Ian Whates chats about his new novella, The Smallest of Things.

Character Profile: 

A few years ago, after a day of wandering around numerous shops in central London, I sought refuge in a pub close to Covent Garden. While my better half, Helen, continued with the retail therapy, I began jotting down some notes on the various characters we’d encountered during our browsing.

As I did so, I reflected on the manner in which London possesses so many different faces: the political hub of the nation, the financial centre, the home of pomp and ceremony, celebrity restaurants and high-end dining, exclusive boutiques and famous stores, cockney heritage and the spirit of the Blitz, nightclubs and all-night bars, markets and street entertainers, red buses and tourist attractions, and so on… What if there were other Londons, less apparent, more difficult to find? Londons that brush alongside the city we know without quite intersecting, hidden from view by the facets we’re so familiar with that catch the light and sparkle.

That was the moment Chris was born; an individual who can sense the places where other versions of London come closest to what we know, who is able to step across into these other realities. Chris is a fixer, a solver of problems, utilising his (almost) unique talent to find objects and sometimes people that have fallen between the cracks and become lost between worlds, putting folk in touch with those who can help them, even when they don’t realise it themselves.

Those notes, jotted down while sipping a pint or two of Young’s Special, became a story called “Knowing How to Look”, which marked Chris’ first appearance. Making a cameo appearance in this tale was a character called Claire, based on a tall, vibrant young woman who had been serving in a Berwick Street shop earlier that day. Despite the brevity of her contribution to that particular story, there was an obvious chemistry between her and Chris, and Claire returns in a far more pivotal role in “The Smallest of Things”.

I was keen to revisit Chris because that first story had barely scratched the surface. It centred on the dark side, on the shadows, involving infidelity, a succubus, and a curse, but the potentially infinite nature of alternative realities offers a wealth of other possibilities beyond that. The set up enables me to straddle the boundaries between science fiction and fantasy, depicting high-tech societies that boast gadgetry far in advance of our own and low-tech ones where spells and magic prevail. I have great fun drawing on both of these for “The Smallest of Things”, with high and low tech tricks being called upon as Chris and Claire strive to stay one step ahead of their pursuers, while the story’s denouement relies on a scientifically feasible anomaly thrashed out between myself and a friend, who also happens to be a leading MD often consulted by the BBC.

London is somewhere I know reasonably well – I spent seven years attending school in the City and have been a frequent visitor ever since. It’s a place where I feel comfortable, so provides a natural home for Chris and his exploits. London has a beat, a rhythm, a pace of life that can seem bewildering until you acclimatise, and I wanted to reflect that in “The Smallest of Things”, producing a high-paced narrative intended to keep the reader guessing and intrigued, while throwing in a twist or two along the way.

“The Smallest of Things” was a joy to write and – who knows? – Chris may well crop up in further stories. I still have a great deal more to say about him and the worlds he inhabits.

Available for Pre-Order.

HORROR EXPRESS (Panico en el Transiberio) by John Connolly

Electric Dreamhouse ‘MIDNIGHT MOVIE MONOGRAPHS’ NEW TITLE announcement!

I’m intensely proud of what we’re doing with Electric Dreamhouse, immensely pleased that readers and critics seem to get what we’re aiming for and appreciate what we do. But I still have to pinch myself sometimes that it’s actually happening. That the people I work with actually WANT to work with me . . .

Case in point: about a year and a half ago . . .

Stephen Laws and I hosted an ‘Evening With John Connolly’ in Newcastle as part of the Novocastria Macabre genre events we do up here. John was touring with  the 10th Anniversary edition of his wonderful novel THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS. Afterwards, we went for pizza and nattered about books and movies and what we all were up to, and I told John about Electric Dreamhouse and the Midnight Movie Monograph series we’re doing. Somewhere in the conversation, John said he’d be up for writing one.

I honestly can’t remember if I was bold enough to ask him if he would—I’d had a drink, so it’s possible—or whether John just volunteered based on what I’d told him about the books and what it was we’re trying to do . . .

I emailed him the next day to make sure I hadn’t dreamt it . . .

I hadn’t.

Was he sure? He must be a very busy man . . .

Yes. He was sure, but he’d need to think about what film he’d like to write about.

Over the next few months we kept in touch . . .

. . . me figuring it would happen when it happens, and we’d work around his schedule (best selling author and all that, y’know . . .he really is a very busy man). Somewhere in there, he told me he thought he’d like to write about a not-all-that-well-known Spanish/UK co-production from 1972 called HORROR EXPRESS.

At that point, I hadn’t seen it, but knew the film by name and mentioned it to Stephen Laws. “Oh, it’s wonderful! You have to see it!” And he dug me out a dvd for the next time that I saw him.

I watched it.

He was right. It was SO much fun.

By this point John was pretty sure this was going to be the film he’d write about. There was nothing else that he was really interested in, even though he’d seen the movie only once, when he was a kid. Still, it had made such an impression at the time, it was all that he could imagine spending thirty thousand words exploring.

That was fine by me.

Are you sure? It’s not exactly a classic . . .

I was sure.

I mean, it’s not even all that well known . . .

I was sure.

And so John went to it.

And oh my did he deliver . . .

The book that John has written is one in which we accompany him as he explores Why?  Why this film? Why has it stayed with him? Why does it so draw him now? And will it stand up to youthful remembrance?

If you know John Connolly’s writing, you perhaps might know what to expect, it is warm, it is funny, it is thoughtful, and it is surprising.

What John delivers in this book, is something I found quite moving. In looking back at this seemingly insignificant little exploitation film that found it’s cast and crew by quite the strangest ripples of the butterfly effect, he manages to touch on something universal, something that lies at the very heart of why Electric Dreamhouse, and the Midnight Movie Monographs, came to be: the way small strange movies find their way in to our hearts; mark us in ways their makers could never possibly foresee. The way these small strange movies can change our lives… because they’re Art.

HORROR EXPRESS (Panico en el Transiberio) by John Connolly will launch as part of the Irish Film Institute’s annual Horrorthon in Dublin, on Saturday October 26th, where John will introduce a screening of the film and be signing books.

Available for Pre-Order.

Q&A: Walking with Ghosts by Brian James Freeman

Robert Brouhard chats with Brian James Freeman about his new horror collection, WALKING WITH GHOSTS.

Brian James Freeman (left) and Robert Brouhard (right).

RB: Hello, Mr. Freeman. Thank you for speaking with me today. I see that PS Publishing is about to publish a new book by you called Walking with Ghosts, a 29-short-story collection. Is this your biggest collection so far in your career and does it feel exciting?

BJF: It is easily my larger collection to date. It contains revised versions of previously published stories and a few new ones, too. I’m very excited for this book to be seeing print and I’m thrilled to finally have something published by PS Publishing!

RB: For those that are new to your writing, what would you tell a reader to expect from your kind of horror tales?

BJF: Most of my stuff is very quiet. Very little gore and direct horror, although there are some things that happen “off the page” that is very bloody and horrible. Readers say that’s why some images from my stories such as a tipped over lawnmower or a tea kettle screaming on the stove have stuck with them for so long. They didn’t see the awfulness happen; instead, they had to think more deeply about what must have happened and let their imagination work it out, which made the horror of the event last longer.

RB: As a long-time reader of your work, I’ve notice some small interconnections in your works. Should we expect any of that in this collection… like repeating characters or locations?

BJF: There are several locations that show up time and time again, and at least two stories that are so directly connected they’re basically brother and sister.

RB: I’ve noticed the theme of family is very common in your work. What other themes are favorites of yours to write about and why?

BJF: I don’t actually have a great answer to this! I’m more of a “gut” writer, so I don’t think too hard about themes until after the early drafts are done. Then I will do a pass specifically to see if there’s something my subconscious was poking at, and I’ll try to weave that thought into the work a little better. But I only tend to think of themes at that point, so it’s more about what my subconscious has been dwelling on than which themes that are my favorites.

RB: I know it’s probably hard to choose, but do you have a favorite story?

BJF: Very difficult to pick one! “Mama’s Sleeping” or “Pop-Pop” or “Ice Cold Dan the Ice Cream Man” are at the top of my personal list right now simply because they’re fairly new and that feeling of “hey, this might be good!” is still lingering. On the other hand, “Running Rain” took years of revisions to get the prose where I wanted it, and I love the story because of all the work it took. “Walking With the Ghosts of Pier 13” is one of the older stories and writing that one changed how I approached storytelling, which in turn changed the entire direction my writing was headed in. That said, “The Last Beautiful Day” might be my favorite story I’ve ever written, which is why it closes out WALKING WITH GHOSTS.

RB: How do you recommend readers go through your new book: front to back, jump around, one story a night, etc.?

BJF: Readers can approach the book however they’d like, but please don’t read the story notes at the end first! Spoilers abound there. That said, I spent much of this year trying to get the arrangement of the stories just right, so I should probably say to read the book in order!

RB: Are any stories brand new to this collection? Have any been published in the UK before?

BJF: Several are brand new or were only offered to my Patreon.com supporters previously.

RB: One of my favorite parts of some short story collections is when the author talks a little bit about each story candidly, will we get that with this collection?

BJF: Yes! I love reading story notes from the author, yet I had great hesitation about writing them for my own collection. Part of the reason is I’ve noticed some authors use the story notes as a way to kind of “prop up” a work they see as being less than their best. I firmly believe a story should stand on its own. You send it out into the world to live or die by what you’ve put on the page. If you have to explain something, you failed. But… I do love story notes, so I gave writing them a try this time. There’s a note for every story, actually.

RB: I noticed there is a brand-new Introduction by William Peter Blatty. How did that come about?

BJF: Bill and I stayed in touch after I worked on the production materials for his short novel Elsewhere in 2008 and 2009. He was a generous guy with his time, he offered me some excellent advice when I needed it, and he is dearly missed.

RB: Thank you, again, Mr. Freeman.

BJF: Thank you, Robert!

Unsigned edition in-stock and available to order. 

Remembering Harlan Ellison

Once upon a time when the world was younger and maybe just a tiny tad or two wiser . . .

(though perhaps that’s just the way it seemed), I strolled to the stop one day after school to pick up the bus home and, keen to delay homework, sidestepped into one of the Leeds branches of Woolworths—yesirree in those days the bigger towns regularly had several Woolworth stores. First port or ports of call were the comics and book counters (always a healthy display) and their Embassy records stand where you could buy cover versions of ‘hip pop songs’ of the day recorded by other artists (yeah, these truly were wiser times). Anyway, on the bookstand, I saw, amidst a confusion of gaudily covered paperbacks, one book that has, it’s fair to say, pretty much changed my life: ELLISON WONDERLAND by Harlan Ellison, in whose brief but brimming 190-page array of creativity I was to meet Skidoop, a beatnick Beelzebub; I think, member of a race of suicidal super giants visiting Earth briefly on his way to eternity; and Gnomebody, a jazzy little leprechaun in a pork-pie hat.

I bought the book (aged 13 or so—it was 1962) and pretty much read it that same night and so started a love affair with Harlan Ellison’s writing, his joie de vivre, that irreverent and often downright cruel chutzpa, and his pure alligator-like irascibility. And now he’s gone. Just like that.

And so we went on together, with me steadily building my Ellison collection (along with many others), the two of us, not actually meeting until 1993 at the World Fantasy Convention in Bloomington, Minnesota (about which more later).

In the dog days of autumn 1988 . . .

John Gilbert and the Newsfield crew (CRASH magazine, LM and others) came up with a new magazine called FEAR and I started freelancing for them doing reviews and fairly detailed interviews which I was also doing for David Pringle’s INTERZONE and MILLION, Jessica Horsting’s MIDNIGHT GRAFFITISTRANGE THINGS ARE HAPPENING and so on which included Ray Bradbury, Patrick McGrath, Andrew Vahchss Jonathan Carroll, Ramsey Campbell and, of course, Harlan not to mention umpteen musicians including Frank Zappa (now there’s a story!).

Talking to Harlan was a gas, hilarious, eye-opening (and—watering!), and both funny and sad, often in the same breath. The man did not pull punches and when he had an opinion (like, when did he NOT!) he let everyone know. Thus you’ll find many people in the industry hold differing opinions and I have to say that they’re all justifiable. In closing that particular item, I’ll say this. Being some years away from emails and the internet, I sent the article across to Harlan and got on with the process of preparing for our annual holidays then a couple of weeks away.

Imagine my surprise, then, at the docks about to leave for France, to receive a telephone call (I had a mobile phone courtesy of my job at the bank but it was a far cry from the tiny cell-jobs I carry now . . . more a fully realized telephone kiosk strapped to my back!) from my mother who, in turn, had received a delightful call from a “lovely young man (all men were young as far as my mother was concerned, even then, when she was the age I passed just yesterday) in California called Alan Ellington” who wanted me to ring him about an article. To cut to the chase, I called Alan Ellington (a cunning disguise on Harlan’s part) and he waxed lyrical about the piece which, with a handful of amends, he passed for publication.

