Saturday, October 21, 2017

October's Dark Prince Steve Niles

I have read a great amount of horror and supposed horror over the last 50 years.  Some of it is technically great, but doesn't evoke fear in me.  Some of it is flawed but scares the shit out of me.  I think Humor is a deeply subjective and relative genre.  Horror is even more so.  What scares me might not you.  What I hate you might love.  Horror is hard, I think, for many to write or imagine, because who knows what lingers in the hearts of others?

As a reviewer I have suggested readers find various titles, but I realize, I might enjoy them and you think they suck.  But I refuse to suggest works I dislike, to appease others, or to suit another reader's taste.  As such, while I think there are numerous works worth reading, for me, they are concentrated in a small number of writers of different levels of skill and differently prolific.

For me the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard's take on Cthulhu, Anne Rice, Alan Moore, Brian Lumley, Jamie Delano, Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley hold a special place on my book shelf and in my heart.  Fifteen years ago I added to this list Steve Niles.  I like his prose better than his comics, but I like his comic writing a helluva lot.  One of the reasons, perhaps, that I like his prose better is the lack of an artist to illustrate my mind's eye's horror.  In general I prefer prose for story telling than movies or comic books.  I suspect I am able to imagine scary things via the author's words more than the art to illustrate those words.

Some of the reviews I've read of Steve's work is either YAY I like it or Blech I don't like this.  I do not know altogether why, except perhaps I can explain by an anecdote.  On a movie review site I read a review about a horror movie and the person writing clearly hated the work.  All of the other reviews were 5 stars.  But I thought, I wonder if they've written other reviews, and yes, they had.  And while they seemed to enjoy a great many things, of their horror movie reviews, all received 1 of 5 stars.  I have not watched most of the movies she/he wrote about, but it was clear to me, regardless of quality, they hated the genre of horror.  And anything the reviewer watched sucked because of that.  I really do like Steve's works, and while I have some small quibbles about various small things, none of those matter.  I have only the product before me, and I am not the creative talent writing.

The horror he presents is viscerally powerful.  And while I'd say his bad guys in his works evoke more disdain than horror, more disgust than fear, it works.  The discomfort is very powerfully created.   I have heard from various people that they felt 30 Days of Night was horror porn.  I do not agree, but, this sort of response might be part hatred of horror, or a entirely that horror works too well.  I'd say, for me, if you go to a horror movie and hate it because you were scared, that is a bit like going to the beach and getting pissed off for all of the sand.

His works with Bernie Wrightson did not work as well for me as his work with Ashley Wood or Ben Templesmith.  This is probably going to be perceived as sacrilege.  But, again, you like and prefer what you like.  I will say that I prefer the giant monsters (Kaiju) to the core Universal Monsters, so, I sometimes wish for more and different subjects.  But that is because I am so familiar with the werewolves, Frankenstein's monsters, and vampires that I want what I haven't had enough of.  That is, Yes, I like this ______, I hope he does something with a giant monster soon.

 Of all of Steve's work I'll say some I like more than others, but what I liked the most was Freaks of the Heartland.  The story is of a group of kids with oddities of their flesh that cause them to be perceived as "freaks".  Along with beautiful art that is highly expressive, there is the written aspect of the story that is really sweet and filled with compassion for others.  Who knew a guy who only wears black t-shirts and loves horror could have a warm heart?

I write all this to say I think if you like horror, you will like this.  I might be wrong, I often am, but in this case it wouldn't be because what I am offering isn't good, or only good for the genre and format, no, this is good, whatever elitists and weinies think.  His works fit comfortably in my taste zone.  I think people, especially comic book reading people, are often small minded.  So, I understand not liking what you would never try.  People often do that, and for me it is alien.  I want to taste everything, and by doing so I refine my tastes.

As usual, by writing this and promoting Steve's work, the cynically minded will accuse me of having my nose up his ass cheeks.  I promise, Steve and I are acquaintances but by no means buddies.  I like him, but, what I really like is his writing.  So if you in the midst of writing such an email, perhaps you should stick it straight up your black hole.

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