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Showing posts from December, 2017

Alive in 2017

As a long, strange year comes to a close, I guess the big emotion I have right now is simple gratitude. I got a bunch of stories published this year, from way back in February with "Killing the First Gods," in the A Book of Blasphemous Words anthology to "Promontory" in the fantastic A Breath in the Sky anthology, to "The Boy in the Picture" and "Implicate Order," in Grievous Angel and Lamplight Magazine respectively. I've never left a year feeling more certain of my dedication of time, emotional energy, and creativity to the act of writing than this year. I don't know what 2018 will bring in terms of my stories but I can't help but feel a degree of cautious optimism.
I feel optimistic perhaps because I see how much talent is out there producing the kind of fiction I love reading. It is not possible to list all of the writers active out there right now without feeling I'm slighting someone so I'll just say that if you like the…

Print Copy of Lamplight Volume 6 Issue 2 now available!

The print version of Lamplight Volume 6 Issue 2 is now available for order! This magazine includes my horror story, "Implicate Order," as well as fantastic stories from KL Pereira, Sarah Read, Haleh Agar, and many others. Maria Haskins, author of Dark Flash 1 and 2, said that the volume is a "must-read" and that my story is a "spine-tingling slow burn."

Print copy of Lamplight Volume 6 Issue 2 
To mark the print version's release, I've put together a few things from my writer's notebook that helped shape this story.

First are a few images used as reference for the story that I think are wonderful in their own right: 

Here are few pictures I took on Nantucket near Long Pond in 2016. The loneliness of these images inspired the atmosphere of the story. 

Finally, I put together playlists for my stories while writing them and these songs are a few that seemed to evoke either the atmosphere or emotions of the story. PJ Harvey. "Rid of Me." Ri…

What I Read in 2017

The third in my series of year-end lists is literature. As in past years, I've divided this post into two categories: Novels and short stories. Each of these stories made 2017 just a bit brighter for me and I hope this list includes at least a writer or two new to you.

I Wish I was You by SP Miskowski: This was the subject of a review earlier this year. The way I feel about this novel, the tragedy of a talented person crippled by anger and regret, transformed into a monstrous avatar of wrath, has not really left me. Beyond the perfection of its prose and its preternatural subject matter, I feel like this is one of the best evocations of the mid-nineties I've seen published. There's something about this book that lingers with me long past the concerns of its plot and characters. I guess what I'm trying to say is this work moved me. 2017 would have been a lot dimmer if I hadn't read this work.New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson: Robinson writes next-level sp…

What I Watched in 2017

On to movies. Overall, 2017 was a great year for speculative movies. Three above average MCU movies, a bunch of interesting reboots, and a Star Wars movie makes for a decent period to be an SFF fan. Correspondingly, I ended up seeing relatively fewer non-SFF movies this year despite there being several (Baby Driver, Wind River) that I really do want to see. 
Below are my picks for the movies of the year.

#1: Dunkirk. No real surprise there. I felt this was basically the movie of the year in July and little transpired between then and now to change my mind. Essentially this is a war movie built around a complicated structure weaving three disparate threads into one complete narrative. I'm not someone who thinks all war-movies are anti-war simply by virtue of showing the terrible fates of young men. This movie, for example, strikes a bleak and, at times despairing tone, to bring the drama of sacrifice on the beach of Dunkirk to its most poignant expression. This is a movie of pure ac…

What I Listened to in 2017

Every year, I jot down my favorite albums, movies, and books. This was a great year for music and below are the albums that meant the most to me. In other words, these are the albums I listened to the most that came out this year and why you might like them too. 
American Dream by LCD Soundsystem. LCD Soundsystem is a band lurking on the fringe of my awareness for many years. A mix of casual indie drone and dance music, this band struck me as something to appreciate in theory more than practice. That changes with this album. Apparently the product of a specific request by the late David Bowie, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem put together this collection to reflect what happened last year and this. The results are staggering. I think what impressed me first is the degree of FREEDOM in this album. The happy hybrid between indie rock noise and dance music grooves produces one epic and heart-rending moment after another. This didn't stop being my favorite album of the year from the s…

Themes of The Last Jedi

Waiting for the opening crawl for Episode VIII, I thought about what I wanted The Last Jedi to include. What stuck in my head was I wanted to 'learn something.' I think I assumed there would be plenty of action, daring rescues, a bit of humor and amazing spectacles. (First SPOILER among many to follow - there are) But, I ask a bit more from movies like Star Wars. As foolish as this perhaps sounds, I wanted this movie to always be about something. More than Rey's parentage or the mystery of Snoke, I wanted some greater message from the experience. 

