Tomorrow’s Cthulhu

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The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.

If the above quote (from HP Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu”) is correct, then the dread entity known as Google is destined to “open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

Enter Tomorrow’s Cthulhu. The new anthology features my short story “The Five Hundred Days of Ms. Between” and many more. The book’s blurb says:

Super science. Madness. Transhumanism.

This is the dawn of posthumanity. Some things can’t be unlearned.

Gleaming labs whir with the hum of servers as scientists unravel the secrets of the universe. But as we peel away mysteries, the universe glances back at us. Even now, terrors rise from the Mariana Trench and drift down from the stars. Scientists are disappearing—or worse. Experiments take on minds of their own. Some fight back against the unknown, some give in, some are destroyed, and still others are becoming… more.

You can purchase the Kindle edition of the anthology right now. You can also pre-order soft cover and hardcover editions of the book over at Broken Eye Books. Bellow is teaser of my story. It’s my first crack at a time travel story . . . or is it?

 

“The Five Hundred Days of Ms. Between” (excerpt)
by Joshua Alan Doetsch

Can’t feel my legs. So I slither along the ground, toward the audient window, humming that song. I hear the wet-velcro rip of the thousand hands rending flesh. I see her through the window. That mocking grin.

The first thing Ms. Between said to me was, “I’m a mad woman with a lab.” The second thing she said was that I could leave at any time with no obligation. The third thing was that there could be no questions—questions would cause her and her offer to evaporate. I believed absolutely in that, so she handed me the murder weapon.

No, wait. That’s not the beginning. I don’t remember exactly when it began—some time after Ms. Between came out of our touchscreens. Everyone has seen her Tech Talk videos and all their terrible wonder. Yet nobody knows where she broadcasts from. No one ever meets Ms. Between.

But I did.

She provided no name, only an address. She said he had done a bad thing. Said he deserved it. I swallowed all of my wriggling questions.

The Nameless Man looked old and kindly. He had one eye and smiled as he slept. Oh how I wish he had tossed with moaning guilt. Everyone sleeps more soundly since the symbionts.

Hesitating, I stood over the Nameless Man’s bed for an hour. With the speed of a carnivorous plant, I took out the dagger. It was carved from bone and coated in lacquer that gave it a greenish hue. I raised the dagger over my head and held it there, squeezing the leather-wrapped handle. Another half hour. My arm ached. I bit my inner cheek and tasted copper. Ms. Between had said I could leave at any time.

No, Val, Lailah pleaded from inside me. You must not do this.

Lailah is my dedicated symbiont.

“Have to,” I rasped.

The Nameless Man startled. His eye opened. I brought the dagger down. I’ve never been good with knives. It took many tries. “Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry,” I said until I was nothing but tears and snot.

“Lailah,” I said when it was over, “now.”

Her coils tightened in my gut. No, Val. Don’t make me. Don’t make me.

“We have to, Lailah. Please.”

I felt her sigh and shiver. Her tendril came out the port in my wrist to snake down into the Nameless Man’s mouth. His symbiont would not live long without him, but it might have stored recent memories in synaptic backup. Through Lailah, I felt its distress. Not a dedicated symbiont, not even a thought interface. How lonely. Just a silent worm. But I don’t judge. I recognize my privilege.

As Lailah devoured the other symbiont, I put the wet dagger into a plastic bag. Ms. Between had handed it to me just before telling me the rules of time travel. It was preposterous. Time travel couldn’t exist.

I committed murder on the off chance that I was wrong.

My New Writer Bio

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Joshua Alan Doetsch is a sentient word virus spreading across the collective unconscious through the vector of human language. It has taken on many forms, from short stories, to screenplays, to tabletop roleplaying games. It spreads through print, digital, and audio mediums. It coalesced as the novel Strangeness in the Proportion and shaped itself into an anthropomorphic guise as Lead Writer of The Secret World, a massive multiplayer online computer game. It is made of cuttlefish ink and earworm rhymes, and its fingernails are gleaming fountain pen nibs. You can help spread the infection at joshuadoetsch.com. It’s already too late.

Lore of the Clans and True Detective

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Once upon a time, when I was 16 or 17, I went into a bookstore and opened Vampire the Masquerade (2nd ed.). I’ve never been the same. I’ve done some writing since then. Fast forward. There is a new book available that I’ve contributed to: Lore of the Clans. You can listen to Eddy Webb talk about the development of my two chapters at the following links (the Followers of Set and the Tzimisce respectively).

I’ve done the math. I’ve been reading White Wolf books for longer than I have not been (yikes!). Since the beginning, if you crack open one of those books, you’ll find, in the opening credits, a little Special Thanks section. Contributors and other people involved are given thanks via little nick names. Even if I didn’t know the context of these inside jokes, the section always added a little warmth. So now, all these years later, of all the things I’ve done in this fictional world I’ve played in, I find this little bit tickles my inner teenage fan the most… Getting my own nickname.

