Monday, July 18, 2011

George R.R. Martin Writes Horror, Too

Photo by David Shankbone
I tend to pick up anthologies randomly at used bookstores instead of actively seeking them out.  Naturally, they can be a mixed bag, but anthologies have introduced me to a number of authors I really like.  For instance, I started George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series relatively recently, not because it had been recommended or because I’d seen the HBO series, but because I’d read a really enjoyable Martin story in an anthology.  It was “The Monkey Treatment” in Masters of Darkness II. 

In “The Monkey Treatment”, first published in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine, Martin introduces us to Kenny, an obese compulsive over-eater.  Martin lovingly describes Kenny’s disorder in a way that makes the reader never want to eat again, before moving on to the real fun, as Kenny meets a formerly obese friend, who is now svelte, though haggard.  His friend introduces him to a new diet, the monkey treatment, administered in a back-alley “clinic”:

“…a high-pitched chittering sounded suddenly from behind him, sharp and rapid as fire from a machine gun.  Then another voice took it up, then a third, and suddenly the dark was alive with the terrible hammering noise.  Kenny put his hands over his ears and staggered through the curtain, but just as he emerged he felt something brush the back of his neck, something warm and hairy.”

Things go rapidly downhill for Kenny now that he has a monkey on his back.  Martin states that he wanted to write a story that was “genuinely funny and genuinely horrifying”, and he succeeded.  It was a finalist for both the Hugo and Nebula awards.  

In his note about the story, he also compares the marketing of fiction to selling ice cream, everything in a separate tub:  “…I’ve always been the sort who gets scoops of two or even three different flavors on my sugar cones.”  That’s what I like about Martin: he’s able to blend genres unexpectedly and inject a lot of novelty into his writing.

“The Monkey Treatment” led me to the entertaining science fiction novel Hunter’s Run (which Martin co-wrote with Gardner Dozois and Daniel Abraham), some of the Wild Cards series (which I found overwhelmingly dull, even Martin’s contributions), and finally to A Song of Ice and Fire, which was highly enjoyable until A Feast for Crows.  Fevre Dream (vampires and 1850’s Mississippi paddlewheelers), and his werewolf novella “The Skin Trade” are next on my list.  

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