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Wishing You…

Peace on Earth, good will toward all. (And if these two can do it, we all can!)

From our family to yours, a very merry Christmas!

Straubathon: A Special Place: The Heart of a Dark Matter

Longtime readers of Peter Straub’s fiction know that often the novel or story you just read isn’t the whole story. It’s a complete story, sure, but there’s always more lurking beneath the surface. For instance, Straub’s stories “Blue Rose” and “The Ghost Village” tie directly into the characters and events of his novel Koko. “The Juniper Tree” and “Bunny Is Good Bread” expand on the shared backgrounds of the hero and villain of The Throat. And now, with the stand-alone novella A Special Place: The Heart of a Dark Matter, we have the background story of one of A Dark Matter‘s secondary but no less important characters, the deeply troubled college student Keith Hayward.

When we meet Keith in A Special Place, he’s only twelve years old, but already under the thrall of his uncle Tillman Hayward, a.k.a. infamous serial killer The Ladykiller, so named for his choice of victims. Tillman sees something in Keith right away when he learns his nephew has been capturing and killing local pets, a kindred spirit in the world of the psychopathic, and so he takes the boy under his wing and starts to teach him how to be just like his uncle. Keith will need a special place that only he knows about, someplace he can go to act as his true self. But Keith isn’t quite the loner Tillman is. He wants a friend. One day he rescues the school misfit, Tomek Miller, from being urinated on in the boy’s room by school bullies. From then on, Miller is Keith’s friend. Or slave is more like it. The things Keith puts Miller through — bloody and degrading things Miller goes along with because he has no other friends in the world and thus no concept of what is appropriate in a friendship and what isn’t — are far worse than any school bully would have done to him. In this way, I’m reminded of the master-slave relationship in another fine serial killer novel, Joyce Carol Oates’ Zombie.

The novella is filled with Straub’s signature attention to detail and masterful character work. One of the joys of reading A Special Place right on the heels of A Dark Matter is recognizing scenes from Keith’s life as part of the vision the Eel had in the novel when she pierced the veil and assumed the astral form of the skylark. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, all the better!) Hospital orderly Antonio’s cameo in the diner scene toward the end of the novella works nicely to tie the two pieces together, though I have to admit I wanted something a little more at the end, an oomph moment that would have me scrambling for A Dark Matter once more. Short of a cameo by Doity Toid or Badshite, though, I’m not sure how Straub could have accomplished that. But the ending did leave me grasping for something I felt should have been there but wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. A Special Place: The Heart of a Dark Matter is an amazing piece of fiction, on par with some of Straub’s other great novellas like “Pork Pie Hat” or “Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff.” I recommend it highly. And even though it is not necessary for the enjoyment of the novella, I do recommend reading A Dark Matter first, for the full effect.

STILL LIFE: NINE STORIES Part Of The “Fave Five” Of 2012

Over at Wag the Fox, they’re putting out their best-of-the-year lists, including their “Fave Five of 2012” for anthologies and collections. Lo and behold, my collection Still Life: Nine Stories made the list, along with works by Ellen Datlow, Jonathan Oliver, my buddy Ian Rogers, and John Skipp! Here’s what they have to say:

Still Life by Nicholas Kaufmann – One of the smaller collections I read this year, but an impactful one all the same. The nine stories in this book exemplify Nick’s ability to pull a reader in, go “Clockwork Orange” on their imagination, and make them beg for more.

You hear that, people? I’m going to stick toothpicks between your eyelids and make you listen to Beethoven! (Actually, aside from the toothpicks part, that sounds quite nice. I like Beethoven.)

Want to pick up a copy of the Still Life: Nine Stories e-book? Go here for a full list of vendors and formats. Toothpicks and Beethoven symphonies sold separately.

For Your Consideration

As 2012 draws to a close, the recommendation/nomination periods for the Nebula and Bram Stoker Awards do too. The Bram Stoker Award deadline is January 15, and the Nebula Award deadline is February 15. To assist you in finding materials you will hopefully find worthy, I’ve assembled this list of works I’ve published in 2012.

  • For the Nebula Award, my science fiction novelette “The Sorcerer’s Apprenticebot” was published in IDW’s prose anthology Zombies vs. Robots: This Means War! in May 2012. If you are an Active or Associate SFWA member, feel free to email me at nick DOT kaufmann AT gmail DOT com to request a free copy of the story, as either a Word document or a PDF.
  • For the Bram Stoker Award, my horror collection Still Life: Nine Stories was published by Necon eBooks in August 2012. If you are an HWA member, feel free to email me at nick DOT kaufmann AT gmail DOT com to request a free copy of the book, as either a mobi or epub file.
  • Also for the Bram Stoker Award, there are two original horror stories in Still Life: “The Beat of Her Wings,” which is eligible for the Short Fiction category, and “(F)Earless,” which is eligible for the Long Fiction category. If you are an HWA member, feel free to email me at nick DOT kaufmann AT gmail DOT com to request free copies of these stories as Word documents.

Thanks, and happy reading!