THE CIPHER is Kathe Koja’s classic, award-winning horror novel: the story of Nicholas, a failed poet, and Nakota, his feral lover, who discover a strange hole in the storage room down the hall: “Black. Pure black and the sense of pulsation, especially when you look at it too closely, the sense of something not living but alive.”

At first it’s a curiosity, a joke – the Funhole. But then the experiments start. “Wouldn’t it be wild to go down there?” says Nakota. Nicholas says no—but from the first, they’re not in control. And the experiments turn to obsession, and violence, and a very final transformation for everyone who gets too close to the Funhole.

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The Cipher was the winner of the 1991 Bram Stoker Award as well as a Finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award, and was named one of io9’s Top 10 Debut Science Fiction Novels That Took the World By Storm.

Here’s The Cipher trailer, shot on location in a gritty industrial complex in Detroit:
Here’s Kathe’s video interview with the Lovecraft Ezine panel about The Cipher, writing, authors and their reputations, inspiration, and encouragement.
And be sure to check out Kathe’s interview with Jeff VanderMeer about The Cipher and weird fiction at

Kathe Koja is an award-winning writer whose novels range from horror to YA to historical. She creates immersive performance events with her ensemble, nerve.

“Combines intensely poetic language and lavish grotesqueries.” – BoingBoing
“This powerful first novel is as thought-provoking as it is horrifying.” – Publishers Weekly
“Kathe Koja is a poet … [T]he kind that prefers to read in seedy bars instead of universities, but a poet.” – The New York Review of Science Fiction
“Her 20-something characters are poverty-gagged ‘artists’ who exist in that demimonde of shitty jobs, squalid art galleries, and thrift stores; her settings are run-down studios, flat-beer bars, and dingy urban streets [a] long way from Castle Rock, Dunwich, or Stepford, that’s for sure.” – Too Much Horror Fiction
“Unforgettable … [The Cipher] takes you into the lives of the dark dreamers that crawl on the underbelly of art and culture.” – Locus
“[Kathe Koja] has been likened to Franz Kafka, Clive Barker, Don DeLillo, Marcel Proust  . . .” – Dark Echoes
“An ethereal rollercoaster ride from start to finish.” – Detroit Free Press
“[The Cipher] is a book that makes you sit up, pay attention, and jettison your moldy preconceptions … Utterly original.” – Fangoria
From Booklist:
Koja’s debut has yet to lose one iota of impact. It’s a marvel of bleak economy: Nicholas, going nowhere in his video-store-clerk job, discovers a foot-wide black vortex in an old storage room of his apartment building. His caustic sometime-lover, Nakota, christens it “the Funhole” and begins inserting experimental items: a jar of insects (they combine and mutate), a live mouse (it is ripped apart), a human hand from the morgue (it reanimates), and, finally, a video camera, which records a self-eviscerating figure of awe-inspiring dreadfulness—Koja only teases its description. Nakota becomes obsessed with the Funhole (a place of “blood and sex and revelation”) and is driven mad when it is Nicholas, not her, whose flesh becomes gloriously infected. The grungy, sweaty two-person drama, delivered in Nicholas’ vulgar ramble, widens to include additional viewers of the videotape who become fast new acolytes. Seemingly influenced equally by Clive Barker, David Cronenberg, and a particularly distasteful nightmare, this entry into the body-horror canon carries with it the kind of fatalism horror readers prize—it’s going to end badly, for sure, but just how badly?. . . Well worth rediscovering, if you’ve got the guts.

So there you have it, my friends. The Philip K Dick Award Storybundle includes Aestival Tide by Elizabeth Hand (PKD Finalist), Life by Gwyneth Jones (PKD Winner), The Cipher by Kathe Koja (PKD Finalist), Points of Departure by Pat Murphy (PKD Winner), Dark Seeker by K. W. Jeter (PKD Finalist), Summer of Love by Lisa Mason (PKD Finalist), Frontera by Lewis Shiner (PKD Finalist), Acts of Conscience by William Barton (PKD Special Citation), Maximum Ice by Kay Kenyon (PKD Finalist), Knight Moves by Walter Jon Williams (PKD Finalist), and Reclamation by Sarah Zettel (PKD Finalist).

The Philip K Dick Award Storybundle runs only until October 15. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Download yours today at and enjoy world-class, award-winning reading right now and into the holidays.