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Orrin Grey

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Obres de Orrin Grey

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Painted monsters is Orrin Grey's second, though by no means sophomoric, short story collection from Word Horde. Monsters are one of Orrin's favorite things, and that sense of wonder and fun comes through in the writing here, making this a great entry point if you aren't familiar with his writing. As is pretty typical of these collections, there are Author's notes accompanying each of the thirteen pieces here, providing context, interesting anecdotes, and/or information on where they have previously appeared.
I will admit, the first story is a bit of a bumpy start with the written dialogue preserving the protagonists' rather heavy accent. 'The Worm That Gnaws' originally appeared in audio format on Pseudopod, and regardless of how one feels about that podcast overall I'd suggest giving it a listen. I think the format works better for this story in particular.
The next two stories give us different, original, takes on vampires. I don't know whether the title of 'The White Prince' is a nod to 'The Lair of the White Worm' or not, but I am now sure I never want to know about the vampiric origins of the Hypnotoad. And while Orrin says for him the keynote in 'Night's Foul Bird' is Murnau's Devil, for me the titular Robert Blair quote perfectly encapsulates the outsized dread and menace he builds in this relatively brief story. Which incidentally unites my love of silent horror films and my partner's love of birding (though I doubt they would approve of the fate of some of these birds). As a comedic exercise on a second reading, picture Harvey Birdman in the role of Mr. Birdman.
'The Murders on Morgue Street,' as you might guess, are related to 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue.' Which, if memory serves is third or fourth Poe story I ever read, and like all of them left some pretty vivid visual impressions on me. We get a worthy interpretation of it through a series of other inspirational hoops Orrin outlines for the reader. One of which, another personal childhood touchstone for me, are the orange Crestwoood House Monster books. Definitely worth a nostalgia perusal should you come across them.
Like the Giallo inspired 'The Red Church,' 'Ripperology' is one of the few stories set in his home city and be even more timely now than when it was written given the surging popularity of true(-ish) crime. Don't balk at the fact that this is yet another bit of Ripper fiction, non-fiction, or speculation atop the mountain that already exists. This is as refreshing and original as 'From Hell' was in its own time or as my personal favourite, JMS' use of the ripper in Babylon 5.
Amidst the broken memories and hallucinatory imagery, 'Walpurgisnacht' is thickly packed with allusions to the literary canon, cinema, and folklore. You should not only read this, but really unpack as many of those as you can. This is certainly no Fantasia 'Night on Bald Mountain' (though that may have been my favourite sequence as a kid).
'Remains' picks up the tempo a bit as both a short piece and one with a bit of direct man-on-spirit action to go along with fun supernatural investigation, maybe with shades of Matheson's Hell House?
The next pair of stories are both some degree Lovecraft inspired. While Orrin may have thought he ended up closer to Hodgeson's 'House on the Borderlands' than Lovecraft's Dreamlands stories with 'The Labyrinth of Sleep,' I don't know that I agree, or that it matters. The dreamlands stories have actually always been among my favourite of Lovecraft's, and I think they've been sadly passed over as inspiration for a lot modern "Lovecraftian" authors. 'Borderlands' (and to an extent, 'Nightlands') has always felt like it was part of the same milieu to me, so 'Labyrinth' was a nice callback to that particular sub-genre. With 'Lovecrafting' we get a structurally unique tale, mixing film treatment and fragments of stories by a fictional writer. This also kicks off a bit of a mini-thematic arc of stories connected to the creation of films.
The narrator of 'Persistence of Vision' walks us through what the movie version of the ghost apocolypse might look like as he relates it to us. Besides the overt J-horror references here, the image of the mummified medium at the heart of the machine brings to mind Tetsuo the Iron Man and (again for me) the horror of the slaved living beings at the heart of JMS' Shadow-tech. And sticking with southeast asian cinema, those familiar with the crazier than fiction story of Pulgasari are going to recognize a number of elements in 'Strange Beast.'
This arc culminates in the final story in the collection, 'Painted Monsters', telling a tale packed so full of cinema references you'll still be finding easter eggs in November. Its the longest piece here, and clearly one that Orrin had a lot of fun with. Don't worry about not being well-versed enough to appreciate or even notice all the references, this story of a multi-generational family of film makers is still going to be a lot of fun. I'm not nearly as knowledgable about horror cinema as Orrin, and I certainly loved it.



