We all know the Seven Deadly Sins – Sleepy, Happy, Dopey, Incontinence, Edward, Coveting Thy Neighbour’s Toaster, and Doc. The Severn Deadly Sins, on the other hand, revolve around the Severn Valley in Englishland, home of many of Ramsey Campbell’s wonderful stories – of which more later. So today we have seven weird publications to mention. For the art and comics enthusiasts, we also feature fabulous art reveals from Brandon Barrows’ new graphic story collection, Mythos: Lovecraft’s Worlds.
We’ll start by being arty. Brandon Barrows, comics and story writer, is incidentally a fellow revivalist for Carnacki the Ghost Finder, as in his collection The Castle-Town Tragedy, which we’ve mentioned here before – three brand-new tales of William Hope Hodgson’s occult detective.
Please note that art throughout is copyrighted by their creators/publishers. Click for larger images.
Whilst not abandoning Hope Hodgson, he’s recently gone all H P Lovecraft again, with his collection Mythos: Lovecraft’s Worlds. In this production Brandon and artist Hugo Petrus adapt eight of Lovecraft’s stories to the comic format. Many of these are lesser-known and some have never before been adapted to comics, such as The Curse of Yig and Ibid (a rare humour story!).
We asked Brandon for a detailed breakdown of his inspiration and process when writing Mythos, bearing in mind the complexity of the creative process. After considerable thought, and numerous deeply philosophical emails between us, he said:
“Please buy my books and comics. I need money.”
When we showed him our cattle-prod, he did manage to add:
“Lovecraft has been an important influence on my horror and fantasy writing, but ‘Cthulhu’ is all most people seem to know about him. With Mythos, I want to shine a light on some of the more obscure pieces of his work and hopefully show folks that it’s worth exploring beyond the evil gods and tentacles.”
Which seems quite reasonable, so we settled for that.
Mythos is coming out in November from Caliber, a US comics publisher who had a strong bent towards creator-owned works in the 1990s. A couple of years ago they came back with a range of new publications, focusing primarily on original graphic novels and collections of previously released material.
They say of the book: “H P Lovecraft is known for tales of terror, cosmic abominations and his most famous creation, the dreaded Cthulhu! However, the true breadth and depth spanned by Lovecraft, who also penned stories of fantasy, science fiction and even humor. Go beyond tentacles and evil gods to explore the mythos of Lovecraft.”
Browsing around Caliber, we were also interested in having a look at this one if we ever get a free moment, our second book for today – Dark Detective: Chimera. (W) Christopher Sequeira (A) Philip Cornell, J. Scherpenhuizen (CA) Dave Elsey
“The brilliant Sherlock Holmes is plunged into a case of Gothic terror as he investigates horrific deaths that suggest an improbable monster. Only Holmes can stop the shadows from swallowing London and only his single remaining fried can stop the shadows from swallowing him. Collecting the acclaimed Black House series.”
No idea what it’s lik,e but it sounds tempting. Below is Caliber’s site for more news and details. They say US shipping addresses only, so we suppose you have to use other vendors outside of that when you’ve found something you like:
You can find Brandon himself here:
Brichester District News
On to the other plot. According to the BBC, who know stuff like this, the River Severn, famous for its tidal bore, is the longest river in Britain. It flows for around 220 miles from its source in the Welsh Cambrian mountains, through Shropshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, finally emptying into the Bristol Channel.
The name ‘Severn’ may be derived from Sabrina (or Hafren in Welsh) and is based on the mythical story of a nymph who drowned in the river. In John Milton’s Comus, a mask (masque) presented at Ludlow Castle in 1634, an angelic spirit conjures the nymph from the waters of the river to come to a lady’s aid:
“There is a gentle Nymph not farr from hence,
That with moist curb sways the smooth Severn stream,
Sabrina is her name, a Virgin pure…”
Proper trivia that you don’t get in pub quizzes: Comus was presented before the Earl of Bridgewater. Harking back to Brandon Barrows’ Castle-Town Tragedy title, the delivery of Comus was related to the Castlehaven Tragedy. The Earl of Bridgewater’s brother-in-law, the Earl of Castlehaven, had been convicted of rape and sodomy, and executed three years earlier.
Comus was all about chastity, and may have been a deliberate commentary to promote an air of cleanliness about the rest of the line. Whatever Castlehaven did or did not do, some said that his wife Lady Castlehaven was no better that he was, an attendant calling her “the wickedest woman in the world”.
