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Best Episodes of Weirdwards

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SJ Lyall - Liminal Luncarty by Pietersender
Jenni Fagan - When Words Change the Molecular Composition of Water by Pietersender
Nina Shepardson - And Elm Do Hate by Pietersender
Emma Kathryn - Moving by Pietersender
Ambrose Bierce - A Vine on a House by Pietersender
A bit of a different reading this week with a blend of gothic horror and dark humour. What I love about this story is the way it gets the feel of the remote countryside in Western Scotland, the persistent and petrichorean sensation of not-quite-rain on dense vegetation. The character's voice is also wonderfully rendered; she's self-absorbed but also very self-aware, conscious of the absurdity of her position. A wonderful story to read. Buried by the Dead was read from Haunted Voices, which can be bought directly from the publisher here -
Daniel Pietersen - Balehouse, A Fragment by Pietersender
Mikhail Bulgakov - The Red Crown by Pietersender
Vincent O'Sullivan - When I Was Dead by Pietersender
William Hope Hodgson - The Voice in the Night by Pietersender
The Watchful Eyes of Cops is another very short piece, more a work of flash rather than short fiction. Like a number of Weirdwards readings, I was flicking through books to try and find something suitable when the pages of Hexus almost fell open at this very apposite story of police state surveillance and brutality. It's tempting to call this speculative fiction because of its presentation but, of course, it's neither speculative nor fiction. More info here -
I love the way the three different voices work in this piece, each concerned with their own goals. Even though there’s no actual dialogue there’s still a conversation happening, even if it feels like neither is really listening to the others. As interesting as this is narratively, it makes it really fun to read aloud. More info here -
I first read this story in the first volume of Year's Best Weird Fiction from Undertow Publications. It's one of those pieces that is almost non-existant, barely three pages long, yet which glows with poetic imagery. The delicate bones and feathers that the story's built from contrast sharply with the dense, sharp-edged sense of grief at its heart. More info here -
In this short story, Stevens introduces us to her narrator Blaisdale who, after dining with a detective friend, encounters the strange Dr Frederick Holt. Holt, as part of his researches into colour microphotography, has unveiled a previously unseen world of “centipedish things, with yard-long bodies, detestable, furry spiders that lurked in shadows, and sausage-shaped translucent horrors”. In fact, at face value, the plot reads very similar to Lovecraft’s From Beyond. Indeed, it’s not a huge assumption to believe that Stevens was inspired by Lovecraft’s tale when she wrote hers. Yet, like many assumptions, it’s completely incorrect. More info here -
I first came across Camilla Grudova's work at the Edinburgh Book Festival, when I attended a joint reading between her and Helen McClory (whose A Voice Spoke To Me At Night I have also read for this series). I was instantly captivated by her claustrophobically intimate tales of a vague Mitteleuropa that seemed to summon up both Kafka and Beckett, by way of Orwell's steamed-cabbage tenements, with a very unique voice. More info here - More info - The Doll's Alphabet is available her -
Like a lot of the readings in this series, the contemporary relevance of A Report to an Academy only really came to me as I read the story. Red Peter the ape is trapped, after having been captured by hunters, and wants to find "a way out". That way out comes, however, not through fleeing (either literally or metaphorically through death) but due to a personal change. Red Peter doesn't want to be an ape in a cage so he stops being an ape and, due to that, he finds that "if the terms are met, later on the promises turn up". More info here -
Ptichka, which means “little bird” in Russian, is not an easy story to read. It talks powerfully about the structural violence that pervades our society, about how women and immigrants and the poor are at best ignored, at worst actively reviled. It talks about, to quote myself again, “hope and loss, and of how sorrow is boiled into madness by the friction between them”. More info available here - Sing Your Sadness Deep is available here -
The Return is an interesting story. Taken at face value it is a story of abandonment and hubris, where a somewhat self-centred suitor returns from an over-long quest to make their fortune only to find his beloved dead from grief. Yet, as I argue in “I No Longer Live In This House – The liminality of undeath in the works of R Murray Gilchrist", there is enough subtle imagery to create a more sinister subtext. As with some of his other tales, most prominently The Crimson Weaver, Gilchrist delights in using plant symbolism to add depth and meaning to The Return; yarrow's "evil omen", for example, gives an eerie edge to what is an otherwise pastoral scene. More info here -
Helen McClory’s Mayhem & Death is one of my favourite books from the past few years. You can read my more in-depth thoughts in the review I wrote for Sublime Horror but the way McClory takes a selection of short works and flash fiction, all ostensibly unlinked, and build something quite remarkable from them is mesmerising. A Voice Spoke To Me At Night is a longer example of the pieces of flash fiction that sit between the short story Souterrain and the novella-length Powdered Milk. More info here -
The Lottery is a taut, short work about how even (perhaps especially) people who consider themselves normal can quite easily perpetrate atrocities if they consider those atrocities to also be normal. It shows how tradition and repetition - unthinkingly doing the things we have always done - are ways to distance ourselves from responsibility and accountability, from blame. The story's bleak, abrupt finale reminded me very strongly of a phrase in Helen McClory's Bound to Be: "community means all ignoring the same cruelty". More info here -
This story tells, like Lovecraft's The Outsider, of a nameless narrator's wanderings, this time to the "dim and dubious" city of Malnéant where bells "tolled recurrently, sometimes faint and far off, and sometimes with a loud and startling clangor that seemed to come almost from overhead". Here the narrator comes across funeral preparations for someone he may once have known... More info here -
In opposition to his more openly bigoted work where the noble protagonist is elevated above what Lovecraft sees as the wretched morass of daily life, ‘The Outsider’ shows the outside world as normal and happy. The scene that the Outsider stumbles across, and eventually disrupts, is described as “gorgeously ablaze with light and sending forth sound of the gayest revelry”. It is the narrator, Lovecraft himself, that is an abject, pathetic being – “a leering, abhorrent travesty on the human shape”. More info here -
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Podcast Details

Created by
Podcast Status
Mar 27th, 2020
Latest Episode
Aug 31st, 2020
Release Period
Avg. Episode Length
16 minutes

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