This August, the stars will be right. Cthulhu Fhtagn! Weird Tales Inspired by H. P. Lovecraft will be unleashing cosmic horror onto an unsuspecting–but deserving–world, just in time to commemorate H. P. Lovecraft’s 125th birthday. In the next few weeks, we’ll be revealing the cover and opening up pre-orders, so that you can bring this monster home, but today, as promised, here’s the full Table of Contents:
Cthulhu Fhtagn! Table of Contents
Introduction: In His House at R’lyeh… – Ross E. Lockhart The Lightning Splitter – Walter Greatshell Dead Canyons – Ann K. Schwader Delirium Sings at the Maelstrom Window – Michael Griffin Into Ye Smoke-Wreath’d World of Dream – W. H. Pugmire The Lurker In the Shadows – Nathan Carson The Insectivore – Orrin Grey The Body Shop – Richard Lee Byers On a Kansas Plain – Michael J. Martinez The Prince of Lyghes – Anya Martin The Curious Death of Sir Arthur Turnbridge – G. D. Falksen Aerkheim’s Horror – Christine Morgan Return of the Prodigy – T.E. Grau The Curse of the Old Ones – Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington Love Will Save You – Cameron Pierce Assemblage Point – Scott R. Jones The Return of Sarnath – Gord Sellar The Long Dark – Wendy N. Wagner Green Revolution – Cody Goodfellow Don’t Make Me Assume My Ultimate Form – Laird Barron
Photo: H. P. Lovecraft’s own depiction of Cthulhu.
When we launched The Book of Cthulhu, we partnered with Skurvy Ink to produce glow-in-the-dark Fear the Weird T-shirts. Now, that T-shirt has gone international, appearing in the new music video by Italian band Autumn’s Rain. Here’s a link to the music video. Watch for the Weird at :45.
The thing which may once have been my uncle reached out for me, stroking again the edge of the mask where it fused with my own flesh.
“Will you submit, nephew?” His fingertips began to flake apart where they had touched my skin–its skin–smoldering like the ashen leavings of his cigar.
“Haven’t I?” I held up the bottle, so much heavier now than when first I had lifted it from the trunk, but still thirsting. To this day the echo of that thirst resides in me. It might have driven me to kill myself with drink, if any spirit distilled by man could ever have dreamt of quenching it.
He laughed and waved a dismissive hand; flecks of ash floated in the wake of his fingers. “Mere schoolboy villainy. Beckman thought that he could refuse the call, that he could become its master. I must confess, once I too suffered from such delusions, but I learned. It’s better that you have no such fantasies. Give me the bottle.”
His supercilious tone did little to endear him to me, but I could find no reason to refuse. I was, I had decided by then, dreaming. Or so I told myself. I still try to convince myself of it to this day. I was not in this damp and dismal room in Gilman house but safe in my own bed, suffering under the effects of wine and brandy and the strain of my translations. In the morning I would laugh at my somnolent visions of hollow corpses and dermophagic relatives.
I placed the vessel on his outstretched palm. The corrosion had spread from the tips of his fingers to the first knuckle, baring pearly glimpses of phalanges through crumbling grey flesh.
“Now the mask.”
I lifted a hand to my face but could find no purchase at the seams. My uncle shook his head at my futile attempt. “No. With this.”
He offered me the curved blade which I had last seen still amongst his other possessions. It was only then that I realized that the weather-beaten steamer trunk lay on the floor beside him. On the wall behind it hung a mirror, but from my vantage I saw no reflection within.
I balked, but his gaze was implacable. And if I were only dreaming, as I still struggled to convince myself, perhaps the best way out was to follow this nightmare to its conclusion. I no longer felt any of the unholy arousal the mask had first sparked in me, not any of my former burning curiosity about the bottle’s inscription. Even the surreal sense of somnolence had begun to fade, leaving me only weary and afraid.