The Severn has assisted and thwarted armies, disrupted life during floods and freezes, as well as being an important trade artery from medieval times. And it’s here that we find Brother Cadfael of Shrewsbury Abbey, and his… no, sorry, it’s here that we find the setting for many of Ramsey Campbell’s English horror stories. His Severn Valley is a counterpart to the twisted and benighted New England of H P Lovecraft.
The imaginary Cotswolds town of Temphill, Campbell’s first version of a Massachusetts setting, appeared in “The Church in High Street”, which was also his first published story (Dark Mind, Dark Heart anthology, Arkham 1962). In it, Campbell refers to
“worship of trans-spatial beings still practiced in such towns as Camside, Brichester, Severnford, Goatswood, and Temphill…”.
These names, especially that of Brichester, recur in a number of superb tales of horror. Campbell mentions, of this development of unique English locales:
“(August) Derleth told me to abandon my attempts to set my work in Massachusetts…”
Introduction to Cold Print (1984)
So he began this dark geography very early in his career, laying out a range of towns and other locations around the Severn. Goatswood itself is perhaps the caprine or hircine (ie. goat-like) equivalent of H P Lovecraft’s Innsmouth. Hooded figures with a goatish appearance (and whiff, we assume) lurk in its dodgy streets, and they worship, not surprisingly, The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, Shub-Niggurath.
“The close-set dull-red roofs, the narrow streets, the encircling forests—all seemed somehow furtive.”
The Moon Lens
Bearing this in mind, our third related book today is an older one. It’s a collection drawing on this background and released by Chaosium in 1995 – Made in Goatswood: A Celebration of Ramsey Campbell. New tales of horror set in the Goatswood region of the Severn Valley, edited by Scott David Aniolowski.
Which celebratory note brings us neatly to the fourth, fifth and sixth books for today, headline releases coming from Dark Regions Press – The Children of Gla’aki, Return of the Old Ones, and You, Human.
Gla’aki himself is a Great Old One. He first appeared in Campbell’s story “The Inhabitant of the Lake” in 1964, only two years after he had started laying out his fictional geography. As unnecessary re-writing is contary to our nature, here’s the main Wiki outline (though they call him Glaaki?):
“He dwells within a lake in the Severn Valley near Brichester, in England (though he has been reported in other lakes around the world). Glaaki has the appearance of an enormous slug covered with metallic spines which, despite their appearance, are actually organic growths. Glaaki can also extrude tentacles with eyes at the tips, allowing him to peer from underneath the water. It is believed that he came to the Earth imprisoned inside a meteor. When the meteor landed, Glaaki was freed, and the impact created the lake where he now resides.
“Glaaki is an ancient and wise creature with vast knowledge of the other beings which are active in Britain’s Severn River Valley.”
And this year Gla’aki is back, in…
The Children of Gla’aki: A Tribute to Ramsey Campbell’s Great Old One
Edited by Brian M. Sammons & Glynn Owen Barrass
“There is a lake in the Severn Valley, near a town called Brichester. It is an eerie, haunted place, both by day and by night. Night especially though, is a time when no one in their right mind would go anywhere near it, or those oddly deserted houses that stand, albeit barely, on the edge of the shore. But why? What is it that moves about in that lake, a thing that makes its presence known with three sinister glowing eyes that protrude from beneath the water? Some believe it is an entity that traveled to Earth, many thousands of years ago inside a hollow meteor.
“Ramsey Campbell, Nick Mamatas, John Goodrich, Robert M. Price, Pete Rawlik, W.H. Pugmire, Edward Morris, Scott R. Jones, Thana Niveau, William Meikle, Orrin Grey, Tom Lynch, Konstantine Paradias, Josh Reynolds, Lee Clarke Zumpe, and Tim Waggoner – these are The Children of Gla’aki.”
We can proudly say that John Linwood Grant, the greydog himself, has appeared in print with some of these folk, so they must be good. Hmm, maybe that didn’t come out quite as modest as it should have done. Oh well, at least they’re very tolerant and kind to confused Yorkshiremen who wander into their playground…
Their second offering is…
Return of the Old Ones: Apocalyptic Lovecraftian Horror
Edited by Brian M. Sammons
“Featuring all new stories of cosmic and Lovecraftian horror based pre, during and post the apocalypse by authors Jeffrey Thomas, Lucy A. Snyder, Tim Curran, Pete Rawlik, Sam Gafford, Christine Morgan, Cody Goodfellow and many more, Return of the Old Ones: Apocalyptic Lovecraftian Horror continues the Dark Regions Weird Fiction line with 19 original stories from some of the best authors in Lovecraftian horror and weird fiction today.
