“Your head is like obsidian,” she says to you, her hand passing North and South and East and West smooth across the surface, erasing away smudges, blood stains (but not scars, no, not scars, never scars) and the exoskeletons of memories bashed against a windshield.
You recall all you learned from geology classes as she continues to stroke your head. The glass forms because something very hot turns very cold, very quickly. This explains what’s happening right now — your body cooling rapidly against hers. Her skin broils, it could turn you into a naked volcanic glass statue and you would not really be surprised. And you would not mind.Short fiction by Mónica Teresa Ortiz. (Two illustrations contain nonsexual nudity.)
The Uncanny Power of Weird Fiction, by Jeff VanderMeer in The Atlantic.
After laboring as second bananas in Despicable Me 1 and 2, the Minions are finally getting their own movie.
What is Literature for? [SLVimeo]
The closest a film has ever come to adapting King’s internal-horror aesthetic is a film King himself has publicly lambasted: Kubrick’s version of The Shining. It’s the most artful, scary, and beautifully directed of the King adaptations, and even excludes some of the novel’s more overt (and potentially silly) visual elements, such as the hedge animals that come to life and stalk the family in the yard. Yet, the film never tackles the serious human horrors that infect Jack Torrance throughout the novel, specifically his alcoholism, along with the themes of cyclical abuse and mounting financial pressure. King’s criticism of the film is that Torrance, as played by Jack Nicholson, is portrayed as unhinged right from the start, whereas the novel slowly unravels the man’s sanity, the haunted house he occupies pushing him deeper into madness and violence. [more inside]
As the nights are beginning to draw in and Halloween approaches, how about something to make the flesh creep and send a shiver down the spine? Charles Dickens was a master of the macabre, whether it’s in his Christmas ghost stories such as A Christmas Carol, in the chilling Gothic emptiness of Satis House in Great Expectations or the dirty squalor of London in Oliver Twist. But there was another novelist who most people have never heard of, whose books also offered the Victorian reading public a good helping of horror. At the height of his career, he sold more copies of his work than Dickens, who is widely thought to have been the bestselling novelist of the age. This other writer’s name was George W. M. Reynolds, and he has recently been called ‘the other Dickens’. 2014 marks the bicentenary of his birth.
io9 has come up with a surprisingly good list of 100 science-fiction-themed songs. The comments are actually pretty great, with a lot more songs. There's rap, heavy metal, folk, polka, you name it. Still missing: more coverage of songs in languages other than English. [more inside]
17 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read in a Sitting by Lincoln Michel at Electric Literature:
This week author Ian McEwan expressed his love of short novels, saying “very few [long] novels earn their length.” Certainly it seems like a novel has to be a minimum of 500 pages to win a major literary award these days, and many genre novels have ballooned to absurd sizes.[more inside]
I love a good tome, but like McEwan many of my favorite novels are sharpened little gems. It’s immensely satisfying to finish a book in a single day, so in the spirit of celebrating quick reads here are some of my favorite short novels. I’ve tried to avoid the most obvious titles that are regularly assigned in school (The Stranger, Heart of Darkness, Mrs Dalloway, Of Mice and Men, Frankenstein, The Crying of Lot 49, etc.). Hopefully you’ll find some titles here you haven’t read before.
About 40 years ago, Edward D. Wood, Jr. published a number of short stories in "girly" mags (cover images likely NSFW), but those stories haven't been republished, until now. Blood Splatters Quickly collects 32 stories from Ed Wood, and you can read The Day The Mummy Returned on Boing Boing. If you like tales told by the monsters, io9 collected more of such stories, videos, and video games, and there's a related AskMe post, looking for stories where humans are the monsters, many of which can be read online, as linked below the break. [more inside]
"Probably more inhibiting than anything else is a feeling of responsibility. The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren’t paid to have great ideas, but were paid to be teachers or patent clerks or petty officials, or were not paid at all. The great ideas came as side issues." Isaac Asimov Mulls “How Do People Get New Ideas?” [more inside]
Tom Hanks, somewhat of an authority on going to the moon, wrote about it in The New Yorker. (You, too, can write like Tom Hanks!)
