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Tag Archives: Fiction

… For a Black Quill Award for “Small Press Chills.”  The Black Quill is a relatively new award in the Horror Genre, and further details can be found here.

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Lets say, for a moment, that you’re writing a piece of fiction set in Belgium. Lets also say that you don’t have a great facility with the French language, and that you want to come up with names that don’t sound like “French Cliche’s” like “Jean” or “Pierre.” (My other go-to names would be “Marcel” or “Alain”). Never fear, because a random generator is available for use. One click brought me these results:

Achille Prevost
Alfred Fleury
Arsène Dechesne
Barthelemy Bayol
Bellamy Chenevier
Bertin Paquet
Bruce Lacroix
Denis Bellec
Donatien Lessard
Edouard-Jean Chevrier
Etienne Dupuis
Fabien Gaudet
Jean Pelletier
Jean-Jacques Lafontaine
Jean-Jacques Tissot
Jean-Jacques-Antoine Courtois
Jean-Louis-Chretien LaBranche
Joseph Lejeune
Joseph-Abel Thibodeau

The rule of thumb, usually, with sequels, are that they usually never equal what came before. That’s the case with Brian Keene’s Ghost Walk. The novel follows Keene’s Dark Hollow, which might very well be Keene’s best mass market paperback to date — keeping in mind that this reviewer has yet to read Terminal or The Conquering Worms.

There’s a reason, though, why Ghost Walk really doesn’t even come close. Dark Hollow was an emotionally charged read from beginning to end. Adam Senft starts the book with a history of emotional trauma — a miscarriage has disrupted his and his wife’s desire to have kids, and Senft’s problems just spiral out of control. For most married men, a wife’s infidelity is always a secret fear, and Keene took it a bit further. Senft’s wife comes under the control of a satyr named Hylinus, and the implications, biologically speaking, litterally sends Senft over the edge.

Senft, all the while, remains a sympathetic character. Throughout Dark Hollow neither he nor his creator, Keene, ever step back and ask for people’s empathy. If they had, the result would have been rather pathetic. Instead, Senft blunders forward, doing the best he can, and one wonders, as a reader turns the pages, whether that would be enough.

Ghost Walk essentially lacks that emotional charge, and as a result, it also lacks the chaotic energy that propels the reader forward. Basically, it’s the story of a group of people who must make it to LeHorn’s Hollow before an ever-expansive darkness overtakes and snuffs out the world. None of the characters, really, have to look into themselves the way Senft did, and so the drama, here, is more mechanical than psychological. To be honest — and I hate saying this — the novel comes off as a little rote and paint-by-the-numbers.

Of Keene’s MMPB’s I’ve read, I’d rank this towards the bottom, right above Ghoul, which I didn’t like for one pestersome issue of writing. The usual things I look forward to in Keene novel, like characters facing the world surrounding them, was actually a little more pronounced in Ghoul. It’s just that novel had a lot of intruding exposition about the 1980’s that interferred with the flow of the story. Ghost Walk reads smoother, even if the characters are not as dynamic as one would hope for.

Still, it has to be said: a Keene dud, at the moment, is still far better than a lot of what’s floating around the horror genre. Ghost Walk is not a terrible novel, and in terms of writing craft, I wouldn’t classify it as a failure. It’s just not as good as what Brian Keene can do. Dead Sea and Dark Hollow set higher bars, standards, and expectations. Sadly, Ghost Walk doesn’t even come close.

–Rich Ristow

That warehouse job is just a memory, now. I’ve been laid off for weeks now, and I actively don’t expect to be called back to work. The beauty of that job, in it’s mindlessness, was listening to podcasts all day. Now, not in that environment, my consumption of podcasts has diminished greatly. On the upside, I interview at a university tomorrow, which is actually more in line with my employment history. I’m hoping for the best. At any rate, here are some of the podcasts I’ve thought about since getting laid off:

Pseudopod 013: Redmond’s Private Screening by Kevin J. Anderson

It should be noted that Kevin J. Anderson and Kevin Anderson are not the same people. I’m not saying that to be a dick, but to point out that They are two separate people. The initial J. makes a difference. I also say this because both writers have had stories produced and streamed by Pseudopod. One has written oodles of novels and the other has written primarily short stories. For the record, I’ve enjoyed the stories of both writers. “Redmond’s Private Screening” is an interesting ghost story, about Japanese immigrants, and ritual disembowelment. It’s also interesting in how it uses the early history of movie making. Recommended.

Pendant: Seminar Anthology

Audio drama broken up into an “anthology” set up where each episode is a college course on humanity. Interesting.

Still no calls for work. I’m getting worried …

Anyway.

More Podcasts from last week:

Escape Pod 138: In The Late December by Greg van Eekhout

Strange and silly at the same time. The universe is dying, and Santa Claus has toys to deliver to alien children, as well as a villian to defeat.

Tor Podcasts

Figured I’d just lump two together. Tor has podcast interviews with their writers. It’s always fascinating to hear writers talk about their work. I listened to John Scalzi and R.A. Salvatore (who, despite his achievements in fantasy, is still known to Star Wars fans mostly for killing Chewbacca). Both are interesting interviews.

The temp agency says I should be back at work before the weeks out.  I hope so.

