Teasers to Lovecraft: Orrin Grey

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Today’s entry comes to us in the form of a a screenplay by gentleman skeleton Orrin Grey. One has to wonder, though, is this an adaptation of a story by horror maestro Gordon Phillips, or something more biographical?


It’s a scene straight from the pages of one of Gordon’s earlier, more lurid stories. The graveyard scene. Dana and Conner as the latter-day resurrection men, tramping across the swampy ground in the pissing rain with a battery-powered lantern and shovels that they picked up at Home Depot.
Dana’s hoodie is pulled up against the weather, her glasses spattered with drops that she can’t wipe away completely because her sleeve is too damp. She wears black leggings under her jeans for warmth, but you can only tell in the places where her jeans are worn through. The shock of purple in her otherwise brown hair is hidden by the darkness and the wet.

Conner is a good foot taller than Dana, wide at the shoulders. If he were a character in a movie, he’d play basketball or football, be wearing a letter jacket. Instead, he plays chess and video games, can’t stand most sports, though he’s been known to do Frisbee golf on occasion. He wears a leather jacket that repels the rain, and one of the shovels is over his shoulder, while Dana carries the lantern and the other shovel. His jacket hangs unevenly due to the weight of his father’s Colt .45 in his right pocket.

The lantern’s light is golden and seems very small in the graveyard, picking out just the edges of tombstones that seem to lurch out of the darkness in its uneven light, leaving everything else to shadow and rain.

DANA: Fuck Gordon for this, y’know?

From the tone of her voice, and from Conner’s non-reaction, you can tell it’s not the first time tonight that she’s said these words.

DANA: Fuck him for leaving this to us, and fuck him for convincing us to do it in the first place. And you know what? Fuck him twice for knowing that we would do it.

Conner doesn’t say anything, just trudges on ahead while Dana stops to wipe off her glasses again, this time taking them off and fishing under her hoodie for the edge of her relatively dry T-shirt.

DANA: He really is the Danny Ocean of this little trio, and no mistake.

CONNER: Frank Sinatra or George Clooney? Not that it matters much, I just call dibs on not being Sammy Davis Jr.

 
DANA: Not really any good parts for me, though I’d take Julia Roberts over Dana Phillips right about now.

CONNER: Maybe that’s what the next one of those movies oughta be about. Grave robbing.

DANA: It’d be a change.

Both of them stop, the banter dead on their lips. They’ve come to wherever they’re going, now. The lantern swings in Dana’s grip, the radius of light moving up and down, revealing the inscription on the stone before them, then hiding it again. In the light the stone is fresh, smooth and unblemished, and the name on it is clear: Gordon Phillips…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.

 


Orrin Grey is a writer, editor, amateur film scholar and monster expert who was born on the night before Halloween. He’s the author of Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings and the coeditor of Fungi, an anthology of weird fungus-themed stories. You can find out more at orringrey.com.

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Teasers to Lovecraft: Chesya Burke

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Today’s piece comes from the incomparable Chesya Burke, and takes us on a chilling journey the likes of which Lovecraft himself never dared imagine…


Edgar Kay Morrison died for the first time on August 13, 1900. He would die many nights after that, it would seem, always for the same reason. He was an enigma to some; to others, an evil devil sent to bewitch; and still yet, a prophet to most. However, on that night, he was none of those things. He was a seven-year-old boy who thought God had sent his chariots down for him, on the count of him having been such a good boy all his years.

At least that was what his momma whispered in his ears as he lay there wrenching in pain. The cramps started in his legs two days before, and had quickly taken over his body. That was when Momma sent Papa to get Doc Warner. He would know what to do, she said.

“Calm yo self, boy. God ain’t gonna set no pain on you, as you cain’t take.” Even as his momma spoke, another cramp seized his body. “Them chariots gonna be worth all this if they get you tonight,” she sounded so sure, but he saw tears rolling down her too-pale cheeks.

Edgar closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see her this way. He felt guilty. His sister had died just the year before, and his momma had stayed in bed for two weeks. She had cried so much that she said she had run out of tears. He didn’t want her to go through that again.

