Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Margaret Irwin, “The Book,” 1930

"Tonight, however, Dickens struck him in a different light. Beneath the author's sentimental pity for the weak and helpless, he could discern a revolting pleasure in cruelty and suffering, while the grotesque figures of the people in Cruikshank's illustrations revealed too clearly the hideous distortions of their souls."
                        -- Margaret Irwin, "The Book"

If you've ever read a book that unnerved you so much that you put another book (or books) on top of it where it waited on your bedside table before going to sleep, then "The Book" is the kind of weird story that will terrify you.

It's true. Books are super creepy and super-duper dangerous. We may blissfully read a Dickens or a Baum or a Borges or King, and then at some later point re-read them, only to be disturbed by content we had not picked up on before. Books are not static. Like the ones in Irwin's story, they rest on bookshelves, but only until we take them off and read them. Then we open ourselves to them completely, and they to us. It is this interaction that drives "The Book" into some truly unsettling territory.

Like the strange gap in Mr Corbett's bookshelf that keeps appearing and re-appearing, Irwin's story comments on the relationship between reader, writer and what is written vs. what is read. Do we delude ourselves into finding particular meaning in a collection of words, or are they really, truly meaningful?

I had not read "The Book" before, nor have I read any of Margaret Irwin's other work. I certainly want to now. I'm unconvinced that The Book" is a straightforward ghost story... In fact, there is nothing straightforward about it. The same gaps that appear on the protagonist's bookshelf litter the narrative, leaving odd, weird hiccups in between the events that take place. This is good stuff.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

H.P. Lovecraft, “The Dunwich Horror,” 1929

"Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimaeras—dire stories of Celaeno and the Harpies—may reproduce themselves in the brain of superstition—but they were there before."
                                  -- H.P. Lovecraft, "The Dunwich Horror"

"The Dunwich Horror" is classic Lovecraft. It's a perfect example of the author's strong Naturalistic philosophies and self-proclaimed Irreligiosity. Despite such an approach to the laws of the universe, there is always something that remains...unexplainable.

The story puts us straight into the heart of the archetypal Lovecraftian milieu, Massachusetts, New England. Lovecraft's dreaded grimoire, the Necronomicon, features at the centre of the story. Genetics, sex and reproduction are all addressed. As such, "The Dunwich Horror" is also known for the fact that it's probably the only story of Lovecraft to feature a female character fairly prominently.

"The Dunwich Horror" is a Lovecraftian oddity, a story between good and evil in which good wins. But maybe there is more to the ending of this story, bearing in mind what Armitage says: "I'm going to burn his accursed diary, and if you men are wise you'll dynamite that altar-stone up there, and pull down all the rings of standing stones on the other hills." Taken in the context of Lovecraft's oeuvre of New England-based stories, we know that cursed texts and black stones all re-appear at intervals, in different places and different incarnations. What we say and what mean to do isn't always necessary what we end up doing. Despite its so-called "happy ending", "The Dunwich Horror" leaves the reader with the notion that, while disaster may have been averted for the time being, it's only a matter of time before it rears its tentacled, gooey head again.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Last Chance To Buy Tales For Canterbury!

Pretty Vogie
If you haven't already heard the fantastic news that Tales For Canterbury (which features the only zombie story I have ever written) has won a Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Anthology, you know it now! The anthology enters its final week of sales tomorrow, with just under $700 to go to reach its final goal of $5000 (NZ). All money raised will go toward relief funding for victims of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

Only a few copies remain, so head on over and grab yours before they are gone for good! Neil Gaiman, Gwyneth Jones, Anna Caro, Amanda Fitzwater, Jesse Bullington, Debbie Cowens, Brenda Cooper, Jay Lake, Helen Lowe and a host of other authors are included, Don't miss out!

H.F. Arnold, “The Night Wire,” 1926

"Sometimes, though, queer things happen. One did the other night, and I haven't got over it yet. I wish I could."
                   -- H.F. Arnold, "The Night Wire"

I loved this story. On the surface, as purely a reading experience, it effectively combines all those elements that conceptualise the inner workings of the weird tale. It has a certain elegance that, while not the refined and obscured prose of Kafka or Borges, is beautiful specifically because it is straight up about what it presents. I thought of it myself as a more elegant version of Stephen King's "The Mist."

The bulk of the story is revealed via news wires of events as they happen. One point of obfuscation is the matter of where events are unfolding. According to the news reports, it is in a place called Xebico. As the narrator finds out eventually, such a place does not exist... or does it?

In many of the stories I have read so far in The Weird, language, and the information it is able to transfer, is called into question. "Xebico" in fact, may be anywhere. Contextually, it does not exist, but neither does reality in the way we perceive it. "The Night Wire" hints that the seemingly supernatural events of the narrative may be moving towards the town in which the narrator lives; perhaps it had been there all the time.

Arnold's story approaches seemingly extraordinary events through a mirror that seeks to reflect fact. "The Night Wire" makes it clear that this is a flawed approach. Facts are sometimes of such a nature that they seem entirely impossible. Perhaps there hides in the narrative a warning against complacency, the repetitive work of the night wire transmitters an eerie vehicle for the fantastic to slip into our reality.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Blogger! *shakes fist*

Blogger and its crazy rules about dragging pictures in a line next to one another is making me insane. A recent post about playing Scrabble with fake words can be found on my Tumblr. Clicky clicky.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Stefan Grabinski, “The White Weyrak,” 1921

"Above me, several feet beyond the blade of my hatchet, I saw in the half-light of the flue a snow-white being staring at me with a pair of huge, owlish yellow eyes."
                                   -- Stefan Grabinski, "The White Weyrak"

Yea, this one is weird. As in see things and you can't unsee it. It's rather marvelous that way.

The introduction to the story states that Grabinski has been referred to as the "Polish Poe" or "Polish Lovecraft." There are definitely aspects of both authors present in the narrative. A Poe-esque sense of dread builds as two apprentice chimney sweeps are sent out to clean the chimney of a certain abode, but never return. Darkness, and more to the point, blackness, is a very real and physical presence in "The White Weyrak." The story ends in a way that, I think, would have made Lovecraft squee

with delight. You really want to know more, but also really, you really don't.

The weirdness of having a occupationally segregated space - the chimney - attached to a house becomes a very unsettling notion as the story progresses. Grabinski gives small clues as to what might be hiding away in the dark, enclosed vestiges of Santa's ladder. Up until this point, dread has steadily been building through the information we are given, and that which is left out.

When a third chimney sweep and his teacher decide for themselves to investigate the house's chimney that has seemingly swallowed their co-workers, we are given a reveal that is unexpectedly brutal and violent. The story does not end here; as readers, we are forced into the same darkness as the unlucky chimney sweep, closed in with the grotesque being that has been - well, I won't give it away.

