Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Quill & Quire weighs in...

Okay, back to the stupid collection.

Quill & Quire's November edition features a fantastic review of Monstrous Affections (which was starred) in the midst of an also-fantastic piece about ChiZine Publications and its fall releases, Objects of Worship by Claude Lalumière, and The World More Full of Weeping, by Robert Wiersema.

I cannot link to it right now, alas - Quill & Quire does not post their print editions immediately online. But I can certainly quote from Alex Good's very good review.

He speaks very well of ChiZine, which he says in its first year has filled "the homegrown horror and fantasy genre with its own compelling brand of what its website calls 'weird, surreal and disturbing dark fiction.'" He adds: "Most impressive, however, is how good the books have been."

In describing Monstrous Affections, Good maddeningly avoids the quotable tag line. But I am stoked to note that he describes my half-baked Castle-Rock-esque community Fenlan as "a town somewhere deep within a perverted version of Alice Munro country." I will not argue - although this marks the first time the name Alice Munro has been invoked in connection with anything I've ever done. Later on, he suggests that Fenlan is also a bit "eldritch" (look it up, yard-apes!), which is nearer the sort of thing one such as I might reasonably expect from reviewers.

He likes my ability to write central-Ontario mountain man: "The stories work so well in part because of Nickle's facility with the language of the place he's created. He is comfortable writing in different voices, including that of a nearly illiterate young woman in the excellent 'Janie and the Wind,' and he knows the idiom of his semi-rural environment, where a house might stand 'miles outside town, on an ugly flat scratch of land where the grass grew too high and you saw the neighbours by the smoke from their woodstoves in the winter.'"

Then, after heaping praise on Claude and Robert (I will leave it to them to yank quotes for their pieces in their own blogs) he gives Michael Rowe, the author of the introduction to Monstrous Affections, centre stage in articulating a manifesto for Canadian Gothic that puts Robert, Claude, me and ChiZine in the middle of our own little regional literary movement. To wit:

"It is impossible to experience horror - which is a destination, not a departure point - without first experiencing the security of a place, literal or conceptual, from which the ground will fall away, revealing a vast, awful blackness."

Finally Good brings it home, like so:

"In each of these three books, an archetypal Canadian literary setting becomes 'an eternally rediscovered country,' transformed by imagination. In other words: yes, it's Canadian literature. And it's fantastic."

* * *

What I like about this (aside, obviously, from the very kindly-placed star beside Monstrous Affections) is the formally critical eye that Good brings to the good work that ChiZine Publications is doing. Because really, nobody's done darklit in this country with as much care, energy and savvy as ChiZine is doing now. Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi know beautiful books when they see 'em; their designer Erik Mohr knows how to make 'em, and does, with a terrifying consistency of vision.

Darklit (I think this can become a bona fide canlit term, but I'll need your help with that, Yard-apes - spread the term!) has not really gotten its due in this country, in spite of much good work being done in the past. I'm thinking particularly of Don Hutchison, who pioneered Canadian horror in the Northern Frights series of anthologies and is a particular influence and mentor to me, and the aforementioned Michael Rowe, whose Queer Fear series staked out the territory for queer-themed horror fiction in the same way.

But if Don and Michael led lonely wagon trains - lonely by dint of the simple fact that they were editing one book at a time - Brett and Sandra are leading a full-fledged migration, with whole lines of books raising dust on the plains. Early next year, Gemma Files - one of the finest writers of short horror fiction in this country, and probably on this continent - will see her first novel, A Book of Tongues, published under the ChiZine imprint. Douglas Smith, whose fiction is a bit brighter than Gemma's or mine or Claude's, will see his story collection Chimerascope on shelves around the same time. There will be many more.

And Quill & Quire at least, has Alex Good marking a welcome for them, and hopefully paying close attention to their particulars as they arrive.

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