Saturday, October 1, 2022

Strange Relics - ed Amara Thornton & Katy Soar

It's October, which I'm reluctantly going to accept is now considered 'spooky' season - I do at least like a good ghost story or a bit of weird and have plenty of examples to catch up on this month. I'm also hoping to blog a bit more regularly again. Events this year have caught up with me more than I anticipated, but short of work being exceptionally full on between now and Christmas I hope there won't be much to distract me. 

I certainly won't be able to afford to go out, and if I've got the heating on I'll be staying home to enjoy it thank you very much. I've even put proper curtains up after almost 18 years of living in this flat (there were not great blinds before, even a couple of hours in the curtains are making a discernable difference). But back to the book...

Strange Relics is a collection of 'Stories of Archaeology and the Supernatural, 1895-1954' and it's an excellent place to kick off from. Recently published by Handheld Press it's a satisfying collection of uncanny, although Handheld is the sort of press that makes me want to use unheimlich instead. 

The book starts with Arthur Machen's 'The Shining Pyramid' which reminds me of  John Buchan's 'No-Man's Land which appears in British Weird in that they both imagine an ancient and malevolent race that's somehow survived in an out of the way pocket of land. It's a theme that crops up in other bits of fiction from the late 19th and early 20th century and still sort of persists anywhere people half believe in the little folk or trows. It also recalls the way we like to still half believe in the possibility of a Loch Ness monster even now.

John Buchan is represented in this collection with Ho! The Merry Masons, which for my money is one of the scarier entries (based almost entirely on my deep antipathy for Roslyn Chapel which is both a virtuoso display of the master masons work and deeply unheimlich). I absolutely go with the mood in this one. Roman Remains by Algernon Blackwood, Rose Macauley's Whitewash, and Eleanor Scott's 'The Cure' have the same effect.

It's altogether a really strong collection of stories that work well together thematically with several tropes reappearing in ways that underline their significance in the decades they're being written in. In turn, this reflects our corresponding preoccupations of the times. It's also just excellent as a collection of the weird - with Pan getting some significant outings (he's having a moment, there's a British Library collection dedicated to him). So either as a work of academic interest or just for the fun of it I absolutely recommend 'Strange Relics'.

And now I have to go and dispose of an extremely large and drapey spider's web that's appeared very quickly over my desk if I'm to sleep at all tonight without nightmares. All the activity around putting up those new curtains has obviously disturbed Something... 

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