Posts Tagged ‘feature’

H.P. Lovecraft & the Horror of Comics

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Josie Campbell reports for Comic Book Resources on the West Hollywood Book Fair appearance (earlier in October) of Steve Niles, Mike Mignola and Hans Rodionoff talking about the influence of H.P. Lovecraft on horror comic books. Rodinoff disscovered his first Lovecraft short story on a camping trip, reading it with a flashlight in his sleeping bag. Mignola, a young comic book reader, was introduced to the old pulp writers through Robert E. Howard. While looking for more Howard stories, he stumbled onto “Weird Tales” and H.P. Lovecraft. Similarly, Niles was “digging around in books looking for stuff and I ran across Lovecraft.”

The trio also discuss HPL’s influences on their work and horror in general.

Guillermo Del Toro Developing Lovecraftian Video Game

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Guillermo Del Toro working on a Lovecraftian video game according to Platform Nation. Del Toro is a fan of Lovecraft, and has directed films containing allusions to Lovecraft’s mythos (Hellboy, for example). He’s also tried to get a film version of At the Mountains of Madness greenlighted for some time. As for the HPLish game, Del Toro is working with THQ developing a game he described during an interview with MTV as: “It’s horror…but it’s a very different type of horror game. It’s not survival horror. It’s truly a strange, geeky mix. It’s a Lovecraftian thing. Let’s leave it at that.”

All we want to know: Will Wii have a tentacle attachment?

Weird Tales #356 Is Here!

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Weird Tales celebrates the eerily sensuous in its summer the UNCANNY BEAUTY issue. Subscribers and stores should be getting magazines soon. (Report of sighting.)

  • “Secretario” by Catherynne M. Valente
  • “A Concise & Ready Guide” by Ian R. MacLeod
  • “Beauty & Disapperance” by Kat Howard
  • “One Minute Weird Tale” by Lauren Beukes
  • “Sisters Under the Skin” by L.L. Hannett
  • “How Bria Died” by Mike Arnovitz
  • “The Wakened Image” by Natania Barron


  • Strange Faces - nonfiction by Theodora Goss
  • Le Tarot de Gaga - feature by Amal El-Mohtar
  • Sirens & Gargoyles - art by Callie Badorrek
  • Our Queen, Our Mother Our Margaret - nonfiction by Paula Guran
  • Galactic Tomboy to Sci-Fi Pinup Girl (and Back Again) - nonfiction by Rae Bryant
  • Lost in Lovecraft: To Pnatkotus & Beyond - column - Kenneth H. Hite

    …AND MORE!
    Weird Tales #356/Summer2010

“Mr. Nine and the Gentleman Ghost”

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Original Fiction: Mr. Nine and the Gentleman Ghost
by Aidan Doyle

copyright © 2010 / May not be reproduced without permission

Elisabeth gave her invitation to the valet and received a gilt-edged program in return. It welcomed her to the Bearbrass Gentle Ladies Society Monthly Ball. The valet glanced at Elisabeth’s satchel and then escorted her into the ballroom.

Bearbrass had been a sleepy colonial outpost until gold was discovered in the nearby hills. Within three years, it had been transformed into the largest city in all of the colonies. Elisabeth did not think of this as necessarily an improvement.

A dozen chandeliers clung to the ceiling and paintings imported from the empire competed for space on the walls. An orchestra of more than twenty musicians waited on the stage at the far end of the room.

Mrs. Rittiker, the president of the Bearbrass Gentle Ladies Society, greeted Elisabeth at the entrance. She was a short, stout woman in her early fifties and wore a purple chiffon gown with a plunging neckline. “You’ve come without a chaperone again,” she said. “If I were half the gentle lady I pretend to be, I would be thoroughly scandalized.”

Elisabeth laughed. Although ostensibly the Gentle Ladies Society served as an organizer of social functions, the society’s inner council was devoted to recovering the lost knowledge of the ancient gentle ladies. She had known Mrs. Rittiker all of her life. She handed over the satchel. “Fresh from the book mines.”

Mrs. Rittiker opened the bag and took out a book. She brushed a speck of dirt from the cover and smiled when she read the title: The Gentle Ladies’ Guide to Midnight Apparitions. “No one has your talent for finding books, Elisabeth.”

She replaced the book in the satchel and handed it to a servant. “Take this to my carriage.” She took Elisabeth by the hand. “There are some handsome young men waiting to see you.” Mrs. Rittiker led her over to the other guests and a dozen young men formed a line in front of her.

Elisabeth suppressed a sigh. The only reason she came to the balls was to meet Bertie, and he was always irritatingly late.

“This is Horatio Lightfellow,” Mrs. Rittiker said. “He arrived on this morning’s zeppelin from the empire.”

“Charmed to meet you,” Lightfellow said. “At some point in the evening I would be most happy to inform you of the latest fashions in the capital.” His gaze strayed to Elisabeth’s hair. She had been born with hair made from gold.

“I had been told of the remarkable properties of Bearbrass gold,” he said. “But I wasn’t aware it extended to the city’s inhabitants.”

