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REQUIEM: VAMPIRE CHEVALIER
by Pat Mills and Olivier Ledroit

Cover of the 1st volume of REQUIEM: VAMPIRE CHEVALIER, featuring the protagonist Requiem and his magnificent soul-blade. It ain't easy being a vampire in hell.

Cover of the 1st volume of REQUIEM: VAMPIRE CHEVALIER, featuring the protagonist Requiem and his soul-blade. It ain’t easy being a vampire in hell.

What can I say about Pat Mills? He’s practically the British Stan Lee. He founded the UK’s #1 long-running comic magazine 2000AD back in 1976 and it’s still going strong today. One of his greatest creations is SLAINE, who I’ve talked about in a previous review (SLAINE: THE HORNED GOD). Pat has authored many long-running 2000AD  characters, but he also has been telling the story of “vampires in hell” in the pages of HEAVY METAL magazine for the past few years.

REQUIEM: VAMPIRE CHEVALIER is the fantastic creation of Mills and French artist extraordinaire Oliver Ledroit. It was released over time in 10 volumes of 50 pages each. Yes, that’s a 500-PAGE GRAPHIC NOVEL. The art is, in a word, spectacular. Each panel is fully painted, and Ledroit has some of the coolest designs and otherworldly landscapes in the history of graphic novels. You don’t have to be a vampire fan to enjoy REQUIEM; there are plenty of different monsters, spectres, werewolves, and demonic entities to go around. (FYI: “Chevalier” is the French word for “Knight.”)

Requiem_02dlHere’s how Wiki describes the basic plot: “The story is set in a world called Resurrection [where] people are re-incarnated into monsters according to the sins of their life. Vampires form the elite of the society and the ruling class. The more cruel one was in life, the better he is rewarded on Resurrection…[where] everything appears to be the opposite way around than on Earth. Land has replaced the oceans, while seas of perpetual fire occupy our known continents and time flows backwards. People do not get older but rejuvenate until they become a foetus and ultimately are forgotten; their memory follows the same cycle and is ‘lost’ as people get younger.”

Dracula himself rules over the vampires of Resurrection, and he claims the cover of volume #3.

Dracula himself rules over the vampires of Resurrection, and he claims the cover of volume #3.

That only scratches the surface. What we have in REQUIEM is one of the most beautifully-drawn horror tales every created. A true odyssey of macabre adventure. There’s really no describing in words what Ledroit’s eye-popping, jaw-dropping art does on the page. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by how beautiful he makes this horrible world seem. The vampires are vicious, gorgeous, and sadistic, waging an eternal war against the “Gods of Limbo” and their undead servants. But all of this spectacular art would be beside the point if the story wasn’t so well told. Pat Mills is a master storyteller, and REQUIEM: VAMPIRE CHEVALIER is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Currently HeavyMetal.com offers this story in a number of different packages: You can order the REQUIEM Collection, Volumes 1 and 2, which includes the first 6 chapters of the 10-chapter story. Each volume will set you back about $20 before shipping. Chapters 7-10 are not yet available in print in the USA.

Requiem_04dlHOWEVER—if you have a Kindle or E-Reader—you’re in luck! You can download ALL TEN CHAPTERS for $4 each. Finally, the best possible deal—the one I chose—gets you the ENTIRE 10-chapter, 500-page graphic novel for a measly $20!!! This kind of rare deal, folks, is the reason I bought a Kindle Fire in the first place.

I’ve read the first 3 volumes and am currely on the 4th. I’ve never been more grateful to have an e-reader. The painted panels look gorgeous on my hi-def Kindle Fire. One caveat: The story of REQUIEM does feature a lot of violence, blood, and sadistic behavior. But what would you expect? It’s about vampires fighting an eternal war for control of a hellish afterlife!

Requiem_05dlFor fans of fully-painted, non-superhero graphic novels, it just doens’t get any better than REQUIEM: VAMPIRE CHEVALIER. But don’t take my word for it, go to www.heavymetal.com and look at the free samples from each volume. Your eyes will pop, your blood will race, and your mind will be blown. Mine certainly was—and continues to be every time I dive into a new chapter.

Could REQUIEM: VAMPIRE CHEVALIER be the greatest vampire epic ever written? I say “Yes, it very well could be.” If you’re not offended by violence and nudity, you must check out this book.

Requiem_06dl

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THE SPECTRAL LINK
by Thomas Ligotti

Getting any new material from the great Tom Ligotti is always a special treat. A dark treat, of course, with an edge of insanity and super weirdness. Ligotti is one of the greatest living horror writers, but the last decade hasn’t been a prolific one for him. He only writes when he’s inspired to write, and thankfully he’s getting inspired again.

