H.P. Lovecraft And The Shadow Over Horror

Scary tentacles

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H.P. Lovecraft’s stories are among the foundations of modern horror. He has an entire subgenre named after him (Lovecraftian horror, also called cosmic horror). His stories can still wring shivers from the modern reader; his gods and monsters are cloned, adapted and mutated by new authors every year (I’m one of them). I don’t actually know how many anthologies include either his name or his iconic creation Cthulhu in their titles — though a sample make up a largish shelf among my books, and then there are the movies, songs, role-playing games and plush abominations (another shelf). During the 2016 election, a Washington Post op-ed claimed Cthulhu’s endorsement for Donald Trump.

But Lovecraft was a bigot. He was a bigot by the standards of our time and his. He hated and feared African-Americans, Jews, poor people and anyone who had the temerity to speak languages other than English in his presence. He once wrote a poem called “On the Creation of [N-words]” and a story in which the horrific punchline was that the femme fatale with monstrous, man-strangling hair was “a negress.” Though sometimes less overt, his terror of humans who were not upper-class Anglo-Saxons pervades his stories. One celebrated classic […] ends by recognizing a strange and alien race as “men” like the reader — men whose civilization collapsed because of a revolt by their monstrous slaves. Those slaves, the shoggoths, appear as boogeymen throughout Lovecraft’s oeuvre.

What to do about the darkness gnawing at horror’s roots? Perhaps Lovecraft’s own metaphors are best: Can this ancestral taint be denied, or does it warp its descendants even today? Could we destroy it, even if we wanted to? If we did, what would remain of our modern branches? Could we instead transform it? Horror excels at making thought-provoking beauty and terror out of the most vile seeds. Can we work such metamorphoses with our own foundations?

Every time someone raises this topic, traditionalists accuse them of forced amnesia. “You’re trying to bury Lovecraft’s memory. You want us to forget him.” Yet modern horror has repeatedly chosen transformation over suppression. Victor LaValle, Caitlin R. Kiernan, N.K Jemisin and Matt Ruff are only a few of those now penning Lovecraftian stories in which bigotry itself is the horror.

Pervasive in cosmic horror is the conflict between attraction and repulsion. Lovecraft’s narrators stumble into terror because they can’t look away: The only thing worse than knowing things man wasn’t meant to know is putting down the book. I feel the same way about Lovecraft. “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” begins with the town’s amphibious inhabitants being forced into internment camps; my first novel resulted from yelling at the story until I had to put my fury down on paper. Yet “Shadow” also contains moments of strange sympathy for its monsters and a protagonist who ultimately discovers himself to be one of them, and transforms to “dwell amidst wonder and glory” beneath the waves of the Atlantic.

Lovecraft, too, was conflicted — though in his short life he never found the courage to let his attraction to difference overcome his repulsion. Perhaps we keep building on his creations in the hope that we can finally complete that half-hinted transformation.

Lovecraft’s repellent assumptions still make their way into modern work; even beloved modern authors sometimes show hints of that taint. If we know that a story or author [we’re discussing] is problematic, we’ll tell you — and no shame on anyone who doesn’t care to dip their hands into that particular variety of putrescent pool. There are a few I won’t touch myself. But for those who can’t turn away from what glints at the heart of the slime — or who seek imperfect materials to sculpt into strange new forms — we’ll do our best to map the abyss.

By RUTHANNA EMRYS, August 16, 2018, first appearing on Books : NPR

Editor’s Note:

Ruthanna Emrys is the author of the Innsmouth Legacy series and co-writes Tor.com’s Lovecraft Reread. She lives in a mysterious manor house on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. with her wife and their large, strange family. You can find her on Twitter as @r_emrys.

 

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Genre Friday – Urban Fantasy

YOUR URBAN FANTASY PRIMER: THE CLASSICS OF THE GENRE AND NEW RELEASES

Welcome to Urban Fantasy 101. Here’s some of the best urban fantasy books to read, both classics and new releases.

WHAT IS URBAN FANTASY?

Urban fantasy, as defined, is a sub-genre of fantasy where the story takes place in an urban setting. Ok. Let’s break that down. Essentially, urban fantasy takes place in Our World (either in present day or in the past) but contains fantastical aspects, such as supernatural beings or creatures and the existence of magic/powers. Urban fantasy veers from magical realism in the sense that it is still completely outside the realm of physical possibility, but still exists in the “real world.”

Common themes within urban fantasy, include a first person narrative, an overarching mystery as the main plot, romance as a subplot, and extensive world-building. When the romance takes the wheel and becomes the main plot is when we enter paranormal romance territory.

Discover the urban fantasy genre with this primer, including classics and new releases. urban fantasy | guide to urban fantasy | urban fantasy books | urban fantasy book lists

So, let’s get to the good stuff: your urban fantasy reading list.

CLASSIC URBAN FANTASY BOOKS

NEVERWHERE BY NEIL GAIMAN

When Richard Mayhew comes to the aid of a young woman named Door, his world starts to change. Richard’s life becomes entangled with London Below, an alternate London, and all of the misfits who call it home

Other books by Gaiman to check out: American GodsAnansi Boys

 

WATERSHIP DOWN BY RICHARD ADAMS

After one of their fellows receives a premonition of great destruction, a group of rabbits leaves the protection of their home for somewhere new. Watership Down may be a children’s novel, but also depicts a powerful allegory of human society, group mentality, and humanity as a whole.

 

MARY POPPINS BY P.L. TRAVERS

We all know this story, right? On a normal day in London, a brisk wind from the East blows in and down comes, Mary Poppins. From the moment that Mary shows up at No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane, she changes the lives of them all, whether it’s her magical cleaning powers, her bottom carpet bag, or her ability to make medicine taste good.

 

FLEDGLING BY OCTAVIA E. BUTLER

Butler is a pioneer of the sci-fi/urban fantasy genre for African American authors. Ina is a young girl seemingly with amnesia, who possess some odd abilities. Did I say “young girl”? I actually meant vampire trapped in a girl’s body.

Other books by Butler to check out: KindredParable of the Sower


CONTEMPORARY URBAN FANTASY BOOKS

STORM FRONT BY JIM BUTCHER

When the Chicago P.D. seek the help of Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, it’s soon clear that Harry is the only person cut out for this case. He’s a Wizard-for-hire who specializes in detective work and assisting the police.

(see also the entire Dresden Files series)

 

SERVANT OF THE UNDERWORLD BY ALIETTE DE BODARD

Set in the capital of the Aztecs, Tenochtitlan, the end of the world is evaded only by human sacrifice. Alcatel, high priest of the dead, is forced to investigate the apparent death of a priestess and potentially betray his family.

 

Akata Witch by Nnedi OkoraforAKATA WITCH BY NNEDI OKORAFOR

Set in Nigeria, our protagonist, Sunny, is albino and thus, incredibly sensitive to the sun. But when she makes friends with Chichi and Orlu, she discovers the history of the Leopard People, as well as her own magic powers. Now Sunny realizes that the prejudices others used to hold against her are actually her strengths.

 

LABYRINTH LOST BY ZORAIDA CORDOVA

When Alex tries to rid herself of her magic on her Deathday Celebration, the spell backfires—changing her world forever. She accidentally banishes her family to a separate realm and Alex must use her magic (which she hates) in order to get them back.

 

SHADOWSHAPER BY DANIEL JOSÉ OLDER

Sierra Santiago is looking forward to a normal summer, but as always, her plans go awry. A zombie-like man crashes a party, strange things immediately begin to happen, such as her nearly-comatose grandfather beginning to speak again. Sierra discovers the Shadowshapers, a group of supernatural people who connect with spirits.

 

THE LIGHTNING THIEF BY RICK RIORDAN

Percy Jackson always knew he was a little different, but after an encounter with who he assumed was his math teacher, his mother sends him off to Camp Half-Blood on Long Island. Percy soon discovers his father is Poseidon, the god of the sea, and Camp Half-Blood is a place where other demigods can live together in peace.

 

CITY OF BONES BY CASSANDRA CLARE

Clary Fray has always considered herself a normal human being, but when she witnesses a murder by three teens and then the body and the teens disappear, she thinks she’s losing her mind. Clary soon learns this is the world of the Shadowhunters, or demon hunters, and even more shocking—she might just be one of the

(see also, the entire Mortal Instruments series, the Infernal Devices series, and the Dark Artifices series)

 

THE DIVINERS BY LIBBA BRAY

It’s the 1920s in New York and Evie wants to be a part of everything. Evie is hiding a psychic ability that has gotten her into trouble in the past, but is hoping to start afresh in NYC. The city has other plans for her, however, as she becomes entwined with a serial killer who may or not have supernatural powers.

