Book Face Off: Massey’s DARK DREAMS vs King’s JUST AFTER SUNSET

This week’s Book Face Off is Stephen King’s JUST AFTER SUNSET vs Brandon Massey’s DARK DREAMS.

There really is no competition here between the two collections of short stories. Stephen King when on, can write like a force of nature.

But in JUST AFTER SUNSET, Stephen King is not on.

Story after story fizzles against each other to create a collection that underwhelms. There’s a sense in these King stories, as in some of King’s novels, the sense of padding. Of words poured on just to have words, and the gist of the story stalled, till the mandatory word count is reached.

It makes for something of a chore to get through. The best way to describe the effect of JUST AFTER SUNSET is tedium. It’s a tedious, tedious read. One belabored story followed by another.

Thankfully Brandon Massey’s DARK DREAMS Anthology, while having its shares of misses (Kalamu ya Salaam’s story being one of the most egregious), on the whole is as fresh as JUST AFTER SUNSET is routine. DARK DREAMS’ pages are filled with enough strange, evocative and varied stories of the sinister and the savage; to make it a far more satisfying read throughout.

And I strongly recommend the almost sold out DARK DREAMS unabridged audio book read by a variety of great performers. A nice compliment to the paperback. Check it out here: Dark Dreams : A Collection of Horror and Suspense Unabridged Audio Book CD

MONARCHS OF MAYHEM: AN INTERVIEW WITH L.R. GILES

L. R. Giles is a three-time contributor to the Dark Dreams anthology series edited by author Brandon Massey for Kensington Publishing (Dark Dreams, 2004; Voices from the Other Side, 2006; Whispers in the Night, 2007), a recipient of the 2006-2007 Virginia Commission for the Arts Fiction Fellowship, and a Top 10 finalist in the 2009 Tor UK and SciFiNow War of the Words competition. He resides in Chesapeake, VA with his wife.

L.R. Giles is also one of the authors paving the way for this new e-book phenomenon. Specifically I’m speaking of his support of the e-book format. You can find his e-books available on SMASHWORDS (which supports the popular and industry standard Epub format) as well as on AMAZON.

Or if you are like me and still enjoy having the real book in your hands go here.

Okay enough with the public service announcement 🙂 onto the interview…

HT: Hi LR, First Welcome to Heroic Times. And second, a big thank you for taking the time out of your booked schedule to answer these crazy questions. So taking that into consideration, we’ll start with an easy one. What is your favorite genre or genres?

LRG: This one is tougher than you think, so I’m going to cheat a little and say it’s a tie between fantasy and horror. I grew up on both, and a bit of science fiction, too. See how I snuck a third one in?

HT: What is the favorite thing you’ve written?


The Shadows Gallery

LRG: There’s a story called “The View” that’s part of my indie published short story collection THE SHADOWS GALLERY. It’s about a man who opens a window to Hell so he can confirm his wife’s dead murderer is being properly punished. I wanted to play with the idea of divine justice and pose a question. Can a need for vengeance ever be truly satisfied? It’s one of my darker stories. Difficult to write. That’s probably why I like it so much.

HT: Name 5 classic or genre writers who inspire or impress or influence you?

LRG: Poe (for “The Tell-Tale Heart), Shakespeare (for many works, but *MacBeth* in particular), Lovecraft (mostly for “The Dunwich Horror”),Nathaniel Hawthorne (for “Young Goodman Brown”), George Orwell (for ANIMAL FARM). With the exception of Lovecraft, I think I just gave you the reading list from my sophomore year of high school. Nevertheless, that was a formative time for me and those writers/stories stuck.

HT: Name some current or new writers, whose work you’ve recently read or discovered and blew you away.

LRG: Tananarive Due & Steven Barnes, they’re a husband and wife team who write an incredible mystery series starring a former male prostitute turned detective named Tennyson Hardwick. The first book in the series is called CASANEGRA and I HIGHLY recommend it.


Casanegra: A Tennyson Hardwick Novel (A Tennyson Hardwick Story)

Charlie Huston’s fiction really impresses, particularly THE SHOTGUN RULE.

And I recently read DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor; it’s incredible and I can’t wait for the upcoming sequel.


