Read This: The Wide, Carnivorous Sky10
November 8, 2013 by Laird
I’ve been friends with John Langan for over a decade, so let that serve as full disclosure. The thing of it is, we became fast friends because we admire one another’s writing. John and I made our pro debuts in the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction a month or two apart back in 2001. We began to correspond via email and pretty much just bonded.
I loved his first collection, Mr. Gaunt & Other Uneasy Encounters. It’s a great work that did its job in getting him on the map, especially that title novella that pours forth with overtones of MR James and HP Lovecraft. These days, his presence in horror anthologies–originals and year’s bests–is ubiquitous. He has become a must-have, go-to author for editors putting together cutting edge horror and dark fantasy.
The Wide Carnivorous Sky & Other Monstrous Geographies is the culmination of all that celebrated work he’s done the past four or five years. Much as I adored that debut collection, this latter book achieves what so few sophomore efforts ever do–it thoroughly surpasses its predecessor. John is an academic and there’s a demented, albeit surgical, preciseness to the fashion that he dissects classic horror tropes and then reassembles them into some gory jigsaw. In a Langan tale you’ll get vampires and ghouls, werewolves will hunt their prey to earth, and cosmic horrors will unfold origami-style in a cascade effect of stars blowing their fuses.
Satanic fertility cults and war-haunted criminals, crazed lit professors who want to give you the straight dope on Poe, paper balloons from hell…but all of it reimagined, distorted, welded like Scorsese, Lovecraft, and Bergman mutated from a test tube and unleashed upon a hapless world, a tri-headed, fire-breathing destroying angel, twenty stories high and lurching across the plain toward your city with hell in its eyes.
I endorse it heartily.
The Wide, Carnivorous Sky is about to breach the top of my wide (and possibly carnivorous) reading stack.
Reading stacks are not to be trusted–go lightly!
The title story goes into my top ten of all time along with Into Whose Hands by Wagner, Petey by Klein and Hallucigenia and the Broad sword by some guy named Barron.
Man, I love Petey.
Just finished this gem! Mr. Langan is such a talented prose stylist, for sure, but more than that, his idea are so original, haunting, and creative. As a modern writer of Weird, he is a master, matched only by a certain shadowy figure known as Laird Barron, and apparently, the two are friends, leading me to believe that they must both be part of some dark, cosmic conspiracy, secretly and subconsciously preparing us for the return of the Old Ones, and causing me to be an unwitting vessel for writing the longest sentence I have ever written! Oh, the horror! Oh, the wonderful, beautiful horror!
Langan doesn’t believe in more than one paragraph per page, so you are in good company.
[…] Laird Barron makes the case for John Langan. […]
Laird, any idea what the source of the phrase “Wide Carnivorous Sky” happens to be? The phrase haunts me.
Curt: the phrase originates from a comment Caitlin Kiernan made on her blog years back.
When I first saw the phrase it reminded me of childhood days. I played outside quite a bit in those days. The woods beside and behind the house, the stream at the bottom of the hill, the grass on the lawn, the flowers and all the wildlife were familiar parts of my world. Sometimes my brother and sister or friends and I would lay down on the grass and gaze up into the vast blue sky, observing the cloud patterns and see how far we could peer into the upper atmosphere. One day what I could only call something like existential terror gripped me as I studied the immense airspace above us. I felt a fear of being drawn into the heavens, as if the sky itself was a huge, hungry mouth that wanted to consume me and all the Earth inside it’s jaws. I wonder if others share this occasional terror with me?