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You can read the intro fiction to my Tzimisce chapter HERE.

Below, is the opening fiction to the Follower’s of Set chapter. Have you heard the legend of Haint Blue?

The Poison Tree

I’m rolling down the outer-roads, somewhere near the Okefenokee Swamp, edging on the static of “Black Snake Moan,” when the phantom signal comes in.

The car radio croons, “Mmm-mmm! Black snake crawlin’ in my room.” Then it says, “Zzzzzzzshhhhhhhhhh!” Then the music. Deep. Bottomless. Filled with the primordial blues of reptile sex. Music that taught people new ways to revel and kill. The music of Haint Blue.

The fuel needle does a heroin shiver over E. Sold my homicide badge to some kids for gas money three truck stops back. It was just the relic of a dead religion. My lost history. The cult killings—the gaudy headlines—crime scene photos—the screaming eyes of cadavers—the dead eyes of interviewees—the tendrils of conspiracy—the warnings from above—my lost vocation—lost marriage—lost. Empty context. An amphetamine stew of memories.

How long had I been chasing Haint Blue?

Static. Lost the music. My knuckles form a row of white tombstones on the wheel. I jerk left. Right. The music crackles back, filling my brainpan with sizzling eel afterbirth. His music.

Haint Blue. The Conjure Man. The walking mythos. Everyone knows somebody who knows somebody who heard his music live. Did a deal with the Devil at a crossroads, they say. His music shows you things, they say. His coffin-shaped guitar case holds secrets. For a trade, he’ll show you wonders. When the six-string priest plays, the dead dance.

In all of the twisted paths of the investigation—from prostitutes to deacons to drug dealers to government officials—the one constant was Haint Blue. Georgia truckers will vomit apocrypha about the rogue radio signal that comes in the late hours, Mesozoic lyrics you can’t quite make out. The sound virus.

No leads. Nothing left. All I had was the music. I don’t know how I know, but I know where to go. All roads lead to Haint Blue.

Just like that, he appears in the cyclopic glare of my last headlight. A dapper holocaust with his coffin guitar case. I’m out of the car, gun drawn. I aim for his heart. Gators bellow and eyes gleam in the dark off the road. Under the brim of his hat, Haint Blue smiles at me the way mushroom clouds smile at the sun. I drop the gun. Bullets are just an unnecessary rudeness.

All the terrible things I saw to find him, the things I did, just rungs down the ladder. Every clue teasing the ultimate secrets of the cosmos, like humming a song you can’t quite remember.

“More,” I say through the tears, “please show me more.”

He nods. His pale blue tie glows in the black, like a river of souls dribbling down his chin to his belt. He offers me a straight razor. I cut along, not across.

Frogs croak prayers to the void. The smell of rotting peat. The feverish crossroad pavement.

When did I lay down? That’s when I notice the bottle trees—small, dead trees with blue bottles stuck on the ends of the bare branches. Used to see them in yards, when I was a kid. Mama’d say some hoodoo about the bottles trapping roaming night spirits until the morning light destroyed them. The wind blows piping music through the stained glass branches.

A cold palm presses my mouth. Baptism tastes like unlucky pennies. “See you on the other side of Duat,” Haint whispers like a kindly psychopomp. Then he strangles his six strings down to revenant whale groans. He sings, but I can’t catch all the words.

“…I was angry with my foe—I told it not, my wrath did grow—and I watered it in fears—night and morning with my tears—and I sunned it with smiles—and with soft deceitful wiles—and it grew both day and night—till it bore an apple bright…”

The gators become crocodiles. The sky opens wide, showing the convoluted pantheon that is its teeth. The godmonster menagerie—all perched in the branches of the Poison Tree of Souls. Before the river of death carries me away, I hear the breaking of blue glass. Haint cackles, “Come out! Come out! Meet your new sibling.” Funny thing, as the bottles break, the mad piping does not quiet. It grows louder.

How to Kill Santa

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Finn remembers. The dark woods. The chair of bone and horn. He sat on Santa’s cold lap. The blue-black skin. Moon-glow eyes. The clotted beard. That distended belly that shook like things writhing in jelly.

May your holidays be weird. Want to make them weirder? Check out my story, “How to Kill Santa”, in Weird Winter Stories, an anthology featuring the characters of Sparrow and Crowe (from the audio drama Wormwood: A Serialized Mystery).

Norse draugr mythology meets Santa lore, preternatural parasites, and more! I’ve even made you a playlist to listen to while you read.

The night before Christmas is a long stretch of dark.

