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 😉
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.
The Satanic Bridegroom is a horror-adventure novel written in the Weird Fiction tradition of H.P. Lovecraft and Arthur Machen. Along the way we encounter mysterious undersea caverns, cursed jungle valleys, drug-addled decadents, arias without underpants, mystics, bullfighters, salubrious new exercise regimens for young ladies of the Modern age and secrets man was not meant to know. Spookiness and wit abound in this unhallowed tale of lust, madness and submarines. – Taken from the book.
What I particularly loved about this book is the way in which the style and mood changes so flawlessly to reflect the changes in the protagonist. I don’t think I even noticed it happening until after I had finished the book.
To begin with, The Satanic Bridegroom is really funny, almost in an immature way. The author (or main character) seems unable to write a sentence about a woman without using the word “bounce”. It reminded me of Magnificent Vibration by Rick Springfield, in which the main character has regular conversations with his penis. I should point out that I’m saying all this in a 100% positive fashion – I found both books hilarious.
Thanks Joe Gola for making each evening after work this week fun and exciting. The Satanic Bridegroom is the sort of book one could easily devour in one sitting, but I enjoyed settling down for ten-fifteen minutes at a time to see what the book’s unbalanced libertine would get up to next.
Joe Gola was born in Brooklyn and raised in Connecticut. His hobbies include brooding silently upon the moors and board games. The Satanic Bridegroom is his first novel. He currently resides in a haunted ice cream truck in Connecticut, USA. – Goodreads
Joe very kindly sent a review copy of The Satanic Bridegroom to Examining the Odd.
Charles Kingsley. London, 1886.
100 illustrations by Linley Sambourne. Elaborate blue morocco binding by Kelliegram featuring morocco inlays of a fish, a child swimming, and seagulls, spine lettered gilt, edges gilt. Blue cloth folding case.
L. Frank Baum. The Master Key. Bowen-Merrill, 1901. Later impression. Publisher’s cloth with pictorial label
Kage Baker. The Anvil of the World. TOR, 2003. First edition, first printing.
So plaintive and so wild and strange that all who heard it danced along
And sang and whirled and sank and trod and skipped and slipped and reeled and rolled
Until, with eyes as bright as coals, they’d crumble into wheels of gold…
I’d love to know which Gaiman piece is your favourite, from Fragile Things or elsewhere. People often say he’s hit or miss for them, but he’s all hit for me.
2. George Orwell – Nineteen Eighty-Four. Ah, the number one dystopian novel.
1984 is set in Oceania, which includes the United Kingdom, where the story is set, known as Airstrip One. Winston Smith is a middle-aged, unhealthy character, based loosely on Orwell’s own frail body, an underling of the ruling oligarchy, The Party. The Party has taken early 20th century totalitarianism to new depths, with each person subjected to 24 hour surveillance, where people’s very thoughts are controlled to ensure purity of the oligarchical system in place… But Winston believes there is another way… “He who controls the past, controls the future” is a Party slogan to live by and it gives Winston his job, but Winston cannot see it like that. – Online Literature
It made me laugh that this book was randomly chosen right now (I live in the UK).
The conditions of government repression, censorship, and mass surveillance Orwell foresaw have seemed imminent, if not fully realized, in the decades following the novel’s 1948 publication, though the adjective “Orwellian” and many of the novel’s coinages have suffered a good deal through overuse and misapplication. Just as the first radio play of 1984 warned of a “disturbing broadcast,” this 1965 version begins, “The following play is not suitable for those of a nervous disposition.” – Open Culture (hear the play in full)
Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig-iron and the overfulfilment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously.
3. Ann Leckie – Ancillary Justice.
A space opera that skillfully handles both choruses and arias, Ancillary Justice is an absorbing thousand-year history, a poignant personal journey, and a welcome addition to the genre. – NPR
Justice of Toren is one being who gets caught up in political crossfire and finds herself reduced to a fragment of what she was: a lone human body, limited and alone. The first part of the book alternates between present and past, plunging the reader into the story and slowly providing the background. This is not a book you should try to skim. – Jim C. Hines
Here it was, the moment I had worked toward for twenty years. Waited for. Feared would never come.
This book is actually from my to read pile, so I can’t give you my own opinion yet! I’m really looking forward to it though – I love books that span a huge amount of time.
If you enjoy the content here at Examining the Odd, we probably have fairly similar tastes in books. This is great; it means you’re open to all sorts of genres and to discovering new authors. It’s also a curse; how on earth do you choose what to read next?
This quiz will give you a helping hand. It’s an old-fashioned magazine style quiz which will lead you to one of five authors to try next (so no peeking at the results before you answer the questions!). If you’re lucky, you might get a tie and then you have two authors to pursue…
Ready? Let’s go!
Which era do most of your favourite authors hail from?
A: They’re all dead. 1800s
B: They’re alive! Alive!
C: The era of revolution! 1960s
D: Turn of the century. Yes, I’m still using that to refer to 1890s-1910s…
E: because we also have writers of the milennium! 1990s-200s
What type of politics do you lean towards?
A: Reactionary. Usually pretty conservative.
