Let's Talk About Horror Fiction and Film

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Spaceman Spiff, Oct 10, 2007.

  1. Spaceman Spiff

    Spaceman Spiff Abuse of Power Administrator

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    Here's our new thread title. If you think of something better, let me know.

    I'm halfway through The Wolf Man: Hunter's Moon. So far, it ranks between the Dracula and Frankenstein DHPress novels.

    I'll post more about it soon.
     
  2. Brendan Moody

    Brendan Moody Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    I'm trying to branch out a bit into lesser-known (to me, anyway) writers of post-Lovecraft horror. First on the list are T.E.D. Klein and Ramsey Campbell.

    Klein has quite a following despite a tiny oeuvre, his entire output over thirty-plus years consisting of ten (very) short stories, five novels, and one novel. I have the novel and a collection of the four of the novellas coming in the mail sometime soon. Last week I read his short fiction collection Reassuring Tales, which includes nine of the short stories and the other novella. I posted a review of it at my LiveJournal here. In brief: a slim but highly readable collection.

    Ramsey Campbell is far more prolific, with nearly thirty novels and about a dozen short story collections over a four-decade career that's still going strong. Lovecraft expert S.T. Joshi considers Campbell the best writer of weird fiction in the modern era. Right now I'm working my way through his collection Alone with the Horrors, covering his short stories from 1961 to 1991. So far what comes through most is his talent for integrating psychological and social problems into his fiction without seeming crass or destroying the mood of haunting uncertainty that his delicate prose creates. I also have Campbell's novel The House on Nazareth Hill, and am considering picking up the recent Millipede Press reprint of his serial killer novel The Face That Must Die.

    Speaking of Millipede Press, fans of off-beat, extremely psychological horror might want to have a look at their recent reprint of Roland Topor's The Tenant. Topor blends social anxiety and gradual supernaturalism in a genuinely unsettling short novel. This edition also includes four of Topor's short stories, some of his rather creepy artwork (that's one of his own pieces on the cover), and an introduction by Thomas Ligotti.

    I'm still working at H.P. Lovecraft's Favorite Weird Tales. Last night I read M.P. Shiel's "The House of Sounds," an excellent story of a decaying family and their unusual dwelling-place. As that plot outline would suggest, it's reminiscent of Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher," but it's got weird narrative conceits of its own and a particular florid style that simultaneously disturbs and hypnotizes the reader with its tangled syntax and flashes of poetic alliteration. Difficult to get into, but a classic once you're caught up in the flow.

    Finally, there's New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, edited by Ramsey Campbell. I haven't started it yet, though I've previously read Stephen King's "Crouch End," about a couple who get lost in a suburb of London and find their way into another world entirely.
     
  3. Spaceman Spiff

    Spaceman Spiff Abuse of Power Administrator

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    I've read quite a bit of Ramsey Campbell; I read a lot of horror anthologies, and he pops up a lot in those. (I recently picked up the Stoker award-winning Dark Delicacies, and it's not surprise that he's in there.) His short stories are almost always good, and I keep meaning to read some of his novels.

    Speaking of collections, Penguin's recently released American Supernatural Tales. It's got a few stories that are bound to be repeats for most of us, like The Call of Cthulhu and The Fall of the House of Usher, but it's got lots of others, like Robert E. Howard, Ambrose Bierce, etc. At 512 pages, it's a good collection of authors from various time periods.

    Actually, it may be of particular interest to you, Brendan. It's not Lovecraft-themed, per se, but it's got a lot of Lovecraft Circle-type stuff in it. Glancing at the Table of Contents:

    August Derlith's The Lonesome Place
    Clark Ashton Smith's The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis
    T.E.D. Klein's The Events at Poroth Farm
    Thomas Ligotti's Vasterian

    There might be some I'm missing. I just noticed that Norman Partridge has a story in there. I didn't spot that when I picked it up.

    It's a sharp little book, like most of the Penguin Classics. I'm sure that some of the ones I've mentioned here are repeats for you, given your preferences, but if you want a cool little book that's got them all together, it's for you.

    ...

    On a totally different note, RJDiogenes, while reading the (kind of dull) Wolf Man: Hunter's Moon, I looked up the original film on Wikipedia and discovered that Universal's planning a remake to be released in 2009. :eek: They've already cast Benicio Del Toro as Larry Talbot (it surprised me at first, but he's got a skinny Chaney Jr-ish look to him, come to think of it), and Anthony Hopkins as Sir John Talbot.

    Crazy, huh? I'm torn, but intrigued. They've got Rick Baker doing the make-up; given his interviews on The Wolf Man Legacy Edition DVD, I'm sure he banged the door down for the job. :lol:
     
  4. RJDonner&Blitzen

    RJDonner&Blitzen Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    Hunter's Moon is released? I must have forgotten to order it. It must be languishing in my shopping cart.

    Now that you mention it, I remember reading about the Wolf Man remake. I have a vague recollection of the article including comments by the writer or producer and that he got about a half a dozen facts about the original movie all wrong. Not encouraging. :(

    By now, I'm sure everyone's seen the previews for The Mist. I have no idea if it will be any good or not, but I know that the story is one of my all-time favorite Stephen King tales, from back when he was in his prime and at the peak of his powers. I sigh fondly, thinking back to the early 80s and picking up Kirby McCauley's Dark Forces anthology and being totally blown away by it. I checked to see if they might be releasing it as a stand-alone in connection with the movie and sure enough, they did. :)

    If you haven't read it, you should grab it. :cool:
     
  5. Spaceman Spiff

    Spaceman Spiff Abuse of Power Administrator

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    Michael Jan Friedman is the author. It's okay, and he captures Chaney, Jr.'s performance well enough. The prose is kind of clunky (not that I'm expecting a Wolf Man novel to be lyrical), but it fits well into the films, taking place between The Wolf Man and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.

    He makes attempts to explain some of the weird things about the film, like why Bela turns into an actual wolf, while Chaney maintains a more human form.

    The biggest complaint I have is that not much happens. There's no transformation until almost 140 pages in, and it's only a 235-page book. That isn't to say that it needs lots of transformations to be interesting, but not a whole lot happens until then.

    Like Shadow of Frankenstein, some of the descriptions of gore took me out of the world of the Universal Monsters. It doesn't go into extreme territory with that, but definitely more than the movies. But, to be fair, that'd be true with any blood at all. Of the three I've read, Shadow is still my favorite.
     
  6. Davros

    Davros Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    H. P. Lovecraft.
     
  7. Spaceman Spiff

    Spaceman Spiff Abuse of Power Administrator

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    Never heard of her.
     
  8. RJDonner&Blitzen

    RJDonner&Blitzen Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    I'm kind of anxious to read the novel because The Wolf Man is my favorite of the Universal Monster pictures. It's nice to know that he fit it into continuity like that. I'm also looking forward to his explanation of the wolf/wolfman thing. I've had a few thoughts on that myself over the years. ;)
     
  9. Spaceman Spiff

    Spaceman Spiff Abuse of Power Administrator

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    It's not a hard-line explanation, really, so much as a line or two.

    I finished it last night, and I was kind of disappointed that the author had been broadcasting the ending throughout the course of the story. Don't get me wrong, it's a good ending, especially for a character like Talbot, but I was disappointed that it was so predictable.

    Still, flaws and all, it's a quick little read, and it's fun to revisit that would again.
     
  10. RJDonner&Blitzen

    RJDonner&Blitzen Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    I am ordering today, so I'll be able to comment soon. :)
     
  11. Brendan Moody

    Brendan Moody Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    Thanks for mentioning American Supernatural Tales, Spiff. I'd looked through it at Borders in my search for Halloween books, but decided against it because I already own about a third of the stories in other collections. Looking at the contents again, though, I'm impressed by the range of authors Joshi has brought together, and it'll look nice on the shelf next to my other Joshi-edited Penguin Classics volumes, so I've put it on my Christmas list. (I almost bought it today, but decided instead to splurge and use my Borders coupon on a non-horror item I imagine you're familiar with.)

    I also went to a nearby used book store today, where I found the new Datlow/Link-Grant Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. I don't generally follow this annual collection because it tends toward a particular variety of literary tale that isn't to my taste, but it was an as-new copy at 1/3 of the cover price, so I couldn't resist. I also grabbed the Joyce Carol Oates anthology The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque. Like her earlier collection Haunted, this includes a range of horrific stories both "mainstream" and "genre," all written in Oates's usual hypnotic-disturbing style.
     
  12. Spaceman Spiff

    Spaceman Spiff Abuse of Power Administrator

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  13. Brendan Moody

    Brendan Moody Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    I say go ahead. I have them, and they're excellent, with surprisingly clever lyrics and very professional performers. A Shoggoth on the Roof is great fun too; like all good parody, the better you know the original the more enjoyable it is.
     
  14. Spaceman Spiff

    Spaceman Spiff Abuse of Power Administrator

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    ^ Well, I've ordered them. :D

    Amazon is swearing that Elizabeth Hand's Bride of Frankenstein novel is finally going to be released on Wednesday. That's the one that's got my hopes up.