Daughter of Smoke and Bone

HT: Going along with the above name an author or authors (either new or old) who you think don’t get the attention they deserve, and everyone should be reading.

LRG: I have to go with Tananarive Due & Steven Barnes here. They’re veteran genre writers (horror, fantasy, and sci-fi), but people may not know how incredible their mysteries are. Reading their series inspired me to take a crack at the mystery genre, the resulting novel is WHISPERTOWN, a book I sold to HarperCollins last year. I can’t sing their praises enough.

HT: Name 2 or 3 of your favorite horror short stories

LRG: I’ll try not to borrow from my previous answers, though I certainly count those. For the sake of freshness, let’s say “The Barrens” by F. Paul Wilson, “The Man in the Black Suit” by Stephen King, and “The Yattering and Jack” by Clive Barker.

[I couldn’t find any of these stories available online, but you can listen to a different F. Paul Wilson short story here.— ht]

HT: Anthologies are usually theme based, so you have your Poe anthologies or Lovecraft etc. If you could do a short story for such an anthology, if you could decide/choose, what would the anthology be about.

LRG: Lovecraft, for two reasons. 1) The concepts of the Old Ones and universes running parallel to our own fascinate me, and I’d love to play in that sandbox. 2) Given some of Lovecraft’s musings on (human) races different than his own, I’d like to think that if he were still here, I could help show him we CAN have mutual respect for one another despite having different backgrounds.

[I love that take on Lovecraft. A writer I myself have very little love for :). But I do acknowledge his imagination and influence.–ht]

HT: Name 5 Favorite films, horror or otherwise.

LRG: I could probably give you 50, but here we go:

BLADE – Say what you want, Wesley was a badass and, sadly, one of the few heroes of color to grace a genre film and survive. This will always be at the top of my list.

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION – I could recite lines from this film all day.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS: DREAM WARRIORS! Don’t wanna dream no more!


Nightmare on Elm Street Collection

TERMINATOR 1 & 2 – Cameron just knows how to make entertaining films. Period.

SEVEN – I still squirm at the end, and I KNOW what’s in the box.

HT: What do you think can or should be done to get more writers of color producing genre fiction:

LRG: I think the first thing we need to do is keep discussing the image systems that dominate novels, comic books, and scripts that become television shows/feature films. Writers of color* producing genre fiction?
Believe it or not, there are tons of them. The problem is there are few opportunities for them to showcase their talents when they’re writing about characters *who look like them, *particularly lead characters.

This is nobody’s fault, per se. There’s nothing productive about pointing a finger at Hollywood, or Big Publishing, or ‘The Man’. Numbers talk, and major successes for writers/characters of color have been few and far between.

If we want more writers of color making names for themselves in genre fiction, we have to reach a point where the general buying public is more open to the variety of stories such writers bring to the table and start voting with dollars. The great thing is, I think we’re getting closer every year.

Time will fix this. I want to be clear, when I say color I don’t just mean black writers. There are many stories to be told, and many writers who want to tell them.

HT: And finally in closing with a little less than 10 months left in 2012, what are you looking forward to?

LRG: Other than THE AVENGERS? 🙂 I’m just looking forward to finishing up a couple of writing projects and meeting more authors and readers. That is, by far, the best part of this gig. I hope to be doing it for a long time. 10 months +.

HT: LR, Those are great answers! Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to introduce me and the HEROIC TIMES readers to not only your work, but great work from writers old and new. Thanks again!

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Well I hope everyone enjoyed that! Please swing by LR’s blog here and support and purchase his current work and upcoming work WHISPERTOWN (I’ll post a link when available)! Thanks!

WEDNESDAY WORDS: TOP 20 BOOKS OF THE WEEK #1


HEROIC TIMES Top 20 Books list is a new weekly installment that ranks the 20 most interesting/intriguing books of the week (old, new, reissues, digital, etc). Contributors represent a variety of genres and sources. Each book includes Title and publisher blurb.

Feel free to leave feedback comments below, or suggest additions or subtractions.

Open City: A Novel by Teju Cole- A masterful command of narrative voice distinguishes a debut novel that requires patience and rewards it.

