PUBLISHERS WEEKLY reviews THE SPIDER TAPESTRIES

/ January 31st, 2016 / No Comments »

TSPcoverThis past week, Publishers Weekly reviewed my new short story collection, The Spider Tapestries, and I feel like one lucky author, because whoever wrote the review seems to have understood my super-strange little book on every level.

The gist of the review:

“Elegant language and surrealistic themes defy genre and moral expectations in the weird and transgressive stories found in this collection . . . Allen’s pairing of individualistic suffering and cosmic hugeness evokes a lyrical friction between dread and wonder.”

Click here to read the whole review. The reviewer highlights stories “The Spider Tapestries,” “Sleepless, Burning Life,” “She Who Runs” and “Still Life With Skull,” over half of the “seven strange stories” in the book.

The Spider Tapestries officially goes live March 1, and is available for pre-order just about everywhere, in paperback and e-book formats.

Most of the book promo plans I have this year involve throwing whatever weight I have as a publisher behind Clockwork Phoenix 5, so I have no official plans for a Spider Tapestries launch. However, I’ll likely be reading from it at Mysticon here in Roanoke at the end of February. (It’s sold out, but if you happen to be going already, stop by and say hello.)

#SFWApro

Announcing THE SPIDER TAPESTRIES: SEVEN STRANGE STORIES

/ January 25th, 2016 / No Comments »

My next collection of short stories, The Spider Tapestries: Seven Strange Stories, is available now for pre-order in both electronic and paperback formats.

The book will officially launch March 1. The title story is the surreal piece that recently appeared at Lackington’s, that, as it happens, works out pretty well as a sort of introduction to the remaining six. You could view this book as my follow-up to Unseaming, although it’s a very different book; there’re horror elements mixed in there, for sure, but these aren’t horror stories — at the root they’re sci-fi and fantasy (and both) but above all they’re exceedingly strange.

Why only seven stories? All seven share a density of plot and an intense visual and conceptual weirdness that to my mind justifies the smaller size of the book. Together they represent my most experimental work. Adding more from the material I have available would dilute the effect.

The book includes “The Spider Tapestries” (Lackington’s 8, 2015), “Sleepless, Burning Life” (Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories, ed. JoSelle Vanderhooft, Torquere Books, 2011), “Twa Sisters” (Not One of Us 47, 2012), “Silent in Her Nest” (original to the collection, an oblique companion piece to my Mythos story “Her Acres of Pastoral Playground”), “She Who Runs” (Sky Whales and Other Wonders, ed. Vera Nazarian, Norilana Books, 2009), “Stolen Souls” (Altair 3, 1999), and “Still Life With Skull” (Solaris Rising 2: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction, ed. Ian Whates, Solaris, 2013).

A lot of “s” alliteration in this book. I think that’s just a thing I like to do. #SFWApro

I’m really privileged to have a terrific introduction to the book from Nicole Kornher-Stace; and humbling blurbs from Helen Marshall, Scott Nicolay and A.C. Wise. I’m gonna conclude this post by showing off those blurbs:

“Readers, be warned: Mike Allen will infect your subconscious with hallucinatory and alarming delight. This book is a must-read for fans of weird fiction and dark fantasy.”
—Helen Marshall, World Fantasy Award-winning author of Hair Side, Flesh Side and Gifts for the One Who Comes After

“There was a time before the marketplace sliced our wild fantastic literature into bite sized chunks, a time when visions could be astounding, amazing, and weird all at once, a time when Clark Ashton Smith could mainline a Thousand and One Nights into million-colored suns. Now comes Mike Allen, shredding raw that scar-woven shroud between then, now, and infinity, releasing hallucinatory torrents of jewel-encrusted erotic transhumanism with the intensity of a quasar and stripping bare the secret wheels and cogs of the universe beside those lovers who would destroy them. Here are stories accelerating divine sibling rivalries into ultimate cosmic horror and offering unthinkable sacrifices to mark mere step stones on journeys redefining time, space, and identity … dangerous short stories, not padded doorstops, epic explosions out of almost microscopic doses. More than a simple collection, these seven tales overlap and interplay in a crystalline cubist web that might as easily be the nightmares of deities or the dead dreams of a painted cranium, pirated memories or the visions gifted in an azure star spider’s bite. Surrender yourself to The Spider Tapestries and let these tales rewire your mind past genre for a while­—a while woven out of an eternity.”
—Scott Nicolay, World Fantasy Award-winning author of Do You Like to Look at Monsters? and Ana Kai Tangata

“The aptly named Spider Tapestries forms a stunning picture that is equal parts darkness and light … a whirlwind tour through worlds of decadent fantasy, noir-touched future-weird, and elegant horror. Mike Allen offers up intricate mythologies that feel real and lived in, rich-detailed stories for readers to immerse themselves in, and from which they will emerge changed. The stories feel epic in scope, from an assassin climbing through the clockwork gears of the world to rescue a goddess in a cage, to an AI moving through bodies and networks to gather up and reassemble the pieces of his lost love. Allen takes readers on a journey through years and worlds, all in the space of a few pages.”
—A.C. Wise, author of The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again


Pre-order from:
 
Paperback: Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound
 
Ebook: Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon AU | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Scribd

TSPcover

New year, three new stories

/ January 24th, 2016 / No Comments »

issue-8-coverThree eerie new stories of mine are available online, two of them free to read, the third acquirable via Kindle.

Lackington’s first published my short surreal piece “The Spider Tapestries” in November. This month editor Ranylt Rachildis posted all the stories from Issue 8 to the magazine site. You can now read “The Spider Tapestries” here.

(The illustration, I think, is a bit misleading. I swear this isn’t a horror story—at least it doesn’t fit my definition of one—nor are the protagonists exactly human.)

I have more to reveal about “The Spider Tapestries,” but that’s for another post.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies released my dark fantasy story “Longsleeves” as the first story in the first issue of 2016. What an honor!

You can read it online here.

longsleevesI’ve written about the story’s origins in this post. To what I wrote there I’ll add something even more arcane. “Longsleeves” was the first story I wrote after finishing my novel The Black Fire Concerto, and in a way the story is a kind of evil-funhouse-mirror reflection of the book, not unlike Stephen King’s Desperation and its companion novel The Regulators, just on a smaller scale.

(Adding a bit to the strangeness: Part Two and Part Three of The Black Fire Concerto are themselves a kind of funhouse mirror distortion of the characters and especially the plot of my far future short story “Twa Sisters” — so I see the three works as a kind of thematic trilogy. I don’t know if anyone else would be able to detect the elements that link them.)

Tangent Online gave “Longsleeves” a positive review. “Longsleeves” is also a companion piece to my previous Beneath Ceaseless Skies outing, “The Ivy-Smothered Palisade.”

TC-coverAnd finally, anthology Tomorrow’s Cthulhu has been released on Kindle. It contains my short story “Drift from the Windrows,” a story rooted in the not at all far-fetched premise that beings from Lovecraft’s Mythos might find a use for genetically-modified organisms (and the companies that make them).

I know I’m building a reputation as a horror writer, but believe it or not, this is only the second explicitly Lovecraftian story I’ve written to see print. (The first was “Her Acres of Pastoral Playground” in Cthulhu’s Reign.)

I’m someone who believes that writing in that form is better accomplished with theme, mood and imagery than by sowing Lovecraft’s made-up words throughout the story, so just like in my first outing, you won’t find any Unnameable Ones mentioned by name.

If you check ’em out, let me know what you think.

#SFWApro

MYTHIC DELIRIUM: VOLUME TWO is out everywhere

/ January 24th, 2016 / No Comments »

The second Mythic Delirium anthology, which I co-edited with Anita, came out at the very end of 2015, while I was in a frenzy of e-book preparation and mailing.

When we released the first anthology in the series, waaaay back in 2014 (heh) we were blessed with a rave review and a star from Publishers Weekly. For this new volume, alas, we were not so blessed, but even this very mixed review enthused about some of the stories and poems and praised some of the work as “brilliant.” In my biased opinion, of course, all of it is brilliant.

I’ve at last assembled all the links where you can buy the book in one place. You can find that page here.
 

