No, I’m not quite done with Kathe Koja. I just ordered a Kindle copy of her Strange Angels, so I’ll be reviewing that at some point. (Another parallel to my Ambrose Bierce series in that I found just one more title I wanted to look at after I thought I wrapped it up.)
So I did some research on other perspectives — meaning things I either didn’t think of or expressed less well — on Koja’s early works.
However, before returning to Koja again, I will first be reviewing — and it won’t be a happy review — an early novel by a certain famous Irish science fiction writer.
Will Erickson’s Summer of Sleaze: The Alternative Horrors of Kathe Koja is a stylish look at Koja’s The Cipher and Bad Brains.
A look at the rise and fall of Dell’s Abyss line of horror in the 1990s discusses Koja in that context. It cites the emphasis on body horror and interior life in Koja’s fiction as well as her reliance on characters involved in various triangles.
In an April 2002 interview, Barry Malzberg said this in passing about his collaborations with Koja:
I had what I call a ‘great autumnal run’ between 1990 and 1993, publishing about a hundred short stories (alone and in collaboration with Kathe Koja), which I think are the best work I ever did.
But metaphor can be thin stuff, while Koja’s book is rich with the minutiae of life, precisely down to earth as she depicts the horrible futility of entanglement with the medical system, the sad detritus and odd little triumphs of life on society’s margins, the weird, isolated world of long highway journeys.
Faren Miller’s review of Bad Brains in the January 1992 issue of Locus
Edward Bryant is my all time favorite book reviewer, and the only one I’ve seen that could be funny and accurately summarize a work.
In his review of Bad Brains in the February 1992 issue of Locus, he is explicit about a theme less acknowledged in Koja’s work: the failure to communicate:
Austen’s failure as a portrait artist seems to be linked to his inability to depict his clients in any way they consider realistic. Communication has failed; Austen simply hangs up his brushes.
Miller, in a December 1992 review of Skin, said:
The sexuality may be ‘modern’ (butch, hip, punk, whatever), but the tragedy dates back to Shakespeare, complete with a disguised Iago type driving the plot toward the bitter end.
Yes, I called Malcom in that novel an instigator, manipulator, and agitator. It would have been simpler to call him an “evil counselor”. It’s not like I haven’t read enough Elizabethan and Jacobean drama not to know the type or term.
In his review of Skin in the April 1993 issue, Ed Bryant even mentions David Skal’s Antibodies in passing. Perhaps I subconsciously remembered that coupling when I wrote “Breaking the Skin”.