Grabinski is another writer I will now actively look into reading more of. My own background (on my father's side) is Polish, even though I'm about a generation removed. Literature may be a good place to start from, and Weird literature may indeed be the best option for this endeavor, since I find it somehow weird that I haven't made a real effort at learning more about my Polska roots after all this time.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Review: Black Wings of Cthulhu

"What I have learned is that Lovecraftian themes and motifs can be incorporated in tales of many different types — ranging from pure science fiction to hard-boiled crime fiction to delicate prose-poetry to pure fantasy."
                 -- S.T. Joshi, interviewed by Lynne Jamneck (Weird Tales)

Joshi is right, of course. The Lovecraftian mood lends itself to a variety of different genres and tastes, as is evidenced by the range of authors collected together in this volume from Titan Books. Caitlin R. Kiernan, Laird Barron, Nicholas Royle, Brian Stableford, Norman Partridge and Donald Burleson (who, like Joshi, writes critically about Lovecraft) are only a handful of the writers who have contributed to Black Wings of Cthulhu.

These stories are not specifically built around Cthulhu himself, but offer a wide glimpse into the universe of a writer who has by turns been labelled racist, misogynist and sexist. Regardless of one's personal feelings about Lovecraft, the amount of literature that keeps being produced directly influenced by his own work and sensibilities highlights the attraction of the Lovecraftian philosophy to contemporary reading audiences.

The stories in Black Wings of Cthulhu range from the noire-ish "Engravings" by Joseph S. Pulver Sr, to the surrealism of  W.H. Pugmire's "Inhabitants of Wraithwood", to the beautifully paired back restraint of Caitlin R. Kiernan's "Pickman's Other Model". Pugmire's story is in fact more reminiscent of Lovecraft's Dream Cycle stories than any related to the Mythos Cycle. Kiernan is not the only writer who expands on the Pickman character, as evidenced both by Pugmire's contribution, as well as Brian Stableford's "The Truth About Pickman." Lovecraft's own "Pickman's Model" is a favourite amongst many Lovecraftians, and these stories are sure to be satisfying reads for those wanting to know more about the strange painter and his disturbing creations.

One of my personal favourites is "The Correspondence of Cameron Thaddeus Nash" by Ramsey Campbell. Written in epistolary format, the story takes the form of correspondence between a seemingly disturbed amateur author and Lovecraft himself. For those familiar with Lovecraft's letter writing habits (he was prolific, trust me), the story tackles ideas related to the powerful nature of language and the affect of this power in the form of literature. Ramsey's story is a perfect example of the allure Lovecraft's work still holds today for both readers and writers.

The twenty-on stories in Black Wings of Cthulhu are unique, sometimes puzzling, but very successfully manages to remain fresh in their interpretations of the Lovecraftian mood. As previously stated, they are not retelling of original stories, but function rather to expand the universe created by Lovecraft himself, something he would, I am sure, have approved of wholeheartedly. Indeed, they are, rather than Cthulhu himself, the wings that make the beast take flight.

Boom! Headshot.

Yea, so I think Caitlyn is my favourite character so far. I go for Trinity Force in the game first instead of Infinity Edge and it makes all the difference. Boy, did the bots suck in this one. Poor old Trundle and his cudgel.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Franz Kafka, “In the Penal Colony,” 1919

"This is the harrow for the upper body, and here are
the harrows for the legs. This small cutter is the only one designated for the head. Is that clear to you?” He leaned forward to the Traveler in a friendly way, ready to give the most comprehensive explanation."
                     -- Franz Kafka, "In the Penal Colony"

 Kafka's story of an observing Traveller in an unnamed penal colony is particularly unsettling for the fact that it describes horrible physical torture in a manner that mimics an operations manual, or something equally technical. Indeed, death is centre stage in "The Penal Colony", but not as an abstract concept. Here, the breaking down of biology, of the human body, as it is exposed to physical torment, accentuates the struggle that our biology effects in a bid to defy death. It's all a bit traitorous; our bodies won't just cease in the face of inevitable suffering.

Theories have been put forth about Kabbalah traditions being in some way important to interpretations of Kafka's story. It's not the kind of story that will easily find any kind of "definitive" interpretation, and indeed, interpretations are many and varies widely.You read Kafka, and when you finish, what you generally say to yourself is "Yes, but what did it mean?" In my opinion, this is both a sign of a great writer, as well as the power of language (also somewhat traitorous and evading, considering we invented it). Context always changes, which makes meaning mutable. Kafka goes beyond making us simply think about what a story might mean. Rather, it seems to want to make us ask the question "What does it not mean?" Somehow, this is more confrontational, and has the potential for making us feel, rather than just curious, desperate to know what the author is trying to say, but at the same time terrified of finding out.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Francis Stevens (Gertrude Barrows Bennett), “Unseen - Unfeared,” 1919

"...doubt is sometimes better than certainty, and there are marvels better left unproved. Those, for instance, which concern the Powers of Evil."
       -- Francis Stevens, "Unseen - Unfeared"

You know... I had trouble with this story. Not necessarily a bad thing, It's just that I am not entirely sure what to make of it. Intriguing. Stevens' (nay, Bennett) story is all about atmosphere and mood. It's definitely weird.

I like the flâneur aspects of the story, "...the city, so foreign in appearance, with their little shabby stores, always open until late evening..." Cities intrigue me, particularly fictional cities. They are built, as it is, around governing narrative, and as such can be read in a multitude of different ways. Yet, there is something about "Unseen - Unfeared" that escapes me. (Dun-dun!) Truly. It makes me aware once again of exactly how we read text, and to what capacity it is able to direct our reading. Is there something in the text I refrain from seeing on purpose because the title, two simple words, has inclined me to do so?"

If anything, "Unseen - Unheard" has made me want to find out more about Gertrude Barrows Bennett. I couldn't even find a blurry photo of the woman. I'm going to have to go back and read it again, get a better feel of what's going on behind the surface. Both annoying and exciting at the same time.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

This Post Will Hurt Me More Than It Will Hurt You

I've been reading a lot of different interpretations and opinions about Prometheus. Recently, I read a review that stuck in my head for a numbers of reasons. Mostly, it was because this was the first review I had read which claimed that Ridley Scott's film is two hours of coded homophobia.


When I asked the poster why he said this, he said that he was reacting to the fact that Prometheus employed the worst stereotypes of homosexuals, and this was what he was reacting to.

Up to this point, I could have considered such an interpretation. Let me state for the record that, as someone who is gay and holds a Masters degree in reading and analyzing narrative and text, I did not pick up on any such coding.

What stuck in my craw about this review was the fact that the OP wrote it in homophobic language, to "rail against the homophobia of the film."

This doesn't make a lick of sense to me. As a writer himself, surely Nick Mamatas must be aware of the power words hold? Sure, his inner circle and acquaintances may realise what he is trying to do. But others? Readers who come to his words not knowing anything about him?

