Monday, December 9, 2013

Some thoughts on John Langan and Klein's Dark Gods

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A little heads up, this isn't an academic breakdown of Langan's stories but some thoughts that came to me when reading Langan.

John Langan is interesting. He's interesting because of his postmodern metafictional and at times, highly experimental narrative take on the horror genre. Not only postmodern but an academic deconstruction and subtle reconstruction while commenting on what makes horror, horror. Reminds me a bit of Tarantino. He's commenting on the films and genres he likes, taking it apart and then building it right up with a joyish glee to it; Langan does the same but with horror. 

Let's take "The Revel", a werewolf story. But it's narrative is built around a somewhat academic break down of the werewolf genre and story and it's characters. He's begins the werewolf story, how one might start, with a chase. Within the chase, he breaks down the components of a chase scene with werewolf and it's victim. Describing it, telling us the important of it while slowly and subtly building a werewolf story out of it's deconstruction. In a way, we're getting two or more stories out of these; it's break down, why it matters and a building of an actual werewolf story. He continues this through out the story, deconstructing a werewolf's stories setting, characters and motivations. Giving us a multi-perspective view on the werewolf genre/story and then making a story out of it, just like he did in the first part with the chase. It's hard to explain because this is something that only works when there's a reader to it. I say that because, we, are part of Langan's story. We are giving the deconstructive and reconstruction life and meaning. Hell, Langan even deconstructs us, the reader, and how we play a role in reading. How we put ourselves in the shoes of the predator and the prey and the people trying to solve the mystery. How the reader plays a role in bring the words to life and giving meaning and adds our perspective the already mulch-perspective world that Langan has created; it's beautiful to read and experience.

In "On Suka Island" he's doing the same thing, well almost, that the did in "The Revel". "On Suka Island" he starts the story with his characters commenting on the horror genre as a whole and it's metaphors and symbolism. Then the topic gets on mummies and how horror stories start and from there, Langan beings his reconstruction of a horror story. He starts with the thing he just deconstructed, mummies and how horror stories start; an old archeologist starts his mummy story he's experienced with the exact way the character were just commenting on how horror stories start. I know I'm repeating myself, but it's hard not to when you're describing a Langan story. 

An other example is "Technicolor". In "Technicolor", we see a professor talking to his class about Poe's The Masque of the Red Death. The professor is slowly taking Poe's story apart and seeing what makes it tick and what makes it work. While this goes on, Langan starts to slowly build his story into the professor's breakdown of Poe's story and building his on Masque of the Red Death. Just like "The Revel", we have a lot of stories and components being broken down, rebuilt and inserted. As "Technicolor" continues, the story gets more and more surreal and we see that Poe and The Masque of the Red Death become more than an academic breakdown and becomes something that will harm us. I don't want to get to deep into it because it will ruin the surprise.

When he's not doing postmodern stories, he's working with the usual tropes and theme of a horror story but giving them a unique and modern twist. And this is why I love reading Langan's work; it's so unique. 

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I have yet to finish Klein's book but I'm halfway through it (only have two more stories), so this is more of first thoughts than a breakdown.

Klein's work is something that gets a lot of praise and talk around horror writers and readers. A masterpiece, highly influential and widely accepted as one of the best horror books ever written. I have never heard of Klein and Dark Gods and when I first heard this, I had to seek it out and read it. Sadly, it's out-of-print but getting a copy isn't too expensive. Bought myself a copy and was excited to sit down and delve right into. After reading two of the four novellas, I can easily see why it's so loved; Klein knows how to tell a great fucking horror story.

When you read Klein and if you know something about the boom of horror that occurred in the 80s, this book does a great job capturing that boom and why it happened. I'll expand on that when I do a full post on Dark Gods.

The characters, mostly men, remind me of some of Fritz Lieber's men. That is, they're highly rational, educated but somewhat uncaring to feelings of the people around them. They can be unfaithful and complete dicks to those they love and are highly flawed. So when the horror strikes them, they can't deal. They try to rational it away but the horror is too strong, too huge and too horrific for them to do so and they get hurt; they get hurt bad.

Also, Klein's amazing ability to to slowly build his horror out of the smallest things and decisions is amazing to experience. Small decision or spots that we don't think much of but they play an important role to the overall picture. So, they all build off each other and add to the growing tension and horror of the story. To the point where it climaxes and overtake our protagonists. Klein is one hell of a skilled writer. 

I'm very happy that I decided to check this book out. Because with this, I get to see the how it influenced the horror genre and some of my favorite writers.

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