Friday, August 5, 2016

H.P. Lovecraft and me

Actor and dad Leeman Kessler stopped by Toronto earlier this summer with his beautiful family, and of course the resuscitated shade of H.P. Lovecraft. We met up at a local pub on the Danforth for a chat and a drink, and somehow the conversation got around to exsanguination.

This happens more often than you might think.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"The Parable of the Cylinder"

A couple of months ago, Canadian Notes & Queries published my story "The Parable of the Cylinder," in their Spring 2016 "Games" issue. It's a story about Russian roulette strategies, and religion, and following from both of those, a discussion of the ramifications of turning the other cheek. It was also hard-ish to find, particularly for international readers. But now CN and Q has put the story online.

Here's the first bit:

You not been to one of these. I’d remember if you had, even if you stayed at the back of the trailer, hiding your eyes as you do . . . pretty little brown-haired girl like you, with that tattoo’d crucifix right there . . . though I don’t remember everything with my cracked-up noggin as it is, so maybe I’m wrong . . . but you’d have made an impression, looking like you do. 
So how’d it go way back when, in those bad times before the Lord set us on the straight road and our Ministry was proper begat? Gather ‘round, gather ‘round, you and your little ones in tow, and I’ll lay it out for you.
You can read the rest of it, right here at CNQ's website:

"The Parable of the Cylinder"

Friday, June 17, 2016

"The Bicameral Twist" and "The Long Dream"

There will be at least two more stories out from me this year, it looks like. Maybe three, possibly four. If the fourth happens, I count seven new stories in different venues for 2016, which for me is a pretty big haul.

One of those stories is available now in Molly Tanzer's amazing new journal of thoughtful and well-plotted erotica, CONGRESS. You can check out the first issue here, containing my story "The Bicameral Twist." It is pretty smutty and properly tawdry, but also, I am proud to say, definitively within the genre of hard science fiction ("The Bicameral Twist" is neuro-porno, not Beltway porno). With the rise of Chuck Tingle at the Hugos this year, I am preparing my acceptance speech for 2017.

In the fall, I'm pleased to say that my story "The Long Dream" will be among a very impressive list of contributors in Joe Pulver's Cabinet-of-Dr.-Caligari tribute anthology The Madness of Dr. Caligari.

Here's the very stellar table of contents:
Ramsey Campbell – “The Words Between”
Damien Angelica Walters – “Take a Walk in the Night, My Love"
Rhys Hughes - "Confessions of a Medicated Lurker"
Robert Levy – “Conversion”
Maura McHugh - "A Rebellious House"
David Nickle – “The Long Dream”
Janice Lee – “Eyes Looking”
Richard Gavin – “Breathing Black Angles”
S.P. Miskowski – “Somnambule”
Nathan Carson – “The Projection Booth”
Jeffrey Thomas – “The Mayor of Elementa”
Nadia Bulkin – “Et Spiritus Sancti”
Orrin Grey – “Blackstone: A Hollywood Gothic”
Reggie Oliver – “The Ballet of Dr. Caligari”
Cody Goodfellow – “Bellmer’s Bride"Michael Griffin – “The Insomniac Who Slept Forever”
Paul Tremblay – “Further Questions for the Somnambulist”
Michael Cisco – “The Righteousness of Conical Men”
Molly Tanzer – “That Nature Which Peers Out in Sleep”
Daniel Mills – “A Sleeping Life”
John Langan – “To See, To Be Seen”
Gemma Files – “Caligarism”
These two stories ("The Bicameral Twist" and "The Long Dream") will join "The Caretakers" (,  "The Parable of the Cylinder" (Canadian Notes & Queries) and "Jules and Richard" (Children of Lovecraft) in definitively-scheduled 2016 titles.

There are two others that might or might not come out this year. Whether it's this year or next, though... you'll hear about them here.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Jules and Richard

I'd been vague-blogging this one in the last post about "The Caretakers," which thanks to editor Ellen Datlow was up at in February. Now I'm proper-blogging, that my novelette "Jules and Richard" will be appearing in Children of Lovecraft, again thanks to editor Ellen Datlow, who invited me to a party with a bunch of first-class weird writers, in a book with a cover drawn by Mike Mignola.

