The SFFaudio Podcast #395 – Jesse and Wayne June talk about The Slithering Shadow (aka Xuthal Of The Dusk) by Robert E. Howard
Talked about on today’s show:
Wayne’s first exposure to Robert E. Howard, “repetitious and childish, a self-vitiating brew of pseudo-science”, stage illusions and , repetition, “Oh, Conan!, Robert would have wanted it that way, REH is having some fun with a genre he normally doesn’t play in, Red Nails, Conan is dismissive of the city’s population, degeneration, drug addled drug attics in dopey hazes, lasers, radium light bulbs, manufacturing food from the primal elements, Valeria vs harem slave Natala, devious, controlling, self-interested, a lot of depth behind the shallowness in this story, Conan is really grumpy from page one, gigantic mirth: she’s only human, curmudgeon Conan, poisoning the well, don’t grab my sword arm, slap on the ass, a grumpy sexist, Howard’s doing something really really funny, The Slithering Shadow is a gothic horror, silliness, women written like cartoon characters, not reminding you of your mortality, not about the uselessness of existence, clunky elements, a haunted castle, kicking and screaming, bad casting, trap doors, up to the hilt, sitting on another divan, sooo gothic horror novel, hidden passageways, trapdoors, convoluted coincidence, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oval Portrait, very recently and hurriedly abandoned, still food on the table, candles that have just been blown out, one spot of blood, The Monk, a giant helmet, a giant dome at the center of the city, one giant palace, all the trappings of a haunted mansion, switching gears, describing Thog, jumping right into H.P. Lovecraft, men of action, biting the Lovecraftian horror, what Cimmerians are like, passive aggressive Conan, in all of Howards writings about Conan, a blood feud, a lack of reproduction, an H.G. Wells trick, why the drug element is so heavy, the golden wine (a healing potion), Howard’s doctor father was very familiar with heroin addiction, Fort McMurray, “morons”, barbarians vs. the civilized, Thalis’ experience, the Fred Van Lente adaptation for Dark Horse Comics, initiated into the cult of Derketa, not my first rodeo, a gang-bang, better to kill Natala, Thalis’ life story is a horror show hidden behind a few words, that’s the cover of Weird Tales, who is this story intended for?, racy, sex, before Natala knifed Thalis, I don’t like getting stabbed, taught to be hard and cruel, Thalis’ chance at revenge, a Stygian Queen, growing up with doped out morons, a gruesome comeuppance, Thog doesn’t just eat you he rapes you first, digested for a thousand years, tentacles, the face of Thog, a non-euclidean face, a 40 year Texas feud, Thog at the center bottom of the city, a big black amorphous mass, Thog is the mad lady in the attic, a stoic attitude towards destiny and fate, from the likes of Thog, Thog is the oil, the cause for the addiction and for the city, unseen until it gushes all over you, fundamentally Howard is not completely wrong about civilization, trigger warnings and sexism, the limitations on what a woman can be in Xuthal (get a real man), moral judgements, his own code of ethics, stealing a slave, Natala’s safety is bound up with his morality, a kind of a rescue, the rebel Prince Almuric, a great river flowing into the desert, dead with forty arrows, canteen full of water, a rich and decadent place, black lotus, cursed, the desert will be kinder, a rebel prince of Stygia, Thalis was like a Natala, she’s the heavy (other than Thog), whip up some anger, Thalis is a Natala without a Conan, this “civilized” society, one of the worst Conan stories by one of the best writers of pulp fiction is still a pretty good story, super-hero-ish, Howard was smart at marketing, Margaret Brundage, lesbian scenes on the cover, gratuitous nudity, temptation, Queen Of The Black Coast, Belit, a pirate queen, first mate (literally), Belit runs that story, a noir awesome ending, the coincidence, “I guess I could do a gothic – Conan won’t like this”, having fun with it, all those tropes, the comics adaptations, done in Stygian, when Conan talks in word balloons, a rough-hewn word balloon (a Cimmerian accent?), you don’t want to do Arnold, a pulpy breezy, showing the Xuthalians hooked up to IVs, smoking your black lotus, the den of an opium smoker, chasing the dragon, enough backstory to make it interesting, an opium inundated culture, yellow skinned, China in decline, the Hermit Kingdom, decadence collapsing, a yellow peril story, San Fransisco, Chinatown, Lovecraftian elements, The Hour Of The Dragon, start with a random story, outliers, Beyond The Black River, Queen Of The Black Coast, an epicness, forty issues of awesome adventure, the tie between pulp adventure and comics, comics are the legacy of the pulps, The Shadow, Doc Savage is a pulp