Thursday, August 29, 2013

6 Short Story Collections You Really Outta Check Out

Since I've got a few short stories coming out over the next couple months, I thought I'd do a feature on the collections that have struck a resonant chord with me over the years.

Clive Barker - Books of Blood

The Books of Blood are a six-volume collection of long-short tales published between 1984 and 1985.  The first three are available in America as a single volume, with the following three released as In the Flesh, The Inhuman Condition, and Cabal.  These are the books that launched Barker's career and established him as one of the twentieth century's most important voices in macabre fiction.  Unspeakably horrific and beautifully imagined.

Ray Bradbury - The Golden Apples of the Sun

The short story was Bradbury's true domain, and this book serves as a fine introduction.  Despite a few political problems I've developed with him over the years, my favorite thing about his work is that it's written in a manner so simple that a child can follow it, yet the stories are so profound that they can still knock you on your ass as an adult.  I first read "The Fog Horn" when I was thirteen, and I remember thinking I hadn't known a story about a sea monster could be so deeply moving.

J.G. Ballard - War Fever

Beautifully surreal tales of war, science, and technology.  Ballard's work bears the mark of a true visionary: he expands your scope of what it's possible to write about.

Stephen King - Night Shift

King's early work remains my preference, and the stories in this one stand the test of time.  I remember reading "The Boogeyman" in the back of my parents' car during a nighttime drive back from a ski trip, and being frightened out of my wits.  In a series of happy accidents, most of the movies made out of the Night Shift tales ended up deviating so far from the source material that even if you've seen them, you'll still get plenty of scares from this book.  Perfect examples are "Graveyard Shift," "Children of the Corn," and "Sometimes They Come Back."

Richard Matheson - Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

It still baffles me that Richard Matheson isn't as much of a household name as Ray Bradbury.  His influence is broad, and his images are deeply embedded in our collective subconscious (even if you've never seen that episode of The Twilight Zone, you've heard a joke about the gremlin on the jet's wing.)  We lost Matheson earlier this year.  The upside to the death of a great writer is that their passing usually sparks a rediscovery on behalf of the reading public.  I'd like to contribute to that if I can, so take my advice and check out this book.

Neil Gaiman - Smoke and Mirrors

Gaiman should be considered mandatory reading for young writers.  Besides being really damn good, he offers transparency to the mechanics of writing.  Each of the wonderfully diverse stories in this book is accompanied by a blurb about the story's conception, gestation, and birth.  He wears his influences on his sleeve, and shows you how he digests, processes, and shapes them into something uniquely Gaimanesque.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dark Visions Release Date

All right, it's official: Dark Visions vol. 1, which will contain my short story 'The Troll,' will be released on September 17th.

One day last summer I was walking my dog along the Tiber river.  As we passed under a bridge, an image popped into my head: a young boy under under a bridge, having a conversation with a strange magician with malicious intentions.  I went home and started writing, not entirely sure where it was going.  It ended up being sort of a mash-up of Donnie Darko, Stephen King's IT, and Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Later, I came across a Chicago-based publisher called Grey Matter Press that was taking submissions for an upcoming horror anthology.  I sent them the story.  A few months later I got an email saying it had been a "fast favorite" of their acquisitions team.  A few months into 2013, I got another email saying they wanted to buy it.

If I'm gonna be real about things, horror fiction made me what I am.  It made me love to read as a kid, and it made me want to write from a young age.  Knowing that I'm joining the ranks makes me immensely happy.  It makes me even prouder to know that I'm contributing something to the genre that's given so much to me.

Sept. 17th.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Why I Can Put Up With Lovecraft, But Not Orson Scott Card

I just came across an article on Cracked that reminds us, in case anyone forgot, that Orson Scott Card is a paranoid, gay-bashing, Islamaphobic prick.

I was lucky enough to read both Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead before I learned about Card's extracurricular activities.  I knew about his affiliation with the Church of LDS, but given the depth of humanity showcased in his writing, I assumed that his religiosity was tempered by compassion, tolerance, and understanding.  I figured he was Mormon the way Stephen Colbert is Catholic.  Then, one day, I came across his blog and learned that he was a far-right nutcase.  I hadn't been so disappointed since I saw Dee Dee Ramone's rap video.

Since then, I haven't picked up a single one of his books.  It's a shame, because I greatly enjoyed the two that I've read, but knowing about the ugliness lurking beneath the surface cancels out any pleasure I might have derived from them.

But here's the rub:

There are quite a few writers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers whose work I adore, even if I don't see eye-to-eye with them politically, or I find them questionable as human beings.  There's no better example of this than H.P. Lovecraft.  Lovecraft was appallingly racist, even by the standards of his time, and it certainly shows up in his writing.  Lately I've been wondering why I'm so quick to approve the boycott of anything with Card's name on it, yet Lovecraft doesn't bother me.

First of all, Lovecraft is dead.  When I buy one of his books, the money goes to Del Rey.  If he were alive today, he'd no doubt be blogging for some vile little site like, lamenting the decline of the Anglo-Saxon majority in America.  If that were the case, I'd abstain from buying his stuff, sending a message along the capitalistic chain of command that I don't support that shit.  But that isn't the case.  He's six feet under in Providence, RI.  Card, however, is alive and well.  What's more, while Lovecraft handled his xenophobia by living as a shut-in, Card is directly engaged with the political climate.  He's donated large sums of money to organizations that are busting their ass to limit the rights of others.  It doesn't matter who Lovecraft hated, but buying Card's books essentially buys ammo for the enemy.

Secondly, it's a matter of getting what you pay for.  It's only natural that the mind that produced such dreadful, pessimistic work would belong to a miserable little goblin like Lovecraft.  In fact, that racism, awful as it was, played a large part in shaping his fictional universe.  His work is the product of a neurotic who lived in constant dread and fear of the unknown, but who happened to be blessed with linguistic genius.  It seems alien to us because, thankfully, most of us can't relate to it.  However, I expected better things from Card.  When I read Ender's Game, I was moved by the author's grasp of the human condition, particularly in how he addresses the hypocrisy of war and the way we systematically program and exploit children.  To this day I still can't square the concept of that book with the backward-ass dickhead shooting his mouth off about gays and Muslims destroying America.  It's like when you read about Axle Rose being a raging misogynist, then remember that this was the same guy who sang, "November Rain."

I've probably already made it clear, but I think Ender's Game is a good read, and well worth your time.  Regardless of how you feel about Card's politics, knowledge is power.  Read it.  Take from it what you can.  Just, if you care at all about the well-being of your fellow man, try to avoid paying for it.