There are a lot of things about Experimental Film that are gaspworthy, horrifying, disturbing and exciting, and I hope to talk more about this book as time spools, but right now I just want to give you five reasons to read the living hell out of this awesome new horror novel from Gemma Files.
- Lois Cairns is not your standard protagonist – Lois is a woman in the midst of a profound midlife crisis. Her career has evaporated out from under her, her son’s autistic and difficult, and she can’t shake a nagging idea that it’s all her fault. She’s not twenty, or adorable, or on the cusp of love. But she’s smart and determined and fearless, and she knows more about movies than most of us could learn if we spent the next fifty years studying up.
2. The bad stuff isn’t lurking in the shadows. You know how vampires and spooks wait for it to get dark and dreary, and then creep up on you? You know that idea that you can barricade yourself in somewhere safe, and at dawn it’ll all be over for awhile? Not in this story. The dread thing in Experimental Film comes at you in the full light of a summer’s day, in all its searing heat and blinding glare.
3. I heart Haunted Toronto. This book is another piece in the creepy patchwork universe Files has created, and I love it with a love that’s true. Her characters have lunch down the street from my house. They get into full-on confrontations with monsters at the Kensington Market. And there’s always an expedition out to the backroads of cabin country, a part of the province I really haven’t seen yet, where the skin between worlds is thin and permeable and something far more disturbing than a Hellmouth is on the bubble.
4. Victorian Creep Factor, Canada Styles. The mystery at the heart of this book is about an early auteur filmmaker working in the days of silver nitrate and no rules. Iris Whitcomb made the same movie over and over, with the aid of spiritualists, as she tried to discover why her son Hyatt vanished in 1908. Then she vanished too, from a moving train whose passenger compartment apparently caught on fire en route to the city.
5. Crunchy family stuff rounds out the dark notes. This brings us back, in a way, to the idea of an atypical hero. Lois is no lone wolf. She may want to be at times; she may be unconvinced she’s got much worthwhile going on as a wife and mother. But as she wrangles with the missing Iris and her incandescent producer, she also has to deal with her child, her marriage, her in-laws, and her own often-problematic mom. It’s not always easy to read–plenty of folks will find their own family-of-origin nerves twanging as things play out–but it’s very believable. And what good is a horror novel if you don’t feel, on some level, as if this could have happened to someone like you?
Gemma did a Heroine Question interview here back in June, by the way, so if you’re curious about who she liked to read about as a kid, check it out.
Today I have finished up a guest blog entry on ecofantasy for Charlie Stross, which you can read here.
I have also prepared for tomorrow’s thoroughly fabulous launch of License Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond, by making sure my reading of my Moneypenny story, “Through Your Eyes Only,” comes in under the five minute limit. I’ve booked a Send My Hair to the Sixties appointment at a place called Blo, and now I’ve also reminded you all that if you happen to be in Toronto, you really would be very very welcome to this shindig. (I tell you this even though, according to math, it increases my chances of winning the bespoke suit ChiZine Publications is giving away as a prize if you don’t come.) It’s at the Pravda Vodka House on 44 Wellington Avenue East. If you don’t want a bespoke suit, you can put my name on the raffle ticket.
(Are contributors even entitled to enter the raffle? Do I know? Don’t burst my bubble, okay?)
Earlier today, Iposted critiques for the last round of the Writing the Fantastic workshop at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Next up: revision exercises! (I do still have a few slots open in the winter session of Creating Universes, Building Worlds, by the way). I have worked on a novel called The After People, fetched food from two separate groceries, and written out some questions for the SFContario panel on economics in genre fiction that I’ll be moderating next Saturday.
I made a salad, drank coffee, ate a persimmon before it had a chance to liquefy and contemplated my upcoming Tor.com review of Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe of XKCD fame. Contemplated in this context is indeed a fancy term for “But she didn’t write a single word yet.”
Emails have been answered. Dishes have been washed.
And, since all this virtue and productivity means I am ignoring my young, I have refilled the bird feeder, which is the modern equivalent of slapping the kids down in front of Sesame Street with some Ritz Crackers.
The Heroine Question is on hiatus for a week, maybe two, as I reboot from World Fantasy Convention, gear up for SF Contario/Canvention 35, and figure out all the things I want to accomplish before A Daughter of No Nation is out on December 1st.
One of the very exciting things on that list is attending the launch of Licence Expired, The Unauthorized James Bond. As you see from this cunning invitational postcard, it will be at the swanky Pravda Vodka Bar. The publishers, World Fantasy Award winning ChiZine Publications, also offer this important info: Costumes and Bond-themed dress is highly encouraged, and there will be prizes for the best costumes.
Drinks! Costumes! Prizes! Incredibly warped fiction with a License to Kill! My story is about Moneypenny, and is called “Through Your Eyes Only.” Kelly’s is an alternate ending for From Russia with Love, and it is sick beyond all measure. How can you pass this up?
Another thing the recent comb through my old teen Alyx diaries has revealed is how much reading I did in the Eighties. Books upon books: histories, mysteries, Star Trek tie-in novels, Gore Vidal, Frank Herbert, whatever was lying around the house or the public library, you name it.
Nowadays I read a certain amount of fiction that is just okay. Short stories by writers I’m trying out, for example–pieces that are good enough to finish, but far from dazzling. I occasionally read fun things by competent authors because I’m following a series, or I’m curious to see how a particular concept comes off, or it’s in my fictional sweet spot. Or I’m tired and need something that goes down easy, like a cold beer on a hot day.
If you want to be a really good writer, though, I believe that you have to push yourself as a reader. Not every day, not with every book… but if you restrict your reading to the just okay and the pretty good, you’re deciding to be no more than pretty good yourself.
If you want to be super-fantastically excellent–and why get into this racket if you aren’t at least a bit ambitious?–you also have to read people who are better than you. Who are hard, who sometimes write things you don’t understand and can barely parse, who dazzle, challenge, baffle, delight, and infuriate.
Who are these authors for you? I’m tempted to mention one of my marvellous, talented friends, but to keep things less partial, I’ll open the bidding with Vernor Vinge.
The current read-aloud project here at Chez Dua is Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron, and Other Tangled Lives, by Daisy Hay. Kelly was making tobacco panna cotta yesterday (the recipe is in Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, with Recipes) and was therefore stirring milk. For hours. I read while she cooked, and this let us plow through to the point where Percy Shelley drowned.
Reading this book has been a long process of (re)discovery of the various specific ways in which a woman’s life could suck in the 1800s. This seems to apply universally to everyone associated not only with Shelley but with Lord Byron and Leigh Hunt, who feature prominently in the book. As far as I can tell, Keats was the only one of the bunch who didn’t eventually drive a woman to throw herself off a bridge. But, to be fair, he died young.
Hay hasn’t really delved into Mary’s character all that much so far. She’s talked about her reactions to a lot of things, notably all the moving around she did with Shelley, her troubled relationship with her half-sister Claire, and all of the children she lost. It’s a disappointing lack. But I’m hoping now that Mary’s a widow, the analysis of her will get deeper.
If not, we’ll be in the market for an excellent Mary Shelley bio. Heck, we may be anyway. Recs, anyone?