With a trembling hand I brought the blade to the side of my face, feeling clumsily for the place where the alien skin merged with mine. The initial incision was just before my ear, and I shuddered to feel an oily fluid seeping from the wound, cooler and more viscous than blood. There was no pain from the cut, but my shoulders ached from the awkward angle the procedure required, and my arms began to shake as I dragged the blade across my brow. Where the knife wavered from the mask to my own skin, there I found pain. My pulse leapt and fluttered below the blade, and for a terrible instant I wondered if one determined stroke might end this madness once and for all, but I lacked the needed certainty–or the faith.
I wonder sometimes–I imagine I will always wonder–what would have happened if I had finished the task. If I had removed the mask, my mask, and looked into that mirror. But as I worked, trembling and clumsy, my hands slick with fluids, a blow fell upon Beckman’s door. I paused, black fluid dripping from my fingers. My uncle’s eyes flashed as he looked up, and beyond the window the darkness seethed and crackled. Before either of us could speak or act, another blow fell with a crack like the wrath of Jove, and door flew inward.
One might imagine I was beyond surprise at that point, but not so. I looked up to see my sister framed in the doorway, and I cannot recall a time I have been more shocked.
“I had hoped you would have more sense than this,” she said, shaking her head. It was the sort of admonition she had used on me uncountable times in our youth, whenever she found me in the midst of some foolishness or ill-planned deviltry. Her tone had not lost the power to make me flinch with chagrin.
My reserved, bookish elder sister–she had inherited the curiosity and thirst for knowledge that plagued so many in my family, but after the death of her fiancé years ago had settled into respectable spinsterhood. Or so we had always thought. But now she stood on the threshold of that miserable room, her spine straight and head high, a book held close to her chest like a shield. Her face was set in its familiar lines, but now a strange, fierce glow filled her, transforming her into some implacable fury, some avenging Olympian.
“I think perhaps you ought to leave now,” she said to me. “Before you wander any further astray.”
Had I but known as a child what depths of horror so simple a word could contain…but none can understand that abyss who have not stood upon its brink themselves. The knife fell from my numb fingers. My uncle commanded me to halt as I took a step backward, but even had my sister not offered me hope like a spar to a drowning man, a lifetime of heeding her cautions–or regretting my failure to do so–left the crumbling phantasm with no hope of countermanding her. One step, then another, until I stood beside her at the door. I expected her to display horror at my mangled face, but all I saw in her eyes was her usual affectionate exasperation at my foolishness, and a deep fatigue outstripped by determination.
“Go,” she said. I went. “As for you, Uncle–”
The last thing I saw as I stumbled for the door was my sister opening the book in her arms, and our uncle’s mouth stretching in a roar. Fissures spread across his cheeks. Thunder shook the stones and timbers of Gilman House, though all other reports of that day I have found agree that the sky remained clear and bright, unblemished by any cloud. But thunder chased me down the hall, and I still wake trembling when storms sweep off the ocean.
Of my flight from Gilman House I remember nothing. I came to later that day on my own front step, groggy and spent as if in the aftermath of a fever. The bottle, my notes, my uncle’s trunk–all had vanished from the house. Even then I might have written the whole affair off as illness and nightmare, except…
Except that a scar, pale and slick and long-healed, now runs from my left temple across my brow.
I have not heard from my sister since that day. I have not seen my uncle save in nightmares. My face in the mirror remains my own. For now.
This concludes “The Perplexity from a Place Abroad.” We sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed the story, and if you did, please tell your friends.
The Perplexity from a Place Abroad Round Five Kyle Muntz
“There is a hunger within this room,” said my uncle. “Can you feel it?” He stood behind a penumbra of smoke, two fingers closed around his cigar. In my youth, though we never met, I remember seeing a picture of him once, and he had looked much like this: a man with a robust beard, broad face, wide shoulders, silhouetted in darkness. He reached slowly forward, and it was as if the darkness unfolded—it seemed he intended to touch my face, but in truth he touched the mask.