“Return of the Old Ones will only have one signed edition (deluxe slipcased hardcover) and will feature a similar stamp design to the popular Cthulhu head stamping featured on the World War Cthulhu hardcovers. It will be signed by all contributors and will feature the original color cover artwork by Vincent Chong as color end sheets.”
Notice a nod there to Sam Gafford, our co-editor for Occult Detective Quarterly. Good stuff. The third book from Dark Regions is a break from Lovecraftian and neo-Lovecraftian burrowing, so we thought it ought to be mentioned for variety:
You, Human: An Anthology of Dark Science Fiction
Edited by Michael Bailey
“Bram Stoker Award winning editor Michael Bailey brings sci-fi back to Dark Regions Press with heart in this genre-bending anthology of dark science fiction and poetry: You, Human. With fiction illustrated beautifully throughout by world-renowned artist L.A. Spooner, with poetry and spot illustrations supplied by the always-impressive Orion Zangara, and with an incredible introduction on humanism by New York Times bestselling author F. Paul Wilson, You, Human is a triumphant return to science fiction for Dark Regions Press, initiating the new Dark Regions Sci-Fi imprint as book #1.”
Although we might cover one or two in more depth at some point, at the moment there’s an Indiegogo campaign running to support these three, including pre-order options. The power of Gla’aki compels you to check out their rewards!
Bad Wallpaper Weirdness
“The 1970s were a transitional decade. The hangover from the swinging 1960s, and before the plastic, neon decadence of the 1980s. Fueled by war, popular protests, flagrant abuse of power, environmental shocks, and economic discord, the 1970s were a synthesis of paranoia and partying in a rapidly changing world. Blood, Sweat, and Fears: Horror Inspired by the 1970s takes readers back to that diabolical decade, in an unforgettable collection of ten stories that conjure the nightmare of the 70s for a new generation.”
Our last book is the usual shameless mention of something which earned us a silver sixpence. Published on 22nd August by Nosetouch Press, the anthology Blood Sweat and Fears includes a tale by the greydog, another one of his dark revenant stories.
In A Stranger Passing Through, the nameless or unnameable anti-hero is in New York in the bright, hard days of 1974, and finds himself, after some other unpleasantries along the way, having to have a few words with The Families.
Edited by David T Neal and Christine M Scott, the anthology features Daniel S. Duvall, David J. Fielding, Clare Francis, John Linwood Grant, Matthew Kresal, Tiffany Morris, Gregory L. Norris, Trent Roman, John McCallum Swain and Eric Turowski
Here’s the opening to A Stranger Passing Through – and no, goodness gosh, it genuinely is nothing to do with vampires, but you’ll have to read the full story to find out what’s really going on:
“So a man walks into a bar and he says to the bartender…
“But this was rural Minnesota, the visitor was no more human than I was, and afterwards, no-one was laughing.
“1974. A no-horse town, with a single bar off the dirt road that passed for a main street. I’d gone into the bar for a quiet beer and had settled down nicely enough, so I was none too pleased when I smelled one of my own kind on the dry night air.
“I tensed, and a few minutes later the door flapped open. There he was, a tall heap of dust and flapping leather. He’d chosen the long-rider look – even had the broad-brimmed hat and the stained red kerchief round his neck.
“Some farmer snorted a kind of laugh, muttered to his companion, a bleach-blonde lady of the night. The guy behind the bar, a big man with tattoos down his arms, glanced at the “we don’t want no trouble here” shotgun on the rack behind him.
” ‘Help you, Mistuh?’ he asked.
“The visitor smiled, but he was looking straight at me…”
The anthology includes nine other great tales of seventies horror, and you can find out more about Nosetouch and the contributing authors via Nosetouch’s website:
The book Blood Sweat and Fears can be picked up here:
And them there’s seven weird books for you, dear listener, Land o’ Goshen and pickle our grits, or whatever people say these days. We’ll be back in two or three of your days with something entirely different, we imagine…