Approaching the creation of serial killer fiction, the writer must choose their entry point with care. Politicized? Stylized? Sensationalized? The politicized best done in satire (for the dark, cynical edge) or realism (it gains the appropriate degree of sympathy). The sensationalized functions at its “best” when uber-violence and eroticisms are laid on a formula storyline such that the masses can suck it up with a straw. It’s the stylized that takes real talent. On top of being saturated in the sub-medium you are working in to make the little homages and delicate points have the proper touch, the writer must also have a feel for language above and beyond average so as to effect the desired mood or tone. Caitlin Kiernan’s “Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No.8)” possesses these qualities in spades. Chuck Wendig’s “Swallow: Interlude” (2015) doesn’t.
Lacking a single entry angle, “Swallow: Interlude” is stuck between sensationalized and stylized. There are scenes of violence intended to discomfort, but being either mediocre or overwritten, do not have the desired effect. Due to lack of style, the mood and tone do not exist to the level necessary to cut (har) in desired fashion. The main character Miriam, a girl who can see the day people die, has attitude as she tracks serial killers, but digressions such as the following severly dilutes her attitude, and indicates a writer unable to detach themselves from their story:
“Mornings can go eat a dick. They can go eat a dick with a few extra helpings of shmeg sauce topped with cock waffles, further topped with jizz syrup, all served in a roasty, toasty bowl of crispy, deep-fried dog shit. Mornings can eat all that and then jump off a cliff and into the mouth of an alligator, an alligator with a righteous case of irritiable, inflamed, prolapsed bowels. Fuck mornings. For real. Mornings mean night is over. Mornings mean sleep is done. Game over. Good bye. Mornings are the consequence of your actions, the twenty-four hour equation, like being born all over again…”
I don’t know if Kant or Hegel could have put the last few lines any more profoundly…
Suffice to say, Wendig’s “Interlude: Swallow” is a juvenile text about a girl encountering a serial killer she thought was dead. A text that wants to be much more than it actually is, do yourself a favor and go read Kiernan’s “Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No.8).”