ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
It Can't Happen HereIt Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a dated (especially in some of the language relating to minorities) but still deeply disturbing piece of speculative fiction. First published in 1935, it does an excellent job of showing the life cycle of a "regime change" in a democratic society unable to sustain itself.

Lewis is more than occasionally dogmatic, but there are memorable ideas and phrases in nearly every chapter. The protagonist is flawed enough to be sympathetic, and the plot does move, though I felt the ending was a little rushed. As with most dystopias, some suspension of disbelief is required -- but I found the effort more than worthwhile.








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ankh_hpl: (Ankh)
The Secret PlaceThe Secret Place by Tana French

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I’d never even heard of the Dublin Murder Squad series before picking up this book (in CD format, from my local library), but decided to give this one a try after reading a rave mention in Time.

And I am so very glad I did.

This tightly structured story of a cold case reopened at an elite girls’ school is one of the most remarkably elegant mysteries I’ve read or listened to in a long time. Switching back & forth between the actual investigation (which takes a single day) and the events leading up to the murder (which occupy an entire year at St. Kilda’s), this narrative offers so much more than a whodunit. It’s also an examination of friendship – both adolescent and adult – and the sacrifices we’re willing to make for it.

In its depth of characterization, its attention to procedural detail, and its consistently lovely prose, this one reminded me very much of reading the late lamented P.D. James.




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ankh_hpl: (Ankh)
The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us AllThe Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All by Laird Barron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


[Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book as part of the First Reads program.]

Laird Barron's third collection is rich & densely textured darkness. Combining classic literary horror, noir, & cosmic/Lovecraftian themes, Barron's tales offer something for almost any reader with a taste for literate fear. More so than many contemporary horror writers, he understands the value of building suspense by small clues and atmospheric suggestion -- rendering the eventual scenes of graphic violence all the more effective.

With the exception of one -- "Jaws of Saturn," which didn't work as well for me -- the tales in this collection are all reprints, & Lovecraft fans in particular are likely to have run into at least one or two before. Reading (or rereading) them within the context of the entire collection is still worthwhile. Barron's tales appear to take place within a vaguely defined but consistent dark universe, and it's interesting to find correlations between them.

My personal favorites were "Blackwood's Baby," "The Redfield Girls," "Hand of Glory," "The Siphon," & "The Men From Porlock." I took considerably longer getting through all the tales than I generally do, because the quality of the prose was breathtaking.












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ankh_hpl: (Ankh)
WillyWilly by Robert Dunbar

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A young boy with serious emotional (and/or mental) problems is unceremoniously dropped off at a school for "last chance" cases. The campus is foreboding, the staff is unfeeling, unhelpful, or just plain creepy, & his roommate is nowhere to be found. All he has to keep himself company is his journal, which some former counselor urged him to write in as often as possible. So he does . . . throughout a series of increasingly disturbing events, and a friendship which threatens to either save or utterly destroy him.

Telling more than this would involve spoilers, and this is much too remarkable an experience to spoil. Lovers of classic horror, quiet horror, the Gothic, or the weird should put this concisely & lyrically written novel on their "to read" lists immediately.





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ankh_hpl: (Ankh)
The Twelve (The Passage, #2)The Twelve by Justin Cronin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


As with The Passage, I'm not sure what to call this novel. Thriller horror? Post-apocalypse SF with a side order of mysticism? Literary/genre hybrid? Whatever it is, the series is still working for me. The weaponized vampire virus idea has something to do with it -- as does the discovery that, for once, the Savior of Civilization is a girl person. Cronin's prose style is also a couple of cuts above what I've found in most thrillers, though that's strictly personal taste.

Anyone who lives or ever has lived in the Rocky Mountain West -- particularly Colorado -- is in for some morbid fun with this one. There's nothing quite like seeing the city you're living in (or at least near) made into Ground Zero for the vampire apocalypse, and my college town didn't fare too well either.

This is, as several other reviewers have mentioned, a very long book. At times, I wasn't sure every bit of it was necessary, but Cronin still does an excellent job of keeping the reader interested in each & every character. There are a lot of characters, though, & I found the X-Ray feature on the Kindle edition very useful for keeping them straight.

I'm reluctant to say much about the plot of this one, to avoid spoiling it for others. There's a more satisfying conclusion this time around than there was for The Passage, which was a big relief. I found the narrative to be well-constructed despite its length, with very few really slow spots. Violence toward women was more of a plot point than it might have needed to be, though the violence made sense in context.











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ankh_hpl: (Ankh)
Knock KnockKnock Knock by S.P. Miskowski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


If you're looking for old-fashioned (in the best sense) supernatural chills, & a way to scare yourself silly reading late into the night, Knock Knock is a great place to start. Though relatively low on the splatter scale, this atmospheric tale of revenant evil in a small Washington town delivers.

