As previously mentioned, my February 22 appearance at Powell’s City of Books had to be canceled due to snow. I’m happy to report that I will be returning to Portland, Oregon on April 18 to try again. Hopefully this time the temperature will stay above freezing!
the destroyer of worlds
I was on the way out the door to go to my reading at Third Place Books last night when I found the box with my complimentary author’s copies of The Destroyer of Worlds sitting on the porch:
P.S. The reading was great, with a big, enthusiastic crowd that asked lots of good questions. I also signed a lot of stock, so if you’re in the vicinity of Lake Forest Park and are looking for a copy of your own, stop by.
This morning I posted our first full episode of The Destroyer of Podcasts, in which co-host Blake Collier and I discuss The Destroyer of Worlds and related topics. You can find it here.
I’ve also been appearing on a lot of other people’s podcasts over the past couple weeks. Because I’m promoting a new book, there is a certain amount of inevitable repetition, but each of these conversations had its own flavor and they all went to different places:
For all Nerds Show — This was my third visit with the “Multicultural Maestros,” DJ BenHa Meen and Tatiana King, and as always it was a pleasure. They were early supporters of both the Lovecraft Country novel and the HBO show, so it meant a lot to hear how much they liked The Destroyer of Worlds. (I also learned that I am an agent of chaos whose appearance on the show causes weird things to happen in the larger spacetime continuum. Sorry about that.) Big thanks to For All Nerds alumnus Mellow Brown, who first got me on the show back in 2017.
The Virtual Memories Show — This was also my third time speaking with Gil Roth, whose podcast specializes in interviews about “books and life.” Be sure to check out his backlist of other author interviews, including a recent conversation with one of my personal favorites, John Crowley, whose name appears in the acknowledgments of The Destroyer of Worlds.
Talking Scared Podcast — A UK-based horror fiction podcast hosted by Neil McRobert, who lives somewhere out on the Manchester Moors and conducts remote interviews when his internet hasn’t been knocked out by the local werewolves. We go in-depth about the “white guy writing from multiple black perspectives” issue; Neil, who is incredibly polite, was worried I’d be bored by the topic, but as I never tire of explaining, one of the main joys of storytelling for me is that it lets me imagine how the world looks from other points of view. P.S., he’s got Margaret Atwood coming on the show very soon, so you’ll want to check that out as well.
Vox Vomitus — The one thing that did go right during my recent trip to Portland was this whimsical and freewheeling chat with Jennifer Anne Gordon and Allison Martine Hubbard. We went live starting at 3 PM, and you can see me tempt fate here by joking about the snow, not realizing that it’s going to stick and cause real problems in just a few hours. The subject of karaoke also comes up during the conversation, but fear not, I don’t burst into song.
It’s been an exciting first week for The Destroyer of Worlds. Last Wednesday I was in Portland, Oregon, where I was supposed to do a reading and signing at Powell’s City of Books. But shortly after my arrival, it started snowing. My notion of what constitutes a bad winter storm is based on my childhood in New York City, and also on the five years I spent living up in Portland, Maine. Even after twenty-three years in Seattle, I still sometimes forget that here in the Pacific Northwest, where low-lying cities don’t have snow plows, the rules are different.
Long story short, by sunset the city had started to shut down. I was on my way to the bookstore when I got a call saying that Powell’s was closing early and my event had been canceled. I made a mad dash, hoping to at least get there in time to sign stock, but by the time I reached the store the staff had already locked up and left. This was followed by a mildly epic crosstown trek to find a takeout joint that was still open. After being turned away by two pizza parlors, I was blessed to discover Ramen Ryoma, who loaded me up with soup, noodles, gyoza, and spring rolls.
On Thursday, the morning train that was supposed to take me back to Seattle was canceled. My publicist and I spent a couple frantic hours trying to arrange alternate transportation. When Amtrak reinstated the noon train (which had also been canceled), I managed to snag one of two open seats. I checked out of my hotel around ten-thirty, started walking to the train station, and was almost there when I took a spill crossing a last icy street. Other than a bruised knee and some scraped knuckles, I was fine, but one of the conductors from my train was less lucky—he slipped on wet marble floor inside the station, went down a lot harder than I had, and ended up being taken out on a stretcher.
The storm wasn’t quite done with me. On the way out of the station, just after I’d texted my publicist that I was underway and all was well, the train stopped for five minutes while the crew dealt with a frozen track switch. But once we’d cleared that, we were fine—thirty miles north of the city, there wasn’t even any snow on the ground. I made it back to Seattle a little late, but still in plenty of time to make my event at Elliott Bay Book Company (which was great).
Friday I sat around the house in an exhausted daze and did nothing of consequence.
On Saturday I spent three hours at the Barnes & Noble in Tukwila, WA, signing books and chatting with folks (also great). And that, plus a podcast recording session last night, was week one.
Coming up this week:
* Tomorrow night (2/28), I’ll be reading at signing at the Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, starting at 7 PM.
* On Saturday, March 4, I will be a guest at the Literary Lions Gala fundraiser in Bellevue (tickets and info here).
