Caitlin R. Kiernan's greatest power lies in her gift for chilling understatement, and on the strength of novels like Silk and Threshold, she has become one of America's most accomplished writers of dark contemporary fantasy. The qualities that make Kiernan's work so effective are most clearly on display in her short stories, particularly those in her latest collection, To Charles Fort, WIth Love.
In Kiernan's tales something as ordinary as a mud puddle can lead to other realities where madness reigns. As one of the book's characters puts it, "portals are built on purpose, to be used. These things are accidents, at best, casualites of happenstance, tears in space when one world passes much too near another."
The settings in To Charles Fort, With Love range from Northern California and New Orleans to Rhode Island and Kiernan's native Ireland. Just as varied are the characters, who include academics, disaffected teens and young ghouls-in-training. Only their brushes with things that ought not to be and the fevered elegance with which Kiernan tells their stories connect them.
Of the thirteen tales in To Charles Fort, With Love, the standout is "Onion," a dark reflection of The Chronicles of Narnia revolving around a young couple and their glimpses into a strange and sinister world that they feel compelled to visit. On a more epic scale, the collection's final three stories evoke H. P. Lovecraft - primarily "Dagon" and "The Shadow over Innsmouth" - referencing undersea leviathans that threaten to topple the works of man.
Still, despite the Lovecraftian trappings, Kiernan's voice remains her own. It blends a Victorian grace with a modern brutality and an immediacy of sight and smell that drags the reader into whatever dark corners the author dares to brave - and she dares quite a bit. Best described as "haunting," in every sense of the term, her fiction will not only stay with you but will leave you with an oddly satisfying unease.
Nothing there to grumble about. I hadn't ever thought about the parallels between Narnia and "Onion" before. Oz yes, but not Narnia, so that was kind of neat to see. There's quite a bit of Narnia in Daughter of Hounds, by the by, especially The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
There seems to be a bit of debate over whether or not Objective: Ministries and Project Pterosaur are for real. Personally, I can't quite seem to decide one way or another. On the one hand, I've seen a lot of stupendously tinked dren from fundamentalist Xtians, so simply pointing out how very absurd all this is won't solve the question. One person has noted that Fellowship University (FU), with which OM claims affiliation, does not appear to exist. Hmmm. And then there's Hopsiah the Kanga-Jew, Mr. Gruff (The Atheist Goat Who Loves Coffee Instead of God), and my personal favourite — the "Laughing Jesus" thong. I was entirely prepared to accept the authenticity of this whole thing until I came across the "Laughing Jesus" thong. The product information reads as follows: Panty-minimalists love our casual thong that covers sweet spots without covering your assets – putting an end to panty-lines. This under-goodie is “outta sight” in low-rise pants. Toss these message panties onstage at your favorite rock star or share a surprise message with someone special ... later. Ouch. Okay, so maybe Objective: Ministries is a hoax, another Landover Baptist Church (Landover, it should be noted, was offering Jesus panties first). But then what are we to make of something like RaptureReady.com? The problem, I think, is that some things are so laughable to start with that one commits parody at the risk of being mistaken for the real McCoy. Oh, and the interactive Baby Jesus head is totally frelling creepy.
Thanks to Johanna Vainikainen-Uusitalo for sending me a partial translation of the Tähtivaeltaja article.
Argh. I really need to get to work. I was going to write something about 2005 being the tenth anniversary of my being a gen-u-wine published author, a fact which had completely escaped me until just a couple of days ago. But I think that will have to wait until tomorrow. I began the second vignette for Sirenia Digest #1 yesterday and wrote 759 words of a charming but perfectly peculiar little scene in an alien whorehouse. I'm very curious to see where it's going. One never knows. Please have a look at the latest eBay auctions. Thanks! Oh, and there's a wonderful new specimen of Archaeopteryx lithographica!