Kathe Koja to edit volume 2 of Year’s Best Weird Fiction

Kathe Koja to Edit Volume 2 of ‘Year’s Best Weird Fiction’

Press release

For Immediate Release

Toronto, Canada, April 2014 — Kathe Koja, whose intense and original fiction helped revive the weird tale, will edit volume 2 of the Year’s Best Weird Fiction for Undertow Publications, an imprint of ChiZine Publications. Koja’s work has been widely recognized, translated, and optioned and adapted for film and performance, as well as reprinted in numerous “Best Of” anthologies.

“What’s weird is unclassifiable, beyond the boundaries, above the rules, and passionately individual,” Koja said. “I’m looking forward to having a lot of editorial fun with this project.”

Established in 2009 by writer Michael Kelly, Undertow Publications (UP) is home to the acclaimed weird journal Shadows & Tall Trees, from which a number of stories have been selected for various “Year’s Best” anthologies. As editor, Kelly has been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson and British Fantasy Society Awards, and his fiction has appeared in a number of venues.

“I’m delighted that Kathe has agreed to edit this next volume of the Year’s Best Weird Fiction,” Kelly said. “I am an enormous fan of her work. She is an original and distinct voice, and will bring a unique perspective to the series.”

Undertow Publications is publishing the inaugural volume of the Year’s Best Weird Fiction, edited by Laird Barron, this August. Kelly says, “I’m pleased to be publishing a dedicated volume of the year’s finest weird fiction. It’s long overdue.”

For more information, please visit www.undertowbooks.com

###

Table of Contents for the inaugural Year’s Best Weird Fiction

Laird Barron and I are very pleased to announce the Table of Contents for the Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume One, due August.

“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 Ranger“Moonstruck” by Karen 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.

Excerpt: The Quiet Room

Excerpt from V.H. Leslie’s ‘The Quiet Room,’ forthcoming in Shadows & Tall Trees.

That night Terry dreamt of the music room. It was full of people, dressed in black, sitting around the piano as if for a recital. Terry walked among them, noticing how still they all sat, their heads cast down. He saw instruments in their laps or at their feet. He tripped over a cello, the strings catching on his trousers, but it didn’t make a sound. Nor did the cellist stoop to pick up the instrument. It was so quiet that even the sound of his footsteps seemed to have been silenced somehow. Terry stamped his foot, trying to make as much noise as he could, and when that failed he knocked over a set of cymbals, expecting the vibrations to shatter the silence. But nothing dented the stillness of the room. He tried to address the gathering but his voice faltered, the people didn’t even look at him. Terry grabbed the nearest man by his lapels and shook him roughly, but the man merely stared back vacantly. Terry tried to scream into the man’s face, pouring all his confusion and rage into one almighty cry, but no sound came and his throat became hoarse with the effort.

In the background he heard the piano.

Dissonant notes at first, but gradually they merged to form the beginnings of a melody. He avoided looking at what was on top of the piano but glanced across at the keyboard. The lid was down. To signify the beginning of the movement, he remembered. But how could that be? The melody began to gain speed, the volume creeping higher and higher, the playing becoming more crazed, more erratic, building toward an inevitable and deafening crescendo—

Terry sat bolt upright in bed.

He breathed deeply, trying to steady himself, fancying he could hear the sound of his racing heartbeat. As it slowed he was conscious of another sound. He strained his ears and thought he heard the same dissonant notes from his dream.

It was the piano.

It echoed through the corridors of the old house, drifting up the stairs, filling the rooms and recesses with its melancholic air.

Ava.

Terry pulled aside the covers and began down the stairs. He pushed his dream to the back of his mind as he followed the melody to the music room, opening the door with a thud.

The music stopped.

“Ava?”

Ava sat at the piano in her nightclothes. Her fingers were stretched out on the polished veneer of the piano lid. Had she closed it suddenly when he entered the room?

Terry walked towards her in the silence. She opened her eyes slowly as if waking up. She looked around dazedly at her surroundings.

“It’s ok,” Terry soothed, placing his arm around her, gently bringing her to her feet. “You’ve had a bad dream. Let’s get you back to bed.”

As he closed the door, he looked one last time at the piano but saw only the urn.

Call for submissions: Year’s Best Weird Fiction 2

Since I’ve heard from a number of authors that they didn’t even know there was a call for volume 1 of Year’s Best Weird Fiction, I will put this out there again. And again. And again. I’m starting to receive books, as well, so, authors, if you want to query me first to see if I have received a book or magazine you are in, please do so.

https://bestweirdfiction.submittable.com/submit

Excerpt: Night Porter

Excerpt from R. B. Russell’s ‘Night Porter,’ forthcoming in Shadows & Tall Trees.

It was three in the morning and, although it wasn’t snowing this time, it was bitterly cold outside. The man was even younger than the previous two, perhaps even younger than Marianne herself. She was uncomfortable when she realized that she actually felt something maternal or protective towards him, and Marianne asked herself if turning him away was the best thing for his safety. If she booked him in, then at least she would make sure that this time she kept a close eye on him. She would put him into a different room from where the only other way out would be though a window into an inner courtyard.

“Room 18,” she said. “I’ll have to come up with you.”

“There really is no need,” said Fisher. “I can take Mr. Evans up to his room.”

“I need to reset the lock on the door,” Marianne lied. “It will only take a second.”

All three of them went up to the room with Marianne leading the way. She opened the door with her master keycard and explained, as nonchalantly as she could, that it would now be reset. She then made sure that Fisher’s key worked and she handed it over to her. The woman took the young man inside and Marianne used her master key to go into the room opposite, which she knew to be empty.

She watched through the squint in the door, and when the Fisher left Marianne waited for her to walk down the corridor before she came out. She listened to the woman going down the stairs, and although she couldn’t hear the woman crossing the hall past the unmanned reception desk, she felt the slight change in pressure as the front door opened and closed.
Marianne risked getting into a great deal of trouble, but, nevertheless, she opened the door to room 18 with her master key and walked in.

“Please excuse me,” she said, immediately noticing how cold it was in the darkened room. “I do apologize, but I…”

Her first reaction had been to look towards the window again, to see if it was open, which it wasn’t. But her attention was immediately taken by the young man standing just inside the brightly-lit bathroom. He was wearing only a tee-shirt and his hands were tied to the door handle with what looked like a dirty strip of some white material. He was obviously distressed; he was gagged and the look in his eyes was at first wild, but then suddenly hopeful, pleading. Then he looked from Marianne to somebody else who was inside the bathroom with him.

Suddenly that person pushed past the terrified young man. The first thing that struck Marianne was that the man who appeared was really very, very old. He had a long face and his wrinkles were deep, like the cracks in dried earth. He was also completely bald. He was dressed in a brown suit that, even back-lit from the bathroom and almost entirely in silhouette, appeared dirty and stained. In one hand he carried a hotel towel, and in the other he had a huge hypodermic syringe that looked like it was made of corroded brass.

“You shouldn’t be here,” he said with a low, quiet but insistent voice.

Excerpt: The Space Between

Excerpt from “The Space Between,” by Ralph Robert Moore and Ray Cluley, forthcoming in Shadows & Tall Trees.

It was easy to get lost behind the walls.

Each level had square openings in the crawlspace’s floor at one or two spots along their narrow lengths, presumably for maintenance, which he could use to squeeze up or down to the house’s next level. A bit like climbing up and down trees when he was a boy.

The narrow passages themselves were dimly lit by tiny holes sparkling along the inside wall. Abandoned nail holes from hung pictures and paintings that had since been moved. At first it was enough to just peer through these holes into the rooms he found. But over the long days of his explorations, it bothered him more and more that he was always on the outside. He wanted to know what it would be like to walk within those rooms.

An apartment on the bottom floor was almost always vacant during the day, both owners presumably at work, or looking for it. One morning, sitting in front of his computer with a cup of coffee, working down the list of companies he’d send his résumé to that day, he decided he’d go to the next step with that apartment. Standing half-up out of his chair to kiss Carolyn goodbye. Listening for the sound of their front door opening. Closing. As if, as soon as he was sure she’d be gone for the day, he was going to masturbate.

He waited a long half-hour, to be certain. Digits turning at a slow, slow, slow rate as he counted down.

At the half-hour, Don rose from his chair. Urinated, so he could stay inside the walls as long as possible.

Crawling the lengths of the spaces, going down through the square openings, he became a little disoriented, as he often did, but eventually he arrived at what he thought was the correct peep hole. Brought his right eye up to its ragged circle. Looked through.

This was it! The refrigerator with the snapshots pressed to its front by different cartoon magnets
.
Hunched over, he made his way to the small dwarf door of the apartment.

What if the door was locked?

Anxiety.

But his and Carolyn’s door didn’t have a lock. Why would you have a lock for a crawlspace door? Reached his hand out, turned the latch.

The latch tilted.

The door swung open.

Beyond, another couple’s kitchen.

Stooped over, like some invading troll, he emerged from their crawl space. Stood up.

The oddest feeling, doing something he knew was wrong. It reminded him of one evening when he was quite young, walking home from a friend’s birthday party. He cut across some backyards, happened to glance up at a silent house, to make sure he hadn’t been spotted, saw a lit second story window and, in its black frame, a woman removing her clothes. She wasn’t young, and she wasn’t slim, but he stayed rooted to that spot on the back lawn, staring. Fascinated. In the years to come he would see a number of women’s naked bodies, all of them more beautiful than this body, but the one he always recalled the most was hers. It was like looking into the future, to where women without clothes would be in his life. It was like solving—or at least, starting to solve—one of the world’s great mysteries.

He advanced across the kitchen’s vinyl floor, intensely aware the front door might open at any moment. He was a burglar. Stealing into someone else’s life. The thought thrilled him. And made him realize how dull his adult life had become.

The refrigerator with the cartoon magnets. He looked at the photographs on its white door. For the first time he could actually see what they showed. About a dozen pictures in all. A young man and woman. Early twenties. Together. Big smiles, happy eyes. Her showing some leg. Him, shirt off, flexing. One of those photo booth strips of four square pictures taken seconds apart, their distorted faces too close to the lens. He felt a pang of jealousy. They reminded him of himself and Carolyn, when they were first starting out. Deliriously happy. Dirt poor.

On an impulse, he opened the refrigerator door, the interior light automatically coming on. A package of twin steaks, probably being saved for Friday night, one of the cheaper cuts. Some beers. A tall bottle of inexpensive white wine. Three different kinds of lettuce. Fresh grapes. He realized he was crying.

Reached inside. Plucked from the cluster a single cold, green grape. Put it between his lips. Bit down, feeling within his mouth the mild burst, the sudden release of juice, sweetness. It had been a long, long time since he had eaten a grape. Maybe it just felt that way.

Don slammed the fridge shut when he realized he’d helped himself to several more of them. Opened it again, broke away the telltale stems that pointed at what was missing. Pocketed them.

One of the photos had been knocked askew on the fridge door. He straightened it, kept his fingers on its edges a moment wondering why he was so struck by the image of husband and wife cutting wedding cake.

In other rooms, more evidence of their happiness. A full vase of flowers, tall and fresh and colourful. One of the caricature portraits tourists buy, her all smiles and cheekbones, him squeezing her fit-to-pop with arms more muscular than any workout could produce. Don looked at the books they’d read, crammed on shelves, books they were reading, left on bedside tables. He went to the bathroom, checked the medicine cabinet. Sprayed her perfume because he loved the clean floral smell of her brand and knew he couldn’t afford it for Carolyn anymore.

Don walked a floor plan that was the same as his, only reversed. Opened cupboards. Looked in drawers. The delicious thrill of trespass faded, replaced by a sense of familiarity that went beyond the layout; he’d had this, once. Not the rooms, the walls, the floors—those he had now – but everything contained within the space between had once been his and Carolyn’s.

He peed in their toilet, flushed, washed his hands… and realized how long he’d lingered. A whole bladderful of time had passed. He said to his reflection, “What are you doing?” and had no answer.

He went to the dwarf door and climbed back home. Shrinking, diminishing, crawling away.

Excerpt: The Golem of Leopoldstadt

Excerpt from Tara Isabella Burton’s story “The Golem of Leopoldstadt,” forthcoming in Shadows & Tall Trees.

Into the clay she pressed her loneliness. She made a man in the image of her father, whom she did not love, and used a needle to poke letters into his back. She hollowed out his cheeks so that they were as hard and wolf-like as her father’s; with her nails she made crosses in the eyes. Clara stretched the clay and pummeled it; she feasted on her tears and ignored Cornelius when he knocked.

“Papa’s awake.” He was dying.

She slipped the figure into her apron pocket and went downstairs.

They sat as they always sat: in silence. Papa, wheezing, up on the pillows. Cornelius in glory at their father’s right hand. Mama twisting her fingers in her lap, trembling. Clara in darkness at the other end of the room. The shutters were closed; the electricity flickered. Cobwebs trailed up and down the bedposts. Clara could not breathe.

Papa reared up; Mama flinched. Papa kissed Cornelius on both cheeks and whispered a blessing Clara could not hear as she hollowed out her father’s heart with her thumbs.

Cornelius was the anointed one; he was the hope of Leopoldstadt. He was the branch of David and he was the remnant. He was the child who had been born in darkness, and he was the boy who had survived. Women often stopped in the streets to gather him into their arms and weep, because he reminded him of the ones they had lost. In the brightness of his eyes he bore the promise of renewal. He was studying to be a rabbi. God had spared him. God had chosen him.

