“Squeecore” and the Cartoon Mode in SF/F

The podcast RiteGud recently did an episode called “A Guide to Squeecore” that’s been causing quite a bit of buzz in SF/F circles. It touches on a number of topics and makes some good points about the uglier aspects of the contemporary genre establishment: behind the pride flags and celebrations of diversity, it is authors wealthy enough to afford expensive writing workshops who make valuable connections, while real outsiders remain on the outside. At the same time, a climate of complacency has led to such incidents as last month’s Hugo Awards being sponsored by Raytheon.

But the main focus of the podcast is the assertion that this cliquishness has led to a single aesthetic dominating modern SF/F, which the speakers Raquel S. Benedict and J.R. Bolt dub “squeecore”. They decide against naming any specific works that fit this aesthetic until some brief comments at the very end, however, which muddies their efforts to define squeecore.

I have nothing substantial to add to the podcast’s observations about backroom politics, so this post will concentrate on the question of the squeecore aesthetic. I’d also like to stress that none of the observations in this post should necessarily be taken as criticisms or objections: while the podcast is heavily critical of squeecore (even the chosen label is derisory) if the aesthetic exists, there’s room for it to be discussed in neutral terms.

Continue reading ““Squeecore” and the Cartoon Mode in SF/F”

The House of Eddas: Loki’s Cousin (and Magneto) in Journey into Mystery #109

Well, it’s been a while, but my off-and-on series about Norse mythology in Marvel’s Thor comics is back. Once again, though, I’ve arrived at an issue that really doesn’t have much to do with Norse mythology — even in the Asgardian back-up story. Oh well.

The main story of Journey Into Myhstery #109 is an X-Men crossover entitled “When Magneto Strikes!”, which should tell you all you need to know about how it compares to anything written by Snorri Sturluson.

The story’s opening scene reminds us that Thor is part-and-parcel of the Marvel Universe by having him view an exhibit at the World’s Fair, where a statue in his honour stands alongside similar monuments to various other Marvel heroes (including an amusing long-armed Mr. Fantastic statue).

Continue reading “The House of Eddas: Loki’s Cousin (and Magneto) in Journey into Mystery #109″

OUT NOW: L is for Lycans, Featuring My Story “Harzie Pulls the Trigger”

Doris V. Sutherland LycanPromo

I’m proud to announce that L is for Lycans, the latest book in Red Cape Publishing’s A-Z of Horror series, is out today — and my werewolf sex-worker story “Harzie Pulls the Trigger” is amongst the thirteen tales inside. I’d like to take the time to thank Emily Lauer, Kelly Jennings and Contrarius, each of whom provided invaluable beta-reading feedback.

Buy your copy of L is for Lycans today, and perhaps also check out some of the other anthologies in the series — including I is for Internet, which features another of my stories.

Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 28, the Grand Finale

Part 1 • Part 2 • Part 3 • Part 4 • Part 5  • Part 6 • Part 7 • Part 8 • Part 9 • Part 10 • Part 11 • Part 12 • Part 13 • Part 14 • Part 15 • Part 16 • Part 17 • Part 18 • Part 19 • Part 20 • Part 21 • Part 22 • Part 23 • Part 24 • Part 25 • Part 26 • Part 27

And here we go: the final chapter of Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf. While the events of the previous chapter were occurring, Grand Vizier Ibrahim has been meeting with the aristocracy of Florence to conduct diplomatic business. To the dismay of the Florentines, Ibrahim demands a hundred thousand pistoles by sunset, or else his troops will destroy the city. He also orders that the Inquisition’s prisoners to be freed, two of the novel’s minor characters — Manuel d’Orsini and Isaachar ben Solomon – are duly led into the room in chains.

Manuel’s experiences turn out to have soured him towards Christianity, so much so that he offers to become a slave to Ibrahim, “a Mussulman who can teach the Christians such a fine lesson of mercy and forgiveness.” Ibrahim declines to enslave Manuel, but concedes to allow both Manuel and Isaachar to become his travelling companions back to Constantinople. Finally, the grand Inquisitor is fined, and the 100,000 pistoles required for Ibrahim’s ransom are obtained.

Back in the palace, Francisco and his new wife Flora look down at the bodies of Wagner and the recently-departed Nisida. They are reassured by none other than Christian Rosencrux, who tells him that the two souls have gone to a better place. The deceased receive funerals, and the forbidden chamber is walled up.

The final stretch of the novel wraps up the characters’ fates. Isachaar passes away as a result of the torture he endured; Ibrahim heads back to Constantinople accompanied by Manuel, who renounces Christianity and joins the Ottoman army under the name of Mustapha Pasha; years later, Ibrahim is finally killed by Demetrius and the four black slaves to avenge Calanthe; Francisco and Flora, meanwhile, each live to a ripe old age before dying in the arms of their children.

So concludes Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf. And I have to admit that, even though it shows many signs of having been made up on the fly, this is a more coherent piece of work than its fellow penny dreadful Varney the Vampire. However, anybody expecting a novel that does for werewolves what Varney did for vampires may well be disappointed, as there is very little lycanthropy in Wagner. The werewolf is but an occasional motif in what is ultimately a riff on the Faust narrative that periodically gets distracted and goes to Constantinople.

On Dryden’s Amboyna, Part 2

AmboynaPlay

See the first part of this series here.

Amongst the real-life figures included in Dryden’s Amboyna: A Tragedy are the English captain Gabriel Towerson and the Dutch governor Herman (or Harman) van Speult. Dryden gives each of these men a fictional family member: Towerson is now engaged to a native woman named Ysabinda, while van Speult has a son, Harman Junior. These two made-up characters are central to the events which, in Dryden’s telling, culminate in the Amboyna massacre of 1623.

Harman Junior, who is purportedly friends with Towerson, has become attracted to Ysabinda. He tries to court her, stressing that he has more money than Towerson, but she shows no interest. He then pleads with Towerson, offering various benefits in exchange for Ysabinda: “I’ll make my father yours, your factories shall be no more oppressed, but thrive in all advantages with ours; your ain shall be beyond what you could hope for from the treaty”. Towerson, however, dismisses this call to “make merchandise of love”.

Harman Junior decides that he has just one course of action left: killing Towerson. While pursuing the Englishman he bumps into the Dutch Fiscal. “I would, like you, have Towerson dispatched; for as I am a true Dutchman, I do hate him” says the Fiscal, although he tries to encourage the impetuous young man along a more subtle path.

Continue reading “On Dryden’s Amboyna, Part 2″

On Dryden’s Amboyna, Part 1

AmboynaPlay

A current research topic of mine is the Amboyna massacre, which occurred in 1623 on Ambon Island (or Amboyna, to use its antiquated name). The incident arose from the island’s Dutch colonists becoming convinced that their Japanese mercenaries were conspiring with a small community of English colonists to rebel; after a round of dubious confessions were extracted through torture, the island played host to a mass execution: ten Englishmen, nine Japanese and one Portuguese were killed.

Looked at from a full perspective, this incident was — in terms of bloodshed — a footnote to colonialism’s brutal trail through the Spice Islands. Two years previously Jan Pieterszoon Coen, Governor General of the Dutch East India Company, oversaw a massacre at the Banda Islands; this led to Coen himself reporting that of the native population, “About 2,500 are dead either by hunger or misery or by the sword”.

Continue reading “On Dryden’s Amboyna, Part 1″

“Express to Beijing West Railway Station” by Congyun Mu Ming Gu (2021 Ignyte Awards)

Kiera Johnson’s English translation of “Express to Beijing West Railway Station” by Congyun Mu Ming Gu can be read online at Strange Horizons.

A train passenger is viisted by an attendant in a knitted vest, who asks him for a ticket. To his surprise, his standard ticket is not accepted: it turns out that passengers are expected to show something rather more personal before they can be allowed to continue. One man presents a diary as a ticket; another has a photo album; still another shows a telephone bearing blog posts. With nothing on his person to fit the bill, the protagonist is forced to step off into the station.

This is, ostensibly, a station that he has visited before: Beijing West. Yet something has changed, the regular exits now replaced with revolving doors attended by staff members who – like the ticket-collector on the train – wear knitted vests and demand a special sort of ticket. Things get even stranger when the protagonist tries to see the square outside the station, and witnesses nothing more than an expanse of grey mist. The traveller finally receives an explanation from the “auntie” who sits knitting in the late fares office:

Continue reading ““Express to Beijing West Railway Station” by Congyun Mu Ming Gu (2021 Ignyte Awards)”

Midnight Widows Available to Buy!

I’m happy to say that I’ve set up an online store via Gumroad, and the first product available to purchase is a digital omnibus of Midnight Widows issues 1 and 2. Scripted by myself and drawn by a team of talented artists (let by Marcela Hauptvogelova) this is the story of three sapphic vampires going fang-to-bone with a gang of zombie serial killers. Pick up your copy today!

Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 27

Chapte 63 opens with Francisco marrying Flora, after which he remembers a plot thread introduced near the start of the novel but long absent from its narrative: that is, the one dealing with Francisco’s oath to his dying father that, on his wedding day, he should retrieve a certain manuscript from a forbidden chamber.

Reynolds really does seem to be in a hurry at this point. as he has a major series of events — including the death of his title character — occur off-page before being described to the reader past-tense:

Nisida was now acquainted with the marriage of her brother, the secret chamber had been visited, the manuscript brought forth to be read; but one of the party that but a few moments before occupied that room was no more—Fernand Wagner was dead! True to the letter were the words of the founder of the order of the Rosy Cross, that “the spell which the Evil One hath cast upon thee, Fernand Wagner, shall be broken only on that day and that hour when thine eyes shall behold the bleached skeletons of two innocent victims suspended to the same beam.”

Flora and Francisco had visited the secret chamber alone, but the scream of horror which came from the bride on seeing the spectacle which there presented itself to her, brought Wagner and Nisida to their side. Instantly on seeing the skeletons, the prophecy of Rosencrux rushed on the mind of Wagner; a complete revolution came over his whole frame, beautiful visions floated before his eyes, as of angels waiting to receive him and herald him to eternal glory; then stretching forth his arms, as if to embrace something immaterial, he fell heavily to the earth, and in a few moments he had breathed his last in the arms of Nisida.

Continue reading “Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 27″

Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers: Another Chapter Published for Patrons

Graalnak
“I AM GRAALNAK”

Subscribers to my Patreon now have access to three chapters of Monster Hunters, Dinosaur Lovers, my book about the fiction caught up in the Puppy/Hugo affair of 2013-6. The latest chapter tackles the comedic stories that became a humorous undercurrent to the whole saga and stretches to 8,500 words (expanded from 1,900 words’ worth of WWAC blog posts).

Specifically, I’m looking at “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow”, “The World Turned Upside-Down” and “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt; “Tuesdays with Molakesh the Destroyer” by Megan Grey; “I am Graalnak of the Vroon Empire, Destroyer of Galaxies, Supreme Overlord of the Planet Earth. Ask Me Anything” by Laura Pearlman; “A Kiss With Teeth” by Max Gladstone; “…And I Show You How Deep the Rabbit Hole Goes” by Scott Alexander; The Builders by Daniel Polansky; Pure Attentions by TR Dillon and “The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild” by Catherynne M. Valente. Here’s a preview:

Speculative fiction has long had a close relationship with comedy. Through satire of the contemporary world, parodies of more po-faced works or simply out-and-out strangeness, generations of SF and fantasy authors have put humour to good use in their works.

As heated as the culture wars became from 2013 to 2016, it is clear that both the Worldcon regulars and the Puppies recognised the value of humour in fantasy fiction, as the following stories testify.

The Wit and Weirdness of Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Based in the Netherlands, Thomas Olde Heuvelt is one of relatively few international authors whose work reached the attention of the Hugo Awards in translated form. His fiction appeared on the Hugo ballot three times in as many years, starting in 2013 when his story “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” (“De jongen die geen schaduw wierp”) was a finalist for Best Novelette.

If this sounds like your bag then feel free to subscribe to my Patreon and read every completed chapter, which  now total more than 26,000 words between them. Plus, I’ll draw a portrait of you as a cryptid!