S.P. Miskowski’s I Wish I Was Like You Explores the Writer’s Inner World

Like many really good novels, S.P. Miskowski’s I Wish I Was Like You can’t easily be summarized in one sentence. If someone were to ask me “what is it about?”, I imagine I could competently outline the plot: After Greta’s washed-up crime-writing instructor Lee Todd viciously criticizes her fiction submission, she moves to Seattle and pursues a short-lived journalism career, before she’s murdered in a manner that’s assumed to be a Cobain-copycat suicide. Obviously, there’s more to it than that, but there’s the gist. But in terms of plot, this novel reads more as a deconstruction or a fun exegesis than as a simple transcription of Event A, followed by Event B, etc. The novel mixes up chronology and even point of view, peppering Lee Todd’s dogmatic writing rules throughout, before almost always coyly breaking said rules within the next handful of pages.

Read my full review in “Thorn’s Thoughts,” a column on Unnerving Magazine‘s website.

Thorn’s Thoughts: Dark Screams Volume Seven

Dark Screams: Volume Seven is one of those rare short story collections that provides not only a wide variety of styles, voices and plots, but also a clear thematic unity. To be sure, this book has been carefully and thoughtfully assembled. Released by premier horror press Cemetery Dance, it comes as no surprise that the names on the cover read almost like a “who’s who” of genre superstars. Consider the editors: Brian James Freeman’s work has been published by a number of presses, including Warner Books, Leisure, Borderlands Press, and Book-of-the-Month Club, and Richard Chizmar recently collaborated on the novella Gwendy’s Button Box with Stephen King. I cite these credentials as evidence for a reason: Freeman and Chizmar work at the vital center of contemporary mainstream American genre fiction.

Read the full review on Unnerving Magazine‘s website.

New Story “Sabbatical” in Dark Moon Digest #28

My story “Sabbatical,” about a dissertation-writing reprieve gone horrifically awry, is now available in Dark Moon Digest #28.

Issue synopsis: In the twenty-eighth issue of Dark Moon Digest: a hardware store offers a rewards program you can’t refuse; an Internet meme goes viral in more ways than one; a little girl gets a new pet; a woman loses her sense of identity; a man and woman reluctantly do their job; a starlet gets more than she bargains for; a father gives his son a special 18th birthday present; and two college students isolate themselves in a cabin in the woods to finish their dissertations. Fiction by Tom W. Miller, Patrick Lacey, Phillip A. Myers, Shannon Lawrence, E. M. Hurst, Robert Dean, Ryan C. Bradley, and Mike Thorn. Columns by Jay Wilburn and George Lea, and reviews of Entropy in Bloom by Jeremy Robert Johnson and Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King.

The issue is available to order here.

Devious Dialogues: Mike Thorn and A.M. Novak on Stephen King’s It

: I went into the novel at age 14, but I was already aware of Pennywise the Clown, having peeked around the corner as my parents were watching the miniseries on tape, when I was far too young to watch such things. Tim Curry’s vicious performance was the source of many nightmares I had as a child. The clown, I believe, taps into our collective fear of the uncanny, a trepidation of the vaguely familiar. What was your first encounter with Pennywise, and what is it that makes him such a resonant horror icon, in your opinion?

Mike: I think I read Stephen King’s novel and saw Tommy Lee Wallace’s miniseries right around the same time, when I was 12 or 13. I can’t remember which one came first, the book or the adaptation, but they were both major presences in my adolescent and early teenage years. They’ve both stuck with me ever since, especially the book, which I’ve re-read several times. I keep coming back to the miniseries, too.

To answer the second part of your question: I think you’ve summarized what makes Pennywise such a memorable figure – he perfectly represents Sigmund Freud’s object of “the uncanny.” Sometimes, I wish that the popular narrative surrounding It wasn’t defined so prominently by the figure of Pennywise, since he/it’s only one of many conduits and expressions for fear. At the same time, I can’t deny that King’s child-killing, sewer-dwelling clown is such an eerily distinct character.

Read the new “Devious Dialogues” entry in Vague Visages.

Thorn’s Thoughts: A Critical Review – “Reality is Horror in James Newman’s Odd Man Out”

It would be just as reasonable to label James Newman’s Odd Man Out “realist” fiction as it would be to call it “horror fiction.” These kinds of category-based distinctions too often and too easily slip into banal generalities about “merit,” but I raise the issue partially in order to identify this novella’s profound, vital, and distinct modus operandi. I do think Newman is very conscious of the horror genre here—not only of what it is, but more importantly of what it can be, what it can do. It starts with affect, but it doesn’t end there.

Read the full review on Unnerving Magazine‘s website.

Making the World Strange in Daniel Braum’s The Night Marchers

I’m fascinated by this book’s recurring tensions, between sensitive, humanist character dynamics and that which absolutely and totally exceeds the human. Certainly, this tension arises often from the kind of mysticism described in the author’s bio (consider “Hurricane Sandrine,” “Mystic Tryst,” and “Music of the Spheres,” which is the collection’s strongest piece by far).

Read the full review on Unnerving Magazine‘s website.