We remained pretty good friends from that point, exchanging comic books and telephone conversations.

 

Harlan never seemed able to come to terms with the fact that when it was 8 in the evening for him, it was 4 in the morning for me. But I have to say I could forgive the guy pretty much anything, even when, just a few years ago when we were working on the special PS edition of ELLISON WONDERLAND (which is where we came in on this topic, kids, so stay with it to the end as well as this entire Newsletter) and had a contretemps with Harlan calling me daily (in the Yorkshire Dales when Nicky and I were taking a few days walking) and saying things that I like to think he didn’t really mean. Thus the book appeared without the two of us speaking about it, but it did receive some great reviews and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to reprint the book as a trade paperback under PS’s Drugstore Indian Press imprint . . . along the same lines as our Caitlin Kiernan collections. I’ll let you know.

But now I’d like to finish a little more upbeat

. . . by going back to my attending (at the same time as Harlan, whom, I believe, was a Lifetime Achievement winner) the Convention in Bloomington.

It was my first Big convention and my first time in Minnesota where, I kid you not, the spit freezes in your mouth in seconds unless you dress warm. I was up for Best Anthology Award for my editing debut, NARROW HOUSES and, in line with the generosity and warmth of spirit that is so prevalent in this screwball business lots of folks were coming up to me and telling me—with winks and back-slaps galore—that I stood a good chance of winning, even given the remarkable quality of volumes up for recognition. Thus I spent a goodly amount of time the evening before the big Banquet at which the Awards were made, writing my acceptance speech.

And so I sat, trembling nervously as one after another, the categories and nominees were announced until, lo and behold, Small Crowther Person, the time came for Best Anthology.

Now, I’m not going to BS ya on this cos it wouldn’t be fair.

This is how we operate, you and me, and it’s too late to stop now even if I wanted to. And so I will tell you this: for the briefest of moments, I wanted to kill Dennis Etchison, for it was he who, with that fabulous tome, METAHORROR—and Dennis, there’s still a part of me that hates you—accepted the Best Antho Award to rapturous applause. And ladies and gentlemen, I have to tell you that some of that applause was from me—truthfully—delivered as it was with a rictus grin and a tear-channelled face. METAHORROR was/is a damn fine book. And, hey, I regained the power of speech in a short time thereafter.

But there was someone else at that Convention, someone else who, it turned out, also thought I should win (not as much as I thought I should win—don’t forget, we’re telling truths here, kids) and, Goddamnit, he was on a mission to make sure the whole world knew.

So I’m in the lobby talking with Dennis Etchison (who, somewhat annoyingly, was holding his statuette—MY damn statuette, ladies and gents) plus Tom Monteleone and Peter Straub. And suddenly, entering stage right, Harlan appears a few yards away, and he’s marching determinedly in the direction of we four humble scribblers.

I like to think that everything went quiet and, heck, maybe even time stopped, but I guess it didn’t, not really. But Harlan’s presence turned heads—no question. And he stepped right up to us, took hold of my beard (I wore a full set in those halcyon days) and shook it so hard I thought he was about to pull the damn thing right on off of my face. And relaxing his grip, Harlan said “You wuz rucked, kiddo.” And without further ado, having completed his message to the troops, he strolled off like the Tasmanian Devil in the old Warner Bros cartoons, threw his saddle and blanket over the pinto tethered to the bar and then he was gone leaving Dennis, Tom, Peter and me considering the only possible response which was “Hey, who was that masked man?”

And now he’s gone and, dammit, I’m pissed off that that singular voice has been silenced . . . though I suspect that on certain nights when the fire embers are still crackling in the grate and the candle is flickering close to dark, we’ll hear from him again—or think we did. And that’ll just have to do for now.

Happy trails, Harlan. You were a rascal, no denying, but one rascal every once in a while is essential.

— Peter Crowther 

 

Sneak Peek Extract: Uncommon Miracles by Julie C. Day

 

Check out these story extracts:

Change always comes slower to the Midwest. Sacramento, California, had lost power months ago: bunnies in the substations and gas pipelines that had run dry. Meanwhile, DC had emptied of its politicians and any semblance of nation-wide emergency management.

The Ohio version of the apocalypse mostly involved Pilates classes and running clubs filled with other women of childbearing age. Bunny fever, people called the new birthing paradigm, and not in a good way. If you were a woman, you better be a skinny woman with no possible baby bump in sight. Nothing like impending group hate to motivate. Regular exercise had never been so popular.

Even after the fall of both coasts, in Lakemore we had streetlights, local news, and reliable refrigeration. And staying healthy wasn’t such a bad thing. Compared to most everywhere else, it was actually a good place to live. That’s what Steph and I and all those other women told ourselves. And why not? We had nowhere else to go.

—From “Everyone Gets a Happy Ending”

And this:

Horace’s fingers were skeletal thin and oh so hungry. His eyes dark as empty holes. Once upon a time, before the scream of metal against metal had mixed with all those other screams, before she and Horace and the Orphan Train had arrived in the woods, Horace had been different. Back then, Horace had loved the hills on the west side of Manhattan almost as much as he loved these woods. He’d loved rolling barrels through the alley next to their apartment and yelling at the top of his lungs. One autumn day he’d tucked one of their father’s many hand-rolled cigarettes behind his ear and chased a wooden barrel down the steep hill on Strathmore Street, grinning and making Eliza swear she wouldn’t tell, even as he flipped and fell and lay sprawled across the paving stones at the bottom. Eliza had screamed then too despite Horace’s laughter, wrapped her arms round his neck.

—From “The Woman in the Woods”

Or this:

Long before Veronica’s death and everything that followed, I understood the power of film. The one secret that all photographers know: Only physical images offer an actual path to our living world. It is the chemicals—the darkness—the photographer’s intention—that cuts through death’s wall. No photographer is ever really alone. When we’re working, our darkrooms are like crowded railway stations: the dead passing through with each developed frame.

At night in my darkroom, I soak my limbs in developer, fixer, rinse, and then stare—hopeful—as the ghosts rise from the pictures I’ve imprinted on my arms: a longhaired child with stick-thin limbs, a scowling old woman with a limp, a village, a traveling horde, a forgotten family, the father carrying their smallest child. No matter what I try, it is always dead strangers who follow my guideposts back to the land of the living. My wife Veronica’s face is never among them. And so, each night after our daughter, Jenny, goes to bed, I turn on the blood-red light, submerge my arms, and try again.

—From “A Pinhole of Light”

What about this:

Just like every other morning, Momma sat with Sylvia and Grandma in the dim, wallpapered kitchen. Momma sipped her coffee and Grandma ate her oatmeal one careful bite at a time. Sylvia could almost count the seconds between each mouthful.

