Other Stuff

To celebrate the launch of our book, we asked our readers to submit their own entries to the Commonplace Book of the Weird. The grand prize: to be published in all future editions of the book. WHOA. Here are the winners (announcement currently in progress).

Grand Prize

Deciding on the winners was a truly difficult decision. Eventually it came down to these two stories. And, after a week of going back and forth, I decided that their approaches and styles were just too different to compare in any meaningful way. So here we are: two grand prize winners.

           1. Odoriko Music by Bryan Zubalsky

Odoriko Music is (at the risk of sounding like an idiot while trying to describe something not easily described) more ecstatic poetry than short story. The writer chose an unusually beautiful Lovecraft image, and then took its visual and aural implications to all sorts of interesting places. I'm going to stop here because I feel you should just read and judge for yourself, and also because I don't think the writing needs my explanation or defense.

           2. The Corpse Who Moves About by Byron Alexander Campbell

Our other winner, The Corpse Who Moves About, let me be clear, is gross. It is a truly disgusting story. And that is why I love it. Horror should touch us in our lizard brain. It should move things involuntarily in our spine and guts. This story takes a simple, awful idea and follows through with it brutally. It's uncomfortable and upsetting. I couldn't have asked for more.

Second Place

Little Grass Battle by Jonathan Farr
At first glance this was another straight forward Lovecraft pastiche, with standard opening paragraph and requisite clunky prose. Then something happened around page two. I started laughing really hard. And I didn't stop for the rest of the story.

The writer here doesn't just use Lovecraft's style. He dives into it headfirst and keeps going until he breaks through to the other side. Some of the sentence constructions in here are so tortured and absurd that they approach the sublime.

One point of interest: this story is over four times our length limit, and would have been immediately disqualified if not for the lucky (for the writer) fact that I didn't notice how many words were in it until I was already hooked. In any case, it's way too long to give it our grand prize, but I'm happy to have it in the top three.

Runners-up Part 1
           1. A Journey Between Moments by Gregory Kramer 
This story has probably my favorite opening paragraph of all the submissions we received.

           2.   The Peacham Incident by Ruth Urlacher
A compact and creepy little horror story. No frills, all ghastly creatures pawing at your door. 

           3. The Black Door by John Fleming
I love the way this story plays with your expectations and sense of place. Let's just say that I'm a big fan of this story as a whole. 

           4. The Boduus by Christopher Robison 
 This entry manages to create an expansive sense of mythology within a few brief pages. It succeeds in making us feel like we are seeing only the smallest sliver of an ancient story we will never completely understand. 

           5. Rumination by Anton Nickel 
As you can imagine, the entries received were mostly Lovecraft pastiches, despite our reminder that we were interested in all types of writing. Which is why it was a real pleasure to get pieces like this, a thoughtful essay considering the implications of Lovecraft's idea, and (praise the Lord) not a tentacle in sight. 

Runners-up Part 2

            1. What I think of when I smell Kowhai (a story about New Zealand) by Alex Stronach
It was nice to see someone approach the prompt without immediately assuming that it had to result in horror.  Instead this piece reads like a sad fairytale. 
            2.  Woodbines by Jessica Moore
Horror tends to rely on a the more obvious senses: frightening things heard, seen, or felt. It's refreshing to see a horror story delve into the possibilities of a creepy smell.
            3. The Diary of David Amos Phillips by Alexander Raban
 For those who like a little Borges with their Lovecraft. Yes, this kind of story has been done before. But for someone who loves books, there's something inexhaustibly interesting in reading about people reading.

            4. Leave by Ian Flynn
I got a few different stories based on this prompt, all tracing the same general arc. This was my favorite of this sub-category of contest entry.

            5. The Garden and the Cemetery by Allison C. Meier
I like the way this story brings the specifics of a true place and situation  into the story of a haunting. This approach can sometimes result in a story that is too self-involved and insular, but, in this case, it instead provides grounding that makes the standard ghost story elements more creepy and dissonant. 

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An excerpt of Kurt Chiang's Tape, read by Erica Livingston:

An excerpt of Rob Neill's KPZ STRAZ HYPHEN STARS, read by the author:

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Friends, collaborators, and other links you should click

Daran Brossard - Daran designed the cover and all the related promotional material. He did a great job in a short amount of time, and if you have something that needs designed you should contact him right away.

Justin Marquis - Justin created many of the illustrations for the book. He also sells prints of his work and is open to commissions. If you have money you'd like to exchange for freshly harvested art, check out his site.

Jeffrey Cranor - Jeffrey is one of the contributors to the book and was a huge help in its creation and launch. He is currently working on a variety of other projects, including a show about time travel co-written with the editor of this book. 

The New York Neo-Futurists -Several of the writers in the book come from this performance art ensemble. They are all very talented and they put on a great show in New York City every Friday and Saturday night. Also check out the original Neo-Futurists from Chicago here.

Bad Wolf Press - My father writes short educational musicals for children to perform. He has been a lifelong example to me on how to be a working artist, and, if you work with children or know someone who does, you should do yourself a favor and check out the over fifty musicals available on his site.

Amanda Palmer - Amanda makes great art in a variety of ways, most notably with her band The Dresden Dolls. More importantly (for us), her track record of spontaneously organizing great concerts, videos, and other projects by just reaching out to artists she knows and seeing what she can get started inspired the project that would eventually lead to this book.

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