wine as she liked. Yet though she knew she had her choice of the best of the men, men like Cannikin the Pipe Tech and Storax, the High Gardener’s apprentice, she had never exercised that right.

Part of it was that she didn’t want to spend the year of Nougat pregnant, or go to Ray Dio with a baby in her belly, or the guilt of a dead baby on her soul. But also, she knew Cannikin was Julin’s man, and she remembered the year of Plum Bob only too well, when he had barged into their quarters and taken her right on the table in front of Latchkey, and neither of them had been able to say a word against it because it was the law. Things had been different between her and Latchkey since. Colder.

She hadn’t wanted to inflict that on anyone else. Besides, despite what had happened, she still loved Latchkey, who was one of the Holy Radmen.

But old Uncle Buster-Jangle, the current Scion of Tist, claimed no favorites. He said the name of Scout came to him always in a vision on the night before the Reckon.

She had never had a vision in her life.

But as she lay against Latchkey’s naked chest, listening to his breathing and the beat of his sweet heart, feeling his sweat cool on her cheek, she closed her eyes, and had her first.

She was standing in Elly Vader, and she knew as the doors opened, that it was the Upper World, for why else would she be in there otherwise?

The doors slid into their housings and she saw before her all the Scouts she had ever known. Sculpin and Cresset, Wei Wu and Jancro, Basinet and Heathrow and a dozen more whose names she could not recall.  All of them, except Plum Bob.

They were all standing in a field of green under a blue sky, like the one in the picture she had found deep in the bunker while cleaning in Uncle Buster-Jangle’s quarters.

Uncle Buster-Jangle had told her it was a picture of the Upper World, as it used to be in the Long Agone, before the mushrooms and Ray Dio and the Path O’Jen and the Hellabove.  It was a sacred relic of Baxter, and on the back, he said, was written a love letter to his wife, Blessed Sheila Baxter, who had been a Scion of Tist in the faraway bunker of Pindar. It had never been sent, and it was called Baxter’s Great Sorrow. She couldn’t read the words herself.  No one in Greenbriar could. Only the Scion of Tist could untangle them into thoughts. The picture though, was beautiful, so vibrant and full of colors, and she knew the Upper World wasn’t like that anymore, but in her vision it was, just as it had been in her secret hopes all this past year, when she had prayed with all her heart to Potus that she would be Last Scout and be the one to ride Elly Vader back down and unbutton the people.

But though they stood in that happy place in the ceremonial red jumpsuits and Scout regalia she had last seen them in, the Scouts weren’t happy. They looked pained and desperate, and their eyes were gaping sockets as they stretched out their hands to her all as one and said;

“Don’t let him in.”

They said it all together in one voice and then some dark shadow fell across them and they all looked up at once and opened their mouths and bared their teeth and screamed, but instead of human voices it was the loud, blaring Klaxon of the Drill Ritual that came out, the machine wail of distress that the Scion of Tist said meant that Ray Dio had found a way down into Greenbriar, the catastrophe they re-enacted every month, stripping naked and running into the scouring showers while the Radmen acolytes rushed to their holy lockers and donned their yellow rubber vestments and black masked hoods and passed their crackling wands over everything, warding the seams and corners of the bunker against Ray Dio, all to the primal song of the Klaxon.

She opened her eyes again, and flinched.

Latchkey stirred.

“Are you alright? Bad dream?”

“No,” she whispered. Because it was no dream. It had been a vision.

————————————————————————–

Head over to Indiegogo and preorder a copy. If the opening day stretch goal is released, the book will get an illustration from M. Wayne Miller, the artist who did all the great interiors for World War Cthulhu and who did the cover for my novel Terovolas (and my forthcoming collection, Angler In Darkness).

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/three-new-books-from-dark-regions-press#/

August story up on Patreon

I’ve been releasing a story a month to $5.00 and above backers on my Patreon page since Janurary of this year. Currently, five bucks gets you access to eight short stories, some never before published anywhere else.

For the month of August, I’ve put up The Theophany of Nyx, a Lovecraftian tale of a plumber on an Army base bearing witness to the collapse of the Earth’s first lunar colony and the dark days that follow.

It was originally published a few years ago in a book called Fading Light. You can read an excerpt from it here.

To get the whole thing, head over to my Patreon.

Hasta pronto!

Heroes Of Red Hook Kickstarter Is Live

redhook

Golden Goblin Press, whose anthologies Tales Of Cthulhu Invictus and Tales of The Caribbean published my Lovecraftian stories The Unrepeatables and Gods of The Grim Nation respectively, have a brand new book coming out, Heroes of Red Hook – a very worthy project conceived by owner and editor Oscar Rios as a response to the unfortunate racism inherent in HP Lovecraft’s works and co-edited by Brian Sammons.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/golden-goblin-press/heroes-of-red-hook

I’ve approached the Mythos from a non-Anglo Saxon perspective a couple times in the past, with Crawlin’ Chaos Blues and Gods of The Grim Nation, so I jumped at the chance to be a part of a book like this, as did the following writers:

Glynn Owen Barrass

Juliana Quartaroli

Sam Gafford

Cody Goodfellow

Scott R. Jones

Vincent Kovar

Penelope Love

Tom Lynch

William Meikle

Christine Morgan

Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire

Pete Rawlik

Paula R. Stiles

Sam Stone

Tim Waggoner

Mercedes M. Yardley

My entry, Beyond The Black Arcade, is a prequel to my previous Zora Neale Hurston story Gods Of The Grim Nation, and an indirect sequel to Lovecraft’s own The Call of Cthulhu. Zora, gathering folklore on hoodoo for her New York benefactress, submits to the tutelage of a famed New Orleans conjure man, who, as part of her initiation, takes her deep into the bayou to redress a wrong unwittingly perpetrated by Inspector Legrasse’s raid on a backwoods cult of Cthulhu in 1908. They discover an Indian father whose son has been abducted by winged creatures, who have born the boy to a strange, luminescent lake back in the swamp.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

Luke Turner was an old, dark man with a Berber’s face and one blown out eye. I knew he was the genuine article because he was the only one of the five hoodoo doctors I had met to cuss me outright for a tourist rather than bob his head and call me ‘Miz Hurston’ when I floated the promise of recompense their way.

Doc Turner was an old hand at turning away the curious. He called me names Godmother Mason would blush to hear, and quoted me a rube’s price for tuition. I finally remarked that I wasn’t even sure he was on the level, and if he was truly her nephew, tell me something about Marie Leveau I didn’t already know, before I wasted my good money on another rounder with a deck of marked cards and a pair of writin’ slates.

Pride got the better of him then, and he stopped snarling and got up on his hind legs to howl.

“To know the Queen, you must know Hoodoo.”

“I know Hoodoo,” I lied. I knew some things. I knew about Goofer dust, and Conquerer Root, and I knew the ghosts of convicted murderers wandered blind because of the executioner’s hood.

He laughed lowly.

“You do not, but I will tell you.  God made the world we know with powerful words in six days and then rested. We live still on the seventh, waiting for Him to wake again. How many times the sun chase the moon, and always man look high and deep for them precious words and find none, until Moses. He was taught just ten, and them ten little words was enough to tear a nation out the side of Egypt.  But the Burning Bush would have blasted Moses to soot if he hadn’t been taught by Jethro, who knew the way of the Old One; the way of true Hoodoo.”

“The Old One?”

He leaned forward, and in the hazy light through the window, I saw something glitter on his finger. When he saw my eyes move to it, he covered one hand with the other and held my eyes.

“There was a snake in a hole right under the Lord’s footrest. The snake taught Jethro’s folks down in the deep blue places of the earth, and Jethro taught Moses. It put fire in his mind, clouds in his words; the words of making and unmaking. Lots of men, they can order things around. Moses could make.”

“Is this the snake got us booted from the Garden of Eden?” I asked.

