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.

Image result for transmissions from punktown
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 –

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The Unrepeatables Appearing in Tales Of Cthulhu Invictus

Tales-of-Cthulhu-Invictus

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 nine tales of their horrific struggles and sacrifices.

Tales of Cthulhu Invictus – Edited by Brian Sammons

  • Vulcan’s Forge by William Meikle
  • Fecunditati Augustae by Christine Morgan
  • A Plague of Wounds by Konstantine Paradias
  • Tempus Edax Rerum by Pete Rawlik
  • The Unrepeatables by Edward M. Erdelac
  • Magnum Innominandum by Penelope Love
  • Lines in the Sand by Tom Lynch
  • The Temple of Iald-T’qurhoth by Lee Clark Zumpe
  • The Seven Thunders by Robert M. Price      

My story, The Unrepeatables follows Damis of Nineveh, the former companion of the famed miracle worker Apollonius of Tyana, and ex-Centurion Modus Macula as they investigate the summer home of a famous charioteer under suspicion of profaning the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Here’s an excerpt.

roman-feast-1“Ah, you are an initiate then?” Atomus asked.

“Yes,” said Damis. “I have been trying to convince Macula to attend in the coming year.”

“Fat chance,” Calidas piped up. “If I remember Macula, he does not believe in the gods. Isn’t that right?”

“I believe in what I can put between my hands,” said Macula.

“Ah! A brimming wine goblet! A fat woman!” Bibaculus laughed, squeezing the girl at his side until she squealed and slapped his hairy arm.

“Or a sword,” finished Macula.

“But wasn’t Apollonius a devotee of Pythagoras?” Atomus asked. “How does one reconcile initiation in a Greek rite with monotheism?”

“By Jove!” Calidas spat into his cup. “You’re not a Christian are you?”

The room shook with laughter.

Damis smiled thinly.

In no other manner can one exhibit a fitting respect for the Divine being than by refusing to offer any victim at all; to Him we must not kindle fire or make promise unto Him of any sensible object whatsoever. For He needs nothing even from beings higher than ourselves. Nor is there any plant or animal which earth sends up or nourishes, to which some pollution is not incident. We should make use in relation to Him solely of that which issues not by the lips, but from the noblest faculty we possess, and that faculty is intelligence, which needs no organ. That is what my master taught.”

“Even Jews sacrifice,” said Calidas. “How else can that which is worth attaining be attained, save through offering and hardship?” he went on, squeezing Brehane’s hand. “Without the race there is no victory.”

“Is that what you believe, Atomus?” Damis asked.

“What makes you think I am a Jew?” Atomus countered.

“What are you then? A Simonian? One of these Valentinians?” He leaned closer. “Something else?”

“My father was a priest in the Temple when Titus burned it and carried off the Menorah for the Colosseum. What I knew of the glory of the holy city I knew from stories. I grew up in its ruins. I was there when Hadrian burnt the Torah atop the Mount, breaking his promise to rebuild the Temple and renaming Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina.”

The atmosphere around the table had plummeted into a silent coldness, and Damis and Atomus glared at each other with naked but inscrutable dislike.

“This is too heated a discussion for the dinner table,” Calidas said, finding his victorious smile again. “Don’t be boring, Atomus. Macula? What say you, Damis?”

Soleas poscere,” said Damis, signaling that the dinner had ended for him.

Dutifully, two of the slaves emerged with their sandals.

Macula, mouth full of dormouse, blinked surprise. Something had roused the ire of the old mystic, but he had no idea what.

They got up from the table. Damis took him by the elbow and guided him to the lararium on the wall to pay their respects to the household gods depicted in miniature statuary in the recessed little niche.

As Macula began to bow, Damis gripped him tightly, causing him to straighten, and steered him out into the atrium, where two burly slaves standing in the vestibulum pulled open the doors for them.

Soon they were on the dim, torch lit road winding down the hill, the lights of town below, the moonlight playing on the rippling bay.

“I take it you’ve found something,” Macula said.

“I’m not sure. Take this, for I fear we shall know in a moment.”

042From under his voluminous philosopher’s robes, Damis produced a short, glittering pugio in a silver frame scabbard which had been fashioned into a fanciful depiction of a man sinking a sword into the breast of some dragon-like monstrosity.

“Where did you get that?”

“Master Damis! Master Macula!”

Macula half-turned, to see the two well-built door slaves trotting down the road after them.

They had napkins bundled in their hands.

“Our master begs you not to forget your napkins.”

Macula narrowed his eyes. It was customary for the host of a party to wrap his guest’s personal napkins about some token gift before returning them.

Except they had taken their napkins with them.

As the first of the two big slaves reached them, Macula whipped the dagger free of its scabbard with a ring and thrust the point in his heart to the hilt.

He had to kick the body off the blade as the second slave lunged at him, something flashing in his fist.

Macula ducked under the swing and jabbed upwards, catching the second man under the chin, the point popping out of the crown of his skull.

He retrieved one of the napkins and wiped the blood from the blade.

The napkin of the first man had a dagger hidden in the folds.

“So I was right,” Damis breathed.

“What’s going on? Why did you bring a pugio to the party if you didn’t suspect anything?”

“Traveling with Apollonius I learned to take precautions. The star Sothis is ascendant. It is an ill-omen.”

“I thought you hated astrology.”

“I hate astrologers,” Damis corrected.  “I thought very little of this errand of yours, true, when the night began.”

“Till you saw that Iacchus in the mosaic?”

“It raised my suspicions.  You may not believe in the gods, Macula, and the guise in which you know them may indeed be a lie, but just as Jove is Zeus, once they had other names and other faces, terrible to behold.”

As he spoke, Damis removed a pouch from his robes and spilled its contents into his hand. There were six rings, each with a different colored intaglio gem, like the one he already wore, engraved with a symbol representing each of the seven stars.

He slipped them on one at a time.

maenads-silenus“Iacchus,” he said, “the son of Hades and Demeter, who was later known as Bacchus and Dionysus, whose maenad cult was driven to terrible ecstasies, ripping apart goats with their bare hands. And yet the nameless cult of Iacchus, or Icthiacchilius as he is known, sacrificed a goat without horns beneath the moon and the Star of Sothia, and tore their victim apart with their teeth. And behind him, behind Demeter and Mithras, behind Nuada, Ashur, Neptune and Cthulhu, the great whirling chaos, the Womb of Darkness from which the gods spawned, as far outside our knowing as is dread Tartarus. Chaos. Tiamat. Azathoth.”

Macula shook his head, staring down at the moonlight on the blade of the dagger, which was engraved with seals and unreadable voces mysticae.

“So what do we tell Marcius Turbo?”

“I fear there is no time to return to Rome,” said Damis. “This night, foul things are afoot in that house, and must be stopped.”

At that moment, a shrill scream rang out from high on the hill, a woman’s scream, prolonged in agony, which dwindled till it was lost on the sea breeze.

Macula was already running back up the road with Damis huffing behind.

—————————————————————————

On sale now at the Golden Goblin Press website.

http://www.goldengoblinpress.com/store/#!/Fiction-Products/c/14026709/offset=0&sort=normal

It Came To Modesto Now Appearing In Atomic Age Cthulhu!

Hey hep cats, now on sale from Chaosium is Atomic Age Cthulhu, Lovecraftian madness in the 1950’s from editors Brian Sammons and Glynn Owen Barass.

Check out the table of contents –

“Bad Reception” by Jeffrey Thomas
“Fallout” by Sam Stone
“Little Curly” by Neil Baker
“The Terror That Came to Dounreay” by William Meikle
“The Romero Transference” by Josh Reynolds
“Within the Image of the Divine” by Bear Weiter
“Names on the Black List” by Robert Price
“Yellow is the Color of the Future” by Jason Andrew
“Eldritch Lunch” by Adam Bolivar
“Professor Patriot and the Doom that Came to Niceville” by Christine Morgan
“Fears Realized” by Tom Lynch
“Unamerican” by Cody Goodfellow
“The Preserved Ones” by Christopher M. Geeson
“Rose-Colored Glasses” by Michael Szymanski
“Day the Music Died” by Charles Christian
“Putnam’s Monster” by Scott T. Goudsward
“Operation Switch” by Peter Rawlik
“The End of the Golden Age” by Brian M. Sammons & Glynn Owen Barrass

My story, It Came To Modesto, sprang directly from my love of 50’s monster movies, particularly the American International Pictures I Was A Teenage Werewolf, I Was A Teenage Frankenstein, and How To Make A Monster. The original title of this story was I Was A Teenage….well, I won’t spoil it with the name. There’s definitely a bit of The Blob in there too.

Rambler-Rebel-1957-adgoldenhawkAnyway, it involves a seventeen year old kid, Georgie Colato, trying hard to fit into his new peer group in Modesto, California and running into a lot of resistance due to his mixed Italian and Mexican heritage. Georgie works most afternoons at his dad’s garage, and when a customer skips town and leaves his ’57 Rambler Rebel behind, Georgie takes it out nights, dreaming of racing it professionally. When Georgie butts heads with Jimmy Lucas, the captain of the high school football team over the attentions of a girl, Debbie, Georgie decides to pit the Rebel against Jimmy’s cherry red Studebaker Golden Hawk, with Debbie as the prize.  Yet during the race down the rural interstate on the outskirts, Jimmy pulls a fast one and Georgie wrecks, losing his arm in the crash.

Yet when he awakes in the basement of a strange house, the arm is restored….and he is not alone.

modestoOther inspirations behind It Came To Modesto are obviously Rebel Without A Cause, and my own father’s brief career as a drag racer in the late fifties/early sixties. He used to tell me stories about his car, a souped up Ford called the Grey Ghost. He street raced it until it was totaled in an intersection collision. I think I picked Modesto as the story’s setting after reading a bit about filmmaker George Lucas’ life changing crash in the 60’s, the one that steered him permanently from the career path of race car driving.

Here’s an excerpt —

Georgie couldn’t help staring at the girl’s swaying backside as she crossed the room to the wheeled cart sitting in a puddle of water next to the freezer.

She pushed it back to the table. When she stopped beside Golovkin, she reached into the tray and lifted a plastic bag about the size of a pillow. Sloshing inside it was a shifting mass of what looked like something shoveled off the floor of a slaughterhouse. It was pinkish and gray, and changed whenever Georgie tried to focus on it, all nipples and knuckle bones and a sudden bloom like an ear or a black animal eye popping open, rolling in between a pair of lids and then disappearing.

The whole mixture was swimming in some bloody liquid, like the drippings of defrosted chicken, and seemed to be constantly moving, though the girl wasn’t shaking the bag. Maybe it was the gas again, playing tricks on his eyes.

He laid his head back and closed his eyes to stop the spinning world.

Golovkin’s voice droned into his Dictaphone.

“The Freygan method was an unwieldy undertaking, and made no considerations for the psychological effect of symbiosis. The end result was oft-times uncontrollable, savage. Working from the recovered Greenwood notes, I have streamlined the treatment considerably, substituting the use of parabolic reflectors with an infusion of vita-rays and a catalytic compound developed by the Mi-go. Combined with the regular introduction of Liao-gas to encourage psychic adaptation, the first stage of the process is for the most part, quite painless.”

Georgie looked from the old man to the girl. She was leaning over, upending the bag. The weird stuff was sliding slowly from it, plopping wetly, like a quaking afterbirth into the tray. With it came an awful, fishy stink.

Somehow his bandages had been unwrapped. It was shocking to see the point where his left arm simply ended in a ragged stump. He couldn’t see the wound well, but the lack of his left arm was enough to make him whimper.

The girl slapped the gas mask over his face. He breathed deep reflexively.

His eyes went to the girl, lingered tantalizingly on her form. She was older than him. Maybe a college girl. He could see the white mounds of cleavage through her open jacket, straining against the black top she wore beneath. Her lips were so red.

