Sometimes I sit here and reflect on how extremely fortunate I am to know smart people who agree to work on projects with me. It’s through some wonder of fate that I’ve managed to convince Jack Guignol to continue participating in Bad Books for Bad People, our two-person, twice-a-month book club disguised as a podcast. We had a blast with our two most recent episodes and if you enjoy the very bizarre side of vintage fiction, you should probably check these out.
Ray Russell’s Incubus is one of those books that comes up a lot in horror fiction circles. My pal Unkle Lancifer at Kindertrauma has discussed it, I endured the horrifying film adaptation of the book, and after Will Errickson recommended giving it a shot during our conversation with him, I took the plunge. Some time after the folksy doctor writes a “witty” editorial disparaging the use of the term “Ms.” and well before the magical properties of the hymeneal blood of nuns comes into play, I realized this book was something that Jack and I would need to discuss together. So we did, and it was the most fun (if perhaps a little scarring). Listen here.
I had another such “we have to cover this” experience when reading through the massive Big Book of Rogues and Villains, edited by Otto Penzler. It takes a very particular set of personality traits to chuckle at an anti-suffragette comedy involving phrenology and jewel theft, but I possess exactly those personality traits and felt the need to inflict the tale on Jack. We traded short stories in this mini episode, and I feel a little guilty that he sent me something sophisticated and intellectual when I presented him so proudly with my silly dustbin treasure. It’s the nature of our friendship, I guess. Listen here.
A little more about The Big Book of Rogues and Villains: I’m having the same experience reading this as when I read the Megapacks available for the Kindle. It’s terrific that anthologists are unearthing a lot of overlooked or “lost” pulp authors and I find myself tearing through these compilations when I get my hands on a new one. Every time, though, I experience the “too much of a good thing” moment where I begin to anticipate the shape of the stories within the first couple of paragraphs. At that point, I need to take a break and acknowledge that these stories are best consumed one at a time, interspersed between lengthier reads. Essentially, I’m the dog that will eat itself sick on garbage, except the garbage is made up of trashy short stories.
During our recent Best of 2017 episode, Jack reminded me I should read Becky Cloonan’s By Chance or Providence, a compilation of three short stories in comics form that are not at all of the trashy variety. I sure am glad I remembered to read this, because each section packs an emotional wallop in remarkably few pages. I adore Cloonan’s artwork and got to meet her briefly at Roadburn last year where I was able to tell her how very much I love her work. It’s a wonderful experience to get a chance to tell artists that they’re making the world a more excellent place by putting their work out into it. But seriously–check out her work for a second and see how much atmosphere she captures in just one page:
Speaking of historical gothickry, Jack’s much-anticipated new role-playing book, Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera has just been released. Jack is a gifted writer and fantasist, and the book features beautiful art by Becky Munich and Michael Gibbons. You can purchase your copy via Drive Thru RPG. Just check out that cover: