The Color Out of Time

The Color Out of TimeWhen I first read H.P. Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space, I was immediately excited at the thought of writing a sequel. The ending makes continuing the story an enticing proposition. When I investigated the subject, I found Michael Shea had already written a second installment, The Color Out of Time. This didn’t stop me from writing my own follow-up, A Night at the Arkham Reservoir, but I desperately wanted to read Shea’s work to see what he did with the same idea. I couldn’t procure the book until Ramsey Campbell, a Weird Fiction Legend, provided a link to an affordable copy on the Horror Writers Association Facebook page.

Aside from the perfectly chosen title, I immediately fell in love with The Color Out of Time’s cover, in all its skeletal glory. The artwork is gruesome and perfectly conveys the fact that this book is a work of horror. This is something that modern horror novels aren’t doing as much of. My attention was drawn to this subject by an excellent video called Horror Books Have Lost Their Identity by In Praise of Shadows, and I highly suggest giving it a watch if you’re interested in the subject.

As to the writing quality, I was already a fan of Shea’s Weird Fiction because I read his story, Tsathoggua, in New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird, edited by Paula Guran. The Color Out of Time is written in a no-nonsense style that reminded me a bit of Roger Zelazny’s work. The story is effectively told, but I occasionally found myself wanting a little more from the descriptions. The Colour Out of Space is a rare story where, I feel, Lovecraft’s purple prose serves as an asset instead of a detriment, and I would’ve enjoyed reading a little more about the color in lush detail. I also felt that, while I loved the protagonists in Tsathoggua, I didn’t have an excellent sense of them in The Color Out of Time. There is a fantastic character introduced halfway through the story, but I need to delve into spoilers to discuss her.

Spoilers Below

While The Colour Out of Space’s Wikipedia page currently lists The Color Out of Time as a direct sequel, it’s actually not. The story posits that H.P. Lovecraft was inspired to write The Colour Out of Space by a real-life event that occurred in the 1930s. The Color Out of Time deals with the ramifications of a reservoir being built over the spot where those events occurred and where, like in Lovecraft’s story, a lingering piece of the monstrous color remains under the lake. That sets this story outside the universe of The Colour Out of Space. It’s an especially odd turn of events for the story because The Color Out of Time is written in such a way as to make the reader think it’s a direct sequel to The Colour Out of Space until about halfway through. When I got to the reveal, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be visiting Arkham or getting details on the surviving characters from The Colour Out of Space. I’m not sure why Shea decided to go this direction with the narrative. It could be that whoever held the rights to The Colour Out of Space didn’t allow Shea to continue the story. Sadly, since Shea passed in 2014, I’m unable to ask him why he made this choice, but once I got past that twist, I still enjoyed the tale.

To summarize the story briefly, two older gentlemen are enjoying a trip to a lake when they discover strange mutations and a negative psychic influence surrounding the area. They soon realize a mysterious, indescribable color in the lake is at fault, and when a park ranger dies, they team up with his surviving sister, Sharon Harms, to confront the color. Harms was the character I mentioned earlier. She’s motivated to kill the color as revenge for what it did to her childhood friend, who lived on the farm the color plagued, and for what it did to her brother. Harms gets my two favorite moments of the story. First, she relays how she met and befriended H.P. Lovecraft in her youth, and second, she faces off with the color using an Elder Sign. I’ll leave the ending for you to discover, but I thought it fit the story well.

Of course, having characters fight the color makes it much less frightening. Shea even has the color assume a more physical, spider-like form. The climax of the novel, where the three human protagonists battle the color, reminded me more of an adventurous Call of Cthulhu role-playing session then the end to a Lovecraft-inspired story. The real horror of the novel came from the primary human antagonist. He’s a vacationer who’s so committed to making money, off card games with the other visitors at the lake, that he won’t heed the protagonist’s warnings that everyone is in danger. He actively undermines their efforts to save lives. I couldn’t help thinking of businesses that fought to stay open during the worst of the COVID-19 crisis, and the mayor in Jaws.

Well, this review sprawled a bit, but I appreciate you reading to the end. If you’re interested in this subject, you might also enjoy my review of Richard Stanley’s The Color Out of Space. I’d suggest you check out this book if you liked the Colour Out of Space, or if you want a quick summer read. The pace is fast, and the page count is small. If you’re extra committed to immersing yourself into your fiction, you can do what I did and visit a local lake while you read Shea’s book (pictured below). As long as you don’t start The Color Out of Time expecting it to continue the story of The Colour Out of Space, you won’t be disappointed.

Reading at Laurel Lake

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Milo

Milo Cover01001101 01101001 01101100 01101111 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100111 01101111 01101111 01100100 (Milo is Good). That’s my short review of fellow Seton Hill alumni Alexander Pyles’ excellent chapbook. It was published by Radix Media as part of their Science Fiction Futures Series. The company did a superb job of elevating the traditional chapbook into a more prestigious format. Aside from the stellar layout, the cover and interior art by Nico Roxe is stunningly original. So, what makes the story 01100111 01101111 01101111 01100100 (good)?

Spoilers Below

Well, I’ve already demonstrated one of my favorite elements. Pyles has his protagonist occasionally thinking in binary, which is rendered in the same manner I illustrated above. This is a uniquely cool idea, and it works perfectly in this tale. Milo, the namesake of the narrative, is a disabled man who decides to have his brain removed from his body and inserted into a robotic one. Things are great, at first.

There are two different elements at play in Milo that I really enjoyed. The first is the way the story reminded me of the horror inherent in the isolated brain trope, wherein a character has their brain removed from their body. My favorite example of this trope is in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in Darkness, but Milo is not a horror tale. Pyles just renders Milo’s situation so well that readers will find themselves unnerved by the presentation of the character coming to grips with not having a body.

The second element is Milo’s slow loss of humanity in his robot form. At first, Milo only thinks in binary occasionally, but, by the end of the narrative, he only thinks in binary. This reminded me of moments in Paul Verhoeven’s classic, Robocop. Except, in this case, the robotic components consume the human, instead of the human transcending “literal” programming. The reader is left wondering what it means to be human, and I believe that is precisely the response the best science fiction should inspire in readers.

To conclude, Milo is an excellent story. It’s original, and it makes you think about fundamental questions we need to be discussing as a society. On top of that, you can pick up a copy without breaking your bank, and you’ll be getting a gorgeous piece of art to display on your bookshelf. You can also spring for a copy of the entire Science Fiction Futures collection from Radix Media and discover what the other entries in the series have to offer. I’m sure the quality is just as good as Milo. It’s a great time to be a reader when a chapbook can pack so much punch, but I’d certainly be interested in spending more time in Milo’s world if Pyles wanted to expand the tale further.

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Color Out of Space Review

I got the chance to see Richard Stanley’s 2019 adaptation of The Colour Out of Space (Yes, Lovecraft intentionally spelled color that way for his story) on Wednesday (January 22nd). It was a ton of fun seeing the film with fellow Lovecraft fans, and afterward, my friends and I even did a little movie discussion at an H.P. Lovecraft inspired bar near us, J.B. Lovedrafts. We even saw a special version of the film that included a Q &A with some of the cast and the director.

Since more people seem to watch videos over reading reviews these days, I thought this was a good opportunity to try my hand at a YouTube review. The experience was fun, but I have a lot to learn about presenting a spoken review in front of a camera. I forgot to mention two cool observations, and I didn’t feel I was always as coherent as possible, but I think I still got most of my points across. I also forgot to ask for people who saw the film that hadn’t read the original story to let me know how they felt the film was because I am interested in a non-Lovecraft fan’s perspective.

SPOILER WARNING FOR EVERYTHING BELOW!

If you’re interested, here are the two points I didn’t touch on in the spoiler section that I wanted to. I really liked how the color seemed to affect the members of the family differently. Cage’s character is haunted by a horrible smell, and I loved that particularly because I thought it was probably a reference to the Dunwich Horror, where there’s a line that goes, “as a foulness, ye shall know them,” referring to identifying evil, ancient entities. Also, as my friend Tom pointed out, Lavenia’s character spends most of the film trying to leave the Gardner farm, and at the end of the movie, the color may have granted her wish and teleported her to another world.

 

The Fisherman

The FishermanYesterday, I finished my third book of the new year. I enjoyed John Langan’s short story collection, The Wide Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies, so much that I wasted almost no time reeling in his most recently published novel, The Fisherman. After consuming the work in under a week, I can safely say that it includes everything I enjoyed in his short fiction while adding new layers of horrifying goodness.

The narrative follows Abe, an extremely likable widower, as he recounts the haunting experiences and myths surrounding the mysterious Dutchman’s Creek. Here I must pause to deliver an amusing anecdote. While listening to The Fisherman via audible, en route to Philadelphia with my wife, I couldn’t help adding my own soundtrack of “Dun Dun DUN” to the story as Abe recounted the first time he heard about Dutchman’s Creek from his friend, Dan. Immediately after I finished my theme, the narration stated, “If this had been a movie, I guess this would’ve been the moment ominous music boomed on the soundtrack.” My wife and I had quite a laugh, but I think that perfectly illustrates how well Langan knows his own story.

