Friday, October 28, 2011

Ray's Vectors: Strange Attraction

[For the previous vector, click here.]

The 24 tales and poems collected in Strange Attraction: Turns of the Midnight Carnival Wheel were inspired by artist Lisa Snellings' kinetic sculpture entitled "Crowded After Hours" (pictured below).
In the foreword to the anthology, editor Edward E. Kramer offers the following description of the macabre Ferris wheel and its unusual occupants: it's "peopled with odd and often haunting individuals, each marked by his or her own history.  True to its title, the wheel is quite crowded.  Aside from those riding in the wheel's cars are those balanced between its spokes, hanging from its supports and twined in and about its bone-like frame.  Each character is at least a step removed from humanity.  Some only to a small degree, others to the extent that one must wonder if any part of them was ever human."

The idea of a nocturnal, supernatural carnival attraction obviously traces back to the dark-fantasy work of Ray Bradbury ("The Black Ferris," Something Wicked This Way Comes).  And the various contributors to the anthology--including such eminent genre writers as Neil Gaiman, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Gene Wolfe, S.P. Somtow, and Peter Crowther--furnish narratives that leave no doubt that this uncanny carnival ride would be right at home in the Cooger and Dark Pandemonium Shadow Show.

Unsurprisingly, the anthology is dedicated to Ray Bradbury ("Life is but a carnival and you are ringmaster to us all").  Moreover, the book contains a 51-line poem by Bradbury himself.  "Death Has Lost Its Charm For Me" presents a speaker whose real-life brushes with human mortality have forced him to mature beyond an affection for the make-believe monsters and horrors (e.g., The Phantom of the Opera, King Kong) so beloved in boyhood.  The sorts of fantastical figures that early teenagers like Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway might innocently admire.  Bradbury's poem can be seen as forming a coda to Something Wicked This Way Comes, a novel that ultimately is less an attempted immortalizing of adolescence than an acknowledgment of the inevitably of aging--of transitioning from innocence to experience (Recall the foreboding line that concludes the novel's prologue: "And that was the October week when [Jim and Will] grew up overnight, and were never so young any more...").

Strange Attraction illuminates the manifold lines of influence extending from Bradbury to later fantasy/horror writers (and artists), but it's the lines of Bradbury's own poetic entry that link most intriguingly with the author's classic dark-carnival novel.

"Crowded After Hours"
by Lisa Snellings

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