Monday, August 14, 2017

Orlok: The prologue to VOLK

As the release date grows nearer for VOLK: A Novel of Radiant Abomination, we offer a small treat: the entire prologue, which appeared in a slightly different form in my 2014 collection Knife Fight and Other Struggles.

The prologue takes us to a certain Munich beerhall, in the years after the War to End all Wars, by way of a peculiar Bavarian spa. It may contain a certain amount of Nazi punching.

It is called ORLOK, and it is right here. 

VOLK: A Novel of Radiant Abomination is available from ChiZine Publications (and all the usual sources) right here.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Some early praise for Volk

We are coming upon the day, now, when the new book drops. VOLK: A Novel of Radiant Abomination is slated to hit bookstores and mailboxes of those who pre-ordered August 22. And we have been busy, fixing typos and checking translations (this is the kind of book that has translations in it) and laying out pages. We have also been putting the manuscript in front of others, in hopes that they might like it enough to talk about it in blurbs.

It has been trickier doing this for VOLK than it is with most books, because VOLK is a sequel, to my first book EUTOPIA: A Novel of Terrible Optimism. So it's best to read the one before the other. And the odds that one writer will like two books is somewhat lower than the odds that a writer will like just one.

But we founds some! Here is some advance praise (as it will say at the front of the book) from some very cool writers:

"David Nickle's compelling Volk extends and expands upon his Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism. In elegant, engaging prose, Nickle explores the darker highways and byways of the middle decades of the last century, when science joined hands with frightening ideology. It's the latest contribution to what is emerging as one of the truly substantial bodies of weird fiction in the early twenty-first century, and further cements David Nickle's reputation as one of the leaders of his generation of writers." 
--John Langan, author of The Fisherman 
"David Nickle's sequel to his eugenicist novel Eutopia switches the action to 1930s Europe, but jumping to a different continent doesn't mean the gruesome horror is about to diminish. Volk is a worthy book with plenty of secrets to unravel. 
--Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, World Fantasy Award-winning editor

"David Nickle's distinctive mastery of voluptuous horror makes for a sequel every bit as enthralling and disturbing as Eutopia.
--Molly Tanzer, author of Vermillion

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Arrival at the Thorn farm: a VOLK preview

Below: An excerpt from an early chapter of VOLK: A Novel of Radiant Abomination (due on bookshelves and from sellers in August 2017, from ChiZine Publications). This is a sequel to my 2011 novel, EUTOPIA: A Novel of Terrible Optimism. A lot of VOLK takes place in 1931, in a land far away from the northern Idaho mill town of Eliada and ten years after the events described in EUTOPIA. This bit, however, takes place immediately after those events.

* * *

Death preceded that raft by two days. Corpses, bloated and blue, their clothing slick tatters, floated down the Kootenai from Idaho and more than half went past the Thorn farm. By Lawrence Thorn’s firm order, not one of them got fished out. His boy Tom had spotted the first one—a lady, face down with her Sunday finery blooming around her like a swirl of pale algae. By the time Lawrence’d come to see, there were four others: two men, a negro woman, and a corpse that’d encountered such obstacles that it was no longer possible to tell. The river-bank smelled worse than a privy. 
“Go back to the house,” Lawrence ordered him when Tom showed him. “This isn’t wholesome.”

They weren’t wholesome, true enough. What Lawrence didn’t tell his boy was he feared they’d bring nothing but disease. Lawrence’s own father and mother had built the farm he owned in the very south of Alberta, and two seasons in, when he was but 12 years old, his mother had fallen ill and died. The dead folk in the river might’ve died like that and might yet carry the sickness.

So he sent the boy inside, found himself a stout branch, did the work of dislodging the corpses as they caught in the river’s edge—sending them onward down river to whatever fate might have in store for them. 
The raft came after the main flow of corpses had passed the farm. It was in the afternoon, a grey day threatening rain, and by happenstance, old Lawrence Thorn was at the river-bank with his branch—checking to see what horrors the river’d washed up, and moving them along as best he could. He was in a state of some melancholy by that point, and full wondering whether he was doing right or wrong. His own family might be protected from disease, sure enough, but what of the souls of those dead in the river, that Lawrence had let pass by without so much as a prayer for their passage to Heaven, never mind a Christian burial? What about the farm-steads down stream? The Blackfoot reserves, for that matter? If the bodies carried sickness, wasn’t he just sending it onward? What a terrible coward was old Lawrence Thorn.

It was in this temper, as the afternoon sun began to lower over the western mountains, that he spied the raft, with passengers on it, rounding the gentle bend in the river and appearing over some rocks.

The raft itself sat too low in the water, and listed badly to the right, where a tall young man stood trying to keep it steady with a branch about as big as Lawrence’s. A woman sat up at the opposite end of the vessel, cradling another woman’s head in her lap. In the middle, a negro sat clutching something in his arms, looking unwell indeed. 
A day prior, Lawrence might have been a mind to wave them all on, tell them to find somewhere else to put to ground. But—as he later explained to Jason, and Dr. Andrew Waggoner and Nurse Annie Rowe, over the sleeping form of Ruth Harper that evening—his aching conscience would no longer allow that choice.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Long Dream, and Caligari

Last year was a good year for short story publications, as I may have mentioned, and I've talked up a lot of them. I want to come back to one for a moment: "The Long Dream," which is a story that was solicited by Joe Pulver, a little over a year ago, for his dream anthology, as it were, The Madness of Dr. Caligari. 