While Abe is the primary protagonist, most of the story is relayed by a different character. He is a cook who bears a striking similarity to H.P. Lovecraft. Besides both people being named Howard, the cook is also described as having a lantern jaw, being a writer, and coming from Providence. Putting all those things together paints a very particular picture, and I loved it. Howard relays the spooky story about Dutchman’s Creek’s origin that he was told by a minister, who heard the story from one of his parishioners in a nursing home. Much like a real fishing story, this one comes via several degrees of separation from the teller. As for the origins of Dutchman’s Creek, you’ll have to read The Fisherman yourself to get all the horrifying details, but I can’t help telling you that the antagonist of the novel is a kind of supernatural Ahab set on capturing a sea creature that would put Moby-Dick to shame.

During the novel, there were at least two references to some of Langan’s short fiction that I loved. The first was a kind of magical right of passage that two characters must make to a city patrolled by bird-like figures who should be familiar to those who read Outside the House, Watching for the Crows in The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu. The second was when Abe passes by the headless statue of a pregnant woman, which readers of Mother of Stone, the closing tale in The Wide Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies should recognize. These connections deepened my reading experience and made me hoot with amusement when I came across them.

Alright, I better stop rambling about how much I liked this novel, or we’ll be here forever. In summary, The Fisherman is a great read. It has a protagonist you love (imagine if Pet Sematary was told from the perspective of the kindly neighbor instead of the doctor), a classic Weird narrative (with enough spooky fish to please a resident of Innsmouth), loads of intricately detailed references (to other horror works, Moby-Dick, and more), emotional resonance (anyone who’s ever lost someone will find themselves connecting with the novel’s portrayal of grief), and lastly, it will keep you turning pages toward its appropriately disconcerting ending. I can’t recommend this novel enough if, like me, you’re a horror reader who leans toward the Weird.

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NoSleep Live 2019 Halloween Tour

NoSleep Live Stage Set Up

At my day job, I occasionally need to compile reports that take a fair amount of time but not as much brainpower. When I got Spotify a few years back, I started using this time to listen to podcasts. I’d always liked the idea of podcasts, but I’d never had time or a good way to listen to them. After working my way through most of H.P. Lovecraft’s work in audio form, I was searching for more horror to fill my time. That’s when I discovered the NoSleep Podcast. Originally, this podcast told horror stories pulled from Reddit’s NoSleep Forum, but the podcast evolved into creating original horror stories over time. I listened to every episode available, about seven seasons worth at that point, and then started listening to new episodes every week.

In 2018, I drove two hours east to Philadelphia to see the NoSleep Podcast’s Escape the Black Farm live tour. The experience was fantastic, except for the random person who clipped my mirror and sped off as I was driving home, so much for the so-called “city of brotherly love.” Naturally, I had to see the 2019 NoSleep Live Halloween tour too. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately considering my mirror fiasco, the show wasn’t stopping in Philadelphia, but, thanks to my central location, I was able to drive three hours south to the Miracle Theater, in Washington D.C.

The venue was a historic locale, a cozy one-screen theater that hosted vaudeville acts in the days before movies. I arrived early and got a great seat near the front. You can probably find me, my wife, and my aunt if you zoom in on the third row of the NoSleep Podcast’s Instagram picture from the event. We all had a great time, and the neat place only added to the event’s ambiance.

This show contained four “spine-tingling” stories that were all spooky in unique ways. The first was about a hilariously entertaining dinner party gone wrong. The voice actors, David Cummings, Jessica McEvoy, David Ault, and Nichole Goodnight, did a fabulous job throughout the night, but I was extremely impressed with how well they worked together and bounced off each other in the opening tale. The second story concerned a potentially paranormal fog. Finally, there was the classic tale of a daughter attempting to resurrect her dead dad. Each story was masterfully scored by music maestro Brandon Boone.

If you haven’t listened to the NoSleep Podcast yet, you need to give them a listen during this Halloween season. There are a countless number of great horror stories to enjoy that span all the different horror subgenres. I can’t recommend the podcast enough, and I especially encourage trying to see the show live, if the tour is coming to a town near you. They put on a great performance, and they are all extremely friendly. Due to my long drive home, I wasn’t able to do the meet and greet after in D.C., but I enjoyed meeting several NoSleep actors in Philadelphia last year. I thanked them for being a great source of horror and taking submissions. I’m hopeful that one day down the line, I will hear one of my stories brought to life by NoSleep. I just wrote an audio script about a lost John Carpenter film that I plan to submit to the NoSleep Podcast in the future, and I am currently thinking about working on a horror story set in space for a future Christmas episode. If any other horror writers are interested in sending them a story, be sure to check out their submissions page.

Until My Next Post,

Stay Froggy,

Jeremiah

P.S. Here’s me and my wife doing scared faces after the show.

Scared Faces