Sunday, April 27, 2008

Grant at the Dance

Charlie Grant passed away on September 15, 2006, only days after his 64th birthday. He was home after a two-year hospitalization, and reied on a ventilator to breathe.

This spring's issue of Cemetery Dance, where Grant used to have a recurring column, features a substantial tribute to the late author. The 1.5 year gap can be attributed to the vagaries of publishing a quarterly fiction magazine. The important thing is that they got it right. There are remembrances from his friends and colleagues, including a transcript of his eulogy by Thomas McDonald. McDonald also contributes a biographical essay on Grant's work.

Charles Grant was a Nebula winning science fiction author, and one of his prize winning stories, the novella "A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn's Eye" is a worthy companion piece to Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. His real impact, though, was in supernatural horror. "Quiet horror" is the phrase most associated with his writing. While he didn't invent quiet horror, he made it clear that the subtlety of effects didn't just belong in the nineteenth century, and didn't have to be ghettoized in children's books. Although he was skilled at writing child characters, as well as teens and the elderly.

Worth seeking out? The early Oxrun Station novels, especially The Last Call of Mourning. The critically acclaimed The Pet, which was partially inspired by Bill Forsyth's Gregory's Girl(!) The later novels Jackals and Chariot, the latter of which carries an evocative profile of the ever-expanding Las Vegas. The overlapping story collections Tales from the Nightside and A Glow of Candles and Other Stories. All entries in the "Shadows" series, in which Grant as editor brought out the best in both new and veteran writers.

The insight that made Grant a great writer of horror is that people are scary. Not serial killers, not devil-worshippers, not even the noticeaby neurotic. Just ordinary people, because of the secrets they carry and the harm they can do. Yet he showed a great affection for people as well, completing the effect.

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