We shuffle again to weird fiction, and turn the spotlight this time on author Sam Gafford, with mention of three – yes, THREE – forthcoming books. Sam is the Quiet Man of weird fiction, and does not like the spotlight – or the brazen clash of cymbals we added – but that’s tough. So today we are pleased to present an exclusive excerpt from The House of Nodens, art from Some Notes on a Non-Entity, and generally lather you up for his short story collection The Dreamer in Fire.
Sam Gafford’s pedigree is spotless. This sets him apart from many lurchers, we admit, but we excuse him. He has a deep connection with horror and with H P Lovecraft’s work, and a long history of both fannish and scholarly activity, which includes an extensive knowledge of William Hope Hodgson. He has undertaken many years of dedicated writing, in addition to editing and publishing through his own Ulthar Press. He was also the primal force behind the establishment of Occult Detective Quarterly.
Now there’s a whole exciting range of his work coming out. This Autumn will see the arrival of his first published novel The House of Nodens, his first collection of short stories, The Dreamer in Fire, and his collaborative graphic novel Some Notes on a Non-Entity, with Jason Eckhardt’s excellent artwork. The first two of these at least should be on display at the Necronomicon convention in the colonies in late August, and all are available for pre-order.
We know Sam quite well, but we can never be bothered with nepotism and favouritism. No one likes a suck-up. We go where the weird goes, and we’ve read enough of his stuff to be very satisfied puppies. His short stories are particularly neat, as whilst they sometimes dwell in or near the Lovecraftian, they avoid the over-reverential revisiting of HPL which can get so tiresome. They bring new meat (or tofu) to the table. And we were fortunate to see the early text of his Nodens novel, which strikes out along its own path.
Nodens Goes Hunting
So let’s start with that excerpt, the opening of The House of Nodens. Be warned, this book is not the hoary, potentially benevolent Dreamlands Nodens who sits on a seashell and reads ‘How to Play the Conch in 5 Easy Lessons’.
We’re in a more primal zone than that, the realm of Nodens the Hunter:
The air feels hot but Bill Simmons knows that it should not. It should be a cool autumn evening without the oppressive humidity smothering everything around them. This isn’t the way he remembered it.
The woods are similar but different as if years had passed since Bill last walked through them even though that shouldn’t be right. It should be 1975 but this dream is a rough mesh of the past and present while being true to neither.
Bill looks over to Tina Kidd who looks the way Bill wants to remember her instead of the way she looked the last time he saw her. She smiles at him with that 13 year old smile full of braces and her blonde hair flies softly in the breeze. Her breasts, small but perky and the obsession of the young Bill, move up and down, straining against her tight t-shirt.
“We’re going to be late,” Tim Skerrit says as he slips by Tina and Bill and enters the forest. Tim… thin Tim, alive Tim. Bill calls after him but he is already swallowed by the dark of the forest. Tina takes Bill’s hand and looks at him and Bill realizes that that look, right there, was the thing he’d spent most of his life chasing and trying to find again. She laughs, lets go of his hand, and runs into the forest along the same path that Tim had followed.
Bill wants to follow but he knows what day this is and what is waiting within those woods. But Tina is in there also and he wants to save her. Except he waits too long and her laugh breaks into a bloodcurdling scream that is suddenly cut short. Then there is the sound of something coming closer; something huge and hungry.
This is all wrong. Bill knows it is wrong, that this is not what happened but it continues just the same. He stands there, riveted to the spot and feels his warm urine spread down his thigh and out of his shorts. “It’s just a dream,” he says to himself. “A dream can’t hurt you.”
But then he sees the eyes peering out at him through the trees and the vague outline behind them. He sees the horns. He’d forgotten about the horns and how large they were. It seemed as if they stretched the entire length of the tree line. It roared and the earth shook. Something burst out of the forest, heading directly for Bill who closed his eyes and braced for the impact…
(Excerpt taken from pre-publication text, courtesy of Mr G)
The House of Nodens will be available from Dark Regions:
Sam Gafford in Shorts
If you can’t survive a novel these days, then there’s The Dreamer in Fire and other stories. Drawn from Sam Gafford’s high quality anthology credits, it’s a diverse collection.
‘H. P. Lovecraft is the focus of many of the stories in this book, Gafford’s first collection of short stories. With rare poignancy and delicacy, Gafford puts the figure of Lovecraft himself—either real or imagined—on stage in such stories as “Passing Spirits,” where the Providence writer’s terminal cancer is addressed; “‘The Dreamer in Fire,’” where a mysterious writer very much in the Lovecraft mold is the focus of a pseudo-scholarly analysis; “Casting Fractals,” in which Lovecraft’s work serves as an uncannily accurate prophecy of the cataclysmic events that followed after his death; and “Weltschermz,” where a character takes Lovecraft’s dark vision of the world a bit too seriously.
‘Other stories show the diversity of Gafford’s inspirations. “The Adventure of the Prometheus Calculation” is a new Sherlock Holmes tale—one that does not end well for that famous detective. In “‘How Does That Make You Feel?’” a patient undergoing psychiatric analysis imagines himself a pulp superhero from the 1940s—but is it only his imagination? And “The Land of Lonesomeness” evokes the final days of William Hope Hodgson on the bloody fields of Flanders.’
The Dreamer in Fire and other stories can be pre-ordered from Hippocampus Press:
For our third Sam Gafford shout-out, we have a graphic novel, which we mentioned on greydogtales briefly a while ago, when it was under construction. Sam and the talented artist Jason Eckhardt have produced a biographical graphic novel called Some Notes on a Non-Entity: The Life of H P Lovecraft.
The title is from an essay by Lovecraft which formed part of Arkham House’s second HPL publication, Beyond the Walls of Sleep (1943).
That collection is an interesting but uneven one, with everything from short essays and poems to key pieces. Some Notes was later released by Arkham in a limited edition (500 copies) in 1963.
Sam and Jason have drawn on this essay, and many other biographical sources up to HPL’s death, to construct the first ever graphic novel of the old gent’s life. Here’s some of the art you’ll find in this new graphic novel version:
‘I’m not sure when I first got the idea for doing this graphic novel. It probably came to me a few years ago when I started reading a lot of non-fiction graphic novels. There’s been quite a few over the years especially Art Spiegelman’s MAUS and Marjane Satrapi’s PERSEPOLIS but some of the ones I enjoyed the most were the true crime histories by Rick Geary.
‘Surprisingly, I discovered that no one had done a ‘real’ biography of HPL in this format before. There had been a couple graphic novels about Lovecraft but these tended to be more fiction than non-fiction. But, in order to do it right, I had to do a LOT of research.
‘I’ve been a fan of Lovecraft ever since discovering his work when I was in high school and I was a small part of the whole Lovecraft renaissance that started to take off in the 80s. I’d even written a few articles about Lovecraft years ago and have been friends with many of the leading Lovecraft scholars for decades. Still, it was a very daunting project because I knew that the end result would be judged by many people and, being who I was in the field, a certain level of verisimilitude would be expected.’
Some Notes on a Non-Entity: The Life of H P Lovecraft is due this Summer from PS Publishing. You can find out more here:
That’s us done. We thank you for your time, and if you’re puzzled by the way that greydogtales skips from lurchers to detectives to weird fiction and back again, well, so are we. If you subscribe for free, top left hand corner, you will get warned every time, so that’s a blessing…