FULL BLEED: MADE OF LIGHT LIKE THE REST OF US
Yeah, I know. I've been off for a little while. Late summer gets crazy. I know. it's not really late summer yet, but my kids just started back to school which means I can think about getting back into a sort of regular work schedule.
Let's see. First big news is that THE QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS is due for a December release (but you can pre-order now.) Here's a flyer you can get from me at Worldcon if you can find me there, commemorating the event.
In theory, copies should be available for purhcase at the Rose City Comic Con in September. I'll be there, either way, wandering or at the Broken Eye Books table signing copies of QUEEN or TOMORROW'S CTHULHU. Hopefully can firm up plans on planned but not yet announced things there as well.
I should be giving this stuff its own post and will be talking it up more as the date approaches. I might even talk about the promotion process and what I've come across in it. Someone will probably talk me out of that, though. It has, however, put me on uneasy footing with the genre that I'm supposed to be writing in, so maybe I can talk about this for a bit.
See, most of my published work has been labeled "horror." I mean, squishy monsters and werewolves and vampires and bad things happening. What else is it supposed to be? Looking at what I'm coming across on horror-labeled blogs and the like, I'm not seeing much crossover at all. Ultimately, at least for me, horror is fantasy with a specific set of outcomes or vibes or what have you. Now sure, it's not nearly the same thing as something like your high fantasy epics, or even your grimdark fantasias (though I'd argue that grimdark wants to be horror, if not in outcome then in atmosphere.)
But looking at my work, whether it's STRANGEWAYS or QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS or SMOKETOWN, and while there's elements of horror fiction in all of them, they're just that. Elements. I'm not particularly into extremity for its own or any other sake (so I'm not going to end up writing splatter, sorry). And, more fundamentally, I'm not really interested in reaching for the mega-downer ending, which ends up coloring the whole work no matter what comes before. So yeah, I don't have much of anything to prove in that regard. I don't want to write a book that you put down and say "Oh god, CRUSHING, bro."
Look, life, plain ordinary everyday life is crushing. It's crushing in ways that you can't predict. Sometimes you can't even safely contemplate those ways without going insane. Only abstraction keeps you from running into traffic because it's crazy and just doesn't matter. That nothing is planned, it's all ad hoc. Yeah, thanks, I got the memo the first time. Even the "it's all a cosmic joke" thing doesn't really work for me. But then neither does calculated edgelord-ism.
"So what do you write, dude?"
Excellent question that doesn't really matter. Genres matter for Amazon categories and bookstore shelves and marketing. Granted, I'm supposed to be marketing (and doing a damn fine job of it, huyck!) so this is something I should be concerned with. Maybe even tooling my output towards, right? You put me in a corner, point a knife at my gut and demand an answer and you'll probably get "Fantasy," said with a cold smile on my face. Hey, you asked, not me. So now I have to qualify it as "dark fantasy" because it's not all sunshine and rainbows, but I'm not likely to serve up an ending where DARKNESS REIGNS, WALLOW IN THE KNOWING OF THIS THING, MORTAL, THAT ALL YOU LOVE AND CARE FOR IS MEANINGLESSNESS CLINGING TO DUST MOTES IN THE VOID HAHAHAHA.
Sure, I'll type that in caps to be funny. And yet, it's not a joke. There's a whole audience for that, a whole market for it. Just not my audience, not my market.
I'd rather offer readers an experience, you know? An experience with ups and downs, loss and recovery, not everybody getting what they want but maybe what they need (just geez, never come out and say that in the text because come on, who needs that?). Put it in an intriguing setting, even if it's a place you've lived in all your life. Every place can be weird if you put it together right. But that doesn't necessarily mean lurking horror. Carcosa but wonderful, right?
And this isn't to swing that pendulum all the way over to the Delerlethian "Oh, the Outer Gods are kind of our buddies and the Great Old Ones are eeeeeevil" and that whole limb grafted onto the mythos. Or hell, even bothering to have a codified mythos to adopt – geez, for forbidden and unknowable things, they're sure catalogued exhaustively. (He said, cradling his copy of PETERSEN'S FIELD GUIDE TO CTHULHU MONSTERS.) I mean, the heavy hitters in the mythos sure seem like anything but indifferent, right? Always getting in humanity's business, messing with things. I knew even giving them names was gonna be trouble. Then you get to defining and codifying and pretty soon you're down to plush Cthulhu sitting on your shelf.
But hey, the Outer Gods are made of light like the rest of us. Doesn't make them your best pals. I mean, a hungry alligator will still eat you alive. A scorpion will still sting you if you piss it off. Plenty threating in nature already. Have you heard about gravity? It's a mother.
Come on, though, even the concept of galactic squish monsters don't compare to, oh let's say cancer. Hell, in comparison, they're entertaining and thrilling. But that's what fiction's supposed to do. Yeah. Fiction.
So circling back to where we started. I once said the difference between horror and SF (and fantasy that matter) was that horror was an actual destination in fiction. That's probably as close as I can nail it down. Horror is that down note, whether it be brought about by dread or violence, consumption by cosmic entities or a festered personality, by the resurrected dead or a five-year-old with a knife. So sure, read my work as horror if you like. If that's how you found it, great. I'm all for people enjoying things. Read it as urban fantasy (though you're going to have a hard time finding any of the Usual Suspects in it). Read it as magical realism. Read it as literary fiction (I double dog dare you.)
But please, just read it as an experience.