Posts tagged noir
RESONATOR: New Lovecraftian Tales From Beyond drops today FRIDAY MARCH 13th! Today is the day we pull names from some kind of container to see which 4 of our pre-ordering Migraineers will be the lucky bastards to win the sweet original art by Nick Gucker that we used for the cover! That’s later on… in the meantime read this swell interview that anthology editor Scott R Jones did with RESONATOR author Christopher Slatsky! (We’ll be rolling out interviews with most of the contributors over the next two weeks or so, so check back often for added awesome.)
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Christopher, as I read your story, Film Maudit, I was put in mind of the urban legend that surrounds the 1895 showing of the Lumiere Brothers film, L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat: basically, viewers at the time were said to recoil in terror at the image of the train pulling in at speed, largely because no one at the time was used to the immediacy of the medium. Movies have always had this aspect of altered reality, and a good movie, shown in the black cavern of a theatre, can be completely transporting. Your titular film is of course anything but Good, and the addition of a Resonator-type spookshow gimmick machine makes of the film a portal into hell. You’re clearly a film buff: what movies have had a profound effect on you, and why?
Of course there are dozens, but those that invariably rise to the surface are the usual dark fantasy and noir film suspects: Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, Dawn of the Dead, Kwaidan, Scarlet Street, John Carpenter’s The Thing, The Spirit of the Beehive, anything by Maya Derren, specifically Meshes of the Afternoon. In fact Meshes was screening in my head the whole time I was writing Film Maudit.
I’ve seen you mention elsewhere that you’re more interested in writing stories that chronicle the moment before an apocalypse than the moments that come after. Once the horror is revealed, do you think there is anything more to be said about, say, the human condition, or our place in the universe? Or is post-apocalyptic horror fiction just so much fantasy-fueled gilding of the lily?
I prefer the insinuation of Armageddon, the circumstances and emotions that accompany the descent to the End. There are some who can masterfully chronicle the lives of those after the Fall (McCarthy’s The Road and Tim Lebbon’s Naming of the Parts are two great examples of post-apocalyptic tales that gut-punched me), but for the most part I find such stories seem more concerned with inventories, stockpiling and survival preparation, rather than any meaningful examination.
Post-apocalyptic tales lean towards a literature of comfort, of celebrating the attempt to return to the status quo, or a semblance of some such. I prefer horror that unsettles so profoundly the reader is left wondering why they’d even settled into whatever complacent worldview they held before reading the tale. The plummet down the well is more interesting to me than what happens when they hit the bottom.
What’s coming up for you in the next months, Christopher? Anything special we should be on the lookout for?
I have a tale in the premiere issue of the new weird journal Xnoybis, a story in The Summer of Lovecraft anthology coming up, and a collection in the works, tentatively scheduled to be released at the end of the year. And I also have the usual short stories in limbo and a novel in the works.
Martian Migraine Press: the Best Kind of Headache
There’s a lot of Thelemic hoo-ha in Nick Mamatas’ new noir novel Love Is The Law, and I am fine with that, since for a good portion of the ‘00s I ran with as gnarly a pack of wannabe Crowley-ites and ritual occultists as you could ask for. I’ve had about as much of that as a person can stand, which is to say I get the stuff, and the fastbreeding esoteric patter of narrator “Golden” Dawn Seliger is tone-perfect in this book. You don’t have to get Thelema or understand where Dawn is coming from to enjoy it, which, considering how twisty the oeuvre of the Great Beast can be is a real achievement.
Now, Trotsky and Communism and worker’s revolutions I don’t get as much, mostly due to my being Canadian (socialist utopia, I’m told!) and a woeful lack of education in these matters (as well as the disinterest bred into me by capitalist fear-mongering? Mmm possibly…) but I am fine with that, too, because Love Is The Law is a not a book about Thelema or Communism per se; I’ll borrow from the alchemy here and say it’s a crucible into which Mamatas has tossed those things along with 80s punk aesthetic, family disintegration, drug addiction, murder, conspiracy, a grimoire’s worth of black humour and just a smidge of redemption.
On the surface of it, Love Is The Law shouldn’t work: the above elements too disparate, the suburban Long Island setting too hermetic, and so on. But it’s a crucible, and though the process of reading it is rough in spots — there are some brutal characters here, Dawn’s crack addict father for one, Dawn herself for another — what comes out the other end of that process is gold. It all hangs together beautifully, and watching it happen is as close to storytelling magic as I’ve seen recently.
Dawn is a bleeding edge person, ostracized from society as much for her fierce self-determination as she is for her punk lifestyle or the fact that her family has come apart in the aftermath of her mother’s death. She’s not introduced to magic or communism by her friend and mentor Bernstein, but he certainly confirms her in her beliefs. She is, so far as she knows, his only acolyte. So when he’s discovered dead under mysterious circumstance (mysterious to Dawn, not the police, who write it off as a suicide) she determines to nail Bernstein’s murderer. From the get-go we are given to understand that Dawn is not out for justice. “Justice” is a word that Dawn has freed herself from using the Liber III vel Jugorum ritual: she cuts herself across the stomach every time she uses the word. Bleeding edge. This is a straight-up revenge tale.
Only it’s not that straight-up at all. Dawn’s powerfully Willed path to vengeance draws her ever deeper into a suburb-and-perhaps-worldwide socio-political occult conspiracy. First they’ll take Long Island, then the planet, and They in this case soon includes everyone she knows or thought she knew: Bernstein, her thoroughly nasty father, her dementia-addled grandma, comic book shop owners, metalheads, basement show punks, real estate moguls, Greek matriarchs, and a girl who may be her doppelganger. As it all comes together, Dawn the Outsider, Dawn the Invisible One, is drawn inside, to become the very visible center of a pretty horrific mandala.
It’s enough to take anyone to the lip of the Abyss, and that’s where Dawn goes. Thankfully, she has a friend down there.
Mamatas has done a superb job here, but it’s not going to be for everyone: the sexuality is frank, the relationships (such as they are) brutal, the characters abrasive in their various delusional states. It is a very alive book for all that, all coils and smoke and glowing Tarot significance. And living books get read and read again.
I loved Love Is The Law. It is my Will that you get it, and you can do that here > the publisher, Dark Horse < and here > Amazon (paperback & Kindle editions) < and I’m guessing you can order it from fine book and comic shops anywhere.
A note about format:
One of the reasons I’ve been an almost complete convert to ebooks in recent years is the easy accessibility and portability of the format. I carry a large-and-getting-larger library of titles on my Android device, and am continually surprised that my eyes are still functional. Going in to reading books in this format, I had detractors tell me I’d ruin my vision, something I half believed myself. Hasn’t happened yet, and it’s not going to, because the devices and the ereader apps keep getting better and blah blah blah yeah I’m an ebook booster.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss my paper books like hell. I grew up on horror and sci-fi paperbacks I bought at a musty old closet of a bookstore nestled in the wheezing heart of a strip mall and brother, I bought them by the pound.
So when my review copy of Love Is The Law showed up in my mailbox and it was a paperback, and what’s more, a pocket sized paperback? Something I could jam in the back of my jeans, let it get all dog-eared and bent, and whip it out to read some while waiting for the gang down at the corner store? Well, colour me sold. Maybe this isn’t a return to the hoary old days of pulp novels in all their lurid, transient glory, but it feels like it could be.
Sure, I’ll pick up the ebook too, but this copy, just sitting there, has that physical “yeah, I’m a fucking book, what else ya gonna do with me?” imperative that ebooks just do not have. What are you gonna do? You’re gonna read it.
And then you’re gonna jam it back in your pocket and make all your hipster friends jealous.