An Interview with Strix Publishing – The Book of Three Gates

Strix Publishing is at it again with another Kickstarter for fans of horror and H. P. Lovecraft in particular. This time it’s a collection of stories and essays called The Book of Three Gates. I recently spoke with Strix founder Simon Berman and the very talented artist Valerie Herron about their latest project. Check it out and see why you need to run right over to Kickstarter and support this bad boy.

download

AR: So Strix Publishing has launched another Kickstarter campaign with another very intriguing product called The Book of Three Gates. Tell us about it. 

SB: I’m pretty excited about this one. It’s a companion volume to The Book of Starry Wisdom, the first book I published via Kickstarter. I’ve chosen three of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories as the centerpiece for the collection, and the brilliant Valerie Herron has returned to illustrate them. “The Dunwich Horror,” “The Dreams in the Witch House,” and “The Haunter of the Dark” were chosen for their common themes of alien horrors transgressing the thin walls between our world and others. “The Dunwich Horror” is one of my personal favorite Lovecraft stories, and this book also gave me the opportunity to bring in a good friend and talented cartographer to produce a map of the Township of Dunwich as the book’s endpapers. The book concludes with a selection of essays by some notable authors, all of whom were given the chance to write pieces that blur the lines between fact and fiction.

three-gates

AR: Again, you’ve assembled a fantastic group of writers to contribute to The Book of Three Gates. Tell us about some of the contributors. Any returning from The Book of Starry Wisdom?

SB: Absolutely! I’m pleased that a number of authors have returned, including Adam Scott Glancy of Delta Green fame, noted poet and weird fiction aficionado Bryan Thao Worra, Orrin Grey of Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings renown, C.A. Suleiman, known for his work on Mummy: The Curse, and artist and occultist, A.S. Koi. I’m particularly excited about that last one. Koi has promised me an instruction manual for how to bend time. The new authors I’ve chosen for this volume are all very accomplished writers as well. Evan J. Peterson, is a 2015 Clarion West writer, who is writing an extremely interesting academic essay on the queer history of Miskatonic University’s Apollonian Dionysian fraternity, and Don Webb, a noted occultist, is producing a piece on the history, theory, and practices of the Order of the Trapezoid of the Temple of Set.

AR: You’re also working with talented artist Valerie Herron again, so I’ll direct this question to her. How will your contributions to The Book of Three Gates differ from those in The Book of Starry Wisdom? 

VH: The obvious difference will be the subject matter. While Starry Wisdom focused on the Cthulhu mythos, the subject matter in Three Gates gets into witchier and inter-planar territory. The illustrations will be less character-driven and more atmospheric, so expect more use of unsettling scenery and evocative visual texture. I will be preserving more of the traditional elements in the work to try and capture this ambience. Don’t worry, there will still be monsters!

valerie-art

AR: Another one for Valerie. You obviously have quite an appreciation for Lovecraft’s work. What about the mythos gets you drawing, painting, and creating?    

VH: This work is largely my way of processing my own sense of cosmic horror. It’s a reaction to these titanic forces that govern our lives with no regard for our existence and how insignificant I feel at their mercy. I make this art because it’s much more effective than remaining frozen in panic or hopelessness while all of these slow-motion disasters in the world play out around me. This is the way I feel like I relate to Lovecraft as a creator. The crushing weight of a materialist’s reality left him catatonic as a young adult, but he was able to channel that particular anguish into timeless allegory. I am honored to give visual form to these unbridled forces.

AR: Simon, you’ve become quite the old hand at this Kickstarter thing, and you’ve funded your first four campaigns. What is the secret to your success? 

SB: Being willing to go without sleep. Honestly, it comes down to having an idea for something that people want and then making sure you get it in front of them, treating your backers like the generous supporters they are, and being as transparent as possible about everything you’re doing. A high tolerance for sleep deprivation does help, though.

AR: Since The Book of Three Gates is a companion volume to The Book of Starry Wisdom, can we expect a third volume in the series?

I don’t want to say too much just yet, but if all continues to go well with Three Gates, there are two possible collections on the docket for a third volume. One goes beyond the wall of sleep, the other beyond the veil of death.


Simon Berman worked as a Social Marketing Manager and staff writer for Privateer Press from 2008-2016. He worked in both capacities for the award-winning miniatures war games, WARMACHINE and HORDES, and the Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy Roleplaying Game, winner of 4 ENnies awards. He also works on the ENnies nominated roleplaying game, Unhallowed Metropolis. He has also worked as a social media manager on Kickstarter projects for WARMACHINE: Tactics, Widower’s Wood, The Book of Starry Wisdom, the Problem Glyphs art book, APOCRYPHA: The Art of Jason Soles, and Orrin Grey’s Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings.

***

With an enduring love for the unusual, Valerie Herron began expressing her interests through writing and illustration in childhood. Fantasy illustration, mythology, the occult, and the natural universe remain her greatest inspirations. Valerie’s work has evolved in time to be conceptually layered and mysterious. She collages together a powerful visual-vocabulary that is mystical and socially relevant. Valerie creates allegorical narratives that are poignant and beautiful, ugly and elegant.

