Sunday, June 22, 2008

Some Good Stuff

I've never read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (though it's definitely on my list of things-to-be-read-at-some-point). Somewhat more surprisingly, I've never seen the film Apocalypse Now, based on Conrad's story. But it's enough of a presence in pop culture that I understand to some degree the idea of the character of Kurtz. Enough so that I was able to enjoy the story "The Extraordinary Limits of Darkness" by Simon Clark, sort of a sequel to Heart of Darkness, touching on the Kurtz legend.

I'm a big fan of group books in comics form. I like Avengers, Fantastic Four, Teen Titans, and Justice League of America (at least as concepts) more than Spider-man or Batman, for example. I like the Scooby Gang in Buffy and Angel's investigative group. I think I'd like the Doc Savage stories, though I've never read them. I like the BPRD in Hellboy. All as a preface to say that I really enjoyed Tim Pratt's story, "Cup and Table," about a group of paranormal adventurers who might be seeking the Holy Grail, or maybe looking for God himself, for varying reasons. It's a great little short story, which would make a terrific movie (easily adaptable into a longer form, I'm thinking). In the twenty minutes it took me to read this, I found myself wishing for an expanded novel about this group of characters.

One of the benefits of reading short stories like this is encountering new writers, and then re-encountering (is that even a word?) them again later. I've found a few writers I've really come to like through doing this; Michael Marshall Smith comes immediately to mind (check out some of his short fiction -- you won't be disappointed). I just came across a story by another name I recognized: Nicholas Royle. All I know about him is that I've read other short stories by him which really struck a chord. This one, "The Churring," was a bit more subtle than others, but the writing is masterful. In a fairly short number of pages, he manages to introduce a fairly large number of characters, all with unique personalities and habits. Great writing.


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