Riding the White Bull; Catlin R. Kiernan (@auntbeast) has kicked my ass again

CRK is an artist I have grown to love over the past year or two. Her recent collection “Two Worlds and In Between” shows her remarkable strength writing in shorter format.

The collection includes “Riding the White Bull,” which I just finished this evening. I am simply amazed by how this intensely dense tale retains a poetic grace while still being jammed with details, plot points and descriptions. The rawness of Dietrich’s whole predicament as a Blade Runner-esque special agent who has been to the edge of the abyss, quite literally, and looked over, is truly powerful stuff.

I have no problem bringing my influences to picture this story as it unfolds in multiple times, spaces and dreams. Even if the author owes nothing to Blade Runner or Alien in conjuring such riveting fiction, these crutches helped and only reinforce the weight of emotion and loneliness.

One place where they author does acknowledge her influence is with a chilling quote from Charles Fort about the unlikely nature of contact with an alien race:

Of course, there’s nothing to that mystery if we don’t take so seriously the notion – that we must be interesting. It’s probably for moral reasons that they stay away – but even so, there must be some degraded ones among them.

Thanks to @Auntbeast and others, I’ve been a bad blogger lately

The written word is probably just as powerful as any music, if wielded with just the right force, just the right expertise, just the right passion.  And while the musical input and throughput remains as powerful as ever (for chrissakes, I’m listening to The Watch’s Timeless!!), it is the written word, whether on paper or glowing Kindle app that has snared so much of my free time lately.

Getting comfortable with the crowded insanity and brilliance of Lovecraft over the past several months has been a major catalyst.  His influence on John Carpenter, on Alien, on Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman – well, it’s not just some archaic referent with no independent value to me personally.  Actually, the opposite is true.  It starts with the time I spent in Providence from 1990 through 1994.  Also, once you get through the adverbs and the ‘eldritch’ and ‘cyclopean’ and all that other stuff, there is a thrilling and horrifying narrative.  It’s easy to see why the man’s work is so influential.  He’s like the Robert Johnson of modern horror.

I also wanted to get out in front on the Mountains of Madness movie that is getting under way with Guillermo del Toro at the helm.  Now that I’ve read the book, his sincere remonstrations and declarations of fealty to the source code have meaning.  Let’s hope he can carry through.

And, while I think I have found a significant resonance with Lovecraft and his progeny, it’s not been just the sons and daughters of that twisted Rhode Island intellect.  Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente is heavily promoted on Amazon and the set-up sounded prurient enough:  have sex with the right person, go to a magic city in your post-coital sleep.  Here’s the trailer:

It’s a good read, certainly steamy enough.  I was worried it may be a bit light on story, and that proved to be true, but the atmosphere, descriptions and emotions were so detailed and sumptuous, that it really didn’t matter.  I was somewhat reminded of my recent (and first) experience with Murakami – Sputnik Sweeheart embodied some of the same loss and longing.  But where that book was a dry martini, Palimpsest is paisley layer cake, detailed and deranged beyond belief.

Having dispensed with love and sex beyond the edge of reality, I somehow got directed, I think through my previous enjoyment of William Gibson (Pattern Recognition remains one of the most entertaining and moving novels I’ve read) to Rudy Rucker.  Fortunately, he’s a mad scientist.  ‘Postsingular‘ imagines a world where we are always connected to the orphidnet, like the internet, but interfaced with nanotechnology, instead of a computer or some other dumb machine.  As a result, everyone is a mind-reader, AI’s float before our eyes and help us in our daily routine, and travel between alternate realities and dimensions seems possible.  I say seems, because I’m only about a third of the way through.  As hard as the singularity is to imagine, that moment in time (AND the before and after) when EVERYTHING changes for EVERYONE – this book has done it.  It’s stylistic and chaotic and a terrible amount of fun.

