Okay, the Hugo packet came in last week, and I’ve got some reviews ready. This story is a finalist in the Best Novelette category. It was published in The Bazaar of Bad Dreams from Scribner.

Michael Anderson is a nerdy young writer, still living with his parents and trying to get established. He works for a while at a local shopper paper, and then gets a job writing snarky obits for a celebrity gossip website called Neon Circus. After his request for a raise is rejected, he writes an obit for the manager, Jeroma Whitfield, and then takes off, planning to quit. He gets a call from office mate Katie Curran and finds Jeroma has choked on a cough drop and died. Shaken but sure this was a coincidence, he tries the same thing out on a death row killer, who promptly commits suicide. Katie has stepped into the Neon Circus manager’s chair and has seen his obit for Jeroma. They talk about it and he admits it’s worked the second time. Katie brings him a friend who was abused as a child and wants him to kill her abuser. He complies, feeling a kind of psychic power this time that’s increasing every time he kills someone. Can he stop before the dark power completely consumes him? Read the story to find out.

Stephen King is such a master of the creepy. I’m surprised he’s not on the Hugo ballot every time he writes something. He’s kind of master of presentation, too. The characterizations, imagery, darkness, humor and narrative are strongly in place. This isn’t world-shaking; the stakes aren’t that high, but it’s a clear demonstration of King’s craft. It’s also very clearly written in a man’s voice. On the side we get Michael’s lust for Katie, the hook-up and how this sours as she starts to manipulate him. Sorry, pc brigade—this is very old school. Three and a half stars.