It’s time for a new giveaway!
Enter here to win a signed paperback of Mike Russell’s Nothing Is Strange.
It’s time for a new giveaway!
Enter here to win a signed paperback of Mike Russell’s Nothing Is Strange.
I usually feature one short story on Short Story Saturday, but it’s a little different this week!
2. Fritz Leiber – 1910 – 1992, American.
To our American followers:
Ends tomorrow! Please share 🙂
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)
Mike Russell is the author of two short story collections; Nothing Is Strange and Strange Medicine. His work is surreal and often humorous, with some stories even being described as erotic, absurd or disturbing. Mike has performed his stories in the South of England for over a decade, wearing his famous top hat with its all-seeing eye.
A review for Mike’s first collection, Nothing Is Strange: “Reader Beware: If you enjoy reading stories that are written with structure, stories that are comprised of a beginning, middle, and end, or stories that do not transcend the boundaries of reality, then this book is not for you. If, on the other hand, you want to read stories that will free you from the chains that are attached to the anchor of reality, then this is your must-read collection.
Nothing is Strange is a collection of twenty short stories in which everything is strange, but strange in a good way.
The twenty stories are miniature narratives. The collection is well written and highly imaginative. Each story takes you on a journey where the imaginary becomes reality. Instead of reason we have imagination. In place of the banal we have passion for liberation. Instead of the ordinary, we have magic.
By their very nature, the stories are freeing. They will take you to places within your mind you never knew existed. For those unaccustomed to reading surreal stories these stories may be hard to swallow. One might compare it to looking at modern art for the first time. I can only imagine how people felt the first time Duchamp exhibited his Readymades, or Picasso his art. A typical first reaction might raise the question of whether or not the artist is authentic, or is he simply trying to put one over on us.
The concept of these stories first appears to be too simple to be called art. Yet, as one delves into the collection, and crosses back and forth between the boundaries of real and unreal, one comes away with the feeling that there is more to them than at first appears – and you would be correct in this assumption.
Reading these stories feels as if you’re following footprints in the snow, footprints that take you somewhere and nowhere. Sometimes the footprints are deep and easy to follow, but sometimes they are obliterated and nearly imperceptible. The reader may, for a time, get lost. For some, tripping through these stories may be a harrowing experience. But for others, the journey on the wind of imagination will be a mind-blowing and rewarding experience.
But the magic doesn’t end there, for once discovered and devoured, the effects of a surreal adventure multiplies the further out one travels.
My advice then, dear reader, is for you to read this collection. Take a chance you may be hooked on the reality of non reality, which, in turn, will inspire you to explore other artists of the genre, some who are long gone, and others, like Mike Russell, who are our modern guides on the surreal journey.
So go ahead: Jump into the swimming pool with your clothes on. You may very well find you won’t want to get out of the water.” – Gerard Bianco
Mike Russell’s website is StrangeBooks.com and both books are available in paperback or for Kindle. You can also read Dunce, a story from Nothing Is Strange for free here, and Flock, a story from Strange Medicine for free here!
The King in Yellow (1895) by Robert W. Chambers. It’s strange, it’s weird, it’s horror, sci-fi and romance all in one. The King in Yellow is a book of loosely connected short stories, full of fear and madness.
Dare you read it? This collection has been called the most important book in American supernatural fiction between Poe and the moderns. H. P. Lovecraft, creator of the famed Cthulu mythos, whose own fiction was greatly influenced by this book stated that The King in Yellow ‘achieves notable heights of cosmic fear’. – Moly
“Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
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.
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.
Copyright © 2014 Mike Russell. All Rights Reserved.
This story is one of twenty that can be yours by purchasing Nothing Is Strange.
20 mind-expanding short stories
Inspiring, liberating, otherworldly, magical, surreal, bizarre, funny, disturbing, unique… all of these words have been used to describe the stories of Mike Russell so put on your top hat, open your third eye and enjoy… Nothing Is Strange!