It has been ten years since The Dark Verse podcast was begun by a man known to the public as M. Amanuensis Sharkchild. Each of the 111 episodes features a story written by Sharkchild himself, but the author had always wanted to do more. He decided that he would take those first 26 stories from the first year of broadcasting and publish them in a collectible volume so that his listeners could revisit his stories anytime they wished.
Sharkchild used his own funds and worked together with his friend and artist, John F. Stifter to create a book as beautiful and harrowing as the imagery of the stories it contained. He personally chose the materials, the thickness of the pages, the binding coloration, and the internal foils for that first volume and for each of the two volumes that followed. And now, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, volume four of The Dark Verse is on its way.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Sharkchild to discuss his stories and the process by which these amazing volumes enter the world.
“I was always in my imagination as a child,” the author told me. “I never minded sitting in the car for an eight hour car ride! I could sit in the seat, listen to my music, and just be inside my own head. I was always drawn to the darker side of things. If I had the choice to play a good guy or a bad guy, I’d always choose the bad guy because they were always so interesting to me.”
That dark side is present in each of the tales which he describes as “fantastical horror.” It is a fitting label for Sharkchild’s fiction with his obvious Lovecraftian influences and the strange, atmospheric details he weaves together to create visceral reactions in his readers and listeners. Walls crawl, flesh sags, and beasts of indeterminate origin creep within the shadows to rend the flesh of the unsuspecting.
Each story is enhanced by Stifter’s densely detailed illustrations. There is an immense depth to each piece of artwork, and each time you gaze upon them you will inevitably find shadows that you hadn’t noticed before and details you missed. It’s enough to give the unnerving sensation that perhaps the illustration actually changed since the last time you saw it.
“In the first volume, he had 26 separate small sculptures, one for each story,as well as one for the endsheets that he would use for the artwork, turning them different directions to get different shadowed areas,” Sharkchild explained, laughing. “I would tell him he could just draw something and he’d always respond, ‘I can’t!'”
Whatever the process, the artwork is brilliant and adds an additional layer of entertainment to Sharkchild’s storytelling.
If everything goes as planned, the fourth volume of The Dark Verse will release in April 2018, and while the Kickstarter campaign has already finished, there is still time to get in on some of the awesome rewards offered during the the initial fundraising.
If you’d like to take part, all you have to do is visit the project’s Pledgemanager page. An extension of Kickstarter, Pledge Manager allows for those who missed certain campaigns to still take part in donating, and also allows those who have donated previously to upgrade the perks they receive in an a la carte fashion.
The books and the stories they contain are perfect reading for a stormy night with carefully measured terror built in to create a healthy level of paranoia at the unexplained noises in your home that seem to amplify while reading them. Volumes one through three are available to purchase from Sharkchild’s official website where you’ll also find the archives of his podcasts to keep you entertained while waiting for your books to arrive.