THE PRAGUE CEMETERY by Umberto Eco – Publication Date: November 8, 2011- Nineteenth-century Europe, from Turin to Prague to Paris, abounds with the ghastly and the mysterious. Conspiracies rule history. Jesuits plot against Freemasons. Italian priests are strangled with their own intestines. French criminals plan bombings by day and celebrate black masses by night. Every nation has its own secret service, perpetrating forgeries, plots, and massacres. From the unification of Italy to the Paris Commune to the Dreyfus Affair to the notorious forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Europe is in tumult and everyone needs a scapegoat. But what if, behind all of these conspiracies both real and imagined, lay just one man? What if that evil genius created the most infamous document of all?

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins: Girl takes sister’s place in a real world survivor game in a post-apocalyptic U.S.. (P, Scholastic)

THE STREETLETHAL OMNIBUS by Steven Barnes – Rumors alone of a collected omnibus edition containing the entire acclaimed three part STREET LETHAL series (similar to the excellently designed Chester Himes HARLEM CYCLE omnibus), hitting shelves soon is reason enough for this sci-fi/action-adventure classic to make anyone’s list.

THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS by Ian Fleming – James Bond, the world’s most famous secret agent, has thrilled audiences for over fifty years with his globe-trotting adventures. THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS collects eleven of Ian Fleming’s original daily comic strips for the very first time in a mammoth omnibus edition.

DILLON AND THE LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN BELL by Derrick Ferguson – The author of The Nuclear Suitcase, Joel Jenkins, describes Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell as “James Bond meets Cthulhu” and you’ll want to check out this heady mixture of the spy thriller and horror genres.

THE ARTIST WITHIN by Greg Preston – The culmination of more than fifteen years of photography by renowned photographer Greg Preston, this book is a living history of the men and women who have shaped the imaginations of countless millions of people around the world through their work in the fields of animated cartoons, comic books, comic strips and editorial cartooning. The list of more than two hundred artists includes such luminaries as Frank Miller, Al Hirschfeld, Joe Barbera, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Moebius, Walter and Louise Simonson and many more, all in photographs exclusive and shot expressly for this book.

SAUL BASS by Jennifer Bass, Pat Kirkham – This is the first book to be published on one of the greatest American designers of the 20th Century, who was as famous for his work in film as for his corporate identity and graphic work. With more than 1,400 illustrations, many of them never published before and written by the leading design historian Pat Kirkham, this is the definitive study that design and film enthusiasts have been eagerly anticipating.

THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES: A Novel – by Roberto Bolaño In this dazzling novel, the book that established his international reputation, Roberto Bolaño tells the story of two modern-day Quixotes–the last survivors of an underground literary movement, perhaps of literature itself–on a tragicomic quest through a darkening, entropic universe: our own. The Savage Detectives is an exuberant, raunchy, wildly inventive, and ambitious novel from one of the greatest Latin American authors of our age.

ASSUMPTION A NOVEL by Percival Everett – A wild ride to the heart of a baffling mystery, Assumption is a literary thriller like no other.

ATLAS OF HUMAN ANATOMY AND SURGERY by Jean-Marie Le Minor – Anatomically correct We owe a great debt to Jean Baptiste Marc Bourgery (1797?1849) for his Atlas of Anatomy, which was not only a massive event in medical history, but also remains one of the most comprehensive and beautifully illustrated anatomical treatises ever published in any language. In 1830, having received his doctorate in medicine three years prior, Bourgery began work on his magnificent atlas in cooperation with illustrator Nicolas Henri Jacob (1782?1871), a student of the French painter Jacques Louis David. The first volumes were published the following year, but completion of the treatise required nearly two decades of dedication. 15.5 lbs and 19.2″ x 12.6″ x 3.5″.714pgs.

FULL DARK, NO STARS by Stephen King – Like Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, which generated such enduring films as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, Full Dark, No Stars proves Stephen King a master of the long story form.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

THE SHADOWS GALLERY by L.R. Giles – You’ve been invited to the opening of a grand exhibition, a show unlike any you’ve ever seen. Inside you might find your greatest joy or your worst fear on display. But be warned, it can be difficult to tell which is which when you’re looking through the shadows… Award-winning author L.R. Giles brings forth a collection of tales that take you to the limits of imagination and beyond.

