It’s been far too long so let’s make this official. If you’ve followed my Project Tracker, you’ll have noticed that I’m now halfway into writing the fourth novel of The Bell Forging Cycle. It’s high time I announce it.
Hired to work security for a political envoy, Waldo Bell and the crew of the Bell Caravans find themselves en route to Empress, the capital city of the hermit-nation of Victory. But things are never as simple as they seem. Sinister forces are circling; stuck in the middle, Wal will learn that darkness runs much deeper than he ever thought possible, reality is not what it seems, and a new apocalypse is much closer than anyone anticipates.
I’m targeting Gleam Upon the Waves to be about the length of Red Litten World. The story itself will be standalone, but we’re now at a point where reading the previous books will be helpful. If you read Red Litten World, you understand that there are a lot of moving parts now.
A teaser site has been live for a while but, you can see it here and read the epigraph. You can also check out my inspiration board over on Pinterest. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the plan is to work on this until it’s out. Y’all have been more than patient, and I’m excited. I think you’ll enjoy it.
I’ll see you on the trails, roaders. Things are going to get weird.
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In November of 1916, Howard Phillips Lovecraft published his first short story, The Alchemist, in the United Amateur Press Association. While his commercial work would come later, there is an argument to be made that November should be considered the birth month of cosmic horror as a genre.
Lovecraft wasn’t the first to write weird fiction; even Lovecraft had his influences. Writers like Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, Robert Chambers, and Edgar Allen Poe were all writing of the strange and macabre before ol’ Howie. Most cosmic horror fans will acknowledge their impact, but I think we’d all agree that it was Lovecraft’s writing that became the definitive work of the genre. Lovecraft’s mythos has gone on to influence a myriad of people; it was his stories that encouraged others to delve into writing and working within the genre. His writing helped forge the genre into the beast it is today.
In celebration, I figured it’d be fun to explore the current universe of cosmic horror and look at some of my primary sources for Lovecraftian fiction on the market today. This will be just a tiny sample of the ever expanding universe of weird fiction. If you have recommendations of your own, leave a comment!
The Bell Forging Cycle
Why not start with my books? (Buy ’em here.) Don your keff, lace up your boots, and enter my dystopian genre-bending vision of the Territories. A world where humanity is no longer alone and strange creatures inhabit vast multi-leveled megalopolises built upon the backs of drowned cities. A place of violence, where killers stalk narrow streets, and shadowy cults work ancient rituals to awaken forgotten elder gods. Standing in their way is one soul, a road-weary caravan master armed with an antique revolver, a droll wit, and a hardened resolve. Read an excerpt at any of the links below.
Weird fiction is still alive and well, recently Penguin re-released a limited edition paperback, and a quick search for “Lovecraft” will usher forth all sorts of collections. However, some of the most exciting work in cosmic horror can be found among the small presses.
Publisher of original novels, substantial collections, and some great anthologies, Word Horde, is one of my favorite small presses. The quality of their end product is great, Ross Lockhart and the team there does an excellent job in seeking out new talent and releasing it into the world.
Specializing in horror and dark fiction since 1985, this indie publishing house serves up all manners of terrors from some fairly big names. If you want something collectible, make sure to check out their special hardcover editions.
This small press focuses on collected works from cosmic horrors greats, men like Ramsey Campbell, Lovecraft himself and Clark Ashton Smith. They also delve into nonfiction as well, featuring work from scholars like S. T. Joshi.
Cosmic Horror Podcasts
Some of my favorite podcasts focusing on Lovecraft and cosmic horror.
While not specific to Lovecraftian literature, the crew at NWH does excellent work exploring the ever expanding world of horror. (They also occasionally host a trivia night in Portland, OR. So if you’re ever in the area, check ’em out.)
Ten years ago, over three hundred men, women, and children disappeared from a small town in Tennessee, never to be heard from again. What happened to Limetown?
Cosmic Horror Novelists
This list could get long, so I will keep it to novelists of whom I have read and who’s books I’ve enjoyed. If there’s someone I missed (highly likely) or a writer that you’d like to recommend (also highly likely,) leave a comment! Links attached to the author’s name will go to their website or blog; book links will go to Amazon. (But you should buy from your local indie shop.) Also, don’t forget to leave a review!
Where to start: The Ballad of Black Tom What is it: A subversion of “The Horror at Redhook” set during the Jazz Age.
This has been just a tiny sampling of the world of cosmic horror as it exists today. The genre hasn’t gone away. If anything, we see its influence grow more and more in all forms of popular culture. It has reached beyond books and into movies, table-top games, toys, comic books, television shows, and video games. The fundamental terror brought by the fear of the unknown and the creatures that lurk in spaces beyond is something that draws readers even today. So join me in wishing Cosmic Horror a lovely one-hundredth birthday! It’s been a great one hundred years, and here’s to a hundred more!
Did I miss something? Have a favorite writer, podcast, or small press house that I missed?Leave a comment and let us know!
On Twitter this April, I went on a rant about cover design, specifically targeting indie authors and small press houses within the Lovecraftian and weird fiction genres. Both are genres of which I am proud to be a part, but as of late I’ve found myself disappointed when it comes to the quality of the book cover designs. Fellow author S. Lee Benedict suggested I expand on this topic here, and it’s a good idea…
This isn’t the first time I have written about cover design; you can read my previous post, ‘Building A Better Book Cover’ over here. Cover design is something of a passion for me. I’ve been a professional designer for 16 years working on everything from software, branding, advertising, book covers, and a variety of promotional materials. I believe good design is important, and I know it’s important to fans and readers.
