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Ballingrud, Nathan

Entry updated 20 February 2023. Tagged: Author.

(1970-    ) US author, for many years exclusively of horror, much of it supernatural, almost always in the form of short stories. He began to publish work of genre interest with "Memories of Green" in Forbidden Lines for Fall 1992, with much of his work being assembled as North American Lake Monsters (coll 2013; vt Monsterland 2020) and Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell (coll 2019). A novella, The Visible Filth (2015 chap), was filmed as Wounds (2019) directed by Babak Anvari.

Ballingrud is of sf interest for his first novel, The Strange (2023), an Alternate History tale set at a point in the 1930s when humans have established settlements on Mars; these settlements, isolated within desert-like landscapes or Zones, along with elements of casting and storyline, evoke a sense that The Strange may well be apprehended as an experiment in the sf Western, as filtered through Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles (1950) and Philip K Dick. The isolated protagonists of the tale – father and daughter – suffer further internal exile after robbers steal a recording from Earth, with which all Communications have now been severed. On Mars itself, a phenomenon known as "The Strange" continues to afflict humans (and Robots), stripping away any normal presentation of self, and exposing instead the raw substrates of the human psyche; though the daughter, searching for her missing father, clearly and defiantly resembles the protagonist of the revisionist Western True Grit (1968) by Charles Portis (1933-2020). Her presence aside, however, the artifactual nature of civilization, whose survival is problematic in most of Ballingrud's work, is savagely assaulted throughout. With its fragility – including threats from beyond; and from within as archaic sexual and gender Cliches prove wanting – the Mars of this tale seems to unpack as a Thought Experiment, with no overseer in view. [JC]

Nathan Ballingrud

born Massachusetts: 31 December 1970


  • The Strange (New York: Simon and Schuster/Gallery, 2023) [hb/]

collections and stories


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