Wednesday, December 4, 2019

ChiZine, my backlist, and some links....

As you may have read elsewhere, I've had the rights to my books returned to me from my now-former publisher, ChiZine Publications in the wake of significant troubles, allegations and revelations that I won't detail here in this post. 

The rights reversal means that all of those books will soon be out of print: Monstrous Affections, Eutopia: A Novel of Radiant Abomination, Rasputin's Bastards, The 'Geisters, Knife Fight and Other Struggles, and Volk: A Novel of Radiant Abomination. I'm hoping that situation will change soon, but for now, if you're interested in purchasing them there will be a limited time while stocks last in warehouses and booksellers. Then it will be public libraries and the used-book market for them.

I expect that the audiobook editions of Monstrous Affections, Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism and Rasputin's Bastards will continue to be available - and I am hoping to one day soon be able to announce new homes for print editions and ebook editions of those and other books in my backlist, and also new works going forward. But in the meantime, there are some other places that readers can find my work - in text online and in audio editions - for free.

Here they are:

"The Caretakers," published at, can be read here.

"The Sloan Men," published on my own website The Devil's Exercise Yard, is right here.

"The Pit-Heads," again on The Devil's Exercise Yard, is here.

"The Parable of the Cylinder," is available for free on the Canadian Notes and Queries site, right here.

I've also had a number of stories adapted by Pseudopod, the excellent horror podcast that is free (but deserving of support). Here are the links to those stories:

For the rest, I've compiled an updated list of my published works at The Devil's Exercise Yard, right here

I don't have too much more to say at this point, other than to thank readers who've followed and supported me, and those in the community who have been supportive and good friends. There will, I think, be more to come.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

A belated round-up

Last week, I joined Leeman Kessler - the YouTube star / municipal politician / voice of reason / world-class dad behind the web series Ask Lovecraft (pictured above with Martin, during a recent visit to Toronto City Hall), for a long chat on his Facebook/Youtube show Lovecraft After Dark. I was briefly mortified looking at it later, when one of the viewers noted that I had not updated this blog since last October. I must have been very busy, they kindly noted.

Well there was some of that. But what I really was, was negligent. So consider this, a catch-up blog post after all that time that will start, I think, with a link to Lovecraft After Dark, that time that Leeman invited me to talk about modernity:

We talked a fair bit about my 2017 novel VOLK: A Novel of Radiant Abomination, and the book to which it is a sequel, EUTOPIA: A Novel of Terrible Optimism. In the last post, I pointed to a couple of reviews of VOLK, and here's one more, that came out in July from Cemetery Dance.

Reviewer Chris Hallock is very kind indeed. Here is a pull-quote:

"Nickle has carved a path for himself as a pre-eminent author of speculative fiction. He covers a vast literary cross-section, but does so free of clutter. While this work is certainly a political treatise against oppressive entities and their dreadful acts, Nickle never loses sight of the dark poetry inherent in the genre, nor does he overlook simply spinning a good yarn."
You can read the whole thing at Cemetery Dance Online, with a click right here.

I have, in the mean time, been at work on some only-tangientally-literary artwork, in preparation for what I hope will be a very fine surprise in 2019.

I cannot say too much about the surprise, other than to say that this pen-and-ink drawing has a relationship to "The Pit-Heads," a story of mine that you can read for free over at The Devil's Exercise Yard website (right here) and is a part of my 2009 collection Monstrous Affections.

I have a few new things coming out. "The Toy Mill," my very old story co-written with Karl Schroeder, is set to be reprinted in ChiZine's The War on Christmas anthology of twisted Christmas stories. This isn't the first time that "The Toy Mill" has been reprinted but it's the first time that it's illustrated, by me. Here is the first illustration (which will more than likely be printed in black and white but I present here in living colour).

