Saturday, June 14, 2003

Two more days in Short Fiction Month. Ah, well....I hope I pick good ones for the last couple of days.

:: Michael Chabon may become one of my favorite writers. I was entranced by his juggernaut of a novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, and in the last week I read two of his stories: "The God of Dark Laughter" and "In the Black Mill". These are atmospheric horror tales in the Lovecraft vein, and both are excellent. Chabon has a gift of language that's a pleasure to behold: not only do his stories entrance, but the sentences themselves are works of art. Chabon is an author whose work I want to explore more deeply.

:: Graham Masterton is another author I want to explore more. He's actually been on my radar screen since I read a brilliant short story of his four or five years ago, "The Secret Shih-Tan", which is about a chef and his encounter with a secret cookbook whose recipes are, well, demented in their ingredients. That story isn't horrific in any supernatural way, and nor is the one I read the other night, "Pig's Dinner". Both stories are, though, quite gory. Masterton doesn't seem to be a guy who shies away from blood and guts in his fiction. I often find gore in print ineffective; you can tell me, "blood gushed from the place where his arm used to be", and I won't react much at all. Print has a way of lessening the impact of blood-and-guts. Masterton, though, knows how to do it. "Pig's Dinner" actually had me going, "Ewwwwwwwww!!"

:: One sub-genre I've always enjoyed is the "Stuffy English Explorer" tale, in which our hero sets out from his stuffy club (where he and his fellow explorers sit in overstuffed leather chairs drinking Port) to go and find some mythic or lost item. Lisa Goldstein's "The Fantasma of Q------" is just such a story. In these stories, the denouement can almost always be predicted very early on. But that's not the point. This was a good one.

:: A general note: I can't speak too highly of the annual Year's Best Fantasy and Horror collections, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. I think they're up to number fifteen, which will be coming out in another month or two. The fiction in these books is of invariable high quality, and for anyone interested in these genres, the books are worth their price for the introductory "Year in Review" essays alone. (The companion Year's Best Science Fiction series, edited by Gardner Dozois, is of comparable quality.)

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