Tuesday, December 9, 2014

From the Things You Should Really Know About Dept.: Leviathan Ages

This year when I attended the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland I had the opportunity to watch many excellent films, but none of them stood out as much as a barely three and a half minute piece called Leviathan Ages. The brainchild of Jon Yeo, The film creates a world where the post-industrial and the timeless collide. Ancient entities rise at the beckoning of their emperor, and all involved fulfill their roles at the end of an era. A spoken word piece is the only narrative throughout the film, and further solidifies the tone of the film that is both apocalyptic and regenerative all at once.

I had the opportunity to ask Jon some questions about Leviathan Ages, and he was kind enough to indulge me.

Some of the elements of Leviathan Ages seem Asian and Mesoamerican in nature. Were there any particular mythologies that inspired you?

Jon: It’s partly an open love letter to Shadow of the Colossus, possibly my all time favourite PlayStation game.  But I do have an interest in the visuals of religious sculpture from throughout human history, ancient to modern. I’m not religious at all, but I find the imagery from all religions pretty fascinating. Maybe it’s from my graphic design roots, the idea that you can distill a huge concept into an image or an  object in such a powerful way. That’s what interest me about idols, statues and carvings. I enjoy the design of mythological concepts, it’s character design. But I love the design of fictional mythologies too, in sci-fi / fantasy films and games.

 I’m also particularly taken with remnants from ancient lost civilisations, especially decrepit heads and faces. They look like they are sat motionless watching wave after wave of human tide wash in and out in front of them, for hundreds of years. I think we would see ourselves differently from their point of view.

What do you see as the relationship between the beings in Leviathan Ages and the modern age?

Jon: They are meant as allegorical. We see the central character resurrect nine of his predecessors, they bring the destruction of his era. At the end he has become one of them, like a repeating cycle. It’s a basic reflection on how we make the same mistakes over and over again. Often this is because we lack the observational perspective of deep time, we are not here for long.

Can you talk a little about what inspired the poem read during the film?

Jon: The idea behind this was to create a thread across the whole film that could mimic a hymn, prayer, song or mantra. Also it could be something which fed the viewer just enough stimulus to interpret meanings in their own way, to give the right tones and moods without being too explicit or obvious.

 How much experience did you have with film making and CG going into making Leviathan Ages?
Jon:I work mainly in commercials, and I’ve been doing that for years. It involves shooting live action and lots of VFX. Indie film making is something I do very occasionally when I can fit it in. I dearly wish I could do more, I’ve got loads of ideas which will never escape my brain.

 What was the most challenging part of making the film?

Jon: Making the film was the hardest part of making the film. I had the initial basic idea in 2010. I started designing and sketching it out in 2011. We finished the film in 2013. Everything was against the odds.

I saw Leviathan Ages at the H.P. Lovecraft film festival this year and was absolutely enthralled by it. How has its reception been overall?
Jon: You are one of the few!

 The most common reaction is “It looks nice but there’s no story”. Which I think is a shame, but I understand why most people find it hard to grasp. I think with film people expect three acts, a protagonist, an antagonist and a mcguffin.

 I enjoy regular traditional dramatic narrative, but I’m just not interested in exploring that in my own personal work. I enjoy the interpretation you can indulge in with other media. With a song, a painting or a poem the author need not be obvious. They can be oblique and abstract. They often allow you to be carried away on a mood and a tone, and it’s as much about what you bring to it yourself. I’m interested in how a short can operate in the same way. It means I’m marginal, but I’m OK with that.

The full film and information about it can be found at the official website. Jon's other work can be seen at his personal website.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Leviathan Ages by Jon Yeo

The video teaser would be here if YouTube wasn't being pissy. You can see the teaser video here.

This is something from the You Really Should Put It In Your Eyeballs Dept. I saw this at the 2014 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and, despite the brevity (it clocks in at 3:33) of it, it probably had the biggest impact on me of any of the features shown. Creator Jon Yeo puts forth a dream-like, surreal vision of an Emperor being awakened by nine entities. Despite the fantastical nature of the film, there's an internal consistency to it that leaves you contemplating the mythology, cosmology, and magic of what you've just watched.

According to Yeo, Leviathan Ages will continue to make the rounds at festivals until close to the end of the year. If you get any chance to see this, you're doing yourself a grave disservice by letting it pass by.

More info about Leviathan Ages can be found here.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Imago Sequence- Laird Barron

The Imago Sequence is Laird Barron's third collection of stories, and a genuinely disturbing read. Barron is a name that I've heard many times as a brave light in Horror, and he does not disappoint. The Imago Sequence consists of nine stories, the stories range from "Old Virginia" which starts as a military fiction that soon goes off the rails to "Hallucigenia" which takes the black magical hillbilly cult to a new level all the way  to the title story, which is Lovecraft's "Pickman's Model" exposed to gamma radiation and leaves you at the end shuddering. The range of theme that Barron utilizes is as diverse as his pacing and layering of tension is consistent. The cosmic horror that Barron creates and utilizes defies physical description and personality type, unless you consider all-permeating, eternal Hunger with a capital "H" as a personality type. The Imago Sequence is not a collection that lends itself to a quick read simply because Barron's style lends itself greatly to a slow read with a pacing that builds tension in a masterful fashion. Definitely give this a read. Five stars.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Worlds of Hurt- Brian Hodge

The Worlds of Hurt is a collection of stories revolving around Brian Hodge's own mythos, the Misbegotten. They are a group of tragic immortals who must feed on something, that "something" being different for each of them and often creating a visceral narrative in the story itself, in order to survive or at least endure. Every story stands on it's own, but in reading it from beginning to end the reader receives insights into the mythos and cosmology of the Misbegotten that adds extra horrific depth through the first three stories in a cumulative manner that reaches an apex in the final story "World of Hurt", a short novel that reveals the great horror associated with the Misbegotten. Hodge's writing style is engrossing and complex without being confusing. The utterly disturbing motives that drive not just the Misbegotten but also the "regular" people in the stories are laid to bare at a pace that creates a tension while reading that is enjoyable in a way that few works of horror that I've come across are able to match. This has been one of my favorite reads of the year, definitely worth five stars.

I contacted Brian and he was gracious enough to take part in a short interview regarding Worlds of Hurt and his writing in general:

AB: Music has a central focus in "The Alchemy of the Throat" and is used in describing cosmic horror elements of "World of Hurt". I've also had the pleasure of reading your story "Cures For A Sickened World" which delves strongly into Black Metal aesthetics. What place does music hold for you in horror?

BH: A pretty foundational place, really. But it has a pretty foundational place in life overall. I nearly always work to music, and it’s often dark or moody stuff. Plus, as a player, I sometimes like to make music that’s a sonic expression coming from the same place as the prose. That got so out of hand with Whom the Gods Would Destroy that it triggered its own soundtrack.

Then there are times I’m interested in exploring creators as characters, and the process of creation, and so on. Although I feel oddly repelled by writing about writers. There’s something about that that feels narcissistic to me. I’m much more drawn to narratively exploring music and visual art … maybe because, as languages, they’re much more universal. They engage the senses directly.

AB: What did you want to do different, if anything, in Worlds of Hurt in contrast to previous works?

BH: It’s an omnibus edition, and that’s something I’d never done. It brings together the first four installments in an ongoing mythos that I keep coming back to every so often: “The Alchemy of the Throat,” “The Dripping of Sundered Wineskins,” “When the Bough Doesn’t Break,” and World of Hurt. That’s three novellas and a short novel. They were all written years apart, so in a way, while still telling an unfolding episodic narrative, they all reflect different interests and concerns and states of mind.

I was needing to get World of Hurt ported over into e-book form, and thought, well, why not package everything together at this point. Instead of just converting over the one book, why not give the reader everything that preceded it, too? As I go forward with new works in that universe, consolidating the previous stuff into a single volume will make it a lot easier for readers to have it all, rather than telling them, in essence, “You have to get this novel and these three story collections.”

AB: Despite the monstrosity factor of the supernatural entities in the stories in Worlds of Hurt, the horror inflicted by humanity seems to be a predominant reoccurring theme. Any thoughts on that?

BH: I think that would be how such entities would operate most effectively in our world. That they’d get things done either through us, or by hiding behind our skins. It’s not only stealth mode … just consider what they would have to work with. Way too many of our species don’t need that much of a nudge.

AB: Do you see any major vital trends in Horror literature occurring that weren't there when you started writing?

BH: It would take someone more conscious of a long-term overview than I am to track something like that. It’s not anything that registers with me. I just do what I do, and try to always get better at it, and to keep challenging myself instead of digging a rut to live in. To me, being concerned with trends leads to the sort of silly conversations that a friend once related. He was talking to his agent, who was telling him, “Why don’t you write a book about a devil dog? Devil dogs are hot right now!” That was our go-to punchline for a while.

AB: What are your opinions on Horror as social commentary?

BH: It’s certainly well suited to the task. It can get away with being as rude as it needs to be, and you have the option of couching whatever you have to say in some potent metaphors, if you don’t feel like being blunt about it. That’s definitely informed a share of my work. Even the story you mentioned earlier, “Cures For A Sickened World,” which I wrote for the upcoming first Spectral Book of Horror Stories … in part that’s an allergic reaction to the rancid thing that journalism has become in the age of click-bait. “Let’s throw up any old hasty piece of incendiary bullshit, because it’ll piss people off and they’ll show it to everybody else so they can be pissed off too.” And so the signal-to-noise ratio gets ever more lopsided.

AB: What would you personally like to see happen with the Horror genre, either through your own writing or the writing of others?

BH: I don’t remember who or where it was, but I once saw someone make an interesting distinction between horror and science fiction: that science fiction is a literature of ideas and horror is a literature of emotion. That’s an oversimplification, of course. Sweeping generalizations usually are. Switching to film for a moment, you can’t look at David Cronenberg’s body of work in the genre and find it light on ideas. I got the point, though. I understood where that was coming from. But there’s no reason that the two should be mutually exclusive. So I’d like to see horror be unwilling to cede that ground. To continue to strive to put forth the best ideas about the world and human existence that it can, and develop them as far as possible.

AB: What would your opinion be if Worlds of Hurt inspired others to write stories revolving around the Misbegotten?

BH: I’m sure I’d be fine with that, and find it very flattering, although I’d rather do more work on the mythology before turning it open source.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wordslinger Shootout time

The second round of  Kenneth W. Cain's Wordslinger Shootout has begun. It's me vs. KT "Calamity Jane", doing what we do best with the writing prompt "Wire Brush". Vote on your favorite and leave a comment for a chance to win great stuff to read. Go here.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Review: Codex Born- Jim C. Hines

Codex Born is the second book in the Magic Ex Libris series, and an excellent continuation from the first book Libriomancer. Our hero Isaac Vaino, librarian and covert Libriomancer, a magician capable of pulling items directly out of books (I KNOW, RIGHT?! SIGN ME UP!!!), is sent to discover what killed a Wendigo. This is a problem, as whatever can kill a Wendigo is something is probably something that can cause a lot of damage to...well, pretty much anything. 

This is the part where I say that Wendigo killing is the very least of our hero's concerns.

Codex Born is an great follow up to Libriomancer on many levels. On top of providing a new playground for Hines' unique and wonderfully consistent literary Magical system to run around in, you also learn more about key players in the story line, both friend and foe. You discover some interesting things about Gutenberg as well, things that not only affect future stories in the series, but possibly some things that have already occurred as well. 

