Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Jesse Bullington

Jesse Bullington writes historical fantasy informed by his knowledge and enthusiasm for the darker parts of European folklore (and fact). He is the author of The Sad Tale of the Brothers GrossbartThe Enterprise of Death, and the newly released The Folly of the World.

Last month I asked the author what he was reading.  His reply:
I’ve been up to my eyebrows in research reading for most of the autumn, which doesn’t always make for the most thrilling recommendations, but now that I’ve wrapped up a few projects I’ve been able to pick up some more entertaining titles. Most of what I’ve currently got on-deck are short story anthologies or collections, as I find those are more agreeable to being set aside for extended periods as I’ve juggled pleasure reading with research. That said, there is one novel I’ve been very much enjoying, too…

It’s funny, because the previous time I penned one of these columns I was reading a Stephen Graham Jones title, and I’m once again under his literary thrall. This time it’s The Last Final Girl, a sort-of post-modern send-up of slasher movies. As with Demon Theory, an earlier novel of his, he’s written it as a highly stylized screenplay of sorts, though I think here he has improved upon the structure, as it’s more prose and less script, if that makes sense. The book really wouldn’t work if Jones was trying to satirize the genre, but his obvious affection for and intimacy with slasher movies helps elevate it into something really brilliant and fun; as with the best examples of pastiche, it’s engaging in a conversation with its subject even as it’s replicating it.

The next one is a bit of a cheat, as it’s an anthology that I have a piece in (which I co-wrote with Molly Tanzer): Fungi, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Orrin Grey. The broad and unusual theme led to their assembling one hell of an impressive line-up (which begs the question of why they included me, but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth). The stories, written by John Langan, Paul Tremblay, A.C. Wise, Jeff VanderMeer, Camille Alexander, Lavie Tidhar, Laird Barron, Simon Strantzas, and Nick Mamatas, to name just a few, run the gamut of what you might expect from the premise of “fungal fiction,” and the hardcover special edition has illustrations by Bernie Gonzalez and extra stories by Claude Lalumière, E. Catherine Tobler, and J. T. Glover. Mostly dark and really unusual, I can’t recommend this weird, unique book enough.

And speaking of Orrin Grey, who co-edited the above, I recently read his debut short story collection Never Bet the Devil. It’s a first rate assembly of what I would describe as pleasant horror stories—Grey’s emphasis on atmosphere instead of shock tactics and ultra-violence is downright refreshing. I tore through this book in no time at all.

Finally, I’ve been making my way through The Book of Cthulhu II, edited by Ross E. Lockhart. It’s a great collection of both original and reprint stories, and a highly worthy follow-up to his first Book of Cthulhu, which I thought was one of the best Lovecraft-inspired anthologies I’ve ever read. Old standbys like Neil Gaiman’s “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar” and Friz Leiber’s “The Terror from the Depths” are always welcome, but what really makes it something special is the inclusion of newer, progressive voices in Lovecraftian fiction, such as by Caitlin R. Kiernan, W.H. Pugmire, Livia Llewellyn, Cody Goodfellow, William Browning Spencer and the aforementioned Molly Tanzer and Orrin Grey. For those with the Innsmouth Look, this is a great addition to the canon, and for those who have prematurely dismissed HPL and his heirs as schlock, this should prove a persuasive refutation.
Learn more about The Folly of the World at Jesse Bullington's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Folly of the World.

--Marshal Zeringue