(see also, the entire Diviners series)

 

trail of lightning coverTRAIL OF LIGHTNING BY REBECCA ROANHORSE

While most of the world has succumbed during an unexpected climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) only gains power. Maggie is a Dinétah monster hunter who is called to a small town to help find a missing girl. Through a reluctant alliance, Maggie begins to dive into ancient legends to defeat the monster.

 

CERTAIN DARK THINGS BY SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA

Set in Mexico City, we meet Domingo, a normal street kid who runs into Atl, a vampire. Atl is currently being pursued by a rival vampire clan and needs to escape to South America. Domingo, immediately smitten with Atl, begins to travel with her, evading local crime syndicates and detectives on their trail.

By , December 

So You Want to Read Viking Fantasy Fiction: Here’s Where to Start

Pixabay (CC0)

The Viking Age may have officially ended in 1066 with the Battle of Stamford Bridge, but stories of the fierce Norse raiders and their deeds continue to enthrall. Even today, over 950 years later, an encounter with Viking warriors is only as far away as your television screen, local movie house, video game system, or bookshelf.

While it might be a stretch to call Viking Fantasy its own genre, the sheer preponderance of Scandinavian-flavored fantasy fiction would certainly seem enough to support the claim that it is a sub-genre. Axe-wielding bearded warriors, longboats, Odin and Thor, trolls, berserkers, valkyries, and icy seas: These are some of the things that make Viking Fantasy, and if you’re looking for a place to start, we’ve got you covered.

The cover of the book SE Last Light of the Sun (Canadian Ed)The Last Light of the Sun

GUY GAVRIEL KAY

Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Last Light of the Sun is a tale set in a fantasy world very much like western Europe during the height of the Viking era: a time when Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, and of course, Norse cultures clashed for control of land, gold, shipping lanes, and other resources. Featuring a cast of nobles, outcast warriors, and even faeries, this is a great book for anyone looking for an engrossing new world in which to get lost.

 

The cover of the book Eaters of the DeadEaters of the Dead

MICHAEL CRICHTON

Michael Crichton took a break from techno-thrillers for this exciting tale of an Arab courtier who finds himself traveling with a band of Viking warriors. Unknown to him, his traveling companions are traveling northward to aid an ally in a fight against a bestial enemy that raids by night. Eaters of the Dead is a retelling of the ancient saga Beowulf, but one with some unexpectedly Crichtonesque flourishes. You’ll see when you read it.

 

The cover of the book Half a KingHalf a King

JOE ABERCROMBIE

Prince Yarvi was born with only one good hand in a warrior’s world: one where men rule by axe and shield. Rejected by his father as an unsuitable heir to the throne, Yarvi is left with no choice but to find his own way and reclaim a kingdom he wasn’t sure he wanted in the first place. Abercrombie’s Viking-inspired world hides its share of secrets. Prepare to be surprised.

 

The cover of the book Hrolf Kraki’s SagaHrolf Kraki’s Saga

POUL ANDERSON

Poul Anderson was proud of his Scandinavian heritage and often drew from it while writing his science fiction and fantasy fiction. Hrolf Kraki’s Saga is based on an authentic Norse saga about a legendary Viking hero and his band of twelve companions. Hrolf Kraki is a brave but flawed hero: a man consumed by his appetites and vengeful nature — traits that ultimately bring his kingdom down around him.

 

The cover of the book The Swords of Good MenThe Swords of Good Men

SNORRI KRISTJANSSON

Two years ago, Ulfar Thormodsson disgraced his father. His punishment? Escort his highborn cousin on a tour of the kingdom. Their journey was supposed to end at the gates of the town of Stenvik, but it seems that the two men have arrived just in time for a war between old ways and new.

 

The cover of the book A Companion to WolvesA Companion to Wolves

SARAH MONETTE AND ELIZABETH BEAR

The wolfcarls, warriors bonded to ferocious wolves, defended the people of their frozen realm against trolls, wyverns, and other terrors for many an age. Now it appears that their usefulness has come to an end. The monsters who once ravaged their lands seem to have disappeared, and with them the saga of the wolfcarls. But appearances can be deceiving, and it may not be time for the people to let down their guard yet.

 

The cover of the book The Hammer and the CrossThe Hammer and the Cross

HARRY HARRISON

The British Isles may be in the hands of feuding kings, but the Church is the true power behind the thrones. Everyone fears the threat of damnation — everyone, that is, but the Viking raiders that harry the shores of England. As the powers that be squabble, Shef, the son of a Norseman and a captive English lady, prepares for a future of war and the possibility of a kingdom of his own.

