YBHS IX: ‘Black Man With A Horn’ by T. E. D. Klein

With a Horn
Art by Jason Van Hollander

‘Black Man With A Horn’ originally appeared in the collection New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos published by Arkham House and edited by Ramsey Campbell. It was written by T. E. D. Klein or Theodore “Eibon” Donald Klein. The “Eibon” was something T. E. D. added to his name after the necromancer from Clark Ashton Smith’s story ‘The Door to Saturn’. Eibon and his Book of Eibon are mentioned by H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and even referenced in several issues of Dr. Strange from Marvel Comics. The legend goes that Klein knew he wanted to go by initials like H. P. Lovecraft so he threw in the “Eibon” for an E making his initials effectively the name he went by, Ted.

Klein has always been a mystery to me. The only story I had read of his previously was ‘The Events of Poroth Farm’ which I enjoyed greatly. Folks who have been listening to the podcast know that I’m a sucker for literary allusions and references and ‘Poroth Farm’ is full of them. I knew I wanted to read more of his work but for years it had been out of print and hard to get ahold of. Thankfully his novel ‘The Ceremonies’ is back in print through PS Publishing. In addition to the difficulty of finding his work is that career-wise he came out of the gates with multiple well-respected stories and a well-respected book and after that his production halted for the most part. He was still very much involved in the NYC literary world teaching, editing the Twilight Zone Magazine as well as having a position with Conde Nast. For me, this created a mystique. I’ve always been a bit curious if he was going to return to writing once he retired. I’m going to leave some links at the bottom of this entry for several articles discussing this story as well as a recent podcast interview with Klein on one of my favorite podcasts ‘Eating the Fantastic’.

This story measures up as being one of three stories (The Monkey, The Propert Bequest, Black Man With A Horn) that take up a large portion of this collection. The more I read of this collection I begin to think it was a bold move on behalf of Wagner. I’m curious how many stories were left on the edit room floor to include these longer works. This story riffs on the work of Lovecraft and mythos writers, focusing on the fear of racial differences. Wagner notes it’s “a bitter comment upon fandom’s obsessive dead-hero worship.”

Please Tell Me John Coltrane Never Read This: T. E. D. Klein’s “Black Man With a Horn” by Anne M. Pillsworth & Ruthanna Emrys

Dark Gods by T. E. D. Klein, and a Question About the Depiction and Significance of Racism in Characterization by Gord Sellar

Eating the Fantastic with Scott Edelman: Episode 65- T. E. D. Klein

Next: ‘The King’ by William Relling, Jr.

YBHS IX: ‘On Call’ by Dennis Etchison

 

On Call
Art by Roy C. Krenkel “An Incident On Barsoom”

‘On Call’ by Dennis Etchison originally appeared in Fantasy Newsletter #22 March 1980. Fantasy Newsletter ran from 1978 to 1987. Over the years it was largely focused on reviews, interviews, and publishing news with the occasional piece of fiction. Paul C. Allen the editor at the time of ‘On Call’ says fiction “will receive a very low priority in terms of space. But it will receive a high priority with regard to quality–when I use it, it will be “different” and well written”. (FN 22, p.1) 

Karl Edward Wagner was very familiar with Fantasy Newsletter. He wrote a semi-regular column called ‘On Fantasy’ sharing writing duties with Fritz Leiber from 1980-1984 then the column became infrequent and Wagner traded writing duties with Ramsey Campbell from 1984-1987. The column covered trends, authors they were reading, conventions and various other musings. I would love a nice collection of these writings someday.

So it was in the pages of this periodical that ‘On Call’ first appeared. Drastically different from the other offerings in the book so far in its, to use a buzzword, nightmarish Dreamtime logic. Wagner had this to say when talking about where ideas come from in his introduction to the story “Occasionally, however, an author will experience some particularly vivid dream (or, if you will, nightmare) and will incorporate this into a story. Such is the case with Dennis Etchison’s disturbing Kafkaesque nightmare, ‘On Call.'”  And what a nightmare it is.

