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This is me in Berkeley, 1968. This is the baseline experience I am coming from 50 years ago. My first time away from home. My introduction to the career and lifestyle I would follow for the rest of my life. My belief that we could change the world if we just put our energy and minds to the task.

Today, it is hard to remember the joy and confidence that seemed limitless. Then, it was about cooperation and organization to accomplish common goals. Sure there was divisiveness. Remember "Hell no, we won't go" or simply "Make Love, Not War"? But the fundamental agenda was created in hope, in changing the goals of a culture into something worthwhile doing for all humanity.

I am saddened and deeply embarrassed that we elected the current POTUS from our "baby boomer" generation.

Shame on us.

 

 

And I keep waking up, thinking I'm living in an episode of Black Mirror. Yeah, I know. There's been worst times on our soil, like 1861's Civil War, or the domestic terrorism of Timothy McViegh in 1995. And don't forget the early 1935's Huey Long or Medgar Evers in 1963 when you're talking about assassinations. Further, there's the game-changing '60s shootings of JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcolm X, which helped incite the Student Protest Movement, but ended tragically with our own militia's firepower and "four dead in Oh-hi-o" in 1970.

Then there was 9/11/2001 . . .

I have lived through most of these upheavals. I won't even list the school shootings starting with Columbine and the new Century. Civilizations seem to share similar cycles, but it is impossible, I'm afraid, to judge current positions without putting on a tin hat. In prose, apocalyptic fiction has its own genre now. Zombies are still walking among the pages. Historical pieces like Westerns and period dramas seem to be coming back with revisionist flair, and movies running fantasy themes like Black Panther or The Last Jedi are box office gold. Media-wise, nobody appears to want to be in present time. I certainly don't. Personally, I'd rather hang with Jeriamah Johnson—inception date 1972—but without the snow.

While the Mad King keeps singin' 'n' dancin',

drawing us into the abyss of plutocratic policies with his oligarchical wet dreams.

 

01/04/2018
c.1993
Edward Lee

In Progress

01/22/2018
c.2017
Mira Grant

Done

02/04/2018
c.1990
James Herbert

In Progress

02/08/2018
c.1987
Richard Laymon

Done, but Shorted

03/01/2018
c.1989
Oasis
Brian Hodge

30 years ago, was there the designation known today as YA? I have no problem with genre assignment, but with an over-abundance of pubertal concerns leading to seemingly drawn-out wanderings through Teen Hell, this makes Oasis more firmly set in the Com-of-Age genre rather than Horror. Sure, there's a supernatural element—Vikings' Blood Feud!—but the thread of the plot is pure Baba O'Riley (the Who's "teenage wasteland" from 1971), except Oasis' American small town, USA, is without a decade that's really imaginable before the 1990s. I mean, Oasis reeks as if it's conceived by our parents of those times. The late-teen characters watch MASH re-runs and go to a Van Halen concert (after what's-his-name left the band in 1985), yet castigate an English teacher for his "bygone years of drug use"(p.87). The novel spends more time in a retro of '50s culture with Homecoming, Fri Nite football, proms, and the hard lessons of back seat romance, cliques, holding your beer down. This is, of course, contrasting with the terror and pain Chris Anderson and his buddies wake up in an abandoned subdivision outside of Mt. Vernon in southern Illinois, where "something long forgotten was trying to fight its way back up the stream of memory"(p.17). In that respect, this is slow-fuse Horror, unfortunately sputtering in its withholds of congruity with too-little presence as the too-much human heartaches take over. The Horror theme merge a loved character into a tree. The 1st-person protag gets possessed by more than Mrs. Thumb and her 4 daughters. And everything scurries along to the Big Boss Battle that the likeable prose demands. I didn't make it. The back-dropped teenaged world as depicted was just too boring for me. And, as a suggestion: leave the CofA Horror to Stephen King. Dead at 195/312.

02/18/2018
c.1996
Graham Masterton

In Progress

03/02/2018
c.2004
The Resort
Bentley Little

My first Bentley Little book, but how could I resist? The setting is my haunt: the Sonoran Desert, specifically with Tucson as its hub. A family of 5 lands in an isolated resort hotel, which sounds very close to Dove Mountain in the Tortillas 12 years ago. Class all the way, the place is like Lowe's at Ventana Canyon. Except things keep not quite fitting its image: some guy's moved into their room while they were out scouting and apparently stole the wife's panties from her suitcase; in the lap pool, Dad thinks someone's grabbing his leg when there's nobody there; a "grossly obese"(p.50) man working out in the weight room "fully erect"(p.51); a "psychotic gardener" dancing "a strange little jig"(p.39) for them outside their room window. As the novel continues, the action and visions become more and more bizarre. Guys teeing-off golf balls at their wives tied to poles; a duplicate, eratz resort sans guests up Antelope Canyon that's building, possibly re-building itself. It's a prepostrous setting and the machinations are suitable for a time filler, but there's no hidden arcana here, that's for sure.

