Letters From the Labyrinth 353
Operation Walkabout and Other Revelations
Good morning. I’m Brian Keene and this is the 353rd issue of Letters From the Labyrinth — a weekly newsletter for fans, friends, and family. In case you don’t live perpetually online, that thing I’ve been dropping hints about here the past year, the secret project Christopher Golden and I were working on that I gave the codename OPERATION WALKABOUT?
I am pleased to finally be able to announce THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT: TALES OF STEPHEN KING'S THE STAND, edited by myself and Christopher Golden -- an original short story anthology based on the highly influential and seminal work of apocalyptic fiction and good versus evil; featuring an introduction from Stephen King himself and new fiction from a world ravaged by the virus "Captain Trips" and the minds of Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, Richard Chizmar, S. A. Cosby, Tananarive Due, Alma Katsu, Caroline Kepnes, Michael Koryta, Joe R. Lansdale, Maurice Broaddus and Wayne Brady, Bryan Smith, Somer Canon, Hailey Piper, Jonathan Janz, V. Castro, Bev Vincent, David J. Schow, Gabino Iglesias, Meg Gardiner, Usman T. Malik, Cynthia Pelayo, Catriona Ward and many, many, many others. (Chris and I had the idea to make the anthology as big as the novel — I’m not going to list everyone because I want you guys to have more surprises between now and the release).
Thanks to Stephen King for entrusting Chris and I with this task. Honestly, we didn’t think you’d say “Do it!” nor did we think you’d say it so enthusiastically. You rock.
Now, since this announcement there have been many questions. With the understanding that for most of this past year, Chris and I have been working behind the scenes to make this happen, there is still a lot that we can’t say. But I will try to answer some of the more common questions here — from one Constant Reader to the other Constant Readers — and at more length than I have on social media.
Q: Who is the publisher?
A: Gallery Books - a division of Simon & Schuster
Q: When will the book be available?
A: Too early to give a firm date. My best guess is that it will be up for preorder around this time next year, with an early 2025 release date? But that is only my guess and should not be taken as gospel. Could be earlier. Could be later.
Q: If it won’t be out until then, why announce it now, you jerks?
A: Because it’s been a crap year for many, and we thought perhaps horror fans and Stephen King fans could use a little bit of good news to brighten their days. Our apologies for trying to make things better.
Q: Will there be foreign language editions?
A: Almost certainly.
Q: Will there be a signed, limited edition?
A: It is too early to say. Keep in mind, we have not released the full list of contributors, but this is going to be a BIG book. Signature sheets would be a massive undertaking, as would production and printing costs. There are several small presses who could handle that. But that’s not something that is currently in the works. It has taken us most of the year just to get the line-up and the initial contracts sorted out.
Q: Are you open to submissions?
A: We are not. And sadly, for those of you who sent us stuff yesterday when you saw this announcement, those were all deleted unread, for legal reasons. Our sincere apologies.
Q: Will you and Chris have stories in the book?
A: No. Like we did with THE DRIVE-IN: MULTIPLEX, Chris and I don’t want to take up slots and space that could go to one of our peers. As we did on that anthology, we will simply serve as editors, and will guide and shape the overall project. Sure, we’d kill to write a story set in the world of THE STAND, but that wouldn’t be the right thing to do.
Q: Wayne Brady the comedian?
A: Yes, Wayne Brady the comedian.
I think that takes care of most of the common questions. And now you all know why I’ve been singing “Among the Living” by Anthrax for most of 2023…
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Let me take a minute here to brag about my wife, Mary SanGiovanni, who has written a Shanna the She-Devil vs Marvel Zombies comic for Marvel that is brutal, heartbreaking, and pulls-no-punches. If you miss the late-Bronze Age Marvel (stuff like Miller’s Daredevil and the Moench/Sienkiewicz Moon Knight and particularly Bruce Jones criminally-underrated Ka-Zar the Savage, then this story will absolutely appeal to you.
It appears in issue 4 of Marvel Zombies Black, White & Blood, which is available to preorder now from your local comic book shop. If you don’t have a local comic book shop, you can also order it from here and have it shipped directly to your home.
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The Kickstarter for THE MAP OF LOST PLACES had a great first week. I’ll be writing a brand-new LeHorn’s Hollow story for this book. (For new readers, LeHorn’s Hollow is the fictional setting for my novels DARK HOLLOW and GHOST WALK, as well as a portion of THE SEVEN and about a dozen short stories).
They’ve added an Add-On, as well — a fifteen minute Zoom call with me. Just you and me and we can talk about whatever you want: writing, business, life advice, geek out over things together — whatever you like. There are only five of those calls available, so hop on it if you want one.
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And hey, speaking of GHOST WALK, Levi Stoltzfus is back!
DEATHREALM: SPIRITS is a new anthology on sale in paperback and for Kindle, and it features a brand new Levi Stoltzfus story called "Bloody Roots", which Kirkus calls "a fun, inventive twist on classic haunted-house stories"
Deathrealm was one of those magazines back in the pre-Internet days that I always submitted to and never got an acceptance (because I wasn’t good enough yet), so placing a story in this anthology was truly a Bucket List item for me.
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Currently Reading: Static and Other Stories by Jason Nickey and Trail of Blood by John Bruni
Currently Listening: Brian Keene Radio
Currently Watching: Survivor season 45 (Paramount Plus), Ash vs Evil Dead (Hulu), The Tank (Hulu), and Family Guy (Hulu)
Currently Playing: Fallout 76 (XBox) and Clash of Clans
Still think this season of Survivor may have some of the worst cast prescreening in the show’s history. Is there anyone who doesn’t want to quit playing at this point? Do none of them need a million dollars?
