Silk by Caitlin R. Kiernan
I'm trying to remember how long ago I first read Silk. It may have been as much as ten years ago, when the book was new. I can't say for sure, but I can say that few books have stayed with me the way Silk has. Even when I'd forgotten the details of the plot, images remained: the horror of the climactic scene, the kudzu-strangled trees. A few years after reading Silk, I went on a road trip through the South, and I couldn't help but think of Spyder Baxter when I saw a clearing where the trees had been so swallowed by the kudzu, they resembled ivy-covered pillars of some ruined church.
I reread Silk in one sitting last month, on a night when I was in a melancholy mood and snow was falling hard outside. I'd forgotten that there's a freak snowstorm in Read More
Caitlín R. Kiernan(1964- )
Kathleen Tierney is a pseudonym for Caitlín R. Kiernan. Caitlín R. Kiernan was born near Dublin, Ireland, but has spent most of her life in the southeastern United States. In college, she studied zoology, geology, and palaeontology, and has been employed as a vertebrate palaeontologist and college-level biology instructor. She is a four-time nominee for the World Fantasy Award and a two-time nominee for the Shirley Jackson Award. Besides her speculative fiction, she publishes scientific papers and comic books. She fronted the goth-rock band Death’s Little Sister in the late 1990s. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island. Visit Caitlín R. Kiernan’s website.
Silk — (1998, 2004) Spyder Baxter is the patron saint of the alienated and lost. She invites them into her mesmerizing world of ritual and ceremony, blood and fire… a realm of vengeful gods, of exiled spirits harboring the dark secrets of Hell — and the darker secrets of Heaven. But is she their guardian angel — or a much more terrifying force sent not to redeem, but to destroy?
Silk by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Chance & Deacon – (2001-2007) In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers and Alabaster are stories about Dancy Flammarion. Publisher: Chance Matthews, a troubled young woman grieving over the death of her grandfather, stumbles upon a bizarre fossil among her geologist grandparents’ artifacts, a discovery that lead to an encounter with a strangle girl who claims to have been charged with the task of battling monsters and who is out to enlist Chance’s assistance in her quest.
Daughter of Hounds by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Always on the lookout for a new author to sink my teeth into, I decide to read Caitlín R. Kiernan when I came across her novel Daughter Of Hounds. Upon further research, I discovered that this was merely the newest entry involving psychic Deacon Silvey. Knowing that, I decided to check out Ms. Kiernan’s previous works first, starting with her sophomore effort Threshold. After completing the book, I admit I was torn. On the one hand, Threshold offered a lot to like: flawed, yet interesting characters; a thought-provokingly surreal world to explore; and a promising new talent in Ms. Kiernan whose gifted prose definitely made the story shine. On the other hand, I felt that the book’s ending was too ambiguous for my tastes — even if that was the author’s intention — and left me feeling ... Read More
Blood Oranges by Kathleen Tierney
Tired of vampires? Or werewolves? Or girls who can dispatch the critters with no effort, swinging a stake through the heart as if it were a knife through butter? Yeah, me too. But give me a vampire who is a werewolf who is also a young female human hunter of vampires and werewolves, and we’re in business. Make her the unreliable, foul-mouthed narrator of her own story, and you’ve got Kathleen Tierney’s Siobhan Quinn in her first adventure, Blood Oranges.
“Kathleen Tierney” is Caitlín R. Kiernan, one of the finest writers of horror fiction working today, trying her hand at urban fantasy. Tierney isn’t satisfied with a cookie cutter approach to the genre, however; she wants to make it her own. So her heroine is a teen who ran away from home at the age of 12 for very good reasons. Quinn has live... Read More
The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan
What a strange book! Then again, I know never to expect the expected when reading Caitlín R. Kiernan.