You can hide anything there.

Santa Draugr

Signed Books II: the Reckoning

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Elizabeth Báthory had a dwarf accomplice named Fickó.

That fact has nothing to do with the rest of this post. Books! Specifically, my novel! I recently sold a small box of them I stumbled upon, and they sold fast. In fact some people who contacted me were not able to get one. So, I’m going to do a second round of signed copies of my novel, Strangeness in the Proportion.

You too will smile as big as this happy reader…

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What do you get?

  • A physical copy of the book! All three dimensions (plus a bonus dimension). Look at that creepy cover by Christopher Shy.
  • Autographed, with anything else you’d like scrawled in it.
  • A genuine toe tag bookmark (never mind how I got them!).

The price (which includes shipping) is $25 to ship to the US and $45 to other countries (sorry, shipping nailed me last round). You can also buy the book cheaper and in electronic format (but sans signature and toe tag) at the link above.

I’ll accept payments through Paypal. If interested, email me at scrivnomancer@gmail.com (that’s not my paypal address, email me first) for details. I’ll get a shipment of the books in October, which means I should be able to have shipped to people before Halloween (a perfect time to read it!).

Want a taste of the novel? This is my short and sweet synopsis:

Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back…one piece at a time.

Want a deeper look? The dynamic duo at The Booked Podcast does a lovely review of it.

My Fiction In Review #1: Blood, Snow, and Sparrows

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Book of Dead Things

It’s a time of transition. A little lull. I’m rearranging my writing space, both physical and virtual. Retooling. Getting ready for future projects. I finally cleaned up and updated my Written Works page.

So I figure it’s a good time to dust off my wares and review what’s come before. Starting today, every day, I’ll set out a juicy sample, an excerpt and some commentary for each of my published and available works. Care to time travel with me via spilled ink?

Our first story takes us back to the beginning, 2007 (and some years prior), back to Twilight Tales.

Twilight TalesTwilight Tales was weekly genre reading series in Chicago. Every Monday, area writers gathered in the warm, dim light of the Red Lion pub to read their genre fiction to the gathered audience. It was a motley collection, all ages, all experience levels. A lot of writers shared their wisdom or cut their teeth here. The Red Lion (a British-style pub) was itself a character. Old and creaking, with a splendid beer garden with a tree, our Yggdrasil, growing impossibly out of all the buildings. It was on more than one haunted tour. Hell, this is the place that Captain America beat the crap out of Giant-Man/Ant-man. Sadly, the Red Lion was eventually torn down. I here tell it has since risen again in a new incarnation (though I haven’t been there yet).

Twilight Tales was where I honed my words. Reading to a live audiences teaches you storytelling lessons you don’t learn in any other way. I met fantastic people. I heard wonderfully bizarre stories. It was just the right place, the right time, and the right mix of folk. It was my sandbox and playground, and I miss it fiercely.

Twilight Tales takes us to The Book of Dead Things. Published by Twilight Tales Press, I had submitted a story to it (I forget what) and it was rejected. Later on, I read a different story at the open mic. Tina Jens (one of the editors) liked it so much she asked to include it.

Success! “Blood, Snow, and Sparrows” was my first professional sale in print. I wrote it in a grad school class. I’m looking at it now. This goes back far enough that I can cringe at parts and think Ugh…did I make that sentence? But we have to start somewhere. And it did earn me one of my favorite comments:

Joshua Alan Doetsch is not good. Joshua Alan Doetsch is darkly transcendent. It was so amazing it was like Ray Bradbury got high and started listening to Nine Inch Nails and decided to write about ‘the
Crow’.

You can pick it up in one of the few copies of The Book of Dead Things still floating about. You can also listen to the entire story, for free, as an audio read on the Psueodpod podcast.

Without further delay, here are the first few paragraphs (and a little mood music by way of the Psuedopod intro tune).

Blood, Snow, and Sparrows (an excerpt)

Desdemona used to trace the stars with her finger, connecting the dots, naming her own constellations.

I call upon her name.

Desdemona.

I call her name when I want to remember.

Desdemona—who gave me thirty-one birthdays when I had none. Desdemona—who laughed and made snow angels on rooftops because the snow there was cleanest, the closest to Heaven. Desdemona—who made an angel of snow and blood in the dirty street on the day I lost her.

I remember this, now, as Zeek struggles in my arms, anger and fear evacuating his body in crimson spurts, and my smile dislocates my jaw. Zeek with the shroud-eye, one eye glaucoma-clouded, said it was his evil eye, said he could hex a body with a stare, cast a pestilence. But, see, I knew better. I knew it was Zeek’s dirty needles that killed the kids. And the night collapses with primate shrieks, as Zeek tries to lift his bloody gun and…

Freeze. Too far. Backtrack.

Once upon a time, Desdemona Mercer giggled in frustration and joy and chucked her astronomy textbook off the roof we made love on. She connected the dots and named her own constellations, and when the winter wind came, we folded in on one another, seeing how close we could get in my sleeping bag. We spent hours seeing how close we could get.

Now, I stare in the cracked mirror, and I connect the track marks on my body, form constellations with them. I name each one. But then the memories cut too deep, and I give up on the angry stars burning in a pale Milky Way of collapsed veins, and I plunge the needle behind my eye and inject.

I count the bullets—one, two, three—and wonder how many good deeds it’ll take.

The Christopher Walken Tarot Deck

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My father is a magician. He does impossible things. He does it well enough that when I have a party, my friends ask, “Yeah…but will your dad be there?” Sometimes, I write and voice things for his shows. Once, I played the part of a ghost trapped in a bottle.

Most recently, I wrote up and recorded a bit where I play an animated drawing of Christopher Walken. Recently, I posted the crazy, five-card tarot deck I invented for the routine.

Here’s a recording of the trial-run performance of that routine. I think there’s some nuts and bolts we’ll tighten, shorten it up a bit, but it’s had a good maiden voyage with the audience.

I Can Do a Tarot In Five Cards

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So I’ve written and done voice work for a number of my dad’s magic show bits. Including my performance as a haunted playing card. I’ve recently written and recorded a voice bit for my dad’s latest show. That video is coming soon, but in the meantime, here’s a text and image sampling. For the routine, I invented a new tarot deck, consisting of only four cards. My sister, Danielle Doetsch, drew those cards

Forget Minor Arcana. Forget Major Arcana. This is the Super-Ultiamte-Delux-Ultra Arcana. Each of these five cards represents one of the basic, primal archetypes that has haunted man’s mind since he crawled out of the primordial ooze…

I. The Cyborg Whale

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See the hulking brute — half machine, half marine mammal, sent back in time to unleash leviathan carnage. This card suggests dual natures, diametrically opposed forces, the yin and the yang. This is the duplicitous edge of life and death that we all dance upon. Some days are cold, calculating, and pragmatic…and some days are eleven tons of rotting whale blubber.

II. The Creepy Doll

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See the frightful ragamuffin — the dead glass eyes, weirdness stitched into its tiny limbs. It only moves when you take your eyes off it. This card suggests a lurking presence, unexpected strife, upheaval. That detail we mistook as small and insignificant coming back to haunt us. This card also represents unexpected opportunity. You never know just what’s waiting around the corner…wielding your missing kitchen knife.

III. The Grinning Roadkill

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See the furry cadaver — flies buzzing, belly bloated, a putrid stench — and yet, the mournful decay of death reveals a big, toothy grin. This card suggests an involuntary change of circumstance, a transitory state, and destruction. But also, renewal. The maggots of redemption are always chewing. And there’s a wisdom to smiling when things seem at their worst.

IV. The Cannibal Lovers

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See the masticating sweethearts — I said masticating! — a ravenous romance, a gory picnic, one flesh. Where does one end and the other begin? This card suggests an irresistible attraction, hunger for life, the drawing together of opposites, and an ouroboric cycle unending. It is the affirmation that there is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.

V. The Flatulent Astronaut

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See the embarrassed explorer — trying to hold his breath, a gastric disaster, nowhere to go, there’s no escape from our inner demons. This card suggests a journey, delving heedlessly into the unknown, and our own folly turned against us. But sometimes we come face to face with what we perceive as our most loathsome qualities, only to feel relief in the end.

A Toe Tag From Me is Like a Valentine

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UPDATE: My copies of the book are sold out, but more can be bought HERE.

The last few weeks saw a lot of road trippin’. A visit home to my parents’ house turned up a forgotten box of copies of my novel, Strangeness in the Proportion. Behold!

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I will be moving soon and must shed the weight of as many earthly possessions as possible. That’s where you come in! I will be taking online orders for copies of the book. $20 will give you the following:

  • A physical copy of the book! All three dimensions (plus a bonus dimension). Look at that creepy cover by Christopher Shy.
  • Autographed, with anything else you’d like scrawled in it.
  • A genuine toe tag bookmark* (never mind how I got them!).
  • Shipping (if you live in some far flung place, we can talk about how much that’ll cost).

Want a taste of the novel? This is my short and sweet synopsis:

Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back…one piece at a time.

Want a deeper look? The dynamic duo at The Booked Podcast does a lovely review of it.

I’ll accept payments through Paypal. If interested, email me at scrivnomancer@gmail.com (that’s not my paypal address, email me first) for details. First come, first serve. Only a small handful of these.

*And If I already owe you a toe tag, that’s coming soon!

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