THE SPECTRAL LINK is a small hardcover containing one short story (“Metaphysica Morum”) and a novella (“The Small People”). It’s metaphysical horror firmly in the “weird fiction” tradition. As I expected, both stories are brilliant examples of what Ligotti does best.

What’s different about this volume, compared to his other works, is a dark sense of humor that penetrates both stories. The humor never distracts from the dread and horror of the tales, but adds a new facet to the gleaming diamond of Ligotti’s talent.

Instead of describing the plot and contents of each story, let me just say that any horror fan—or any fan of weird fiction—should get this book immediately. It’s delightfully creepy and completely original, just like all of Ligotti’s work.

Here’s piece I posted here back in March about Ligotti:
http://johnrfultz.com/2014/03/16/the-spectral-link-ligotti-returns/

 

When I was 11 years old this was the coolest thing I had ever seen: “Taarna,” the final segment of the film HEAVY METAL. This is the climax of the movie set to Sammy Hagar’s “Heavy Metal” song from the film’s soundtrack. My buddy Ivan and I snuck into this Rated R film in 1981 because we just couldn’t miss it. Rock-and-roll sci-fi with a sword-and-sorcery twist. CLASSIC.
Blew. Our. Minds.

 

Galaxy_by_Inwe1Another summer means another “reading season” for me. This is the time of year when I’m not teaching so I’m free to dig into the pile of books I’ve accumulated over the last twelve months.

Yep, I buy books all year long—can’t get enough of ‘em. Yet my reading proceeds at a crawl because of my busy schedule until summer hits. It’s kind of a tradition for me to blog here about what I read each summer, so let’s get to it:

The-Light-is-the-DarknessTHE LIGHT IS THE DARKNESS by Laird Barron
I’ve greatly enjoyed reading Barron’s many story collections and his terrific first novel THE CRONING. LIGHT is something between a novella and a novel—call it a short novel if you will—and it actually came out before THE CRONING. It has everything that Barron’s fans have come to expect from him: Hard-boiled protagonists, creeping evil from beyond space/time, and a two-fisted plunge into cosmic phantasmagoria.

Barron’s protagonist is Conrad Navarro, reigning champion of a global underground gladitorial fighting ring. He’s a modern-day Beowulf or Conan, although he might remind readers more of Frank Miller’s Marv (from SIN CITY). Barron channels his crime-noir skills here as Conrad’s journey into mystery takes him behind the veil of consensual reality, where he discovers the horrible truth about himself and the nefarious forces that killed his brother and stole his sister.

It’s dark, slick, mysterious, and brutal. It’s Laird Barron, a one-of-a-kind talent, at his most uninhibited. If THE CRONING was a cerebral descent into cosmic terror, then THE LIGHT IS THE DARKNESS is a blood-soaked roller coaster ride through a world of decadent horrors. Along with the incredible “Hand of Glory”, this is one of Laird’s best stories, hands down.

HornedGodSLAINE: THE HORNED GOD
by Pat Mills and Simon Bisley

Next up: COMICS! It’s the Summer of SLAINE for me. Pat Mills created this Celtic hero in the pages of 2000AD, where he chronicled the character’s adventures for many years. The very height of those adventures came when a young Simon Bisley came onboard to illustrate a new series of Slaine installments beginning in 1989.

The result was THE HORNED GOD a 3-book magnum opus that helped make Bisley an art legend. It also gave Mills the chance to bring Slaine’s world to life in a deeper way than ever before. Bisley’s fully painted panels are breathtaking, and often he changes techniques in the middle of scenes to evoke emotion or contrast.

HornedGod2The story of Slaine doesn’t begin in THE HORNED GOD, but it serves as a great introduction to the character for anybody new to Slaine’s world. Ukko the Dwarf, Slaine’s longtime companion (the Sancho Panza to his Don Quijote, if you will) is scribing the story in the remote future, so we get a story within a story, often with Ukko’s skewed and humorous viewpoint.

Mills uses Slaine to explore and expound on Celtic mythology in ironic and unexpected ways. Bisley’s art is equal parts Frank Frazetta and Richard Corben, with a bit of Bill Sienkiewicz. In short, it’s absolutely gorgeous, and perfect for such a mythic story.

HornedGod4Sea demons, undead monsters, phantom dragons, and marauding hordes of men and beasts come to life in the weird world of pre-history that Mills envisions. The Celtic women are strong and gorgeous, often mighter and more deadly than their male counterparts.