Elisabeth could think of nothing less interesting than talking about what clothes people she had never met were wearing. “I was conceived in a gold mine,” she said.

Lightfellow looked shocked. “I hardly think that’s something a young lady should mention.” He looked to Mrs. Rittiker for assistance. “I had heard tales of the wild women in the colonies, but I had presumed them exaggerated.”

“Bearbrass Gentle Ladies are not as gentle as the ladies of the empire,” Mrs. Rittiker said. “We take great pride in that.”

“My father was a gold prospector,” Elisabeth said. “My mother was a librarian. I am a book prospector.”

“She’s the best in all the colonies,” Mrs. Rittiker added. “Her heart is made from gold too.”

Lightfellow appeared lost for words. “May I have the pleasure of the last dance?” he eventually asked.

“I’m terribly sorry, Mr. Lightfellow,” Elisabeth replied. “I always leave the last dance free.”
He checked his program. “The seventeenth dance?”

“I would be most pleased to dance with you.” She wrote Lightfellow in the space next to 17 on her program.

Lightfellow bowed and hastily retreated. The next man stepped forward and the process continued. She insisted on leaving the last dance free.

The orchestra started playing. Her first partner led her onto the polished hardwood floor. She danced a waltz, changed partners, danced a polka, then a one step and another waltz. Her partners were a mixture of gold prospectors, bankers and cattle kings. Halfway through the night they paused for supper and crowded around tables laden with cakes and pastries. Elisabeth helped herself to a slice of chocolate cake.

Mrs. Rittiker gathered a crowd around her and began a lengthy tale of her exploits on the cricket field.
Elisabeth overheard Lightfellow expressing his disapproval of Bearbrass women.
Then everyone fell silent. Elisabeth turned around.

A four foot high ventriloquist’s puppet stood at the entrance to the room. It wore a dark suit and orange bow tie and clenched a poster in its right hand. The puppet marched mechanically towards the stage, its wooden limbs jerking as though pulled by invisible strings.

Elisabeth leaned over to Mrs. Rittiker. “Who’s that?”

“Mr. Nine. The Governor hired it to crush the miners’ rebellion. Now it can go wherever it pleases. Even the Governor’s scared of it.”

The puppet slowly made its way up the stage stairs. It took a moment to survey the crowd. “Mr. Nine is most sorry to intrude.” It unfurled a wanted poster, revealing a sketch of a monkey. “Mr. Nine wants this monkey spirit. Have you seen it?”

No one spoke. The puppet sniffed the air. It stared at Elisabeth.

Her heart hammered against her chest. “How did it come to life?” she whispered.

“The gold did it. Now it has to eat gold to stay alive.” Mrs. Rittiker glanced at Elisabeth’s golden strands. “You should be careful, my dear.”

A servant placed a table and stool at the edge of the stage. The puppet sat down and rested its elbows on the table. The little finger on its left hand was missing.

“Why is it looking for a monkey spirit?” Elisabeth asked.

“A monkey spirit bit off one of its fingers.”

A servant brought a pile of pancakes sprinkled with gold dust to Mr. Nine’s table. The puppet began eating with great gusto, shoveling the pancakes into its little mouth. It washed them down with a glass of iced water mixed with gold flakes.

The orchestra resumed playing and Elisabeth’s next dance partner escorted her onto the floor. She couldn’t help glancing at Mr. Nine and twice accidentally stood on her partner’s foot. The puppet finished eating the pancakes and licked its lips with its bright green tongue.

The dances continued until it was almost time for the last dance. Captain Albert Widdershins floated through the far wall and strode through the orchestra. The musicians scattered. No one liked having a ghost walk through them.

Elisabeth felt the tension slip away. Bertie always liked to make a grand entrance. He was six feet tall with a ramrod-straight back, a trim moustache and short hair. He had once been a zeppelin captain and wore riding boots and a tight-fitting military uniform. She could sense the envy of the other young ladies. He was the most handsome gentleman ghost in all of Bearbrass. He had died in the mines and the gold had brought him back.

He nodded to Mrs. Rittiker and glided over to Elisabeth. “If you’ll permit me to say so, you look most enchanting tonight, Miss Elisabeth.”

“Permission granted, Captain Widdershins.”

“I must once again apologize for my tardiness.”

“The hour grows late, Captain. I fear the last dance is almost upon us.”

He stepped closer to her. “If the lady would be so kind as to allow me to touch her golden locks.”

She nodded. He slipped off his gloves and put them in his belt. When his spectral hand met Elisabeth’s hair, a jolt of energy coursed through her. His ghostly hand assumed a solid form and gradually his whole body transformed into solid flesh.

His hand lingered a moment on her hair. “May I have the last dance?”

She pretended to check her program. Then she took his arm in hers. His body was cold, but she felt it growing warmer.

In her excitement at Bertie’s arrival, she had almost forgotten about Mr. Nine. The puppet watched silently from its stool. She tried to put it out of her mind.