So what did I learn? Towards the end of the movie, Rose prevents Finn from sacrificing his life (most likely in vain). Catching up with her, Finn asks her why. Rose's reply, "to save what I love," stuck with me. In ways both big and small, this movie invested a lot of energy into describing and elaborating upon that message. The heroes are never more heroic than when they are looking to rescue each other and never mo…

Story-notes for "Implicate Order"

In 2016, my wife and I took a short vacation in Nantucket. I'd never been to the island and we were looking for a quick getaway during one of my school vacation weeks. As I joked with friends afterwards, Nantucket was 'fine.' Everything about it was fine. The food was fine. The weather was fine. The views from its beaches were obviously fine. It did feel a bit like a Martha Stewart Theme Park but that's what I expected going there and wasn't much disappointed to find that confirmed. 
There was, however, one moment that stuck with me. After renting a car, Lauren and I took a tour around as much of the island as we could. We reached the extreme western edge of Nantucket and pulled over to take in this wide stretch of marshy lake called Long Pond. While there I noticed a scrap of black trash bag caught in some reeds, flapping in this solemn, almost beckoning way. And that was it. I had the beginnings of a story. 
Read "Implicate Order:" E-Issue: (Apokrupha, Am…

Morgan Crooks 2017 Awards Eligibility Post

The end of December seems like a great time to express my gratitude for all the stories I've seen published in 2017. So, in order of appearance, here a few stories you could track down and read from me. If you were considering such a rash action.

Killing the First Gods. The Book of Blasphemous Words published by A Murder of Storytellers (January 2017). My contribution is a small tale of a woman living in the Upper Paleolithic clawing for survival visited by a ghost of one of her dead gods.

Promontory. A Breath From the Sky published by Martian Migraine Press (August 2017). A college president nears retirement from his position and his role as an agent of alien forces. He struggles to maintain his ideals in the face of certain doom and relentless suffering. Upbeat:) 

Machinery of Ghosts. The Year's Best Transhuman SF published by Gehenna and Hinnom Books (November 2017). Most of my stories this year dealt with loss and warfare in some way. This tale concerns a UN agent sent into a…

Story announcement for "Implicate Order"

I am proud to announce my horror story, "Implicate Order" appears in the new issue of Lamplight Magazine (scroll down to Volume Six Issue Two). In the aftermath of a distant relative's funeral, a young boy learns unpleasant facts about the world's hidden ecologies. Of all of the stories I've written, I think this may be one of my favorites. I hope to post sometime this week story-notes on writing this piece.

"Implicate Order" appears along side staggering stories from writers KL Pereira, Sarah Reed, Noelle Henneman, and Haleh Agar. There is also a classic story from the Dark Fantasy writer Francis Stevens. I am humbled to have this story appear alongside such illustrious company. Thank you Catherine Grant and the rest of the Lamplight team for choosing this story and for doing an amazing job putting Issue 6.2 together.

How to read e-issue:
Purchase e-issue directly from ApokruphaPurchase e-issue from AmazonPurchase e-issue from Smashmouth
How to read paper…

Non-Spoiler Review of Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi

There are some albums I buy that lift me off the floor the second I hear two or three songs, and compel daily repeat listens until I exhaust every ounce of interest I ever had in them. There are other albums I feel sort of meh about initially which grow on me over time until they become something indispensable.

What I'm trying to get at is there are some works of art that burn like incredibly bright fireworks only to vanish utterly and then there are works with enduring value. One side of ledger you have Offspring's "Smash" which I absolutely adored in 1994 and can safely say I've never listened to once since. On the other you have PJ Harvey's "To Bring You My Love" which I put on at least once every month. What's the difference?

