So, I’ve been reading a lot, 2008 levels. My current reading is more out of abject depression, whereas 2008 was more, Sara and I liked reading. Still, reading is reading…
Not all of these books are new, I just consider them important.
I read the Strain Trilogy in under two weeks, and loved it. If you’re after gritty vampire fiction told in a sweeping story that depicts the complete and brutal fall of civilization to a rogue strain of vampires, hit the Strain Trilogy. If you’re watching the tv series and don’t so much like it, don’t let that detract from the books, they’re a much richer experience.
I’ve been reading a lot of Cherie Priest, more her tales of the supernatural rather than her Steampunk stuff. She’s now legend for her Clockwork Century series, but her ghost stories and tales of werewolf religious cults are pretty fucking awesome too. Check out the Eden Moore Trilogy, and Dreadful Skin, and also, for a total surprise, read Those Who Went Remain. Cherie Priest has a gift for (much like our next author) building fictional worlds out of real places. She takes the deep South, the far-West, and fills these wild places with tales of the wronged dead come to collect their due, or she shows us things that are quite alive and out for blood.
I’d already read and literally had nightmares from The Red Tree, Silk, and Threshold. Caitlin R. Kiernan is truly a master of brutal psychological horror that isn’t afraid to turn physical in a blink. I’ve recently read Low Red Moon, Daughter of Hounds (follow ups to Threshold), and Murder of Angels (follow up to Silk). Then I read her latest, a stand-alone novel, The Drowning Girl: A Memoir. I also have to note one of Kiernan’s story collections. Generally, story collections don’t floor me, but Alabaster: Pale Horse, does. Alabaster is a collection of tales about one character, Dancy Flammarion, an albino girl guided by an angel to slay beings of true evil. Each story draws you in until the terrifying last page. Everything Kiernan writes is something special. Her worlds are completely realized, I feel like I could take a drive to Alabama, Rhode Island, and find demons, ghouls, warring angels. I feel sad for the characters who live damaged, mourn those who don’t survive. Caitlin R. Kiernan writes lush, dark, beautiful stories, she’s not to be missed.
Johannes Cabal is a Necromancer of some little infamy, and everything Jonathan L. Howard has written about him is worth reading. The Cabal books are darkly humorous, full of wit and charm. A bit back I read Howard’s latest, Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute, and it’s top-notch. Johannes Cabal aims to thwart Death, to fully rip people from Death’s cold embrace. He’s after the Necromancer’s Unholy Grail, and I hope he finds it, but not for at least a few more books.No comments
So, my writing troubles feel like they’ve bottomed out. I can’t see how things could possibly feel any worse, any more stuck. I’m taking this feeling as something good, as a positive state of affairs. Now that my writing is so totally fucked, now that I’ve tumbled all the way down the hill, it’s a good time to trudge back up said metaphorical hill. It’s time to just start writing thoughts, every day (if I can swing it), until everything starts firing hot again. I’ll just begin with whatever thoughts are floating around in my head, even if they feel dull, because I know that the sharper writings will follow.
I think a lot about Tivoli, every day, really, and I know that she wouldn’t want me not writing. She wouldn’t want me just shutting down like I am. I wish I could talk to her, not that I don’t. I talk to her a lot, a lot a lot, she just doesn’t answer back. I wish Tivoli could answer back.3 comments
So, lately I’m really nervous. It’s hard to focus on anything, hard to think. It’s all stuck in my head, so many things I’m scared to write. I don’t even feel like me anymore. If I were me, I could write write it, but I can’t. I feel like I’m just a ghost of me.4 comments
“It’s one of my faults that I can’t quell my past, I ought to have gotten it gone…”
That line hits me, all I want to do anymore is to go back, which is absolutely the worst kind of want, a completely impossible want.No comments
So, it’s Friday the 13th, an evil, profane, Godless day, during which anything can happen. Except, nothing really happened, especially nothing evil and/or Godless.
I’ll write something better tomorrow. I’ve been a little under the weather for the past few days, but I’m finally on the mend. I suppose Friday the 13th isn’t too bad.
