My Readercon schedule (is pretty sweet)

/ June 28th, 2015 / 1 Comment »

So I have my final Readercon schedule and it’s pretty awesome (I am going to be one busy, busy tiger) though it doesn’t cover things like the dual-book party Anita and I will throw to celebrate the launch of Bone Swans by C.S.E. Cooney and my Shirley Jackson Award nomination for Unseaming. And we’ll be doing even more stuff, I’m sure! But check it out, what’s there is already plenty enough to keep me on the go:

Friday July 11

4:00 PM    CO    Stop, Collaborate, and Listen. Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney (leader), Eileen Gunn, Malinda Lo, Michael Swanwick. The speculative community is full of collaboration: writers who write a story together, musicians who work with writers to create incredible performances and multimedia experiences, artists who work with writers both to illustrate and to create original works. Our panelists will discuss their experiences with the benefits and challenges of collaboration. How many people can collaborate on a project before it becomes unwieldy? How do methods of communication, issues of dividing payment, and other practical considerations influence collaborative artistry?

8:00 PM    E    Autographs. Mike Allen, Cecilia Tan.

Saturday July 12

10:00 AM    F    Successfully Writing About Horrible Things. Mike Allen, Catt Kingsgrave, Kate Nepveu (leader), Mary Rickert, Patty Templeton. If you’re not writing horror but your plot calls for something horrific to happen to a character, how do you handle it? You might go overboard and be detailed to the point of undermining or derailing the narrative, or might be so vague that the horrific event has little effect on the reader or the story. A reader who’s been through a similar experience might be offended or distressed by a description of awfulness that’s lurid, gratuitous, clichéd, or bland. What strategies can writers use to help readers empathize with the characters’ suffering and build stories that respectfully handle the consequences of terrible events, without falling into these traps?

2:00 PM    IN    Speculative Poetry Open Mic. Mike Allen (leader). Speculative poetry covers a broad range of forms and topics. Creators and fans of speculative poetry are invited to come to this open mic and perform their favorite works. Sign up at the info desk.

3:00 PM    ENL    Interstitial Arts Foundation Town Hall. Mike Allen, Tempest Bradford, Sarah Smith, Emily Wagner. The IAF is a group of “Artists Without Borders” who celebrate art that is made in the interstices between genres and categories. It is art that flourishes in the borderlands between different disciplines, mediums, and cultures. The IAF provides border-crossing artists and art scholars a forum and a focus for their efforts. Rather than creating a new genre with new borders, they support the free movement of artists across the borders of their choice. They support the development of a new vocabulary with which to view and critique border-crossing works, and they celebrate the large community of interstitial artists working in North America and around the world. The annual Interstitial Arts Foundation Town Meeting at Readercon is an exciting opportunity to catch up with the IAF and its many supporters, hear about what they’re doing to support the interstitial art community in 2015, offer ideas for future projects, and contribute your voice to the development of interstitial art.

Sunday July 13

10:00 AM    CO    Ghostbusting Lovecraft. Mike Allen, Gemma Files, John Langan, Adam Lipkin, James Morrow. In Max Gladstone’s blog post “Ghostbusting Lovecraft,” he writes: “Ghostbusters is obviously taking the piss out of horror in general. But while the busters’ typical enemies are ghosts of the Poltergeist persuasion, the Big Bad of the movie, a formless alien god from Before Time summoned by a mad cultist–cum–art deco architect, is basically Lovecraftian.” Unlike typical Lovecraftian protagonists, however, the Ghostbusters prevail over the eldritch horrors by exploiting the power structures and emotional connections that exist between people. Is the Ghostbusters story arc an alternative to the standard horror tropes, one that replaces fear with humor, defiance, and camaraderie? How else does it subvert our expectations of the conflict between humans and horrors?

11:00 AM    F    The Shirley Jackson Awards. Mike Allen, John Chu, Ellen Datlow, Daryl Gregory, Nicola Griffith, Gary K. Wolfe. In recognition of the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, and with permission of the author’s estate, the Shirley Jackson Awards have been established for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic. Jackson (1916–1965) wrote classic novels such as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as one of the most famous short stories in the English language, “The Lottery.” Her work continues to be a major influence on writers of every kind of fiction, from the most traditional genre offerings to the most innovative literary work. The awards given in her name have been voted upon by a jury of professional writers, editors, critics, and academics, with input from a Board of Advisors, for the best work published in the calendar year of 2014 in the following categories: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Single-Author Collection, and Edited Anthology.

12:00 PM    EM    Reading: Mike Allen. Mike Allen. Mike Allen reads selections from his Shirley Jackson Award-nominated story collection Unseaming.