Three. Two. One. Swallow.

Meanwhile, Momma smiled and smiled.

“I thought I’d plant a few flowers, Mom, to get my mind off of things. You know, therapy.”

From the center of the table, two salt-and-pepper-shaker girls in yellow dresses watched Momma and Grandma Charko. Nearby a crowd of wallpaper ladies stared at them with faded, gone-away eyes. Momma’s own eyes were wide and shiny, like all those nights in Asheville when Momma didn’t bother to sleep, swallowing stuff she took out of that small wooden box. Momma took a different kind of pill now. Grandma and her days-of-the-week pillbox made sure of that.

—From “Raising Babies”

Wait, this:

After Tuttle’s stealth inspection and her second letter, the deputy, some newcomer fresh from the academy, showed up at my front door. He wore aviator sunglasses and very little hair. His pink skin glowed, oily from the summer heat, as he stared down at me. I thought I saw his nose wrinkle as he bent down to give me the papers.

“I don’t want them,” I said, trying to wave him away. This was only partially true. Paper was always a useful addition to the collection. It was the words written on them that I didn’t want.

“I drove all the way out here,” the deputy said in slow, careful tones, as though he was sure I’d somehow never noticed the county sheriff’s substation on my walks around town. As though my tiny stature indicated a tiny brain.

Stupid Arizona hick. I knew the titles of most works in the Phoenix Art Museum’s Latin American collection, along with a handful more in the Heard. I spent my time with Vik Muniz, Mario Martinez, and Gabriel Orozco. When I looked at their works, I felt myself stretching high into their private universes. Breathing was easier inside those frames.

—From “Holes in Heaven”

Also, this:

Peter’s hand moves slowly, hovering above Delia’s bare forearm, as little as an eighth of an inch between her flesh and his trembling fingers. The ghosts feel safest that way. That’s what Peter had told her as he swallowed the last of his beer and set the glass aside, his eyes intent, lingering first on her lips, and then falling from her breasts to her right arm.

Peter doesn’t look away despite the sideways glances of their companions and the uncomfortable clatter of their silverware. A lone waiter watches from across the terrace. Delia bends her head, ignoring them all. She is focused on Peter’s open palm as it creeps above her bare arm.

“Concentrate,” Peter whispers. His hot breath envelopes the outer curve of her ear.

What do the ghosts feel? Delia wonders but does not ask. Instead, she closes her eyes. For a moment nothing changes. The night air still feels dark and cool on her bare shoulders. She can hear the cars on the nearby Boulevard Saint-Michel as the taxis bring their loads of tourists to the Left Bank. A cab parks just beyond the terrace’s back stairs. A group of women erupt from the open door, speaking in English.

—From “Finding Your Way to the Coast”

And this:

When I was little I thought the world must be full of Mrs. Henrys: a second voice safely encased inside each special child, watching everything through their bright young eyes.

Back then, David didn’t care that he couldn’t see or hear or even touch Mrs. Henry. After all, Mrs. Henry was funny. And I was more than happy to repeat everything she said.

“When I’m bigger…” David said. “When I’m bigger, I’ll drive a car all the way to Alaska so I can see the polar bears and the igloos. Esta will come too because she’s my friend.”

“I was bigger once, little David Tissandier,” Mrs. Henry replied in her Mrs. Henry way, and already David was cracking up. “No. Really. Much bigger. With two extra rows of teeth, just like a dragon.”

“Fat whopper, Mrs. Henry. Fat whopper. Everyone knows dragons have one row of teeth. It’s sharks that are all jumbled.” But David was laughing. And Mrs. Henry was laughing too, the sound like a deep hum or a rumbling purr.

Of course, I was the only one who could hear her.

—From “Florida Miracles”

And this:

As soon as Hazel stepped off the ferry and onto Vinalhaven Island, she felt it. The carved stone eagle, the curb, the granite planter set in front of the fire station: the ghosts of Carver’s Harbor were embedded in the building materials of the little town. The other passengers who’d disembarked—even Hazel’s mom—didn’t seem to notice a thing. In that way the island ghosts were no different from the ones at home. Most people missed their presence entirely.

It was June, not even close to the height of tourist season, but the harbor town’s streets were bustling. An old man walked along the sidewalk dressed in a three-piece suit, his expression hidden by both his walrus mustache and the brim of his Trilby hat. A little farther down, a woman with weathered skin and upswept hair stood outside the Davidson Realty storefront. Despite the month, she wore a black skirt that hung just inches from the ground. Meanwhile, two boys in knee-high boots and woolen trousers raced the length of Main Street.

—From “Signal & Stone”

One more:

I took my time, silent, lips soft against your stomach. Tangled sheets. My hands clutched your narrow hips, then slipped higher until I felt the outer edges of your breasts. I tasted the dampness trickling from between your thighs, salt and musk. Like 8-mm film, my movements took sixteen frames one slow second at a time.

Afterwards, you held pieces of your special brown-orange film up to our bedside light, sharing your work. Each cell was marked, scratched, the original image buried somewhere underneath. Your art, you told me, was about transformation.

Even then I made mistakes. Pointed out a slash mark, an odd corner of red. Left the ghost of a fingerprint behind. “Love me,” I cried, finally deciphering the film’s tiny words. The long L and five smaller letters suddenly clear.

—From “Raven Hair”

C’mon now! How can you resist? Julie C. Day’s debut collection is now available for pre-order

 

Sneak Peek Extract: The Wind in His Heart by Charles de Lint

 

 

 

Those days, the prickly pear boys hung around the Little Tree Trading Post during the day, drowsing in the desert heat mostly, but still seeing and hearing everything that took place between the old adobe building and the two-lane road that ran up into the rez from the highway. They weren’t seen, themselves—or at least not as themselves. Nobody gave a second glance to the small grove of cacti crowded up against the base of one saguaro or another. Nobody even noticed that they were rarely in exactly the same place from one morning to the next.

But Thomas Corn Eyes did. He worked at the trading post and noted their different position every morning when he arrived for work.

No one in Thomas’s family had ever had eyes the colour of corn, either the green leaves of the tall midsummer growths or the yellow of the kernels. They got their name back when the federal government insisted a surname was required for everybody, without exception. On the rez they had a lot of fun coming up with names the whites thought were pregnant with traditional meaning. Johnny Squash Mother. Agnes White Deer. Robert Twin Dogs.