The pain — like a lead pipe snapping down on the small of his back — seized him again, and his body contorted; his arms flailing behind him, his head thrown back. He looked for all the world as if he were trying to roll himself up in a big ol’ ball, backward. His fingers were knotted in peculiar shapes, and he couldn’t get them to move.

“The devil,” his younger brother, David, whispered from somewhere behind his head.

“Shush up, boy. Now go on over there and get me something to put under his head. Go on now.”

David watched for another moment, and as Edgar screamed again, he jumped and ran into the other room. He didn’t come back for a full ten minutes, when he did, the only thing he brought with him was the old thick Bible, which was the only thing Momma had gotten from her father when he’d died twenty years before.

Momma took one look at him and shook her head. “Get… Give me that thing.” She took the Bible from David, and placed it under Edgar’s head. “This here will give you comfort in your time of trouble.” She told him, kissing his hand and touching the Good Book.

Outside, thick drops of rain hit the crude windowpane that Papa had cut himself just the year before, before Edgar’s sister had died. David went to the window, rubbed the condensation off, and stared out into the night. He was scared. Edgar couldn’t blame him, but what he couldn’t make out was if the boy really thought that he was the devil…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.


Chesya Burke’s 2011 fiction collection, Let’s Play White, was featured in io9 and received praise from Samuel Delany and Nikki Giovanni. She is also recognized for her critical analysis of genre and race issues, such as her articles, “Race and The Walking Dead” and “Super Duper Sexual Spiritual Black Woman: The New and Improved Magical Negro,” published in Clarkesworld Magazine. Chesya is currently getting her MA in African American studies at Georgia State University and is a juror for the 2013 Shirley Jackson awards.

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Teasers to Lovecraft: Gemma Files

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. To usher you off into the weekend we’ve got something by Gemma Files, a midwinter excursion to “That Place.” With a master’s touch Files invokes that nigh-universal childhood ritual of inventing odd games to play, exclusive games that only a privileged few ever even learn of, and combines the richly esoteric workings of young imaginations with a chilling proposal. It’s just the thing for these long winter nights when you’re trapped inside the house with nothing to do…


So say two sisters finally come back home, after their parents die — twins. Their names are Holly and Heather. They have a younger brother, Edwin, whom they haven’t seen for some time. Estrangement’s grown up between them all, for no apparently good reason. It’s sad, but these things happen.

Holly and Heather attend university in Toronto. They also room together, because why not? They’ve always been like that. They can’t ever remember being apart.

Edwin never went to university. He finished high school, then trained as an auto mechanic, so he works all year round. He does most of his calls along the rural routes of northern Ontario, circling the area where they used to live, in Lake of the North District; his specialty is extending the life of trucks and four-wheelers, fighting planned obsolescence on behalf of people who can’t afford to trade up. Distance is an issue, up there. If you can’t drive, you can’t do much of anything.

One night Holly gets a call — it’s Edwin. Mom and Dad are gone, he says. Accident, out near Overdeere. Black ice pile-up. You need to come into town to hear the will read, then muck out the house with me.

The girls know this isn’t going to be easy, either way; it’s not like their parents were hoarders, as such, but they did tend not to ever get rid of anything. There’s a lot of stuff to appraise, most of it probably worthless, except on an emotional level. But it’s got to be done.

We’ll live there while we do it, Heather decides. Go up just after midterms, spend a few weeks. It won’t take longer than that. Not if we don’t let it.

“Town” is Chaste, up past Your Lips, almost to God’s Ear. Five traffic lights, a church, a school, a gas station strip mall, and a clinic that does double duty for Quarry Argent. Around it, there’s a network of small farms, plus acres of uncut woodlots. Cabin-style houses here and there, like the one they grew up in. It took thirty minutes to drive to the town limits, then twenty more to walk in, so days started early, up before dawn. Insects singing in summer, dark and cold and silent all winter.

Hope the fireplace still works, Heather says…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.


Former film critic and teacher turned award-winning horror author Gemma Files is best known for her Hexslinger series (A Book of Tongues, A Rope of Thorns and A Tree of Bones, all from ChiZine Publications). She has also published two collections of short fiction (Kissing Carrion and The Worm in Every Heart, both from Wildside Press) and two chapbooks of poetry. Her most recent book is We Will All Go Down Together: A Novel in Stories About the Five-Family Coven (2014, CZP).

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Teasers to Lovecraft: Angela Slatter

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Today’s piece is “Only the Dead and the Moonstruck” by Angela Slatter, a haunting meditation on grief, loss, and darker things still that stalk us when all the world ought to be asleep…


Becky heard the clink of the beer as he tried to slide it silently out of the fridge.

“Put it back,” she said, “or I’ll tell Mama.”

Micah swore almost under his breath, but loud enough for her to hear what he thought of his little sister. The bottle made an angry sound as he replaced it; then there was the soft thud of the juice bottle and the little fermented sigh as he uncapped it that told her it was almost out of date. She knew without looking that he was drinking straight from the carton; it was the kind of thing he did nowadays. She heard him slip back onto his chair and start hacking at the fried chicken on his plate. On her lap, Riddle, the fat ginger cat, stirred and sniffed, settled again, knowing that no food escaped the boy.

She tuned out the noises of her brother’s meal and watched her mother, as she always did, through the sunflower gauze curtain. Becky wasn’t sure if Suellan knew she was there, but she thought not; the woman was too focused on the sky. The stars were bright the night Aidan, Becky’s eldest brother, had disappeared, and Suellan, by her own admission, couldn’t help herself, not even two years down the track. Not even a new town, new house, new life, could stop her from going onto the narrow porch, a glass of red in hand, after she’d served up their dinner (always late, always around nine) and taken a few bites of her own, to stare upwards, judging the quality of starlight, hoping that one night they’d shine bright enough for her boy to find his way home.

And Becky understood. She understood a lot of things: that her mother hadn’t believed the police when they’d said Aidan had run away, nor when they changed their story to abducted. That Suellan sure as hell hadn’t believed them when they’d tried to tell her that the decomposed body lying on the steel tray at the Arkham morgue was all that was left of her son after he’d finally been found in the river. After all, she’d said to Becky’s father Buck, there was really only the right forearm with enough pale, puffy skin left to show the places where it seemed something had suckled and bit with all those tiny ring-a-ring-a-roses of sharp teeth, and that could have belonged to anyone.

It didn’t matter that the ragged clothes wrapped around the rotted form were identical to Aidan’s. Didn’t matter what they told her about DNA. Didn’t matter when they said Aidan wasn’t the first Essex County boy to whom this had happened. Didn’t matter that she’d eventually given in to Buck’s pleas that they move, start again. Becky remembered her father asking Didn’t the other kids deserve a future that wasn’t overshadowed by their brother’s passing? but she couldn’t recall her mother answering.

Didn’t matter, Suellan told Becky and Micah more than once, coz one day their big brother was coming back, and he’d know where to find them because of the starlight, because it would lead him home. To her…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.


Angela Slatter writes dark fantasy and horror. She is the author of the Aurealis Award–winning The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, the WFA-shortlisted Sourdough and Other Stories and the new collection / mosaic novel (with Lisa L. Hannett) Midnight and Moonshine. Her work has appeared in such writerly venues as The Mammoth Book of New Horror 22, Australian and US Best Of anthologies, Fantasy Magazine, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Dreaming Again and Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded. She was awarded one of the inaugural Queensland Writers Fellowships in 2013. She has a British Fantasy Award for “The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter” (from A Book of Horrors, Stephen Jones, ed.), a PhD in creative writing, and blogs at www.angelaslatter.com.

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Teasers to Lovecraft: Jeffrey Ford

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Few authors can successfully juggle absurdest humor with a palpable sense of dread, but Jeffrey Ford is in a class of his own. We think his “Order of the Haunted Wood” is just the thing to get you bright eyed and bushy tailed on a cold Monday in the depths of January…


The past evolves into the future, and, with training, one can spot it in its new guise, the way a dinosaur can be found in a raven by a paleontologist. As with creatures, so with traditions. The ancient moves among us in our rituals. One of the most fruitful of enterprises a scholar can undertake is to trace the trail of evidence from the dawn of humanity to this very moment.

