Archive for the ‘Fitz-James O’Brien’ Category

Clan Honor Monday begins the week with this story, wherein two young men traveling through the forests of upstate New York learn the nightmarish dangers of staying with people you don’t trust.

Interesting, evocative, and not too long — a sort of Twilight Zone story from before Rod Serling or Kafka ever showed their faces. It also goes along with my theme for this week, which is “Huntin’, Shootin’, and Fishin'”.

“A Terrible Night”
18 min.

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This ghost story is pretty fun. Lost treasure! A wronged heiress! Communication from beyond the grave!

Obviously, though, it leans quite a bit on the conventions of spiritualism. That’s interesting in itself, of course. We think of spiritualism as a post-Civil War or post-WWI phenomenon, but this story was written in 1855. (But the Fox sisters, of course, were famous back in 1848, and there was plenty of death of relatives both in Europe and out West during the 1840’s and 1850’s.) The Ghostbusters-style blend of practicality, fantasy, and state-of-the-art science fiction reminds me strongly of William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki stories and that charming device, the vacuum tube “electric pentacle”. Though it is fair to warn you that when Carnacki finds himself a ghost, it’s usually a really scary one; and he shies from using scary incantations and grimoires about as much as Egon and Ray, which is to say, not at all. (You can also download free (though lower quality) audiobooks of Carnacki from audiobooksforfree.com. And there was apparently a book of Carnacki pastiches by A.F. Kidd and Rick Kennett called 472 Cheyne Walk — Carnacki: The Untold Stories published in 2002.)

For those who are keeping score, I wouldn’t be a spiritualist or even a ghosthunter if you paid me. The stuff which is very cool in stories would be exactly the stuff which would be likely to do you in if you tried to do it in real life. (I think trying to be both an ardent spiritualist and scientist ruined Conan Doyle’s life; though he kept his honor, he left behind a lot of his good sense. But he would have done better to quit running from his grief and guilt into junk science and self-made religion. Oh, well.) But anyway, a good story’s a good story.

Btw, I’d better explain again that if you follow the link to archive.org at the top of this post, you’ll be able to get different (smaller) formats and streaming. The manual download link takes you only to the 128K mp3s. I do this because some computers can’t use Ogg and experience unknown difficulties with the 64K.

Also, I had a few more Halloweenish readings I wanted to sneak into this Halloween edition of Maria Lectrix, but you’ll have to wait until sometime tonight or tomorrow when they get processed.

“The Pot of Tulips”
49 min.

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A humorous short-short about a strange and alien sort of creature which apparently could be found visiting New York back in 1852 — and which probably can still be met with today!

Sorry about the extreme shortness. I picked a story I thought I’d be able to put up on Thursday or Friday, but Murphy and my own tiredness got in the way. Still, it wasn’t too hard on my tired throat, and that was a good thing.

“The Man Without a Shadow: A New Version”
4 min. 45 sec.

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It’s Clan Honor Monday again! Continuing the march toward Halloween (or perhaps the creep and slither), we head for the belfry of the Church of St. Phantasmos to meet “Jubal the Ringer”. He lives in what seems to me like some medieval version of Gotham City. (Though keep in mind that this story was written in 1856.) But unlike the Dark Knight (and like an awful lot of Arkham Asylum villains), he is consumed with stalker love. Yet another dreamlike horror story from Fitz-James O’Brien!


“Jubal the Ringer”
15 min.

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For rather obvious reasons, I love Fitz-James O’Brien! But it used to be very hard to find anything by him or about him. This has apparently changed drastically over the last fifteen years or so. Hence today’s dark fantasy set in China, which I found on a site called Horrormasters.

Fitz-James O’Brien (if he wasn’t making this up) was born Michael O’Brien in County Limerick on December 31, 1828. He claimed to have run through his inheritance in a year or two after his majority and then immigrated to America, changing his name to Fitz-James somewhere along the way. But nobody really cares about the lack of documentation of his European life, other than the amusing air of mystery it lends him. The important thing was that O’Brien moved to New York in 1852 and became a leader of both Bohemian life and a gifted journalist. He was the Lileks or Terry Teachout of his day, caring deeply about both his own writing and that of others, and guiding readers to interesting new writers they would enjoy. At the same time, he was writing all sorts of interesting stories without regard to genre, much like his predecessor Poe. He also spoke out against slavery, the unsafeness of the tenements, and other social issues; but when Stowe wrote a novel called Dred that was nothing but ranting, he reviewed it that way, even though he happened to agree with the rant. He believed in his adopted country and loved the United States with intense patriotism and a sense of ownership. Finally, he not only recruited and volunteered for the Civil War, he went in the place of his friend and fellow writer Aldrich. He died of tetanus resulting from a bad shoulder wound, in Cumberland, Maryland, on April 6, 1862.

For those of us keeping score… I have no idea whether he was Catholic or Anglican or what. If he wasn’t lying about it, he went to the University of Dublin (ie, Trinity College) in the days when Catholics weren’t allowed to go; so that’s some kind of evidence. Personally, I suspect his religion was “sleeping in Sunday morning”, as he did his best to sleep in every day until one PM or so, and then stayed up late. (As one person on the Web pointed out, this is probably because he used his dreams as part of the writing process.) Either way, I think the abominable medical care of his last wound and months of suffering must have been purgatory enough for most purposes, and I fervently pray he is living the good life with God.

Books I need to look for:
Fitz-James O’Brien: Selected Literary Journalism 1852-1860, edited by Wayne R. Kime. A dive through ancient periodicals. Be sure to read the informative Q & A with Kime.


Part 1: “The Chapter of the Miraculous Dragon Fang”
Part 2: “The Chapter of the Shadow of the Duck” and “The Chapter of ‘All Is Over'”
48 minutes.

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