Slaine isn’t your typical “musclebound barbarian,” he’s a complex character in a savage world of magic and brutality. He’s a servant of the Earth Goddess, a slayer of dragons, a “warp-spasm” warrior, and a man determined to save his long-suffering people from diabolic forces. Rarely have story and art blended so perfectly into the construction of an illustrated fantasy. THE HORNED GOD is a must for any fantasy fan’s graphic novel library.

808708COMPANIONS ON THE ROAD by Tanith Lee
This is actually two unrelated fantasy novellas packaged into a single slim paperback originally released in 1975. This was the same year Lee won a Nebula Award for her debut novel (THE BIRTHGRAVE). The first novella is “Companions on the Road,” the story of a cursed goblet and two soldiers who steal it from a burning castle after a seige. It becomes a “road story” of haunting spirits and deadly curses, but the magic is underplayed in favor of rising menace.

The second half of COMPANIONS ON THE ROAD provides great contrast, as the sorcery factor is amped way up. “The Winter Players” is a tale of feuding sorcerers where Lee lets the magic fly. The young sorceress protagonist discovers the depth of her power as she pursues a thief who stole a holy relic from her seaside shrine. The tale builds in depth and complexity, delivering a stunning and clever conclusion.

I liked the second novella (“The Winter Players”) better than the first, but both are superb works from one of Lee’s most prolific periods (i.e. the 70s)—which also happened to be the Golden Age of Sword-and-Sorcery. No coincidence there…

 

PrimordiaPromoRead PRIMORDIA issue #1 for FREE at Comixology! It’s the first chapter of a 96-page (3-issue) mini-series. Issues #2 and #3 are $2 each. That’s the ENTIRE graphic novel on your Kindle or eReader for only $4!!!
https://www.comixology.com/Primordia-1-of-3/digital-comic/14171

 

Read the 1st chapter of SEVEN PRINCES right here.
Read the 1st chapter of SEVEN KINGS right here.
Read the 1st chapter of SEVEN SORCERERS right here.
ShaperTripleThe entire trilogy is available everywhere including:
AMAZON
BARNES & NOBLE

“…fantastical weirdness bursts out of every other page.”
–io9.com on SEVEN PRINCES
…confirms Fultz as the master of fantasy characterization and plot.”
Books Monthly on SEVEN KINGS
“The world-building is amazing…”
–RT Book Reviews on SEVEN SORCERERS

SK-SPBackground

A Tolkien Poem

“Twenty years have flowed away down the long river
And never in my life will return for me from the sea
Ah years in which looking far away I saw ages long past
When still trees bloomed free in a wide country
And thus now all begins to wither
With the breath of cold-hearted wizards
To know things they break them
And their stern lordship they establish
Through fear of death”

 – J.R.R. Tolkien
   Read aloud by the author in the Elvish Language
   Rotterdam Hobbit Dinner, 1958

lotr_amimated_screenshot_02

Stay Tuned

“What’s gonna happen now?
Will the good guys pull through somehow?”

———- MONSTER MAGNET ———-
http://www.zodiaclung.com/

WORLD WITHOUT END

“Exploring the WORLD WITHOUT END” is an article I wrote in ’07 for THE PULSE and resurrected in ’10 at BlackGate.com.

It’s an in-depth look at one of the greatest and most under-appreciated graphic novels ever written: Jamie Delano and John Higgins’ WORLD WITHOUT END (from 1990), which still remains sadly uncollected. (Yet cheaply available in its original prestige format issues.)

A classic like this is worth promoting as often as possible, so please check it out.

Cosmic-ConsciousnessScientists Claim That Quantum Theory Proves Consciousness Moves To Another Universe At Death

“In fact, consciousness exists outside of constraints of time and space. It is able to be anywhere: in the human body and outside of it. In other words, it is non-local in the same sense that quantum objects are non-local.”

KING CONAN @ Cannes

KingConan

Rumors have been flying that Arnold Schwarzenegger (now freed from his duties as governator of California) will be returning to the character that launched his acting career: CONAN THE BARBARIAN.

For fans of the 1982 movie bearing that title (all of whom have agreed to forget it’s vastly inferior sequel), this is great news.

All we know for sure right now is that this teaser poster has been released at the Cannes Film Festival.

Reportedly the new movie will be called LEGEND OF CONAN and will feature Conan in his latter-day role as King of Aquilonia. Robert E. Howard fans are of course hoping that the new movie draws from actual REH Conan stories such as “Phoenix On the Sword” and/or “The Scarlet Citadel.”

