I loved you & everything about you,
the way you shimmered,
undulated,
twisted
& shook your arse
& every time you did it in public,
half the human race
was hypnotized.

Jonny Angle

a desert

Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert.

Drunk, but no longer bleeding, she pushed into a smoky cantina just after dark and ordered a pinch of morphine and a whiskey chaser. She bet all of her money on a boxer named Jaks, and lost it two rounds later when Jaks hit the floor like an antique harem girl.

Nyx lost every coin, a wad of opium, and the wine she’d gotten from the butchers as a bonus for her womb. But she did get Jaks into bed, and – loser or not – in the desert after dark that was something.

Kameron Hurley
God’s War

seduce me

June 30, 2018

Sleep tries to seduce me by promising a more reasonable tomorrow.

Elizabeth Smart
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept

And have I loved you?

June 28, 2018

And have I loved you long enough by now?
A nod, a touch, our portion is all spent,
but that is what the grudging years allow.
No one can make an everlasting vow
to love, since only meagre time is lent.
So, have I loved you long enough by now?
Experience alone does not endow
strong spirit in a mortal element,
but that is all the grudging years allow.
There is no axiom to teach us how
to bear the mystery of slow descent.
Can I have loved you long enough by now?
Only the trembling hand, the withered brow
remain to show us where the music went,
but that is all the grudging years allow.
In spite of everything, then, let us bow,
begin the dance, defying precedent,
for I have loved you long and long by now,
no matter what the grudging years allow.

Conrad Geller

in the rain

The four books of short stories written by Montague Rhodes James, Provost of Eton College, have been collected in a single but not overly bulky volume under the imprint of Longmans, Green & Co. One can heartily recommend the acquisition of this volume to all lovers of the weird and supernatural who are not already familiar with its contents.

James is perhaps unsurpassed in originality by any living writer: and he has made a salient contribution to the technique of the genre as well as to the enriching of its treasury of permanent masterpieces. His work is marked by rare intellectual skill and ingenuity, by power rising at times above the reaches of pure intellection, and by a sheer finesse of writing that will bear almost endless study. It has a peculiar savour, wholly different from the diabolic grimness of Bierce, or the accumulative atmospheric terror and rounded classicism of Machen. Here there is nothing of the feverish but logical hallucinations, the macabre and exotic beauty achieved by Poe; nor is there any kinship to the fine poetic weavings and character nuances of Walter de la Mare, or the far-searching, penetrative psychism of Blackwood, or the frightful antiquities and ultra-terrene menaces of Lovecraft.

The style of these stories is rather casual and succinct. The rhythms of the prose are brisk and pedestrian, and the phrasing is notable for clearness and incisiveness rather than for those vague, reverberative overtones which beguile one’s inner ear in the prose of fiction-writers who are also poets. Usually there is a more or less homely setting, often with a background of folklore and long—past happenings whose dim archaism provides a depth of shadow from which, as from a recessed cavern, the central horror emerges into the noontide of the present. Things and occurrences, sometimes with obvious off-hand relationship, are grouped cunningly, forcing the reader unaware to some frightful deduction; or there is an artful linkage of events seemingly harmless in themselves, that leave him confronted at a sudden turn with some ghoulish spectre or night-demon.

The minutæ of modern life, humour, character—drawing, scenic and archaeological description, are used as a foil to heighten the abnormal, but are never allowed to usurp a disproportionate interest. Always there is an element of supernatural menace, whose value is never impaired by scientific or spiritualistic explanation. Sometimes it is brought forth at the climax into full light; and sometimes, even then, it is merely half-revealed, is left undefined but perhaps all the more alarming. In any case, the presence of some unnatural but objective reality is assumed and established.

The goblins and phantoms devised by James are truly creative and are presented through images often so keen and vivid as to evoke an actual physical shock. Sight, smell, hearing, taction, all are played upon with well-nigh surgical sureness, by impressions calculated to touch the shuddering quick of horror.

Some of the images or similes employed are most extraordinary, and spring surely from the daemonic inspiration of the highest genius. For instance, take the unnamable thing in The Uncommon Prayer Book, which resembles “a great roll of old, shabby, white flannel,” with a kind of face in the upper end, and which falls forward on a man’s shoulder and hides this face in his neck like a ferret attacking a rabbit. Then, in Mr. Humphreys and his Inheritance (one of subtler and more inferential tales) there is the form “with a burnt human face” and “black arms,” that emerges from an inexplicable hole in the paper plan of a garden maze “with the odious writhings of a wasp creeping out of’ a rotten apple.” In The Tractate Middoth one meets an apparition with thick cobwebs over its eyes—the lich or spectre of a man who, obedient to his own rather eccentric instructions, had been buried sitting at a table in an underground room. And who, upon reading The Diary of Mr. Poynter, can fail to share Denton’s revulsion when he reaches out, thinking that a dog is beside his chair, and touches a crawling figure covered with long, wavy, Absolom-like tresses? Who, too, can shake off the horror of Dennistoun, in Canon Alberic’s Scrap Book, when a demon’s hand appears from beneath on the table, suggesting momentarily a pen-wiper, a rat, and a large spider?

Reading and re-reading these tales, one notes a predilection for certain milieus and motifs. Backgrounds of scholastic or ecclesiastic life are frequent and some of the best tales are laid in cathedral towns. In many of the supernatural entities, there recurs insistently the character of extreme and repulsive hairiness. Often the apparition is connected with, or evoked by, some material object, such as the bronze whistle from the ruins of a Templars’ preceptory in Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad; the old drawing of King Solomon and the night-demon in Canon Alberic’s Scrap Book; the silver Anglo-Saxon crown from an immemorial barrow in A Warning to the Curious; and the strange curtain-pattern in The Diary of Mr. Poynter which had “a subtlety in its drawing.”

In several stories there are hints of bygone Satanism and wizardry whose malign wraiths or conjured spirits linger obscurely in modern time; and in at least one tale, Casting the Runes, the warlock is a living figure. In other tales, the forgetful and vanishing phantasms of old crimes cry out their mindless pain, or peer for an instant from familiar pools and shrubberies. The personnel of James’ Pandemonium is far from monotonous; one finds a satyr dwelling in a cathedral tomb; a carven cat-like monster that comes to life when touched by a murderer’s hand; a mouldy smelling sack-like object in an unlit well, which suddenly puts its arms around the neck of a treasure-seeker; a cloaked and hooded shape with a tentacle in lieu of arms; a lean, hideously taloned terror, with a jaw “shallow as that of a beast”; dolls that repeat crime and tragedy; creatures that are dog-like but are not dogs; a saw fly tall as a man, met in a dim room full of rustling insects; and even a weak, ancient thing, which being wholly bodiless and insubstantial, makes for itself a body out of crumpled bed-linen.

The peculiar genius of M. R. James, and his greatest power, lies in the convincing evocation of weird, malignant and preternatural phenomena such as I have instanced. It is safe to say that few writers, dead or living, have equalled him in this formidable necromancy and perhaps no one has excelled him.

Clark Ashton Smith
The Weird Works of M.R. James
From: The Fantasy Fan February 1934

ignorant scribblers!

June 28, 2018

These detective-story writers… always making the police out to be fools… and getting their procedure all wrong. Why, if I were to say the things to my super that their inspectors say to superintendents I should be thrown out of the Force tomorrow on my ear. Set of ignorant scribblers!

Agatha Christie
Death in the Clouds

his nasty insistencies

June 28, 2018

books and the wind from nowhere

Nothing came. Nothing good, nothing bad. I heard the lawnmower going on. I would have to face by myself my father’s red face, his heart disease, his temper, his nasty insistencies. I would have to face my mother’s sick smile, looking up from the flowerbed she was weeding, always on her knees somehow, saying before she was ever asked, “Oh the poor woman. Oh the poor woman.”

And quite alone.

No more stories.

Joanna Russ
The Second Inquisition

Kissing as a religion

June 26, 2018

In 19th century Rome it was said that the monks
kissed the backs of their hands as a sign of repentance.
Oh, how I repented as a Catholic girl, even as I kissed you —

kissing and repenting, kissing and repenting — as I pulled your top lip
with my teeth, biting ever so gently. How absurd to think
kissing gets any better than the first time you leaned over me,

breath thick with Jack and Coke, that rogue teenage elixir,
and whatever warp speed hormone instigates back seat sex
and what is now considered nothing but a little teasing

in the area of petting. Sounds like a zoo, kissing does, back then
travelling north on the county road just after dusk, after the cattle
lumbered off on their arthritic hocks, kicking up dust that smelled

like manure and left us alone in your idling car in the middle of the pasture.
I’ve fought the urge for years to write a poem about your lips, for which
I can only think in terms of “exquisite” and other adjectives strictly forbidden

in poetry classes — your perfectly aligned teeth, your soft boyish whispers.
Sometimes I think I was never actually there in the afterlife of your words,
those jerry-rigged one-liners bolstering my heart, stopping, not stopping

in my ear as you pulled back my hair. Now I think there was nothing to repent for,
nothing to confess. If ever there was a sin for which penance was required
it would be for never kissing like this not once since.

Susan Doble Kaluza

Once upon a time there was a six-foot-tall woman with blue hair and a sense of smallness. In her house was a teacup saying ‘girl, you got this!’ and on her wall was a kitten hanging from a clothesline. The kitten’s word balloon said something like, ‘Hang in there!’ or ‘Don’t let go!’ Always something with an exclamation mark. Isn’t that the moral of the story, always? There is always a small woman, hiding her grandness, trying to fill up on uplifting wordplay. But today, this small woman sits down and writes a poem in which she details her smallness and why she came to be that way. Another small woman reads it, and from the tip of her hair a fire starts, but just as quickly dies. Isn’t that why we are here? To write another poem for a small woman to read, and then another. Until the amount of sparks are too much for the quick extinguishing, and she is a woman on fire, exploding into the world.

Heather Bell
Afterword to: While trying to write a novel

Elżbieta Niezgoda

The harp is played by Welsh fairies to an extent unknown in those parts of the world where the harp is less popular among the people. When any instrument is distinctly heard in fairy cymmoedd it is usually the harp. Sometimes it is a fiddle, but then on close examination it will be discovered that it is a captured mortal who is playing it; the Tylwyth Teg prefer the harp. They play the bugle on specially grand occasions, and there is a case or two on record where the drone of the bagpipes was heard; but it is not doubted that the player was some stray fairy from Scotland or elsewhere over the border. On the top of Craig-y-Ddinas thousands of white fairies dance to the music of many harps. In the dingle called Cwm Pergwm, in the Vale of Neath, the Tylwyth Teg make music behind the waterfall, and when they go off over the mountains the sounds of their harps are heard dying away as they recede.

Wirt Sikes

British Goblins: Welsh Folk-lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions