Ten Authors Recommended by Laird Barron

It’s great to see Laird Barron, certainly one of my favorite writers, recommending some recent books he considers worthy of attention. Even better to see myself listed among them!

https://lairdbarron.wordpress.com/2017/02/26/ten-authors-to-read-part-i/

Many of the writers I’ve see Laird recommend over the years have ended up becoming some of my own favorites. Though all the names on this latest list are known to me, there are a couple whose work I haven’t read, so I’ll have to remedy that. My thanks to Laird for the endorsement.

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They Come in Pairs

Works by all my favorite writers keep rolling ashore, two by two.

Trade paperback edition of Laird Barron’s The Light is the Darkness arrived recently, just a week or so after I finished his novel The Croning.

Just finished reading Brian Evenson’s Immobility (review forthcoming), and one of the very next items in my “to read” pile is Evenson’s new collection Windeye.

One of my favorite novels this year, Available Dark by Elizabeth Hand, was followed closely by another Hand novel, Radiant Days. Can’t wait to dig into this one.

Another of the top writers of weird fiction, Caitlin Kiernan, has one novel The Drowning Girl perched near the top of my “read next” pile, and another collection Confessions of a Five-Chambered Heart schedule to arrive probably the day after I finish her novel.

This is certainly preferable to one’s favorite writer taking multiple years between books. Still, I keep looking longingly and impatiently at the pile. So many things I’m eager to begin.

Lately I Read Faster Than I Review

Usually I read a book or two, then review a book or two. The pace is steady. I don’t normally read so much that I get behind on reviewing what I’ve read.

Now I’m behind.

Set some things aside to read The Croning (see last blog post) and decided it’s time to start catching up, so I reviewed that one as soon as I finished it.

I’m pretty close to the end of Immobility by Brian Evenson, so I’ll have to do that one too.

Then there are all these I read and haven’t reviewed yet:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9361589-the-night-circus

In the Mean Time by Paul Tremblay
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7781495-in-the-mean-time

Liquor by Poppy Z. Brite
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/102142.Liquor

The Body Artist by Don Delillo
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11767.The_Body_Artist

Pet Sematary by Stephen King
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10583.Pet_Sematary

…LIES….Thunder….ashes… by Joseph S. Pulver Sr.
http://arkhambazaar.com/books/strange-aeons-presents-…lies….thunder….ashes….

The Wet Nurse by Mike Dubisch
http://arkhambazaar.com/books/the-wet-nurse-by-mike-dubisch

It’s worth saying that the lack of recent reviews is not at all due to lack of enthusiasm about what I’ve been reading. On the contrary. There’s some great stuff here, lots of 4 and 5 star reviews coming up. I have a lot I want to say about these!

Back To It

I’ve been busy with music/Hypnos, my dad’s visit to Portland, writing, and all the rest of life. Funny, when I blog regularly I find it easy to keep on blogging regularly, and once I stop it’s very easy to STAY stopped. So many things are like this, especially exercise and creative activities. Running every single day is easy. Taking a week off running, and then starting to run again that first time is much harder.

I still write six days a week, exercise six days a week, work my day job five days a week, listen to tons of music, watch lots of movies with my wife, and don’t get enough sleep.

Lately I’m working on a lot of stories simultaneously, even more than usual for me, and the stories are all over the map. I’m writing an SF story about a group of robotic domestic helpers left behind by their humans on an Earth-like colony, a horror-tinged SF story about some weird stuff lurking in the bottom of a deep mine (not started in response to the major news story about miners in Chile), finishing up a dark fantasy or horror bit about a family vacationing at a lake house and coming under the influence of some local entities. I have another odd, dark bit about a married couple who retreat to a cabin out in the wilderness near Mt. Hood and begin to lose all connection to the world they left behind.

I’m also continuing heavy cuts on my two “salvage project” stories I mentioned before… mega-long stories that needed to lose 2/3 of their length before I could even assess how to turn them into something interesting. They’re down from 14,000 words to 5,500 and from 11,000 words to 5,300 so they’re getting close to where I can see what they need to be. This has been a really useful and interesting test or experiment, but I don’t know that I’d do it again. I could have easily rewritten these stories from scratch in less time, and with better result, but then again that wasn’t really the point.

I’ve got the same nine final drafts still circulating among various markets. My two longest-pending submissions are both Writers of the Future, for 2010-q3 (June-ending quarter) and q4 (Sept-ending). Jeez, sending those guys a story means keeping it from other markets for about six months, it appears. I realize they get a lot of submissions but it seems they could finish one quarter’s reading before opening it up to the next quarter… and then the one after that. They just announced q2 results, and they’re reading stories for q3, q4, and 2011 q1 (quarter ending December) all at once. Sheesh, talk about slush pile.

Reading notes…

I’m still reading Laird Barron’s Occultation, an absolutely top-notch collection. Seriously, some of the best strange/dark short fiction I can remember reading, not just recently, but ever. When I get through that last story and a half (I’m reading other stuff in parallel so it’s taking a while) I’ll write a real review.

Just finished The City & The City by China Mieville, and I’m very impressed. I knew it would be good, based on all the reviews and awards, and interviews I’ve read with the author. I can tell he’s just a super-sharp guy and I’ve owned copies of several of his books for a while and intended to get to them… but finally dived into one of his newest. Before I move on to Kraken I’ll probably jump back to Perdido Street Station since that’s been on the “must read soon” list since, you know, a really long time ago.

Lessee, I think I mentioned finishing Old Man’s War, which was really good, and not as lightweight or pastiche-y as I expected. I’m on to Charles Stross’s Singularity Sky, which is fully of SF-nal goodness, and pretty well written, though at times a little too heavy on the political & military detail. I’m not far into it so I’ll reserve judgement.

I did mean to blog a bit more about the HP Lovecraft Film Festival, which was a lot of fun and quite memorable. But this is a “rust buster” blog so I’ll wrap it up, and leave stuff to blog about later this week.

Semi-Serious Comment on Punctuation

Kottke recently linked to a video of Kurt Vonnegut, the great writer-character, and he talked about the semicolon. I love this quote:

“Don’t use semicolons. They stand for absolutely nothing. They are transvestite hermaphrodites. They are just a way of showing off. To show that you have been to college.”

The semicolon has drifted out of contemporary usage, and I feel generally where a semicolon is used, a period or a comma might work better. I find the semicolon has an archaic feel, and those writers for whom the semicolon works well tend to be dead and buried, or else taking on an intentionally ornate, old-fashioned, or throwback style.

Elmore Leonard is handy with them, and uses them a lot, but the guy was writing and publishing novels before my parents were born.

Stephen King uses a ton of semicolons, but he also does a lot of nonstandard technical stuff. He’s a big-time Elmore Leonard worshipper.

I’ll give the writer the benefit of the doubt with semicolons if their voice is strong and their prose is unusual. I’m halfway through Laird Barron’s collection Occultation (fantastic work, review forthcoming) and he’s got a slew of ’em in there. His writing also includes all manner of unorthodox technical stuff, though — dialog set off not by opening and closing quotes but by an emdash at the beginning, or short paragraphs containing dialog by multiple, different speakers.

Generally I’d say the semicolon bothers me less when the writer shows a confident, slightly experimental, maybe even baroque approach to stringing words together. In the middle of plain vanilla prose, however, the semicolon stands out in just the way Vonnegut describes. Beginning writers, stick with the comma and the period. It’s easy enough to remember what those guys do, roughly corresponding to the yellow and the red traffic lights, respectively.