“All Houses Have a Place Like This”: Robert Aickman’s “The Stains”

Welcome back to Reading the Weird, in which we get girl cooties all over weird fiction, cosmic horror, and Lovecraftiana—from its historical roots through its most recent branches.

This week, we’re reading Robert Aickman’s “The Stains,” first published in Ramsey Campbell’s 1980 New Terrors anthology. Spoilers ahead.

[“It had been as if he still belonged to the human race…”]

Series: Reading the Weird

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Reread — Ascendance

Ascendance
David R. George III
Publication Date: December 2015

Timeline: December 2377-February 2378, December 2385-January 2386; a direct continuation of both of the timelines in Sacraments of Fire

Progress: After Odo’s attempt to link with the potential Changeling being held at Newton Outpost, the creature first breaches its containment area and then the station itself, escaping into space and using gravity to propel itself out of the Larrisint system. Two casualties and six injured scientists result from its flight to freedom, and Odo himself remains in his gelatinous state after the aborted link. Security Chef Selten receives a distinct telepathic impression from the creature that it is driven by a need or purpose, seeking something specific in outer space.

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After the Flood, Monsters: Announcing Zin E. Rocklyn’s Flowers for the Sea

Tordotcom Publishing is thrilled to announce that Ruoxi Chen has acquired Flowers for the Sea, Zin E. Rocklyn’s debut novella, pitched as Kai Ashante Wilson’s The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps meets Rivers Solomon’s The Deep. The two-book deal, for World English rights, was brokered by Roseanne Wells at The Jennifer de Chiara Agency.

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You Should Be Watching Evil

I have severe cultural FOMO. I hate it when I miss TV shows or books that are perfect for me, it leads to serious self-recrimination. (This past weekend I finally watched Hail, Caesar and A Serious Man and kept having to pause the movies to berate myself for sleeping on them.) I don’t take many things seriously, but I dig my job, and if I want to consider myself a pop culture critic I have a responsibility to keep up, and provide thoughtful commentary, right? Especially now, when people are doing their best to stay home and turning more than ever to TV marathons and movie nights to stay sane in the face of a pandemic and economic and political turmoil.

So how the heck did I miss out on Evil last year? It’s basically a Stefon club tailored to my needs: Mike Colter plays David Acosta, Hot Priest-in-Training, who investigates possessions with two skeptical partners: forensic psychologist/former mountain climber/very lapsed Catholic Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers) and tech wiz/snark machine/very lapsed Muslim Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi). Together, they solve spiritual crime CBS-style, with impeccable sweaters and soulful eye contact, until, inevitably, the Bigger Plot Arc Reveals Itself.

This show is legitimately scary? And surprisingly nuanced and deep? And you can marathon the whole season on Netflix while you wait for Season 2 to hit CBS.

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All the Stuff That Brought Us Nerdy Joy in 2020

Wow, 2020! Sure has been a…wait. It’s only been a year? And it’s not even over yet?? Are you serious???

This can’t be right.

Whatever. Sorry. We here at Tor.com have looked back through this terrible glacial age of a year, and found the nerdy moments that shone as diamonds in a sea of dross. Our joy came in unexpected ways—from celebrity sourdough starters to Oscar Isaac’s magnificent beard to rage-fueled Umbrella Academy members—but we were grateful for each precious drop of serotonin. Are we whistling in the dark? Possibly. But couldn’t it also be argued that, in times like this, we have more need than ever to find brightness, and life, and hope?

Some of us happen do that through geeky pop culture.

So please enjoy this list, and please tell us about your own moments of nerdy joy in the comments!

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Listen to T. Kingfisher’s “Origin Story”, a Free Audiobook Horror Story

Prepare your ears for a world of ghosts, zombies, serial killers, and many more dark characters! Nightfire is thrilled to present season 2 of Come Join Us by the Fire, featuring 27 horror short stories that are sure to make you scream—available for free exclusively on Google Play Books. There’s something for every listener, so come join us by the fire and hear tales not to tell against the dark… but to embrace it.

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The Eye of the Heron: Le Guin’s Introduction to Feminism and Ode to Nonviolence

In the course of this reread, I’ve stated pretty regularly that one of the most admirable aspects about Le Guin as a writer is her witnessing of criticism and her ability to change to address her political failures throughout her career. In 1977-1978, Le Guin was writing a story (really, a short novel) for her agent Virginia Kidd’s 1978 story collection Millennial Women, which touted itself as “tales for tomorrow” by and about women. The book collected six pieces by (white) women—Cynthia Felice (best known for collabs with Connie Willis), Diana L. Paxson (among SF and paganism creds, she also co-founded the SCA!), Elizabeth A. Lynn (who pioneered queer relationships in fantasy), Cherry Wilder (a New Zealand fantasy writer), Joan D. Vinge (no intro necessary), and Le Guin herself—featuring women protagonists. Le Guin was clearly the selling point of the book, the cover of which included only the title, editor name, and “Including a new novel by Ursula K. Le Guin.”

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Series: The Ursula K. Le Guin Reread

Trusting in Return of The Thief and the Audacity of a Happy Ending

To read Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief series is to have your trust tested over and over. Almost twenty-five years ago, Turner first played on ingrained fantasy tropes to trick readers with The Thief—subverting expectations so skillfully that it earned her a dedicated readership. Part of the pleasure of reading subsequent installments has been the act of granting that trust again and again, only to be caught off-guard anew. Each book is its own unique magic trick, the misdirection and narrative sleight of hand delightful rather than demeaning; readers can try to keep up, but Turner, and Eugenides the Thief, are always a step ahead.

But it’s not just about offering up oneself to be fooled. Readers must also understand that they will not always get everything they want. The Queen of Attolia quickly made that clear, with its devastating opening that changed the course of the series. Yet that was a sequel, tasked with expanding its world, while final book Return of The Thief has the far trickier job of wrapping it all up, with two decades’ worth of nostalgia and expectation to fulfill. To experience the ending of The Queen’s Thief is to accept that there is a reason why not everything we hope for comes to pass—starting with Eugenides not returning to narrate the end of his own story—and to trust in that most unlikely of outcomes: a happy ending.

[Major spoilers for Return of The Thief]

The Little Witch

Every Halloween, an elderly woman hands out candy to a young trick-or-treater who’s dressed as a witch each time, looking exactly the same age. With each passing year, the woman grows more attached to the little witch and her odd nature. But she is no ordinary child, and an uncanny relationship develops between the two of them that may prove dangerous and deadly.

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A Reminder to Please, Please Vote!

Today, we’re exactly one week out from Election Day here in the U.S. Whether you’re voting by mail, in person, or absentee ballot, your vote is so incredibly important, and we’re asking you to please do everything you can to make it count—and encourage everyone you know to do the same!

If you’re eligible to vote, you can find all the resources you need—including instructions, deadlines, voting guides, and personalized ballot information—at VOTE411.org, a nonpartisan website brought to you by the League of Women Voters Education Fund.

As always, thanks for reading, and thank you for making your voice heard this November 3rd!

The Rise and Fall of Shannara: The Last Druid by Terry Brooks

Terry Brooks published The Sword of Shannara to tremendous success in 1977. Alongside Stephen R. Donaldson, and backed by Judy-Lynn and Lester Del Rey, he filled the J.R.R. Tolkien-sized hole that had subsisted through the early ’70s, and helped reinvigorate the epic fantasy market. Even with all this success, however, it would have been a stretch to imagine that over 40 years later, Brooks would still be writing Shannara novels, and they’d still be selling like hot cakes.

Shannara is one of the most prolific and longest-running continuous fantasy series ever, but the release of The Last Druid, which concludes the ominously titled Fall of Shannara series, marks its conclusion. One of the series’s defining features is that it takes place over thousands of years, switching to a new generation of heroes every few books, and Brooks, now in his mid-70s, decided it was time to wrap things up by bringing the series to a chronological conclusion. After thousands of pages, Brooks is finally pulling together his various strings into a climatic conclusion that answers many of the series’ longest standing questions.

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