Home video has brought about some great restorations of horror films previously available only in incomplete or mangled forms: the uncut version of The Wicker Man; the director’s cut of Guillermo del Toro’s first American film, Mimic; and even 1931’s Frankenstein, which had a supposedly blasphemous line of dialogue restored. But the one on my cinematic bucket list has always been William Peter Blatty’s original version of The Exorcist III.
Fiction and Excerpts 
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, as an odd-numbered franchise entry, is often cited as proof of the “even=good, odd=bad” pattern. Certainly it’s the first film in the series made primarily for a specific marketing reason (“We have to get Nimoy back! It doesn’t matter if Spock’s dead!”). It’s a movie that has neither a real beginning or ending. But, given those caveats, I maintain that the film is still a surprising and powerful experience.
There will be spoilers.
An interesting perk of being published is that you get requests to do blurbs for upcoming books. The catch is, you’re usually asked because the new book in some way resembles what you’ve written. The two dangers of this are (a) this book is so much worse than mine, I’ll lose all credibility if I say something good, or (b) this is so good I may never write again.
When I was asked to blurb Ilana Myer’s Last Song Before Night, it was clear why: it’s a fantasy that revolves around music, just as my Tufa novels do. It’s been done before (most influentially in Emma Bulls War for the Oaks, which invented urban fantasy), but it’s still a fairly unexploited subgenre compared to, say, dragons or vampires.
When I started reading Last Song, though, I quickly grasped that this was actually nothing like my work. It’s a piece of startlingly original literature, heartfelt and courageous.
Nursing an injured arm while on the job searching for a missing kid is bad enough for sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse. But when he discovers a smuggling ring rumored to be protected by powerful magic, he seeks out old friends and new to lend a hand. A tale set in Alex Bledsoe’s popular medieval noir world.
Please be warned that this story deals with difficult content and themes involving children.
When Matt Johanssen, a young New York actor, auditions for “Chapel of Ease,” an off-Broadway musical, he is instantly charmed by Ray Parrish, the show’s writer and composer. They soon become friends; Matt learns that Ray’s people call themselves the Tufa and that the musical is based on the history of his isolated home town. But there is one question in the show’s script that Ray refuses to answer: what is buried in the ruins of the chapel of ease?
As opening night approaches, strange things begin to happen. A dreadlocked girl follows Ray and spies on him. At the press preview, a strange Tufa woman warns him to stop the show. Then, as the rave reviews arrive, Ray dies in his sleep. Matt and the cast are distraught, but there’s no question of shutting down: the run quickly sells out. They postpone opening night for a week and Matt volunteers to take Ray’s ashes back to Needsville. He also hopes, while he’s there, to find out more of the real story behind the play and discover the secret that Ray took to his grave.
Matt’s journey into the haunting Appalachian mountains of Cloud County sets him on a dangerous path, where some secrets deserve to stay buried…
Chapel of Ease, the fourth novel in Alex Bledsoe’s Tufa series, is available September 6th from Tor Books!
“We danced all night to a soul fairy band.”
—Bruce Springsteen, “Spirit in the Night”
When Shakespeare wrote about fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he didn’t just imagine a lone sprite wreaking havoc, or a handful of meddlesome goblins. He created a whole fae society, with a king and queen, politics, and an ongoing disagreement between the rulers. Their interaction with humanity was a combination of enchantments, mistakes, and frantic attempts to put things right.
He also indirectly gave them music.
Series: Shakespeare on Tor.com
Remember, never accept a gift without knowing the consequences. Set in the Tufa universe.
This short story was acquired and edited for Tor.com by associate editor Diana Pho.
There’s a lot of magic in Shakespeare: ghosts in Julius Caesar and Hamlet, witches in Macbeth, elemental spirits and wizards in The Tempest, and fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, just to name some obvious ones. But the magic of The Winter’s Tale—if it even is magic—is of a whole different variety.
Series: Shakespeare on Tor.com
With the news that Twin Peaks is returning after twenty-five years, I’ve been thinking about what, to me, made the show so great. It wasn’t the mysteries: like so many shows based around secrets, once they were revealed, they were kind of anticlimactic. But the characters embroiled in them never grow trite or dull, even after a quarter century.
FBI Agent Dale Cooper is our point man in Twin Peaks, the outsider through whose eyes we learn about this strange little town. He’s also his own kind of crazy, so it’s as much fun to watch them meet him as it is vice-versa. But he’s only half the story, and half the leading men. The other is Sheriff Harry S. Truman, played by Michael Ontkean.
Carl Kolchak: Anybody important here today?
Receptionist: No, just a bunch of reporters.
—from “The Energy Eater” episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker
A lot of things contributed to me ultimately being a writer, but one of the most crucial was a guy in a bad suit and straw hat, with a camera and tape recorder slung over his shoulder. Yep, I mean the night stalker himself, Carl Kolchak, played by Darren McGavin.
Everyone agrees that Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is a classic. But I’m here to praise the underrated, even abused sequel, Peter Hyams’ 2010.
There are similarities, of course, as you’d expect from an original and its sequel. The special effects in both films are spectacular, and fairly well grounded in the science of the time. The relevant designs of 2001 are accurately replicated in 2010, so that if you watch them back to back, the continuity is pretty seamless. Both begin in the past, and end with moments of transcendence.
But the tonal difference is total.
Anyone who’s read a novel series knows that one of the pitfalls is repetition. After doing five, ten, even thirty books about a particular character or in a specific setting, it can be difficult to avoid repeating things. When I began the Eddie LaCrosse series, I wanted to avoid that particular pitfall.
I decided that each book would be based around a central concept or conceit that would (hopefully) give each novel a unique atmosphere and keep the series lively. The inspiration for the first novel, The Sword-Edged Blonde, was the song, “Rhiannon.” Burn Me Deadly encompassed everything I thought was cool about dragons. Dark Jenny adapted the Arthurian mythology to Eddie’s world. And Wake of the Bloody Angel…well, its inspiration can be described in one glorious word: pirates!
Which brings me to the latest in the series, He Drank, and Saw the Spider. This one can also be summed up in one two-syllable word, but it’s one of the biggest words in literature.
Check out the newest installment in Alex Bledsoe’s Eddie LaCrosse series, He Drank and Saw the Spider, available January 14, 2014 from Tor Books!
After he fails to save a stranger from being mauled to death by a bear, a young mercenary is saddled with the baby girl the man died to protect. He leaves her with a kindly shepherd family and goes on with his violent life.
Now, sixteen years later, that young mercenary has grown up to become cynical sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse. When his vacation travels bring him back to that same part of the world, he can’t resist trying to discover what has become of the mysterious infant.
He finds that the child, now a lovely young teenager named Isadora, is at the center of complicated web of intrigue involving two feuding kings, a smitten prince, a powerful sorceress, an inhuman monster, and long-buried secrets too shocking to imagine. And once again she needs his help.
My own writing comes out of two distinctly different literary traditions: fantasy and noir. Of the latter, I claim red-headed-stepchild kinship with both the classic (Chandler and Hammett) and the modern (Robert B. Parker) in my Eddie LaCrosse novels.
But a deeper influence, and one of my favorite living authors, Andrew Vachss, caught me with a single sentence, the first line of his third novel, 1988’s Blue Belle:
“Spring comes hard down here.”
Recently I attended my first neoPagan gathering in over a decade; while there, I picked up Staubs and Ditchwater by H. Byron Ballard (Silver Rings Press, 2012), a book on Appalachian folk magic. As I read, I ran across a statement that brought up an important issue: cultural appropriation, or as Ballard puts it, cultural strip-mining.
Ballard writes, “We tribeless white people learn dances and songs from other cultures that seem deeply spiritual to us, though we don’t know their context or deeper meanings, we just like the way they look or sound or make us feel. We think they’re cool.” (p. 12)
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