Clavis Aurea - January 23, 2014

The Clockwork Soldier by Ken Liu

Pale Skin, Gray Eyes by Gene O’Neill

The Wall Garden by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro


Another common science fiction trope: someone loses a loved one and replaces them with a simulacrum. Maybe it’s a robot, maybe it’s a clone, maybe it’s an animated doll. The story is almost always presented as a “Gotcha!”, introducing the situation and technology until it is finally revealed that—gasp!—the wife/daughter/pet has been replaced. These are fun when they are done well—Daily Science Fiction published two good ones last month alone (“The Final Seam” by T. Callihan and “Goldfish” by Elizabeth Archer)—but they are ultimately groaners. By the end, all that remains is to shake the author's hand and admit that, yes, they got you this time.

Leave it to Ken Liu to turn the trope into something else entirely. In “The Clockwork Soldier” (Clarkesworld #88, January 2014) we know right from the get-go that something is up with the protagonist, Ryder. Released onto a remote planet by Alex, his former captor, we know right away that Ryder is something other than what he seems, but his identity-related secret isn’t the point of the tale. Instead, Liu offers us an exploration of free will and self-determination.

Ryder and Alex spar on two levels. There is the question...

Crimewave 12: Hurts

Crimewave 12: Hurts cover

You know, I keep referring to Crimewave as an anthology series when I talk about it elsewhere—and because of the way it’s put together I’m going to discuss it analytically as though it were an anthology—though it’s technically a magazine. The truth of the matter is that it falls somewhere between the two states. Much as its stories are wont to do: crime, mystery fiction, the occasional supernatural piece, all doing their damnedest to defy direct classification. Instead, Crimewave is composed of stories that are decidedly more interested in just telling a good story.

And in that effort the latest volume of Crimewave—Crimewave 12: Hurts, edited by Andy Cox—succeeds, in really rather spectacular fashion.

Granted, there are some stories that aren’t holding their own alongside the better pieces in the issue. But they’re few in number, and don’t hurt the whole overmuch. The more interesting dichotomy is the distinct split between pieces that provide closure and those that end prior to, or without, resolution. Indeed, in many ways, Crimewave 12: Hurts is a volume of anticipations.

This issue of Crimewave leaves one feeling always on the edge of something; always seizing one’s breath, and forever holding it. And, ultimately, the stories on display here that court a firm resolution are somewhat stronger in tone and execution, though all of the stories linger in their own respects. And some of the best stories in the issue are among the longest, allowing them to explore fully the dissolution—of lives, of relationships, of self—that they cover.

Moreso than a direct adherence to one particular genre, that sense of wounding, of loss, is what is pre-eminent in the aptly named Crimewave 12: Hurts. And in that territory there’s a lot of thematic...

Mystery Zombie Contest!

Decode the hidden messages in Tony Burgess's The n-Body Problem for a chance to win a prize from CZP!

Use this master code sheet, also found on our contest page, to decode all the messages. Send in your answers to with the subject line "Mystery Zombie Contest Answers." The first 3 people to decode all the messages successfully will win. If you wish to do the assignment, please email Felicia for further information.

Clavis Aurea - January 9, 2014

Whale Woman Watches by Vicki Saunders

The Correspondence Between the Governess and the Attic by Siobhan Carroll

The Coronation Bout by Lisa L. Hannett


Magic is all about liminal states, about apparent contradictions and places in between other, more mundane things. Fantastic creatures have always been beings in flux: chimeras, shape-changers, the un-dead, or the transformed. It is a not-uncommon convention of fairy tales and folklore to include women in that category, those strange creatures which are both men and not. Women in folklore flout human boundaries by taking on other shapes (snakes, foxes, fish), communing with ungodly powers, dressing for and taking on roles outside those condoned by society, or just generally existing in inhuman states of fay or godly perfection.

Recent attempts to reclaim women from these old stories agree to meet them half way. Women struggle back from the margins, aware of their exclusion from the normal. This is how we navigate power structures in our lives every day, after all. We are the same, but we are different. We want what men have, but not necessarily as men have it. Are we “other,” or are we not?