Fascinated by contours, Valerie considers her primary medium to be line. She finds the synthesis of traditional wet media and digital media best communicates her visual style.

Valerie received her BFA in Illustration at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, OR. She currently lives in Seattle, works for Privateer Press, and is also a freelance illustrator. Outside of her creative practice she spends her time listening to music and podcasts, being out in nature, writing, reading, and venturing a myriad of sorcerous activities.

Never Bet the Devil: An Interview with Orrin Grey

Orrin Grey is one hell of a horror writer, and I’ve had the extreme pleasure of working with him a number of times in my previous role as managing editor for Skull Island eXpeditions. He just gets horror, and creepy, disturbing things fall out of his head and on to the page like a burst pinata full of spiders. To bring his particular brand of darkness to the world, Orrin has recently partnered with another of my favorite people in the publishing biz, Simon Berman of Strix Publishing. Together, they are creating the definitive edition of Orrin’s first short story collection Never Bet the Devil & Other WarningsI spoke with Orrin about this new project and some of the things that influence this master of the macabre.

ea4f0fbcfc3fa10bdd09fe456408101c_original


1) Okay, Orrin, give us the quick and dirty on your literary career. Who are you main influences? And where can we check out some of your work?

Primarily, I write what I like to think of as “fun, smart horror.” At least, I hope it’s fun and smart. But I’m also a freelancer, and as you are no doubt well aware, Aeryn, freelancers will (and do) write everything. So I also do stuff ranging from work for Privateer Press to writing website copy for car dealerships…

When it comes to influences, I have a lot, and I tend to wear them on my sleeve. But Mike Mignola has a story that he likes to tell in interviews, about how when he first read Dracula he knew all he wanted to do in life was draw monsters. My similar moment of clarity came not with Dracula, but when I encountered Mike’s own work on Hellboy. Since I can’t draw, I had to settle for writing monsters instead.

As for where you can check out some of my work: My second collection, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, is available right now from Word Horde. I’ve got stories out or forthcoming in a bunch of exciting anthologies, including Children of Lovecraft (speaking of Mike Mignola, who did the cover) and Eternal Frankenstein, which features my story “Baron von Werewolf Presents: Frankenstein Against the Phantom Planet.” I don’t have as many stories online as I would like, but right now you can read my story “Black Hill” on the Strix Publishing website as part of our Kickstarter for Never Bet the Devil, or listen to it at Pseudopod.

2) You’re currently working with Simon Berman and Strix Publishing to breathe new life into your first collection of short stories, Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings. Tell us about it.

Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings originally came out from Evileye Books back in 2012, but they recently decided to stop publishing prose books entirely, so it unceremoniously dropped out of print at the end of last year. When that happened, I knew I wanted to get it back into print, but also that I wanted to do so in a way that would reward those who had already picked up the original edition. Enter Simon and Strix Publishing, who are helping me put together what I think is going to be the definitive edition of Never Bet the Devil: hardcover, cloth-bound, gold-foil-stamped, fully illustrated, and with a new introduction by Nathan Ballingrud, to name just a few of the features.

f77210255ee52a2a981d7aced14fc96d_original

3) Which is your favorite story in Never Bet the Devil and why?

You know, I just got asked this on a podcast. I told them it was “The Seventh Picture,” and that’s definitely a favorite of mine, though right now if I had to pick a favorite story from Never Bet the Devil, it might be my odd take on a haunted house tale “Nearly Human,” which is one of those stories that seldom gets singled out by reviewers but that just really feels like it did exactly what I wanted it to do.

4) Are we getting any new stories in this premium collection?

There will be at least two new stories in the deluxe edition of Never Bet the Devil. One of them was previously published in The Mothman Files back in 2011, but has never been collected before. I wanted to include it in the original release of Never Bet the Devil, but rights issues prevented it, so now here it is, incorporated into the collection as I had always intended. The other is entirely new, written exclusively for this edition, and is a story about kids exploring an undertaker’s basement on Halloween night called “Goblins.” We’ve got several other stories planned as possible stretch goals, so if the Kickstarter does really well, who knows how many new stories might be in the final book?

5) I hear there are some truly kick-ass illustrations in the book. Tell us about the artist.

There are some truly kick-ass illustrations in the book! The original publication of Never Bet the Devil had a cover and some great interior spot illustrations by Bernie Gonzalez, which I loved, but they stayed with the previous publisher when the rights to the rest of the collection reverted back to me. When it came time to choose a cover artist and illustrator for the deluxe edition, M.S. Corley was my first and only choice. I’ve been a fan of Mike’s illustrations and cover design work for years, and we had previously worked together on a little chapbook called Gardinel’s Real Estate. For my money, Mike might be the best cover guy in the business, and when it comes to his interior illustrations, let’s just say that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

085d17ec8e5aafcd014e6b4e489f13aa_original

6) Who are the people that absolutely need to back this Kickstarter? What would you say to them?

