Past the Ides of October where I live in Maine, autumn transforms from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde, murdering the last warm vestiges of summer with a chill blade slipped quickly between the ribs. On the trees, leaves bruise in clotting maroon, jaundiced orange, or sallow yellow. With the first sheath of frost, they mottle and brown and stiffen like arthritic fingers that scratch against the window panes or skitter down the street like an invasion of mechanical spiders. The air brushing my cheek is chill and spectral and tweaks my nose with the bitter scent of wood smoke and the burning carapaces of leaves.
Jack-o’lanterns materialize among the pine needles upon my neighbors' steps and porches, their candlelit eyes leering contemptuously in the waxing dark that creeps ever earlier into the day. The night sky is more obsidian, its stars blaze phosphorescent and cold, as if to emphasize the great tidal separation between the light and the dark.
In the silent stillness just before midnight, echoing from beyond the dark pine-sheathed hills rises the faint wail of a train like the moan of half-remembered memories.
This is the time of year when the scared yet ghoulishly excited boy of my youth, the blankets of his bed pulled over his head, his flashlight flickering in his hand, his mystic mental wards ritualistically set, impels me to return and reread the autumn-born stories of Ray Bradbury. This year, I delved into his first collection Dark Carnival and his first fantasy novel Something Wicked This Way Comes. Fiendish dwarfs (and children), skeletons, carnival jars, lightning rod salesmen, and dark carousels that defy time as much as do Ray's stories.
Ray Bradbury, with his wonderful ice cream suit, was one of the first SFF authors I read, His lyrical prose awakened me to the emotional power within words skillfully woven together. He was also the first author to inspire me, as a middle-schooler, to play with puzzling words together myself,* and G-d bless Scholastic Books and their monthly school-offerings for introducing Ray to me and my parents, of blessed memory, for supporting my addiction to reading since I was a toddler.
Many of you, I’m sure, have your own favorite seasonal reads. Please indulge and, ever important in this age of cable television, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, and game apps on every device, share your favorites stories with your children. Instill a love within them for the written word and create memories that will bring shared joy to the end of their days and to their children – no electricity necessary.**
* Stories I recently found my mother, of blessed memory, had saved – and stories only one’s mother would love. ;)
** Yes, I know e-readers are electronic devices, and if you must, you must. But on a autumn night when the north wind howls, toppling power lines, and darkness and silence seep in to surround you -- save for the tapping of bare branches upon the window, seeking entrance, then by the grace of candlelight and the warmth of a wood fire, we can still take down our favorite books (may I suggest Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, Richard Matheson’s Hell House, or perhaps Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw) and read long after midnight -- long after your e-reader dies. Mysteriously, of course.
I will be attending ARISIA 2019 in Boston on JAN 18-20 and BOSKONE 2019 on FEB 15-17. When I receive a list of my assigned panels, I will post them. I had a wonderful time at my last appearances. SFF fans (authors, editors, and publishers included) are some of the most gracious and interesting people I have met. Please say “hi” to me if you attend. I’ll have some giveaways for those first to arrive at my readings.
While transitioning to Consulting Editor for the ezine Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, I’ve also been assisting friend author/editor/mentor Alex Shvartsman in reading for his new Future Science Fiction Digest, the forthcoming issue to feature remarkable fiction by authors from across the non-English as first-language world. Some remarkable imaginations out there.
Still creeping along in my own writing. When I know, you’ll know.