I finally saw The Fall, a 2009 indie movie by Tarsem Singh. Like Beasts of the Southern Wild and Pan’s Labyrinth, it uses the archetypes of fantastic, imaginative storytelling to mask a bleaker reality. In 1920s California, young immigrant orphan Alexandria is convalescing from an obliquely referenced illness. By chance, she runs into Roy, a stuntman who is convalescing from a suicide attempt. Roy spins fabulist yarns for the 5 year old child, full of whimsy and derring-do. In return, she unwittingly helps Roy with his morphine addiction. The real star is the gorgeous, surreal set pieces that reference paintings by Dali and De Chirico. An extra resonance to the viewing was that I was ill at the time, and needed some fantasy in my life.
The book is currently at the proof stage. The interiors are lovely. As soon as I turn it in to the publisher (Rebel Satori Press), I will have a firm release date and begin to set up events and other promotional activities.
I have excerpts from the two short stories in my Variations series of short stories.
Fur & Gold, loosely based on Beauty and the Beast, is here.
Liturgy of Ice, inspired by The Snow Queen, is here.
Both are dark and homoerotic. They were fun to write! Hopefully, the excerpts will entice you to buy them, (available in a variety of ebook formats).
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
What I Learned from this book:
1. Keep your plot in motion. The pacing of this novel is like a juggernaut. Relentless, full of suspense and strong enough to ignore any plot holes or inconsistencies. Hill wastes no time getting to the point.
2. Flawed characters are compelling but I found Vic to be too damaged to care about. I would have liked her to be a little more sympathetic. Maybe if there were more scenes between her and her family during the good times, or a scene or two of her working on the Search Engine books.
3. The Big Bad wasn’t as scary as his henchman, much in the same way that Darth Vader is more compelling than the Emperor. Part of this has to do with the fact that Bing Partridge was flamboyantly evil, and loved raping and torturing his victims. I hated being in his brain and reading from his point of view. Charles Manx, by contrast, is subdued.
4. Some of the writing gimmicks (bolded text and capitalization) were clunky and threw me out of the story. The main gimmick–ending a chapter with a dangling sentence and finishing it in the next chapter–was ingenious.
5. I loved the portmanteau magic system. Cars and motorcycle geekery; magic Scrabble tiles; magic bridges and pocket universes. It was fun and inventive.
6. The author wisely gives the reader plenty of nightmare fuel. Evil children! Haunted amusement parks! A moon with a face! Hill isn’t stingy with the dark surreality; he gives his readers a steady stream.
I learned a lot about crafting dark fantasy/horror fiction from this book. A couple of fine tunings, and this would have been even better.
Calling you, tears thaw my sleep
Wanting you, this hoary web is weaved
From this strange confusion
Grows a perverse communication
It enthralls me and coils me around
—“The Sweetest Chill,” by Siouxsie and the Banshees
“Liturgy of Ice,” dark, queer take on “The Snow Queen,” was partially inspired by the song “The Sweetest Chill” by Goth Ice Queen Siouxsie Sioux. It’s a beautifully unsettling ballad of romantic obsession, full of wintry images.
Music, of course, is one of my major obsessions, and my love for it spills over into my fiction. The first Variation took its title from Bat for Lashes first album, “Fur & Gold.”
Liturgy of Ice was inspired by one of my favorite fairytales, The Snow Queen. I use the fairytale imagery as a mediation isolation and loneliness.
Other inspirations: “The Sweetest Chill,” by Siouxsie & the Banshees; Philip Ridley’s novel In the Eyes of Mr. Fury.
It’s on Kindle here.
And the Kobo here.
It’s also on the Scribd platform as well: here.