“Not booted,” said Doc Turner with a thin, patient smile. “Freed. What’s a garden to a wildflower lookin’ down from a hill, but a prison?”

“So the Old One taught Moses the words, is the Devil?”

“Some call him Damballah. In the old times, Set. He is the godfather of man. He is Yig. He is my guide.”

“Will Yig guide me too?” I asked.

—————————————

I’m proud of this one and happy to be working with Oscar and Brian again. The story features some references not just to Lovecraft, but to my all-time favorite writer Robert E. Howard as well.

As mentioned, it’s also a return to writing Zora Neale Hurston in the role of a Lovecraftian protagonist. She’s a character I’m fast falling in love with writing, and one of the stretch goals of the kickstarter is a novella-length story featuring her, called King Yeller. In it, Zora is hired by the Federal Theater Project in New York City as a drama coach for up and coming young director Orson Welles’ all-black production of Macbeth. Except Welles, in typical upstart fashion, decides a quarter of the way through rehearsals that the cast will instead enact a production of a very rare and obscure play, The King In Yellow, which has just been provided to him by a mysterious benefactor….

So, if you wanna see the Yeller Sign through Zora’s eyes, be generous to this exciting project. You have till July 25th when the kickstarter ends.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/golden-goblin-press/heroes-of-red-hook

 

What’s Coming In 2016

Happy New Year All. Just a swift post to let you know what to expect from me this year writing-wise.

First off, I’m experimenting with Patreon, so head over to here and check that out. Five bucks a month gets you a brand new never before (or very little) seen short story from me. This month it’s a little story called The Mound Of The Night Panther about the secret history of the mound city of Cahokia and how it was brought down by weird happenings.

Next up will likely be my short novel Perennial, appearing in Emergence, the first of Ragnarok Publications’ new shared world superhero universe, Humanity 2.0. It’s about a man who gains incredible abilities but also has his physical aging process halted at age fourteen. That’s him on the cover, Pan. It features a scenario that is basically Die Hard with a skyscraper full of supervillains.  You can read more about that here. 

pan

At some point early this year I’ll be sharing novel space again with author Willie Meikle in Canadian publisher April Moon Books’ new James Bond pastiche series, Bond: Unknown. Entitled Mindbreaker, this one’s a 1960’s era Lovecraftian mashup with Bond being seconded to an ultra secret branch of the service to chase down the abducted Princess Royal and stop an obscure Corsican cult’s plot to activate a prehistoric weapon. I’m an immense Bond fan, so this is one I’m looking forward to you all reading, as despite the Cthulhu stuff, it’s very much written with Fleming in mind. Were you aware the 16th century mystic philosopher and mathematician John Dee signed his letters to Queen Elizabeth 0-0-7? Ian Fleming was. You will be too…

007dee

I’ll have a few short story appearances scattered throughout the year, in books from Golden Goblin Press and possibly Chaosium, and, if things work out, a new Star Wars story (keep your lightsabers crossed for that).

Then in the last part of the year you’ll see my Arthurian fantasy debut The Knight With Two Swords again from Ragnarok, which is a high fantasy retelling of the story of Balin Le Savage from Mallory and a slew of other sources.

I’ve also dipped my toes back into the screenwriting waters this year, with the hopes of putting out a short film at some point. We’ll see how that goes.

Hasta pronto!

The Wood of Ephraim On Tales To Terrify

Tales To Terrify recently got Rish Outfield to dramatize my Lovecraftian sword and sorcery story of Biblical proportions, The Wood Of Ephraim, which appeared recently in Swords And Mythos from Innsmouth Free Press. Read about the story RIGHT HERE.

Turn out the lights and give a listen below. Cool way to kick off the Halloween season a bit early. My story starts at the 27:00 mark.

http://farfetchedfables.com/far-fetched-fables-no-72-dean-francis-alfar-and-edward-m-erdelac/

Absalom_catches_hair_in_tree_1219-102

DT Moviehouse Reviews: The Call of Cthulhu

Time once more for my blog feature, DT Moviehouse Reviews, in which I make my way alphabetically through my 200+ DVD/Blu-Ray collection (you can see the list right here) and decide if each one was worth the money. Better watch out! It’s Halloween night….and here’s my review of the fan made HP Lovecraft Historical Society’s adaptation of The Call Of Cthulhu.

