My interview with the critically-lauded author Sam J. Miller is now up at the Washington Independent Review of Books. Sam and I talk about his books The Art of Starving, Blackfish City and his short fiction.
The Devourers by Indra Das is that rarest of creatures: the literary horror novel. The graphic imagery, full of viscera and body horror, aims to reveal deeper truths about love and identity, and, ultimately, what it means to be human.
The novel starts in contemporary Kolkata, when Alok, a history professor estranged from his family, meets an intriguing stranger at a street festival. This alluring stranger gives Alok a task: to type up a series of notebooks the stranger has transcribed from scrolls from the late 1500s. The scrolls describe the travels of a pack of shapeshifters as they make their way across the Mughal Empire. Fenrir, the author of the first scroll is an ancient shifter from Scandinavia. The other members of his tribe include a young French loup garou named Gévaudan and an even older one named Makedon, presumably from the Mediterranean. Fenrir’s scroll is written as a love letter to Cyrah, the human woman with whom he has fallen in love. Since humans are considered prey, romantic or sexual attachments to them is strictly taboo in shifter culture. The second scroll is Cyrah’s letter to her shifter son, whom she likens to the indigenous rakshasas mythology of her land. Cyrah and Fenrir’s epic story, which reminds me of the brutal love-and-hate saga at the center of Octavia Butler’s Patternist series, is interwoven with the erotic chemistry of Alok and the stranger’s contemporary story.
The Devourers is a matryoshka novel, full of dense and lyrical prose. Images of violent transformation, transference and flesh eating abound in the novel, which is also a queer love story and a historical novel. There’s an undercurrent dark of eroticism that shimmers through the novel, evident in the eruptive, transgressive werewolf/rakshasas culture. The Devourers is a werewolf novel that has more in common with works by George Bataille or Samuel Delany than it does with Hammer Horror.
I spent the last Thursday to Tuesday in the Bay Area for the The 2nd Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird and for a quick vacation in San Francisco. The Symposium was held at the Winchester Mystery House. Thanks to the Outer Dark for hosting another stellar conference, particularly Anya Martin, who tirelessly organized the event.
Below are some photographs.
Butcher’s Block (director Arkasha Stevenson), the third installment of SYFY Channel’s anthology mini-series CHANNEL ZERO (based on the creepypasta urban legends), was the most disturbing one yet. It was uneven in many ways, but visually arresting and ambitious.
Alice (Olivia Luccardi) and her schizophrenic sister Zoe (Holland Roden) move to an unnamed rundown city, where Alice takes a job as a social worker. Her first case is in an especially impoverished neighborhood called Butcher’s Block, a graffiti-filled area surrounded by a defunct meat packing warehouse and an overgrown park. The area, a is known for strange after-dark phenomena (in the form of marble staircases that lead nowhere), mysterious disappearances and poor, if not outright corrupt police activity. Alice’s first day shadowing an older Child Protective Services officer in Butcher’s Block ends in the apparently violent abduction of her clients—a mother and a child. Meanwhile, Zoe has a hard time adjusting to her drug regimen. Through her eyes, we see the whole story of the sisters; they both left a broken home, due to their mother’s severe mental illness, which Zoe has inherited. Both sisters discover the awful secret at the center of the park—that the people of Butcher’s Block are prey to the sinister, cannibalistic Peach clan who once owned the abandoned meat packing company.
Butcher’s Block weaves together several thematic disparate strands–about family ties, heredity. It has deliberately complex characters, some of whom have hidden depths and grow (or regress) in the course of the show. Best of all, it is delightfully weird and extremely unsettling. Cannibalism and self-mutilation are only the tip of the iceberg in this show. I loved the different mixtures of horror on display. There’s Lynchian dark surrealism, a nod to Dario Argento lurid aesthetic, and a dash of cosmic horror. By no means is Butcher’s Block perfect. There are times when it slips into “the stupid plot,” and the mood whiplash is severe. But it’s an admirable entry into what I’d call “arthouse horror,” and besides, it passes the Bedchel test with flying colors.
Here’s the TOC:
Cover by Mark Bode
African American Folklore, Magical Realism and Horror in Toni Morrison’s Novels by Sumiko Saulson
Mining Dark Latino Folklore by David Bowles
Hard As Stone – Daniel Braum
Art by Dave Felton
Black Treacle by Craig L. Gidney
Art by Liv Rainey-Smith
The Lake Children by Izzy Lee
Art by Sumiko Saulson
Worm of Poe by John Foster
Art by Liv Rainey-Smith
The Baby in the Forest by Eric Schaller
Art by Paul Mavrides
The Last Plague Doctor by Rebecca J. Allred
Art by Jeanne Maskmaker
Available exclusively to attending and supporting members: https://igg.me/at/theouterdark2018
(Tickets and supporting membership are still available!)