Ledge

I worked yesterday morning and in the early afternoon yesterday; the work didn’t go as well as one would have preferred but those are the breaks. Hopefully today it will be better. One can always hope.

I spent the rest of the day watching college football–it was a most interesting day–and reading, of all things, comic books on my iPad (the recent DC mini-series The Coming of the Supermen, which, not being up on my current DC Universe, was a bit confusing in places but over-all, kind of interesting), started rereading Garden District Gothic because I am getting ready to start writing Scotty VIII, and also rereading some short stories from one of my favorite collections of all time, Harlan Ellison’s Alone Against Tomorrow.

It occurred to me yesterday, as I was marveling at the mastery of Ellison at short story writing (he really is one of the best short story writers of all time; his “Paladin of the Lost Hour” might be my favorite short story) that with all my talk about short stories lately I never talk about Ellison, which is a shame. (Also, rereading these stories and being reminded of how extraordinary a writer he is sent me into an ebay wormhole of ordering copies of his collections; I do have The Essential Ellison omnibus, but it doesn’t have everything; he is so prolific I don’t think all of his work could be collected into a single volume.)

But in fairness to me, these entries are usually unplanned and written while I am enjoying my morning coffee and waking up, so I am not as clear-headed as one might think when I write them.

I first discovered Ellison through, as so many other things in the speculative fiction world, Stephen King’s Danse Macabre. I knew from reading that book that he had written probably the best episode of Star Trek ever, “The City at the Edge of Tomorrow”–also known as ‘the one with Joan Collins’, but in those pre-Internet days finding books wasn’t as easy as it is now. It wasn’t until several years later, when I was at a friend’s apartment that I discovered she had a copy of his collection Strange Wine, which she not only loaned to me but gifted it to me, saying, “Reading Ellison will change your life.”

And it did. Several of those stories haunt me to this day. I was poor then, very poor, and so rarely bought books new; I haunted second-hand bookshops (do those even exist anymore?), and started hunting for Ellison whenever I went into them. That was how I found Alone Against Tomorrow, among others, and became a big fan.

Looking over these stories again last night, I was reminded why I was a fan.

And rereading Garden District Gothic after spending some time with Ellison was quite humbling.

I ordered a copy of Strange Wine last night–because I definitely need more books–and think I am going to dig out my copy of The Essential Ellison because I want to read more short stories (I say that all the time, don’t I?) and maybe I’ll make my entries for January all about short stories again this year. But I have so many short story collections lying around the house that I’ve never read; single author collections and anthologies and magazines and so forth, that a focused effort is really necessary.

And I really want to reread “Paladin of the Lost Hour.”

And now I should get back to the spice mines.

Here’s a hunk for the day:

Muskrat Love

One of the more interesting things in Stephen King’s Danse Macabre was his dissection of the common core at the root of all horror stories; the conflict between between the Apollonian and the Dionysian worlds; in that all horror stories begin in an Apollonian (or seemingly Apollonian) world where everything makes sense, everyone is just going about their business, and into that world something Dionysian is introduced, and the conflict, the point of the story, is to vanquish the Dionysian and return everything to the Apollonian; he further used Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson as an illustrative example of the two sides; in which Dr. Jekyll is a man of the intellect, of reason, while Mr. Hyde is all pure emotion, sensuality, and chaotic action.

I’m probably explaining it badly (I am no King, after all), but it really does work thematically as you look at most horror (it doesn’t fit all horror stories, of course; nothing can possibly and simply explain an entire genre). It also kind of explains why I am not such a good horror writer; I am not well enough versed in the genre–fiction and non-fiction–to write it credibly. I mean, isn’t that why I devote so much of my reading time to crime fiction? To make me a better crime fiction writer?

Sigh. Yes, I do have a rather strong grasp of the obvious.

Yet, my own Sara certainly fits that description. Everyone at the school is going along, living their lives, and then Sara shows up; bad things happen, and then the problem is solved and they can go back to living their lives, if a little shell shocked.

Rereading Danse Macabre, I also realized that many of my horror stories–most of them, if not all of them, actually–subscribe to the ethos of what King called “the EC Comics mindset.” EC Comics were long gone by the time I was a kid, but I did read the DC comic versions, House of Mystery and House of Secrets.

house_of_mystery_v-1_66

There were usually two or three stories in each issue, and like the old EC Comics–the Tales from the Crypt style–there was a narrator of sorts, a curator of the House of Secrets or the House of Mystery–who would introduce each tale. It was either a horror/supernatural story, or some kind of noirish story where the main character was going to do something criminal or bad, and got their just desserts in the end.

As King says, the “heh heh” ending.

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King himself does this in a lot of his own short stories, but being a better writer and more creative, he can make it work.

The short story that I finally finished last night is sort of like that, only it’s noir, not horror. I need to revise it–i will do that today, and spend the weekend revising some other stories I want to submit–but it’s interesting that I always try to go for the twist ending in my short stories.

Hey, at least I don’t do the “oh, it was all a dream” thing….anymore.

And now, back to the spice mines.