Papa had told them the story over and over again, the story of the childless officer’s wife over whom the toddler Cornelius had once tripped in the Prater, who had poured out the fervent instincts of her motherly heart, and when the calamity had started had used her influence to spare the whole family from those railway cars. It was a miracle of God in a time without miracles, for God had singled Cornelius out as the rod and as its flower, to feed on curds and honey, and to survive.

God had not chosen Clara, who had been born three years after it was all over, colicky and pale, and raised in silent, spinsterish seclusion in her father’s house. She was unfavoured; she polished the picture-frames. She turned away visitors at the door—Papa refused to face the ones who came to call. She cooked dinner; she helped Frau Moritz with the silver. She crept out at lunchtime, volumes of Papa’s Talmud hidden in her satchel, and sat alone among the roses of the Volksgarten to read them, ecstatic with the thrill of transgression. She received Papa’s curses with downcast eyes, and when he blessed Cornelius she turned away, swallowed, and reflected on the darkness outside God’s wings.

God’s hands had saved Cornelius, but Clara’s hands worked in her lap, kneading as they had kneaded for nineteen years. Clay was the only thing she was good at. Twenty or thirty copies of her father lined her bedroom wall. Forty or sixty crossed and unloving eyes stared down at her when she went to sleep at night. She did not complain. She did not make a fuss. She only kneaded the clay, and leavened it with her hate.

Excerpt: Vrangr

Excerpt from CM Muller’s story ‘Vrangr,’ forthcoming in Shadows & Tall Trees.

He slept soundly that night, experiencing a dream wherein he glimpsed himself, or at least a past version of himself. While the countenance of this past-Speth was uncannily similar, his manner of dress bespoke a much earlier century. The man even sported infinity-shaped spectacles, on which the modern-day Speth also prided himself. This individual sat in a rocking chair on the porch of a lavish farmhouse; reposing at his side was a stately woman encumbered in a frilly white dress. She read from a palm-sized leather book as her pipe-smoking companion gazed in Speth’s direction. While the man indicated no sign of recognition, it was nevertheless an eerie feeling to be stared at like that. In the front yard, a passel of children chased one another across the huge expanse. Speth longed to inch closer, in the hope of touring the interior of the house (or chatting with its owners), but he was locked to this one distant perspective.

The following morning he awoke with an impulse to flee. It was quarter to noon (this surprised Speth, for normally he was an early riser), so he frantically collected a few items and stuffed them into a small duffle bag. He then phoned the library to inform the director that he had taken ill and would therefore not be able to make his one o’clock shift. His voice was groggy, which only helped matters, and he managed to conclude the call in just under twenty seconds.

While spontaneity had never been his strong suit, Speth embraced it now like a newfound book of wonders, and in less than half an hour he was driving by rote through the streets of the city. Once he reached the interstate, he continued on a westerly route until he passed the dividing-line into North Dakota, where the landscape gradually levelled off to a vast and nearly featureless expanse. Speth’s only companion, due to the unreliability of his radio antenna, was an ‘80s cassette tape, the only one in his collection which had not been mangled by the player. While he had high hopes of making the journey in a single day, he decided not to push his luck. His arrival would coincide with nightfall, and he had little interest in experiencing Vrangr (and his inheritance) in the dark. Therefore, with less than 200 miles remaining, Speth began searching for a motel. The one he eventually decided upon was cheap and rundown, but it afforded him the rest and relaxation he required, even if the mattress was uncomfortable and the exterior vending machine expelled one flat soda after another. None of these inconveniences mattered in light of what awaited him.

The remainder of his evening was spent watching an old film on the outdated television in his room, which presented the fictional world not in its intended black and white but a grainy viridescence that pained his eyes and spirit. He left the set on, for the sound worked splendidly, and merely shifted his focus to the papered wall above, attempting to visualize his inheritance and to resurrect the details of his dream.

He awoke to the disorientation invariably encountered while sleeping in new environs, but this time the sensation never fully cleared. Surveying the unknown room, he was struck by its meticulousness and antiquity. There were framed portraits of various individuals on the walls, and he examined each before venturing to the far window. From the opposite side looking in, he felt certain he resembled the images he had just glimpsed; however, none of the children running about on the yard below took notice. He turned from the window to again peruse the portraits, discovering to his delight that they had completely changed—each now featured Speth standing proudly before his inheritance.