When the mask came away, his head slumped to the table, no will in him to lift it.

His eyes went to the silver tray.

Something dragged itself ponderously over the lip. It bubbled and boiled. The bubbles sprouted a dozen tiny human eyes that rolled and blinked. It flopped down onto the table and oozed towards his stump.

He wanted to scream but he couldn’t summon any effort.

He felt a sharp tug at his shoulder then. A vertical fissure had opened in the mound of fleshy ooze, wide enough to fit around his stump. The edges of the opening changed multiple times. At one point it sprouted shaggy hairs, and mimicked a pair of giant lips, and then it rippled and diminished.

He felt nauseous. Then something was in his mind. Not the voice of Golovkin, not his own confused thoughts.

Something new.

teenageror

———-

Atomic Age Cthulhu is on sale now!

http://www.amazon.com/Atomic-Age-Cthulhu-Mythos-Chaosium-Fiction/dp/1568823983/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1427731255&sr=8-3&keywords=atomic+age+cthulhu

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.

Black Tallow In The Dark Rites Of Cthulhu

darkritesI’m very proud to have my story BLACK TALLOW appearing in the inaugural book from Neil Baker’s April Moon Books, THE DARK RITES OF CTHULHU.

Neil is a fellow Star Wars What’s The Story alumn and Mythos enthusiast, and he’s wrangled some great talent for his house’s first book, including editor/author Brian M. Sammons, Glynn Owen Barrass, John Goodrich, Scott T. Goudsward, T. E. Grau, C.J. Henderson, Tom Lynch, the ever lovin’ William Meikle, Christine Morgan, Robert M. Price, Pete Rawlik, Josh Reynolds, Sam Stone, Jeffrey Thomas and Don Webb.

Lovecraft Ezine just did a midnight chat on the book which you can view here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRjmMBp7kw0

Unfortunately I had some technical issues and wound up missing it, but here’s what I WOULD have talked about –

Brian pitched Dark Rites to me as a Hammer Studios style take on the ritualistic aspect of the Lovecraftian Mythos, akin to Dennis Wheatley’s fiction (like The Devil Rides Out) and Curse Of The Demon. I latched onto the idea immediately (and had a hand in naming the book).

My story BLACK TALLOW is about a rare book translator and lapsed occultist who is called to the house of an old friend who claims to owe all his substantial worldly success to the pursuit of ritual magic. And yet, the wealthy practitioner is as yet spiritually unfulfilled, until he comes across a rare tome whose ultimate purpose is said to be to grant the occultist the greatest desire of his heart.

blacktallowThe story incorporates The Infernalius, a book which readers of my Merkabah Rider series will recognize.

Perhaps I share my character’s love of physical books, but I have to take a minute and talk about how impressed I am with the look of this anthology. As you can see, Neil distressed the cover image to give the book a very 1960’s paperback feel which I love. He’s also crafted a series of minimalist representational images for each of the stories.

Here’s an excerpt from BLACK TALLOW.

He moved to the book and removed the covering.

I leaned in close.

bookIt was an ugly little thing, less than a hundred pages. It was bound in mottled, flaking, pale leather, and rather inexpertly, I thought. Some of the pages did not quite fit, as if they were mismatched, or taken from disparate sources.  I squinted hard at the cover, which bore no markings. It was old, whatever it was.

“Anthropodermic bibliopegy,” he mumbled, very close to my ear. He was standing near, hovering almost.

“Binding in human skin?” I wrinkled my nose. Claims of book jackets made from human skin usually turned out to be unfounded. Pig skin was often mistaken for human. I had once seen a copy of deSade’s Justine et Juliette with a human nipple on the front board below the title, and another time, Carnegie’s biography of Lincoln bound in a black man’s hide.  “Not very well done, is it?”

“It was stitched together by hand. By the same hand that did the fleshing and tanning.”

“Whose hand is that?” I asked, reaching out to thumb the pages.