It is a very specific sort of anthology: the stories are all inspired by a famous and influential piece of cinematic art history, the groundbreaking expressionist horror silent, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. That is to say, it is a step up in specificity to a lot of the other tribute anthologies that editors--Joe included--have put together, where the brush can be applied more broadly: writers take on stories inspired by the work of Robert Chambers, or H.P. Lovecraft, or Robert Aickman. Stories can range pretty far from the source in tribute, as long as they genuflect in the source's direction. 

But mining a single work of art: that's something else. It's more a work of illumination. The product will be of necessity bound tightly with the subject matter... producing at its best, a kind of arms-length collaboration, or at the least, a decent piece of fan fiction.

I have some experience with putting together such a project. In 2015, my wife and I assembled a collection of stories about James Bond--in particular, James Bond as Ian Fleming conceived him. You couldn't get in if you didn't have something to say about that flavour of James Bond. There was some wiggle room. But not much. This was delicate work.

The constraints are even tighter with Caligari, and for that, more deliciously challenging. Robert Weine's 1920 film is a surrealist masterpiece, set in a town of hallucinogenic distortion, its characters portrayed with expressionistic bombast. The 'monster,' the oracular somnambulist Cesare, is singular in purpose and affect. The villain, Caligari, is a marvellous creep of an alienist, but like Cesare, entirely singular.

But there was still wiggle room. Because while all the elements of this story are very singular--a zombie-like somnabulist, committing a series of proof-of-concept murders on behalf of the evil puppet-master Caligari--the context in which the film was made and released is vast. It is a film of and about Germany, fractured and broken after defeat in the First World War, and reanimating toward Nazism and the horrors of World War II. 

This is what interested me most: unsurprisingly, I guess, because I was working on the new novel, VOLK: A Novel of Radiant Abomination, which is set in very late Weimar-era Germany. I'd already done the research, and so in "The Long Dream," I applied some of it. 

The Madness of Dr. Caligari has more to recommend it than "The Long Dream." The Table of Contents that Joe assembled includes the work of an A-list of writers in horror and the Weird, kicking off with Ramsey Campbell and finishing up with Gemma Files. All of these writers dove deep into a dark, dreamy posthumous collaboration with Weine and Pulver--making a book that is in its way, just as singular a work. The publishers, Fedogan & Bremer, are just putting together a special hardcover edition signed by all of us, and I am told that's available for pre-order here. But hardcover, softcover, and e-book editions are also available, here.

That is indeed a plug. I recommend picking this one up. But to give you an idea of what's in store, here's the opening passage from "The Long Dream."

In psychoanalysis as in all matters of scientific inquiry, it is too often the case that our failures advance our knowledge better than our successes. We can only truly take a measure of light by the shadows which surround it. 
.It is with this maxim in mind, gentlemen, that we begin our discussion of the case of a most unusual and shall we say enlightening patient of ours.
We will call him Conrad.
Conrad was a tall well-formed youth of sixteen when he first came to us. He complained of symptoms indicating anxiety and depression: which is to say, he was prone to bouts of melancholy and extraordinary lassitude. He was a vegetarian and loathed the touch of meat, much as he would recoil from human contact. His speech indicated a stutter. 
Conrad was reading in Vienna, and was referred to us by one of his tutors-- an Austrian veteran who had consulted here for compulsive pederasty two years past and pronounced himself cured, prematurely in our regard. Because of that, we at first suspected that the tutor's sexual attentions were a root of Conrad's difficulties and our first meetings delving in this direction. 
Conrad claimed that his tutor had never touched him erotically, either with his consent or in an act of rape, and neither had he done to his tutor. Cesar described himself as a-sexual in orientation, expressing a loathing for the fluids and touch of man and woman alike. 
We inquired as to his relations with his father and this seemed to yield more. At first, Conrad claimed to never have met his father, who died in the fields when he was but an infant. But when we asked of his mother, Conrad said that his most vivid and earliest recollection of her was in a carriage, at the side of a tall and muscular gentleman with a bald head and a terrible scar across his jaw-line who waved to Conrad before they set out along a road through a thick wood. Was he his step-father? Or an uncle? Conrad was quiet for a moment and stammered that no: he was his father. 
“But you said your father died when you were young. 
“An infant,” he said. 
“This does not sound like the memories of an infant." 
“No,” said Conrad, and his stutter became terrible as he explained that he must have been five or six at youngest. 
“Was it a photograph you saw?” we inquired, and at that, he shook violently and held himself, drawing his feet from the floor and his knees to his chest. We administered a small dose of chloral hydrate and were able to calm Conrad sufficient that he might elucidate a response. 
It was not a photograph, gentlemen. It was, Conrad confessed, a dream. 
Although we did not apprehend it fully until many years later, the dream was to be the crux of Conrad's neurosis, and was to become the sole engine of our inquiry.