Wednesday, 8th November, 6:25pm
Outside is dark with a cold breeze that blows between the glittering shopfronts and sends a chill down my spine. The town centre, usually pleasantly bustling at this late hour is sparsely populated due to a bus strike. I can hear the sound of my heels strike the paving slabs as I walk the deserted side street and head towards my beacon of sanctuary that is the bookshop.
Inside people have already gathered and a vibrant hum provides a low-level backdrop atmosphere as I take a seat and wait to see Joe Hill. I’ll be honest, I have The Fireman with me, but I have never read it. I have never read anything by Joe Hill. Yet I am still excited. I have heard good things about him, and I’m always looking for a really good horror writer that can make me lose sleep.
The event starts with some banter about squeaky leather chairs, and a story about the possible language we will hear tonight. Hill comments on his initial fear of speaking in front of large crowds of people, but it is obvious now that this is a fear he has overcome. He is fluent, funny, and charismatic, with a well-timed joke that keeps the audience laughing all evening.
Joe Hill is here to promote his new collection of ‘short novels’ Strange Weather which is available for sale now. Strange Weather features 4 stories, each with a culturally appropriate theme, which is treated to a horror make-over that makes it a perfectly scary reimagining of the world we all live In. Each separate story touches upon an area of our everyday life which is either becoming worryingly commonplace, which we fear, or which we do not fear enough, and Hill is asking us to look at this, to think about this, in a new and interesting way. These stories are designed to make you ask questions, to make you think – but not necessarily to answer them, as Hill points out at least twice during the night “Fiction is the place we go to answer the questions which we don’t have answers to.”
The first story – Snapshot – deals with dementia, featuring a villain called the Venetian who is essentially Alzheimer’s personified. It is from this story that Hill treats us to an atmospheric reading, allowing the tension of the night to build, and enticing anyone who had not already purchased the book to do so – they want to know what has happened. I was one of these people.
The second short novel – Loaded – is probably the story that most interested me, and made me need to pick up the book. In Loaded we deal with the epidemic of mass shootings that seems to be plaguing contemporary America, along with the lack of discussion leading to any effective change afterwards. This was an idea that became a key talking point in Hill’s talk this evening. How he is attempting to use these stories, not to necessarily preach or effect change, but to give some thoughts and reasoning to these issues, taking them to their logical and horrific conclusions, in this instance. Bored of entering into twitter arguments on the issue, Hill is using his authorly voice, in a clever way to make you think about this, thoroughly, for yourself.
The final two stories – Aloft and Rain – deal with the idea of the ‘cloud’ and climate change, respectively, They sound like they would be fun, interesting tales to read, but ultimately, it is the first two stories which I and the audience found to be the most intriguing.
The question and answer portion of the evening was like listening to a friendly conversation between Hill and his fans. They asked questions about all of his works, including his comic series, and the adaptations which are set to come. They also asked some very interesting questions about how he writes his novels and what other things influence him as he writes. Hill answered eloquently about writing from his own fears, and the fears of the world around him, and about how his work is not simply about making money, but about knowing that other people are reading, sharing and enjoying these ideas.
Finally, the night ended with a signing and Hill was friendly, and really great to meet during this time. I left the night with 2 new books that I am eager to read, and hopefully, a new favourite horror writer… Only time will tell.
Strange Weather and all other good Joe Hill novels can be purchased at Waterstones | Amazon | Book Depository | and all other good book outlets.