Hawken expressed his excitement about the release of the novel, saying, “I’ve been living in this twisted world of Hell for almost five years now, so it’s refreshing to be able to emerge on the other side and take a breath. The response from readers has been overwhelming so far, I can’t wait for them to see how it all ends.”
To celebrate the release, Hawken’s publisher, Rethink Press, is offering the first two titles in the series, Hellbound and I Am Satan, up for free on Kindle for a limited time. The promotion runs from Dec 9th for five days. Commissioning editor of Rethink, Lucy McCarraher said of the giveaway, “It’s great to be able to give something back to old and new fans alike. For those who are yet to delve into the series, it’s a fantastic opportunity to get a taste. For existing fans who have the paperbacks, but now use eReaders, it’s an easy way to convert something they know and love into a new reading experience.”
Early acclaim and a strong cult following for Hellbound meant Hawken’s work has also captured the attention Hollywood. The author has recently signed partnerships with both Luber Roklin Entertainment and Savela/Kabatoff Productions to help bring his vision to the silver screen.
Deicide is available from all good book retailers, in both paperback and ebook formats, via Rethink Press. To get your free Kindle copy of Hellbound and I Am Satan, head to Amazon.com
Max (World War Z) Brooks and Mark Waid will be signing the hardback Shadow Walk.
Dark Delicacies is located at 3512 West Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, Ca 91505 and can be reached at (818)556-6660 or email@example.com.
Small Beer Press
July, 2013; $16.00 PB
Reviewed by K. H. Vaughan
The titular lake monsters of North America do not exist in any objective sense. They are vehicles for our fears and objects on which to project our hopes and dreams. It doesn’t really even matter whether they exist or not: people organize their lives around them. The idea of them speaks to a yearning for something. Something else. Something out there.
This collection by Nate Ballingrud includes nine stories, including the Shirley Jackson Award-winning The Monsters of Heaven. These are stories populated with monsters, including a number of familiar ones, but they are anything but conventional. Many horror stories, especially short ones, are about a monster or a location. The characters exist primarily to encounter that element and to demonstrate its impact. The characters in North American Lake Monsters are richly drawn. They are fallible, selfish, and often filled with violent rage. They struggle with their obligations to themselves and others. Their pain and regret is communicated with raw and painful detail, and acted out in bad decisions. Monsters and the supernatural are the least of the problems most of these people have. In some cases, it isn’t even clear that a supernatural element is necessary; they could just be ordinary stories of human tragedy, and another writer might have edited out the fantastic element from some of them. This would have been a loss.
In most of these stories, the main characters face some combination of domestic or natural disaster in addition to an encounter with the supernatural. The touch of the strange may be slight, but in each case the protagonist spirals out of orbit. The tragedy and horror is not usually found in the monster, but in the humans. The idea that humans are the real monster is not new, but this is something slightly different. It is clear that the monsters in these stories are, in fact, monstrous. They are not misunderstood outsiders, but are explicitly strange, violent, and even malevolent creatures: monsters in the truest sense. I think what makes the collection so unusual is that Ballingrud so skillfully avoids either easy solution in his stories. The characters do not exist simply so they can be traumatized or destroyed by the monsters, and the monsters themselves do not exist as simple metaphors or just to shine a light on human characteristics. Each exists independently of the other for narrative purposes. The stories of the monsters themselves are often unknown, and in the cases in which we do learn them, they are not made more human as a result. They do not instruct, or offer a hint of a greater moral order. They simply exist, occasionally intersecting with our lives, and if they are seen as more than that, then that perspective is most likely illusory. The ultimate focus is not on the supernatural events but on interior conflicts. Indeed, a number of the stories end with the protagonist lost in contemplation, crushed by the weight of their own self-understanding, or lack thereof.
The beauty of the work as a whole is that it offers no clear and easy answers; any generalization that might be supported by some stories is contradicted by others. It makes for an intellectually stimulating collection that pulls the reader in unexpected directions. The pieces don’t always come to a satisfactory resolution, but it is clear that this is a conscious choice. The lack of denouement, the uncertainty, is part of the fabric of the individual stories and of the collection as a whole. It is suggestive of a particular kind of world: one that is dark, weird, and just beyond our ability to impose order and understanding. These are not happy endings. They are sad and unsettling, but always beautifully written with skillful and insightful prose. It is a remarkable collection.
This is a bit of a bittersweet release for us. This issue marks the last one for our editor-in-chief Lynne M. Thomas. Lynne joined us 26 issues ago, and her run as chief has been nothing short of amazing. We will miss Lynne, and wish her the best of luck in all her future endeavors!
Cover art this month by Katy Shuttleworth.
Read the issue for free at http://www.apex-magazine.com. Nicely formatted eBook editions are available for $2.99.