Personally I’d love to see a faithful adaptation of Howard’s only Conan novel, “Hour of the Dragon,” which is undoubtedly King Conan’s greatest adventure. (It was also published as CONAN THE CONQUEROR.)

(Thanks to Cosmic BookNews for the report.)

Frazetta2014

Click here to read The Cimmerian’s most recent tribute to Frank Frazetta.

WEIRD TALES Interview

WT340-Edwards

Weird Tales #340 featured “The Persecution of Artifice the Quill,” the first official tale of Zang.

The legendary WEIRD TALES magazine has posted an interview with Yours Truly: Weird Tales Interviews John R. Fultz.

For the first 15 years of my writing life I had one goal: Sell a story to WEIRD TALES. To do that, I had to write a story worthy of this classic publication.

I started in college, sending in stories I had written in my Creative Writing course at the University of Kentucky. I got plenty of rejections—and plenty of great advice on how to get my writing up to professional standards. Most of those letters came from Darrell Schweitzer, who was the editor of the magazine at the time (along with George Scithers).

Finally, in 2004 (ten years ago!) I sold my first professional story, “The Persecution of Artifice the Quill,” to Darrell/George, and they ran the story in WT #340. They even gave me the “cover treatment”—my name wasn’t on the cover but the Les Edwards painting evokes the faceless Vizarchs who pursue Artifice in the story.

ZangCoverThat story inspired an entire cycle of stories, the Zang Cycle, which are now mostly collected in THE REVELATIONS OF ZANG.

Recently I returned to the World of Zang for a story called “Yael of the Strings”—that story will be running Baen’s SHATTERED SHIELDS anthology (coming in Nov. 2014).

This is the first time WT has interviewed me. I also have a never-before-seen Zang story coming up in a future issue.

BG on THE THRONE OF BONES

throneofbonesBlackGate.com reviews one of my all-time favorite story collections: THE THRONE OF BONES by the late Brian McNaughton. Click here to read the BG review.

This gloriously gruesome book—which features everything you could ever want to know (and more) about corpse-munching ghouls—won the World Fantasy Award for best collection in 1998.

McNaughton’s lurid tales blend weird horror with sword-and-sorcery, drawing comparisons to the work of Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard. The interlinked stories (and one novella) in this collection are wholly original, dark as sin, and completely fascinating. Brian McNaughton passed away in 2004, but dark fantasy fans will be discovering this book with macabre delight for many generations.

The book is available in softcover and Kindle versions right here.

RS Interviews Martin

Rolling Stone posted a great interview with GAME OF THRONES writer/creator George R.R. Martin.

Read the interview here: RS Interviews George R.R. Martin
game-of-thrones-daenerys-hed-2013

“Vaesen”

 “Vaesen” from the The Animation Film Project is the best short fantasy film I’ve seen since 2013′s “The Reward” (also from the AFP).

Echoes and Emperor

Stephen E. Fabian’s beautiful cover for ECHOES.

BlackGate.com recently featured a terrific review of Darrell Schweitzer’s superb story collection ECHOES OF THE GODDESS.

Schweitzer actually put out TWO new story collections last year. The second one, EMPEROR OF THE ANCIENT WORD, is composed of non-related tales and covers fantasy, horror, weird, and all points in between.

Both collections are must-reads for self-respecting fantasy fans.

Get your Schweitzer on.

Thank me later.

 

Spirit

“Weird fantastic writing, by its emphasis of the environing cosmic wonder
and spirit of things, may actually be truer to the spirit of life than the work
which merely concerns itself with literalities, as most modern fiction does.”

– Clark Ashton Smith (1933)

Artwork by Rowena, inspired by Clark Ashton Smith's "The Last Incantation."

Artwork by Rowena, inspired by Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Last Incantation.”

 

YBWeirdFictionMy story “The Key To Your Heart Is Made Of Brass” is appearing in YEAR’S BEST WEIRD FICTION, Vol. 1, edited by the great Laird Barron (for Undertow Press), and scheduled for an August release. You can pre-order it right here.

I am thrilled and honored to be included in this book, especially because “Key” was rejected NINE times by various publishers large and small over a period of about four years. Finally it was published by Pierre Comtois in the 30th edition of his terrific indie magazine FUNGI (#21) and released at the the 2013 NecronomiCon. (NOTE: That same issue also contains a sequel to “Key”, a story called “Flesh of the City, Bones of the World”.)

Now that “Key” has been picked by one of the genre’s most respected leaders for inclusion in a “best of” collection, I can only assume that the story was either ahead of its time or simply TOO WEIRD for anything else but FUNGI. Many thanks to Pierre for getting the tale into print, and to Laird for recognizing it.