I’ve been a published author for thirty-five years now, and one thing that never gets old is the excitement of bringing a new book into the world. My eighth novel, The Destroyer of Worlds: A Return to Lovecraft Country, goes on sale today. You’ll find order links for the book on its main page here, a preliminary FAQ about the novel here, and a schedule of my in-person appearances to promote the book here.
I’ve also teamed up with Blake Collier, my co-host on the 88 Names podcast, to produce a new limited series about this novel that we’re calling The Destroyer of Podcasts. Our introductory episode is up today, and our plan is to release four additional episodes on a more-or-less weekly basis. New episodes will appear in my blog feed and on the dedicated podcast page. which is linked from The Destroyer of Worlds page. You can subscribe to the RSS feed through various aggregators like Apple Podcasts and Stitcher.
If you’d rather read than listen, I have a Big Idea essay on John Scalzi’s Whatever blog this morning, talking about why and how I wrote this novel. You can check that out here.
Tomorrow night I’ll be reading and signing at at Powell’s City of Books in Portland, OR, starting at 7 PM. On Thursday I’ll be back in Seattle, reading at Elliott Bay Book Company, also at 7 PM. And on Saturday, I’ll be in Tukwila, signing books at Barnes & Noble South Center from 1 PM to around 4 PM.
We’re still three days out from the on-sale date, but bookstores are already getting their shipments of The Destroyer of Worlds. Yesterday I stopped by Secret Garden Bookshop to pre-sign their stock.
Since my author’s copies are still in transit, this was my first chance to see what the finished books look like. They are gorgeous. The cover illustration is by Jarrod Taylor, who also did the art for Lovecraft Country, and as with that novel, it’s done paper-over-boards style (i.e., no separate dust jacket) with fake wear and stress marks that make it seem like an old storybook you found up in grandpa’s attic, only cool and shiny.
Publication day is Tuesday. On Wednesday, I’ll be reading and signing at Powell’s City of Books in Portland, OR, starting at 7 PM. On Thursday night I’ll be back in Seattle, reading at Elliott Bay Book Company, also at 7 PM. And next Saturday, February 25, I’ll be down in Tukwila, signing books at Barnes & Noble South Center from 1 PM to around 4 PM. As always, my full schedule of events can be found here.
My eighth novel, The Destroyer of Worlds: A Return to Lovecraft Country, debuts a week from today. If you haven’t already, there’s still time to preorder Destroyer before it drops on February 21. And if you’ve got questions about the book, I have a preliminary FAQ posted here.
My updated itinerary of in-person appearances to promote the novel can be found here. In addition to the previously announced events, I’ll be doing an afternoon signing session at the Barnes & Noble South Center in Tukwila on February 25, and a reading and signing at Pulpfiction Books in Vancouver, BC on March 24. And I’m now scheduled to appear on two panels at Emerald City Comic Con on March 5.
If you want a signed copy but can’t attend any of my events, you can get in touch with Secret Garden Bookshop in Seattle (206-789-5006 / email@example.com). Just tell them how you’d like the book inscribed and they’ll get it signed and on its way to you ASAP. And yes, they do ship internationally.
This post is #7 of a series.
I thought about including Archive 81 in my “cursed media” binge-watch, but like it enough to give it its own post. This eight-episode series is a Netflix production, developed by Rebecca Sonnenshine, based on Daniel Powell and Marc Sollinger’s podcast of the same name.
Mamoudou Athie plays Dan Turner, an archivist at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. A corporate executive named Virgil Davenport offers him $100,000 to restore and digitize a set of fire-damaged videotapes. The tapes were recorded by a cultural anthropology student, Melody Pendras, who was compiling an oral history of the Visser Apartments when the building mysteriously went up in flames; Davenport believes that the video archive may provide answers about exactly what happened.
Dan takes the job, but the deal is fishy from the start. Claiming that the tapes are too fragile to be moved, Davenport insists that the restoration work be done at an isolated research compound in the Catskills. The place has no internet access or cellphone service, the landline makes funny clicking sounds whenever Dan uses it, and despite Davenport’s suggestion that he’ll be alone on the property, it soon becomes clear that he isn’t. Dan also learns that Davenport didn’t just hire him for his technical skills: he’s got a personal connection to the story. Dan’s family died in a house fire that occurred around the same time that the Visser burned, and Dan’s late father, a psychiatrist, appears on one of the restored videotapes. It turns out Melody Pendras was his patient.
A lot of folks would cut and run at this point, but like any good horror story protagonist, Dan decides to stick it out. Having found a spot on the property where his cellphone works, he enlists his friend Mark back in New York to act as a remote research assistant and sets to work solving the mystery. The narrative jumps back and forth between Dan and Mark’s investigations in the present day and Melody Pendras’s adventures in the Visser in 1994. One of the series’ many neat touches is the way the videotapes (and later, Dan’s father’s session tapes) serve as a literal medium for moving between the timelines: we’ll see Dan watching the restored footage, and then the perspective will switch to the location where Melody is recording and stay with her even after she lowers the camera. Very late in the game, a film archive recovered by Mark becomes a gateway to the 1920s, where we learn the backstory of a demon-worshiping cult, the Vos Society, whose headquarters once occupied the same site as the Visser.
Archive 81 is not without its flaws. Although the series generally does a great job of maintaining a tense atmosphere, the demon at the heart of the mystery manifests as a laughably bad CGI effect. Another, bigger problem is the series’ conclusion: although we do learn what caused the fire at the Visser, what happened to Melody Pendras, and how Dan’s father was involved, the final episode ends on a twist/cliffhanger that is meant to set up for a second season. Unfortunately, Netflix has canceled the series, leaving poor Dan stranded in limbo. It’s a measure of how much I enjoyed the series that I’d still recommend it, but you should know going in that you won’t get a full resolution of the story.
If you’d rather watch something with a definitive ending, let me point you instead to Marc Carreté’s Asmodexia, a Spanish-language horror film set in and around Barcelona in the unseasonably hot December of 2012. As the film opens, exorcist Eloy de Palma and his teenaged grandaughter Alba set out on a cross-country trek to the site of “the Resurrection,” which is due to take place in three days. To say any more would risk spoiling things; just trust me, it’s good. Currently streaming on Shudder and AMC Plus.
In this month’s edition of Locus magazine, Ian Mond reviews The Destroyer of Worlds, and he likes it:
The Destroyer of Worlds is immensely entertaining. The pacing is on point, the action set pieces are thrilling, and the stakes are high. I swallowed the novel down in a couple of pleasurable sittings… Ruff’s continued exploration of race in America during Jim Crow still packs a punch… [It] is also a delicate and tender novel about faith and spirituality… It’s nuanced, meaningful stuff that reinforces the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by the characters… And am I eagerly anticipating the next volume in the saga of the Turner-Berry family? Oh my, yes!
We’re now just two weeks away from publication. If you’re thinking of picking up the book, a preorder—either online or at your favorite local indie bookstore—would be very much appreciated, as it adds to the first week’s sales numbers and helps draw attention to the novel.
If you’re in Seattle or Portland, OR, I’ll be doing in-person appearances at Elliott Bay Book Company, Third Place Books, and Powell’s later this month. I’ll also be attending the Literary Lions Gala and Emerald City Comic Con in March. My full schedule is here. (And if you’re not in the Pacific NW, no worries; I’ll be doing plenty of online appearances as well.)
This post is #6 of a series.
The two stories I want to highlight today aren’t inspired by the official Lovecraft canon, but they do fit thematically into the Lovecraft ethos, and they’re both very good.
Ghoul, a Netflix original three-part miniseries written and directed by Patrick Graham, is set in a near-future India where sectarian violence has led to a military crackdown on civil liberties. Radhika Apte plays Lieutenant Nida Rahim, an intelligence officer in training. Despite being a member of the Muslim minority, she’s a true believer in the system who reports her own father for subversive activity, naively believing he’ll be “reeducated” and released unharmed.
This act earns Nida a surprise posting to a government black site, Meghdoot 31, where she’s told she will assist in the interrogation of a notorious terrorist, Ali Saeed. But the “Ali Saeed” who arrives at the site is something far more dangerous—a flesh-eating shapeshifter in human form, summoned from the unseen realm to hold sinners to account.
As the ghoul uses its powers to turn the torturers against each other, Nida becomes a target: Major Das, the second-in-command, is convinced that she’s somehow responsible. Meanwhile Nida, having recognized the monster for what it is, tries to figure out which of the prisoners is responsible for summoning it, even as she fights to stay alive and to protect the one true innocent at the site. It’s a wonderfully creepy cat-and-mouse game.
Rahi Anil Barve’s Tumbbad stars Sohum Shah as Vinayak Rao, whose mother was the mistress of the wealthiest man in Tumbbad village. Fifteen years after his father’s death, Vinayak returns to Tumbbad to seek the fortune in gold rumored to be hidden beneath the decrepit fortress where his father once lived. Vinayak’s paternal grandmother—a literal monster—offers to share the secret of the treasure in exchange for a merciful death. But she warns him: “Not everything you inherit should be claimed.”
The treasure is guarded by a god, Hastar (not to be confused with Hastur of the Cthulhu Mythos), who as punishment for his insatiable greed was cursed by his divine mother to be forgotten by men and never worshiped. Hastar possesses an infinite supply of gold coins, and it’s possible to steal from him, but the method is extraordinarily dangerous and only yields a handful of coins at a time. Vinayak is willing to take the risk; he returns to the fortress again and again, and becomes a wealthy man. But as his grandmother warned, the wealth is a curse—it slowly robs him of all happiness, and, in the film’s final act, threatens to do the same to his son.
Here’s an interesting fact about Indian cinema that I learned from watching Tumbbad: under regulations passed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, all depictions of tobacco use must be accompanied by a visible health warning. As Vinayak sinks further into a dissolute lifestyle, the phrase “SMOKING IS INJURIOUS TO HEALTH” begins popping up in the corner of the screen. It’s true, but ironic in context—lung cancer is the least of Vinayak’s worries.
Tumbbad is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.