Scott Nicolay

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Tag: Weird Tales (page 1 of 4)

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 #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


“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 #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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