The last dance was a waltz. The captain encircled her waist with his right arm and took her right hand in his left. He twirled her and led her around in a circle. The rest of the world seemed to disappear. It was just the music and Bertie’s strong arms. It felt like they had only been dancing for a few seconds and then the music finished.

“Once again, Miss Elisabeth you have enchanted me with your grace and beauty,” Bertie said. “I warrant that even the Queen of the Fairies would acknowledge you as the superior dancer.”

Elisabeth laughed. “And I warrant that even the King of the Leprechauns would acknowledge you as the superior flatterer.”

Footsteps sounded behind her. She turned to see Mr. Nine.

The puppet bowed. “Mr. Nine would like to request the last dance.”

“But the last dance has just finished,” she said.

“That was the second last dance,” the puppet replied. “The orchestra will play again. What is the lady’s preference? A waltz?”

“I’m sorry, but the evening is late. I must be getting home.”

“Do not concern yourself. Mr. Nine’s carriage will take you home.”

Captain Widdershins stepped in front of Elisabeth. “The lady has said she is going home. It is the height of bad manners to persist in bothering her.”

Mr. Nine stared at Widdershins. “Mr. Nine is requesting the last dance. This does not concern you.”

Elisabeth put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s all right, Bertie.” She looked down at Mr. Nine. “Thank you for your offer, but Captain Widdershins has already agreed to escort me home.”

The puppet sniffed the air and its green tongue crept along its lips. “Mr. Nine is hungry. Mr. Nine likes your smell.” The puppet stared at Elisabeth’s chest.

Widdershins plucked a glove from his belt and slapped Mr. Nine across the face.

The puppet’s eyes rolled in surprise and it glared up at Widdershins. “Mr. Nine accepts your challenge.”

* * *

The Bearbrass cricket oval also served as the dueling grounds. Elisabeth and Bertie walked to the oval, followed by a crowd of onlookers. Mr. Nine traveled by carriage.

As the host of the ball, the duty of overseeing the duel fell to Mrs. Rittiker. She directed the servants as they laid out a number of lanterns in a circle.

Elisabeth and Bertie waited near the lanterns. Clouds obscured the moon, and shadows hid Bertie’s face.

“I don’t want you to do this,” she said.

“I don’t want to do this either,” he replied. “But I have no choice. If I don’t stop the puppet, it will come for you. It wants to eat your heart.”

“Let me worry about that. I can always hide in the mines.”

“It is my duty as a gentleman to protect you.”

“I can look after myself. Who is going to look after you?”

“I am a most accomplished duelist,” he replied.

“Why do you have to fight now? If you wait until morning, you’ll be spectral again.”

“If I’m spectral, I can’t hold a gun,” Bertie said.

“What happens if a ghost is killed?” she asked.

“If a ghost dies, you should collect some of its blood. Ghost blood has many powers.” He paused and then said, “I want you to promise me that you’ll take the first zeppelin in the morning if I don’t win.”

Elisabeth shook her head. “Not without you.”

“You know it won’t be safe here. Promise me.”

“Only if you promise that you won’t die.”

Bertie laughed. “I’m already dead.”

Mrs. Rittiker walked over to them. “You shouldn’t go through with this,” she said. “The puppet is near unkillable. The only thing that can stop it is if you bite off parts of its body. That’s why it can’t replace its finger. The monkey spirit bit it off.”

“Thank you for your concern, dear lady. I shall disable the puppet with a shot to the head and then I shall use my teeth to sever what body parts I deem necessary.”

Elisabeth took his hand. “Please, Bertie.”

“A zeppelin captain never backs away from a fight.”

Mrs. Rittiker sighed. “Then we are ready to start.” She walked to the center of the circle.
Bertie squeezed her fingers. “Goodbye Beth.” He let go of her hand and followed Mrs. Rittiker.

Mr. Nine’s driver opened the puppet’s carriage door. Mr. Nine stepped out of the carriage and set off towards the circle. The driver took a wicker laundry basket from inside the carriage and then followed after the puppet.

Mr. Nine marched into the illuminated circle. The driver stopped at the edge of the crowd. About fifty onlookers, including several women, had come from the ball to watch the spectacle. Their faces were hidden in the shadows cast by the lanterns, but Elisabeth heard their excited voices. Witnessing a duel between a puppet and a ghost would give them a tale to entertain their society friends.
Elisabeth swore at the top of her voice.

The crowd fell into a shocked silence.

“Be quiet,” she said softly.

Mrs. Rittiker waited until Bertie and the puppet stood next to each other.

“Do either of you wish to withdraw from this duel?”

“No,” Bertie said.

“Mr. Nine is ready to fight,” the puppet said.

Mrs. Rittiker handed a dueling pistol to each of the combatants. They inspected the guns and then exchanged them. They took up positions at opposite edges of the circle.

Elisabeth noticed that Mr. Nine’s driver had opened the wicker basket and was peering into it.
Mrs. Rittiker held a red handkerchief in her hand. She lifted her arm and then dropped the handkerchief.