Even more remarkably, it accomplishes this by a tight focus on the lives of three childhood friends, all female. Told in short sections of shifting viewpoint, the novel moves briskly through time as it examines the effect of one childish ritual in the woods on the lives of those who participated -- and the collateral damage to many who didn't. As I'm about the age of the three protagonists, I particularly enjoyed the "period piece" flavor of the opening sections.

Readers who wonder where the women's viewpoints are in modern horror should not miss this one.

One caveat: there is violence against dogs in this novel. It is appropriately written & essential to the plot, but it's still there. This is not a criticism, just a bit of warning for anyone else who has the trouble I do with this topic.




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Delphine DoddDelphine Dodd by S.P. Miskowski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a quiet, creepy, elegantly-crafted piece of dark fantasy -- and an unusual one, since women are the primary focus. Complex & often dysfunctional relationships between mothers & daughters -- biological or otherwise -- drive the plot, though the story is solidly supernatural.

Set in the Pacific Northwest, in & around the logging town of Skillute, WA, Delphine Dodd relates the haunting & haunted life of its title character. Delphine's world shifts between rural reality & a very matter-of-fact approach to the occult, which keeps the reader guessing without feeling cheated. I found this one nearly impossible to put down.

Fortunately, there's more, & I intend to check out the author's Shirley Jackson Award-nominated novel Knock Knock at my earliest opportunity. I suspect I might have enjoyed this novella even more if I'd read the novel first, though it worked perfectly well on its own.









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Just in time for the holidays (gifting for or escaping from), the Fungi anthology is out from Innsmouth Free Press.

Edited by Orrin Grey and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, the book is available in special edition jacketed hardcover (with three extra stories plus ten black & white illustrations), paperback, or ebook form.

For all the details -- including a TOC that includes such authors as Jeff Vandermeer, Laird Barron, Lavie Tidhar, Molly Tanzer, Nick Mamatas, W.H. Pugmire, & Yours Truly -- check here.

I just got my hardcover today, & it's 342 pages of serious strangeness in a very nicely produced package. The slick jacket is in full color.

ankh_hpl: (TID)
Partly to help out awareness of Twisted in Dream, but  mostly to have a little fun talking books, I now have a Goodreads account.

Those curious can find me here

I've only been on the site for about a week & am still getting my books sorted onto shelves, etc., but so far I'm enjoying this no end.  Like all social media, I can see it becoming a time sink -- however, it's a time sink about reading.    That makes all the difference, right? 
 
ankh_hpl: (TID)
William Shakespeare, Gangster

As a recovering English major, I find the notion a little hard to accept . .. but found this post on Smithsonian.com's Past Imperfect blog to be an intriguing read.   Lots of dirt on the seedy side of Elizabethan theater, well documented.





 
ankh_hpl: (Default)
Once: I've just received my contrib copy (and a lovely thing it is, too!) of the Spring 2011 issue of Illumen (from Sam's Dot Publishing). 

I've got an article in here, entitled "The Shadow Over Amherst."  Never thought of Emily Dickinson as a dark poet?  Well, I learned differently while researching this -- and you can, too.

Future: I recently found out I'll be having a poem in the very first issue of The Burning Maiden, an exciting new project to be published in October in both ebook & print formats. 

The TOC for this one is a remarkable collection of dark talent, but I somehow sneaked in anyhow.  Can't wait!



ankh_hpl: (Default)

Thanks to a recent post from [livejournal.com profile] bookslut , I spent yesterday's lunch hour virtually touring Edna St. Vincent Millay's private workspaces at Steepletop, her farm home in New York.   Check here to start your own tour.

Writers' Houses looks to be a fascinating site, even beyond its usefulness to Millay addicts like me. Check out its list of featured writers, then go do some literary snooping on your own. 
ankh_hpl: (Default)

OK, I know I am very late to the party with this one . . . but I only found out today that Melissa Helwig's Little Miss Zombie blog is celebrating Women In Horror Recognition Month by offering daily interviews with notables in the field.

Oooops.

Today's post features Lisa Mannetti (The Gentling Box, winner of Best First Novel Stoker for 2008).  The questions are reasonably detailed, the answers insightful, and there are many more interviews to read!  Ellen Datlow, Gemma Files, Deborah LeBlanc  . . . if you are at all interested in the female side of dark literature, you should treat yourself to a few minutes with this site.

Of course, if you're like me, a few minutes won't be nearly enough. (Sigh.)





ankh_hpl: (Default)

The dealers' room at MythosCon was a little smaller than I'd expected, but it still offered plenty of opportunities for a book-loving Lovecraftian to get into trouble. For my final convention report, here's a list of the items that followed me home to Colorado.