THE MORNING AFTER by David Drebin(English, German, French, Italian and Spanish Edition) – A talented photographer without equal, David Drebin is above all a storyteller. His brooding and glamorous works tell tales of lust and voyeurism–as well as seduction and escape. Not afraid to be daring, Drebin also tantalizes us with subtle allusions. His sweeping cinematic images feature the majestic backdrops of such world cities as Berlin, Paris and Rio de Janeiro. These photographs pulse with a charged sensuality, using color and light to maximum effect. Dangerous seductresses play a central role in Drebin’s work. Bursts of saturated Technicolor explode against stone and gray cement. In this, he hints at Hitchcock at his finest. We’re left with a tinge of regret amid the sensual excess.

Use Once, Then DestroyUSE ONCE, THEN DESTROY by Conrad Williams- In this spellbinding collection of his best stories from the last ten years, award-winning writer Conrad Williams offers the kind of horrors that move subtly into you, like pain, or love, or regret. They are stories that explore the scarred outposts of desperation and desire, sickness and death, sex and decay. Within these pages you will also find the acclaimed novella Nearly People.

SHERLOCK HOLMES CONSULTING DETECTIVE Vol III – The Baker Street Sleuth returns in five new original mysteries told in the classic style of Arthur Conan Doyle. Here are tales by Aaron Smith, Ian Watson, Joshua Reynolds and Andrew Smith guaranteed entertain any mystery fan. Throw on your deerstalker cap and load your pistols, there’s murder and mayhem about and the game is afoot once more.

RADIOACTIVE:MARIE & PIERRE CURIE: A TALE OF LOVE AND FALLOUT – In the century since the Curies began their work, we’ve struggled with nuclear weapons proliferation, debated the role of radiation in medical treatment, and pondered nuclear energy as a solution to climate change. In Radioactive, Lauren Redniss links these contentious questions to a love story in 19th Century Paris…Whether young or old, scientific novice or expert, no one will fail to be moved by Lauren Redniss’s eerie and wondrous evocation of one of history’s most intriguing figures.


EXILES FROM A FUTURE TIME: TRINITY OF PASSION: THE FORGING OF THE MID-TWENTIETH CENTURY LITERARY LEFT
– With this book, Alan Wald launches a bold and passionate account of the U.S. Literary Left from the 1920s through the 1960s. Exiles from a Future Time, the first volume of a trilogy, focuses on the forging of a Communist-led literary tradition in the 1930s. Exploring writers’ intimate lives and heartfelt political commitments, Wald draws on original research in scores of archives and personal collections of papers; correspondence and interviews with hundreds of writers and their friends and families; and a treasure trove of unpublished memoirs, fiction, and poetry… Focusing on the formation of the tradition and the organization of the Cultural Left, Wald investigates the “elective affinity” of its avant-garde poets, the “Afro-cosmopolitanism” of its Black radical literary movement, and the uneasy negotiation between feminist concerns and class identity among its women writers.

DREAMSCAPES 2010: CONTEMPORARY IMAGINARY REALISM – Publication Date: April 28, 2011 | ISBN-10: 9490668028 | ISBN-13: 978-9490668020 The greatest practitioners of imaginary realism are presented in this lavish overview of dreamy, surreal and beguiling paintings and sculptures! This large-scale, beautifully produced book features artwork by modern favorites like Michael Parkes, Daniel Merriam, Kinuko Y. Craft and many others. Vibrant paintings feature psychedelic dreamscapes populated by fairies, nymphs, gods and golems. Loaded with symbolism and often jarringly original, this showcases the best fantasy artists working today.Buy Direct from Publisher Here.

Well gals and guys hope you enjoyed that.

The WEDNESDAY WORDS column is a brand new blog feature, appearing (you guessed it!) every Wednesday. Come back next week to see which books make the list! And if you see items you’re considering purchasing then, if you are able and would like to support this blog, please utilize the attached links. Your helpful purchases through the links generates much appreciated pennies to keep this blog running. Your feedback and support… just way cool, and way appreciated. Thanks!

BOOKS OF THE DAY: THE BEST OF FANTASY! From Charles Saunders to Robert E. Howard

Fantasy can be, for whatever reason, a difficult sell for me. I’m not really an elf and faires fan, which is seemingly 99% of fantasy fiction.