Table of Contents
“What You’ve Been Missing” by Maria Dahvana Headley
“Haruspicy and Other Amatory Divinations” by Kat Howard
“Before and After” by Ken Liu
“Our Daughters” by Sandra McDonald
“All That Fairy Tale Crap” by Rachel Swirsky
“Blood on Vellum: Notes from the Editor-in-Chief” by Lynne M. Thomas
“Another World Waits: Towards an Anti-Oppressive SFF” by Daniel Jose Older
“Apex Interview with Maria Dahvana Headley” by Maggie Slater
“Words from the Publisher” by Jason Sizemore
“Turning the Leaves” by Amal El-Mohtar
Our podcast fiction this month is “What You’ve Been Missing” by Maria Dahvana Headley.
APEX PUBLICATIONS (www.apexbookcompany.com) is a small press dedicated to publishing exemplary works of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Owned and operated by Jason B. Sizemore, Apex publishes the twice Hugo Award-nominated Apex Magazine. The Apex catalog contains books by genre luminaries such as Tom Piccirilli, Catherynne M. Valente, and Lavie Tidhar.
by Sydney Leigh
They say a water birth is the most natural way to deliver a child. I was in this alone all along, and don’t need anyone else now, either. I feel weight bearing down and know you are ready. The water turns red and you are loosed; but your skin is too smooth and my hands fail to grasp you. The surface breaks as you come up for air, baring your sharp-toothed reptilian smile before diving back down and returning to the darkness. I clench my teeth as you make your way back home, back inside me, back where you belong.
Written by Jeff VanderMeer and illustrated by Jeremy Zerfoss
Harry N. Abrams
October, 2013; $24.95 PB
reviewed by K. H. Vaughan
This is not a book about horror, but so many of our Hellnotes readers are writers themselves that a review of the most exciting book on writing to be published in a long time seemed to me like a no-brainer. Wonderbook is a comprehensive examination of the writing process from inspiration to revision, written by award-winning writer, editor, and teacher Jeff Vandermeer. There are many good books on writing, but high-quality books aimed more specifically at writers of genre fiction are much rarer. Vandermeer does not suggest a single “correct” strategy or style, but describes a variety of alternatives and their advantages and pitfalls. He clearly knows his history and theory but is in no way pedantic or dogmatic. If anything, he makes a willful effort to offer ideas that run counter to advice just given, recognizing that the ultimate benefit to the writer is not to be found in following advice, but in struggling with it.
The text is jam-packed with strategies for attacking different aspects of writing. It unpacks the nuts and bolts of the process, offering a wealth of general guidance and specific techniques for creating better fiction. In addition to Vandermeer’s insightful discussion, there are frequent sidebars and essays from some of the best writers of imaginative fiction in the business. The text is rich in detail and generously enhanced with a variety of exercises and appendices. You could spend years mining the ore within and that doesn’t even touch the in-depth online content at the companion website wonderbooknow.com.
The book exudes a sense of whimsy and humor. A central thesis of the work is that although writing is hard work, it requires a core of play. Wonderbook is pervaded with a strong philosophical commitment to the unconscious as a critical aspect of creativity. Vandermeer encourages the writer to nurture that aspect of self, and to cultivate a working relationship with the powerful intuitive forces that underlie the process. The brain must be filled with interesting contents and given room to experiment with them. The finished product must ultimately be analyzed, polished, and edited, but the effective writer explores the absurd and unexpected freely.
The book also stands out because of its unique design, which features gorgeous illustrations by Jeremy Zerfross. The art is sumptuous, idiosyncratic, and beautifully intertwined with the text across the span of the volume. The illustrations serve to illuminate and expand upon the ideas in fascinating and effective ways. Writers spend a tremendous amount of time with the written word, and the most common advice offered to aspiring writers is to write and read. This makes good sense; you don’t learn the craft without hands-on practice. But most guides to writing are written in plain text, and no matter how good they are, they necessarily engage the lexical brain. Thus, our efforts to change our approach are filtered through the very process that we want to change. Wonderbook stands this model on its ear.
People often suggest editing in a different format than the one you write in as a way of breaking frame: editing on hard-copy if you use computer, changing fonts, even doing the editing in a different location. Anything to break set and allow you to see the work differently than you did when creating it initially. It is impossible to approach the content of Wonderbook in the same way one might simply read another book on writing. By engaging the brain in a more holistic fashion, and relating the linguistic to the visual, it creates a richer experience that should allow writers make new discoveries and see their work in a new light. Wonderbook is the only book on writing I am aware of that employs this technique to break set when thinking about the writing process itself. The luxurious and absurd imagery forces you to process the ideas in different ways than a more conventional presentation ever could. It is a brilliant and effective strategy.
Taken as a whole, Wonderbook leaves all others far behind in both its scope and in its commitment to a unique philosophy of pedagogy. This is a book that a writer will want to spend a long time with, rereading, tagging, and playing. There should be a copy in every middle and high school library, and it should be considered for college writing courses. Is it possible that part of my reaction is because this is the right book at the right time for me, personally? I suppose, but I doubt it. Although aimed at beginning and intermediate writers, even seasoned professionals who have enjoyed success will find something of value within.