PseudoPod 550: Again

by Ramsey Campbell

 

Ramsey Campbell

“Again” was first published in Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, November 1981 and has been reprinted numerous times.

Ramsey Campbell is a British writer considered by a number of critics to be one of the great masters of horror fiction. T. E. D. Klein has written that “Campbell reigns supreme in the field today,” while S. T. Joshi has said that “future generations will regard him as the leading horror writer of our generation, every bit the equal of Lovecraft or Blackwood.”

Says Campbell: “It can be argued that my timidity or at least my restraint is why I remain. I’ve never gone for broke and tried to write the most horrifying tale I can concoct, because I don’t quite see the point. To quote the critic David Aylward, as I very often do: ‘writers [of horror fiction], who used to strive for awe and achieve fear, now strive for fear and achieve only disgust’ – and it seems to me that too much straining for terror is wont to produce nothing more than a disgusting dump. If I can’t approach awe, I’d rather try for the other quality I value most in dark fiction, not exclusively in generic horror – a lingering disquiet. I may have felt that way ever since I first encountered Herman Melville’s ‘Bartleby’ in the 1957 anthology BEST HORROR STORIES and didn’t feel cheated out of any of the pocket money I’d saved up to buy the book. Soon I found the quality in work such as the novels of Thomas Hinde and Samuel Beckett, not to mention films such as Last Year in Marienbad and Los Olvidados. I see no reason why fiction packaged as horror can’t achieve these effects of disturbance and dislocation. One definition of good art is that it makes you look again at things you’ve taken for granted, and that can certainly be true of horror.” Ramsey blogs at Ramsey Campbell.com.

Ant Bacon

This week’s reader – Ant Bacon – is an actor and voice over artist based in Manchester & London in the UK. When he’s not acting he’s usually found in the kitchen or in the gym. He’s currently appearing in the play ‘Avoidance’ in the Greater Manchester Fringe festival on at The Kings Arms in Salford and Oldham Library Theatre. In August he’ll be appearing in ‘Diana and I’ on the BBC where he shares a scene with the phenomenal Tamsin Greig.


Info on Anders Manga’s album (they do our theme music!) can be found here.


All at once he was no longer sure that the groaning had been the sound of flies. Even so, if the old lady had been watching him he might never have been able to step forward. But she couldn’t see him, and he had to know. Though he couldn’t help tiptoeing, he forced himself to go to the head of the bed.

He wasn’t sure if he could lift the blanket, until he looked in the can of meat. At least it seemed to explain the smell, for the can must have been opened months ago. Rather than think about that—indeed, to give himself no time to think—he snatched the blanket away from the head of the figure at once.

Pseudopod 398: Prince Of Flowers

by Elizabeth Hand.

“Prince of Flowers” was Hand’s first published story. It appeared in Twilight Zone Magazine in 1988, was subsequently reprinted in The Year’s Best Horror and has appeared in various anthologies since then, as well as in her story collection LAST SUMMER AT MARS HILL. “Much of the story is drawn from my own experiences working at the Smithsonian Institution in the 1970s-1980s. I was at the National Air & Space Museum, not the National History Museum, but spent as much time in the latter as I could. In those days, a Smithsonian ID badge allowed you to access all areas — not any more, alas.”

ELIZABETH HAND is the author of numerous award-winning novels and collections of short fiction, as well as a longtime reviewer and critic whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Salon, and many other publications.

Your reader – Christiana Ellis – is an award-winning writer and podcaster, currently living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her podcast novel, Nina Kimberly the Merciless was both an inaugural nominee for the 2006 Parsec Award for Best Speculative Fiction: Long Form, as well as a finalist for a 2006 Podcast Peer Award. Nina Kimberly the Merciless is available in print from Dragon Moon Press. Christiana is also the writer, producer and star of Space Casey seasons 1 and 2, an audio-drama miniseries which won the Gold Mark Time Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Production by the American Society for Science Fiction Audio and the 2008 Parsec Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Drama. In between major projects, Christiana is also the creator and talent of many other podcast productions including Talking About Survivor, Hey, Want to Watch a Movie? and Christiana’s Shallow Thoughts. Space Casey Season 2, available at spacecasey.com will have just completed by the time this posts.

As mentioned by Al, please consider throwing a few bucks to the Bobby Lombardi Fundraiser.

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“As she opened the box, dried flowers, seeds, and wood shavings cascaded into her lap. She inhaled, closing her eyes, and imagined blue water and firelight, sweet-smelling seeds exploding in the embers. She sneezed and opened her eyes to a cloud of dust wafting from the crate like smoke. Very carefully she worked her fingers into the fragrant excelsior, kneading the petals gently until she grasped something brittle and solid. She drew this out in a flurry of dead flowers.

It was a puppet: not a toy, but a gorgeously costumed figure, spindly arms clattering with glass and bone circlets, batik robes heavy with embroidery and beadwork. Long whittled pegs formed its torso and arms and the rods that swiveled it back and forth, so that its robes rippled tremulously, like a swallowtail’s wings. Held at arm’s length it gazed scornfully down at Helen, its face glinting with gilt paint. Sinuous vines twisted around each jointed arm. Flowers glowed within the rich threads of its robe, orchids blossoming in the folds of indigo cloth.

Loveliest of all was its face, the curve of cheeks and chin so gracefully arched it might have been cast in gold rather than coaxed from wood. Helen brushed it with a finger: the glossy white paint gleamed as though still wet. She touched the carmine bow that formed its mouth, traced the jet-black lashes stippled across its brow, like a regiment of ants. The smooth wood felt warm to her touch as she stroked it with her fingertips. A courtesan might have perfected its sphinx’s smile; but in the tide of petals Helen discovered a slip of paper covered with spidery characters. Beneath the straggling script another hand had shaped clumsy block letters spelling out the name PRINCE OF FLOWERS.

Once, perhaps, an imperial concubine had entertained herself with its fey posturing, and so passed the wet silences of a long green season. For the rest of the afternoon it was Helen’s toy. She posed it and sent its robes dancing in the twilit room, the frail arms and tiny wrists twitching in a marionette’s waltz.”

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