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Authors: Mike Allen


BOOK: Unseaming
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Published by Antimatter Press


Copyright © 2014 by Mike Allen. 

All Rights Reserved. 
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Cover photograph © 2014 by Danielle Tunstall,

Interior art © 2014 by Paula Arwen Friedlander,

This book is a work of fiction. All characters, names, locations, and events portrayed in this book are fictional or used in an imaginary manner to entertain, and any resemblance to any real people, situations, or incidents is purely coincidental.

Oct. 7, 2014

Published by Antimatter Press

Columbus, Ohio

“Introduction: A Stitch in Darkness” copyright © 2014 by Laird Barron

“The Button Bin” first appeared in
Helix: Speculative Fiction Quarterly
, October 2007.

“The Blessed Days” first appeared in
Tales of the Talisman
4, No. 4, Spring 2009.

“Humpty” first appeared in
Flesh & Blood
9, 2002.

“Her Acres of Pastoral Playground” first appeared in
Cthulhu’s Reign
, ed. Darrell Schweitzer, DAW, 2010.

“An Invitation via E-mail” first appeared in
Weird Tales
350, July–August 2008.

“The Hiker’s Tale” first appeared in
Cabinet des Fées
1, No. 2–3, 2007.

“The Music of Bremen Farm” first appeared in
Cabinet des Fées
1, No. 1, 2006.

“The Lead Between the Panes” first appeared in
Lakeside Circus
1, No. 1, 2014.

“Stone Flowers” first appeared in
Scheherezade’s Bequest
8, October 2009.

“Gutter” is original to this collection.

“Condolences” is original to this collection.

“Let There Be Darkness” first appeared in
Penny Dreadful
No. 6, 1998.

“The Quiltmaker” is original to this collection.

“Monster” first appeared in
2, No. 1, 2014.


The stories collected in this book span a period of sixteen years, so it’s inevitable that I will leave out someone important in my list of those who contributed to the creation and publication of these stories, and who encouraged me to write more of them. With apologies to any so omitted, my gratitude goes to Laird Barron, Jason Brock, Erzebet YellowBoy Carr, Claire Cooney, Jennifer Crow, Ellen Datlow, Shawn Garrett, John Glover, Shalon Hurlbert, Izzy Jamaluddin, Rose Lemberg, Tom Ligotti, Virginia Mohlere, Jaime Lee Moyer, Tim Mullins, Dominik Parisien, Michael Pendragon, Ben Phillips, Cathy Reniere, Julia Rios, Anne Sampson, Charlie Saplak, Ekaterina Sedia, Ken Schneyer, Darrell Schweitzer, Stephen Segal, Jon Smallwood, Tony Smith, Christina Sng, Ferrett Steinmetz, Sonya Taaffe, Shveta Thakrar, Catherynne M. Valente, Ann VanderMeer, Ian Watson, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Bud Webster, and Jacqueline West; and the music of Black Sabbath, Sepultura, Motörhead, and Slayer, to name just a few.

I regret that Larry Santoro, who did much to help me promote this book, never got to see the finished product. I am glad that
Tales to Terrify
continues, but Larry will be missed.

Special thanks must absolutely go to Elizabeth Campbell, whose invaluable contributions to this book’s existence can hardly be enumerated; providing this long-wandering project with a good home is just one of them. Also to Francesca Forrest, who braved her first experience with cosmic horror to copyedit this book into something presentable, and to Nicole Kornher-Stace, for dragging her typonet through these words.

And it goes without saying—though it must be said—without Anita, my partner in crime, not one bit of this would have happened.

Table of Contents

Laird Barron

Laird Barron

For years we’ve known Mike Allen as a celebrated poet and editor. He’s been involved in the Rhysling Award for some time, and his work with the Clockwork Phoenix series has met with acclaim. We always knew he could write poetry. He’s had books published, he’s been profiled by the
Philadelphia Inquirer
, he’s won awards. Same deal with his editorial record. Meanwhile, quietly, a story here, a story there, Allen has steadily made inroads into the speculative fiction field.

Matters began to shift in earnest several years ago when he published “The Button Bin” in a small ezine called
. It’s a subversive piece of body horror and noir-infused dark fantasy that dealt with themes of abuse and betrayal. Written in second person present tense, it instantly attracted controversy. By the end of the year it wound up on the Nebula ballot; no mean feat for a horror story. One got the sense that after years of flying under the radar, he’d arrived. I suspect this book is going to take many folks who haven’t been paying attention by the scruff of the neck and shake them.

The timing seems appropriate. It has been said by anthologist and editor Ellen Datlow that the horror genre is undergoing a golden age. I can’t help but agree. The confluence of talented authors and editors juxtaposed with the rise of the small press and independent publishers has sparked something of a renaissance. Particularly gratifying is the general youth movement that has accompanied this creative surge. Many horror and dark fantasy writers working today are in their thirties and forties; callow youth by industry standards. This new wave is typified by powerhouses: Sarah Langan, Kaaron Warren, Joe Pulver, Livia Llewellyn, Ennis Drake, Richard Gavin, Gemma Files, Steve Duffy, Stephen Graham Jones, Matt Cardin, Michael Cisco, and Gary McMahon, to name a handful. Pick up a book by any of these authors and you’ll immediately understand Datlow’s enthusiasm regarding the future of the genre. In my estimation it’s not a golden age solely in terms of literary quality or abundance, either: it’s also golden for innovation—an age of genre-bending, splicing, folding, and spindling. Creatively and artistically speaking, I don’t know that horror fiction has ever seen an era more supercharged with exciting and important work.

Mike Allen has, with this debut collection, immediately made a case for his inclusion at the forefront of the New New Wave.
is representative of the finest work being done today. It combines elements of science fiction, fantasy, crime, and horror with an icy exuberance that is reflective of Michael Shea, Don Webb, and, in certain instances, of Cronenberg. Allen’s a child of the 1980s, and the influence of horror cinema as purveyed by the aforementioned Cronenberg, with perhaps a dash of John Carpenter, seems evident as streaks of dark coloration in the bubbling froth of Allen’s concoctions. There are images within these pages that once glimpsed will imprint themselves upon your consciousness, etch themselves into your soft brain matter. For such a nice man (and make no mistake, I’ve met Mike Allen, and he’s one of the good guys), he doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his art. His darkest fascinations rival anything committed to paper by the likes of contemporary masters such as Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, or Caitlín Kiernan. This is raw, visceral, and sometimes bloody stuff. Primal stuff.

BOOK: Unseaming
9.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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