Bertie aimed his gun and fired. Mr. Nine’s wooden head exploded.

The puppet’s body raised its gun and shot Bertie between the eyes.

Captain Widdershins tumbled to the ground.

Elisabeth sprinted to his side. She shook him, but he didn’t respond. His body was cold. She wiped the blood from his face with her handkerchief. She closed his eyes and kissed his cold lips. His body faded away.

Mr. Nine’s driver carried a wooden head with an identical face on it towards Mr. Nine’s headless body.

* * *

Elisabeth put on her pair of cats-eye spectacles and stepped into the mine shaft. It was dark, but the glasses allowed her to see. After ten minutes she reached a large cavern with a dozen tunnels branching off in different directions. She knew this area well and had a good idea where to look for the book she wanted. She chose one of the tunnels leading south.

Eventually she noticed some small, brown, spotted, speckled mushrooms. The wall was moist, damp, clotted and earthen. Adjectives were one of the most common signs of buried books. Now all she had to do was find a subtext. She put her nose against the earth. There was the faint smell of lemon. She followed the scent until she found a vein of books hidden near the wall. She took a small spade from her tool bag and started clearing away the dirt from the top of the dozens of books. It took her three hours, but eventually she found the book she was looking for.

Separating a book from the earth required a precision tool. It was easy to make mistakes. Several times in the past, she had cut the pages and the words had bled everywhere.

She probed the dirt at the edge of the cover with her book scalpel. After a few delicate cuts, she removed the book from the ground and looked at the cover.

The Gentle Ladies’ Field Guide to Animal Spirits.

She leafed through it until she found an illustration that matched the sketch on the wanted poster.

The golden spectral monkey.

She carefully excised the page and smeared it with the ghost blood from her handkerchief. The page transformed into a spectral monkey.

“Do you know who I want you to kill?” she asked.

The monkey nodded. “I need gold to make me corporeal,” it said.

Elisabeth grabbed her pair of scissors. She was about to cut a lock of her hair, but the monkey shook its head.

“I require greater payment,” it said.

It pointed at her heart.

* * *

Every month Elisabeth attends the Bearbrass Gentle Ladies Society Monthly Ball. She is not nearly as graceful a dancer as she used to be. A wooden heart is not an ideal substitute for one made of gold. But she is still the most beautiful girl in all of Bearbrass and many men want to dance with her.

They ask if they can have the last dance, but Elisabeth apologizes.

She always leaves the last dance free.


About the Author:

Aidan Doyle is an Australian writer and computer programmer. He loves traveling and has visited more than 70 countries. He is a Clarion South graduate and his stories and articles have been published in places such as Fantasy Magazine, The Internet Review of Science Fiction,, Science Fiction Weekly and Australian small press magazines.

One Minute Weird Tales: vol. 2 no.2

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

“Catching an Angel”, written by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. The video was created by Gregory Bossert.

Embed our one-minute weird wonders to your heart’s content — and be sure to follow us via RSS, LiveJournal, or Facebook to catch them all!

Growing Up Poe: Alethea Kontis

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe would be celebrating his 200th birthday this year. He cast an epic shadow across American fiction; he inspired every last horror writer who came after him; and his fans founded this very magazine. Weird Tales wondered if Poe still has the same impact today — so in our latest issue, we asked a bevy of dark fantasists (including Cherie Priest, whose essay we’ve already published online) how much the Grandpa of the Gothic loomed in their tender years. The answer: a whole freakin’ lot. Here’s what geek princess Alethea Kontis has to say about it:

* * *

GROWING UP POE: Teen Angel, Dark
by Alethea Kontis

copyright © 2009 / May not be reproduced without permission

* * *

Fourteen: the age of nihilistic fervor. The pinnacle of those egocentric, life-altering years where no one suffered as much as me. In a million years no one could possibly have understood the ineffable quagmire of emotions in which I flailed, a lone gull crying out over the empty seas of my tears.

To make matters worse (because matters could always be worse, and usually were), the innocence of youth had left me with the tiniest flicker of hope, and a dream that the brooding prince of a tiny, heretofore-unknown kingdom (who, coincidentally, happened to be my One True Love) would come galloping by on his horse at any moment to save me from the hell that was my life. He would see through the physical mess I had become and know the Real Me, the beautiful, shining beacon of soul held hostage by my own darkness. But alas! the newly-forged, freshly-jaded adult side of my Mini-Wheat knew that there was no such prince. No one was coming for me. Hope was futile. I was doomed to be left behind by the world, forever alone, a small, forgotten puddle of disappointment, darkness, and despair.

Enter Poe. And The Cure.

Life had a soundtrack in those days. The radio played songs chock-full of hidden messages, battered symphonies of secrets whispered only for my tortured ears. Volumes could be read into mixtapes that were as personal as journal entries, telling the story of my duality, my constant struggle between darkness and light. I wore my heart on my sleeve, freely dripping blood down hallways and hoping someone would notice. (That brooding prince, maybe.) I had been writing poetry since I was ten—almost a third of my life. I was in love with the power of words, the ability to say so much with so little. It was a gift—I had a gift—and I would not squander it.

