Charles's picture
Charles from Portland is reading Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones May 23, 2017 - 12:10pm

Throughout the history of horror, horror has been used to talk about the societal "other" be that the gay/homosexual lifestyle, or the mentally ill, the disfigured, even sometimes the new guy/girl in town. It's sort of an easy way for us to look at what scares us, but not look directly at that thing, too.  I was struck by this, especially reading MONGRELS, because it's clearly there... but it's from the point of view of the other "other" -- a young werewolf that may or may not be a werewolf at all. Besides that, I wonder if the "other" in question here are simply the people we never get to know all the way. The kids who spend each new school year in a new school, a new state, maybe. Or, if the 'other' is really our families, those people we live with, but only sort of know, and never know which of their stories are total horse shit, and which ones we should really give credence to. 

Anyway, these are some of the early thoughts I had on this story, and on how we could maybe talk about this. Please, demarkate your spoilers clearly, if you have to post specifics. Feel free to start your own discussions, ask questions... whatever you need. There's not really a 'wrong' way to do this.

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helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman May 24, 2017 - 6:22pm

Thanks for kicking it off!

It's an interesting concept, and I think you're right. Horror will often be a way to talk about something that, for whatever reason, we're not ready to talk about in a direct way. Like Frankenstein. Hits me as a book about the horror of scientific advancement where the science is moving more quickly than our ability to handle the results. Or Alien. I just re-watched that, and there's definitely something about anything non-human or "other" making human life more difficult (alien, synthetic human, cat who is lovable but has to be rescued). 

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smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. May 25, 2017 - 3:12pm

I don't read much horror, apart from maybe Stephen King. I just got my copy of  MONGRELS    and have read a few pages. I got the book in order to participate in this conversation. I have been hearing about Stephen Graham Jones for quite a while. Thanks for starting the discussion and I will participate as I read the book. I'm not too worried about spoilers or I wouldn't participate, but I did want you to know that I "am reading" and that it is my first SGJ experience. Thanks for the discussion. It might be the first chance I've had to dig into a piece like this. I appreciate it. Talk to you soon. gail

Charles's picture
Charles from Portland is reading Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones May 25, 2017 - 9:57pm

Gail: I "am reading" too. I have about eighty pages to go, maybe. I slowed down to savor this one more, and then maybe I slowed down again, and I've sprinkled in a couple stories from Jeremy Robert Johnson's new collection (Entropy in Bloom), which I think we might do in the future, if this discussion/book club thing is successful. 

Snowman: I'd be interested, when you're ready/finished reading to know how you think the concept of horror as the "other" works in this book, or if you see it in there. I mean sometimes I feel like I could be off base, or up in my own head a little too much.

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Chelsea Cain! June 1, 2017 - 9:23am

Interesting thoughts on the "other" subject. I know werewolves in general represent puberty and coming of age (and for sure this fall's under a coming of age novel) but I feel Mongrels is, at its heart, about belonging and the fear of not belonging, as well as the things we do to protect members of our family (stories, secrets, lies - even our hopes for them) Actually I'd say hope is a pretty big theme too, for all members of the trio.

I like how the novel is so fractured in it's story telling, the way our memories of adolescences usually are. Also I think it's amazing that Graham may spend a chapter or two on a story that would have been the entire plot for other writers - that just blew me away. 

 

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated June 1, 2017 - 8:22pm

I am kind of tired of reimagining every monster. I would love to see a retro Wolfman monster who just has no humanity, just the straight up bad guy. But maybe I'm the weirdo.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal June 2, 2017 - 7:48am

Or maybe you're just a bit ahead of the curve and entertainment at large is going to swing back in that direction again.

Charles's picture
Charles from Portland is reading Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones June 5, 2017 - 12:26pm

Em: Jones has a way of doing that. Reading his works is sometimes like the voice-over from The Outer Limits. He can deluge you, or expand one single image into crystal clarity. I also think this is a coming-of-age thing. Jones seems to like talking about father/son dynamics, family relationships, identity. Maybe in some world where I get to decide what's young-adult and what isn't, this could literally be a coming-of-age story, but the current world probably just sees it as strange, straddling horror, literary, and a book for young people. 

Dwayne: I'm torn here. I want to see a real badass version of The Wolfman (or Dracula, or any other classic monster, really), but I also feel like maybe the reader wants something more complex. Not a sympathetic 'bad guy' in so many words, but characters that can be identified with. I'm spitballing here, but I'd imagine that the baddest dude you could think of, loved someone, was loved by someone. Maybe they loved to sip black coffee and watch the sun come up. I suppose what I mean is: You gotta think in layers. There's no one who is just good, and probably no one who is solely bad. If you watch those crime shows on cable, people will tell the camera "Yeah, my brother was a bad dude. He killed people... But I love him."

Thug: One day, everything old is new again. 

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Chelsea Cain! June 6, 2017 - 12:42am

Dwayne - you know what they say, write the story you want to read...

(Although yeah, I totally agree with Charles regarding layers and such)

 

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Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated June 6, 2017 - 8:37pm

@Vodoo - If I get time to write I'll be happy.

@Charles - Just vomit in a cup and drink it and call it Kool - Aid. Because it sounds like you have been drinking some Jonestown shit. Layers? FUCK ALL THAT NOISE. Gray morality anti-hero? Just turn on TV, that is everything everyone else is doing. Everyone.

https://youtu.be/UHWM2r-UWzs?t=64

I'm not saying you have to go back to old school westerns and color coding, but irl some people really are doing really good things and some people are really doing bad things. Both have loving mothers says more about motherhood than moratily. I'm not saying I'm one of the good guys, but if we are artists why be afraid to challenge the conventional? To say maybe we aren't all some shade of gray? Why are we all so damn afraid to right one pure strain, why the groupthink of having 85 overlapping hidden meanings and Easter eggs?

Charles's picture
Charles from Portland is reading Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones June 8, 2017 - 1:35pm

Charles - Just vomit in a cup and drink it and call it Kool - Aid. Because it sounds like you have been drinking some Jonestown shit. Layers? FUCK ALL THAT NOISE. Gray morality anti-hero? Just turn on TV, that is everything everyone else is doing. Everyone.

I think you've misunderstood me. It's not about sympathy. You don't have to feel bad for Jefferey Dahlmer, or imagine yourself in the position of person like Keith Jesperson in order to humanize them. I don't know if you could make those men, or their actions, morally gray. But, if you're not writing about robots (and hell, maybe if you were, too) that some human tendencies, hobbies, interests, whatever... they deepen the character, right? They complicate the reading of them, because they're bad people, but they do things that you and I might do, in addition to killing people, or whatever. The reason [I think] you have to write in layers and not just say "good/bad" or "heel/face" is because the counterpoint to that is a perfect protagonist, who is the best of his field, has perfectly combed hair, and is basically Jesus Christ with a linguistics degree. Dan Brown did that. Farces do that. So, I guess for once in my life, I'd rather be 'everyone else' than to be Dan Brown, or write a book where my characters don't evolve in either direction, or both. But, then that's what makes writing so awesome. We all come into the giant oceans of our forefathers, and we drink it deep, but then we all come out of it steeped differently. You see a problem that [currently] other people don't. There's your thing, your story, your hook... whichever name you want to call it by. It's all a journey. We're taking it seperately, together. It's in places like this that we come together sometimes and compare notes, ponder our journey, and maybe learn from each other. So, please, disagree with me. Openly. I welcome it. But let's try not to insult each other, or toss about accusations of who's drank which flavor of pop-culture-cyanide. Because that accusation has two directions. Follow?

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Chelsea Cain! June 9, 2017 - 8:05am

So anyway, hows everyone getting on with the novel?

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helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman June 9, 2017 - 8:24am

I think the truth of the matter, as with all things, is we need both. We need the Jim Thompsons who write these dark, evil characters with no redemptive qualities. We also need complex characters that present another view on reality, which is that most people are a lot more complicated than "good/bad." I think Dwayne is right (if I'm reading correctly) in saying that there's not a lot of bad characters who revel in their badness, like an action movie villain. But Charles is also right, when characters are too good, they're very boring. 

Blood Meridian presents a really great mix. You've got the character that's almost pure evil (The Judge), the character who is evil, but probably more of an opportunist who will do whatever he can get away with (Glanton), and you've got the least evil, but still does terrible things protag (The Kid). I think these are good ambiguous characters because they aren't set up to learn a lesson at the end or to teach us something about good and bad. They feel real, and readers take what they will, which is key in my eyes. If I'm nudged hard towards a lesson or what I'm supposed to feel, I'll get bored. But if I'm presented with a character that feels real and left to make my own decision, it's a lot easier.

 

Humboldt Lycanthrope's picture
Humboldt Lycanthrope from California is reading Sing, Unburied, Sing June 16, 2017 - 1:41pm

Great thread, guys! Wow. Some incredible comments.

When this novel came out I interviewed Stephen about it. He gave some fabulous answers and it was a really fun interview. If you're interested, you can read it here: https://culturedvultures.com/interview-stephen-graham-jones-author-mongrels/

We're going to be giving away a signed copy of MONGRELS at my Facebook cover reveal party on Wednesday. Also signed copies of A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS and DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL'S ROCK by Paul Tremblay, and Richard Thomas will personally inscribe a copy of TRIBULATIONS to a winner. If you're interested, you can join here: https://www.facebook.com/events/248160155668050/?acontext=%7B%22ref%22%3A%223%22%2C%22ref_newsfeed_story_type%22%3A%22regular%22%2C%22feed_story_type%22%3A%22117%22%2C%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated June 20, 2017 - 4:34pm

@Charles - You've made a false dichotomy there. It isn't an issue of perfect hero VS. morally gray. You can have some real serious flaws (stupid, impulsive, to trusting, whatever) without being morally gray. And if I was insulting you, it would sound put an X in your Y until Z, you bodily fluid stain.

@HelpfulSnowman - I mean that too, but the point I'm getting at is that we seem to have a weird need to only right about people you can't make an argument for as being upstanding. And is it too good or too perfect? 

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. June 20, 2017 - 7:27pm

Gail here. I'm starting MONGRELS again for the third time, from page one, trying to dig in. What I got so far is wolf hair that retracts into the bone of the arms. That's wild. I think I am having a little trouble surrendering to the rhythm of his work. It is chaotic and a little out of synch with the way I hear things. The poetry of his work is the hook for me because I'm not inot the characters much yet,the characters or the journey. I'm a little jumpy for it, so it takes a conscious effort to relax and hear the work. I am not familiar with his voice yet. I get lost who is talking. okay that's is all I know about this guys writing yet, but he is such a hero to so many I cannot just walk way. I could use an intricate opening of a novel. okay. night.