The House on the Borderland

It started out reading some William Meikle stories set in Scotland. That expanded into reading his Sigils and Totems series which took me to his Carnacki pastiches. That took me to William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki tales which led me to reading this one and The Night Land since Meikle seemed to be using some elements of them.

Review: The House on the Borderland, William Hope Hodgson, Complete Works of William Hope Hodgson, 2015.House on the Borderland

Several horror and weird fiction motifs exist in this novel. There’s the house with secrets. There’s the isolated house under attack by monsters. There’s possession by inhuman forces.

This is a novel of portals and mysterious connections centered around a huge and lonely house in the wilds of Ireland, a novel of opposites hardly understood by the man who encounters them.

It’s also a novel of time travel, of an astral sort, showing deep time and the far future in a remarkable manner, a time-lapsed vision that takes up seven of the books twenty-three chapters.

Framing the story is the account of two vacationing fishermen in 1877 who come across the ruins of an old house perched above a ravine and a nearby cataract. In those ruins is discovered a manuscript, the basis of our story. Continue reading “The House on the Borderland”

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“The Feaster from Afar”

This week’s piece of weird fiction was first published The Disciples of Cthulhu from 1976, a time long before “Cthulhu” and “Lovecraft” got slapped on so many book covers.

Review: “The Feaster From Afar”, Joseph Payne Brennan, 1976.

Disciples of Cthulhu
Cover by Karel Thole

Our protagonist is Sydney Mellor Madison, a writer of historical novels. He works in two year cycles: six months of research, a year of writing, and then six months of copy editing and promotion.

He’s become successful and decides he’d like to write his next book in someplace isolated away from the duties that distract him when he tries to work in his apartment.

He’s offered a lease on an unused hunting lodge in “northern New England”. So, he goes to check it out before signing.

He gets to the village of Granbury and meets the local storekeeper the lodge is twelve miles up a very bad road. It’s a road through a “bleak, uninhabited, and altogether inhospitable” land.

The first night there, Madison doesn’t sleep well. But he gets up, eats breakfasts, and sits down to write. The hunting lodge decorations and furniture may not be to his taste. But he’s a pro. He doesn’t wait until he’s in the mood to write. Do that, and you’ll end up a book reviewer.

But, after three hours, he stops, decides to check the mail, finds there is no mailbox, so drives back to Granbury. There he talks to Saines, the storekeeper, who tells him he has to pick up his mail at the store. Saines asks Madison if he’s a hunter. When the reply is in the negative, Saines is a bit taken aback as to why he would stay at the lodge then. A local character, sitting in the corner, ominously says, “Mebbe yew don’t hunt, mister, but just be sure yew ain’t the hunted.”

Annoyed at this “cracker-barrel” philosophy, Maidson leaves and decides he’s only going to pick up his mail once a week. Royalty checks can wait.

Back at the lodge, he has a few drinks to wash away his annoyance.

The next morning he’s still not in the best of moods – more bad dreams — so grabs one of the many shotguns in the lodge and takes a walk. The area around the lodge is remarkably silent and free of any sign of animals. It’s “barren and bleak” and feels wrong.

It’s more bad dreams that night. The place is getting on his nerves, so he goes back to Granbury and talks to Saines.

“Did anything – ever happen – up there? I mean, anything real bad?” he asks Saines.

Well, there was that hunter found dead up there awhile back. He had a bunch of holes in his head and no brain.

Madison is incredulous about this. Why wasn’t it in the papers?

Not everythin’ gits in the papers, Mr. Madison. And sometimes investigations that turns — complercated – gits hushed up!

Madison should just leave the lodge. Something bad is up there.

“Anyway, the Whateleys drew suthin’ down out of the sky there – and it ain’t niver left…”, says Saines.

Besides, Madison being a writin’ fellow he’s surprised he’s never heard of the “Cthulhu Mythos”

That does not impress Madison. He’s heard of some “pulp-magazine scribbler” – “Lovelock or Lovecrop – or something like that.”

Back to the lodge, Madison is still on edge and distracts himself by looking through the lodge’s library.

Out of one book falls a note that Hastur, the Feaster from Afar, has put his mark on the area. The reader of the note should just leave.

Madison thinks he’s the victim of a practical joke. The note could be forged – though how would a prankster know which book he would pick up? None of the other books have such notes.

And then the story reaches it’s expected conclusion.

We then hear about that dream Madison has had every night, a dream of pursuit in the country under moonlight pursued by a flying figure with talons. It’s no dream this time, though.

And Hastur, the Feaster from Afar sucks Madison’s brains out.

So, a predictable if enjoyable story with the main points of interest being the disparagement of H. P. Lovecraft and his story “The Dunwich Horror“.

 

More fantastic fiction is indexed by title and author/editor.

The Casebook of Carnacki — the Ghost-Finder

Before reading any more of William Meikle’s Carnacki pastiches, I decided I should actually read the original Carnacki tales by William Hope Hodgson since, before this book, the only one I’d read was “The Hog”.

Review: The Casebook of Carnacki – the Ghost-Finder, ed. David Stuart Davies, 2006.th0CG7RAKT

It’s easy to mock the Carnacki tales.

They are not the first occult detective series. Hodgson seems to have created the character to cash in on the potential of a series character. The large number of magazines in 1910, when the first story was published, meant, unlike today, short fiction was usually better paying than writing novels. Carnacki was inspired by the success of Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence stories, another occult detective series.

Carnacki’s tools seem somewhat ludicrous, even for the time. There’s a heavy patina of pseudoscience what with the occult significance of various colors and Carnacki’s famous Electric Pentacle, essentially a string of colored lights for magical defense.

The otherworldy is often signified by strings of repeated vowels: Carnacki’s go-to reference the Sigsand Manuscript and its Saaamaaa Ritual, the Incantation of Raaaeee, and the Aeiirii “forms of materialization”.

Yet the stories work. Continue reading “The Casebook of Carnacki — the Ghost-Finder”

“A Twilight”

This week’s weird fiction selection.

Review: “A Twilight”, Michel de Ghelderode, translated by George MacLennan, 1941.

This is the sort of weird fiction with almost no plot and long on an atmosphere built by the narrator describing his emotional states and judicious use of metaphor. No monsters here. To analyze it closely is equivalent to understand a butterfly by slicing the wings up.

It’s a short enough story you can read it at the link.

The action is as follows.

The narrator wakes up on a rainy day. It’s been raining for a long time. His room is damp and musty. He has a premonition that the world will be “destroyed by water” (though no biblical allusions are made to Noah’s Flood).

He walks about a strangely deserted city with not even any lamps lit. The city seems lethargic.

The sun breaks through the clouds at twilight.

The narrator goes to the church of St. Nicholas. His sense of trepidation increases in the deserted church. He stumbles against a figure of Christ that has fallen from a column.

The “dislocated church” fills up with an “amber vapor” and seems to remake itself. A comforting drone starts up.

Night falls, streetlights come on, the streets are now crowded with people. “The world smelled carnally after the deluge”

It’s almost as if the narrator has sensed a coming apocalypse which is avoided or somehow enters into a world where it is impending.

Yet the story ends on a disquieting note.

Those crowds are likened to herds of cattle going to the slaughterhouse, their blood

“flowing in torrents in order to appease, who knows which, the wrath of the gods or the hunger of men . . . “.

So, while the world didn’t end, the narrator ends his story on a note of foreboding, with a new consciousness, a new way of viewing the world, perhaps at last perceiving things as they are and a disaster to come.

Given that it was published in 1941 and de Ghelderode was Belgium one can rightly suspect the anxieties of war and occupation at work.

 

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

“The Bronze Door”

And here’s a belated look at the weird fiction being discussed this week at LibraryThing.

Regular readers will wonder what happened to the last two weeks’ worth of weird fiction. They were Lovecraft pieces I’ve blogged about before. The blogging madness has to stop sometime, and I’m not going to cover most pieces more than once.

This is the first Chandler I’ve read though I’ve certainly seen imitations of his style, but I hadn’t got around to reading the master himself. The closest I’ve come is many viewings of the movie Double Indemnity which has dialogue by Chandler.

Review: “The Bronze Door”, Raymond Chandler, 1939.0b910211280873b637038727341434b41716b42

As you would expect in a rare bit of weird fiction from mystery writer Chandler, there is a murder here and a detective here.

Events are set in motion when our protagonist Mr. James Sutton-Cornish goes to his London club and meets a “man from the Calabar” an “empire-builder frayed at the temples”. Sutton-Cornish is delighted at this since no one ever talks to him at his club apart from servants.

But, perhaps, the exchange also aggravates Sutton-Cornish’s discontentment with his life since that empire-builder went to the same school as he did though they never met before. And, when we return home, we find out why James is discontented and drinks too much. (Drinking too much was a subject Chandler personally knew well.) His wife Louella is a shrew who reminds James that he’s a failure and that they live off her money since the only thing he brought into the marriage was a house he inherited.

And then there’s Teddy, Louella’s Pomeranian, who tyrannizes James since Louella dotes on her dog. Continue reading ““The Bronze Door””

“The Hoard of the Gibbelins”

This week’s weird fiction is from Lord Dunsany, a writer who I haven’t warmed to yet, but this story made some progress in that direction.

Review: “The Hoard of the Gibbelins”, Lord Dunsany, 1911.

Like most of the Lord Dunsany I’ve read, there is a sardonic edge here. Dunsany seems to be putting his own witty spin on fables that seem like fairy tales and, possibly, mocking the modern world.

The Gibbelins are never described physically, but they like to eat people. Their “evil tower is joined to Terra Cognita” by a bridge. Their castle is stocked with gold and jewels to lure thieves there to be eaten.

Alderic, “a Knight of the Order of the City and the Assault, hereditary Guard of the King’s Peace of Mind” – a subtly mocking title, decides to go for the treasure because, like those more common thieves, he also suffers from avarice. He decides he is not going through the Gibbelins’ castle door but is going to tunnel through its walls, flood the castle by letting a river in it, and then dive for the emeralds in a store room.

He wittily forces a dragon to aid him by going to the dragon and asking

’Hath foul dragon ever slain true knight?’ And well the dragon knew that this had never been, and he hung his head and was silent, for he was glutted with blood.

The dragon agrees to help him fly to the castle.

There’s an amusing bit where Alderic rains his gold down on the crowds beneath him as he sets off. He figures that, if he succeeds in getting the Gibbelin treasure, he won’t need it. If he dies trying, he also won’t need it. There is a brief aside about everyone – almost – excited about the possibility of Alderic getting the Gibbelin treasure and the riches it will bring the kingdom. The moneylenders are less happy about having debts repaid.

However, while Alderic gets into the castle as planned, the Gibbelins are waiting for him. The story concludes:

And, without saying a word, or even smiling, they neatly hanged him on the outer wall—and the tale is one of those that have not a happy ending.

 

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.