Tag archive: Dreadful Thoughts Story Club
Right. It has been pointed out to me, by morbid sorts, that the last two authors this club has fixed its gorgon-like gaze on both exited our weary world by means of suicide. Charlotte Perkins Gilman deciding on an overdose of chloroform. Robert E. Howard (the author of tonight’s tale) choosing the more contemporary option of shooting himself in his car.
While this might seem to indicate a certain perverse obsession with self-destruction on my part, I refer you to our the Dreadful Thoughts record book. Therein we find that out of sixteen, horror-fixated, authors we have but three suicides: the pair listed above, and poor old John Polidori (who, fed up to the gills with show-off Byron getting all the credit, tore into the prussic acid). That’s only 18.75%…proving that, by and large, our chosen folk are mostly jovial types who cartwheel merrily through sylvan glades (chuckling as they go).
Well, off you go. I’ve uncorked the cyanide-tinged Chardonnay. Be with you in a minute.
Right. Littlest one curled up in bed with much-loved teddy and Minnie Mouse blanket? Check. Tasty mid-range Merlot decanting on the worktop? Check. Curry bubbling away satisfactorily? Check. Tube of Pringles on standby (in case of vino-induced munchies)? Check. The spectre of that indefatigable feminist, lecturer, and occasional writer of fiction Charlotte Perkins Gilman standing behind me and watching (with a fierce and critical gaze) each and every word I type? Er…check.
All things are present and correct. Including, hopefully, some lovely punters out there: huddled o’er their keyboards, minds ripe and ready for juicy chatter and natter about one of the creepiest (and most political) short stories of the late 19th Century.
Lash down a nerve-stiffening draught of whatever you’re having yourself. Smooch your loved ones goodbye (just in case). And let’s boogie – like it’s 1892.
Snuffling and shuffling figures pick their ways gingerly o’er awesomely white icescapes. The fallen lie wailing in slush-choked gutters – hips and hopes shattered. Frozen water everywhere, but not a drop to drink (or flush the foetid loo with). Doomed cars spinning hideously into gaping chasms.
January, 2010. A non-stop horror show of chilblains, slight inconvenience, and unwashed stinkiness. God help us all…
But wait. All has not yet turned to hypothermic and frigid despair. There is still warmth (sort of) and joy (er…) left in the online world. For the next 7 days, Dreadful Thoughts will be keeping a Lovecraftian (hell)fire burning. So gather ye round this gnarled, gargantuan and ancient fireplace and let some H. P. sauce warm your brittle bones.
Thoughts? Reactions? Wild fancies?
Suffragette. Modernist innovator. Paddler in the turbulent “stream of consciousness” (a phrase she allegedly coined). May Sinclair was once “one of the most successful and widely known of British women novelists“. And then? Disappearance down that well-trodden path into obscurity. And then? Semi-revival by crusading Feminist scholars. And then? A starring role in this, the thirteenth (shriek!) meeting of our Dreadful Thoughts Story Club.
A 7 day discussion of her steamy & pulsating supernatural bonkbuster
Well? Off ye go.
In the build up to this week’s E. Nesbit-fest, several punters (childhood Nesbit fans all) have mentioned to me that they were barely aware (if aware at all) of Edith’s contribution to the spooky story canon. This is not entirely surprising given that even her biographers have either a) failed to mention the tales at all, or, b) mentioned them only to sniffily dismiss them as “singularly ineffectual and now deservedly forgotten”.
Anyone who’s been sensible enough to snap up a copy of Wordsworth’s recent(ish) The Power of Darkness – Tales of Terror may well wonder exactly what this neglect/disdain is based on. For at their best Nesbit’s stories manage to be simultaneously heart-breaking, genuinely creepy, and unflinchingly (cruelly) bleak. Doomed love, human weakness, and “meaninglessness” saturate the pages – in strange and compelling ways.
But enough from me (for now). Time for you (yes, you. You there.) to clear your throat and have your say. I’m currently juggling babies and cats, but will dive in as soon as time allows.
P.S: Links to the stories below if you’re joining us late. Discussion runs till next Monday, so plenty of time to catch up.
a) “The Shadow” (pdf)
Though he was (in his day) prolific,
Though “weird tales” were but a small part of his overall output, it is to one such weird tale that we now turn – the damp, dark, seawater-drenched “The Upper Berth” (1886). So come ye salty dogs. Come ye land lubbers. Come ye Easter bunnies. Put down the washing. Pull closed the curtains. Tell us what ye think and thought.
Welsh Anglo-Catholic occultist. Member (briefly) of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Avowed anti-materialist. Inspirer of everyone’s favourite pathologically racist horror grandmaster: H.P. Lovecraft. Sometime scandaliser of (an easily scandalised) Victorian society. Fearer/Lover of fauns who gambolled oftentimes in the dingly dell. These are but a few pieces of the puzzle that is/was Arthur Llewelyn Jones – a.k.a Arthur Machen (1863-1947).
This week we focus our dreadful magnifying glasses on his 1894 tale, “The Inmost Light”. A story of (among other things) urban & sub-urban London – a city that became for Machen (one source suggest) “as numinous…as the Gwent of his boyhood”. Oh and then there are the small matters of (what may or may not be) a human soul, its absence, and (shriek!) what rushes in to fill the void.
So pop open the nearest rotund bottle of Benedictine, repeat (endlessly) the jingle “Once around the grass, and twice around the lass, and thrice around the maple-tree”, and get typing some lovely and interesting words.
Misanthrope? Misogynist? Satirist? Supernaturalist?
Tonight, on Dreadful Thoughts, we’re not only getting out the club magnifying glass to squint at the werewolf myth (through the prism of “Gabriel Ernest”), but also asking (in strong, but non-judgmental, terms) what Hector Hugh Munro (a.k.a Saki) was ultimately all about.
Pop the kids under the stairs, lock your aged relations in the attic, crack open a bottle of whatever you’re having yourself, and let’s boogie.