“Your eyes,” he said. “You cannot see, for you are blinded.” He stepped towards Beckman, and began to inspect the remains. The clothes he removed roughly, to be tossed into a pile in the corner, but the remains he treated delicately. The knife was lifted and set aside.
“He is hollow,” said my uncle. “You see?”
Beckman’s innards had been removed. What remained could not be called a man at all, merely his shell. His clothes, the desk, and even the knife were without blood. There were not even any bones.
“When I cut my lip,” I said, “I saw what happened. The blood fell towards the bottle; it was consumed.”
My uncle did not reply, but began to tear off pieces of Beckman’s skin; and eat them. For many minutes, we did not speak. I thought that something must be wrong—no man could do such a thing, or so I’d thought. That is why I remained silent, for I could not believe my eyes.
“This is the hunger within the mask,” he said, at last. It did not take long, only a few minutes more, until soon there was nothing to set aside. “I have worn it. I have read the ancient languages.” He stepped forward, and raised his arms. “Can you hear? Within the bottle there is a darkness, and that darkness itself is alive. It is vaster than all men, and we must submit to it.”
His features took on a peculiar character, seen in that light. It was my uncle’s face as I remembered it, yes; but at the same time, somewhere within, I saw the hint of another face. And that face did not belong to a man, or anything like a man. I should mention that time has distorted my memory of that day (in my mind I now see my uncle’s picture, rather than the man himself; I see darkness outside the windows, though in truth it was hardly past noon), but the impression was clear: of another, second visage, subtly distorting the first. Of the many horrors I witnessed (or thought I witnessed, even as I wonder, on occasion, if it was not some terrible vision brought on by the mask), this more than any has stayed with me—and indeed, there are nights I cannot sleep, for I often wonder if eventually I shall look into the mirror and see that second face, somewhere beneath my own.
The sixth and final round of “The Perplexity from a Place Abroad” can be found here.
This portion of “The Perplexity from a Place Abroad” (c) 2014 Kyle Muntz
There I was, standing over Dixion’s ghostly body as the last droplet of blood evaporated. Just outside the window a dove cooed in the metallic purple of sunset. The mask was whispering again, secrets I should not know. Moreover, as promised the crude translations were hidden in the undercarriage of Dixion’s box spring and easily retrieved. I cannot entirely account what became of the corpse after swiping the formula, other than what appeared in the newspaper.
You’ve got blood clot gumdrops buddy, they’re waiting here just for you a’whole bag of them with your name on it pal.
He was getting closer, I could almost feel the toxicity of yellowed fingertips and water logged eyes running down my already anxious spine. I sloshed the container in my fist and found it to be a little louder, a little heavier than before.
He looks a little busy kiddo, maybe you should curl up, read a book by the fire like old times, eh?
I slid the jiggling script to Beckman, who blindly absorbed it and returned a scrap of aged parchment in its place. I wanted to ask how many more, how many had known. Instead, I grabbed the note and read the name silently to myself, exaggerating the vowels, making familiar phonics strange. The effigy had paralyzed some but not all the facial muscles needed for articulate speech. Either way the condition of my voice was far removed from itself, being more of a struggle than it was worth.
Fredrick howled when I clubbed the groggy publican on his way home from an unusually busy night. I can’t be certain if it was because of the mask, or because he knew who was underneath, but it happened none-the-less. The bottle waxed gluttonous in my palm as it drank the scene clean, filling up only a fraction more. As it did so the mask grew luminous in the alley, casting a pallor of the bizarre and criminal on brick walls. After, I dug at the fringes, trying to peel away the farce, but still I couldn’t manage the seam from skin. Still it wasn’t enough
Uh-oh. I don’t quite think you’re ready for the big leagues son, best you leave it to the older generations to handle.