 

The cover of the book The Sea of TrollsThe Sea of Trolls

NANCY FARMER

Jack and his sister Lucy are kidnapped from their Saxon village and taken to the court of the Viking chieftain Ivar the Boneless and his half-troll wife. When Jack accidentally casts a spell on her, he is sent forth into the land of the trolls to search for a way to reverse the magic. He won’t be alone, though: accompanying him is the shield maiden and would-be berserker Thorgill, and a mysterious crow that answers to the name Bold Heart.

Genre Friday – WESTERNS

Image result for western genre

The Western genre is uniquely American (more-or-less – Australian and Eurowesterns [see below], and spaghetti western films [many oddly inspired by Japanese samurai films] create a few exceptions to this rule). The genre’s main feature is its setting, the untamed western half of the United States during the 1800s (and occasionally stretching into the late 1700s or early 1900s), which makes sense as it got its start in the “penny dreadfuls” and “dime novels” of the 19th century. These cheap books were wildly popular and helped spread the mythic image of the old west with stories about the mountain men, outlaws, settlers, and lawmen who were taming the wild western frontier. Western novels as we know them today began appearing in the early 20th century, popularized by well known authors like Zane Grey and later, in the mid 20th century, by authors like Louis L’Amour. Maybe due to the timing of it, as the Western novel was becoming popular as motion pictures came into their own, but the Western genre is as well known for its movies (and movie stars) and TV shows as it is for its books (maybe better known). This is why you’ll notice in the list of Western subgenres below that more than a few of the examples given are film titles.

Sadly, the genre peaked around the early 1960s and has been undergoing a long, slow decline ever since. Most of the best movies are old, and a lot of the new ones are remakes, and many of the most iconic Western novels (and their authors) are several decades past their prime. Still, as long as there is an audience for them, Westerns and their rugged heroes will continue to prevail before stoically riding off into the sunset.

Western Subgenres

You can be fairly certain that there will be six shooters and horses, but aside from that Westerns can vary quite a bit. Below is a list of many of the subgenres associated with tales of the wild west.

1063180Australian westerns are a rare exception to the ‘time and place’ bounds of the genre, moving from the western US to the untamed Australian outback. Sometimes, the protagonist is an American that is no longer satisfied with the rapidly-filling western United States, and instead settles in Australia’s vast outback. Sometimes the story centers around European or Australian outlaws and their western-like adventures and escapades. Ned Kelly, the fictional account of a real Australian outlaw is a good example.

Black Cowboy (Buffalo Soldier): These westerns feature a protagonist of color. Gerald Haslam’s story Rider is a fine example. These stories sometimes depict members or veterans of the US Army’s 9th and 10th Cavalry (aka Buffalo Soldiers), African-American soldiers that gained fame for their actions in the west. Z.Z. Packer’s novel The Thousands is a good example of this subgenre.

Bounty Hunter tales center upon these morally ambiguous characters. Peter Brandvold’s novel Bounty Hunter Lou Prophet is a clear example. Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian follows a band of bloodthirsty killers after the money offered for killing Native Americans.

Cattle Drive westerns are set amidst this definitive frontier activity and, along with gunslingers and wagon trains, is among the most well known and frequently depicted western subgenre. Often the young protagonist makes long strides toward adulthood during these grueling journeys. Larry McMurtry’s novel Lonesome Dove and its sequels are famous examples. Clay Fisher’s novel The Tall Men is another.

2881203Civil War westerns are defined by the conflict that gives the subgenre its name – pitched battles having been fought as far west as New Mexico. Stories can be set during or after the war as former soldiers carried Blue/Gray antagonisms throughout the frontier in the years following the official end of the fighting. Johnny D. Boggs’ novel Camp Ford is a comprehensive example. Howard Hawk’s 1970 film Rio Lobo places John Wayne in a similar situation.

463124Cowpunk is a subgenre that derives its name (and irreverant tone) from science fiction’s ‘cyberpunk.’ It can also, but does not have to, overlap with the steampunk subgenre of sci-fi to varying degrees. These tales depict all sorts of bizarre happenings on the remote frontier. Elisabeth Scarborough’s novel The Drastic Dragon of Draco Texas mixes ethnic mythology with comedy and horror.

Doctor and Preacher is a subgenre with two main types of protagonists. I’ll give you two guesses… Well done.

The common thread between the two character types are that such lead characters are committed to peace and healing (or know they should be) despite frequently finding themselves surrounded by violent situations and people. TV’s fictional Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman is a well-known example. Robert B. Parker’s novel Preacher is a more recent one.

Winnetou I: Kepala Suku ApacheEurowestern tales come, as the term implies, from Europe. Karl May’s German-language novels, starting in 1892 with his Winnetou I, brought the excitement and allure of the rugged frontier across the Atlantic. Sergio Leone’s classic 1966 ‘spaghetti western’ films, like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly with Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef in the white and black hats, could also be considered part of this genre. Traditional examples of this subgenre are often more gritty; in a an emotional and violent (and even dusty) sense, than its American cousins, which could depict a more romanticized version of the Old West.

257837Gunfighter tales are an iconic western subgenre. In reality, two men dueling each other on the dusty main street of an old west town almost never happened , yet that image is probably what people most often picture when thinking of westerns and it is essential the plot of these stories. Often a ‘white hat’ protagonist reluctantly agrees to go up against a cruel ‘black hat’ villain on behalf of oppressed common folks. Jack Schaefer’s 1949 novel Shane is a classic example. Fred Zinnemann’s 1952 film High Noon casts Gary Cooper in the lead role.

2917585Humorous or Parody is self-explanatory. Mel Brook’s 1974 film Blazing Saddles towers over this subgenre. Gene Kelly’s 1970 film The Cheyenne Social Club is another example and Ellen Recknor’s novel Prophet Annie is full of wry humor.

Indian Wars dominate the subgenre of the same name. They are often historically accurate in the details, but can also reflect the time and worldview (and thus, bias) of the author. James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel The Last of the Mohicans remains a classic. Douglas C. Jones’s novel The Court Martial of George Armstrong Custer vividly depicts a “what if?” cultural clash, asking ‘was General Custer a hero or a villain?’ Many older American films depict the Indians as ruthless savages to be swept aside. In Arthur Penn’s 1970 film Little Big Man the natives are wise and noble and white Americans cruel interlopers. Kevin Costner’s 1990 film Dances With Wolves portrays a more realistic mixed bag.

235292Land Rush stories usually focus on Oklahoma, where vast tracts of land were suddenly opened to homesteading — whether the resident Native Americans liked it or not. Al and Joanna Lacy’s novel The Land of Promise is one example. Ron Howard’s 1992 film Far and Away has a dramatic portrayal.

4554887Lawmen (Texas Rangers): This subgenre centers around the honest lawmen (especially Texas Rangers) who struggled to bring order and justice to the wild frontier. Often the protagonist is, or is based upon, an actual person. Jack Cumming’s novel The Last Lawmen is a realistic example.

1063298Mexican Wars (Texan Independence): Stories in this subgenre include the decisive geopolitical events of 1845-48. Marion G. Otto’s novel Hugh Harrington is a good example. Many Texan tales feature the siege of the Alamo, like Stephen Harrigan’s novel The Gates of the Alamo. Mexican authors who write in this subgenre often depict the secession of Texas, and the US invasion of Veracruz and Mexico City — but with heroes and villains reversed.

48119Modern Indians is a western subgenre that is set in the present day with a protagonist must bridge a venerable Native American heritage with modern American culture and technology. Tony Hillerman’s novel Coyote Waits is perhaps the best known example. Hillerman’s books are often listed with the ‘mystery’ genre, as they feature the Navajo tribal police. To his credit, they’re immensely popular in Navajo country.

24598788Mormon tales center upon the settlement of Utah in the 1840s and 50s, under the leadership of Brigham Young. Marilyn Brown’s novel The Wine-Dark Sea of Grass is an unstinting depiction and From Everlasting to Everlasting, by Sophie Freeman, mirrors real-life experiences. Many of these novels are published by imprints associated with the LDS church.

3680174Outlaw westerns focus on the ‘black hats,’ the colorful villains of that era cast as anti-heroes. The Dalton Brothers, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, and many others became legends in their own time. Eugene Manlove Rhodes’ 1927 novel Paso por Aqui (later reprinted as Four Faces West) depicts an unusual robber hunted by the famous marshal Pat Garrett.