Fungi21

FUNGI #21

This is going to be a brilliant inauguration for the YEAR’S BEST WEIRD FICTION series. Each volume will be edited by a different “guest editor,” and Undertow could not have picked a better captain for their first book: Laird Barron is not only one of the best weird/horror writers in the field, he’s also a helluva nice guy. But you’d never know that just from reading his terrifying fiction. I reviewed Laird’s first novel THE CRONING right here.

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THE YEAR’S BEST WEIRD FICTION, Vol. 1
Table of Contents

“Success” by Michael Blumlein, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nov./Dec.
“Like Feather, Like Bone” by Kristi DeMeester, Shimmer #17
“A Terror” by Jeffrey Ford, Tor.com, July.
“The Key to Your Heart Is Made of Brass” by John R. Fultz, Fungi #21
“A Cavern of Redbrick” by Richard Gavin, Shadows & Tall Trees #5
“The Krakatoan” by Maria Dahvana Headley, Nightmare Magazine/The Lowest Heaven, July.
“Bor Urus” by John Langan, Shadow’s Edge
“Furnace” by Livia Llewellyn, The Grimscribe’s Puppets
“Eyes Exchange Bank” by Scott Nicolay, The Grimscribe’s Puppets
“A Quest of Dream” by W.H. Pugmire, Bohemians of Sesqua Valley
“(he) Dreams of Lovecraftian Horror” by Joseph S. Pulver Sr., Lovecraft eZine #28
“Dr. Blood and the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron” by A.C. Wise, Ideomancer Vol. 12 Issue 2
“The Year of the Rat” by Chen Quifan, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August.
“Fox into Lady” by Anne-Sylvie Salzman, Darkscapes
“Olimpia’s Ghost” by Sofia Samatar, Phantom Drift #3
“The Nineteenth Step” by Simon Strantzas, Shadows Edge
“The Girl in the Blue Coat” by Anna Taborska, Exotic Gothic 5 Vol. 1
“In Limbo” by Jeffrey Thomas, Worship the Night
“Moonstruck” by Karin Tidbeck, Shadows & Tall Trees #5
“Swim Wants to Know If It’s as Bad as Swim Thinks” by Paul Tremblay, Bourbon Penn #8
“No Breather in the World But Thee” by Jeff VanderMeer, Nightmare Magazine, March.
“Shall I Whisper to You of Moonlight, of Sorrow, of Pieces of Us?” by Damien Angelica Walters, Shock Totem #7.

Illustration by Dalton Rose.

Laird Barron doing his cosmic thang, as depicted by artist Dalton Rose for Slate.com

 

ConanSavSword27The latest CROMCAST is a discussion of Robert E. Howard’s “Beyond the Black River,” a classic Conan tale, and a favorite of fans and critics alike.

The story was first published by WEIRD TALES in 1935, and by this time Conan the Cimmerian stood among the magazine’s most popular of recurring characters. Howard channels LAST OF THE MOHICANS here, placing Conan as a mercenary scout on the wild western border of Aquilonia. Thousands of primitive and bloodthirsty Picts, hereditary enemies of Conan’s northern folk, band together in the name of sorcerer Zogar Sag to assault a frontier fort along the Black River.

This swashbuckling story takes place later in Conan’s adventuring career, after he’s sailed two different oceans, traveled among the lost jungle realms of the distant south, and come back to the heart of Hyboria to sell his sword to the Aquilonians. He is a force to be reckoned with, and nobody captures that feral vitality quite like Howard himself did. Except maybe Frank Frazetta, decades later when his famous run of Conan paperback covers sold millions of copies.

SSC26In the 70s Marvel Comics adapted the story in a two-part SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN story. Jim Starlin did the grimly effective cover painting for SSC #26, and Bob Larkin knocked it out of the park with his cover for SSC #27.

Reading classic Robert E. Howard tales is twice the fun when you can listen to the CROMCAST gang talk about the stories as you go. I’m guessing that when they finish all of Howard’s Conan stories they’ll be moving on to other Howard work. Personally, I’d recommend the KULL tales, which are more Shakespearean in ideal and execution than the later Conan tales. But then again my all-time favorite REH tale is “Valley of the Worm”…

Weird_Tales_1935-11_-_Shadows_in_ZamboulaWherever the CROMCAST crew decides to go, it’s sure to involve some fascinating discussions. Next up, it’s “Shadows in Zamboula” from WEIRD TALES November 1935, where it was published under the more hardcore title of “The Man-Eaters of Zamboula”.

See you in Zamboula…

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