Here are more podcasts from last week:

The Drabblecast 39: The Beekeepers by J. Alan Pierce

Well, of the stories I’ve heard so far on this podcast, this ties “The Hogfaced Man” as one of the best that they’ve offered.  Weird Science fiction with touches of the grotesque, as alien insects invade earth.

Dail P for Pulp, Episode #1 (It’s at the bottom of the page)

Interesting and informative, covering pulp fiction.  Reviews, a bit of Robert E. Howard’s puritan Solomon Kane, and an interview with an visual artist working on Doc Savage related projects.

Escape Pod 133: Other People’s Money by Cory Doctorow

Reminds me that science fiction, when not about robot overlords, is quite often about speculating about the future of technology and humanity.

Well, I am laid off. Bills, bills, bills — how to pay them?

At any rate, somemore recently listened to podcasts are:

Pseudopod 80: Votary by MK Hobson

Family inspired horror — especially when your dad is blob of fat that eats people.

Well Told Tales 001: Tequila by Finn Colgan

As much as I like Brian Keene’s novels, there’s a reason why I never bought The Conquering Worms/Earthworm gods. I. am. phobic. of. worms. They disgust me in a very literal way. That said, Colgan has written a story about Tequila and Tijuana that has made me rethink that phobia. Perhaps, now that I was able to get through Colgan’s tale, I should just suck it up and buy The Conquering Worms. “Tequila” though, is worth the listen, though. Still, had I known it was a worm story, I would have just skipped it. Once I started listening, however, the story pulled me through to the end.

The Drabblecast 37: Luna Springs by Patrick Hurley

Interesting science fiction, where old people are sent to the moon. Touching bit of irony, at the end.

I may have been laid off by the warehouse job.  I went in friday, after the agency said to not come to work.  I went because I had a time sheet that needed to be turned in.  The place really was dead.  And the usual, full time order pickers were sweeping the floors, because even they had nothing to do.  Well, it’s annoying to not have paying work, but then again, it’s the nature of temp agencies, I guess.  Anyhow, here are some of the Podcasts for the week:

Drabblecast 28: The Hog Faced Man by Mark Fewell

I listened to a lot of Drabblecast this week.  This stuck out to me as one of the more memorable stories.  It’s kind of a ghost tale, but featuring the figure mentioned in the title.

Pod of Horror 45

Mark Justice interviews the editor of Leisure Books’ horror line.  No offense to the other guests, but this is a guy that commands attention, partly because he runs the biggest, longest running mass market paperback  lines, when it comes to Horror.  There’s a new book reviewer.  It was sad to hear Scott Bradley go, but then again, if he’s off to bigger and better things, more power to him.  Oh, and in the name of disclosure, my book is part of the prize package in the Tomb of Trivia.

—-

A few others to write about, but I’ll save them for later.

Last Friday, as a result of my academic employment options drying up for the near term (it is summer, after all), I started working in a warehouse. I kind of like it, and given the options I was facing, K-Mart or UPS, the pay is best I could immediately hope for. As for the job itself, it’s basically picking orders for an industrial components company. The first two days, I’ve made some mistakes — not paying enough attention to the nuances of part-numbers, but all in all, I’ll get the hang of it. The floor manager, while conducting my 15 minute training, said, “Think of it as if you were grocery shopping . . . for eight hours.” The company allows iPods, and that brings me to something I used to do, blogging wise. Reviews. So, here’s a very quick round up of what I’ve listened to today. Most of the links are to the general homepage, so you may have to snoop around to find it — or just plug the info into iTunes..

Pod of Horror Episode #44:

This is the first podcast I ever became a regular “fan” of. Mark Justice has professional radio experience, and it shows. This time around, he’s interviewed two great horror writers in Gary Bruanbeck and Tom Piccirrilli. There’s the usual verbal game of cat-and-mouse between Justice in Nanci Kalanta in the news segment. Oh, and for full disclosure, my book is one of the prizes in the Tomb of Trivia segment. If one is a fan of horror/dark literature, this is simply the best podcast covering the genre.

Psuedopod 070: Rapanunzel’s Room.

Intriguing concept. A woman’s body hair comes back to haunt her. Solid characters, but the ending seems pasted on and coming from left field. Liked it, but had to listen to it twice to pick up on massive shift that happened. Of course, squinting at “capacitators” and their part numbers did mean I was only half listening.

Psuedopod Flash: I am Nature

Could have done without the racist language, even if it was in character. I thought it really didn’t add to the story and it made me not like the character. The whole bit about god and drinking heroin tainted blood just made me shake my head. Pretentious for a horror story. But that’s just my gut reaction.

Psuedopod Flash: Garbage Day.

Hilarious. Absolutely hilarious, and very tightly written for a short piece.

Podcastle 001: Come Lady Death, by Peter S. Beagle

A very fine story. Imaginative, original, and without any of the pretense one would fear with a title like, Come Lady Death. Basically, a british noble woman invites Death to her home, partly because she’s bored from giving to many boring house parties. Death shows up, but not in a way that everybody expects. She’s an attractive young woman, and since this is not horror, there’s no tragedy involved. Still, interesting.

Musical interludes were, in no particular order: The Transplants, Children of Bodom, System of a Down, Skindred.