The story centers on Sarah Crowe, a writer who moves to an isolated house in Rhode Island after her lover's death. Beset by writer's block, she finds herself unable to write the novel her contract demands, and instead becomes obsessed with an old manuscript she finds in the basement. This manuscript was written by a previous tenant of the house who died before he could complete it, and is a collection of lore concerning a mysterious red oak tree on the property. Sarah begins a diary of sorts, interspersed with passages from the manuscript, which chronicles her life in Rhode Island: her anguish over her lover's death, her tumultuous relationship with the new tenant who moves in upstairs, and her increasingly creepy experiences with the red tree.
... Read More
The Red Tree by Caitlín R. Kiernan
“… The truth, of course, is that all first-person narrations are, by definition, unreliable, as all memories are unreliable.”
The Red Tree, by Caitlín R. Kiernan, is a terrifying horror story with the masterful use of an unreliable narrator. Kiernan’s language and structure build a tale that draws the reader into a world darker and stranger than first imagined, then leaves us questioning everything we thought we understood.
Kiernan also pulls an authorial stunt that left me irked; yanking aside the fictional curtain a third of the way through the book and grinning out at the reader. This is showing up in more and more work; apparently it’s the spawn of post-modernism. Whatever it is, I don’t like it.
In The Red Tree, Kiernan is successful at two levels of... Read More
The Ammonite Violin and Others by Caitlín R. Kiernan
A while ago, I bought a number of books in a Subteranean Press clearance sale. Eleven books with a huge discount, but I didn't know what I would be getting. As it happened, the package contained a lot of short fiction collections, mostly of authors whose work I'm not too familiar with. The Ammonite Violin and Others by Caitlín R. Kiernan was one of these. Kiernan was completely new to me, but The Ammonite Violin and Others turned out to be a beautifully written collection of very dark short stories.
The collection contains 20 short stories as well as an introduction by Jeff VanderMeer (which, unless you have previous experience with Kiernan's writing, I recommend you read after finishing the stories; he lost me halfway through... Read More
Two Worlds and In Between: The Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan
Two Worlds and In Between: The Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan is a collection of Caitlín R. Kiernan’s works which span the years 1993-2004. In this collection there are 24 short stories, one poem, one novella, an introduction by the author, and a short afterword for each work. The stories are arranged in chronological order, letting the reader watch the progression of Kiernan’s style and the noticeable changes in her stories’ subject matter as she matures. Some of these stories are award winners and all have been published previously (though some have undergone extensive revisions since their original publication). A few have subtle connections to each other. A second volume of Kiernan’s stories will be published by Subterranean Press in 2014.
I’m certain that I was not the be... Read More
A horror story seems like an appropriate way to start a Monday morning...
Confessions of a Five-Chambered Heart by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Caitlín R. Kiernan is a powerful writer, with a prodigious vocabulary, a mastery of prose and the ability to ground a sentence with a perfectly chosen detail. Confessions of a Five-Chambered Heart, published by Subterranean Press, contains 25 works by this accomplished stylist. Many of the works have graphic sexual imagery and intense sexual violence. In many cases that is the sole intent of the piece.
I have no complaints at all with the line-by-line prose, but the anthology is a mixed bag. My copy was an advanced review copy, and there was no information provided about the genesis of each story and when or where it was published, so there is no context. (I don’t know whether the finished version will give some.) Ultimately, I don’t know if... Read More
Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery edited by Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders
Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery is a book I’ve been eagerly anticipating ever since it was first announced in 2009. I was particularly excited about the anthology’s impressive list of contributors which includes several authors I enjoy reading like Glen Cook, Greg Keyes, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, Garth Nix, Tim Lebbon, Read More
Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery edited by Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders
Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery is an excellent new anthology of original short fantasy fiction, featuring an impressive mixture of established genre masters and newer, highly talented authors. The book’s introduction, by editors Lou Anders and Jonathan Strahan, does an excellent job defining the sword & sorcery sub-genre and placing it in its historical context. This is an interesting read for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of the genre and doesn’t have a copy of John Clute and John Grant’s The Encyclopedia of Fantasy handy, but the main... Read More
Swords and Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders
As the title suggests, Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders have gathered seventeen new and original sword & sorcery tales in this anthology. The stories are written by a variety of successful authors, bringing to play a broad range of styles and themes. I’m a huge fan of sword & sorcery (it’s what got me into fantasy). So I was extremely eager to get my hands on this book.