Beckman was face down in his work when I returned, the rusted silver of a knife hilt sticking out from his damp back. There were no broken doors, no evidence of struggle, not a speck of conflict for logical deduction. But old Rudolph hadn’t just been murdered, rather he had been thoroughly emptied of his fleshy contents.
From the far corner of the room, just beyond the visibility of the desk lamp wafts the hazelnut poison of rich cigars. And it wasn’t that the smell was foreign that troubled me, but that it was so far removed from its natural context.
“Well then, from what I can tell it seems the package arrived safely and even on time. Can you imagine that? I sincerely hope you didn’t reimburse that poor excuse of a sea captain?”
Round Five of “The Perplexity from a Place Abroad” can be found here.
This portion of “The Perplexity from a Place Abroad” (c) 2014 Rand Burgess
Accordingly, I began by transcribing the bottle’s inscription. Although the text was not lengthy – only three lines, deeply incised in a curious spiraling slant — this proved more difficult than I had anticipated.
To begin with, a strong light source and considerable magnification were required to reveal each symbol. The clay’s ground quartz admixture made the text shimmer and shift as I worked, and I found myself forced to rest my eyes after only a few minutes of concentrated effort. Worse, when I returned to my labors, I often found that what I had previously written no longer matched what I saw.
Though these differences were slight, prior experience with ancient scripts made me wary. If these lines held some arcane meaning – as I already suspected — any error might be critical. Only by several hours’ copying and recopying did I finally achieve a stable version; even then, I wondered what a fresh reading next morning might reveal. Appending a list of the sources I had consulted in vain, I laid my work aside in favor of a late supper and a half-bottle of wine.
Perhaps it was that indifferent burgundy, followed by a brandy nightcap to quiet my mind that brought on the dreams. I am ordinarily a very sound sleeper, untroubled by such phantasms. Or I was once.
Awaking some hours later to the metallic tang of my own blood, I discovered that I had bitten my lower lip badly. More blood dappled the pillowcase, and my throat felt raw. Seizing a handkerchief from my bedside table, I blotted my lip as best I could before struggling into dressing-gown and slippers, then heading downstairs to my study.
I could not have said at the time why I did this. Nor what I expected to find there. Some fragmentary dream-memory simply nagged at me, and it was with considerable relief that I found my desk and papers undisturbed.
My uncle’s bottle (which had borne a hideous significance in those dreams) still lay where it had the night before, on a scrap of black cloth beneath my desk lamp. But was it truly as I had left it? Folding the cloth carefully around the fragile thing, I picked it up for a closer inspection with my hand lens.
At that moment, my wounded lip broke open again.
Encumbered as I was – the lens in one hand, the bottle itself partially uncovered in the other — I could only watch as one fat droplet spattered the ancient clay. Rather than staining it, however, my blood simply vanished. It was as though the incised surface had absorbed it, leaving only a fading shadow. Unnerved, I moved to set the bottle back down. As the liquid inside shifted, it emitted a sound I can only describe as keening – far louder and more resonant than the whine I had imagined earlier. Another drop of blood fell from my lip. Rather than striking the carpet, as it certainly should have, it slanted toward the artifact in my hand and disappeared.
I have no clear recollection of the next few hours.
Round Four of “The Perplexity from a Place Abroad” can be found here.
This portion of “The Perplexity from a Place Abroad” (c) 2014 Ann K. Schwader
The first was an oddly shaped bottle of miniature dimensions, made, I believe, of some kind of admixture of ground quartz and red-colored clay. It was clearly ancient and bore a distribution of incisions or symbols that formed a script I did not recognize. After several visits to the university library, and consulting with several volumes of Anderson’s Lost Scribes of the Proto-Cultures, I determined that the script had no obvious basis in the Indo-European languages, nor did it possess any resemblance to the Afro-Asiatic or Turkic families with which I have a more than passing familiarity.
