Tag Archives: Tim Lebbon

Letters to Lovecraft

There are currently about nine-hundred and thirty-two Lovecraft-themed anthologies out in the wild, with maybe another seventy in the works. It’s a popular concept. I like Lovecraftian fiction but quite similar to the way over-saturation made me cringe at the word “Zombie,” I’m starting to wince when I hear the “L” word.

When I was asked to review this book, I hesitated until I saw the authors involved. It includes some of my current darlings: Cameron Pierce, Stephen Graham Jones, Jeffrey Ford, and others. The idea of this anthology is refreshing, instead of asking authors to channel their inner Lovecraft they were told to read his famous essay, “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” and then turn in a tale inspired by quotes from it.

So it ain’t all tentacles and fishy mutants. But don’t be all that sad, those things are in here too.

The volume opens with “Past Reno,” by Brian Evenson, in which a man runs both from and toward his past, wanting to claim and also deny his inheritance. Paul Tremblay delivered a short strange tale called “_______” in which a family grows closer in a subtle and unsettling way. Stephen Graham Jones’s hands in “Doc’s Story,” a fantastic story of a family and their curse. Like everything else that the man has written, it’s brilliant.

Cameron Pierce’s “Help Me” is a bizarre and heady tale about a man and his otherworldly catch. Tim Lebbon‘s “The Lonley Wood” is a dark voice in an echoey chamber. Closing out the collection is “The Semi-finished Basement,” by Nick Mamatas, a darkly wry tale of a local group who meet and discuss world demise over cookies and drink…this one has teeth and a great winning smile.

There numerous other tales as well, featuring rituals and sacrifice, evil fairies and demonic beings, monsters and misdeeds. All are pretty good.

Overall this is a satisfying anthology. Editor Jesse Bullington has done a good job of putting together a sharp product, unique in its premise and put together well. The stories are strong and while some are a bit, I’ll say, dry, most go down easy and quick. The number of new writers (defined as names I was not familiar with) is pretty high and I wasn’t disappointed by any of them. If you’re a fan of all things Lovecratian, then make a spot on the shelf for this one.

Available through Stone Skin Press.

Posted in Blog, Book Reviews, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

White

White is a British Fantasy Award-winning novella by Tim Lebbon, originally published in 1999 and now the debut release under his very own Dreaming In Fire Press. The setting is Cornwall, where a group of people are holed up in a manor after the ostensible end of the world. Two of the characters have been stationed here to “keep a check on the radiation levels in the Atlantic Drift, since things had gone to shit in South America and the dirty reactors began to melt down in Brazil.”

The other characters are friends, lovers, or acquaintances who are now more or less trapped together. After losing contact with the outside world when television and radio go silent and the phones stop working, they spend their time dealing with the uncertainty of survival in their own ways. Meanwhile, it is snowing. It snows every night, and by the time they decide it might be in their best interest to travel to the nearest village for news and help, it is already impossible to get through the deep snow.

This is a tale that is grounded in the characters reactions, to their predicament and to each other. And as they find themselves confined to a small section of the manor that they can keep heated, living on the remains of food stored in the pantry, and uncertain of what is going on with civilization as a whole, they are handed another dilemma. There is something outside in the cold, something moving at the periphery of vision, only half seen and terrifying because of it. And then those who have spoken of seeing something out there in the snow begin to die. Ripped apart and left as red splatter in the pure white, they are a warning of what’s to come.

Included with this re-release of White is a short story, “Kissing at Shadows,” which first appeared in Cemetery Dance #36. This is another take on post-apocalyptic survival. Where White is definitely horror, “Kissing” is more of a love story and centers on a man who makes a solitary annual journey to visit his wife. Regardless of the obvious dangers, and the fact that his daughter begs him not to go, he has a promise to keep. A quick, immersive read, and yet quite touching.

I really enjoyed both of these tales, and would certainly recommend them. White is available through Dreaming in Fire Press.

Posted in Blog, Book Reviews, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Alien: Out of the Shadows

I can honestly say that my favorite scary movie is Alien. I was blown away by the sequel, Aliens, as well. So I was very excited to hear about the release of Alien: Out of the Shadows, by Tim Lebbon, an official canon novel that takes place in the interim between those two movies.

First and foremost—Ripley. She is smart, strong, brave and bad-ass. She is also scared, filled with survivor’s guilt, and humanly flawed. She is one of my favorite heroines, and this book gives you the opportunity to get to know her better.

The basic premise of the book is that Ripley’s EEV is picked up by a mining operation ship in orbit around yet another deadly, inhospitable planet. While mining for trimonite, a rare and sought after mineral, the miners stumble onto another ancient derelict spaceship. Besides the dead and petrified remnants of those who had once flown this ship and the ruins of an advanced culture where the ship crashed, they also find the preserved alien eggs that started the havoc in the first movie.

This is a fairly fast-paced story, and a lot of people die—badly. There is a lot of tension, and the feeling of holding your breath as you hurry to find out what happens next. I was a little worried about how it was going to end (without fundamentally altering Ripley or anything that happens at the beginning of the second movie) and still be able to get caught up with the action and characters. Turns out I didn’t have to worry. While I might wish that some things could have turned out differently, I wouldn’t want to change the continuing story.

