Showing posts from August, 2022

The Sin-Eater

Fiona Macleod, "The Sin-Eater" in The Sin-Eater and Other Tales  (1895). Read the story here on Gutenberg The notion of a sin-eater, a person that through funerary ritual can take on the sins of the deceased, is ripe for a weird tale, and Fiona Macleod certainly delivers one here. From the melancholy setting, to the down trodden characters, to the unsettling superstitions that folks believe in (sort of), this story drips with sadness and frightful gloom. These eerie elements working together result in a haunting story of madness and the supernatural (maybe).  The characters have their doubts that the sin-eating practice has merit. Nonetheless, they partake in the ritual, and Neil Ross even tries to manipulate it for his own revengeful ends. Well, things don't work out quite as expected. Curses are nasty things!  

The Monsters of Heaven

Nathan Ballingrud, "The Monsters of Heaven" in North American Lake Monsters  (Small Beer Press: 2013). Even in heaven there are monsters of a particularly insidious type, helpful in cruel and terrible ways. But it's the best we can hope for.  This is one of my favorite stories from the book. It leaves my imagination stuck with disturbing, sick, and wet images of creatures not understood. The grief, sorrow, and confusion of Brian’s and Amy's lives are set against a backdrop of the supernatural, and the weird aspects of the story are somehow simultaneously subtle and striking. The horror hits home when you realize the mundane aspects of the story are just as confounding and scary as the supernatural one.  The narrative brings to focus aspects of our humanity that are unique to us, but, at the same time, horrifying and pitiful: the power to imagine, to fantasize, to sublimate, to pull the wool over our own eyes just to have it continually ripped off to see the ugly truth

Things Found in Richard Pickman's Basement and Things Left There

Mary Berman, "Things Found in Richard Pickman's Basement and Things Left There" in Weird Horror, Issue 2, Spring 2021, Undertow Publications. In H.P. Lovecraft's "Pickman's Model," little did we know that while Thurber told his frightening story to Eliot, someone else, Mrs. Eliot, stood in the darkened doorway as secret witness to Thurber's terrifying tale of his discoveries at Pickman's house in North End. In "Things Found in Richard Pickman's Basement and Things Left There," we find out how Mrs. Eliot uses that information to horrifying ends and that she is, in fact, to be feared more than Richard Upton Pickman.  Like Lovecraft's "Pickman's Model," Mary Berman's tale is told from the perspective of hearing one side of a conversation, but the tables are turned. There is a new story to tell and it is  Thurber  who must listen to  Eliot , though this time, it is Mrs. Eliot with voice. This story has deep themes

Found and Lost

Meghan Arcuri, "Found and Lost" in  Under Twin Suns: Alternate Histories of the Yellow Sign , ed. James Chambers (Hippocampus Press: 2021).  My opening murmur is usually spoiler-free; however, this post reveals some details that particularly spoiler sensitive readers may wish to avoid. The King in Yellow stories that I enjoy the most are usually the ones that capture the mood and mystery of the original Robert W. Chambers—the stories that don't answer the questions. In that tradition, two of my favorites are Karl Edward Wagner's "River of Night's Dreaming" and Sarah Read's "The Inn of the Fates." Although certainly parts of Arcuri's short story retain the yellow-mystery and leave the reader with lots of questions, "Found and Lost" is, first and foremost, a cleverly creative story that gives us a peek into what Mr. Hawberk and Louis Castaigne, from "The Repairer of Reputations," are doing when they are off-page in the


 Thomas Ligotti and Brandon Trenz, "Crampton" a script of an unproduced episode of "The X Files," 1998.  This feels exactly like the script you’d expect if you asked Thomas Ligotti to write an X-Files episode! It includes a strange town, stage magic, clowns, mannikins, a psychic hotline, ventriloquist dummies, and plenty of philosophical pessimism. The script is terrifying, but, at the same time, the humorous banter between Scully and Mulder is spot on. Specific scenes masterfully inform the abstract themes of the episode. Illusion becomes reality when the FBI concocts a fake cover story that spins out of control. The themes of solipsistic idealism—that nothing exists except what is currently conscious—are reiterated when a restaurant eerily shuts its lights off and closes once Scully and Mulder leave the parking lot. At one point a costume is stripped away, revealing no one underneath. There is a telling dialogue where a retired FBI agent, who used to work fraud ca

The Inn of the Fates

Sarah Read, "The Inn of the Fates" in Under Twin Suns: Alternate Histories of the Yellow Sign , ed. James Chambers (Hippocampus Press: 2021).  Sarah Read's story captures the imagination in a similar way that Robert W. Chambers'  The King in Yellow  does. In the same way that Chambers doesn't give us all the answers and leaves things mysterious, this one is weird in all the right places! It is a King in Yellow story in the tradition of Bierce, Chambers, and Wagner with no Lovecraftian detours—an absolute delight.    This one has a lot of "oh, that was cool" moments. Which one grabbed you?