The Sexual Act is in Time what the Tiger is in Space

Have some Bataille for your troubles. Go on; he won’t mind. He’s dead. Sort of like that space tiger.

It’s no secret that I have a special relationship with Silent Hill. From Silent Hill 2‘s rightfully over-lauded melancholia to Silent Hill 3‘s no less intellectual garment-soiling primal fear, these are not just some of the most intelligently designed, ambitiously unsettling, symbolically charged video games out there. They’re my definition of the apex of horror, outclassing nearly any film or book you can throw at me (Brian Evenson is a special case). I even loved the original game, despite its wooden acting/animations and repeated textures (the attention to detail, potent with hidden meaning, is part of what made later games so special), and don’t get me started on Silent Hill 4‘s woefully under-appreciated take on perspective, space/habitation, and good old Oedipal themes.

Then the movie came out, and somehow the original geniuses behind the series got dropped from the equation. No longer a series, Silent Hill has become a franchise, farmed out to a succession of little-known Western developers. While the new games usually have something to recommend them, it’s as though my favorite sleepy-creepy town has finally been taken over by McDonalds, Starbucks, and tourists. Now, there’s nothing wrong with tourists; I’ve been one on several occasions. But nothing can bring DOOM to a small town quite like a bunch of tourists clogging the streets with metered parking and the air with sunscreen.

I was understandably wary when Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was announced. A retelling of the original game, from the developers of the unmentionable Silent Hill: Origins? On the Wii? With ice monsters, glowing doors, and an “innovative” approach to combat? I went right on being wary for most of the time I spent playing the game. Then I got to the end, and was surprised to find that, despite its hideous flaws, I loved it. Then I played it again immediately afterward, and eventually got around to writing a review. Don’t let the length of this post fool you; this isn’t it. The review is, as per usual, on Innsmouth Free Press. Want a taste? Well, I suppose I can indulge you, just this once.

When Shattered Memories really works, it plays on our knowledge of past events to create an uncanny sense of déjà vu. The brilliant psychological framing device complements this unanchored feeling: As the story unfolds, the concerned doctor will frequently interrupt with questions or activities, such as colouring in a picture or responding to Rorschach blots. The player’s responses then feed back into the story, subtly altering characters’ dialogue or appearance. The final impression is of an obsessive loop, a story that must be revised and embellished endlessly, literally warping reality until it fits the truth. Unfortunately, the truth the teller wants to convey and the truth the psychiatrist wants to hear are often at odds.

Read the full review here.

The Final Word on Spontaneous Generation

Innsmouth Free Press just announced their June 2011 issue, which will include, among other tasty morsels, my short story “On The Generation of Insects,” a nauseating and hallucinatory take on the experiments of Francesco Redi of Arezzo. A complete list of featured authors can be found in the lovely maroon-and-spirals cover art right over there ——->

If it’s been a while since 7th Grade Biology, Redi was a 17th-century Italian physician and naturalist whose “Experiments on the Generation of Insects” offered some of the earliest persuasive evidence in contradiction to the then widely-held belief that certain lower animals, such as insects and vermin, didn’t reproduce the way humans do, instead springing up all on their own given the right conditions. “The right conditions,” in this case, refers not so much to candles and wine as to goat dung or discarded bales of hay. Redi also wrote a badass fraudulent treatise on the origin of eyeglass, in response to an even more badass lecture from his friend Carlo Dati titled “The Invention of Eyeglasses, Is it Ancient or not; and When, Where, and by Whom Were They Invented?”

The story won’t be published for about another month, but, in the meantime, you can check out Redi’s original experiments on the American Libraries Internet Archive. There’s something about the revolting subject matter (maggots forming on raw meat) and the author’s scrupulous (Dare I say scrumptious?) attention to detail that combine to create a deliciously repugnant and utterly compelling read; I had to work hard not to copy/paste the entire text and call it a horror story. Perfect for all you closet Goths* out there.

*Postscript: referring, of course, to the gothic subculture, not to the East Germanic tribe composed of the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths. Though any Ostrogoths out there are welcome to give it a read as well. No Visigoths, though, the smug bastards.

More @!$# Zombies

I thought we had an understanding. I thought I made it perfectly clear last time that I don’t…particularly…care…for…zombies! Yet here we are again: different day, same putrescent walking metaphor for vapid consumerism. This time, the kindly folks over at Innsmouth gave me the opportunity to review Paul Jessup’s novella, Dead Stay Dead. The publisher, Zombie Feed Press, should have given me a hint, but I took the bait anyway. After all, the book was billed as “what…you get when you cross Buffy the Vampire Slayer with equal parts Shaun of the Dead and MacGuyver.” The trouble is, in a zombie…er, consumerist society like ours, nothing’s ever as advertised. Here’s a fleshy nibble of my final take on the book:

The zombie horror subgenre has already been ground to dust beneath so many shuffling literary heels. While Dead Stay Dead offers no major innovations to revitalize it, there is a ghost of creative potential still clinging tenuously to its dull bones. However, the novella form is the story’s coffin, a restrictive space at which it scratches and pounds, but can never quite escape to stretch its pale limbs. Jessup has conjured up a small-but-enticing cast of characters from the loam, and the drama they enact strives toward the epicness of the better of Stephen King’s offerings. Unfortunately, too many limbs had to be lopped off to fit it within its narrow box; the chains that should have tied everything together are left dragging at the end. Dead Stay Dead is the skeletal cadaver of the epic novel it could have been, had it not been streamlined to death.

Read the full review here.