A Year of Thog: 1997

January. 'A bad feeling crawled up my trouser leg.' ... 'The alien becomes familiar as he picks scabs from the minds of his summoners.' (both Jay Russell, Celestial Dogs, 1996) • 'And the great god laughed with a terrible thin laugh that brought to mind paper cuts and the slicing of eyeballs.' (Harlan Ellison, 'Chatting with Anubis', 1995) • 'Webster moved at that, lifting one aristocratic nostril.' ... 'Faye turned a searching gaze on Carolyn, and she upon Ophy. Jessamine gathered Bettiann with her eyes, then all of them turned their eyes on Aggie in a combined stare that had almost the force of hands laid upon her.' ... '"I don't think I'd like Albert,"' Jessamine grated between clenched teeth.' ... 'Stay where you can be reached. Each of these six words came with that razor clarity, that fiery power, cutting him through, cauterizing the cuts, leaving him afraid to move. If he moved, he'd fall into pieces, into shreds. He had to heal first, had to let his cells regenerate; otherwise he would fall on the floor in strands, like noodles.' ... 'Still, his mouth moved, Keepe surprised that it was possible to move any discrete part of himself without detaching it.' ... 'The words hung in the air like the stench of vomit.' (all Sheri S.Tepper, Gibbon's Decline and Fall, 1996)

February. Blurb Special: the 'Usborne Spinechillers' series, we are warned, consists of 'Full length spinetingling tales – too scary to read in the dark!' • 'Talbert's toes whipped like pennants in a gale.' (Richard Matheson, 'The Splendid Source') • 'It was a long time before words came to Elena's mouth. She seemed to have gone far in search of them. They were simple words, but they seemed to have spent long ages in a place I cannot even imagine....' (Jonathan Aycliffe, The Lost, 1996) • 'His skin turned inside out like a glove.' ... 'The shocking stillness of the room wanted to blister and peel back like a layer of skin.' ... 'Sam felt the claw in the pit of his stomach, a dredging in his bowels.' ... 'And with every minute urging the evening on to midnight, the leather football of anxiety inflating in Sam's stomach was pumped still further.' ... 'A reptile claw dragged at his bowels.' ... 'He felt a dredger move across his heart.' ... 'He felt a claw of anxiety in his bowels.' (all Graham Joyce, The Tooth Fairy, 1996. The author later blamed the senna pods forced on him when a boy.)

March. 'Her breath caught in her throat and her nipple burrowed into his palm like a friendly mole.' ... 'Kyna braced her hands on his shoulders and rode him, her breasts swaying in his face like overfilled balloons, the nipples thrusting out enough to put his eyes at risk.' (both Gary L.Holleman, Howl-O-Ween, 1996) • 'Weston was known for the firm but genital hold he had on his men.' (Asimov's slushpile)

April. 'When he sauntered into the squad room that bright mid-May morning, Detective Joe Slatterly raised the only other pair of eyebrows in the room, those of his partner Tom England.' (William T.Sampson, 'All in a Day's Work', Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, 4/97) • 'Muffled through wood, and howl hooted in the distance, a swift surge and halt that thrilled her boneward. There was a message in that sound, a message that resonated and spread like the bloom of a bell. She couldn't hear it or she refused. But uprising from the earth, the palm-press she'd felt earlier closed on that sound in a precise mesh.' ... 'Love Bunny smiled and Katt noted that, pretty as she was, her teeth stalactited out of high pink gums.' (both Robert Devereaux, Walking Wounded, 1996)

May. '"You can't make people good by force." / "They do us," he said gloomily. "With a hair brush." / "But ..." / "It seems to me," said Nicky, "that everything is in a muddle. If ..." / "Look," said the practical Judy. "Do you approve of being spanked?" / "No, I don't." / "Well, then." / "Well, then what?" / "If you can't make people be good with a hair brush, you can't with a vibrator, can you?" / "I don't think it is the same." / "It is the same," said Judy.' (T.H.White, The Master, 1957)

UFO Special from Dr Courtney Brown's Cosmic Voyage, 1997. 'This is a book of fact, not fiction.' • 'Martian society experienced some major catastrophe. Many Martians died and some were rescued ... The rescuers were the beings we now know as Greys.' • 'During the two years I conducted the research for this book, I was often struck by the similarities between many of the ideas that were presented in the show Star Trek: The Next Generation and the data obtained about real ET activities through remote viewing. [... My] goal was to learn whether ETs were somehow manipulating the minds of the writers so that they would come up with ideas for the show.' Guess what? They were! • 'I began by asking Jesus again if he wanted us [humans] to work with the Greys regarding their genetics project. [...] He categorically stated that we must work with them. They are God's children, no less valuable than those we call human. I asked him if the Grey project had something to do with a greater evolutionary goal, like merging with God in some way. He responded in the affirmative.' • 'I was resting on my bed, still somewhat bilocated, and I got the impression that it will be the Martians and the Greys who will teach us how to live underground. But the Martians will be the ones who actually live with us, holding our hands....' • 'I knew then who had brought me to the Greys. The voice said, "These are the beings whom you want to help." It was the voice of my Aunt Elsie.'

June. 'His two missing teeth could be seen only when he smiled.' (Jack Dann, The Memory Cathedral, 1995) • 'He flung out his hands. Rebecca caught them like tossed discs.' ... 'Then he gathered himself, more determination and will than strength, and flung his head hard and fast to the left, as far as and farther than it would go.' (both Melanie Tem, Tides, 1996) • 'The alien device was a blank, black cube about a foot high and three feet long.' (Philip E.High, Twin Planets, 1967)

July. 'It was not a cancer on the face of Darkover, but a strange and not unbeautiful garment.' (Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Heritage of Hastur, 1975) • 'In the room below, her two halves slept.' (Sean Stewart, Clouds End, 1996) • 'I felt a smile climbing my mouth but I pulled it down.' ... 'I was hollowed-out. A ballbearing rolled around and around where my innards should be.' ... 'An impulse guided my hand to my manuscript and my legs to frogleap high in the air.' ... 'His eyes were trapped on the far side of his music.' (all John Shirley, 'What He Wanted', 1975) • 'In fact, the sight of her made me feel a little queasy and I started to walk back out when her eyes opened, nailing me to the floor.' (Jay Russell, 'Lily's Whisper', 1996) • 'As his eyes bulged, so did his cock ...' (Nicholas Royle, 'The Comfort of Stranglers', 1996)

August. 'Steve sat up on his elbows.' (Patrick Tilley, The Amtrak Wars, 1983) • 'That was before the sixth gate of his body opened, and the strong eye siphoned the energy from his throat into his skull, leaving behind a wake of laughter.' (A.A.Attanasio, The Dragon and the Unicorn, 1996) • 'Since she has died, her fragrance is everywhere.' ... 'She moved toward him, but he stopped her with a gnashed hiss.' ... 'The duke teetered between a chasm of grief and a whirlwind of rage. To control himself, he closed his eyes and turned inward. He silenced his anger by opening himself to an ocean of emptiness wider than planets.' ... 'The square block of her head gave a fateful nod.' ... 'But others delighted in his horror, especially his family's enemies, the enigmatically beautiful witch queen Thylia from the Malpais Highlands and the wrinkled empty skin that hung from a stick and spoke with a blue tongue of flame in a shrivelled face of green fungus, the warlock Ralli-Faj.' ... 'Less than a day remained before dawn ...' (all A.A.Attanasio, The Dark Shore, 1996)

September. 'The argument was a peripatetic orang-utan, bouncing off the walls of their separate frustrations like a ping-pong ball in a wind tunnel.' (David Gerrold, 'Chess with a Dragon', 1987) • 'The underwriter seemed equally amused, frisking up the ends of his moustache, eager for them to join in the fun.' (J.G.Ballard, Cocaine Nights, 1996) • '"Theory is able to predict long-term dangers in practice," the mouth beneath those cornflower eyes commented.' (Robert Conquest, A World of Difference, 1955) • 'He covered his face and pressed his fingertips against his closed eyes in a vain effort to wipe the blood-stained images from his retinas. His fingers could not reach deep enough.' (Patrick Tilley, The Amtrak Wars, 1983) • 'And with his eyes he literally scoured the corners of the cell.' (Vladimir Nabokov, Invitation to a Beheading, 1959)

October. 'They looked at each other with naked eyes.' (Gordon R.Dickson, Young Bleys, 1991) • 'The marshland had run for a day's walk.' (Mick Farren, The Texts of Festival, 1973) • 'The bazooka rang like a tuning fork.' (Tom Monteleone, Seeds of Change, 1975) • 'Their range was, within limits, virtually unlimited.' (A.J.Merak, No Dawn And No Horizon, 1959) • 'He was handsome and blond, with the same height and almost the same muscular build as Chastity, except her chest-circumference measurement involved different lumps from his.' (Robert L.Forward, Saturn Rukh, 1997)

November. 'Then Marshall squeezed his eyes shut and nodded his torso a few times ...' (Ramsey Campbell, The One Safe Place, 1995) ... 'She gave him her evil eye, and he withered.' (Christopher Evans, MortalRemains, 1995) • 'Oh, God! His eye had begun to twitch. He leaned his face on his head to hide it.' (Dave Duncan, Present Tense, 1996) • 'The bat burped. Granny genteelly covered her hand with her mouth.' (Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies, 1992)

December. '... She herself was unhurried, in a crisp dress that made her edible beauty cool without chill, like the flesh of a melon. Her husband was gracious and sculptural, gentle, even soft, and yet immovable, imperishable, as a granite monolith might be that was carved in the likeness of a tender and amiable god.' (Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, 1941-2) • 'To use a pre-Holocaust term, Brickman was clearly a hot potato – a vegetable that no one in the Federation had tasted for nigh on a thousand years.' (Patrick Tilley, The First Family, 1986) • 'She has a face for the corner, armored by hard-boiled eyes that float in a sienna tea – a cold glare to deny even the suggestion of complex feelings.' (David Simon & Edward Burns, The Corner, 1997) • 'Madame Avignon motioned me to sit on a couch beside the dressing table with twinkling eyes.' (Jane Routley, Mage Heart, 1996)