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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Review: Terror Tales of the Ocean

It’s rare that a themed anthology excites me, but Grey Friar Press’s Terror Tales of the Ocean just amazed me with the quality and variety of the stories contained. It has this genius layout where the stories are alternated by short articles about real life oceanic horrors like the Bermuda Triangle, Giant Squid, and other dangers of the mysterious depths. Anyone who grew up reading about stuff like ancient aliens or psychic powers will have a lot of fun with this. And the fiction within is first rate, all the stories are either truly disturbing tales representing the cutting edge of weird horror, or are classic takes on the subject manner that embrace their pulp roots and go all out with the genre tropes. The deeper you go into the book, the weirder and stranger this book gets, just like the unexplored depths in the sunless voids of the ocean. I give this collection my highest recommendation. The best themed anthology since Grimscribe’s Puppets.

Some of the standouts to me were:

Adam Nevil’s Hippocampus - An incredibly creepy story which pulls a trick I have never seen a author pull off, his story is devoid of any characters. You will have to read it to know what I mean.

Conrad Williams’s The Offing - A nebulous fever dream of loss and menace.

Simon Strantzas’s First Miranda - An attack on the reader with it’s freudian delving of the subconscious and the horrors you may find there.

Adam Golaski’s Hushed Will Be The Murmurs - Another brilliant nightmarescape from one of the most talented, and underappreciated, writers in the field of weird horror fiction.

Robert Sherman’s And This Is Where We Falter - A chimera of surrealism and high pulp action.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

2016 Coming Attractions

    2016 is looking to be a fantastic year for weird horror readers. And The Plutonian will be here to offer news and reviews of all these upcoming releases. Is the weird horror renaissance reaching critical mass? Or will it end up devouring itself? Well we have started 2016 with a future classic in Livia Llewellyn’s Furnace, a collection like a subterranean river of mutating forms and rotting perversions. I have made a list of upcoming books I am excited about and that The Plutonian will be reviewing.

    Joe Pulver is bringing some collections out this year that just look amazing. For my money Joe Pulver is the best editor out there.. His Grimscribe’s Puppets being maybe the best themed antho I have ever read. He has three collections announced for 2016: Leaves of a Necronomicon ( which I take is a history of the Necronomicon written by various authors ), The Madness of Dr. Caligari ( a tribute to the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari ), and Darker Companions ( a tribute to the writings of Ramsey Campbell ).

    Matthew Bartlett blew the weird horror scene away with his first collection Gateways to Abominations in 2014, which was just a mind blowing assault on the scenes with gothic and body horror. He has a new collection coming out in 2016 called Creeping Waves, which is a kind of loose sequel to Gateways to Abomination.

    Richard Gavin has been quietly producing some of the best work in the field for years. He has recently announced a new collection coming out this year called Sylvan Dread: Tales of Pastoral Darkness. All readers of horror should keep an eye on that one.

    Scott R. Jones runs one of the best small presses out there called Martian Migraine Press. He has a new antho he has edited that just looks incredible called Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis. It just went up for preorder and should be a great platform for some up and coming writers to bring some new blood… or ichor…. to the scene.

    Christopher Slatsky has one collection under his belt, Alectryomancer and Other Weird Tales, which put his name on the map as a trail blazer in the weird horror scene. He has an as of yet unnamed collection coming out from Dunham Manors Press.

    It is looking to be a stellar year for weird horror fans and The Plutonian will be here with all the news and reviews of the weird horror scene that’s fit to print.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Review of Livia Llewllyn's Furnace.

Livia Llewellyn’s Furnace absolutely blew me away. I read the whole collection in maybe two days of feverish obsession, so gripped by her writing I slogged through the workday only to rush home to get back to these deliciously erotic and nightmarish stories. The highest compliment I can give to this book is that after reading a story, I immediately wanted to read this story to one of my lovers, in candlelight, whispered in the night, like a dark secret, or a perverse love letter. Livia’s writing always goes to the dark places not out of fear of them, but out of the excitement of what dark wonders and terrible beauty there is to find. With writing this powerful I have no hesitation in saying she is the premier writer of weird horror working today. I don’t see anyone writing like her, you would have to go to some obscure Eastern European or French writer to draw a comparison. Maybe the love child of Marguerite Duras and Stefan Grabinski? I urge you to rush out and grab a copy if you have not already, and maybe grab another copy for your lover….

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Witch

I would like to encourage Plutonian readers to go out and see The Witch while it is still in theaters. It is a gorgeous gothic film filled to the brim with atmosphere and dread. While watching it I thought.. it’s like if Kubrick had directed a remake of Haxan. I think it stands as a 21st-century masterpiece.. along with Anti-Christ, Inland Empire, and Under the Skin. As someone who wishes that there was more to life than crazy relatives, soul crushing everyday labor, and loneliness… this film really spoke to me. I wish that there were dark powers and temptations. The Witch is the blackest of invocations, a hymn for those who follow the left hand path. I left the theatre in a state of awe.. and that ending will stay with me for my entire life. Go see it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Interview with Livia Llewellyn.


Today we have a very special guest on The Plutonian… Livia Llewellyn! Livia is the author of two collections: Engines of Desire, and her just released new collection Furnace. Livia is a poet of bruised flesh, of transformations both dreaded and desired, of dark awakenings and blinding truths. Livia is a true trailblazer and on my list of must read authors. I love her writing, combining exquisite prose with a darkly sensuous viewpoint. It is a true honor having Livia on here to answer a few questions. I eagerly encourage my readers to check out Furnace, a review will be appearing here in the next couple weeks.

The Plutonian: What book/story/film inspired you to want to be a part of the weird horror genre? What horror writers did you look up to and maybe aspire to produce work at a equal level to in your early days of being a horror fiction fan?

Livia: I’ve been a horror fan ever since I was a toddler (I have the pictures of me dancing with skeletons to prove it), and so there are so many influences in my life, it’d be ridiculous to name them all. When I started writing seriously in 2003-2004, I considered myself a fantasy writer. I joined SFWA, I signed up for Clarion, I was very focused on fantasy, albeit dark fantasy. On the second day of Clarion, they were passing out free back issues of F&SF Magazine, and I nabbed a copy that had Laird Barron’s novella “The Imago Sequence” in it. I read it that evening, and before I was even a couple of paragraphs in, I knew that that was the kind of fiction I wanted to write. And just like that I was a horror writer.
The Plutonian: Do you feel that sexuality and horror are specifically interconnected and/or are you more responding to a lack of sexuality in horror?

Livia: Horror is by its nature transgressive, and so is erotica – it’s also a liminal form of art and state of being. Horror and erotica occupy the same dark edges of human existence. We (the majority of us) shove them both to the sides of daily routine, we confine them to moments of darkness or weakness or both. We tell ourselves that horror and erotica is unnatural, immoral, and shouldn’t be a part of the “normal” human experience. And yet we oscillate within horror and erotic states of being for so much of our lives that they define us as much as, if not more than, any other states of being, even through their suppression or absence. I combine them because they’re already combined. Like love and hate, and life and death, they’re not opposites but the same side of the coin, the opposite side being the unknowable void – I just happen to point this out in my fiction. And I think many horror writers do that as well, and are celebrated for it – Clive Barker and Anne Rice being the biggest names of course, but there are many others out there.
The Plutonian: Horror fans tend to always be seeking weird and obscure works. Have there been any obscure horror books or films you have discovered recently you would like to talk about?

Livia: I know there’s been a lot of buzz about E. Elias Merhige’s 1990 movie “Begotten”, which has been sort of rediscovered in the past couple of months. I watched it a few weeks ago, and it’s unbelievably disturbing – it was very difficult for me to sit through it, I had to keep stopping the movie (it’s currently on YouTube) and walk away from the computer. As far as fiction goes, I’ve been reading hundreds of things for the Shirley Jackson Awards for 2015, so I’m not going to talk about what I’ve found among the submissions that really grabbed me – I think it’s only fair to wait until after the nomination process is over before I name names.
The Plutonian: I would say that out of any current writer working, I find you the only one capable of truly shocking me as a reader… there are moments in "Horses" and "Omphalos" that are shocking and disturbing in a very primal way. Is it important for you to be able to disturb a reader and why is it important?

Livia: I don’t try to write anything with the intent to disturb – the images that I write are fascinating to me, and I think part of my writing them down is to try to discover why those images and themes are so attractive to me. I don’t have an answer, by the way – I don’t know why I write what I write, and perhaps that’s for the best. If I ever found out, I might no longer feel the need to write, and for the time being, I don’t want that to happen.
The Plutonian: Have you any favorite dark and erotic fictions? Do you ever read some de Sade or The Story of O under candlelight?

Livia: Well, I don’t read by candlelight, as I basically live in a tinderbox. Also, unless you have a lamp, it’s almost impossible to direct candlelight onto the page – believe me, I’ve tried, and I almost burned my face off. Anyway! I haven’t read any erotic fiction lately – I just don’t have the time. My favorite erotica writer is Ana├»s Nin, and as far as contemporary writers go, Jacqueline Carey is probably my favorite – her fantasy novels are very erotic, very dark. But most of what I’ve read over the years was written during the late 1800’s to mid 1900’s – mostly erotica, but a lot of it fiction that isn’t always explicit but is extremely dark, atmospheric, and sexually charged. I’m not a big believer in the “kill your darlings” rule, and the writers I like the most are the ones who didn’t throw away their most beautiful sentences, but kept them and accommodated their presence.
The Plutonian: When you write what is the primary goal for your fiction? An enjoyable read? A political message? Some creepy atmosphere?

Livia: I have absolutely no goals when I write, except to finish whatever I’m writing. I know a lot of readers have picked out feminist themes and characters in my work, or Lovecraftian philosophies (whatever those are), but I honestly don’t have anything like that in mind when I’m writing. Creepy atmosphere is important for some of my stories more than others, but mainly I just want the plot to make some kind of sense, and for the ending not to fall apart, and to not blow past the deadline too much. My editors will confirm, however, that I fail that last one all the time…
The Plutonian: What is your perfect late night double feature horror film viewing?

Livia: I don’t like watching horror movies late at night, because I’m a total chicken-shit who will sleep with the lights on and a fork in my hand afterwards. Seriously, I can’t watch horror once the sun goes down (unless it’s something stupid and campy, like American Horror Story). But I tend to watch movies that have similar themes and styles, so my double features would be along the lines of watching “The Thing” along with “The Last Winter”, or “Here Comes the Devil” along with “We Are What We Are”, or “The Others” along with “Crimson Peak”.
The Plutonian: A lot of your work seems to deal with trauma and change. Do you think change is positive or a thing to be feared… or both?

Livia: Both. I mean, it’s great to be alive, but I really hate the fact that I’m getting older and my body is starting to fall apart and someday I’m going to die. I love discovering new things and exploring new places, but I mourn the loss of restaurants and stores that no longer exist, wild landscapes that have been irrevocably changed through urban sprawl, and I fear – I know – that the things I currently love will someday suffer the same fate. But that’s just the human condition. We want change and we want things to be the same, and we put ourselves through a kind of life-long exquisite torture wanting both and rejecting each for the other and never quite finding the balance we seek – hence the trauma, I think. I know my stories address that to horrific extremes, but it’s a condition, a physical and emotional journey that even in the most fantastical and grotesque circumstances I put my protagonists through, readers can understand and even empathize with. Because it’s a very human journey, as common to each of us as breathing.
The Plutonian: Do you believe there is an ultimate meaning to life? Or do you think that life is basically unknowable?  

Livia: Life is unknowable, and so is death. Everything we do and create is, I think, an attempt (consciously and subconsciously) to ascribe meaning to it. Some people feel they have the answers, others don’t. I’m still at the “I don’t know” stage.
The Plutonian:  When you write, do you write for an audience or do you write for yourself and hope others like it?

Livia: I do write for myself, but I also do think of my readers, because after ten years of publication and two collections out, I know I have readers and I can’t pretend that no one knows who I am or that no one’s going to read what I write. And I’m fairly confident that the reason people like my fiction is because of what I write about and the way I write it, so I don’t sit at the computer and worry that if I have protagonist X open door A instead of B, readers will freak out and throw the book across the room – I’m also my audience, and if I like what I write, then others will like it. Hopefully, that is.
The Plutonian: And finally do you have any new works or any new projects you would like to talk about after Furnace?

Livia: I’m working on a few stories for anthologies, I’m halfway through writing stories (which I’m posting on Patreon) for an erotica collection titled Tales of the Black Century, and after that I’m finishing up my novel.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Best of 2015!

Now that 2015 is in the rear view mirror now it’s time to look back at the best films and books of the year. This is the first of a yearly Plutonian best of edition. It has been an interesting year in Weird Horror. Some amazing films have brought back intelligence and ideas over gore and jump scares. And in the Weird Horror fiction scene there has been an explosion in the micro presses, a lot of wonderful work has been coming out showcasing a lot of new talents. But on the other hand that same explosion has resulted in a lot of over hyped and mediocre work being released over flooding the market. Also a lot of the groundbreaking writers from ten years ago have seemed to either have left the Weird Horror genre or have lost the fire and are releasing some uninspired work these days. So overall it’s an interesting time in the Weird Horror scene, a sort of changing of the guard from the old to the new. There are some amazing new books coming out in 2016. Matthew Bartlett’s Creeping Waves, Livia Llewellyn’s Furnaces, Scott Jones's anthology Cthulhusattva, Joe Pulver should be coming out with a couple anthologies, and Christopher Slatsky has a as of yet untitled collection coming out. I definitely recommend that Weird Horror fans look out for those. So anyway on with the best of's!

Best film of 2015: Ex Machina.

Ex Machina to me was the best film of 2015. Oscar Issac deserves an award for his performance here as the guy who finally breaks the secret of developing artificial intelligence. Great acting, beautiful camerawork, amazing soundtrack, and a lot to think about after the credits roll. It has a lot to say about artificial intelligence and what it means to be human. Self survival, social climbing, using desire as a weapon, all explored in this insightful film.  I love the misdirection the film uses to keep you off guard. It starts off as a kind of a cliche film about an innocent who arrives at a castle/mansion of a mad scientist who is eager to show off his experiments, only to have your expectations used against you. Ex Machina is in the linage of the more serious 1970’s sci-fi films like Parts: The Clonus Horror or Demon Seed. A rare sci-fi film that is more about ideas than action sequences. A must see.