Poetry & Poetry-Related Nonfiction

Emperors of Dreams: Some Notes on Weird Poetry by S.T. Joshi (signed)

Spores From Sharnoth and Other Madnesses
by Leigh Blackmore

The Hashish-Eater
by Clark Ashton Smith (edited, with notes, by Donald Sidney-Fryer) -- this one came with a CD of Donald S-F reading  CAS's epic poem . .. haven't had a chance to listen yet, but can't wait!

From the Cauldron by Fred Phillips (signed)

The Outer Gate: the Collected Poems of Nora May French (edited by Donald Sidney-Fryer & Alan Gullette)

Fiction

In the Shadow of Swords by Cody Goodfellow (chapbook, signed)

The Render of the Veils by Ramsey Campbell (chapbook promotion for PS Publishing's forthcoming edition of The Inhabitant of the Lake & Other Unwelcome Tenants

The Fungal Stain & Other Dreams by W.H.  Pugmire (signed)

Delta Green: The Rules of Engagement by John Tynes

Dead But Dreaming edited by Kevin Ross & Keith Herber

The Charm by Adam Niswander

The Sand Dwellers by Adam Niswander (signed)
 

Other Unclassifiable Weirdness

The Sermon On the Mound & Others: The Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast Sermons by Robert M. Price

***

This concludes my reporting on a truly remarkable -- and, of course, eldritch -- experience in Arizona.   The con organizers are already hoping to create another MythosCon in the next year or two (more likely two), & I'll be sure to post on their progress. 





 




 







 


ankh_hpl: (Default)


And now a list, in more or less chronological order, of some of my favorite events during this four-day wallow in all things Lovecraft!
Read more... )


 Thursday, Jan. 6th
 

  • Opening Ceremonies, or rather pre-opening ceremonies, where I got to meet a couple of Lovecraftians I'd only known via-email & re-meet others I hadn't seen since the last Necronomicon in  2001.
  • Survived my own half-hour  poetry reading & actually had an encouraging audience -- even though I was reading at 5 PM opposite Robert M. Price.  (Wow.)  S.T. Joshi, Wilum Pugmire, Donald Sidney-Fryer, & Fred Phillips were among the attendees.
  • Attended Fred Phillips' poetry reading, celebrating the release of his first collection of dark verse: From the Cauldron (Hippocampus Press).

Friday, Jan. 7th

  • Ramsey Campbell's reading --  at 9 AM, but a lot of seats were filled & I feel sorry for anyone who slept in.  He read an incredibly witty Mythos piece which had the audience howling.
  • Was actually asked to sign stuff while prowling the dealers' room later that morning. 
  • Survived panel on Contemporary Mythos Tales, which I wasn't supposed to be on but got drafted for.
  •  William F. Nolan's reading of dark SF tales.  We're talking the father of Logan's Run, here.
  •  Peter Cannon's reading of a gentle but deeply Lovecraftian tale.

Saturday, Jan. 8th

  • The Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast, conducted by Robert M. Price with hymnal assistance from Darrell Schweitzer.  If you are Lovecraftian & have never attended one of these events, I pity you.  This was my second, & I still have a little of my sanity left!
  • The H.P. Lovecraft On Film panel, with Sean Branney & Andrew Leman of the HPL Historical Society talking about the upcoming release of The Whisperer In Darkness.  I cannot wait for this one!
  • Survived panel on Poetry of the Lovecraft Circle & Beyond.  I knew I was going to be ON this panel.  I did not know I'd end up moderating it.
  • Mass Autographing night, where my long-suffering husband ran around getting our books signed while I actually sold a few of my poetry collections and wrote my name far more often than I'd expected to.
Sunday, Jan. 9th
  • The Contemporary Mythos Writing panel -- another 9 AM challenge -- which offered a lot of excellent information from such notables as Lois Gresh.
  • The Lovecraft's Letters panel, with Lovecraftian scholars S.T. Joshi, Steven J. Mariconda, and Darrell  Schweitzer.  I was taking notes like mad during this one.
  • The HPL's Revisions panel.  S.T. Joshi, Steven J. Mariconda, Robert M. Price -- and the scribbling of many more notes.
  • Donald Sydney-Fryer's "Fantastical Poetry" presentation -- half an hour of material from the West Coast CA Romantics (including Clark Ashton Smith), half an hour of Edmund Spenser's "The Faerie Queene," dramatized.  From memory.  Jaw-droppingly lovely.
For my third & final MythosCon report, I'm hoping to post a list of the books and chapbooks (many of them signed)  I acquired at this event.  

