Monday, November 5, 2007

Whatever Happened To...

If you're a reader, then I know this has happened to you. You read something: book, story, article, whatever, and it's fantastic. It really blows you away. So you try to track down other things by the same author, and you eagerly await the next appearance. And wait. And wait.

Years go by, but the story never quite fades away--something always reminds you of it. You even re-read it, because by now you're wondering if maybe you were wrong, and the story wasn't that good to begin with. But it really is that good, so you harness the power of the internet to see if maybe you just missed something, but you haven't; there's nothing out there that you didn't find the first time you looked, all those years ago.

Personal tragedy? Career change? Writer's block? The possibilities are endless. We let our guard down when we read, allowing someone we've never met to access and manipulate our emotions. We form relationships with writers, most of whom we'll never meet, but whose latest work we look forward to with the eagerness of a lover's kiss. It's only natural to wonder what happened when the communication suddenly stops, and to mourn the loss of a relationship sundered.

But like other bereft lovers, we have keepsakes to help us remember the good times in the form of the stories themselves that touched us so much in the first place. These stories deserve to be read and celebrated and shared, even if we never hear another word from the author, so I'm going to share one of my old loves with you.

Back in the 80s, I read a lot of horror. Of course I read Stephen King (heck, everybody did), but I had just discovered Joe R. Lansdale and Clive Barker and I was seduced by the Splatterpunks. I happened upon an anthology called Silver Scream, edited by David J. Schow. It held a lot of fine stories, including Robert R. McCammon's "Night Calls the Green Falcon" and Joe Lansdale's "The Night They Missed the Horror Show." But for me, the star of the whole shebang was a gem from a guy named Mark Arnold called "Pilgrims To the Cathedral." It's funny, sad, violent, touching, and buzzing with righteous anger. I was blown away, and I've never forgotten the story or its impact on me. I looked around online and found some stuff Mark Arnold wrote for Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine and a couple of anthologies that he co-edited with Terri Windling, but nothing post-1988.

So what happened? Did he give up? Burn out? Find a new calling? I don't know, and it really doesn't matter. But I'll always have the words, and if my joy in that story has to be tempered with the realization that there won't be any more, then I guess maybe that poignancy will deepen the flavor.

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