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03/12/2018
c.2014
Porn
Matt Shaw

Although subtitled "there are no 'happy endings,'" I can think of one: I threw this poser in the dumpster after 69/170 pages. Let me ask a question: with filmic exceptions like The Devil and Miss Jones and Mitchell Bros Resurrection of Eve, both from the "golden age of porn" in 1973, you ever see—or read—an XXX-er that made you sad, angry, or fearful? No? That's because every one who's in these things pitch having fun. That's right. Sex is pleasant and enjoyable for most sane people. Now this book Porn, well, it is set up as devient sex or something, where a guy is tied to a concrete pillar and tortured by a standard, dressed-for-pain female fetishist who—while working her first hardcore gig—contracts AIDS from the barebacked co-star. So, right off the whip, this is NOT typical PORN, this is fookin' PAIN, like throwing lettered acid in your face. Unfortunately, author Shaw is writing in first-person with a female voice.

--I'm re-thinking this one.

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03/17/2018
c.2004
Flesh Gothic
Edward Lee

Wow, this is one hell of a Haunted House story. Not as disgorging as his earlier work, but still enough blood, intestines, and severed heads to keep it in the game, not to mention, ah, some very, very, twisted—and I mean this literally—sex torture. Yep, it's stop-the-devils time once again in a closed and dangerous environment co-habitating with a demon dimension that keeps you guessing as to who's on board and what's really there. Called in to make some semblance of sense out of the carnal massacre of 26 people—most of them porn stars—are: four ghostbusters, all of whom have various forms of ESP; two former participants in the blowout horror supposedly perpetrated by the malicious owner of the manor; a non-intrepid reporter/protagonist/skeptic to keep the reader with at least one viewpoint that might just not be unreliable. Author Lee hits all the talking points of the sub-genre, then titty-twists them with his signature brand of creepy coitus. You see, the whole fookin' bedeviled mansion that's locked-roomed them for spectral discovery is wading in, covered with, gurgling endlessly, smelling intoxicatingly, of orgiastic and sado-deSade plunder sex. The bottom line with this work: it sits right in my descending order behind The Haunting of Hill House, The Shining, and Hell House. Yeah, I know. Big shoes to stand at the heel of. But wake up, bluenoses, 'cause when sexual desire is used as a covert motivator for commerce, that new linkage draws a deviant and misplaced want for objects, such as cars, clothing, porn films, this novel. You know, they're inanimate. Just like dead bodies.

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03/24/2018
c.1997
Thomas Tessier

Okay, I'll admit it: what I'm reading these days is literary guano. It takes a novel like this to get me out of my wallowing self infliction. Author Tessier walks the suspended line between belief and disbelief. He shows us the genius of debating ambiguities in motifs without "facts" to stumble our paths. At some point you have to let go of the sensual tether and freefall through the ideological and unrestricted notions floating in the ether. What is time? What is death? Who can guide and who can follow? This novel demands a full review.

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04/07/2018
c.2017
Buried in Blue Clay
L. L. Soares

This kind of plot is like a twisting fly strip catching scenes as it goes toward a buildup of stuck chapters until there's nothing left to do but throw it away. The action is as flat as a day-old, open beer can; the characters colorless as skim milk. The incitations become less satisfying, less substantial, less supposable, until the pages faded away, signifying nothing. 268/293. This author won the Stoker in 2013 for Life Rage, so what do I know?

Cool as Hell cover, though!

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04/11/2018
c.2017
Christopher Golden

Wow! What a hell of an addition to the haunted house sub-genre! Here's sum reality (?) on Noah's ark search. https://www.space.com/26318-noah-ark-search-satellite-images.html

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04/26/2018
c.2018
The Hungar
Alma Katsu

The perils of a winter crossing of the West in 1846-7 by wagon train is polished off with attacks by the wolf-like, slaughterers of crazed post-humans either sick or possessed. In the end, it doesn't matter for the fabled Donner Party: inclement weather, inadequate experience & poor leadership, plus arrogance, stupidity, and racism all taste rotten when the food runs out and desperation leads to man's most henious act. 46 survived, dining on some of the 41 who didn't. Although author Katsu's driving prose makes things up along the way, immersion through characterization gets to the core issues surely as emaciation proceeds starvation. This is a very well-crafted accounting, plus an educational contrast to Lewis & Clark, which was almost 50 years earlier.

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04/30/2018
c.2017
Wendigo
Vaughn C. Hardacker

 

In Progress

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GOODBYE 2018

data entered for new year is in RED

 

And while we're into the Reaper's work, I'd like to pay homage to five of my favorite artists and important people who also passed this year:

Ursula Le Guin (1929-2018)

Jack Ketchum (1946-2018)

Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)

 

No more from you great storytellers is a grievous loss, but what you left in the dirt for all of us is your immortality unquestioned. Thanks, guys & gals, for your heart. You will be missed.

