On Stephen King and Steven Utley

Fantasy and Science Fiction kindly gave me a freebie copy of their upcoming October/November double issue. The most notable story is that of Stephen King, who delivers a short but touching story that isn’t scary, but strange, like a dream that may haunt you for a few days after waking up. The editor likened it to a Twilight Zone episode, which seems like a fair comparison.

The other story in the issue that struck me the most was Steven Utley’s The Sleepless Years. It reminded me in a strange way of H.P. Lovecraft at his best. Utley is a better writer than Lovecraft–he doesn’t overuse terms like “cyclopean” or “blasphemous”–but Lovecraft’s stories have a certain power because there is a fundamental loneliness behind them–which I presume reflects Lovecraft’s own life–and this can lend his tales of madness and a cruel universe a disturbing verisimilitude, like The Whisperer in Darkness.

Mr. Utley reminds me of that aspect of Lovecraft with his sad tale of a man trapped in an experiment. Just as Lovecraft’s loneliness powered his tales, to judge from the story’s dedication, Mr. Utley’s story was semi-autobiographical as well. Sounds like a man who could use a few prayers, if you have a mind to do that.

Not all the stories are sad: Mike Resnick has what can be best described as science-fiction variation of a fairy tale, where a robot scarecrow befriends a lost boy. Albert Cowdrey has a funny story of alien abduction in post-Katrina New Orleans (which is something of an alien environment itself). And I haven’t named quite half of all the issue’s offerings.

The double-issues are fun since there’s just about something for everyone–let me know what you think if you get your hands on a copy.