The SFFaudio Podcast #532 – The Bus-Conductor by E.F. Benson; read by Mr Jim Moon. This is an unabridged reading of the story (26 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Paul Weimer, Mr Jim Moon, Julie Davis, Maissa Bessada, and Evan Lampe.
Talked about on today’s show:
room for one more, six people on this bus, Jim has a great talent for telling stories, Arabian fashion, Jim is an ideal narrator, his theories, his similes, really short, the story proper, three pages in, framing devices, common in ghost stories, Henry James, The Turn Of The Screw, The Jolly Corner, M.R. James, a lead-in, step through the frame, a little bit of history, a little bit of distance, a little bit of haze, into the realm of story, built on the bones of a very old story, made more interesting, how you see these things, a little spooky, that modern house, the Final Destination series, the More Is More podcast, the “Twenty Two” episode of The Twilight Zone, the upload,premonition, escaping fate, a friendly ghost, good fortune (hairs coming out of moles are lucky), Stacy Keach, a mustache works for men and women, sinister, a smile in context, FaceApp, a menace, curiosity, she doesn’t know she’s a ghost, The Yellow Sign by Robert W. Chambers, he tells the story, she had the same dream, the hearse, as a weird story, Julie’s idea, Dead Of Night (1945), Ghost Stories (magazine), Bernarr Macfadden, his bodybuilding religion, tension, stolen from other stories, stop stealing other people’s stories, The Flint Knife, reprints, Weird Tales, An Apparition by Guy de Maupassant, The Tortoise-Shell Comb, brush my hair, third person vs. first person story, a ghost story, retouched photos, somebody lying in bed, Hypnogoria, the borderline between ghosts and dream, sleep paralysis, a memory of that state, a zone of consciousness, auditory hallucinations, weird landscapes, a prelude to sleep, really disturbing, when Julie drops the book, Maissa hears voices, such a range, How Fear Left The Long Gallery, the most haunted house in England, super spooky, Caterpillars, The Monkey’s Paw, the starting point, Jesse loves the frame, Thomas Alva Edison, coming up with ideas, solving certain problems, manipulable, a similar waking state, in physiological state, adjusting wavelengths, grey dreaming, technicolor dreaming, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, no fog no mist, glorious glorious dancing sunlight, backwards, the weather in this story, the traditional 19th century method (weather wise), very meta in the frame, The Suitable Surroundings by Ambrose Bierce, weird tales vs. ghost stories (being tied to sleep), Cool Air by H.P. Lovecraft, darkness silence and solitude, a prosaic landlady, H.G. Wells’ The Red Room, a whole tradition, 1408 by Stephen King, insight into what is behind the curtain/veil, a tiny hole in a piece of cardboard, when the two holes line up, a conjunction of realms, Lord Dunsany’s The Wonderful Window, clairvoyance and mediums, we get to have it both ways, until the moment of death, what passing through is, pass away, composing an essay, a leftover from the spiritualist age, life slipped away, Accessory Before The Fact by Algernon Blackwood, he saw the future, we’re not seeing reality as it is, the way its conveniently operating, a schizophrenic, borderline cases, a glimpse of reality, destiny and fate, because of this tip-off, happenstance, a random blip, a glitch in reality, we love our euphemisms, what did the puritans say when say, with god now, gone to his rest, we really do live in metaphor, seeing at as a raw (rather than a metaphor), H.V. Morton, faith and trust, rest and sleep are everywhere, the Christian dead, psychic flashes, oblique, The Signal-Man by Charles Dickens, a phantom from the future, we develop genres of fiction, movies and comics, definite ideas, gamified, they’re in the Monster Manual now, elves vs. dwarves, Lord Dufferin, a man carrying a coffin, one of the first stories Evan ever read, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark edited by Alvin Schwartz, “Room For One More”, A Stop At Willoughby, philosophizing on twitter, euphemism and metaphor, Did Solomon Give Queen Of Sheeba An Airship?, the woman caught in adultery, scratching in the dirt, let he who is without sin cast the first stone, Emily Wilson, The Partially Examined Life podcast, why these stories are important, go and sin no more, does the same kind of job, crystallizing it, truth approached with a metaphor, open for you to think about, inviting to the reader (or hearer), what’s going on there?, and that is my story, The Pall Mall Magazine, December 1906, A. Wallace Mills, the missing illustrations, the power of the story, room for one inside, “honey”, he starts smoking, a great movie, Smee , The Inexperienced Ghost by H.G. Wells, pure nightmare fuel, lets have a smoke, how it was in 1945, associated with thought, when Sherlock Holmes wants to think he smokes, The Prisoner (remake), symbology, Mapp and Lucia books, Wodehouse with a mean-streak, humour, the sense of the ridiculous, H. Russell Wakefield, The Horror Horn, “A Strange Story Of The Alps In Winter”, a troglodyte civilization, creep and creep and creep, as a gimlet burrows into a board, H.P. Lovecraft’s thesis in Supernatural Horror In Literature, the sensitive, we readers are those people, purely objective not subjective, haunted house, subjective experience is where we live, the radical claim that he’s making, The Varieties Of Religious Experience by William James, not a believer, Benson’s gloss, okay here we go, I love to be scared, luxurious of emotions, Steen Hansen, you’re so happy to be alive, ghostly experiences are real because we didn’t see any ghosts, a literary family, a biography of Queen Victoria, Abdul gets mentioned, editing the letters, R.H. Benson, A.C. Benson, The Sixth Sense, the novel has taken over, The Binscombe Tales by John A. Whitbourn, TV miniseries and movie franchises, always an audience there, a premonition, the metaphor is true, Maggie Benson, the veil cross, the other side poke through, Maissa has in dreams, stroking a whale means good luck, flying, Christmas, Egypt, a painting of a girl flying in the sky, dream-traveler, whales are my spirit animal, Another Place, very affective, great fun, Good Will To Most Men, one of the most creepy horrible stories you will ever read, Moby-Dick by Herman Melville,
“A laugh’s the wisest, easiest answer to all that’s queer; and come what will, one comfort’s always left- that unfailing comfort is, it’s all predestinated. … Here’s a carcase. I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing, by Crom.”
melancholic mirth, Solomon Kane, retelling over and over, maybe you’ll catch a break, symmetry, looking for meaning, something’s wrong and we don’t know how to articulate it, a bad example, Joe Biden sniffing people, go hug that person, we don’t start with premises we start with feelings, confirmed in this grand way, an issue of context, room for one inside, having a good laugh at work, room for one inside, 11:30, the timeline, metaphyscial, what would Philip K. Dick say about this story?, the pink beam, the face in the sky, the precog, King is using the term, The Dark Tower, the Exegesis, the dead sea scrolls (soup), a profound human experience, pointing to something real but not clear, no room for anymore.
The SFFaudio Podcast #523 – The Tomb by H.P. Lovecraft; read by D.E. Wittkower. This is an unabridged reading of the short story (32 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Paul Weimer, and Evan Lampe.
Talked about on today’s show:
The Vagrant, March 1922, June 1917, Weird Tales, 1926, his first adult story, so polished, Jesse’s favourite Lovecraft story, personality, Jervas Hyde or Jervas Dudley, how you interpret the events of the story, I want to be somewhere else, Polaris, WWI, a civil war among the Teutonic races, complex loyalties, bacchanalians, beautiful not horrific, Gaudeamus, lyrics for an Ale Storm, out of character, out of place, the one flaw in the story, that’s the point, possessed, genetic connection, lucky for me, dreamed all day, are the events all real, humouring him?, a palliative?, Hiram should be black in the film adaptation, an aged and simple minded servitor, who like me loves the churchyard, he insults everybody, an archetype, the male nanny, the absent nanny in The Outsider, everybody is kindly, a kindly espionage, insane boy, insanely lonely boy, the opening, three sentences, this refuge for the demented, a comedy piece, a disclaimer, even funnier, I’m smarter than all of you, a psychologically sensitive few, Supernatural Horror In Literature, he’s right, the premise of The Call Of Cthulhu, this is just truth, there is no sharp distinction between the real and the unreal, flashes of supersight, more bragging, a truth that most people never think about, epistemology, a construction, not looking vs. not seeing, maybe my blue is your red, the wine dark sea, orange, an article about blue, rare in nature, the history of race, Asians as the yellow race, a hoax, George Psalmanazar, Formosa, Taiwan, Grey Owl, he’s a fraud, putting on an artificial personality, what resonates, something very real, childhood, everybody gets one, we’re always looking back, that whole experience, a very autobiographical story, “Jesse Willis: Dreamer and Visionary”, literally true, born into a wealthy family, ancient and little know books, 1711, Boston gentry, a coach-ride away, somewhere in Lovecraft country, his connection to Poe, a reincarnation of Poe, how can this be?, visited Edgar Allan Poe’s grave, the inventor of monomania, The Black Cat
FOR the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief.
an open temperament vs. insane psychopath, “pen”, neither expect nor solicit empathy, a penknife, walking on eggshells for this poor broken boy, such a sympathetic character, The Green Dragon Inn, the Hobbits are interested in Earthly pleasures, a sex party across the Brandywine, making so many Tooks, fear of thunderstorms, an interesting detail, an overlay, this is the goth kid, imposing too much of the libertine upon Lovecraft, the horror is losing control, Beyond The Wall Of Sleep, The Shadow Out Of Time, a story about adolescence, he can’t admit that, Lovecraft is horrified, a straight up bacchanalia, gay blasphemy tore from my lips, Castro’s confession in The Call Of Cthulhu
Suddenly a peal of thunder, resonant even above the din of the swinish revelry, clave the very roof and laid a hush of fear upon the boisterous company.
if that’s the case…, playful, restrained, echoed early on
I do not think that what I read in these books or saw in these fields and groves was exactly what other boys read and saw there; but of this I must say little, since detailed speech would but confirm those cruel slanders upon my intellect which I sometimes overhear from the whispers of the stealthy attendants around me. It is sufficient for me to relate events without analyzing causes.
other stuff going on in the hollow
I have said that I dwelt apart from the visible world, but I have not said that I dwelt alone. This no human creature may do; for lacking the fellowship of the living, he inevitably draws upon the companionship of things that are not, or are no longer, living.
the trees, the rocks, and the graves, a walk with one of his aunts, a man out of time (born two centuries too late)
Close by my home there lies a singular wooded hollow, in whose twilight deeps I spent most of my time; reading, thinking, and dreaming. Down its moss-covered slopes my first steps of infancy were taken, and around its grotesquely gnarled oak trees my first fancies of boyhood were woven. Well did I come to know the presiding dryads of those trees, and often have I watched their wild dances in the struggling beams of a waning moon—but of these things I must not now speak.