Directed by Andrew Leman

Screenplay by Sean Brannery, based off the story by H.P. Lovecraft

Tagline: The celebrated story by HP Lovecraft brought at last to the silver screen.

call_of_cthulhu_movie

What It’s About:

A man uncovers evidence of a strange cult, following the seemingly disparate threads of an ancient artifact, a police raid on a degenerate backwoods bayou ritual, the nightmares of an artist, and the account of a Norwegian vessel’s exploration of a remote island.

Why I Bought It:


I’m a fairly recent convert to the works of weird fiction author HP Lovecraft.

MovieQuiz_963-0000I think I started reading him only about 2006 or so. I’ve always found him kind of a dry writer (I’m a Robert E. Howard guy), but the ideas of his seminal Mythos definitely left an indelible mark on my mind, and grew to inform my own work as a writer, if not entirely pervade it. Once I began delving into Jewish esoteric lore for my Merkabah Rider series, I saw parallels between certain occult concepts and the stuff Lovecraft developed and incorporated them. I have no idea if he was in anyway a student of Kabbalah and the like, but his notion of taking the good and evil equation out of existence and instead portraying the universe as a kind of barely controlled chaos against which his protagonists struggle and usually fail, is undeniably striking and unique. A mythology for atheists, I guess, where the supernatural is simply the unexplained, or even the inexplicable, where God is not an entity but a misnomer for something unfathomable.

cthlhu2Lovecraft is steadily growing in popularity with the dissemination of his work online. I first heard of Cthulhu back in my early roleplaying game days, and then later read about his extended family via Howard’s Mythos stories.  It’s inevitable that so long lasting an author have his work tapped by filmmakers, but there have been very few adaptations if his work that have successfully portrayed his output. Most lift the concepts but go for the splatter and gore, or are content to mention Miskatonic University and then run with the ball any old way.

But not the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu.

Fan made films don’t often hold up too well to scrutiny. Slavish devotion to the source material hardly ever makes for a good adaptation. Books are a different creature than movies, and Lovecraft’s stuff, if you’ve ever read it, is far from mainstream fare. It’s cerebral and academic, episodic and existential. Lovecraft’s bestiary/pantheon is older than Creation, aloof and unconcerned with humanity, but can wipe us all out with a shifty look if their attention is unwisely attracted.

And yet, The Call of Cthulhu is a perfect, nearly to-the-letter adaptation….and it works.

legrasseThere is so much love(craft) in every frame of this low budget indie film, not only for its source material, but for the cinematic conventions that co-existed with its birth, that it can’t be seen as anything less than a masterful homage to the Mythos and to the expressionist films of F.W. Murnau, Robert Wiene, and Wegener and Galeen, with nods to James Wale and Todd Browning.

The central concept of CoC is that the HPLHS decided to produce the movie as though it were a contemporary adaptation of the original story, written in 1926. Thus, the movie is black and white, and silent with title cards and an incessant orchestral score. All the FX are practical, and wherever possible, true to the time period. No CGI. Just elaborate sets, forced perspectives, and the occasional matte image.

The impossible angles of nightmarish R’yleh is achieved with angular wooden sets and old fashioned chiaroscuro. Dramatic light and oppressive shadow take the place of staid and artificial computer wizardry.

call-of-cthulhu-castroI’ve seen modern filmmakers attempt to do period movies before. Tarantino and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse for example, which I think, doesn’t manage to quite pull it off all the time, partly due to the actors. I don’t know what it is with humanity, but certain faces seem to come and go in and out of style in certain time periods. The actors gathered for CoTC have the look of silent movie actors. Maybe it’s the makeup, but Matt Foyer in particular looks like he was awakened from some kind of suspended animation just to portray the narrator in this.  And the cultist interrogated by the police after the bayou raid sequence reminds me of Dwight Frye.

Call of Cthulhu isn’t just a great example of Lovecraft, it’s an amazing example of what low budget independent filmmaking can achieve when ingenuity and creativity drive the work.

It should be viewed as nothing less than an inspiration.

Best Dialogue/Line:

“Burn it all.”

Best Scene:

cthulhuMost all the set pieces are so wonderfully rendered, but the climactic sequence has to take the kewpie doll here.

The Norwegian ship The Alert comes across a mysterious island covered in a weirdly constructed…is it a city? Is it a necropolis? We don’t know.

The captain leads the sailors towards an immense monolith covered in weird runes which reacts to their prodding and opens. One of the hapless sailors pitches headlong into its dark depths.

Then a pair of huge clawed hands emerge – the hands of dread Cthulhu.

The sailors run pell mell for their launch, falling victim to the grasping claws of the pursuing creature and to the weird M.C. Escher landscape itself. Memorably, one sailor stumbles and falls into an illusory gap between the blocks that isn’t even visible from our perspective.

It’s just a great, tense sequence. Some argue that the herky jerkiness of the stop motion creature takes away from the effect, but I found the effect marvelously surreal and a nice homage to the work of Harryhausen and King Kong. Something about the slightly unnatural movement combined with the true lighting has always appealed to me about stop motion peril.

Would I Buy It Again: Yes

Next In The Queue: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

De Horrore Cosmico At Kickstarter

6c586547735714014eda8f29c8cfc9f8_largeGolden Goblin Press is into the final seventeen days of their kickstarter for He Horrore Cosmico, six scenarios the the Cthulhu Invictus game. In their own words:

Long before ivy grew on the walls of Miskatonic University or the Deep Ones first came to Innsmouth, centuries before the mad Arab penned the dreaded Necronomicon, the malevolent powers of the Cthulhu Mythos plagued mankind. During the Age of the Antonines (96 AD–192 AD), when the Roman Empire was at the peak of its power, dark and unknowable forces were at work.  Ancient wizards sought ways to cheat death, explorers stumbled on the remnants of alien civilizations, foul cults practiced unholy rites, and inhuman creatures sought to mix their blood with ours.

Across Rome’s vast empire, a few brave men and women rose up to meet these threats for the greater good of mankind. They carried light into the darkness, dispelling a poisonous taint which grows best in the shadows. With steel and spell and burning torch, these heroic investigators of the ancient world defended their civilization from the fearsome powers of the Cthulhu Mythos. Golden Goblin Press is proud to offer up six of their adventures.

58634b4826cb1310d0efd57fb05efddc_largeOnce GG Press hits the $23,000 stretch goal, they’ll be putting out a companion fiction anthology edited by Brian Sammons and featuring nine stories of Lovecraftian horror set in Roman times to fire the imagination of players and GMs.  The lineup for that book consists of –

Vulcan’s Forge, by William Meikle
To the Fertility of the Empress, by Christine Morgan
A Plague of Wounds, by Konstantine Paradias
Time Devours All, by Pete Rawlik
The Unrepeatables, by Edward M. Erdelac
Signs of the Black Stars, by Penelope Love
Lines in the Sand, by Tom Lynch
The Temple of Iald-T’quthoth, by Lee Clark Zumpe
The Seven Thunders, by Robert M. Price

My tale, The Unrepeatables, is about Damis of Nineveh, the lifelong friend and companion of the renowned mystic and miracle worker Apollonious of Tyana, and an ex-legionnaire insinuating themselves into the estate of a famous charioteer to investigate rumors that he is profaning the secret and sacred Eleusinian Mysteries.

More about the story as the book is funded – which means, hey, if you like Roman history and Cthulhu, go kick Golden Goblin Press a buck or two. They’ve got some really killer swag for backers, including Lovecraftian lare (household god figurines – which feature prominently in The Unrepeatables), custom Roman coins, and more.