Vicki Saunders’s “Whale Woman Watches” (Three-Lobed Burning Eye #24, December 2013) offers us a protagonist, Neclel, created specifically to act as a bridge, a conduit between worlds. Neclel was delivered onto the shores of Dogfish Bay on the...

Emerging Canadian Artist Feature: Aramika Kliavin

ECAF Aramika Kliavin Bronze Sculpture

Aramika Kliavin is a twenty-six year old visual artist. She has completed training in Europe and Canada, and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from OCAD University in 2012. She lives and works in Toronto.

Who are the artists/writers that inspire and/or influence your work?

Creative inspiration is magical when you have it and sometimes quite frustrating when you don't. I often find my muse in music or literature. The tune and stories depend on my mood and change with time, but always inspire me in new ways. Auguste Rodin, a French sculptor, has always impressed me and been a role model. Sculpturally, Rodin possessed a unique ability to model the complexity of the human figure. To me his sculptures possess a turbulent and deeply meaningful quality.

What is your artistic process from inspiration to a finished piece? What are your artistic habits?

Usually everything begins with an idea. Only those ideas that stick with me for a while get to see the light of day. In the process of realizing the idea, whether it is a painting or a sculpture, it starts to change and transform into something different. I don't fight this. I allow my creativity full freedom. Very rarely do the initial idea and the final artwork match. As Pablo Picasso once said, “I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.” In many cases I attempt one idea many times, and sometimes I abandon it if I see that it really switched directions.

What kind of impact do you hope to achieve with your work, and how do you hope to affect your audience?

I believe that the goal of every artist is to communicate through his or her art, whether it is to pass a message, or to share a certain...

The This Is Horror Awards 2013!

We are thrilled to announce that CZP has been shortlisted for the This is Horror Awards 2013 in the Publisher of the Year category! Helen Marshall has also been shortlisted for the Short Story Collection of the Year for Hair Side, Flesh Side .

Please send your votes to along with the award categories you are voting for.

Voting ends Sunday, January 12, 2014.

Visit the This is Horror page for more details!

CZP Boxing Week Sale!

Now is the time to stock up on your dose of the wonderfully weird! From December 26th to midnight January 1st (EST) we are offering all CZP ebook titles at 50% off!

It doesn't get any better than this, so get your eReaders ready and embrace the odd!

Clavis Aurea - December 26, 2013

The Mechanism of Moving Forward by Nikki Alfar

Thread by A. Merc Rustad

The Red Danube by Bernie Mojzes


In 2004, Australian novelist Peter Carey published Wrong About Japan, an unlikely travel memoir about a trip he had undertaken with his then-12-year-old son. His son had become deeply interested in Japanese anime and manga, and Carey thought he would indulge his son's interests while simultaneously decoding for his Western readership the themes and images that recur so often in these stories. There must be something to all the giant robots and monsters, he reasoned. He meant to visit the creators and reveal the cultural psychology behind the stories.

He failed, utterly. His theories about collective trauma in the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki went nowhere, and nobody could adequately explain to him why little girls in giant robot suits were so quintessentially Japanese. He concluded that as a foreigner he simply could not know.

Nikki Alfar has succeeded where Peter Carey failed with her piece, “The Mechanism of Moving Forward” (Interfictions Issue 2, October 2013). The story follows Sakuma Kei, the 16-year-old daughter of a samurai, Sakuma Shozan, who has unknowingly made political enemies with his enthusiasm for rangaku, or “Dutch learning.” It is 1863 by the Dutch calendar, and the shogun is torn between...

Annihilation (Book 1 of The Southern Reach Trilogy) by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation cover

I feel compelled to point out, up front, that Annihilation, the first book of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, & Acceptance; all to be released over the course of 2014) is an absolutely fucking brilliant book. Really, one expects no less from Jeff VanderMeer at this point, but still. And, yes, I’m being a bit of a bastard by pointing this out at least two months before you can pick up a copy of the book yourselves. Which you will absolutely want to do the moment this book becomes available.

Now, I’m assuming that if you’re reading this you need no introduction to Jeff VanderMeer’s work. On the off chance you have for some reason not already been exposed to VanderMeer’s oeuvre, then you’ve clearly been trying very hard to avoid the man’s prolific output, across both fiction and non-fiction. You should correct that immediately. Here, have a link to his (mostly up-to-date) Wikipedia page: We’ll be here when you come back.