Second best film of 2015: It Follows.
It Follows really caught me off guard. A “slasher” film about sexual politics and sexual guilt? Paying homage to the traditions while at the same time subverting them? I was blown away that a “slasher” could still feel fresh and cutting edge. This film shares a kind of autumnal feel similar to Halloween, and it’s soundtrack is as effective as Halloween’s to evoking a sense of dread. Halloween’s theme of a silent killer lurking and stalking you, especially if you are promiscuous, is treated subliminally in that film, where as in It Follows it is examined and brought front and center. The acting was superb in this, the main actress, Maika Monroe, was brilliant in a role most others would over act in. She has a bizarre curse laid on her from a man who seduces her, giving her the curse to rid himself of it, since it spreads like a STD from victim to victim. And the curse is this thing which can change into looking like anybody, which stalks her day and night till it can kill her and move on to killing the person who spread it to her, and on and on, like an evil chain letter.  I love how the curse can be spread by people with the best of intentions or innocently, but either way lethal. She tries to get rid of the curse herself but there is no answer to it. But there is a line of boys who would love to try to help her by hooking up with her…. Highly recommended.

Best book of 2015: Alectryomancer and other Weird Tales. 
Christopher Slatsky’s Alectryomancer and other Weird Tales was the best debut since Golaski’s Worse Than Myself, Nicolay’s Ana Kai Tangata, Bartlett’s Gateway’s to Abomination, and Llewellyn’s Engines of Desire. He writes a kind of sci-fi that is both speculative and darkly surreal. Slatsky’s predecessors seem to be more Ellison and Sturgeon than Poe and Lovecraft. He is more intent on attacking you with a constantly shifting reality exposing the cracks in your perception of normality then in writing the more traditional tale of terror. In his fiction you have no idea where he is going and you can be assured that you are about to get your mind blown. Read his work before all your friends have and you are the last one to know.
Second best book of 2015: Beneath an Oil-Dark Sea: The Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan ( Volume Two ).
Under an Oil Dark Sea is book two of the Caitlin Kiernan best of collection. Showcasing the current era of her writing, it’s a dark gem of a book. Kiernan may be the greatest writer working today in the Weird Horror genre. Poetic, melancholy, perverse, Neil Gaiman said of Keirnan that, “ Kiernan is the poet and the bard of the wasted and the lost.” so if you, like me, prefer prose that is both bleak and beautiful, I urge you to seek out her work. Masterpiece after masterpiece, with maybe only two or three stories I found to be not to my taste. I give this book my highest recommendation.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Review: Upsteam Color

There seems to be a resurgence in the Sci-Fi film genre going on. I recently saw a great film that blew my mind called Upstream Color. Upstream Color is a vanguard film in the pseudo New Weird Sci-Fi scene along with Under the Skin, Enemy, Berberian Sound Studio, and Beyond the Black Rainbow. These sci-fi films follow a very abstract aesthetic and are more concerned with the inhuman, the alien, and the other than with the human. These films tend to leave a lot of viewers confused and disturbed. And they are meant to be, New Weird Sci-Fi is an attack on your preconceptions of reality and the body, buts its also an investigation into unknown waters, ideas being torn apart and reexamined. It is a welcome return to a kind of Ballardian soft Sci-Fi, more concerned with identity and biology then with space operas and computers. Upstream Color is a drama of parasites and mind controlled hosts. While it kind of drifts in time and space, I would not say this is a dream film, it’s more of a drug induced fugue. It has a kind of bleached out medicinal haze to it. There are characters in this film.. but they serve more as host organisms then as real relatable people. All these different characters make up the reproductive cycle of the parasitic worm. A man referred to as the Thief collects the worms and forces them into people either by trickery or force. The worm has a hypnotic effect on its host which also makes them extremely susceptible to influence. Then the Thief takes advantage of this by robbing his victims of every last dollar they have. Then a man referred to as the Sampler draws the worms host to him and surgically removes the worm from the host's body and places it into one of his pigs at his pig farm. At that point the former host and the new pig host share a psychic connection. The former host also is now plagued with hallucinations and a feeling of alienation from reality. The story follows one woman as she goes through this process and tries to figure out what happened to her. But it's a discovery that can never happen, she is so irrevocably altered by these events that there is no going back to normalcy, she is both damaged and saved, and she finds her own kind of happy ending within the films reality. Reading this description I would imagine that the film sounds extremely ambiguous and surreal. It is. And it's also one of the best films of the 21 century. Highly recommended for adventurous film goers.