horror

Readings: Hill, Faye

Now that I have moved and unpacked all my things, I am trying to get back into some sort of a routine. It’s harder than I thought it would be; for several days I could not even remember what things I used to do before the Month of Anxiety and the End of the World (aka March). What was the last book I read from start to finish?

It seems like I did not do any reading in March at all, but as I think back, I realize I did finish Joe Hill’s The Fireman in two or three days. In retrospect, it wasn’t a wise choice to read when my mental state was already not particularly steady. It’s big and on fire. People already refer to it as Hill’s magnum opus, which I suppose it is, but I don’t think it’s my favorite of his. It is very good, though. I remain a fan of N0S4A2 (as much as its title annoys me). But The Fireman will please you if you like your novels in high gear for many many pages. It’s out in May.

janesteeleAfterwards, a couple of books were picked up and then abandoned after a handful of pages, and then I read a memoir that was fine until it used the ‘t’ word to refer to a certain type of bar. It seems that its author is one of those gay men who remain largely ignorant of the fact that certain terms are no longer kosher to use (see also John Barrowman’s usage of the same word a few months ago).

And then I picked up something I did not expect to like. It did not seem like my type of book at all, but a number of people mentioned it was quite good, so I decided to give it a shot. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye is definitely delightful, smart, and witty. It is a reimagining of Jane Eyre, wherein Jane happens to be a serial killer (“Reader, I murdered him.”).  I never particularly liked Jane Eyre, to be honest. Maybe I have been waiting for this iteration.

 

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Short story Sunday, January 10th

I want to read more short fiction this year, and with that, I am resurrecting a series of posts that used to exist here for a brief second: Short Story Sunday. I am not going to write reviews of short stories. It is too easy to make your review seemingly longer than the story itself, and I am not looking to write long criticisms and dissect every paragraph. I’m just going to note a few really excellent short stories read that week, with links included if such exist. I have a lot of anthologies and collections that I bought and never read (or didn’t read completely), and there are a lot of digital magazines that publish great things.

If you ever sit around and think about where stories come from, or if you are suffering from a certain lack of inspiration, read Neil Gaiman’s introductions to his short story collections, Fragile Things and Smoke and Mirrors. I like him a great deal as a short form writer, more than I like him as a novelist, and he has an enchanting and wonderful way of portraying magic as hard work and vice versa.

I have read 10 short stories this week, and here are the the best of them (I am going to collapse the New Year long weekend into this week, since I missed the boat for 1/4):

Even In This Skin by A. C. Wise (Shimmer # 28, November 2015) – gorgeous story, with a gender-fluid component. I would very much like to read more things by A. C. Wise.

The next two are somewhat of a set, in that they are by the same author and are both alternate versions of queer history. The Heat Of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History by Sam J. Miller (Uncanny #2, January/February 2015) is a fantastical version of the Stonewall riots. Angel, Monster, Man (Nightmare #40, January 2016) is Miller’s short fiction take on the AIDS epidemic.

The Virgin Played Bass by Maria Dahvana Headley (Uncanny #8, January-February 2016). This one is a little longer, novelette-length. Headley is pure magic, and she combines seemingly unrelated parts of storytelling tradition in a way that is occasionally dark, or funny, but always incredibly vivid and brilliant. Her writing is just as good in novel form. I just finished her Queen of Kings and enjoyed it a lot.

Reading update: Stephen King’s Revival

In case you didn’t know, Stephen King has a new novel coming out tomorrow (November 11th). He is up to 54 or so books now, which means he has a separate ‘Bibliography’ page on Wikipedia. It also means it’s quite unlikely to find a reader who loves everything King has ever done.

I always say I like King in general. I like his mode of storytelling, his style, his imagination. I also really don’t like some of his books (*cough* Dreamcatcher *cough*). Gunslinger is still one of my favorite books, but I never finished the Dark Tower series because I could not get through the last three volumes.

revivalAnd now there is Revival. It’s a cool story. A young minister comes to a small town, befriends a kid named Jamie Morton. After a family tragedy, the minister delivers a sermon filled with loss of faith in god and is subsequently banished from the town. The novel follows Jamie Morton through his life. He meets the minister again. There is rock-n-roll, and drugs, and terrible dark things.

And yet, I plodded through this book. It might be that it was not dark or weird enough. It might be that the pacing was not to my liking. Whatever the reason, I was not along for the ride. That said, my friend, who was looking for a less terrifying read, liked it. We are just different King fans, I guess. Maybe I should go and finally read The Stand instead.

One interesting thing I noticed is how much of himself King puts in his novels, and in what ways. I’m not talking about meta-writing himself into books (see the later Dark Tower volumes), but more about having characters reflect his worldview and philosophy. In most cases, I don’t even know if his characters think and voice his opinions, but it feels like they do. There is a certain lack of subtlety and palpable desire to work some things out through fiction, especially in King’s later works. All writers do that, I think, but they do it in different ways at different times in their careers. The cool thing about King is that because he has so many novels out there, you can get a glimpse into his mind and decide which King you like best.

Re-reading Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

book_1_welcome_HCI am very attached to my graphic novel series. I re-read Transmet once a year. I have almost all Absolute Sandman books (ran out of money at one point). Unlike regular sci-fi and fantasy series, graphic series are the only ones I binge on. I came to Sandman pretty late, and I ended up reading the entirety of it in just a couple of weeks during one particularly boring graduate class (no, I didn’t fail). I am pretty sure I breathed and ate Sandman. It is almost entirely certain it gave me weird dreams.

And so for the last two days I binged on Locke & Key, which might be my favorite series at the moment. The last volume is out, so I could sit down and be disturbed and unsettled for two entire days, and that is a good thing.

I almost did not pick these books up because I didn’t particularly like the art. At least at first. I eventually got the first volume from the library purely because of Joe Hill. I was still riding the Joe Hill high after finishing his NOS4A2 (which, despite a somewhat gimmicky title, is an excellent horror novel). I figured I could get over the art if the story was good.

Which is exactly what happened. The next day, I went back to the library and checked out the rest of the volumes. And when I got to #5, I almost cried, because I had to wait for the end, and I didn’t think I could stand it.

alphaomegaI obviously survived that particular book trauma. Now that Alpha and Omega volume is out, I could once again sit down and swallow all of Locke & Key at once. The second time around it really hit me how brilliant this series was. Even the art. I like the art. I think it’s perfect for the story, it’s distinctive, it’s sharp. The characters are great. The entire thing is spooky, unsettling, traumatic, and just altogether astonishing.

/gushing off