Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Scotsman Abroad | The Cost of The Croning

Today's post serves a pair of purposes. The first, as is traditional with The Scotsman Aboad, is to point you in the general direction of something I've had published elsewhere, and on this, the afternoon before the eve of All Hallow's, I find I have a fearsomely fitting review to share.

The Croning by Laird Barron is an oddly intimate novel of cosmic horror:
Laird Barron's first novel has been a long time coming. To great acclaim amongst certain circles, the Alaskan author has spent in excess of a decade contributing short stories to an array of magazines and anthologies. Many of his most notable efforts have been reprinted in year's best collections—all four editions of The Best Horror of the Year, edited by Ellen Datlow, feature Barron's distinct fiction—and upon their assembly into The Imago Sequence and Other Stories, and later Occultation, his dread dialogues were showered with honors and nominations, including but not in the least limited to nods from the Shirley Jackson Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Bram Stoker and the Locus.

One comes to The Croning, then, with great expectations, anticipating horror of the highest order, and indeed, this is delightful dark fantasy, as delicate as it is inevitably devastating.

Fittingly, it begins with a drastic recasting of Rumplestiltskin:

"That venerable fairytale of the Miller's daughter and the Dwarf who helped her spin straw into gold has a happy ending in the popular version. The events that inspired the legend, not so much." (p.1)

Thus, in the opening phrases of The Croning, Barron begins this juxtaposition of the down to earth with what we might describe as out of this world.

If you missed The Croning upon its publication earlier in 2012, as I confess I did, I can't imagine a better time to get stuck into this delicately damned debut than now; clearly, it's ideal reading for the creepy season.

But wait! There's more...

You know how they say the best things in life are free? I call nonsense. Invariably, in my experience at least, though the best things in life sometimes appear to be gratis, in actual fact they often cost an awful lot of money. Like Strange Horizons, say.

In short, Strange Horizons is a depository of awesome authors. Of considered opinions, canny columns and incisive criticism; of moreish poetry and fantastic fiction. I honestly don't know what the hell they're thinking publishing my rubbish, but the very idea that they do, from time to time, makes me feel like one of the luckiest bloggers about.

In any event, every year Strange Horizons runs a fund drive, so that the site can pay its contributors - including yours truly - professional rates, as well as cover any other overheads. And with the end of 2012 fast approaching, the time has come to raise the funds the magazine requires to continue through 2013.

The progress rocket is tracking $5k of donations at the time of this writing, but to hit the topmost target - which will mean free podcasts of the stories Strange Horizons publishes, and a 50% rate raise for reviewers and those who compose poetry - to hit the topmost target, we need to get another six grand together.

This is more than the site's ever asked before, so the management are offering rewards to those whose donations hit a certain threshold, including t-shirts, sponsorships and the ability to choose a book for us to review.

All the details are here.

So if you get any extra money whilst out trick or treating this year, why not considering giving it to a worthy cause? Genre-oriented resources don't come any better than Strange Horizons, in my eyes.

And in some small way, you'll even be helping me, because - take a breath! - improved pay rates mean more Monopoly money in my personal PayPal account to spend on more books to review here on The Speculative Scotsman for free.

And that would be good. :)

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