Take for instance the Order of the Haunted Wood, a secret society that is still not widely known but whose influence has been persistent. Its traditions and rituals go back, most likely, to some pre-language era when humanity was barely out of the trees. The purpose of the Order was, through the use of supernatural forces, to bestow fertility on those of its members who needed it. In clandestine night meetings, they summoned the spirit to enter the bodies of the afflicted, and, as Baron Menifer recorded (1453) in his Practices and Preachments of the Order of the Haunted Wood, “that which lay down, rose up.”

There are scant accounts of the group’s doings through the centuries, because it was frowned upon for members to speak openly about its affairs, but there were enough initiates who broke with that code to allow a basic understanding to be able to now be pieced together. Literal mention of the Wood died out somewhere around the beginning of the 20th century, although some scholars point to a notice in a local newspaper from Manhattan in 1972, a tiny piece in its want ads that read, “TOOTHW, midnight, Wash Sq. Prk,” as evidence of the society’s continued existence.

One need not grasp for such flimsy proof of the society’s pervasive influence, though. All one need do is turn on the television, sit back, and, before long, on any channel, you will come across a commercial for a product that addresses the problem of erectile dysfunction. These commercials, whether the viewer knows it or not, are bursting with the symbology and ritual of the Order. There are those who will, but I won’t go so far as to suggest that the Haunted Wood is directly behind these products and their ads. I subscribe to the notion that what is played out in the seemingly insipid dramas of these minute-and-a-half promos comes from a kind of collective unconscious, an ancient spell that has twined its way through the history of male minds to blossom anew, metamorphosed, in the fleurs du mal of advertising.

You know the commercials first by their music. Notice the snare drum played softly with brushes at a calm but steady pace while the flute and saxophone carry a lilting metronomic harmony. The setting is always well-to-do, upscale, in living rooms and kitchens furnished as if from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens. The implicit message is the poor can’t afford an erection, and, since it is always a male and female couple, none but heterosexuals deserve one…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.

 


Jeffrey Ford is the author of the novels The Physiognomy, Memoranda, The Beyond, The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, The Girl in the Glass, The Cosmology of the Wider World, and The Shadow Year. His story collections are The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant, The Empire of Ice Cream, The Drowned Life and Crackpot Palace. Ford has published over one hundred twenty short stories, which have appeared in numerous journals, magazines and anthologies, from MAD Magazine to The Oxford Book of American Short Stories. He is the recipient of the World Fantasy Award, Nebula Award, Shirley Jackson Award, Edgar Allan Poe Award, Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire (France) and Hayakawa Award (Japan). His fiction has been translated into over twenty languages. In addition to writing, he’s been a professor of literature and writing for over twenty-five years and has been a guest lecturer at the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, the Stone Coast MFA program, the Richard Hugo House in Seattle and the Antioch Writers’ Workshop. He lives somewhere in Ohio.

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Teasers to Lovecraft: Asamatsu Ken

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Today we turn our attention to Asamatsu Ken, who is both a prolific author and the foremost authority on all things Lovecraft in his native Japan. His tale “Glimmer in the Darkness”(translated by Raechel Dumas) entwines the extraterrestrial theories of John Keel with both Lovecraft’s Mythos and, more intriguing still, his biography…


The man who entered the café was dressed in a brand new black suit and wore a shiny derby. Over his left hand hung a pristine coat — also black — constructed of thick cloth. Among the shop’s patrons, only two noticed him: the waiter and a young man of nineteen years of age, who sat in the corner, relishing a bowl of ice cream. It was December 25, 1909, Christmas afternoon.

A swarthy Oriental — probably a Japanese, though possibly a Chinese — the man in black was of a sort clearly not permitted to enter a place like this. He wore a bewildered expression and glanced about restlessly, as though seeking someone’s assistance. The youth quietly raised his right hand and beckoned him over.

Appearing as though he had been rescued, the man at last removed his derby and approached the youth’s table.

“Er… I’m quite unaccustomed to shops like this.” The man seemed to be suffering from a respiratory illness, for he loosened his collar with a gasping wheeze. He asked the waiter, who had arrived to take his order, to bring him the same thing the youth was eating. Somehow or another, it appeared as though he didn’t know the term “ice cream.”

