Stephen King vs. H.P. Lovecraft

Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft (most famously known for the cthulhu mythos) are two of my all time favorite authors. They are similar in the sense that they are both extremely famous horror writers who are widely acknowledged as masters of their craft and legends in the horror genre. However, it occurred to me the other day that the similarity ends there. Within the horror genre, they are at absolute opposite ends of the spectrum.

Mr. King’s genius is in capturing the “every man”. He is so good at capturing a slice of life, painting a picture that is so ordinary, that you’re absolutely sure it could be you. The horror is that it could happen, really honest to god could happen, and close to home too. When you read a Stephen King story, you kind of feel like the story was written by a nice guy, a friend of yours, to whom you can relate.

H. P. Lovecraft

Lovecraft is the opposite. Somehow he’s able to capture something so awesome and alien that your mind shudders to comprehend it. Lovecraft’s horror relies on a sense of majesty, a sense of wonder. The horror is that it’s so big and alien that there’s absolutely nothing you could do about it. In fact, there’s nothing anyone could do. Lovecraft doesn’t disrupt suburban “every man” utopia by bringing the story into your home, he destroys your home, the world, and everything in it. When you read an H.P. Lovecraft story, you kind of feel like the story was written by an alien in human skin, or, best case scenario, a strangely lucid lunatic.

King’s heroes are every men as well, the duty usually falling to kids, housewives, or middle-aged, small town sheriffs. Lovecraft has no heroes. In a Lovecraft story, you’re the hero if you survive, period (with or without sanity intact). That’s really the best you can hope for.

So both are frightening for their own, very different reasons and I wonder if anybody enjoys both ends of the spectrum as much as I do?

I guess the take away is that the horror genre is as wide and deep as the tentacle of great H’chtelegoth himself.

Fiction Podcasts Part II – The Rest

Continuing on with the great “best of” audio podcast lists from Diabolical Plots, I’m now going to delve into the smaller, or less well known audio podcasts. As is often the case with things like this, these ones are definitely diamonds in the rough and deserve some coverage!

Drabble Cast – Horror-ish? (best of lists here and here)

Drabble Cast bills itself as “strange stories by strange authors for strange listeners (such as yourself)”. Well, I must be strange, because I think this is my favorite of all of the podcasts (and I’m not even through the whole list yet)! I don’t know if it is because these stories are even shorter (the longest pieces are “flash fiction”, and there is also a “drabble” (a story of exactly 100 words) and “twit-fic” (a story of exactly 100 characters). I can usually finish an episode of each leg of my commute. You can check out some of my favorites, such as Teddy Bears and Tea Parties (NOT as nice as it sounds! Very creepy!), or the science-fictional Mongoose (part I, partII). Note that this podcast is very produced, almost more like a radio drama than a simple reading of a story. At first this was distracting to me, but after I got used to it, I kind of liked it.

StarShipSofa  – Science Fiction (best of list here)

This podcast can only be described as adorable. It is so clearly by the people, for the people and the host is such a nice guy, that you can’t help but love it. However, I would definitely not recommend this for everyone. It’s a lot more than just audio fiction. Although they do include at least one story in every episode, it’s more like one feature among many, instead of the main event. The very, very long episodes contain author interviews, genre news, genre history, upcoming book releases, etc. If you’re really into science fiction in general, then there is a lot to offer here. If you just want to hear some fiction, you’re probably better off with something else. But if you’re going to listen to any random episode, why not start off with the one containing the fantastic Pump Six by Paolo Bacigalupi (if this podcast has done nothing else for me, it has at least taught me how to pronounce Bacigalupi!)

Beneath Ceaseless Skies – Fantasy (best of list here)

Beneath Ceaseless Skies describes itself as “the best in literary adventure fantasy”. I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant until I listened to some of the stories. It’s fantasy, but it’s sort of more unique fantasy. Again, we’re not talking about traditional sword and sorcery here. It’s more equivalent to high fantasy meets…strangeness or something. Sort of lyrical world building in a non-traditional setting. For example, check out Mamafield, a story from the point of view of a sentient plant, or Father’s Kill (what can I say, I’m just always a sucker for the dark ones!)

Cast Macabre – Horror (best of list here)

Maybe I’m running out of steam here, but I don’t have much to say about this one. The stories were good and I enjoyed all the ones I listened to. Definitely worth checking out.

