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.

“No Mask to Conceal Her Voice” Coming to Lovecraft eZine

My latest story “No Mask to Conceal Her Voice” has just been accepted by Joseph S. Pulver Sr. to appear in the special King in Yellow themed issue he’s guest editing for Lovecraft eZine. This issue should appear in a few months, perhaps December or January.

This is my second time working with both Pulver (who edited The Grimscribe’s Puppets, in which my story “Diamond Dust” appeared) and Lovecraft eZine (my “Nectar of Strange Lips” appeared in the April 2013 issue).

I especially loved Pulver’s King in Yellow themed anthology, A Season in Carcosa, which I reviewed HERE. Though I missed out on a chance to appear in that book, I’m very pleased to have this opportunity to submit my take on Carcosa and the King in Yellow to an editor with such a special love of that mythos.

I’ll have more information about this as publication approaches. It occurs to me that this story is also noteworthy in that it’s my longest piece of fiction to be accepted for publication. I’ve written longer before, and am about to tackle a hefty novella, but at 6,900 words this will be the first thing I’ve published over 5,000 words.

My thanks to Joe Pulver and Mike Davis of Lovecraft eZine for providing this opportunity!

The Grimscribe’s Puppets – Now Available

I’ve mentioned several times before my excitement about this upcoming book, The Grimscribe’s Puppets, a Thomas Ligotti tribute anthology edited by Joseph S. Pulver Sr.


Livia Llewellyn “Furnace”
Daniel Mills “The Lord Came at Twilight”
Michael Cisco “The Secrets of the Universe”
Kaaron Warren “The Human Moth”
Joel Lane “Basement Angels”
Darrell Schweitzer “No Signal”
Robin Spriggs “The Xenambulist: A Fable in Four Acts”
Nicole Cushing “The Company Town”
Cody Goodfellow “The Man Who Escaped This Story”
Michael Kelly “Pieces of Blackness”
Eddie M. Angerhuber “The Blue Star”
Jon Padgett “20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism”
Robert M. Price “The Holiness of Desolation”
Michael Griffin “Diamond Dust”
Richard Gavin “After the Final”
Scott Nicolay “Eyes Exchange Bank”
Simon Strantzas “By Invisible Hands”
Paul Tremblay “Where We Will All Be”
Allyson Bird “Gailestis”
Jeffrey Thomas “The Prosthesis”
John Langan “Into the Darkness, Fearlessly”
Gemma Files “Oubliette”

I’m very excited to appear alongside so many great writers! Now that the book is finally available to purchase, here are some links to the various places to order.

MISKATONIC RIVER PRESS (the publisher – direct from the source)

AMAZON (often cheapest, depending on ever-changing discount percentage)

BOOK DEPOSITORY (free shipping anywhere in the world, probably cheapest for buyers outside North America)


H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival – Con Report, Part II – Friday

Part I of this con report can be found here. If you don’t know who Mike, Joe, Lena and I are, read that first. Parts III through V are forthcoming.

Friday morning, we slept in a bit, and actually experienced a few hours of down time. We lounged around the house and enjoyed some great weather in the back yard.


When it was time to head down to the Hollywood district for events, we left a bit early to give us time to check Mike Davis into his con-provided hotel room at the Banfield, where most of the guests were booked. There was yet another SNAFU at the hotel, and no room available for Mike. We said “no thanks!” to the Banfield, and told Mike it was better all around if he just continued staying with us instead.

The first truly “official” event of the HPL Film Fest was the VIP Party, Friday afternoon at 3PM. Admission was restricted to festival guests, and a few non-guest ticket-holders who pledged at higher levels on the festival Kickstarter. The VIP party started things off across the street from the theater, at a little wine bar and bistro called Magnolia’s Corner.


When I snapped the above picture, the guy (whom I don’t know) in the Cthulhu mask started moving out of the picture, and taking off his mask. I told him, “Dude, you’re in a Cthulhu mask — you don’t have to get out of the picture!” So he pulled the mask back on, and moved back into the frame. Also in the picture, Joe Pulver talking to Edward Morris, and on the bench behind, Wilum Pugmire.

Here’s Portland’s historic Hollywood Theater, site of the HP Lovecraft Film Festival, before activities begin.


We waited outside briefly, which gave us a chance to figure out who’s who, and shake a few hands. I briefly met writer and editor Orrin Grey, whom I didn’t recognize at first despite being Facebook and Livejournal friends. He’s one of those sneaky people who doesn’t post a lot of pictures of himself! He edited the Fungi anthology I recently reviewed here, and has a recent story collection Never Bet the Devil I really want to check out.

I also spoke with filmmaker and musician Mars Homeworld. He’s best known for scoring a number of Lovecraftian films, including the excellent and apparently out-of-print documentary, Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown. Mars also directed Transcendent, scheduled to show at this year’s fest.


Here Joe Pulver, Wilum Pugmire and Mike Davis wait to get into VIP party. Between Mike and Wilum’s heads, you can see the pink hair of Rose O’Keefe of Eraserhead Press, and over Mike’s other shoulder, that’s illustrator Mike Dubisch, who is often but not exclusively seen in Strange Aeons Magazine. Behind Mike Dubisch, that’s writer Camille Alexa.

Here’s a Dubsisch cover for Strange Aeons issue #10 (which I picked up at the con, signed by Mike) to give you a taste of the awesome!


Inside the VIP party was a great chance to get everyone together in proximity, without distractions or obligations like panels, readings and film screenings. We had a chance to reconnect with people we knew, go up and shake hands with people we hadn’t previously met, and introduce each other around.

I was able to enjoy a few minutes with artist Lee Moyer, who is not only insanely talented, but also very knowledgable and informative on a thousand art-related topics (read his blog if you don’t believe me), and a super-nice guy as well. I teased him a little about losing to Nick Gucker in last year’s Pickman’s Apprentice art challenge, figuring a guy as accomplished as Lee could take a bit of needling. His credits are far too numerous to list or link here, but Lee’s art can be found on book covers (Kiernan!), calendars, video covers and games.

Lena and I had a great time with the fantastic writer and renowned tippler Molly Tanzer. Molly lives in Boulder, Colorado, an area known for its mountainous landscape, and the prevalence of an active, outdoorsy lifestyle among its residents. Lena and I are very much into hiking, running and mountain exploration, so we told Molly if she stuck around in Portland an extra day at next year’s HPLFF, we’d take her up to Mt. Hood. We had in mind something like hiking and sightseeing.

“No, not hiking!” Molly said. Molly doesn’t want to walk on trails. Molly wants to climb to the very top. Molly wants to conquer! “It’s only, what, 11,000 feet?” By Boulder standards, barely a tiny hill.

A trip to the mountain sounds fun. A climb to the TOP of the mountain? Not so sure…

We also spent a few minutes with yet another super-talented and unbelievably nice artist, Nick Gucker. Nick has always been an excellent fellow, but since he recently illustrated my story “Nectar of Strange Lips” for Lovecraft eZine’s April 2013 issue, I’ve raised Nick a further notch in my estimation. Truly among the all-time great, friendly and cool guys!


I feel like a broken record, describing people over and over as “wonderfully nice, friendly, also insanely talented,” but it happens to be true in so many cases, with such a large segment of people one encounters at this event.

Interestingly, the writers, artists and editors mostly seem to all know each other, because they come back year after year. Some filmmakers attend often, but many seem to show up for just one year when their film screens, and don’t know anybody outside their immediate group.

Here, the VIP party crowd sings Happy Birthday to Wilum Pugmire. Wilum was presented with a Cthulhu-themed green cake. Pictures exist all over Facebook, but I didn’t see it until it was mostly eaten.


Drinks and snacks were provided. Even after snacks, we were still hungry, so went to Columbia River Brewing. It’s a very good local brewpub, conveniently located a block from the theater, with lots of seating and a diverse menu. We ate here five times in three days.

After this, the actual H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival itself was underway. No more preamble! Mike Davis and Lena and I sat near the back of the main theater, while Joe remained outside, dealing with (and clearly enjoying) the many demands on his time and attention. Here are writers Cody Goodfellow, Edward Morris and Joe Pulver talking outside before things got underway. (photo by Thérèse Elaine)


In the lead-up to the opening ceremony, as well as between events in the theater, the projectors displayed a digital slide show of book covers, magazine covers and other art pertaining to festival guests. It was fun to see a few items relevant to us, projected large: the cover of Mike’s magazine Lovecraft eZine, the issue with my story in it, plus a story by Joe and Edward Morris, as well as writer Wendy Wagner who was also in attendance, with all our names on the cover. Lovecraft eZine cover artist and logo designer Leslie Herzfeld was also at the fest… so fully a half-dozen of us, all located in different places in the theater, must have said “Hey, cool, look!” when that cover image flashed on the screen.


There was a second promo for Lovecraft eZine, and also the cover of Joe’s book Portraits of Ruin, which includes a photo of Lena (taken by me) integrated into the collage art piece by Joe’s friend, artist J. Karl Bogartte.


In the brief video Mike Davis shot, Lena can be heard saying (when the Portraits of Ruin cover flashed on the screen) something like, “Look how big my face is!” That comes about midway through this clip. Before that, you can see my cool red pants as Mike follows us up the ramp.

After this brief introduction, we watched Shorts Block One. The short films are collected into blocks of less than 2 hours. Usually Block One is kind of a featured event, taking place after opening ceremonies in the big main theater.


The first film in this block, a Swedish-made short called Reset, was my favorite, and seemed to be the favorite of everyone I spoke to. In it, a little girl who lived on a remote farm listens to her mother read letters that arrive from her absent father. The opening and reading of the letters is an important, eagerly-awaited event for the girl, until she finds that the letters do not actually contain the words her mother has been reading to her.


We stuck around in the main theater for Prince of Darkness, a late 80s horror film by John Carpenter. It’s not one of his best, containing many awkward attempts at hipness or humor. Some of the occult content is really creepy and interesting, and I felt this was a film ripe for a remake.

After the film ended at 11 PM we drifted outside to find Joe, who had been schmoozing for the past four hours, and also Mike Davis who had vacated the theater during Price of Darkness. We briefly debated going to the after party at Tony Starlight’s Supper Club a few blocks down Sandy Boulevard, which had been the tentative plan. Everyone was tired, and Joe warned we should get an early start so as to snare a good table at the Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast the next morning. We headed home.

Almost there (way out in outer SE Portland, so there was no way we were heading back into town again), I received a text from Alicia Graves (see activity at Lovecraft Bar Thursday night in previous entry.) saying she couldn’t find us at Tony Starlight’s — where were we?!

Everyone in our group was ready to sleep, so I resolved to text Alicia back in the morning. Before I actually fell asleep, Alicia texted again, and called twice in rapid succession. Why was she so insistent? Maybe she was stranded down there, and didn’t have anyone to hang around with? Still, no way were we going back out. Sometimes the need for sleep refuses to be ignored.

We wouldn’t discover until the next day the reason for Alicia’s insistence. She was part of a surprise someone was trying to spring on us, which we’d unwittingly thwarted by heading home.

Lately I Read Faster Than I Review

Usually I read a book or two, then review a book or two. The pace is steady. I don’t normally read so much that I get behind on reviewing what I’ve read.

Now I’m behind.

Set some things aside to read The Croning (see last blog post) and decided it’s time to start catching up, so I reviewed that one as soon as I finished it.

I’m pretty close to the end of Immobility by Brian Evenson, so I’ll have to do that one too.

Then there are all these I read and haven’t reviewed yet:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

In the Mean Time by Paul Tremblay

Liquor by Poppy Z. Brite

The Body Artist by Don Delillo

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

…LIES….Thunder….ashes… by Joseph S. Pulver Sr.…lies….thunder….ashes….

The Wet Nurse by Mike Dubisch

It’s worth saying that the lack of recent reviews is not at all due to lack of enthusiasm about what I’ve been reading. On the contrary. There’s some great stuff here, lots of 4 and 5 star reviews coming up. I have a lot I want to say about these!

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.