Music was the logical next step in poetry’s evolution, but I was not a lyricist. Sure, I had walked around the house singing nonsense tunes as a child, but I lacked the genius code in my DNA attributed to such luminaries as Rodgers & Hammerstein, Gilbert & Sullivan, and the virtuoso that was Cole Porter. I would never be a songwriter. That didn’t mean, however, that I couldn’t lie corpse-like on my bed in a room soaked in dusk (and wallpapered in movie posters) and appreciate the talents of Robert Smith or Peter Cetera or Bryan Adams. I was that small-town girl in her lonely world, bags packed for that midnight train to anywhere (preferably an equally small, heretofore-unknown kingdom). My hurt didn’t show, but the pain still grew. Me & Charles Manson liked the same ice cream. I was a strange angel, an angel of music, and the Phantom of the Opera was there, inside my mind.

Any member of the Spring Valley Players worth his or her salt knew all the words to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s production of Phantom (though I was the only one who could sing Christine’s part). Memorization is what we did in those days. After all, if I was going to be Lights Mistress, I had to know every line of See How They Run in order to hit all my cues. Every line . . . including the first verse of “If,” by Rudyard Kipling. And when I found the rest of the poem in a set of Kipling’s works at my grandmother’s house that summer, I soaked it up. I was a sponge that could not be saturated. It was the beginning of the end.

I started memorizing all sorts of poetry after that, starting with the poems that had any excuse to be in one of our plays (“The Jabberwocky”). I memorized fun stuff with my little sister as a game — Shel Silverstein, of course, and the often-quoted-but-rarely-attributed Ogden Nash, of whom we were both great fans at a very young age (we liked mustard, even on custard). But the best part about memorizing poetry was when I got to play the role of the overachieving student. (There’s nothing like having fun and getting extra credit for it!) Shakespeare? No problem. Sonnets, Friends, Romans, Countrymen, and star-crossed lovers separated by only a balcony. Byron, anyone? Oh, the sappier the better.

Unfortunately, two of my favorite poems — “The Highwayman” and “The Raven” — were both far too long, and I would not be a complete person (as complete as I could be, imperfect soul though I was) without some Poe in my repertoire. There must be something else in my literature book. And there, buried deep in the back, I met Annabel Lee.

Known as Poe’s Last Poem, “Annabel Lee” was beautiful and sad, true and tragic. It spoke to me, telling me a tale of a love that was more (more!) than love, a love that made even heaven jealous, the one love that lasts a lifetime . . . albeit a very, very short lifetime. Obviously, the only kind of love I could possibly be destined to have, and currently, um, did not. I was covetous alongside those angels, craving such pure, rare, unprecedented, unadulterated feeling and dying a little inside their immortal souls to know they could not let it exist on the mortal plane. I read the first line out loud to myself, “It was many and many a year ago,” Poe’s Once Upon a Time. And suddenly the strangest thing happened: the poem began singing itself to me in my head.

I had never before composed a song (and likely never will again), but the words of that ballad of true love, tempests, and tragedy had an unmistakable melody that I remember to this day. It was as if Poe Himself sat at the foot of his bride’s tomb and sang to me a song only I could hear, a tune that traveled beyond time. It was sad, that song; I belted it out full voice in empty rooms, a nightingale calling in the night-tide. Perhaps many and many a year ago I had been Annabel Lee, the maiden from a tiny, heretofore-unknown kingdom by the sea, and Poe was my brooding prince. Because of the intensity of our love we could never again cohabit the mortal plane (as all men know). But he could send me the tale of our love through the bond that would always remain between our souls, and I would always carry in my heart this song we made together.

Or not.

Now that I’m grown, I chalk all that up to the silliness of youth, the alien angst we all go through. But I’d be lying if I said that part of me—a very, very small part—didn’t still pine a bit for the Poe I never knew. But I still have our song.

“Ambient Morgue Music”

Friday, November 13th, 2009

by Richard Howard

copyright © 2009 / May not be reproduced without permission

(from Weird Tales #354, Fall 2009)

* * *

The best thing about being a reviewer is that you often receive music in the old fashioned way, via a CD through your letterbox. Anyone jaded with this century’s downloading obsession and its associated esoterica of bit rates, compressions and conversions will no doubt be turning snot-coloured with envy at this point. [Oh, the quaint and glamorous life you lead… Ed.] Yes, I actually receive music through the post with handwritten covers, illustrations, bribes, pleas, death threats… and on top of that, the music is good.

Yes, it seems that only now in the 2030s is the true character of this millennium’s sound finally being heard. It’s early days yet but, for my money, the best stuff is being made right here, in Dublin. I know that looking at most mags these days you wouldn’t know it, but most of this music is being made far away from the hubris of the mainstream music business, by the disenfranchised, who can barely afford to eat, never mind pay a publicity agent. My favourite music of the last six months has, for the most part, arrived unexpectedly in my hallway like a burglar, a begging letter, a Halloween firework.

Ambient Morgue Music is one I look forward to in particular. There have been four volumes so far, arriving monthly, each accompanied with a black-and-white photograph of a corpse and a handful of soil. The track names, listed on the back, speak of bloody revolution, disease and, for reasons that will become clear later on, zoo animals. The music itself is an eerie type of lo-fi ambient; at times it’s hard to make out the music from the microphone hiss, but I presume that that’s part of the aesthetic, the sound of the room putting you right where they want you. It’s beautifully hypnotic, filled with dread and, as I found out this week, truly revolutionary.

The only contact information provided is a mobile phone number and it changes with every dispatch. Since the first Ambient Morgue’s arrival I’ve been trying desperately to contact the artist or artists, but each time the phone has either been disconnected or I get the generic answering machine drone. Last week I finally made a connection.

“Hello.” —A thick Dublin accent.

“Hello, you sent me some CDs. I really think they’re great; would I be able to meet you and have a chat? I’d like to do a piece on them.”

“Yeah de CD, ye like it yeah?”

“I think it’s some of the best music being made at the moment.”

“Okay, which one are you? Whereabouts are ye?”

“I’m living on North Circular Road.”

“Ah sure, yer only five minutes up the road. Sure come up now if ye like. Ye know where the Phoenix is. Just gis a shout when yer at the monument.”

My brain froze for a second. “Um… yeah, okay. I’ll give you a ring when I get there.”

Why had I never been to the Phoenix Park before? I’ve lived on North Circular Road for almost ten years, but I had never turned right upon leaving my house, always left towards Phibsboro. Sometimes if I was walking into the city I’d cross the road and follow the picturesque houses of Oxmantown road, before turning left and strolling through Stoneybatter, towards the River Liffey. Why had I never chosen to take my walk in one of the largest city parks in the world? Come to think of it, why does nobody I know ever talk about it, let alone go there? My head swam with these, and many other questions, as I threw on my winter coat. Leaving the house I turned right, feeling slightly askew.

It was twilight as I made my way up the road. I looked around for something to keep me grounded in what I had come to believe was reality; I fixed on the trees, trying to ignore the colossal monument coming into view. Surely I’d have noticed something of that size at the end of the road I lived on.

I entered the park and followed the winding path to the monument. I took out my phone, but there was no need. He found me. An ordinary-looking young man, smartly dressed but slightly disheveled.

“Story bud?” The easy, familiar colloquialism took the edge off the uneasy, illusory feeling that had grown inside me since leaving my house.

“Hello, pleased to meet you.” I offered my hand and we shook solidly.

He introduced himself as Dessy and then walked away, gesturing that I should follow him.

Reader, in my youth I enjoyed reading the fiction of the fantastical. Future dystopian nightmares, journeys to the stars and magickal conspiracies, I devoured them all. Bearing this in mind, I would have thought that what I’m about to explain would have been that much easier to comprehend. But, for all the reading in my youth of the classics of imaginative fiction, I was still left with nothing to compare with what unfolded over the next hour or so, beginning with the sight that startled me as we stood on top of that hill. On the area around the monument in the Phoenix Park I saw what I can only describe as a shantytown.

My stomach turned in giddy dread. I was so taken aback that Dessy had to let me stand for a while to take it in, my brain processing and reprocessing, programming and reprogramming. It was mind-blowing enough to be standing in a colossal green area in the middle of the city that had been completely erased from my consciousness like an early morning dream, but this threatened to smother my wits altogether. Rows and rows of dilapidated huts as far as I could see were broken here and there by mud tracks. Campfires burned. I could see people, too, going about their business as if following a daily routine. The atmosphere was one that my mind had never experienced, but that my body recalled, something primal and buried. How could this place, situated right in Dublin City, remain unremarked on by society?

I hadn’t much time to entertain such a question, as Dessy beckoned me to follow him and we started down the hill towards the town. I trailed behind him, my head a swarm of ideas. As we got closer I realized that the scene I’d been viewing from the hill was less rustic than I’d first assumed. Everyone appeared reasonably well-groomed and fed; the men, women and children all wore modern clothing; and the children played with toys, handheld games and bikes that placed them firmly in the center of the twenty-first century. The huts themselves, on the other hand, were made from the kind of materials I would imagine have been employed for such purposes for over a hundred years: corrugated iron, tin, loose wood, plastic sheeting, cardboard and old furniture all converged to create the bric-a-brac village we stepped through. I saw a deer being roasted over an upturned shopping trolley and then remembered reading about the deer of Phoenix Park when I was young—a realization both nostalgic and grisly given the circumstances.

Seeing the flames licking around that beast’s carcass served me well in one way, though, as I began to come to my senses somewhat and my journalistic instincts began to kick in. How did these people get here? Why had nobody ever heard of them? Where was the music made? As we walked further these turned into questions about self-preservation. What did they intend to do with me? Was the music just a ruse to kidnap a member of the press?

