Werewolf Porn

I am currently rereading Tom Fletcher’s The Leaping, largely as counterpoint to the previous two novels I’ve read (The Road and The Hunger Games), but mostly because at a recent party, somebody referred to it as “werewolf porn” and I love the implied subgenre there.

My current opinion is that it stands better for the rereading, especially knowing certain aspects of specific locations and foreshadowings, and the characters still stand true (in my opinion, better realised as a whole than Fletcher’s follow-up, The Thing on the Shore). I love the multiple aspects of the characters, and their clashing idiosyncrasies: I especially enjoy Graham’s quasi-scientific party-planning. Indeed, it makes me want to host a houseparty.

Another character, Erin, writes stories that she doesn’t ever hope to publish, but instead she forms them and memorises them in order to recount them to her friends. I think that this is a beautiful idea, and the rereading has inspired me to do something similar, though exactly where I’ll fit that into my writing schedule of the Irgard novel, my steampunk Macbeth and the forthcoming NaNoWriMo project I do not know.

Last night, I lie awake (it’s a fairly common pre-school affliction) and was thinking about oral tradition.

Being (largely) a medievalist, I obviously feel a certain affinity for the tradition – after all, my dissertation was written largely as an attack on the critics of Sir Orfeo who weren’t accepting that the poem is a product of the oral tradition.

It would be interesting for aspects of it to come back, though exactly how that will work I’m unsure. I can only think of a few things where this kind of passing-on of tales still exists: sometimes in ghost stories, but most often in jokes.

That said, my colleague apparently recently recounted the story another of my colleague’s had explained about their holidays to great effect, so maybe there are more examples than surface to mind immediately. Still, even that I repeated somebody else’s description of the book is suggestive of the tradition too.

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Werewolf Porn

Fearful Houses (and Authorial Meetings {3})

Last night, I joined the “cool kids of the London horror scene” (to paraphrase Will of Spooky Reads) in rubbing shoulders and exchanging idle chit-chat with some notable names in British horror at the lauch of Solaris’ new horror anthology, House of Fear. The anthology is editied by Jonathan Oliver, “the hottest new horror editor […] since Stephen Jones”*, who downplays the complexity of his role by saying that he “finds a lot of stories he likes and puts them together.”

He also chaired the release event, leading a panel of Christopher Priest (him that penned The Prestige), Sarah Pinborough and Paul Meloy. I hadn’t read any of these authors yet, despite all intentions, but I hadn’t heard of the last at all – however, I found myself most impressed by his thoughts and contributions.** Sarah was affable and only semi-coarse, relating her thoughts to a well received response from the audience – most notably to over-loud (and over-lustful?) laughter from the man seated beside me. Chris’ mike lay on the table, and his calm contributions*** had the audience leaning forward to catch his words, calm and rapt. He reminded me of when I saw Philip Pullman talk at a panel at the Oxford Literary Festival.

I’ve not read beyond one story in the collection yet, but the tales range across the wide realms of haunted house literature. It’s an interesting topic, and one that generated much interest, and much discussion, on the night.

I’ve a mind to recreate that here.

* So says Jonathan Strathan, who is quoted on the back of the book itself.

** Indeed, I read his story as soon as I got home, rather than waiting to reach it in the collection as otherwise I would.

*** Sorry I contribute that word too freely in this entry.

Fearful Houses (and Authorial Meetings {3})

Unquiet Thoughts – Simon Kurt Unsworth’s “Quiet Houses”

I first came across Simon’s writing in a copy of Best New Horror 19 and being impressed at the eerieness he was able to create in an otherwise idyllic setting. In fact, the bathroom at my girlfriends’ parents’ house has a picture that really reminds me of that story, which is quite unsettling when I would otherwise be happy cleaning my teeth.

As such, when Simon announced on Twitter that he’d happily send out copies of his newest collection, Quiet Houses to those interested in reviewing them, I jumped at the chance. (And was then terribly delayed in my ability to download and read it, considering my holidaying in the depths of Cornwall and its lack of etherial contact with the elsewheres.)

I had read much of the book in the late hours of the evening, when all else had gone to bed, and found myself suitably displaced by the descriptions and stories within. I haven’t jumped at the sounds of my home settling for a good many years – this was not the case while I read Quiet Houses! As the blurb states, “The houses are quiet. It is their residents who are screaming.” The concept lends a nice counterpoint to the idea of ‘unquiet places,’ which is pleasingly mentioned in some of the narrative too.

Quiet Houses is less of a clear-cut collection than I had first thought, but more of a (well-executed) attempt at a verbal portmanteau format. The stories of the houses (a loose catch-all within the book, but a word that suits the idea of memoried locations well) are unlinked, but connected by the studies of parapsychologist Richard Nakata; they are told in a variety of different manners, from an interview in a greasy spoon to documentation and Nakata’s personal experiences. His scientist’s drive is apparent in his search for “proof” (evident in the first few pages as he whittles down responses to a newspaper advert into a series of leads) and in the clear and open nature of the narrative. Nakata’s insistence on denying none of the occurrences and similarly in maintaining as objective a stance as possible only serves to make the book more terrifying, because in reading through the stories it is impossible to do the same as reader.

The difference in the styles of telling the tales is good, and I have to say that my particular favourite was the letter detailing the evil that lurks in the Merry House. Personally I least enjoyed the section within the hotel; the strength of its story would perhaps stand better alone, for I feel it doesn’t link with Nakata’s narrative as well as the other tales. That being said, none of the stories within are wanting for quality of writing nor scares. Indeed, throughout I was very impressed by the descriptions of the happenings. If these are all ghost stories, I’ve never heard ghosts described in such different ways.

Quiet Houses is released on the first of October, at Brighton Fantasy Convention. If you are there, I endeavour that you seek out its release. If you are not, I implore you to read this.

I don’t want to be the only person with these fears in my head.

Unquiet Thoughts – Simon Kurt Unsworth’s “Quiet Houses”