Clarkesworld – Science Fiction and Fantasy (best of list here)

I haven’t actually listened to any of these yet, so I can’t say much about it. But there was a best of list, so I will make it there eventually.

Anybody else have any good fiction podcasts? Anybody listen to any of these and have some comments to share? Which were your favorites? Let us know in the comments!

Fiction Podcasts Part I – The Big 3

I spend a lot of time listening to audio fiction. I mostly download full length audio books from the library, but it later I discovered that there are a lot of sites and podcasts out there that do weekly episodes of short fiction.

I have always enjoyed short fiction, but it seems to work especially well in this format. It usually takes me a couple of weeks to listen to a novel, but I can do a piece of short fiction in a day or two, maximum. There are advantages to each length, but I really have been enjoying getting in the car and anticipating a totally new story. It provides great variety.

Most of these have been going for a long time, so there are hundreds of episodes out there. So, you can go browse these sites yourself, or you can do what I did: go off one of the “best of” lists out there on the Internet. I’ve been using the lists over at Diabolical Plots (Get it? Plots? Diabolical Plots?) to get a run-down of where to start. Now certainly my tastes aren’t exactly the same, and I’m sure I’m missing out on some great stories, and on the other hand I don’t always love the stories selected, but it gives me a pretty good flavor of what’s going on there.

When it comes to speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, and/or horror) podcasts, there are three that sort of stand out from the rest as being especially well known and high quality, one for each genre. I don’t think you can really go wrong with any of these, so just pick the appropriate one for the genre you like (or pick all three if you can’t choose, like I did). Again, all of these feature really good short fiction, which can be downloaded totally free. What’s not to love?

Escape Pod – Science Fiction (best of lists here and here).

My super, super condensed list of favorites include stories that vary from hilarious (Connie, Maybe, or The Love Quest of Smidgen the Snack Cake) to poignant and sad (Barnaby in Exile). Anybody who thinks science fiction can’t be moving should really check the last one out!

PodCastle – Fantasy (best of lists here and here).

This one really runs the gamut of fantasy, from the more traditional fantasy (Sir Hereward and Mr. Fitz Go to War Again) to other, very dark fantasy (The Mermaid’s Tea Party). Note that fantasy here doesn’t necessarily mean traditional sword and sorcery, but many other things in between (take Sir Hereward and Mr. Fitz up there…very interesting and non-traditional).

Pseudopod – Horror (best of here and here).

Horror is a genre that I just can’t help but come back to. I love it! So I have a lot of personal favorites here: Hometown HorribleThe Evil-EaterSuicide Notes, Written by an Alien MindThe Button Bin,  and Bottle Babies, to name a few. Particularly, you should stick with Hometown Horrible. It starts slow, but wow does it finish strong!

Stay tuned for tomorrow when I cover some of the smaller fiction podcasts!

The Long Short Story

I have a story that weighs in at about 12,700 words, and I am really having some trouble finding a home for it.

There are a lot of venues that take long stories in certain genres, such as literary, high fantasy or straight up science fiction magazines. However, I would classify this particular story as horror or dark fantasy, and these are apparently genres that are not very friendly to novelettes.

After sending it to a small handful of pro markets who accept longer pieces, I’m looking at token payment or “for the love” (i.e. non-paying) markets to find someone who will entertain the length. The thing is, I think this is one of my stronger stories, and I’m not ready for it to sink all the way down to token or no payment already! For some genres, like short science fiction, there are so many pro and semi-pro markets, that even my very first stories are circulating at high pay magazines. Stories that I don’t consider as good as this particular story.

So what do I do? I’m not completely sure yet. I’d hate to trunk a story after just a few submissions. On the other hand, I’d hate to sell the story for little or nothing if it never really got a fair shake at a higher pay rate.

In the meantime, I’m trying to be a little more inventive in my searches, looking for outside-the-box markets that I don’t normally submit to. For example, literary magazines that aren’t specifically genre magazines. I feel like this makes the most sense in this case, and is also the advice I would probably get from long selling pros. I might be at a disadvantage being that they might not look favorably on genre stories, but on the other hand, my genre story might be the only one in the slush, and might be a welcome change of pace.

You never know if you never try. I know for sure I won’t sell it if I stop sending it out.