The third-leg of Speculative Fiction: "Borealis" by Ronald Malfi

Borealis - Ronald Malfi

Published October 1st 2011


Talking with some friends of mine about books, I came to understand that “Horror” is pretty much a pejorative word. On the other hand, “Terror” is always seen as a respectable word for “horror” (I still remember Boris Karloff preferring his work to be described as such…).


“Horror” as a genre is where SF and Fantasy are nowadays, ie, enclosed in tired bathos appealing to a conservative readership which wants more of the same and are hostile to any attempts to try something different ('that's not real Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror).


Are really the so-called "literary" and "genre" fiction been at odds with each other? Literary writers increasingly try do deploy imagery from genre, while genre writers have upped their game considerably in terms of complexity, with moral resonance and style.

But “Horror” – the third leg of "speculative fiction" – has had markedly less success. There’s a bunch of “new” writers out there worth reading. Some of them not so new, but I say they’re new, because they bring a “new” approach to Horror): Stephen Jones, Thomas Ligotti, Ronald Malfi, just to name the ones I think are making the difference nowadays.


With “Borealis”, we just have a glimpse of what Malfi can do. He’s a truly gifted storyteller, who can spin sentences and pace action like a true master of the form. As pieces get picked up it’s when Malfi goes into high gear; sometimes the endings of the storylines are left open, with possible destinies the reader can only begin to imagine.


I’ve read elsewhere that literary fiction is “driven by the ideas, themes, and concerns of the novelist, often producing a narrative that is at times controversial.” It’s a good thing that never happens in SF (smile).


Go and read Malfi, Ligotti, Stephen Jones. You won’t regret it, even you’re not particularly favourably disposed towards Horror (notice the use of the term “Horror” instead of “Terror”; they’re two different takes on this theme).


The Borealis might have stopped cruising, but the characters go on in your mind (I'd love to see this turned into a full-length novel).


SF = Speculative Fiction