horror


Caitlin Kittredge is younger than I am by close to two years, which of course makes me feel rather un-accomplished. In any case, she’s a Washington state native, with more than one cat, and has been writing forever. A fan of comic books and speculative fiction, she’s sold two series to a major New York publisher (this one, to be started in June, and her Nocturne City series, with the third volume out this month), a superhero volume, and a handful of short stories and novellas. She’s also got a YA novel/series and a screenplay in the works, and I seriously hope she’s a full-time writer, because otherwise her day job’s going to be losing her very quickly.

Pete Caldecott (female) is a detective-inspector with the Metropolitan London police force. Her father was the chief until just before his recent death, so she’s got it in her blood. When some children turn up missing, she puts her all into it — and because of the nature of the case, ends up back into contact with Jack Winter, whom she hasn’t seen in twelve years. He’d been her sister’s boyfriend, and then had hung out with her quite a bit. Of course, she thought he died twelve years ago, and now he’s not in such great shape. However, there’s magic involved, and children are having their souls sucked from them — and Pete would do anything to stop it. (more…)

Once upon a time, back in the mid-90s, a significantly-younger Stephanie was prowling the library for an author she’d heard about in the back of another book she liked very much. She found the fantasy novels by said author; the first one was called Sing the Four Quarters, which piqued Stephanie’s interest as she was a piano student. After devouring them, she went after other books by the same author (Tanya Huff), and discovered one of her favorite series ever: the Vicki “Victory” Nelson books. She read them so many times that she nearly had them memorized, and when, several years later, she found out that a Canadian station was making them into a TV series, she was simultaneously elated and dismayed. What if they weren’t quite right?

Well, I put off watching them until the series was over (but I did DVR them, for ratings purposes), but I finally succumbed last week, and absorbed all 23 episodes over a very short period of time. Our basic plot, shared between the books and the show, is that Vicki Nelson had to leave the police force, due to failing vision, and she started her own private-investigation career. One of her cases turned out to be . . . weird, and not only did it throw her back into contact with her ex-partner on the force (and ex-lover) Mike Celluci, but it also had her meeting a vampire, Henry Fitzroy (bastard son of Henry VIII), and encountering a demon. Well, now the ‘otherworldly crimes’ are a specialty . . . (more…)

[So, a TV review. There will be more in the future, but not every day. Enjoy!]

I love Firefly. I haven’t watched any Buffy (or its spinoff) to date, for various reasons (mostly an irrational dislike of Sarah Michelle Gellar), but I’ve seen Firefly and I thought it was an awesome show. Joss Whedon is the creator of both of those series, plus the movie Serenity (based on the first episode of Firefly) and a new series that started last Friday on FOX entitled Dollhouse. Some think he’s a genius; whether he is or not, the general hallmarks of his writing (as far as I can tell) are great one-liners, humor, weird random things happening, and hypothetically strong female characters. The show is available at the moment on Hulu.com, and I’m sure there will be reruns in the future.

Dollhouse starts with an older woman trying to give a younger woman all the information she needs before she signs a release form. We’re informed that it has to do with wiping away one’s entire personality, and I doubt there are very many people going into the show who didn’t read the press releases that have been coming for a year now. The base idea is that there is a group of scientists who have discovered how to erase personalities in women and implant them with new ones, either from a single person or a conglomerate. These women are used hired by men with insane amounts of money for nearly everything: assassins, secret agents, and whores. (more…)

Robert Bloch is probably best known for writing the novel Psycho, that would eventually become the most famous Hitchcock thriller of all time, but he also wrote a lot of other novels, stories, essays, and other forms. He was a protege of H. P. Lovecraft, probably one of the greatest horror writers of the century, and also wrote science fiction, fantasy, and crime novels. He also wrote a handful of scripts for Star Trek (the Original Series) in the sixties. For a short period of time, he was involved with making campaign spectacles — balloons and the whole shtick — for a political candidate in Wisconsin. He was born in 1917 to a family of German-Jewish descent, and passed away in 1994.

Many of Mr. Bloch’s early stories were only published in pulp and other transitory magazines, and they have not been collected. Therefore, Subterranean Press has been putting out volumes of what they call The Reader’s Bloch, of which this is volume 2. The stories in this volume are slightly more science-fiction-y, rather than crime stories, and it includes such titles as “Never Trust a Demon,” “The Last Plea,” “The Strange Island of Dr. Nork,” “Skeleton in the Closet,” “The Bat is My Brother,” “The Hound of Pedro,” “Iron Mask,” “The Red Swimmer,” “Curse of the House,” “Pink Elephants,” “Unheavenly Twin,” “Tooth or Consequences,” “The Tchen Lam’s Vengeance,” “Satan’s Servants,” and “Fairy Tale.” (more…)

Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2008. The Prize is given for the entire body of a person’s work over his or her lifetime. In Ms. Lessing’s case, that includes a good deal of science-fiction novels. (The Nobel Prize committee can’t say, “We’re only giving this to her because she wrote that one book.” It doesn’t work that way.) She’s not the first Nobel Laureate who didn’t write strictly realistic contemporary or historical fiction; see Friday’s review for more details. In any case, Ms. Lessing’s science fiction period was mostly in the 1970s, and it included dystopian as well as classic-style SF work. It was not well-received by critics who loved her straight fiction novels. I don’t know very much about them otherwise, but she wrote them, they exist, and she won the highest prize awarded in literature.

This novel, however, isn’t science fiction, in particular; it exists on the edges of Gothic horror and perhaps fantasy. Harriet and David meet at a party in the mid-1960s. Each is a bit of a throwback to an earlier time, in that during an era of sexual and personal liberty, they both have nonexistent or very small sexual histories and they both want a large family with a stay-at-home mother. They start this family nearly immediately after they get married, although not by choice; it’s a financial strain on both of them. Fortunately, David’s father has money, but even so, the fact that they produce five children in seven years is a problem. Unfortunately, the fifth child, Ben, is even more of a problem. Harriet had an entirely miserable pregnancy; she felt as if he were trying to kick his way out from the inside. Once he is born, it is obvious that he isn’t normal — as Harriet points out right away, he looks like a goblin or a troll. He is also violent, and a danger to himself and everyone around him. What can they do with him? (more…)

L. Lee Lowe is self-published because she simply wanted to opt out of the publishing industry, full stop. She wants to be a writer — a person who writes and has people read what she writes — rather than a businessperson, and has arranged her writing career thusly. Her novel, Mortal Ghost, is available in a few different formats; one can read it for free on her website here, as blog entries. One can also go here for the book in podcast form, read by a young Welshman who is an acting student; here (direct link) for the whole thing in PDF format; here for various other formats, including HTML and various ereaders, and here for a POD via Lulu (not free).

Jesse Wright is homeless; however, one day, during a ridiculously hot summer in an unidentified part of England, he meets Sarah, who definitely isn’t homeless, and decides to take him on as a reclamation project of sorts. Jesse has issues of all kinds — intimacy, trust, whatnot — and while Sarah’s parents definitely help, it’s not easy. His nightmares — of a burning house and dying people — have always been there, but they’re becoming different. Perhaps it is one of his gifts — an amazing memory, an amazing ability to learn things very quickly, and something that may or may not have to do with fire — that is the key to the mystery that is Jesse? (more…)

Today’s short story collection, with a title like “The Best of,” represents another kind of short story collection: the retrospective, or career-spanning collection. These stories represent twenty-seven years’ worth of Michael Swanwick’s career, including five Hugo-Award-winning stories produced over the span of only six years. Mr. Swanwick is, according to his blurb, one of the most prolific writers of his generation; I’d never even heard of him before I received this ARC in the mail from Subterranean Press, but then again someone who writes mostly hard science fiction for adults and happens to be male might fly under my radar a bit. (I have my biases; who doesn’t? At least I’m working to overcome them!) He’s a Philadelphian with a rather large beard; he’s won nearly every single major award in the speculative fiction field, and usually more than once.

This massive collection — 470 pages — starts in 1980, with two of his earliest published works, and ends with a couple of stories copyrighted in 2007. Mr. Swanwick introduces his stories himself, in a three or four page introduction, and he gives a small amount of information on the background of each story. The tales range from pure high fantasy with elves to rock-hard science fiction; science-fictionalized blues to the edge of the world. The settings include various planets and moons, the earth’s moon, an office building in 1936, a pub in a secondary fantasy world, and more than one bar in the supposed current world. Nuclear war, first contact, and time-space paradoxes all have their days in these stories, but so do life, love, death, and humanity. (more…)

This is the single book that I have paid the least for this week; I think I paid twelve and a half cents for it. It’s a little warped, but the words are intact. Uh, by the way, Heather Graham the author isn’t Heather Graham the actress; the author’s actual name is Heather Graham Pozzessere, I guess, and I’m assuming she’s a little bit older, based on the years she’s been active. She also writes under her real name and under Shannon Drake; I stopped counting how many books she’d written after thirty, and I was nowhere near done. She writes historicals, suspense, and paranormals, among other things; this one is a paranormal suspense.

Lauren, Deanna, and Heidi are all from L.A.; they take a trip to New Orleans for Heidi’s bachelor party. On their first or second day there, they decide to get their fortunes read; the fortune-teller, Susan, tells Heidi that she will have a solid marriage; Deanna that she has a lot of passion; and Lauren, she warns, must get out of town immediately because her life is in danger. That night, since they obviously don’t leave, Lauren meets a tall, dark, and handsome man named Mark who mistakes her for his ex-fiancee; the next day, a headless and bloodless corpse turns up in the Mississippi River. Is she actually in danger? And why is Deanna acting so strangely? (more…)

Welcome to Day 3 of our Small Press Week. Today’s small press is Small Beer Press (small beer, for those who don’t know, is an older term for a low-alcohol brew; it used to be that drinking small beer was safer than drinking water); Kelly Link is one of the founders of this press. She also happens to be the co-editor of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror collections, as well as a short-story author in her own right. She lives in Massachusetts, and has a B.A. from Columbia and an M.F.A. from UNC-Greensboro; her stories have won the Nebula, the James Tiptree, Jr., and the World Fantasy Awards. Her second collection was published by Harcourt.

Stranger Things Happen is a collection of eleven stories; they range from deceptively simple tales that may or may not be about Nancy Drew, to stories that border on horror, passing through several fairy tales and ghost stories in the middle. A few of them are in second person; some feature male narrators, some feature female narrators, some feature children as narrators. Generally speaking, they’re all a little bit . . . strange. There’s some element in each tale — whether it’s the fact that the narrator is dead, or the fact that both main characters have the same name, or the presence of the Donner party — that is just a bit unsettling. (more…)

[Happy Independence Day, for my American readers, and happy fourth of July, to everyone!]

Charles de Lint, one of my favorite authors (a review here), went through a spate of writing horror and dark fantasy (more like slightly fantastic horror) novels under a pen name (Samuel M. Key) in the late 80s/early 90s. This novel is one of them, along with Mulengro and From a Whisper to a Scream. I enjoyed the latter of those two quite a bit, despite the darkness of the story, so for a little light reading I picked up Angel of Darkness. Oh, not a good idea. Due to the graphic nature of this book, I’m cutting all plot discussion. (more…)

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