I recommend this series to anyone who loves to read, simply because Hines takes what we have done with our imaginations whenever we read and makes it just a little bit closer to real. I can't appreciate that enough. Five stars.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

State of the Aaron Address

Kenneth W. Cain is hosting a fun little competition over at his blog wherein sixteen authors are paired up, given a word prompt, and are turned loose to write what they can out of that. I am one of those lucky sixteen who will be taking part in the shootout.  What is to be won? Nothing less than FORTUNE AND GLORY!!

Actually, it's just for fun, much like caps locking FORTUNE AND GLORY!! At any rate, the details can be found here. A lot of good reading to be had from all involved, so check it out.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Review: The Rhesus Chart- Charles Stross

The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross is the most recent full-length novel in the Laundry Files, an on-going series that combines espionage, bureaucracy, and cosmic horror equally, and it's sometimes difficult to separate the three. It is also probably the best book in the series thus far.

Without giving anything away, The Laundry comes into contact with vampires (the non-sparkly variety) and it all goes horribly wrong and downhill from there. I'm marking this as the best in the series because of all the books in it thus far, The Rhesus Chart has the most straight-ahead plot without limiting complex subplots, the most character development on multiple levels, and a wrap-up that left me just saying "daaaaaaaamn" over and over again. It's an incredibly quick 370 page read, which is unfortunately because you really don't want it over and done with as quickly as it is. Very well done, 5 stars.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Review: Axes of Evil anthology

There are just some thing you think there should be more of, but you don't realize it until you see it for the first time. It's like when the Eggo waffle folks finally got around to making their own syrup. How hard of an idea was that to pop out? And how long did that take them? It's not rocket surgery, folks. I felt the same way when I heard about Axes of Evil, an anthology of horror stories based with heavy metal music as the central theme. Heavy metal and horror, the chocolate and peanut butter of my world, together in the written word. I could pee.

Axes of Evil is a huge (almost clocking in at 600 pages) collection of  stories ranging from the brutally hilarious to the downright evil. Personal favorites of mine include "Keltorrian" by Jacurutu23, "Extremophiles" by Lucy Taylor, "Battle of the Bands" by Joel Kaplan, and "Tones of Skin and Bones" by Michael Faun. The absolute gem of the anthology, in my opinion, has got to be "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" by Charlie D. La Marr. It's set at the utterly tragic fire that took place during the Great White concert the Station back in 2003, and is one of the most emotionally riveting stories I've read in awhile, horror or otherwise. It packs a punch and puts a serious lump in your throat.

This is a definite must for fans of horror and heavy metal alike. Four stars.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book review: Skin Game- Jim Butcher

The fifteenth book in the Harry Dresden series, Skin Game picks up some time after the events in Cold Days. Mab, whom Harry serves now as the Winter Knight and does so in completely dickish fashion to annoy her every chance he gets, sends Harry on a task for her, a heist of literally mythic proportions. The problem being that the person whom Harry will be working for and is Nicodemus who harbors a serious grudge against Harry, a grudge so serious that Harry has right to think that Mab wants him killed off. The story actually gets a hell of a lot more complicated in terms of what everyone's motivations actually are. In the end, you have a cross between Oceans 11 and the Avengers movie if everyone on the team was a varying degree of asshole.

This is a very different book from Cold Days, which primarily set the stage for the new plot lines in the series. Skin Game really doesn't play as heavily into the character development as its predecessor did. This is not to say they don't occur (Fans of the interpersonal relationship fires that get stoked in the series, you're going to like this one. Oh, and then there's B...oh, that'd be telling. ), but they do take a back seat to the amount of action that occurs in this one. From the point that Harry and Co. sit down to discuss the heist onwards, someone is constantly being chased, fought with, or close to shedding the fleshly coil in one way or another. All throughout the book I kept thinking "This would make a fun movie."

Beyond the overall great storytelling in Skin Game, what really stood out for me is how Butcher fleshed out Nicodemus. Nicodemus is a centuries old, demon possessed, atrocity committing jerkface of the highest caliber, but his course of actions that occur in the book and how he responds to their consequences don't make him a sympathetic character by any stretch of the imagination, but they make him a bit more real. Butcher pulls a depth out of Nicodemus that puts him beyond the cookie cutter "I'll wear a coat made of live puppies" villainy that has become too common nowandays. It's disturbing, it's uncomfortable, and it's wonderful reading.

All in all, five out of five stars. Also: PARKOUR!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book review: Equoid- Charles Stross

Equoid is a short story in Charles Stross's Laundry series, an fun horror-espionage series that seethes with the horrors of Otherworldy evils threatening humanity's existence and British bureaucratic process in equal quantities. This story revolves around suspicious deaths in very,very rural England and the true nature of Unicorns...they're not happy, bouncy things you'd want your daughter playing with, not by a long shot. The plotline does get muddy at a couple points insofar as who is doing what and why, but overall Stross does and excellent job of weaving a tale filled with mystery, horror, and no little bit of humor that culminates in a disturbing, action-filled ending. I give extra kudos for the innovative Lovecraftian tie-in and the Cold Comfort Farm (one of my favorite movies) references. The story is a good stand-alone if you've never read anything in the Laundry series before, otherwise I recommend picking up the first book in the series The Atrocity Archives.  Three out of five stars.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

State of the Aaron Address

It's not that I don't like blogs, I love 'em. I love having different fonts of information and news from people who as passionate about the subject. I just hate writing them. Going to try to work on that.

So here's what's been going on:

*Back in April was the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, an annual event centered around the celebration of films inspired, or not-so-inspired-just-really-weird, by old Howie Lovecraft. This year they held a microfiction contest where ten lucky submitters of a story 500 words or less could have theirs included in a chapbook made especially for the festival. Yours truly made the cut with the story "The Altar of Sixty and Five Hundred Years". I might publish it again one day. In the meantime, check with the contact email at the HPL Film Festival website about the possibility of acquiring a copy.

*My story "Temping" was published in the anthology We Are Dust and Shadow from JWK Publications, an excellent collection of stories involving the afterworld ranging from disturbing to downright horrible. It can be bought on Amazon in hard copy or Kindle format.

*One of my older stories "The Gloaming Sisters" is included in The Terror Train anthology, also from JWK Publications in Kindle format currently with a hard copy version coming up shortly.. "The Gloaming Sisters" is a story I wrote years ago as part inspired madness, part writing exercise, part exploratory literary surgery. It was part of a collection of pieces I wrote around a central reference point that would make the most erudite hipster blush at the obscure reference. I was originally going to publish the collection as an anthology, but now I'm seeing if I can fulfill the challenge of getting all the stories published in different publications. It's so mad that it just might work. 1 down, 22 to go.

That's it for now, soon to be followed by a slew of book reviews. Watch this space.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Stray Souls- Kate Griffin

Stray Souls is not necessarily a sequel to Kate Griffin's earlier Midnight Mayor trilogy, but more of an extension into the same dark, wonderful urban fantasy world of London that the Midnight Mayor storyline occurs in. Stray Souls can be read without reading the Midnight Mayor trilogy, but I'm going to make a safe bet that if you like Stray Souls, you're going to wind up reading the Johnathan Swift trilogy anyway, so we're good there.

Stray Souls is for the most part the story of Sharon Li, a young woman of London who hates her job as a barista, is as unsure of where life is taking her as anyone is, oh, and she's a shaman. At least that's what different individuals and thingies keep telling her, and they seem to have an idea of what that means much more than she does, which leads to all sorts of problems. Imagine if Luke Skywalker lived in London and Yoda was a jerk,you get an idea of how the whole shaman business goes for her. Combine her new involuntary career choice with the challenges of handling a support group for Supernatural beings that look to her for guidance she's not particularly sure she can give, and you have the beginnings of a fantastic story. The dangers that come after her and hers, even more fantastic.

Griffin does a wonderful job of continuing the urban mythos she started with the Midnight Mayor, and anyone who enjoyed the previous books of hers, or anyone who likes to see the bar of quality regarding urban fantasy get knocked up a few pegs will not be disappointed. Four stars.

