Lovecraft eZine Tribute to Joe Pulver

Today I’ll be participating in a group tribute to my friend, the late writer and editor Joe Pulver, on the Lovecraft eZine chat. You can find the chat’s livestream HERE at 3PM Pacific, 6PM Eastern time. That’s about an hour from now, as I post this.

It’s been a year since we lost Joe, and I miss him just as much today as I did a year ago. I suppose the shock of his passing has faded a little, but not the sense of having lost a great friend. Several of us who knew him will be discussing our friend Joe, known more widely as the writer and editor Joseph S. Pulver Sr.

The Passing of Joe Pulver

Today we lost one of my favorite people in the world. My friend Joe Pulver is gone.

As writer and editor, he was known as Joseph S. Pulver Sr. On Facebook, he was nicknamed The bEast, an appellation he loved, and often used himself. I just thought of him as Joe.

He was among the funniest, smartest, craziest and most generous people I’ve ever known, and possessed of a piercing talent. We’d been good friends online for several years before we finally had a chance to meet in person, when he visited Portland to be a guest at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, and stayed with us for something like a week.

Soon I hope to assemble my thoughts and memories into some kind of memorial to Joe, but I didn’t want to let the day pass without saying something. I have so many fond memories, so many stories I’d like to tell. He was important to me as an editor and a supporter of my work, and I admired his writing as well, but it’s the friendship I’ll miss. It’s the manic enthusiasm, and truly unique way his spirit expressed itself.

For now, I’ll link back to my original series of convention reports after that 2013 H.P. Lovecraft Film Fest, which covers events from preparing to pick up Joe at the airport, to our first meeting, then going through the long convention weekend, and finally taking him to the beach at Lincoln City, OR.

There are lots of pictures along with my narrative, so it’s quite a lengthy and emotional trip (in five parts) going through these. 

Part 1 – Before

Part 2 – Friday

Part 3 – Saturday

Part 4 – Sunday

Part 5 – After

As I mentioned, I hope to have something more to say soon. At the very least, I’d like to tell people how encouraging Joe was of newer, emerging writers, not only myself. He pushed to discover new talent, to bring together kindred spirits, and to assemble interesting writing in ways that would be compelling to all kinds of readers.

In recent days, as people came to realize Joe would be gone soon, some of us expressed our appreciation of Joe. Many writers told how much they appreciated Joe’s support of their writing, often before anybody else really knew about it. That was Joe, that enthusiasm and fearlessness, and absolute certainty when faced with words that spoke to him. I will miss the writer and editor very much, but more than that, I’ll miss my friend.

The New Math

The New Math – All the Numbers of the bEast (so far…)

Some of you may have noticed, the internet is leaking madness. Today is Pulver day! Here, find a collection of links to all those offerings, in approximately the order I discovered them.

Laird Barron –

Michael Cisco –

Ross E. Lockhart –

Allyson Bird –

Jeffrey Thomas –

Damien Angelica Walters –

Daniel Mills –

Justin Steele –

Mike Davis –

Selena Chambers –

sj bagley –

Robert Levy –

Nadia Bulkin –

Michael Wehunt –

S.P. Miskowski –

Cody Goodfellow – OR

Christopher Slatsky –

Orrin Grey –

Matthew Bartlett –

A(W) Baader –

Rebecca J. Allred –

Brian O’Connell –

John Claude Smith –

Yves Tourigny –

Ritchie Tenorio –

Rodney Turner –

Duane Pesice –

John Langan –

My own entry into the madness sweepstakes –

(…to be continually updated as more appear.)


Numbers of the bEast

Numbers of the bEast; or, the bEast Who Came to Portland (for Joe Pulver)

In the old days, we met people in person, and that was the way we became friends. Even people who lived somewhere other than where we lived ourselves, those people remained strangers until we met. Then once some kind of relationship had been formed via face-to-face interaction, we might stay in touch via phone calls, or the occasional handwritten letter.

But these are no longer the old days. Now we meet a million people online, and the few that become true friends, we eventually end up meeting in person.

That’s how it was with Joe Pulver and me. We’d become internet buddies after getting to know each other for a year or two on Facebook. We compared notes on favorite ECM records, shared ranked lists of the all-time best Brian Eno drones, and endlessly debated the best songs by our mutual favorite band, Duran Duran. I always ended up winning our arguments and debates, as I’m sure Joe would agree, but despite this, Joe was always gracious, fun and grouchily good-natured. Like a cool, wild uncle or zany big brother.

And for a long time, I thought it would be fun to meet Joe in person, though it didn’t seem too likely to happen. Joe was American, but he resided in Berlin, which from what I’m able to tell on Wikipedia is a little country near Germany. I was living practically on the opposite side of the world, in Portland, Oregon, on the West Coast of the US. But that was OK. We could just remain internet friends.

Then out of nowhere, I received a bizarre late-night visit. A yellow-robed figure knocking on my door. I figured this must be somebody playing a weird trick. Though I’d always had lots of nice, normal friends earlier in my life, once I became involved in writing weird stuff, suddenly everybody I knew and hung around with was crazy. When I answered the door, it must’ve been after midnight. All the street lamps outside had gone dark.

The robed figure spoke from behind what appeared to be a mask, without identifying himself. Or maybe it was herself.

“Joe Pulver is going to be coming to Portland,” the voice said, “to be a guest at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. It’s a convention, you know, a bunch of people dress up, drink too much. Maybe you’ve heard of this kind of thing? We need you to let Pulver stay here, at your home. Show him around Portland. Make sure he gets to the panels on time.”

“Really?” I thought about it only a moment, my puzzlement turning to interest. This yellow-robed figure had to be one of the organizers of the convention. Maybe they’d scheduled more guests than they had hotel rooms to go around. That made sense. This was their way of trying to get places for guests to stay, having this weirdo in a yellow robe show up at the home of somebody the guest knew on Facebook, and suggest the idea like it would be fun, letting the guest stay in the person’s home.

“Sure, yeah,” I said. “We could do that. Joe can stay here. We’ll take care of him.”

Lena, my wife, knew Joe too, and liked him a lot. She wouldn’t mind.

“Really?” The masked figure seemed at first to be mocking my own initial response.

Then I realized he — or in fact, I kept thinking, maybe it was she, because how many dudes really want to go around town running errands, dressed all in matching yellow? — anyway, maybe he or she was just surprised at how readily I’d agreed. This should have tipped me off that things wouldn’t be so simple as I’d guessed. Yet still I entertained the idea this would be fun, not a problem.

“Joe Pulver has…” The figure leaned close, apparently trying to intone ominously. “…most unique… requirements.”

Blithely I blundered onward. “It’s no problem, we’ll take care of him. Make sure he’s comfortable and fed, at least.”

“Fed…” This person was difficult to read, concealed as they were by mask and hood and many-layered cloak. Did I mention it was yellow? It was really quite the elaborate get-up for a stunt like this, trying to arm-twist an invitation for a con guest. But from what I could read of body language, I guessed this yellow person almost turned and ran off without another word.

I realize now they felt guilty, sticking me with such a terrible burden, without at least some hint of what lay in store, for me and for Lena. For our household. For our very sanity.

“Unique requirements,” the figure enunciated. “Very particular. You might say extraordinary. You should be prepared–”

“I think I know Joe Pulver pretty well,” I interrupted. Have I mentioned my blithe, blundering dismissive overconfidence? Ah, such ignorance. The sweet bliss of unknowing. “Joe and I Skyped for nine hours, just this week. It’s weird, though, he never mentioned anything about this.”

The masked figure made a dismissive farting noise with his or her lips, or what I assume must have been lips. “You know nothing, Mike Griffin. Everyone who Skypes with Joe Pulver always Skypes for nine hours. Always, everyone. He Skypes in nine hours blocks, four times a day. I know what you’re about to say, that’s mathematically impossible. Four Skype calls, nine hours long each one, that doesn’t fit into a twenty-four hour day. That’s what you might believe. For most people that would be true. Pulver is different. And if you understood him one-millionth as well as you like to believe, you would at least know that.”

This response knocked my blithe, blundering overconfidence down by half. Still, this person seemed bizarre. I was more worried about this odd character occupying my doorstep at the Witching Hour than I worried about Pulver himself. That, of course, would change.

“Very well.” The robed ambassador of night steepled his or her hands, gloved yellow of course. “Most of his needs, he will tell you himself when he arrives. But for that first night, you should have ready at minimum, the following.” He produced from within his billowing wizard’s sleeve a list scrawled on a sheet of legal paper. Yellow, of course.

I scanned the listed requirements as well as I was able by the squalid illumination of our flickering porch light, slowly dying.

“Eight gallons of brewed green tea — NO SUGAR! Sixty-four ounces of Cajun trail mix. Three dozen eggs. Five pounds of bacon.” I looked up, about to tell my visitor that while this seemed like lot of stuff for a first night snack, we could certainly accommodate such a list.

But when I looked up, my visitor had vanished!

The remainder of the list, for it contained far more items in full than what I listed above, I saved for the following day. With the good humor of blithe, blundering overconfidence, Lena and I shopped, enjoying the process of buying unusual foods and drinks we might not normally purchase for ourselves.

“What kind of person eats so much bacon?” I asked.

“I can’t wait to meet Joe!” Lena said, her own blithe overconfidence nearly identical to my own, though slightly less blundering. “But eight gallons of sugar-less green tea… Why don’t I just brew him up some real tea?”

But she knew the answer. The list… was the list.

At the appointed date and time, we showed up at Portland International Airport, and waited outside the gate for Joe to arrive from his flight. By then, I had forgotten my strange night visitor. All that occupied my mind was a pleasant anticipation of meeting an internet pal for the first time. Within my wildest fancy, there existed no hint at all of the manifold terrors yet in store for us.

Joe came drifting past the security gate, in sneakers and shorts and a tye-die t-shirt. When he saw me and Lena waiting, he seemed surprised, but delighted. He claimed he’d been led to believe someone from the obscure and secretive HPLFF organizing committee was supposed to pick him up. “I heard from this strange figure in yellow,” Joe said, and shivered. “A few nights ago, we Skyped. Nine hours! Anyway, it’s so great to finally meet you guys.”

We exchanged pleasantries and hugs, happily chatted about Joe’s flight. All of us enthused about our anticipation of a fun three-day convention. We piled Joe’s luggage into the Griffinmobile, and as I drove the three of us out into the night, Lena mentioned we’d obtained all the items he needed. Everything was ready, at home.

“How did you know about all that?” Joe asked, and clarified. “My special list of requests.”

“That strange character,” I said, finally recalling. That night meeting now came back to me. How I had tried to forget, to wipe it from my mind! I wanted to ask Joe what he thought about the person in yellow. But before I could speak, Joe made his first declaration.

“Pickles,” Joe said. “Were those on the list? Pickles?”

Lena and I both stalled, waiting for the other to answer. We had both memorized the list, had shopped carefully to obtain every bizarre item, to be exact in the quantities procured, yet neither of could remember pickles being on the list.

“There are… no pickles,” I gasped.

“No pickles!” Lena cried.

A grim and horrible expression overtook the face of the Author and Editor, Joe Pulver. He trembled, seeming to enlarge and to redden, expanding with the growth of all his hunger and desire, all his unmet craving and unsatisfied need, which had accumulated too long within him and sought satisfaction or release!

I thought, Great, this must be what the yellow weirdo was talking about. Joe’s going to rage now, because there are no pickles.