The Tank was… something to watch for two hours and then immediately forget about. It’s not a bad film. It’s just very, very bland and paint-by-numbers.
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Last Sunday, while Mary and I were on our way home from Voidcon, my 15-year old called me with some great news. He'd finally worked up the nerve to ask out the girl he likes and they were going to Homecoming, which was taking place one week later -- yesterday -- the day I was supposed to be appearing at Brownsville Screams.
I immediately reached out to Paul Synuria, who organized the Brownsville event, and told him I would have to cancel my appearance. I felt like a dick, doing this, given that I was Paul's headliner, but I also knew that Paul would understand. You see, Paul has been reading me for a very long time. He's one of those O.G. readers from back in the day -- someone whom I met because they were reading my books, but who over time, became someone I considered a friend, rather than a "fan". (See also Mark Sylva, Tod Clark, Eddie Coulter, H Michael Casper, Valerie Botchlet, Paul Legerski, Deb Kuhn, Stephen McDornell, Jamie LaChance and pretty much all the rest of the gang from the old Brian Keene Forum of the early 2000s). And because Paul was a friend, he knew immediately why not missing this Homecoming dance was more important to me than it might be for some other fathers.
But it occurs to me that while Paul and some of the other folks mentioned above know why, the public doesn't know why, and so maybe it's time I explain that. And I will try to do so in a way that doesn't disparage anyone involved.
Everyone knows the story of how THE RISING came about -- in the late 1990s, I was working on a zombie novel called CABIN FEVER. At the time, my oldest son, lived in New Jersey with his mother (my first ex-wife). One winter, I was driving through a blizzard to visit them. The governor had declared a State of Emergency, and the National Guard was out helping stranded motorists. They told me to get off the road and I promised them I would. And once they were in my rearview I kept going. I thought to myself "Well, armed troops didn't stop me from seeing my son. What would? Zombies? No, but that would be a cool story!"
And so, CABIN FEVER got majorly retooled into a novel called MORE THAN INFINITY, which I sold to Delirium Books (for hardcover rights) and -- with Richard Laymon's kind help -- to Leisure Books (in paperback), and it was published as THE RISING. (And many years later, the idea for CABIN FEVER got turned into my novel ENTOMBED).
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Except that wasn't all to the story.
My first ex-wife ended up dating a guy who was... let's say "controlling". He was subtle at first, and neither she nor my son saw it. Neither did I, given that I lived 3 hours away in Pennsylvania. While THE RISING was going through it's final draft, the guy abruptly moved my son and his mother out of New Jersey. I didn't know where. Nobody knew where. He made them cut ties. That chapter of THE RISING that's just Jim's letter to Danny? This is where that came from, and I wrote it in the final draft. I didn’t know where my son was, but I never stopped looking for him.
Things stayed that way until my oldest son turned 18, and he and his mother managed to free themselves of the guy, and my son tracked me down while I was still trying to track him down. And he's been back in my life ever since, and I am grateful for that every day, and I don't bare his mother any ill will because we were all young and how could she have known and she did the best she could for our boy.
And the guy?
He was dealt with.
My point is, it hit me when my youngest son told me he got a Homecoming date -- there's going to be a lot of stuff like this over the next two years. Homecoming and prom and driving and college applications and such. I missed all of this stuff with my oldest son. I don't intend to miss it with my youngest. So, I canceled my appearance at Brownsville. And I'm not going to be attending BizarroCon for the same reason. If you dig that, cool. If you don't, well, there's plenty of other writers you can read instead.
That means there are only two more signings this year.
Friday, November 3 and Saturday, November 4 at Barnes & Noble 5501 West Broad St Richmond VA 23220
Sunday, November 5 from noon to 6:00 PM at Lovedraft's Brewing Company in Mechanicsburg, PA
And then? Well, then I intend to drastically cut back on signings and appearances for the next three years. I'm not stopping them altogether -- there are still things I need to do for business (like StokerCon) and for Scares That Care (like our two AuthorCon events next year). But the way I've been doing it for the past 25 years? That's gotta end. I'll pick it up again after my youngest goes to college. Until then, a reminder that you can always get signed and personalized books directly from me here. I ship anywhere in the world, and am happy to send them to you and sign them however you want.
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Saturday evening now, as I write this section, and my youngest son is at the Homecoming dance right now. His mom and I helped him with his suit and I helped him with his tie and taught him how to put on cologne without overdoing it. Then we met up with his date and her parents. They seem like very nice people upon first impression, and his date was wonderful — funny, smart, and charming. His mom and I drove them to the venue and couldn’t help but eavesdrop as they chatted in the backseat, and it was remarkable how easy and relaxed they are with each other. All of his nervous energy just evaporated. Then, we dropped them off and drove back to his mom’s and I got in my car and drove home, where I am now typing this and marveling over the fact that my youngest is no longer a little boy. He’s a young man.
And yeah, I made the right decision about this weekend.
I am so very proud of both of my sons and the remarkable young men they have become. And I am also very proud of my step-daughter, Ada, and the remarkable young woman she has become. And my surrogate son, Mike Lombardo, and the remarkable young man he has become.
I am full of pride and love right now. But not whiskey, because I have to drive later on tonight to pick him up after the dance. But that’s okay.
Whiskey is nice, but pride and love are better, and more warming.
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And that does it for this week. Thanks, as always, for reading and sharing your Sunday morning with me. I appreciate all of you, and I’ll see you back here next week.