Deal Me In, Week 13 ~ “The Apparition”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“The Apparition” by Guy de Maupassant

Card picked: Q
From: The Literature Network, probably via The October Reading Club

The Story

The old Marquis de la Tour-Samuel, who was eighty-two, rose,and, leaning his elbow on the mantelpiece, said in his somewhat shaky voice:

“I also know of something strange, so strange that it has haunted me all my life. …”

Thus, in classic style, Guy de Maupassant begins this ghostly tale.

When the Marquis was a mere twenty-six years old and a brash soldier, he met an old friend who had obviously fallen on some hard times. While the Marquis hadn’t seen this friend in only five years, the man looked like he’d aged thirty. His friend asked a favor of him: to go to his estate and retrieve three packets of letters from a desk in his bedroom. Seemingly a simple task, the Marquis agrees (even though his friend admits that he never wishes to reenter the house and gives no reason). His friend provides him with a letter to give to the gardener to grant him access to the house. The gardener is rather confused by the letter and the request, but the Marquis is undaunted. The house is very run-down and he finds the bedroom dark and musty. The shutters are rusted shut so the Marquis must go about his search in near darkness. It is after the second pack of letters that the Marquis realizes that he is not alone in the room.

This is one of those ghost stories that doesn’t provide much background or explanation. The Marquis comes away from the experience badly frightened—he has been afraid of the dark for the past fifty-six years—but we’re never given the back story of his friend or the ghostly woman. When the Marquis returns to town, he sends the letters to his friend, but his friend then goes missing. What was in the letters? Or even in the letter that the Marquis gives to the gardener? We never know.

The ghost in this tale also bears some resemblance to the Japanese yūrei and I wonder how familiar Maupassant was with Lafcadio Hearn’s Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (although I realize that the white-clad, dark-haired appearance of the yūrei might be more of a modern trend).

Still, a chilling tale for October or April.

 

Favorite Stories from Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nov-Dec 2016

Cover via ISFDB

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November-December 2016

I purchased a subscription to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction back in Sept. 2016 due to one short story. While the subscription only cost me $5, I decided that if I was going to justify this, I was going to actually read each issue…unlike every other time I’ve had a fiction magazine subscription.

My reviewing of issues might get better as the year goes on, but for Nov/Dec 2016 I’m just going to highlight what I found to be the outstanding stories. All of these authors were new to me.

“The Rhythm Man” by James Beamon – Would you make a deal with the devil? If could, what would you ask for? What is that thing in your heart of hearts that you’d sell your soul for? All that bluesman Horace wants from the Rhythm Man is a song… Great mythology and a marvelous sense of place in the setting.

“Lord Elgin at the Acropolis” by Minsoo Kang – The director of a museum is certain that paintings and sculptures are being replaced by forgeries. Except, there’s no evidence. The art is re-certified as original; the security tapes show no tampering. Is he going insane? Or is technology beyond current comprehension to blame? This is half story, half thought experiment, and all good.

“Special Collections” by Kurt Fawver

We only have two rules at the library. The first is that you don’t go into Special Collections without a partner.

I’m lying when I say I don’t like cosmic horror. My problem, I think, is one of scale. To abruptly see some grand transdimentional horror and claim that it is so incomprehensible that it inspires insanity—that doesn’t work for me. But show me the little things that get under a character’s skin, show me the creeping obsessions that lead to questionable moral choices. Then, I’m all in. “Special Collections” is a deliciously spooky tale.

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle (the navigation is really nice!), Spilogale, Inc., Nov. 2016
Acquired: Sept. 2016
Genre: science fiction, fantasy, horror

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Generator Points Earned: 1
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Deal Me In, Week 3 ~ “The Ghost-Extinguisher”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“The Ghost-Extinguisher” by Gelett Burgess

Card picked: Ace of Hearts
From: Introduced to me by Tim Prasil at The Merry Ghost Hunter. Published in Cosmopolitan in 1905, you too can read it online.

The Story

My attention was first called to the possibility of manufacturing a practicable ghost-extinguisher by a real-estate agent in San Francisco.

Our ghost-hunting narrator Garrish learns about an ancient Japanese* method of ridding properties of “ghosts” or rather the astral remains of the recently dead. Garrish sciences-up the ritual and devises a way to capture and store ghosts. When the ghost hunting business runs dry in his local area, Garrish takes a trip to England, thinking that the old country should be lousy with ghosts. Unfortunately, in England having a ghost in your house is sort of a status symbol, so no one wants their ghosts busted er, extinguished. Ever a capitalist, Garrish realizes he has a supply that is in demand. Not surprisingly, things don’t go as planned…

This is fun story. It brings to mind, of course, Ghostbusters, but also The Frighteners, in which hauntings are levied for fun and profit.

* Early 20th century racism alert!

The Author

Gelett Burgess was an artist, art critic, and humorist of some note. In addition to “The Purple Cow,” he also coined the term “blurb,” thus giving authors everywhere something to seek or be pestered for depending on which side of fame that author stands.

Deal Me In, Week 1 ~ “Haunted”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Haunted” by Joyce Carol Oates

Card picked: Queen of Spades
From: The Architecture of Fear, edited by Kathryn Cramer and Peter D. Pautz

The Story

Haunted houses, forbidden houses. The old Medlock farm. The Erlich farm. The Minton farm on Elk Creek. No Trespassing the signs said, but we trespassed at will.

This is a rare case of a Deal Me In reread for me. I own Joyce Carol Oates’ anthology Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque, which is named for this story. I started reading it in 2010, but I’m not sure I finished it. 2010 seems long, long ago. At that time, I wasn’t ready for Oates’ manner of telling stories. Rarely are they directly told and almost always there is a feeling of corruption and decay.

In “Haunted,” Melissa, now an old woman, tells of the sins of her youth and of her best frenemy, Mary Lou. One of the girl’s favorite activities was visiting the abandoned farms in their area. All had sad stories of deaths and bankruptcy behind them, but none quite as intriguing as the Minton farm. There, Mr. Minton beat his wife to death before committing suicide.

Adolescence intrudes on the girls’ relationship—beautiful Mary Lou suddenly has an interest in dangerous boys—and Melissa visits the Minton farm alone. There she has an encounter with something that might be the ghost of Mrs. Minton. The spirit demands that Melissa send Mary Lou to visit. Mary Lou goes missing, her body eventually found in Elk Creek. As is usual in a Joyce Carol Oates story, what happened is open to interpretation. The world is a dangerous place, especially for girls.

The Author

I’m starting the year off with a Deal Me In repeat offender. Last year, I read through Oates’ Wild Nights! for Deal Me In, as well as reviewing one of her latest anthologies, The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror as an ARC. I think there’s been a story of hers in nearly every genre anthology I’ve read for this challenge. In fact, her “The Man Who Fought Roland LaStarza” was my Week 1 story in 2015. Oates is very prolific and the winner of many awards both literary and genre.

♣ ♣ ♣

Much of “Haunted” takes place in deserted farmhouses, full of objects left behind or discarded. Maybe such object as these:

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These are printing blocks for gaffed cards, currently up for auction at Ebay. There are quite a few more images of this lot including a close up of the 3½ of Spades. (source: iTricks)

Deal Me In, Week 52 ~ “Mad House”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What is Deal Me In?

“Mad House” by Richard Matheson

Card picked: Ten of Diamonds
From: I Am Legend, and other stories

Thoughts:

Oh, Richard Matheson. You are the king of writing a whole story to support one line…

Chris Neal is an angry man. He’s a writer who has no time to write (despite a good four hours in the morning). His wife spends all his money (although she’s leaving him due to his anger issues). He is college English teacher, who will never be given tenure because the administration doesn’t like him (because he’s capricious toward his students). Most days, it feels to Chris that his every house is out to get him. In fact, on some days, it seems like Chris’s very house and belongings are out to get him. Rugs trip him. His shaving razor cut him. His typewriter maliciously sticks and pinches his fingers. A scientist at the university doesn’t think that this is such a crazy idea. He believes that Chris’s anger has infected everything around him.

Chris Neal is one of the more loathsome characters that I’ve met in a while. Thirty-four pages was much too long a time to spent with him. He deserves the end he gets:

Died of self-inflicted wounds.

And there we are, the finish of my second third Deal Me In! Ending with a story about a failed 40-something writer is a little uncomfortable, but that’s 2016 for you. Time to go pick my first card for 2017!

Mini Reviews, Vol. 6 ~ Two Long Overdue Shout-Outs

MiniReviews

 

The Faerie Key: (Into the Faerie Forest: Book Two) The Faerie Key by Denise D. Young
(Into the Faerie Forest: Book Two)

Paranornal romance isn’t usually my thing, but “six-foot-something, muscled house-elf” in the description kind of sold me on The Faerie Key. I’m a sucker for a play on mythologies. And (apparently) hunky elves. The writing in this novelette is solid, and the story is fun with some nice twists on fae lore. Somehow, I missed that this was story #2 in a series, but the events of #1 are covered well enough that I wasn’t lost. I haven’t gone back and read The Beltane Kiss (story #1) yet, but it’s definitely on my list for when I’m in the mood for a little magical romance.

“Diet of Worms” by Valerie Valdes
(read at Nightmare Magazine)

In “Diet of Worms,” Valerie Valdes does something I thought was impossible. She uses second person present narration, that didn’t drive me up the wall, and actually really made sense for the story. The “you” narration is ideal for the type of discombobulation and vertigo that the story aims to elicit. Very intriguing read!

Deal Me In, Week 44 ~ “The Lost Room”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What is Deal Me In?

“The Lost Room” by Fitz-James O’Brien

Card picked: Three of Hearts
From: Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown, edited by Marvin Kaye

Thoughts:

“Queer house, isn’t it?”
“I have only found it quiet.”
“Hum! But you will find it queer, take my word for it.”

“The Lost Room” begins with a lengthy description of the room in question and what its contents mean to our narrator. Through his possessions, we learn that he’s lost his lady love, that his family was duped of its fortune, and his friends don’t visit as often anymore. But truly, he seems to be content in his quiet room. Alas, maybe the room isn’t his after all…

The best part of Deal Me In is finding new authors to investigate. O’Brien was an author in the mid-1800s and is credited with writing some of the first science fiction. Based on how readable “The Lost Room” is, I’m looking forward to reading some of that!

Is This Your Card?

A transformation as quick as our poor narrator’s room.