superhero with a super-team, in the 1970s, Conan The Barbarian, the Roy Thomas adaptation from Savage Sword of Conan #20, 1977, essentially nudity, heads being lopped off, no blood and no death, Curtis Publications, kick-ass stories, amazing pulp adventure, a 60 page comic adaptation, “freely adapting”, Conan finds a lost valley – Iskander’s kingdom, crocodile men and bird men, walking zombies, all sorts of things need to have their heads lopped off, Marvel was the dark side vs. DC, sel-doubt and existential anxierty of the heros, John Buscema, Alfredo Alcala, Ernie Chan, the amazing Filipino artists drawing busty ladies and big armed barbarians, Warren Comics, Heavy Metal, Richard Corben, so much richness in the non-superhero comics, Pepe Moreno, Rebel (1984), Mad Max meets Escape From New York with Nazis, a hot rod gang with a heart of gold, victory by blowing up the World Trade Center, power in visualizing, the “steely thews” of Conan, eldritch vs. thews, cat-like, jaguar, pantherish, the battle scenes really flowed, Howard highly influenced by Lovecraft, The Black Stone, an elegance of colour, colour in every particle of sand, the opposite of Lovecraft, with Lovecraft the horrible thing makes its appearance and you faint, Howard wades in on it, Lovecraft would never do that, one can’t battle gods and get away with a whole skin, psychic damage vs. physical damage, Howard is a complement to Lovecraft, physicality, fighting against the inevitability, there’s life there, bleak and grey vs. blood flying everywhere, Robert E. Howard was a lot lustier, “a superfluity of naughtiness”, tongue in cheek, “spicy”, Railroad Man’s Magazine, Air Stories, Zeppelin Stories, True Detective, Spicy Detective, Spicy Mystery, Spicy Adventure, Twilight is nothing new, sexist so sexist, racist so racist, women readers asking for more nudity and spicy, reading it with one hand, women liked and wrote for Weird Tales, Dorothy Quick, Mark Twain, Maude Ludington Cain, yeah it’s sexist, keep behind me girl, “Why is he calling her a girl?”, “Oh, he’s sexist.”, visualizing what is said, what if someone saw us?, there’s blood on the stones, Conan at his stupidest, a crimson mist descended over his eyes, don’t let the blind bull-headed grumpiness be a guide for what he’s like, there’s a great character there.
Talked about on today’s show:
Weird Tales, April 1929, set in 1928, the Wikipedia entry, “one of the few tales Lovecraft wrote wherein the heroes successfully defeat the antagonistic entity or monster of the story”, the heroes were a nice family who kept to themselves, hounding the downtrodden, the story structure, the lily white mom, a virgin birth to an extraordinary son, an invisible brother, the holy trinity, it’s Jerusalem all over again, another fallen world, Dostoevsky’s The Grand Inquisitor, she’s sooo virginal, towards racism, non-human entities, deeply inset, the whole of Dunwich is inbred, more sanctified, extreme exogamy, Wilbur Whateley’s literary model, Frankenstein’s monster, yellow skin, lustrous black hair, hounded by the community, nudism is not a sin on your own land, they’re non-Christians, persecution, one of the great problems of Frankenstein, the creation of new life in a socially horrible way, for lack of a better appendage, some of the things Wizard Whateley says are troubling, Wilbur’s strangeness, reserve books, deny all access to this kid, the Call Of Cthulhu RPG is modeled on this story, Yog-Sothoth’s appearances in other stories, Through The Gates Of The Silver Key by E. Hoffman Price and H.P. Lovecraft, the opener of the way, Randolph Carter, Wilbur’s diary, the clearing off of the Earth, a lonely teenager, contempt for his mom, her albinism, somewhat deformed, gestures and hints, her unnamed son, Wilbur is dark, another step down the albinism route, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, the Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows Providence adaptation (issue 4), Robert Black, the Wilbur stand-in is Willard, the audio drama, family photos, the madwoman in the attic (the mad brother in the attic), dad’s always feeding him, he’s just a big kid, wonderfully atmospheric, he’s a horror writer, the normal way to read this story, weird fiction, The Colour Out Of Space, science fiction, Providence, Rhode Island, Athol, dread and horror, straight-up horror, Lovecraft and race, Lovecraft and class, poor white people are monstrous and horrific, inbred and weak, a fun Malcolm Gladwell piece, To Kill A Mockingbird demonized poor white folk, Trump-bashing, Oswald Spengler’s The Decline Of The West, have we peaked?, patronizing the poor, this is shocking, Theodore Dreiser, Jacob Reese’s How The Other Half Lives, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Degeneration: Fear Of The White Race Declining, war, we’ll all be Teddy Roosevelt and Baden-Powell, WWI, prohibition, the first U.S. propaganda committee, the end of The Shadow Over Innsmouth, rural threat, The Terrible Old Man, a cultural flip-flop, the rural folk as the other, the tipping point, urban migration, canary women in munition factories, the yeoman past, the gold doubloons, where did that money come from?, practicing alchemy?, Keanu Reeves, a ghurka knife, Dracula’s money belt, poor Wilbur, dogs wanna eat him!, dogs are mean, barking at things we cannot see, the dog as index of character, good people feed you bad people eat you, unlike the whippoorwills?, The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen, Wilbur is a little goaty, concepts and styles, the gods having union with humans and birthing the monstrous, a neuroscientist, a gibbering wreck, a trail of destruction, literal devolution, absolute corruption in human form, Helen Vaughn, a mystery story, disturbing hints, an enturely different story with entirely different tropes, a classic bad seed story, a giant monster on the loose story, a New England kaiju story, the Moodus Noises, hollow earth stories, lost race stories, Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race, ravines of problematic depth, Lovecraft casts a spell upon the reader, entranced by the language, landscape description, Elmore Leonard, stage-setting, the river as a serpent, oddly suggestive, feeling uneasy, the weird tale aspect, a little too round and a little too even, pulling down all the stones on all the hilltops, At The Mountains Of Madness, Dreams Of Animals, other families, the etymology of panic, somebody’s panic face, red scares, yellow perils, bank panics, the god Pan,
The word derives from antiquity and is a tribute to the ancient God, Pan. One of the many gods in the mythology of ancient Greece: Pan was the god of shepherds and of woods and pastures. The Greeks believed that he often wandered peacefully through the woods, playing a pipe, but when accidentally awakened from his noontime nap he could give a great shout that would cause flocks to stampede. From this aspect of Pan’s nature Greek authors derived the word panikon, “sudden fear,” the ultimate source of the English word: “panic”.
multiples of Pan:
Pan could be multiplied into a swarm of Pans, and even be given individual names, as in Nonnus’ Dionysiaca, where the god Pan had twelve sons that helped Dionysus in his war against the Indians.
a scapegoat, panic is the sense that everything around you is alive, 1806, a beautiful valley, a few cows, not interested in the modern economy, industry “didn’t take”, party line telephones, gossip, no phone at the Whateley farm, are they all practice hidden religions, The Horror Of The Burying Ground, a humor piece, an experimental embalmer, Herbert West: Embalmer, they’re alive!, everyone goes to their graves alive, gothic horror, comedy, set in Vermont?, Will Murray, Lovecraft’s revisions, tongue in cheek, blackly comic self-parody (almost), The Horror Of The Museum, Hazel Heald, in the 19th century everyone was afraid of premature burial, Edgar Allan Poe, a New York City echo, the different adaptations, the 2009 SciFi channel version, Jeffrey Combs, Dean Stockwell (Dr Yueh), the 1970 movie adaptation, a satanist movie, a lot of the story is in it, an anti-hero, Professor Armitage, Dennis Wheatley, cosmic horror, a beholder from Dungeons & Dragons gone berserk, a staff with a thunderbird totem, don’t go near the hills on certain nights of the year, a resentment, the degenerate side of the family, the opening credits, the love interest, the natural order, the big interpolation, an abomination, like Philip K. Dick, a source for films (mostly bad), The Resurrected, Blade Runner, Total Recall: 2070, Minority Report TV series, The Man In The High Castle TV series, the problem is there’s no real hope…, exactly the opposite of Dick’s idea, what that means for us, the medium shift (from book to movie), The Stone Tape (the BBC radio drama adaptation), checking out a book as a plot point, the Suspense radio drama adaptation of The Dunwich Horror, OTR, The War Of The Worlds, a Lovecraftian flavour, a sense of weirdness, using the whippoorwills, the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre adaptation, Wayne June is Mr Creeps, The Great God Pan, Out Of The Earth, The Thing In The Woods by Margery Williams, Ooze, an episode of Lovejoy, Ian McShane, regular uncursed artifacts, Deadwood, Dunwich On Sea (or In Sea?), a Swinburne poem, Stone Angel, The Ancient Track, Lovecraft’s description of other books in poems, a restatement of the Whateley family, Jesse reads a poem, Mr Jim Moon quotes from Zaman’s Hill, Lovecraft Country, Massachusetts and Vermont, very rural, Wizard Alexander, so articulate, glib stereotype, it would be childish to say it was indescribable…, a master of horror with a deep seated love of humour.
Talked about on today’s show:
1871, 1872, Elizabeth’s first solo for LibriVox, a per-adolescent kid, Dracula, a novella and not a novel, Dracula is obsessed with its own structure, dictaphone, the manner of the telling, The Dark Blue magazine, the framing device, the Dr. Martin Hesselius framing device, wee have the papers to prove it, not with that ending, so chilling, eight years after the major events, three hundred, Duke Charles, CBS Radio Mystery Theater adaptation, the setting, the nearest inhabited village is twenty leagues away, the ruins of Karnstein, white lilies, swans, perch, in the moat, the story within the story, Spielsdorf’s letter, Millarca and her “mother”, fete, a masked ball, a vampire scam, a glamour on the father, pulling Laura’s father aside, is she glamouring him?, so lonely, giving in to her whim, why don’t the vampires not immediately suck some folk dry?, preying on the village girls, Varney The Vampire, the name as an anagram, the blue mark, the lonely vampire, “you’re going to die into me”, “I live into your warm life and you’ll die sweetly into mine”, Laura has been stalked since she was six, enchanted by the pretty lady, needles, “just a blue spot”, the father and the doctor are shielding Laura, shielding Mina from the truth ends up hurting her, the female characters in both stories are more capable than the male characters give them credit for, religion, the crucifix doesn’t figure into Carmilla, the complicated layering of imagery, Carmilla’s escape from the castle, enclosure, Carmilla can transcend enclosures, transcendent confinement, an extra-transmissive female, the Mountebank peddlar, the little dog, amulets for protection against the oumpire, a very sharp tooth like a fish, a transaction through a window, a liminal space, invading the domestic space, well educated in trickery and juggling, the mountebank half-recognizes Carmillas as a vampire, a clever recipe, Harker’s shaving mirror, Markheim by Robert Louis Stevenson, Carmilla thinks of herself as a product of nature, “all things proceed from nature”, girls as caterpillars while they live in the world, relying on God to take care of us is naive, a post Darwinian perspective, Dracula’s Guest by Bram Stoker, Horror Europa with Mark Gatiss, Nosferatu was nearly destroyed by copyright claims, the invasion of the home, Eric Rabkin, vampires are for aristocrats whereas werewolves are for peasants, The Odyssey as a series of stories about the host-guest relationship, Carmilla’s only virtue is that she’s pretty, Bertha, the striking image of Carmilla crawling onto Bertha’s bed, a phallic sword, there’s no hiding the fact that this is all sex sex sex, The Vampire Lovers, Hammer Horror with nudity, the British Board of Film Censors, “this is literature”, The Killing Of Sister George, Richard LeStrange from Cork, adaptations of Carmilla, the servants, a quick snack on the peasants, bathing in seven inches of blood, Elizabeth Bartolde, floating of coffins in blood, entirely shielded from ghost stories and fairy tales, languorous and dream-like, languorous and languid, a code word for sensual, sated, façade, interest in beauty, metamorphosis, your chrysalis is your coffin, how vampires leave their graves, revenants, Karnstein = fleshstone, out of folklore and into proto-science fiction, turning Laura into a vampire, one of the great questions in Carmilla – who is her mother? who is the man in black, the cuckoo nest scenario, who are these people?, the “broken” carriage charade, the cuckoo in the nest, pushing the other chicks out of the nest, a wonderful horrible story, Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks, a lot of Laura victims, lesbianism and incest, corruption beneath the veil of respectability, why the mother is missing, the doom to come, Morella by Edgar Allan Poe, Ligeia, Berenice, all up in the creepy, all possessing consumption, waiting for the fruit to be ripe, Blood And Roses, the petals of the rose, is it like a venereal disease?, M.R. James, the lens of distance,
“Magia Posthuma,” “Phlegon de Mirabilibus,” “Augustinus de cura pro Mortuis,” “Philosophicae et Christianae Cogitationes de Vampiris,” by John Christofer Herenberg; and a thousand others
the rules for vampires, Count Alucard, the writing itself, vic-fic, the clarity and economy of Le Fanu’s prose, clear but evocative, he doesn’t over-egg the pudding.
The British Library Podcast has a very good primer for gothic fiction in a new podcast episode entitled A Gothic Story. Presented by Charlie Higson, here’s the official description:
To accompany the British Library’s exhibition Terror & Wonder: the Gothic Imagination, British horror writer Charlie Higson tells the true story of how the vampire and the zombie were born. From the first gothic novel to 19th century Romantics Lord Byron and Mary Shelley and from Hammer horror to the Night of the Living Dead, Charlie reveals how our favourite monsters evolved and triumphed. Along the way, Reece Shearsmith (The League of Gentlemen) reads extracts to chill the spine and thrill the senses.
Get the 1/2 hour |MP3| or listen to the sample below: