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December 1998
 
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Editor's Recommendations - December 1998
by Gordon Van Gelder

After my editorial last month, I feel as though I should recommend lots of science fiction, but most of the books I want to point out this month are best classified as Gothic fiction. The Boss in the Wall by Avram Davidson and Grania Davis (Tachyon Publications) certainly falls under that heading, admirably. This "Treatise on the House Devil" is a short novel about a house haunted by a wonderfully vivid and creepy bogeyman, the sort of monster that bypasses the rational brain and goes straight to the primal terror center.

"Gothic" also applies to Jack Cady's short fiction, six major instances of which are assembled in The Night We Buried Road Dog (DreamHaven). F&SF readers will recognize the title story and "Kilroy Was Here;" the other, shorter stories here are all well worth reading.

Most Gothic of all is a real oddity: Malpertuis by jean Ray (@las Press, London). Ray (1887-1964) was a Belgian writer considered by some to be Europe's answer to H. P. Lovecraft. His only previous book published in the U.S. was a 1965 paperback story collection entitled Ghouls in My Grave. Iain White's introduction to this volume suggests that Malpertuis was Ray's finest achievement. I don't know that I'd rank it with Lovecraft's finest works, but it's certainly interesting: an elliptical tale of bizarrities centered on an old stone house and a legacy wrapped within an ancient enigma. This book still hasn't quite released its hold on me.

Lastly, I'd like to recommend two books for writers. Nancy Kress's Dynamic Characters (Writer's Digest Books) is a helpful and wide-ranging guide to the craft of characterization from someone who practices what she preaches. Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin (Eighth Mountain Press) is a set of exercises and discussions that grew out of a 1996 workshop. This book's purely about writing craft - tenses, syntax, narrative strategies - and it's immensely useful, from my point of view.

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