Very simply put ‘On Call’ is the story of a man who is picking up his wife after dropping her off so she can receive her x-ray results. This is merely a framework on which Etchison hangs the nightmare. As a reader, I find this style hard to approach because so much of the story is under the surface of any narrative I’m often not sure if I ‘got’ the story or not. Wagner has his own experiments in this dreamlike style with stories like ‘Cedar Lane’, ‘Shrapnel’ and ‘Endless Night’. Etchison opens his story with “‘Read it now,” called the blind newspaper vendor. “Many are dying and many are dead!”‘ This phrase is packed with the bizarre. The juxtaposition of the blind man selling a visual news source and proclaiming that ‘many are dying’ when in fact we are all dying; or are at least headed that way. Could it be that we are living our lives blind to our impending doom? The story then proceeds in a realistic manner for a good page or two before the hints of nightmare start appearing. There is a motif of waiting from the inhabitants in the world Etchison created and our protagonist keeps taking action to find his wife. Ultimately, waiting or taking action, they all end up in the same place.

I should have realized:

A) this story is from Etchison a master of this style

and

B) this story is included in a best of the year

I shouldn’t have been too concerned whether I would ‘get’ it. At least I found that it means something to me personally and ultimately that’s all that matters.

Next: ‘The Catacomb’ by Peter Shilston

More Dennis Etchison: YBHS VIII: ‘The Dead Line’

YBHS IX: ‘The Gap’ by Ramsey Campbell

Ramsey‘The Gap’ by Ramsey Campbell was originally published in the Fantasy Readers Guide issue two. To my understanding, this guide worked as a great source of bibliography for the author featured in the issue pre-internet. In addition to the bibliography, it also included essays on Campbell’s work as well as this new story ‘The Gap’.

‘The Gap’ tells the story of horror author Lionel Tate and how his life is changed after a young author Don Skelton comes to visit. Skelton was brought along by the Dewhursts, friends of Tate’s when they come to stay. Skelton questions Tate’s belief in the occult and treats Tate as a pretender. Skelton becomes more and more difficult and is eventually tossed out, as are the Dewhursts, after Skelton is found snooping in Tate’s office late at night. Days later Tate is sent an anonymous unmarked puzzle. Being a puzzle fan he assembles it only to find its a picture of himself being menaced by a figure. As he finishes the puzzle all the pieces to fill in the face of the menacing figure are missing. A bright light glistens off the table in this gap. The rest of the story is what happens as the gap begins to extend outside the puzzle.

I thought this was a solid Campbell story. The dread unfolds in an obscure and subtle way without clear answers which is a style I attribute to Campbell’s other writing as well. It’s a great story about the fears of being overwhelmed and erased by the younger generation. It makes me wonder if Skelton and the Dewhursts weren’t based on folks from Campbell’s own life.

An intriguing question came up for me while reading Wagner’s introduction. He states

Incarnate
Art by Jill Bauman

“Currently Campbell is at work on a novel set in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.” This didn’t ring any bells as a published work to me and I went digging. I found mention of this book again in the letters of Wagner and Campbell. Mr. Campbell adds that he’d like to add some of the experiments of Dr. Rhine at Duke University. Dr. Joeseph Banks Rhine started the parapsychology department at Duke and worked in conjunction with Karl Zener, of Zener card fame, to test for ESP. It seemed to me that this would be an early draft of Campbell’s novel Incarnate.

This was later confirmed by Campbell himself on the message boards. He said “It is indeed Incarnate, but only one chapter is actually set in Chapel Hill and that was deleted. I’d visited there, staying with Manly Wade Wellman and Frances after the first World Fantasy Convention. The Futura and Little, Brown editions reprint the chapter in an afterword.” Mystery solved!

Thanks to Mr. Campbell for taking the time to respond.

Next: ‘The Cats of Pere LaChaise’ by Neil Olonoff

More Ramsey Campbell: YBHS VIII: ‘To Wake the Dead’ 

YBHS IX: Introduction-The Year of the Anthology

YBHS9
Art by Michael Whelan

Welcome to the second annual ‘October Best of read’. In the past, I’ve read a horror story a day during the month of October. Last year, when I started this blog I decided it would be a great opportunity to work my way through The Year’s Best Horror Stories collections edited by Wagner. I previously covered Series VIII and this year I’ll be covering Series IX. I’ll have two to three posts a week each featuring a different story in the collection, I hope to talk about history, influences, Wagner, and I’ll also give my thoughts on the story. As an introduction to the series, I’d like to take a look at Wagner’s introduction.

