Tag Archives: Harlan Ellison

Ana Kai Tangata: Tales of the Outer, the Other, the Damned and the Doomed

There is a saying that goes, “Everything old is new again.” I’ve always found this to be true. In fiction, we are currently seeing a resurgence of “weird” fiction (not to be confused with the Bizarro movement). This is fiction of an almost speculative nature that happens to be…well, weird. Think of the works of Robert Aickman or Gerald Kersh, even some of Harlan Ellison’s stuff, and you’re nearly there.

Scott Nicolay is one of the newish crop of weird peddlers. And a good one at that.

His collection, Ana Kai Tangata: Tales of the Outer, the Other, the Damned and the Doomed is a surly beast with teeth (I say teeth as they feature prominently in a lot of the terrors Nicolay delivers). After an introduction by the mighty Laird Barron, we open with the tale “Alligators,” wherein a man cannot shed the shackles of his past and the possibly imagined trauma he endured. He takes his daughters to face his fears and discovers that, sometimes, not only does the past stay as it was, it grows hungrier and hungrier. “The Bad Outer Space” is almost like a Bradbury tale, told from the point of view of a child, except for the nameless space horrors that swarm and writhe in it. A wonderfully paranoid excursion.

“Ana Kai Tangata” is the titular story and concerns caving scientists, archaeologists who venture into a cavern system only to encounter terrors they could not have foreseen even through the ever-repeating lens of history. “Eyes Exchange Bank” is one of the weirdest yet compelling. As two friends explore a strange mall, things devolve into a yawning nightmare. “Phragmites” takes us on a quest for a long lost historical site, which as you can probably guess is not the smartest journey to make. Were it not for Nicolay’s prose and deeper story to elevate it, “The Soft Frogs” would almost be equivalent to a B-movie full of slimy monsters.

“Geshafte” is another strange one about appetites. Sort of. Closing out the collection is “Tuckahoe.” This is the most ambitious of them all and one of the strongest. A Detective is called to look into an road accident that left three people dead. There happens to be an extra arm in the mix—one that isn’t human. As the man digs deeper into the case and origins of the extra limb, things get quite bizarre…and dark.

Nicolay writes with strength and purpose. A few times his prose gets heavy and threatens to weigh down the story but it usually recovers. His style is clearly influenced by Ligotti and Lovecraft, and I even saw some early Ramsey Campbell in the mix. I liked this collection, for it did what collections are supposed to do: it showcased the many angles from which the writer can deliver a story. Grab a copy if you can find it, and keep an eye on Scott Nicolay. He’ll be one of the foresurfers of this ever growing weird fiction wave!

Ana Kai Tangata is available through Fedogen & Bremer Publishing.

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And the May Flash Fiction Contest Winner is…

Michael Wehunt

Back to back wins! Michael Wehunt also won March’s contest. This month he took First Place with his story “Stabat Mater.”

This month’s prompt was based on this Harlan Ellison quote from a recent Tor.com interview:

“In the introduction to this new edition of Web of the City, Ellison writes of a possible legend about Ernest Hemingway intentionally destroying his first novel. From the introduction:

“Yes, the story goes, Hemingway had written a book before The Sun Also Rises, and there he was aboard a ship, steaming either here or there; and he was at the rail, leaning over, thinking, and then he took the boxed manuscript of the book…and threw it into the ocean. Apparently on the theory that no one should ever read a writer’s first novel.”

This quote was referring to the reissue of Ellison’s first novel. For the contest prompt, I asked participants to write about tossing away their firstborn child and base it on the same theory Ellison describes above. I also asked that they not take the easy road and write something that involves sacrificial/religious offerings.

Michael Wehunt stepped up and scored his third First Place finish, the sixth time he’s been in the top three—in just seven contests! Impressive, indeed.

In Second Place was past winner J. Kyle Turner and his story “Song of a Dying Country.” Third Place was taken by Brian White, with his tale “Balancing Act.”

So a big congratulations to all!

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Pay the Writer, But…

For a refresher, here’s Harlan Ellison giving his most famous unintentional PSA:


You go, girl!

Though the bristly curmudgeon is often the punchline to a joke among writers, he is right, and this little video is often cited by proud authors who demand payment for everything they write. Authors are never in low supply when it comes to a Pay-the-Writers protest. Nothing wrong with that, of course, though by the way many writers are reacting to Duotrope’s recent decision to go to a paid subscription service I wonder if they hear much of what else Harlan says in that clip aside from “pay the writer.”

Duotrope’s Digest, the market listing website thousands of writers use daily, has been offering their great service for nine years at no cost to writers and publishers. All they’ve asked for is donations through their Keep It Free campaign. I’ve donated many times, but surely not enough to be comparable to how much I’ve used the site. And so it’s no surprise that after nearly a decade donations are simply not enough. Never have been, in fact. So the folks at Duotrope have just announced they’re going to a paid subscription system in 2013.