“Are you an Oriental?” the youth asked. If he were Japanese, he would by all means listen to him. Ah, the beauty of a haiku’s meter and moment, the strange folklore of Lafcadio Hearn. Were the man Chinese, he hoped to learn something of Daoist magic. The youth was a poet.

“Yes… no. I’m from Boston. Tiny Smith’s the name.”

“Mister… Tiny Smith?” The youth raised his brows. Being so tall in stature, the man was anything but slight. And Smith? Perhaps he was of mixed blood, part-Oriental and part-English.

“Well… uh, it’s…I have a government job.” As he said this the man pointed to a three-pointed insignia attached to the lapel of his business suit. In the center of the isosceles triangle was the image of an eyeball. The youth recognized the symbol. It was a Freemason’s mark. His Grandfather Whipple, who had died five years prior, had frequently shown it to him, when he was a young boy.

“A Boston Mason then?” the youth pondered as he gazed at the man’s swarthy visage.

Before long the waiter returned and placed the ice cream in front of Tiny, who picked up the silver bowl with both hands. He opened his mouth wide, as though to swallow it whole.

“Excuse me, but… you don’t use a spoon?”

“Huh?” Dabbing ice cream from around the perimeter of his mouth, the man raised his face.

“A spoon, a spoon,” said the youth, showing the man his small piece of silverware.

“Use this!”

“Huh? Ooooh, yes. Of course.” Tiny clumsily grasped the spoon and, restlessly turning his head to survey his surroundings, began downing his ice cream. As he watched Tiny, the youth developed a steadily swelling sense of anxiety, a feeling as though he were being slowly but steadily crushed. The man was somehow abnormal. Somehow… mad.

Mad.

You’re too ugly to go out in public! From somewhere his mother’s voice resonated. Howard! What a face! With your twisted nose and flattened chin…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.

 


Asamatsu Ken is a writer and anthologist born in Hokkaido and presently residing in Tokyo, Japan. His pseudonym, a Japanese rendering of “Arthur Machen,” reflects both his keen interest in the supernatural and his decidedly global literary tastes. Asamatsu was a 2006 nominee for the short story division of the Mystery Writers of Japan Award and is the editor of the four-volume Cthulhu Mythos anthology Lairs of the Hidden Gods. Also available in English is his novel Queen of K’n-Yan, as well as short stories appearing in Cthulhu’s Reign, The Mountains of Madness, and the 2011 charity anthology Kizuna: Fiction for Japan.

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Announcing Swords v. Cthulhu

Stone Skin Press is proud to announce our newest anthology, Swords v. Cthulhu. As you might have guessed from the title, this project is a spiritual successor to our previous Shotguns v. Cthulhu, but while Shotguns featured mostly modern or futuristic settings for its action-heavy eldritch tales, this tome will collect stories of a historical or fantastical bent. Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington will be co-editing the project.

If you’re simply an excited reader then there’s nothing more to report at present. But! If you’re interested in potentially submitting a story, there will be an open reading period for a few of the slots in Swords v. Cthulhu. Read on for the full guidelines…

The brass tacks (or red nails, as the case may be):

We are paying five (5) cents a word for original works of fiction of up to 5,000 words.

No poetry. No reprints.

No multiple submissions. No simultaneous submissions.

The open reading period for story submissions will be from February 1st to March 1st, 2015. All submissions will be answered by the end of March.

During the reading period, all submissions should be sent as a double-spaced word document in standard manuscript format to swordsvc@gmail.com. Please address the subject line SVC Submission: “Story Title.” Any stories submitted before or after the open reading period will be deleted unread.

To fulfill the promise of the title, we want at least a few adventure romps in which sinewy muscle and cold steel are pitted against the minions of the Great Old Ones. That said, we’d also like some stories combining movement and violence with the existential despair at the heart of Lovecraft’s work. What we want to see is the cerebral cohabitating with rowdy action sequences.

“Action sequence” could, among other things, evoke the spirit of:

  •  The adventures and escapes in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
  •  Robert E. Howard’s two-fisted mythos tales, especially the Kull and Bran Mak Morn tales
  • The perils of Jirel of Joiry, C.L. Moore’s proto-Red Sonja
  • Ashitaka’s mounted combat against the demon boar in Princess Mononoke
  • The bloody-handed heroics of Charles Saunders’s Imaro
  • The Clark Ashton Smith school of sword and sorcery (inherited by Jack Vance & Michael Shea)
  • Or that of Fritz Leiber
  • The sword & planet stylings of Leigh Brackett
  • The epic battle sequences from Tolkien or Burroughs (or their film adaptations)
  • The doomed hero standing alone against a greater demon in the Dark Souls video game series
  • or the tight-knit party beset by hordes in the Dragon Age franchise
  • That over-the-top Dungeons and Dragons game you ran when you were thirteen and had just discovered HPL, REH, and the rest of the Weird Tales crew…

These are just a few of the potential interpretations we’re hoping to see represented when we compile our Table of Contents. So long as there’s an action sequence of some sort and a Mythos element, you’ve met the minimum criteria. Stories can be set in any real or imagined setting, so long as melee weapons are the order of the day as opposed to firearms and futuristic technology. Prehistory, historical, fantasy, and science fantastical (you know, like Krull) settings are all fair game. Be aware that historical European settings will be a much harder sell than other eras or locales—we’d like to see a diverse array of landscapes and cultures.

And speaking of diversity, Lovecraftiana—historical and modern—has a somewhat-deserved reputation as being a tentacle club, and a fairly pasty one at that. We would like to see that continue to change, and strongly encourage any and all interested women, people of color, LGBT individuals, and other historical outsiders to the Mythos to submit their fiction. While both of the editors are enthusiastic about Lovecraft’s writing, we are also committed to doing our part to expand the Mythos beyond Lovecraft’s interpretation of who belongs, and in what roles. No matter if your mashup is a cautionary tale, a romance, or a straight-up wish fulfillment fantasy, we want stories that embrace difference, rather than shun or punish it.

Also, while Lovecraft’s work has fallen ambiguously into the public domain, the works of other writers who derived from him have not. To steer clear of rights issues, please reference only the stories of H.P. Lovecraft himself or texts that are unequivocally in the public domain. Do not derive from material appearing only in Howard, Lumley, or Campbell, et al.

Please feel free to ask any relevant questions in the comments below. If you would like to have a better idea of what sorts of tales the editors are looking for, consider picking up copies of Stone Skin Press’s previous anthologies Letters to Lovecraft and Shotguns v. Cthulhu. Best of luck, and we look forward to reading your stories!

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Teasers to Lovecraft: Cameron Pierce

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and to ring in the new year for our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Today’s entry comes from Cameron Pierce, and features that ancient struggle of man vs. fish. Considering this piece is aptly titled “Help Me,” it may not end up being the sort of catch our protagonist wants to boast about…


The fish struck hard, and Jim Mulligan was nearly pulled off his feet, into the surf that crashed around his waist. A halibut, or perhaps a small shark. Whatever tugged at his line was certainly larger than the rainbow perch he’d caught all morning. He loosened his drag and let the fish peel off line. Ten, twenty, thirty yards… then seventy, eighty, ninety. Within seconds, the fish nearly stripped his spool bare. It showed no sign of slowing.

Jim tightened the drag and began to reel. At first the fish resisted, but, after several cranks, it turned tail and swam in toward the furthest breakers, toward shore.

Jim’s heart thundered in his chest. His legs had gone numb from many hours taking a beating in the waves. Despite the perpetual grey of the sky, he had still managed to catch a sunburn. The dozen perch he’d landed would make a fine meal or two for himself, Jen, and their four-year-old boy, Jason, but to yield something bigger — that would make this whole vacation one to remember. A trophy lingcod. He licked his lips at the thought of the sweet, buttery meat.