Review: The Faceless One- Mark Onspaugh

The Faceless One is apparently Mark Onspaugh's first book, a fact that brings me no small bit of jealousy. I marvel at people who knock it out of the park with their debut. The Faceless One is a horror story set with Alaskan shamanism as the backdrop with tendrils that reach into present day.An ancient evil (You had me at ancient evil) is released from its eons-old imprisonment in the Alaskan outback, then makes its way across America to cement its power, wreaking havoc and very imaginative bloodshed as it goes. The only ones who can stop it are a backsliding elderly ex-shaman and his best friend who follow messages from the spirit world, and the full picture gets bleaker and bleaker for them as the story goes. Onspaugh has a great gift for writing characters that you feel deeper and deeper sympathy for, especially when they're performing atrocities against their will. He also has a great ability to tie everything together in a 
climactic ending, if this book is any evidence. An excellent first time. Four stars.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Two reviews, one post

A...Ew, that reference wasn't meant to happen. Sticking with it.

Due to initiating other projects I'm really truly hoping come together, personal reading time has been at a minimum. That time has been put to beautiful use however, as I can't remember a time when I've read two such fantastic books back to back. The odds are about the same as the Broncos win...

Sorry, too soon.

Hell with that, GO HAWKS! Not the biggest foozball fan on the planet, but it like seeing my adoptive city happy.

Anyway, first up is

Nomads- Benjamin Kane Ethridge

As anyone who's read this blog when I actually do post, or knows how to use the past articles section will tell you, I'm kinda an Ethridge fanboy. I first found his work through his predecessor to Nomads entitled Black and Orange iand immediately fell in love with the world he created out of whole cloth that explained what was really going on with the Halloween holiday. Imagine if Clive Barker had done The Nightmare Before Christmas and you'd have a pretty good idea of what the gist of the story is. Nomads continues the story from the first book, fleshing out the gothic fantasy-horror mythos that Ethridge created to a full scope, and combining that with character dynamics and subplots to a fuller extent as well. He also does an incredible job of drawing forth a genuine human side to the some of the biggest jerkface antagonists in the book, making you feel genuinely at odds with yourself when you find yourself empathizing with them. I can't quite say it's a good stand alone book, as too much of what I consider crucial back story and nuances are in the first book, but you're not doing yourself a disservice by reading both. Five out of five stars. Next up, we have

Hollow City- Ransom Riggs

Simply put, if I had known that this book had the ending that it did, I would've forsworn sleep, food, and friends until I had finished it. Ye gods, Riggs knows how to tie up one book and leave you getting all entitled and George R.R. Martin Doesn't Write Fast Enough about when the next one is coming. It's a very short read page-wise, but the story loses absolutely no quality because of it. Also a sequel, Hollow City follows after Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children, Riggs' first novel that combines fantastic storytelling combined with magically taking vintage photographs out of their original context in a unique, original way. The Peculiar children continue their quest to get away from the Wights and to save...no, that'll give too much away. I've heard this series niched as YA, but honestly it's just good plot line and story development regardless of your age. Five out of five stars again.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Serious book recommendation of the day

This just came out today, and I felt behooved to make you aware of it. Hollow City is the sequel to Ransom Riggs' magnificent novel Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, which I'm sure you read and adored.

You haven't read it? Go read it. I'll wait.

As I was saying, this is a sequel to Riggs' novel of odd children, time travel, and  vintage photographs taken wayyyyyy out of their original context. It can be argued that Riggs is gearing this more towards the YA crowd, but I would say that Riggs' first work in the series is sophisticated enough where it counts to be enjoyable by all. I'm just finishing up reading Benjamin Kane Ethridge's Nomads (Which there will definitely be words about here.) and then I'll be cracking this one open.

Hollow City is available through Amazon in meatspace, and in ebook format for Kindle and Nook. Riggs might even be coming to your town. You can find out here.

Also, here's a video of an evil robot baby.