4.27.2016

The Same Deep Waters as You, by Brian Hodge

I've been reading Lovecraft's Monsters (expertly edited by Ellen Datlow) and really enjoying the diversity of the stories and the strength of the writing. It's a diverse collection, with a lot of unique voices. Most of the stories stray from the verbose prose style that plagues so much Lovecraftian fiction (particularly the entries by Laird Barron and Kim Newman), and I found Brian Hodge's "The Same Deep Waters as You" particularly unsettling.

“What you see there is what you get,” he said. “Have you ever heard of a town in Massachusetts called Innsmouth?”
Kerry shook her head. “I don’t think so.”
“No reason you should’ve. It’s a little pisshole seaport whose best days were already behind it by the time of the Civil War. In the winter of 1927–28, there was a series of raids there, jointly conducted by the FBI and U.S. Army, with naval support. Officially—remember, this was during Prohibition—it was to shut down bootlegging operations bringing whiskey down the coast from Canada. The truth…” He took back the iPad from her nerveless fingers. “Nothing explains the truth better than seeing it with your own eyes.”
“You can’t talk to them. That’s what this is about, isn’t it?” she said. “You can’t communicate with them, and you think I can.”
Escovedo smiled, and until now, she didn’t think he had it in him. “It must be true about you, then. You’re psychic after all.”
It's a very creepy tale, unfolding at first very quickly and then stretching out over weeks and months. Kerry is a fully formed protagonist given an impossible task, and its her human ties--her fear of the water and love for her daughter--that makes it so easy to relate to her. 

I wasn't expecting the ending of this one, and it was delightful to be surprised like that. It took me a day to process it, as I had to decide whether I liked the story or not. 

I do. 

It's a horrible, terrible, unsettling final act, so it succeeds as top-shelf horror. Kudos to Brian Hodge on this one...

4.12.2016

The Philosophy of Horror, Or Paradoxes of the Heart

Noel Carroll's The Philosophy of Horror, or Paradoxes of the Heart is a remarkable work of critical philosophy. His discussion of art-horror as the emotional impetus for why we engage with dark storytelling seems to logically synthesize much of the work of thinkers such as Nietzsche, Kafka, and Kierkegaard.

He uses primarily classical source materials in outlining his theories of a dark aesthetic. I think the prose is really suitable to this type of study, as he acknowledges the limitations of his survey while still covering a lot of critical territory in advancing his claims. 

If you are working on research in the area of critical horror studies, I'd say begin with this text and then begin branching out into the more specific areas that interest you. I'm writing at present about the sociology of textual production, but I don't think I'd be in such a comfortable place if it weren't for grounding myself first in this book.

4.11.2016

Monday Potpourri...

Please excuse all of those cobwebs around this humble Web journal! I've been busy with a variety of endeavors, not the least of which has been preparing for the arrival of a baby in just a few short weeks! Without further adieu, a few thoughts:

  • My family and I really love where we live, but the house is too small. We live six miles from the beach. We live a mile from a great golf courses, and less than three miles from a productive fishing hole and kayak slip. We are close to hiking, biking, parks, a fine nexus for shopping, and some great restaurants. That said, we are really looking forward to moving to a larger house. Jeanne and I purchased this place in 2006. We expected to occupy the home for three years, but then the economy tanked and homes in our zip code lost more than half of their value. The neighborhood is coming back, slowly but surely, yet that really doesn't do much for us. The home is very close to my daughter's excellent school, and I'm thankful that I get to walk her there every morning. But we could use a few more rooms and a larger yard. I think, this time next year, we will be actively looking for a much larger place. We got very creative with moving things around, downsizing our lives, and preparing for our son. We look forward to a great year together, but it will be good to find a bigger spot where our growing family can stretch its legs a bit...
  • I've been writing about the sociology of textual production and publishing biography of horror in the twentieth century. These are fascinating topics, and the circularity between the one-man publishing shops that churned out penny dreadfuls and dime novels and the current digital publishing gold rush is uncanny. Dozens of digital-only magazines and publishers have proliferated in horror alone, and many of them are producing top-quality content. It's been an illuminating period of research for me, and I'm interested to see where we will be going in the near future...
  • The summer and fall terms are shaping up to be highly productive for me at FSCJ. I'm teaching a nice variety of courses, including media criticism, rhetoric and research, American literature, and English composition. The summer will mostly entail a traditional schedule, but I'm switching to nights in the fall so I can stay home with the baby during the day. It's a similar fall schedule to the one I worked when we had our daughter, and I'm thrilled to enjoy that time together during the day!
  • I've been running the trails of Northeast Florida this spring, as our temperatures have been really conducive to being outside. It's unsettling to see the warnings on the Zika Virus in the NPS parks, but the cooler temperatures have largely kept the insects in check. Thankfully, we will have the baby soon and I think our exposure to the virus will be minimal. It's a real and continuous source of anxiety for pregnant women in Florida (and, of course, throughout South and Central America), but I read yesterday that doctors in Brazil are making progress in their approach to dealing with its effects...
  • I looked at Beyond the Reach (C+) and Regression (B-) in the last week on Amazon Prime. They are decent films, though neither brings a ton to the table. I think Emma Watson gives a creepy understated performance in the latter. I'm pretty excited to see the second installment of The Conjuring, and I am about to begin watching The 100. The Walking Dead has been a real disappointment this year. I don't think the current model of feudal warfare has been nearly as compelling as were the depictions of day-to-day nomadic survival.
Enjoy the spring, wherever you are, and drop back by soon. I hope to post here a bit more frequently in the coming weeks as we approach our son's arrival...

Uncovering Original Ideas

There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope....