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Showing posts from 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. Bone Necklaces by Morgan Crooks (2017) 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 s

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 Ha

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. Novels: 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 ne

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.  "Chasm" by Morgan Crooks (2017) 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 Dunki

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.  Swallowed in Leaves by Morgan Crooks (2017) 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 di

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.  Rose Zico and Finn in Canto Bight. 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 th

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.  "Denise" by Zhang Jingna (2010) 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 sto

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

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 Apokrupha Purchase e-issue from Amazon   Purchase e-issue from Smashmouth

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 sacrif

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.  Petroglyphs by Morgan Crooks (2017) 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

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

"What Little We Know" now available!

Stone God by Morgan Crooks (2017) 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 Magazine Purchase 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.  Hugo Station by Morgan Crooks (2012) 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 bein

"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" paperback Purchase "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 release I will release story notes for "Machinery of Ghosts" in the next few days, so stay tuned!

Arisia Panel Announcements for 2018

Arisia 2018 Panels have been announced and it looks like I'm going to be on a bunch in 2018. Go me! Arisia, if you don't know, is a small fan-run, fan-centered annual SFF convention in Boston. I've had incredible experiences in the past taking part in panels on literature, media, gaming, and science.  Two of the panels, "Writing Horror, the Occult, and the Macabre" and "Emotional Impact — How to Make Readers Care," are the first writing panels I've been invited to. I'm not claiming mastery in either but with a few stories under my belt I hope I have a few useful things to share. I'm also on the "2017: The Year in Stephen King" panel which was my reach goal for the year. I count myself as an enormous fan of King's oeuvre and this has certainly been a banner year for the author from Bangor. From television series based on his work (Delores Claiborne and The Mist) to a pair of movies (one reportedly terrible and on

"The Ferry Back" available through Collateral Journal

Issue 2.1 went live today over at Collateral Journal and my flash story, " The Ferry Back ," is available for reading! I wrote this story years ago as a part of a writing challenge. The professor of my last graduate class plopped a bag of odds and ends on the table in front of us, gave a moment to choose an item before giving us twenty minutes to write something about it. The object described in this story, a small white patch of the Niagara Ferry, somehow seemed from the same era as the Vietnam war. The resulting story, while having very little connection to any actual event in my life, nevertheless feels like a summation of a certain portion of my childhood. Growing up I always had this sense what my father and my grandfather experienced in the wars they fought were still very much happening. Like these conflicts never really ended but went on and on and on. This story deserved a great home and I'm pleased to see it offered along side the other tremendous stor

What is the Cosmic Weird?

"So, what is Cosmic Weird?" said Lance Newblood of the Rocket Legionnaires, twisting the control yoke of his YD-3000 combat vehicle to the left. "Is it something new or simply nostalgia?" Twin neon spirals of anti-ship rockets blazed past, close enough he could have spit on them. If he dared, that is, open his cockpit to the cold embrace of vacuum. "Cosmic Weird is science fiction, a sub-genre within Space Opera," replied Commander Athena Madison over the staticy commline. Encased in her famous crimson survival mesh, she weaved without effort between the combat droids of the Tethyan Hierarchy, the control fields of her suit interacting with separate Eisentein frames to propell her forward, backward, and sideways with shocking ease. Very little of this suit made sense to Lance or any other reputable scientist, but it worked. In a universe filled with implacable and deadly foes like the Hierarchy, the government could be forgiven for overlooking a few a

Cover and Table of Contents for "Transhuman SF"

Gehenna and Hinnom has released the cover and table of contents for their " Transhuman SF " anthology which just so happens to include my story "Machinery of Ghosts." Could you check out this cover for a second? Total sci fi awesomeness! The presale for the digital version goes out Nov. 15th and both book and e-book will be available for purchase Nov. 30th.  Awesome cover to Year's Best Transhuman SF 2017 Anthology In any case, my story is about a long is a SF thriller set in a decaying space station in the grip of a nano-technological cold war. Thank you again to C.P. Dunphey for giving this story the perfect home! Expect a few more words about the story once pre-orders are available as this story has a bit of a back story attached to it. November promises to be a busy month as I also have a flash piece appearing in Collateral Journal, an online magazine devoted to exploring the consequences of war outside of battlegrounds. My story, "The Ferry

Sequels, Reboots, and Other Facsimiles

At some point in between catching up with The Orville, I paused to watch the new Star Trek television series. It occurred to me that while I enjoyed both series, it's fair to say they are simply two branches of the same tree. Namely the great and spreading arbor that is the Star Trek universe. It interested me that although The Orville is clearly meant as a shameless homage (rip-off?) of Star Trek, its use of certain classically Trekian tropes like the legal struggle over personhood and what it means to be human struck a more immediate and familiar tone than anything I've seen in Discovery so far. And yet, I wouldn't say I enjoy The Orville more than Discovery, in fact far from it. Orville is a decent amount of fun, but Discovery feels like the genuine and sincere look at what made Star Trek Star Trek that Enterprise always wanted to be.  We live in an age of facsimiles. Facsimile food. Facsimile presidents. Facsimile art. In part, this isn't new. No matter h

Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 is not as indispensable as its predecessor Blade Runner. It is better than that almost anything else I've seen this year and a sincere redrafting of the original. What was great about Deckard's hunt for rogue androids in 1982 is updated here, explored in more detail or juxtaposed with other ideas. This is not simply a reboot or a redo. It is a child of the original movie. It shares creative DNA with its ancestor mixed with enough inevitable mutations to be a distinct and separate expression. The plot here is wrapped in several layers of spoiler-bait. An replicant cop, K (short for KD9-3.7 )   goes to retire a rogue android and discovers a secret literally buried for decades. A secret that pushes him to reconsider his own existence. Let's talk first about why I think a lover of movies might want to see this film. Ryan Gosling's work here is top-notch and his role in the film, as a questioner and thinking being in the grip of an existential crisi