Wednesday, October 31, 2018

184. Addendum to } “from the heads talk.”

Gorgon Medusa’s severed head makes a winged horse, stone men, coral, a golden boy with a golden sword, mountains, and Libya’s snakes. Her head defends Minerva.

A lock of her hair "would put the enemy to flight." 

From F. Marion Crawford’s “The Screaming Skull”:
That’s a good fire, isn’t it? When driftwood gets started at last there’s nothing like it, I think. Yes, we get lots of it, for I’m sorry to say there are still a great many wrecks about here. It’s a lonely coast, and you may have all the wood you want for the trouble of bringing it in. Trehearn [the sexton] and I borrow a cart now and then, and load it between here and the Spit. I hate a coal fire when I can get wood of any sort A log is company, even if it’s only a piece of a deck beam or timber sawn off, and the salt in it makes pretty sparks. See how they fly, like Japanese hand-fireworks!
Comforted by fires made from shipwrecks—Captain Braddock knows what it means to burn a salt-encrusted deck-beam, just as he knows whose skull it is that screams, though he pretends not to— “You think you would like to see the skull? I’ve no objection. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a look at it, and you never saw a more perfect one in your life….”

Cole Swenson writes,
… For a while my footsteps are the only sound I hear until I pick up something going on somewhere up ahead. The noise grows louder, and soon is clearly a party in full swing, clearly coming from a building down the block, which I soon pass and notice that, despite all the noise, every window is dark.
from “A Walk on June 21” in On Walking On

reminds me of the “Paris Macabre” Lights Out! episode: two Americans attend what they think is an “artist’s ball”; outside, the house where the party is supposed to be is dark, inside… it’s a masquerade. “Will you get a load of the screwy masks they’re wearing?” “They may be masked, but fella, I know honeys when I see them.” They dance to organ music— “I never saw a dance like that… they sort of glide.” It’s not an artist’s ball. “Don’t be a lily. What’s there to be scared about?” They wonder if it’s “a clip joint”—and it is, of a sort. The dancers all are victims of the Revolution who hope one day to be liberated. “One hope, a hope that one of you will blunder among them, and give one of them deliverance.”

A trade.

[ read: "Excerpts from the 'Head' Talk" at The Plutonian. ]

Thursday, October 11, 2018

182. of the Best } of the Best of the.

An anonymous Publisher’s Weekly reviewer writes “[Ellen] Datlow’s 10th-anniversary volume of horror shorts [The Best of the Best Horror of the Year ] is a stunning and flawless collection” and that it’s “nothing short of exceptional.”

It’s unlikely PW’s reviewer read the whole book. But I have, and there are good stories in it: “The Nimble Men” by Glen Hirshberg, “Shepherd’s Business” by Stephen Gallagher, “At the Riding School” by Cody Goodfellow, “Grave Goods” by Gemma Files, "The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine" by Peter Straub, “The Days of Our Lives” by Adam L. G. Nevill, and “Nesters” by Siobhan Carroll.

Files’ “Grave Goods” and Carroll’s “Nesters” were both written for Lovecraft-themed anthologies. “Nesters” is lovely—it’s all about two images juxtaposed: the dust bowl and the Garden. “Grave Goods”—on Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation land a transgender African American and an indigenous woman angrily argue identity politics while excavating the grave of an unknown species of hominid. It strikes me as problematic to posit one of Lovecraft’s racist creations from Innsmouth as the actual indigenous peoples of North America. It’s a compelling story. I’ll leave it at that.

I haven’t read a Best of since the first volume, published in 2009. All the stories—except for my own (“The Man from the Peak”) and E. Michael Lewis’ (“Cargo”)—are thus new to me. As are most of the authors. I’d be curious to know what folks familiar with the series think of the selections. I don’t mean to second-guess Datlow—she chose her favorites.

I'm often surprised by what people like and don't like. My favorites from vol. 1 are “The Clay Party” by Steve Duffy, “Loup-garou” by R. B. Russell, “Beach Head” by Daniel LeMoal, and “The Narrrows” by Simon Bestwick. I’m trying hard not to be too pleased that my story was included in place of any of those superior tales.