Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol.2

This one got read as something of a fool’s errand to see if I could learn anything about Kathe Koja’s ideas about what constituted “weird fiction”.

Well, “the weird” means different things to different people. That’s the whole idea behind getting a guest editor for each volume of this series, now in its third installment.

Is it the best weird fiction of the year? How would I know? And if I did, there really wouldn’t be much point in me reading this.

Series editor Michael Kelly read about 2,800 stories and passed the best to Koja for the final decision on whether or not to include them.

Koja’s ideas of weird fiction and mine don’t match much. On the other hand, I have no idea what she had to work with for 2014.

Still, the book had enough good stories in it for me to recommend, and I will read other volumes in the series.

However, I read it almost four months ago, and I’m only covering the stories that stuck in my mind, weird or not. That’s why this is a . . .

Low Res Scan: Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume 2, eds. Kathe Koja and Michael Kelly, 2015.years-best-weird-2

For me, the only weird story in the book was its oldest: Jean Muno’s “The Ghoul”. First published in 1979, it got its first English translation, from Edward Gauvin, in 2014. Beautiful in imagery, it has a man walking a foggy beach. He encounters a woman in a submerged wheelchair. The mixing of time, a jump back to 20 years earlier in the man’s life, and language that may be realistic, may be metaphorical, was beautiful and memorable.

Nathan Ballingrud’s “The Atlas of Hell” is an occult take on a hard-bitten crime story. Narrator Jack runs a bookstore in New Orleans (with the really good and profitable stuff in back). Jack’s old employer, crime boss Eugene, coerces him into another job. Jack’s to take a thug with him and find Tobias who has not only ripped off some gambling proceeds but somehow gotten, from Hell no less, the thighbone of Eugene’s dead son. It’s off to the bayou and some weird stuff, and that atlas turns out to be something unexpected.

Siobhan Caroll’s “Wendigo Nights” has a setup similar to John Carpenter’s The Thing: a canister (from the doomed Franklin Expedition, no less – Caroll has done academic work on polar exploration) is retrieved from the thawing tundra. Mayhem ensues involving the wendigo – monster or really bad cabin fever that turns men into cannibal killers depending on whether you go with folklore or psychology. Continue reading

X’s for Eyes & The Golden Man

This is the unveiling of a new feature: the Low-Res Scan.

As should be obvious, these are not reviews, not even notes, just brief commentary

Low Res Scan: X’s for Eyes, Laird Barron, 2015 and The Golden Man, Kenneth Robeson, 1941.

X’s for Eyes will be the eighth Laird Barron work I’ve read, and I’m still not in the Laird Barron fan club.Xs for Eyes

This short novel is published by Bizarro Pulp Press. Truth in advertising. This is bizarre, but not in a memorable way. I reviewed its first half which appeared as “We Smoke the Northern Lights” in The Gods of H. P. Lovecraft.

It’s been over two months since I read it, and the second half has faded from memory. I remember Spetsnaz mercs, a butler who was a Nazi commando, some transdismensional travel, and not much else. Fun while I read it, even brought a smile to my face, but memorable only in incident like a lot of pulp.

One annoying bit: a character pulls a Glock pistol out. Only in an alternate 1956 does that get to happen.

One character, killed off early, can be driven to rage by telling him “You’re no Doc Savage!” More evidence of the pulp inspirations for this tale.

And, speaking of Doc Savage, I came across this interesting bit at the end of The Golden Man, published in the April 1941 issue of Doc Savage Magazine:

The golden man lay still, breathing deeply. “My name,” he said, “is Paul Hest. I am chief of intelligence for” — he looked up slyly — let’s call it an unnamed nation, not the United States. We learned that an American liner, the Virginia Dare, bringing refugees from Europe, was to be torpedoed. The torpedoing was to be done by the U-boat of another nation, disguised as a submarine belonging to my country. The idea was to build up ill feeling in the United States against my country.”The Golden Man

A false flag operation conducted by Britain and an American liner provocatively named for the first English child born in the New World. Clearly, Lester Dent, the usual author behind the house name Kenneth Robeson, was sticking to non-intervention even in 1941.