The fish came in easily now. Maybe it wasn’t as big as he first judged. Even though he loved nothing more than the feel of a fish on the other end of the line, disappointment rose within him as he considered the possibility that it was just another perch. Not that he’d complain. He came out to the beach, ditching his family’s planned visit to Hearst Castle, in order to catch perch. Faced with the prospect of something better, though, he couldn’t help feeling cheated. By who or what, he did not know. He’d felt a similar sensation of being cheated when they learned last year that Jason was autistic. The guilt of entitlement wore heavy on him, and for the moment he felt sorry for this fish, which had made a hell of a run and should be appreciated for what it was, not for what it might have been.
A black dorsal fin spotted red slashed through the waves breaking closest to Jim. The sight turned his blood cold. No fish he’d ever seen pictures of, let alone caught, possessed a fin like that.

He focused on the angle of his rod to the water, the buzzing of the spool sending his heart into his throat every time the fish held ground or fought to earn an extra few feet of line. Even though it feigned struggle, he knew it was gassed. The biggest risks now were it coming unhooked or a seal or shark swooping in for an easy meal.

He held his breath and prayed to the god all fishermen pray to.

Then a tail cut through a white-capped wave.

Holy fish gods in heaven — from the fork of the tail, Jim guessed the whole fish to be at least three feet long.

Quite possibly four or five.

Some exotic type of giant rock bass? He did not have long to find out. The fight was almost finished.

He stepped backwards, then took another step, careful not to slip on any submerged rocks as he eased out of the sea and back to shore. To lose this fish now, especially after glimpsing that it was indeed something rare and wonderful, would be nothing less than tragic.

In spite of his cautiousness, his knees turned wobbly, and he collapsed to the sand when he saw the thing…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.

 


Cameron Pierce is the author of eleven books, including the Wonderland Book Award-winning collection Lost in Cat Brain Land. His work has appeared in The Barcelona Review, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Hobart, The Big Click, and Vol. I Brooklyn, and has been reviewed and featured on Comedy Central and The Guardian. He was also the author of the column Fishing and Beer, where he interviewed acclaimed angler Bill Dance and John Lurie of Fishing with John. He also writes for the animated show Spacefish. Pierce is the head editor of Lazy Fascist Press and has edited three anthologies, including The Best Bizarro Fiction of the Decade. He lives with his wife in Astoria, Oregon.

 

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Teasers to Lovecraft: Tim Lebbon

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and as a holiday treat to our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. As the death knell for 2014 tolls out across the world, we bring you a glimpse of Tim Lebbon’s “The Lonely Wood.” By placing a grieving atheist in a house of God, Lebbon poses a philosophical question that underpins both religion and cosmic horror: which is more terrifying, the idea that we’re alone in this universe, or that we’re not?


He opened his eyes. Above him was St Paul’s huge dome, the Whispering Gallery encircling it at a lower level. There were several people up there now leaning on the handrail, looking down, swallowing up the transcendent song rising to them. On the walls lower down were immense paintings or mosaics of the four disciples that had supposedly written the Gospels.

“Come on, then,” Guy muttered, surprising himself. He had no wish to disturb the music, but something was settling around him. At first it was a playful notion, an idea that if he was ever to receive the touch of Christ, or to find his heart opened to the God he had never believed in, now would be the time. He’d never thought himself an on-the-fence doubter, was comfortable in his convinced unbelief. Yet he’d often had that discussion with Marie — If God exists, why doesn’t he just tap me on the shoulder and show me the smallest sign?

“Come on, here I am,” he whispered. “Do your worst. Do your best. Just do anything.”

Proof denies Faith, was always her reply.

Why?

“I’m waiting.”

Nothing happened. Guy chuckled. Of course not. He stared up at the amazing ceilings above him, the incredible artwork, and marvelled at the dedication and commitment of those who had created it hundreds of years before. To build this place now would be almost impossible. The cost would be into the hundreds of millions, the skills all but vanished in a time of steel-and-glass altars to commerce and excess.

And suddenly, in that place of wonder and grandiosity, he felt a flush of disgust. How many lives had been lost building this place? He doubted they were even recorded. How much money spent while the rest of London had lived in conditions of poverty, filth, and plague? The true cost of places such as this was never known. The music and singing soared, and it felt like the only pure thing. He appreciated the beauty of the architecture, but he could no longer admire it.

Guy stood, chair legs sliding against the floor. One of the choir girls glanced at him — it must have been the sudden movement, she can’t have heard his chair move from that far away — and he tried to smile. But she had already turned back to her music sheets.

The conductor waved, body jerking like a marionette.

The organ groaned and moaned, exhalations of distress given wonder.
Guy turned his back on the choir and walked away. He headed for the front of the cathedral and the impossibly high doors which were only used when important people came. Not people like him. But somehow he drifted to the left, and then he found himself at the entrance to the staircase that wound its way up into St Paul’s massive dome, and the famous Whispering Gallery it contained…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.


Tim Lebbon is a New York Times–bestselling horror and fantasy writer from South Wales. He’s had almost thirty novels published to date, as well as dozens of novellas and hundreds of short stories. His most recent releases include the apocalyptic Coldbrook, Into the Void: Dawn of the Jedi from Del Rey / Star Wars Books, The Cabin in the Woods novelization, the Toxic City trilogy from Pyr in the USA and the official Alien tie-in novel Out of the Shadows.

Future novels include The Silence (Titan UK/USA). He has won four British Fantasy Awards, a Bram Stoker Award and a Scribe Award, and has been a finalist for World Fantasy, International Horror Guild and Shirley Jackson Awards.

Twentieth Century Fox acquired film rights to The Secret Journeys of Jack London series (coauthored with Christopher Golden), and a TV series of his Toxic City trilogy is in development. His script Playtime (with Stephen Volk) is currently being developed in the UK.

Find out more about Tim at his website www.timlebbon.net

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Teasers to Lovecraft: Stephen Graham Jones

Letters to Lovecraft is our newest genre-blending anthology of original fiction, and as a holiday treat to our readers we’ll be posting excerpts from each of the stories. Today we’ve got a little bit of downhome weirdness courtesy of Stephen Graham Jones’ “Doc’s Story,” and you can bet your bottom dollar this ain’t no shaggy dog tale…


My grandfather was a werewolf.

Not by the time I knew him — transforming at his age would have been a death sentence — but my Aunt Libby and Uncle Darren had stories. Grandpa halfway up an old wooden windmill, howling at the moon, swiping at it with his claws. Grandpa on the porch one morning after two nights gone, his man-chin caked with blood, his whiskers not grown in like you’d think, him having run off into the woods without a razor.

When the hair pulls back in to wrap around your bones or wherever it goes, it’s like a reset button, I guess. If you had a beard before, you’ll wake without one.

One of those mornings, he had to go into town to the doctor, though.

Another thing you don’t expect is the bugs. If it’s summer or even a late fall without a hard enough freeze yet, the insects’ll still be crawling, and if you pull a deer down, then, well, ticks, they just care that you’ve got warm, drinkable blood, and can’t reach all your scratchy places.

What my Aunt Libby figured happened was that, while Grandpa was rooting around in the slit-open belly of a fat deer, one of that deer’s ticks jumped ship, went to where the beating heart was.

It wasn’t Lyme disease that sent Grandpa to the doctor, though. Wolfed out, his system probably could have kicked smallpox.

No, what sent him to town was that tick. When Grandpa fell to sleep on the porch, and his hair started slithering back into its pores, that tick was a cartoon character, climbing a tree that was sinking into the ground as fast it could climb, and then just riding that hair down.

It impacted itself in one of the wide pores on the back of Grandpa’s arm, just under the shoulder. If it hadn’t been headfirst, then it would have starved, shriveled up, turned to dirt.

Headfirst like it was, though, it could slurp and slurp and slurp…

For the rest, get Letters to Lovecraft from Stone Skin Press.


Stephen Graham Jones is the author of sixteen novels, six story collections, two novellas and a hundred and seventy or so stories in magazines (Weird Tales, Cemetery Dance, Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, Prairie Schooner), anthologies (The Weird, Creatures, Fearful Symmetries), and multiple best-of-the-year annuals. Stephen’s been a Bram Stoker Award finalist, a Shirley Jackson Award finalist, and a Colorado Book Award finalist, and has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction, the Independent Publisher Book Award for Multicultural Fiction, This is Horror’s Novel of the Year and an NEA fellowship. Stephen lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and kids and various old trucks, and teaches in the MFA programs at CU-Boulder and UCR Palm Desert. More @SGJ72 and demontheory.net.

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