Scott Nicolay

Ana Kai Tangata

Author: Scott Nicolay (page 1 of 23)

Stories from the Borderland #20: “In the Avu Observatory,” by H.G. Wells

How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

—Walt Whitman, “When I heard the learn’d astronomer”

Please visit Michael Bukowski’s blog to see his artistic interpretation here.

Michael Bukowski and I have been creating these illustrated essays for long enough now that a distinct set of interrelated themes has emerged. Paramount among said themes is the recognition that a deeply entangled yet entirely center-less corpus of Weird Fiction began its accretion well over a century ago, and certainly long before anyone thought to tease out any sort of canon for it from the vast warp and weft of genre and mainstream fiction within which it remains woven, and from which it extends into cinema, comic books, and many other popular media. In form it is like unto Blake’s vegetative Polypus, one of Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizomes, or perhaps even a hyperobject à la Timothy Morton, too massively distributed in time and space for any single person to see all at once. The project of delineating the neglected parameters of this almost unviewable structure provides the raison de combattre for our struggle with the real, as well as with those critically restricted notions of a Weird Fiction canon that bottleneck somewhere during the Farnsworth Wright-era of Weird Tales.1

Attendant upon that understanding are other ideas, and though most of these date back to our original planning discussions, our research and discoveries here have enhanced, expanded, and refined all of them over the last several years to a far greater extent than either Michael or I anticipated when we began. Our current selection highlights the importance of several of these themes, in particular:

  1. 19th and 20th century science fiction is rich in Weird Fiction, and the two forms broadly coextend throughout their history and share common roots
  2. The true Weird monster exists outside of any human ontology or telos2
  3. Weird Fiction has had a central obsession with cryptozoology3 since long before either concept had a name

Thus far in Stories from the Borderland we have demonstrated the first point through explorations of High Weirdness in the works of such iconic science fiction authors as Arthur C. Clarke, William Gibson, James Tiptree Jr., and J.-H. Rosny aîné. The second theme is one we have explored in depth from our very first installment, wherein we showcased Joseph Payne Brennan’s signature tale of amoeboid horror, “Slime.”4 As for the cryptozoological fixation of Weird Fiction, though the featured creatures in many of our story selections certainly could be read as cryptids, our first explicit foray in this direction came last year, when we examined Lady Rosa Campbell Praed’s 1891 tale “The Bunyip,” about a legendary creature of great cultural significance in Australia. The date of Praed’s genuinely and organically Weird contribution makes clear the deep roots of our subject. Indeed, it predates our current selection, which first appeared in the Pall Mall Budget for August 9, 1894,5 by several years.

Continue reading

Stories from the Borderland #19: “The Believers” AKA “Do You Believe in Ghosts?” by Robert Arthur, Jr.

don’t know if we need all this history, or the whole exquisite corpse thing—just call it ‘spontaneous collaboration’ or something?”
—Gemma Files and Stephen J. Barringer
“each thing i show you is a piece of my death”

“Many miles away something crawls to the surface…”
—The Police
“Synchronicity II”

Please visit Michael Bukowski’s blog to see his artistic interpretation here.

If you are reading this at home, please join Michael Bukowski and me in a simple collective experiment…a “spontaneous collaboration,” if you will. Walk over to your nearest bookshelf (or reach over—as long as I am in my own house, at least one bookshelf is nearly always within reach) and pick out the book on that shelf you have had the longest. How much has it aged since the first time you held it? How much have you? How much smaller in relation to your hands is it since that time? Do you remember how that book came into your possession? Was it a gift—perhaps from a former lover or a now-deceased loved one? Was it one of the first books you ever bought with your own carefully saved money—perhaps even the very first such (and if not, do you still have that first one)? Was it a special discovery you made in some funky-musty used bookstore that you visited only once during a particularly memorable and life-changing journey? Maybe you found it—in the street, in a pub, or in an empty classroom, where it sat in the corner for several weeks, unclaimed, before you finally decided it that it was better off with you and stuffed it hastily into your pack. Perhaps you stole it (exactly how many books have you stolen? Send us a letter, we won’t tell…operators are standing by).

How vivid and extensive a network of associations does that book evoke when you hold it in your hands? When you open it, do you suddenly “see some wasps caught in a sunbeam, smell cherries resting on the table”? Or do you have no idea how that book came to stand on your shelves, know only that you have had it for longer than you can clearly remember?

Now look at all the books on that particular shelf. Run your eyes over the spines and for each one ask yourself whether you remember when and where it became your own. How many associations are on that shelf? With how many people, places, events, and times are you entangled through those two or three dozen titles. How many of those connections are far removed now in space and time, how many gone forever, how many ghosts? How much sadness? How much joy? Conversely, how many books are on that shelf whose origins remain complete blanks to you, as if they leapt into existence and into your home ex nihilo?

Two of the oldest books on my shelf are a matched set: The Windward Books editions of Ghosts and More Ghosts and Mystery and More Mystery, both by Robert [A.] Arthur [Jr.] (November 10, 1909 – May 2, 1969). I am certain I have had this pair of volumes since the early seventies…but I can’t say for sure where or how I acquired them. Most likely they were a gift from my parents, possibly for Christmas or my birthday. Continue reading

Stories From the Borderland #X.1: “The Black Destroyer” and “Discord in Scarlet” by A.E. Van Vogt

This special installment first appeared as an exclusive debut for Unwinnable Monthly #84 (2016). Please visit Michael Bukowski’s blog to see his artistic interpretations of Coeurl here and Xtl here.

When Michael Bukowski and I first hatched the concept for this project at NecronomiCon 2015, my working title was some clunky monstrosity along the lines of “Great Weird Stories Hidden in Plain Sight.” Fortunately Michael suggested Stories from the Borderland, the far more felicitous rubric under which our humble idea ultimately burst into the world. Never let it be said that the artist in this partnership doesn’t pull his weight on the prose side as well—something he managed more than once in this installment—whereas I am pretty much dead weight when it comes to the artistic end of things. Fortunately, Michael has that side covered.

Yet though the concept behind that original title has dwindled from sight like the oranges and sardines in Frank O’Hara’s famous poem “Why I Am Not a Painter,” it remains operative nonetheless. Stories From the Borderland was never intended as a selection of “deep cuts.” Our mission from the beginning has been to show that many of the most important stories in Weird Fiction truly are hidden in plain sight, often in other genres, especially science fiction.

In previous installments of this series, Michael and I have examined tales of cosmic horror and weirdness by such canonical science fiction authors as James Tiptree Jr., Arthur C. Clarke, J.-H. Rosny aîné and John W. Campbell. Campbell’s novella “Who Goes There” in particular—his most successful story and probably the most obvious selection we’ve tackled—has left an enormous footprint on science fiction, horror and The Weird. This time around we explore “The Black Destroyer” and “Discord in Scarlet,” a pair of closely related stories by A.E. Van Vogt whose combined impact may just be to “Who Goes There” what King Ghidorah is to Barney. The shadow of these two tales falls heavily over some of the most famous films and franchises in the speculative fiction universe. From tiny eggs, my friends… Continue reading

TOD 036 The Outer Dark Symposium 2018, Part 2: A Dark Matter Panel & Readings by John C. Foster and Philip Fracassi

In this podcast The Outer Dark presents the second installment of The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird 2018 including  ‘A Dark Matter’ panel, moderated by Sumiko Saulson and featuring Mark BodeCody GoodfellowJohn C. FosterAnya Martin, and Paul Mavrides, plus Readings by John C. Foster and Philip FracassiThese segments were recorded live on Saturday March 24 at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.  Find out more and listen here.

TOD 035 The Outer Dark Symposium 2018, Part 1: The House on the Borderlands/La Frontera Panel + Readings by David Bowles and John Claude Smith

In this podcast The Outer Dark presents the first installment of The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird 2018 including  The House on the Borderlands/La Frontera” Panel, moderated by David Bowles and featuring Rios de la LuzCraig Laurance GidneySilvia Moreno-GarciaScott Nicolay, and Tiffany Scandal, plus Readings by David Bowles and John Claude SmithThese segments were recorded live on Saturday March 24 at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. The podcast also includes all-new exclusive News from The Weird with Max Booth III and Lori Michelle from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. Find out more and listen here.

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