1208794Prairie Settlement tales are not quite standard ‘westerns,’ but they do fall within the time-and-place bounds of the genre. They depict the taming of the vast flat plains of the midwest, during the 1800s. Ole Rolvaag’s classic novel Giants in the Earth depicts a Norwegian family enduring bitter winters and maddening loneliness, as civilization slowly follows them west. While intended for children, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series is enjoyed by all ages.

830742Prospecting (Gold Rush): This subgenre focuses on the quest for sudden riches, whether as a comfortable silver mine owner or a hardscrabble gold panner. In the 1860s, Bret Harte and Mark Twain immortalized these characters even as the California gold rush was in full swing. Jack London extended the ‘western’ genre northward, with realistic accounts of the 1896 gold rush into Alaska and the Yukon Territory, most famously in his novel The Call of the Wild.

10090301Quest westerns involve a protagonist on a mission, set against a harsh untamed frontier and relentless rivals and/or enemies. Cameron Judd’s novel The Quest of Brady Kenton is an oft-cited example of this subgenre. Elmer Kelton’s Cloudy in the West is another.

Railroad stories center upon a titanic project: the bridging of the east and west coasts by the Central Pacific and Union Pacific lines. Rugged geography, indentured Chinese workers, and international scandals add depth to this milieu. John Ford’s 1924 film The Iron Horse remains a classic.

169751Range Wars (Sheepmen): These stories center upon a peculiar western rivalry, as ranchers trying to claim the best grazing land came into conflict with homesteading farmers (sometimes sheep ranchers) who were fencing off said grazing land. Owen Wister’s classic 1902 novel The Virginian, later filmed at least twice, depicts Wyoming’s fratricidal Johnson County War.

A few subgenre tales focus on shepherds, many of them Basque immigrants, and the wool merchants who owned the flocks. Zane Grey’s 1922 novel To the Last Man depicts a cattlemen vs. sheepmen feud (based upon real Arizona history) so vicious its title is a literal description.

10035073Revenge westerns are a relatively dark subgenre. A determined protagonist, often a young survivor of some cruel massacre, goes after the perpetrators. In the Western setting, witnesses to crimes were few, and law enforcement scarce (and sometimes corrupt), leading to such harsh individual actions. Charles Portis’s 1969 novel True Grit, soon filmed by Henry Hathaway (also remade by the Coen brothers), follows a determined young woman on such a mission.

3467451Romance is an overlapping subgenre, where the Romance and Western genres meet, which features the elements of Romance but in the ‘western’ novel setting. A.H. Holt’s Silver Creek and Morgan J. Blake’s Redemption are two such novels.

Town-tamer westerns are well described by their name. A lone gunman, or sometimes a group of friends, take on the corrupt and oppressive leaders or marauding bandits that are terrorizing an isolated town. Frank Gruber’s story “Town Tamer,” filmed by Lesley Selander, is a clear example. Lawrence Kasdan’s 1985 movie Silverado is a great depiction. John Sturges’ 1960 film The Magnificent Seven extends this subgenre into rural Mexico.

822935Most Trapper or Mountain Man tales are set earlier than other western subgenres, when Native Americans still dominated the land and civilization was still a long way away in the “East.” Often the rugged protagonist is the only white man for hundreds of miles around, and he’ll find a native bride. Louis L’Amour’s novel To the Far Blue Mountains depicts the earliest English settlement of the Appalachians, in the 1500s. A.B. Guthrie’s novel The Big Sky crosses the continent, and James Michener’s sprawling Centennial is another example.

Wagon Train westerns are a quintessential subgenre. The Oregon Trail was the interstate highway of its era, with lumbering Conestoga wagons, and hardships that were often extreme. Zane Grey’s 1936 novel The Lost Wagon Train is a classic example. George Stewart’s episodic novel Sheep Rock follows waves of settlers through a remote Nevada desert.

The WindWomen protagonists lead this subgenre. Some tales idealize their courage and triumphs, as with the real-life Annie Oakley. Opposite this, Dorothy Scarborough’s 1925 novel The Wind is a harsh depiction of a young woman’s life in frontier west Texas – so harsh that the leaders of Texas at the time protested.

Genre Friday – Magical Realism

Robert Gonsalves, On the High Seas

Magical Realism is a very interesting genre. In the broadest, and most obvious terms, it deals with stories that incorporate magic into realistic settings. That could be viewed as an oversimplification though, since the same thing could be said for Urban Fantasy, which is a very different animal indeed. So, while magical realism could arguably be given a place at the speculative fiction table (and maybe even the little table near the kitchen that is reserved for Fantasy genres and subgenres), it typically isn’t. And for good reason. Often viewed as literary fiction, rather than the often less respected genre fiction (haters gonna hate) it could be compared to, it has a style and feeling all its own.