And writers have lost their minds over it.

The way people are reacting you’d think Duotrope was asking for their weekly paychecks. In reality, users will be required to pony up either a one-time payment of $50 for the entire year or $5 a month. Either way, the most any writer will have to pay is $60 a year for a service they use all the time. Well worth it, in my opinion. For many, however, this is way too much to ask.

Just look at this Wikipedia entry for the site (which has since been changed):

“Duotrope has announced that it will switch to a subcription-based service beginning January 1, 2013 at a whiplash-inducing rate of $5.00 per month or $50.00 per year.”

A “whiplash-inducing” rate of $5 per month. No doubt written by an author who thinks it’s insane someone would pay $7 a day for a Starbucks coffee but not $5 every now and then for an e-book. But he or she is not the only one with this opinion that $5 a month is too much money. I had thought about quoting some additional comments from people I know, but instead I’ll just point you toward Duotrope’s own Facebook page and you’ll get the idea.

But here’s the gist:

Writers: “PAY THE WRITERS, GODDAMMIT!”

Writers Being Asked to Pay for Someone Else’s Time and Services They Admittedly Use All the Time: “LOL! Fuck you, you greedy, glorified Excel spreadsheet.”

The hypocrisy is delicious.

Now let me be clear: No one has to pay for something they don’t want to pay for. Nor can every author afford to. But I wonder if so many people would be protesting if they understood just how much time and money it takes to maintain a site like Duotrope’s.

I mentioned the comparison between the cost of an e-book and the cost of a cup of coffee. One of the biggest arguments against those unwilling to pay more than a few dollars for an e-book is pointing out how much time it takes an author to write a book. Most readers don’t really grasp that, and I have no doubt that most writers don’t understand what it takes to run a big website.

One of the biggest gripes seems to generate from how their old Keep It Free page was worded:

“If each of Duotrope’s current users and subscribers contributed just $5 this year, we would meet our goal for the year!”

Just $5 a year, while now they’re asking for $5 a month. OMG, ya’ll! But that’s too simple to be a good point of argument.

According to online web-traffic trackers, as a free service Duotrope generates over 6,000 pageviews per day, and between 15,000 to 20,000 unique visitors per month. That number will dramatically decrease in 2013, as evidenced by the countless users vowing to never use them again when it’s no longer free. No one will be getting rich here, that’s for sure.

But go back to the numbers of pageviews and visitors—6,000 per day, between 15,000 and 20,000 per month, respectively. That’s a lot of traffic, a lot of bandwidth, which means a lot of cost for those running Duotrope. More, it’s a hell of a lot of time on their part. Websites don’t maintain themselves; sites such as Duotrope require skilled designers and programmers, content providers, people who update the listings for the nearly 5,000 markets listed on the site, etc. And you know what? They should be paid for their work.

Writers aren’t the only people who deserve to be paid. Crazy concept, huh? And remember this: If Duotrope’s service wasn’t worth $5 a month, no sensible author would be complaining.

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Bring More Lore!

Born in a New Jersey basement in the mid-90’s, Lore was a DIY magazine for dark fiction and fantasy. In their time, they took home a number of awards, including The Dragon’s Breath Small Press Award for Best New Magazine, as well as had several stories from within their pages garner awards of their own.

I must admit, here, that I had never heard of Lore. This is a fact I am now somewhat ashamed of, after reading this, a collection of stories that appeared during their five-year run. I missed out on some quality reading back in the day.

I won’t go through every story in this collection, but will touch upon those that stuck with me most.

Starting things off with Harlan Ellison is always a smart move. Ellison has long been regarded as a master of speculative fiction, and with “Chatting with Anubis” we get a tongue-in-cheek tale of archaeology and spiritualism and the dark threads that bind them.

“The Mandala,” by Kendall Evans, is a bizarre exercise in surrealism as symbolism. Patricia Russo’s “Rat Familiar” is Grimm-style fantasy that is served up nasty and dark, while Jeffrey Thomas’s “Empathy” is a sadly sweet tale of trust, mistreatment and revenge.

Brian Lumley turns in “The Vehicle” which is a lighthearted “fish out of water” sort of sci-fi tale. Donald R. Burleson gives us what might be my favorite tale in the book, “Sheets,” a terrific haunted-house story, and it is exactly not what you think it is.

All the stories in this volume are strong. Some skirt the edges of the Horror estate, while others wander that bizarre and weird landscape on its outskirts. “The Challenge From Below,” a group-penned tribute to Lovecraft, as well as many other pieces, have never been reprinted before this. And a few are nearly science fiction. All, however, have a classic feel and mature voice.

This is old-school writing.

As of 2011, Lore has resurrected itself. I would have loved the magazine back in its heyday, so I hope to follow them, now, and keep up with what they put out.

This volume can be purchased through the Lore website.

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