No, Thomas had brown eyes, the same as everyone else in the tribe. The difference was he could also see a little deeper into the invisible world of the spirits than most people could, but that wasn’t something he would ever talk about. He didn’t want to risk gaining the attention of the tribal shaman, Ramon Morago. For the past decade Morago had been searching for an apprentice, and working with him was the last thing Thomas wanted.

It wasn’t that he was ashamed of his Kikimi heritage, or even that he didn’t consider himself a spiritual person. But he was only eighteen and he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life living on the rez, organizing sweats. He didn’t want to be making medicine bags for the aunties, taking Reuben’s dog boys out on their spirit quests, or any of the hundred-and-one other things a shaman did.

But no matter what he wanted or didn’t, he still saw into the spiritworld, and the spirits knew it.

Thomas was studying the cacti through the windows, trying to catch one of the prickly pear moving, when the long black Caddy pulled into the parking lot. It was a ’56 or ’57, a real classic and in perfect shape, the glossy black paint job so deep it seemed to swallow light. He couldn’t see a speck of dust on it, which, considering the roads around here, had to be a bit of a miracle. The tinted windows didn’t let him see the driver, but man, you’d have to feel like the king of the world behind the wheel of a car like that.

He straightened up behind the counter when the driver’s door opened and a striking older woman stepped out. He wasn’t sure what made him think she was older. Her features were youthful and she moved with the easy grace of a dancer. She was tall and colt-thin with a wave of thick black hair that was almost as glossy as the car’s paint job. He figured her for a model, maybe even an actress, but neither explained what she was doing driving herself out here in the sticks except that she looked Native—not Kikimi, but definitely Indian. Then he caught a glimpse of her aura—the ghostly shape of a raven’s head on her shoulders—and he figured she was going into the rez to meet with Morago or the Aunts.

She glanced in the direction of the trading post and caught him staring. Thomas looked away, but not before he saw her smile. So much for maintaining his cool.

When she came inside she should have seemed out of place in her tight designer jeans, strapped sandals, and the midriff-baring T-shirt that probably cost more than everything he had in his closet put together. Her skin was the hue of the shadows in a red rock canyon and her eyes so dark they seemed all pupil. The eyes, he decided, were what had made him think she was older.

The trading post was like an old general store, the shelves stuffed with everything from groceries and toiletries to clothing and tools, with a cast iron stove up against one adobe wall around which Reuben’s friends would sit in the afternoon to gossip and drink coffee or tea. But oddly enough, the woman appeared to fit her present surroundings as comfortably as she might a runway or some fancy restaurant. Odder still, her raven aura didn’t rest passively on her shoulders. It looked around the trading post as though it had a mind of its own.

He’d never seen anything like that before. He wasn’t a stranger to the auras themselves—his awareness of them was an element of his being able to see into the spiritworld. Not everybody had an aura. It was only those with the closest ties to their ma’inawo blood. Those who carried an animal spirit as well as a human one inside them. But he’d never seen an aura that acted independently the way this one did.

“Ohla,” he said. “Welcome to the Painted Lands.”

The woman smiled and pointed to the cooler at the far end of the counter. “Do you have any bottled Coke in there?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

His response seemed to amuse her, and Thomas felt a flush creep up from under his shirt collar. To cover his embarrassment, he went over to the cooler. He took a bottle out of the icy water, wiped it down with a terrycloth towel, and popped the cap. Returning to his place behind the counter, he set it down in front of her.

“How much?” she asked.

“A dollar.”

Her perfectly shaped eyebrows went up.

Thomas shrugged. “People around here don’t have a lot of money. Reuben, my boss, doesn’t like to gouge them.”

She pulled a twenty-dollar bill out of the front pocket of her jeans and handed it to him. Thomas didn’t think there’d been room for even a bill in that pocket.

“Keep the change,” she said.

Do I really look like that much of a charity case? Thomas thought, but he only nodded and put the money in the till. A woman like her? She could afford to help out Reuben’s bottom line.

“And how much for a map?” she asked.

“Of the rez or the National Park?”

“I’m going to the casino.”

Of course she was.

“You’re on the wrong side of the rez,” he told her.

“There’s a right and a wrong side?”

“No. Though I guess that might depend on who you’re talking to. What I mean is, this isn’t the fancy side with the casino. That’s south of here, on the other side of the Vulture Ridge Trailhead.”

“The what?”

“That’s just the part of the National Park that divides the two sides of the rez. All you need to do is keep going south when you get to the trailhead. There’s plenty of signs, so you don’t need a map.”

He gave her directions that would take her back down Jacinta to Zahra Road where a south turn would take her straight to the casino. She barely seemed to be paying attention, but her raven aura fixed him with an unwavering gaze as he spoke. It was as if it was more than simply an aura and was memorizing his words for her as well as itself. Thomas focused on the woman’s face, trying to ignore the ghostly presence of the bird.

“Just remember,” he said, “that Zahra changes names at the crossroads and becomes Redondo Drive when it continues south.”

“I will. Thank you.”

He watched her start for the door, the head of the raven aura revolving so that it continued to face him. She paused just before stepping outside and turned back to look at him.

“You’ve been so helpful,” she said, “that I feel I should share some direction with you.”

Thomas had no idea what she was talking about.

“That’s okay,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I know where I am.”

“Are you?”

Thomas shrugged. “I’ve lived here all my life.”

“But do you know who you are?” she asked.

The raven aura cocked its head when she spoke. Thomas had really never seen anything like it before. He’d never seen a woman like the one at the door, either. She could as easily have stepped right out of the pages of a magazine, or from a movie screen, as from that long black Caddy she was driving.

“I don’t really think it matters who I am,” he said.

“That might be the saddest thing I’ve heard all day,” she told him.

That was because she didn’t live on this side of the rez, he thought, but all he did was give her another shrug.

“It should matter to you,” she added. “You should learn about yourself. Embrace all the aspects of who you are.”

Thomas couldn’t stop himself. “Says the woman in designer clothes on the way to the casino in a vintage Cadillac.”

Her dark gaze held his for a long moment.

“Not everything is what it appears to be on the surface,” she said.

Then the door was closing behind her.

He tracked her through the window as she returned to her car. She never looked back, but the raven aura watched him until the closing car door cut them both from view.

Well, that wasn’t weird.

He stood looking out the window long after the dust kicked up by her tyres had settled.

Available for Pre-Order.

 

Sneak Peek Extract: Walking with Ghosts by Brian James Freeman

As William Peter Blatty writes in his introduction to Brian James Freeman’s WALKING WITH GHOSTS . . .

“Freeman’s prose is clean and lovely, painting the canvas of the printed page so unobtrusively yet with such pronounced effect. His writing will leave you both chilled and deeply moved.”