I did find Swords and Dark Magic to be heavier on the “sorcery” than the “sword,” more so than is my preference. (Like the greatest S&S hero, Conan the Cimmerian, I subscribe to the belief that when the gods breathed life into mankind, we were gi... Read More
Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded is the second steampunk anthology edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, following 2008’s first installment. It contains about twice as many stories as its predecessor, but unlike the first collection the quality is more uneven here, resulting in a less impressive but still fascinating anthology that should please fans of the genre.
While the first anthology only contained one story I was less than happy with, there are at least four or five in Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded that I could have done without. There are also a few stories here that are at best marginally connected to steampunk, although that probably depends more on how you define steampunk. After all, there are probably as many definitions of steampunk as there are readers. Maybe the best way to defin... Read More
Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories edited by John Joseph Adams
Even people who don’t usually read science fiction will often be familiar with a few classic titles in the “dystopian SF” sub-genre. After all, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and of course the famous Aldous Huxley novel Brave New World are some of the few SF titles that have entered the mainstream literary canon to such an extent that they’ve become assigned school reading for many students. However, novel-length dystopian SF didn’t stop with those venerable classics, and can even be said to be thriving at the moment. See, for example, the recent success of Paolo Bacigalupi’s debut The Windup Girl Read More
Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2 edited by William Schafer
EDITOR INFORMATION: William K. Schafer is the head editor at Subterranean Press, which was founded in 1995. Schafer’s bibliography includes Embrace the Mutation: Fiction Inspired by the Art of J.K. Potter and the first Tales of Dark Fantasy anthology.
ABOUT SUBTERRANEAN: TALES OF DARK FANTASY 2: Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy — published in 2008 to widespread critical and popular acclaim — provided a unique showcase for some of our finest practitioners of dark, disturbing fiction. This much anticipated second volume more than meets the standards set by its predecessor, offering a diverse assortment of stories guaranteed to delight, unsettle, and enthrall. Volume two proper is a full 20,000 words longer than the first ... Read More
Supernatural Noir edited by Ellen Datlow
Horrible Monday continues its look at nominees for the Shirley Jackson Awards. If you find something horribly good to read, maybe Monday won't seem so horrifying!
Ellen Datlow suggests in her introduction to Supernatural Noir that noir fiction and supernatural fiction, with its roots in the gothic, have a lot in common. The main character in each tends to be a hard-living guy, usually down to his last flask of scotch, haunted by a sexy dame whose middle name is trouble. So it seemed natural to her to combine the two genres for an original anthology.
Despite my general rule that any anthology edited by Ellen Datlow is one I want to read, I resisted this one for a long time. Detectives looking for ghosts? Eh. Not my thi... Read More
The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
I haven’t actually read every page of The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, yet I’m giving it my highest recommendation. Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Master and Mistress of Weird, The Weird is 1126 pages long and should really be considered a textbook of weird fiction. It contains 110 carefully chosen stories spanning more than 100 years of weird fiction. Here’s what you can expect to find in this massive volume:
A “Forweird” by Michael Moorcock gives us a brief history of the weird tale, discusses how it has defied publishers’ attempts to categorize it into neatly-bordered genres, and gives examples of writers who are revered by modern readers but whose weird fiction caused them to be... Read More
After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia by editors Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
When I saw the new Datlow and Windling anthology After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia, I was so excited. I love YA fiction, I love dyslit, I love short story anthologies and I love Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling as editors, so I figured it was a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, my reading experience didn’t live up to my expectations.
After is an anthology of short stories set after. After what? Alien invasion, plague, environmental collapse, asteroid strike, it doesn’t matter. Just after. This leaves a lot of room for the authors to be creative, as they all can choose different afters to explore, and it leaves the anthology feeling a bit disjointed as you hop from one disaster to another. Technically, most of th... Read More
Brave New Worlds (second edition) edited by John Joseph Adams
This anthology of dystopian fiction, edited by John Joseph Adams, contains stories from some of the greatest names in fantasy and science fiction, including Ursula K. LeGuin, Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow and Kim Stanley Robinson. The first edition was reviewed by Stefan Raets and earned a five-star rating. I picked up the second edition to see what the new volume added.
What I found was that the entire first edition was intact. Three stories were added, along with a study guide featuring questions for some of the stories if you wanted to use this in a book club (I w... Read More
Wrong Things — (2001) With Poppy Z Brite. Publisher: This short collaborative collection contains an original novella by Caitlín R. Kiernan, an original novella by Poppy Z. Brite, and a brand-new collaborative story by Caitlín and Poppy set in Poppy’s fictional stomping grounds of Missing Mile, North Carolina. Wrong Things also features an exclusive afterword by Caitlín, 10 full-page interior illustrations by Richard Kirk.
From Weird and Distant Shores — (2002) Publisher: From Weird and Distant Shores: This collection of thirteen short stories by the award-winning author of Silk and Tales of Pain and Wonder establishes Caitlín R. Kiernan as one of today’s most versatile fantasists. Spanning and transcending the fields of fantasy, dark fantasy, and science fiction, these stories include some of Kiernan’s early and hard-to-find work, and explore the limits of that ubiquitous bane of contemporary F&SF, the “theme” and “shared-world” anthology.
Five of Cups — (2003) Publisher: This is three-time IHG award-winning author Caitlín R. Kiernan’s long unpublished, “lost” first novel. The manuscript was completed early in 1993 (with some notes and fragments for the book dating back to Kiernan’s high school days). The Five of Cups was lauded by numerous established horror authors, landed Kiernan her first agent, was the subject of a 1996 Writer’s Digest interview, and was even sold, but never published. Why? As the author says, “It’s a long story.” The Five of Cups attempts to blend the two dominant subgenres of the contemporary vampire tale, crossing the historical Gothic with the gritty, urban realism of “splatterpunk.” Grounded in the squalor of street-life in Atlanta in the early 1990s, but with an epic scope that encompasses the Irish famine of 1847, a yellow-fever epidemic in 1853 New Orleans, and the Union assault on Atlanta in 1864, Kiernan describes the novel as an “overly-ambitious jumble of competing ideas and subplots, trying to unite vampirism, the grail myth, the tarot, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, and the Arthuriad into a single, coherent storyline.” Though Kiernan has been privately offered as much as $500 for manuscript copies of the novel and major publishers continue to express interest in the work, she has refused to allow its release until now. The Five of Cups will be published solely as a limited edition, the author providing an extensive introduction relating to the genesis, history, and her present feelings about the book. The Five of Cups allows us a rare glimpse into the mind of one of dark fantasy’s most important and celebrated voices at a formative stage in her career. The Subterranean Press edition will be the only edition published and will include the following: The original introduction, written by Poppy Z. Brite in 1996. A lengthy new introduction by the author. A 1999 essay on The Five of Cups written by Kiernan for her newsletter, Facsimiles of original notes, outlines, correspondence, rejection slips, photos, and fragments from Kiernan’s files and notebooks. Black-and-white interior illustrations by Richard Kirk.
The Dry Salvages — (2004) Publisher: Award-winning author Caitlín R. Kiernan, best known for her contemporary settings, “gothnoir” tales of pain and wonder, and atmospheric stories of Lovecraftian terror, was first published as an author of dark science fiction. Now she returns to sf with a masterful thirty-thousand word novella, The Dry Salvages. Three centuries in the future, though much of Earth has been crippled by war, pollution, and catastrophic climatic change, man has at last traveled to the stars and even found evidence of at least one extraterrestrial civilization. In a bleak and frozen Paris, at the dawn of the 22nd Century, an old woman is forced to confront the consequences of her part in these discoveries and the ghosts that have haunted her for almost fifty years. The last surviving member of the crew of the starship Montelius, exopaleontologist Dr. Audrey Cather struggles to remember what she’s spent so long trying to forget — the nightmare she once faced almost ninety trillion miles from Earth.
