Countdown to Halloween 2012

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Hobbit, Sep 30, 2012.

  1. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    Hi, Rob.

    I'm assuming you mean the Kiernan since you mentioned elsewhere that that one didn't work well for you.

    In truth, I was less taken with it than with The Red Tree, possibly because the main character is more overtly passive, but I still found it well-worth my time. I expect to reread them sometime in the future, and one after the other because I have a feeling the two books play off each other to some degree -- Kiernan could almost package them as the fire and ice duology.


    Randy M.
     
  2. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    [Because I'm not certain I'll be on-line tomorrow ...]

    THE STRESS OF HER REGARD by Tim Powers (Tachyon Publications, August 2008; first published by Ace, September 1989)

    “Until the squall struck, Lake Leman was so still that the two men talking in the bow of the open sailboat could safely set their wine glasses on the thwarts.”
    -- first paragraph​


    In the early 1820s, Michael Crawford, physician and practitioner in a new branch of medicine, obstetrics (and, yes, this has a bearing later in the novel), spends the eve of his nuptials to Julia with friends, drunk and foolishly adventurous. While helping one of his friends, to keep from losing the engagement ring he has bought for Julia he slips the ring over the finger of a statue. But it is not a statue, he is unable to remove the ring and from that night Crawford’s dreams turn vividly erotic and his mornings tired and dim, until the morning after his marriage when he finds his wife dead in his bed and her sister Josephine determined to kill him. Thus Crawford gained the attention and devotion of the nephalim and in the process married one of its number.

    While sharing the quality to mesmerize humans, the contrast between Powers’ nephalim and the vampires in David Wellington’s 13 Bullets could hardly be greater. Where Wellington presents his vampires as true monsters, reveling in the carnality of blood, Powers’ lamia pay us little heed, excepting those few of us on whom their attention focuses, and those few the nephalim love. Often enough the few are gifted with words and the attachment of the nephalim sharpens and strengthens the gift, which leads Crawford to friendship and uneasy alliance with the lamia-beset John Keats, Lord Byron and Percy Shelley. But the attention and love of the lamia comes at a price: They are jealous and do not allow the distraction of other loved ones for long, often claiming their victims’ families as their own. Where Wellington’s vampires are mainly predators, Powers’ vampires are a disease (consumption) and a drug.

    The Stress of Her Regard – a phrase lifted from a poem by Clark Ashton Smith – builds on the foundations of the Gothic novel, in particular through taking place in striking European locales known for their remoteness, mainly the Alps, or for their connections to antiquity, like Venice. And there are scenes that capture the feel of Gothic literature, as during the prologue in which a scene recreates the diner at the Villa Diodati during which Mary Shelley first began to conceive of Frankenstein: Percy Shelley, listening to Byron recite Coleridge, screams at something peering through a rain-covered window. Still for the most part Powers’ writing only suggests the atmospherics of Gothic as his conception of magic having, if not a scientific basis, then a science-like rationale and enactment, vitiates the mystery of magic. But this is greatly off-set by the cost of magic: As in the other novels I’ve read by Powers, there is often a grueling physical price for the use of magic, a price often symbolic of a deeper, more unsettling moral price.

    Action, terror, despair, hope, friendship, romance, love, honor, magic, poets, gondolas, impossibly powerful enemies, striking locales, warring cabals, seductive nights, mountain-climbing, sailing, and more! More, I tell you! This novel you are likely to find yourself immersed in if it appeals to you at all and one impossible to encapsulate in a brief discussion. For instance, I haven’t even touched on the evolution of Josephine’s character from a damaged young woman, mentally unstable, to a strong, caring woman. This is an old-fashioned adventure novel in the best tradition, spanning decades and countries, taking place on land and sea. I may have reservations about Tim Powers, writer – his prose works well enough, but his dialog often sounds more American than British to my ear – but I have no reservation about Tim Powers, story-teller, whose impeccable research supports and enhances his story, providing background for the time and place and personages he describes. I doubt Byron, Keats and Shelley would have spoken quite as they do in The Stress of Her Regard, but I’m willing to suspend disbelief as Powers tells his story.

    Novels by Tim Powers of similar interest, though not quite horror:
    The Anubis Gate
    On Stranger Tides


    Another historical vampire novel:
    Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin


    More vampires:
    By Blood We Live


    The darkness in our past :
    Patrick Susskind: Perfume
    Guy Endore: The Werewolf of Paris
    Christopher Priest: The Prestige
    Glen Hirshberg: “Devil’s Smile” & “Like a Lily in a Flood” (from American Morons)


    Next: "The Venus of Ille" by Prosper Merimee
     
  3. Vinegar Tom

    Vinegar Tom Registered User

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    Hey, what about the original Halloween broadcast of H.G. Wells' The War Of The Worlds starring Orson Welles? The one that allegedly convinced a surprising number of Americans that the Martians were genuinely invading? I won't give you a link because I'm not sure if it's in the public domain throughout the world, but seeing as how more than 70 years have passed, if you happen to find a free copy somewhere, I don't think anybody's going to sue you. "Mercury Theatre Of The Air" might be a useful search-term. To get the full effect, you need to fast-forward for about five minutes. Something much more popular was playing on a rival channel, so many listeners tuned in a little bit late and missed the opening announcement which made it clear that it was fiction. Seek and enjoy!
     
  4. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    Wish I'd thought of that. Thanks, Tom.

    A number of years ago I went to a funeral where the deceased's daughter told an anecdote about the deceased as a teenager. Seems one day he returned home from his paper route to find the house empty, everyone gone to church. Tired, he decided he would skip church and listen to the radio. Guess what was playing? Apparently, he ran all the way to the church to be with his family when the end came.


    Randy M.
     
  5. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    “The Venus of Ille” by Prosper Merimee (Fantastic Tales: Visionary and Everyday ed. Italo Calvino: Vintage International, November 1998: first published in Italy in 1983; “La Venus d’Ille” first published in 1837)

    “I was going down the last slope of the Canigou, and, although the sun had already set, I could distinguish on the plain the houses of the little town of Ille, towards which I was making.”
    -- first paragraph​

    A young antiquarian and scholar from Paris visits Ille to see the local remnants of ancient buildings and artifacts. By coincidence he arrives a fortnight after the man he has arranged to stay with, M. de Peyrehorade, unearthed a bronze statue from the Roman era, which the locals have begun calling the Venus of Ille, and just before Alphonse, the son of his host, is to be married. Welcomed and invited to the wedding, on the day of the wedding the young scholar witnesses Alphonse start to play tennis and, to keep from losing it, place his wedding ring of his bride-to-be on a finger of the statue. (Sound familiar?) Later he thinks Alphonse is having a joke at his expense when the groom, distraught, claims he cannot remove the ring, that the statue has closed its hand. By morning he has reason to believe Alphonse.

    I would be surprised to learn Tim Powers was not familiar with this story. At one time “The Venus of Ille” was frequently anthologized and is still considered a classic of the ghost/horror story. Powers would seem to have lifted the central conceit of placing a ring on a statue then used it as entry to a much more wide-ranging story, tapping into mythology and the Bible. While M. R. James might have felt distaste for the sexual nature of “The Venus of Ille” it’s also possible that this story was something of a template for his own: Take one antiquarian and one cursed object, mix liberally and observe the reaction.

    I’ve not read Merimee before but certainly look forward to reading more. His descriptions emphasizing both the beauty and wickedness of the statue goes a long way to preparing the reader for the ending. But perhaps more, this story is told, at least in translation, with a light touch and a sense of humor. For instance, when first welcomed the young scholar is nearly overwhelmed with food all the while his hosts apologize for the meager fare and complain how picky Parisians are. And perhaps that explains the story’s reputation; the ease and flow of the narration, and the contrast between the early sense of humor with the appreciation of the quirks of the narrator’s hosts, and the late scenes of tragedy have a broad appeal.