I think there is a certain type of art that leans hard on the spectacle, the easy and cheap emotional high requiring little deep investment of emotion for a pay off. Another type of artist is willing to sacrifice a bit …

Tiers of Speculation

Earlier this year I finished reading Liu Cixin's Dreams of Forgotten Earth series. It struck me that a trilogy that began as a techno-thriller concerning a message from outer-space quickly morphed into a space-opera set within the solar system, and then by the third book changed to a mind-bending description of the end of the universe. Part of Liu Cixin's gift as a writer is using the plausible speculations to plow ever deeper into the unknown. This is not a series that can be read out of order, as each book lays the groundwork for what comes after. 
Which got me thinking. How do we classify different types of speculative fiction?

I'd like to propose an alternate way of thinking about genre fiction: tiers of vocabulary. This idea is, in part, inspired by how language is approached in the field of education. When writing a lesson or developing a curriculum, an educator will consider what words a prospective student may need in order to access the lesson and learn the knowled…

Story-notes for "What Little We Know"

"What Little We Know," started life with these two sentences: "A young man falls in love with a statue who he believes saved his life. He sacrificed everything to save and protect it in return." This synopsis is fairly typical, by the way, for my story ideas. One or two sentences about an image or concept I can't shake out of my head. There was something in this idea I felt interested me, especially after reading Thomas Ligotti's "The Medusa," which I found very inspiring for writing a certain type of 'cozy gothic.' Like the myth of Set's Coffin, the Medusa illustrates the dread of knowing someone is walking into a trap made bespoke for them. I already envisioned the statue as a monster, as something predatory.

The idea sat unused for about half a year until the Spring of 2016. I researched a few ideas concerning statues and monsters which is when the egregoi and Atlantis stuff started to accrete around the edges. I finished a draft and…

"What Little We Know" now available!

Fantasia Divinity Magazine has released their December issue and I'm in it! My story, "What Little We Know," concerns a hidden glen in Upstate New York, two star-crossed lovers, and a carnivorous statue. I'd like to thank Madeline L. Stout, Amber M. Simpson and the rest of the team at Fantasia for choosing this story and giving it such a great home. Having read the other stories in the magazine, I can say the entire issue is terrific.

Free to read (scroll to the last story): December 2017 Issue of Fantasia Divinity MagazinePurchase a copy of magazine: To be updated once available 
I hope to release some story-notes to go along with this story, mostly concerning my process in developing the story from a very different idea into what it is presently.

Story-notes for "Machinery of Ghosts"

Gehenna and Hinnom's "Year's Best Transhuman SF" anthology is now available! This awesome collection happens to include my story "Machinery of Ghosts" which has a bit of an involved back-story. Here are a few notes on its inspirations as a story and its development over the years. 

I wrote this story more than a decade ago while working as a night shift guard in downtown Boston. Twice every night I had to leave my desk in the front lobby, take an elevator to the top floor, and walk all the way back down to that lobby. To make sure guards completed their rounds, each floor had two sensor stations that I had to check into with a black metal wand. For the most part, I didn't mind this part of the job. The upper floors provided a nice view of the city and it was interesting checking up on the various companies in the building. I did, however, mind the fifth floor.

The fifth floor was in the process of being remodeled when I worked at the building. There we…

"Machinery of Ghosts," is now available!

Gehenna and Hinnom's "Year's Best Transhuman SF" anthology is now available! This awesome collection just so happens to include my story "Machinery of Ghosts," a story set on an abandoned space station years after a traumatic, system-wide nanological war. Long after peace has been declared, a different sort of war endures within the station, one threatening to claim the station and everyone inside of it.
Purchase "Year's Best Transhuman SF" paperbackPurchase "Year's Best Transhuman SF" e-book I am so grateful to C.P. Dunphey and the entire team at Gehenna and Hinnom for choosing my story for this collection. Seeing it along side such excellent authors as Julie Novakova, Jeremy Szal, and Sheldon Woodbury is an amazing honor. 
Read Gehenna and Hinnom's press releaseI will release story notes for "Machinery of Ghosts" in the next few days, so stay tuned!