as a toddler, The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen, dryads and nymphs, fancies, he makes of them friends, another way to tell this story, from the Private Eye’s POV, is the P.I. lying?, What?!, he doesn’t actually ever go in there, the key is a dream key, a Dreamlands story, he never actually goes into that tomb, astral projection, he’s a dreamer, in the woods and the books, a bolt of lightning, by what miracle?, what colour is this dress?, a supernatural agency, a malevolent force
“Sedibus ut saltem placidis in morte quiescam.”
from The Aeneid, “give a dead man a place to rest in”, unquiet dead, he’s a ghost, very sensitive, he’s going to get what he wants in the end, kind of beautiful, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, the Halloweening season, suspicion of festivals and gathering, Halloween is the return of the spirits, placate the spirits, basket of emptiness, when we read Roman history, ancient roman documents, Cicero is just a dude, Marcus Aurelius, Hiram was a buddy of Solomon, a Tomb of Hiram, the Comb or Tomb of Hiram, extreme antiquity, Lovecraft’s awareness, little call-outs, the only book that gets mentioned, textual references, the Arkham Insiders podcast (the German version of The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast), Plutarch’s Lives, Frankenstein, a worm eaten translation, a true story, the life of Theseus, tokens of destiny, the time was not yet ripe, the will of fate, he does learn to do this, unlocking things with his dreams, a box in the attic that contains the key, entirely plausible, predicted, he’s 11 years old, so well put together, so much detail, a dozen times, Parallel Lives of the Noble Greek and Romans, aspects, Romulus, listening through a hole, spied upon, the blank slate, ivory tower, a mix, a monster and a well-spoken gentleman, the effect, a self-harm story, wearing the black beret and black nail polish, creepy and good, a great story, latch onto the festivities, understanding Lovecraft’s view of history of the Atlantic and civilization and race, the Georgian playfulness, very very bad,
Then, whispered Castro, those first men formed the cult around small idols which the Great Ones shewed them; idols brought in dim aeras from dark stars. That cult would never die till the stars came right again, and the secret priests would take great Cthulhu from His tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom. Meanwhile the cult, by appropriate rites, must keep alive the memory of those ancient ways and shadow forth the prophecy of their return.
freedom and degeneration and evil, dive into Lovecraft’s letters, quite an adventure, barbarism and the frontiers, long rants, freedom is going to bring us all down, letters to Robert E. Howard, civilization vs. barbarism, talking past each other, the Alexandrian chaos, hybridity, interracial marriage, witches, Maroon communities, pirates, zootsuiters, celebrating freedom, building a wall, 122 of the Weird Tales version, charnel conviviality, I must not describe, the THING happened, you absolutely must read The Loved Dead by H.P. Lovecraft and C.M. Eddy Jr., that’s his bent, the greatest sense of humour,
For a week I tasted to the full the joys of that charnel conviviality which I must not describe, when the thing happened, and I was borne away to this accursed abode of sorrow and monotony.
I should not have ventured out that night; for the taint of thunder was in the clouds, and a hellish phosphorescence rose from the rank swamp at the bottom of the hollow. The call of the dead, too, was different. Instead of the hillside tomb, it was the charred cellar on the crest of the slope whose presiding daemon beckoned to me with unseen fingers. As I emerged from an intervening grove upon the plain before the ruin, I beheld in the misty moonlight a thing I had always vaguely expected. The mansion, gone for a century, once more reared its stately height to the raptured vision; every window ablaze with the splendour of many candles. Up the long drive rolled the coaches of the Boston gentry, whilst on foot came a numerous assemblage of powdered exquisites from the neighbouring mansions.
presiding x2, powder (and ash), faces and wigs, “throng”,
With this throng I mingled, though I knew I belonged with the hosts rather than with the guests. Inside the hall were music, laughter, and wine on every hand. Several faces I recognised; though I should have known them better had they been shrivelled or eaten away by death and decomposition. Amidst a wild and reckless throng I was the wildest and most abandoned. Gay blasphemy poured in torrents from my lips, and in my shocking sallies I heeded no law of God, Man, or Nature.
out of control, the lighting bolt in Frankenstein, The Witch-Cult In Western Europe by Margaret Murray, druids, cthonic religions, Cultures Of Darkness: Night Travels In The Histories Of Transgression by Bryan D. Palmer, carnival, masquerades, secret societies, cultural night, anti-capitalist, resistance comes out at night, on the side of the state, Livy’s account of the bacchanalians, Augustus’ moral reforms, men have to get married, promiscuous character, more uncleanliness, small government, morally transgressive, some YouTube idiot, it’s always moral decline, not great at economics or politics, sensitive to night, astronomy and night walks, not directly inspired by a dream, dreams are central, ultimately connected, super-creative and imagination connected, full of fancies, is there a victory here? or is it a tragedy?, that barred room, not a triumph, We Can Build You by Philip K. Dick, delusion, connection with his ancestors, some philosophy line: being-toward-death, thantophilic
It is midnight. Before dawn they will find me and take me to a black cell where I shall languish interminably, while
insatiable desires gnaw at my vitals and wither up my heart, till at last I become one with the dead that I love.
My seat is the foetid hollow of an aged grave; my desk is the back of a fallen tombstone worn smooth by devastating
centuries; my only light is that of the stars and a thin-edged moon, yet I can see as clearly as though it were mid-day. Around
me on every side, sepulchral sentinels guarding unkempt graves, the tilting, decrepit headstones lie half hidden in masses of
nauseous, rotting vegetation. Above the rest, silhouetted against the livid sky, an august monument lifts its austere, tapering
spire like the spectral chieftain of a lemurian horde. The air is heavy with the noxious odors of fungi and the scent of damp,
mouldy earth, but to me it is the aroma of Elysium. It is still–terrifyingly still–with a silence whose very profundity bespeaks
the solemn and the hideous. Could I choose my habitation it would be in the heart of some such city of putrefying flesh and
crumbling bones; for their nearness sends ecstatic thrills through my soul, causing the stagnant blood to race through my
veins and my torpid heart to pound with delirious joy–for the presence of death is life to me!
incredibly connected to this story, Ashes, very delectable, not a cannibal story, utterly delightful.
Talked about on today’s show:
2008, a children’s book, hardcover, a book for kids, better than most adult books, Neverwhere, Coraline, who hates Neil Gaiman?, Sandman, pictures slow it down, he didn’t feel competent, a genuine classic, character and sentences, crafting language, the wisdom of his prose, insights into basic human beings, you know its true, his evil characters, thinking about The Jungle Book, he started with chapter 4, MouseCircus.com,
“We were young, and very poor. The rooms I was renting above a shop were in a building tall and spindly and old. The kitchen and lounge were on one floor, a bedroom and my office and a bathroom on the next, and, at the top of the house, there was a big attic bedroom, and a low, long room in which an adult could barely stand up straight and in which there was a crib and a playpen. My son, Michael, who was two years old, loved his tricycle more than anything, but there was nowhere to ride it in the house, not without him tumbling down the stairs, so I would carry him and his tricycle across the narrow lane to the grounds of the local church, and he would pedal around to his heart’s content, and I would sit and read a book in the sunshine, and watch him, and look at the grey gravestones, names half-erased by time, and marvel at how comfortable a child looks in a graveyard. That was where it started. I’ll call it The Graveyard Book, I thought. Like Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.”
listening to it, ghoulheim, there it is!, the monkey scene with Mowgli, Silas is Bagheera and Ms. Lupescu is Baloo, the tribute to Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, the rubberfaced night gaunts, something Lovecraft dreamt as child, they became his friends, they tickle you, creepy and wonderful, chew off any meat left on the bones, tip-up the lead-lined coffin and all the juices, when the angles were wrong, a city built to be abandoned, just as odd, to find the equivalent, King Louis, the Emperor Of China, the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman is a ghoul, the full cast version, recorded in a Minnesota radio station, so fantastic a narrator, no better author narrator, Gaiman’s reading of Coraline, Scott Danielson, a boy story and a girl story, The New Mother by Lucy Clifford, Heather Ordover, the CraftLit podcast, very insightful, The Count Of Monte Cristo, a man and woman in a box, glass eyes and a wooden tail, the cycle repeats three times, never naughty enough, live on berries, worse than the Other Mother, children in Hell, where Coraline came from, no redemption, no mercy, fairy-tale-like, very Neverwhere-ish, has he ever written a book that isn’t about gods, regular Neil Gaiman stuff, the Endless, is there a god in this book?, who is the grey lady on the grey mare?, she’s Death, the sickle and the hood, The Old Gray Mare, she ain’t what she used to be, the Hounds of God, Romanian soup, boiled cabbage is kinda a good, eating Twinkies, Mr Lupescu by Anthony Boucher, Mr Jim Moon’s Hypnogoria (Hypnobobs) podcast, Neil Gaiman’s breadth of reading, Mr Jesse, macabre (macabray), imaginary friends, Thus I Refute Beelzy by John Collier, Scarlet has an imaginary friend, Scarlet’s story is a mini-version of this story, a kid romance, the angry teenager, play houses, meany, totally girl, so cute, very brave, going into the dark, five years old, before Julie was 3, barely remember yesterday, summer used to last several years, the perception of time, how you could get bored really easily, the world is so boring, tapped into the youth, the Sandman series, the conference of the Jacks, serial killer convention, where is Silas going?, he’s like Gandalf, standard mean horrible character, time-traveling hit-men, Connie Willis, the characters that work, there’s the deepness, Jack Frost is Shere Khan, fresh, very fresh, quite refreshing, the comic book adaptation, some of the art in here, Jill Thompson, P. Craig Russell, Galen Showman, the scale is bigger, the horizon is bigger, the ghouls, comic gross humans, monkey creepy horrible awful, the sleer, Gaiman gives you the outline and then you fill it in, the Indigo Man, the broach, the graveyard, the antique shop, super complementary, look how Silas dominates the room, there’s never a haircut scene, so intriguing, why does he hang out in this graveyard, knowledge of the prophecy?, the whole plot is way less important, why is the Danse Macabre in this?, Death is so beautiful, living forever, the living with the dead, each to each, names aren’t really important, find his name, one day everybody does, how come death’s so cool?, really smart, what’s true and what do we need to remember, the dead should have charity, Elizabeth Hempstock, Toomai of the Elephants, referential, winter flowers, we’ve crossed worlds, within generations enough, the other book that was homework, A Fine And Private Place by Peter S. Beagle, Beagle’s narration, ended up perfect, brought to life, ride that raven, they are both stories about a human living in a graveyard and they are fantasies, very gentle and slow, it could have been a little bit shorter, he made his case for all the relationships, overcoming fears, only 19 when he wrote it, mature, living a fantasy world life, a raven, taking some inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, Ezekiel in the desert, a loose connection, the raven is what kept him there, psychopomp, a real personality, a ride in a back of a truck with a squirrel, set somewhere in England, so rich, find some weird house, adventures in her back yard, fully realized, how stiking is it that 10 year old kids and adults can enjoy it and not be lost, Coraline is not as amazing as this book, aimed at the children’s market, 188 pages for $10 US, images conjured by the book, no description of the lines on his face, the relationship has to Bod (she’s not going to eat him), it takes a (graveyard) village, out of time, his parents are almost the least interesting characters in the book, the poet who punished all his enemies by refusing to write his poems for the public, from my cold dead hand, kinda like Scrooge, some Lord Of The Rings stuff, the broach the knife and the cup, the Sleer is awesome, Elidor by Alan Garner, a family of jerks, William Shakespeare’s King Lear, a sword, a spear, a bowl, and an anvil, escaping into a fantasy world while you’re a kid, The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, weaving in true history, he liked the roads, Celtic mythology, the ring connection, the barrow wights from The Fellowship Of The Ring, Jesse’s Roof Bear calendar, there has to be rules behind stuff to make it interesting, Roof Bear can’t leave the roof, Ghost Horse is waiting for his master to return, lifting from the Sleer?, children’s adventures, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, fun stuff for kids (and for Jesse), remembering the sort of fun you had as a kid, we don’t get to play house anymore, the pretend has a lot of value, mud pies, hanging out in childhood, beautiful, children and grandchildren, so Christmas becomes magic again, that acknowledgement, Bod’s getting too old, talking to Mother Slaughter, you’re always you and that don’t change, truth, I’m still me, that double memory, one of those profound things, LEGO robotics on Apple II computers (LEGO Logo), you really do loose something, its impossible, something you loose and yet retain the memory of it, Locke & Key: Welcome To Lovecraft by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodríguez, the head key, take out memories, the gender key, you forget, exploring a big old house, a menace, it works in the same way, brilliant and well worth reading, The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin, This Perfect Day by Ira Levin, 1984 by George Orwell, “Christ, Marx, Wood, and Wei”, very 1984, The Giver by Lois Lowry, a remake, the witch chapter, time in libraries, what forms your imagination, what tempts Bod is an apple, wish I’d left…, the groundskeeper’s pile of grass, she’s just a girl (who was murdered), “then I did my death curse”, when Bod falls out of his crib, a pile of plush toys, a nice doubling, do this kind thing, sends him out into danger, all the influences, nothing is forced, the mechanisms of writing, a six sentence story, all unconscious, it feels very natural, I want the magic, it takes him years and years, Tolkien: there were all these Catholic things in there, a good book, a good movie, what Neil Gaiman can do, just crafting your work, a lot of it is unconscious, an apple orchard, seeing things evolving, re-reading is not Jesse’s thing, when you run out you have to go back, re-watching, all these little things, Julie’s project, have they earned my shelf space?, deep in our cultural unconscious, 43 Bollywood movies last year, legal/police/moral situations, western culture branched-off, vengeance is looked at very differently, cultural thinking, shocked and taken-aback, northern Europe is full of apple trees, a ghost outside, Good book, what’s Ace barking at?, thought-yells, a Man Jack in the yard, a fun read.
The SFFaudio Podcast #507 – Seaton’s Aunt by Walter de la Mare; read by Mr Jim Moon. This is an unabridged reading of the short story (1 hour 36 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, Maissa Bessada, and Wayne June
Talked about on today’s show:
aunt?, ownt?, The London Mercury, April 1922, H.P. Lovecraft, pretty damn interesting, is it a ghost story?, Robert Aickman, Fontana Book Of Ghost Stories (Volume 1), M.R. James,, E.F. Benson, Thomas Liggoti, is it a vampire story?, a very successful ghost story, is it a witchcraft story?, necromancy, psychic vampirism, all about mood and sustaining a mood, atmospheric, very, creepiness sneaks in, chills up and down the spine,
“Deserving of distinguished notice as a forceful craftsman to whom an unseen mystic world is ever a close and vital reality is the poet Walter de la Mare, whose haunting verse and exquisite prose alike bear consistent traces of a strange vision reaching deeply into veiled spheres of beauty and terrible and forbidden dimensions of being.”
in a letter to Clark Ashton Smith, rumors about an ancient castle under which is a conclave of demons, not truckle with psychological fudging, real life stories, never tipped over the abyss, a feeling of being haunted, the weight of disbelief, monster,
“Of the shorter tales, of which several volumes exist, many are unforgettable for their command of fear’s and sorcery’s darkest ramifications; notably Seaton’s Aunt, in which there lowers a noxious background of malignant vampirism”
Shades Of Darkness adaptation, 9/10ths close to the book, a big switcheroo, switching the roles, dialogue from the story, adaptations are people interpreting, interpretive decisions, the girl Alice, more life to her at the beginning, the casting, what a role, a role of a lifetime, no eating, a mountain of a woman vs. doll-like, that thin and hungry look, her hair, a wig, dark hair, all this history, how intense people are, things going on, the number of parallel things that are happening, the first meeting the second meeting, the school, the strand, creepier, it feels like an actual memoir, weary of for no good reason, Withers, why is he telling this story, a chapter in a memoir, not very good person, Seaton’s not perfect, maybe this aunt is very moral, she does pretty much everything wrong, a huge colossal biotch, from a shit’s point of view, “a creature”, why does she act that way, she’s a prick or in league with the devil, she is a monster (in a any sense of the word), a horrible person, spite, little mind games, this is not Seaton’s story, may ownt, an extraordinary figure, a non-supernatural story, what made a person like this?, maybe she just way to much Lovecraft when she was young, we English, pongo, ape, monkey, bribed every time, some jam, lunch, expensive wine, the everyman, self-involved, does she kill him?, the roles were switched, bells and sparks, that chess scene,
Seaton’s aunt was wearing an extraordinary kind of lace jacket when we sidled sheepishly into the drawing-room together. She greeted me with a heavy and protracted smile, and bade me bring a chair close to the little table.
“I hope Arthur has made you feel at home,” she said, as she handed me my cup in her crooked hand. “He don’t talk much to me; but then I’m an old woman. You must come again, Wither, and draw him out of his shell. You old snail!” She wagged her head at Seaton, who sat munching cake and watching her intently.
his room is full of cages, down at the pond, a dysfunctional family,
“And we must correspond, perhaps.” She nearly shut her eyes at me. “You must write and tell me everything behind the creature’s back.” I confess I found her rather disquieting company. The evening drew on. Lamps were brought in by a man with a nondescript face and very quiet footsteps. Seaton was told to bring out the chess-men. And we played a game, she and I, with her big chin thrust over the board at every move as she gloated over the pieces and occasionally croaked “Check!”—after which she would sit back inscrutably staring at me. But the game was never finished. She simply hemmed me defencelessly in with a cloud of men that held me impotent, and yet one and all refused to administer to my poor flustered old king a merciful coup de grâce.
teaching chess, the aunt and Withers are parallel, Arthur chose him, something of his aunt there, toying and sparing,
“There,” she said as the clock struck ten—”a drawn game, Withers. We are very evenly matched. A very creditable defence, Withers. You know your room. There’s supper on a tray in the dining-room. Don’t let the creature over-eat himself. The gong will sound three-quarters of an hour before a punctual breakfast.” She held out her cheek to Seaton, and he kissed it with obvious perfunctoriness. With me she shook hands.
“An excellent game,” she said cordially, “but my memory is poor, and”—she swept the pieces helterskelter into the box—”the result will never be known.” She raised her great head far back. “Eh?”
It was a kind of challenge, and I could only murmur: “Oh, I was absolutely in a hole, you know!” when she burst out laughing and waved us both out of the room.
immoral behavior, a cloud of men, how she treats her nephew, Withers or Johnson or Wither or Smithers, another dig, tapping into something very British, mirrored, a dishonest narrator, passing judgement on all and sundry, a hideous old beast, she’s not such a bad old stick, a dull stolid chap, what’s expected, a public school attitude, everyone’s a jolly good sort, a mask for bad behavior, a cavalier with the truth, very calculated, foibles of behavior, you are nothing to me, it’s a test, dare you correct an old lady, is she’s too self aware?, if this were a true memoir, they sneak into her room and hide in her closet, too intellectual for her own good, why she’s a miss, about half way through the book,
We turned and walked slowly towards the house, across whose windows I confess my own eyes, too, went restlessly wandering in search of its rather disconcerting inmate. There was a pathetic look of draggledness, of want of means and care, rust and overgrowth and faded paint. Seaton’s aunt, a little to my relief, did not share our meal. Seaton carved the cold meat, and dispatched a heaped-up plate by an elderly servant for his aunt’s private consumption. We talked little and in half-suppressed tones, and sipped a bottle of Madeira which Seaton had rather heedfully fetched out of the great mahogany sideboard.
I played him a dull and effortless game of chess, yawning between the moves he himself made almost at haphazard, and with attention elsewhere engaged. About five o’clock came the sound of a distant ring, and Seaton jumped up, overturning the board, and so ending a game that else might have fatuously continued to this day.
no malice, interpretation, he’s turning into her, becoming more sympathetic to her, my aunt, we lost all our money, fairly obvious, the aunt has spent the inheritance, stopping at the chemists to get rat poison, WHY?, is Seaton trying to kill his aunt?, a half-term holiday, for his own use, another parallel, what’s with the bangle?, only when pirating, a craze for wearing a ring, a craze for wearing bangles, wearing a rubber band as a bangle, a little affectation, a bit of jewelry, more adult, a bit glamorous, to be interesting and opulent, bullying, perfectly horrid, a touch of the tar brush, not white enough, a bit debonair, a bit gypsy,
I can scarcely describe with what curious ruminations I led the way into the faded, heavy-aired dining-room, with this indefinable old creature leaning weightily on my arm—the large flat bracelet on the yellow-laced wrist.
they are isolated, a maiden aunt, a malevolent creature, sometimes people are weird, weird household cultures, lobster mayonnaise, game sausages, the salad is the monster, a gargantuan appetite, you can’t scare me with your ghost stories, I’ll take it, she’s sure to be quite decent to you, code for child sexual abuse, she’s just a woman, does she lie ever?, the eye in the room, is this an Innsmouth story?, a lot of fishy eyes in this story, Irving S. Cobb’s Fishhead, frog boy?, did he go to the pond, or the sea?, her younger brother, she might be being misread, people turning into dust, Seaton is turning into his aunt, something you like to eat, so interesting,
We walked up the village street, past the little dingy apothecary’s and the empty forge, and, as on my first visit, skirted the house together, and, instead of entering by the front door, made our way down the green path into the garden at the back. A pale haze of cloud muffled the sun; the garden lay in a grey shimmer—its old trees, its snap-dragoned faintly glittering walls. But now there was an air of slovenliness where before all had been neat and methodical. In a patch of shallowly-dug soil stood a worn-down spade leaning against a tree. There was an old broken wheelbarrow. The roses had run to leaf and briar; the fruit-trees were unpruned. The goddess of neglect brooded in secret.
the Goddess of neglect, what the hell does that mean?, the whole opposite view of this whole thing, he’s dying, is he digging his own grave?, his way to try to get away, a keen naturalist, he’s making the best of a bad situation, I like wildness, forklift trucks to do her goddamned hair, the keys to his trust fund, salving a scrap of conscience, a bit of a tightfist, the money is running out, nuts and fruit, he doesn’t want to get too fat, tadpoles, between becoming what he’s going to be, the aunt croaks, he will never,
on one memorable occasion went to the length of bestowing on me a whole pot of some outlandish mulberry-coloured jelly that had been duplicated in his term’s supplies. In the exuberance of my gratitude I promised to spend the next half-term holiday with him at his aunt’s house.
expensive madeira, she sounds like a Lovecraft,
She confided in us her views on a theme vaguely occupying at the moment, I suppose, all our minds. “We have barbarous institutions, and so must put up, I suppose, with a never-ending procession of fools—of fools ad infinitum. Marriage, Mr. Withers, was instituted in the privacy of a garden; sub Rosa, as it were. Civilization flaunts it in the glare of day. The dull marry the poor; the rich the effete; and so our New Jerusalem is peopled with naturals, plain and coloured, at either end. I detest folly; I detest still more (if I must be frank, dear Arthur), mere cleverness. Mankind has simply become a tailless host of indistinctive animals. We should never have taken to Evolution, Mr. Withers. ‘Natural Selection!’—little gods and fishes!—the deaf for the dumb. We should have used our brains—intellectual pride, the ecclesiastics call it. And by brains I mean—what do I mean, Alice?—I mean, my dear child”—and she laid two gross fingers on Alice’s narrow sleeve—”I mean courage. Consider it, Arthur. I read that the scientific world is once more beginning to be afraid of spiritual agencies. Spiritual agencies that tap, and actually float, bless their hearts! I think just one more of those mulberries—thank you.
sounding like Thomas Ligotti, everything sucks, the trap of pessimism, a certain truth to it, justification for all manner of barbarity and horror, survival of the fittest, neoliberal morality, atmosphere building, the deaf for the dumb, intellectual pride, what do I mean Alice?, I mean courage, spiritual agencies, an attack on spiritualism, worst wedding toast ever, worst host ever, my child brother died in it, sleep well, how big a deal, another theory, one more of those mulberries, bastard squirrels, almost all vegetation, pop goes the weasel, Babylonian mythology, silkworms, death and rebirth, they spin their own shroud, Seaton should run away, the horse, she never will or she never would, she knows everything we’re doing, is she telepathic?, does she know the boy is buying rat poison?, cages and boxes, a box with a worm in it, role reversal, a switch, something strange happens near the end, off to tea, she calls him Arthur, is that you Arthur?, the ghost of Arthur?, get out, she doesn’t know, she killed him but she doesn’t even know, a voracious appetite, getting psychically fatter, she’s lost her source of food, she’s dying, conversing with the dead, still floating around the house, nothing to feed off anymore, not wholly embodied, that all seeing eye, seeing into other people’s minds, is he first in his class?, maybe if you apply the rules of science it’s almost like she’s in a superposition, the pile of clothes on the floor, the shoes two meters apart pointing at each other, a bundle of clothes, she’s in her room and she’s not in her room, Schrödinger’s Aunt, she’s just a human being, this story does both, a horror story, she’s a vampiric-witch who can talk to ghosts, The Terrible Old Man by H.P. Lovecraft, Spanish gold, easy pickings, bottled souls, old shipmates, three new bottles, his yard, moss covered totemic gods from the South Seas, Smithers Withers Johnson, not wholly of this dimension, why she’s so weird, an alien trapped on Earth, she knows she’s a shit, he does the exact same stuff as she does, not of this earth, a tragedy, the whole takeaway, feeling a little guilt, a life tragedy, nothing but a trap, you’re either a feeder or you’re the food, not an Oscar Wilde, outside of society, so masterfully put together, another way of going, she’s mean because she gives him the small room, who made the room full of cages and boxes, playing goth music all night, all about interpretation, a reflection of me (being in a cage), interesting parallels, a black widow spider, Wayne doesn’t buy that she’s innocent, in league with the devil, what happened to her brother?, a theory for Mr Jim Moon, The Terror Of The Blue John Gap by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, mother of pearl, a monster in the mine, a letter Seaton, Samuel Seaton, the painting on the wall, the one with the eye is S. Seaton, retelling it as a modern story, he has a VIC 20!, security cameras in every room, we have the same kinds of issues and problems today, most manifest in her awareness of what she’s doing, self-conscious, Alice is almost consciousless, did she move away?, who did she escape?, a weird race of two, the deep one crown in a chest of jewlery, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, trying to find a place to put my sympathy, they’re screwed individually and in combination, All Hallows by Walter de la Mare, a sour church, Blackwood and Machenesque, a BBC Radio abridgement, the story becomes insane without pauses,
you know your space, a powerfully interesting way of writing, layering in themes that are almost ineffable, just words, so much is the way its told, a liberated thoughtful lady, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, occult skill, charged with mockery and bitterness, ruined, processing through a filter of hate, began to play the opening bars of Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata. The piano was old and woolly. She played without music. The lamplight was rather dim. The moonbeams from the window lay across the keys. Her head was in shadow. And whether it was simply due to her personality or to some really occult skill in her playing I cannot say: I only know that she gravely and deliberately set herself to satirize the beautiful music. It brooded on the air, disillusioned, charged with mockery and bitterness. I stood at the window; far down the path I could see the white figure glimmering in that pool of colourless light. A few faint stars shone, and still that amazing woman behind me dragged out of the unwilling keys her wonderful grotesquerie of youth, and love, and beauty. It came to an end. I knew the player was watching me. “Please, please, go on!” I murmured, without turning. “Please go on playing, Miss Seaton.”
No answer was returned to my rather fluttering sarcasm, but I knew in some indefinite way that I was being acutely scrutinized, when suddenly there followed a procession of quiet, plaintive chords which broke at last softly into the hymn, A Few More Years Shall Roll.
what significance did the hymn have for her?
I confess it held me spellbound. There is a wistful, strained, plangent pathos in the tune; but beneath those masterly old hands it cried softly and bitterly the solitude and desperate estrangement of the world. Arthur and his lady-love vanished from my thoughts. No one could put into a rather hackneyed old hymn-tune such an appeal who had never known the meaning of the words. Their meaning, anyhow, isn’t commonplace.
I turned very cautiously and glanced at the musician. She was leaning forward a little over the keys, so that at the approach of my cautious glance she had but to turn her face into the thin flood of moonlight for every feature to become distinctly visible. And so, with the tune abruptly terminated, we steadfastly regarded one another, and she broke into a chuckle of laughter.
engaging with him like an adult, the clothes of a man, his coat is too big for him, so grateful for the invitation, I really appreciate it because I’m dying, the paranoid literal ghost haunted victim of an in-league-with-the-devil-aunt, nothing more than a coffin, my brother William died, there’s hundreds of eyes like that in the house, I shan’t stand it much longer, did Seaton commit suicide?, all my plans are falling into place, the old mulberry jelly trick, we are told he has lavish pocket money, that would be in character, so lonely, the bangle as an amulet against her, Alice Outram, some good stuff, a now lost medieval village in Derbyshire, early 1900s travel, piggy back rides and hiding in closets, candles, a fascinating story, Seaton is definitely a liar, you were supposed to best man, more on the ball, creeped by the aunt, you hypocrite, a mismatch between emotions and what people say, being clever and arch, snarky, is it about control or just being playful, so much free-rangeness, allowed bullying to flourish, snapchat bullying, the mistakes of perception that you have in childhood, a confession story, somewhere in there Withers is having an argument with Seaton, some guilt, mistreating the old bird, what she says, calculated cruelty, emotionally abusive, emotionally neglectful, no sexual or physical abuse, she never lies to him, she never gaslights him, that never happened, you’re wrong, she demeans him, she knows everything that I think and what I do, he’s a squashed human, squashed at school, victimness, uninterested in his emotional being, baby monkeys, the monkey Withers, a monkey in with a tadpole, very subversive, what is the question, what is this story?, not fantasy, not science fiction, definitely weird fiction, vampire is stronger than ghosts (in here), prehistoricism, eternal evil, Silurians (Doctor Who reference), Doggerland, it feels so Lovecrafty because of all the fish, he is doomed, The Rats In The Walls, The Moon Bog, The Grove Of Ashtaroth by John Buchan,
And again I paused irresolutely a few paces further on. It was not fancy, merely a foolish apprehension of what the raw-boned butcher might “think” that prevented my going back to see if I could find Seaton’s grave in the benighted churchyard. There was precious little use in pottering about in the muddy dark, merely to discover where he was buried. And yet I felt a little uneasy. My rather horrible thought was that, so far as I was concerned—one of his extremely few friends—he had never been much better than “buried” in my mind.
dark!, a dark philosophy,
I was not a man of the world, nor was I much flattered in my stiff and dullish way of looking at things by being called one; and I could answer her without the least hesitation.
“I don’t think, Miss Seaton, I’m much of a judge of character. She’s very charming.”
“I think I prefer dark women.”
“And why? Consider, Mr. Withers; dark hair, dark eyes, dark cloud, dark night, dark vision, dark death, dark grave, dark!”
she’s goth, yo,
Perhaps the climax would have rather thrilled Seaton, but I was too thick-skinned. “I don’t know much about all that,” I answered rather pompously. “Broad daylight’s difficult enough for most of us.”