"Hell Notes" by M.K. Hobson: An Appreciation by Eugie Foster
Discovering these fresh, weekly offerings has been an unfailingly satisfying experience for me, whether the tale is thoughtful, tearful, inspiring, poignant, or funny. However, I've been particularly fond of the funny stories. Comedy can be so many things--intelligent, witty, charming, painful, whimsical, foolish, guilty--and by its nature, it is never ostentatious . . . when done well. And that's the rub; good funny is difficult to write and hence rare. I don't get to laugh as often as I'd like to (then again, perhaps I've got a reluctant sense of humor). My recalcitrant funny bone aside, humor is subjective. So when I find something as broadly appealing as M.K. Hobson's "Hell Notes" that can make me giggle with unabashed glee, I know I've found a gem.
In this story, a marketing consultant wanders into a shoddy Chinese buffet for lunch, gorges himself on the most exquisite twice-cooked pork he's ever eaten, gets mistaken as a walking undead by the lovely chef, and discovers that the path to his heart really is through his stomach. With lines like "The pork was of melting tenderness in a perfectly balanced garlic sauce, with impetuous slices of water chestnut and insouciant threads of onion" to tempt the palate, and "Dishes three, four, and five held, respectively: chunks of clove-spiked raw liver drenched in a bloody sauce; lacy webs of pearl-colored tripe fanned out like exotic sea flora; and a phlegmy stew of cancerous tubers" to repel it, this is a supremely enjoyable blend of droll wit and understated horror. But "Hell Notes" is more than just a gratifying giggle. This story has a bit of everything--danger, romance, incomparable Chinese food, ghosts, the afterlife, and even a dash of philosophy to provide depth--in a context both unusual and striking. Hobson's descriptions are evocative and visceral, her punch lines are agile and witty, and her sense of whimsy and the absurd is nothing short of genius. It's funny horror! You just gotta love funny horror.
My thanks to M.K. Hobson for writing this delightful tale, and to Ellen Datlow and the Sci Fi Channel for bringing it and hundreds of other marvelous stories to the public, free of charge.
Link to story.