The Dinosaur Tourist, a New Limited Edition Collection of Stories by Caitlín R. Kiernan, 2018

The Sanguine Woods

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Almost nothing is only what it seems to be at first glance. Appearances can be deceiving and first impressions often lead us disastrously astray. If we’re not careful, assumption and expectation can betray us all the way to madness and death and damnation. In The Dinosaur Tourist, Caitlín R. Kiernan’s fifteenth collection of short fiction, nineteen tales of the unexpected and the uncanny explore that treacherous gulf between what we suppose the world to be and what might actually be waiting out beyond the edges of our day-to-day experience. A mirror may be a window into another time. A cat may be our salvation. Your lover may be a fabulous being. And a hitchhiker may turn out to be anyone at all.

Table of Contents

The Beginning of the Year Without a Summer
Far From Any Shore
The Cats of River Street (1925)
Elegy for a Suicide
The Road of…

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“What Ails the Short Story”, a Short Essay by Stephen King

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Love Stephen King’s novels? See if you can find over 170 references to Stephen King characters/stories/novels in this fantastic poster aptly titled “King Country” created by artist and Stephen King fan Jordan Monsell. 
(See the end of this post for answer key.**)

What Ails the Short Story

Stephen King, 2007*


The American short story is alive and well.

Do you like the sound of that? Me too. I only wish it were actually true. The art form is still alive — that I can testify to. As editor of “The Best American Short Stories 2007,” I read hundreds of them, and a great many were good stories. Some were very good. And some seemed to touch greatness. But “well”? That’s a different story.

I came by my hundreds — which now overflow several cardboard boxes known collectively as The Stash — in a number of different ways. A few were recommended by writers and personal friends. A few more I downloaded from the Internet. Large batches were sent to me on a regular basis by Heidi Pitlor, the series editor. But I’ve never been content to stay on the reservation, and so I also read a great many stories in magazines I bought myself, at bookstores and newsstands in Florida and Maine, the two places where I spend most of the year. I want to begin by telling you about a typical short-story-hunting expedition at my favorite Sarasota mega-bookstore. Bear with me; there’s a point to this.

I go in because it’s just about time for the new issues of Tin House and Zoetrope: All-Story. There will certainly be a new issue of The New Yorker and perhaps Glimmer Train and Harper’s. No need to check out The Atlantic Monthly; its editors now settle for publishing their own selections of fiction once a year in a special issue and criticizing everyone else’s the rest of the time. Jokes about eunuchs in the bordello come to mind, but I will suppress them.

Continue reading ““What Ails the Short Story”, a Short Essay by Stephen King”

“Arthur Machen: A Novelist of Ecstasy and Sin”—An Essay by Vincent Starrett, 1918

The Sanguine Woods

6178F532-4346-4D1A-B404-6875730F9C51Arthur Machen is, perhaps, best known for his horror novella “The Great God Pan”, published as a shorter story in 1890, and, four years later, in 1894, in its full length form, which we know and celebrate today. Machen scholars and critics attribute the tale to the Decadent Movement in Literature (and Art), begun by Baudelaire eat al, in France during the last decade of the 19th Century. Machen, himself, rejected the attribution, claiming that the story has its roots in the mystical Welch countryside where he was born in 1865, and in which he lived most of his life.

Arthur Machen: A Novelist of Ecstasy and Sin

Vincent Starrett

Originally published in 1918.

Some thirty odd years ago, a young man of twenty-two, the son of a Welsh clergyman, fresh from school and with his head full of a curiously occult mediaevalism, privately acquired from yellowed palimpsests and dog-eared…

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The Complete Borne–A New Collection by Weird Fiction Writer Jeff VanderMeer (Subterranean Press 2018)

The Sanguine Woods

the_complete_borne_by_jeff_vandermeer_prelim_coverDust jacket illustration by Vasily Polovtsev. Cover design not final. (Subterranean Press)

In the course of a career that has spanned more than three decades, Jeff VanderMeer has emerged as one of the most elegant, intelligent literary fantasists of the modern era. His best work bears comparison to such established masters as John Crowley and Ursula K. Le Guin, and he keeps getting better, book after book. In 2017, he followed his groundbreaking Southern Reach Trilogy with the powerful dystopian fantasy, Borne. In The Complete Borne, VanderMeer expands that novel’s original vision through supplementary narratives that enlarge our understanding of his astonishing fictional world.