Here's Ellen's announcement:

I’ve finished Children of Lovecraft, a new, all original anthology coming from Dark Horse Books this September:
Table of Contents:
Nesters by Siobhan Carroll
Little Ease by Gemma Files
Eternal Troutland by Stephen Graham Jones
The Supplement by John Langan
Mortensen’s Muse by Orrin Grey
Oblivion Mode by Laird Barron
Mr. Doornail by Maria Dahvana Headley
The Secrets of Insects by Richard Kadrey
Excerpts for An Eschatology Quadrille by CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan
Jules and Richard by David Nickle
Glasses by Brian Evenson
When the Stitches Come Undone by A.C. Wise
On These Blackened Shores of Time by Brian Hodge
Bright Crown of Joy by Livia Llewellyn
Cover below by Mike Mignola
image by Mike Mignola via Amazon

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Caretakers (and other business)

Call this an all-purpose post, to talk about stories arrived and upcoming. First up: "The Caretakers," a short story that's a big deal for me, as it's up at now, thanks to the good graces and editorial acumen of Ellen Datlow, and also the graphic genius of Greg Ruth.

It is a strange little story, in the manner of Robert-Aickman-strange, and you can read it by clicking right here.

And happy news: Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism, has finally outsold its improbably large print run, which means, happily, that there is a second edition coming out. But it's not just a second edition. This one will feature illustrations by my late father, Canadian landscape painter Lawrence Nickle. This has great meaning for me, as you might guess. Lawrence's work--and more importantly, his approach to working--was a signpost to me for many years. And his good-humored delving into the macabre (really, against what he understood his nature to be) was one of the greatest gifts he gave me in his lifetime. I'm delighted to see his work more widely distributed than the collectable editions that appeared at the book's 2011 debut.

Here are a couple to wet your whistle on:

There are more stories coming out in 2016, too: "The Parable of the Cylinder," in Canadian Notes & Queries, and "Murder on the Prurient Express," in Unspeakable Horror 2: Abominations of Desire.  There's at least one more, the details of which I can't yet reveal, and if I can stick the landing, then as many as three more past that...

So it could be a pretty good year for David Nickle short stories, if that's your bag.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Draughtsman's Daughter

I've never written much fan fiction--not intentionally; I always had a sense that whatever my influences, they should stay influences. So if I thought well of Ian Fleming's stories, I should take lessons from them in a new work rather than writing a story about James Bond. If I enjoyed Kurt Vonnegut... I should probably just recall his moral sensibilities and sense of wit, rather than try and write a story about Kilgore Trout.

But once... about 20 years ago, Michael Skeet and I sat down to write a story about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.

Those are the two characters that Fritz Leiber made, along with his sometime-collaborator Harry Fischer--a couple of sword-fighting rogues, one tall and strong and thoughtful from up north, another small and fast and clever, good with magic spells, from the south. The stories were classic sword and sorcery, a more debonaire take on the kinds of things that Robert E. Howard was doing with Conan the Barbarian a decade or so earlier.

If you're of a certain age, of a certain predilection, you'll know the guys I'm talking about. They were thugs, and rogues, and drinking buddies--mostly drinking buddies--two dudes in a life-long bromance, long before the term entered the parlance.

And in that spirit, about 20 years ago, Mike Skeet and I made a go of what has turned out to be a piece of Fafhrd-and-the-Gray-Mouser fanfic.

It wasn't planned that way. A long-ago publisher had put out the word that the estate of Fritz Leiber was opening up the characters for an anthology of new stories set in Leiber's imaginary universe of Nehwon. And we thought we'd make a go of it, try our hands at a genre--Sword & Sorcery--that we'd never tried. There was other business: a play on early aviation, a cheeky twist on the Arts & Crafts movement, a bit of Victorian sauce that might've gone well in The Pearl...

The anthology never materialized--at least not to our knowledge--and we never heard back one way or another in any case. And so our story, "The Draughtsman's Daughter," languished on our hard drives for what has turned into decades. It's safe to say that this story's not ever going to sell, or make us money. It is safe to say that at this point, it's fan fiction--a transformative work based on the stories and novels of Fritz Leiber.

With all that in mind, we thought we'd share it: right here.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Marriage, Butchery... and Joy

It has been two months now since Madeline Ashby and I tied the knot. We had our wedding at a place in Toronto called The Forth -- a restaurant and event space that opened up not too long ago at Pape Avenue and Danforth Avenue in the east end of Toronto. 

We picked the venue first because it was irresistibly lovely, but second for sentimental reasons: we had spent a year living just around the corner from it, in a tiny, perfect apartment on top of the Ellas Meat Market--itself, a very fine butcher shop on Pape just a few steps south of Danforth. We'd bonded well with the guys who ran Ellas, and also learned to appreciate well-marbled prime rib, properly-raised chicken, good bacon. But mostly, we bonded with those guys at Ellas. We charmed each other, and became like family. Enough like family that we connived our way into their spotless, gleaming meat locker for some wedding photos (by Kayleigh Shawn McCollum). Here are three of the best ones.

That's us. Just married,  crazy in love, whooping it up in the chilly fridge over which we once slept and ate and lived, really on top of one another, for a year before we found a bigger place, and through it all continued to build a life and love together that might also be a marriage.

The guys at Ellas have the middle picture hanging over their cash register. They're delighted for several reasons: first, that as it turns out their meat locker has enough light to take pictures like this (they were sure that it didn't), and second, that their friends and former neighbours thought they were a big enough deal to include them in a wedding (of course they are).

They are also delighted at the weirdness of it all.

The weirdness of it all is something that Madeline and I have been living for years, and one of the genuine joys of our life together. We came to one another at inconvenient times, later on in life when it might have been easier for both of us to continue in directions that would have been well-enough functional, but not nearly sufficiently joyful.

We didn't take the easy course. We took the course together--as collaborators in life and art, and again, life.  It was worth it.

Oh yes, it was worth it.

We're writers, which meant that we couldn't go in for those stock, generic vows you find on the internet or in some dog-eared volume of the Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Hitched. Of course we were going to write our own vows.

We were a little competitive about it. I had mine figured out early on, and lorded that over her. Madeline, realizing it was on, wiped the floor with my little missive and wrote this stunning, tear-jerking, set of vows.

This is going to happen, writers out there, when you marry so far above your writerly station.  It is okay. When your partner wins, it doesn't mean you lose. The vows that you wrote and then spoke are still maybe the truest and best things you have written, and ever said.

Here then is what I wrote, and what I said on October 17 at the Forth:
Madeline, my love, here we are—at a major way-point in our improbable journey to one another. I say improbable, in the way one describes magical coincidences, miraculous discoveries. We have come from different countries, different generations, and from very different lives. Of course, the only improbabity was in our meeting: everything after that was clear before us and took only courage of heart to make manifest. Madeline, in this and so many other things, you have inspired me and through that prodded me to courage, and growth, and of course great love.
 And here we are. Today. Making vows.
Here are mine. 
I vow many of the things one vows in a marriage: to love you first and always, to honour you, to stand by you through thick and through thin, to if not obey, then consider, and co-operate, and concede, to … to do all of that through as long a life as we have. I vow these now. 
But I want to add to that, and vow something else. 
Madeline, I vow to wed you in joy, and to sustain that joy through all of the matters of a marriage. Some of that will be easy. Days like today? Joy is a breeze. The October Festival of Horror Films; the launch of books together and on our own; prizes; parties; happy surprises. Joy comes with that. 
There are times where joy doesn't come easily, though, and that's where the vow comes in. 
I vow that when circumstance tempts us to despondency, or grief, or disappointment: I will do all in my power to kindle the flame of joy and build it into a roaring fire. I will do that if we ourselves are on fire. Although I also vow to clean out the lint trap in the drier and turn off the stove when I'm done and mind the barbecue, so fires will be very unlikely to occur in any house where we are living. 
Now that was a cheesy joke in the midst of solemn vows, but it is also an example of one way I will strive to keep joy in our lives and our marriage, so no apologies.

There are other ways to keep joy alive for us both, some of which I have figured out (like Horror Film Festivals, trips to strange places, cats, talking about our writing, Korean barbecue and the perfect steak) and a great deal, I think, yet to be discovered. I vow to be on the lookout for those ways, to a joyful life. I vow to bring them out when gloom encroaches, and drive it back.

I vow joy. 
I want nothing less for us, nothing less for you. We are off to a very good start of it: And I vow to you, Madeline my love, to take that joy through all of it, and leave nothing but joy in our wake.

And that was that, on October 17, two months ago today.  It made for a good, easy party afterward. It will make for a very good life.