As those of you who did not have to wander off into the vast digressions of the internet’s larger sprawl (and for those just returning: welcome back) already know, VanderMeer’s work is largely concerned with perception, transmutation, and revelation. His projects are generally shaped by the use of fascinating, story-appropriate voice, a beautiful, malleable prose style, and an adroit hand for characterization. Annihilation follows in those larger traditions, and touches on concepts similar, primarily, to VanderMeer’s work in relation to his Ambergris narratives, up to and including both societal and personal dissolution, the numinous and Cosmic(ally Weird) represented both large scale and in...

Easy Go by Michael Crichton

Easy Go cover

Though Michael Crichton would go on to write The Andromeda Strain, The Terminal Man, The Great Train Robbery, Rising Sun, Jurassic Park, and many more, this is the first of the eight reissued "John Lange" thrillers written by Crichton in the ’60s and ’70s. Of the eight, I selected to read this one first specifically because it's a caper novel about locating and robbing the long-lost tomb of a little-known Pharaoh. For me that's a win-win, because I love capers, and I tend to love anything Egyptology-related in just about any genre. I also loved the Glen Orbik cover painting on the typically handsome Titan trade paperback enough that I'd frame and hang it, though it depicts a scene that never happens in the book.

Harold Barnaby is a bored archeologist specializing in Egyptian hieroglyphics who believes he has discovered a secret message hidden in a routine bit of Egyptian invoicing. It appears a secret (robber-proof) tomb was built for a minor Pharaoh and the secret died with the builders and architect, all of whom were slain as payment for their efforts. Barnaby concocts a crazy idea: why not rob the tomb, rather than discover it and turn it over to the antiquities-savvy Egyptian government? The book was written in 1968, during the very days the Aswan Dam project was being completed and the temples at Abu Simbel had been cut apart into thousands of stone blocks and moved to save them from the imminent flooding (as an aside, I remember reading about this and being fascinated as a 9-year old, for it sounded highly adventurous; even then my own interests were solidifying). Barnaby meets Pierce, a burned-out and disillusioned American journalist-photographer on his way out of Egypt. Once he hears Barnaby's story, however, Pierce is energized by the idea of...

Joyland by Stephen King

Joyland cover

I've read Stephen King since 1976. Two elements that can reliably be found in much of his work are the heroic, wise-beyond-his/her-years kid, and a palpable sense of nostalgia (either the author's or the protagonist's or both). These elements are like old friends when I pick up a new work by King, though I don't pick up everything as soon as it appears. But this time the Fates made sure I would take a second look at Joyland: it was short, I was sent a review copy right between project deadlines, and its publisher is one of my favorites (Hard Case Crime by way of Titan Books). In case you wonder, yes, I own all the Hard Case Crime titles (I haven't read them all, but I'm trying). I love the old-fashioned pulp covers, and they never disappoint with either the reissues or the originals. And here was an original Stephen King novel with a typically awesome (if slightly overwrought) cover. Oh, and it's set in the ’70s, the decade where I went from 5th grade to halfway through college. It was a natural selection, and…well, I really enjoyed it.

Now that I have that out of the way, a quick description and a couple nitpicks. It's 1973 and Devin Jones (a name that didn't quite ring true for me, by the way) is nursing a broken heart because the love of his life has dumped him. He decides to spend a summer recovering by hiding in a second-rate North Carolina theme park about as far as you can get from Disneyland, but along the same general lines. A doggy mascot based on a cartoon, fading glitter, a degenerating midway, slowing business. Reminded me of a small park my grade school took us to for year's end, a place called Muskego Beach (and later the much more ’70s Dandelion Park), which also had a Wild Mouse and a wooden roller coaster, plus rides such as the Tilt-A-...

The Last Living Summer

It was Donna who brought up the odd change in the air. I had noticed too, but I hadn’t said anything about it. There was something in it, an aftertaste that shouldn’t be there after a gulp of it. Metallic, like aluminum would taste if you put it on your tongue. She thought it seemed thinner, too. It might have.

It smelled like fish.

She stopped in when she was done her walk for the day. She beachcombed. Such an old-fashioned name for it, sounding very blue and green and smelling like salt, peaceful and quaint; it was more like a reconnaissance mission or the act of a militant, scouting for signs of the enemy.

I was on the porch and saw her coming long before she called hello. My house faced the water, just as hers did, six hundred feet to the east.

Donna got all the way to the post at the end of my “yard,” the one with the fake seagull gruesomely nailed through the feet to the wood, before she looked up and saw me through the screen.

“Air tastes funny,” she said. She stopped at the foot of the steps and took a big breath. “Like metal.”

I nodded. I was sitting with my notebook, playing, not doing much of anything, waiting for a time when I could pour myself a drink. There was still propriety. So I got up and pushed the door open as if I was going to give it a sniff.

“Just come on up.”

She looked around up at the sky and down the beach where she’d come from and then did come up. She was tanned, her teeth unnaturally white against her skin. Outside the door the air was still. The only sound was the slapping of the waves against the shore, against each other. No birds. Not for weeks now.

The wood seagull was the only one I’d seen since June.

“Tastes like metal,” Donna said...

CZP Black Friday Sale!

Crogian by John Leahy

Crogian cover

At one point, there was nothing cooler in the horror genre than creature features and novels dealing with man-eating monsters. Packed with action, adrenaline, and gore, these narratives were entertaining even when their literary or cinematic merit was nonexistent. Then something happened and monsters became cheesy (the unbelievably awful low budget movies constantly churned out by a certain channel had a lot to do with it). Now, however, creature lovers have reason to celebrate: John Leahy's Crogian makes giant insects cool again.

A strange metallic object is unearthed in a shallow creek in Alaska. The mysterious thing turns out to be much bigger than the man who found it originally thought, so soon he's getting help from other folks in town to dig it out. Eventually, the buzz reaches the right ears and the U.S. Air Force intervenes and finishes the unearthing. What they find is unlike anything else in human history. Seven years later, and after much research, the military shows up in Speaker, Texas, and starts setting up a base in an abandoned chemical plant next to Ken Forde's farm. Ken is a family man, and he will have to do everything in his power to protect his family because the shady project that was being worked on inside the plant, something called Crogian, an acronym for CReator Of GIANts, goes horribly wrong and it leaks out when the base is destroyed. The apocalypse takes over the town: insects, fish, and reptiles turn into gigantic, fearless monsters, and people quickly drop to the very bottom of the food chain.

Crogian is a nice mix of horror and science fiction. The first third of the narrative is very descriptive and successfully sets up the catastrophe. From then on, the running, screaming, and dying start, and this is where the...

Watcher of the Dark by Joe Nassise

Watcher of the Dark cover

What’s worse than waking up in a fleabag motel on the wrong side of Los Angeles? How about being kidnapped by an assemblage of wicked sorcerers and demon half-breeds hellbent on taking over the world? That’s the predicament fugitive Jeremiah Hunt finds himself dealing with at the start of Watcher of the Dark, the third book in Joe Nassise’s ongoing Jeremiah Hunt chronicles. Hunted by police and plagued by the frightening visions of his “ghost sight,” Hunt finds himself navigating the “City of Angels,” now ground zero for a power struggle between some very powerful, very evil beings.

When we last saw Hunt in sweltering New Orleans, he was forced to part ways with his companions Dmitri and Denise, the latter whose heart he sunk an ancient dagger in to save her soul (and his own) from Death personified. Now, Hunt is taken by Fuentes, the Magistar of an L.A. underworld replete with spectres, wizards, poltergeists, and demons. Fuentes has forcefully enlisted Hunt to join his band of “gifted” beings in a quest to obtain a mystical key rumored to unlock the gate to Hell and ensure Fuentes’s rule. Fuentes, however, doesn’t consider that the sardonic Hunt may have plans of his own, not the least of which is reuniting with his lost friends.

Just as he did in Eyes to See and King of the Dead, Nassise keeps the story trimmed of excessive exposition and moves things along at a fast clip. Temperate Los Angeles may not possess the enchanting creepiness of Louisiana or the spooky ambiance of picturesque New England, but Nassise is still able to deliver frightening sequences involving a plethora of vicious paranormal monsters. Los Angeles is not without its own occult legends, and Nassise serves up a surreal cocktail of chilling L.A. folklore where supernatural...


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