Today’s snippet is from Stephen King’s It.
The lightning plays fitfully across his face and although he does not know it, the day has just turned. May 28th, 1985 has become May 29th over the dark and stormy country that is western Illinois tonight; farmers backsore with plantings sleep like the dead below and dream their quicksilver dreams and who knows what may move in their barns and their cellars and their fields as the lightning walks and the thunder talks? No one knows these things; they only know that power is loose in the night, and the air is crazy with the big volts of the storm.
We have a character on a journey here, and this conveys that–time passing, miles traveled, and storms ahead.
There should be a review of It up soon on Tor.com, by the way, as part of my look at Eighties horror.
I love the humor in this fragment, and the way you can see the scene so clearly.
“You’re mumbling again, big guy,” said Memory, shivering into hallucinatorily clear focus on the rumpled sheets, her thighs warm and golden against the Royal Stewart flannel. She adjusted the nosecones of her chrome bustier. “Also, you’re on the verge of a major fashion crime.”
I froze, the starched white tails of an Elmore of Shinjuku evening shirt half-tucked into the waistband of a favorite pair of lovingly-mended calfskin jodhpurs. She was right. Pearl buttons scattered like a flock of miniscule flying saucers as I tore myself out of the offending Elmore.
This is from a very short story called “Fairyland,” by Darin Bradley. You can read the whole story here at Coffinmouth.
Here’s the snippet. It’s a terse little stream of images that add up to a quite clear picture before easing into character stuff:
A valley. Pastures, which had gone bad. Empty. Haze obscured the surrounding hills. It was what Gil had expected of The Bomb. An Indian Summer twinkling radioactive ejecta. Refracting sunbeams like farm dust or smog. Or burning magnesium. He thinks of his own ghosts, and wonders if they burned up somwhere else, in the past. Maybe the whole world was dead already. Maybe we were all eaten up and spat out in radioactive chunks.
(The story originally came to me via Snuffy‘s twitterfeed.)
A nice little bit of stage-setting from Peter Straub’s Shadowland. He gives you the images without saying, specifically “there’s a desk here, a candle there.” Your imagination paints in the corridor easily, given the basic set pieces–staircase, desks, firelight and the boys. You get that first day of school anxiety, too, and in the broken fuse, a sense of something already gone wrong.
Registration Day: 1958
A dark corridor, a staircase with an abrupt line of light bisecting it at one end, desks with candles dripping wax into saucers lined along a wall. A fuse had blown or a wire had died, and the janitor did not come until the next morning, when the rest of the school registered. Twenty new freshmen milled directionlessly in the long corridor, even the exceptinally suntanned faces looking pale and frightened in the candlelight.
There are a lot of kinds of humor and everyone laughs at different things, but I think it takes a real gift to make any reader laugh out loud using prose–because so much of funny is about tone and expression and context. Where you get that back, with just text, is voice and one of the many things worth admiring about Vonnegut–and the reason he makes me laugh–is that he had voice to burn.
If I may insert a personal note at this point: When I was alive, I often received advice from my own big brain which, in terms of my own survival, or the survival of the human race, for that matter, can be charitably described as questionable. Example: It had me join the United States Marines and go fight in Vietnam. Thanks a lot big brain.
–Kurt Vonnegut Jr., GALAPAGOS
On a completely other note, I am playing with an app called Tripcolor, to see if it would be a good way to send Italy pics to you all over the holidays and make you totally jealous. Hmmm, that doesn’t make it sound like a good idea. Anyway, said playing is happening here.