May 8, 2015
by Ross E. Lockhart
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The Children of Old Leech Nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award

It is with pleasure and gratitude that we announce the following: The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron has been nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award. Needless to say, we are over the moon.

SJA_9781939905079_covSM

It requires an army of people to put together an anthology like The Children of Old Leech, so a huge THANK YOU! goes out to the following: Co-editor Justin Steele; authors Allyson Bird, Jesse Bullington, Michael Cisco, Jesse James Douthit-Nicolay, Gemma Files, Richard Gavin, J. T. Glover, Cody Goodfellow, T.E. Grau, Orrin Grey, Michael Griffin, Stephen Graham Jones, John Langan, Daniel Mills, Scott Nicolay, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., Molly Tanzer, Jeffrey Thomas, and Paul Tremblay; copyeditor Marty Halpern; hardcover artist/designer Matthew Revert; softcover artist Dalton Rose; softcover designer Scott R. Jones; and, of course, Laird Barron, for letting all of us play in his universe. Thanks also to all of you who purchased the book (and other Word Horde titles), and to all of the readers and reviewers who have taken the time to recommend the book to others. Thanks to the Shirley Jackson Awards Board of Directors and jurors. And thanks to everyone who shared a toast to Old Leech with us back when we launched the book. Cheers!

JustinLeechWhiskeyCigar

Read the full list of nominees here: http://www.shirleyjacksonawards.org/nominees/

May 5, 2015
by Ross E. Lockhart
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Cthulhu Fhtagn! Cover Reveal

Cthulhu Fhtagn! edited by Ross E. Lockhart

Coming from Word Horde this August: Cthulhu Fhtagn!

Now available to preorder: http://wordhorde.com/product/cthulhu-fhtagn-bundle/

From Ross E. Lockhart, the editor who brought you The Book of Cthulhu, The Children of Old Leech, and Giallo Fantastique comes Cthulhu Fhtagn!, 19 weird tales inspired by H. P. Lovecraft.

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

Preorder today: http://wordhorde.com/product/cthulhu-fhtagn-bundle/

Cover art by Adolfo Navarro

March 30, 2015
by Ross E. Lockhart
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Cthulhu Fhtagn! Table of Contents Reveal!

485px-Cthulhu_sketch_by_Lovecraft

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.

March 23, 2015
by Ross E. Lockhart
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CTHULHU FHTAGN!

CTHULHU FHTAGN!: WEIRD TALES INSPIRED BY H. P. LOVECRAFT is coming from Word Horde this August, when the stars are right. Watch this space for more.

photo

http://wordhorde.com/

October 7, 2014
by Ross E. Lockhart
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Fear the Weird Goes International

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.

Autumn’s Rain – Like

Fear the Weird!

Want your own Fear the Weird T-shirt? Get it from Skurvy Ink!

August 20, 2014
by Ross E. Lockhart
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The Perplexity from a Place Abroad, Round Six

The Perplexity from a Place Abroad
Round Six
Amanda Downum

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.

To recap…
Round One, by Brian Evenson
Round Two, by Alistair Rennie
Round Three, by Ann K. Schwader
Round Four, by Rand Burgess
Round Five, by Kyle Muntz

This portion of “The Perplexity from a Place Abroad” (c) 2014 Amanda Downum

August 20, 2014
by Ross E. Lockhart
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The Perplexity from a Place Abroad, Round Five

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

August 20, 2014
by Ross E. Lockhart
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The Perplexity from a Place Abroad, Round Four

The Perplexity from a Place Abroad
Round Four
Rand Burgess

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?”

“Uncle?”

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

August 20, 2014
by Ross E. Lockhart
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The Perplexity from a Place Abroad, Round Three

The Perplexity from a Place Abroad
Round Three
Ann K. Schwader

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

August 20, 2014
by Ross E. Lockhart
1 Comment

The Perplexity from a Place Abroad, Round Two

The Perplexity from a Place Abroad
Round Two
Alistair Rennie

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