Oh hey, hey, it’s back again, I’m back again. Last week I didn’t do this due to the whole silly book publication thing. Imagine that! It still looks like it’s out of stock all over the place. Dunno what to make of that. Hopefully that will all be fixed soonish.
In the meantime? In the meantime! Here it is. A return to form. Every Wodinsday I’ll find some bit of weird fiction and talk about it. Move about it. I guess review is the wrong word here, because I’m not so much telling you about the story and giving you a rundown and thumb’s up or thumb’s down, as I am talking around the story. Discussing it, as it where.
Small towns seem to be a horror thing. Those tiny nestled nowhere places, where everyone knows each other. Isolated landscapes, soon overgrown with the wild and the forest. Why do these stories settle down in the middle of nowhere? Sometimes midwest, sometimes out in lumberjack country. Sometimes Alaska, sometimes Seattle.
It makes one wonder if weird fiction is especially suited for the rural, and shuns the urban landscape? It’s even stranger to think that suburbia, with all its inherit strangeness and wild otherness isn’t a more natural fit for that weird, weird, landscape. Even with Twin Peaks, that strange rural logging town nightmare of a city. A small town, a rural town. What calls to the weird in such a place?
Yet trees and humming power lines and everything else. Small towns, small communities, farmlands and barns and all the rest. The places that are now dwindling in population, with youth running away at the first moment of graduation. It’s odd. You would think they would be stories of rust belt decay and ghost towns in the making. Yet, they rarely seem to be.
This story does approach it, hesitatingly. Not exactly discussing the recent ills, but instead it seems to reminisce about past population drains. After the depression, after the first world war. And yet, most small towns are dwindling even more and more now. Closing of factories, loss of job prospects, lack of community, etc, etc, etc.
Yet, still. It’s there in the core to this story, which makes it a sort of rust-belt gothic. The horror and the weird used to discuss these slow moving ghost towns. Draining of self, identity, life. The monster not a symbol for these things, not a metaphor, but rather an essence of them. A discussion of them, and maybe a symptom of them. Much like how a fever isn’t a metaphor for the plague, if you get my drift.
The prose itself starts off with a strong voice that kind of weakens as the text continues onward. There is a rhythm of slang that kind of weakens and drifts away into descriptions. At moments there is a bit of horror poetry, those little creepy lines that all good weird fiction have that turn the everyday into something filled with dread. At times, these are the simple bits. The usual numbers, trees branches like boney fingers. You know the drill. Even though they are a bit derivative, they still work in service to the story. And create that oozing atmosphere that’s required.
The pace does move quick, and it feels like it props up kids in danger and pets in danger as a way of creating suspense. A cheap form of suspense, really, but affective. Even though all of this bits and pieces are things we’ve seen before, it creates a conversation with the genre itself. The whole of the story becomes much more than its parts, and it does transcend these thematic borrowings and transform into something sinister.
Overall, it doesn’t surprise. It ends in a way that’s interesting, but only because it feels more like the ending to a literary short story (say, something by Carver), and less like a horror short story ending. A monster story, yes. A beast story, yes. But in the end? That’s not where the core of the story lies.
This is what I mean by being more of the sum of its parts. It uses the tools of horror for a literary affect, and it ends on a moment of silent revelation instead of death or mutilation. I feel like this is preferred, and it fits more into Clute’s concept of horror being a descendent of Heart of Darkness (an idea he explored in The Darkening Garden excellently).