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Claude Lalumiere's Fantastic Fiction
Damage Land: New Scottish Gothic Fiction

edited by Alan Bissett

(Polygon, 9.99, 222 pages, April 2001; ISBN: 0748662847)

It began in 1981, with Alasdair Gray's first novel, Lanark: A Life in Four Books, a massive and dauntingly dense tome of cover scanKafkaesque and Joycean ambitions imbued with a peculiarly dark sense of humour. Then, in 1984, Iain Banks stirred things up with his controversial and disturbingly funny The Wasp Factory. In the late 1980s, Ian Rankin and Philip Kerr fed the fire with their respective twists on the suspense tale. And, when, in 1993, Irvine Welsh joined the party with Trainspotting, the new wave of strange and macabre Scottish fiction became impossible to ignore.

These writers explore the outré, spanning the range from dystopian science fiction to junkie hallucinations and from Nazi atrocities to ritual mutilations. In that spirit, Damage Land celebrates Scottish fiction's predilection for the bizarre, with new and recent weird tales of millennial theme parks, sexual politics, obsessed stalkers, people growing extra heads, and transformative encounters between the human and the nonhuman.

In an impassioned introduction and an idiosyncratic bibliography, editor Alan Bissett traces the roots of this penchant all the way back to the eighteenth century and Robert Burns and works his way to the present, noting along the way authors such as Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Buchan, and Muriel Spark.

None of the literati mentioned so far are among the contributors to Damage Land. Instead, Bissett anthologizes the very latest generation of emerging writers. These authors, true to Bissett's intention, take the gothic out of its cliché environments and relate it to contemporary concerns, as have Gray, Banks, and Welsh.

Damage Land is a treasure chest of creepy and quirky treats showcasing the diversity of gothic fiction and 20 of its newest voices.


Originally published, in slightly different form,
in The Montreal Gazette, Saturday, 13 October 2001.

Claude Lalumière's Fantastic Fiction is a series of
capsule reviews first published in the Saturday Books
section of The Montreal Gazette.

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