Friday, May 28, 2010



January, February, March 2010

Actually Locus needs no introduction, anyone who has even a very superficial knowledge of science fiction knows that this is one of the oldest magazines devoted to science fiction, but its content is not fiction, but non-fiction. So once again pronounce the obvious and known to all is necessary.

In each issue of the magazine there are two interviews, one is represented to the front page (very rich and interesting interview with Delany and Crowley in January and March issues), the second is more modest (depending on the author). Sometimes, instead of one interview there is some discussion, seminar etc. Interviews are very detailed, something like the rules of life in Esquire, it has no questions, only answers. Not all of them are equally interesting, but it depends on the author, too.
As the saying goes, meat of the issue is reviews. Reviewers all can (and should) be read. Books between reviewers divide this way: Rich Horton and Gardner Dozois write about short prose, Gary K. Wolfe writes about the best books, Faren Miller is about the fantasy in its pure form (for the hardcore fans of fantasy, although I am not saying that choosing books are the bad ones), Paul Witcover writes about fiction on border (too often it is fantasy), special section Reviews by Divers Hands (there often Tim Pratt and Stefan Dziemianowicz write) is devoted mostly to horror. I like most Rich Horton (I love him for trying to find something new) and Gary K. Wolfe (whose second book of reviews from Locus is out, I hope to write about it soon). Publishers make a lot of books every month, for that many reviewers need to. Everyone will find a favorite reviewer not only by the choice of reviewed books, but also by how the chosen one wrote a review. Reviews is of very high quality.

Reports from conventions, somewhere from Japan, Greece or the Czech Republic, remain me indifferent. But what curious to read is the business news: who sold the new novel, who finished the book, also obituaries section.

Lists of received books and magazines is a useful thing for those readers who either read a lot, or have a few favorite of prolific writers, to make sure that all their books are already in his own library. Sometimes it's funny to dig something unfamiliar to eye out, but most often it is purely bibliophilic quirk. And how much space is killed, eh.

Well, lists of forthcoming books. Also on about 10 pages. I am a person rarely giving (given?) attention to new books and reading basically that ones unsold on the shelves, I only recently realized the usefulness of such lists for yourself. In the U.S. everything is very clear: the February issue had already given list of forthcoming books until December. There is, of course, mainly the most notable things, and from large publishing houses, but it is useful in any case.

Locus is worth subscribing for both international and US readers.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Black Wings

Black Wings: New Tales of Lovecraftian Fiction

Ed. by S.T. Joshi

PS Publishing, 2010

Before I start to say anything about this book, I need to make a brief but very important announcement: I have not read any of the original works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Should I be ashamed for this? Maybe. I do not know. But now this is not the case. Much more important now to understand whether you can write something worthwhile about an anthology entitled "Black Wings: New Tales of Lovecraftian Fiction" without even a clue what he wrote (excluding the fact that some of his work can be put in two words - "weird fiction"). I think it`s possible. And it may even be useful to take a virgin look to anthology consists today HFL successors.

When you read the "explanation literature” (let's call it so, that does not use the word «fanfic»), you involuntarily have to compare the original and the sequel, thus part of the attention given to how the successor uses one or another motive of firsthand, was a follower able to convey the language of master, finally, whether a pupil put the teacher at the shoulder, or could not even begin to approach. All this makes turbid a look at the literature, strictly speaking. When you armed with knowledge of Lovecraft's prose, you more watch it for the branches: what, how, whence comes in a sequel. If not armed, you judge literature directly. Of course, knowledge of the original gives more pleasure in reading, savoring more detail. But it also may spoil the impression during reading.

When I picked up this tribute compilation, I admit I thought «Black Wings», like its predecessor «Lovecraft: Undound», edited by Ellen Datlow, are perhaps the pioneers in Lovecraft-building, but I was wrong. Lovecraft-ish anthologies are out a lot, almost every year, but not all of them equally well. This one, edited by S.T. Joshi, is excellent, although not all stories included in it equally well, too. Let`s take a look at the best.

The most successful stories there are those, where the beyond, space, frightening are only in contact with daily life, measured way of life, our reality. Those stories, which the space replaces, dominates the natural way of things, have turned out inconclusive.

One of the best (if not the best at all) things in the anthology was the opening story "Pickman's Other Model (1929)" by Caitlín Kiernan. Brilliantly written, the story resembles a sophisticated mix of modernistic novel and noir with a taste of intoxicating mysteries. Add to this a silent movie and a woman, carrying death and you will receive an elegant multi-layered story. This story is unlikely to have written Lovecraft himself, but it`s clear: Kiernan today is one of the most powerful writers of not only horror but fiction in general.

Another gem in the collection is «The Broadsword» by Laird Barron. "Broadsword" is a hotel in which the protagonist of the story, old Pershing, lives. He is lonely and burdens of the past: long ago he lost his friend in the jungle, but Pershing thinks, although he does not recognize this, that could save him. But, as you know, sometimes they come back.

Barron very realistically depicts the life of Pershing. This short story is a Philip Roth-on-Lovecraft-acid. Life of the old man becomes a nightmare when he begins to hear strange sounds, but his life had not been good before. Deceased friend returns in a new guise, to talk, but life of Pershing is already endless dialogue with the deceased. «The Broadsword» is a terrible story about that the nightmare can be replaced only by another, and punishment can even passionately be wanted.

"Usurped" by William Browning Spencer begins with a young couple involved in a road accident because of an unexpected collision with a wasp swarm. From that the catastrophe in their personal life begins as well: Brad, the main character, feels that that something was wrong with him. And he no longer feels invisible connection between him and his girlfriend. This story is another excellent example of how to pack in the right proportions cosmic terror with terror of the earth.

In his «Rotterdam» Nicholas Royle, also known for its detectives, perfectly shows what happens if in action, full of claustrophobia, add Lovecraftian horror. Screenwriter Joe arrives in Holland to look for images and ideas for a new script, but life, instead of images, gives him something more terrible. Trenchant, memorable story.

"The Truth About Pickman" by Brian Stableford is a story seeming take places in a Victorian decor. Professor Thurber seeks DNA of Pickman. Confrontation in words may cost the fate of the world. Chamber story with an unexpected ending. Another good chamber story in the collection is «Tunnels» Philip Haldeman. Told by a little girl, this story is probably the most harmless of the collection.

Veteran of the horror genre Ramsey Campbell distinguished in the genre of epistolary style in his «The Correspondence of Cameron Thaddeus Nash». The story is a series of letters between Cameron Nash and actually Lovecraft. Nash, initially friendly, becomes increasingly bitter and sarcastic: the stories of Lovecraft is the cause. Campbell wrote elegant pastiche, but breakthrough had failed in this story.
A truly fascinating story is the Norman Partridge one. In «Lesser Demons» sheriff and his deputy have to survive after that people began to turn into demons. The story is not so much scary as alarming. Only after reading it we will know what is more effective against the demons - the knowledge or the power.

At the end of the anthology there is another masterpiece. Michael Marshall Smith perfectly showed what should be strange - and terrible - story in the spirit of Lovecraft. In "Substitutions" mistake in the delivery of food leads to sad consequences. This is a story about the changes, about need of changes and about that changes are still inevitable. But this is the story about faithfulness, stability and impossibility of changes.

«Black Wings» is a very strong anthology, another masterpiece from PS Publishing.

One Story magazine

One Story

“Snow Men”

by Naomi Williams (Issue #131 January 30, 2010)

“Bomb Jockey”

by Terese Svoboda (Issue #130 January 8, 2010)

One Story is a magazine that fully justifies its name. He did publish in each issue only one story and mailed to subscribers every three weeks. On the one hand it is not burdensome for the reader: if the modern reader weary of the volume, then 20 pages will be just afforded. On the other hand: for someone who reads a lot, this volume is clearly small. Also, subscribing to the magazine is kind of game of roulette: getting only one story in on one issue, you can not browse to the next story, if you do not like previous. It turns out the wasted money it is.

For that two issues, which were the subject of review, fortunately, failure did not happen. In "Snow Men” the story of the contact of seamen from the expedition of the Comte de La Perouse to the tribe, who live in the Lituya Bay is told by the young girl Eskimo. Actually the whole point lies in the fact that the contact did not take place. Naomi Williams in an interview at the One-Story website said she had tried to convey in the story thinking and language rights, which is very much different from civilized people. The author has succeeded in that, although the young narrator still seems smarter than relatives of her community (that, in principle, does not negate the fact that she really could be smarter than them).

Fans of science fiction will find this story attractive, too: have not put Williams just under the title the date and place of action, the reader is left to guess where and when the events described take place - in the XVIII century on the Earth or in the XXIII century and somewhere in a distant galaxy on god forgotten planet. People from the expedition reminiscent of an advanced race, coming to the race behind. To tell the truth, the stranger were no need, the carnage did not happen (fortunately for the reader).

"Bomb Jokey" by Terese Svoboda is much richer in language, though perhaps less organic. To avoid being just another story about the environment, the author, as she says in an interview on the website of the journal, adds to the short story a love story between one of the workers in the Black Hills Army Depot and daughter of a local politician. Barbed prose is accompanied by difficult relations between the couple. However, Svoboda seems to undecide what the story is about: about poisoning the land or poisoned life. It is certainly the story worth reading, where the environmental side of it seems unnecessary.

I Killed Adolf Hitler

I Killed Adolf Hitler

By Jason

Fantagraphics, 2007

n a world where murder is committed by contract legitimately very often, to be a professional hitman is extremely boring. One of these killers in the law every day in his office accepts clients who desire to remove from this world their brothers, husbands, tesch, chiefs, and in the evening, after let someone put a bullet in the back, drinks beer alone at the bar, and at home, also absolutely one, prepars a simple dinner. When, after similar orders (changing only faces of clients and nothing else) he receives a tempting offer to kill Hitler, and, hoping to dispel the boredom, he is sent in time machine, the charging of which one should take 50 years, to Nazi Germany to kill Fuhrer. But things go awry.

Norwegian cartoonist Jason, whose books, like cakes, comics publisher Fantagraphics released one by one, in his works is correct one way: it is rather minimalist design, sparing of visual effects. Jason`s heroes look like animal species, but people inside. "I Killed Adolf Hitler" is a very dense novel, read all 50 pages at one go. Jason adds to the fantastic world a time travel, alternate history and elements of thriller, he also achieves the degree of melodramatic and sentimental, when they have not syrup, not drown in sugar. Down Führer, shaved his mustache, to the second plan, the author shows the return of old feelings between world-weary hitman and his former wife and does it so skillfully that even Hitler would have moved by.

As a result, at the end of the book all the sticks shoot (yet they had not shot in the book where the main character is a professional assassin), the time machine is used for the second time, and Hitler - yes, the title had not deceived. Almost.

The Left Bank Gang

The Left Bank Gang

by Jason

Fantagraphics, 2008

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway in Paris, brought together in the 20s. They go to the boxing fights, play ping-pong, drink in restaurants, discuss problems in their personal lives and fight. This could be perceived as a realistic novel, if not for one "but": four literary giants in the world, created by Jason, are not writers - but the artists drawing the comics. In this alternative history Dostoevsky has mentioned, too, as the author of graphic novels. Finally, when the four friends get tired of a dull life in Paris, which also does not apportion the writers money, they decide to go on a desperate step - to rob a bank.

All writers in this graphic novel are animals, as in all the books of Norwegian artist and author of many books, now published in English by Fantagraphics, Jason. And beside that it is a funny novel (Fitzgerald and Hemingway here, for example, in the literal sense measure, hum, their genitals), then it becomes even funnier when you look like two dogs speak, who, in general, perhaps the biggest writers of the XX century. Jason could not help but dilute the rather slow and boring, as the life of writers in Paris, story, dropping his heroes in a risky business, in which woman has been implicated.

The author shows a robbery rather complicated, but effectively, showing events on behalf of each of the characters individually. «The Left Bank Gang» is a modernist thriller, but with one flaw: painted four writers, and then let them into the criminal case, Jason eventually did not use the big names of his heroes. No connection between the first part, with life in restaurants and talk about comics, and the second one, the actual robbery. As it turns out that putting in place of writers even sailors of Sebastopol, nothing would not has changed in the book.

It is, nevertheless, a very exciting book. If mentioned masters of words were alive, they would not have minded to such stories about themselves.