It's hard for me to make this post, because Nick Mamatas is someone I used to admire. I like what he writes and the creative projects he gets involved with. But I can't let this slide. And since he has already called me a troll, insulted my intelligence and questioned my academic degrees, I suppose sending him any submissions for anthologies in the future ends here. Oh well.

In the end, it's not even that I disagree with his reading of the film, but rather that he refuses to consider any other interpretation. His basic argument is, "I'm right, and if you don't agree with me, you are clearly wrong." I mean, I know that there are some crazy egomaniacs out there, but I expect writers to be more open minded, more considerate. Isn't that how we get to look at things from a multitude of perspectives, how we are able to hone our craft in a bid to reach people of all cultures and backgrounds?

So today, I am disappointed. And it sucks.

It didn't take me long to find more evidence of Nick Mamatas being extremely disrespectful of others and their opinions. He appears to be someone who lords himself and his achievements over others, and think that his degrees mean that he simply cannot ever learn something useful from someone who does not have them.

Here then, is the entire thread from Nick Mamatas' Livejournal in which he tries to explain to me that I am wrong, my opinions suck, and are invalid. I'm not particularly eloquent, I admit. If I'd known the whole thing was going to devolve into the bizarre argument that followed, I'd have probably taken better care with my phrasing.

A final note: Maybe this shouldn't make a difference, but I can potentially see the difference of opinion here from an academic analysis POV. Nick Mamatas has an MFA in Creative Writing, while I have an MA in English Literature. There is a difference between these approaches to text. Possibly, that's where some of the friction may have originated from in terms of how we read text/narrative.

In all honesty, I tried to have a conversation about different perspectives and theory on the nature of text, subtext and narrative. In the end, I couldn't keep repeating myself. 

Endnote: I had the whole thread posted here originally, but it looked messy and things keep being added. So I just kept the link above to the original post.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “The Hell Screen,” 1918

Ryunosuke Akutagawa

"However, as the screen was unrolled, the high priest must have been struck by the truth of its infernal horrors, the storms of fire ranging from the firmament to the
abyss of Hell."
                     --  Ryunosuke Akutagawa, "The Hell Screen"

Japanese fiction is something I've wanted to read more of for some time, and after reading "The Hell Screen" I am inspired by doing this sooner than later. I can't quite put my finger on it, but from a narrative perspective, there is something uniquely other that distinguishes Japanese writing from its Western counterpart. It's somehow cleaner, more direct. The weirdness does not hide in the shadows, but is right there, out in the open.

Akutagawa's story is a dense meditation on the nature of creativity and art, and the lengths artists will go to in a bid to perfect their craft. The strangeness here as to do with a disconnect between creating something that both repulses and attracts from subject matter that should not do the latter. A further point also highlights the role that spectators of art play in the motivations of the artist.

There is also, through some physical descriptions of the artist Yoshihide, the subtle suggestion that he might somehow be slightly nefarious, or at the very least, insane. Or is he? If he is not, that makes his methods for perfecting his painting of Hell even more grotesque, and it insinuates that these are the traits of a sane man who knows exactly what he demands in order for his art to be perfected.

Akutagawa was an opponent of Naturalism, and "The Hell Screen" illustrates this perfectly. There is a phantasmagoric feel to the story; the narrative itself feels as if it is hiding something terrible just beneath the surface, and - as art often does - invites us to look deeper into its potential meanings/s.

Akutagawa committed suicide at the age of 35, claiming that he felt a "vague insecurity" about the future.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Loving the Alien: Prometheus Thoughts

Obviously - spoilers below.

I finally saw Prometheus last night. Jen and I did 2D because neither of us are 3D fans. For me, it detracts from the particular dimensionality of the medium. I like to have a sense of distance when I am watching something on screen.

Couple of quick observations:

  • I understand Ridley Scott's statement that, while set in the same universe as the other Alien films, Prometheus is not strictly a prequel. Yes, it takes place before the events of Alien; the fact that we see a proto-Xenomorph at the end of Prometheus likely means that some degree of fine-tuning/evolution still has to happen to the aliens before reaching the time-line of Alien.
  • I completely get why Guillermo del Toro said that Prometheus was the cause for his At the Mountains of Madness being shelved. Prometheus is basically At the Mountains of Madness in space. Read Lovecraft's novella and you'll see what I mean.
  • It is not an anachronism to have an axe on a spaceship. Technology, no matter how advanced, can fail for any number of reasons. If you need to break something/break into something/cut something down without access to lasers or anything tech operated, an axe is a good option.
  • While it is unlikely that a woman will be running around right after having had a Caesarean, it might be possible. Shock and adrenaline can go a long way to override pain and common sense, and if you're on a hostile planet, locked down with people who's motives are unclear and think you're a zealot, I'm thinking that your survival instincts might be able to push you into doing some hard to believe feats. Someone also mentioned the notion that the alien foetus removed from Elizabeth may have induced her with rapid healing and/or pain suppressing qualities.
  • No, Prometheus does not have the same claustrophobic sense of dread as Alien. That's because, a) it's not the same film, and b) compare the colour scheme of the two films. Alien was basically shot in derivatives of green, black, white and grey, a palate that contributes to the sense of unease and the unseen. Prometheus on the other hand is very brightly lit, with clear, open spaces inside the ship. Paradoxically, the lighting creates a sense of alienation and distance. Almost everyone on the ship harbours a sense of mistrust towards someone else; they want to hide, to not be seen, but the design of the Prometheus doesn't allow that, creating a different kind of tension, but tension nonetheless.
Ok. So, what are my initial thoughts about the film. And I mean initial,because things are likely to be added and revised or built upon after consecutive viewings.

I really, really liked it, and get the feeling that, with repeat viewings, it's a film I will end up loving. Remembering that Prometheus is for all intent and purpose filmed as a summer blockbuster, I think that Scott did an admirable job in balancing what a
blockbuster audience wants from an action movie with the more probing, philosophical and spiritual questions raised by the film.

In many ways, I understand why some have a problem labelling Prometheus an sf film. I'm not entirely convinced that it is sf, per se; not if you're conception of sf is that it provides working, logical answers. I'm thrilled and surprised that Scott has managed to bring a film like this to the big screen, considering the current state of religion and what's morally acceptable in America. Considering all the other drek that gets released by Hollywood studious, I'd take unanswered questions over a grown man's crude and extremely inappropriate teddy bear every time.

