The SFFaudio Podcast #671 – The Watcher At The Threshold by John Buchan – read by Connor Kaye. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the story (55 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Evan Lampe, and Connor Kaye
Talked about on today’s show:
Harper’s, December 1900, distraight is a word, distraight is distracted, hearth, fucking deep!, the reference level, operating on a different continent, an earlier period, Supernatural Horror In Literature, August Derleth, The Lurker at the Threshold, the first half, Evan’s bike, prepared for the subtext, folk horror as a genre, the earliest examples of folk horror, a weird tales with hints of folk horror, so good, its hard, nothing happens in this story, coffee and dinner, a restaurant in a small town nearby, an email or something, better than a lot of Lovecraft stories, kinda banal on the service, a friend going around the bend, that moment on that ride together, the evening in the library, Roman history, Roman law, just a few paragraphs, all this happens in the very very end of the story, scenes we can read out, way deeper, hallucinating a little bit, clearer simpler movie, The Grove Of Ashtaroth, no girl, set in Africa (probably Rhodesia), Roman/Scottish folk horror, Semitic folk horror, dynamite and shotgun everything, a descent into a cave, Ash Tree Press, another of Buchan’s weird tales No Man’s Land, take the best scenes in making a comic, a dog cart and a lady at the door, don’t look at that sculpture over there, the narrator is a bit odd, the narrator is a lawyer on vacation, he’s come from Norway, a storycap, in love with his cousin, our narrator is not interested in the story (as much as his cousin), he’s kinda dumb but good at dropping all the hints, the opening, 189_, why is he hiding the year from us, a “true story”, the footnote also makes it a “true story”, lustful after a cousin, I can take her away from here and we can be together (and dump this guy), a familial duty, a former love, she was better off to marry him, he was in love with her, there to service her needs (not his), there’s some sort of underlying thing going on, where he got this from, underdeveloped for a modern audience, not a rip-roaring, The Fall Of The House Of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, this mid-Atlantic region, Buchan has read Poe, a great setup, what kind of disease does this guy have?, a venereal disease, no successful treatment for the Maupassant disease, The Horla etc., syphilis, a disease of the heart, his left side, always talking about woodcocks, a hillclimb?, billiards, our narrator is dumb, a “sun-worshipper”, the moor is indistinct, he’s not a weird fiction fan, Ladlaw, his disastrous trip to Norway for the hunting, never explained, grumpy the whole time, the case is not going well, eager to get back, too weird for me, I can’t solve it, way to uncomfortable, compared with the fresh highland glen all was chilly and dull and dead, a very bad temper, other John Buchan works, the Clan Roydens, you know the house., who is he talking to?, on the moors, walks and hunts and fishes, pleasant people in the house, a fortnight in Norway, overly dramatic, he just likes shooting, when we finally get to the letter, a PS and another PS, my affectionate cousin, laidlow, Bob is terribly ill and I’m crazy, it is not doctor’s business, he’s dying, she has the same infection, a whole other level to his researches playing a role, shotgunning a goddess, 100% supernatural vs. a supernatural story (a possession story) and venereal disease, Barry Pain, laurels, death figure and life figure, Madam Blavatsky and the Theosophists, a symbolist painting, talking about his left side, kinda dumb, its the devil, in the universe of the story, Justinian making a deal with the devil, Laidlaw, Sybil, Theodora, hip deep in Theosophy, Falun Gong, congregationalist church with theosophy on the side, why this story is so weird, technical things, why is Lovecraft so racist, not everybody was into Theosophy, not ancient Biblical stuff, very specifically about Justinian, law school for a minute, he doesn’t read that much, I’m not going to tell you the story as he said it, set it down exactly as it is said, our narrator than the audience, John Buchan is laying it down so heavy, page 802, three fools alone in the dank upland, gobbling his food and getting scared at his napkin, a mad tea party with a vengeance, the doormouse and the hatter, Alice In Wonderland, Theodora -> a doormouse -> a watcher by the threshold, watching her husband at the threshold of death, very atmospheric and moody, gruesome and spooky, they don’t have any ducks for me to shoot, The Tomb, The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward, details about ancient defensive structures, a Yithian taking him over?, a reincarnation?, a past life exposed by this illness?, what he’s been doing, it used to be full of books about badminton, neat and scholarly (I hated it), horses and shooting, how much time doing Lovecraftian research, the secret history of Justinian, all real books, roll against Library Science, made a deal with the devil, The Thing On The Doorstep, The Shadow Out Of Time, the relationship between Scotland and Justinian, the Roman Inheritance: Christianity and Law, Edward Bulwer Lytton’s Zanoni, confronted by every aspirant, really lame spirituality, it covers everything, Justinian and Theodora are both saints, how they’re really rotten, an evil whore actress, an egoist, how much labour is involved in keeping the estate up, the