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Tag Archives: Michael Marshall Smith

Unexpected Visitor

White faced heron

an unexpected visitor

We don’t normally expect anything this large visiting backyards in Glossolalia (except Cthulhu perhaps, or a spider-woman).  I would have included a shot of it on the top of my old garage, but that may have tricked you into believing that birds can fly, when we know that is not possible. There was a drought at the time, so lots of marsh birds were looking elsewhere for tucker, even in the desolate suburbs of outer Dis.

I continue to work on the next installment of Not Trevor, but the memories are too difficult to deal with.  In our anxious world, do we have as many words for mental illness as the Eskimos have for snow?  You betcha we do.  Think about it though, if the DSM is couched in terms of a wine-taster’s palate, who are the connoisseurs who enjoy the tasting? A dark and hidden group?  Thats why it is called Poetry and Paranoia.

This weeks truly terrible poetry is your mate’s tribute to 60s rock musicals, where he lambasts chickens for their failure at lactation and general lack of mammalian aspiration.  Just because you can rhyme does not mean you should, kiddies.  A trite contribution to Marxian theory with a short recitation of a visit to a bank is here, but you really wouldn’t bother clicking, except for the picture of communist superman.

Finally, in WWJCD?, one of nature’s terrible challenges.  A young woman laments the medical condition known as “spontaneous penis”.  Or is she suffering from the more disgusting, but easily treated, ingrown lizard?  Read it and find out.

A big hello this week to gingerfightback, who is seriously odd, and is nice enough to comment on some of my stuff occasionally.

Your mate reads a lot of horror stories (though not as much as he used to).  He is very used to being disappointed.  Somewhere (can’t be bothered reaching to my shelf) Orwell comments upon the difficulty with short story collections, the effort of settling in and allowing the mental furniture to be arranged, only to have to dump the lot a few pages later.  One lives with a novel a lot longer, and so the investment of settling in has a greater pay off.  Perhaps its just laziness.  I read a lot more novels than short story collections possibly for this reason, possibly for reasons of marketing and accessibility.  I read genre fiction also out of laziness, but also because of marketing – I like these particular sorts of things, so there is a good chance I will like books marketed as these sorts of things.  Yet reading horror and sf, what am I after?  The idea, the gimmick, the surprise, the special thing.  The difference between a genre novel and a genre short story is often just the space the idea is played out over.  I appreciate good characterisation, impressive use of language and so on, your mate is not just reading for the “thing”.  Often, to get a novel out of “the thing”, there is a predictable treatment, either the adventure novel or a thriller.  That is fine, I read on trains, I read on buses, I read late at night when I get a moment.  A thriller keeps the pages turning, but I have been there and done that so many times.  Looking back at my recent reading, I received a lot of pleasure from “Thought Crimes” by Tim Richards, a short story collection, and look forward to the release of another soon.  I very much enjoyed “2oth Century Ghosts” by Joe Hill (more than I enjoyed his novels, what was the point of ‘Horns’?), I was excited working my way through it.  I look forward to the thrillers of Michael Marshall (I confess “The Straw Men” is on my shelf of favourite novels), but they often read as high tech or spy thriller approaches to horror themes, with the associated predictablility.  Yet his “Substitutions” (writing as Michael Marshall Smith – I read it in the Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Vol 22) raised in me a frisson that I don’t get to experience very often as I grow older, until the end where “oh shit” turned to “Oh SHIT”, leaving me with a big smile.

So where is all this leading?  There were quite a few lovely bits of horror in that collection, but of course with the range of writers represented, one is often bound to be disappointed, after all it is someone else’s selection.  I found that with the previous volume.  Who knows, I am no reviewer, I am not particularly articulate about these things, I just know what I like.  Maybe it was my mood, maybe because I was reading on an e reader instead of a book.  However, having said that, there was one story which knocked my socks off, “Two Steps Along the Road” by Terry Dowling.  Excellent.  A premise which usually piques my interest only to leave me “meh” is that of a paranormal investigation group, from the government or a university.  It is treated so well here, and the monster, who is not hidden at all, who walks amongst us and eats meals with us and talks with us about itself, is terrific.  Nice and interesting, good story, enjoying it a lot, then, on a commuter train, in broad daylight with people all around, I realised that I was scared.  Usually, the best I can hope for in horror fiction is that other spice, disquiet, and I am happy when I get it.  However, I do not scare easily when reading.  I can be fearful for a character I have invested in, but not scared like watching a horror movie scared.  Sometimes when I cannot sleep images from reading may scare me or lead me to unpleasant places, but again, that is not scared while reading.  I loved it.  If you get a chance and if you like horror at all, I recommend it.  I have bought his novel “Clowns at Midnight” on the strength of it, so we will see how that goes.

And I enjoyed this.

And your mate is still blushing from the maybe declaration of some kind of love in the comments under “The Crimson Pimpernel” below.  You are too kind!!