Is the planet at the beginning of Prometheus Earth? Who knows. Does it matter? Maybe not. Maybe. If it's not Earth, and somehow the Engineer's DNA made it to our planet (asteroid?), then there is still a very strong evolutionary motif present in Prometheus. I don't understand arguments classifying the film as being particularly creationist at all, as much as I don't agree with it as Christian myth revised. Me, a lapsed Protestant, who holds at least a BA in Religious Studies, which deals to a large degree with symbolism. Symbolism is fine, but we need to take into account that symbols are often simply symbolic of something else. Some symbols have been so didacticised that they have lost their original meaning. As for the angry mobs who label Prometheus a film version of Erich Von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods, this is not entirely true. The Engineer's may be "aliens" who made us, but like Shaw asks, "Who made [the Engineers]?" I think the word "alien" has come to mean certain things that have alienated (wha-whaa) it from its very basic meaning: "to be otherwise", "different", "foreign". And no matter how you feel about Von Daniken, he represents the questioning instinct that is so sorely lacking in contemporary science and spirituality.

If you can unequivocally answer the question "Where did human life originate?" then you deserve all the answers you demand from Prometheus. Whether you consider yourself an agnostic or religiously inclined person, Prometheus is going to step on your toes. Have you seen the detailed breakdown of the film as Christian allegory? It's a bit puerile, and reads like someone who has taken Symbology 101 and then decided to apply as much mythic countenance to what is, in essence, the universal creation myth. The problem is that this particular narrative cycle re-occurs throughout a number of cultural myths. It is not definitively Christian. Again, symbols are not static. Go read some Geertz.

Even if we momentarily consider a Christian interpretation of the film, it is most certainly a subverted one. If Elizabeth Shaw is supposed to be the Virgin Mary, she does not react the same as her namesake from the Bible. She cuts the alien from her womb and is clear that she wants nothing to do with it. That the alien foetus -- having grown exponentially by the end of the film -- saves her life regardless of Shaw trying to murder it may seem problematic to some, but we have to consider that such a life form may simply not adhere to the same (moral?) survival code as humans. It might simply have saved Shaw because it saw the Engineer as the next evolutionary step up in its development.

One of the underlying narratives of the film I found very interesting was the relationship between parent and child. Most obvious in this context is the triangle between David, Peter Weyland and Meredith Vickers. Meredith clearly hates David, and sees him as direct competition for her father's affections, a man she contradictorily seems to hate, or at the very least, feels little love for. David is an android, and as Peter Weyland himself describes David, "the son I never had."

What makes this triangle even more interesting is the consideration that Meredith might be an android herself. Sure, she and Janek had sex in a bid for Meredith to disprove this, but take into consideration the quip Holloway throws at David earlier when he comments on how "real" David looks: "They sure do make you well these days." How well, exactly? Well enough for Janek to be fooled into thinking he was sleeping with a human? Also, when the crew wakes after being in cryo-sleep for two years, everyone seems disorientated or even sick. Meredith, on the other hand, is on the floor doing push-ups like she's just graduated from Navy Seal camp. Hmmm.

If, on the other hand, Vickers is human, her actions and ultimately, her death, is a direct result of her contradictory feelings for her father. She could have said that her reasons for being on the ship was because she didn't want to be stuck in bureaucratic Weyland-hell, when the truth was that she wanted to be close to her father, to try and protect him, despite the fact that Weyland clearly did not care about whether she was there or not. She might have even wanted to protect him from David, who, while seemingly following Weyland's orders, still appeared to have motives of his own. (He may still have them, and we might have to wait for more movies to find out what exactly they are.) Unable to free herself from the desperate, unattainable approval she seeks from her father, Meredith is crushed by the Derelict/Juggernaut - the very thing that Peter Weyland came to find his answers from.

The parent/child relationship also affects Elizabeth Shaw and her father, a scientist (an anthropologist like Elizabeth?) who died after being infected with the Ebola virus. Questions arise about the bond between child and parent, as do issues of moral and ethical responsibility concerning blood relation. Is it a good thing to emulate the values of our parents? How much of who/what we become is genetic, and how much is a matter of parental direction/influence? Even in the face of knowing that our parents may have been wrong, why do we still cling to what they have taught us? Consider Elizabeth and the cross (her father's) that she wears around her neck. By the end of the film, her faith and scientific foundations have been visibly shaken, yet she demands that David give the cross back to her and once more puts it around her neck, effectively keeping herself tied to her father and his ideals/expectations/beliefs. I'm hoping that Shaw's motivations and inner struggles related to her faith will be explored in more depth in future installments. The parent/child issue is fundamentally the heart of Prometheus when we consider our relationship to the Engineers, as well as their own point of origin.

There are some  poignant philosophical/spiritual moments in Prometheus. One of the highlights in this respect comes when David and a drunk Holloway have a discussion in which David asks the scientist why humans created robots. Holloway responds by saying, somewhat derogatorily, "Because we can." David then asks him how disappointed he would be if he ever met his maker and, asking the same question, gets the same answer.

There is a very definitive streak of existentialism running throughout the film. It's very Lovecraftian, highlighting the inconsequential nature of mankind against the vast cosmicism of the unknown. Yes, we think we are unique, and that we have purpose, but do we? If we were created by chance as a result of some cosmic bang, [E]ngineered or not, does that in any way dilute our sense of purpose and/or meaning? These are the questions that underlie much of the conflict that has plagued humanity in the past, continues to do so today, and will no doubt be with us for a long time to come. For that alone, Prometheus is an important film.

The end of the film has clearly been left wide open for a sequel and the opportunity to reboot the entire Alien franchise anew. From a writer's point of view, the Alien universe is an extremely complex one. We as viewers have access to this universe only via what we are shown. I am always weary of questioning an author/creator's vision. As viewer (or reader), I simply do not have enough to go on that allows me to pass judgement on whether a film (or book) has failed. It is an organic process, and the outcome of creative vision can sometimes be strangely out of the control of even its creator. All I can comment on is what the final execution of this vision has meant to me. I can't wait to see where the next instalment (supposedly titled "Paradise", the original title of Prometheus) leads. In the meantime, I'll try and wait patiently for a Director's Cut of Prometheus and several repeat viewings of a film I hope many, many people go to see.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I Interview S.T. Joshi For Weird Tales

It was my absoloute pleasure to interview S.T. Joshi for Weird Tales recently. In this extensive interview, Joshi talks among other things about the history and evolution of weird fiction, as well as the most surprising thing he has learned about Lovecraft.

Always Late to the Party...

....but my short story "Into the Black Abyss" (Something Wicked, #15) garnered an honorable mention from Ellen Datlow for Best Horror of the Year volume 4.

Which is kind of awesome.

A. Merritt, “The People of the Pit,” 1918

"All at once it flashed upon me - it was like a baby crawling upstairs. The forepaws lifted themselves in grotesquely infantile fashion. It was grotesque but it was - terrible. It grew closer. We reached for our guns - and dropped them. Suddenly we knew that this crawling thing was a man!"
                      -- A. Merritt, "The People of the Pit"

Pulpy goodness!

Here we have some gold prospectors exploring Alaska, one of whom finds a ravine that puts the Grand Canyon to shame, and at the bottom of it - who knows?

