Tag Archives: short stories

Big Dark Hole

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Big Dark Hole: and Other Stories [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Jeffrey Ford.

Ford Big Dark Hole

Big Dark Hole is a collection of fantasy and horror stories by Jeffrey Ford. Comparing it to his previous collection A Natural History of Hell, I find that the Hole is more this-worldly in its choices, with only two stories (“The Inn of the Dreaming Dog” and “Sisyphus in Elysium”) set in realities that do not at least seem to be our world within the possible stretch of living memory.

In fact, there are a number of stories where the speaker is Jeffrey Ford, an aging writer of stories and teacher of writing, one who likes to spend the evenings at his Ohio farm house drinking wine on the porch with his wife Lynn. But these stories, which notably include “The Match,” “The Bookcase Expedition,” and “Five-Pointed Spell,” are not a bit less weird in the events they recount than the bizarre carnival story narrated by a man with two faces (“Hibbler’s Minions”) or the one in which a perennial dinner guest turns out to be no one’s friend or relation and perhaps not human at all (“Thanksgiving”).

There’s a bit of additional self-referentiality in “Five-Pointed Spell” where a Hex Doctor tells “Ford” that “In real life, the supernatural declines to explain” (186). This refusal is supposedly different than in fiction, where “it must” explain. Yet in most of Ford’s stories here, the characters grope for explanations, largely in vain, when confronted with horrors and wonders outside the scope of the mundane. If the reader is able to settle on a rationale, Ford’s touch is light enough that it will seem like a discovery.

These pieces are largely reprints from multi-author collections and periodicals, but I had not read any of them before. This book confirmed Ford as a favorite of mine among twenty-first century writers of weird fantasy.

Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams by C L Moore:

C L Moore's Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams in editions from Orion Books and Gollancz

 

The two parts of this fun book are each a suite of short stories centered on one of Moore’s characters in a different fictional world: the swords and sorcery of Jirel of Joiry (Black Gods) and the space opera of Northwest Smith (Scarlet Dreams). The entire book is full of evocatively hallucinatory fantasy and outre eroticism.

Jirel of Joiry is interesting as being a scarlet-haired “woman girt with a sword,” formulated independently from Howard’s Red Sonya (let alone the Red Sonja later created by Roy Thomas). It is almost as if the fictioneers of the pulp era were tuning in to some Platonic Idea of the Scarlet Woman. In this connection, see also the April Bell of Williamson’s Darker Than You Think.

The book is an attractive but cheaply-bound trade paperback issued in 2002 by Gollancz under their “Fantasy Masterworks” imprint. The cover shows a detail of the head of Medusa from a painting by Caravaggio, which is in allusion to the seminal Northwest Smith story (and Moore’s first-ever-published—and much re-published—fiction) “Shambleau.” Although “Shambleau” is indeed the story of encountering on Mars the creature which is the basis of the Medusa legend, Moore doesn’t describe her as looking like Caravaggio’s portrait at all. [via]

 

 

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