Thursday, August 6, 2020

Leviathan 4 Hardcovers

In my move, I have discovered a box of Leviathan 4 anthologies in hardcover. Leviathan 4 followed the World Fantasy Award-winning Leviathan 3 anthology. These are going minimally for about $15 + shipping a piece new on the Amazon 2nd hand market. I'll let mine go for $12 a piece and pick up media mail shipping in the Continental USA. And, if you like, I 'll sign it, since I edited it. Great stories by Jay Lake, Stepan Chapman, Michael Cisco, Ben Peek, Catherine Kasper, KJ Bishop, Darla Beasley, Ursula Pflug, and Tim Jarvis. This is a showcase of the weird and fantastical, all about cities. Ping me and get a copy - I really want these to get out of my writing area so I have more room to create new stuff! Let me know if you want yours signed. And would you just look at that cover art? Rowr!


Choose Your Own Adventure/Endless Quest Bundle

I've got some old, fairly beat-up copies of the following. I'd like to get rid of them all at once. First person who offers $20 (Postage paid in Continental USA only) gets them. I'm surprised how much some of these are fetching out there, but these are in crap condition, so 20 bucks gets them all. Pay via paypal. 

Included are the following:

D&D Endless Quest Mountain of Mirrors

Choose Your Own Adventure 1, The Cave of Time

CYOA 86 Knights of the Round Table

CYOA 87 Exiled to Earth

CYOA 110 Invaders from Within

CYOA 128 Viking Raiders

I will not split these - it's an all or nothing sale. I will send USPS media mail. 

Here are the pictures:

Friday, July 31, 2020

The Double Star and Other Occult Fantasies

The Double Star and Other Occult FantasiesThe Double Star and Other Occult Fantasies by Jane de La Vaudère

Jane de La Vaudère's The Double Star and Other Occult Fantasies came highly recommended to me from some readers whose opinions I highly regard. Those kind of expectations set me on edge, sometimes, as I'm prepared to be disappointed because, well, taste is taste, and no one has exactly the same taste. I went in, then, with a little trepidation, but some excitement, as well. I steeled myself for the worst . . .

. . . then I melted into the pages. I found myself oozing into a pool of decadence and supernatural fantasy. And though there were moments that tested my patience (more on this later), it was an enjoyable read. A good read, bordering on great.

Kafkaesque suffering and injustice meet Borgesian ecstasies in the mist of a Coleridge opium-dream in "Emmanuel's Centenary". The poetics here are extraordinary and the plot at once excruciating and sublime. The voice is beautiful and terrifying. Heaven and hell, all at once.

"A Vengeance" may or may not have a supernatural element to it. The reader's tilt, in this regard, will determine if the story is a piece of horror or simply a thriller. At issue is a statue and whether or not said statue had . . .intent. It all rides on this. It is an effective story in pushing the reader to make a decision and thus become more vested in it. I, for one, lean hard to intention!

The titular story, "The Double Star" is a hallucinatory phantasmagoria of celestial imagery and occult symbolism. At moments a bit pedantic about non-vegetarians, it still shines with a certain gnostic luster, albeit of dubious philosophical merits. I'm making it sound like I didn't enjoy the story, but I rather did, in fact. Just a titch condescending is all. Really, a marvelous read!

Mesmerism and a strange form of vampirism combine in the decadent tale "Reincarnation". And by "decadent," I mean clearly in the vein (pun intended) of the Decadent writers of the end of the 19th-century. A Dorian Gray-esque mechanism of transference is used to restore life and love. The story became a little long in the tooth with elaborate explanations of occult philosophy in the middle. It wasn't unbearable, but it was tedious. Very tedious. I noted this tendency in a few of the stories herein. I could have done with much less explication and more showing of doctrinal and theoretical concerns through the characters' dialogue, through action, or through the story structure itself. It's not a deal-breaker, but definitely slowed things down and dampened my enthusiasm. This story ended differently than I had expected, but in a guilty-pleasant surprise. I shouldn't have liked the ending, but I did.

"Astral Amour" suffers from the same structural weakness-of-frame as "Reincarnation", and is more predictable in its ending. It is not quite as effective as the preceding tale, but it still stands with a high degree of quality and writerly aplomb. For example, this story contains the most eloquent description of anti-natalism I've ever read. And making anti-natalism into a thing of eloquence is quite a feat (just ask Thomas Ligotti).

