Just in terms of a roll call, I'm touching on:
- Cotton Mather, the Salem Witch Trials, and execution sermons;
- Slave narratives and ghost stories of the American South;
- Windigo narratives of the Upper Plains;
- Poe and Lovecraft and the long reach of the weird tale;
- Pocket Books, Dell Books, and the role of the pulps in creating subgenres (the various "punks," if you're at all curious);
- Stephen King's UR, The Plant, and Little Green God of Agony;
- Closer reads of Barron's "Frontier Death Song," Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," Yu's "Standard Loneliness Package" and Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown";
- Discussion of digital publishing and the shifting marketplace for fiction in general;
- The Moonlit Road, project Gutenberg, and The American Memory Project.
Whew. It's been an exhilarating trip down the rabbit hole. I have a meeting down in Orlando on Monday to discuss an independent study track, and I was wondering if anyone could suggest a title or two that falls into the "dark sci-fi of the twentieth century" category. If anyone has a suggestion (and I've received some good ones after reaching out to friends in the spec. fic. community), I'd love to hear it...
Speaking of speculative fiction, I am chewing through the absolutely indispensable tome The Weird. The VanderMeers really have created a definitive treasury of surreal, absurd, haunting, whimsical, wonderful fiction. I'm stunned by the creativity and diversity on display here, and the uniform quality. I haven't read a story that didn't stand out from its peers in some way; I haven't read a story yet that I didn't enjoy. I'm about fifteen stories in, and Michel Bernanos's "The Other Side of the Mountain" (1967) is my favorite thus far. Two things are abundantly clear to me:
- This book belongs in every speculative-fiction writer's home library;
- Gio Clairval is a master translator.
In ten days, I'll have a chance to get back to my first fiction in a long while. With all of this inspiration building up inside me (sheesh, I've read some great stuff lately!), it'll be nice to see that cursor from a different perspective, blinking like a lighthouse at the edge of the sea of pretend...