Monday, June 18, 2018

Podcast Review: Literary Wonder and Adventure Show


I found the Literary Wonder and Adventure podcast last year while searching for something to keep me company on a fossil-hunting trip to the Catskills. After listening to a few episodes I discovered that host Robert Zoltan and his snarky companion Edgar the raven make perfect travel companions.

Zoltan (who is also the show’s producer, writer, composer, sound-mixer, editor and a dozen other occupations) travels the multiverse with Edgar (who is, well, a black-feathered bird. Voiced by Zoltan. I’m sure he does other things too. Maybe ), in their dimension-hopping domicile, the Dream Tower, in quest of speculative fiction authors to interview.  Interview, though, may not be an accurate description,  because the show is more than simple question-and-answer.   Each episode is a full conversation with many asides and much meandering. But it is meandering in an interesting way, leading you places you might never have thought to look.  Zoltan and his guests discuss the art of writing speculative fiction, often via the works of classic authors like Robert E Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Edgar Rice Burroughs, J. R. R. Tolkien, and more. They illuminate the lives of classic pulp and fantasy authors in ways that you might not have seen.

Zoltan’s guests also talk about their own writing and creative inspirations, which can become quite personal at times. I was especially drawn to author Scott Oden’s description of that timeless, almost child-like feeling of discovery one gets from the creative process. I also related all too well to his past struggles with dark feelings and how writing was a life raft in that tumultuous sea.  

I’m interested in the history of speculative fiction, so I also quite enjoyed Zoltan’s two-part conversation with author Allen Steele about the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Though SF has its roots in the works of Jules Verne, J.-H. Rosny,  H. G. Wells and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (and, one could argue, Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World), Steele suggests that the genre’s modern incarnation really began with Hugo Gernsback’s 1926 publication of Amazing Stories and fully crystallized with the 1939 issue of Astounding Stories, which featured some of the first stories from early SF legends like A. E. van Vogt, Isaac Asimov, C. L. Moore and others.

 As I drove through upstate New York in search of stromatolites and petrified Devonian trees, I felt as though I was listening to old friends having a scintillating conversation in the back seat.  The podcast’s format may not be for everyone, especially those looking for a typical Q & A, but it is greatly rewarding if you are a fan of more casual, discussion-format shows. Episodes warrant a second- and a third and fourth- listen to pick up and follow all the places Robert and his guests go.
Each installment is bookended with vignettes from Robert and Edgar’s latest adventure across the dimensions. In the course of the show, they’ve fended off vicious pterodactyls, tricked a revenge-seeking orc, dealt with a high-tech vacuum cleaner that has achieved inconvenient sentience and lived through even stranger oddities.

Zoltan spices the podcast with audio adventures, usually featuring his Leiberesque sword and sorcery rogues Dareon and Blue. These are fully realized productions brought to life with full sound effects and ambient music on par with classic radio dramas,. In their first adventure, Dareon and Blue tangle with a strange merchant and his eerie, sorcerously cerulean lamp. In their second outing, the pair protects a ship of traders on a journey through a sweltering river delta choked with mangroves, flies and dormant eldritch horrors.

The show’s theme song (composed and performed by Zoltan, of course. I doubt Edgar has the dexterity to work a synthesizer) is appropriately big and bombastic. It is the overture to a lone rider and horse galloping across the steppes to clash swords with a demon awakened from eons-long slumber in a forgotten tomb. Or perhaps it is the accompaniment to an Art Deco rocketship trailing fire as it launches from a Martian outpost to explore the star-dappled infinite night. Whatever it is, it’ll definitely get stuck in your head.


 Coming in at over an hour each episode, the Literary Wonder and Adventure Show is a great podcast for listening to on a long trip in quest of ancient sawtooth sharks (or any other type of quest, really), or while you’re writing, drawing or engaged in more esoteric creative pursuits.

You can find the Literary Wonder and Adventure Show at the Dream Tower Media website.

Episodes are also available on Youtube. On Itunes. Or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Colobops Noviportensis: A Triassic reptile from Connecticut with a powerful bite

My reconstruction of Colobops noviportensis, inspired by the Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko, Uroplatus phantasticus. And yes, that IS one of those "Silkhenge" spider egg structures (first discovered in the Amazon back in 2014) in the lower left.