 

Again, I paged through about 50 books this year. And, probably near half of them I did not complete. For me, this was The Year of the Pony Up, You Ignoramus, You. Subtitled You Body Is Old and Needs Attention. If I want to see the next decade, that is. This year also marks the 10th anniversary of this rambling, book-orientated monologue. In a lot of ways it has fulfilled its purpose: to keep me sharp with mental exercise. It has also measured my decline in acuity and also—yes, it is true—my reading variety. I am no longer the person who boasts Moby Dick or The Brothers Karamotsov in my top-five novel list*. Yeah, The Recognitions is still at the top and will always be, but works requiring a semblance of erudition I can no longer digest. And—yeah, okay—books like Valis, Childhood's End, I Am Legend and Solaris have unquestionably a cerebral side, they are not quite called "literature", know what I mean? And that's why—I guess—my go-to genre is Horror. Not Gorror, no, I base off of what's known as the English Ghost Story. Its historical fenceposts are Machen, James, Blackwood. And especially the ones that leave room for celestial speculation dabbling in Philosophy, and Religion of the Myth, the Occult, the Godhood. McDowell, Ryan, Shepard, to name a few of the more obscured. Don't firebrand me: this is not a reference to the masters of Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, or Fantasy. That's another time. * along with the pretentiousness, I hope.

I have slumped terribly in photographic quests, also. Maybe it is time to organize and archive my images into personalized book format. I want to be concise while thinking demising thoughts. Prints and folios are awkward. Books are best.

My summer trip yielded surprises but not an overabundance of images. In mid-May both Natural Bridges & Capitol Reef did not have available campsites; on the way back in mid-August—we ran from the forest fires surrounding Missoula 'cause of the smoke filling our smoker's lungs—they were close to empty. This is a great area for car camping off the dirt roads, so screw "reservations".

 

 

But before we get to the major awards, a new recognition has been set forth:

 

THE CRAWFORD CONFERRALS

(a simple salute for simple-minded readers like myself)

 

Best read novel of the Year: The Cormorant

Best read surprise of the Year: Nightmare Alley

This year's Honored Mentionables:

Waking in Winter

(A girl discovers a Goddess. Maybe THE Goddess)

Beneath

(You'll never walk in the dirt barefooted again)

Bird Box

(What you see will kill you)

Dark Matter

("What if there is no enlightenment and it's all just dark?")

 

A discovered UnAmerican Author of the Year: Deborah Biancotti

A discovered American Author of the Year: Joe R. Lansdale

A discovered British Author of the Year: Stephen Gregory

 

Summarizing 2017 with regards to fantasist literature is probably best illustrated by the major award winners for best novel.

The Nebula was won by Charlie Jane Anders for All the Birds in the Sky.

The Hugo was won by N. K. Jemisin for The Obelisk Gate.

The World Fantasy Award was won by Claire North for The Sudden Appearance of Hope.

. The International Horror Guild Award was discontinued in 2008, but we still have the Stoker, which was staked out by Christoper Golden for Ararat , and Robert Payne Cabeen's for Cold Cuts for 1st Novel Award.

Across the pond, The British Fantasy award now splits in two for the novel category, with Disappearance at Devil's Rock by Paul Tremblay winning the August Derleth (horror) award and The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky taking the Robert Holdstock (fantasy) award. Europe in Winter by Dave Hutchinson broke the summit stick over his knee for the British Science Fiction award while Jaine Fenn booted into Short Fiction with Liberty Bird. The Arthur C. Clarke award went to The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

The John W. Campbell crown fell on Lavie Tidhar this year for Central Station. PBOs were distinguished with a win for The Mercy Journals by Claudia Casper for the Philip K. Dick Award, with special citation to Unpronounceable by Susan diRende. The James Tiptree Jr. award sat with Anna-Marie McLemore for When the Moon Was Ours. Okay, there's also the Shirley Jackson Award which went to Emma Cline for The Girls, this year's novel choice, with the half-novel (Novella) to The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle.

A new addition to the literary awards is the James Herbert Award, offered to Horror writers within the UK. It was launched in 2014 and laid top honors on Nick Cutter's The Troop from 2014. After that, who knows what happened, as there apparently was not a selection in either 2015 or 2016. I've heard nothing about it this year. "Hiatus" describes the answer from the web. So, look for it in the future, maybe.

And lastly, The Locus Awards passed out plaques for Best SciFi Novel to Cixin Liu's Death's End , Best Fantasy Novel to All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders , and Best 1st Novel to Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. Best Horror Novel went to Joe Hill for The Fireman. The Novella was tossed to Seanan McGuire for Every Heary A Doorway.

 

 

HELLO TO 2019 !!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© copyright 2010 by Larry Crawford

updated 01/02/2014