Our intrepid explorer follows the ravine down via "...steps [that] ran along the side of the rock at a forty degree pitch." This really should  be the first sign that, whatever will be found at the bottom of the enormous ravine, it's not going to be candy and rainbows. Come on - steps down a gigantic ravine? Nothing human could possibly live down there, but "they" have obviously gone to the effort of luring people down there.


It's hard to know exactly what our man finds in the pit. There is talk of "Things that the Devil made before the Flood", intimating that the pit might perhaps be a kind of hell on Earth, at the very least, a holding place for the damned. Perhaps even Hell itself. This would significantly attribute to the weird nature of the story, as it brings the frighteningly mythological into the realm of the secular, and thus make such things more likely to in fact actually exist.

Yet, Merritt's story also has a very tangible sf feel to it. It is similar to Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness (written in 1931); even the slug-like creatures that Merritt's explorer finds in the pit can be seen as proto-forerunners of Lovecraft's shoggoths. And while we're on the topic of Lovecraft, let me just throw out this juicy little quote from "The People of the Pit":

"Its pillars were carved in monstrous scrolls - like mad octopuses with a thousand drunken tentacles; they rested on the backs of shapeless monstrosities carved in crimson stone. The altar front was a gigantic slab of purple covered with carvings."

Purple, like Lovecraft's writing. That, friends, could have come straight out of The Call of Cthulhu.

Whether the pit people are damned souls, demons, or a lost civilisation is a worthy point of argument. What leaves us uneasy about the story is that, whatever they are, they are not destroyed. They remain at the bottom of that unidentified pit, waiting for the next adventurer to stumble into. Might that be you?

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The "New" Lara Croft Needs You To Protect Her

So, this morning when I read my Twitter feed I was alerted to a large amount of rage being thrown around about the new Tomb Raider game trailer.

There's a great article about the whole debacle by Kellie Foxx-Gonzalez at The Mary Sue about the awful misogyny inherent in the notion that a woman has to suffer physically and be threatened with rape before she can actually become a "stronger person" - whatever that means in the minds of the obviously male game designers.

I'm just so pissed off right now.

Ron Rosenberg, executive producer of Tomb Raider had this to say about the direction of the new game:

"When people play Lara, they don’t really project themselves into the character...They're more like 'I want to protect her... She's definitely the hero but— you're kind of like her helper..." [Via Kotaku]

Torture Porn Lara 
What the actual fuck?

So, after the internet flame wars started up, Crystal Dynamics studio head Darrell Gallagher released a statement in which he claims that that there is no rape attempt against Tomb Raider hero Lara Croft in the scene shown in their "Crossroads" trailer. Not only do I call clear bullshit on that statement, but it directly contradicts a statement made by Rosenberg to a Kotaku journalist previously:

Rosenberg: "And then what happens is her best friend gets kidnapped, she gets taken prisoner by scavengers on the island. They try to rape her, and -"

Kotaku: "They try to rape her?"

Rosenberg: "She's literally turned into a cornered animal. And that's a huge step in her evolution: she's either forced to fight back or die and that’s what we're showing today." [via Kotaku]

So...Lara Craft becomes a strong woman because she's threatened with sexual violence. Hey, thanks men! Without you, awesome Lara would never have happened! Oh my god, we have men to thank for female empowerment!

Fuck you, Crystal Dynamics. Fuck all of you. I hope this game bombs like Lucifer's stand-up show at a Brian Tamaki bbq.

Twitter says:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Luigi Ugolini, “The Vegetable Man,” 1917

Luigi Ugolini

"It is only natural, Sir, that you are surprised by the color of my face."
                                            -- Luigi Ugolini, “The Vegetable Man”

I'm going to go out on a limb here and call Ugolini's story science fiction. Upon finishing "The Vegetable Man" I was reminded of Wyndham's triffids, as well as Wells' "The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth". You might think these to be obvious connections, considering the subject matter of the story, but there's more to it. Ugolini's narrative has a sparsity to it that, while certainly weird, is definitely reminiscent of the pulp sf narratives circa the 1910-1920.

That said, "The Vegetable Man" gives us a narrator's attempt at explaining events via science that, arguably, fails to do so. A sense of distrust about our own bodies lies at the core of the story, coupled with notions about unexplored territory (at the time, the Amazon jungle in particular). The notion of invasion is very much front and centre; perhaps an anxiety about what may be found in places untouched by "civilised man", and how such discoveries may alter our perceptions of ourselves. Or perhaps Ugolini is simply writing about our own sense of being, halted and trapped within a perishable body when he writes, "Do you feel strong and fearless enough to endure the sight of something truly terrible?"       

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rabindranath Tagore, “The Hungry Stones,” 1916

Rabindranath Tagore

"Stand back! Stand back!! All is false! All is false!"
                                Rabindranath Tagore - "The Hungry Stones'"

Before I begin, I have decided not to put a "Weird Factor" in these summaries anymore, as I think this might predispose some readers to expect certain things from stories. 'Weird' is such a strange context anyway, and is different for many readers.

 One of the things I appreciate most about The Weird anthology is that it brings together authors of the genre from a wide variety of cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds. Tagore's story is filled with words that sound beautiful to my European ears - "Nizam", "ghazals", "moghlai", and "attar", to name a few.

I suppose that foreign words will amplify feelings of strangeness in a text. In that sense, it serves an important purpose in terms of what weird fiction tries to do - to shift the reader into a perspective from which their perception of normality is slightly tilted, exactly because fundamentally, the weird questions our sense of  reality, truth, and status quo. This is part of "The Hungry Stones'" inner conflict, exemplified in the push and pull between past and present and its effect on amalgamated cultures (in this instance the English/Indian colonialist heritage).

"The Hungry Stones" takes the notion of inhabited spaces - both man made as well as natural - and uses them to question our perceptions of reality. It plays not only on aspects of the visual, but all our human senses. How far can we really shape our reality by what our senses tell us is real? The word 'dream' crops up several times in the narrative, which may suggest that the teller of the story has indeed lost his senses, and that by referring to his experiences as dreams has found the only way he can make sense of them. On the other hand, an experience may effectively be described as 'dreamlike' simply because the individual experiencing it has no other way of describing it. In such a case, the experience is no less real; rather, the teller has no way of contextualising it rationally.

Exotic and deeply atmospheric. Dense Persian and Arabic influence, which in my book, is always a plus.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hanns Heinz Ewers, “The Spider,” 1915

"When the student of medicine, Richard Bracquemont, decided to move into room #7 of the small Hotel Stevens, Rue Alfred Stevens (Paris 6), three persons had already hanged themselves from the cross-bar of the window in that room on three successive Fridays."
                                          Hanns Heinz Ewers, “The Spider,”  

This is an extremely dense story. There is lot going on here, and the continual distraction by several weird elements contributes to the uncertainty of what is actually going on.