Joe’s face remained red, and his eyes bulged, his rage seeming imminent, ready to erupt. But what issued forth was not complaint, not recrimination, not foul epithets. Just a single word.

“Bubbies!” he cried.

This desperate word contained not a trace of rage, not disappointment, and did not even seem to derive precisely from hunger. His longing was plain. “Can’t get real American food over there. All I think about when I come here is this stuff, my list. I have to have it, or I’ll go mad. And number one, that’s Bubbie’s beautiful, wonderful dills. So garlicky. So tangy. So delicious.”

Now I could see his emotional outburst was not that of a demanding guest, not some literary prima donna, but merely a man driven mad by cravings for such exquisite delicacies, now lost to him in his adopted homeland, as garlic dill pickles, Cajun trail mix, real Italian sausage, hot dogs, and a giant simmering pot of my notorious Death Chili.

Yet there remained the matter of Bubbie’s pickles. This seemed a dilemma, a conundrum. As so often happened, Lena explained things simply, and what seemed to my mind an overcomplicated, insurmountably vexing problem with an obscure, ineffable and unreachable solution, was in fact simple. To sate this greatest of Joe Pulver’s overwhelming needs would be, in fact, as simple as stopping at Fred Meyer One Stop Shopping Center on our way home.

Oh, if it had always remained so simple!

“Just one jar of Bubbie’s!” Joe wailed as we stood looking through the misted glass of the refrigerator case. He trembled with need, with anticipation. I was reminded of Gimli, asking the beautiful Elven queen Galadriel for a single strand of her golden hair.

This man-poet Pulver, this bEast from the East, asked me for one jar of Bubbie’s.

I gave him three.

At home, we witnessed the emergence of his true, childlike bliss. Our guest clutched the enormous plastic container of Cajun trail mix, cradled it like a newborn baby. The first gallon of green tea may have been sugar-less, but Joe clutched it sweetly as a lover, caressing the plastic bottle against his skin with an almost perverse fondness. He held open the door to our refrigerator and marveling, he counted the eggs, numbered the packages of bacon, inventoried consumables. Such bounty. Such pleasure. “One… three… six… nine.”

Lena and I exchanged a look. Relieved, even happy. This wasn’t bad, wasn’t bad at all. Our guest was pleased. It was just Joe, after all. Our friend. Nothing bad was going to happen.

That first night, we planned to rest. In the morning begin our convention fun.

And it was fun, what I remember of it now. Three days passed in a wild blur, half our time spent in the brewpub across the street. The bEast Joe Pulver was in his element, standing outside the theater, smoking cigarettes and holding court. He told stories of earlier conventions, times when Lena and I had not been present. At this very theater, meeting Laird Barron, Michael Shea and Marc Laidlaw. Times like this, Joe might satisfy himself for hours with only cigarettes, and stories with friends.

But with the passage of time, inevitably there arose again that inexplicable, animal need. I admit, it was a need to which I contributed by feeding. Hell, I don’t know, I must have even encouraged his sick madness.

Yes, as I write this, I remember what I said. I cannot deny my own words. “Whatever you want, just ask. You’re our guest.”

So Joe asked. He was not at all greedy, the foods were not fancy or expensive. His requests were very specific, frequently disgusting, in measured quantities, designed to fill some specific, occult need. Ingredients in a potion of his own design.

“Three slices of that sausage pizza.”

“Madness!” I cried

“When we get home, I want two more liters of your damn Death Chili, SuperSTAR.” Joe had taken to calling me SuperSTAR, after seeing my spangled suit, and watching home video of my ice skating routine.

“You’ll spoil your tummy!” Lena warned.

“And hot saucesssssss,” the bEast hissed. “Forty-two kinds to try!”

“Now that sounds good,” I agreed.

“Nine habanero hot wings! Nine in cheese sauce! Nine more, sweet Kentucky BBQ style!”

“Twenty-seven wings,” I gasped. But I could not escape, not since I had made my initial pact with that that weird fucker in the yellow robe, hood and mask. Really what kind of person showed up outside somebody’s house in the middle of the night, dressed like that?

After the convention’s end, because Joe’s return flight to Berlin didn’t depart for several more days, Lena and I took him the hundred miles west to visit Lincoln City, on the Oregon Coast. If I had been deceived by any foolish notion or ridiculous fanciful wish that this yellow madness might cease at the convention’s end, that delusion was soon utterly and jarringly shattered!

We sat in the Kyllo’s bar, overlooking the Pacific. Our waiter arrived.

We let Joe order. We gave ourselves over to the mercy of his desires.

“Six oyster shooters, two for each of us,” he said.

That was only to start.

“Calimari. How many do you suppose there are on a plate? I bet there are ninety-nine.”

And more.

“Shrimp salads all around, with Thousand Island.”

This was not yet the end.

“Three cups of clam chowder.”

Still not finished! Oh, fie!

“Crab cakes. How many of them come on a plate, per order?”

And here, because they had no plastic bottles of Splenda green tea, it was real Earl Gray, no sugar. Cup after cup, beyond number. That is, I did not count them. I’m sure Joe did.

And the last thing, the very last final object he requested, was a quantity of only one. A single object, and yet, piled on at the end of a week of such overwhelming excess for us all, only the fact that we were, all of us, already provably insane prevented us from being driven insane right then, that moment. Actually, I’m realizing as I write this that being insane in advance as a way of preventing yourself being driven insane later doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Anyway…

Yes, the last thing. A solitary excess. One gruesome extravagance, piled on top of too much everything. Oh, my aching belly.

“Okay, then,” Joe said, “one slice of your key lime pie. Three spoons.”

Insanity! Lena and I teetered on the edge of irrevocable destruction. A black abyss…

It was terrible, wonderful. What might have outwardly resembled gluttony was not that, but a finer thing. It was an expatriate’s love for familiar American foods inaccessible in his new home. Nostalgia taking the form of food and drink. Not a desire for fine, expensive things, not delicacies, but a need to revisit the comforts of memory.

I shall never forget bEast Pulver’s many requirements, and the gruesome smorgasbord we visited alongside him. The variety of treats, which I had been compelled by otherworldly forces not only to procure, but to share. The set quantities, specific measures, a convoluted menu suitable for a madman! This is how we came to know… the numbers of the bEast.

(Bowie – Blackstar ; Michael Nyman – Decay Music ; The Necks – Aether ; David Sylvian – Sleepwalkers)


NecronomiCon 2015 Post-Con Summary

If you care to zoom back-weird through time and read my preview of NecronomiCon Providence 2015, zoom HERE.

So, now it’s over, in fact it’s been over for a month already!

I used to write a lengthy and extremely detailed report after every convention. While I love reading posts like that, and they’re actually fun to write, they’re just too time consuming.

So instead, how ’bout a photo or two, and a brief rundown of highlights?

NecronomiCon 2015 in Providence seemed to be the big 2015 convention most people were anticipating with excitement. The 2013 event was a lot of fun for everybody I spoke with. It was the last opportunity I had to meet some of my favorite writers like Laird Barron and Richard Gavin, who don’t attend a lot of events. I heard from several people who said they may not make it to any other conventions in 2015, but they were definitely not going to miss NecronomiCon.

Our room in the Omni Hotel
Our room in the Omni Hotel

At the 2013 NecronomiCon, almost everyone stayed at the Biltmore Hotel, where most of the panels and readings were held. This time, though, many of us stayed at the Omni Hotel, on the other side of the road destruction between the two main hotels. We were pleasantly surprised at our room — big and modern and clean!

The bathroom (not pictured) was almost as big as the rest of our room, and included not only a huge stone tile walk-in shower, but also a giant tub. If I ever need to stay in Providence for weeks on end, this is the room I want. As it turned out, we were so busy on this short trip, we didn’t spend much time here.

