Caitlin R Kiernan is one of a handful of authors whose books I always buy but never give away (Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Clive Barker, China Mieville, Haruki Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto being some of the others). She’s one of an even smaller number of authors whose books immediately jump to the top of my reading pile whenever they’re published. She’s also an author who makes me want to give up writing – I know I’ll never get close to her imagination or the sheer beauty of her writing so why bother?
I’ve been reading Caitlin’s books for a long time. I can’t remember when I discovered her first novel, Silk (published in 1998), but I think it was through her association with Poppy Z Brite – another author whose work I love – and I’ve been hooked ever since. She’s written some fantastic books, Murder of Angels (the sequel to Silk) and Daughter of Hounds are probably my favourites, and so far I’ve not been able to find many other weird fiction authors that are so consistently good.
Her novels and stories tend to be dark, particularly her short fiction, so if you’re the type of person who likes nice, neat Hollywood endings tied up with a little pink bow of happiness you’re looking in the wrong direction. I don’t. I like stories that are more like real life – messy and dark and sometimes ambiguous and Caitlin’s stories are exactly that.
She also has a blog (one of the few I read obsessively) and publishes Sirenia Digest. The digest is subtitled – A Monthly Journal of the Weirdly Erotic but I think that’s underselling it. Yes, there is some sexual content, and sometimes it’s front and centre, but really what you’re really getting is some great weird and science fiction stories from one of the most original writers you’ll find (and illustrations by Vince Locke). I’ve been a subscriber since its first issue and I highly recommend it but bear in mind that it really is aimed at adults and it does get very dark and more than a little graphic at times. It’s delivered by email as a PDF.
If you’d like a less traumatic introduction to her short stories then there are a number of collections out there including some wondrous limited editions by Subterranean Press that can be hard to come by. In particular, her latest collection, Two Worlds and In Between, is a gorgeous book and contains the best of her short stories from the first ten years of her career. It may be available on Amazon but I recommend trying Subterranean Press first, they may have some copies and they pack the books a lot more lovingly than Amazon. Take a look round their site while you’re there, they publish some beautiful books (as my credit card can confirm).
If you haven’t read any of Caitlin’s books, it just so happens she has a new one coming out on March 6th – The Drowning Girl:A Memoir.
I’ve already ordered a couple of copies – one for my collection and one I’ll use as a gift (no idea who for yet but I’ll find someone). Thanks to the wonders of KickStarter, Caitlin was able to put together a crew to create a very slick trailer for the book (and you can buy some great photos taken during filming available here). I’ve included the YouTube video below but I recommend you view it full screen rather than in that pokey little window.
Oh, and she also writes comics and has a new series based on a character from her books coming out shortly – Alabaster.
I’m looking forward to both The Drowning Girl:A Memoir and Alabaster, I just hope they’re not too good – I’m not ready to give up writing just yet.