September 17, 2013 by Laird
It’s painfully obvious that the pool of women writing in the horror field is much smaller than that of the men, but damn, for my money the women are representing big time. Some of the hardest, meanest, blood-in-the-eye storytelling is being dished out by Kaaron Warren, Livia Llewellyn, Gemma Files, and Chesya Burke, to name several I’ve been reading. If you love horror and hardboiled fiction and aren’t reading Warren, you’re missing out. Llewellyn sort of eludes genre description–she’s closer to Ligotti if Ligotti was as deft at drawing flesh and blood as he is brilliant at recreating nightmares. Llewellyn can handle both. Files has long been among the brightest lights of the Canadian horror scene.
Then there’s Burke and her new book. Let’s Play White exhibits the kind of toughness and steely character I appreciate in the writing of Warren and Llewellyn–a no holds barred style of storytelling that pulls back the rock and gives us a peek at the dark recesses of the soul. These are horror stories, oh yes indeed. There’s supernatural intrusion and mind control and monstrousness and evil, but it’s a matter of layers. Her depiction of monstrousness and evil chill and horrify and illuminate just as spectacularly as the more traditional weird components do. She, like Nathan Ballingrud and Lucius Shepard whom she occasionally reminds me of, is gifted at capturing the essence of everyday lives, photographing them in candid black and white, and then raveling their stories in ways that are shocking and morbid and ultimately revelatory. That Burke also infuses some of them with a Weird Tales, pulp aesthetic, is just icing.
Let’s Play White is well worth a trip to the store–along with Llewellyn’s Engines of Desire, I guarantee you’ll be hearing plenty about this when the lists are being drawn up at the end of the year.