… (més)
 
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jdavidhacker | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | Aug 4, 2023 |
Orrin is another of the great writers delivering excellent work from the heart of the Great Plains. Skeletons, presumably, don't mind the less than ideal climate in these parts. "Black Hill" is even set in these often bleak, flat plains, and has some echoes of Bierce's "The Damned Thing". I would also place him alongside Kenneth Hite in terms of how broadly and deeply knowledgable he is on a wide array of subjects, so whether its this collection or another, if you come across what appears to be an allusion or obscure reference, its certainly not accidental. "Count Brass" is a good example, with the title being a callout to one of the still living greats of romanticism influenced epic fantasy, and plenty of references throughout to be appreciated by jazz/blues fans. I believe my exact words about him when I had the opportunity to share his work with Patton Oswalt were, 'He's one of the most erudite people working in horror that I've had the pleasure to talk to.' Oh yeah, and he loves his monsters. "A Night for Mothing" and "Goblins" are some great examples in this collection of his unique, sometimes sympathetic, takes on 'monsters'.
I love a good deal with the devil story, and you will definitely find those here, though the devils in question may be varying degrees of literal. This is one the first of Orrin's collections, and you're going to get a pretty wide range here. Whether its the titular fragment, "Never Bet the Devil", or the near novella length mashup of Mike Mignola comics, universal studios horror, and jewish folklore, "The Mysterious Flame" the pacing in tone and length are not what one might expect but rather the ideal rollercoaster of ups and downs to keep the reader moving along without ever knowing what to expect.
As I haven't yet mentioned it, those looking for evidence of broader representation in modern horror will not want for it here. 'Protagonists' are not the authorial clones of the Lovecraft era. Ethnicity, religious belief, gender, and sexual orientation range widely, and are communicated deftly in a way that informs and enriches the work without making itself a dominant theme. The Barker influenced "Devil in the Box" gives us one such protagonist while reminding us of all those creepy jack in the boxes that those in their 40s-60s might remember from childhood. And "The Barghest", well, you decide what the narrator is.
"Nature vs. Nurture" gives us an interesting, and in some ways sympathetic, take on ghouls. I would love to see juxtaposed with some of McNaughton's ghoul stories in a themed collection someday. The atmosphere, as well as the different (though both masterful) ways in which action is depicted would make good side by side.
"The Seventh Picture" lets Orrin play in the world of what I suspect is his greatest love, cinema. I say cinema rather than a particular genre or era of film for two reasons. One, the love and attention paid to the process of film making itself is evident. Two, this brings together cinematic & literary influences as wide ranging as the gothic and found footage films.
"The Reading Room" is an interesting inversion of the relationship between books and the supernatural. It also should hold some appeal for all of us...after all, who loves to read and *doesn't* dream of having an entire floor of their house as dedicated library/reading space? As someone who loves to read, this has the same nightmare feel for someone like me as "Time Enough At Last" from The Twilight Zone.
"Nearly Human" gives us Wuthering Heights (and really, if you haven't, make time to read such a classic ghost story) meets Matheson's "Hell House" (like Orrin, its also one of my favorite haunted house stories). If you love spooky old houses, secret passages, and the forgotten dead, you'll feel right at home here.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the amazing artwork of M.S. Corley that accompanies each story, at least in the Strix Publishing edition (I'm assuming the original Worde Horde edition as well). Creepy with an edge of humor at times, just like Orrin's writing.
… (més)
 
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jdavidhacker | Aug 4, 2023 |
Occult antiquing
who knew junk was so haunted
do ghosts add value?
 
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Eggpants | Hi ha 1 ressenya més | Jun 25, 2020 |
I’m fond of “cosmic horror,” and a fungal-themed anthology posted under the horror genre sounded right up my alley. While I enjoyed Fungi, it wasn’t entirely what I was expecting. Quite a few stories were more whimsical in nature and seemed to have little of horror to them. As is frequently true of anthologies, which are of necessity put together to someone else’s scheme and preferences, you’re unlikely to enjoy all of the tales equally. Mild content warning for self-harm, all sorts of methods of death, and some slurs.

The book starts off well with John Langan’s Hyphae, in which John goes home to find out how his father is doing now that his mother has left. Though the place seems perfectly clean, it gives off a horrific stench. When John follows this to the basement and a tunnel dug out into the earth, you know things can’t possibly end well. This one was short, bizarre, and creepy, just the way I like ’em. A little later in the book, Kristopher Reisz’s The Pilgrims of Parthen involves a strange mushroom that’s started popping up. It enables people to visit a mysterious, seemingly uninhabited city, and users become obsessed with finding out the city’s secrets. I also liked Goatsbride, by Richard Gavin. It tells the tale of a dying old god and what happens when invaders come to his land. One of my favorites in here was Laird Barron’s Gamma. It’s a very unusual road to telling a tale of the fungal takeover of the world, and it made me shudder. Cordyceps Zombii, by Ann K. Schwader, is an elegant and intriguing poem.

Paul Tremblay’s Our Stories Will Live Forever involves a man who’s afraid of flying who takes an ill-fated flight. The man next to him gives him something, saying, “take this if you want to live.” This is a fascinating story with an intriguing run-on style. A.C. Wise’s Where Dead Men Go to Dream sees Jonah going to a woman who “sells dreams” in order to find out what happened to his missing lover, and the results are fascinating. Daniel Mills’s Dust from a Dark Flower tells us a tale of a 1700s village in which gravestones have started to disintegrate precipitously into spores, and the spores aren’t content to stop there. The Shaft through the Middle of It All, by Nick Mamatas, explores a bit of vengeance wrought by a woman when her community garden gets torn down for a gentrification project. Note that the main character does refer to some characters by slurs, although it seems that this is a case of characterization rather than author editorialization.

The second story, Lavie Tidhar’s The White Hands, totally jarred me. The atmosphere was about as different as you could get from the first tale, and it isn’t my cup of tea. It’s a collection of… maybe encyclopedia entries? It details various organisms and events and places, gradually laying out a strange world in which the “Human-Fungi Accord of 945” seems to have been followed by quite a few years of strange events, like a pirate captain (half-human, half-fungus) called “Scarlet Hood,” and the rise of a deadly empire. It’s… interesting. Camille Alexa’s His Sweet Truffle of a Girl struck me similarly. In it, Morel has created, through the abilities of Dr. Crimini, a living, organic, puffball submersible. His goal is to impress the father of Amanita, the girl he loves–only the maiden voyage doesn’t go as planned. Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington wrote Tubby McMungus, Fat from Fungus. The main characters are cats, a rat, and some bats, and Tubby himself is a merkin-maker (a maker of pubic wigs). A wager results in Tubby stealing some strange materials to make the very best merkin out of, resulting in terrible consequences. Yes, cats with pubic wigs. I don’t even know what to say. I’ll give it to the authors–this has to be the most creative tale in here, and that’s saying something.

Andrew Penn Romine’s Last Bloom on the Sage was in-between for me. It’s a depiction of “the spore-changed West”, where Duke Winchester is working with tentacled beyonder Legs McGraw to rob a train. It has a touch of horror to it, but it’s still kind of whimsical and humorous. Jeff VanderMeer’s Corpse Mouth and Spore Nose is another in-between: it’s definitely creepy, but the ending is fairly silly. Still, the writing style drew me in. A Monster in the Midst, by Julio Toro and Sam Martin, involves a man and his automata tracking down the source of a globe-spanning fungal infection. It has a bit of that larger-than-life steampunk vibe to it, and it feels incompatible with the style of horror I was looking for. Chadwick Ginther’s First They Came for the Pigs sees a wealthy man trying to hire people to deal with the fact that all of his people are turning up killed by fungal growths. He goes with several men underneath the city, where he comes face-to-face with something awful. Ian Rogers’s Out of the Blue sees a real estate agent for haunted properties teaming up with a detective who works on supernatural cases. This story is a bit predictable, but fun to read–and it hints at a wider world that I’d like to read about.

Steve Berman’s Kum, Raúl (The Unknown Terror) is a nice tale of a fungal terror in Mexico, but the presentation is dry and straightforward, robbing it of that frisson of horror. I enjoyed the not-so-horrific tale of Wild Mushrooms, by Jane Hartenstein, in which a cancer-stricken mushroom hunter goes into the woods to die, but it felt like it sort of stumbled to a halt. It’s nice and poignant, however. Lisa M. Bradley’s The Pearl in the Oyster and the Oyster Under Glass pulled me in, but I’m still not sure what to make of it. Main character Art is a bear? Or not a bear but wants to be a bear? Or not a bear but a phantom bear? Anyway, the tale involves cleaning up an oil spill using mushrooms. It’s kind of surreal, but it does avoid being excessively random, which tends to be a peril of surreal writing. Go Home Again, by Simon Strantzas, is an odd tale of a young woman coming to terms with her father’s death and her mother’s disappearance. It feels like it could have been pared down a little, but it’s an interesting read.

Some of the stories read like the authors decided to try out some hallucinatory mushrooms before they started writing! Midnight Mushrumps, by W.H. Pugmire, reads this way to me. I don’t even know what to say about it. Polenth Blake’s Letters to a Fungus is a delightfully hilarious piece made up of letters by one of those people who sees themselves as being the neighborhood HOA police, constantly writing letters and making complaints about everything. In this case, she has some complaints about the fungal growths in her garden (although I can’t blame her for making a fuss when they eat Aunt Mabel).

Overall I’m glad I read this anthology, but I’m also glad it wasn’t priced very high. Hopefully now that you’ve read this you have a slightly better idea than I did of whether this would suit your tastes.
… (més)
 
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modioperandi | Hi ha 2 ressenyes més | May 12, 2020 |

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Obres
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35
Membres
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Popularitat
#104,834
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½ 3.7
Ressenyes
14
ISBN
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