One day, I learned that Viviane was a mother. I conceived a profound chagrin in consequence, for it seemed to me that the little being who was scarcely breathing would take all the solicitude of the woman. Nature has determined that there should be an infinite tenderness in maternity, in order that the torture of childbirth should be braved and desired even by those faint hearts who do not understand the futility of their mission and the cruelty of their obedience. An admirable folly that consists of making with one's flesh and blood sad and paltry beings whose life will be spoiled by the thought of death, and who will toil daily without a single moment of real happiness! A proud folly that consists of building temples and palaces that the wind will sweep away, and which will have scarcely more duration than the pygmies who constructed them!

"Yvaine" is a convoluted, engrossing tale of love, betrayal, incest, murder, black magic, and spectral vengeance. The framing mechanisms' dated feel do not lessen the impact of the story. Like all great horrific tales, this one extends far beyond the pages, with an ending full of frisson. How this story was not anthologized several times over, I don't know. To me, it is a Classic. This story is worth the full price of the book and then some.

"Sapho" is a clever little story. Very clever. Very short. Who is the real hunter and prey in this tale? It all depends on your perspective.

Another circus story, this one entitled "Red Lust," isn't quite as effective as "Sapho," as it misses the cleverness of the former tale. La Vaudere has a fascination with black panthers and circuses, I've noticed. Still, a good story, well-told. It could have benefited with a little more background on the antagonist, Antonia.

"The Dream of Myses" is, indeed, a nightmare, albeit a poetic one. The story is of the much and rightfully-maligned "it was all a dream" type, but in an inverse fashion. I'm also not a big fan of stories set in ancient Egypt - I don't know why, I just don't like the setting. It's a good story with strengths, but it didn't astound me like some of the others in this collection.

Though stilted, in places, this is a strong collection. "Yvaine" is one of the stronger stories I've read in a while and, as I said, compensates for the price of admission all on its own. The other stories range from rather good to outstanding, and de La Vaudère's signature voice can be heard throughout (undergirding a variety of voices from here varied characters, some of whom are quirky enough that you might identify people you know "in" them). If I saw an anthology with one of her stories in it, I would be sure to pick it up, as I am certain that her voice would add strength that otherwise might remain unseen, if we are only to rely on the male decadent writers, as good as some of them are. I would hope that future decadent anthologies would include her work, particularly as translated by the inimitable Brian Stableford. Her voice must be heard!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Mörk Borg

Mörk BorgMörk Borg by Pelle Nilsson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was first attracted to this RPG by the black-metal aesthetic, truth be told. I was pleased to find a rules-lite RPG heavy on creating atmosphere and, in particular, one that builds that atmosphere into character creation and history. Character quirks, habits, and background are amazing and dark, dark, dark. These are true murder hobos! The mood here shares similarities to Mothership and the setting book Vorheim.

The character classes (all optional - you can play without classes) are excellently constructed, both in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. Truly unique abilities and disabilities accrue to each class. All the ad-hoc home rules you've always wanted for creating a scumbucket character? They're here.

The monsters who these broken characters will face are equally evocative. For example, "Lady Porcelain" are vengeful undead spirits of murdered children inhabiting porcelain dolls in which their bodies had been entombed alive. YAAASSS!!! And they bite!

Speaking of things horrific, the adventure included herein, Rotblack Sludge is a tough little dungeon (a true, actual dungeon, in the old medieval sense) that will most definitely kill careless characters. Those who are very careful *might* survive. It's a short adventure, probably one session-worth, or two if the players are as careful as they ought to be. A nice addendum that fits the mood perfectly.

This is unlike any other RPG book. The dark poetry of the words and art lets the campaign setting breathe into your brain. It will infect you. You have freedom to despair under the crushing blackness of Mörk Borg . . . however you like! The campaign is more than a setting, though, it is a summoning, an evocation. Brilliant in all its darkness. Oh, and look for the glow-in-the-dark sigils on the spine. Yes, you read that right . . . but it may be the last thing you see in the dark, ever!

View all my reviews

Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Varvaros Ascensions

I am very happy to announce that my book The Varvaros Ascensions will soon be available from Mount Abraxas press! I have loved Mount Abraxas books (and their sistercompany Ex Occidente) for quite some time now and have longed to have work printed in one of their beautiful books. Now is the time. Inquiries about purchasing should go to the email address listed in the announcement below. I am also including rough-cuts (not fully complete) of some of the wonderful art that will be a part of this volume.

