content by

Theresa DeLucci

Fiction and Excerpts [1]

Fiction and Excerpts [1]

5 Reasons to Watch Penny Dreadful

Showtime’s Brit-horror series Penny Dreadful returns on May 1st to the joy of faithful viewers not-nearly-everywhere. For such a smart and well-acted show, the horror soap opera featuring fictional heavy-hitters Victor Frankenstein, his monster, Dorian Gray, and the Wolfman doesn’t get quite the expected amount of buzz it deserves. It probably doesn’t help that the show airs the same night as HBO’s powerhouse Game of Thrones. Watch Thrones live if you hate getting spoiled on Twitter, but save some room on your DVR for a show that’s bloodier, spookier, and steeped in much more literal—and literary—sexual politics.

Here’s a taste of what you’re missing. (With a few unavoidable spoilers ahead.)

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Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 1: “The Red Woman”

Yes, but would Khal Moro’s bloodrider still sleep with her?

That very unexpected ending was subversive for more than one reason. And it confirmed something about Melisandre that was only hinted at and and gives us a new perspective on a character who’s been working her magic since well before the second season.

This recap is dark and full of spoilers.

Spoilers for the episode and currently published George R. R. Martin novels are discussed in the review and fair game in the comments. We highly suggest not discussing early preview chapters, but if you must, white it out. Have courtesy for the patient among us who are waiting and waiting (and waiting) for The Winds of Winter. Play nice. Thanks.

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Previously on Game of Thrones: Season 5 Refresher

Is it just me or did this hiatus feel really, really long? Sure, Game of Thrones‘ sixth season premiere is airing a few weeks later into April than usual, but a lot has happened on my TV screen since last June. I’ve binged on all seasons of Orphan Black, Better Call Saul, Peaky Blinders, and Daredevil. And I’ve watched new shows like Jessica Jones, Hap and Leonard, and gave The Expanse a try. Add to this my regular shows like The Walking Dead and the final (sniffle) season of Hannibal and, wow, I watch too much TV.

Which is to say, I needed a reminder on what happened to the considerable cast of Game of Thrones. Hint: a lot of them are dead.

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Lifting the Black Rock: Five Dark Reads Not to Miss

This year is rich with anticipated single-author collections from some of the most talented voices working in horror, dark fantasy, and the hazy spaces between genre and literary fiction. If some of these releases seem late in review here, it is not for their lack of readability, but more because there was always just one more title to squeeze in before the liminal borders of the seasons themselves shifted.
As most of these excellent reads come, as they so often do, from smaller presses, you also might have missed them.

[A collapse of horses, a vegetarian, Oscar Wilde robots, and cosmic conifer…]

Big Ideas in a Slim Package: This Census-Taker by China Miéville

With his last release, the short story collection Three Moments of an Explosion, barely six months behind him, China Miéville starts off the year with a brand-new novella.

Don’t be deceived by the shorter length, though; This Census-Taker packs a lot of challenging ideas into a slim story. In all honesty, writing a review of this novella after only reading it once feels exceedingly difficult. There is a hypnotic, nightmarish feel to the loose events contained herein, which is as appropriate as it is harrowing as we watch the narrator’s traumatic story unfold. The boy—sometimes “I” or even “you”—lives on a steep hill, across from another hill, connected by a bridge that contains a town. The novella opens with the boy fleeing his home after witnessing his mother kill his father. Only then he believes his father killed his mother, but there is no physical proof. Yet there is damning behavior suggesting the father, a kind of magical tradesman, has been working in the service of an older evil. There’s a hole in the hill, you see, where the father delivers murdered creatures and customers, and very likely, the narrator’s mother.

[Mild spoilers thrown into the hole…]

The Seventh Sense of the Strange: Year’s Best Weird, Volume 2

Yes, we still like the Weird stuff.

Much like Michael Kelly in his foreword to the Year’s Best Weird Volume 2, I don’t want to rehash last year’s review with a definition of weird fiction. Weird fiction seems to become more popular as a genre with each year, so perhaps that’s not necessary anymore. Year’s Best Weird is a topper to what has already been a strong year for uncanny fiction: new, acclaimed story collections from luminaries Kelly Link and China Miéville made it to many year’s best lists, new novels from Gemma Files, Molly Tanzer and Paul Tremblay brought the weird to novel-length works, and re-releases of under-appreciated classics from Thomas Ligotti, Charles Beaumont and Ray Russell saw the light of day. Undertow Press itself is a great home for the Weird and its most recent original anthology, Aickman’s Heirs, will surely find some of its stories in all kinds of best-of anthologies in 2016.

Maybe, as was suggested at the Weird fiction panel at World Fantasy Con in October, the Weird really is poised to be the Next Big Thing.

[Mermaids, mutations, and mancuspias…]

Please Let This Be The Last Witch Hunter

If my local theater is anything to go by, Back to the Future II had a higher per screen box office take this weekend than Vin Diesel’s latest stab at a new fantasy franchise. The Last Witch Hunter reads like a nerd marketing dream: Vin Diesel LARPing with a real flaming sword, Frodo Baggins and Ygritte from Game of Thrones as his sidekicks, Michael Caine as Vin Diesel’s very own Michael Caine, pretty CGI and witches. It’s Halloween. Who doesn’t like a good, creepy witch movie at Halloween? It’s a no-brainer, right?

And that, of course, is the problem with The Last Witch Hunter.

[“Something forgettable this way comes…”]

Six-Guns and Strange Shooters: A Weird West Primer

What is it about the American West that continues to inspire? There’s the romanticized notion of expansion, the simplistic morality of white hats and black hats, of cowboys vs. Indians. And there’s the post-modern Western that does not gloss over the era’s exploitation and violence; all the birth pains of a new nation. Then there is the Weird West, a genre-hopping category that uses a lot of the Western window-dressing—gunslingers, railroads, Pinkertons—and mashes them up with cosmic horror, alternate histories of American icons, and a vast landscape of cruel promise and harsh awe. To celebrate the release of a new batch of novels set in the Weird West world of the RPG Deadlands, beginning with Jonathan Maberry’s Deadlands: Ghostwalkers, it’s time to saddle up for a ride into a booming frontier of creepy thrill.

Not all of it is written, not all of it is American, but it’s all definitely rich in the weird.

[“Zombies, tentacles, gunslingers and an awful lot of Australians…”]

Exploring New Worlds: Three Moments of an Explosion by China Miéville

Short story collections can be divisive for an author’s fans. For some people, I imagine the feeling is comparable to waiting for your favorite band to put out a new full-length album and instead getting a live EP; the big hits are represented, but you’re missing the depth, the had-to-be-there energy, and the newness to pour over and speculate about.

But most authors aren’t as skilled at writing short stories as they are at writing novels. Three Moments of an Explosion, the latest short story collection from China Miéville showcases not only what is so impressive about Miéville’s talent but what can be so enjoyable about the short form itself.

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The Essential Clive Barker

No one gives voice to monsters and misfits quite as well as author Clive Barker. Since his short fiction first bled across the genre landscape thirty years ago, he has become synonymous with a particularly beautiful and horrific brand of dark fantasy. He’s enjoying a bit of a cultural revival this year thanks to the releases of the long-awaited final novel in the Hellraiser universe and the equally anticipated director’s cut edition of his cult film, Nightbreed.

Nightbreed and the novella it was adapted from, Cabal, are so enduring, editors Joe Nassise and Del Howison have just released Midian Unmade, an anthology of short fiction told from the perspective of—and in the empathetic spirit of—Clive Barker’s misunderstood creations. While entertaining on its own merits, as any anthology containing original stories from Seanan McGuire, Nancy Holder and David J. Schow would naturally be, Midian Unmade is best appreciated by Barker fans.

So where can one begin an education in all things Barker? By going back to the beginning, of course.

[“Everybody is a book of blood. Wherever we’re opened, we’re red.”]

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 8 “Hardhome”

After last week’s dramatic meetings and departures (and boobs, always boobs) Game of Thrones brings its all-new plot developments Beyond the Wall, where Jon goes on a diplomatic mission even stupider than Jaime’s in Dorne, but at least contains exciting things like White Walkers and jerky Thenns and my pretend soul mate Dolorous Edd. So I’m not even mad.

Major episode spoilers ahead.

[“The White Walking Dead…”]

Series: HBO’s Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 7: “The Gift”

After last week’s traumatic episode, one couldn’t be blamed for no longer wanting to stick with HBO’s Game of Thrones. From U.S. senators to popular feminist geek websites to individual fans of television that doesn’t make you (a) really pissed off and disgusted, or (b) curl into the fetal position while weeping, everyone’s feeling that events in the North are getting more dire than direwolves. Who are actually pretty scarce until the perfect dramatic moment calls for one.

We’re still in the quiet before the storm of swords that is set of rain down upon Winterfell. There’s no solace there, not for us, not for Sansa. But there were two gifts of great importance given that could go a long way towards improving fans’ moods.

Major episode spoilers ahead.

[“Egg, I dreamed that I was old…”]

Series: HBO’s Game of Thrones