Stranger still, the bottle had been manufactured so that it was sealed indefinitely in the sense that it had no entry point at its top – no stopper, cork or similar removable device – but was closed completely by the admixture of which it consisted overall. Yet it was certainly hollow, and if I held it to my ear and shook it lightly, I detected the sound of a liquid moving within its interior, and perhaps another sound that, surely, I imagined – a faint whining that reminded me of a beached whale.
The second object of interest from among my uncle’s personal effects was of a perplexing appearance and which I retrieved from a cloth bag tied with a leather binding. At first I thought it was some kind of rotting parchment made of snake or lizard skin rather than the papyrus used for scrolls or folios of yore. Upon hoisting it up with my thumb and forefinger it flapped open into a wider circumference that began to acquire a more familiar shape; and spreading it over a table top, I perceived that it was a mask fashioned in the manner of a human physiognomy.
There were apertures cut for the mouth and eyes, though it was bereft of any means of attaching itself to the face I supposed it was intended to cover. And this indeed led me to consider that it was not so much a mask as an effigy of some religious or ritualistic significance, perhaps designed to meet the perfunctory likeness of a forgotten deity or a primal totem. It was clearly ancient, like the bottle, and there was something absurdly realistic about its look that stirred in me vague recollections of something I could not, in fact, remember. More striking, however, was the sense of attraction it generated in me in terms of invoking a pertinent urge to lay it across my own face and let it sink into my features with its outlandish veneer. And, in fact, one evening after a particularly fervent day of research in the library, I succumbed to its allure and lay it over my face with more care and deliberation than I was aware of giving. I duly found myself infused with a condition of some considerable excitement of a kind I would rather not describe in any detail. Suffice to say that, in the aftermath of this episode, I felt thoroughly ashamed.
The idea of consulting Beckman had already taken root in my mind prior to commencing my research, the fruitless conclusion of which settled the matter once and for all. I would seek his counsel on several counts – namely, in analyzing the archaic cipher of the bottle; in considering the means by which we might extrapolate and investigate its contents; in identifying the material with which the mask was made; and, finally, in identifying its purpose, as well as its strange effect upon my character.
Round Three of “The Perplexity from a Place Abroad” can be found here.
This portion of “The Perplexity from a Place Abroad” (c) 2014 Alistair Rennie
Today would have been H. P. Lovecraft’s 124th birthday. Unfortunately, we simply don’t have the resources to bake all of you shoggoth cupcakes, so instead we’d like to offer you a treat of a more literary variety. Author Rand Burgess has asked a few friends–Brian Evenson, Alistair Rennie, Ann K. Schwader, Kyle Muntz, and Amanda Downum–to join him in a round-robin story, paying homage to “The Challenge from Beyond,” the 1935 weird tale that featured Lovecraft, C.L. Moore, A. Merritt, Robert E. Howard, and Frank Belknap Long. And, to keep the party going throughout the day, we’ll be sharing this new round-robin story in pieces, one author per hour, until all six pieces have gone live. So, without further adieu, The Book of Cthulhu presents, “The Perplexity from a Place Abroad, Round One.” Enjoy, and Happy Birthday, HPL!
You must understand that I did not, to speak frankly, see anything. But even what I did not see was enough to send me scrambling for the door. How can I go back into that place now, having heard what I heard, and afraid now of what I would see? I have been told, by those who have since visited, that the room itself is deserted, that the only sign that it was ever occupied is a pile of clothing in the corner—Beckman’s clothing no doubt, or the clothing perhaps of a thing that near the end claimed to be Beckman, that for a time wore his face. One man, more astute than the others, claimed to have made out on very close inspection strange marks on the floor and walls, as if the residue of a kind of oily moisture—nothing, he claims it is (for he is not as astute as all that). And perhaps now it is nothing, but of what dark passage does it serve to record? No, I shall keep my distance.
