The Real Consorts with Shadows

Lessons in Speculative Fiction from The Twilight Zone

Anthology horror has crawled back from the dead to haunt your TV screens once again. It’s shifted into shows like American Horror Story and Channel Zero, where the stories are seasonal rather than episodic. It’s creeping back with more familiar programs like Black Mirror, Guillermo Del Toro’s 10 After Midnight, and in Jordan Peele’s upcoming Twilight Zone reboot.

In light of this, I’d like to take you on a journey to place where sights and sounds may astonish you, a place you’ve never been, a dimension of the mind, in the Twilight Zone.

I’ll be rewatching the original series and writing short articles about what makes the episodes work. The goal is to figure out exactly what made the classic show as good as it was and offer advice for other writers (really it’s my advice to myself) on how to make speculative fiction pop.

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Critique’s Group on A Murder of Storyteller’s Podcast

Over the last two weeks, we’ve been discussing critique groups—how to pick one that works for you and how to be a good member of a community. You can listen to them here (Part 1) and here (Part 2). Happy listening!

She Could Fly Ends Its First Arc with a Flourish [Review]

There aren’t many characters in fiction who deserve a happy ending as much as Luna Brewster, yet she’s riddled with bullet holes on the cover of She Could Fly #4. What happens on covers doesn’t always happen in the issue — something I learned as a seven year old buying only the comics with my hero Wolverine on them only to find that he was barely in them. Writer Christopher Cantwell and artist Martin Morrazzo double down on foreshadowing the sad ending more in the first panel: Luna dressed as Death from Ingmar Berman’s The Seventh Seal. The message from that cover and that panel is clear: death is coming.

She Could Fly #4 is the last in the first arc, and so anything can happen. Luna can die. So can anyone else. Verna showed up at the Brewster family home with the MacGuffin plans at the end of last issue. It’s not long before the next guests arrive, all of whom have violent intentions for the Brewsters. Everyone who’s been chasing the accelerator converges for an epic climax.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

Oursonette is the Best Part of War Bears #2 [Review]

Some writers stay in one genre for the whole career. They find what they’re good, where they excel, and stick to their strengths. Others flit between them. No one else switches genres quite as well as Margaret Atwood, who’s found great success writing dystopian scifi with The Handmaid’s Tale, historical fiction with Alias Grace, fantasy with the Maddadam trilogy, domestic realism with Cat’s Eye, as well as finding success as an essayist and short fiction writer. With War Bears, Atwood has entered into the realm of comics for the second time.

There are parts of the comic writing genre that Atwood nails. War Bears is a sendup to the black-and-white World War II propaganda comics that Atwood read growing up. The story within the story—Oursonette—nails that aesthetic. It’s partially the art of Ken Steacy, but completely in Atwood’s writing. The German’s that Oursonette and her bear sidekicks Ursula Major and Ursula Minor fight Nazis who yell in caricatured German accents. “Zat’s vun less shipload of relief for those verdammt Soviet schweinhunz.” The first Oursonette within War Bears #2 also ends with a plea from the fictional editors: “Be sure to reserve your copy of the next exciting issue of Oursonette from a newsagent near you, and join the good fight by buying victory bonds, too!” These true-to-life details make Oursonette feel like it was written during World War II, not today.

Keep reading at Wicked Horror!

Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men #2 [Review]

Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men #2 picks up where the last one left off. Dempsey injuries were worse than he’d led on, so Lundy leads the Wise Dogs to a friendly veterinarian. Through the pictures on the walls and some explanations to Miranda, a new trainee, Dorkin and artist Benjamin Dewey start to flesh out the world of the Wise Dogs, hinting at how the dogs learned magic.

Once they get Dempsey to the safe haven, he confronts Lundy. They’ve been friends long enough that he sees through Lundy. But Lundy and the rest of the Wise Dogs leave Dempsey with some guards to recuperate. It’s hard to tell if Lundy’s lying to save face or if there’s something more sinister. It’s part of what’s making this spinoff so good.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a Good Adaptation of a Great Book [Review]

I’ve heard two fundamental schools of thought about what a cover song should do. In one, a song is radically transformed. Think of the way Johnny Cash transformed Nine-Inch Nails’s “Hurt.” The other is like Weezer’s cover of Toto’s “Africa” where the style of the song changes to match the performers, but remains fundamentally the same. That’s the way Stacie Passon tackles her second feature film, an adaptation Shirley Jackson’s final novel, We have Always Lived in the Castle. Passon embellishes at points, but stays true to the excellent source material.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle opens with Merrikat Blackwood (Taissa Farmiga) burying talismans in the yard to bar outsiders, as she says in her voice over, “The Blackwoods have always lived in this house.” Neither the Blackwood family nor the Blackwood house are what they used to be. Everything changed when the family sat down for dinner one night to find their sugar had been replaced with arsenic.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

She Could Fly #3 Soars Higher, Dips Lower [Review]

“Chekhov’s gun” is a storytelling rules: If a writer introduces a gun in the first act, it’s going to go off in the second. She Could Fly has skirted around violence while promising the possibility so far. In issue 3, the gun goes off, and series writer Christopher Cantwell follows that by introducing an even bigger one: a ““mutli-terawatt explosion” that would irradiate the city (7).

Cantwell ups the series’ stakes in other ways too. Each issue he’s added a new set of characters that are after either the flying woman or the process that empowered her. This one’s no different. He doesn’t stop their either. This issue he dedicates time to taking characters off the sideline and getting them more in the chase. What’s so impressive is how well paced it is. The characters are coming quickly, but Cantwell and the illustrations of Martin Morrazzo manage to establish them fully without bogging down the story with exposition.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!