The King in Yellow: Weird stories that inspired H.P. Lovecraft

The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers

... It is well known how the book spread like an infectious disease, from city to city, from continent to continent, barred out here, confiscated there, denounced by Press and pulpit, censured by even the most advanced of literary anarchists... It could not be judged by any known standard, yet, although it was acknowledged that the supreme note of art had been struck in The King in Yellow, all felt that human nature could not bear the strain, nor thrive on the words in which the essence of purest poison lurked.

Robert W. Chambers was an American writer who was born in 1865. He studied art in Paris for a time, returning to the U.S. to be an artist and illustrator. He sold some drawings, then switched tracks and began writing. His first novel was called In the Quarter and was a partially biographical story set in Paris’s Latin Quarter, fol... Read More

Joan Haste: One of H. Rider Haggard’s greatest romances

Joan Haste by H. Rider Haggard

Anyone who reads H. Rider Haggard's 19th novel, Joan Haste, will likely be struck with one overwhelming thought: Times sure have changed for women over the last 100 years or so. Today, nothing much is thought of a woman who bears a child out of wedlock, and that illegitimate child will likely bear no stigma on his or her name in adulthood. But back in 1894, when Haggard sat down to write (or, to be strictly accurate, dictate) Joan Haste, boy, were things different! Either one of those "transgressions" could just about ruin a person's life. But what if a woman happened to be a "bastard" herself AND a single mother? What then? Well, it is just that double whammy that is explored in this very moving tale. Unlike most of Haggard's 57 other works of fiction, this one contains no l... Read More

The Time Machine: Absolutely gorgeous and groundbreaking

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

One thing I’ve always wanted to do since the first time I read an anthology edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling was to read all the books they recommend in the excellent essays they almost always include on the topic of the volume. I finally decided to do it, using the essay in After as my reading list. The book they listed as having started modern dystopian fiction is The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Luckily, it is in the public domain so I downloaded a free copy and started reading, though I must admit I wasn’t expecting much from a science fiction novel published in 1895. And while Wells does get the science wrong in some places, there is so much more he gets right.

This is a dystopian novel and,... Read More

The Second Jungle Book: Did you know there’s a sequel?

The Second Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Now This Is the Law of the Jungle, As Old and As True As the Sky...

Most people are unaware that Rudyard Kipling wrote a sequel to his first highly successful anthology of stories, probably because most editions combine the two into one volume (much like the merging of Louisa Alcott's Little Women and Good Wives). But for what it's worth, the sequel (or second half) of The Jungle Book is better than its predecessor.

The first book contained seven stories and a collection of poems, only three of which concerned Kipling's most famous literary creation: Mowgli, the feral child raised by wolves and learned in the ways of the Jungle Law. The second book comprises eight stories, five of which centre on the adventures o... Read More

The Pursuit of the Houseboat: Captain Kidd vs. The Ladies of Hades

The Pursuit of the Houseboat by John Kendrick Bangs

At the end of John Kendrick Bangs’ A House-boat on the Styx, the men went ashore to watch Goliath fight Samson, leaving the houseboat untended. So the ladies, headed by Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth, took the opportunity to trespass. While they were playing pool below decks, the pirate Captain Kidd and his crew, unaware that the ladies were aboard, hijacked the boat and set out for Europe so they could do some looting.

As The Pursuit of the Houseboat opens, everyone is discovering what’s just happened. When the men realize that the boat is missing, they have no idea how to find it but, fortunately, Sherlock Holmes appears and offers his services. Meanwhile, the pirates and the ladies are shocked and horrified to find themselves sharing the houseboat. The rest of the plot involves the pirates and the women trying to outwit ea... Read More

A House-Boat on the Styx: Bangsian fantasy

A House Boat on the Styx by John Kendrick Bangs

John Kendrick Bangs (1862-1922) was an American humorist who edited some popular American magazines such as Harper’s Weekly and Puck. His satirical novella A House-Boat on the Styx (1895) is responsible for the term Bangsian Fantasy, which refers to stories about famous people in the afterlife (e.g., Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld series).

In A House-Boat on the Styx, Charon the ferryman is dismayed to discover that he’s got some competition in the transportation business — a posh new riverboat has appeared on the Styx and there’s no way his craft can compete. His fears of bankruptcy are relieved, though, when he’s asked ... Read More