This week’s piece of weird fiction being discussed over at LibraryThing.

Review: “Clockatrice”, Tanith Lee, 2009.

There’s a lot of Tanith Lee to be read, and I have read little. But I’ve never found her work disappointing, and this is no exception. The rich details of the story is going to be stripped out of the following description.

The story starts out talking about the death of a beautiful 16-year-old girl, Diana. She dies between midnight and one AM. That’s covered in the opening three-line paragraph.

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“The Gorgon”

This week’s piece of weird fiction being discussed at LibraryThing.

Review: “The Gorgon”, Tanith Lee, 1982.

The narrator – at least at the beginning of the story – is vacationing and writing on the Greek island of Daphaeu. He becomes intrigued by another, unusually verdant, island just a quarter of a mile offshore. He would like to visit it and learn more about it, but none of the islanders will answer his questions or take him over, not even for a great sum of money. 

Finally, one, miming the mythical face, tells him a gorgon lives on the island. 

The narrator swims over. 

He comes across a European style house, a faun statue (though only from the 1920s), and beautiful carvings in a green marble that shines at dusk. There is also a satyr like figure (actually, just an old man), and a woman. 

The narrator is intrigued by her, her surroundings, her clothes (an inheritance from her mother since she says she has no money), and, of course, the plastic mask she wears. He asks to stay and talk with her. She is blonde, somewhat imperious, and notes his Greek is good, but she knows English and ten other languages. 

He is served a lunch with wine, falls asleep, and then wakes up and dines with the woman.

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“Yellow and Red”

More of my catch up on some of the recent weird fiction discussed over at LibraryThing.

Review: “Yellow and Red”, Tanith Lee, 1998.

While I wouldn’t say this is a great story, it’s an enjoyable one.

This is one of those epistolary stories. Mostly it’s told through the journal entries of Gordon Martyce.

He’s recently come into an inheritance, the country home of his uncle. His girlfriend of five years, Lucy, is excited by this. It’s a chance to do all kinds of decorating.

Gordon’s not so sure. He likes living in his London apartment. Still, he goes to take a look, alone.

When Gordon arrives, he sees a gloomy house; the roof in some disrepair, surrounded by oaks.

The first ominous note is when Gordon can’t quite make out the odd cap on his grandfather’s windvane, “some Oriental animal deity” which he also was never able to see in photographs of the house. 

And it doesn’t take long, less than a single night, for Gordon to decide he’s selling the place. 

The day after arriving, he talks to his uncle’s old housekeeper, Mrs. Gold, who has offered to take care of him during his visit.

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After my less than enthusiastic review of EDGE’s Expiration Date, I feel like I’m kicking the company with my less than enthusiastic review of another of their offerings.

I don’t really have it out for the company. I liked their Technicolor Ultra Mall, my first ever commissioned review.

Still, it was a struggle to write this one up because so many of these stories were mediocre and unmemorable. By mediocre, I don’t mean bad or of unacceptable quality, just unremarkable. Unlike the stars of a recent podcast I listened to, I know by definition that the outputs of any profession, including that of writers, is going to be mediocre. (Assuming, as Mr. Taleb would note, the range of quality follows a Gaussian distribution.) You probably live in a house with mediocre plumbing with mediocre food in the refrigerator, but you’re not going to forsake either.

Still, I promised a review in exchange for this book from LibraryThing. I’m not going to skimp on coverage. As usual, everyone and everything will get covered.


So … let’s get this over with.

Review: nEvermore!: Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre, eds. Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles, 2015.nEvermore!

This anthology has an even more diffuse effect than Ellen Datlow’s Poe. Both allowed a variety of stories in, not all of a fantastic nature. Poe was a more protean author than generally realized. (A point Uwe Sommerland’s opening article, “A Rather Scholarly View of Edgar Allan Poe, Genre-Crosser“, makes well.) He wrote in a variety of tones and styles and more than just the macabre and mystery stories he is most remembered for.

The connection many of the stories have to Poe is not obvious apart from the authors’ foreword though some are quite explicit takeoffs on Poe’s work.

Lest you get bored, let’s start us with the best.

The razor-wielding orangutan of Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” gets to tell his side of things in Robert Lopresti’s “Street of the Dead House”. He’s one of those science experiments gone wrong. A large mansion on the shores of British Columbia, a large family, and a family secret are the heroine’s inheritance in Robert Bose’s effective “Atargatis”. An archaeologist’s involvement in a police investigation and a pagan cult result in the oh-so-Poe ending of burial alive in Michael Jecks’ “The Deave Lane”.

Loren Rhoads places her series heroine Alondra DeCourval in Venice to put a stop to a rash of suicides in “The Drowning City”. Tanith Lee’s “The Return of Berenice” ruminates on the follow up to Poe’s odd tale of obsession and dental horror, “Berenice” — moody and effective. Continue reading

The Road to Science Fiction, Volume 5

I strongly recommend James Gunn’s six volume The Road to Science Fiction anthology series as a good look at the history of Anglophone science fiction. In the sixth volume, foreign language science fiction is covered.

However, I only reviewed this volume.

A retro review from September 2, 2003.

Review: The Road to Science Fiction, Volume 5: The British Way, ed. James Gunn, 1998.Road to Science Fiction

Several novels are excerpted here. And one prominent one isn’t: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein which Gunn argues is a transition from the gothic but not yet fully in the camp of self-aware science fiction. Lt. Col. Sir George Tomkyns Chesney’s The Battle of Dorking is the first of those future war novels written by politicians and military men determined to influence public policy. Edwin A. Abbott’s Flatland, still in print, is a charming tale of life and culture in a two-dimensional world. That incomparable giant of science fiction, Olaf Stapledon, is represented by a selection from Star Maker, narrated by a “cosmical mind” who views the life of the universe. (Though oddly, in this volume, Gunn barely mentions his importance to the genre. For that, you must consult volume two.) The title for the section on Richard Jeffries After London; Or, Wild England is “The Craving for Catastrophe”. It is a pastoral tale of a simpler life after an unexplained disaster has befallen the country.

That craving shows up in several more tales. Killer smog hits the city in Robert Barr’s 1892 story “The Doom of London.” “The Great Fog” of H. F. Heard wipes out worldwide civilization. Life gets extinguished on an alien planet in Arthur C. Clarke’s much anthologized “The Star”. The Nature of the Catastrophe” in Michael Moorcock’s story of that name is never really explained. An amalgam of newspaper excerpts and fiction, this story unfortunately shares the oblique prose and loose setting of his Jerry Cornelius novels. Not readable in its own right, it still gives you some idea of Moorcock’s influence on the New Wave. Tanith Lee’s “Written in Water” is a last woman on Earth tale. The world that may be destroyed by an artist in J. D. Beresford “A Negligible Experiment” is our own. The disaster of John Wyndham’s “The Emptiness of Space” is a personal one. Its hero has survived a spell in cryonic suspension and fears his soul has left his body.

As you would expect, the anthology is full of several famous names. Continue reading