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Mike Allen

Mike Allen edits the critically-acclaimed anthology series CLOCKWORK PHOENIX and the long-running magazine MYTHIC DELIRIUM. His books include post-apocalyptic dark fantasy novel THE BLACK FIRE CONCERTO and career-spanning poetry collection HUNGRY CONSTELLATIONS. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY and LIBRARY JOURNAL gave starred reviews to his first collection of short fiction, UNSEAMING. Laird Barron wrote in the book’s introduction that the stories in UNSEAMING “rival anything committed to paper by the likes of contemporary masters such as Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, or Caitlín Kiernan.” Helen Marshall called Mike’s second collection, THE SPIDER TAPESTRIES, “a must-read for fans of weird fiction and dark fantasy.” More of Mike’s stories have popped up in places like WEIRD TALES, BENEATH CEASELESS SKIES, and the anthologies CTHULHU’S REIGN, SOLARIS RISING 2 and TOMORROW’S CTHULHU. His poetry has won the Rhysling Award three times, and his fiction has been nominated for the Nebula Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. By day he works as the arts and culture columnist for the daily newspaper in Roanoke, Va., where he lives with his wife Anita, a goofy dog, and two cats with varying degrees of psychosis. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @mythicdelirium.


Strange Wisdoms of the Dead: Tricky and fanciful poems

Strange Wisdoms of the Dead by Mike Allen

I thought Strange Wisdoms of the Dead would be yet another attempt to convert me into a fan of speculative poetry, but leafing through the pages of this book I found something more massive. This is a comprehensive Mike Allen anthology covering ten years of work, compiling not just his poems but his fiction and collaborations as well.

Allen's poetry does dominate this book. Whether he's talking about time sharks, spiders, or decapitated heads, Allen evokes visceral images that surprise and entice. If you're just looking for variety, Strange Wisdoms of the Dead delivers as the poet tackles fantasy, science fiction, and horror in an array of tricky and fanciful poems. "Morse Code," for example, approaches the title through more "natural" means, evoking the buzzing of insects’ wings to replicate what seems ... Read More

Magazine Monday: Hoorays for Valente as Editor, Kessel as Writer

Apex Magazine is an online journal published on the first Monday of every month, edited by Catherynne M. Valente. Valente’s submission guidelines give you a clear idea of what to expect to read within Apex’s pixels: “What we want is sheer, unvarnished awesomeness.… We want stories full of marrow and passion, stories that are twisted, strange, and beautiful.” The January issue definitely meets those requirements.

“The Itaewon Eschatology Show” by Douglas F. Warrick is a story that cries out to be labeled “New Weird.” It’s about an American in Korea – though why he is there is a complete mystery – who is a “night clown.” This means that every night he, along with his friend Kidu, dresses up and mounts stilts to perform magic for the ex... Read More

Magazine Monday: Adventure Fantasy and Literary Fantasy

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is a bi-weekly online magazine that publishes literary adventure fantasy. Each issue contains two stories. Each issue is available for free online, or can be downloaded to an e-reader for a mere $.99. I read the two issues published in February 2011 for this column, but there are already two March issues available. Fortunately, past issues are available in all formats. In addition, Beneath Ceaseless Skies has published two “best of” anthologies.

Issue #63, published on February 24, 2011, contains “The Ghost of Shinoda Forest” by Richard Parks. Its first-person narrator, Lord Yamada, meets Kenji, a “reprobate priest,” in the forest of the title, near the remains of Enfusa Temple. Oddly enough, Lord Yamada has not been drinking sake, and doesn’t even want to, which Kenji finds somewhat frightening. But apparently something in Yamada is keeping him off the sauce and ha... Read More

Magazine Monday: Phantasmagorium #2

It took an act of faith for me to read the new issue of Phantasmagorium – the second in its run. The first quarterly issue, published in October 2011, was disappointing despite its lovely cover photograph, which suggests an angel taking flesh from a stone sculpture. A few stories were well-written, but not particularly original or frightening:  Scott Nicolay’s “Alligators,” Simon Strantzas’s “Strong as a Rock” and Stephen Graham Jones’s “No Takebacks.” They were overwhelmed by the inexplicable “Cardoons!” by Anna Tambour, a humorous fantasy story about dragons made soft by modern living, and the incoherent “And this is where I go down into the darkness,” a lengthy, stream-of-consciousness tribute to Thomas Ligotti by Joseph Pulver. Genevieve Valentine’s “Bufonidae,” good as it is, was not sufficient to save t... Read More

Mythic: Quality makes up for quantity in this anthology

Mythic edited by Mike Allen

While a relatively short anthology, what Mythic lacks in quantity is more than made up for with the quality of its selections. Each poem and story stands out as well as fitting the "mythic" tone the book is attempting to capture. Right from the very start, I was already enamored by the opening poem, "Syllables of Old Lore" by Vandana Singh and Mike Allen keeps the interest, flow, and beat consistent throughout the volume.

There are some editorial choices I'd like to highlight. The first is the sequencing. The poems alternate with the short stories and, if you're like me who reads anthologies in the sequence they're presented, this formula works. I can imagine my interest waning if I was barraged with poems initially followed by short stories and vice versa. As it is, Mythic gives readers enoug... Read More

Mythic II: Compact and precise

Mythic II edited by Mike Allen

Much like its predecessor Mythic, Mythic 2 feels compact and precise. Both the prose and poetry (and everything else in between) are easy to read and have a lyrical tonality. The anthology is even and consistent, with no sudden drops or spikes in the quality. Editor Mike Allen also continues the format of alternating between both mediums, which makes the book work.

For the most part, I found the poems to be decent and the fiction enjoyable. Mythic 2 continues the tradition of weaving or re-inventing fairy tales, legends, and myths and infusing them with the sensibilities of the various authors. This isn't a long anthology, but the quality more than makes up for the brevity. I really liked all of the prose and appreciated the poetry but I think the former wins out overall, at least in this volume of ... Read More