So, here’s our situation. I feel like Lovecraftian and weird fiction literature needs a cover design intervention. Honestly, that statement could apply to much, much more than just those two categories; but these days I am closest to those genres, so they get the brunt of my focus. I’m not fond of publically shaming. So, don’t expect me to call out specific examples of bad design. However, with a little searching, you can easily see what I mean.
It’s not that indie authors or small publishers start out with a desire to make awful covers. Sit in on any self-publishing panel at a convention and every author will readily admit it’s worth spending the money on an illustration for your cover. And, many books with terrible covers start with a great illustration. They’re on point for tone and mood, and often a good step in the right direction, but they completely miss the mark when it comes to typography and design. Strange font choices abound, bad effects mar legibility, and bizarre distortions plague the shelves. At best it’s boring, at worst it’s completely illegible. (And it tends to skew towards the latter, unfortunately.) It’s like someone put all their effort into illustration and completely forgot that paying attention to the cover’s typography and design is just as important as having great art. Those three concepts are the pillars of good design. Everything in a book cover plays off of one another; bad typography can forever mar a beautiful illustration.
“…paying attention to the cover’s typography and design is just as important as having great art.”
As I mentioned in my post, ‘Building a Better Book Cover,’ Chip Kidd, one of the greatest book cover designers living today, has said, “A book cover is a distillation. It is a haiku of the story.” I love that quote. He’s not wrong; bad cover design does a disservice to the writing it represents. It detracts when it should enhance, it lies when it should entice.
But there is a silver lining! I know quite a few authors who have taken the time and put in the effort and have made strides in cover design. Word Horde is a great weird fiction press that does wonderful work, and Laird Barron’s novels often have fantastic covers. Recent strides have been made by larger print houses as well; Victor laValle’sBallad of Black Tom (Tor) and Matt Ruff’sLovecraft County (Harper) were recent standouts in the genre. So well designed covers in weird fiction are out there. Publishers, designers, and authors should study what those books do right and strive towards emulating their successes.
I believe weird fiction is one of the most exciting and imaginative genres to be writing in today. It pushes at the edges of speculative fiction as a whole and continues to broaden its reach. It’s only reasonable to desire that the covers of the great work being produced should live up to the potential within the pages. We all want these books to continue to attract new readers for decades to come, and a well-designed cover goes a long way to doing just that.
Recently, I was asked by Mihir Wanchoo if I’d be interested in writing an article for Fantasy Book Critic. Mihir encouraged me to discuss how I approach combining genres in my writing and explore some of my inspirations. I was happy to oblige and decided to take it a bit further and delve into some of the tenants I’ve kept in mind while I work. The result is Life in the Weird, On the Blending of Genre. Here’s how it starts:
I never decided to write a genre-blending novel, it just happened. As a reader, I always craved weird books that are out of the ordinary. I tend to be turned off to a series that stays within traditional genre lines. It’s this predilection that drew me to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, why I love China Miéville’s New Crobuzon stories so much, and why Neil Gaiman’s American Gods resonates with me. There’s something in those work that feels fresh, new, and free. So it’s only natural that those proclivities show up in my writing as well…
Also, I wanted to give everyone a heads up that I’m taking the next ten days off. This spring has been hectic. I’ve had revisions on my new fantasy project, I’ve been working on Coal Belly‘s rebirth, there been some outlining on the next Bell Forging novel, and I attended both Norwescon 39 and Lilac City Comicon. So as a bookend for a busy spring, Kari-Lise and I are going on vacation. The plan is to get lost in the mountains, islands, and deserts of California, do some hiking and unplug from the internet. (That said, knowing me, I’ll still find a bit of time to post to Instagram and Twitter. So make sure you’re following me to see what I’m up to.)
Some exciting things are coming when I get back. There are quite a few longer-form blog posts in the hopper including an exciting Wild Territories post (voted on by you!) So stick around, and I’ll see y’all in June.
I found myself in a bit of a limbo over the last month. At the end of May, I finished the rough draft of Red Litten World and I’m currently waiting on edits for Old Broken Road. I found myself going a little stir crazy. I could have jumped into revisions on RLW, but I find with my own work it’s always good for me to let my manuscripts rest before I dive into revisions. So, for lack of anything better to do, I decided to start a new project.
The goal is to finish a 30k word novella and things are moving along swimmingly. (You’ll now see it listed at the top of my Project Tracker on the right.) If you follow my Tumblr, among my random thoughts, you’ve seen hints of what I have been researching over the last few months. This time around I’m stepping away from weird fiction and writing a non-traditional fantasy rooted in Aboriginal Australian lore—something I have been kicking around for a while. I’m real excited where it’s going and can’t wait to share it with my readers.
Also, I won’t be offering a Friday Link Pack this Friday. We’ll be back in business the following week. It’s America’s Independence Day this weekend and I will be celebrating with some friends in the mountains. Why the mountains? I think Bilbo Baggin’s said it best:
“I want to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains, and then find somewhere where I can rest. In peace and quiet, without a lot of relatives prying around, and a string of confounded visitors hanging on the bell. I might find somewhere where I can finish my book.”