The real meat of this blog begins with a post-Christmas celebration of all the wonderful reading presents that I bought and received on the holidays:
From editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia at Innsmouth Press, I bought holiday review copies of “Future Lovecraft” and “Candle in the Window”, an anthology of neo-Gothic horror tales. I had already read “Historical Lovecraft”, the first full-length anthology from Innsmouth Press, so I knew both collections would be a treat, and I have been reading the stories like bon-bons throughout the holiday season as a gift to myself.
From McKay’s Used Books in Knoxville, TN, I picked up hardback copies of “Dead and Gone” by Charlaine Harris and “Strange Candy” by Laurell K. Hamilton. I have been investigating the paranormal romance genre throughout 2011, and these two authors have both proven to be very entertaining; between the two of them I’d say I’d read 30-40 novels in a single year. They’re quite light and fast-moving fare; I’ve already finished “Dead and Gone”, for example. It’s quite a short novel, and my faith in Sookie Stackhouse as a solidly entertaining and sympathetic character remains well placed.
While visiting Knoxville I also discovered a strange little gem of a collectible’s shop called Raven Records. Although the store sells mainly vinyl records and movie memorabilia, there was one amazing spinning rack of collectible books which really blew my mind. Beautiful old vintage paperbacks in excellent condition! Unfortunately it was the season of giving, not shopping for myself, so I restrained myself and purchased just one awesome vintage book for a close friend (can’t tell you what it was because he hasn’t unwrapped it yet!). The next time I am in Knoxville, though, I am going to be getting some goodies for myself.
As expected, I also got some great books as gifts on Christmas day. This year it was a smaller stack of paper books than usual, but this was because The Big Gift of the Season was the ultimate gift for the modern reader–a new iPad, which will allow me to access literally hundreds of thousands of free and low-cost books! Needless to say I immediately installed the iBooks app and started searching the web for cool free stuff from Project Gutenberg and other public domain archives. I happily whiled away a couple of hours reading George Bird Grinnell’s “Blackfoot Indian Stories”, which is a genuine gem for a person who loves both weird fiction and anthropology. Deeeeeelicious!
I also received paper books, of course. I’m a fan of comics as a medium, and the latest latest graphic novel-sized digest by author Bill Willingham was under the tree for me: “Fables: Super Team”. Alongside it were a re-print of two old pulp fiction stories from Shadow Magazine, packaged as “The Shadow Volume 17”–more on this re-print later, when I have had a chance to savor it. And finally rounding off my comic gifts for the season, I received a new graphic novel digest of “Solomon Kane” comics from Dark Horse. This was volume 3, “Red Shadows”.
I’ve been working on a project for the past two months which combines zombie-apocalypse horror with classic homespun American mysticism, so I also received “The Old Gods Waken”. This is one of the old Silver John novels written by Manly Wade Wellman, and has an awesome illustration of a Wicker Man on the cover. I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the adventures of an Appalachian bard.
To keep that novel company was another old Wellman novel, “The Beyonders”, which is apparently not based on the same character, but looks interesting nonetheless. I judge the book, of course, entirely by its cover. A handsome white couple clings to one another for comfort in the background, confronted by the enigmatic black pillar of an alien robot with one green-glass eye. The landscape of arid mountains and lurid red sands in the background gives way to the cool grey-violet stones upon which the robot stands. Could there be a more classic confrontation between feeble, defenseless Emotion and stern, remorseless, unassailable Logic? Could there be more eloquent packaging for a well-aged and ripened slice of vintage sci-fi cheese? 😀 I can only hope it doesn’t disappoint.
I also read Young Adult novels from time to time. I find that people who work well in this genre can be quite inspiring. The reason that I enjoy YA fiction might not make sense to anyone but another writer, however. It’s not that I aspire to write young adult fiction myself; it’s more that I like to be reminded that a skilled author can produce an engaging and meaningful story while working within civilized constraints.
You can make a powerful and effective point in your fiction without resorting to explicit sex or pornographic violence. And it is good to keep in mind that there is a vast difference between being innocent and pure of heart and being stupid or excessively naive. Also, quite honestly I find that younger readers are less tolerant of the self-indulgent nihilism which passes for artistic maturity in the mainstream. Children and teenager will not accept a limp-wristed non-ending, or any of the feeble excuses for a wrap-up which pass muster with far too many editors of literary fiction. You try to pass off that crap on a kid, they’ll quite firmly announce that it’s stupid, the Emperor is naked as a jaybird, and it’s time for you to march right back to your study and write a real ending for the story.
One of the first books I read during the holiday season was “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s quite a lively little book, and has been turned into a lovely (but not as coherent as the novel) animated classic by Hayao Miyazaki. In a similair vein, the last of the books under the tree for me was a young adult novel written by Rick Riordan. In 2010 I picked up a copy of Riordan’s “The Lightning Thief”, a YA novel with a Greek mythology theme, and found it enjoyable. “The Red Pyramid” seems to approach similar ideas from an ancient Egyptian angle, and I look forward to reading it during my brief winter break from the office.
Candle in the Attic Window
Dead and Gone
George Bird Grinnell and the Blackfeet: Blackfoot Lodge Tales and Blackfoot Indian Stories
Fables, Vol. 16: Super Team
The Fate Joss / The Golden Pagoda
Solomon Kane Volume 3: Red Shadows: Red Shadows
The Old Gods Waken
Howl’s Moving Castle
The Red Pyramid