We are wrapping up Women in Horror Recognition month with a book that exemplifies what women bring to the genre. Mama’s Boy and Other Dark Tales by Fran Friel is a collection that in one light is very diverse, is also tied together by recurring themes and ideas you don’t see much in horror.
“The literary effect we call horror turns on the dissolution of boundaries, between the living and the dead, of course, but also, at the crudest level, between the outside of the body and everything that ought to stay inside.”
-Laura Miller (from the introduction to The Haunting of Hill House)
To be perfectly honest, Laura Miller’s introduction will say everything about this book I wish to say and in a more elegant way. Though, unless you don’t mind spoilers, I wouldn’t read it until you read The Haunting of Hill House.
So where should I start? Madness? Ghosts?
When any book is nominated for the Stoker Award, it automatically has a quality that others won’t. Spellbent by Lucy Snyder is a urban fantasy about a novice witch, Jessie Shimmer, caught in the middle of a horrible accident that will change not only her, but the world she is a part of. Her boyfriend, Cooper Marron, is pulled into a hellish dimension while they were trying to call rain to end a drought. The damage caused by the rip in dimensions causes a cover-up of supernatural proportions with Jessie now considered a fugitive for things she never knew about or took part in.
Not only will this be the first post for Women in Horror Recognition Month, but this will also be the first Fan Horror Level Spotlight we’ve done. Morbid Curiosity is the story of twin sisters, Haley and Heather, that lost there father to physical illness and mother to mental. They are shipped from Louisiana to their paternal grandparents in Mississippi. They loss of parents, friends, and lifestyle is too much for both of them, but more so for Haley. A popular girl in school, Karla, decides to help them out by showing them how she became popular: Chaos Magic. And like it’s name implies, chaos slowly takes over the lives of Haley and Heather.
When it comes to horror, the breadth of subject matter is limited only to the imagination of the writer. But, even with that large spectrum to choose from, there are subjects that tend to be missed or glossed over for the most part. One of them is history. There are some out there that write historical horror, but the ratio of them to everyone else is very low. Shades of Blood and Shadow is one of those few. Stories steeped in historical context or settings fills most of this collection. Hawkes has a great way of either writing stories within historical settings or creating the stories that are her truth that started the myths and folk lore we know. “Fallen” was a great example as a story about one of the fallen angels that rebelled against God with Lucifer. “The Relic: Father Santiago’s Bones” takes place during the Spanish Inquisition.
While most of these stories are supernatural, it doesn’t take away for the killing fact of some of the horrors that humanity has caused. “The Tour Guide” shows the fact that the scientifically advanced culture of the Mayans still had a barbarous side. “All Becomes As Wormwood” looks at the possibilities in the ruins of Chernobyl. Both historical insights to the fact that even with all our advancements, enlightenment, and knowledge, humans can still cause horrors. Sometimes we mean to. Others are completely accidental. But many times it is because we are too sure of ourselves. That pride in ourselves, our thoughts and beliefs, are usually the main culprit in the most terrifying moments of our past and present.
Horror Reading Level:
The Relic: Father Santiago’s Bones: Fan
All Becomes As Wormwood: Intermediate
The Heir: Fan
The Highwayman of Epping Forest: Fan
Last Breath: Intermediate
Incident Beside the Striped Tent: What the Fruit Seller Saw: Fan
The Piper of Glamis Hill: Intermediate
El Reptil Rey: Intermediate
The Tour Guide: Fan
The Woe Tale of Fiona MacLean: Beginner
Average Rating: Intermediate
We are lucky enough to have Jodi Lee, Editor in Chief of Belfire Press and The New Bedlam Project, take a moment out of her hectic schedule and answer a quick fire for us. Writer, editor, mother, she has seen many the permutations of Horror. After years of editing for places like Apex Publications, LBF Books, Lachesis Publishing, and freelancing, she started up one on the newest small presses that is building a name for itself. Let’s see what she has to say about the state of Horror.
Continue reading “Women In Horror Month: Belfire Bits with Jodi Lee”
The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough is a clean, eloquent fiction piece told through the eyes of of a middle child who is taking care of her father dying of lung cancer. But, and this is a very significant but, to each reader it can be a different kind of tale.
For those that have had to deal with the lose of a love own to any kind or wasting illness, be it cancer or something else, it is tale of affirmation that the complex emotions you feel through the whole process of watching a love die. Pinborough’s honesty and realism in the emotions of not only the Point of View character, but her four siblings as well are the driving force of the story. Pinborough proves that it great writing and great talent creates that kind of honesty in a story.
For those unacquainted with death, it can be an almost Borgesian horror tale. Pinborough’s style has matured in this novella. And I say matured for a specific reason, and it is not to be condescending or patronizing. As I writer I have seen the growth of my own writing over the years. But for many writers, it takes a long time to get out of the process of learning, adding, and refining your style though a multitude of tales and only in later half of your writing career to find not just the voice of your writing but the voice of where all your stories come from, the voice of your Muse. Pinborough has achieved, at the very least, the first stage of writing her Muse’s voice. A part of that voice is always going to be a little bit frightening in her tales. Like all that start in horror, she sees the darkness not as purely evil, but a universal constant.
For those that have a desire for freedom for the lives they are in and have lived for so many years, it is a tale where dreams and fantasies can come true. That endings, while not emblazoned with “Happily ever after,” can still be happy endings where dreams do come true. Some dreams just take longer to be realized because one must live through nightmares first.
Three very distinct tales, all be told at the same time. It is real. It is wise. And, it is magical to read and experience.
Horror Reader Level: Beginner