My awareness of Rudolph Beckman began in my youth. He was the neighborhood eccentric, half-mad but basically harmless. He was a man, my father used to say, always running after shadows. My mother had known him since she herself was a child, and remembered him as being different then, as a kindly if sickly young man. He was obsessed with books of the more obscure sort, which he claimed to have purchased in certain muddy back streets of Providence, down near the wharfs. He would carry these muttering past on his way back to his single room in Gilman House as we children watched him. If he caught our attention, he would tell them that yes, this time he was certain he had it this time—certain! What it was, what he was certain he had, we had very little idea.
Very young myself, I thought he was ancient though he must have been still shy of middle age. As my parents passed and I approached middle age myself, my own obsessions having turned morbidly but inexorably in the direction of darker knowledge, I found my thoughts returning to Beckman and wondering, rather crudely, what he might do for me.
I had, you see, received a legacy from my uncle that arrived in a small, weather-beaten trunk. It had been found within the hold of the steamer upon which he had been taking passage across the Adriatic when he disappeared. My uncle was a strange man himself, and I never met him. My sister talked of him often as a man who had gone astray, and I suspect he had a thirst for hidden knowledge to rival that of Beckman. When he vanished, the conscientious steamer captain (hoping surely for a reward) arranged for his trunk to be shipped C.O.D. to the address lettered on its side, which was the house on Angell Street built by my grandparents, then later occupied by my parents and finally given over to me.
It was the contents of this trunk that led me to visit Beckman. Half-remembering his old obsessions, I believed he might be able to make some sense of the contents. I myself was baffled by what I found there. Among the ordinary shabby effects of a man dedicated to itinerancy—worn but sturdy clothes, desert gear, a small well-oiled knife with a curved blade (used perhaps for shaving I naively thought at the time), et cetera—there were two items of note that suggested a more arcane turn of mind:
Round Two of “The Perplexity from a Place Abroad” can be found here.
This portion of “The Perplexity from a Place Abroad” (c) 2014 Brian Evenson
Today brings the final installment in our series of excerpts from The Children of Old Leech. We hope you’ve enjoyed these excerpts as much as we’ve enjoyed bringing them to you, and we sincerely hope that we’ve persuaded you to pick up a copy of The Children of Old Leech for yourself. And while this round is over, we will be back with more samples of Word Horde books, photos, reviews, and previews, so we would encourage you to stay tuned. So with the melancholic sense of a journey’s impending conclusion, but no regrets, we bring you a look behind the curtain with co-editor/publisher Ross E. Lockhart’s “Afterword.”
One of my first gigs in this crazy business we call publishing was writing the flap copy for the hardcover edition of Laird Barron’s first collection, The Imago Sequence. As I recall, I got paid in books for this, which is fine because I’d likely have spent any monetary compensation on books anyhow.
The Imago Sequence blew me away. I was already fairly well versed in the weird tale, and in the typical tropes associated with Lovecraftian pastiche, but Barron’s approach did something unexpected with the form, fusing the strangeness of supernatural horror with the stark naturalism of Jack London (whose “To Build a Fire” Barron himself classifies as Cosmic Horror), daring to deliver something different, a high-stakes carnivorous cosmos populated with tough, rugged protagonists more accustomed to inhabiting hard-boiled tales of crime or espionage than Lovecraft’s prone-to-fainting academics. Through this (at the time) unlikely combination, Barron managed to, in the words Ezra Pound once pinched from a Chinese emperor’s bathtub, “make it new.”
One does not read a Laird Barron story so much as one experiences it in a visceral manner. A tale like “Shiva, Open Your Eye” strips away a reader’s reason, flaying him, leaving him floating in the primordial jelly, innocent of coherent thought. “Hallucigenia” is, quite literally, a kick in the head. The painstaking noirish layering to be found in “The Imago Sequence” culminates in a ghastly, shuddering reveal of staggering proportions. And it is that sense of culmination one finds echoing throughout Laird Barron’s work, binding the whole together into a Pacific Northwest Mythos reminiscent of, but cut from another cloth entirely from, Lovecraft’s witch-haunted New England.