This article then is about the other eloquent, less trope filled, yet still imaginative, 1% of Fantasy that I am a fan of:

ROBERT E. HOWARD- I Find his Solomon Kane to be the far more interesting of Howard’s creations. If you’re going to pick up one Robert E. Howard book, you would be hard pressed to choose a better one than the Gary Gianni spot-illustrated THE SAVAGE TALES OF SOLOMON KANE.The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane

CHARLES SAUNDERS- At the risk of sacrilege someone who did and does the noble warrior and tribal civilizations and fantastic action, better than just about everybody else, past or present, is Charles Saunders. Much in the way Howard was pretty much overlooked while he was writing, I really think Charles Saunders is similarly an incredibly overlooked talent. His IMARO series, is required reading and I think would make both Burroughs and Howard go… “Damn! This guy’s good!” Four books have come out in the series and by all reports the fifth book is on the way.

The original out of print DAW paperbacks are striking, with gorgeous cover art (at least one if not more by artist James Gurney), and are worth having just for the art alone, add the great stories and it’s win-win, but the new revised/improved editions are must buys.

Particularly because Saunders is another Fantasy writer who unfortunately goes out of print way too quickly, pick up the whole series while prices are reasonable.
Imaro: Price your Copy Here

Purchase Link to all In-Print Imaro Books

The only negative I’d lay against this series is the cover art for book #4 (and to a lesser extent book #3)is not good. See for yourself here:

While we all bandy about the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, I really am (like most of us) inclined to great looking covers. So a great book with a lousy cover is like shooting yourself in the foot. Pay the money, get a decent artist to do your cover. Make it easy for people to recommend your books, get that great cover art.


“Charles Saunders is one of the most innovative writers in the so-called Sword and Sorcery field. He was in the second wave of pioneers. Those who actually made what Robert E. Howard invented move into a new and equally exciting arena. I always loved his ground-breaking novels and stories. And it’s good to see him back.”
-Joe R. Lansdale, author of Sunset and Sawdust and The Bottoms

“Lord knows, the field needs the fresh and discerning insights that only Charles R. Saunders can bring to it.”
-Charles de Lint, author of The Blue Girl and Someplace to Be Flying


KARL EDWARD WAGNER- The Midnight Sun: The Complete Stories of Kane- Let me get on the bandwagon with saying the short fiction of Karl Edward Wagner and his tales of the immortal and amoral Kane/Cain is the way to go. Unfortunately getting this sadly out of print edition is going to set you back, quite a bit.

The Midnight Sun: The Complete Stories of Kane

GEORGE R.R. MARTIN- Martin is seemingly everywhere these days, particularly with the critical and commercial success of the television adaptation of his GAME OF THRONES. He’s now on his fifth book in the series.

NNEDI OKORAFOR-MBACHU- Her novels set in the Sahara of the coming dawn, are among some of the most imaginative and innovative and fresh fantasy of the last couple of decades and her The Shadow Speaker is an essential read.
The Shadow Speaker:Price Your Copy Here

STEPHEN R. DONALDSON- His series of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever is required reading.
Lord Foul’s Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Book 1):Price your copy here

“Since its first publication in 1977, Stephen Donaldson’s best-selling Thomas Covenant trilogy has become an indisputable classic – acclaimed around the world as the most compelling work of epic fantasy since Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’.”— Voyager

STEVEN BARNES- Steve Barnes masterfully jumps genres from science fiction to fantasy to historical fiction, and while you can make a strong argument for keeping him in the former rather than the latter I just think his work is too rich in all camps to exclude from any camp. An amazingly prolific writer, he’s a writers writer. There’s a ton of places you can jump in and enjoy his work. Check the upcoming links!

STEPHEN KING- Speaking of writers writer, I personally ran out of interest before finishing King’s multi-book Dark Tower series. And by all reports I’m not the only one. That said, on rare occasions adaptations can improve on the source, can perhaps focus and streamline it. Zack Snyder’s 300 film being an improvement of Frank Miller’s 300 Graphic Novel. With the DARK TOWER that seemingly works in reverse, the collected graphic novel omnibus seems to be hitting all the right notes, garnering a level of satisfaction even from those less than satisfied with the original prose wrap-up. Wherever you fall on this you cannot deny the huge mythology that King has created.