    In a similar vein, I've seen Frankenstein's Bride by Hilary Bailey in most bookstores recently. I may have to snatch it up. I haven't seen any reviews yet, though.
     
  15. Kegek

    Kegek Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    Kegek recommends two of his lesser known countrymen:

    Charles Robert Maturin, a penniless Anglican curate whose plays were derided by Coleridge for their immorality. His meandering, absurdly plotted Melmoth the Wanderer is a weird and captivating classic of the genre. A personal favourite.

    Sheridan Le Fanu, a nineteenth century author who was an influence on Bram Stoker. Keep an eye out for his psychologically intense Uncle Silas, and/or a neat volume of his short stories in Through a Glass, Darkly.
     
  16. Spaceman Spiff

    Spaceman Spiff Abuse of Power Administrator

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    I'm not very familiar with Maturin, but I've read a bit of Le Fanu and recommended one of his short stories, Green Tea, to RJDiogenes. I've bought the Penguin edition of Uncle Silas, though I haven't yet read it. I suppose horror readers are probably most familiar with Carmilla. And horror movie fans are probably familiar with some of its more titillating adaptations. ;)

    I tend to go through weird little moods. I'll want pulpy stuff for a while, then I'll want to read something from the 19th century, etc. Uncle Silas is waiting for that particular mood to strike again. I'm looking forward to it.


    Do you ever read the Best New Horror collections edited by Stephen Jones? I haven't yet read one, though I've got several. I've bought them mostly because of name recognition (Ramsey Campbell seems to be in every volume), and telling myself that I'm getting a feel for "what's out there," for that "someday" when I might try submitting a few things to magazines.

    Some of the covers are a little embarrassing, though. I'd expect to get a few weird looks reading that on the train. :lol: I buy them anyway; I think I just like the idea that each one's got 500+ pages of short stories. (Though the first 60 pages or so are a summary of horror publishing in that particular year.)

    One more suggestion in regards to anthologies is Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural. This is a great book. Its selection is all over the place, and you're guaranteed to get some repeats, but I can't recommend it enough. At over 1,000 pages (yet still fairly compact), it's a wealth of good stuff. I haven't gotten through it all (I tend to pick it up, read a few, then save the rest for later), but I'm very glad I ordered it.
     
  17. RJDonner&Blitzen

    RJDonner&Blitzen Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    I read "Green Tea" and liked it a lot. :bolian:

    It looks like the Lovecraft Historical site is down right now. :( I'm psyched about Whisperer In Darkness. The Call Of Cthulhu was great, as was their 'old radio show' adaptation of At The Mountains Of Madness. I love their retro approach. :cool:
     
  18. RJDonner&Blitzen

    RJDonner&Blitzen Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    Well, I read Hunter's Moon and I liked it, in and of itself. Larry Talbot was mostly well characterized. However, I didn't feel that it really conjured up that Universal Monster ambiance very well.

    It seems that the author was trying to play the book both ways-- as a Universal sequel set in the 40s and as a contemporary novel for casual readers. As a result, there was an unsatisfying lack of detail. For example, Larry noted that cars were different eight years later, but that was it; those eight years could have been 1940-48 or 2000 to 2008. Nor were there any cultural or current events references; if I were Larry, I would have wanted newspapers and magazines. This omission was glaring, to my mind.

    Nevertheless, it was a nice book and a pleasant read; one just has to accept it as an 'alternate universe' Larry Talbot.
     
  19. Kegek

    Kegek Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    Green Tea is a brilliant short story. It, and Carmilla, among others, are collected in the Through a Glass, Darkly compedium of short Le Fanu stories I mentioned. :)

    Maturin is best known for Melmoth the Wanderer, though it's not his only Gothic work. He was also related to Oscar Wilde, who adopted the pseudonym 'Sebastian Melmoth' whilst in France. Various authors from Balzac to Nabokov appear to have worked in references to Melmoth.

    In some ways, Melmoth was one of the last classic Gothic novels - I mean in the tradition of Walople, Lewis, Radcliffe. The plot structure makes almost absolutely no sense (it's a story within a story, then within a story, then within a story), but it's all connected by the titular character.
     
  20. Maestro

    Maestro Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Let's Talk About Horror Fiction

    I'm a big fan of the F. Paul Wilson "Repairman Jack" series. I wanted to see how his non-RJ fiction was, so I've been reading his vampire epic, "Midnight Mass." Good stuff.