Subterranean Press now taking preorders for the signed limited edition of The Destroyer of Worlds

Subterranean Press is now taking preorders for their signed limited edition of The Destroyer of Worlds: A Return to Lovecraft Country. The book is illustrated by David Palumbo, who also did the art for the Sub Press edition of Lovecraft Country. You can preorder here; the finished books will ship in June.

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At Crypticon this Saturday (5/4)

I will be a guest at this weekend’s Crypticon, which is being held at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel near SeaTac Airport (18740 International Blvd).

On Saturday, I’ll be appearing on the “Writers Workshop: World Building” panel at 3 PM and the “Writers Workshop: Writing Horror Across Various Mediums” panel at 8 PM, both in Cascade 10. Hope to see you there!

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In which an AI hallucinates the content of my novels

My wife recently got a Google alert about a website/app called Bookey, a sort of digital Cliff Notes that offers summaries and analyses of more than a thousand books. including my novel Lovecraft Country. There’s a feature that lists the “30 Best Quotes” from a book, along with explanations of each quote’s significance. Very handy for anyone looking to cut-and-paste their English homework.

Trouble is, Bookey’s content appears to be generated by an AI, and in the case of Lovecraft Country, all of the quotations are fabricated. They don’t even sound like me:

This quote, according to Bookey, “encapsulates the complex emotions experienced by the narrator at a young age.” Ah yes, the ten-year-old first-person narrator of Lovecraft Country—what was her name again? I can’t recall. I also can’t recall ever using the word “bourgeois” unironically. And “loathe their whiteness” feels more 2020s than 1950s.

Bookey also offers imaginary quotations from Set This House in Order and Bad Monkeys.

That one made me laugh out loud. I also liked “Hell is other people, especially the really bad ones.” But I didn’t write it.

After I got done vanity searching my own novels, I spot-checked some books by other authors, to see whether Bookey’s AI would do better with more famous works. The list for Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House does manage to quote (or misquote) some of the more iconic lines, but it also includes this figment, which “perfectly captures the mysterious and haunting essence of the story”:

The list of purported quotes from Stephen King’s The Shining opens with the “Here’s Johnny!” line that Jack Nicholson improvised for Kubrick’s movie adaptation. There are three separate lists for Gone With the Wind, one of which claims the novel was written by “Herb Bridges.” A list for H.P. Lovecraft’s novella “At the Mountains of Madness” gets most of its quotations from Orwell’s 1984, and throws in this gem for good measure:

A lot of artists I know are freaking out about AI right now, so I should probably note that I’m not upset about Bookey; I think it’s hilarious. Part of what fascinates me about large language models like ChatGPT is precisely their tendency to go off the rails and start hallucinating like this. That being said, I would not recommend signing up for Bookey’s premium service. You can get more than enough entertainment value poking around the website for free.

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The Fear of God podcast: Talk to Me + bonus House of Usher content

This week I pay another visit to the always entertaining Fear of God podcast to talk about Talk to Me, the Philippou brothers’ breakout horror film. You can listen to the episode here; for Patreon subscribers, there’s also a bonus segment about Mike Flanagan’s Netflix series, The Fall of the House of Usher.

And next Wednesday, March 13, starting at 6 PM, I will be live and in person at Queen Anne Book Company, reading from The Destroyer of Worlds: A Return to Lovecraft Country.

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Now in paperback

The paperback edition of The Destroyer of Worlds is being published today. You can pick it up at your local indie bookstore or use one of the online order links below (the book is still available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook editions as well).

If you’d like a signed or custom inscribed copy of this or any of my other novels, you can contact Secret Garden Bookshop (206-789-5006 / bookshop@secretgardenbooks.com), who ship worldwide.

This Saturday, February 24, at 2 PM, I will be appearing at the Darby Winery in Woodinville, WA. Details are here.

I will also be appearing at Queen Anne Book Company on March 13 at 6 PM.

And in May, I’ll be a guest at Crypticon Seattle; details on that are forthcoming.

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Lovecraft binge-watch: Hell House LLC, et. al.

This post is #8 of a series.

The list of found-footage films I’ve enjoyed enough to watch more than once is pretty short: There’s the largely forgotten granddaddy of the subgenre, 84 Charlie MoPic, as well as The Den, The Last Exorcism, Apollo 18, and some of the entries in the V/H/S franchise. And then there’s Hell House LLC and its sequels.

Written and directed by Stephen Cognetti, Hell House LLC concerns a 2009 haunted house attraction staged in the abandoned Abaddon Hotel in Rockland County, New York. On opening night, a mysterious disaster claims the lives of fifteen people. Five years later, a crew making a documentary about Hell House fall victim to the same dark forces that caused the original tragedy. The movie you end up watching is a meta-documentary that combines video from both 2009 and 2014.

This documentary framing helps Hell House avoid the pacing problems that bog down too many found-footage films. And while there are some jump scares, most of the tension comes from the very Lovecraftian sense of mounting dread as you watch these doomed people ignore danger sign after danger sign until it’s too late.

Cognetti followed up Hell House with two direct sequels that expand on the Abaddon Hotel’s mythology and change the scenario just enough that you don’t feel like you’re watching the same movie three times in a row.

Last year brought a spinoff sequel, Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor, which shifts the setting to an isolated mansion in the same county as the Abaddon Hotel. The backstory here is that in 1989, Eleanor Carmichael and her daughter Catherine were brutally murdered in the manor, while her husband, Arthur, and her son, Patrick, went missing; police discovered a single set of footprints in the snow leading away from the house. The mystery of what happened remains unsolved.

Fast forward to 2021. An internet sleuth named Margo Bentley arranges to rent the Carmichael Manor for five days. She brings along her girlfriend, Rebecca, her brother, Chase, and some cameras to record the ghosts who are rumored to haunt the manor.

Like the original Hell House, Carmichael Manor is structured as a documentary, so we know from the outset that none of these three are getting out alive, but even without the upfront spoiler, it wouldn’t be hard to guess the ending. During her initial walkthrough of the property, Margo asks the rental agent what’s behind the locked pair of French doors in the upstairs hallway. “Old storage,” he replies, vaguely. “I don’t even have a key for it anymore.” After he leaves, Margo gets the doors open and finds that the stored items include a pair of life-sized clown mannequins:

This is the point where I’d be speed-dialing the rental office to find out whether it’s too late to get my deposit back, but Margo doesn’t want to leave, even after the clowns start moving around the house. And while Rebecca and Chase have a bit more sense, they wait too long to force the issue. Bad luck for them, but if you like scary movies about terrible decision-making, it’s a lot of fun to watch.

The entire Hell House LLC franchise is streaming on Shudder and AMC+, and the first three films are also available free, with ads, on Tubi.

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Reading and signing at the Darby Winery in Woodinville next Saturday

The paperback edition of The Destroyer of Worlds will be published on Tuesday, and to help celebrate, I’ll be appearing at a special event at the Woodinville Tasting Room of the Darby Winery in Woodinville, WA next Saturday, February 24, starting at 2 PM. Tickets are $45, which includes a signed copy of the novel and your first glass of wine. You can RSVP using the link on this page.

I will also be reading and signing at Queen Anne Book Company on March 13 starting at 6 PM. (Admission to that event is free.)

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In two weeks

The paperback edition of The Destroyer of Worlds: A Return to Lovecraft Country drops in two weeks, on February 20.

As always, signed and inscribed copies of the novel will be available from Secret Garden Bookshop (206-789-5006 / bookshop@secretgardenbooks.com), who happily ship anywhere in the world.

If you’re in the Seattle area and you’d like to get a book signed in person, I currently have two upcoming events scheduled:

On Saturday, February 24, I’ll be reading and signing at the Darby Winery’s Woodinville Tasting Room, starting at 2 PM. The $45 admission fee gets you a copy of the novel and your first glass of wine. Details here.

On Wednesday, March 13, I’ll be reading and signing at the Queen Anne Book Company starting at 6 PM. (Admission to this event is free.)

In two weeks Read More »

The Destroyer of Worlds: in paperback February 20

The paperback edition of The Destroyer of Worlds: A Return to Lovecraft Country will be in stores five weeks from today, on Tuesday, February 20.

Publisher’s Weekly called Destroyer “another virtuoso blend of horror, action, and humor,” and Kirkus Reviews said it’s “a ripping yarn with shocks and surprises at every turn.”

If you’d like to know more about the novel, check out the FAQ and the Destroyer of Worlds podcast (where we also talk about the original Lovecraft Country and the HBO series it inspired).

You can preorder the paperback here; or if you’d rather not wait, you can get The Destroyer of Worlds in hardcover, ebook, or audiobook right now.

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