Dark Tales to Die For

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hello, my lovelies.  I promised you a Halloween post, didn't I?  Well now... wherever shall I start?

First of all, my dear dear sissa, Sarah Franz-Wichlacz of wich-crafting, is blogging the making of her Halloween costume this year.  It's more fun than a magical bag of murder.  ;)  Hop on over to see what she's crafting.  

Now, in my last post I hinted that I'm all giddy about something, and I can't wait any longer.  I must reveal all.  In November, the man, the myth, the legend, and my all time favorite author, is coming to a town near-ish me.  And I have tickets to go see him.  Stephen King is doing a very limited tour to promote his new book, 11/22/63.  (Yes, that's the book's title.)  I, friends and fellow fiction freaks, will be sitting in the same room with one of the most influential, prolific, and genre-game-changing authors alive today.  And do you notice how calm I am?  Ah, the facade of a blog.  (If you knew me in "real life," you'd know I've been taken by fits of squeals lately, and have been blurting out, "I'm going to see Stephen King," at random and inappropriate times.) 

But, what's the most pressing matter right now?  All Hallows Read, of course!  Now's the time to spread scary books far and wide.  If you don't know what this is (because you've been clearly living under a rock, or you watch too much TV and don't read near enough books), see my post from last October.  There you'll find a full explanation and my previous book recommendations.  (You can also click the All Hallows Read link up there, and Mr. Neil Gaiman will tell you all about it... which, admittedly, might be more fun and most certainly more thorough.)

Now, if you look to your right, and down a bit, you'll see a lovely Dracula poster created by the Introverted Wife for just this occasion.  If you click the image, it will take you to her post containing all the All Hallows Read posters she's created, which she encourages using and spreading far and wide.  That talented, talented girl.  (While you're there, I would also highly recommend checking out her Doctor Who paintings.  They are superb.)

But, now you're up to speed, what oh what might you give to fulfill your horror-gifting duties?  Let me suggest some of the things I've been reading lately, along with a few old favorites.

The Passage by Justin Cronin

There's a story behind how and why I got this book signed by the author, but I think I'll tell it in another post.  What you need to know about this book for All Hallows Read, however, is that this is a scary story for the serious reader.  Do you (or does your recipient) like sweeping, epic tales where your characters are constantly in danger and it's the End of the World as We Know It?  This is your book.  Here there be monsters, but if you don't already know, I'm not going to tell you what kind.  To tell you that would be to throw this story into a sub-genre that may make you think this is one kind of a story, when really it's something else.  These are unconventional monsters, you see.  Unstoppable monsters.  But there is one who can save us.  At least, we hope.   

This dark tale is set in a place simply called the City, where you follow the footsteps of Capac Raimi, a young man who hopes to overthrow the biggest mob boss in the entire City.  He's ambitious and driven and smarter than your average thug.  Part mystery, part mafia tale, and part psychotic nightmare, this book will keep you guessing until the heart-stopping end. 

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

I have been wanting to talk about this book for MONTHS!  And finally, here we are.  Now, technically, I believe this book is considered a "fantasy," because it has, well, magicians (of the wizarding type, not to be confused with sleight of hand stage magicians, though there's a touch of that as well), and magical worlds, and generally revolves around magic.  Indeed, it tips its hat towards The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry PotterHowever, this is not, I repeat, NOT a children's tale.  This is a deep, dark rabbit hole that will drag you through hell and back again.  If Harry Potter were Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the Rye, people.  Keep up!) and hit his magical awakening at the nearly-grown age of 17, this might be his tale.  Filled to the brim with the poignant and the profane, there are moments in this "fantasy" novel which scared me as much or more than anything I've ever read.  Pick up this book and dive in.  I promise, you won't be disappointed.

The Tommyknockers by Stephen King 

Ah, the master at work.  You know we couldn't take a trip down this dark, questionable street without stopping off at his majesty's house.  And here we have one of his earlier tales, published in the late 80s, of strange things uncovered in the woods and a town experiencing it's own private renaissance.  Until, that is, things start to go wrong.  As it is with all of King's novels, this is a horror story but it is also something more, something strange and beautiful, something that touches the very essence of the human soul.  You will be moved.  And you will be horrified.  What more could you ask from the world's premier horror writer?

And then, of course, we have short fiction.  Never underestimate the gripping power of a story you can finish in the span of an hour or two.  The following are a couple of my favorite collections of dark tales.

Skeleton Crew by Stephen King

Another earlier publication of Sai King's, this contains a few of my most dearly beloved short stories.  The Mist, which was turned into a movie not four years ago and which tells the story of a man and his son stuck in a grocery store with the rest of the store's shoppers and staff, as a sinister mist engulfs the world outside where strange, almost unimaginable creatures lurk.  Mrs. Todd's Shortcut, which will weird you out a little and make you smile a lot, which is kind of a tall order for something dubbed "horror."  Inside these pages, you'll also find a man, stranded on an island and driven to the most horrific end.  A sing-along of sorts that will make you wonder if you're losing your mind.  And then, there's Nona, who asks just one question.  Do you love?

999: Twenty-nine Original Tales of Horror and Suspense

Another collection of short stories, but this one by various authors, some big names (Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oats) and some I'd not heard of before.  Many in here are short enough to read in their entirety during a short plane flight, and some take a bit longer.  I'm still digesting the tales in this collection (as I rarely read a short story collection straight through - it's something I take with me on short trips or in between novels), but what I have read so far are excellent.  My favorite, surprisingly, was a tricksy little tale called The Owl and The Pussycat, because it unfolds so brilliantly.  If you're looking for some bite-sized scary stories, this may be just the thing.

As always, if you read any of the aforementioned tomes and want to talk about it, please leave me a comment.  If there's anything I love to talk about, it's a good story.

You Say You Want a Revolution

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gods.  Things are crazy right now, aren't they?  But it's a good kind of crazy.  Like the whole world is waking up, all at the same time.  Like the kind of crazy you see in the eyes of a battered woman who realizes, for the first time, that maybe it isn't that man's god-given right to smack her around... maybe she doesn't deserve it.  Maybe this kind of abuse isn't just the price you have to pay to have a man around to provide for you.  Maybe she can take care of herself for once.  Sure, it'll be hard, but she and the kids will make it if she just digs in her heels and doesn't give up.  Hell, she's been taking care of every want and whim that man has, plus caring for three kids (all by herself for the most part, she reminds herself), plus holding down a full time job, for as long as she can remember.  What difference would it make if she dropped the asshole?  She'd lose his income,  but it's worth it for the peace of mind.  For the sanity.  Maybe... just maybe... she doesn't need this son of a bitch after all.  And maybe she'll do whatever it takes to be rid of his lies, his laziness, and his abuse once and for all.  This, that crazy glint in her eye says, stops now.

Mmm... yeah... it's that kind of crazy.

You've seen it too, haven't you?  All the protests.  From Wall Street to Nebraska, hopping oceans to other countries, droves and droves of people saying, simply, no more.  I think it's brilliant.  I think it's about time.  We don't have time to fuck around anymore.  We're using up resources, and what resources we do have are being wasted and destroyed at a rapid rate, and still they (the Big Men On Top) sit there, doing nothing.  There are some token efforts here and there, as they scramble trying to fix things, using the same methods that have failed time and again, trying to throw money at problems, when the money means less and less.  Trying to fix a leaky, sinking boat by jumping up and down, waiving their hands.  Too little too late.  It's time to get a new boat.  It's time for a paradigm shift.

I hope this works.  I hope we, as a human race, come up with something better.  No, I don't know what that will be or how that will be accomplished.  I don't think anyone else does, either.  Not precisely.  But, I think we'll make up the rules as we go along, as any young tribe does.  The human tendency for greed will always be with us, and will always be our enemy.  People are a messy, brutal, loving, beautiful, selfish, complicated lot.  We are constantly changing, while we stay essentially the same.  We morph.  We cycle.  It's simply that time.  Time for a change.  Time for the next thing.  We've done this so many times, and yet most will say, "Bah, it'll never happen.  In a couple of months, it'll be back to business as usual."  Perhaps.  But humans have short memories.  And sometimes things change in big ways while we're looking right at them.  We just don't always notice until they poke us in the eye.  Humans are also short sighted.

So, I will watch and I will wait.  I will show solidarity with those brave humans marching for Occupy Wallstreet, marching across the country and across the world.  I will demonstrate when I have the opportunity and speak up whenever I can.  And I will live my life, work my day job, write my stories, and try to conquer my own bit of greed that sleeps inside me, and occasionally wakes up hungry.  I will do this because I know it's next.  This is the great human tendency that must be overcome.  We all need to be healthy, we all need to be happy, we all need to be comfortable.  And we all need to be challenged.  It's not All Mine anymore.  It's not all theirs, either.  It's a hard thing, as any toddler knows, learning to share.

Interested?  Curious?  Behind on any of this?  Here are some links that will lead you to what the hell I'm babbling on about now.

Occupy Wallstreet - the beginning.

Occupy Together - tracking the larger movement, all over the country, all over the world.

Common Dreams - more news and special coverage on this movement.

Update (10/18/11):  See this recent letter from Rebecca Solnit published on Common Dreams.  Letter to a Dead Man About the Occupation of Hope

In a day or two, or maybe next week, I'll  be back to talk of fun things: books and Halloween and the thing I get to do that's making me giddy.  Until then, love to you all.  I hope your world is changing, too.