We stopped at another campfire. Thankfully this one didn’t contain any recently deceased wildlife, just a handful of men and women warming themselves against the intense cold. Dessy took me to the far side of the fire and introduced me to a man called Sean, who signaled for me to sit down on a cushion by the fire. Dessy disappeared.

“Now, what would you like to know?” said Sean, scratching his ample beard and staring right into my eyes.

“Um,” I stuttered, taking a second to switch fully back into journalist mode, apparent cosmonaut that I’d become. “Well, how did you get here?”

The light from a fire has a way of changing one’s appearance at every moment but, at a guess, I’d say Sean was in his mid-forties. I studied his jovial, friendly face as he mulled over the question.

“The government,” he said finally.

“That’s it? The government?”

“The Olympics,” he said, and I fidgeted on my cushion, seriously considering walking away. He must have noticed the germ of my impatience, and he began shaking his head apologetically.

“I’m sorry,”’ he said. “After all, we are the ones who have always known. You are the ones who have never known.”

I settled back down as he continued.

“You do remember the Olympics, don’t you?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Twenty years ago that bloody thing came to our city. Thousands of people forcibly removed from their homes to make way for the Olympic village, the new stadium, twelve-story car parks.” He spat into the fire at the memory. “We were promised houses out in the suburbs — well, they call them suburbs — might as well be outer space.”

“So you sought refuge here?”

“Some of us sought refuge, others were chased here. We fought pitched battles with the police all the way up North Circular Road. Caused quite a stir at the time. At one point it looked like St. Peter’s Church was going to go up in flames. Don’t know how I would have explained that one to him at the Pearly Gates. Hopefully the pigs found a way to erase it from that document, too. Haha.” His laugh turned into a cough and he spat again. The fire sizzled. “Of course some of us were already here, but the numbers were small so nobody really took any notice. Forced removal had been going on since the late nineteen hundreds and those that didn’t want to go usually came here. That caused a bit of resentment at first, because since the newcomers, everybody’s trapped here.”


“Yes. From what we can gather, it’s some kind of gravity field. If we try to leave it just propels us back. There are only three people in the whole camp that it doesn’t affect. Dessy is one of them. The rest of us can’t even pass the monument.”

“But how?”

“It was the Olympic Games. Every major technological country in the world had an interest in the games running smoothly. The amount of technology Ireland would have had at its disposal would have been unprecedented.”

“But what about everyone else… outside…”

He just shrugged his shoulders and said, “But sure, isn’t it the music you came here for? Come on.”

We walked until the huts began to thin out, and I got a twitch of recall as in the distance I saw a naggingly familiar sign: DUBLIN ZOO.

“I haven’t been here in…” I let the sentence trail off, giving in to what now appeared to be a full-scale hallucination. Deciding to jump onto surer ground, I began questioning him about the music as we pushed through the gates.

“So how did you make the music?”


I shook off his obvious flippancy and persisted with my questioning, “How do you record it?”

“My only inheritance was a suitcase full of microphones. My Dad used to record bands years and years ago. He was always buying microphones. He loved sound, god bless him and not much else… I just use them and an old computer…”

I had followed him into what used to be the reptile house.

“Don’t worry,” he said, switching on a light, “most of the animals are long dead. At the height of the battle we released a lot of them and charged the cops. The rhinos and hippos caused the most mayhem, not to mention the big cats. They were all gunned down in the end, of course. I feel terrible about that, but we made the choice. We did what we thought we had to do. Anyway, do you like it? My home studio.”

I looked around the former reptile house with the same awe that visited me atop that hill. Memories started to awaken, doors unlocked in my brain that someone evidently wanted closed forever. At that point I remembered this place, reader, even if you do not. I remembered the crocodile, the iguana and the snakes but they were gone. Each case had been turned into a recording booth, with microphones hanging from the ceiling; the largest case contained a mixing desk and a computer. Even stranger, though, was when I came in for a closer look at the booths and saw the dead body lying on a slab in each one. Sean saw the look on my face and laughed a maniac’s laugh.

“My instruments,” he said.

I couldn’t comprehend what I was feeling, hearing, seeing. Silence seemed the only option that wouldn’t further submerge my flailing sanity. My companion simply smiled and continued.

“Some of us did consider moving in here when we arrived. But then we thought that it would be better used as a kind of mausoleum. Less chance of disease spreading if we keep the dead over here. Then I had the idea of putting my studio in here, and the two ideas kind of eventually meshed together.”

My continued silence told him I still didn’t understand.

“Dead bodies fart. Anybody who works in a morgue will tell you that. All those pipes and organs and valves finally getting to relax after all those years tensed up.” He stuck out his tongue and blew a chilling raspberry, letting it echo for a second, before continuing. “The music you’re hearing is basically my recordings of gas being released from corpses. I manipulate the sounds somewhat of course . . . mostly layering them on top of each other. The last CD we sent you was a new experiment I was working on where I’m actually playing the body. I’ve developed a kind of stopper so I can restrict the flow of air from the body, while applying pressure to certain points. It’s early days yet… I don’t think I’ve even begun to scratch the surface of the potential here… I don’t think I’m far off a rudimentary scale, though.”

I still couldn’t talk.

“Oh, before I forget—” He produced a CD from his coat and put it in my hand. I was in so much shock that I nearly dropped it. He actually had to close my hand around it.

“The giraffe died last week… marvelous, elongated movements… this is just a rough demo of the stuff I’ve done with it… let me know what you think.”

Evidently I was too stunned to ask any more questions, so we both made for the exit in silence. We cut through the shantytown and, at the bottom of the hill where it all began, he bade me farewell.

“Don’t forget why we do this,” he said. “Be sure and let everyone know about us.”

I managed to force out a ‘yes,’ and scaled the hill, feeling the force of an electric current through my hair as I passed the monument. Only when I was back on North Circular Road did I begin to feel anything like myself again. I was stunned, jaded, but also excited; my hands clutched the CD so hard it hurt, gripping to the only evidence of the strange things I’d seen that night.

I ran the short distance back to my house and slammed the door behind me. Taking the CD from its cover I placed it in the stereo and sat back in my favourite chair. As the beautiful dread of what will probably become Ambient Morgue Volume Five swelled and drifted through the room, I took out the photograph. It was the first one Sean had appeared in himself. He looks like some strange kind of wizard as he works away at the giraffe, like he’s trying to give it back its life — reanimate it. In a way I suppose he is. It looks primitive and futuristic all at once. Slowly the magnitude of this thing started to hit me. I thought of how inspiring and revolutionary the music I was hearing was. The fact that I now knew the circumstances and conditions under which it was recorded made it all the more fantastic. After the music finished I pressed PLAY again and put it on repeat. I sat at the computer and began typing this article. What started out as a simple opinion piece about underground music gradually turned into the pocket odyssey you’ve just read. At this point I couldn’t care less if my sanity is in question; just please, track down this morbidly angry music for yourself. It’s simply some of the best sound you will hear this decade, lovingly crafted by someone that the world chose to forget, whose time to appear from the shadows seems to have arrived.

* * *

Richard Howard is a speculative fiction writer from Dublin, Ireland. To date he has had stories published in Electric Velocipede, M-Brane and Loki’s Journal. In 2008 he won the Weird Tales Spam Fiction contest for his story “Let Yourself Look Spiny.” He currently resides in Dublin 7 where he writes, studies English, and meditates on the exact moment the humdrum becomes the fantastic.

Weird Tales wins the Hugo Award!

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Wow. We didn’t expect this. But there it is: Weird Tales was awarded its historic first-ever Hugo Award on Sunday night as thousands cheered at the 2009 World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal.

Fiction editor Ann VanderMeer and editorial & creative director Stephen H. Segal (pictured above with WT web consultant Matthew Kressel) were there to accept the award for best semiprozine, the category that honors small-press magazines with part-time staffs. Other Hugo winners that evening included Neil Gaiman (best novel, The Graveyard Book), Elizabeth Bear (best novelette, “Shoggoths in Bloom”), and Joss Whedon (best short-form dramatic presentation, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog).

From all of us at Weird Tales, we offer our deepest thanks to all those who’ve supported and participated in our work to re-energize the magazine as a leading storytelling venue. From the brilliant writers and artists who’ve crafted these pages with us, to the readers who told all their friends how much they love the magazine these days—this is YOUR award, and we’re honored to have been there to say so.

Ann talks at length about the Hugo experience with her husband Jeff VanderMeer at Amazon’s Omnivoracious blog, where you’ll also find a link to a ton of great pictures by the io9 news crew.

Blasphemous Horrors: No. 235

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

No. 235: “Swamp Lights,” $40.

Weird Tales proudly presents “Steven Archer’s Blasphemous Horrors,”one artist’s quest to create a new Lovecraft Mythos-inspired painting every single day. And every day, you have the opportunity to buy the original artwork! The pieces are a combination of oil paint, paper, graphite, acrylic paint, scotch tape, and ink; they’re mounted on the inside of hardcover book covers and vary in size from 5×8 to 7×10 inches. Most are priced at $30 to $50; just email the artist at egolikeness at weirdtales dot net to arrange purchase by PayPal. And you can follow along with the gorgeous creepiness by subscribing to the RSS feed or friending us on LiveJournal!

Blasphemous Horrors: No. 234

Monday, June 8th, 2009

No. 234: “Oral Exam,” $40.

Weird Tales proudly presents “Steven Archer’s Blasphemous Horrors,”one artist’s quest to create a new Lovecraft Mythos-inspired painting every single day. And every day, you have the opportunity to buy the original artwork! The pieces are a combination of oil paint, paper, graphite, acrylic paint, scotch tape, and ink; they’re mounted on the inside of hardcover book covers and vary in size from 5×8 to 7×10 inches. Most are priced at $30 to $50; just email the artist at egolikeness at weirdtales dot net to arrange purchase by PayPal. And you can follow along with the gorgeous creepiness by subscribing to the RSS feed or friending us on LiveJournal!