THE TINDALOS ASSET (2020)

Caitlín R. Kiernan’s THE TINDALOS ASSET is the third and final novella in the TINFOIL DOSSIER trilogy, a fitting bookend to their confidently wild portrayal of mostly scumbags trying to reign in — or perpetuate — horrors both otherworldly and extra-dimensional. Like the other two novellas, it’s an absolutely wild ride of clipped thoughts, traumatic events both past, present (and some future), all occasionally interrupted by bouts of depravity.

THE TINDALOS ASSET returns to The Signalman, the binding character of the series, while spending much of its time in other Dreamland agents’ heads. In several ways, both in setting and inciting events, TINDALOS feels smaller in scope, far more than the epic, wide-ranging state-of-the-world relayed via the second book in the series, BLACK HELICOPTERS. That feels strange to say, given that TINDALOS is centered around very apocalyptic events, but it primarily takes place in only three locales: a hotel room, and airplane, and by a body of water. Between the limited locations and the amount of exposition and dialogue expelled between the major players, TINDALOS often comes across more like a stage play, as opposed to the unseeable weird fiction it is.

That TINDALOS feels more insular and focused more on the headspace of its characters and their actions and motives, and this approach is to be applauded! Each act in this grand work has its own texture, its own litany of surprises. Don’t enter weird fiction hoping for more-of-the-same with every installment, because if you do? You should find a different genre.

After reading AGENTS OF DREAMLAND I noted: “To riff on the ‘it’s not a season of TV, it’s a 12-hour movie’ sentiment, the TINFOIL DOSSIER series is not so much three novellas, but a three-part novel.” I wish I’d taken my own advice and binged the novellas like a season of TV. Reading the three novellas over the period of a few months under a year proved to be too spread out. To those who read these as they first appeared, especially those who followed it via piecemeal through anthologies and the like, I salute you. I wish I’d read them all in one big gulp, but in time — instead — I’ll simply re-read them, hopefully shortly after being told the release date of a TINFOIL DOSSIER film or TV adaptation.

The complete TINFOIL DOSSIER: https://us.macmillan.com/series/tinfoildossier

THE SUMMER PEOPLE (1950)

I consider myself more familiar with Shirley Jackson than most authors. I’ve read the majority of her works, including many short stories, as well as Ruth Franklin’s biography A RATHER HAUNTED LIFE (2016), and I previously wrote about THE HAUNTING (1969) and have a conflicted relationship with Josephine Decker’s SHIRLEY (2020), and don’t get me started on Mike Flanagan’s THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE (2018).

I attended a screening of the currently unavailable OFFSEASON (2021) — I believe it’ll be available via Shudder/VOD next year, but I felt it’d be dumb to recommend something no one can see — and the director (Mickey Keating, who I know best from DARLING (2015)) was in attendance and discussed the influences which were mostly obvious in a good way: SILENT HILL 2 (the game, not the film), THE FOG (1980), but he also name-checked Shirley Jackson’s THE SUMMER PEOPLE, which I’d never heard of.

For reasons I’m unaware of, Jackson’s short stories — many of which were published in long-gone magazines — have been frustratingly difficult to track down until relatively recently. This is speculation on my behalf, but the bulk of SHIRLEY — the fictionalized version of Shirley Jackson’s life that Decker adapted from Susan Scarf Merrell’s novel is seemingly built on the back of Jackson’s short THE MISSING GIRL, which was mostly unknown and out-of-print until 2018. Anyway, THE SUMMER PEOPLE was recently released as part of a new-ish Jackson short-story collection: DARK TALES (2017), with an intro from Ottessa Moshfegh (one of my favs: see DEATH IN HER HANDS (2020) and MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION (2018))

THE SUMMER PEOPLE is short, but very effective. It’s a rather quintessential ‘New England outsider’ take — as a number of her works are — but so expertly drawn, and ends on such a fraught and enigmatic note that I couldn’t help but love it, and certainly couldn’t fault Mickey Keating for leaning on it. Like all of Jackson’s shorts, it’s so economical and builds so well, it feels as rich and riveting as several hundred pages.

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/558130/dark-tales-by-shirley-jackson-foreword-by-ottessa-moshfegh/