From Akutagawa to Ajvaz, here is a handy timeline of Weird Fiction!
I hope you find it useful! Feel free to share it everywhere 😉
From Akutagawa to Ajvaz, here is a handy timeline of Weird Fiction!
I hope you find it useful! Feel free to share it everywhere 😉
Today marks one year since the death of Catherine E. Coulson. Here’s a mini tribute.
Margaret (The Log Lady) was arguably the most popular character in David Lynch’s show Twin Peaks, always seeming to understand the mystery and humanity more than anyone else. She even appeared in Muppet form on Sesame Street’s Twin Beaks…
We hope you’re having a wonderful time, wherever you are.
A bit of a cheeky post but it’s meant in good faith!
We’re selling some of our treasured old books to raise cash for future adventures (and to make space for new books). They’re the sort of things that readers of this blog may like, so I just thought I’d share them here. It won’t happen again 🙂
They’re all on UK ebay but all listings are set up for international postage too. I’ll be adding more throughout the week, so here’s my general sales page.
And here are all the items so far…
Dunce is a short story from Mike Russell’s collection Nothing Is Strange.
Everyone calls Dunce ‘Dunce’. Everyone thinks that Dunce is an idiot. I used to think so too but not any more.
Dunce is completely bald and has a really pointed head so the temptation to get him paralytic on his thirtieth birthday, carry him to the tattooist’s and get a nice big ‘D’ smack bang in the middle of his forehead was too much for me. Trouble is he can’t afford to have it removed so he wears a big plaster over it. Gangs of children tease him.
‘What’s underneath the plaster, mister? Show us!’
They swear he has a third eye under there.
My name is Bill but Dunce calls me ‘Fez’ on account of my hat. I’ve known Dunce for over sixteen years. I don’t have to use my memory to work that out; I just count the number of boxes of Turkish Delight I’ve got stashed in my cupboard. Dunce buys me a box every birthday. Dunce thinks that because I wear a fez I must be Turkish (I’m not) and that being Turkish I must like that powder-covered gunk (I don’t, I hate the stuff).
On my last birthday, after saying:
‘No, Dunce, I’ll eat it later,’ and stashing box number sixteen in the cupboard, I decided to take Dunce to the theatre. He’d never been before.
The play was called ‘Death in the Dark’. We had front row seats. Dunce was captivated. He stared at the actors with a gaping mouth.
The lights dimmed to darkness. Kitty Malone, the beautiful star of the show, was stood centre stage. A shot was heard. Dunce jumped right out of his seat.
‘What was that?’ he said.
The lights came back on and Kitty was lying in a pool of blood. Dunce let out a scream then shouted:
‘Someone call for an ambulance! And the police!’
The audience thought that Dunce was an actor, that the play was being cleverly extended beyond the stage, questioning the boundaries of theatre.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ Dunce shouted at the audience. ‘How can you carry on as if nothing has happened?’
‘This is wonderful, just wonderful,’ I heard someone say behind me.
Kitty was stoically sticking to her role, thinking that the show must go on, but Dunce was clambering up onto the stage, crying, stroking Kitty’s hair and checking her pulse.
‘She’s alive!’ he shouted with relief.
‘No I’m not!’ Kitty hissed at him through clenched teeth.
That was it; I was in hysterics. What a birthday treat this was turning out to be.
‘I’m acting. It’s part of the play. No one really shot me,’ Kitty hissed at Dunce.
The realisation was excruciatingly slow. I watched Dunce’s face change from shock to confusion to understanding to embarrassment. He made his way back to his seat. He didn’t speak or look at me until the play was over. The play got a standing ovation and we headed for the bar.
Kitty was in the bar too. She smiled at Dunce who blushed. She seemed to be fascinated by the top of his head. She walked over and invited him to her dressing room.
Twelve hours later and Dunce was in love! How about that? And what’s more, Kitty was in love too! And not only that but they were in love with each other! Kitty fell for Dunce. Not ‘fell for’ as in ‘was deceived by’ because there’s no deception where Dunce is concerned, he can’t do it, but she fell from her deceptions towards him. I couldn’t believe it.
‘It won’t last,’ I said to Dunce. ‘Enjoy it while you can but face facts: you are Dunce and she is Kitty Malone. Think about it.’
Dunce told me that Kitty had a thing about ice cream cones, a fetish you could say. She ate six a day. She liked to bite off the tip of the cone and suck out all the ice cream. She had a recording of ice cream van music that she played whilst they were having sex. She was forever stroking the top of Dunce’s head.
Then came the day. Dunce came round looking really worried.
‘Fez, have you seen Kitty? Do you know where she is?’
‘No, I haven’t seen her. Why? What’s the problem?’
‘I had a dream last night,’ Dunce said. ‘I dreamt that I was in bed and I looked at the calendar by the side of my bed and it was tonight. I put out my hand to touch Kitty but she wasn’t there. There was just this cold sludge covering her side of the bed and this smell: vanilla. It was melted ice cream.’
‘So what’s the problem?’
‘I think that something is going to happen to Kitty. I have to find her before tonight. I don’t want to wake up tomorrow morning alone in a bed full of melted ice cream.’
‘Dunce, dreams don’t mean anything and prophecies are impossible. Sit yourself down. Let’s have a couple of beers.’
I opened a cupboard, reached in to get the beers and a pile of boxes of Turkish Delight toppled over and fell out, breaking open and spilling their contents all over the floor. Dunce looked at the boxes then looked at me. I watched his face go through the same slow transformation from shock to confusion to understanding to embarrassment that I had witnessed so many times before.
‘You don’t like Turkish Delight?’ he said.
I said nothing and guiltily handed him a beer.
Dunce sighed then said:
‘So why did I have that dream?’
‘No reason at all,’ I said.
We sat in silence for a while then Dunce suddenly stood up.
‘It’s no good, Fez, I have to find her.’
Dunce found Kitty in the centre of town, lying on the pavement in a pool of blood. An ambulance and the police were on their way. An ice cream vendor was crying and yelling:
‘I don’t understand! I don’t understand!’
A huge, plastic ice cream cone was protruding from Kitty’s chest. It had fallen from on top of the ice cream shop for no apparent reason, smashed through her rib cage and crushed her heart.
Dunce cried. Then he cried some more. The next day, he cried and the day after that he cried. Three weeks later, he awoke, dressed, ate some breakfast, then cried. The next day, he came round to see me. He was crying.
‘Hello Dunce,’ I said. ‘Do you want a beer?’
‘What’s wrong with you?’ he said. ‘How can you carry on as if nothing has happened?’
‘It was an accident, Dunce,’ I said angrily, ‘a random occurrence. These things happen. You just have to get on with life. Why are you so stupid?’
I regretted saying it as soon as I heard it come out of my mouth. Dunce stared at me with tears in his eyes.
‘A fez is only a severed cone,’ Dunce said. ‘At least I have a point.’
I took off my hat and looked at it sullenly. Dunce had a point that he had a point. If he’d found Kitty a moment earlier… if I hadn’t delayed him with my arrogance, my cynicism…
‘Fez,’ Dunce said, ‘you remember the tears that I cried in the theatre when I thought that Kitty was dead but she wasn’t? I think that the tears I am crying now are the same as those. I didn’t understand what was going on in the theatre and I didn’t understand what was going on when the cone fell on her. I think that maybe we only cry because we don’t understand what is going on. Maybe if we understood what is really going on we wouldn’t cry at all, ever.’
Dunce smiled through his tears and beneath the plaster on his forehead I swear I saw something move.
© 2014 Mike Russell.
This week’s short story is The Diaries of Sun City by Mike Russell. I hope you enjoy it. The story comes from Mike’s first short story anthology Nothing Is Strange.
Hello. It is Monday. I live in Sun City. Sun City is a city that is entirely contained inside an enormous concrete building in the shape of a sun. Its rays house our living quarters; its circular centre is where we work and shop. No one has ever been outside of the city; it is generally suspected that the environment outside of the city is uninhabitable.
People write diaries for a particular reason here, where our social etiquette is constricting. Diaries are so popular that they have their own shop. The shop is called ‘We Are Diaries’. I have not owned a diary until now. The idea of placing my most secret, most sacred feelings out in the world terrifies me but today I bought a small, black book with blank, white pages and the word ‘Diary’ embossed on its cover.
I walked from the shop and through the city centre with the diary in my pocket and caught the bus that runs up and down the concrete ray that houses my apartment. My apartment is at the very end of the concrete ray.
Inside my apartment, I sat facing the far wall. I lay the diary on my lap, opened it at the first page, then began to write in it with pen and ink.
Why can I not tell Miss Baraclough that I care for her? It would be wrong to of course, inappropriate. She would be offended, that would be expected of her. Reluctantly, her associates would be obliged to sever their relations with me; my associates would be informed and forced to sever their relations with me also. I would feel ashamed because it would be expected of me. Yet I would not feel ashamed when talking to you dear Diary; I would be proud. But I cannot say it to her so this ink is wasted.
It is Tuesday. Despite my dismissal of its worth, I have decided to write to you again. When I opened the diary this evening I discovered the first page to be blank! My memory of writing on the page is clear. Is my memory lying to me?
It is Wednesday. When I opened the diary this evening the first page was blank again. Is the ink fading? I am scared. Imagine saying that to a colleague. ‘Mr Barton, I am scared.’ Imagine his horror, his embarrassment, his contempt. Tomorrow, I will whisper it to his back.
It is Thursday. When I opened the diary this evening, the first page was blank again. I decided to count the pages. I counted 362. The pages are disappearing. Someone must be stealing the pages. I have begun constructing elaborate scenarios from my suspicions. Who would want to know my secret thoughts? But had I not once wished to see inside Miss Baraclough’s diary? If I had spied it when visiting her in her apartment and she had briefly left the room to make a cup of tea, would I not have been tempted to steal a glance at a few words? From this confession, dear Diary, I deduce that the pages could have been stolen by absolutely anyone.
I expect that by tomorrow evening this page will also have disappeared.
It is Friday. I was right; the page has gone. Today, on the bus, I wanted to shout obscenities and bare myself to the other passengers. My confessions to you, dear Diary, are becoming more honest with the thought that they are being read. I am no longer scared of my words being seen because they are evidently being read by someone who welcomes them, who needs them. But I am fantasising. My door is bolted from the inside at night and there are no windows in my apartment. How then are the pages disappearing? Am I destroying them myself in my sleep? Is there a part of me that abhors these words, that would rather I was a perfect citizen with no feelings that need to be hidden? I will stay at Miss Baraclough’s tonight.
It is Saturday. The page has gone. The ‘We Are Diaries’ shop is wrong; they are not diaries. I do not write to them and it is not this book that I am writing to either. I am not addressing these paper pages or their cardboard cover. Dear Diary, who are you?
It is Sunday. I want to leave the city. What is outside of the city? Is that where you reside? Do you have a throne on the other side of the world?
It is Monday. I am hammering a chisel into the far wall of my apartment, the end of the concrete ray. Bang follows bang with no lessening of passion. My desire grows as my energy fades. Bang. Bang. It falls away in chunks.
I can see a little light that grows.
The hole is big enough to crawl through.
I crawl through.
It is so bright! The ground is covered in pages, knee deep, for as far as I can see. White pages covered in writing in different hands lay naked, exposed, pressed against one another. It is overwhelming. I wade through them.
I walk in a straight line all day, bewildered but purposeful, towards Diary’s throne.
In the distance I can see other people. They are also wading through the pages, striding from every direction towards the same destination, fearless, with nothing to lose. Could it be that everyone has broken through their respective concrete rays at the same time and for the same reason as I?
When we reach a distance where Diary’s throne should be in sight, we all realise that it is not there, and that it is not the throne that we are walking towards but each other.
The air is full of unrestricted speech.
We now no longer live inside the sun but are illuminated by it.
Now we become the throne.
Now we are Diary.
Copyright 2014 Mike Russell. All Rights Reserved.
If you liked this story, you can read another from the collection over at StrangeBooks.com
And if you like that one… well you should definitely buy one of his books.
Edit: The Cromcast podcast very generously discussed this diagram on their show! Listen here.
The discussion takes place in the last twenty minutes or so, but I highly recommend listening to the whole episode. The hosts quite understandably had a few questions and I’m going to do my best to respond (see below).
One point which I think will clear up a lot of confusion: Examining the Odd is just me, Jay. Although I hope this venn diagram will be useful to those who are new to weird fiction, or who are simply faced with that awful (and blissful) age-old question: What do I read next!?, it is also based on my own personal tastes.
I included poetry because I personally enjoy it, particularly in this genre. I often see people discussing and quoting Lovecraft’s short stories, but not so much his poems. He really has quite a few and I think they’re fantastic!
Science Fiction is a smaller circle than all the rest purely because I prefer fantasy and horror. I do love sci-fi, but I prefer it outside of the realms of weird fiction. A little more sci I guess!
I also created this post (and many others) in an attempt to put authors together who are often segregated. The diagram includes living, active authors alongside long-dead heroes. I often find myself reading dead person after dead person after dead person. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, but I like to point out the living ones to those who may not know about them.
I hope this has cleared up some of the confusion that I presented The Cromcast guys with (and possibly others).
Its two distressed figures are at the end of a bloody struggle, with one positioned at the point of kill. The dying animal’s scream forms the centerpiece of the work. Although the painting’s title contains religious connotations, Bacon was an atheist, and there is no hope divinity in the work. – Wikipedia
Pulp Fiction is the 1994 classic about bandits, hit-men, love and redemption from Quentin Tarantino. It has a cracking cast: Uma Thurman, John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson to name a few.
It’s probably my second favourite Tarantino film (Death Proof being the first) and God, I wish he’d go back to making films like this. Pulp Fiction has so much style and charisma, without glorifying the violence and drug use. That’s a pretty hard balance to achieve!
You won’t know the facts until you’ve seen the fiction.
Some of Francis Bacon‘s most well-known pieces are his paintings of screaming popes. I was lucky enough to see one in Norwich years ago and it was just stunning.