Thermopolis as a Concept

September 30, 2017

The scenery is used to being blamed for such things, red, beige, and more red with some yellow. And blue and black and white.

I’m busy looking at everything I’m looking at. It rises and falls as I sit and stand. It’s shadowy or bright or neither really, navys and grays. I expect great things from it.

A little jump and it’s leaping. There on the bluffs overlooking the town I see it leap as I’m looking at it leaping.

If, late in summer, it’s late in summer, then it’s late in summer.

Darling. Yes, darling.

Kristina Marie Darling

You want me to perform this?

September 30, 2017

violently sexual

September 30, 2017

Sunday entertainment 3

Sex isn’t a subtext in “The Bloody Chamber,” but the text itself. (Angela Carter would explain that she was only making explicit a “latent content” that is “violently sexual.”) The title story is a version of “Bluebeard” in which a fin de siècle ingénue, the churchmouse-poor daughter of a widowed music teacher, weds an older, thrice-married marquis who is “the richest man in France.” He sweeps her off to his ancestral manse, where she gets a suite in a tower and where her curious wanderings unearth his collection of kinky books. Then he departs on a suspiciously timed business trip, leaving her with a ring of keys and permission to visit every room, except one.

Eroticism hangs heavy in the air here, as it does in much of “The Bloody Chamber,” like an expensive, drugging perfume. There is something vampiric about the marquis’ perversity, and about his “white, heavy flesh,” which the narrator repeated compares to lilies. Yet she is aroused to see him watching her in a mirror “with the assessing eye of a connoisseur inspecting horseflesh.” She believes he can see into her soul, perceiving “a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away.” It’s not so much his power that entraps her, as her own longing for surrender.

Laura Miller
Fairy tales, fantasy and dangerous female desire

diverse body of occult tales

September 30, 2017

Kees Van Der Knaap - The jugler

He (Algernon Blackwood) understood the power of the intangible, and developed a style of writing that relied on suggestion and atmosphere. Regarding all experience as – potentially – spiritual, he believed that an understanding of nature would lead to faith and a knowledge of how to live. In the years leading up to the first world war, he produced an extra-ordinary and diverse body of occult tales: innocent campers who pitch their tent in a place where another dimension intersects with our own (“The Wendigo”); the psychological transformation of a fey aristocrat (“The Regeneration of Lord Ernie”); a house haunted by the echo of religious intolerance (“The Damned”); a man seduced by the forest (“The Man Whom the Trees Loved”).

Kate Mosse
Horror in the shadows

we slipped over the edge

September 30, 2017

I did not know her pleasure from mine, my body from hers. We fell into and became each other. Then we slipped over the edge, entered and made love.

Kate Millett

leave the wretched thing alone

September 29, 2017


I do revise a little as I go along. When it flows, as a rule I don’t need to change more than perhaps the odd word or emphasis. Sometimes I need to add in a short passage, or remove ditto, or move an existing one up or down the line. Sometimes the scrawl is so uncivilized I realize even I won’t be able to translate it by the hour I again reach that point during typing, so I rewrite it slightly more legibly. As I type out the MS I may also change some small thing. Rarely does it amount to much. Now and then, luckily for me not often, I may struggle (at the longhand stage) over a tiny paragraph or piece of continuity. I’ve found, across time, (having been writing since 9, that’s roughly 55 years) that the best way here is to leave the wretched thing alone and go on regardless. Almost always, a while later on returning to the scene of the crime, I can sort it out in 10 minutes or less. Here and there I may, and have become, stuck. In some of the huger novels, especially the early ones, a certain amount of these stickings seemed very much in the nature of the beast. One swam, floated and flew for 150-200 pages — than ran into a granite mountainside. But by slow, persistent hacking with a mental axe, or scraping with a mental knife — or sometimes blowing the whole confounded mess up with mental high explosives — I’d eventually emerge into the light.

Worse by far than these hold-ups are, however, the very few novels / stories that simply would NOT start. A fine example of this is the first Piratica book. I’d engaged enthusiastically to write about pirates….It was, though, to be a YA scenario. I don’t pull punches, whatever I write, but obviously in work for a younger audience, I firmly believe in keeping the worst sorts of violence off-stage. And so I had to face up to how difficult this would be, when dealing with some of the most blood-gulpingly ruthless and foul thieves on Earth. The book duly went into hiding. After about 5 false starts, (some of the material of which I was still able to use later in the book) my genius husband suggested (it’s by now fairly well known, so not too much of a spoiler, I hope) that with my heroine at least I could begin — not among throat-cutting crews, but with the talented actors who played them in The Theatre. (Actors are some of my favourite people). And inside a couple of days the book was off and sailing fast. Certainly, as it progressed, the real vile wickeds came in, but by then we all had our sea-legs, and there were, for me — as opposed to my characters — no problems at all.

