content by

Sarah Porter

Fiction and Excerpts [2]

Fiction and Excerpts [2]


, || Ratspeak is the the shrill and sly language of the rats of New York City's subway. When a curious boy is granted his wish to speak and understand the secret language of the rats, he brings a curse upon his home. "Ratspeak" is a standalone story by the acclaimed author of Vassa in the Night (Tor Teen, September 2016).

Five Books Featuring Psychological Hauntings

The classic literary ghost has certain well-defined characteristics: he or she was once a specific human who died in some particularly traumatic way. Stripped of flesh, the ghost has nothing left but psychological compulsion, whether to reenact the trauma, to communicate what happened, or simply to terrorize the living in revenge. Such ghosts are often visible as a hazy form in antiquated clothing, and their touch may be sensed by living skin, but they don’t have much in the way of corporeality.

Any trope so comfortably established invites departures; if we know what our ghosts ought to be, why not explore what they can become? We know that ghosts can sit on the beds of sleeping children, watching them with shadowed eyes, but how else might they relate to the living? What if the compulsions they enact are not their own, but ours, or if the trauma they carry is not the singular grief of one heartbroken person, but something more encompassing? When I started writing When I Cast Your Shadow, which features its own alternative ghosts—who can only access our world by possessing the living, and who don’t retain any definite form, beyond what the living project onto them—my long interest in the manifold forms hauntings can take became acute.

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Series: Five Books About…

The Offbeat Infernal: 5 Books with Unusual Demons and Devils

We all know the standard-issue demon, all horns and sulfur and dark seduction, often done up in a bespoke suit; perhaps you’d care to trade your soul for this totally sweet vintage Jaguar, or maybe you prefer to play chess? Of all the recurring characters in Western literature, the devil and his attendant demons rank among the most familiar. If we’re talking Paradise Lost, or Faust, or the many works that bear their imprint, the devil’s evil is complicated by a rebellious grandeur, a defiance both poignant and brave in its futility. But whether his wickedness is crude or nuanced, the devil walks cloaked in tropes.

But the devil is a shapeshifter, and what we find if we lift away that cloak depends on the imaginations of those who dare to interrogate the nature of the demonic. Writers who conjure up the devil on their pages have encountered fiends both coldly alien and far too human for comfort. They’ve revealed versions of Mephistopheles who offer a hideous reflection of the culture in which they’ve appeared, who expose something about the specific forms evil takes in the modern world. But they’ve also described demons who are quirky or wistful or even oddly innocent as they create their casual havoc; demons who, like human beings, are engaged in a constant struggle with their own will to destruction. Here are five of my favorite books featuring out-of-the-ordinary denizens of Hell.

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Series: Five Books About…

Jeff VanderMeer’s Shriek: An Afterword and a Truly Freaky Chase Scene

Chase scenes are usually exquisitely boring. What do they have to offer, really, but a parade of frenzied verbs, like an aerobics instructor bellowing moves at a class? “Leap over that rusted-out Mercedes! Now pivot and punch that harpy right in the jaw! Right in the jaw! Good! Now her flock is descending from the filthy sky of Los Angeles in a swirl of fetid wings! Turn around and run! Dive under that garbage truck! Now roll! Roll faster!”

Okay, fine. You got away from the harpies, hero, only to see Esmerelda borne off in their talons, weeping. Now we can all get to the good part, where you brood over how you’ve failed her, just the way your father failed you. You can think things, feel things, and actually manifest character rather than just slugging away at the forces of evil. A chase scene can seem like a kind of literary homework, the writer providing obligatory action to placate readers. This is very exciting. Isn’t it? The harpy’s electrified blood sends a jolt through the Blade of Lubricity and nearly shorts out its enchantment. Whatever.

So when there is a chase scene that actually knots my entrails with dread and courses me with icy terrors, I’m going to look closely at how the writer pulled it off. Which brings me to Jeff VanderMeer’s Shriek: An Afterword and one of the freakiest chase scenes of all time.

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Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

Vassa in the Night

In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair….

Inspired by the Russian folktale “Vassilissa the Beautiful”, author Sarah Porter weaves a dark yet hopeful tale about a young girl’s search for home, love, and belonging—Vassa in the Night is available September 20th from Tor Teen!

[Read an Excerpt]

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