Cover art by Daniele Serra
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* 2013 Shirley Jackson Award as editor for Superior Work in an Anthology. The Grimscribe’s Puppets (Miskatonic River Press)
* 2013 Bram Stoker Award, Finalist for award in Superior Achievement in the Anthology Category. The Grimscribe’s Puppets (Miskatonic River Press)
Thomas Ligotti is beyond doubt one of the Grandmasters of Weird Fiction. In The Grimscribe’s Puppets, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., has commissioned both new and established talents in the world of weird fiction and horror to contribute all new tales that pay homage to Ligotti and celebrate his eerie and essential nightmares. Poppy Z. Brite once asked, “Are you out there, Thomas Ligotti?” This anthology proves not only is he alive and well, but his extraordinary illuminations have proven to be a visionary and fertile source of inspiration for some of today’s most accomplished authors.
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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”
Reading of “After the Final” (Richard Gavin) by Morgan Scorpion
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“The first book reviewed on The Arkham Digest was A Season in Carcosa, edited by Joseph S. Pulver Sr. An all-star lineup of weird fiction writers had written their own stories of madness for this anthology in tribute to the King in Yellow stories by Robert Chambers. I can’t help but look at The Grimscribe’s Puppets as a companion piece to that volume. Both published by the wonderful Miskatonic River Press, both edited by Joseph S. Pulver, both featuring a perfect lineup of weird fiction authors, both with stunning Dani Serra cover art. The Grimscribe’s Puppets is a tribute anthology to horror maestro Thomas Ligotti.
Thomas Ligotti, one of the finest horror authors, can be a tough pill to swallow. He has gained cult status, and logging onto the forums Thomas Ligotti Online (a great place for weird fiction in general) one can easily see the influence he has had over many readers and authors over the years. His work is definitely not for everyone though, casual horror readers would most likely be turned off by his particular brand of philosophical horror, yet everyone should read Ligotti at least once. His work explores decrepit, dying towns, dark corporations, and most always features loner/outsider/misanthropic protagonists. His stories are bleak, Gothic, and often have a nihilistic/pessimistic philosophical bent. They are brilliant.
For The Grimscribe’s Puppets Joe Pulver has pulled together twenty-two top notch stories, from twenty-two esteemed weird fiction authors. After A Season in Carcosa, this volume was high on my anticipated reads list, so I opened the cover with high expectations. Thankfully, the anthology not only met those expectations, but far surpassed them.
The collection opens with Livia Llewellyn’s Furnace, a tale of a dying town told through the eyes of a young girl. Llewellyn displays a wonderful use of language to add beauty to this dark story.
The Lord Came At Twilight, which gets the nod as my favorite story title in the anthology – hands down, is Daniel Mills doing what he does best. The story is a period-piece, and Mills excels at writing historical weird fiction. His language and style are reminiscent of the weird masters of old, and mesh perfectly with the narrative. This story is also the first story to be directly related to one of Ligotti’s works, The Mystics of Muelenberg. Ligotti’s story took place in modern day, but referenced events from long ago, and Mills gives readers a detailed glimpse into what happened in Muelenberg.”
– Justin Steele via Arkham Digest (full review)
“Thomas Ligotti’s fiction is not an acquired taste. Either you’re willing to travel these streets and face the stark miseries there, or you’re not. Most readers like a bit of optimism, even in horror fiction. Most writers build suspense on the possibility, however unlikely, that their protagonist will triumph. Ligotti’s characters live in a realm devoid of promise, confirming our suspicion that all, ultimately, is for nothing.
All I can offer are a few impressions. The guy walks some creepy territory. His stories are often dreamlike in tone, with a mundane setting and ordinary circumstances employed to conceal terrible secrets. His monster is made of tedium, loneliness, and futility.
The world Ligotti presents is largely unknowable and overwhelming. More information tends to distort rather than clarify our perceptions. Our lives are wasted trying to understand minutiae, cope with the people around us, and navigate vaguely defined systems we can never master. People are mysterious. Relationships are periods of resignation punctuated by rupture and destruction.
What I admire about this fictional world is its pitch-black integrity. Ligotti doesn’t pander to any expectations about how things ought to be. He isn’t in the optimism biz. He isn’t here to reassure anyone.
The Grimscribe’s Puppets is a new anthology of original stories prompted by (and honoring) Ligotti’s writing. More than twenty exceptionally talented authors have contributed dark riffs on some of the maestro’s themes. Included in this volume:
“Furnace” by Livia Llewellyn
If you’ve read Llewellyn’s collection, Engines of Desire, you know she’s one of the great voices in weird fiction today. She has an unparalleled ability to construct a vast yet tangible universe in which individuals are shaped by forces beyond their control. “Furnace” is a small masterpiece of frustrated passion, depicting the untenable dreams of a girl oppressed by maternal phobias and memories.
“Pieces of Blackness” by Michael Kelly
A man becomes terrified of the six-year-old boy he and his wife have adopted. The father’s odd habits emerge as more than rituals when we realize that the child reminds him of something from the past. The disturbing elements of this story glide into place as neatly as a bullet entering the chamber of a gun.
“Diamond Dust” by Michael Griffin
The protagonist works at a company where everything is in flux. Each night he returns to the apartment his lover has turned into a chaotic studio, where she builds monstrous works of art from chunks of furniture. An all-too-plausible combination of downsizing and over-investment seems to infect everything. Our hero stumbles from one strange encounter to another, wondering how much of his fear is based on paranoia and how much is justified. Griffin brilliantly captures both the mood of current day North America and the doomed atmosphere of Ligotti’s “My Work Is Not Yet Done.” The story culminates in an epic scene of mass labor enslaved to an unseen, frightening authority.
“After the Final” by Richard Gavin
Weird fiction doesn’t get much better than this. Gavin achieves a miraculous sleight of hand here, turning a deranged psyche inside out with a masterful shift in perspective.
“Eyes Exchange Bank” by Scott Nicolay
A guy who’s down on his luck decides to visit an old friend who is probably in worse shape. The ruined landscape of a typical American town is presented naturally, the outcome of greed blighting every corner. The two friends go out for a pizza and a few beers, trying to reminisce without admitting the crushing despair closing in all around them.
Editor Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. commissioned the stories in The Grimscribe’s Puppets, published by Miskatonic River Press. The results prove that Thomas Ligotti’s influence runs deep. For readers (like myself) who appreciate fiction that doesn’t try to sell false hope, this is a good sign.
(Note: For reviewing purposes I received a paperback copy of The Grimscribe’s Puppets from the editor.)”
– S.P. Miskowski
“Two projects of Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. picked my interest last year, both two anthologies dedicated to two original and very interesting writers, Robert W. Chambers and Thomas Ligotti. After the publication of “A Season in Carcosa”, the tribute anthology for Robert W. Chambers’ “The King in Yellow”, this year Joseph Pulver will release “The Grimscribe’s Puppets”, a collection of stories dedicated to one of the masters of weird fiction, Thomas Ligotti. “A Season in Carcosa” proved to be a very captivating project and it features some great stories, but that will be discussed later since my review of collection is almost ready. “The Grimscribe’s Puppets” promises to be an equally fascinating anthology, with some of the authors published in “A Season in Carcosa” making an appearance here too. Gemma Files, Joel Lane, Michael Kelly, Simon Strantzas and John Langan were among the authors who attracted me to “A Season in Carcosa”, but with the addition of Kaaron Warren and Paul Tremblay and yet another excellent cover artwork bearing Daniele Serra’s trademark, “The Grimscribe’s Puppets” became even more interesting for me. I am not certain when Joseph Pulver’s new anthology “The Grimscribe’s Puppets” will be out, but I’ll make certain to pick a copy of the collection once Miskatonic River Press releases it.”
– Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Review (full review)