Dust jacket illustration by Tom Kidd.
There is a limit of one copy per person/household.
We’re pleased to announce The Dead Man and Other Horror Stories, which gathers Gene Wolfe’s forays into dark spaces, including six never-before-collected tales.
About the Book:
Although best known for his world-building Book of the New Sun science-fantasy saga, Gene Wolfe wrote brilliant fiction that resisted encapsulation within rigid genre categories. This volume collects twenty-eight tales spanning nearly a half century—six of them never before collected—and gathered from venues as varied as men’s magazines, periodicals devoted to short works of fantasy and science fiction, and tribute anthologies to the works of authors as wildly opposed in their literary visions as Dante and H. P. Lovecraft. Although selected for their overtones of “horror,” they frequently defy the conventions that contemporary category label conjures.
Take “Talk of Mandrakes,” a tale of malignant exo-biology spun from an ancient occult legend steeped in sex magic. Or “The Other Dead Man,” a story set aboard an interstellar spacecraft that would distinguish any anthology of zombie fiction it appeared in. “Innocent” is cast in the form of a dramatic monologue whose creepy first-person narrator details increasingly aberrant behavior that defies the formal psychological diagnosis it cries out for. And “In the House of Gingerbread” recasts a classic children’s fairy tale as a dark noir whodunit.
To be sure, Wolfe willingly embraced horror’s classic tropes, but he reworked them into remarkably original signatures through his personal creative ingenuity: There is much lycanthropy, but nary a hairy transformation in his futuristic “The Hero as Werwolf.” “The Vampire Kiss” reinterprets its titular monster as a scourge of the poor in Dickensian London. And in “Why I Was Hanged,” the disadvantages of accepting advice from the ghosts of the living are made abundantly manifest.
Their macabre inflections notwithstanding Wolfe’s horror stories abound with affecting character studies that cleave the distance between the horrible and the human: the changeling child adapting to an unfamiliar life as a mortal in “Queen of the Night”; the investigator in “The Detective of Dreams” dedicated by occupation to freeing his clients from their nightmares; the woman in “Uncaged,” whose feral persona may be an expression of her true self. Wolfe’s tales of horror, like all of his fiction, are stories in which readers—however uneasily—recognize, and relate to, much of themselves.
Limited: 1000 numbered hardcover copies
From Publishers Weekly:
“Those familiar with SFWA Grand Master Wolfe (1931–2019) only from his science-fantasy novels will be pleasantly surprised by this collection of 28 convention-subverting horror shorts. These twisty tales often end somewhere very different from where they began.”
“In addition to ‘Redbeard’, a few other stories offer hints of some of Wolfe’s literary forbears. ‘The Walking Sticks’ reads like a pitch-perfect echo of an M.R. James ghost story, with the objects of the title seeming to take on a life of their own. ‘In the House of Gingerbread’ is an even darker re-imagining of Hansel and Gretel. ‘The Death of Koshchei the Deathless’ is based on a Russian folktale as retold by Andrew Lang, while ‘The Vampire Kiss’, vividly evoking the poverty of Victorian London through the eyes of a child, turns out to be literally Dickensian when we learn who the story is being told to, and who is passing it on to us. What nearly all the stories have in common, though, is Wolfe’s uncanny ability to draw us into even the most disorienting tales through prose that is precise and evocative, and through voices that range from the vernacular rhythms of good old boys to the measured cadences of Victorian gentlemen.”
From Paul di Filippo, Locus Online:
“My absolute favorite tale is ‘Bed and Breakfast,’ which opens thus: ‘I know an old couple who live near Hell. They have a small farm, and, to supplement the meager income it provides (and to use up its bounty of chickens, ducks and geese, of beefsteak tomatoes, bull-nose peppers and roastin’ ears), open their spare bedrooms to paying guests. From time to time, I am one of those guests.’ This Zelaznyesque tale of fated but fraught lovers is both melancholy and life-affirming…
“…Wolfe’s trademarks are everywhere in this volume. His penchant for unreliable narrators; his ability to contrast saintliness and evil, sometimes within the same character; his offhand depiction of seemingly trivial incidents which by story’s end prove to be of utmost portent; his ability to discern ancient lineaments beneath the façade of modernity; his privileging of an ethical life while remaining sympathetic to those who fall short— In summary, Wolfe’s moral and narrative complexities operate just as wonderfully at the short story level as they do in his novels, and the ostensible foregrounding of classic horror tropes hinders his voice not one whit. He was able to transform all he touched into pure fabulaic gold.”
Table of Contents:
- The Dead Man
- The Hero as Werwolf
- Many Mansions
- The Detective of Dreams
- In the House of Gingerbread
- The Other Dead Man
- The Friendship Light
- The Haunted Boardinghouse
- Lord of the Land
- The Seraph from Its Sepulcher
- Queen of the Night
- The Death of Koshchei the Deathless
- Bed and Breakfast
- The Walking Sticks
- My Name Is Nancy Wood
- Talk of Mandrakes (previously uncollected)
- Black Shoes
- Hunter Lake
- Prize Crew (previously uncollected)
- The Card
- The Vampire Kiss
- Innocent (previously uncollected)
- Josh (previously uncollected)
- Why I Was Hanged (previously uncollected)
- Uncaged (previously uncollected)
Talk of Mandrakes
The mons were not running. Peak coughed into his breather and turned aside shivering. What do you do when you have to be someplace? And can’t get there?
The man beside him pulled car keys from a pocket.
Beg. “You’re probably going to work,” Peak said. “I wasn’t. I was going to Skybase Five.”
The owner of the keys turned to look at him. Both were breaking the great unwritten rule of the city: Do not make eye contact.
I just got back here after ninety-seven years TST and found out about what’s been depopulating, and I think I ought to tell you this stuff. Maybe Lang and Prescott have already. Only if they did, I don’t think you paid enough attention. Here goes.
We found that Miscreet ship abandoned three days after the battle—a light cruiser from the look of her, just drifting way out between suns. She hadn’t been hit, so it didn’t look like there had been any reason for the crew to bail out, but there was nobody on board as far as we could see, and the lifeboats were gone. So they put us on board to take her home. That’s Ensign Parker, Lang, Prescott, and me. Lang was our computer man, Prescott electrical. I’m a Machinist’s Mate. Parker was younger than any of us, which might be important. I don’t know. She was only a couple of years out of the academy was what everybody said.
You promise not to throw that stuff on me again, Father? Really promise?
Okay. It burns, but if you promise, you can come on in. What I wanted to tell you last time was that I didn’t do anything they say. None of it is true. One of the cops said I was the kind who hang around schoolyards, so that part’s true. I did. Sit down on the other bunk and I’ll explain.
10/2 A Moving day for us. The movers came and took all our stuff. It is goodbye to the old home town. Dad was at work, mostly cleaning out his desk, he said. Mom went nuts watching them pack her china and the glasses. I went up to my room but they had cleaned it out. There was no place to sit down so I walked down here. Nobody I know has come, only I keep thinking I do not really know any of those guys any more. I never even started school last month, like I said then.
Bill Bocanegra or however you spell that just came in. He said hi Josh and wanted to know what I was doing, so I said I was making a list, what to do in the new place. He is gone now, so maybe I should.
- Remember not to e-mail any of them unless they e-mail me first. I will let them forget me if that is what they want to do.
- Get a dog. They say it is out in the country so why not? If Mom wants it to stay outside I will build a dog house, only I am going to take it up to my room at night sometimes.
- Learn all the country stuff. Find out where the kids hang. What I think is I cannot be an insider there so I will have to find out who the other outsiders are and hang with them. Maybe there is a girl.
Why I Was Hanged
[The following account was supplied by a man who owns a great many books but searches fearfully for another, a yellowing pamphlet he may already own. In looking for a quite different title, he stumbled upon this remarkable narrative, which he had never read and could not recall buying. He read it, and says he remembers it almost word for word.]
I went. What else could I do? A trading schooner returned me to the Ivory Coast, a voyage of thirty-two days that might easily have taken much longer. Bercole was clearly too ill to accompany me, though he wished to go. Dubois, the new man, flatly refused. To give him his due, he had nearly worried himself into a breakdown, crushed under the new responsibilities fate had heaped upon him; the trek up-country would have done him good. I tried to persuade him, but he was adamant. Seeing that argument was useless, I left as soon as possible, with four porters and a native gendarme called Jakada. It was he who had brought the letter, and he thus represented a potential source of information about conditions on the Hecht plantation and specifically about the condition of the late owner’s wife. I write “potential” because in truth I could get little from him in the way of facts. She was kai gaibou, a leopard, meaning possessed by a panther spirit. When I inquired concerning her cage, he affirmed that she was locked into it—but soon spoke of her roaming at night in search of prey. When I reminded him that he had told me she was caged, he shrugged.
- Gene Wolfe
- Tom Kidd
- 400 pages