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I’ve been meaning to post something on the work of Simon Strantzas since I first read his Tartarus Press collection Cold To The Touch in 2010. His most recent collection Nightingale Songs from Dark Regions Press has finally moved me to action.
Strantzas’ work is complicated for me. It cross pollinates and stains and blooms in corners of my mind that some writers never find.
The thing that first impressed me was the attention to character in his work. While not uncommon, it helps to distinguish him among some of the other Weird Fiction out there. You feel for Simon’s characters and experience a clearer sense of their emotions as the uncanny creeps up and shakes them by the shoulders.
In Nightingale Songs Strantzas, makes those revelations and discomfort even more internal. These are stories of anxiety and doubt and fear, as much as they are the fantastical and other worldly. That personal insight is the core of Strantzas’ power. The emotional detail is equivalent to the sensory detail of a world, or rather a specific life, coming unhinged, and it adds so much gravity to the tales. These are quiet stories, that scream in the minds of the protagonist – if that makes any sense at all.
There are a number of standout tales, “Out of Touch,” “Tend Your Own Garden,” “The Nightingale” to name only a few. “The Deafening Sound Of Slumber” particularly resonated with me. This story of an awkward, isolated man working at an experimental sleep laboratory builds to a glorious crescendo. A crescendo, so vivid in its aural details, that when the visual details give shape to events unfolding the image painted is as robust as any I have read.
Getting back to where I started, the places Strantzas finds his stories has always intrigued me, and it’s an area Nightingale Songs really shows his growth. If he hadn’t told these stories no one else was going to, they are his. This voice on the page is unique and has gotten increasingly more so with each collection.
That’s what I’m getting at when I say he has reached corners of my brain that other writers haven’t. The ideas here breach the fences of ideas. They find stories in places where stories maybe would have stayed forever hidden. For my developing, hungry writers brain that is a rare treat.
As mentioned in the previous post, I had been looking into ways to make Gruntsplatter’s music more easily available. Phase One is complete.
Available albums thus far: The Aberrant Laboratory, The Eulogists Assembly, Chronicling The Famine, The Death Fires, Pest Maiden & The Organ Harvest. What I do with it beyond that I am still deciding. The presence of the early splits and others will, in part, be determined by what ends up on the new collection Dragging The Rivers Of Sleep for Fall Of Nature.
There are select tracks available as free downloads, and the albums are pay what you want with a $3 or $5 minimum depending on the release. I may experiment with that some as time goes on.
That’s it for now…
None of my records are available legally as downloads. Currently, the only Gruntsplatter track on iTunes, AmazonMp3, etc., is a remix I did for Aidan Baker back in 2005 for a limited CDR he sold on tour. You can check it out here. It was obscure 6-7 years ago, and yet it lives on. It probably has a mustache and gambling habit by now, who knows. Thus, I spent the better part of the past weekend researching digital distribution.
This is really the only part of this post that has anything to do with writing. Back catalog, it has renewed value in the eBook era. The work is suddenly infinite and offers another road into a writers world. The more GOOD roads you have available the more likely someone is to pull in, get their mustache trimmed and yank the lever on your slot machines.
With this new collection I am putting together, I’ve been thinking about that. Truth be known, I have no idea which of my releases are or aren’t available anymore. Everything I did was on a virtual handshake. I never signed anything, payment was a % of the pressing, there wasn’t no business related need for follow up from either side. They were the relationships of comrades rather than business partners.
I’ve paid only passing attention to “the scene” for years, once it became a “scene” really is when my attention started to drift. It’s been six years since I’ve released anything significant. How many of the old guard are even still around? How hard would it be to track any of my stuff down now? Relatively hard. A big thanks to Cold Spring out of the UK, Justin seems to stock about everything that is still available.
So, when this new release comes out I’m hoping to have some previous material available from places that are easy enough to find. I’ve started looking at Bandcamp, and CDBaby, as a way to make legit digital copies available. Bandcamp I find particularly interesting because you can put up odds and ends as well. It never occurred to me to do this until I started reading about authors taking control of their back catalog and making it available as eBooks. It may be the first instance where the way things work in small press publishing actually makes more sense than the way they work in underground music.
