12.01.2012

Immersion Therapy...

I'm writing a long(ish) essay on the impacts technology has had on the American horror narrative, tracing movements in the field (in broad sketches, of course) from roughly 1690 to present. It's been a rewarding experience, and an eye-opener in terms of actually seeing the technogenesis that N. Katherine Hayles writes about in How We Think at work. Machine reading and hyper-reading have had material impacts on how we digest and tell stories, and horror tales fall in right in line with some of the theories she explains in her text.

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...

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