Order from:

Paperback: Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s | Indiebound
 
Ebook: Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon AU | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Scribd


 
#SFWApro
 

End of year summary 2015: a beautiful nightmare

/ December 30th, 2015 / 1 Comment »

So I drop in a heap at the end of 2015 feeling like I’ve packed several years’ worth of creative living into one. This ain’t the first time for that, but even judged my often hyper-busy standard this has been a barnstormer of a year, a strenuous ascent of a year, one hell of a year. I haven’t come out of it completely unscathed — I’m undergoing physical therapy right now for two unrelated injuries — but still, this year’s gonna be really hard to top.
 
Keith Laumer’s “Test to Destruction” in Dangerous Visions recounts the ordeal of a man being telepathically tortured by aliens while simultaneously physically tortured by fellow humans. Back in May, I joked to friends that I was living my “Test to Destruction,” simultaneously running the Kickstarter campaign to fund Clockwork Phoenix 5 while researching and writing a special section about the renovation and return of the Norfolk & Western Class J 611 steam locomotive for my newspaper day job. I got it all done, with lots of wonderful help and support, but getting there was a bear.
 
That same month, my short story collection Unseaming made the shortlist for the Shirley Jackson Award and hit sales rank #101 overall on Amazon. Papaveria Press released the limited edition hardcover of my novella The Quiltmaker. And Publishers Weekly gave a starred review to Bone Swans by C.S.E. Cooney, the first solo-author short-story collection Anita and I have ever published through our Mythic Delirium Books imprint. And in the midst of all that I ran a charity 5k.
 
No other month was quite that intense, but really, things never slowed down much.
 
I did have some previously unpublished (and some previously published) writing make it into print in 2015.
 

  • “The Sky-Riders,” a comic steampunk sci-fi Western I co-wrote with my friend Paul Dellinger appeared as an e-book, an audiobook, and finally a trade paperback.
  • Short story “The Cruelest Team Will Win,” a continuation of the world envisioned in my story “The Hiker’s Tale,” appeared in Rhonda Parrish’s anthology Corvidae.
  • My surreal piece “The Spider Tapestries” appeared in Lackington’s and will be the title story of my forthcoming collection.
  • My even more surreal story “Monster” re-manifested in audio form at Pseudopod.
  • Ellen Datlow, in her Best Horror of the Year long list of Honorable Mentions, gave kind nods to “Monster,” “The Lead Between the Panes” and “The Quiltmaker” from Unseaming, and to “Tardigrade” from Jason V. Brock’s A Darke Phantastique.
  •  
    Poetry-wise, the last of my unpublished “Claire-dare” poems reached daylight, an important personal milestone for me. Poems that appeared:
     

  • Sad Wisps of Empty Smoke,” Van Gogh’s Ear, January 9.
  • “The Bone Bird” and “Purloined,” Spectral Realms 2, Winter.
  • “Dearly Beloved” from Postscripts to Darkness 5 (2014), reprinted in the 2015 Rhysling Anthology
  • “Toujours Il Coûte Trop Cher,” co-written with C.S.E. Cooney, in Spectral Realms 3, Summer.
  • Chagall’s Lamp,” first published in Strange Horizons in 2005, reprinted in Strange Horizons: The First Fifteen Years
  • Dormant,” Through the Gate 8, October
  •  
    Though I adored Suzette Haden Elgin and loved working with her, I have mixed feelings about the award for poetry collections that the Science Fiction Poetry Association created to honor her memory. Nonetheless, I was honored to have my poetry collection Hungry Constellations in the running for that award. (For the record, I won exactly zero awards this year, but it was nice to have nominations.)
     
    The biggest news for me writing-wise was a holdover from 2014. Back when Unseaming was loaded into the launch bay, Anita asked me what I hoped to see it do, and I answered that it would be amazing if it sold 1,000 copies. She asked me what I would do if it sold 5,000. I told her it was too unlikely to bother contemplating. But the actual answer, it turns out, was: celebrate with ice cream!
     
    So at year’s end, my baffling and gruesome book has now sold over 6,000 copies, more than 5,000 of those in e-book format, mostly Kindle, and brought home more than 10k in royalties. In addition to the Shirley Jackson Award nomination, it made the This Is Horror Award shortlist, and cover artist Danielle Tunstall was a Chesley Award finalist for her amazing photo manipulation work with model Alexandra Johnson. I got to read from the book at the legendary KGB Bar in Manhattan. I even got fan mail. BONKERS.
     
    Just to stay level-headed, I recently had a cool conversation with a fellow who writes cookbooks — from his perspective, only 6k in sales would be a disaster of colossal proportions. In genreland, though, those are decent numbers, or so suggests Chuck Wendig. I confess, it’s nice to feel validated for all my dogged persistence through the years. (Hopefully the feeling lasts!)
     
    I don’t expect my follow-up, The Spider Tapestries, to do anywhere near as well, as it’s half as long as Unseaming and ten times as weird. But we’ll see…
     
    Not everything was brag-worthy, for sure. After getting a good look at the real sales figures for my first novel, The Black Fire Concerto, I put sequel The Ghoulmaker’s Aria on the back burner even though the first draft is finished. Then after the Clockwork Phoenix 5 Kickstarter succeeded my creative life was absorbed in everything I needed to make to ensure backers get all they paid for. (That summary is here.) I did manage to sell a handful of new short stories, to Joe Pulver for The Leaves of a Necronomicon, Scott Andrews for Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Scott Gable for Tommorow’s Cthulhu, all of which will hopefully give me new things to blog about at the end of 2016.
     
    So how was your year? Feel free to tell me in a comment or link me to your own summary.
     
    #SFWApro
     
    P.S.: Neglected to mention, I got to write a blurb for a book of poetry by Rammstein frontman Till Lindemann! How weird and cool is that?
     

    One new podcast, two new poems, two new story sales

    / November 11th, 2015 / 1 Comment »

    I have been deep, deep, deep in the wilderness of Kickstarter campaign/submission reading land as bits and bobs related to my own writings have popped up over the last couple of months. This is my attempt to assemble them in a more tangible form than happy blurts on Twitter.
     
    Over Halloween weekend, horror podcasters Pseudopod posted a trio of aural horrors that included an audio adaption of my killer fractal story “Monster.” You can check it out here.
     
    My contributor’s copy of the horror poetry journal Spectral Realms arrived, contain “Toujours Il Coûte Trop Cher,” an epic poem I co-wrote with C.S.E. Cooney that imagines a final conversation between martyr Joan of Arc and condemned child murderer Gilles de Rais (who, as it happens, knew each other IRL.)
     

    Trop Cher

     
    I’m grateful to S.T. Joshi for giving these poor doomed souls a final rest, if not a peaceful one. You can get a copy of your own here.
     
    SR3_draft_cover2

     
    In the meantime, Mitchell Hart’s poetry zine Through the Gate has published a brand spelunking new, hot-from-the-oven poem from me, “Dormant,” a sort of golem-ic fever dream. You can read it here.
     
    I’m also proud to be able to announce two new short story sales.
     
    Scott Andrews of Beneath Ceaseless Skies has purchased my dark fantasy “Longsleeves,” a companion piece to my first horror-fantasy story to appear there, “The Ivy-Smothered Palisade.”
     
    “Longsleeves” has multiple points of origin, including a prompt by C.S.E. Cooney and an art exhibit by Beverly Semmes. On Twitter, I’ve called it my #killallmen story. If that doesn’t pique your curiosity, let me toss in an actual assessment I received in a rejection: “It embodies some fairly angry, violent feminism, which will piss people off.” I dunno that I can truly cop to that as conscious intent, but it will sure be delightful if it happens.
     
    And today, Scott Gable with Broken Eye Books (I’m having good luck with Scotts this year) formally accepted my new Lovecraftian short story “Drift from the Windrows” to the upcoming anthology Tomorrow’s Cthulhu. Authors were asked to combine the Mythos with near-future takes on science. I took inspiration from research Anita once did into the malignant aspects of lateral gene transference in genetically modified plants. GMOs were just made for Lovecraft, don’t you think?
     
    TC-cover

     
    You can pre-order copies of Tomorrow’s Cthulhu here.
     
    Back to Editorland. Whew!
     
    #SFWApro
     

    Discomfort Food and the BEST HORROR reading list

    / September 30th, 2015 / No Comments »

    Unseaming_ecover_newRecently Best Horror of the Year editor Ellen Datlow posted her annual recommended reading list, and I was pleased to see that four of my stories from 2014 made the bloody cut.
     
    On the honorable mention roll call: “The Quiltmaker,” my novella-length sequel to “The Button Bin,” that appeared in Unseaming; “The Lead Between the Panes,” first published last year in Lakeside Circus, reprinted in Unseaming; “Monster,” published in Nameless Digest, also reprinted in Unseaming; and “Tardigrade” from Jason V. Brock’s A Darke Fantastique anthology.
     
    Thanks, Ellen, for the tip of the hat.
     
    Even more recently (like, today) a Mind Meld forum discussing weird fiction appeared at SF Signal. A number of my esteemed fellow authors tackled a definition of “The New Weird,” but since I basically think of “The New Weird” as “newer writers writing the Weird” I fudged that part of the question and focused more on why I think folks like the Weird in general, and thus I attempt to explain the made-up-on-the-spot concept of Discomfort Food — the idea that it’s comforting to know that others find life as disturbing as I do.
     
    The Mind Meld also includes much more learned input than mine from Ann VanderMeer, Laird Barron, C.S.E. Cooney, John Klima, Lucy A. Snyder and many more. Check it out here. My thanks to Andrea Johnson for including me!
     
    #SFWApro
     

    Chesley Award UNSEAMING sale

    / August 19th, 2015 / No Comments »

    Unseaming_ecover_newIn honor of Danielle Tunstall‘s Chesley Award nomination for best paperback cover, the ebook edition of Unseaming will be on sale for 99 cents through Thursday night.
     
    The Chesley Awards, given by the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists, will be announced Thursday evening at Sasquan (aka the World Science Fiction Convention) in Spokane, Wash.
     
    You can find the discounted Unseaming editions here:
     

    Amazon
    Amazon UK
    Amazon CA
    Nook
    iTunes

     
    #SFWApro
     

    Not a Readercon report

    / July 29th, 2015 / No Comments »

    Readercon was great, but as I’m in the midst of reading Clockwork Phoenix 5 submissions and starting on a novel revision, I’m not going to be able to provide any kind of detailed report.
     


     
    I did not win the Shirley Jackson Award, though I remain honored to have been nominated and enjoyed meeting a number of my fellow nominees. I certainly don’t begrudge Helen Marshall her win for best collection.
     
    I am pleased to report that Bone Swans, the debut collection from C.S.E. Cooney that Anita and I published through our Mythic Delirium Books imprint, sold out at Readercon. Nor did Unseaming fare poorly, for that matter. And, at the joint party Anita and I held for both books, Carlos Hernandez provided this rather amazing cake, that did not last long at all once it was cut:
     
    cake

     
    Finally, Scott Edelman made a video of one of the panels I participated in, along with Shira Lipkin, Patty Templeton, Catt Kingsgrave and moderator Kate Nepveu, “Successfully Writing About Horrible Things.” If you like, you can watch the video below!
     

     
    #SFWApro
     

    Readercon matters

    / July 6th, 2015 / No Comments »

    This weekend: Readercon. I’m so looking forward to seeing people there, as well as the folks we’ll visit as we’re on the way.
     
    My schedule changed a little since I first posted it. (Post is updated to reflect that.) My autograph session now happens 8 p.m. Friday. I’ll also be taking part in the “Miscellany” variety show Saturday night, reciting a poem or two. (Imagine that!)
     
    Anita and I will hold a two-book party Saturday night in our room, starting about 9-ish. It’s the official launch party for Bone Swans by C. S. E. Cooney, and we’ll also be celebrating my Shirley Jackson Award nomination for my lil collection of horror tales, Unseaming. (And then the winners get announced Sunday morning. No reason to be nervous at all! *g*) My reading takes place noon Sunday — um, right after the award ceremony! We’ll see how that works out…
     
    Copies of Bone Swans and Unseaming will be available in the dealers room at the Small Beer Press table. (My thanks to Gavin Grant for allowing that to happen.)
     
    If you’re gonna be there yourself, don’t be shy, come say Hi!
     
    #SFWApro
     

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