I've always had a fondness for text written as journal entries, and "The Spider" mixes this format with a more traditional approach to narrative. This is one of the distractions I mentioned earlier, because it is almost unavoidable that the reader does not at some point consider the idea that Bracquemont is simply using his journal as a means of tethering himself to reality while he is in fact slowly losing his mind.

The woman across the way from Bracquemont, in an apartment on the other side of the street, is equally dubious. With her movements that mimic that of a spider she entrances Bracquemont, leading him into a game of eerie mimicry where the reader cannot be sure whether she is, like Bracquemont, a hapless player in a bigger, more sinister chain of events that are in actual fact directly linked to Room No. 7.

Which all brings us to the window and the seemingly supernatural power it holds over the inhabitants of Room No. 7. The notion of "seeing into the other side" comes into full play; is what the occupants seeing the truth as a matter of reality, and is that what drives them to all commit the same act? Or does the window make them see something out of the ordinary?

Weird Factor: 4/5. Because people are people and spiders should stay spiders.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Georg Heym, “The Dissection,” 1913

Georg Heym

"The dead man lay alone and naked on a white cloth in a wide room, surrounded by depressing white walls, in the cruel sobriety of a dissection room that seemed to shiver with the screams of endless torture."
             Georg Heym, "The Dissection"

Not only is death terrifying, it's also a magnificently weird state to be in. Heym's story is, to use one of his own words, naked; what is on the surface a clinical observation about a dead body turns out, on closer inspection, to be much more.

The topic of "The Dissection" is ostensibly death, yet there is a strange consciousness present throughout the telling of the tale. Is it the dead man, and if so, what does this state of being tell us about the nature of death? The story's consciousness (and I mean this both figuratively and literally, because that consciousness seems to reside both in the words and the narrative at the same time) veers from a perspective of fear to one of bliss, even while... well, I don't want to give too much away. Suffice to say that, as the introduction to the story states, Thomas Ligotti calls "The Dissection" one of his favourite tales ever. Weird factor 3/5.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Gustav Meyrink, “The Man in the Bottle,” 1912

Gustav Meyrink
"The spectators had formed themselves into two camps. The one was speechless under the spell of this vampiric, enigmatic marionette play that seemed to exhale an atmosphere of poisoned merriment; the other group, not sensitive enough to appreciate such a scene, laughed immoderately at the comical capering of the man in the bottle."
                                 -- Gustav Meyrink, “The Man in the Bottle”

There is something awfully sinister about this little tale. It might be the masked ball context, or the static/alive marionettes, watching people who are watching something that is clearly not something they think they are watching.

The Man in the Bottle


A sense of impending doom pervades the text but, like the audience in Meyrink's story, the reader is hampered by an invisible veil, keeping the reality of what is occurring on the periphery of our consciousness. It's there, we know it's there, but we can't - or won't - own up to it.

Loved the woman in the upside down bat costume. Is she walking upright or is she actually moving along upside down? There is a wonderfully gruesome opulence to the story that further pushes it into the realm of the weird. I'm going to give this a 4/5 Weird Factor, because it so deftly achieves what a good weird tale is supposed to. What did I just see in my mind? What did I just read, and why am left feeling slightly perturbed, and why do I crave to see what happens right after the last sentence and why on earth, despite all this, do I want to read it again?

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Friday, June 8, 2012

Lord Dunsany, “How Nuth Would Have Practiced his Art Upon the Gnoles,” 1912

Lord Dunsany

"The trees themselves were a warning, and did not wear the wholesome look of those that we plant ourselves."
         Lord Dunsany, “How Nuth Would Have Practiced His Art Upon the Gnoles”

Sixth story in The Weird. Again with the trees.

Dunsany's work still seems for fantasy than weird to me. "Nuth" is almost fairy tale like in its imagery. The weird aspects here are reflected through sudden jumps in settings, like turning the pages of a picture book and finding completely anachronistic images on every new page.

So what might be the difference between fantastic and weird? I need more than a short blog post to get into that. Suffice to say that Dunsany's story only gets a Weird Factor of 2/5 because I felt more enveloped by imagery than atmosphere. I probably need to spend more time with his work on on the whole. ...And now that I think of it, a scuttling fairy is pretty creepy.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Thursday, June 7, 2012

M.R. James, “Casting the Runes,” 1911

"It was rather shame than courage that induced him to slip out into the passage and lean over the banister in his nightgown, listening. No light was visible; no further sound came: only a gust of warm, or even hot air played for an instant round his shins. He went back and decided to lock himself into his room. There was more unpleasantness, however."
                                                      M.R. James, "Casting the Runes"

Oh yes. James' famous "ghost" story. Um, no.

The fifth story in The Weird is the first one that I would classify as dealing undisputedly with the supernatural. And it ain't ghosts. Maybe it's the lapsed/indoctrinated Protestant in me, but "Casting the Runes" is a bit hair-raising. There is mention of witchcraft, and it ain't in a Glenda the good witch kind of way.That bit near the end, where the guy asks Karswell who the man is accompanying him, and Karswell reacts like the guy's got double vision. YIKES. Also, academics running around with all that knowledge - scary as.

Weird factor 4/5. Again with the witchcraft. I don't understand how people call this a ghost story.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I have to make a post. About Feminism.

Yea and it's not going to be easy. Lord.

I'm not a feminist; at least, I don't classify myself as one. (Does god exist even if you don't believe he/she/it/blank space does?) Of course I believe in equal rights for women, and access to the same opportunities and knowledge as are afforded to men. I guess some call that "feminism", while I like to refer to it as "human rights". Equal rights "for women" suggests that women are different from men, which they are, but only on a fundamentally biological level. In the end, we are all human.

Side Note: I spent the last year intimately studying language and the way we use specific words in particular contexts to mean things we don't even realise we are saying. Bear with me.

I don't really know how to approach this whole feminism thing, mostly because I am still sorting myself out about it. Ergo, I need some kind of focus to work from; a point of discussion, if you will. That point of discussion, because she has come up in several threads of conversation I have recently had with different people, is

Get the fucking picture?
Amanda Fucking Palmer.

No, the expletive isn't mine. This is how Palmer herself and her fans often refer to her. I don't know what it's supposed to mean. Does it convey coolness? An edge-factor?

Also, from all the fan-gushiness, it appears that Amanda Palmer is a feminist icon. She enables girls to say things like "Where do i buy a pair of those fabulous panties. I wanna show off my muff." (see comments section for the youtube video linked below). Or is that the internet? Is the internet feminist?

I don't understand Amanda Palmer. I don't get what she's trying to do. (It's because I'm not a feminist, isn't it?) It would appear that she considers herself extremely av ante-grde. She sings about her girly bits with complete abandon (though "map of tasmania" is slightly outdated as a term for the female pubic region, but hey, fuck it!). She doesn't shave her armpits and she plays the ukulele. She's married to Neil Gaiman. (Which I'm kind of irked by, because every time I think, or see, or hear anything about Gaiman now, I think of Amanda Fucking Palmer. But then again, I kind of lost track of Gaiman after Anansi Boys).

Did they call Julia Roberts a feminist after that time she didn't shave her armpits?

Amanda Palmer, as a feminist icon, is problematic. Google her name alongside such phrases as "disablism", "racism", "transphobia" and "rape apologism" and you will find a host of articles written by people with a lot more eloquence on the subject than I currently hold.

What I'm trying to get at, with Palmer as an example of feminism, is that this kind of "feminism" makes me very uncomfortable about what women think it is they need to do in order to be heard, or to be taken seriously.  Perhaps my argument is not about Amanda Palmer per se, but rather the idea of Amanda Palmer. Does she do what she does because Amanda Palmer is about shocking people?

Of course, there is nothing wrong with temporarily yanking people out of their comfort zones. On the contrary. However, pairing this notion of "shock doctrine" with "feminism" - I'm not entirely sure that this is a healthy path to go down. Feminism - the notion that women should have equal rights in all areas and aspects of life, should be anything but shocking. It should be the most goddamn normal thing you can think of.

Amanda Palmer doesn't give a shit about what anyone thinks of her, though. That's okay too, because I didn't write this for her. I thought this entry was going to say a whole lot of nothing, but now I've found it had a purpose after all. Amanda Palmer is not a feminist. Not how I see it, anyway. This somehow makes me feel better. About a lot of things.

* Let me link to this article, because it's really good, and it talks about Palmer and feminism and the problems between the two very well.

Watch out, Venus!

Transit of Venus, 2012. See you in 2117.

Saki, "Sredni Vashtar," 1910

Hector Hugh Munro, aka Saki

"Do one thing for me, Sredni Vashtar."
                                        --  Saki, "Sredni Vashtar,"

Story number four in The Weird is a short one, but this by no means counteracts its effectiveness. It's also a shining example of why I generally like children in books better than real-life ones. When writers write children, they tend to treat them as people; when you're around real children, adults tend to treat them as kids.

Weird factor at 3/5 because the story ends very satisfyingly rather than having creeped me out. If you have children, you might find it more disturbing.

Lesson learned? Don't be mean to kids and leave alone what belongs to them. They will make shit happen to you that you'll never see coming.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Algernon Blackwood, “The Willows,” 1907

Algernon Blackwood

"Strange thoughts like these, bizarre fancies, borne I know not whence, found lodgement in my mind as I stood listening. What, I thought, if, after all, these crouching willows proved to be alive; if suddenly they should rise up, like a swarm of living creatures, marshaled by the gods whose territory we had invaded, sweep towards us off the vast swamps, booming overhead in the night - and then settle down!"
                                 Algernon Blackwood, "The Willows"

The third story in The Weird is one I only recently read for the first time. Having long been a Lovecraft fan (more on Howard later), I'm surprised that it's taken me so long to catch onto Blackwood, since "The Willows" was one of HPL's favourite stories.

"The Willows" is by turn deeply unsettling and deeply moving. There is a sense of transcendence to the story's atmosphere, likely due to the part that Nature plays as a backdrop to the events that take place.

Blackwood is more sublime than Lovecraft when he addresses the cosmic, as well as less damning. The story uses Nature as an entry-point to the supranatural, the latter both a force that equally attracts and repels. Weird factor - 4/5. Trees are creepy. When they happen to be willows, extra creepy. And men waving warnings in boats, crossing themselves. Get. AWAY.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Monday, June 4, 2012

F. Marion Crawford, “The Screaming Skull,” 1908

F. Marion Crawford
"I could not have stayed alone with that thing in the cupboard; I should have been scared to death, though I am no more timid than other people."

                                     -- F. Marion Crawford, "The Screaming Skull"

The second entry in the The Weird should be well-known to those familiar with the genre. Crawford's tale of a man desperately trying to cling to his own sanity in the face of the horrific is as unsettling on repeat readings as it is when first encountered.

The writing is perfectly balanced, veering between notions about whether the narrator is truly experiencing something supernatural, or whether his own ideas and beliefs are propelling him into thinking that he is being haunted by a preposterously adamant object that refuses to leave him alone.

Weird factor is a solid 4/5. The creep factor is unsettlingly tangible, enhanced by the stream of consciousness mode of writing Crawford employs as he addresses the reader directly, pulling us into the story, and thus into the narrator's out of control context.

Lesson learned? Don't put strange objects in boxes in cupboards.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Alfred Kubin, “The Other Side” (excerpt), 1908

Alfred Kubin
"Oh, if only I could stop thinking, but that functions automatically. There are no certainties that are not counteracted by uncertainties!"
                                                                    Alfred Kubin, “The Other Side”

An extract from Kubin's larger work, The Other Side, the first story in the The Weird anthology works well as a standalone piece, probably because of the surreal nature of the content. The story features a sleeping city called Pearl that wakes up to being overrun by animals and insects of all kinds, and "The American" that seems to be at the root of all the weirdery.

Weird factor is probably at around 2 (out of 5); the story is definitely surreal with some striking imagery, but didn't leave me feeling uncomfortable or unsettled in the way I expect from the truly uncanny.

Kubin was also an illustrator, who supplied images for the works of amongst others Edgar A. Poe. These are hauntingly, beautifully weird, and evoke a sense of disturbance I found lacking from the excerpt that kicks off the Vandermeer & Vandermeer collection. Example below.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Jede Nacht besucht uns ein Traum (Every Night We are Haunted by a Dream), ca. 1902-03

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Weird Anthology

So, instead of a traditional review, I'm going to do something different with Jeff and Ann Vandermeer's fantastically ginormous collection of Weird stories.

I will endeavor to read a story a day from the anthology, and then do a small, quick entry about each story. Not surprisingly, taking into account all the other things that take up what I refer to as 'my life', some days might not yield a review; regardless, I will try to keep up.

The collection is wide-ranging, featuring the likes of Kafka, Borges, Dunsany and Lovecraft, plus a host of others who deserve to be highlighted as contributors to the a genre that remains difficult to pin down.

And so it should rightly remain.

Full TOC:

Alfred Kubin, “The Other Side” (excerpt), 1908 (translation, Austria)

F. Marion Crawford, “The Screaming Skull,” 1908

Algernon Blackwood, “The Willows,” 1907

Saki, “Sredni Vashtar,” 1910

M.R. James, “Casting the Runes,” 1911

Lord Dunsany, “How Nuth Would Have Practiced his Art,” 1912

Gustav Meyrink, “The Man in the Bottle,” 1912 (translation, Austria)

Georg Heym, “The Dissection,” 1913 (new translation by Gio Clairval, Germany)

Hanns Heinz Ewers, “The Spider,” 1915 (translation, Germany)

Rabindranath Tagore, “The Hungry Stones,” 1916 (India)

Luigi Ugolini, “The Vegetable Man,” 1917 (new translation by Anna and Brendan Connell, Italy; first-ever translation into English)

A. Merritt, “The People of the Pit,” 1918

Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “The Hell Screen,” 1918 (new translation, Japan)

Francis Stevens (Gertrude Barrows Bennett), “Unseen—Unfeared,” 1919

Franz Kafka, “In the Penal Colony,” 1919 (translation, German/Czech)

Stefan Grabinski, “The White Weyrak,” 1921 (translation, Poland)

H.F. Arnold, “The Night Wire,” 1926

H.P. Lovecraft, “The Dunwich Horror,” 1929

Margaret Irwin, “The Book,” 1930

Jean Ray, “The Mainz Psalter,” 1930 (translation, Belgium)

Jean Ray, “The Shadowy Street,” 1931 (translation, Belgium)

Clark Ashton Smith, “Genius Loci,” 1933

Hagiwara Sakutoro, “The Town of Cats,” 1935 (translation, Japan)

Hugh Walpole, “The Tarn,” 1936

Bruno Schulz, “Sanatorium at the Sign of the Hourglass,” 1937 (translation, Poland)

Robert Barbour Johnson, “Far Below,” 1939

Fritz Leiber, “Smoke Ghost,” 1941

Leonora Carrington, “White Rabbits,” 1941

Donald Wollheim, “Mimic,” 1942

Ray Bradbury, “The Crowd,” 1943

William Sansom, “The Long Sheet,” 1944

Jorge Luis Borges, “The Aleph,” 1945 (translation, Argentina)

Olympe Bhely-Quenum, “A Child in the Bush of Ghosts,” 1949 (Benin)

Shirley Jackson, “The Summer People,” 1950

Margaret St. Clair, “The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles,” 1951

Robert Bloch, “The Hungry House,” 1951

Augusto Monterroso, “Mister Taylor,” 1952 (new translation by Larry Nolen, Guatemala)

Amos Tutuola, “The Complete Gentleman,” 1952 (Nigeria)

Jerome Bixby, “It’s a Good Life,” 1953

Julio Cortazar, “Axolotl,” 1956 (new translation by Gio Clairval, Argentina)

William Sansom, “A Woman Seldom Found,” 1956

Charles Beaumont, “The Howling Man,” 1959

Mervyn Peake, “Same Time, Same Place,” 1963

Dino Buzzati, “The Colomber,” 1966 (new translation by Gio Clairval, Italy)

Michel Bernanos, “The Other Side of the Mountain,” 1967 (new translation by Gio Clairval, France)

Merce Rodoreda, “The Salamander,” 1967 (translation, Catalan)

Claude Seignolle, “The Ghoulbird,” 1967 (new translation by Gio Clairval, France)

Gahan Wilson, “The Sea Was Wet As Wet Could Be,” 1967

Daphne Du Maurier, “Don’t Look Now,” 1971

Robert Aickman, “The Hospice,” 1975

Dennis Etchison, “It Only Comes Out at Night,” 1976

James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon), “The Psychologist Who Wouldn’t Do Terrible Things to Rats,” 1976

Eric Basso, “The Beak Doctor,” 1977

Jamaica Kincaid, “Mother,” 1978 (Antigua and Barbuda/US)

George R.R. Martin, “Sandkings,” 1979

Bob Leman, “Window,” 1980

Ramsey Campbell, “The Brood,” 1980

Michael Shea, “The Autopsy,” 1980

William Gibson/John Shirley, “The Belonging Kind,” 1981

M. John Harrison, “Egnaro,” 1981

Joanna Russ, “The Little Dirty Girl,” 1982

M. John Harrison, “The New Rays,” 1982

Premendra Mitra, “The Discovery of Telenapota,” 1984 (translation, India)

F. Paul Wilson, “Soft,” 1984

Octavia Butler, “Bloodchild,” 1984

Clive Barker, “In the Hills, the Cities,” 1984

Leena Krohn, “Tainaron,” 1985 (translation, Finland)

Garry Kilworth, “Hogfoot Right and Bird-hands,” 1987

Lucius Shepard, “Shades,” 1987

Harlan Ellison, “The Function of Dream Sleep,” 1988

Ben Okri, “Worlds That Flourish,” 1988 (Nigeria)

Elizabeth Hand, “The Boy in the Tree,” 1989

Joyce Carol Oates, “Family,” 1989

Poppy Z Brite, “His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood,” 1990

Michal Ajvaz, “The End of the Garden,” 1991 (translation, Czech)

Karen Joy Fowler, “The Dark,” 1991

Kathe Koja, “Angels in Love,” 1991

Haruki Murakami, “The Ice Man,” 1991 (translation, Japan)

Lisa Tuttle, “Replacements,” 1992

Marc Laidlaw, “The Diane Arbus Suicide Portfolio,” 1993

Steven Utley, “The Country Doctor,” 1993

William Browning Spenser, “The Ocean and All Its Devices,” 1994

Jeffrey Ford, “The Delicate,” 1994

Martin Simpson, “Last Rites and Resurrections,” 1994

Stephen King, “The Man in the Black Suit,” 1994

Angela Carter, “The Snow Pavilion,” 1995

Craig Padawer, “The Meat Garden,” 1996

Stepan Chapman, “The Stiff and the Stile,” 1997

Tanith Lee, “Yellow and Red,” 1998

Kelly Link, “The Specialist’s Hat,” 1998

Caitlin R. Kiernan, “A Redress for Andromeda,” 2000

Michael Chabon, “The God of Dark Laughter,” 2001

China Mieville, “Details,” 2002

Michael Cisco, “The Genius of Assassins,” 2002

Neil Gaiman, “Feeders and Eaters,” 2002

Jeff VanderMeer, “The Cage,” 2002

Jeffrey Ford, “The Beautiful Gelreesh,” 2003

Thomas Ligotti, “The Town Manager,” 2003

Brian Evenson, “The Brotherhood of Mutilation,” 2003

Mark Samuels, “The White Hands,” 2003

Daniel Abraham, “Flat Diana,” 2004

Margo Lanagan, “Singing My Sister Down,” 2005 (Australia)

T.M. Wright, “The People on the Island,” 2005

Laird Barron, “The Forest,” 2007

Liz Williams, “The Hide,” 2007

Reza Negarestani, “The Dust Enforcer,” 2008 (Iran)

Micaela Morrissette, “The Familiars,” 2009

Steve Duffy, “In the Lion’s Den,” 2009

Stephen Graham Jones, “Little Lambs,” 2009

K.J. Bishop, “Saving the Gleeful Horse,” 2010 (Australia)