Forrest Aguirre is the Winner of World Fantasy Award (2003) and THE VARVAROS ASCENSIONS is his first exclusive book for Mount Abraxas Press.
A collection of two novellas, published in the same series of tall, oversized books as SALT FLOWERS FROM THE YEARS OF DROUGHT (Colin Insole), THE VARVAROS ASCENSIONS is an astonishing, intoxicating, heavy slab of Weird and Fantastic Literature.
The book's feverish artwork is by the amazing Valin Mattheis.
An obscure bibliographic reference to "The Arch: Conjecture of Cities" leads a student of Urban Planning on an obsessive search, resulting in the discovery that at the root of all cities are people; mostly oblivious to the part they play.
"The Ivory Tower" links the chains between the deep history of mankind's emergence from the bowels of the earth and its reaching up into the cosmic void.
Both works explore the question: does Man create civilization, or does civilization create man?
A black curse, an endless wound and an invocation of Nihil for all clandestine dreamers.
Hail, hail the Nightmare!

If you'd like to purchase any of my other books, books I've edited, or books from publishers I may have worked with in the past, please check out this blog post, which should have plenty to whet your appetite!

Monday, July 20, 2020

Some Books for Sale

I have just moved out of my residence of the past 18 years, from Madison, WI to Janesville, WI, due to a (welcome) change of employment. In clearing out the old house, I happened upon several boxes of books that I had stored from years ago, back in the day. These books are in mint condition, straight from the printer (into a box, then into my storage for several years). Note that they are all softcover, except for Leviathan 4 and Homefront. I will protect them as best I can, but will ship them Media Mail.

New: Buy 5, get one free. You tell me which one you want for free. Seriously!

There are some great titles here (if I may say so myself). If you want to buy one of the books that I authored, appeared in, or edited, and you want a signature, just tell me so. Shipping in the Continental USA is included in the cost. I will list the title, author, the initial number of copies I have for sale, and cost/ea. I won't be updating the number of copies, however, so you'll need to check with me to see if the book(s) you want is (are) still available. I've priced these to move, checking Abe Books to ensure that my prices are low, if not the lowest. And if you buy one of my books from elsewhere, I can't sign it! Email me at experimentaleditor at yahoo dot com to discuss payment.

And what am I going to buy with this money, you ask? Duh. Books. Just not as many.

Please, please, please tell your friends, share, retweet, repost, whatever, as I really want these off my hands. There will be more, down the road, as I have others I need to offload, as well. But for now, here . . . . you . . . go!

Swans Over the Moon, Forrest Aguirre, (6), $10

Leviathan 4, Forrest Aguirre, editor, (8), $12

The Beasts of Love, Steven Utley, (2), $12

Twenty Questions, Jerry Oltion, (1), $10

Laughin' Boy, Bradley Denton, (2), $12

Greetings from Lake Wu, Jay Lake, (2), $10   (RIP. Love you, Jay. Miss you, dude.)

Space Magic, David D. Levine, (8), $10

American Sorrows, Jay Lake, (2), $10

The River Knows its Own, Jay Lake, (1), $12

Can't Buy Me Faded Love, Josh Rountree, (3), $10

The Nine Muses, Deborah Layne & Forrest Aguirre, eds, (10), $15

Polyphony 1, Deborah Layne, ed., (2), $10

Polyphony 2, Deborah Layne, ed., (1), $10

Polyphony 3, Deborah Layne, ed., (1), $10

Polyphony 4, Deborah Layne, ed., (1), $10

Polyphony 5, Deborah Layne, ed., (1), $10

Polyphony 6, Deborah Layne, ed., (2), $12

The Keyhole Opera, Bruce Holland Rogers, (3), $10

Thirteen Ways to Water, Bruce Holland Rogers, (4), $10

Homefront, Scott James Magner (2), $15

Rudolph!, Mark Teppo (5), $12

Court of Lies, Mark Teppo (2), $12

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Lost Knowledge of the Imagination

Lost Knowledge of the ImaginationLost Knowledge of the Imagination by Gary Lachman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am at a bit of a loss as to where to start with this book. To call it "life-changing" would be false, but I can clearly see how it could be life-changing to some. For myself, the term "life-restoring" seems most appropriate. I have not been so deeply affected by a book in a long, long, long time. I will be re-reading this book multiple times. Saying "I can't recommend it strongly enough" seems entirely inadequate.

The title Lost Knowledge of the Imagination, while catchy, doesn't capture, for me, what this book does or can do, or what it did for me. Restored Hope for the Inner Life just begins to approach my feelings.

As a child, I had, as they say, a wild imagination. Part of it was escapism - I was raised in the military during the Cold War. There were lots of reasons to not want to think about outside reality. So, I created a comfortable inner reality and often found myself retreating into it. Reading, drawing, long walks or bike rides by myself, music - these were all escapes for me. Life was not always happy, much of the time far from it (I suffer from occasional depression even now, but much more so as a child), but I was afforded the luxury of an escape route through the means I've already described. As a teenager, with more of a need for social interaction, I found myself among others who sought escape and found new means of escape, mostly through drugs and alcohol (though music and roleplaying games were also an important part of my self-medication). After a hard crash and facing the threat of a very long prison term, I became much more religious and gave up drinking and drugs. I found an awesome woman whom I married and we have raised four wonderful children. But life has been hard, as it is, I realize, for everyone. I'm not special in this regard: life is difficult, oftentimes almost unbearably horrific, for every human being. Realizing this, a certain amount of jadedness, subconsciously meant to protect my emotional self, I believe, crowded out a great deal of the innocence, wonder, and hope that I had in my inner life as a child. That's not to say I've become some kind of empty shell, far from it! But my inner life, my soul, has changed dramatically from my childhood. There's no going back, I know, but going forward can be, at times, excruciating.

The need to escape is felt by many. Look at the ever-increasing money pumped into the entertainment "industry" for evidence of this (the word "industry" is interesting, as it puts entertainment on the same level as food production, building houses, making machines that sustain our lives and livelihoods. It implies that entertainment is a life-need.) - we look to the outside world to feed our need to avoid thinking about the horrible things that happen to us and those we love. We apply a topical narcotic, supplied to us by outside sources, to make us temporarily forget our inner pain.

This escape into fantasy is explicitly not what Lachman is arguing for in this book. He is careful to make a distinction between Fantasy, collage-like constructions of what we observe coming into our sensory input from the outside, and Imagination, which is something that emerges from within us, rather than a collection of things from without. Imagination is the activation of the inner life, the life that plays out inside your consciousness every day, that place where no one else can go (though we intuitively know that others have a similar place "inside" of them). Note that imagination, as defined here, is more of a verb than a noun. It is always active and going on within us. Think of the difference between "thought" and "thinking". We can think thoughts, but to think about thinking, the actual mechanism of thinking, requires stepping beyond the mere acknowledgement that we have thoughts. "How do I think?" (not what do I think about is an important question to ask oneself when exploring the inner life.

Really engaging with that question opens up doors. One such door is the thought that there is a truth beyond the external inputs of data coming from the outside world, that the way you apprehend the world from your inner-self is every bit as "true" as all the scientific data in the world. The balance between these two truths is what Lachman seeks to restore. He argues, convincingly, that while science and hard data have provided one way of knowing, that there is another way, and that this other way of knowing arises, again, not as a construct of what we observe outside us, but from somewhere within us. We apprehend the world via our thinking, and all the extraneous data "out there" is simply that, until we observe and act upon it.

There is no outer world until we complete it with our inner one.

The idea here is not a rejection of science, but it is a rejection of "Scientism," where subdividing the world and explaining it purely from the viewpoint of measurable, explainable data has become a religion in itself. Scientism has become, since the Enlightenment, the predominant way of knowing, and it has crowded out all other kinds of knowing in the public sphere. Of course, this happened as a retort against the reductionist religious view of the world, often enforced by violence and murder, that was predominant in Western society until the Late Renaissance. But the worship of measurable data and step-by-step explanation of phenomena has simply stepped in and taken the slot left vacant by the churches.

Lachman shows that the way of knowing as hinted at in Lost Knowledge of the Imagination is not at odds with science, but that the two are ends of the same pole. At times, it is more beneficial to lean toward the scientific end, at others, it is more beneficial to lean toward the imagination. Science and imagination are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, moments of Gnosis on one end often lead to a more nuanced understanding and increased output from the other.

As I said in my introduction, this book has had a profound effect on me. I feel that by reading and contemplating it, my sense of wonder has begun to rush back in, that sense that I had as a child when discovering new beautiful aspects of the universe that I had not known before. Along with that sense of wonder is a newfound hope I haven't felt in some time. Of course, this is my imagination being re-awakened. Will yours undergo the same restoration as mine? Only you can tell. Only you. YOU!

View all my reviews