And later this summer, my story "On A Wooden Plate, On A Winter's Night" will appear in Eric J. Guignard's internationalist horror anthology, A World of Horror. I am very excited about this one: the anthology assembles horror storytellers from around the world; my story is representing Canada. Check it out, right here.

And that is about it for now.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Early VOLK reviews are in

"...a political, psychological and philosophical allegory of remarkable depth and ambition: the most intellectually provocative horror novel of the twenty-first century." 

That is a pull-quote, from Alex Good's review of VOLK: A Novel of Radiant Abomination (read the full review here) that went live at The Toronto Star on Sept. 29. It is more specifically, a hell of a pull-quote. I saw that very early in the morning it appeared, a week ago as of this writing, and it is one of four very good reviews for the book that've come out since its publication in September. So far, there have been no bad reviews. Of course, that could change at any moment, b
ut for the time being, please let a happy and very relieved old hack bask, and pitch his new novel in the best possible light. 

Here's a run-down of the other three reviews.

  • A starred review in Publishers Weekly says of VOLK: "It is a dazzling horror novel that's unafraid to ask questions and leave some of them unanswered."  (The full review's here)
  • reviewer Gordon B. White writes: "With multiple engaging protagonists, a unique antagonist, and a well-realized pre-WWII European setting, Volk picks up the story of Juke but shifts its focus away from the literal monsters to the humans that try to control them. It’s a bold, but natural progression for the story, with an ending that hints at much more to come." (Here's the full review)
  • Paul StJohn Mackintosh says of Volk, at the wonderfully-named See The Elephant Magazine: "Volk is technically and intellectually very ambitious, and it succeeds on almost every level, including as good, intelligent entertainment." (Read it here)
These are all very good, and get my heart-rate and respiration back to normal in the nicest possible way.  The reviews, and the fact that coterminously, Amazon seems to have copies in warehouse in both its U.S. and Canada iterations (here, and here). 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Stephen King's IT and me: Some thoughts on second thoughts

I have a confession to make -- about something I've been carrying around for years, for at least seven years -- since I submitted the manuscript for EUTOPIA: A Novel of Terrible Optimism to Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi at ChiZine Publications.

And it is this: in the original early draft, Jason Thistledown, one of the two dashing heroes of that novel, was considerably younger: fourteen years old, as opposed to the seventeen years old that he eventually became.  When I made the call to age Jason, I went through the manuscript and as best I could, tweaked his dialogue and reactions to reflect those crucial three years of maturation. But it wasn't enough to fool a few readers, who noted that in many ways he seemed much younger than his age. For them, the switch weakened the character and pushed them out of the story. For the sake of the art of EUTOPIA, I probably should have left Jason as he was: a fresh-faced orphaned Montana farm boy, taken under the wing of his aunt in 1911 and hauled all the way to northern Idaho, to endure the horrors inflicted by early-20th-century eugenicists and also a terrible parasitic monster the eugenicists had named Mister Juke.

The only trouble was that horror and atrocity weren't the only reasons Jason was heading to Eliada, Idaho. He was also going to fall in love with a rich girl, and eventually have some sex with her.

Now bear in mind, there are a lot of creepy things going on in EUTOPIA. It is about eugenics after all: that means racism, ableism, genocide all sit front and centre. Mister Juke's nature and its effect on the population of Eliada would for many readers count as blasphemous. The N-word is peppered through the manuscript to a degree that while historically accurate, did open the book (and me, as the white writer who put it all down) to potentially damning criticism.

But it struck me at the time that even in that difficult company, a fairly explicit under-age sex scene was not something I could get away with, or even necessarily should attempt to get away with. So I could either cut the sex scene which I felt was crucial to the plot, or I could change Jason's age, which I thought I could swing more easily. And I chose the second plan.

I've been wondering about that decision, since the book came out. In a sense it was an artistic compromise -- but only in a sense, in that it was a compromise that no one asked me to make. It was entirely my call, in the course of finishing a final draft.

I've been wondering about it more intensely just lately. With the release of the film adaptation, I'm reminded that it was a compromise that Stephen King refused to make, in the middle 1980s, when he submitted and then saw published his magnum opus at the time, IT.

IT is about a group of kids -- four boys and a girl, on the cusp of puberty, who in the 1950s band together to combat an alien evil that lives in the sewers underneath the fictional town of Derry, Maine and regularly preys on the town's children. These children endure awful horrors at the oversized clown hands of the creature, Pennywise a.k.a. It, discovering crucial powers magically derived from their own weaknesses as they go. Finally, the girl, an abused tomboy named Beverly, uses her weakness-turned-power -- her gender, as the novel depicts it -- to empower herself and the four boys for one last push, by having sexual intercourse with each of them. The afterglow of pubescent sex is enough to save the day, if not quite the world (that comes later).

For a lot of readers (including myself at the time) that scene was enough to push them right out of the story. The novel is strong enough to survive the experience. And King himself feels strongly enough about the decision to defend it, even now as the film (without that scene) is in theatrical release.

In 2013 he wrote this (an argument that King told just recently that he still stands behind):

"I wasn’t really thinking of the sexual aspect of it. The book dealt with childhood and adulthood –1958 and Grown Ups. The grown ups don’t remember their childhood. None of us remember what we did as children–we think we do, but we don’t remember it as it really happened. Intuitively, the Losers knew they had to be together again. The sexual act connected childhood and adulthood. It’s another version of the glass tunnel that connects the children’s library and the adult library. Times have changed since I wrote that scene and there is now more sensitivity to those issues."
That's an argument that a lot of people aren't buying -- particularly given the addendum he added when asked about it by Vulture:

“To it I’d just add that it’s fascinating to me that there has been so much comment about that single sex scene and so little about the multiple child murders. That must mean something, but I’m not sure what.”
This is a passive-aggressive addendum if ever there was one, and I'd hold it more against King if he hadn't otherwise gathered such strong progressive and feminist cred, through word and deed over many decades.  He made an artistic choice in including that scene in IT, and he is standing behind it, and he makes the case that prurient interest in child murder might be just as indefensible as prurient interest in underage sex. I would apply the apples-for-oranges test to that one. The child murders aren't intended to excite anything but empathy for the victims and horror at the perpetrator, whereas the orgy-in-the-sewers is treated as at least redemptive and empowering -- invoking wish-fulfillment nostalgia about too-early sexual experience-- and at the worst, prurient and possibly titillating to pedophiles.

That said, I don't get a say in another writer's artistic choices. And even if I did, and I could somehow travel back in time and send editorial notes to the King residence in Bangor, I'm not sure what else could have been done to make the thematic points that King wanted to make with IT.

But it has got me thinking about my own artistic choices. In EUTOPIA, I did include a lot of other ugly and triggering things: all those instances of the N-word; articulation of the ethical justification for eugenics and forced sterilization; and depictions of sexual violence to a degree that has again, been a bit much for some readers.

Seven or so years later, I've written EUTOPIA's sequel: VOLK: A Novel of Radiant Abomination. It's out now (trickling into bookstores as I write this). And again, I've made some artistic choices. The N-word is still there in the pages, but not tossed with such abandon as it was in EUTOPIA. Part of that, of course, is that the book takes place in Europe, in 1931, largely but not entirely in Germany. There were other words then and there for denigrating black people. But as the world has marched from 2011 to the place it is today, I also felt less easy about using it even in a historically correct context. As King put it himself, "there is more sensitivity about those issues." Although really, there always has been: pedophilia and racism both.

I didn't make any big changes draft to draft -- certainly not changes on the level of aging Jason Thistledown three years in order to keep a sex scene. The book is still filled with ugly eugenics, and shadows of genocide, a little bit of sexual violence... and of course, this time, card-carrying Nazis and their collaborators.

But honest: no explicit under-age sex at all. For the sake of the art of this one, there was no call for it.

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.