Archive of ‘musings & daydreams’ category

this, that, & the other thing {xxx}

Baba Yaga Flying (close-up) by Marylin Fill

Baba Yaga Flying (close-up) by Marylin Fill

Baba Yaga’s Guide To Feminism by Anne Thériault

primary_3_0 The Dangerous and Highly Competitive World of Victorian Orchid Hunting

tumblr_oh2a24fiyu1qaivtro1_400The Angelic Host, by Phillip Valdez

therewillbefun03-1-720x1009 How a Magician Preserved the Ephemera of Victorian Entertainment

Frog and Toad: An Amphibious Celebration of Same Sex Love
Vulvas: Officially scarier than Satan
Hear Vincent Price’s Rare How-To on Selling Your Soul to the Devil, Summoning Demons
Kate Bush returns in new video for ‘And Dream Of Sheep’
Two Black Holes Merge into One
Queer as folk: the fantastical costumes of old English festivals
Protect Your Library the Medieval Way, With Horrifying Book Curses
The Body Horror of Tam Lin
Art That Creeps: The Sculptures Of Rebecca De Groot

Summer Reading 2016

summer2016 copy

I am just now diving into the books that I gathered for last summer’s reading {standouts thus far being Errantry by Elizabeth Hand and Revenge by Yoko Ogawa}, so I thought in the grand tradition of biting off more than I can chew, I will go ahead and make a list the other items I intended on reading this summer…but will probably not pull down from the shelf until Summer 2016.

If you are keen on short stories,and tales of the weird/fantasy/speculative fiction/magical realism/horror…then you I imagine you will find a few treasures here for your own shelf. And please feel free to share what you are reading this summer…or future summertimes!

 

The Vorrh by Brian Catling

“Next to the colonial town of Essenwald sits the Vorrh, a vast—perhaps endless—forest. It is a place of demons and angels, of warriors and priests. Sentient and magical, the Vorrh bends time and wipes  memory. Legend has it that the Garden of Eden still exists at its heart. Now, a renegade English soldier aims to be the first human to traverse its expanse.”

The Doll Collection: Seventeen Brand-New Tales of Dolls

“Master anthologist Ellen Datlow has assembled a list of beautiful and terrifying stories from bestselling and critically acclaimed authors such as Joyce Carol Oates, Seanan McGuire, Carrie Vaughn, Pat Cadigan, Tim Lebbon, Richard Kadrey, Genevieve Valentine, and Jeffrey Ford. The collection is illustrated with photographs of dolls taken by Datlow and other devoted doll collectors from the science fiction and fantasy field. The result is a star-studded collection exploring one of the most primal fears of readers of dark fiction everywhere, and one that every reader will want to add to their own collection.”

 

Japanese Gothic Tales by Izumi Kyoka

“Resisting the various forms of realism popular during the Meiji “enlightenment,” Izumi Kyoka (1873-1939) was among the most popular writers who continued to work in the old-fashioned genres of fantasy, mystery, and romance. Gothic Tales makes available for the first time a collection of stories by this highly influential writer, whose decadent romanticism led him to envision an idiosyncratic world–a fictive purgatory –precious and bizarre though always genuine despite its melodramatic formality. The four stories presented here are among Kyoka’s best-known works. “

 

Gifts for the One Who Comes After by Helen Marshall

“Ghost thumbs. Microscopic dogs. One very sad can of tomato soup . . . Helen Marshall’s Shirley Jackson Award-Nominee and second collection offers a series of twisted surrealities that explore the legacies we pass on to our children. A son seeks to reconnect with his father through a telescope that sees into the past. A young girl discovers what lies on the other side of her mother’s bellybutton. Death’s wife prepares for a very special funeral. In Gifts for the One Who Comes After, Marshall delivers eighteen tales of love and loss that cement her as a powerful voice in dark fantasy and the New Weird. Dazzling, disturbing, and deeply moving.”

Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck

“Enter the strange and wonderful world of Swedish sensation Karin Tidbeck with this feast of darkly fantastical stories. Whether through the falsified historical record of the uniquely weird Swedish creature known as the “Pyret” or the title story, “Jagannath,” about a biological ark in the far future, Tidbeck’s unique imagination will enthrall, amuse, and unsettle you.”

 

Short Dark Oracles by Sara Levine

“In her vivid hyper-real collection, Short Dark Oracles, Sara Levine paints her way into even sharper and more dangerous corners. The fictions are an impasto of primed primary colors, prose that cuts a swath in brilliant swatches of saturated power that pops, punches, turns every turn into a fat flat facet, hard as a side of diamond, steel still-lives, glittering, metallic, distilled. “

 

The Lord Came at Twilight by Daniel Mills

“In the foothills of the Green Mountains, a child grows up in an abandoned village, haunted by memories of his absent parents. In a wayside tavern, a murderous innkeeper raises a young girl among the ghosts of his past victims. Elsewhere the village of Whistler’s Gore is swept up in the tumult of religious fervor, while in rural Falmouth, the souls of the buried dead fall prey to a fungal infestation. This is New England as it was once envisioned by Hawthorne and Lovecraft, a twilit country of wild hills and barren farmland where madness and repression abound. The Lord Came At Twilight presents 14 stories of doubt and despair, haunter and haunted, the deranged and the devout.”

 

Nevers by Megan Martin

“Every character in Nevers is having a better time than the narrators.  And everyone, according to these narrators, is an asshole.  Megan Martin’s collection is comprised of shorts of almost uniform length and uniform theme.  Each is voiced by a narrator who has had enough.”

 

North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud

“Nathan Ballingrud’s Shirley Jackson Award winning debut collection is a shattering and luminous experience not to be missed by those who love to explore the darker parts of the human psyche. Monsters, real and imagined, external and internal, are the subject. They are us and we are them and Ballingrud’s intense focus makes these stories incredibly intense and irresistible.”

A million years ago

I’d forgotten that a million years ago, I’d made a little Amazon referral store. Well, now it’s been updated! If you’re ever interested in picking up any of the cinema, literature or music that I mention, you might find it here.

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea how it works.  But if you find something I’ve list that you have an interest in, and purchase it, and then somehow I get credit for it toward some other purchase? Well that’s pretty good.  I’m much obliged to ye.

City Girls

On some business travels last week, I took the path train into New York from New Jersey.  Every second after that 15 minute trip has been one of strangeness beneath my feet;  literally from the second I stepped off the platform until now- an entire week later – the ground still feels as if it is infinitesimally shifting and churning below me as I navigate through my day.

My equilibrium has obviously been thrown off, and truthfully I am not surprised.  If it’s not painfully clear by now – I am not a City Girl.  Looking up at the towering buildings with not so much as a hint of space between them, jostled to and fro in  crowds teeming with people more sure-footed than I, the babble of voices around me, so many of them that I cannot even distinguish my own language – it all feels completely alien to me.  When I think about people who actually enjoy that swarming cityscape I almost start to feel a little uncomfortable that there could be someone out there in the world so radically different than I am.

Isn’t that ridiculous?  Of course there’s someone out there who is absolutely nothing like me. There’s a lot of them, I should imagine!  And yet, with regard to some subjects -The Big City chiefly among them – I cannot fathom the personality that thrives on this. I honestly cannot even conceive of how these people function.

And on some level – on many levels – I find this really concerning about myself.  That I am so small minded when it comes to other people’s experiences and preferences and lifestyles. I mean it’s perfectly fine, isn’t it, if you like a thing that I don’t like? Or perhaps something I am fond of, isn’t quite to your taste? Of course it is, and most of the time, this doesn’t trip me up! But when it comes to big city living, I have to tell you, I just shut down completely.  I don’t even want to hear about it.  It reminds me of a line from the mob song in Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast:

We don’t like
What we don’t understand
In fact it scares us!

Unfortunately, all so awfully true.  I don’t understand it, so I don’t like it, and it does scare me quite a bit.

This whole trip, by the way, was a lesson in overcoming fear. It will shock no one to know that despite my myriad, weird adventures, I’m a pretty sheltered individual.  This was the first time I’ve ever rented a car, it was the first time I’ve ever had a drink my myself in a bar, the first time I have ever spent a week in a hotel room alone, the first time I have ever met a client. And I am going to be 39 next week, for pete’s sake. How have I even gotten this far in life?

And to be honest, it wasn’t just the thought of being in the city, or meeting clients, or how to stick the metro card in the ticket thing correctly (that is seriously the type of thing I worry about), it was much more than that.  I haven’t been back to NJ for any lengthy period of time since I left, almost 5 years ago now.  I have so many unhappy memories and unresolved issues with regard to that place and I was not keen to be in that environment again.

I could probably go on, but there’s no point to it.  I did it, I went and I am back.  Did I overcome any fears? Not really. I think the people in my office who work closely with me know that I am a big baby with weird neuroses, and they deal with me accordingly. There’s a lot of hand-holding, basically. I hope that because I am kind and good natured and I get my work done – they just look at it all as lovable quirks, ha!

I was so happy to arrive back in my dumb, redneck swamptown that I nearly kissed the ground. But dang, I am going to miss those bagels. They are the best thing about NJ.

I am never going to be a City Girl, one of those poised, slender, on the go women I see rushing about on the streets of NY (or wherever). I run around barefoot all day, I never brush my hair, and it takes me 10 years to tell a story. I just don’t fit in with that impossibly chic, fast-paced, 24 hour everything city and its inhabitants.  But that doesn’t mean that I need to be afraid of them, I suppose.  That really is dumb.

Are you a city person? A country mouse? Are you even from this planet? What are your thoughts on other places and those who live there, as opposed to where you are from? Do you have the same troubles I do?  Or do you have other weird dislikes based on the things you don’t quite “get” or understand?

Guest Post: Where I Come From

As I am currently traveling, one of my wonderful sisters has been kind enough to write a thoughtful guest post for Unquiet Things.  Read more about this brave, sweet, sensitive soul over at Under The Shadow Of The Mountain.

corn

“You’ve haunted me all my life
You’re always out of reach when I’m in pursuit
Long winded then suddenly mute
And there’s a flaw in my heart’s design
For I keep trying to make you mine…”
-Death Cab for Cutie

 

“Where do you come from?”

It’s a common enough question, and simple enough, too. So why don’t I have a simple answer? “I live in California,” I tell people. “But I was born in Ohio, and I grew up in Florida. But I’m FROM Indiana.” Why do I tell people that, when I only lived in Indiana for two years; when really, it’s my mother and her father and his father and so on, back to 1820, who are from there? How can I be from there?

I’m from there because, quite simply, Indiana has haunted me since I was a child. It haunted me each time I asked my grandparents to tell me about the “olden days” growing up on the farm in the Depression. It haunted me when I looked out at the humidity-choked Florida summers and wondered what it was like to experience seasons. It haunted me when I gazed up at at the popcorn ceiling in our 3 bedroom-2-bath Florida ranch-house, and imagined what it would be like to live in an old farmhouse or bungalow. It haunted me as I told people we came from “Good Midwestern farmer stock.” It haunted me and it never quit, until, when I was 24, I made the decision to move to Indiana for grad school and to stop wondering, dammit, and start living. And of course, I fell in love.

 spring

What wasn’t to love? I was besotted with a Hoosier boy, who was agreeably besotted back. I was enchanted by the silent, eerie glow of fireflies on summer nights. I got excited by cornfields, for god’s sake. I dragged Hoosier Boy around to just gawk at old houses. The often-dilapidated barns–hundreds, maybe even thousands of them–across the state never failed to impress me, the way they endured neglect for decades and still stood, quietly dignified. The unreal, vivid green of springtime dazzled me, even as the thunderclouds from potentially deadly spring storms roiled overhead and the tornado sirens wailed their weird warble across the countryside. The absurd county fairs, notorious for deep-fried anything, bemused and beguiled me in equal portions. Our family history began to intrigue me, especially when I found out that my great-great grandparents were buried one county over. I eventually made the cheesy remark to Hoosier Boy that I was “exploring the land of my past with the man of my future.”

But of course, love is complicated. And there has always been enough of the academe-trained liberal in me to know that there were parts of Indiana that would never, will never, sit well with me. The work ethic and the courtesy of Middle Americans are no myth, but neither is their stoic reserve–and for an in-your-face, say-everything kinda gal like me, I never felt like I fit in. There are strong conservative elements (I’ll avoid other, more judge-y terms) in Indiana that have definitely presented themselves on an embarrassingly national stage recently, that made and make me feel uncomfortable at best and ashamed at worst.

But I never stopped loving Indiana.

Not even when I had to leave to nurture my career and nurse a broken heart. That was almost ten years ago now, and believe it or not, my heart is still broken. Or perhaps it just yearns for what it can’t have–a settled, anonymous kind of life, in Middle America, in an Indianapolis suburb.

fall

The late and great David Foster Wallace once said, Every love story is a ghost story. And in its most basic, broken-down form, this is truth. When you love someone, you give them the power to haunt you, should you ever lose them. And if the people we love can haunt us, can linger and haunt places, I think it stands to reason that places can haunt people, too. Indiana certainly haunts me.

I wonder, will I haunt Indiana someday?

winter

 

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When I awoke this morning, I could tell from the way the air felt in the house – heavy, damp, oppressive – what I would find outside before I even opened the door. And when I finally did, it confirmed what I already knew to be true. One of those overcast Florida mornings where every molecule of air feels saturated to bursting, but it never quite rains.

The blue of the sky is painted over with a formless smearing of clouds – the entire canvas now awash with a dull, greyish, off-white causing the trees and grasses and shrubs and houses – everything, really – to seem so dull and drab and dreary. There’s a sharp tasting breeze ruffling the palm fronds and the jasmine, and the neighbor’s stunted cat skulks under the saw grass uneasily. I can hear the highway sounds just beyond the neighborhood but the roads between our homes now are perfectly still, with only an occasional wind chime breaking the silence. There are no bird calls, no lawn mowers, no early rising children playing outside.

These strange, sunless mornings are those I remember best from my childhood. I knew I would not be expected to play outside, so I would grab a pile of books and lock myself on the screened porch all day, only pausing for lunch or chores (if threatened and only then). Until it grew too dark to see the words on the page I was immersed in these stories, and I considered that time well spent.

Now I have a day before me precisely the sort I remember so fondly from so many years ago and I am sitting here, writing about it. I shall remedy that now. There is a stack of books patiently waiting for me and that sky is only getting darker.

Little magics : postal apparitions, mailbox rituals

books
rayna

Letter lottery prize from R.

A few months ago I wrote about those little magics which brighten our days and make life sweeter. Small instances of wonder and beauty and kindness, whether bestowed upon us or passed along by us to a friend or a stranger. I felt those things missing in my day-to-day goings on at that time and made a conscious decision to do what I could to change that.

All seeing sorceress illustration from B.

All seeing sorceress illustration from B.

I was reminded of how, at one point in my life, I worked for my (ex)stepfather.  He ran a small business, strictly mail-order, selling rare & antique occult books; it was my job to process orders, pack and ship the books, handle the customer service items, and update the website (which I built!), along with the eBay auctions he ran. I also unpacked the shipments and stored/restored some of the books, though the latter not so often and I didn’t work there long enough to become proficient at it. Can you imagine spending your days patching up delicate grimoires or fragile first editions written hundreds of years ago? I could, at length and in detail, and was completely enamored with the idea. This was the sort of daydream I entertained as I went about my day. More often than that, though, I wondered, as I wrapped and secured each parcel -where was this book going?  What sort of person was this?  What were they using it for? I loved to imagine the little thrill they got as they carefully unpacked and opened their new book, and all of the possibilities it held for them.  My favorite time of the day back then was the trip to the post office after all of the orders had been handled, passing each parcel over to the postal worker, seeing each stamped, some certified, some registered, and tossed in a bin, ready to head off to its new owner. I have not since had a job that made me so happy or that was so fulfilling.

books

A legion of lurid tales from Prof. J.

There’s something about receiving a package or letter or a handwritten post card in the mail, isn’t there? I know my heart skips a beat or two on my casual stroll to the mail box every day, just wondering what might have been placed there by the mailman.  More often than not it’s bills or coupons or something for the previous tenant, but every once in a while, when the time is right and the stars align,  something unexpected and exciting appears from overseas or across the country or maybe even the city right next door. You just never know!

Scents and secrets from J.

Of course nine times out of ten we know that’s not really “magic”, now is it?  There is something in the mailbox because someone is responding to a letter you sent them, or perhaps they swapped with you a hand drawn illustration for a hand-knit pair of mitts. (Or, maybe you just …bought something.)

You can’t really just wait for these things to happen.  Or, well, you can, but I can assure you, that is a very disappointing business. Far better to reach out to some friends, set something in motion, to MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN.  A pen pal swap, a letter lottery, a handcrafted doodad exchange, a book trade.  Or maybe something “just because”. Something do you not expect to be reciprocated, something you made or wrote just for someone because you think they are special and you want them to know that you were thinking of them.  Sending a piece of yourself out there to someone, a thing with no expectations or attachments.

Ah, now.  That’s the real magic, I think.

At the risk of sounding cheesy,- I truly believe one of the most lovely feelings in the world is sending a little surprise out there to someone and imagining the look of wonder on their face as they are opening it. I believe it is a nice habit to cultivate, this unexpected sharing with a far-away friend, and perhaps something you can even build a bit of a weekly or monthly ritual around. Brew a pot of tea, light some candles or incense (or forego all of that and just spritz yourself from head to toe with your favorite scent) put on a bit of music, and spend some time penning a note to friend. Wrap up a small gift that you’ve been meaning to send – don’t wait, do it now. If you wait until you are in the mood, you will never do it.  I can’t tell you what will work best for you, but as for me, I like to send a small note to a new friend, along with perfume samples,old recipes, song lists (along with a cd or a thumb drive of favorites) or hand knit items.  If I could draw I would probably include a doodle or two, but I cannot and I am terribly self-conscious about my lack of talent in that department, so you are not likely to see that from me!

Chocolate hippo crack from A.

Chocolate hippo crack from A.

I have received some wonderful packages in the past few years from friends all over the world, in all sorts of places. I have included photos of some of these treasures here.  Unfortunately, I never take any pictures of the things that I mail out.  I will have to work on that. And it’s weird, writing that – “friends all over the place”. I don’t think of myself as someone who makes friends easily, who has a lot of friends.  And yet, I somehow, I have? How did this happen? I don’t know, but I don’t want to take it for granted, and so I try to appreciate my friends in small ways, whenever I can. Mailbox magics!

escaping from summer

As the sun maintains its tyrannical zenith and the buzzing cicadas drown out the sound of one’s own heart, when the concrete scorches tender, bare feet, when the sky is so dazzlingly bright and hot that the electric blueness of it is burned into your retinas, well, that’s when I start to feel a little depressed.

My knitting lies in tangles and frizzes, untouched. The pages of books wilt underneath my fingertips. Gardens are unattended and parched, and little messes in the home accumulate under an uncaring eye. Under the weight of this mid-to-late summer malaise, ennui, whatever you want to call it – I just can’t be bothered to care.

I think one of the symptoms of depression is “…loss of interest in daily activities”; activities, which, I might add, I am normally rather enthusiastic about.  So I have come to the conclusion that this is a kind seasonally affective disorder, though not the sort that most folks experience.  It is the distinct lack of sun which I crave.

There’s really not much to be done for it save drawing the curtains, cranking down the AC, pouring oneself an icy drink, and contemplating all of the dark, quiet, cool places to which one can escape during these wretched summer months.

Mossy castles…

Blarney Castle in Ireland on flickr

 

Hushed cathedrals…

St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague on flickr

Blue lagoons…

The Blue Lagoon (Bláa lónið) in Iceland on flickr

I suppose mentioning Iceland is a bit of a cheat, since I do have plans to be there at the end of August, ostensibly the hottest, most miserable time of year here in swamplandia.  And if I find any quiet cathedrals or mossy castles there – all the better!

What is your escape plan during these brain-boiling summer months?  What deliciously chilled places do your daydreams take you when the sun is melting your face off?  Let’s just all run away and come back when the leaves begin to turn this autumn.

Glorious things

From Falling in Love No. 36, August 1960

Image: Falling in Love No. 36, August 1960 via comicslams.tumblr.com

 

The most glorious thing in the world! Goodness.

I have often found that the wanting of things is actually far superior to the obtaining of the things.  There is this breath-catching feeling of anticipation and hope and wonder when one ponders upon the things one desires…but when said thing actually comes into your possession, it’s sort of…depressing, isn’t it? Like “…yeah…okay…this is a nice thing. Ho hum. Next thing, please!” If only we could reconcile that dreamy, ecstasy of wanting something to the boring reality (I imagine it’s sort of like coming down from a high, but I don’t know, I’ve lived a life of deprivation) of having it.  What a world, eh?

Unlike our outerwear-obsessed young woman above, I cannot profess to get all swoony and ecstatic over the thought of a coat, but I’ll admit that fine fragrances and strange baubles cause my heart to quicken a beat.

Right now I am particularly bewitched by just about everything in Holly Bobisuthi’s wondrous shop of mystical talismans.

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Additionally, I am a bit besotted by Relique D’Amour Eau de Parfum by Oriza L. Legrand, described thusly: “The smell of an old chapel in a Cistercian abbey. Cold stone walls covered with damp moss. Waxed wood of altar and old pews ornate with carvings. Linseed oil in lamps. Incense and myrrh discernible in the air.”  How can I resist? This has me written all over it.

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What lovely bits and baubles and fripperies are causing your heart palpitations lately? Do tell!

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