town is full of poor people, a groom, the employee, they want to go on vacation, a class criticism, the narrator is unaware of class, Robert -> Robin, his sinister side, more bookish, Justinian’s bust, the spirit of Justinian was inside the bust?, the footnote, sleeping trouble, Delacroix Byzantium, the intertextual, The Horla theory, the disease that shall not be named, infected with Justinian’s disease, right up to but not including Scotland, The Rats In The Walls, 18th century England and Rome, John Buchan was an imperialist, WWI, The Thirty Nine Steps, on the path of being responsible for the extinction of a goddess, friends at school, some sort of fascinating connection, “going to seed”, they come into their flower and then go to seed, seedy = disreputable, why Poe and Lovecraft are so different, there are bigger issues than girls, the role of Justinian, he’s a Lovecraftian character, the most basic interpretation, the same spirit or demon, he recognized his own symptoms, Secret History by Procopius, this is an echo of that, textual verification, an amorphous shadow, the divide between the spiritual world and the modern reality, something’s attached to him through that divide, sundown syndrome, you lawyers, sounds like Lovecraft talking, this Mannan, the real landscape, the red earth and the red rock and the red streams of the hills, a new gospel, it would kill materialism, the poets who have deified nature, the profundity, the shaggy somber eyed forefather, wise wise, a queer land nowadays, inscrutable, an important part of this story, reading it literally, the Howard Lovecraft debate about civilization, law tames it, the Mad Hatter, the basic laws of the Enlightenment, 1900, fin de siecle, the yellow nineties, at a precipice, a gilded age, hints of Nietzsche, law can save us, getting that empire back, why is the land red red red, what’s missing is all the people, the Picts, what we think they were like, druids vs. the national spirit of Germany, Tacitus, Buchan’s a Scot who’s part of Empire, servants of Empire, this Empire shit is really bad, keeps the books on rich people’s investments, Montrose by John Buchan, the Jacobites are mentioned, a billiards game sort of story, I would show you the back of simple nature, the groom, I must have speed or go mad, til the ghoulish elder world, a solitary lit window, the red desert?, we’re having trouble picking it all up, putting all the work in, not filmable, a comedic narrator character, I’m a simple guy, I just like shooting things, how’s he gonna help?, the house literally cracks apart and collapses into the surrounding tarn, a metaphor for venereal disease, where are the kids in this family?, the house of MORE, the end of the cycle of empire, we’ve reached our peak, its all downhill from there, Buchan is very much like Ladlaw, photos of Buchan as Governor General in Canada, all the native tribes, Indians, Innu, and Inuit, when the royals come to Canada, you’re a part of the tribe now, a plains Indian headdress, the royal estate, the natives have a closer relationship to Britain than Canada does, Lord Beaverbrook, neo-Jacobites, the Stuart heirs, the divine right of kings, the Scottish kings, political conservatism, send him to Australia, in a way that the Welsh aren’t, engineers of Empire are Scottish, Airstrip One etc., either Scottish independence or a Jacobite restoration, more Buchan, The Green Wildebeest, No Man’s Land by John Buchan, way out into the moors of Scotland, Picts, Worms Of The Earth by Robert E. Howard, brutal but also wise, action packed!, less deep?, he got a writing career in addition, The Thirty-Nine Steps is a potboiler, parallel to this house of More, page 805, the actress harlot devotee, shapeless thing at his side, he dumb, the man in the chair before me, grim earnest, nonsense or no, devilish fancy, two inappropriate laughs, you doofus, he’s a real jerk, horribly anxious, giggling to himself, so insensitive, camped out outside the library, its the devil, oh, you’re serious, always dismissing, wry senses no jokes, clever wordplay, we see it as funny because of our distance, mooching, his ecosystem, Clan Roydens, his Lovecraftian universe, being a Scottish Lord, filing off the serial numbers, a very realistic story, for money, endless vacation time, non-productive lords, a slight realization, all built on labour and the deaths of people who lived here, the official histories are followed by the secret histories, a small incident among upper class twits, a hypocrite but he admits it, subversive in the sense that these upper class people are fucked, Will Emmons says science fiction comes in lots of different flavours but fantasy is for elitists, an Irish Lord and an Oxford don, diplomat, soldier, and writer, he’s solid, Ambrose Bierce is so subversive of his own text, all irony all the time, he’s having fun, William Gibson is always talking about what things are made of, an ironic overlay, adventurey overlay, stymied at all opportunities, a weird thing to do to your story, what the hell is this, so different and boring (comparatively), Supernatural Horror In Literature, his weirdest story, the atmosphere is great, The Weird And The Eerie by Mark Fisher, what is weird?, what is eerie?, the moor is eerie, this vast empty thing, the situation with Ladlaw was weird, leave it and never resolve, you should know what these things are, no resolution, publishers probably hate that, available as an audiobook, tackling many different films and TV shows and books, Prester John by John Buchan.
The SFFaudio Podcast #658 – Jesse, Paul Weimer, Scott Danielson, and Trish E. Matson talk about Dancing Aztecs by Donald E. Westlake
Talked about on today’s show:
mid-1970s, questions, longest novel, why it is so weird?, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1965), Westchester, Pennsylvania, a bold claim, a huge collection, Rat Race (2001), this quasi-genre is called “epic comedy”, The Cannonball Run (1981), Aston Martin DB5, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr., a diocese in California, a really stupid movie and really good, atypical for Westlake, a huge cast, funny as heck, ever scene is very Westlake, overall the picture is unWestlakian, 40 people and a hawk, omniscient point of view, chapter titles, the structure, he’s a master at this terrible genre, entertaining, light, Somebody Owes Me Money by Donald E. Westlake, a problem somewhere in New York, Westlake showing us New York, a member of this neighbourhood, everybody in New York is looking for something, the second day of the search, fifteen hours from South America to New York, the inferred bar fight, so good, you could put this right on film, Westlake movies, very filmic stuff, in novels characters would never do this, the master of the novel form, at the height of his writing powers, he’s using his powers for simplistic movie comedy, Cannonball Run is trash, super-cute, he’s enjoying himself, self-indulgent, Farrah Fawcett, they’re inherently bad for you, The Good Place, The Cannonball Run II (1984), Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965), Those Daring Young Men in their Jaunty Jalopies (1965), Wacky Races, Dick Dastardly, a plague we’ve gotten through and over, the Harlem Globetrotters on Scooby-Doo, mid-60s into the 80s, the Scary Movie series, parody movies, a cast of famous actors in Airport, the airport sequels, Airplane!, big cast novels, The Gods Must Be Daring (1997), a wonderful assemblage, leaning on ethnic stereotypes, bigoted stereotypes, n-words and other ethnic slurs, how it was back then, we should do better now, Harlem, in the parade of truckbeds going by, a chapterlets from the point of view of the two kids watching the parade, in dialect, the Brer Rabbit stories by Joel Chandler Harris, Uncle Remus, Brer Fox he lay low, Brian Holsopple, dynamism, no restrictions, all out zany, so wide so broad, hanging out with Pedro is a book by itself, ravished, so many people end up happy, there’s only one winner, they all had fun in the race, all in the journey, the best episode of Deep Space Nine is about a crew of Vulcans and the Deep Space Nine raggamuffins, they don’t win they declare victory, go back to Quark’s and have a raktajino and enjoy they’re muscles being sore, the familiar plot, the setup, The Fugitive Pigeon, The Maltese Falcon, the Westlake Review blog, The Mourner by Richard Stark, how Westlake often does something, how he created Dortmunder, a comedic scene, derailing your hardboiled protagonists, cozy versions of Stark plots, back to Paul’s poll, side series, sidekick heisters, a criminal job at the airport, he’s a wonderful guy, only the hawk isn’t criminal, so much meta writing, as a professional writer, always looking for ideas, when he hits on an idea, how the aztecs are genuine, how many scenes where suddenly the action stops, a Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure Of The Six Napoleons, the strange circumstances that brought about these events, a squash court for a certain park, congratulating themselves, “I believe my subject is bewilderment”, bewildered by reality, how it could possibly be, sixteen Dancing Aztecs, why are they moving like that, they have a reason, heisted from an ATV by Americans, a British coup in Antigua: Under An English Heaven, Kahawa, a coffee train heist book?, hustling, gritty, only New York, decades ago, Robert Moses, a sense of place, Westlake’s job is to go out in the city and observe and say “wow”, two travelers, places to go in New York, amazing experiences you can have, the real treasure of Westlake, a sanitation worker with a big route, the park on the weekend, the beach in the winter, a billion corners of New York, how many nooks?, various spots that need pooping on, an archaeologist looking at the mid-1970s, the father in Somebody Owes Me Money was always working on the insurance papers, gimme twenty books and only one was written by Westlake I could find it because of characterization, the bewilderment scenes, he must be a private eye, the private eye said, weird glomming on, the mom smells like a tomato, at the park with his kite (on fire), he’s got a B.B. gun, almost like magic realism, you can’t say no to it, the wry affection he holds for most the characters, gentle fun, Jane Austen, “the hero”, he likes them all, gold, how all the different statues got broken, a twist at the ending, 150 pages earlier, the wrong statue, a sleight comic novel of skill and craft, Westlake at the height of his powers, an unreliable narrator, the Westlake review writer is very expert, an FBI agent who had been fired years ago (but thought he was under very deep cover), throw a monkey wrench in, create scenes, Robert Redford is a thief, The Hot Rock (1972), Sidney Potier as an agent trying to stop him, absolutely zany, a filmic only genre translated into a book, something that is difficult to do in a book, the power of his amazing characterization, Westlake showing off, the answer is yes, pretty impressive, Bank Shot, Smoke, The Spy In The Ointment, in dialogue with other authors, Lawrence Block, past comic novels, Art Dodge’s greeting card company, Two Much (1996), Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas, the V.S. Goth Cab company, like Edgar Allan Poe the French love Donald E. Westlake, an unauthorized Stark adaptation, big in France, Drowned Hopes is Westlake’s retelling of The Colour Out Of Space by H.P. Lovecraft (kinda, not really), Smoke by Donald Westlake, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, audio doesn’t get archived on the Waybackmachine, ground out of the internet, forever is not as long as we though it was, Travelers Far And Wee by Donald E. Westlake, this explains all the traffic in New York, something that’s easy to miss in Westlake is that he’s very philosophical, he’s surprised he’s an author, the fake publishing agency, its a fuck book, Westlake wrote those, the market’s not there (the Science Fiction market), they all have day jobs, less and less reliant on getting that publisher, where there’s a demand to be an author there’s going to be a scam, these comic crime capers are all about himself, they’re all getting scammed, the wonder, the absolute bewilderment, its unbelievable what people ill trick themselves into doing, calmer and calmer the more they fight, he likes being a cuckold, the other Oscar, best adapted Screenplay, Jim Thompson, The Killer Inside Me, one of the joys of this podcast, re-reads, the secret of what podcasts are for: its , The Curse Of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, everybody needs a good excuse, Larry Niven, allowable as long as it is homework, a mental block, assignments for podcasts, how many podcast has Scott got going?, two readalongs per month, all in good fun, a Luke Burrage show, Amazon and Google searches have greatly degraded, use an adblocker, adblocker browsers (Brave), the central Andes, the maximum extent of the Aztec Empire, a fictional South American country, what research did he do? his whole life, a Richard Stark novel set of the coast of Cuba, Lawrence Block’s novel Killing Castro, a very political time, he’s really good at hiding the politics, his weird personality, very different from most SF writers, Robert J. Sawyer makes his full time living as an SF writer, wife with a job, lives in a condo, no kids, hundreds seeming thousands of TV writers writing terrible shows and making very good livings, seemingly no interest in books, the history of the 20th century, the Teapot Dome Scandal, all the other people in the family that amounted to zero, billionaire, Elon Musk did something interesting with his money, putting a car in orbit of the earth is stupid but cool, Joachim Boaz writing about Larry Niven’s inheritance “at least he’s honest about it”, stuff on the moon, expanding the Dortmunder world, the recent film adaptation of The Colour Out Of Space, the HPLHS, The Voluminous Podcast: The Letters Of H.P. Lovecraft, little Auggie Derleth, C.L. Moore, the redemption we all wanted him to have, mea culpas, his political transformation, if this is what a conservative sounds like sign me up, economic philosophy, more people of the elite class need to have that feeling in order to change, he thinks he’s better than everyone else, and he’s failing at school, writing a newspaper column as a teenager but can’t finish high school, straight from the source biography, the destruction of Uncle Hugo’s bookstore, the website, H.P. Podcraft has a patreon, Houdini, more professional than premier prestige podcasts, what a triumph their podcast is.