Which of these genres do you love the most?
A: Science Fiction
B: Metaphysical (abstraction, spiritual ideas)
What’s your preferred writing/language style?
A: Artistic, complex
B: To the point
C: Prose, flowing
D: Musing, reflective, thoughtful
E: Graphic, visual, descriptive
Which of these jobs would the child-you have chosen?
A: Astronaut or scientist
B: Office or factory worker
C: Witch, Wizard, Shaman or other magical figure
Money and reality are no object. Where do you choose to go on holiday?
B: A traditional seaside resort with donkeys and ice cream aplenty
C: A cave. Alone
D: A lush forest or enchanted woodland
E: Somewhere cold and snowy
And finally. What’s your length of choice?
B: Flash fiction. Then I can choose to read one or a hundred!
C: Short story
And now for the results…
Percy Greg (1836-1889) was an English writer.
His Across the Zodiac (1880) is an early science fiction novel, said to be the progenitor of the sword-and-planet genre. For that novel, Greg created what may have been the first artistic language that was described with linguistic and grammatical terminology. It also contained what is possibly the first instance in the English language of the word “Astronaut”.
In 2010 a crater on Mars was named Greg in recognition of his contribution to the lore of Mars.
Congratulations if you ended up with Percy. Why? He’s free! Read Across the Zodiac here.
“For me, creating is discovering and storytelling is bringing into the world dreams that are universal. They come from a deep place; they want to be known and they want to help us. Storytelling is a way of turning the world inside out, which I believe it desperately needs.” Mike Russell
Margaret St. Clair.
Irish fantasy author Lord Dunsany (1878-1957) is one of my all time favourite writers. His work is so different to anything else that I have read, and the exciting point for me is that I haven’t read them all yet (it’s a pretty big body of work)!
The King of Elfland’s Daughter is my favourite so far, and it’s probably the most famous of his books too. It’s well known that Dunsany was a keen hunter and it’s not so well known that I’m a keen vegetarian and animal lover, so I’m sure I receive The King of Elfland’s Daughter (which contains a fair amount of hunting) quite differently to how he perhaps intended. Having said that, Dunsany was also an animal rights campaigner and was president of his local RSPCA branch, so he confuses me greatly! I guess it had something to do with the difference between animal and pet.
Dunsany made his first literary tour to the USA in 1919, and made further such visits right up to the 1950s, notably to California. Dunsany’s own work, and contribution to the Irish literary heritage, was recognised through an honorary degree from Trinity College, Dublin… In 1957, Lord Dunsany became ill while eating with the Earl and Countess of Fingall, in what proved to be an attack of appendicitis, and died in hospital in Dublin at the age of 79. He had directed that he be buried in the churchyard of the ancient church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Shoreham, Kent, in memory of shared war times… The catalogue of Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany (Lord Dunsany)’s work during his 52-year active writing career is quite extensive, and is fraught with pitfalls for two reasons: first, many of Dunsany’s original books of collected short stories were later followed by reprint collections, some of which were unauthorised and included only previously published stories; and second, some later collections bore titles very similar to different original books. In 1993, S. T. Joshi and Darrell Schweitzer released a bibliographic volume which, while emphasising that it makes no claim to be the final word, gives considerable information on Dunsany’s work. – Wikipedia
Many of Lord Dunsany’s stories were illustrated by Sidney H. Sime, who I created a blog post about earlier this year.
If you haven’t read any of Dunsany’s work before, I highly recommend you try a couple of his short stories. Most of them can be found for free online, or through your Kindle! The Public Domain is a wonderful thing. Please comment if you find any particularly good stories that you wish to share.
I hope for this book that it may come into the hands of those that were kind to my others and that it may not disappoint them. —Lord Dunsany (the preface for A Dreamer’s Tales)
I love Indie books, but there are so many out there that it can be hard to know what to give my time to. Based on research and reviews, here are four independent authors that seem interesting enough to take a punt on!
We all know Lovecraft, Poe and M. R. James, but how about broadening our horizons? Here are ten of the original Weird Fiction authors from around the world.
Ryūnosuke Akutagawa – Tokyo, Japan, 1892-1927. Ryūnosuke Akutagawa was a Japanese writer active in the Taishō period in Japan. He is regarded as the “Father of the Japanese short story” and Japan’s premier literary award, the Akutagawa Prize, is named after him. He committed suicide at the age of 35 through an overdose of barbital. Ryūnosuke Akutagawa was born in the Kyōbashi district of Tokyo, the third child and only son of father Toshizō Niihara and mother Fuku. – Wikipedia. Read one of his short stories for free here.
Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué – Berlin, Germany, 1777-1843. Read his works for free here. He was introduced to August Wilhelm Schlegel, who deeply influenced him as a poet (“mich gelehret Maß und Regel | Meister August Wilhelm Schlegel”) and who published Fouqué’s first book, Dramatische Spiele von Pellegrin, in 1804. – Wikipedia
Théophile Gautier – Tarbes, France, 1811-1872.
André Breton – Orne, France, 1896-1966.
Gustave Flaubert – Rouen, France, 1821-1880.