Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Hellraiser Story

Obviously, this post will contain spoilers for Hellraiser.

This is the story of how a pissing match in a dorm lounge started a tradition I've kept in place for over a decade. 

Every Valentine's day since 2009, I've gotten drunk and watched Hellraiser. It's usually a solitary exercise, I haven't had any want or desire for partnership since July of 2010*, but if anyone wished to join me, they would of course be welcome. It's been an annual tradition, usually involving the imbibing of several Dark and Stormys, a drink I became quite fond of at college, and since college is the whole reason I do this thing in the first place, it's a little bit of nostalgia and a small taste of a time I once called home. The rum may be better quality (ever since Captain Morgan changed the recipe on Private Stock it just hasn't been the same) and the ginger ale might be lower quality (It's difficult to get sugarcane colas at a goddamn Shop-Rite, okay?), but it's a connection to something important. And it's a way of striking back at people who tried to force their interpretation of love on to others, a way of showing that there are multiple forms of romance, and that even the darkest movies can be about painfully human subjects.

Even if I was, as this story kind of illustrates, a prick. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019


    When I was younger, I used to have a saying: "It's in the past, it can't hurt you any more." The thing is, no matter how much you move on, the past will always be there behind you. It's not a static thing, but a living thing as much as the present, reaching out to touch all your present and future decisions. You can process something, but it'll always linger there, ready to resurface when you least want it to or least expect it. It's what happens when that trigger pops, when that thing comes back to bite you, when the memories finally unlock in the dead of night, that shows you whether you've recovered enough. Whether you've processed enough. Whether or not you're actually on the mend. Trolls by Stefan Spjut and translated by Agnes Broomé is a book about processing the trauma of the past, of how to deal with the horrible things you've seen and done, or had done to you. It might have shape-changing forest monsters and a bleak suspense-thriller plot, it might be one of the darkest and most downbeat horror novels I've ever read, coming forward at a slow and menacing pace as it delves into the depths of its characters' attempts to make sense of the things they've seen and done. It might not be the lurid, gothic horror I'm normally used to, but its psychological slow-burn, some absolutely horrifying scenes (usually involving Stava), some very off-kilter humor, and the way the themes of processing trauma mess me the hell up make it well worth the time to read it and enjoy. 

More, as always, below. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Suite in Four Windows


         Occasionally, I find myself saying "I like (x) because of what it does to my head." The feeling that a work is wandering around, opening doors and rearranging things as it pleases, realigning pathways for different thinking. And I haven't encountered something that captures the feeling of a created work rearranging mental furniture the way David Rix's A Suite in Four Windows does. In Rix's slim novella, he manages to perfectly nail the sensations of a mental topographical shift, and also captures the sensations of listening to the bizarre composition that forms the center of the novella*. 

                           And sensation is really the name of the game, so to speak, as Suite is less of a narrative and more of a mood and character piece. While the narrative is there, the novella is much more about sensation and idea than character and action. 

More, as always, below. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Blue on Blue


                             I don't think I've ever encountered a book as dreamlike as Blue on Blue. And not in the same sense as the surreal stories I read or anything like that, no, when I say Blue on Blue is "dreamlike," I mean in the sense that it honestly feels like a dream. There's a sense of more commonplace surreality and bright, pastel poetics that Quentin Crisp brings to his novel, that dreamlike sense that everything is absolutely strange, but that everything is exactly where it's supposed to be. Of course there are gigantic sapient brine shrimp running an attraction called the Sea Monkey Kingdom. Of course the Buena Vista (which I assumed looked like Sleeping Beauty's Castle from the Magic Kingdom) is a lucid dream palace. And of course all of these things are kind of  In Blue on Blue, Quentin Crisp creates an intriguing world with wonderful sensations and feeling, and I'm definitely going to seek out more of his work. 

More, as always, below.       

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Jottings from a Far Away Place

                            There are some books that command your undivided attention. That's the best way I can put it. There are simply books where having music on in the background or reading in a place where one could become distracted just isn't feasible. Sometimes it's because the material is dense, or the plot is heavily involved, or simply because the narrative style is just that immersive. In the case of Jottings from a Far Away Place, it's because Brendan Connell has written a book that's best contemplated and absorbed, and the best way to do that is without all that many distractions. 

                           It's a book that does things to my head in the best way, a book where each section has its own unique rhythms and place, but that builds on the sections by featuring recurring characters and themes as it goes along. If nothing else, I have to say the closest thing I've ever read is either the Zhuangzi or the works of Ryu Murakami (with their own brand of meditative gorn), and Connell manages to distance himself from those works pretty thoroughly just by dint of being a lot more bizarre.

                         In the end, I'd suggest reading a little of this one to get familiar with it. While it's a fantastic book that gets inside your head in just the right way, it'll definitely take a little to get the rhythms down. 

More, as always, below. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Scarlet Gospels


                  I waited nine years for this book, and I'm still not completely sure it was worth it.

                   It's a good book, to be sure. And I didn't give up on it the same way I gave up on, say, Abarat (which is a huge rant I will deploy at another time. Maybe for post 200) by the same author. And, let's be honest, any meeting between Harry D'amour (the detective from Great and Secret Show and Lord of Illusions*) and the being people can't help but refer to as "Pinhead" (Him what was in the Hellraiser series**) would be final for one of them, if not both. But I couldn't help feeling like this was possibly a tired and annoyed farewell to his work, melding the dark, beautiful fantasy of his later works (D'amour's dominion) with the brutal, gruesome horror of his earlier works (you know who) in an effort to put them all to bed for good. 

                   I'm not quite sure if it's just because I expected a four to five hundred page doorstopper about the ultimate battle between the reluctant champion of humanity and Barker's most terrifying agent of change, or because it dealt a final blow to stories I hoped would continue and I'm being entitled and pissy. Maybe it's that Barker took one of my favorite characters and flung them in a new direction. But either way, the book annoyed me. 

                   If you're in the mood for a vivid, twisted fantasy involving a team of occult investigators in Hell, great. If you're in the mood for some of the most fucked-up scenes in horror outside of maybe the Edward Lee crowd***, you're in the right place. But I don't believe this'll go on the shelf next to Imajica, The Great and Secret Show, Books of Blood, and Everville

More, as always, below. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Quantum Thief


       I have not been able to stop talking about this book for months (yep, two of them now) and I want to discuss it. I first came upon Hannu Rajaniemi when I reviewed his short story collection for one of my compensated gigs. While I didn't think much of The Quantum Thief before then and had written it off as a cyberpunk crime novel (as well as confusing it with M.M. Buckner's War Surf for some reason), I was impressed enough by his short stories to read an excerpt of Quantum Thief, and from there instantly fell in love with it. 

           It's kind of an interesting balancing act to juggle techno-utopianism with fin-de-siecle French pulp novels (the gentleman thief and the master detective archetypes kind of originated with the Arsene Lupin novels quoted as the epigraph to this novel) with a kind of wild high fantasy and some odd quantum entanglement-influenced technological twists. And Rajaniemi nails it one hundred percent. He juggles things with an incredible sense of play that, while the story may not exactly be new to me (I'm wary of any plot that involves someone reclaiming their memory) is exciting in the way it's told. 

And it is brilliant.

More, as always, below.