Tuesday, December 22, 2009

See No Evil, Say No Evil by Matt Betts

Poetry can be a tenuous thing, especially in the world of speculation. Hooray for champions like Matt Betts, whose chapbook See No Evil, Say No Evil collects some fine examples of speculative poetry that manage to cut a razor's edge between funny and poignant without alienating a reader.

Take "The Redneck Future that Awaits Me" for example. The speaker understands his social position might not be improved in the science-fiction future, but at least "we will have conquered rust".

Then you have the laugh-out-loud "Nobody Eats Porridge Anymore" in which the bears exact a brand of revenge on the "little blond girl".

One of my personal favorites is the brief "Science 101 Destroys All Hope"...something I've been trying to tell a few of my colleagues for years. Maybe finding a penny doesn't lead to good luck, but who wants to live in that world, anyway?

There are no heavy rhyme schemes or rigid meter to contend with in these poems, and you won't find allusions lost in Greek and Latin history. No, the only prerequisite for reading See No Evil, Say No Evil is a sense of humor and appreciation for the imaginative. A good background in late night B-movies doesn't hurt, either.

See No Evil, Say No Evil is still available directly from Matt Betts for the ridiculously low price of $7 + S&H. Go on, choose evil.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fourtold by Michael Stone

Michael Stone's Fourtold (Baysgarth Publications, 2008) is a special book, a collection of four novellas/novelettes with each operating on a different level of dark fantasy.

The first offering, "San Ferry Anne", as the least "speculative" of the tales, gently ushers the reader into Stone's world, allowing his prose--simple and eloquent--to paint a story of two friends coping with the aftermath of The Great War.

"The Reconstruction of Kasper Clark" comes next, leading the story's namesake to a bizarre clinic run by the devil. The "clinic" helps cure Kasper's condition (his mouth is located in the middle of his forehead), but leaves him with a strange addiction. Stone makes the most of the devil's playground, creating weird scenes and fantastic characters that somehow feel normal...at least in that strange place.

"The Terracotta Warrior" is largely a romping bit of old fashioned pulp fiction fun. Even so, Stone's characters are well rounded and believable--more than the cardboard "types" which populated the pulps of old. At its heart a monster story, "The Terracotta Warrior" also tells a tale of courage in unexpected forms.

Finally, we have "Lemon Man". From the first page, the reader feels as disoriented as the protagonist(s), but Stone is in control. Two seemingly separate narratives intertwine, only to come together in truly magnificent fashion in a story that touches family, love, friendship...even heaven and, in a manner, hell. Stone's ability to paint the truly fantastic world at the heart of "Lemon Man" left my brain reeling.

Fourtold is a great sampler of Michael Stone's work. I found his easy prose, his natural, descriptive style, and near flawless presentation a joy to read, even when describing terrible angels or undead guardians of ancient tombs. I'd recommend the book to anyone with a taste for dark fantasy...especially something a little different than the usual tropes which tend to choke the genre.

Buy at Amazon.com