A handful of one-off copywriting gigs led to greater opportunities, and soon, I found myself working full-time for the publisher of The Imago Sequence, which led to my meeting Laird in the flesh at the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga, NY. I found we shared a kindred spirit… and a taste for rare spirits and supernatural tales. Upon my return, I worked on the trade paperback edition of The Imago Sequence, and on Laird’s next collection, Occultation, where I not only wrote the jacket copy, but laid out the book, coordinated the production team working on it, supervised copyedits, approved those edits with Laird, and corrected the book (as a nod to Robert Bloch, I suppose you could refer to me as “The Man Who Corrected Laird Barron.”).
Shortly after Occultation landed, my wife and I embarked on a road trip up the West Coast, a drive where the scenery—stark mountains, tall trees, steep costal drop-offs—constantly reminded me of one Laird Barron story or another. Our journey brought us to Olympia, where we met Laird for lunch, talked martial arts and American literature, and I snapped a few photographs of Laird playing with our little dog, Maddie.
Somewhere along the line, both The Imago Sequence and Occultation managed to win Laird his first and second Shirley Jackson Awards, and I began working with Laird as editor of his first novel, The Croning, which he sent to me in bits and pieces over the course of a tough year, building it like a wall, brick by brick and layer by layer. With The Croning, Laird metaphorically opened a vein and bled words onto the page, and while a casual reader might not spot the author’s open wounds, the emotional wallop delivered by the book more than assures you that those wounds are not only there, but that they are raw.
I published Laird’s novella “The Men from Porlock” in my first anthology, The Book of Cthulhu, and his “Hand of Glory” in my second, The Book of Cthulhu II. And over the course of 2012, I worked on Laird’s third collection, The Beautiful Thing that Awaits Us All, reading stories as Laird finished them and sent them along. One of my favorites in the collection, the wickedly sardonic “More Dark,” managed to get me in trouble when I read it on my phone during a baseball game, prompting my wife to elbow me as I laughed—then shivered—at a situation that rode the train from bad to weird to worse to a downright Barronic level of darkness. The Beautiful Thing that Awaits Us All was the final project I worked on for its publisher, which might bring us full circle, were it not for the fact that this circle, like the sigil marking Moderor de Caliginis, is an open—and hungry—curve.
In 2013, I started my own publishing company, Word Horde, launching the press with Tales of Jack the Ripper, an anthology that included Laird Barron’s tour-de-force “Termination Dust,” a fractured narrative not only providing the thrills and chills expected from Barron’s oeuvre, but marking a new venue for his brand of cosmicism, a strange, savage, and sanguine land that Laird knows quite well… Alaska.
Not long after the publication of Tales of Jack the Ripper, Justin Steele, who had reviewed The Book(s) of Cthulhu and Tales of Jack the Ripper at his weird fiction website, The Arkham Digest, approached me suggesting this anthology. I receive—and say no to—a lot of anthology pitches, many of which are suggested as possible co-editorial projects, but I found the idea of honoring Laird, an author whose work has influenced and intersected with much of my professional career, irresistible. I approached Laird, asking for permission to let other authors play in his sandbox, and to my delight, Laird said yes. For that, Justin and I owe Laird a lifetime of gratitude. We immediately set to building a roster of our favorite authors, authors who we felt shared Laird’s vision of a ravenous universe, and an understanding of that terrible, beautiful thing that awaits us all.
There are no accidents ’round here. The editors of, and the authors included in, this volume have been inspired and affected by Laird Barron’s carnivorous cosmos. We’ve all gazed at mysterious holes, wondering where they lead. We’ve all found ourselves in conversation with a stranger, staring at a scar and wondering if it is, instead, a seam. We’ve all heard the voices whispering in the night, praising Belphegor, and saying, “We, the Children of Old Leech, have always been here. And we love you.”