Dark Tower Omnibus

MINISTER FAUST- A great moniker for an elegant and irreverent writer. His work tinged a bit with that gonzo element of social satire that marks the work of one of my favorite writers, Ishmael Reed . But Minister Faust jettisons most of the baggage of our every day world, skewing toward fun and fantastic fantasy.

The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad

“If Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, William S. Burroughs and H.P.Lovecraft were to collaborate on a novel, the result might be The Coyote Kings. Pick up a copy. You’ll be glad you did.”– Sci-fi Dimensions

J.K. ROWLING- There is nothing you can say to add or detract from Rowling’s HARRY POTTER series, love it or hate it, it is an undeniable success. However, I tend to be a contrarian and have a knee jerk reaction against the uni-mind of culture, when everybody’s reading the same thing, I worry about the books that aren’t getting attention and aren’t getting read, because the media has eyes only for its chosen flavor. That said you cannot deny the books place or their popularity, and they should be sampled for familiarity’s sake if no other reason.

NALO HOPKINSON- SKIN FOLK is one of the best debuts, and best anthologies in years, and in a genre of stale Dragons and insipid elves and tired tropes it is that rarest of things… something new and good.

Skin Folk

MERVYN PEAKE- The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy. Do I really need to say anything else? Not only is this volume a work of literature, it’s also a work of art.
The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy


Well that’s it kids, some of the greatest Fantasy writers!

Support the writers (or their memories) and buy the books. Support this blog, and purchase through the handy dandy links. Your Karma will thank you. 🙂

Audio Book Review: David Morrell CREEPERS and Joe Hill 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS & HEART-SHAPED BOX

Audio Book Review: David Morrell CREEPERS and Joe Hill 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS & HEART-SHAPED BOX

An Audio Book when done well, by a great reader, can enhance a good story, or make finish-able an underwhelming story. When done poorly, an audio book can take away from a good story.

All of my reviews are of unabridged readings (the full book is read, nothing is cut out) unless otherwise stated. Okay onto the reviews:

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HEART-SHAPED BOX- Stephen Lang of MANHUNTER, TOMBSTONE and AVATAR fame is one of my favorite character/bit actors, so his name as much as anything else spurred me to give this book a try. And he is a fantastic reader, and this Joe Hill novel starts off strong and interesting but by disk two, with the protagonist going in and out of reality, just gets plodding and annoying and uninteresting. The whole dream sequence plot, completely loses me, and even Stephen Lang can’t salvage it. The dialog circles itself into tedium, over explaining things into the ground. By the time the same anecdote was retold for the third time, somewhere around disk five, I was done with the book. You get the impression early on, that this is a short story/novella, that the writer is desperately trying to pad out to novel length. A common failing of some other horror writers, padding a story till it feels like they’ll never get to the point. This however emphasizes the strength of a good reader, I’ll listen to a good actor finish a lackluster story, that I would have long ago stopped reading (grown bored of) in book form. All in all great read by Stephen Lang (B+), and at times well written, particularly the beginning, but unfortunately overlong and plodding story by Joe Hill (D).

Heart-Shaped Box CD

2OTH CENTURY GHOSTS- This audio book of Joe Hill’s Short story collection, read by David Ledoux is an example of how a poor reading can torpedo an otherwise interesting book. The slightly nasally sounding reading, seems rushed, and lacks any gravitas in the voice, and generally wears out its welcome quickly. Had to stop listening, that’s how problematic I found the reading, on the wrong side of annoying. D-. So avoid the audio book for this one and pickup the book instead, because the short story collection (avoid the over descriptive introduction) itself I quite like, and succeeds where I felt Joe Hill’s HEART-SHAPED BOX failed. Joe Hill is an elegant writer, and here in the short story format he can show off his subtle, understated, beautifully worded tales.

20th Century Ghosts Hardcover

20th Century Ghosts Audio Book CD

CREEPERS- David Morrell has had a long and surprisingly successful career as a writer of thrillers, and more, for his work being often and well adapted into a variety of mediums, from television to films. CREEPERS is a very cinematic read, wonderfully read by Patrick Lawlor, that you can perceive making a very good film. While some of the twist and turns are relatively well telegraphed to any fan of thrillers, the buildup is riveting. I do find the final act a bit cliche ridden, but that excused it moves at a fast clip, very well paced and keeps you turning pages, or in audio book terms, plopping in CDs. Grade: B+.

