Dark fictions flourish in dark times. As we lurch from financial crisis to social meltdown, our reading habits change and our idea of what constitutes light relief gains some weight. This is a simple truth that the editors of new anthology title Noir Nation understand all too clearly. It’s the perfect time to launch, and the premiere issue is stuffed as full of hardboiled treats as an old fashioned sweetie shop.
A well-curated genre collection will take pleasure in the display of a wide range of voices, opinions and stories. Noir Nation hits all the buttons hard. It’s broad, wide and deep in scope, which suits a journal with a truly international remit. Standout stories for me include Tristan Davies “Surgeons”, which introduces us to a doctor who makes Gregory House look like that nice English actor Hugh Laurie, and RF Warner’s “Dog Of A Different Breed”, the story of a drug run gone bad, an unfortunate incident with a dog, and a serial killer with a yen for poetry and gameplay.
Speaking of poetry, there’s also room for a piece by Bonnie Parker. Bonnie and Clyde Bonnie Parker. Seems like she could shoot better than she could sling a rhyme, but it’s a fascinating curio from a famous gun moll.
The first ish also gives us a fascinating discussion on what constitutes contemporary noir (Alan Ward Thomas, the Eastern Hemisphere editor, pulls together a fascinating take that includes transhumanist SF, Alvin Toffler-style future shock, Cubism and Jung) and a forum on whether the genre has a moral compass. The jury’s out on that one, but there are equally compelling arguments for and against.
The one misfire is Jon Danko and Danda’s graphic novel, Fired On Deadline. It’s muddled, and text-heavy, with none of the bite of the prose pieces. It also, at least in my preview copy, looked as if it had been inserted at too low a resolution, leading to blurry, rasterised artwork. That’s a real shame, considering my predilections. It also does Danda’s lovely expressionistic art (he did the cover, shown above, which is a much better showcase of his talents) no justice. It’s apparently the first part of a larger work, and I’d be interested to see where Danko and Danda take the idea of Flamenco Noir. But for now at least, the whole thing looks like something of an afterthought.
But that’s a minor quibble regarding a strong anthology bulging with good stuff. You can pick it up at the Kindle Store and still get change from a poorly cephalopod. Noir Nation shows a genre that is in very rude health indeed. Live and goddam kicking.