 


ankh_hpl: (Default)


Well, I got back from the very first  MythosCon in Tempe, AZ on Tuesday (after a two-day drive), and I'm still shambling around in a Lovecraft-induced haze.   Talk about eldritch experiences!  Though a small convention -- I believe the final tally of attendees was under 300 -- this one had pretty much everything an obsessed  literary fan of HPL's could want.  I can only hope that there will be a second one, and I intend to become a supporting member of MythosCon 20?? as soon as their Web site posts that information.

In lieu of the extensive con report I have no idea how to to prepare anyhow, I'll be doing a short series of posts on notable participants, favorite events, and books/loot acquired at this delightfully disturbing conclave.

In alphabetical order, here are some of the major cultists authors, poets, scholars, editors, publishers, film folks, & others who made this gathering amazing: 

Sean Branney, Ramsey Campbell,  Peter Cannon,Scott Connors, Walt DeBill, Ken Faig Jr., Alan Dean Foster,  W. Paul Ganley, Cody Goodfellow, Lois M. Gresh, Derrick Hussey, S.T. Joshi, Andrew Leman, Danny Lovecraft, Tom Lynch, Adam Niswander (MythosCon founder), William F. Nolan, Robert M. Price, Wilum H. Pugmire, Darrell Schweitzer, &  Donald Sidney-Fryer.

And,  yes -- I was on a couple of panels & read a few poems, too.

 





 


ankh_hpl: (Default)
I just received my contrib copies of  The Weird Fiction Review No. 1, an "annual periodical devoted to the study of weird and supernatural fiction."  This ambitious new project is edited by noted Lovecraftian scholar S.T. Joshi, and offers over 200 pages of fiction, critical essays, and poetry in a very slick-looking jacketed trade paperback. 

For art-loving folks, there is also a full color Artist's Gallery featuring disturbing work by Daniel Ho.

Among the writers and poets in this issue are S.T. Joshi, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., Marc Laidlaw, Jason C. Eckhardt, Cody Goodfellow, Donald R. Burleson, Leigh Blackmore, Richard L. Tierney, Fred Phillips, and Yours Truly.  My contribution is a Lovecraftian sonnet, "Handmaidens of the Worm."

Centipede Press is currently running a sale on this annual, though I'm not sure how long it will last . . . ahem.
ankh_hpl: (Default)
Poe fans -- and Hawthorne fans as well -- might want to check out  this article  on Smithsonian.com

Entitled "A Murder In Salem" -- though the same article in Smithsonian this month has the catchier title of "the Tell-Tale Murder" -- it discusses  the brutal killing of one Capt. Joseph White of Salem in 1830, and the inspiration thus provided for works by both Edgar Allen Poe ( "The Tell-Tale Heart") and Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables) .   Plenty of details here for those interested in the history of forensic science, too!

ankh_hpl: (Default)

Fang fans with a literary bent won't want to miss episode No. 159 of StarShipSofa's Aural Delights, which includes [livejournal.com profile] eldritchhobbit 's monthly Looking Back At Science Fiction feature. 

In honor of the season, this segment discusses Varney the Vampire; or, The Feast of Blood (1845–47).  Currently attributed to James Malcolm Rymer, this epic-length tale of Gothic horror first appeared as a series of "penny dreadful" pamphlets before being published as a novel in 1847.  In the process, it apparently introduced many of the standard features of vampirism as we know & love it.

As usual, [livejournal.com profile] eldritchhobbit does an excellent job of providing the maximum amount of entertaining information in minimal time.  I particularly enjoyed the way she fitted Varney into the "blood canon" of other early vampire tales -- including Stoker's -- before moving on to the moderns: Dark Shadows,  Buffy, Twilight, & Charlaine Harris.

You can find this podcast on iTunes or at the Web site.   With regular content like this, StarShipSofa's recent Hugo Award is no surprise. 
ankh_hpl: (Default)
Just finished The Fuller Memorandum, Charles Stross's latest Laundry Files novel, last night.  I'm happy to report that this peculiar combination of Lovecraftian Mythos, very British spy novel, and SF-skewed geekiness is still working as well as ever -- though, as a non-computer-science person, I suspect I'm missing the more esoteric jokes.

If you've already read The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue, you'll probably want to put Bob Howard's latest -- and possibly nastiest -- misadventures at the top of your Lovecraftian to-read list.  If you're curious but new to this series, please start with The Atrocity Archives.    Stross does a decent job of reminding readers of what's happened in previous tales, but you'll be missing a lot otherwise. 

Along with the usual threat of the stars turning right Real Soon Now (or, in Stross parlance, CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN), this novel features one Dr. Mike Ford (John M. Ford fans, rejoice!), a glamoured iPhone,  and the first evil Sloane Ranger I've ever encountered.   I'm not sure how these books manage to make the Mythos-knowledgeable reader giggle on one page and shudder on the next, but somehow they do.

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