An interesting thing about the Omni is that the rooms are primarily split into two towers (secretly code-named Barad-dur and Orthanc), and each tower’s elevators require a room key card. But the key cards from one tower are compatible only with the one elevator, not the other. This created a situation where we wanted to meet up with friends who were staying in the very same hotel, but we couldn’t take the elevator up to get to each other’s rooms, and had to text each other and meet up down in the lobby. I can’t think of a great reason why your room key gets you access to half the Omni’s zillion rooms, but not the other half.

Shoggoth at the Omni
Shoggoth at the Omni

Speaking of the Omni’s lobby, it had the most interesting glass sculpture hanging overhead. Everyone who saw the photos compared it to a shoggoth, so the shoggoth sculpture it will forever be named.

Wild Pulver
Wild Pulver

A few people had gifts for Joe Pulver (photo above) since his birthday was the month before, and mailing gifts to Germany is all insane-crazy expensive.

Our first dinner was in a big group at the Viva Mexico Cantina. The food was pretty good, but down at the end of the bar, the music was loud and TV sports blared, creating a pretty awful cacophony which left even those of us with perfect hearing unable to follow conversations happening only a few feet away.

Every time I go to a convention, one of the main things I come away with is a determination that next time I will avoid large group meals in noisy venues!

Toasting to Caligari
Toasting to Caligari

Late at night, after at least one of us had a successful business meeting, my wife Lena and I had a drink with Joe Pulver and his wife Kat to toast Joe’s brand-new contract with publisher Fedogan and Bremer for an anthology in tribute to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

I love this movie, and know how long this project has been a dream of Joe’s, so it’s wonderful that it has the support of an excellent publisher. Many great writers have already agreed to participate. I’m sure we’ll hear more information from Joe and F&B soon about this very promising book.

My contributor's copies of The Doom That Came to Providence
My contributor’s copies of The Doom That Came to Providence

… and speaking of Joe, AKA Joseph S. Pulver Sr., one of my first priorities upon arriving in Providence was to get my hands on copies of The Doom That Came to Providence, the round robin project Joe edited as a special treat related to this event. All the stories relate to the “Water Fire” event from the 2013 con, with everybody taking a different angle on strange happenings that may or may not have gone down that night. The books turned out great – check out the beautiful cover art by Nick Gucker!

Reading from "I'm Looking For Nick Cowan or Cody Steele"
Reading from “I’m Looking For Nick Cowan or Cody Steele (photo by Matthew Carpenter)”

Here I am reading my story “I’m Looking for Nick Cowan or Cody Steele from The Doom That Came to Providence. I thought the reading went pretty well, and a very good crowd attended. I read along with Scott Thomas, David Neilsen and Peter Rawlik.

Above photo by Matthew Carpenter.

Cisco and Nikki
Cisco and Nikki

Speaking of the audience for my reading, I snapped a couple of pictures of those assembled. Above you see the kind of wild and crazy folks who show up to events like this. That’s the reclusive genius Michael Cisco on the left and darling Nikki Guerlain on the right. See, public readings of weird fiction inspire folks to all kinds of public displays of affection, and the crowd was generally draped all over one another!

Above photo is a treatment by Nikki Guerlain of my original photo.

The Future of Weird Fiction panel (photo by Scott Nicolay)
The Future of Weird Fiction Panel (photo by Scott Nicolay)

The other programming I participated in was the panel discuss, “The Future of Weird Fiction,” moderated by SJ Bagley and with fellow panelists Simon Strantzas, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Justin Steele and Joe Pulver.

The panel was well attended, and the discussion was a very good one, with lots of interesting talk about the state of weird fiction, how it’s changed since the old days. Most interesting was the section in which each of us suggested writers (or in a few cases, editors or publishing venues) we thought likely to be part of the vital future of our subgenre.

One disappointing aspect of the panel is that I had offered to help Scott Nicolay record the audio of the panel, which Scott hoped to feature on his interview podcast The Outer Dark. Unfortunately, we must have fumbled the handoff of my digital voice recorder, and we only captured the first few seconds of preliminary murmuring, and none of the good stuff. My apologies! This would have been an interesting recording to revisit later.

Above photo is by Scott Nicolay.

Lena Griffin, me and Scott Nicolay at Viva Mexico Cantina breakfast
Lena Griffin, me and Scott Nicolay at Viva Mexico Cantina breakfast

Speaking of Scott and The Outer Dark (note my t-shirt), here we are after breakfast at Viva Mexico Cantina.

Two Lagavulins are better than one
Two Lagavulins Are Better Than One

All these photographs of readings and panels and other such events might lead one to believe the convention experience to be something formal or at least organized. This is not true. The most important aspect of the convention experience is the informal meeting with friends and associates we meet in hotel lobbies, on the sidewalk, in various bars, or in that most honored off-schedule event, the room party.

I photographed these bottles of Lagavulin in John Langan’s room party. I brought the bottle of Lagavulin 16 in honor of the 2013 Langan/Barron room party, where both Michael Cisco and I brought a bottle of the same, without advance planning.

This is the kind of thing you might get when you come to these conventions. Remember, kids, when the writing pros say “conventions are important for networking,” what they really mean is good Scotch whisky.

Prosecco Sangria at McCormick's
Prosecco Sangria at McCormick’s

Room parties are great, but I also mentioned hanging around in bars. Here’s a photo of me in the McCormick’s bar. At this event, I met for the first time (in person) my wonderful friend, the excellent writer Damien Angelica Walters. She was drinking many, many of these light, fragrant and sort of flowery beverages, the Prosecco sangria. I told her these were eroding her talent and weakening her writerly fortitude, and that she’d be much better off to drink good, brown Scotch and bourbon.

She convinced me to try one of these. Look, I’m drinking it! I tried to make the most insipid face I could for this photo, but I don’t look appreciably more or less silly than usual. What conclusions should be taken from this, I remain uncertain.

The drink sure did smell pretty, though. All herbs and sugar and spice and flower petals and unbearable lightness.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Damien Angelica Walters
Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Damien Angelica Walters

Speaking of Damien, here she is alongside Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who was a Guest of Honor at the event, as well as my co-panelist on the Future of Weird Fiction panel (see above).

It’s a wonderful and unusual thing to see convention attendees wearing something other than black t-shirts with pictures of tentacle things!

Everyone was lining up to touch Simon's beard
Everyone was lining up to touch Simon’s beard

More loitering and tomfoolery in hotel lobbies. Here Paul Tremblay and John Langan gather to stroke the sultry facial hair of noted Canadian beardist, Simon Strantzas.

This takes place in the lobby of the Biltmore hotel, a classy joint, despite the presence of persons such as the ones shown here.

Lena with Charles (left) and Sean (right) of Miskatonic Musings podcast
Lena with Charles (left) and Sean (right) of Miskatonic Musings podcast

Speaking of disreputable types, here we have Charles (left) and Sean (right) of Miskatonic Musings podcast, with my wife Lena in the dealer room. I should have spent more time in the dealer room this year! It was a wonderful thing.

Matthew Warren Richey carrying the Word Horde banner in the dealer room
Matthew Warren Richey carrying the Word Horde Banner in the Dealer Room

Also in the dealer room, here we have Matthew Warren Richey in his excellent shoggoth costume, carrying the Word Horde Banner. This costume is the boss of all costumes. Good job, Matthew!

From what I was able to tell, at the Word Horde vendor table Ross Lockhart sold out everything, and his table-mate Scott R Jones did as well. I also know Sam Cowan was happy with how sales went at the Dim Shores table. I love to hear of vendors doing well, because it means publishers and sellers of books are moving lots of the things, and that readers are eager to grab them up.

Cross-town trek seeking dinner, with Lena, Erin, Nathan, Ross, Scott, Heidi, Justin and Tom
Cross-town trek seeking dinner, with Lena, Erin, Nathan, Ross, Scott, Heidi, Justin and Tom

Here a large group of us dared to leave the immediate circle of the Omni and Biltmore, and ventured across Providence in search of food. I love a good walk, and it was nice to see a different part of town.

Everyone wanted to stop by this creepy old horror house (sorry if you live there and are offended by this characterization, but it can’t be helped — a bunch of visiting weirdos wanted to be photographed in front of your place for a reason) just down the street from the restaurant.

Pictured here (L-R) we have Lena Griffin, Erin Jane Laroue, Nathan Carson, Ross E Lockhart, Scott Dwyer, Heidi Ash, Justin Steele and Tom Lynch. I was also present, behind the camera, and will forever regret not appearing in this photograph.

Conversation with the nightmare demon John Langan
Conversation with the nightmare demon John Langan

At every horror-centric convention, it’s best to expect to rub shoulders on at least one occasion with true horror.

Here I am in conversation with the nightmare demon who had taken the form of John Langan just moments before.

Nick Gucker carrying great reading material for the trip home
Nick Gucker carrying great reading material for the trip home

All good things come to an end… don’t they?

Deliriously happy yet exhausted, we made our way to the airport for our return home. But the convention was not yet over! Right behind us in line, who should appear but artist extraordinaire and all-round top fellow Nick Gucker, cover artists of The Doom That Came to Providence (see above).

Nick was carrying some excellent reading material for the flight, one of my very favorite short story collections of the past half-decade or so, AT FEAR’S ALTAR by Richard Gavin.

You see, even when you think the time of your life is done, it’s not really over. See you next time!

Words In: The Orphan Palace by Joseph S. Pulver Sr.

The Orphan Palace smacks the reader in the face from the first page just to resolve any question about who’s in charge. Pulver’s approach here is to make the story not just something the main character experiences, but a series of thoughts and perceptions. It takes place “in here” rather than “out there.” The stream-of-consciousness style took me a while to settle into due to the hyper-saturated poetic style. This may be the most uncompromising narrative I’ve read in years, but it’s worth settling into the groove of this energetic and strongly poetic tale. 

The story’s protagonist Cardigan is profoundly damaged, and burns and kills his way across the country in search of redemption or revenge for events long past. That the reader ends up identifying with and caring about such a reckless and even murderous character testifies to the way Pulver’s narrative technique takes the reader inside Cardigan’s head. The story’s events seem like something you’re living through, not simply reading. Like the most daring works of art, no summary can do justice to what’s happening here. The blurb on the back cover does almost nothing to convey what this book is like. The story is dreamlike, told in language ranging from vivid poetics to a hard-bitten shorthand to incantatory near-ravings. Frequent use of repetition gives a sense of the shattered reality Cardigan inhabits. The effect is cumulative, so that repeated elements and phrases take on a different meaning and carry more weight as the story advances. 

An energetic mix of noir/crime and surrealistic dark fantasy verging on horror, The Orphan Palace feels more like “cinema of the mind” than narrative fiction, and it may be for that reason that I find myself thinking more about filmmakers when I try to find something to compare it to. Pulver’s surreal dreamscapes seem to have some precedence in David Lynch (especially Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire), Alejandro Jodorowky (El Topo and Holy Mountain) and Lars Von Trier (especially Antichrist). I was even reminded of Guillermo Del Toro in some of the novel’s more fantastic sections, especially the “night library” scene, which left me wanting more. 

Any narrative so inwardly-directed and uncompromising is bound to leave the reader scratching their head in a few places, but that is more than compensated-for by the vivid effects which simply would not be possible with a more straightforward storytelling style. The Orphan Palace feels like being led by the hand (scratch that — led by the brain is more like it) through a dark and surreal nightmare, an experience both powerful and disturbing. I can’t wait to see what Pulver does next. Highly recommended, at least for readers open to a more experimental storytelling approach.