Scott Nicolay

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Stories from the Borderland #12: “The Damp Man” by Allison V. Harding

weird_4905The previous installment of Stories From the Borderland examined “The Cactus,” a tale by Mildred Johnson, an enigmatic female author who published only two known stories, both in Weird Tales. This week the author of our featured selection is another mysterious byline from Weird Tales. Allison V. Harding was not only the magazine’s most prolific contributing female author: she was its tenth most prolific contributor altogether, well ahead of many of the magazine’s better known male authors such as Ray Bradbury or Frank Belknap Long. And though we know much more about Harding than Mildred Johnson, she remains in many ways even more enigmatic. She may in fact be The Unique Magazine’s most enigmatic author of all, and its most enduring mystery. Continue reading


Stories from the Borderland #11: “The Cactus” by Mildred Johnson

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“The Cactus” in its original appearance in Weird Tales, Jan. 1950.

Previous episodes of Stories From the Borderland have already considered how both the comics industry and Hollywood shamelessly plundered the old pulps for story ideas. Theodore Sturgeon’s “It!” (1940) spawned a long lineage of comic book swamp monsters, beginning with Heap in 1942, while the illicit progeny of Joseph Payne Brennan’s “Slime” from The Blob on down are almost as numerous. At least Who Goes There received credit in three out of four film adaptations—although The Crawling Horror did not, even when it was ripped off directly in a comic story with the same title in the November 1954 issue of Terror Tales. Continue reading


Stories from the Borderland #10: “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell and “The Crawling Horror” by Thorp McClusky

AVONFR61948 “We must make friends with the many-tentacled alien idea.”
—John H. Lienhard, “Medicine and Maggots”

Hardly a week goes by without at least one reference to John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece The Thing appearing in my Facebook feed. No other film has wound its way so deeply into the collective psyche of the quirky amorphous Weird Fiction community that comprises the largest single segment of my social network. Although Carpenter’s film is essentially a science fiction film in its elements and a work of horror in its structure, a powerful consensus clearly exists that it constitutes the finest and purest exemplar of The Weird in cinema. Interestingly its closest rivals to this title, Alien (1979) and Phase IV (1974), are also science fiction/horror hybrids. This aspect of The Weird’s manifestation on the screen deserves further exploration…but not right now, not while we have other dark fissures to explore. Continue reading


Stories from the Borderland #9: “Feesters in the Lake” by Bob Leman

feesters-midnighthouseSeveral years ago John Pelan and I were shooting pool at Sammy C’s in Gallup, New Mexico. As usual, he was running the table, and also as usual we were shooting the shit about Weird Fiction. I put forth the proposition that H.P. Lovecraft’s oeuvre really only offered at most half a dozen or so genuinely great stories, and after that the drop-off comes on steep as the continental shelf—for the record, my picks are “The Colour Out of Space,” “The Dunwich Horror,” “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” “The Outsider,” and maybe “The Music of Erich Zann.” I’m open to a discussion of “Pickman’s Model,” “The Festival,” and maybe a few others, but that’s pretty much it. Continue reading


Stories from the Borderland #8: “Horrer Howce” by Margaret St. Clair

stclairbestMargaret St. Clair seems poised on the edge of rediscovery. Certainly few writers in speculative fiction are more deserving of a revival—or more undeservedly neglected. I know I am not alone in thinking this way, as the VanderMeers included her work in both The Weird and the forthcoming The Big Book of Science Fiction. She receives cover billing on the latter, sixth in a list of eleven, above Philip K. Dick, Ted Chiang, and other brighter draws. Since she is hardly well enough known to serve as a draw, one might interpret their editorial intent as an effort to reestablish her name, half a century past her heyday. Perhaps the revival has already begun. Continue reading


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