Here's an article I wrote for the Spring issue of Tracks and Trails, the Dinosaur State Park newsletter.


The Triassic was a time of evolutionary experimentation. In the wake of the mass extinction at the end of the Permian that killed 90% of life on Earth, only a few unspecialized species remained.  As animals adapted to the vacant ecological niches, they evolved a staggering variety of unusual forms: vacuum cleaner-faced aquatic herbivores, fan-winged gliders, long-necked “living fishing poles” and many more. The Triassic creatures probably most familiar to Dinosaur State Park’s visitors are the crocodile-like phytosaurs and the giant flat-bodied amphibian metoposaurs. But these are only the most visible members of the strange Triassic fauna. The largest and flashiest creatures. Like our modern ecosystems, there was much more diversity on the small scale lurking in the low scrub along the river’s edge, scampering among the pine branches, burrowed under roots and in the mud. Case in point, the palm-sized Triassic lizard Colobops noviportensis which had a bite unique among reptiles both living and extinct.

Colobops- whose name means “shortened face” because of its small snout-  is known from a single mostly complete skull about 2.5 centimeters long found in a sandstone outcrop near Meriden, Connecticut. Initially discovered during roadwork in 1965, the fossil was not examined scientifically until 1993. At first, it was thought to be a distant relative of the New Zealand tuatara, but a re-examination this year made with a computer-generated 3-D scan of the skull placed it in the archosauromorpha, the group that eventually led to dinosaurs, birds, and crocodiles. Furthermore, Colobops is also thought to be one of the earliest members of the rhynchosaurs, an odd group of beaked herbivorous reptiles- though Colobops itself did not show signs of having had a beak.
The major features that make Colobops unique are its large jaw muscles called adductors. Though the muscles themselves have not fossilized, their size and strength can be inferred from the exaggerated size of the temporal fossae- the holes on the back of the skull behind the eyes that accommodated them (in humans, the temporal fossae are the depressions on the sides of the skull that run from the temples down under the cheekbones). Colobops’ adductors are, relative to its skull size, proportionately larger than those of any other known reptile, prehistoric or modern. This means that Colobops had- again relative to its size- a more powerful bite than any other Triassic reptile.
Another unusual feature of this creature is the tip of its snout which is reinforced with partially-overlapping nasal bones, a trait it shares with its larger rhynchosaur cousins. This toughened nose is also similar to the snout of the unrelated modern-day amphisbaena or legless lizard and thus may indicate some level of digging behavior in Colobops or at least an adaptation to frequent blunt force to the tip of its skull.

Since no teeth were preserved in the fossil, it’s not known exactly what Colobops ate. However, its unusual jaw adaptations suggest that it had a specialized diet rather than the generalist feeding habits of many modern small lizards. Perhaps it ate tough-shelled burrowing invertebrates. Or, if it was herbivorous like its larger rhynchosaur cousins, maybe it consumed small tubers and other tough plant parts.


While phytosaurs, metaposaurs and other odd megafauna may dominate our vision of Triassic Connecticut, Colobops and its unique jaw structure remind us that there were just as many unique animals lurking in the undergrowth, though much of their diversity has been hidden from us due to the dearth of good fossils.

REFERENCE








Monday, June 4, 2018

Review: Fauldon's Dream and the Karier of the Task by Enoch K. Enns


Mr. Fauldon is jobless and desperate (a situation many readers can relate to, I’m sure). While wandering the city streets trying to make ends meet, he comes across a curious shack offering employment. Nervous but hopeful, Mr. Fauldon steps inside and soon finds himself transported to the strange world of Euphora, tasked with the role of “carrier”- a job and title he won’t come to fully understand until late in his journey.

Mr. Fauldon is a passive character. Rather than taking decisive action, he typically allows things to happen to him instead. Any time he tries to question his circumstances, he is met with light mockery or dismissal by his apparently omniscient companion, Mr. Knowington. To a reader used to modern fantasy with active, decisive heroes this can feel odd, even tedious at times. But Fauldon’s passivity is clearly a very deliberate decision on Enns’ part rather than simply bad writing. The story seems to be an homage to Victorian-era adventure fiction in the spirit of H. Rider Haggard, where the protagonist was led on what amounted to a “sightseeing tour” of the strange world they ended up in. The reader is meant to focus not on Mr. Fauldon but on the lush, strange world of Euphora. And there is certainly plenty to see. There are mushroom people and golems made of fire, magic silk that can weave portals through the ground, playing cards enchanted with powerful, djinn-like beings, and many more, even odder things.

Enns’ writing style is deliberately anachronistic. It is at times ebullient, at times casual. There are shades of L. Frank Baum, E. R. Eddison, and James P. Blaylock’s more whimsical adventures. The author’s frequent asides throughout the story are reminiscent of Elizabethan-era plays, a resemblance that is further reinforced by the chapter titles which are all labeled by “scenes”.


In his afterword, Enns’ says that there are more adventures to come in the world of Euphora, so hopefully readers will be able to explore deeper into the stories of the characters we have seen so far. The writing style is definitely not for those looking for a typical modern fantasy or pulpy action adventure. But fans of Victorian and early-20th-century fantasy fiction will find much to enjoy in Fauldon’s Dream.

You can get a copy of Fauldon's Dream here.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Scarecrow Harvest Festival preview!

For the past few months, I've been writing and illustrating a book for my son.  He's super into all things spooky and Halloweeny, so this story is all about scarecrows. You may remember some of the sketches I posted a while ago, and the "Scarecrows I Have Known" blog (which is kind of hanging in limbo right now). I wanted each scarecrow in the story to have its own personality and backstory. Eventually, I plan to write up all those backgrounds into their own book with new illustrations. For now, though, I'm focusing on finishing this picture book in time for Halloween.

Here are a few preview pages. While the scarecrows themselves are finished, the background isn't final, though it gives you some idea of what the pages will look like.

 




And just for fun, here are some of the original doodles that these guys are based on.





I'll post more preview pages soon, along with background information and some of my inspirations and influences.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The myth of Izanagi and Izanami part 2

A while ago I wrote a post about the myth of Izanagi and Izanami, the Creator God and Goddess of Japanese mythology, which provided a substantial part of the backstory for my novel, At Yomi’s Gate. There’s more to the myth, and I really meant to get back to it sooner, but life got distracting and demanded my attentions elsewhere. But now I’m finally back with Part 2. Go here to read Part 1.

When we last left off, Izanami had just died giving birth to the fire god Kagu-tsuchi and her husband Izanagi slew said god in his grief and anguish.

Unable to accept his wife’s death, Izanagi journeyed to the gate of Yomi, the land of the dead, to see her once more. In the Kojiki- the primary source for much of early Japanese mythology- Yomi is presented as a real place under the Earth rather than a separate metaphysical realm like the Buddhist or Christian Hells (my version, though, is more like the latter two, in that it is another plane of existence). At the entrance, Izanagi calls to his spouse, begging her to return to the land of the living. She appears, obscured in deep shadows, but laments that she cannot leave Yomi because she has already eaten the food of the underworld and has thus become a part of the realm. She does, however, promise to speak with the mysterious gods of Yomi and see if she can strike a deal with them. It’s worth noting that these rulers of the underworld are never elaborated on anywhere else in the Kojiki. It’s possible the reference to them came from another source, now lost, that was consulted when this book was compiled.

Izanagi soon grows impatient and, grabbing a torch, goes in after his wife. When he finds Izanami at last, his light reveals that she is a rotting corpse crawling with maggots. Horrified, Izanagi flees back towards the surface.  Ashamed at being seen in her decayed state, Izanami flies into a rage and sends the Yomo-tu-siko-me, or hags of Yomi, after him.

My attempt at illustrating in the Ukiyo-e woodblock print-style. Except without the wood block.    

To evade his pursuers, Izanagi flings down the comb and leather string binding his hair which magically transform into, respectively, bamboo shoots and grapes that the siko-me eagerly stop to eat. But Izanami won’t let him escape that easily. She sends a massive army of demonic warriors to continue the pursuit, backed up by eight gigantic maggot-demons that grew from her own body. Despite the tremendous odds against him, Izanagi manages to fight them off using his divine sword- and also a handful of peaches (a weird little detail derived the ancient Chinese practice of using peaches to dispel evil spirits).