Still, tonight was supposed to be something different, something like going home after a long bad dream. I’m tired.No comments
Skip all the befores, skip to right now. Skip to him holding her close, feeling her steady breathing against his cheek, the rhythm of her heart-beat lulling him to move closer. He feels the heat of her, like he’s lying next to a star that spun into his orbit, she envelopes him in white-hot light. She’s so bright, so completely there, a celestial flame that burns away everything; fear, loneliness, the knowledge of clocks and death’s certainty. Everything burns away save for his intense want.
He wants to touch her, to feel every inch of her body, the secret places that make her burn hotter still. He wants to be pulled into her, to get lost inside her. She takes him without a word, their eyes communicate in a language that has existed since the beginning of everything, before sound and voice. The spark of his skin against hers bends space and time, creates a pocket-universe, a decadently exquisite place where she asks only that he come for her, and he does, always for her. She asks him to come deep inside her, to a place in which she feels him, and he feels her, and nothing else matters.1 comment
Authority by Jeff VanderMeer is the second novel in his Southern Reach Trilogy, the link between beginning and end. Authority takes place not long after the events in Annihilation. The obscure top-secret government agency tasked with monitoring Area X, The Southern Reach, is in a state of chaos. Their body count is high, their funding is spent, their insight into Area X amounts to a little less than nothing. Almost every agent they’ve sent into Area X has never returned. Almost. Some have returned only to die of a rapidly killing form of cancer, others suffered severe memory loss. The Southern Reach is a ship that needs righted before it sinks. Enter John Rodriguez a.k.a. “Control,” a man who’s been in the covert-ops game his entire adult life. Control is a “fixer,” he’s used to being dropped into situations that need corrected, sorting out the Southern Reach isn’t his first rodeo, though, it definitely could be his last. People involved with Area X have trouble maintaining a heart-beat.
Authority is a very different novel compared to Annihilation, don’t pick it up expecting Annihilation II. While Annihilation showed readers Area X from within, the way it maims, kills, Authority shows readers Area X from the outside, how it destroys the lives of those simply trying to understand what happened, trying to understand how the place even exists. We see this destruction through the eyes of Control, newly assigned as the acting-Director of The Southern Reach. Control is our narrator, he’s quick-witted, hard-working, with an amusingly dark sense of humor. It also becomes apparent soon enough that Control is in way over his head. The further he digs into The Southern Reach, Area X, the more he realizes that he is completely lost. He knows only two facts; Area X is lethal, and those who work at The Southern Reach, those with the highest level of clearance with the deepest connection to Area X, they don’t get to keep their sanity. With each question answered, Control is punched in the face with ten more. He doesn’t have to wonder why his colleagues are ready to bust out butterfly nets. It’s not terribly long before Control’s ready to grab a net and join in the chase. The story needs its moments of gallows levity, otherwise readers might end up not far off from Control’s state-of-mind. The novel is that immersive. As Control loses control of the situation, so does the reader. We feel what he feels, confusion that becomes fear that becomes abject terror. Authority is a psychological horror story, it’s about trying to comprehend an evil that’s incomprehensible. Area X is an evil that shows no mercy, it only demonstrates death, cold and unwavering.
VanderMeer creates an intense feeling of dread that grows with each turn of the page. We know that something bad is coming, but we don’t know what, or when. The novel gives readers fear of something malevolent that destroys one’s mind long before one’s body. The loss of self is something terrifying, it’s a fear that VanderMeer taps into with subtle grace. Authority really showcases Jeff VanderMeer’s talent for scaring the Hell out of people, lights on or off. Authority is slower-paced than Annihilation, it’s richer in psychological horror, character development, at the sacrifice of action. This isn’t a minus, it merely shows VanderMeer’s range of craft.
To me, The Southern Reach Trilogy is a literary chess match. With Annihilation, VanderMeer put his pieces on the board with efficiency and speed. With Authority, he methodically arranged his strategy, letting us capture just enough of his pieces to clear the board so he can show us that we’ve been wrangled into his devastating checkmate, The Southern Reach Trilogy’s end, Acceptance.
I totally can’t wait to see this thing through.2 comments
As I’ve mentioned around the blog, I died once, in some violently bright trauma room, but it didn’t stick. It was spectacularly dramatic though, my heart quit its post, a team of doctors and nurses beating the Hell out of me, trying to wake me up before all the beating in the world wouldn’t matter. My girlfriend, Sara, crying. Sara telling me not to go. It was like a movie. Had it stuck, it would have been quite something, a big, theatrical death, but it didn’t, and here we are, almost a decade later. I don’t think most death is all big and flashy, it’s slow and subtle and certain.
One of my favorite writers, K.J. Bishop, has this total badass character, Gwynn. Gwynn lives by his own set of morals, he kills for cash, he kills for justice, sometimes he just kills because it’s his whim and it feels like proper etiquette to do so. He drinks hard, enjoys all manner of narcotics. He dresses impeccably, plays the piano for eccentric old ladies at swanky parties. He has fallen in love, HARD. Though Gwynn could die pretty much every day, in some grand fashion, some way that he would personally find spectacular, he doesn’t. His hold on life in the midst of combat borders on preternatural. He takes kill-or-be-killed to a form of high-art. He is death in the theater of killing. Unfortunately, even though your profession is snatching life from others, and you do it well enough to see your gorgeous, flowing black hair go gray, you’re going to have to retire. It comes time to hang up your weapons and just be. In a later short-short story, She Mirrors, we see Gwynn as an old man. His recreational narcotics are replaced by medicines for his creaky joints, aches and pains that are the cost one pays for pushing a body past its limits over the course of a career that isn’t usually lengthy. His doctor has vehemently warned him against alcohol and cigarettes. His great love is now just a memory. He’s not dying as a mercenary in some great war, he’s not dying by sword or gun. He’s dying the slow death inflicted by time. He doesn’t go quietly, at the story’s end he’s off toward one more adventure, an adventure that might not go the way he wants, that might be the last his body allows, but to Gwynn, it’s the possibilities that are exhilarating.
She Mirrors is such an honest story, it resonates with me, and scares me, scares me because it’s so true. Our stories aren’t guaranteed to end how we want, or even with a quick bang. Time is what kills us, usually slowly, softly, over minutes, hours, years. The story shows how we’re all fighting against a force that we can rail at, furiously, and still, we will not win. She Mirrors brings to mind my favorite line from William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. I know the words by memory, “…Christ was not crucified: He was worn away by a minute clicking of little wheels.” We’re all worn away by those clicking little wheels, the clock makes us all equals, we all get too little from time. Our clocks stop and we end. Gwynn, Christ, me, nobody gets out of it, time quitting our company.
Life just kind of empties out, less a deluge than a drought, those words resonate too, those words have been important to me ever since the first time I heard Aimee sing them. I got the words permanently etched into my leg because the idea that time is slowly, but inexorably, wearing me away drives me. It could have happened way back in that trauma room, it could happen tomorrow, but probably, it’ll happen years from now, tediously and maddeningly. Still, one way or another, or another, it will happen, which is why I have bouncers carry me up two flights of stairs at the goth club, or fly to Boston during a blizzard, my antiquated breathing machine powered by an equally unsophisticated battery, with the woman I love just to see Aimee Mann play. It’s why when Sara asked, “So, would you ever go swimming?” I said, without a blink, “Yeah!” I’m terrified of being in anything larger than a bathtub, but she only got, “Yeah!” The reality that that slow drought will come is why I once told a woman I love her more than air, why I asked if she’d wake up with me tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. It didn’t go how I wanted, but I did risk it. I’ll risk simple failure, I’ll risk my life, anything, because at the end of my drought, when time has shoved me toward death’s enfolding kiss, I don’t want to feel like I let time wear me away without fighting with everything in me to experience everything I want. I can’t not fight.
The tattoo reminds me that my life is emptying out, and I can’t just sit back and watch it go.8 comments
So, Monday, I went to the hospital for a typical, boring, old-hat trach change (getting a fresh plastic tube in my throat). One trach change became four, and by the end, after eight hours in the hospital, I was fucking exhausted and uneasy. Just getting so tired makes me nervous, I don’t bounce right back anymore, it can easily take the whole week to feel even just kind of normal, if everything goes sideways enough.
I feel weak, and small, it scares me a little more every time. I still get back up, I fight it, I’ll never just willingly stay down. After seven years I know that much about me. I’m not trying to come across like I’m complaining, I’m just saying what’s what. I get tired, I get scared, and that’s that.
Doing this alone is getting harder. Not having someone to hold me close, and kiss me slow, to love me and be there when I look like Hell, and tell me I’m still me. The lack of her is the hardest part. She made the bad stuff not really so bad. That’s how I feel about her, have always felt about her. My nebulous her.2 comments