Scared Yet? is a creepypasta review series produced by Kris Straub, himself the creator of the infamous "Candle Cove" creepypasta. Episodes one, two, three, and four critique "Jeff the Killer," the SCP Foundation, "The Russian Sleep Experiment," and The Josef K. Stories, respectively. [more inside]
"He makes love to her, his first time with a woman, but she's not really a woman—is a woman, then a man, then his exact double, then a peacock, feathers alluringly erect. " Rumaan Alam's "Scene From A Marriage" imagines the domestic bliss of Zeus and Hera and assorted boytoys.
Six short stories by Edwardian humorist and short-form master H. H Munro (Saki) that do not appear in any yet-published collection of Saki’s “complete” short stories, taken from an appendix in A.J. Langguth’s A Life of H.H. Munro (1982).
I had a stroke at 33—On New Year’s Eve 2007, a clot blocked one half of my brain from the other. My reality would never be the same again. [more inside]
"Longings and Desires", a Slate.com book review by Amanda Katz:
[Sarah] Waters, who was born in Wales in 1966, has carved out an unusual spot in fiction. Her six novels, beginning with Tipping the Velvet in 1998, could be called historical fiction, but that doesn’t begin to capture their appeal. It is closer to say that she is creating pitch-perfect popular fiction of an earlier time, but swapping out its original moral engine for a sensibility that is distinctly queer and contemporary, as if retrofitting a classic car.[more inside]
Her books offer something like an alternate reality—a literary one, if not a historical one. There may have been lesbian male impersonators working the London music halls in the 1890s, as in Tipping the Velvet, but there were certainly not mainstream novels devoted to their inner lives and sexual exploits. Waters gives such characters their say in books that imitate earlier crowd-pleasers in their structure, slang, and atmosphere, but that are powered by queer longing, defiant identity politics, and lusty, occasionally downright kinky sex. (An exception is her last novel, The Little Stranger.) The most masterful of these books so far is Fingersmith, a Wilkie Collins-esque tale full of genuinely shocking twists (thieves, double-crossing, asylums, mistaken identity, just go read it). The saddest is The Night Watch, a tale told in reverse of a group of entwined characters during and after World War II. But among many readers she is still most beloved for Tipping the Velvet, a deliriously paced coming-of-age story that is impossible to read in public without blushing.
Reading Pathways: suggestions for where to start in on the works of Austen, Murakami, Asimov, Munro, Bray, Bradbury, Morrison, Forster, Atwood, and others. [more inside]
"Heralded in its day for its audacious envisioning of an American social landscape ravaged by dysfunctional sexuality – featuring an aspiring single mother who impregnates herself upon a dying soldier’s genitalia; a transsexual [gasp!]; and a feminist society who protest violent rape by cutting their own tongues off – John Irving’s 1978 picaresque now reads like a hysterical (in both senses of the word) male vision of the burgeoning feminist movement. Not much is different in George Roy Hill’s 1982 movie version, except that the absurdist imagery no longer drifts along the cooing flow of Irving’s prose, but rattles and jerks from one set piece to another. What’s missing is a strong characterization of the title character, played by Robin Williams, who scrambles from scene to scene like a quarterback shaken out of his pocket, never finding a consistent behavioral core from which to regard the shenanigans. Glenn Close and John Lithgow deserved their Oscar nominations for breathing dimension and empathy to a couple of kooky types the film otherwise regards with mocking abjection. For its reactionary middle-of-the-road advocacy of American normalcy under the threatening spectre of liberal progress, it’s a worthy precursor to Forrest Gump [TSPDT #577]. Of the films I’ve seen in the past two years for this project, this is the film for whose placement on the 1000 Greatest Films I have the most reservations." [more inside]
Pratchett's Women: nine essays (by Australian fantasy author Tansy Rayner Roberts) on the portrayal of women in the Discworld books [more inside]
Marilynne Robinson discusses her novels, fiction, and religion at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University in 2009.
Dr. Robinson talks about writing and the Middle West at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
Dr. Robinson talks about writing and the Middle West at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
"The weakness underlines the biggest trap of time machine fiction: with its emphasis on patterns and symbols, it's always in danger of devolving into a kind of interpretative game, a lit-crit mystery whose meanings must be decrypted rather than naturally perceived. Authors unbounded by time are susceptible to the allures of omniscience, which can turn their characters into puppets and snuff out the lifelike vitality of the realist tradition." Sam Sacks at Prospect Magazine writes about the rise of time machine fiction.