Another Ukiyo-e attempt. There's a reason this isn't my primary style...
After finally driving back the Underworld hordes, Izanagi seals the entrance to Yomi with a massive boulder. Izanami herself comes to the blocked entrance and calls out to him, threatening to kill a thousand people each day. Izanagi responds by saying that each day he will, in turn, build one thousand five hundred birthing huts to help mortals replace the people she takes.

Putting the whole Yomi debacle behind him, Izanagi purifies himself by bathing in a river. During this ritual multiple deities sprout from the clothes he leaves on the shore and from the cleansing waters that touch his body. The most prominent of these beings are the three major deities of Japanese Shinto mythology: Amaterasu the sun goddess and ruler of the mortal world; Tsukuyomi, god of the moon; and Susano-o, god of storms and the sea.

Delighted by these new gods, Izanagi gives them control over the mortal world. While Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi are content with their stations, Susano-o is deeply unsatisfied and weeps day and night, desperately begging to see his mother, Izanami. Even though he was technically spawned from just one parent, he clearly still considers Izanami his mother since he was born from the pollution of her realm that washed off Izanagi’s body.

Enraged by Susano-o’s petulance- and by this painful reminder of his former wife- Izanagi banishes his son to exile. After this final act, Izanagi ascends to the Heavenly Palace and leaves the Kojiki narrative.

At least that’s how it happens in our world. In the world of the Magma Sea Cycle, Izanagi’s tasks on Earth are not quite done thanks to a certain fire god that he thought he’d killed....

You can get a copy of my novel, At Yomi's Gate here and here.

The information for this post was taken from Doland L. Philippi's translation of the Kojiki for University of Tokyo press.






Saturday, April 7, 2018

Review: The Loved Dead and Other Tales by C. M. Eddy, Jr., edited by Jim Dyer



Clifford Martin “C. M.” M. Eddy, Jr. was a pulp writer known today primarily for his tale “The Loved Dead”, which was extensively rewritten by H.P. Lovecraft.  Eddy was a close friend both to Lovecraft and to Harry Houdini and even worked as a ghostwriter and investigator for the latter. After the pulps vanished, Eddy’s work was largely forgotten until recently when his stories were reprinted by his grandson, Jim Dyer, under the small press Fenham Publications.

It took me a bit to get used to Eddy’s style. After his first story, the titular, Lovecraft-reworked “Loved Dead”, the clich├ęd caveman-adventure “Weapons of Stone” and the supernaturally-tinged (or maybe not) “Red Cap of the Mara” seemed a bit of a come-down. But the speed and energy of the stories eventually warmed me to them. Eddy’s works are fairly typical of the stuff appearing in the pulps: thrilling adventures deliberately meant to be read quickly. “Pot-boilers” so to speak. To make a living as a pulp writer, one had to be fast. The most successful (though not necessarily most famous) authors could churn out multiple stories in a week. Eddy was one of these fast, successful authors and, as a result, his writing sounds very much like the expository dialogue of old-time radio programs. Characters talk out their emotions and inner monologues in what I can’t help hearing as that crackling, rapid-fire style common to films of the 1940s. Think of His Girl Friday or anything with Humphrey Bogart. Eddy’s stories may not have been particularly memorable, but they were never meant to be. They were created to be an evening’s entertainment, not enduring classics.

To make a living as a writer one also had to be diverse. There were dozens of genres to write in: Romance, Western, Science Fiction, Adventure, Crime, Sports, Weird, Horror, Sword and Sorcery, etc. Plus some genres that are uncommon or non-existent today such as Oriental stories- basically anything set east of Constantinople- or what could be called Paleolithic Adventures- stories about prehistoric men and women living in an age of stone tools and megafauna. Eddy, like most pulp authors, wrote in multiple categories.

Here’s a run-down of the stories contained within this collection.

The Loved Dead
The most well known of Eddy’s stories. When the tale was first printed in Weird Tales magazine, it quickly gained infamy for its alleged references to necrophilia. Several decency societies even tried to have the issue it appeared in banned- an effort that only succeeded in driving up sales of Weird Tales and actually saved the pulp from bankruptcy.

As for the plot itself, the Loved Dead is rather tame by modern standards. It is a lurid tale of a man’s obsession with death and corpses. The necrophilia elements are subtle if they’re even there at all.

A few of the stories in the book included story heading artwork created by Andrew Brosnatch for the original 1920s publications.

With Weapons of Stone
Stories set in the Paleolithic age were popular in the old pulp magazines and this one seems pretty typical of the genre. Two men are competing for the right to take the same woman as their mate. To settle the matter, they must fight and defeat the dreaded Smilodon which is the enemy of their people. This story is notable in the fact that the woman who is the “prize” actually takes matters into her own hands to aid the man she prefers instead of waiting passively at home for the winner.

Red Cap of the Mara
A modern-day (well, 1920s) retelling of the myth of the swan maiden or selkie who becomes a man’s bride when he steals her magical garment. It’s one of those romances where the characters fall in love five minutes after meeting, then get married two months later, only for the man to find out his wife wasn’t at all what he was expecting.  Reminds me a little of the Val Lewton 1940s version of the film Cat People.

An Arbiter of Destiny
An odd crime tale of hypnotism and long-delayed revenge. The explanation of what’s going on at the end gets kind of confusing.

The Cur
This story feels like 1920s “torture porn”. Certainly an extreme example of a “true crime thriller”. An unsuccessful writer goes crazy, ties up then torments his wife in order to write a story about a man who ties up and torments his wife.

The Better Choice
John Castle has perfected a machine that can return the dead to life. It only needs one final test, for which John goes to the extreme. He kills himself with poison, leaving instructions for his business partner to revive him with the machine in a few hours. But the being who greets John on the Other Side has different plans.

Ashes
Another tale of fearful science. Brilliant chemist Arthur Van Allister has developed a chemical that will reduce anything it touches besides glass to a pile of white ash. He knows this chemical will revolutionize the world. He just needs one final test subject. And unlike the protagonist of the previous story, he has no intention of testing his creation on himself...

Eterna
A strange vampire story with shades of Dorian Gray and perhaps even a bit of Asenath Waite from Lovecraft’s The Thing on the Doorstep.   

Arhl-a of the Caves
Another paleolithic tale of two men fighting over a woman. Again, though, the titular woman, Arhl-a, takes matters into her own hands to be with the one she wants.

The Ghost-Eater
An eerie story of phantoms and werewolves in the vein of a Victorian ghost story. The Ghost-Eater was partially revised by Lovecraft, though his signature style is not nearly as apparent here as in The Loved Dead.

Another neat header illustration by Andrew Brosnatch

Deaf, Dumb and Blind
Another Lovecraft revision. This is my favorite story in the anthology.
Richard Blake is a famous writer of Weird fiction. After being injured in the Great War, he is left without sight, hearing or speech, though he is still highly sensitive and articulate with the written word.
Blake spends his days weaving stories at his typewriter in an ancient but comfortable house on the edge of a swamp with only his loyal aide for companionship. Blake’s is a quiet life, until the day the nameless thing haunting the old dwelling finally makes its presence known.

Souls and Heels
A classic pulp detective story with a bit of a supernatural twist.

Sign of the Dragon
An epic-scale adventure novella about spies and global conspiracies.
Chester Brent receives a gift from his dying father: a ring in the shape of a Chinese dragon. With the ring comes a pledge. Should Chester ever meet someone who bears the ring’s twin, he must render them assistance to the limit of his abilities. You can guess what happens, of course.
Sign of the Dragon is quintessential pulp adventure. While not especially memorable, it is a fast, entertaining read as long as you can get into the spirit of it.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Review: Heroes of Red Hook, edited by Brian M. Sammons & Oscar Rios


Though H. P. Lovecraft is a beloved writer of Weird horror, to say his writings had some problems with race is putting it mildly. Some fans say argue that he was simply a product of his time. Others say his bigotry went beyond the mainstream level of the era. Regardless of where one stands in this debate, the fact remains that racism is prevalent in many of Lovecraft’s works. While I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss his writing because of this unfortunate aspect, it needs to be acknowledged that its presence is hurtful and dehumanizing to some people.

Heroes of Red Hook is a response to one of Lovecraft’s more overtly racist stories, “The Horror At Red Hook”, where the diversity of peoples in this New York neighborhood are reduced to devil-worshipping, degenerate mongrel hordes. This anthology is not meant to bash Lovecraft and his stories, however. There is a clear appreciation and enthusiasm for the Mythos and the huge contribution Lovecraft made to horror and Weird fiction. These tales simply attempt to humanize and give voice to the marginalized in American society-People of Color, LGBT folk, immigrants, people with disabilities, etc.

Although this anthology was inspired by Lovecraft, few of the tales possess the cosmic, existential horror of the Old Man of Providence.  Most of them are pulp adventure, or at the very least adventurous horror in the vein of Titus Crow, Thomas Carnacki or the Call of Cthulhu RPG- which makes sense since the publisher, Golden Goblin Press, also creates adventure scenarios for that game Here the protagonists often triumph over- or at least temporarily stop- the supernatural horrors around them (though the non-supernatural societal horrors arrayed against them are another matter).

There are a lot of stories in this book and while it is great to see such a diversity of characters, the high volume does limit space, resulting in some works feeling rushed. Many a tale has a fantastic, detailed build-up, only to suddenly push the horrors onto the stage and run them past before the word count runs out. Still, I love the set-up for many of these and hope that at least a few authors will return to their creations in the future.

Here’s a run-down of the stories

A True Telling of the Terror That Came to Red Hook
by William Meikle

As the title says, this is a matter-of-fact retelling/exploration of what really happened in Lovecraft’s story. It concerns a black jazz musician and his Kurdish friend as they investigate that weird Suyden guy who keeps hanging around the local dancehalls and churches.

This story actually does a lot to clarify the original “Red Hook”, the ending of which is a confusing mish-mash of demonic imagery and purple prose that seems to be trying to imitate an Hieronymus Bosch painting.

Ivan and the Hunting Doll
by Mercedes M. Yardley

Ivan emigrated from Russia when he was just a boy and now struggles to survive as an adult in the East Side tenements of New York. One day he receives a gift- an eerie porcelain doll- from his grandmother who stayed behind in the Old Country. Naturally, the doll is more than just an inanimate toy. It is an artifact out of the old myths and fairy tales. Tales that often have a bright, pretty cover hiding dark things beneath.

A Gentleman of Darkness
by W. H. Pugmire

Alma is visiting her artist associate, Carl Pent, to discuss his bizarre dreams and frequent bouts of somnambulism. During her visit, she hears the otherworldly music of Pent’s quiet Egyptian neighbor and learns from him that scraps of darkness may still linger in Red Hook even when the larger horrors have been vanquished.

Hungry Ghosts
by Cody Goodfellow

Dr. Wing Ho is well-versed in matters strange and supernatural, which is why he’s called in to investigate a bizarre murder in San Francisco’s Chinatown. A man has apparently been teleported halfway through a wall in an old alley. What sort of being could have done this? Where did it go? And why do some of the bricks in the alley appear to be made of solid gold?

Tell Me No Lies
by Sam Stone
Adrienne’s lover, Sarah, has been murdered and she’ll do anything to find the killer. Her need for closure eventually leads her to a very unusual spirit medium in New Orleans.

O Friend and Companion of Night
by Vincent Kovar

There are supernatural forces in this story, but the true horror lurking here is the monstrous practice of gay conversion therapy.

This is, unfortunately, one of the tales that rushes through the end. Though the slow building dread that permeates the majority of the telling makes up for its too-quick ending. It would have worked well as a longer piece, or even a short novel.

Across A River of Stars
by Scott R. Jones

Brothers Aaron and Micah have been sent to the front lines of World War One, though they are not exactly eager to fight for the Canadian government that has tried so hard to snuff out their Cree heritage in the Mission schools. In war-torn France, they meet a man searching for something supernatural among the mud and ruins. A beast of hunger and cold from the Frozen North of their own home.

Old Time Religion
by Paula R Stiles

In the North Carolina State Archives, there is a short journal that belonged to a woman investigating local folk songs in the 1920s. Though her account is brief, it is clear she encountered something odd in the small town of Cherokee Holler. There’s a song known by all the townsfolk about a mysterious being names Judas Charlie, who a special hold on the community.

Men and Women
by Oscar Rios

One of my favorite stories.  John and Danni are investigators of the occult whose experiences have taught them how to see the mythos bubbling up through the cracks of mundane reality. Their latest case leads them to a small isolated community where every woman and girl over the age of 10 has inexplicably become pregnant at the same time as part of a rite for a certain Black Goat of the Woods.

The Eye of Infinity
by Sam Gafford

Two rival gangs of youths in 1920s New York must call a truce and work together to figure out who is stealing kids off their streets and why.

Lords of Karma
by Glynn Owen Barrass and Juliana Luartaroli

Lily Crawford has been having strange dreams ever since she came out of her years-long fugue with complete amnesia. She dreams of working at a huge table in a strange city, recording her life and all her knowledge for being she can’t clearly make out, but who she refers to as the Lords of Karma.
While an interesting variation on The Shadow Out of Time, this story has a tendency to focus way too much on setting. Long descriptions of buildings and hallways start to distract from the narrative of a young woman trying to figure out what happened to the missing parts of her life.

A Ghostly Detestable Pallor
by Penelope Love

Beatrice discovers the fate of her missing Zio Pietro when he returns to his shop transformed into a horrid, maggot-like monstrosity. After ending his torment, she follows a trail of clues to a cult of white supremacists attempting to use dark science experiments to eliminate the “undesirables” around them.

Crossing the Line
by Tom Lynch

Jack doesn’t feel like he fits in anywhere. Not with his father’s culture in New York’s Chinatown, nor with his white mother’s American relatives who look at him with disdain. The only people who accept him for who he is are those monks in green robes lead by Brother Eng. They seem kind and benevolent, but something about them just isn’t quite right...

The Guilt of Nikki Cotton
by Pete Rawlik

A mysterious disease is slowly spreading over the world, leaving its victims immobile and locked out from reality. There is no cure, only round-the-clock care in a special hospital ward.

Nikki Cotton has been assigned to one such ward, built in the back of a Red Hook theater to house the members of the troupe who have fallen victim to the epidemic. To break up the monotony of the ward, the owner has decorated the room with works of art. Including several busts made of an unearthly fungal white marble. Nikki finds the stone faces deeply unnerving, though she cannot say exactly why.

Brickwalk Mollies
by Christine Morgan

A story about prostitutes and their struggle against a certain “Doctor Jack” who has fled from London to prey on the women of Red Hook. This Ripper, however, is more than just a mortal man.

The Backward Man
by Tim Waggoner

Another one of my favorites. Jacob can’t help counting. Cars, pedestrians, flowers. Always in sets of fives. It’s the only way for him to keep his universe in order.  That becomes more than just a metaphor on the day Jacob sees a man walking backward down the street, his boneless mushroom-white fingers writhing like serpents. The Backwards Man is counting too. But his numbers are slowly unmaking reality, leaving cracks of void where order breaks down. And Jacob might be the only one who can do anything about it.

Beyond the Black Arcade
by Edward M. Erdelac

A fictional adventure in the life of Zora Neale Hurston,  investigator anthropologist and a major figure of the Harlem Renaissance- perhaps most well known for her novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God”. In this tale, Hurston’s exploration into Hoodoo (a variant of Voodoo practiced in Louisiana) leads her deep into the bayous where she comes across the remains of the site where Inspector LeGrasse fought cultists in “The Call of Cthulhu”.

This story also expands on the “black-winged things’ and “a forgotten pool where a white thing dwelt” briefly mentioned in Lovecraft’s original story.

Shadows Upon the Matanzas
by Lee Clark Zumpe

There’s a lot of plot in this one. Almost too much.  Ancient Incan emperors, secret societies, colonial Spanish ruins, investigative journalism. So much happening in such a short time that the tale feels like the summary of a full novel.  Not quite enough meat to the story. I actually enjoy the depth of detail, I just wish this could have been a longer story or a full-fledged book.

You can get a copy of Heroes of Red Hook at Golden Goblin Press' website.