“The year past, 1980, will go down in the annals of horror literature as the year of the blockbuster original anthology. One has to go back to those thousand-page super-dreadnought-class horror anthologies published in England during the 1930’s–particularly those edited by John Gawsworth–to find a comparison.”

And what a crop of anthologies it was. That year saw the publication of three series that are still talked about today; two edited by Ramsey Campbell, Pan books, New Terrors (containing Wagner’s ‘.220 Swift’), Arkham House’s New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, and the 500+ page Kirby McCauley edited anthology, Dark Forces (containing Wagner’s ‘Where the Summer Ends’). Thirty-eight years later, Dark Forces is a legendary anthology. Kirby McCauley using his artful eye was able to assemble a line up of established writers as well as the up and comers who would become giants in their own right in the following years. Will Errickson has a great post about this collection over on his blog Too Much Horror Fiction. Looking at the table of contents of Dark Forces you kind find many names that appeared in Wagner’s first Year’s Best Horror, as well as names that reoccur in his collections throughout the years.

I can’t help but compare Wagner’s time and our own. When he started this series he was chin deep in the horror boom. Right now we are experiencing a horror boom of our own. We have our own collections coming out; Nightscript, Shadows and Tall Trees, Looming Low, the various themed collections of Word Horde and Ellen Datlow. We also have several pro and non-pro digital magazines; The Dark, Nightmare, Black Static, Apex, Strange Aeons, and the new Vastarien. New companies are being formed as we speak, as older companies like Fangoria are relaunching! It is truly a time of abundance, and with abundance comes the difficulty of sifting through the multitudes. Thank goodness we have St. Datlow in our modern age.

I’d like to close this post with some words of wisdom from Mr. Wagner about what makes a successful horror story:

“Because a horror story asks its readers to accept as truth certain facts which the reader knows are contrary to the ordered universe (as he has been led to believe it exists), it is absolutely imperative that the author convince the reader of the reality within his story. Catsup isn’t blood no matter how liberally it’s splattered. Rubber monsters aren’t frightening no matter how many fangs and tentacles. Cardboard sets and wooden characters don’t scare us for all the cobwebs and screams. If you don’t believe it, you aren’t frightened.”

 

Next up: ‘The Monkey’ by Stephen King

To Wake the Dead by Ramsey Campbell

DH
David Lloyd

To Wake the Dead originally appeared in Dark Horizons 20 published by the British Fantasy Society. Personal note-Our occasional reader, Malcolm Mills from the podcast, is the one who originally pushed Campbell onto me and I’m so glad he did. One of the things that stands out to me the most in Campbell’s writing is his choice of voice. He shows us the people of society we’d rather walk past on the street or ignore on the train. The characters head we get to travel in during the course of the story may not always be reliable or it may leave you feeling grimy but it’s always a damn good ride.

In addition to being a damn fine writer Campbell and his wife were good friends with Wagner on a personal level. Both have bittersweet remembrances collected in Exorcisms and Ecstasies. But as Wagner points out Campbell had been included in almost every Year’s Best so far by three separate editors so it was not nepotism that got him into this collection.

To Wake the Dead is a planchett/divination tale. The story is actually the opening to a novel called either To Wake the Dead in North America or The Parasite in England. A young unnamed girl joins a group of teenagers as they break into a local empty house to try and communicate with the spirits suspected to be there. What started as a joke turns terrifyingly real. If this story is any indicator for the rest of the book it’s going to be the next Campbell I read.

Campbell’s most effective part in this story is the sense of Doom that pervades the entire piece. Right at the start we are alienated from the protagonist. She is only referred to as ‘her’ or ‘the younger girl’. She is only a gender, and a person in contrast, to all the others who are given names; Wendy, Richard, Ken. Even the spirit is assumed to have a name, Mr. Allen. This absence of name subtly makes the protagonist feel less than the others, powerless, and expendable. Through the course of the story she’s constantly looking for ways out of the situation, but instead of taking any actions she lets the opportunity pass and just questions why she or the others aren’t doing anything. In the older sense of the word it felt ‘weird’ like she was on a track of fate to her destiny. This story was great, so far we’ve had two winners right out of the gate. So far so good Mr. Wagner.

I’ll be taking tomorrow off from the blog so I can post episode two of our coverage of .220 Swift so be sure to look out for that.