I’ll keep you posted…
That collection will be called “Dragging The Rivers Of Sleep.” Now that I have sorted out the title a mere 7 months later, I have a real fire in my belly to get the remaining tracks nailed down. I have to work from an idea, I always have. While it may be absurd it took me this long, I couldn’t slop some tracks together and call it good, there had to be something else there.
Next month will be 6 years since “The Aberrant Laboratory” came out, the only thing since then was a compilation track in 2008, but that was actually recorded in 2002. If Karl from FoN hadn’t approached me Gruntsplatter may well have stayed asleep.
I have about 2/3rd’s of it figured out. What to do with the remainder, I keep going back and forth on that. The material here is by and large from 1999 forward, where as “The Organ Harvest” (Audio Savant 2004) CDR of rarities was 1994-1999.
More details as I have them. This is as good a time as any to say I will be doing a little new Gruntsplatter material this year for something I can’t talk about yet.
1) Michael Cisco – “Secret Hours” (Mythos Books)
Purchased this at Mythoscon after being blown away by Michael’s reading, the book did not disappoint. There is more Cisco in the queue for the coming year.
2) Nick Cave – “The Death Of Bunny Munro” (Faber & Faber)
More thoughts on this here.
3) Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. – “Blood Will Have It’s Season” (Hippocampus)
2011 was Pulver’s year it seemed, and this collection is a great indicator as to why. He takes the weird tale into the grimy places. I have his second collection “Sin and Ashes” near the top of the TBR pile.
4) Tom Piccirilli – “A Choir Of Ill Children” (Nightshade Books)
More thoughts on this here.
5) Tom Robbins – “Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates” (Bantam)
Recommended by a co-worker. I enjoyed it.
6) Robert Aickman – “Painted Devils” (Scribner)
7) Jerzy Kosinski – “The Painted Bird” (Pocket Books)
Worthy of its own post, but I never got around to it. Outstanding, and interesting to see a style I enjoy so much employed in a more “literary” context.
8) Sean Yseult – “I’m In The Band” (Soft Skull)
9) Phillip K. Dick – “Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said” (Gollancz)
I’d never read any PKD before. A couple of people mentioned something I’d written reminded them of his work, so I wanted to check it out. This one is my wife’s favorite so I started here.
10 ) Ann Radcliffe – “The Mysteries Of Udolpho” (Dover)
More thoughts on this here.
11) Adam Golaski – “Color Plates” (Rose Metal Press)
12) Gary Braunbeck – “To Each Their Darkness” (Apex)
13) Gary McMahon – “How To Make Monsters” (Morrigan)
Really enjoyed this, will be following McMahon closely.
14) Fritz Leiber – “The Black Gondolier” (E-Rads/Midnight House)
more thoughts on this here.
15) Bram Stoker – “Dracula”
I’d never read it, and I was curious about the epistolary form. It was more engaging than I anticipated. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but ended up liking it quite a bit.
16) Matt Cardin – “A Course In Daemonic Creativity”
This is a fantastic FREE book, looking at the Muse as creative engine and what that means both subconsciously and mechanically to the creative process. Definitely recommended.
17) H.P. Lovecraft – “The Ultimate Collection”
18) Edgar Allan Poe – “Complete Work”
Last year I think there were 32, but “…Udophlo” is a long read, and the complete Lovcraft and Poe are epic. I didn’t read all of those, but attacked them in chunks, and will continue to. It’s been great to go back and revisit that stuff.
The Fritz Leiber collection was the biggest eye opener, his work is just fantastic, and I have more here to ingest. As usual, I bought far more books that I was able to read, but I’m well set up for the coming year.
Spent the better part of the last few days working on a new tale I had been stewing on for awhile now. A comrade of mine once referred to a “Michigan Gothic” element in some of my stuff, and I think this one falls squarely in that category. It still needs work, but this draft is 6200 words or so and I’m feeling like it is in a pretty good place.
I’ll let it sit a few days and comb through it again, but it’s nice to have it all down.
Also recently finished section one of a rewrite of the previously referred to “thing in the corner.” That process cleaned up and expanded the initial short story. It will likely end up closer to a novelette. Sections two and three are congealing. I hope to start back in on that next week.
I’m prepared to credit the arrival of autumn for my recent good fortune.