I've been reading and admiring Nathan Ballingrud's short fiction since 1992, when we were both students at the Clarion workshop. Now, some of his very best work has been collected in a moving, sorrowful volume called
North American Lake Monsters, from the wonderful Small Beer Press.
Ballingrud's work isn't like any other. These stories are full of sadness and sorrow, but they're not merely sad. Like Tom Waits, Ballingrud is an expert at teasing out every delicious shade and nuance, every fine gradation of misery and pain. It's a heady and fantastic cocktail mixed from roughnecks and down-and-outers and flawed people who find in their ordinary and terrible world monsters, magic, and the strange. Ballingrud's fantastic elements are never seen full on, but always out of the corner of your eye, and it makes them all the more haunting.
This slim volume traces the fine veins of unhappiness in a way that no other writer of science fiction or fantasy I know of can match. If you've ever enjoyed a long cry, or come out of a deep funk to discover the joy of the contrast of the light and the sun, then you know why these stories are so powerful and moving.
If you'd like to get a taste of what I'm talking about, Tor.com has a excerpt from the collection, a story called "The Monsters of Heaven," about a missing child, broken angels, and a marriage in great ruin.
North American Lake Monsters: Stories
Tomorrow, I’m turning off my email and hitting the road for Burning Man, where I’ll be giving three talks, and I hope to see you there: at 4PM on Weds, Aug 20, I’m speaking at Palenque Norte at Camp Soft Landing; at noon on Thursday, Aug 31, I’ll be speaking at my home camp, Liminal […]
Peter Biddle writes, “I get I myself into trouble. I don’t claim that bad stuff happens to me more often than others – it’s more that I find more ways to happen to bad stuff. I actually found a way to get severe hypothermia in 105°F heat.”
Lisa Gold is the extraordinary researcher who is perhaps best know for her work with Neal Stephenson, particularly on the Baroque Trilogy.
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