Sidereal ramblings

Friday, July 04, 2008

Finishing Up

I'm not abandoning my short story per day reading for the summer, but I have read the last three stories in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror volume that I started with.

I'm not sure what the technical definition of a "novella" is (I'm sure K or Stix could help me out here), though I know it has to do with length. Ysabeau S. Wilce's story "The Lineaments of Gratified Desire" is described in the introduction as a novella. It's written in a style I wouldn't normally enjoy, but somehow it seemed to work for this story. Maybe it's just that as I started it, I realized it was quite long, and I was going to have to get through it, so I might as well enjoy it. Whatever. She writes in a kind of baroque, wordy style, which also includes a lot of offhand references and modern slangy words. I don't know quite how to describe it. Maybe a fairly random example will help:

"Ahead, a big red door, well barred and bolted, but surely leading Out. The bottom bolt snaps back under her tiny fingers, but the chains are too high and tippy-toe, hopping, jumping will not reach them. The demon is down the stairs, he's still shouting and steaming, and the smell of charred flesh is stinky indeed."

Nothing too long and convoluted there, but maybe you get the idea. One of my biggest issues with the writing is some of the word choice. She uses the word "hinder" several times to describe the buttocks. The first time, it comes from a child's perspective and makes perfect sense. But she uses it a couple more times in narration, and it just jumps out as being out of place. The story was a bizarre tale about bizarre people in a bizarre world. Without much to ground it, other than genuine human emotion, it still managed to succeed on its own terms. Enough about that one.

"Raphael" by Stephen Graham Jones might be my favorite story of the summer thus far. It's about a group of kids who form a kind of "scare club," who tell stories intended to scare each other. And, of course, things go horribly awry. If it ended with the kids' story, it would have been a really good story, but Jones takes it a step further, with one of them an adult, looking back, and the consequences of his childhood actions taking full effect on adulthood. Really well written and chilling.

I also liked "The Muldoon" by Glenn Hirshberg, the final story in the anthology. Another ghost story, with a couple cool twists and turns, and another story in which the protagonists (and narrator) are children. I'm not sure why, but I really like stories with children, even ones which aren't necessarily "children's stories." And this one clearly isn't.

So, I've finished the book, more than 250,000 words, as the cover proclaims. What to read next?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Catching Up

I got a bit behind on my short story reading over the weekend, while I was attending the Wizard World Chicago convention. I've been reading a bunch the last couple days, playing catch-up.

"The Good Ones Are Already Taken" by Ben Fountain is an interesting modern-day story of voodoo, love, and sex, but the ending was disappointing. There was no resolution.

"A Pig's Whisper" is the second story by Margo Lanagan in this collection, and I didn't care for either one. Definitely not a writer I'll be checking out again.

Write what you know, they say. Stephen Volk has written several screenplays and TV shows, and created a "paranormal drama" for TV (Afterlife; I've heard of it, never saw it). His short story "31/10" (a reference to Halloween) is about revisiting a "reality show" about ghosts which went horribly wrong ten years ago. Very interesting, well written and kind of creepy. I liked it.

Writers I really like (Neil Gaiman, for example) often praise Gene Wolfe. I've read some of his stuff and liked it. "Sob in the Silence" is a short story, unlike anything I've read from Wolfe before. It's a really creepy, horrific short story about a horror writer who abducts and murders the daughter of his college roommate. Not for the squemish, but I really enjoyed it.

I've heard Paul Di Filippo's name before, but don't know that I've ever read anything by him. "Femaville 29" is the story of a FEMA-run relocation camp after a natural disaster (a tsunami). Di Filippo uses interesting characters -- the main character has a great backstory -- and it's the children of the camp who end up saving the day. Very enjoyable.

Most of the fantasy stories in this collection come from the outskirts of the realm of fantasy, which is one of the things I generally enjoy about the yearly anthologies. I just finished reading Benjamin Rosenbaum's "A Siege of Cranes" a much more traditional fantasy. Magic, swords, different races/creatures, a quest: all play into the plot here. A departure, in a way, from much of the rest of the book, and a good one.