This may have something to due with its attributed origins as a primarily Latin American product.  Jorge Luis Borges, Elena Garro, Juan Rulfo, Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende, among others, are seen as founders and pioneers of the genre. It has spread out from there, with authors of other places and cultures taking to the surreal world of magical realism, but no matter where they are from the genre always has certain elements in common to one extent or another.

Magical realism incorporates magic into the everyday, mundane world in a way that almost suggests it is commonplace; or, if not commonplace, than at least not terribly alarming to the protagonist. Its mystic elements, usually (or at least traditionally) rooted in folklore or mythology, are often subtle or underplayed and may go completely unremarked upon in the story. The subtle blending of the detailed, real-world setting with the fantastical, and the characters’ often almost casual acceptance of it (‘Huh, cats don’t usually talk, but it would be rude not to say hello‘ or ‘That is a little odd, the ghosts of my long dead ancestors don’t usually appear in my breakfast nook, I should ask them if I can get them anything‘) create a surreal, dream-like feeling in many of these works. In many situations, the calm, dream-like feeling is strengthened even further by the narrators indifference. They are frequently equally as unaffected by the “real” elements of their world as they are the fantastic, never seeking an explanation for their circumstances or the things they have witnessed. Meanwhile, the reader, confronted by a constant barrage of strange and impossible events in this realistic setting, experiences an ever-building sense of mystery, and occasionally foreboding, as the characters and the story calmly approach the point of climax.

If you enjoy waking from those particularly weird and vivid dreams that leave you with a distinct sense of confused wonder, or if wish you had dreams like that, then this is the genre for you.

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Examples:

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Genre Friday – Weird Westerns

Weird West

True or False?

Sergio Leone’s iconic Man with No Name Trilogy would’ve been better if Clint Eastwood’s horse was actually a steam-driven, robotic mount and he had a demonically-possessed, talking Peacemaker that had all the best lines.

If you answered “True,” or even “False, because those movies are great, but I would totally watch that crazy robot horse, talking gun one too,” then weird westerns might just be for you.

Weird West tales, you may have guessed by now, are a mashup of traditional Western settings, themes and tropes and various elements of speculative fiction. Many such stories incorporate steampunk elements. Remember The Wild, Wild West TV show… or the later movie starring Will Smith and Kevin Kline if the TV show was before your time? Perfect example of what we’re talking about. They may also feature magical realism and/or fantasy like incorporation of magic or fanciful creatures. Like other historical fiction, the stories can feature real-life people and events, although many weird westerns start their world-building from scratch.

Examples:

16104414Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

The Devil’s Call by J. Danielle Dorn

The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman

The Haunted Mesa by Louis L’Amour

Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente

Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt (illustrator) & Tyler Crook (illustrator)

 

 

World Fantasy Awards Announced

by Chris SchluepNovember 07, 2017, first appearing on Omnivoracious

The winners of the 2017 World Fantasy Awards have been announced. The ceremony was held earlier this month in San Antonio, Texas at the World Fantasy Convention. The Lifetime Achievement Awards, presented annually to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding service to the fantasy field, went to Terry Brooks and Marina Warner.

Below is a list of the winners from selected categories. You can see all of the winners listed on Locus.

Best Novel

  • The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North
  • Borderline by Mishell Baker
  • Roadsouls by Betsy James
  • The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
  • Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

Best Long Fiction

  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
  • The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
  • Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
  • A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Best Short Fiction

  • Das Steingeschöpf” by G.V. Anderson
  • Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander
  • Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar
  • Little Widow” by Maria Dahvana Headley
  • The Fall Shall Further the Flight in Me” by Rachael K. Jones

Best Anthology

  • Dreaming in the Dark edited by Jack Dann
  • Clockwork Phoenix 5 edited by Mike Allen
  • Children of Lovecraft edited by Ellen Datlow
  • The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 edited by Karen Joy Fowler & John Joseph Adams
  • The Starlit Wood edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe

Best Collection

  • A Natural History of Hell by Jeffrey Ford
  • Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie
  • On the Eyeball Floor and Other Stories by Tina Connolly
  • Vacui Magia by L.S. Johnson
  • The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu