The SFFaudio Podcast #708 – The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood; read by Amy Gramour
This unabridged reading of the story (1 hour 59 minutes) is followed by a discussion of it.
Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Paul Weimer, Marissa VU, and Bryan Alexander
Talked about on today’s show:
The Lost Valley and Other Stories, isfdb.org, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, June 1944, great Matt Fox illustrations, canoes, portage, chasin the wendigo, northern minnesota, portedge vs. port-ahhj, defago, a french canadian accent, when you get your canoe out of the lake and walk overland carrying it, Lewis In Clark, they’re northwest passage moment, how non-wendigo-like this wendigo is, The Weird And The Eerie by Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism, the answer is no, is this story weird or is it eerie?, eerier than it is weird?, that fascination, the pull into the horror, a weird feature, easy to conflate the two, an eerie scene, a weird movie, unusual and strange, eerie is on its own orbit, absence vs. presence, seeing it from near Defago’s pov, witnessing with their nose and ears, super-cool, page 61, a failure of absence or a failure of presence, somebody’s talking but your can’t hear them, the absence of the voice, nested story, five guys, off by himself or with a wendigo, the mystery is what is actually happening to him, Easter sunday, the wendigo is Jesus with his feet of fire, tracks becoming like each other, the transformation stuff, so curious, The Willows, a lot more racist, the characters or the author, onto the author, casually thrown in there, the real mythological wendigo, ideas about how the land is empty, places where no one has ever been, natives all up in these areas, untouched by man, pre-Columbus, controlled burns, managed, untrammeled wilderness, this part of Austria that is completely untouched (since the Roman era), building it up vs. ignorance, hyper-maximialized, wendigo psychosis (phenomena), explanations for what happens when one goes wendigos, the Weird Studies podcast, out of Ontario, an incident in 2008, Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Edmonton, in the right area, a carnival barker, “Vince” Weiguang Li, creepy pastas, decapitated and displayed a severed head, consuming some flesh, he plead non compos mentis, an article writer was worried that he may have caused it by speaking the word wendigo, magical thinking, people react, yellow blue flag in bio vs. going to Ukraine to join the fight, Stephen King banned one of his own books (because it was tied to school shootings), this is what I’ve been thinking about, the guy was crazy, technical difficulties, the people who lived in this area, an explanation for strange behavior, he went bersark, in times of abundance, the skinwalker, Ravenous (1999), plenitude vs. starvation, the climate change community, a sick society, suddenly your head’s being cut-off, triggered by real information, fight for the good guys, if you had just written that story, have your book in their locker (or at home), guilt and fear, mythological vs. rational, what stars did I change to change reality, an interesting take what the difference is, a lot more like a visit to fairyland, taken away by the fairies, transformed into a changeling, Connor MacLoud was my kinsman, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, the hill is made of the corpses of many many, relish sweet and bitter dew, an essentially cool idea, uninterested, the feet of fire is not in the canon (of the mythology), frostbitten and worn away feet, Algernon Blackwood came to Canada, engaging with the landscape, a ghost story, A Haunted Island, a ghost in the bed, that which has happened or will happen, Accessory Before The Fact, native spirituality or native legend, equally evocative descriptions, listening forest, walking around in the forest, spooky fallen trees, a boat on the lake, being in the woods, is it authentic to any native experience?, a colonialist work, the height of Britain’s imperial power, away from the populace near the U.S. border, Blackwood was fascinated with nature, Arthur Machen, the dramatic power, successive isolation, more and more depopulated, more and more alienated, gorgeous terms, a little more unsettling, the Johnny Cash song, Bryan knows it’s connected, great sentences, the party round the blazing fire, recent moose discovering itself, word turns, musin up the fac, a sulky silence, Punk was washing up the dishes, the stars were brilliant in a sky quite wintry, the silence of the vast listening forest stole forward and enveloped them, no-one troubled to stir it, stealthy ice, a wonderful set of sentences, why Lovecraft likes this, about mood, complex moods vs. complex ideas, companionable silences, structural relationship, being offended, little nothing for the outer story, who’s this narrator, the least communicative character, smart character, the wind comes and stirs up that fire, Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s dark and stormy night, the weather is affecting the people, the landscape turns these people into the things they become, caught up in a spell, an inversion of fake realism, Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, the climax, please come down, stage setting, stage directions, irrational laugh of horror, distinctly audible, circle of light, stumbling motion, motionless and dumb, withered, violent action, hewn of stone, stricken children, The Blair Witch Project, crunching the frozen snow, measured and pitiless approach, cursed, bends reality, appearances and postcards, distortion of Defago’s body, at length the darkness, terribly conceived, a figure, zone of uncertain light, spasmodic motion of a thing moved by wires, it was a man, a skein of horror, three pairs of eyes shone through it, robots and things, do you think it’s the wendigo?, his feet, something horrible with his feet, something dark and oddly massed where moccasined feet, covered it with a blanket, yanked away, not a normal french name, a bundle of sticks, fire, they replace your baby with something that isn’t your baby, corn dollies, True Detective, stick dollies, Downs syndrome, magical requirements of the spell, a mockery of the man who was taken away, visiting via him, back to the real guy, telepresence, its a puppet, stop motion animation, slightly more jaggy, Simpson watching close behind him, the impression of a mask, black and diabloical, revealed in utter nakedness, biologically inhabited, totally erased, possession, becoming wendigo, trying to start a fire, eaten away from the inside, a matchstick lit from the bottom, gravity, as a phenomenon, literal fire or frostbite, what is the wendigo doing across the landscape, people love to draw the wendigo, an outline, a vague figure, Roof Bear, picking up Coffee Cat, the opposite of warmth, dropping frost, what does the wendigo eat, it eats moss, moose, the moose is hunting them, the spirit of winter, the spirit of the land, uninhabited because of how harsh it is, the moose finds them, why it has horns, human scale, antlers, Cernunnos, the deer/elk god of Celtic mythology, the hunt, a hunting expedition
When Did I Go? by Jesse:
My hike through the subarctic foothills that summer suddenly turned sinister when the bridge I had meant to cross was suddenly washed out by a late spring flood.
I’d begun my trek west through northern Alberta and into its border in the North-West Territories in late May, back when my skin was sallow, and my hair short.
Now, in late June, my hair was in my eyes as I thought I should return to that last homely shack I’d seen, the one with the collapsed verandah, just thirteen kilometers back.
My feet felt hot as I turned on the trail where the three lonely larches had turned a lovely and sickly green, that shack held nothing, nothing but a history, a history of this lonely landscape, as it was perfectly placed to shelter me and my needs.
And as I approached the sagging shanty I noticed again that broken sign on the trail’s bed, flipped it over, saw a new growth of lichen had obscured a few of the obscene words scrawled upon its pitted surface.
As I read the words aloud to myself and the wind under those familiar twilight stars I began my hysterical laughter: “Yukon run, butt chew can’t hide from the THING inside” it read.
And as I threw the sign to my feet and crawled under that broken and redolent verandah into what was once my home, I smiled, cracked open my preserves, and began feasting on the salted man-meat I’d made on my last trip through.
stealing a little, the unconscious, explaining why people do things is hard, explicit, we have a theory, this is the wendigo, how do we know?, feeling hysterical, went out for a pee, the outer narration is very unsympathetic, he’s cheating, the landscape, somebody’s mouse, a companion sentence, the personification of inanimate things, the landscape is doing something for our experience, scent and smell, what he smells like, the wendigo smells acrid, like lion, musky, lions don’t eat moss, like a living animal, off by 7, food and fire, inwardness, “something he called a wendigo”, mental excitement, that extraordinary odour, pungent, 50 Island Water, a foolish avowal, the preposterous language, an exact miniature likeness, a wholly incredible distance, the fiery tinge in the snow, hesitant on the one and sure on the other, I’m in my right mind now, steam?, char?, burnt off, stumps, do we even see?, lying and concealing, the effect upon the reader, H.P. Lovecraft, its surrogate, you see it by its scent, its effect in the ground, tracks leading through a field, up into the sky, on the treetops, Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire, a religious and sexual vision, covers, down down down I went, mythic ring, not quite as awesome as The Willows, Mr Jim Moon, “the ghost man”, the British love their ghost stories, a Christmas tradition, M.R. James, Henry James, a nested narrative, people going away from civilization into the wild, into a Canadian canoe, birch bark canoe, so light, so lovely, make one?, a skin of birch, chopping, marking the trees, so I can find my way back, Hansel and Gretel, blazing the trees, a nice pun, it’s going to hear me, structured, 5 to 2 to 1, 1 to 2 to 5, like the Apollo missions, that style of a story, Operation Black Buck, the Falkland Island War, the fuel planes refueling each other, such a massive distance, this expedition into the wilderness, an telescoping antenna, what was in contact, as it collapses back down, that story structure, how did he manage to do it just this well, an extraordinarily good story, an oblique angle, public domain stories, what responsibility in republishing a public domain story, the PDF Page, Wayne June read a story by Lovecraft, Mr. Niggerman vs. Mr. Blackman, The Rats In The Walls, Jesse’s responsibility, directly offended, present reality as it is as it was, fix history by taking out the icky bits, a terrific story, people’s fixations change, some words are taboo, those words have been replaced, earliest publications whenever possible, taking out illustrations, see the original context, William Wilson by Edgar Allan Poe, there’s a joke in the first line that tells you, The Gift, “In the present volume”, taking out information or lying, the racist character or the racist author, replacing Nigger Jim with Robot Jim, not everybody starts in a position of complete knowledge, this particular story, the n-word popping up, the turd in the punchbowl, thrown in here randomly (seemingly),
He watched the men a moment longer before diving into the stuffy tent where Simpson already slept soundly. Hank, he saw, was swearing like a mad African in a New York nigger saloon; but it was the swearing of “affection.” The ridiculous oaths flew freely now that the cause of their obstruction was asleep. Presently he put his arm almost tenderly upon his comrade’s shoulder, and they moved off together into the shadows where their tent stood faintly glimmering.
the progressive era was the most racist point in American history, meet up in Burlington, struck by the senses, key plot points, the conclusion ends on sense, “He knew what it all meant. Défago had ‘seen the Wendigo.'”, is sound the only trustworthy sense in the story, this is a cube, put in my hand, a scent can be mysterious, pulp mill towns, Thunder Bay, if you live there you don’t notice it, smell is literally invisible, desensitized to it, no need to present this to the brain, hearing a sentence, sight is something we question, smell is less reliable than hearing, sight is more reliable than hearing and scent, putting it in your hand is the most reliable, manuscript found in a bottle, we’re physically holding it, what we’re left with, reversing the human experience, sight and sound, because we don’t have the embedded, me our your lying eyes, we might have a verbal agreement, might hold up in court, send me a fax with your signature on it, makes it real, hearsay, I had a whiff that he was a serial killer, undergrad English majors to lawyers, Nunavut territory hunt, Paul comes back with an armful of fish, the senses are crucial, the unreality of this story, by eating the liver of a polar bear, ecological literary criticism, vegan diet, killing and living on animals, death by starvation, that dependence, “He realized his own utter helplessness. Only Défago, as a symbol of a distant civilization where man was master, stood between him and a pitiless death by exhaustion and starvation.”, the wood, there to eat, an emblem of community’s starvation or too much food, getting the right amount of food to live on, insatiable greed hungry excess, gluttony greed and excess, Blackwood out hunting and canoeing, a leftover from the coureur de bois era, Punk is a crazy name, Tonto, Vivian, a UK name, a boy named Sue, back to Johnny Cash, turnabout is fairplay, poor Marissa, Jesse, Paul, and Bryan, how bad Vermont internet was, what is our duty?, in podcasting terms, in fifty years what are people going to want to have from this podcast?, to understand us better, the latest Dan Carlin podcast interview, Hardcore History Addendum, when a war is happening today, Ukraine, how will people fifty years from now understand us better, Edgar Allan Poe, in the year 18__, be as faithful and understanding as you can, the long tail of the audience, the tail is much longer than that first week, 70 years late would be fine, a perishable age, all your DMs are going to be destroyed, all the ephemeral messages, text chats, podcast resilient, what happened to all the blogs?, the revised manuscript for his new book, possible extinction of the human race, a great conversation, cell phone as a hotspot, a good trick, why does Vermont internet suck so much, for profit telcos, repeated screwups, terrain, lots and lots of woods, small mountains, the wendigo interfering with our podcasts, a bad internet weather day, Elon Musk satellite internet, moving into the forest, pre-Starlink satellite internet, Starlink sent to Ukraine, 2g speed with Russian forces, Crimea, re-annexation, support for Assad in Syria, implausible, Strawberry Spring, Everything’s Eventual, a Spingheeled Jack story, an eerie phenomenon, peak up, the basketball game experiment, if you could only have one author on a desert island, Lawrence Block, re-read and find new things, Gene Wolfe, Cavalier, you can buy Hugo awards on ebay, No-Man’s Land, Uluru, it belongs in a museum!, heist story in which plucky band of wokesters steals all the stuff from the British museum and give them back, cynical Cirsova guy, ladies need eyebrows, the Elgin marbles, Greece is in such, privileging nation states, totem poles in England, trophies, the obelisk, the duly elected government, Aswan Dam, future us’ problem, claims lose power over time, shipping stuff back, without context, “here are the Elgin marbles, ha!”, a thorny problem, when Greece takes Big Ben, the Mexicans who now run England (with Russian accents), Jesse’s mom is moving, Vancouver Island is for retired people, YouTube photographers, videos, Amanda and Gavin, YouTubers tubing together, Nova Scotia is cheaper, seeing icebergs, an Israeli 7.62, Shaun Duke.
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