A Night in the Lonesome October, by Roger Zelazny

So, just before October began, I declared my plan to read Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October (1993) in the way that a lot of dedicated fans do: one chapter per day. This post is a summary of my thoughts of that charming experience!

Before I share my thoughts on the novel, a little background: this was Zelazny’s last novel, and the one that he considered his best work. Despite the high praise it received, it went out of print rather quickly and might have remained in obscurity except for dedicated fans who kept its spirit alive until it finally received it well-deserved reprinting.

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Gallery of classic horror illustrations!

I’ve been in a very Halloween mood this year, and with the holiday almost upon us, I thought I would share one more post about classic horror. This time, I want to focus on the classic illustrations that accompanied a lot of stories in their original magazine and book runs from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. These days, we don’t really associate literary horror with illustrations, but it was a pretty common experience at the time!

In this post, I will share a lot of classic illustrations, where they first appeared, and link to the stories they accompanied!  I’ve included some of these, directly and indirectly, in previous posts, but it’s nice to have them all together.

Warning: these images contain spoilers of the stories in question, so read at your own risk! I have placed the images after the stories, so you can look after reading. Also, most of these stories are so well-known that they can’t be spoiled very much, anyway!

The Vacant Lot, by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (1903), in The Wind in the Rose-Bush. Illustrated by Peter Newell. The Townsend family gets a home in the city for a ridiculously low price, which they view as a sign of their good fortune. But strange events start happening, centered upon the vacant lot next door, culminating in horrific apparitions.

The sign of The Blue Leopard, long a symbol of the Townsend family.

The apparition that is the last straw for the Townsends.

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Old School Dungeons & Dragons: Part 11

Well, I’ve finally done enough old school Dungeons & Dragons posts on twitter to fill a blog post again! So here’s an update to my long-running series of classic D&D.

Earthshaker! (1985), by David “Zeb” Cook. The exclamation point is deliberate: it’s in the original title!

This one’s pretty wild, and the cover is for once a pretty accurate description of the adventure itself. But before we get to the details, let’s say a little about “Companion Level” adventures. D&D bifurcated early in its existence, with the original D&D becoming “Basic” D&D in 1977 and Advanced D&D being released in several volumes over 1977-1979. The basic set was revised several times. In its first revision, in 1981, an “Expert” set was also released…

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Halloween Treats 2019

Time to continue what has been the longest-running tradition on this blog: posting a collection of classic (freely available) horror stories for folks to read during the creepy season!  The list of past posts is getting too long to share in full again, but you can search “Halloween Treats” on my blog to find past editions.  The 2018 edition included a recap of some of my favorite stories through the years.

But let’s get to it!

The Eyes, Edith Wharton (1910).  After a dinner party at Andrew Culwin’s home, the host is spurred by his friends to share a particular baffling ghost story that he had personally experienced. By the end of the tale, however, everyone present will learn the secret behind the supernatural manifestation.

The Thing in the Hall, E.F. Benson (1912). Dr. Assheton specializes in studies of the brain, but has also indulged in spiritualism. When he basically “throws open the door” spiritually to himself and invites anything to come in, he ends up welcoming something that is evil… and definitely not human.

Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani, William Hope Hodgson (1919). A very religious chemist named Baumoff is convinced that the supernatural effects described as occurring during the crucifixion of Christ — like the darkening of the sky — have a scientific basis and can be reproduced. But when Baumoff decides to prove his theories to his friend, he goes far beyond acceptable science and the results are catastrophic.

The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral, M.R. James (1911). One of the lesser known tales by an undisputed master of the ghost story.  An antiquarian comes across the curious obituary for the long-departed Archdeacon of Barchester Cathedral, and vows to learn more. Sometime later, he happens across the Archdeacon’s private diary and correspondence, which tell a tale of a haunting that seems to emanate from a desk with sinister carvings and a macabre history.  There are several excellent twists to this tale, as well.

The Uncharted Isle, Clark Ashton Smith (1930). A man lost at sea finds himself refuge on a tropical isle far from where any isle should exist. And the more he explores, the more he realizes that this isle is something unnatural, and perhaps perilous. A poetic tale of horror by Smith.

The Vacant Lot, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (1903). When the Townsend family gets a financial windfall, they decide to move to the city to improve their social fortunes. They purchase a beautiful house for a ridiculously low price, which seems like a good omen for their prospects. But there is something strange about the vacant lot next to the house, and soon disturbances spread from the lot to the house itself…

To conclude, let me suggest the most epic collection of creepypastas online: the SCP Foundation! The premise is that there exists a secret government agency tasked with collecting and restraining all sorts of dangerous supernatural objects and beings, and the SCP website is a collection of files describing these specimens, their history, and their containment procedures. The mundane bureaucratic nature of the documents adds to their horror, and many of them are incredibly good, though they range from funny, to cute, to stunningly disturbing. As a start, I recommend:

SCP-173: The Sculpture. The original story that got the whole thing started.

SCP-096: The Shy Guy. This one presents a level of horror and violence that I found awe-inspiring. How a simple supernatural rule can have unexpected and devastating consequences.

SCP-1733: Season Opener. A DVR of a sporting event evolves into horror as it appears that the people in the recording are aware of their circumstances.

SCP-087: The Stairwell. A university campus contains a stairwell that is apparently endless. Attempts to send people exploring it to its depths lead to terrifying discoveries.

That’s it for this year: Happy Halloween!

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Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics, available now!!!

Unexpectedly, it turns out that my new popular science book, Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics, has been released earlier than expected! Folks are already getting their copies in the mail! So if you’ve been waiting to order it until it was actually available, now it is! Click the link above to get it from Amazon, or click this link to order directly from Yale University Press!

PS I should note that both the audible version of the book as well as the kindle version are also available! I hadn’t seen the audible book cover until just now!

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Posted in Animals, Personal, Physics | 1 Comment

Haunted Houses from Valancourt Books!

It’s that spooky time of year, when I hunt down classic ghost and horror stories freely available on the internet and post them for your reading enjoyment! Currently working on that post, but I thought in the meantime I would draw some attention to my friends at Valancourt Books, who have been doing such an amazing job reprinting classic works of horror.

In particular, I thought I would mention the great job they’ve done in bringing some of the best haunted house books back into circulation!  When I first started blogging about horror, I wondered why there seemed to be so few “classic” haunted house books around. I could think of The Shining, Hell House, The Amityville Horror, and The Haunting of Hill House, but it otherwise seemed like there weren’t any others out there. It turns out that there are quite a few, but lots of them had gone out of print and been forgotten, until Valancourt resurrected them.  Let’s take a quick look at some of these, many of which I’ve blogged about before!

Just a reminder: I’ve written intros for Valancourt Books, including some of the books I’ll mention here. Putting that disclaimer out so nobody thinks I’m trying to trick them, but I genuinely love the books here.

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Old School Dungeons & Dragons: Part 10

Okay, this post will catch me up with all my old school D&D posts that I’ve been doing on twitter! I’ll still be doing them, but will do them less frequently, only after I’ve got a handful from twitter to summarize. So until we meet again, here’s part 10!

S2: White Plume Mountain (1979), by Lawrence Schick. This one is one of the true classics! I think almost every old school D&D player has gone through it!

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