UNSEAMING is 99 cents till Tuesday; six days left for BONE SWANS giveaway

/ June 21st, 2015 / No Comments »

I’ve got two promotions going on simultaneously to tell all y’all about:
Promotion one: My Shirley Jackson Award-nominated horror story collection Unseaming is the featured book today at Kindle Books and Tips. Coinciding with this, the ebook is available on Kindle, discounted from $5.99 to 99¢, till Tuesday. Check out the promotion here:
Promotion two: There’s just six days left to sign up for a chance to win one of the remaining ARCs of C.S.E. Cooney’s debut fantasy collection Bone Swans. Check out the Goodreads giveaway here:
We, as in Anita and I and Claire, will have paperback copies of both books to sell, sign and read from at Readercon, which is less than three weeks away now!



UNSEAMING cover artist a Chesley Award nominee

/ June 16th, 2015 / No Comments »

Even before the release of Unseaming last October, folks were expressing to me their enthusiasm for (or terror of, or repulsion by, or some combination thereof) horror photographer Danielle Tunstall’s arresting cover image. The buzz only grew once the book came out.
Unseaming_MD_web(Fact is, though I don’t think I could ever have dreamed up a better piece of art to match “The Button Bin” and “The Quiltmaker,” the stories that form the core of my collection, once I knew Danielle’s piece would be the book’s cover I also knew that the original title, The Button Bin and Other Horrors, would never do. The title had to enhance, not undermine, that image. Thus came Unseaming.)
This is why the delightful shock that Danielle’s cover for Unseaming is a finalist for the 2015 Chesley Award for best paperback cover just goes to show that sometimes great work from someone outside the system does indeed get the recognition it deserves. The Chesley Awards are given each year at WorldCon by the members of the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists, making them the illustrators’ equivalent of the Nebula Awards. Danielle is not a member; frankly, was unfamiliar with the group and the award prior to the announcement yesterday.
I had the pleasure of breaking the news to her yesterday afternoon (evening where she lives.) She reports that her daughter Estelle (seen here on the cover of Mythic Delirium 0.1) is suitably impressed.
In celebration, Danielle is offering new prints of her award-nominated cover art for sale on eBay. Please do check that out here.
There’s a fascinating story behind this image. The model for the cover, Alexandra Johnson, was a fan of Danielle’s who won a free photo shoot. Their meeting evolved into a full-blown collaboration once they began to work together. You can see a number of the photographs Danielle has taken of Alex here.
Alexandra, a brave model, has scoliosis. She and Danielle worked together on a series of images depicting the condition’s psychological toll, which is where the photograph that became my book cover came from. I’m pleased that they’ve continued to work together, because there’s clearly a gleefully sinister synergy between them.
And I couldn’t be prouder that the series ends (at least in Danielle’s blog entry) with an image of the Unseaming cover.
Finally, my thanks, once again, to Elizabeth Campbell of Antimatter Press, who made all of this possible.

THE QUILTMAKER limited edition is here!

/ June 10th, 2015 / 1 Comment »

Erzebet YellowBoy Carr of Papaveria Press has taken my most relentless horror story and shaped it into something beautiful. The Quiltmaker is available now in a very limited edition, a hand-bound hardcover with stunning cover art from Paula Arwen Owen.

I’ve long admired Erzebet’s beautiful handmade books, and I’m supremely honored to at last have one of my own. Only 18 of these were made, and only 13 are still available. (One copy is going to lucky Clockwork Phoenix 5 Kickstarter backer Tricia Murray as a giveaway prize.)

They’re $25 plus shipping, which is an absolute steal. You can buy them directly from Erzebet here.
Here’s a shot from Erzebet of the books when they were in progress:

Beautiful evil in larva form

And here’s a much less accomplished photograph of the book here in Roanoke:

But how big are they, really?

As an added bit of fun, the poetic blurb we came up with for the book:
A quiet neighborhood seething with hidden sins.
A troubled son returned, consumed by an evil beyond human ken.
That will seek what his neighbors keep concealed, not just behind their doors, but inside their skins.
A force that will peel them open, and stitch them all together again.




/ June 9th, 2015 / No Comments »

A nice surprise at the end of an arduous if triumphant May: my Shirley Jackson Award-nominated horror story collection Unseaming earned some kind words in the latest issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction from reviewer Paul di Filippo:

“Representing sixteen years of prose output from a fellow better known for his poetry and editing skills, these stories nonetheless show a writer with a natural facility for offbeat, gruesome conceits and expert delivery. Take a story like ‘The Blessed Days,’ which shows a future Earth where everyone exhibits copious bloody stigmata while they sleep. Such a notion is hard to reify plausibly, much less explain, but Allen does both. Then there’s ‘The Music of Bremen Farm,’ which takes a familiar folk tale and puts a creepy modern spin on it. Finally, ‘The Quiltmaker’ picks up where Allen’s Nebula-nominated ‘The Button Bin’ left off, giving us familial horrors encapsulated in unforgettable visuals.”

My thanks to Simon Strantzas for tipping me off. Paul also had kind words for his new collection Burnt Black Suns, also a Shirley Jackson finalist, also featuring an introduction by Laird Barron!
No rest for the wicked here. Anita and I are gearing up for Readercon, where we’ll be celebrating my Shirley Jackson nomination (and finding out who actually wins), and launching Bone Swans by C.S.E. Cooney, the first single-author story collection from Mythic Delirium. Plus, the Clockwork Phoenix 5 Kickstarter made it goal (Yes! Whew!) and the book is now open to submissions.

UNSEAMING is a Shirley Jackson Award finalist (and a CLOCKWORK PHOENIX 5 giveaway prize)

/ May 8th, 2015 / No Comments »

So this was always the plan—
Well, the idea that my short story collection Unseaming would be one of the rewards in a Kickstarter campaign for Clockwork Phoenix 5, that has been my plan for quite some time. Most every publishing project I tackled in 2014, I had in the back of my mind (or even the front of my mind) the notion that it would double as a Kickstarter prize.
What I didn’t plan for: the way Unseaming picked up a momentum all its own. Selling over 3,000 copies so far (mostly on Kindle, where, by the way, it’s still available at 99 cents through the end of the day, that wasn’t planned either), picking up starred reviews, and now, my Creepy Book That Could is a Shirley Jackson Award finalist.
Talk about an honor. Especially when I look at the fellow finalists in my category: Helen Marshall, Simon Strantzas, Robert Shearman, Stephen Graham Jones. I’ve read or am reading three of the four books, and they’re all terrific. It’s fortuitous that Anita and I were already planning to go to Readercon in July, where the winners get announced. I’ll be in great company.
I want to thank the judges for liking the book enough to include it on that wonderful list; my publisher, Elizabeth Campbell, for making all of this possible; and all the folks who’ve helped along the way.
Something I did plan: the Clockwork Phoenix 5 campaign is floating toward the $3,500 mark (there’s quite a ways to go still, with 20 days to go as of this writing). When we hit that mark I plan to give away at least one (likely more) signed trade paperback copies of Unseaming (via names drawn from a hat) to my Kickstarter backers. I hope you’ll consider becoming one of them!
What a week, what a month, what a year.

The last Claire-dare poem and a look back

/ April 15th, 2015 / 1 Comment »

So, at the end of 2010, I thought my days of writing poetry were behind me. I had gone from someone excited about speculative poetry, who advocated for it anywhere the opportunity arose, to someone so burned out and dejected by the state of the scene that I doubted I’d ever write it again. It depressed me to no end. (For evidence, what I wrote back then in a locked post: “For many months, when it comes to writing poetry, I’ve been blocked. Even the thought of trying depressed me.”)
Along came C.S.E. Cooney, who rained down prompts on me and encouraged her friends and family to do the same. (Nicole Kornher-Stace, Patty Templeton and Sita Aluna (Claire’s mum!) all participated, as I recall.)
And it worked. The wall that kept the poetry from me crumbled away. The result: a cycle of a dozen poems that I call the Claire-dare poems, that have a special place in my dark heart.


As of this spring, the last unpublished Claire-dare appeared in the world — with the appearance of “The Bone Bird” in the latest issue of Spectral Realms — and I wanted to take stock of the series. I’ve listed them in the order I wrote them, still preserved in a series of locked Livejournal posts. Then noted where they ended up and when, and if it’s still possible to read them or get hold of them, I’ve included the link:

  1. Sad Wisps of Empty Smoke,” Van Gogh’s Ear, Jan. 9, 2015
  2. “Binary,” Fantastique Unfettered 4, December 2011
  3. “Empty Nest,” Illumen, Spring 2011
  4. “The Bone Bird,” Spectral Realms 2, Winter 2015
  5. “Heart’s Delight,” Not One of Us 46, October 2011
  6. The Vigil,” Goblin Fruit, Autumn 2012
  7. “Sisyphus Crawls,” Fantastique Unfettered 4, December 2011
  8. “Seed the Earth, Burn the Sky,” Fantastique Unfettered 4, December 2011
  9. “These Wonders Are Yours,” Illumen, Spring 2011
  10. “A Prayer,” Fandom Forever 1, March 2012
  11. The Unkindest Kiss,” Apex Magazine 20, April 28, 2011
  12. La Donna del Lago,” Strange Horizons, August 22, 2011



Once upon a time I wouldn’t have thought twice about gathering these up into a chapbook of some sort. Any thoughts out there about this idea?
(I should mention that the new Spectral Realms also holds a rare “Dwarf Stars”-sized poem from me, “Purloined.” And that an upcoming issue will contain the poem I actually co-wrote with C.S.E. Cooney, “Toujours Il Coûte Trop Cher.”)

New story sale, new Rhysling nomination

/ April 14th, 2015 / No Comments »

So I’ve written a new Lovecraftian tale, my first explicit stab at the Mythos since “Her Acres of Pastoral Playground” appeared in Cthulhu’s Reign in 2010.
My new story is called “The Sun Saw,” and I’m proud to share that it will be appearing in Joseph S. Pulver’s forthcoming anthology The Leaves of a Necronomicon.
The premise of Joe’s book is delightful — Leaves traces the ownership of a single volume of The Necronomicon through the decades, in the manner of Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx. Some contributors were asked to coordinate their efforts for narrative consistency. I, however, was not. I was asked to set my story in the 1950s, which I did.
“The Sun Saw” takes place in the same milieu as my story “Gutter” from Unseaming, though a casual reader probably wouldn’t find any evidence of that. You’ll just have to take my word for it for now; I’m working on a couple of stories that would make the connections clear, but they’re nowhere close to finished.
Chaosium intends to release The Leaves of a Necronomicon in August. (August will be a big month for me, as that’s when Rhonda Parrish’s Corvidae anthology is also scheduled to drop, with my new story “The Cruelest Team Will Win,” set in the same continuum as my stories “The Hiker’s Tale” and “Follow the Wounded One.”)
Speaking of works tied to other works, which I seem to be doing a lot of lately, my poem “Dearly Beloved,” published last year in Postscripts to Darkness, landed a Rhysling Award nomination. The poem is set in the same far future Earth as my short stories “Twa Sisters” and “Still Life With Skull.” (And I’m right now working on a new story in that series.)
I’m grateful to Dominik Parisien for giving the poem a home (this is on top of all the work he did editing my newest poetry collection, Hungry Constellations.) I owe the man at least a beer, don’t you think?


/ April 13th, 2015 / No Comments »

Unseaming_MD_webHa! I’m been so busy doing things I’ve fallen behind on the blogistic duty of explaining what I’ve been up to. Well, this is a good way to return to form.
My Unseaming “book tour” is over, or has at least landed in a long pause. (I hope to share more about what all of that was like very soon!) My (Gruesome) Little Collection That Could has picked up some more nice notices along the way, though.
Locus Online has reprinted the review by Stefan Dziemianowicz that ran in the March print issue of Locus. It’s a review I feel incredibly lucky to have:

Allen can write as lyrically and as viscerally as the best of them … an exceptional debut collection, and its stories show an imaginative writer with a very original voice working at the top of his game.

You can read the full review here.
The March issue of Rue Morgue also held a review of Unseaming, this one from Serbian novelist and critic Dejan Ognjanovic. The review begins:

You just can’t turn your eyes away from the stunning cover by Danielle Tunstall: the seams of the skin coming undone and revealing the new flesh beneath. The image is a perfect introduction to the haunting world of Mike Allen, one of the most original practitioners of the body horror subgenre since Clive Barker’s Books of Blood.

When I was 16, The Books of Blood were my favorite books, period. And I’m still fond of them 30 years later. So you can imagine how that review made me feel…

In case you missed it (cuz I did too!): new story at DRABBLECAST

/ March 23rd, 2015 / No Comments »

Ticks are never easy to spot. An intelligent species of them would be especially evasive, n’est-ce pas?
Folks familiar with my work might find my short story “Tick Flick” an unusually sweet and sentimental depiction of friendship, except that the friends so depicted happen to be giant, sentient ticks. Obviously I wrote this story with commercial conformity in mind.
Accepted by the disturbed gentlemen of The Drabblecast, “Tick Flick” was tentatively scheduled for a spring release, but instead crept under the seams of 2014 and bit down just before the joint of New Year’s Eve, becoming, without my knowing it, my final publication of the old year rather than the first story of the new.
Drabblecast released “Tick Flick” as a “B-Side,” meaning you must be a subscriber in order to hear it. If this issue’s gorgeous cover art doesn’t get you to sign up (which you can do here) then I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Feast your eyes:



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