Knox, from SerialBox

KnoxKnox is available on Serial Box. The last chapter there comes out next week, so this review is still spoiler-free.

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review.

In fact, I was offered this product, and when I read the message part of me thought something like “oh gosh, I have so much I’ve been meaning to read and I’m really not getting to most of it. Maybe I shouldn’t?” In the meantime, the rest of me had parsed “Mythos”, “noir”, and “partly by Bolander” and was typing back something along the lines of “Yes, please, thank you.”

(To be clear: the chapters from Rivera and Iglesias and Moraine are absolutely stellar, I just didn’t know as much of their work going in.)

Knox is a serialized novel set in 1930s Manhattan. Morgan Knox was a nurse in WWI and is now a PI with a knack for dealing with the weird. When the man who committed a series of murders gets shot and falls to his death in the East River, she’s hired to look into who might have set him on the spree, and from there the story unfolds beautifully.

It’s a beautiful blend of noir and horror. We meet Morgan Knox in an extremely dynamic introduction that makes it clear that she is one tough-as-nails bad-ass PI. I’m holding off on getting into spoilers, but I cannot overstate how much Morgan’s reactions to everything she dealt with anchored the world. Both her present-day visions and the past experiences that underpin her life are horrific without being gratuitous[1], and while she keeps going in them, her doing so never feels easy or cheap. Her world-weary familiarity with horror spared me needing to sit through a protagonist who just can’t believe what’s going on as the case takes on more ominous tones; her battered stubbornness and principles made me want to see her succeed so badly. And while the general thrust of an ominous villain was made clear in the beginning, I genuinely was not expecting the details of the reveal, or how the arc of the antagonist progressed. It was creepy and chilling and ultimately damn delightful, for values of delightful that cover horrific entities from beyond our world.

Then there’s the other characters – the people already in Knox’s life and the people she runs into during the investigation (there is some overlap here). I liked reading about all of them, and even those in more antagonistic roles or who only showed up briefly were clearly drawn and distinguishable from each other. Having Knox surrounded by so many well-realized characters keeps the story from being a grim and lonely one, and really brings home how much she holds back. I deliberately took breaks between reading each chapter, and I never had any trouble slipping back into the story or remembering who people were to Knox, and judging by my own reactions at a couple of points I was really invested in them being okay.

(This is my first serial, and I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the story being broken up that way. I will say that each episode felt well-balanced; the focus differed as the story moved along, and the ending always made me look forward to more, but I was never irritated at the stopping points, if that makes sense.)

As a final note, the story is mercifully not whitewashed or Hollywoodized. I find that when reading or watching noir, especially written-to-be-period noir, there’s occasionally a tendency for the story to have a lot of white straight folks. Knox emphatically did not do that, and I was glad to see that 1930s New York had actually been portrayed as a melting pot.

Recommended for fans of the Mythos (you won’t find name-checks here, but you’ll find some great descriptions and lovely horrific scenes), fans of noir with a rich setting, and anyone who wants a combination of the two with a solid and satisfying character arc.
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[1] Please note that I may have a slightly high tolerance for descriptions of the effects of violence done to others, but this is a blend of Mythos and noir, and I think the descriptions work perfectly in that context.

Ashes and ink, redux.

“Ink, and Breath, and Spring”, which was originally published in issue 40 of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, will be appearing in Podcastle!

This is the first time I’ve had one of my works done in audio format (I am morally sure that reading it aloud to myself as part of the editing process does not count), and I’m really looking forward to it. Writing the pronunciation guide was interesting; it’s not something I’d ever really thought about doing before, but of course it makes sense.

So that was a nice piece of news, today, and I’m pleased to share.

29 days and not enough time

…well that was a month.

A couple of days ago, I think I figured out why I never see any of my own work as “dark”. To me, something is dark if it develops in a chilling and unexpected, or a disturbing and surprising, way.

My own work usually isn’t unexpected or surprising to me. Therefore, it doesn’t register as dark. The implied body horror, the deaths, the strange alterations of self, the loss – that’s not dark, that’s what’s expected. (Not that these things inherently make a work dark, but they can, and they’re examples of what I’ve seen people point to.)

And yes, I have the same issue with a lot of horror – there’s very little of it that I parse as “dark”, simply because it’s horror, and that’s what I came for. It can be gruesome, chilling, heartwrenching, startling, dour, or dire – but because I’m going in expecting and hoping for that, it isn’t usually unexpected or surprising.

Aside from that, there’s been a lot going on, but a lot of it’s also been fairly personal and is in progress, so I’m going to settle for saying that I think things are improving.

On crossing invisible lines.

My story “Mechanical Connection” is out now in the inaugural issue of Cossmass Infinities, which is available from a plethora of sources here. (Seriously, I count four even if you lump all the Amazons together.) I got my copy this morning, and it’s a pretty fantastic issue; I hope you enjoy my contribution, the story of a superhero who is more comfortable with machines than people.

Animals in the dark.

My story “The Smell of Antiseptic” is available now in issue 25 of Pulp Literature; the print and ebook copies can be purchased here, although the ebooks don’t unlock until January 1. It’s my story about ghosts and animal experimentation, inspired by some documents I ran across a reference to several jobs back.

(The prices are in Canadian, by the way, in case it makes a difference.)

Should you pick it up, I hope you like it.

A tale of ashes and ink.

My story “Ink, and Breath, and Spring” is available now in issue 40 of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. It’s available in print or ebook format, and you can read my tale of a dead body found in a rather odd library alongside a beautiful collection of other works.

I am honestly very pleased that this story has found a home (and what a home). I hope you like it.

Catching up, perpetually

I have recovered from April! Unfortunately, we’re over halfway through May, so.

The combination of “fiscal year end” and “end of term” was interesting. I really enjoyed the chance to teach, and from the (safely anonymized) student comments I didn’t do too badly?  I’d like to do it again (although as a part-time professor, I won’t get the chance until winter).

I’m currently looking for stories to recommend for a slightly updated version of the course. I’m largely trying to keep it to prose, and looking to the Hugos and Nebulas as a filter, but it’s still going to be a bit of work.

I went to TCAF this weekend past! It was honestly fantastic, and I had a great time. Came back with a few more books than I was expecting, but it was a great weekend, and the trip each way gave me a lot of time to read. I’m hoping to get some reviews up.

On a personal note, I just handed in my comments on the page proofs of a story that should be coming out later this year, and I’m generally feeling pleased with that.

Towards the dark of the year

A simple carving job, but a pleasant result.

Barrelling on at high speed towards winter, now. Hallowe’en was nice, if quiet; we resorted to putting a jack o’lantern out on the front porch and a small sign asking people to follow the honour system, and then refilling the candy bowl regularly.

I’m working on NaNoWriMo, but rather than aiming for thousands of words, I’m aiming for hours of editing. It’s going pretty well so far; I’ve revised one story, and done the first half of my revisions on another.

(The first story I revised, I’ve also come up with an idea for another change to it that I think will make it stronger, so it’s not exactly done yet. I’m just figuring out how to make the change I want without completely altering the tone.)

If you ever find a good crit group, by the way, treasure them for they are absolute gold. Sometimes you genuinely do not see what is wrong with a story and then three people very gently tell you that you appear to have started a 21-page story on page 9.

Also, the Kickstarter for After the War kicks off on Monday, and I’ll be sharing my story “Interview with Cortesa Singh” then! Hoping you enjoy it.