    Other femmes fatale:
    Vernon Lee: “Amour Dure” (Hauntings, Ash-Tree Press, 2002; also, Fantastic Tales: Visionary and Everyday ed. Italo Calvino [as “A Lasting Love”]; first published January, 1887)
    Peter Straub: Ghost Story
    Caitlin R. Kiernan: The Drowning Girl

    Other stories of interest:“A Warning to the Curious” by M. R. James


    Next (Monday): Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2012
  6. Rob B

    Rob B \m/ BEER \m/ Staff Member

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    Other femmes fatale:
    I'd also include Fritz Leiber's Conjure Wife and Graham Joyce's Dark Sister
     
  7. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    The Joyce is in the TBR mountain. I need to pull CW out again, it's been too long since I read it; I don't recall a femme fatale in it. The wife wouldn't really count, would she?


    Randy M.
     
  8. raggedyman

    raggedyman Registered User

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    In the movie Burn Witch Burn , which was based on CW, the actress with the wild looking eyes could be classified as a femme fatale.
     
  9. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    Yet another movie I'd like to catch one of these days.


    Randy M.
     
  10. Vinegar Tom

    Vinegar Tom Registered User

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    In some markets, Burn Witch Burn is called The Night Of The Eagle, but it's exactly the same movie. As a diehard skeptic, I profoundly disagree with the ethos of this film, but I still regard it as a Surrealist classic, because it's an excellent film about a sane man who suddenly discovers that the world he lives in is raving mad. In which respect it's rather a good primer for fantasy writers, insofar as it deals with a rational man who suddenly has to adjust to the fact that everything he thinks he knows is in fact wrong. Which could make it either a very bad or a very good film. But since a great deal of genuine talent happens to be involved, it's a good film.

    And I think it's worth saying again that if you're vaguely aware that an old film called Burn Witch Burn is supposed to be a classic but you can't seem to find it on DVD, The Night Of The Eagle is the exact same movie, depending on which country you live in.
     
  11. raggedyman

    raggedyman Registered User

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    Conjure Wife has been filmed 3 times , Weird Woman(1944) , Burn Witch Burn/Night Of The Eagle(1962) and Witches Brew(1980).
     
  12. Vinegar Tom

    Vinegar Tom Registered User

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    Possibly the most terrifying piece of prose ever written is a book by Lucy Lane Clifford called Anyhow Stories, Moral And Otherwise. The worst thing about it is that it's aimed at small children. I assume it's in the public domain, since it was written in 1882. The whole book is strangely joyless and disturbing, with quite a few completely random deaths, including innocent children the same age as the target audience.

    The single worst thing in the book is a story called The New Mother, in which two young children are tricked into misbehaving fairly mildly in circumstances which make absolutely no sense whatsoever, and for this reason are abandoned by their parents to a lifetime of misery and inescapable surreal horror! Apparently you're supposed to read this aloud to five-year-olds after dark. Presumably you then act surprised when they do big jobs in the bed.

    See if you can find a copy - it has to be the most inappropriate children's story ever. And the creature mentioned in the title would give H. P. Lovecraft stinkypoo trouserlumps! If David Lynch and Tim Burton somehow managed to breed with each other, their love-child would make this movie.
     
  13. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    I've heard of the short story but haven't gotten around to reading it. Checking ISFDB -- a truly wonderful tool -- I see that it was included in both The Dark Descent edited by David Hartwell (I've cherry-picked this for years and never quite finished it), and Masterpieces of Fantasy and Enchantment edited by ... David Harwell and Kathryn Cramer. Also The Oxford Book of Fairy Tales edited by Alison Lurie.

    It's certainly out there if you want it. It's also out there on the web: Weirdfictionreview.com has it; though it's not listed on their main page, a link comes up with a Google search.


    Randy M.
     
  14. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    BLOOD MERIDIAN by Cormac McCarthy (Random House, 1985)

    “See the child. He is pale and thin, he wears a thin and ragged linen shirt. He stokes the scullery fire. Outside lie dark turned fields with rags of snow and darker woods beyond that harbor yet a few last wolves. His folk are known for hewers of wood and drawers of water but in truth his father has been a schoolmaster. He lies in drink, he quotes from poets whose names are now lost. The boy crouches by the fire and watches him.”
    -- first paragraph​

    The kid, as he’s known throughout the book, runs away from home at 14-years-of-age. He endures a hard-scrabble life of temporary work merged with splurges of drinking and bouts of violence. By 16-years-of-age he has been stabbed and shot, but recovered and gone on, primed by his experiences to survive and even thrive in the harshness of the world. His future arrives with an offer to ride with Captain White, whose mission is to destroy the Apache bands terrorizing the western territories. When White and his men prove inadequate, the kid meets Glanton and his cohort Judge Holden and the true mission begins.

    Dark fiction takes many forms, including the Western. Blood Meridian, dark and vicious, depicts a meaner wild west than we usually see in films and so somehow all the more believable. Unsentimental, as stark as the Old Testament, and, as a blurb by John Banville says on the latest paperback edition, combining The Inferno, The Illiad and Moby Dick, Blood Meridian dramatizes through violent and bloody events the means by which the western territories of the United States were prepared for settlement. And maybe its implications are vaster, supplying an encapsulation of the true nature of the development of the U.S.A. and though told with something like stoicism, the heaping of depictions of the brutalities mankind visits upon itself indicates moral indignation behind the story. This does not keep McCarthy from depicting qualities in his characters that are in themselves admirable (tenacity, toughness, even a qualified and harsh sort of loyalty) while most of the actions of the men are not admirable: We are left to imagine the reasons behind financing Glanton – protection for the settlers and people already living in the territories? a means of making the territories safe for further development and profit? – but whatever the intention greed and racial hatred lead to slaughter.

    The book explores the landscape of the southwest into Mexico as the gang tracks the Apaches, and while the telling is intense it occasionally displays a caustic humor. An enemy attack disperses and mostly kills Captain White’s army. The kid escapes intact along with Sproule, who is badly wounded:
    “[Sproule] was coughing again. He held his chest with his good hand and sat as if he’d get his breath.
    “What have you got, a cold?
    “I got consumption.
    ”Consumption?
    “He nodded. I come out here for my health.”

    This is not exactly a horror novel, though it certainly contains horrors enough and has been adopted by the horror community as one of those rare novels written by someone outside that community that they cherish. (Note that McCarthy later embraced other genres in No Country for Old Men and The Road.) It is also not fantasy, though McCarthy taps into the tone of mythic story-telling familiar in American literature at least since Mark Twain and extended by William Faulkner into the 20th century, at one point offering a story within the story that mixes the tall tale with a quest through the desert rivaling Tolkein’s journey through Mordor, his character Judge Holden bigger than life and in deed fit company for John Henry or Paul Bunyon. Judge Holden, based on a historical figure, is a giant, broader than and towering over other men; he is an intellectual, widely-read and apt to quote or summarize as he shares his philosophy. And he is one of the great villains in American literature, his perspective and sense of self neatly summarized when he is asked why he keeps a journal in which he records those things that are new to him: “Whatever exists, he said. Whatever in creation exists without my knowledge exists without my consent.”

    For anyone who enjoys dark fiction Blood Meridian is a dense, layered novel. It is powerful and at times repulsive, but there is a certainty behind the telling that convinces the reader this could well be the true story of how the west was won and how the men who won it felt and thought and acted.


    Dark and non-supernatural
    [I'm having some trouble getting the forum and thread searches to work. You may have to scroll down to "Scary Human Tricks."]


    Next: The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2012
  15. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore (Pegasus Crime, 2012; first published by Farrar & Rinehart, 1933; Included in Horror: The 100 Best Books ed. by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman)

    “Where shall I begin my tale?

    “This one has neither beginning nor end, but only perpetual unfolding, a multi-petaled blossom of strange botany.”

    -- first paragraphs​


    The Werewolf of Paris follows two main story lines, the first a psychological portrait of Bertrand, whose mother was raped by a priest one of whose direct ancestors had been degraded and tortured into a bestial madman. Bertrand finds himself the victim of unconquerable urges, perhaps inherited, slowly becoming aware of the extent of his obsession and struggling to fight or control it with limited success. Endore follows him from a boy to a young man who runs to Paris and joins the National Guard, and even falls in love.

    The other story line follows Aymar, Bertrand’s adopted uncle, who struggles between helping him and revealing his secret. Taking place just before and during the time of the Paris Commune, Endore’s novel contrasts the behavior and deeds of one luckless man against the brutality and cruelty of a social structure and a good portion of the novel’s impact stems from Endore’s portrayal of Aymar moving among the Paris elite. Once a Revolutionary, now pursuing Bertrand in hope of stopping his crimes, Aymar is in position to meet former colleagues and their friends, among them a judge who radiates good will until defendants demonstrate that they do not know which laws attach to which citations; a lawyer who shows Aymar how to circumvent the law; a priest who tells him he could never be a priest – the church would not allow someone physically defective (Aymar has a limp from a war injury) to lead a Mass – but also explains a method for in essence buying priesthood; and a band of scientists devoted to expanding the Parisian palette during this time of siege and turmoil.

    The Werewolf of Paris, from all accounts was quite popular when published. And why not? It features sex, rape, murder, cannibalism, incest, duplicity, love, more sex, honor and near-genocide, all the ingredients for a best-seller. This is horror as social satire, still Endore neither sacrifices Bertrand’s story to the needs of the satire nor skimps on establishing the parallels between one man’s lycanthropy and the behavior of mobs and, for that matter, of an entire society.

    One note on that point: This is horror in the post-"Turn of the Screw" mold. Endore does not quite commit to a true physical change; Bertrand’s mood changes and his compulsion overtakes him, but Endore never describes him as physically transforming. He does, however, sometimes allude to the possibility as when, for instance, a hunter shoots at what he believes in the dark of night to be a wolf and the next day Aymar has to dig a bullet out of Bertrand’s leg.

    I read this so many years ago that I had forgotten most of it. And I am bemused that it has fallen out of print so often and for such long stretches of time since it's every bit as good as Dracula. This is another novel that I can’t recommend highly enough. Read it soon before it disappears again and for who knows how many years.


    More of interest: Werewolf Anthology
    (you'll probably need to scroll down to post #4)

    Different war, different horror:
    “The Wide, Carnivorous Sea” by John Langan (you'll probably need to scroll down to post #44)
    Graham Joyce: “Leningrad Nights” (from Partial Eclipse and Other Stories, 2003; also in Binary 1, 2000; and Foursight, 2000)
    Connie Willis: “Jack” (from Impossible Things, 1999; also in The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women, 2001)


    Other transformation horror:
    “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell, Jr.

    Note: Since the upgrade I've had some trouble with the "Search thread" function finding ... well, anything. From here on links to other SFFWorld pages may be less precise, more "It's in the general vicinity."

    Next: Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2012
  16. raggedyman

    raggedyman Registered User

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    Randy . Have you read The Undying Monster by Jessie Douglas Kerruish? This is one of the best werewolf novels ive ever read. It has a thousand year old curse , vikings , a 16th century warlock and mysterious hidden rooms. If you have a kindle you can download it at amazon for $1.95. "Where grow pines and firs amain , Under stars , sans heat or rain , Chief of Hammand , 'ware thy bane!"
     
  17. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    I've heard of it but haven't read it, and I haven't come into the 21st century, yet. (Almost wrote 20th century but I think camped out there for awhile.) I see Ash-Tree Press has it in print, but the price is a bit prohibitive right now.

    I'll see what I can find. It sounds interesting.

    Among other books on the shelf I have Glen Duncan's The Last Werewolf, Thomas Tessier's The Nightwalker and H. Warner Munn's The Werewolf of Ponkert. I can't say that I've ever really searched for werewolf novels, but the Endore and the one I'll post about presently were so entertaining that I may read at least one of these in the near future.


    Randy M.
     
  18. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    SHARP TEETH by Toby Barlow (Harper Perennial, 2009; first published in UK, 2007, and in US by HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

    L.A.
    Werewolves
    Werewolves in packs
    Pack warfare
    A love story
    A cop on the trail
    A crime boss
    A novel written in free verse.

    A quick description makes you think it shouldn’t work. But it does. When you get past the verse layout, Sharp Teeth reads like a good crime story by someone like Elmore Leonard or Lawrence Block. The novel mainly follows Lark, the leader of a pack, and some members of his pack, showing how Lark thinks, how he keeps the pack together and in harmony, and what a pack does to prosper and remain secret in a world of men. What I found appealing, though, was how many of the characters, major and minor, Barlow gave interior lives – it’s not all about action, sometimes the characters think, and Barlow is very good at presenting those thoughts in concise, memorable lines:

    Pg.65: Anthony contemplating the woman who is briefly called Betty,
    “Morning and she’s sitting in the bright kitchen
    wearing his robe, stirring her tea.
    How is it? How is this so? How is she here?
    Her body worn delicious in exhaustion,
    wrapped in wisps of his scent.
    But wondering how long it can last.
    We are all china barely mended,
    clumsily glued together
    just waiting
    for the hot water and lemon
    to seep through our seams.”

    Pg85: Bone thinking about his night with Sasha,
    “Bone almost wishes she hadn’t been there.
    It’s like she only came into his world
    to show him how empty it would be
    without her.”

    Pg92: “Betty” while driving,
    “In the car, the rap song has every other word beeped out
    as if the small words themselves were a dangerous thing, and not
    the ideas of violence and waste and ridiculous luxury
    that the songs clutch in their rough embrace.
    Everyone is always looking in the wrong direction,
    we worry about our lovers while losing our jobs
    we stress out about cancer while our children run away
    we ponder the stars while burning the earth.
    Lark used to say the bullet we’re running from
    is almost never the one that hits us.”


    Sharp Teeth leans more toward dark fantasy than horror, and the thought behind it is even somewhat science fictional in its working out of the dynamics of lycanthropy in the contemporary world. While a few scenes are grisly, the overall impact comes from examining the intersection of humanity and werewolf, pack and larger society, particularly criminal society, and can be seen as an alternate perspective on what Guy Endore created in The Werewolf of Paris. The novel could have become allegorical of gang life and warfare, and there certainly is that looming in the background, but over and again, Barlow suppresses that reading by sounding the grace note that makes a short-term character more real, that appeals to some common humanity beneath the fur, while still making it clear that there are hard times coming and not all the characters will survive. And while the real pleasure of the book for me stems from Barlow’s insight into character, the final meeting between enemy packs and the individual confrontations that result round off the story neatly and more than satisfactorily.


    Other recent werewolves:
    “Boobs” by Suzy McKee Charnas
    “The Revel” by John Langan
    (You'll have to scroll down to find the messages, numbers 12 and 3, respectively.)


    Next: American Morons by Glen Hirshberg
     
  19. algernoninc

    algernoninc Now I'm an axolotl

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    talking of werewolves, I'm about 2/3rds into Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan. It's quite good, after a hesitant start, set in the Viking era (probably 8th or 9th century). I'm not sure it can be considered horror, but there is a lot of supernatural stuff about Norse Gods and mystics / witches. The werewolf part is subtly done, never stating clearly how the rnasformation occurs, and insisting on the psychological change rather than on the anatomical aspects.
     
  20. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    Another to track down. Thanks, Algernoninc.


    Randy M.