Anyone who enjoyed my work in Painted Monsters or any of the recent anthologies that have featured my stories but never got a chance to pick up the previous edition of Never Bet the Devil. Anyone who has the previous edition and likes it well enough to upgrade to a fancy hardcover with more illustrations and new stories. Anyone who loves old-fashioned ghost stories, creaky old horror movies, fun weird horror, or Mike Mignola comics, I think you’ll find that I’m speaking your language in Never Bet the Devil. And even if not, I can guarantee that Mike Corley’s illustrations will be worth the price of admission all by themselves.


Orrin Grey is a writer, editor, amateur film scholar, and monster expert who was born on the night before Halloween. His stories of monsters, ghosts, and sometimes the ghosts of monsters have appeared in dozens of anthologies, including Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year. He’s the author of Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, and Monsters from the Vault. You can visit him online at orringrey.com.

Interview – Apocrypha: The Art of Jason Soles

Today, I’m going to give up the spotlight (on my own blog, no less) and shine it on a profoundly talented friend and colleague. I’ve worked with Jason Soles for six years in his role as the lead developer at Privateer Press, and he’s one of the best game designers in the tabletop gaming industry. But Jason has other talents, just as noteworthy. He is a gifted sculptor who produces works in a variety of media that are both hauntingly beautiful and deeply unsettling.

Jason has partnered with Strix Publishing to produce Apocrypha: The Art of Jason Soles, a stunning premium edition art book that collects hundreds of photos of Jason’s work for the first time. I recently spoke with Jason about this essential volume for all fans of dark art.

Kickstarter project image

 1) Your work is very unsettling (in the best way possible). Where do you draw inspiration?

I draw a lot of inspiration from folklore and archaeology. As a kid, I loved books on Egyptology and witchcraft and heavy metal album covers. Later, I developed a fascination with horror movies, especially classical horror. And then German Expressionism via Fritz Lang. As I got older, I discovered visual artists I really appreciated, such as Hieronymus Bosch, H. R. Giger, Ian Miller, and Yasushi Nirasawa, but I have always drawn as much influence from science, anthropology, and the natural world. My earliest works look like the desiccated remains of Capuchin monks. I have also been influenced by what I have read, especially the works of H. P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe.

Resin Leviathan Cross  Watcher

2) What media do you typically work in?

I sculpt either in clay or with found objects. My found object work is fast and freeform. It is really an experimental process to rough out a shape in my head. My work in clay is a lot slower and methodical. I am always willing to tear down something I have spent hours on (sometimes weeks or months) if I cannot get it right and start over again. Once complete, I will cast it in a number of media. My found object works are never reproduced.

Originally, I reproduced my works in polyurethane resins that I would paint to a high degree of finish. Later, I discovered cold casting, which involves adding ground marble or bronze to a clear resin. The cold cast sculpture takes on some of the qualities of the added material. I especially like the look of cold cast marble, which looks like alabaster and polishes up to a fine finish. From there, I moved into casting bronze, which involves first casting your sculpture in a wax “pattern” that is later melted out to create a cavity for hot bronze to be poured. In recent years, I have really come to think of myself as a bronze sculptor.

3) The title of the book you’re Kickstarting is Apocrypha: The Art of Jason Soles. Tells us about the significance of the title.

One of the themes running through my work is the establishment of a false historical record, faux fossil remains that speak to a lost era of human, or proto-human experience. I like the notion that researchers are forced to redefine the origins of man with each archaeological find, and the facts as we know them are increasingly mercurial even as we move ever closer to likely extinction of the species. The title Apocrypha is a nod to that verisimilitude I seek to capture with my work.

Necromancer 1  Excarnate

4) You’re working with Strix Publishing to produce the book and handle the Kickstarter. What’s your connection to Strix’s Simon Berman?

Simon and I have a long history of working collaboratively together, first at Privateer Press and later on Unhallowed Metropolis, alongside Nicole Vega. Simon has successfully managed two publishing projects on Kickstarter via Strix, and I thought my book would be a good fit.

5) Okay tell us what folks can expect out of Apocrypha, the awesome rewards they can get through the Kickstarter, and how they can rush out and throw money at it.

The book itself is a retrospective of my work over the past eighteen years. In addition to some really great photography, the book also includes an in-depth look at my processes along with lengthy descriptions of my techniques.

The basic reward for the campaign itself is the book, which is going to be an impressive hardback. I am really happy with the look of the book. It is going to be incredible. Additionally, I have created a number of smaller sculptures that serve as rewards and add-ons for the project. These include a Cthulhu statuette and a bone-finished mask bearing the Leviathan Cross, an alchemical symbol for sulfur. Alchemical and occult symbols and themes are common throughout my work. A small number of these pieces will also be produced in bronze. The campaign will feature updates as I continue to work and finish the bronze through the month of July.

13450905_1763531783894310_731814454920194884_n  Cthulhu Statuette


Jason Soles is a Seattle-based sculptor and game designer. He is the lead developer of Privateer Press’ award winning WARMACHINE and HORDES tabletop miniature war games and is the co-creator of Unhallowed Metropolis, the gas mask chic roleplaying game of Neo-Victorian horror. As a sculptor, Soles works primarily in bronze and clay. He also possesses keen interests in history, folklore, anthropology, travel, and rare spirits.