To Charles Fort, with Love — (2005) Publisher: To Charles Fort, With Love is award-winning fantasist Caitlín R. Kiernan’s third collection of short fiction, a haunting parade of the terrible things which may lie beyond the boundaries of science, the minds which may exist beyond psychology, and the forbidden places which will never be located in any orthodox globe. To quote the object of Kiernan’s affection, meta-poet and arch-enemy of dogma Charles Hoy Fort, “The little harlots will caper, and freaks will distract attention, and the clowns will break the rhythm of the whole with their buffooneries — but the solidity of the procession as a whole: the impressiveness of things that pass and pass and pass, and keep on and keep on and keep on coming.” A deceptively even dozen, this collection includes Kiernan’s celebrated stories “Onion” and “Andromeda Among the Stones,” as well as a number of more obscure pieces. Though Kiernan was recently praised as “the new Lovecraft,” these stories stand as testimony that she will never be merely the “new” anyone, that hers is a unique and demanding voice entirely unlike any other.
Tales from the Woeful Platypus — (2007) Publisher: In 2005, Caitlin R. Kiernan surprised her readers with, Frog Toes and Tentacles, a small-form hardcover of darkly weird erotica. Now Kiernan follows that sold-out volume with a second collection of her unique brand of erotica, Tales from the Woeful Platypus. Like its predecessor, this book will be illustrated by acclaimed artist Vince Locke (The Sandman, Batman, A History of Violence, Deadworld, etc.), and also like the first volume, it is unlikely ever to be reprinted.
Beowulf — (2007) The novelisation of the movie. Publisher: Who will come to the aid of beleaguered King Hrothgar, whose warriors have become the prey of the vengeful outcast monster Grendel? A grand and glorious story that has endured for centuries, the ageless classic adventure takes on a breathtaking new life in a remarkable new version for a modern era. Brilliantly reimagined by acclaimed, award-winning author Caitlín R. Kiernan, based on the screenplay by #1 New York Times bestseller Neil Gaiman and Academy Award-winning screenwriter Roger Avary, it is the tale of a noble liege and a terrible creature who has cursed his kingdom with death, blood, and destruction — and of the great hero, Beowulf, who is called to a land of monsters to triumph where so many have failed… or to die as so many of the brave before him.
Tales of Pain and Wonder — (1998) Publisher: This collection of twenty-two short stories by the author of Daughter of Hounds and Alabaster, originally published in 2000, firmly established Caitlín R. Kiernan as one of the preeminent voices in dark fantasy today. Through a cycle of interconnected narratives, Kiernan unflinchingly explores a surreal world where the fantastic and the mundane are never separated by more than the insubstantial thickness of a shadow. From the murderous backstreets of New Orleans to an abandoned shipyard of the Hudson River, from sun-weary Los Angeles to a maze of dank and forgotten tunnels beneath Manhattan, these stories present a landscape at once alien and undeniably familiar. Including such acclaimed tales as “Estate” (selected for The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror), “Postcards from the King of Tides” (selected for The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror), “In the Water Works” (the basis of Kiernan’s award-winning second novel, Threshold), and “Tears Seven Times Salt” (to be reprinted in The Century’s Best Horror), Tales of Pain and Wonder is destined to stand as a modern classic of weird and supernatural fiction. This edition includes a new, previously unpublished story, as well as an introduction by Douglas E. Winter and an afterword by Peter Straub.
A is for Alien — (2009) Publisher: A is for Alien is award-winning author Caitlín R. Kiernan’s first collection devoted entirely to her science-fiction work. It includes the critically acclaimed novelette Riding the White Bull (chosen for The Year s Best Science Fiction, 22nd Annual Collection), along with seven other tales of a less-than-utopian future. Ranging from the wastelands and mountains of Mars to the streets of a late 21st-Century Manhattan, from the moons of Europa and Saturn to an iceless Antarctica, these tales bring Kiernan s trademark brand of the eco-gothic to bear on what it means to be human and the paths and decisions that may face mankind only a little farther along.
The Drowning Girl — (2012) Publisher: India Morgan Phelps — Imp to her friends — is schizophrenic. Struggling with her perceptions of reality, Imp must uncover the truth about her encounters with creatures out of myth-or from something far, far stranger…
The Ape’s Wife and Other Stories — (2013) Publisher: Caitlin R. Kiernan has been described as one of ‘the most original and audacious weird writers of her generation’ (Jeff and Ann VanderMeer, The Weird), ‘one of our essential writers of dark fiction’ (New York Times), and S. T. Joshi has proclaimed, ‘hers is now the voice of weird fiction.’ In The Ape’s Wife and Other Stories — Kiernan’s twelfth collection of short fiction since 2001–she displays the impressive range that characterizes her work. With her usual disregard for genre boundaries, she masterfully navigates the territories that have traditionally been labeled dark fantasy, sword and sorcery, science fiction, steampunk, and neo-noir. From the subtle horror of ‘One Tree Hill (The World as Cataclysm)’ and ‘Tall Bodies’ to a demon-haunted, alternate reality Manhattan, from Mars to a near-future Philadelphia, and from ghoulish urban legends of New England to a feminist-queer retelling of Beowulf, these thirteen stories keep reader always on their toes, ever uncertain of the next twist or turn.
“The Melusine (1898)” by Caitlin R. Kiernan is this week’s offering by Subterranean Online. It is a wonderful story, written with an unearthly beauty. Kiernan imagines a steampunk circus that comes to town advertising its name in letters five-stories high, “shaped from out of nothing but the billowing clouds of red dust raised by those rolling broad steel and vulcanized rims." The circus is made of automaton mastodonts and living elephants, and no one can tell if the acrobats are mechanical or real. It promises miracles.
Cala Monroe Weatherall is “a learned woman of industry and science” who comes to the circus in answer to a secret cry, “a dream so vivid and bizarre that she might almost name it a nightmare.” She has been summoned – somehow, some way -- to the sideshow, an... Read More
I am happy to report that Weird Tales has grown weirder since Ann VanderMeer has taken the helm as Editor-in-Chief. This is to be expected of the co-anthologist (with her husband, Jeff VanderMeer) of The New Weird, an collection of tales essential to the library of everyone who loves the truly strange; and the co-anthologist of an enormous anthology due out sometime soon from Atlantic called Read More
The spring issue of Subterranean is exceptionally strong, even for a publication known for its excellent fiction. The six long pieces in this issue seem to be somewhat thematically linked, most of them having taken some form of art as their theme.
In “Painted Birds and Shivered Bones” by Kat Howard, an artist named Maeve has gone for a walk, seeking both fresh air and perspective, when she sees a naked man crouched beside a cathedral. She reaches into her purse for her phone, but when she looks up again, the man is gone. In his place is a beautiful white bird. How could she have confused a bird, no matter how large and beautiful, with a naked man? Regardless, the bird proves to be a remarkable inspiration, and Maeve is soon working on a series of paintings of mythological birds. But what of the bird who inspired her? Maeve is not finished with him. He is a man under... Read More
Nightmare Magazine has been very good from its first issue, but the May 2013 issue, the eighth, is extraordinary.
The magazine opens with “Centipede Heartbeat” by Caspian Gray. Lisa believes that centipedes have invaded the home she shares with Joette, her lover. Worse, she believes that the centipedes have actually invaded Joette: “Each time Lisa rested her head against Joette’s breats, she heard the centipedes. In between heartbeats there was the tiny sound of hundreds of chitinous footsteps against bone, of miniature mandibles tearing at organs.” It’s a horrible situation, especially because Joette refuses to admit what is happening — or is Lisa insane? At any rate, Lisa feels she has to cure Joette of her infestation. Her behavior is logical, from her perspective, though Lisa’s perspective seems warped. But is it? The exterminator she has had in to consult says the place is crawling with the insects, but it d... Read More