One of the exercises I run past my “Creating Universes, Building Worlds” group is to start a piece and, within five paragraphs, establish the speculative subgenre–fantasy, horror, cyberpunk, hardSF, whatever.
Then I have them rewrite the same fragment in a different genre.
It always yields interesting results, and something that’s pretty consistent, from class to class, is that few people tackle horror and many of those submissions are less in your face, less out-and-out unabashedly horror, less easy to identify than the fantasy, the dystopian near-future SF, the time travel, and the space opera.
I was reminded of this today when I read “each thing I show you is a piece of my death,” by Gemma Files and Stephen J. Barringer, because by the time I hit the word canker, I’m not in any doubt. And from there the authors just dial it up:
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
–The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, William Shakespeare.
Somewhere, out beyond the too-often-unmapped intersection of known and forgotten, there’s a hole through which the dead crawl back up to this world: A crack, a crevasse, a deep, dark cave. It splits the earth’s crust like a canker, sore lips thrust wide to divulge some even sorer mouth beneath–tongueless, toothless, depthless.
The hole gapes, always open. It has no proper sense of proportion. It is rude and rough, rank and raw. When it breathes out it exhales nothing but poison, pure decay, so bad that people can smell it for miles around, even in their dreams.
Through this hole, the dead come out face-first and down, crawling like worms. They grind their mouths into cold dirt, forcing a lifetime’s unsaid words back inside again. As though the one thing their long, arduous journey home has taught them is that they have nothing left worth saying, after all.
Because the dead come up naked, they are always cold. Because they come up empty, they are always hungry. Because they come up lost, they are always angry. Because they come up blind, eyes shut tight against the light that hurts them so, they are difficult to see, unless sought by those who–for one reason, or another–already have a fairly good idea of where to start looking.
It’s a great story, if you’re looking for a creepy read.
I am currently more than halfway through Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification, by Simon A. Cole. The title’s pretty self-explanatory, I think.
This is research for the trilogy set on Stormwrack, the same world where “Among the Silvering Herd” takes place, and
I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that early uses of fingerprinting tended to center around colonizing nations trying to tell their individual subjects apart (they thought all those non-white folks they were dominating looked alike!) I also learned how much of the early development of this technology was less about gathering fingerprints–either directly from individuals or in the form of latent prints on crime scenes–and more about generating a reliable filing system so that you could match the things.
I’d been craving a good non-fiction read and this has definitely delivered.
Here’s a short quote…
J. Edgar Hoover would reminisce fondly about the days when “too many law-enforcement officers were men of low intelligence, some of low morals, and, indeed, of a low opinion for anyone who sought to make science his aid and his standby in the pursuit of a criminal.”
Other books, so far this year –
1. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2012, edited by Dan Ariely and Tim Folger
2. Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed
3. The Cat’s Table, by Michael Ondaatje
4. The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey (I read this partly because of the discovery of Richard the III’s bones and partly because of the Jo Walton essay “How can this be so gripping?”
“About Fairies,” Pat Murphy
It has been awhile since I posted a text fragment, but I loved this little bit of The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. If you want a few good reasons to read this novel, Jo Walton makes the case here. I will merely add it’s one of the few things I’ve read that reminds me of Connie Willis.
Every schoolboy turned over the final page of Richard III with relief, because now at last the Wars of the Roses were over and they could get on to the Tudors, who were dull but easy to follow.
But since I started reading a lot of e-books, I stopped posting a lot of text fragments. It has taken me this long to figure out that I can highlight the good bit, hit SHARE, choose Twitter, and DM myself the frickin’ text I want without having to retype it.
So here, the successful experiment, from Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl:
I am not interested in being set up. I need to be ambushed, caught unawares, like some sort of feral love-jackal.
I chose it because it’s like the humor, and because it reminds me of the state a friend was in some years ago. She’s engaged now, so ha!
As I rebuild this prose-collecting habit, you’ll be seeing more of these. With longer notes. In the meantime, happy weekend.