Creepers

A Storm of Issues: On Farscape, Wrightson, and Software Patents

The above is my poster of the day, a beautiful Polish 1sheet for one of my fav flicks JERIMIAH JOHNSON. Okay… onto the post…

Hey just thought I’d shoot out a quick midweek message.

In between an insane work week, I’ve found time to finish Farscape. Despite some uneven moments, that is one, really great show. And the season 4 ending… wow. And the commentaries… double wow.

Come’on guys there has got to be some Farscape fans out there, because I really want to get a group watch going and discuss these shows. Makes me want to start my own web show . 🙂

On the book front, I’ve been reading a few books. One particularly is Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN gorgeously illustrated by Bernie Wrightson with an introduction by Stephen King. I read a chapter a night… it is good, and the art… drool worthy great. And the quality of the paper, the binding…

This is the reason digital, for me will never replace the lavish, joy of a real tactile book.

Have you seen this book? Published by Dark Horse, Wrightson’s FRANKENSTEIN is AMAZING!!! I mean you can get the book for like $30 retail, and it is designed like a $300 book. I tell everybody, you want a good investment, forget the stock market, invest in books.

Because of a storm of issues, real books, and real DVDs, anything you can physically own, anything that’s not streamed, and hosted on corporate servers, and locked down with encryption, will become (if we don’t fight against the Microsofts and Apples and Software patents) in the next couple of decades increasingly a niche item, and increasingly rare… which translates into increasingly expensive.

So definitely pick up a copy while you can:

Bernie Wrightsons Frankenstein

Ligotti vs Ligotti: Comparing Subterranean Press’ vs Carroll & Graf’s GRIMSCRIBE editions

Ligotti vs Ligotti: Comparing Subterranean Press’ vs Carroll & Graf’s GRIMSCRIBE editions

So I just received in the mail, the now Out of Print, Subterranean Press’ 2011 HC edition of GRIMSCRIBE. Now I own the original 1991 Carroll & Graf edition, but my interest was piqued by the sold out nature of previous Subterranean Press editions, the wonderful cover art as well as the description of their Grimscribe edition as being revised and definitive.

Here’s the description:

“Grimscribe
by Thomas Ligotti

Dust jacket by Aeron Alfrey.

Limited: (sold out)
Trade: (sold out)
ISBN: 978-1-59606-409-6

Grimscribe: His Lives and Works is the second volume in a series of revised, definitive editions of the horror story collections of Thomas Ligotti. First published in 1991 by Carroll & Graf in the United States and Robinson Publishing in England, Grimscribe garnered significantly more recognition than Ligotti’s first collection, Songs of a Dead Dreamer, which was issued two years earlier by the same publishers.”

So biting the bullet I picked up one of the sold out Subterranean editions (sold out in less than 3 months, which is pretty darn impressive), thankfully for not too much more than cover price (it’s now, in the brief 2 weeks since I purchased it, climbed to the 3 figure range) and having perused it today I have to say, my initial impression upon taking it out of the box is… I’m a bit dissapointed.

I mean I really am disposed to like imprints such as Centipede Press and Subterranean Press, that in this day of digital are trying to make the hardcopy something attractive and special. My problem is for the price, I’m not even talking the marked up reseller’s price, I’m talking Subterranean’s retail price, GRIMSCRIBE when finally seen is underwhelming.

I mean for the money I don’t think a slipcover done to quality, embossing on the cover, and maybe spot illustrations and a ribbon marker and gilded pages are too much to ask. Look at books such as Dark Horse’s FRANKENSTEIN illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, which sells for a fraction of the price of Subterranean’s books, but in terms of quality there is no comparison. Dark Horse’s FRANKENSTEIN is a work of art. Something you’re going to be treasuring and proud to have on your shelf for a long time.

Bernie Wrightsons Frankenstein

I can’t say that for Subterranean’s GRIMSCRIBE.

The first thing that strikes me is it’s a smaller, less imposing/less impressive book than what I was expecting. Just average HC trade dimensions. And the slipcover which boasts imaginative art by Aeron Alfrey, unfortunately undermines that art quite a bit with a muted, even muddy looking printing, and cropping/shrinking the image rather than allowing it to take up a respectable amount of the cover.

But getting beyond the slipcover the book itself is just an average brown coated HC, with blue type on the binding. The interior however does offer large, legible, and attractive type.

Now onto the heart of the matter, the “revised, definitive” nature of this new version. Is it or isn’t it, an improvement over the original?

Well comparing the two versions there are minor differences, what Ligotti described thusly:

“One thing I did not do is deliberately seek out changes. Of course there would be errors that needed corrections and phrases that needed to be polished. But I didn’t look to shorten or lengthen the stories or any part of them, or to make my prose leaner or more baroque, or to in any way alter the tone of a given story. I just read the books carefully from start to finish and keep on the lookout for additions and deletions that would enhance each story, at least to my mind.”—- see full article here.

Okay, a writer can change his work if he wants, I mean it’s his work. But sometimes you can’t go home, and sometimes a writer or a boxer or an actor’s best work is behind him rather than in front. Frank Miller’s great comics are all decades in the past, his current work a poor shadow of him in his prime. Bernie Wrightson is one of the most hailed and influential artists of the 70s and 80s, but his work in the 21st century (while still head and shoulders above most artists) for a variety of reasons, cannot compare to the artist he was. I’m saying the changes a 21st century Thomas Ligotti makes are perhaps not an improvement on the writing of a 20th century Thomas Ligotti.

Examples, changes are small, but they are I think telling, a tendency to the dumbed down, and often clumsy phrasing rather than the lyric poetry and embracing of the extremes of youth:

THE LAST FEAST OF HARLEQUIN

Original:

“At certain times I could almost dissolve entirely into this inner realm of awful purity and emptiness. I remember those invisible moments when in disguise I drifted through the streets of Mirocaw, untouched by the drunken, noisy forms around me: untouchable.”

Revised 2011 Subterranean version”

“At certain times I could almost dissolve entirely into this inner realm of purity and emptiness, the paradise of the unborn. I remember how I was momentarily overtaken by a feeling I had never known when in disguise I drifted through the streets of Mirocaw, untouched by the drunken, noisy forms around me: untouchable.”

Again the changes aren’t many and aren’t drastic, I just don’t think they improve on the original and for the most part I find them to be the clunky exposition of age, rather than the fertile and frenetic choices of a visionary.

I find his earlier word choices, in almost every case, to be the stronger, more poetic, more memorable. The mating of differences, terms like “awful purity” and “invisible moments” wonderful baroque phrasing of the original, that are missed in this revised edition.

THE SPECTACLES IN THE DRAWER

“Without an author whoever lived in this world, if you will recall what I told you about it.” that is a clunky, and unwieldy sentence in the revised version.

In the original it is:

“Without a living author, if you will recall what I told you about it.”

Original:
“Plomb had done nothing less than multiplied these visions into infinity, creating oceans of his own blood and enabling himself to see with countless eyes. Entranced by such aspiration, I gazed at the mirrors in speechless wonder. Among them was one I remembered looking into some days– or was it weeks? –before.”

Revized Suibterranean version:
“Plomb had done nothing less than multiplied these visions into infinity, creating oceans of his own blood and enabling himself to see with countless eyes. Entranced by such aspiration, I gazed at the mirrors in speechless wonder. Among them was that tilting mirror I remembered looking into not so long ago.”

Again, not a major change, a few words, but they tend to be poorly chosen, and a bit boring and pedestrian compared to the original.

And such ‘improvements’ run throughout the stories in the 2011 Subterranean collection.

The only thing the Subterranean version has going for it is the slightly flawed slipcover, which flaws and all is a 100 times better than the pathetic slipcover on the original 1991 HC. Unfortunately a slipcover is not enough. So my recommendation, save yourself the dough on Subterranean’s “revised, definitive” edition and get the original HC instead and have your own nice slipcover made for it(all of which can be done for less than the price the Subterranean books are going for).

Grimscribe: His Lives and Works

Grimscribe: His Life and Works