Tanith Lee
Interview with the Chronicles Network November 2004

in the woods

There was a certain queer sense of bewitchment in it all. The music seemed to him oddly unartificial. It made him think of trees swept by the wind, of night breezes singing among wires and chimney-stacks, or in the rigging of invisible ships; or – and the simile leaped up in his thoughts with a sudden sharpness of suggestion – a chorus of animals, of wild creatures, somewhere in desolate places of the world, crying and singing as animals will, to the moon. He could fancy he heard the wailing, half-human cries of cats upon the tiles at night, rising and falling with weird intervals of sound, and this music, muffled by distance and the trees, made him think of a queer company of these creatures on some roof far away in the sky, uttering their solemn music to one another and the moon in chorus.

Algernon Blackwood
Ancient Sorceries

The Violation

September 29, 2017

My room is dominated by the huge painting, which is a copy of The Violation by the Belgian surrealist Paul Delvaux. The original was destroyed during the Blitz in 1940, and I commissioned an artist I know, Brigid Marlin, to make a copy from a photograph. I never stop looking at this painting and its mysterious and beautiful women. Sometimes I think I have gone to live inside it and each morning I emerge refreshed. It’s a male dream.

J G Ballard
Writer’s Rooms
The Guardian 9th March 2007

A werewolf

Carter was writing in the latter half of the twentieth century and well into the feminist era for the Western world. Sexuality and heterosexual relationships had become far more complex and nuanced than marriage was in the seventeenth century. By pulling out many of the metaphors from ‘The Company of Wolves’ it is possible to argue that Carter saw heterosexual relationships as equal. Not only that, but she saw both men and women as having strong sexual desires that might be seen as monstrous, but are perhaps more rightly called natural. Carter’s werewolf, as a metaphor for male sexuality, is rich and deep. The werewolf encountered by the young woman is a woodcutter, therefore spends time even in his human form in the wild woods. The reader is introduced to a handsome and friendly young man, though his eyes are the eyes of a wolf. Here is a wolf-man who has to hide his true nature behind a veneer of civility. His true nature is hungry and wild and violent. And, yet we know that “the beasts would love to be less beastly.” He meets his match in the young woman he attempts to seduce. She not only turns the tables by willingly kissing him and removing his clothes, she accepts his wolfish aspect by grooming him, comforting him and sleeping with him. In the young woman the reader is introduced to a very different Red Riding Hood than the one from Perrault’s tale. This woman goes into the woods with a knife, prepared for werewolves. She is confident and unafraid. She maybe virginal, perhaps a little naïve, but she is not stupid and she understands something of the relationship between men and women. She looks forward to losing her bet with the woodcutter and freely kisses him when the time comes to pay up. She realizes that fear of this wolf will not help her so she chooses not to be afraid of him. In fact she seems to pity him; at least she pities his cold hungry brothers singing outside. And, when informed that the wolf intends to eat her, this Red Riding Hood laughs in his face. She is so confident in herself that “she [is] nobody’s meat.” At this point the reader sees a young woman who is comfortable with her own sexuality. She removes the wolf’s clothing. “She will lay his fearful head on her lap and she will pick out the lice from his pelt and perhaps she will put the lice in her mouth and eat them, as he will bid her, as she would do in a savage marriage ceremony.” This young woman has clearly accepted the animal nature of her sexuality, that part of her that so many women are taught to believe is monstrous.

Laura McWriter
Angela Carter, Red Riding Hood, Werewolves and Sex

the engulfing landscape

September 28, 2017

(Algernon)Blackwood at his most potent expertly comingles both awe and horror to profoundly unsettling effect. This is never more evident than in ‘The Willows’ (1907), possibly the most widely anthologised of Blackwood’s stories (followed closely by 1910’s ‘The Wendigo’), and if not exactly representative of his variegated output, it is perhaps the story in which Blackwood’s powers are most astutely and artistically deployed. Beginning as a genteel Mittel European travelogue chronicling the months-long canoe trip of two men along the Danube, Blackwood expertly strips away the quotidian from the engulfing landscape until, by its climax, it is perhaps a near perfect exposition of Lovecraft’s idealised ‘true Weird Tale’…

James Machin
Algernon Blackwood: strange wilderness in the Willows