And he’s right. Brian’s first full-length collection features twenty-nine unforgettable tales including several that are seeing print for the very first time. Intense, eerie, and compelling, the pages within contain characters and creations that will leave a haunting impression on the reader long after the final page is turned.

Here are a few tasters:

No one was supposed to be in the abandoned town. The escorted group of reporters, photographers, and cameramen wore paper masks provided by the U.N.’s media liaison team and they wouldn’t be here for more than half an hour. There had been no sign of any civilians when the four CH-47 Chinook helicopters circled the region on the way in and they didn’t expect to see anyone on the way out. Only the insane and the sick would still be living here.

Stephen carried his camera close and he walked alongside Rick McDuff, a reporter whose career dated clear back to Vietnam. Nothing fazed him anymore. Stephen wished he could say the same, but he was merely a self-taught photographer on his first tour of duty outside his hometown and, even after several months of traveling to places like this with Rick, he didn’t have the courage or the stomach to process the horrific scenes with a cold, clinical eye the way his much older colleague did.

They were passing a crumbling house when a hesitant movement in the shadows caught Stephen’s attention. There was a young girl in there, wearing a dirty and tattered dress draped over her skeletal frame. Her skin was pale and her eyes were very blue.

“Rick, look,” Stephen whispered, pointing as the girl ducked deeper into the shadows of the interior.

“The house?”

“No, the little girl.”

“I don’t see anyone,” Rick said. He glanced at Stephen for a moment, as if to confirm he wasn’t joking, and then back at the ruins. “They searched to make sure the area was clear, you know.”

—From ‘An Instant Eternity’

And this:

Every Saturday, his little boy awakens with the rising sun.

The middle-aged widower is already awake in his own bedroom down the hall. He has barely slept in the six months since his wife’s tragic accident ripped her from their lives, breaking his heart and devastating his little boy, but he remains in bed and waits for the day to begin. What else can he do?

He hears his son’s bedroom door creak open. He closes his eyes and pretends to be asleep. He hopes his son will not speak the words he always speaks on Saturday mornings, but the man’s heart knows better.

“Daddy?” his little boy whispers.

The man blinks his eyes open, as if he’s just waking up, and he forces a big smile for his son who stands in the doorway in his pajamas. The August sunlight sneaks around the curtains, washing across his little boy’s angelic face. The father smiles even though he’s frozen inside. He smiles and he hopes today won’t be like every other Saturday for the last six months.

“Good morning, Timothy,” he says.

“Mornin’, Daddy. Can we go on the Mommy Tour?”

The father wants to sigh, but he holds his smile. This is what their therapist, Dr. Linda Madison, has advised him to do.

“Yes, of course. Give me ten minutes to get ready.”

His son’s smile widens as the little boy bounds back to his bedroom.

The father’s smile fades into a grimace. He dresses in silence.

—From ‘Where Sunlight Sleeps.’

Or this:

The young man must be lonely.

There is something terrible about the look in his eyes, about the way his body slumps over the heavy, black answering machine perched on his lap. He sits on the chair in the middle of the barren room, and he is naked except for his white underwear and his cheap watch. He’s drenched in sweat. A single tear hovers on the edge of his pale, trembling lips. He has dark hair and narrow fingers with fingernails chewed to the quick.

The wood floor groans when he shifts his weight. There are no windows, only the door to the hallway and a door to the walk-in closet. A single lamp glows with a yellowed light, but the light does not reach the corners of the room. An extension cord snakes across the floor, powering the lamp and the old, boxy answering machine.

He pushes the button that was once marked ANNOUNCEMENT before years of contact rubbed the word away. The tape crackles, there is a beep, and a woman’s voice speaks: “You’ve reached the Smith Family, we can’t come to the phone right now, but if you leave a message, we’ll get right back to you.”

This is the voice of the dead. The sound has deteriorated a bit with age, but when the young man plays this tape, the dead woman lives on, just for a moment. There is a second beep and the woman is dead once again.

The young man plays the tape one last time, then checks his watch and sighs. He returns the machine to the closet. He wouldn’t want to be late for work, and the dead woman isn’t going anywhere.

—From ‘Answering the Call’

And from his foreword:

In these days of almost gleeful excess there’s a surprising gentleness to Brian Freeman’s work though, of course, you should also be prepared for the occasional slam-dunk when you least expect it. Otherwise, it’s a veritable oasis of calm in a frenetic world.

“When I’m between projects,” he says in his Foreword, “I’ll often find myself drifting toward my ‘finished stories’ folder — a poorly selected moniker if there ever was one — where I’ll open manuscripts and tinker here and there until it’s time to give up on them again.

“That’s where the title of this volume comes from. It’s how I would describe my life with these short stories. In my head, I walked among these events, transcribing them to the best of my ability and then rewriting in an attempt to convey the realness of what I first experienced, but even after I typed The End, they never left me alone. Not really. These characters are still waiting for me to walk with them again. And I do. Often.

“But it is better to have gotten the stories down on paper as best I can, that much is true. The ghosts aren’t nearly as boisterous once the story is written and published. But still, they wait. They often have more to say.

“Collected here are twenty-nine ghosts that have haunted me at one point or another since I was thirteen years old. I’m ready to visit with them again.”

Available for Pre-Order. 

Best New Horror #25 Edited by Stephen Jones

There are some readers out there who have missed one or two volumes in Stephen Jones’s long-running BEST NEW HORROR. So, with volume 29 now well underway and in order to help fans of quality horror fiction to fill in some of those frustrating gaps, we’re about to publish volume 25.

This 25th edition of Best New Horror showcases some of the very best short stories and novellas published in 2014. So get ready to spread your wings and take a bite out of this latest anthology of agony. And don’t forget to tell your fellow fiends about our new series of Best New Horror reprints. Just let them know who sent you . . . The Old Hag.

  • Introduction: Horror in 201
  • Who Dares Wins: Anno Dracula 1980 by Kim Newman
  • Click-clack the Rattlebag by Neil Gaiman
  • Dead End by Nicholas Royle
  • Isaac’s Room by Daniel Mills
  • The Burning Circus by Angela Slatter
  • Holes for Faces by Ramsey Campbell
  • By Night He Could Not See by Joel Lane
  • Come Into My Parlour by Reggie Oliver
  • The Middle Park by Michael Chisleet
  • Into the Water by Simon Kurt Unsworth
  • The Burned House by Lynda E. Rucker
  • What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Z— by Lavie Tidhar
  • Fishfly Season by Halli Villegas
  • Doll Re Mi by Tanith Lee
  • A Night’s Work by Clive Barker
  • The Sixteenth Step by Robert Shearman
  • Stemming the Tide by Simon Strantzas
  • The Gist by Michael Marshall Smith
  • Guinea Pig Girl by Thana Niveau
  • Miss Baltimore Crabs: Anno Dracula 1990 by Kim Newman
  • Whitstable by Stephen Volk
  • Useful Addresses

In-stock and available to order.

Sneak Peek Extract: Plague of Gulls by Stephen Gregory

November in Snowdonia. I’m in the caravan, up at the quarry. The gulls are going crazy, screaming and battering at the windows with their wings. I can hear the slither of their feet on the roof as they land and take off again. 

When I open the door, step outside and fling them a handful of bread and biscuit, they fight and gobble as though they’re starving and then they beat away from me, a white and black and grey cloud. I shut the door and walk to the edge of the quarry. 

It’s cold, eight o’clock in the morning. There’s a silvery drizzle blowing in the air. 

My stump’s hurting. The doctor said it’ll ache when the winter comes, he said I’ll feel the ghost of the missing finger when the days get colder. The ghost is haunting me already, a throbbing pain where the finger used to be. I cup both hands around my mug of tea and peer over the brink of the quarry.

My quarry. It still seems strange. It belongs to me, the hole, and everything in it. The gulls, all mine.

The birds calm down, once they’ve woken me and winkled me out of the caravan. And the pain in my hand eases a bit as I press it to the hot mug. Standing on the edge, I look down into the pool, a hundred feet below me. The water’s always different, it changes with the time of day and the light on the surface. In the mornings, before the sun’s risen over the hillside, it’s perfectly black, perfectly smooth, and I can see deeply into it. 

Dad’s car. I can make out the humped, rounded shape of it, lying in the pool like a dead whale. Dimly, the headlamps peer up at me. Shivering. Hard to believe, not so long ago it was August, the summer, the carnival in town. November … the word sends a shiver down my spine.      

I blink away from the round eyes at the bottom of the pool and look about the quarry. It’s littered with the rubbish which people bring up from Caernarfon: there’s a raggedy kind of avalanche, where people have driven up and slung their bags and boxes and broken machinery, unwanted bits of their homes, their gardens, their lives. A spillage of discarded stuff, snagged on the rocks on its way down to the pool …

A strange inheritance. I own a hole a hundred feet deep, and all the air and water in it. I own all the broken, unnecessary things which are thrown into it. And hundreds of gulls, which come to the quarry for the pickings and to wake me in the morning for their breakfast. 

My tea’s going cold. I sling the dregs onto the ground. I look up to the top of the hill, the iron fence and rusted barbed wire which are supposed to stop sheep and curious hikers from coming too close. Down to the town, miles below me: the gleam of slate from the rooftops, the towers of the castle no more than a glimmer of grey through the drizzle. 

Cold. I turn away from the quarry, with just a glance at the pool again. A flurry of a breeze picks up a sheet of newspaper. It whirls in the air, folding and turning this way and that, and a few of the gulls dive to the hole, as though they think the flutter of white is a gull from another quarry trespassing on their territory. But then they twist away, and the paper settles on the water. It spreads and darkens and sinks. The outline of the car blurs and disappears.

I turn back to the caravan. When I open the door, there’s a rush of air and some of the gulls drop to the roof and land there. They try to get into the door as I squeeze inside. For a mad moment, there’s a brawling of wings and their big rubbery feet and jabbing beaks around my shoulders, as they try to force themselves past me …

‘No, not you! And not you! And not you!’ 

I yell at them, and I beat them off with my hands. They clack on my mug with their horny beaks. And then, when they fall away from me, squalling among themselves, one of them springs forward again … 

Yes, you! Get inside!’ 

I let the bird come in, between my legs and into the caravan, and I quickly shut the door. 

Outside, the racket gets louder and louder. All the gulls in the quarry are banging at the windows and on the roof to try and get in. I pull the curtains shut and sit on the bed, with my hands around the cooling mug. Minute by minute, the commotion subsides, until my little space and the world outside are quiet again. 

‘You,’ I say to the bird. ‘This is all because of you.’ Right now, it’s standing on the end of my bed, rearranging a few ruffled feathers with the tip of its beak. At the sound of my voice, it cocks its head on one side and looks at me with a bright black eye. ‘Yes, you. What makes you think you’re so different from all the others?’

And you? the bird seems to say to me. What’s so special about you?

Nothing special. No claim to fame. I’m David Kewish, eighteen years old. Five years in a dingy little private school in Bangor and then I do so badly in my exams that not a university in the land will take me in.

David Kewish, sitting in a caravan in a Welsh quarry, with my gull. It pants into my face. I love that smell. The carpet feels damp, and the rumpled bed I’ve been sleeping on. I see myself in the wardrobe mirror. Funny, even when I’m tousled and bleary I look alright, a well-made teenage boy with a clear complexion and thick black hair. Nothing special. 

It was a strange summer. Some upsetting things happened. That’s why I’ve come up to the quarry, to let it all blow over. Rumours and whispers and tales about me. About the bird. About me and the bird. 

A strange summer. People got hurt. Was it one or two? Or three? Who’s counting?

Available for Pre-Order.

Remembering Gardner Dozois

Gardner [left) & Jack (right) photo courtesy of Scott Edelman

Drowning in Memory

It’s July 14, 2007, 1:30 am, and I’m trying to reach Gardner. I’m in Melbourne; he’s in an intensive care unit in Philadelphia. I finally get through by calling his partner Susan Casper’s cell phone. She hands the phone to him. His voice is craggy and breathy; he is still receiving oxygen.

“So I died and came back.”

“I told you you’d make it.”

“Well, it’s either on or off,” Gardner says. “I don’t think there is anything else, any kind of life after death. One instant you’re conscious. The next you’re not. Gone.”

“Well, you’re here.”

“If I wasn’t, you’d be writing a eulogy.”

“Yeah,” I say, remembering…remembering.

“I love you, Gardner.”

“Love you…”

#

And then it’s May 28th, 2018, 2:30 am, which is just few moments later in subjective time, that constructed metaphor we think of as our past. Gardner has been in hospital since the 3rd of the month. Congestive heart failure. But the prognosis was excellent that he’d be able to get out soon…after suffering through a few weeks of rehab. I had talked to him the week before, and he told me he was bored, anxious to get home, get back to work on his Best of the Year collection. A short, rather strained call, as I hadn’t been calling regularly after Susan had passed away in February of last year. Grief had somehow walled us away from each other.

But now, now that it was too late, I was calling, for I had just learned that Gardner had taken a turn for the worst. I called his son (and my godson) Christopher around midnight my time, and Chris told me that it was bad…very bad. Gardner had developed a systemic infection. Christopher was going to talk with the doctors in a few hours about his prognosis. I stay up, worry, and watch reruns of bad sitcoms.

It’s now the abovementioned 2:30 am, and I call Chris, who while calm and composed is shattered: “Gargy (our term of endearment for Gardner) is on a respirator, Uncle Jack. There’s no hope. We’re just waiting for some of the other relatives to arrive.”

Gargy impossibly incomprehensibly would be gone in a matter of hours.

And while Christopher holds the phone to Gardner’s ear, I say, “I love you, Gargy. I love you very much. I’ll see you on the other side.”

#

I don’t know if Gardner had enough function to hear me, to hear the words that still echo in my mind. Finally, I went to bed, but didn’t sleep…I waited up to somehow be present, even though I was ten thousand miles away on the other side of the world; and as I lay in bed, eyes wide and mazed with tears, images skittered through my mind, memories so bright and intense as to be hallucinatory. And I remembered the saying that drowning men see their lives pass before them.

#

It is 1971, and I’m with Gardner in my parent’s home. It is a square stucco house, all white except for a great blue front door and black trim along the edge of the roof. It’s summertime and Gardner and I are sitting on my bed in my old room, which has been kept just as it was when I left home. I can see into the back yard through the window over my desk. I look at the sunken garden and the broken white fountain and remember getting drunk in the back yard last night with Gardner and the woman we’re both in love with. It was a silly night, Gardner singing old rock and roll songs, all of us taking a walk down Ackley Avenue, then coming back and trying to turn on the spotlights for the fountain.

“We should make a pact,” Gardner says. He’s sitting beside my ebony black night table and leaning against the headboard of the bed. He has long blond hair, a light-complected face, and a thin curly beard. His eyes are pale blue, and he’s wearing his old, torn combat boots.

“Okay,” I say. We’ve been talking about writing, which is what we always talk about.

“And I think we should always write what we want to, whether it sells or not,” he says.

“Okay.” This is easy for me because I can’t imagine writing anything except what I want.

“We probably won’t make a dime, you know. We’ll probably starve.”

“I know,” I say, looking at the garden again.

I’m not worried.

#

It’s 1973, and I’m on the train with Gardner. We’re going to a workshop being held in Jack C. Haldeman’s rambling old mansion in the Guilford section of Baltimore: the Guilford Writers’ Workshop. I’d never been to a workshop and was understandably nervous as I clutched the manuscript I was going to submit. Gardner just chuckled and said, “Don’t worry about it. The worst that can happen is they’ll kill you.”

#

I can’t stop the procession of memories: a road trip with Gardner and Joe Haldeman…we’re on our way to Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm’s Milford Writers’ Workshop. We’re driving and talking, we’re embarking on a lifetime of writing and talking, we’re our own heroes, and we don’t care that life is swallowing us up in great noisy gulps. I’m visiting Gardner and Susan in Philadelphia: I have just finished a novel, and I’m not going to leave until Gardner finishes his conceptual edit.

It never occurs to me, not even once! that I might be imposing.

The title The Man Who Melted was Gardner’s.

And then, as memories during grief are not necessarily sequential, I’m driving Gardner from New York to Philadelphia, which will become his new home: Susan lives in Philadephia; and then—

—I’m standing beside Gardner as his best man.

In a photo floating around in the æther of social media, I’m dressed in a grey suit with a relaxed, happy expression on my face. Gardner (also suited up) is, however, looking very, very serious…determined. This marriage is for life!

And so it was.

#

As I gaze through the dark—now as I can see through the perspective of time and memory—I can see that we spent our youth living our own version of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. We didn’t know it then, but we were living the very life we dreamed of: we were submerged in the mystery, beauty, and excitement of words and ideas. Science fiction was an expression of beauty, of a sort of mathematical elegance, and we were writing it, reading it, and as time went on, editing it. Sitting together in the late hours in Gardner and Sue’s apartment on South Street and doing word counts…that was before word processing, but the quiet joy of selecting stories, determining the Platonic absolute of where each story should be positioned in an anthology, that elegant balancing that felt so much like the act of writing itself.

I don’t need to tell the reader that Gardner became one of the most important editors in the genre, as influential and essential to the mature state of science fiction as John W. Campbell was to its earlier formation. He was fine tuned to talent; he loved developing it in other writers; and that ability to nurture and develop so many writers, that ability to focus and shape the field…that was genius. Less known, sadly, is that he was a brilliant short story writer. The short form was his métier. Although he lamented that he wasn’t really comfortable with novel lengths, his oeuvre of what I think of as perfect short stories are second to none in or out of the genre. They are true expressions of the poetry that circulated through him like blood.

And as I surface from this sad, joyous, poignant reverie, I remember a special time of success, a period when Gardner, Susan, Michael Swanwick, and I were collaborating and workshopping like mad things. We secretly called ourselves The Fiction Factory. (Heaven forefend that word get out that we were hacks!) That was during the eighties when we were selling everything we wrote to the slicks, to PlayboyPenthouseOmni, and others, and making what was then serious money for our efforts. It was a time of compressed joy and friendship, a singular green time of youth, expectation, and creative awakening, and, of course, we thought it would go on forever.

It all started with…

No, there isn’t room here for that story, and for the myriad stories that, unleashed, would follow. Suffice it to say that Gardner and I have both published collections containing both fiction and nonfiction about that time. Gardner’s is called Slow Dancing Through Time; mine is The Fiction Factory. We explain it all in those volumes. (I can see Gardner standing up and shouting, “Yes, yes, buy these books by these shameless hacks!)

Lastly, I probably don’t need to mention that Gardner lived larger than life. He was welcoming to everyone, he was the quintessential Protestant schtickmeister, he could do stand up with the best of them, but safely hidden behind that comedic armor was a very private, intensely serious person. To have known that Gardner was and is one of the great joys of my life; and if you’d like to hear what love, friendship, memory, and pure silliness sounds like, I would refer you to the interview Gardner and I did for The Coode Street Podcast conducted by the excellent Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe. As they wrote in their tag-line: “We’re not sure any of it made sense, we do know it was a lot of fun to record.”

Coode Street Interview

So, dammit, Gardner, here I am writing your eulogy.

Don’t you remember? You were supposed to write mine!

Farewell, my brother.

I miss you!

—Jack Dann

Portions of this eulogy appeared in different form in Insinuations by Jack Dann (PS Publishing, 2010).