Altar: a Retrospective and Kickstarter Campaign

As you may know, our Kickstarter for a limited, signed, and numbered edition of Philip Fracassi’s Altar is underway. It’s worth taking a moment to share why this project is so important to me.

Philip Fracassi’s Altar is a near perfect story. When I first read it back in 2016, I was just emerging from my overlong BA in English into the world of genre fiction. I had subsisted on a diet of Shakespeare, Milton, and Cervantes for years. I wasn’t bored, but I was eager to explore. It wasn’t long before I came across Dunham Manor’s release of Altar.

Altar broke into my world like a rip in the fabric of time. It gave me a taste of the fiction I’d begin seeking with ever increasing determination. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it directed the course of my writing and publishing endeavors. I was so enamored that I wrote an essay on the thing in which I poorly articulate a point I’m going to boil down over the ensuing paragraphs.

Altar begins by placing us neatly into the perspective of a preteen boy. The world here is vividly colored with an adolescent’s excitement, confusion, and more than a little fear. Fracassi somehow manages to simplify the language of the narrative while retaining a sense of awe. Not ignorance, mind you, but awe; a staring-in-wonder at the magnificent machine of life, glimpsed behind the pastel parade of a simple day at the pool. And this awe, as fans of Altar know, foreshadows a greater awe beating at the core of all great cosmic horror.

I reread Altar along with the accompanying new story of this limited edition last week. Surprisingly, the emotions were still there, waiting for me to tread the old path once again: delight at Fracassi’s attention to detail, sadness that pervades the awakening of childhood to the realities of our dark and violent world, trembling outrage at the vicious brutality inflicted on the defenseless and the impotence of being trapped on the wrong side of the page, unable to do anything. And then horror. Oh, what horror.

And the new addition to this volume, an Altar story that secures a few loose ends of the many mysteries left at the end of the novella, seamlessly widens Fracassi’s universe—it feels as if he finished Altar and went without pause into the next tale instead of revisiting it years later.

Altar comes thrillingly close to crystalizing the essence of cosmic horror, transcending the limiting duality of genre and literary fiction with such fluidity that we forget that there are those who would separate the two at all. Combining wonder with fear, mingling childhood’s joys with the blood of adulthood, Altar is a microcosm inhabiting a macrocosm, a masterful portrait of the elements stirring within those of us who seek refuge in the books of great horror writers. This isn’t just another horror story. This is a masterpiece.

That’s why I’m so passionate about this publication. Aside from the brilliant art by Francois Vaillancourt, the introduction by John Langan, and all the other wonderful things compiled in this volume, the bare bones of this project, the words of Altar itself, are more than worth revisiting again and again.

While I do realize that $100 lies outside of many budgets during this tumultuous time, let me remind readers that a limited paperback is also offered in this campaign. Like the hardback, it will be singed, and feature in full color everything that the limited hardback will. We’re halfway to our budget, but there’s a ways to go! Please pledge to or share this project using the link below.

-Justin Burnett


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