And now we come to the AuntBeast herself.  This may be an addiction in the making.  Caitlin Kiernan appeared alongside John Carpenter, Guillermo del Toro and even S.T. Joshi in the Lovecraft documentary Fear of the Unknown.  Her incisive commentary and inclusion among such giants caused me to want to find out more and I got ‘Silk’ for the Kindle app.  Again, I’m only about one third of the way into it, but all I can think is that I know I want to read everything she’s ever written.  The atmosphere is terrifying, the characters are drawn with skill and detail that makes them come alive.  And in this book, there are a few main characters to keep track of, all women and all young, so the distinctions and distinctiveness are essential as we go from person to person, place to place, skipping through time.  But it is the hurtling story, the breakneck swirl of events, even in the set-up, leading to and hinting at this vast (celestial?) evil that doesn’t care about your boyfriend or your girlfriend, or your band or your drugs – that grip of pure fear and madness is literally unlike anything I’ve ever read before.  And I love it.

And to top it all off, I finally took delivery today of two Alan Moore titles – Yuggoth Cultures (which, curiously, contains a lot of work NOT written by Moore.  Hrmmm…) and The Courtyard.  So the fear and madness just keep clicking along.

So I’ve been reading, scaring myself and not blogging.  But now, I think I’ll let the dark creepies and nasties out of their cage so that I can share them with you.

Jeff Somers’ post-apocolyptic thriller ‘The Electric Church’ delivers

Definitely hot stuff! All the ingredients are here and handled brilliantly. Avery is an extremely sympathetic anti-hero; a killer with a code. Somers does an outstanding job of giving us A LOT of targets in this veritable shoot-em-up, targets that can be terminated with extreme prejudice without the reader feeling too much sympathy for the departed. But, even among the bloodshed and the body count, there is still some measure of humanity, despite the savagery of Somers’ post-unification (read: post-apocalyptic) planet earth.

The finale takes our hero to a place of maddening isolation as he attempts to bring down one more score, one job that will seal his fate if he survives. Without giving too much away, Somers comes up with a vivid plot device that brings the reader right inside the madness that drives the story. It is a terrifically uncomfortable passage that I actually had to set down for a moment before continuing. If nothing else, the author’s ability to evoke such a strong emotional response in the midst of a somewhat formulaic pulp thriller is praise-worthy.

Somers characters and storytelling were good enough to get the book optioned, and I’m interested to see which actors will be selected for which roles. It’s also good enough for me to be excited about the next two Avery Cates books, both of which have now been added to my wish list

Robert J. Sawyer’s new novel of the living internet “Watch” is out tomorrow

Robert J. Sawyer wrote one of the best books of 2009 with www.wake, which envisions the way in which the internet (you know, THE internet) could become self-aware.  It’s great story-telling and air-tight tech.  The second book in the trilogy comes out tomorrow.  Check out a trailer for the book here.

Big, big, big, big ideas – This is what moves me

Within a tiny droplet of water, there can be an entire ecosystem teeming with life.  The space between two people who get up and go to work and try to find happiness and comfort and fulfillment can be more complicated and multi-faceted than any diamond.  No number of special effects explosions in countless summer blockbusters can equal the poignancy of a moving conversation or a close-up of a human face looking right into the eyes.

Two movie trailers have come my way this morning and they both appear to embody a fearless approach to narrative that pushes my buttons.  Why not make movies that embrace the questions of existence, life and death, why we’re here and what it’s all about?  Why not tackle the most horrifying and unknowable issues that are present for every sentient being?

The first of these comes from a blog called This is Who We Are. It’s devoted to the television program Millenium and the extraordinary and unique talents of that show’s star Lance Henricksen.  He stars in The Penitent Man:

There is a spoiler video of of about 8 minutes, but since it appears this small project will see the dark of moviehouses, I will take my chance and wait.

The next trailer is for a Brazilian film Nosso Lar, and comes to me from the wonderful sci-fi/post-apocalyptic genre website Quiet Earth.  Talk about big ideas, this one goes right after death and the afterlife.  I’ll happy read subtitles for an hour or two if I can get an opportunity to see this:

There is certainly a time for fart-gags and explosions.  There is a time for the Bourne Identity and Inglorious Basterds and romantic comedies and Gladiator.  These are all good things.  But sometimes, you gotta chuck it all out the window.  Sometimes you SHOULD take yourself too seriously.  Sometimes you’ve got to shoot for beyond the moon and beyond convention.  Maybe, just maybe, that is the space that these two films will occupy