The New York Times calls David Mitchell's new novel, "The Bone Clocks," his most ambitious novel. This is significant because his other novels are fairly ambitious. [more inside]
Things That Don't Suck, Some Notes on The Stand
[Spoiler alert: assume everything, from the link above to those below, contains SPOILERS.] [more inside]
I recently reread The Stand for no particular reason other than I felt like it. I'm honestly not sure how many time[s] I've read it at this point, more than three, less than a half dozen (though I can clearly remember my first visit to that horrifyingly stripped bare world as I can remember the first reading of all the truly great King stories). It's not my favorite of King's work, but it is arguably his most richly and completely imagined. It truly is the American Lord of The Rings, with the concerns of England (Pastorialism vs. Industrialism, Germany's tendency to try and blow it up every thirty years or so) replaced by those of America (Religion, the omnipresent struggle between our liberal and libertarian ideals, our fear of and dependence on the military, racial and gender tension) and given harrowing size.
I'm happy to say that The Stand holds up well past the bounds of nostalgia and revisiting the world and these characters was as pleasurable as ever. But you can't step in the same river twice, even when you're revisiting a favorite book. Even if the river hasn't changed you have. This isn't meant as any kind of comprehensive essay on The Stand. Just a couple of things I noticed upon dipping my toes in the river this time.
[Spoiler alert: assume everything, from the link above to those below, contains SPOILERS.] [more inside]
'"The good news is we solved the murder of your husband. The bad news is you're under arrest.' Everyone's a noir hero!" A new HBO documentary explores what happens when the media are mixed up in a crime from the very beginning-- with fiction and film added in for good measure. A local news writer is incensed with HBO for bringing it all up again. (She will not be watching the documentary.)
Ok, this may be the most important email I send all year, so PLEASE RESPOND RIGHT AWAY. We need to figure out our summer weekend plans ASAP!!!! We’re closing in on our mid-twenties and I think this is gonna be the summer we all meet our potential first husbands, so location is EVERYTHING!!! Plus Sex and the City. Let’s take a vote! Creeping psychological horror, hilarious satire, or terribly accurate glimpse into the emails of a group of passive aggressive group of "friends" in their mid-late twenties? The Hey Ladies saga by Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss at The Toast chronicles the adventures of a group of friends who live in New York via their group emails as they plan various outings and events. [more inside]
As production of the fifth (of a probable seven) season of Games of Thrones proceeds, book author G.R.R. Martin admits that fans have accurately guessed major spoilers for the ending of the series. [more inside]
"Woolf often conceives of life this way: as a gift that you've been given, which you must hold onto and treasure but never open. Opening it would dispel the atmosphere, ruin the radiance—and the radiance of life is what makes it worth living. It's hard to say just what holding onto life without looking at it might mean; that's one of the puzzles of her books. But it has something to do with preserving life's mystery…" Virginia Woolf's Idea of Privacy
"Novels are no use at all in days like these, for they deal with people and their relationships, with fathers and mothers and daughters or sons and lovers, etc., with souls, usually unhappy ones, and with society etc., as if the place for all these things were assured, the earth for all time earth, the sea level fixed for all time." [more inside]
On the Scientific-Marvelous Novel and Its Influence on the Understanding of Progress, written by Maurice Renard in 1909. Via.
"It's annoying to hear we told you so—but, we told you so. The New Republic's initial review, published July 16, 1951, perfectly anticipated all the gripes and complaints readers would ironically come to have about Catcher's gripey and complaining protagonist." 63 Years Ago, We Knew That 'The Catcher in the Rye' Was Insufferable and Overrated. [more inside]
The Sci-Fi Writers' War. "A pro-Western, NATO-backed Ukrainian government faces a stubborn insurgency in the pro-Russian East. Fighting rages around Donetsk, with civilians dying in artillery fire and airstrikes, while Russian troops mass on the Ukrainian border. The latest headlines? No, a two-novel series by Russian-Ukrainian science-fiction writer Fedor Berezin: War 2010: The Ukrainian Front and War 2011: Against NATO. In a startling plot twist, Berezin, a 54-year-old former Soviet Army officer and Donetsk native, is now living inside a real-life version of his own story: He is deputy defense minister of the embattled 'Donetsk People’s Republic.'"
"London has become a literary playground: a project by the National Literacy Trust has scattered 50 book-shaped benches across the capital for the whole summer, each dedicated to an iconic London-related author or character." (The Guardian). The BBC report about the literary benches; the full list of benches from the Books about Town website. CNN has a slideshow that includes a nice photo of the Paddington Bear bench in use.
In the pantheon of fictional detectives, Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe is among the best. If you haven't met the fat, cranky, sedentary, orchid-loving gourmand of a detective, and his street-smart, wise-cracking, witty right-hand of an assistant, Archie Goodwin, this introduction to the pair may be of use. Between 1935 to 1974, Wolfe and Goodwin solved mysteries, captured criminals of all ilks, and on one notable occasion, got the upper hand on J. Edgar Hoover. The books are very much of their time. [more inside]
You Were Made for Loneliness is a Twine text adventure by Tsukareta that explores the idea of love in different situations. Since it's release back in June reviews have been overall positive. [more inside]
In 1985, the Mystery Writers of Japan (plus "508 people who love mystery novels") assembled two separate lists of the 100 best mystery novels: one each for the books of the East and West. A revised list came out in 2012. Both Western lists are remarkable for their comparative lack of overlap with the "100 best" lists produced by the American and British mystery writers associations. The Eastern lists are remarkable for the fact that fewer than a quarter of their entries have been translated into English. [more inside]
MeFi favorite David Mitchell ("Cloud Atlas," "Ghostwritten," "Number 9 Dream") is this week publishing a new short story, "about a boy tripping on his mother's Valium pills." He is publishing it in a series of 280 tweets. [more inside]
For the last few weeks, the Twitter account @Homer_Marijuana has been publishing a bizarre piece of long-form fan fiction about The Simpsons, family, America's wars in the Middle East, and marijuana, vast amounts of all sorts of marijuana. Now, 5,015 tweets later, Marijuana Simpson has concluded, and is available to read on an easier-to-follow Scribd document.
SF Signal today finished a top 50 countdown of short SF/fantasy podcast fiction: 50-41, 40-31, 30-21, 20-11, 10-1. The Parsec Awards for SF podcasts honor many other stories annually, as well as related non-fiction, comedy, and music: 2014 nominees; 2013; 2012; 2011; 2010; 2009; 2008; 2007; and 2006. And since 2012, the Hugo Award nominees for Best Fancast have been two-time winner SF Squeecast!, plus The Coode Street Podcast, Galactic Suburbia, SF Signal, The Skiffy and Fanty Show, StarShipSofa, Tea and Jeopardy, Verity!, and The Writer and The Critic with the popular Writing Excuses podcast often appearing in another category. [more inside]
Looking for American recipes to take to tonight's 4th of July party? It's easy to find historic recipes. But why not look to America's great fiction writers instead? [more inside]
“Would you like to – solve mysteries? belong to a secret club? ride, swim, travel, go to parties with the best friends in the world? Then the wonderful adventures of Trixie Belden are written just for you. Don’t miss a single one!” [more inside]
Leigh Bardugo writes haunting, Eastern-European inspired fairy tales (Previously) often highlighting the experience of women in a unfair world. Tor.com presents two new stories, the somber "The Too-Clever Fox" and the subversive "Little Knife."
The year is 1793. In this story, you will take the role of a fictional physician, Dr. John Brooks, as he navigates a disaster of a kind not altogether uncommon in U.S. cities before the 20th century... How Dr. Brooks fares will depend entirely on your decisions. Every choice has a consequence. Choose wisely. [more inside]
One man's favorite adventure novels published before the '80s. "Why does my Top Adventures List project stop in 1983? Primarily because I figure that adventure fans already know which adventure novels from the Eighties, Nineties, and Twenty-Oughts are worth reading; I’m interested in directing attention to older, sometimes obscure or forgotten adventures." (Hat-tip: DGStieber)