“No, don’t open it!” he snapped. Then, more gently, “Let me.”

There was no title, only page after page of densely inscribed text, all in various hands, languages, even hieroglyphs on what looked like brittle papyrus. There were strange diagrams inside. I knew it was some kind of grimoire, but it was impossible for me to guess where it originated from.

“What is this, Paul? Some kind of scrapbook?”

“Sort of. Have you ever heard of the Infernalius?”

“It sounds….familiar.”

“Think back to the books we heard talked about in our college days, Raymond. The books your own grandfather had from his great uncle.”

That was Great Great Uncle Warren, the man family history had always told me I’d inherited my love of languages and old books from. He’d been a Classical Languages professor in Arkham, Massachussetts in the old days, and a chum of the somewhat notorious occult scholar Henry Armitage. Upon Warren’s death in 1931, most of his books and papers had been donated to his university, though a few had been passed on to his brother.

It was the revelation that I was Warren Rice’s great great grand nephew that had started off Paul’s fascination with me in school. He seemed to buy into the old story about how Warren and Armitage had had some strange mystical dealings in Dunwich in 1928 or so.

The books my grandfather had let us peruse in his study one summer that had belonged to Warren were mainly scholarly treatises, such as Copeland’s Zanthu Tablets: A Conjectural Translation, Casterwell’s Kranorian Annals, and von Junzt’s Nameless Cults.

Then I remembered.

“The Book of Books?”

Paul smiled.

“The Book of Books. Not some idle boast, but a literal description. A book hidden among the pages of seven other books.” He held up his hands and ticked them off, finger by finger. “The Book of Eibon, the Book of Karnak, the Testament of Carnamagos, the Ponape Scripture, de Vermiss Mysteriis, and the Scroll of Thoth-Amon. Each one a rare treasure in their own right.”

“Come on, Paul. It’s a fantasy,” I laughed. “The timeline’s all wrong. How could something be hidden in an ancient Egyptian scroll and a book written in 1542?”

“You know of the Akashic Record. The ethereal library of all knowledge written and unwritten which men may tap into. And the history says that The Dark Man entity dictated The Infernalius to the Hyborean wizard Gargalesh Svidren, who dispersed the knowledge through time. Abdul Al-Hazred hid the assembly instructions in the original, unexpurgated Arabic Kitab al-Azif. They’re only visible to those who already know it’s there. A book which rewards the practitioner with ultimate knowledge of the universe.”

“I thought it was supposed to end the world,” I said, pursing my lips. “How much did you get fleeced for buying this, Paul?”

“It’s the genuine article,” said Paul. “Dr. Francis Morgan recovered it from Old Noah Whateley’s personal library in Dunwich after the affair with your uncle and Professor Armitage.  It’s been in a private collection since 1966, along with Whateley’s diary.”

“Noah Whateley kept a diary?” I said, incredulous.

Whateley’s reputation as a sorcerer was renowned, but like my own as a translator, only among certain circles. As students, we’d spent our junior year spring break in Arkham and Dunwich trying to learn all we could about him and run into a wall. I’d chalked it all up to being folklore. Paul had insisted the locals had protected us from the true knowledge.

“He did, and related his assembly of the book in 1882.”

“Finding the right copies of those books, unaltered by translation….it would’ve been impossible for one man,” I said.

“He was hired by a cult, the Order of The Black Dragon. You remember them.”

I nodded. Von Junzt had mentioned them, some sort of apocalyptic cult with origins in ancient Israel and adherents all over the globe.

“Their members gathered the required books and brought them to Whateley. He assembled them, and once the Order had performed the ritual and taken what they wanted from the book, he was sent back to Dunwich with it. Apparently it was their intention to call something forth, something that should have ended the world.”

“Well, so the book’s a fraud,” I said. “Obviously the world didn’t end.”

“The book’s purpose isn’t to end the world, but to grant the ritualist his heart’s desire. The Order wanted the end of the world. The book gave them the means. The book changes to fit the magician’s desire.”

“A book that changes? That’s crazy….”

—–

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