The centerpiece of this collection is the original novel itself. Borne offers a portrait of a broken, toxic future dominated by three elements: the immense flying bear known as Mord, an elusive figure called simply the Magician, and the remnants of a once powerful organization called…

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Story Structure

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Richard Klu

Beginning

Middle

End

Seems simple right? But it’s far from it the first few times you actually sit down to write. A strong story builds up to a climax and creates a payoff for both the reader and the characters. There’s a very real threat in the story. Something we don’t want to see happen or something that is happening that we want to see stopped.

But first we need a setting. Then we need to introduce our characters. Then we have to make the reader believe that this really could happen. It’s very easy to write an unbelievable character. If they never lose or struggle it’s unbelievable.

The beginning of the story is an introduction to the characters, the world, and the problem.

The middle is the acceptance of the journey and the chracters struggle towards finding resolution. Many times in the middle of a story a character will…

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On Authorial Voice in Quality Fiction & Its Ability to Build Atmosphere by Matt Cardin…

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From the Introduction to The Secret of Ventriloquism–a Creepy Collection of Short Stories by Jon Padget (Dunhams Manor Press 2017)

Click here to see the Table of Contents, Reviews, and a Link to get the book! (Free to read right now on Kindle!)

S. T. Joshi has famously argued that the truly great authors of weird fiction have been great precisely because they use their stories as a vehicle for expressing a coherent worldview. I would here like to advance an alternative thesis. I would like to assert that one of the characteristics of great weird fiction, and most especially weird horror—not the sole characteristic, of course, since weird horror is a multifaceted jewel, but a characteristic that is crucial and irreducible in those works of the weird that lodge in the reader’s mind with unforgettable force and intensity—is a vivid and distinct authorial voice.

Can you imagine Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” without the sonorous narrative voice that speaks from the very first page in tones of absolute gloom and abject dread? Can you imagine Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zann” minus its voice of detached, dreamlike trepidation tinged with cosmic horror, as generated by the author’s distinctive deployment of diction and artistry of prose style? Or Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House without the striking establishment of voice in the classic opening paragraph (“ No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream…”), which then develops over the course of the novel into a sustained tone of mingled dread, loneliness, and melancholy?

Or what about Ligotti’s “The Last Feast of Harlequin” without its measured tone of fearful discovery foregrounded against an emotional backdrop of desolate inner wintriness, as delivered in the narrative voice of an unnamed social anthropologist investigating a strange clown festival in an American Midwestern town? Each of these stories would be not just diminished but fundamentally altered—neutered, hamstrung, eviscerated—by the removal of its distinctive voice, which, vitally, is not just the narrative voice of the individual story but the voice of the author expressing itself through the environment of that particular work.

The point is not, of course, that these writers always maintain the very same voice in multiple works. Poe creates many different narrative voices across the span of his complete oeuvre. But he always, on some level, sounds like Poe. The same is true of Lovecraft, Jackson, Ligotti, and the other great masters of weird and supernatural horror. Their voice is vital to their authorial selves. They don’t write in the style-less monotone of much commercial horror fiction. In their works you can hear them talking in and through the multitude of voices that make up their respective fictional worlds. It’s a special kind of literary art, this creation of a distinctive voice that speaks to the reader in unmistakable tones with a manifest force and singularity of identity.

And it is an art that Jon Padgett possesses in spades. I learned this over a span of years as I was privileged to observe, intermittently and from a distance, the germination and gestation of Jon’s authorial self. Eventually he started sending stories that fairly stunned me with the force of their philosophical-emotional impact. I remember first being affected like this by “20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism,” in which—significantly—the narrative itself focuses directly on the nature and power of voice, and of one special, dreadful voice in particular, an “intangible, alien voice twisting through that throat and that mouth, telling us that you have only ever been one of its myriad, crimson arms… Feel that voice that is not a voice bubbling through that mouth that is not a mouth. Let it purge you of your static. Let it fill you with its own static.” Presented in the form of a step-by-step guide to learning “Greater Ventriloquism”—whose practitioners are “acolytes of the Ultimate Ventriloquist … catatonics, emptied of illusions of selfhood and identity … perfect receivers and transmitters of nothing with nothing to stifle the voice of our perfect suffering”—this is one of the most powerful, unsettling, disturbing, and impactful stories of its kind, or really of any kind, that I have read in the last ten years.

The same current of power winds its way through the other works gathered together here. In these nine striking stories—or, more accurately, seven stories plus a one-act play and a guided meditation on experiencing the horror of conscious existence—Jon modulates the voice of his author’s self into multiple tones depending on the needs of the piece at hand. In “Organ Void” and “The Infusorium,” for example, he calibrates it with galling effectiveness to generate a tone, mood, and worldview of visceral filthiness set in a fictional realm of mounting, horrifying darkness. In “Murmurs of a Voice Foreknown” he applies it successfully to the first-person depiction of the narrator’s personal nightmare of childhood persecution, and the inner transition that leads this young protagonist to realize his power to outdo his persecutor.

In “The Mindfulness of Horror Practice” (the aforementioned guided meditation), he sounds almost like one of his non-horror influences, the contemporary spiritual writer and teacher Eckhart Tolle, who speaks unfailingly in a gentle voice of detached lucidity and focused self-inquiry—and yet Jon makes this so much his own that the voice guiding the reader toward a state of liberation from, or rather within, the horrors of body, mind, and being itself is recognizable as perhaps the quintessence of the other narrative voices in the book. In all of this, one can, I think, detect traces of his longtime practice of ventriloquism, as he projects his author’s voice into each work and makes it speak convincingly through them all, even as it remains, in essence, his own.

I hope and believe that this, the first full-length book by Jon Padgett, will be remembered as an authentically significant debut collection. Along with voice, it also has vision, as may be evident from the lines I have quoted, and Jon’s rich elaboration of this vision goes a considerable distance toward establishing a coherent worldview and thus fulfilling the Joshian criterion. “We Greater Ventriloquists are acolytes of the Ultimate Ventriloquist,” announces one of his narrators at the end of twenty transformative lessons. “We Greater Ventriloquists are catatonics, emptied of illusions of selfhood and identity… We are active as nature moves us to be: perfect receivers and transmitters of nothing with nothing to stifle the voice of our perfect suffering. Yes, we Greater Ventriloquists speak with the voice of nature making itself suffer.” I don’t know for sure if “the voice of nature making itself suffer” is actually, ultimately, Jon’s own voice. For his sake, I think I hope it isn’t. But I do know that it is a voice that lodges in the reader’s mind with colossal force and intensity, marking that story and this book as unforgettable.

– Matt Cardin, 2016

Book Review Reblog: The Earlie King & the Kid in Yellow by Danny Denton

The Sanguine Woods

3EC208F2-1589-45F2-AC92-EDA901E5130AReblogged from Shiny New Books @ http://shinynewbooks.co.uk/the-earlie-king-the-kid-in-yellow-by-danny-denton/

The Earlie King & the Kid in Yellow by Danny Denton

Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies

At the close of James Joyce’s moving and magisterial story ‘The Dead’ the reader learns that ‘snow was general all over Ireland… falling faintly through the universe … on all the living and the dead’, and the settling, drifting whiteness is given its full emotional force in a tale of imprisoned passions. In Danny Denny’s début novel, which makes free, updated use of Joycean wordplay and stream-of-consciousness effects, it is rain – a perma-rain – that envelops a degraded future Ireland, a soggy, drenched, inimical environment through which characters struggle in pursuit of their obsessions. It’s an omnium gatherum, mix-and-match, jazzy sort of a narrative stitched around some adversarial high jinks between the two eponymous figures, a royal hegemon or gangster chief and an early-adolescent boy who has fathered…

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