Sitting in Atlanta between flights, waiting to board for Orlando, I’m thinking about long times:
5 years since I last attended the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts
4 years (?) since I was on a plane
10 years since I seriously started into scholarship of horror and the fantastic
86 years to the day since H. P. Lovecraft died
17 years since I started working publishing fiction
Lots of years, successes, missed opportunities, and unexpected joys. Speaking of joys, another long time: writing for more years than I can remember.
And that was much more rumination than necessary to say I’m off to ICFA 44! I’m presenting “Always Already Nostalgic: Dead Tech, Obsolescence, and Retro Affects in Media Horror” this year. Not purely focused on horror fiction, as I often am, and I’m looking forward to all the panels, presents, and conversations.
Next week I’ll be giving an online reading and an online talk in support of MetaFilter, a long-lived discussion forum/community weblog that’s been running a fundraiser during November. If you’ve never been there before, swing by and take a look! It’s a diverse online community with many different sub-sites to appeal to different users. I’ve been a member there for about fifteen years, and I lurked for many years before then. Highly recommended.
29 November I’ll be giving a talk in my “academic who horrors” guise, entitled “The Ghost in the Bookstore: The Rise, Fall, and Rise of U.S. Horror Fiction.” For those of you who saw me give a paper about this at ICFA some years ago, later published in Postscripts to Darkness, it’s going to be in something of the same vein, but updates and broadened in various ways. Horror has changed in various ways in the last five years!
1 December I’ll be reading my short story “The Haunted Object.” It’s a cursed story in a number of ways! I’m looking forward to infecting getting it out to a new audience.
The most prescient novel I read over the last year was Paul Tremblay’s Survivor Song. Written a few years back, as writing and publishing schedules go, it was released last summer when #PandemicLife was 100% a thing, even for many people who don’t believe in EUAs or booster shots. I’d heard about the book, of course, as I always keep an ear out for Paul’s books, but it didn’t really click that it was a pandemic book.
Reader, I read one review and promptly slid that title (apologies, Paul) to the bottom of my virtual TBR pile. That happens sometimes when subject matter doesn’t work for me, and I hope that it will work down the road. In any case, I couldn’t bring myself to read a current-day book about a pandemic.
This May I finally picked up Survivor Song, and I give it two dangerously infected thumbs up. It brings together in one book many lasting or new themes in horror: rationalized monsters, pregnancy fears, high-style influence, and more. The interest in language tied to disturbed behavior that showed up in The Cabin at the End of the World and elsewhere in his work appears here, too. If you haven’t seen it, watch Pontypoolshortly after reading Survivor Song for a different take on the role of language tied to mob behavior & are-they-or-aren’t-they zombies.
The most challenging part of reading the book was, in fact, reality. Like so much speculative fiction, the plot springs from trends that were clearly visible or discernible to anyone with the will to research. And yet, it was frankly disturbing to read about quarantine, mobs, street violence, troops, and crazed militiamen in the wake (?) of COVID-19 and the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. There will always be plagues and political violence, but reading this account of a fictional plague, nutters going on about the U.N., and street battles between would-be saviors and the forces of law and order felt like re-experiencing our recent struggles in an only slightly alternate timeline.
P.S. I didn’t read much else pandemic-related in the last year that I’d recommend… except for one book. It wasn’t precisely about zombies, nor did it rise to the level of this book, but enjoyable and not unrelated is Thomas E. Sniegoski’s Lobster Johnson: The Satan Factory. It’s throwback pulp and overall probably of greatest interest to readers of Mike Mignola’s comics series for which it’s a tie-in, or those of us who like the occasional throwback pulp. It does offer a picture of the use of infectious, lowered-mental-capacity goons for criminal ends. If that doesn’t evoke the politics of our seditious, social-media-infected times…