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  1. #1
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Countdown to Halloween 2011!

    Long time members will know that we like Halloween here at SFFWorld. As the nights draw in for many, we like a sit down with a good scary book.

    Over the last few years we've celebrated this by our Halloween thread HERE and last year long time fan Randy M. produced some great lists.

    They are still available for your perusal.

    However, this year, Randy has very kindly offered his experience to compile a list with novels, short stories, collections or, *cough* 'things' throughout the month until Halloween itself.

    It's great, as these things usually are.

    Hope you enjoy it: feel free to join in with what you've read/liked. I'm sure that not everything will be to everyone's tastes, but it will be fun!

    Mark
    Mark

  2. #2
    Thanks for the kind words, Mark.

    Hi, all.

    As with all such projects, the standard disclaimers apply:

    1) I don’t know it all, though I occasionally act like it. (Stop laughing KatG!)
    2) Stemming from number 1: I’m always looking for works I haven’t heard of so please chime in.
    3) Also stemming from number 1: I am liable at some time to misstate something. Feel free to correct me. (No. Really. Don't worry about temper tantrums. Mine tend to be brief and are usually funnier than my jokes.)

    In these posts I’ll concentrate on short stories, but will mention novels (full disclaimer: I’ve cheated by pulling some comments made in our “Reading in …” threads and sprucing them up some) and movies – even a couple of poems – whenever I can. I have a couple of reasons for focusing on short stories: first an aesthetic reason, the short story is like a concentrated dose of story which I think works well for creating any extreme emotional response; second, a practical reason, I can reread and write a summary of a short story rather quicker than I can novel-length works. Given the nature of last year’s lists, this will be something of a 2010-list-remix. To freshen it, though, each post will concentrate on a specific title, offer a brief summary, some other titles of interest from the author and/or titles that I think match up well with aspects of the story. Further, not quite half of the featured stories will have been first published within the last three or four years. When possible, I'll include information on where you can find the stories mentioned if you’re interested. (The Internet Speculative Fiction Database [ISFDB] has been invaluable for this.)

    Starting today I'll submit a post every couple of days or so. I’ve been having a good time reading and rereading stories over the last few weeks, and I hope these posts will inspire you to track some of them down.


    Randy M.

    [Thought it might be a good idea to add a link to another thread on the forum because it includes an interesting list from Owlcroft:
    Essential October Reading]
    Last edited by Randy M.; October 21st, 2011 at 03:19 PM.

  3. #3

    “The Revel” by John Langan

    (The Best Horror of the Year: Vol. 3 ed. Ellen Datlow)

    Every Werewolf story – these days, at least – features a chase. This one is no exception. (first paragraph)

    Langan’s narrator addresses the reader directly, setting out the elements that make for a werewolf story, debating some of the fine points, placing the story in the fictional town of Huguenot, N. Y., shaping the story around suppositional characters like the unnamed Police Chief who believes the worst in everyone, and Barbara Dinisha, dying of cancer, visited by visions. The murders mount up, the brutality rocking even the Chief, as both he and Mrs. Dinasha near a confrontation with the werewolf.

    Apparently John Langan is trying to cover all the tropes of horror and, so far as I’ve seen, he’s doing it well. You’ll see his name in future posts. In this story, “speaking” to the reader directly and clinically about the composition of a horror story – and chapter titles like “The Characters (A): The Police Chief” and “The Setting (B): The Forest” underscore and maintain that approach – it would be easy to lose the reader’s emotional involvement, to present not so much a story as the abstraction of a story. Still, as Langan’s tale proceeded I was drawn in, gradually less aware of that structure and more interested in the story emerging; I did not feel at an intellectual remove. And then, in his final words, Langan reveals the true nature of the revel and I was left to wonder. To tell what I was left to wonder would be … well, telling.

    Werewolves may never quite gain the popularity of vampires, but at least since Universal Pictures The Wolfman, starring Lon Chaney, Jr., and maybe even before that, since the novel, The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore (1933), werewolves have maintained a fairly consistent literary and cinematic presence. Werewolf literature I’ve enjoyed: “The Were-wolf” by Clemence Housman (The Literary Werewolf ed. Charlotte Otten); The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore; Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson; ”There Shall Be No Darkness” by James Blish (Works of Art; The Fantasy Hall of Fame ed. Robert Silverberg); “The Clay Party” by Steve Duffy (The Best Horror of the Year: Vol. 1 ed. Ellen Datlow); “Boobs” by Suzy McKee Charnas (Stagestruck Vampires; The Urban Fantasy Anthology eds. Peter Beagle, Joe R. Lansdale)

    Recent werewolf anthologies: Curse of the Full Moon ed. James Lowder (2010) [note especially, Jonathan Carroll’s “My Zoondel”; Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Wife’s Story”; Peter Beagle’s “Lila the Werewolf”]; Werewolves and Shapeshifters ed. John Skipp (2010) [I haven’t read all of either anthology, and I do have reservations about the Skipp, but what I have read in them is very good.]

    Some werewolf films: The Werewolf of London (1935); The Wolfman (1941); Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman (1943); Curse of the Werewolf (1961); An American Werewolf in London (1981); The Howling (1981); Ginger Snaps (2000) [the first three are the most kid-friendly…if that can be said about horror movies, at all]

    Speaking of The Wolfman, the 2010 remake with Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro has generally fine special effects (in spots, though, the movie looks overly glossy) but unfortunately the story, while following much of the old movie’s story-line, seems somehow enervated, lacking the energy and panache needed to involve the audience. It also relies on a new twist that was telegraphed from early on.

    Another story about making horror stories: “Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story” by Thomas Ligotti (Songs of a Dead Dreamer; Poe’s Children ed. Peter Straub)
    Last edited by Randy M.; October 17th, 2011 at 10:11 AM.

  4. #4
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Ooh, werewolves: good start!

    I'd recommend The Mammoth Book of Wolf Men, edited by Stephen Jones (2009) to add to that.



    Boobs is in there too, btw.

    Not quite the 'Ultimate Werewolf collection' it claims to be, but on the whole pretty good.

    Mark
    Mark

  5. #5
    Ha! Nice lead in to the post for Monday, Mark.


    Randy M.

  6. #6
    It never entered my mind algernoninc's Avatar
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    werewolves - cool. I prefer the more humorous approach: Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar, set in a modern London with teenage angst and indie music and tongue-in-jowl social comments. I also liked Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series featuring a steampunk world and a more romance oriented plot. I have seen reviews complaining about the frivolity and poor prose of Amelia Tarabotti adventuers, but I would recommend giving it a try and making your own opinion.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by algernoninc View Post
    werewolves - cool. I prefer the more humorous approach: Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar, set in a modern London with teenage angst and indie music and tongue-in-jowl social comments. I also liked Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series featuring a steampunk world and a more romance oriented plot. I have seen reviews complaining about the frivolity and poor prose of Amelia Tarabotti adventuers, but I would recommend giving it a try and making your own opinion.
    I've found the book cover blurbs on both of those writers' works appealing. Thanks for the heads up, Algernoninc.

    Have you read Peter Beagle's "Lila the Werewolf" or Anthony Boucher's "The Complete Werewolf"? Shorter works you might find enjoyable for their humor.


    Randy M.

  8. #8
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    I prefer the more humorous approach: Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar, set in a modern London with teenage angst and indie music and tongue-in-jowl social comments. I also liked Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series featuring a steampunk world and a more romance oriented plot. I have seen reviews complaining about the frivolity and poor prose of Amelia Tarabotti adventuers, but I would recommend giving it a try and making your own opinion.
    Oh absolutely. It is all a question of personal taste. For example, the Martin Millar I couldn't get an interest in, the Carriger was OK, though there were points of irritation that meant I've taken it no further at the moment. But there are others who really like both....

    Have you read... Anthony Boucher's "The Complete Werewolf"?
    And I've got a copy of the Anthony Boucher Compleat Boucher from NESFA Press that I like a lot and includes that one. Would recommend that one, myself, too. Classy, intelligent humour.

    Mark
    Last edited by Hobbit; October 2nd, 2011 at 05:08 PM.
    Mark

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbit View Post
    [...]And I've got a copy of the Anthony Boucher Compleat Boucher from NESFA Press that I like a lot and includes that one. Would recommend that one, myself, too. Classy, intelligent humour.

    Mark
    That's a fine collection and besides "The Complete Werewolf" and several other humorous tales, includes a surprisingly strong horror story, "They Bite," which I thought I saw included in Otto Penzler's Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!. Strikes me as a fine inclusion as a story, but an odd, debatable inclusion as a zombie story. On the other hand, if my memory of that is right, it's great that it's still in print.

    Randy M.

  10. #10
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Strikes me as a fine inclusion as a story, but an odd, debatable inclusion as a zombie story.
    Might be why I quite like the collection (so far). It's not your typical zombie collection. Otto's said in the Introduction that "Whilst characters in the early stories may not be called zombies, they are the living dead, (or occasionally, apparently so) and they qualify for inclusion."

    Mark
    Mark

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbit View Post
    Might be why I quite like the collection (so far). It's not your typical zombie collection. Otto's said in the Introduction that "Whilst characters in the early stories may not be called zombies, they are the living dead, (or occasionally, apparently so) and they qualify for inclusion."

    Mark
    There were a few other stories listed on the contents page that had me scratching my head, too, and all of them good stories.

    Randy M.

  12. #12

    “Boobs” by Suzy McKee Charnas

    (Stagestruck Vampires; The Mammoth Book of Wolfmen ed. Stephen Jones; The Urban Fantasy Anthology eds. Peter Beagle, Joe R. Lansdale )

    The thing is, it’s like your brain wants to go on thinking about the miserable history mid-term you have to take tomorrow, but your body takes over. And what a body! You can see in the dark and run like the wind and leap parked cars in a single bound.
    (first paragraph)

    Puberty sucks.

    Kelsey enters puberty one summer before the other girls in her class, and in the fall becomes the target of the school bully who dubs her “Boobs” Bornstein. When she tries to defend herself, he punches her in the face and from then on she has to endure his continued teasing and attempted groping.

    Kelsey mourns the slim, sleek, athletic body that allowed her to keep up with the boys. And then her period hits, and then … something unexpected, exciting even, and liberating, happens, and Kelsey becomes something different than she has been.

    “Boobs” is one of the first stories I recall reading that took a standard trope of horror fiction and molded it into a metaphor for the human condition – or, at least, for a human condition. It startled and delighted me then, the apt expression of what it’s like to be a teenager going through changes, the anxieties, the fears, the sense of being other and outside, the sense of entitlement when something empowers a teen, the ease with which learned ethical and moral behaviors are elided under hormonal onslaught. It still tickles the part of me that remembers how relatively few women were writing horror at the time – or at least, how few were getting media attention –and so how subversive this story seemed coming from a female point of view. With time, it may have lost some subversive power, but what is left behind is a well-written, well-conceived short story well worth your time to seek out.

    Suzy McKee Charnas gained early renown for her science fiction, notably the first of her novels comprising the Holdfast Chronicles, Walk to the End of the World. But Charnas has written fantasy and horror off and on over the years, her most widely-read work likely being the novel, The Vampire Tapestry. I haven’t read the novel, but I have read two short stories that were worked into the novel, “The Unicorn Tapestry” and “A Musical Interlude” (both, along with “Boobs”, collected in Stagestruck Vampires). They are smart, occasionally funny, and somewhat disconcerting, the former especially so as a psychiatrist tries to probe the psyche of the vampire, a being as alien as any little green man. I recommend them, along with the story, “Beauty and the Opera, or the Phantom Beast,” though that leans more toward fantasy than horror.

    Other young monsters: “Gabriel-Ernest” by Saki (The Literary Werewolf, ed. Charlotte Otten; Werewolves and Shapeshifters ed. John Skipp); “Disturb Not My Slumbering Fair” by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (Cautionary Tales; Vampires, Zombies, Werewolves and Ghosts ed. Barbara Solomon & Eileen Panetta)

    The most interesting (accusations of blatant subjectivity will be heatedly agreed with) unread Werewolves lurking on my shelves: The Totem by David Morrell; Nightwalker by Thomas Tessier; Murcheston: The Wolf’s Tale by David Holland; Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow; Dreadful Skin by Cherie Priest; The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin



    Randy M.
    Last edited by Randy M.; October 17th, 2011 at 10:12 AM.

  13. #13
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    From Randy:

    “City of the Dog” by John Langan (The Best Horror of the Year: Vol. 3 ed. Ellen Datlow)

    I thought it was a dog. From the other side of the lot, that was what it most resembled: down on all fours; hair plastered to its pale, skeletal trunk by the rain that had us hurrying down the sidewalk; head drawn into a snout. It was injured, that much was clear. Even with the rain rinsing its leg, a jagged tear wept fresh blood that caught the headlights of the cars turning onto Central – that had caught my eye, caused me to slow. (first paragraph)

    One night the unnamed narrator, walking with his girlfriend, Kaitlyn, to meet their friend, Chris, at a club, sees an injured dog in an empty lot. Going to check on it, he is not entirely sure it is a dog, its head and legs are shaped so oddly. The dog knocks him down and could easily have hurt or killed him, but runs off. And Kaitlyn is nowhere to be seen. Eventually the narrator tells Chris about the dog and Kaitlyn’s disappearance and Chris tells him what the dog is and what they have to do to save Kaitlyn.

    That simplistic summary doesn’t begin to indicate Langan’s description of a suitably dark and ominous Albany N.Y., a section of which was built over a graveyard, or the prickly relationship of the three main characters, or the creatures and their keeper that Chris, Kaitlyn and the narrator must face, or how the tensions between the main characters color that confrontation and its aftermath. In some ways this is a straight-forward, old-fashioned Weird Tales story well-fitted to reading on a dark, rainy night in October, in which Langan pulls out some of the chestnuts of the genre – the creepy man, the graveyard, the mausoleum and the tunnels beneath – spruces them up and makes them work once again. The interwoven thread of the relationship between the three main characters gives the story weight and poignancy which accentuates the creepiness.

    I had seen Langan’s name before but hadn’t read anything by him until I picked up House of Windows. Having now read a selection of his short fiction while preparing this, he is becoming a writer I will buy on sight.

    City scares: Our Lady of Darkness, Conjure Wife, & “Smoke Ghost” (Night’s Black Agents; The Dark Descent ed. David Hartwell; The Weird ed. Jeff & Ann Vandeermeer) by Fritz Leiber; “The Crowd” by Ray Bradbury (The October Country; The Stories of Ray Bradbury; The Weird ed. Jeff & Ann Vandeermeer); I am Legend by Richard Matheson; “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs” by Harlan Ellison (Deathbird Stories; Crucified Dreams ed. Joe R. Lansdale)

    Graveyard settings: “The Graveyard Rats” by Henry Kuttner (Two-Handed Engine) ; “The Statement of Randolph Carter” by H. P. Lovecraft (H. P. Lovecraft: The Fiction; Necronomicon); “Among the Tombs” by Reggie Oliver (The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, 2006, ed. Ellen Datlow, Kelly Link & Gavin Grant); The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

    Subterranean scares: “The Novel of the Black Seal” (The Three Imposters) by Arthur Machen; “The Rats in the Walls” & “Pickman’s Model” by H. P. Lovecraft (H. P. Lovecraft: The Fiction; Necronomicon); “Black Dust” by Graham Joyce (Partial Eclipse and Other Stories; Poe’s Children ed. Peter Straub); The Red Tree & Threshold by Caitlin Kiernan.

    Transformational horror: “The Mark of the Beast” by Rudyard Kipling (The Mark of the Beast and Other Fantastical Tales; Rudyard Kipling's Tales of Horror and Fantasy; Late Victorian Gothic Tales ed. Roger Luckhurst; H. P. Lovecraft's Book of Horror ed. Dave Carson & Stephen Jones); “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell, Jr. (The Best of John W. Campbell, Jr.; The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, vol. 1 ed. Ben Bova; Foundations of Fear ed. David Hartwell); “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” by H. P. Lovecraft (The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories; H. P. Lovecraft: The Fiction); “Cleopatra Brimstone” by Elizabeth Hand (Saffron and Brimstone; Poe’s Children ed. by Peter Straub; The Mammoth Book of the Best of Best New Horror, ed. Stephen Jones); Finishing Touches by Thomas Tessier.

    Supernatural beings somewhat less well-represented in recent literature than vamps & weres & zombies: “Sea Lovers” by Valerie Martin (The Consolations of Nature; I Shudder at Your Touch ed. Michelle Slung); “The Wall of Clouds” by Sarah Monette (The Bone Key); “The Throne of Bones“ by Brian McNaughton (The Throne of Bones); “Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner (In a Lonely Place; The Dark Descent ed. David Hartwell).
    Mark

  14. #14
    Randy , have you read any of the Oxrun Station novels by Charles Grant? The only one I've read was The Black Carouseland that was a long time ago. I do remember that I liked the atmosphere, it had a Bradbury feel to it.

  15. #15
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Raggedy: just so you know, Randy's away for a few days, so it's up to me to put the posts up, which he's sent to me.

    You might not get an immediate reply, as a result.

    Sure he's mentioned Charles Grant before, though. Me, I know him through his X-Files novelisations and his short stories.

    Mark
    Mark

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