It’s my understanding that there will be two more official tie-in novels released this year, and based on this first one I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting them all. I would definitely suggest this to any fans of the Alien universe.

Posted in Blog, Book Reviews, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Psychos and the Appalachian Undead

Some staff news, ya’ll! Cue banjo!

This coming October, if not sooner, Apex Publications is set to release Appalachian Undead, a new anthology dedicated to the walking dead. I contributed a quirky tale called “Long Days to Come.”


[ click for full image ]

The brilliant artwork was created by Cortney Skinner. Quite a lineup, too: Elizabeth Massie, Jonathan Maberry, Tim Waggoner, S. Clayton Rhodes*, Maurice Broaddus, Bev Vincent, Tim Lebbon, Steve Rasnic Tem, John Skipp* & Dori Miller, and Gary A. Braunbeck, to name a few more than a few.

If you’d like to check out the full table of contents, click here.

You can also pre-order via the above link (and get 5% off if you tweet the link), but before you do, check out this groovy contest they’re running for those who do pre-order.

As always from Apex Publications, you can expect quality.

Not to be outdone, Mercedes and John each have stories—“Murder for Beginners” and “Intruder,” respectively—in Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen, and the Criminally Insane, the latest slab—and I do mean slab; these things are massive—in an ongoing series edited by the inimitable John Skipp which has thus far included Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead, Werewolves and Shapeshifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within, and Demons: Encounters with the Devil and His Minions, Fallen Angels, and the Possessed.


[ click for larger image ]

Psychos is due out in September via Black Dog & Leventhal, and features new and classic fiction from the likes of Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Jack Ketchum, Joe R. Lansdale, Lawerence Block, Neil Gaiman, Leslianne Wilder*, Violet LeVoit, Weston Ochse*, Kathe Koja, and many more.

If you order now, Amazon has it for $10.07. That’s 608 pages for $10! No-brainer.

We hope you’ll buy both!

* Shock Totem alumni.

Posted in Alumni News, New Releases, Recommended Reading, Staff News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Dangerous Red Thief of Broken Redemption

I first heard the name Mehitobel Wilson during the historic Shock Totem John Skipp interview of 2009, which first appeared in Shock Totem #1. Skipp is a walking Rolodex of information, and hers was a name that was mentioned a few times during the phone call. I added her work to my list of things to seek out.

I finally procured a copy of her collection, Dangerous Red, and now see why Skipp touted it so heavily. Wilson doesn’t just kick ass, she straps on gigantic Herman Munster-style boots with razored cleats and stomps your ass. It is a brilliant collection of fresh dark fiction and then some.

While I liked most of the stories, I will only name check a few. “Cut Glass” is a wondrous ghost story. “Madeline in Effigy” gives us new reasons to second-guess the vain. “Blind in the House of the Headsman” is a gory, sexually-depraved surreal sketch…maybe. “The Mannerly Man” has done its best to make politeness a thing to be fearful of. Then there is my absolute favorite of the collection, “Strays,” which takes on the issue of homelessness and sprinkles it with enough dread and disturbing imagery to give you nightmares for weeks.

Wilson’s prose is quick and artful, the images and ideas strong and haunting. I look forward to reading more from her.

Weston Ochse is another writer I have not read enough of. My first Ochse story was the brilliant “Playlist at the end,” which we published in Shock Totem #4.

When I came across a copy of his chapbook Redemption Roadshow, I picked it up. Ochse writes in a clean style, and his characters are aching and have a depth you can immediately connect with. This story concerns Dolan Gibb, an Arizona highway patrolman who discovers you can’t outrun guilt and that the past will always catch up. Dolan discovers a group—almost a sideshow troupe—that seem ever present at roadside memorial shrines. Among them is the “Long Cool Woman,” a medium who bridges the space between the living and the dead, with unexpected consequences.

This short tale is so packed with grippingly heavy images, I found myself thinking about it for days after I had finished it.

I also recently rectified the fact that I am sadly under-read in the Tim Lebbon category.

I had read The Nature of Balance, and loved its dark dreamy images and language. When my friend, Simon, recommended The Thief of Broken Toys to me, I listened. I’m glad I did.

In this novella, Lebbon explores the deepening shades of grief and how loss is a thing of many facets. Ray is a broken man, slowly drowning in a self-made sea of loss and alienation. His only son has died and his wife has left him. Every day is a weighted exercise in existence. He comes to believe through honoring promises made to the dead, he can win back the slivers of time and love lost. He begins with the promises to fix his son’s damaged playthings. He then meets the Thief of Broken Toys, who helps in ways unimaginable and teaches him things that can’t be unlearned.

And then things start to change.

Lebbon has created a heartbreaking story with The Thief of Broken Toys. The loss and longing of Ray are painted so adeptly that I felt that heaviness in my chest, tears threatening to show themselves. Very subtle in its horror, but it is indeed there. One of the best, I’ve read this year. Available from Chizine Publications.

Posted in Blog, Book Reviews, Reviews, Short Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment