Cool Air (1926) by H.P. Lovecraft

‘It is a mistake to fancy that horror is associated inextricably with darkness, silence, and solitude. I found it in the glare of mid-afternoon, in the clangour of a metropolis, and in the teeming midst of a shabby and commonplace rooming-house.’

A foul-smelling leak from the apartment above leads our protagonist to hear about the reclusive Doctor Munoz. A famed physician from Barcelona, he now spends his days in his rooms, only occasionally venturing out onto the brownstone’s roof.

One day, the narrator suffers a heart attack and seeks assistance from Doctor Munoz. He is surprised by “a rush of cool air” which hits him after the doctor opens the door to his apartment. Doctor Munoz saves the narrator’s life, telling him that he is “the bitterest of sworn enemies to death,” and needs to keep his apartment below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

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The Temple (1920) by H.P. Lovecraft

‘On August 9, we espied the ocean floor, and sent a powerful beam from the searchlight over it. It was a vast undulating plain, mostly covered with seaweed, and strewn with the shells of small mollusks.’

I first got interested in H.P. Lovecraft’s weird fiction when I was in my early teens. Like most readers, I started off reading a volume which contained a selection of his more popular stories. This journey into Arkham horror began with a copy of “Omnibus 3: The Haunter of the Dark” which includes The Rats In The Walls, The Call Of Cthulhu, The Haunter Of The Dark, Pickman’s Model, and The Lurking Fear. These are some of Lovecraft’s most famous tales. (I’ve never forgotten this cover illustration by Tim White!)

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Recently, I was looking for some lesser-known gems by the author and I came across this one. It’s called “The Temple” and was published in issue 24 of Weird Tales back in 1925. It is dated as being written in 1920. I read it in the Delphi Classics kindle edition of the Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft, which I highly recommend. Continue reading

O Moon of My Delight! (1963) by Brian Aldiss

‘The planet Tandy was a gas giant as big as Jupiter, a beautiful object when it rose into Tandy Two’s skies, but uninhabitable and unapproachable.’

O Moon of My Delight” is a character-driven short story with an interstellar setting. It is one of eight stories found in Brian Aldiss’ 1963 collection “The Airs of Earth“.¬†The story opens with Murragh Harrison preparing to watch the arrival of a Faster-Than-Light starship. He is on the moon Tandy Two, a place which is used as a kind of braking device for the incoming F.T.L. ships. Harrison, a wannabe poet, is there for the spectacular display.

‘The F.T.L. ship burst into normal space on automatic control, invisible and unheard at first. Boring for the world like a metal fist swung at a defenseless heart, it was a gale of force.’

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Cardiff Afterlife (2008) by Alastair Reynolds

‘I presenced into Cardiff a day after the atrocity.’

This story is taken from Alastair Reynolds’ 2009 UK Edition of ‘Zima Blue and Other Stories’, (which includes three more stories than the original 2006 edition). It’s a very short story that was originally published in The Big Issue magazine. In his post-story notes, Reynolds reveals that “Cardiff Afterlife” is actually a sequel to his novella, “Signal to Noise”. It can be read as a standalone story.

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Innumerable Glimmering Lights (2016) by Rich Larson

“I am not afraid for my life” […] The project was more important than survival. More important than anything.

After checking his page on the isfdb, I was surprised to see just how many stories Rich Larson has had published. There are over 90 short stories listed from 2011, two books of fiction, as well as two collections. That is very impressive. I am familiar with the author’s name and have read a few of his short stories before. I remember enjoying both “You Make Pattaya” and “An Evening with Severyn Grimes”, which were collected in two of Jonathan Strahan’s yearly “Best Science Fiction & Fantasy” anthologies. I read this story in Clockwork Phoenix 5.

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The Doctor of Death Island (1978) by Gene Wolfe

“You mean I’ll live forever?” The thought was almost too great for him to grasp. Words in his mind became fleeting pictures of a hillside covered with long, sweet grass. A hillside smiling in the sun. Day always. No night ever.

In Gene Wolfe’s 1980 collection The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories, there are three tales which play with the words of the book’s title:

  1. The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories
  2. The Death of Doctor Island
  3. The Doctor of Death Island

I read the first one last year and really enjoyed it. I haven’t read the second one yet. I’ve just finished reading the third one for my Short Story Tarot Challenge.

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We Can Remember It for You Wholesale (1966) by Philip K. Dick

‘He awoke–And wanted Mars.’

Douglas Quail wakes up in his ‘conapt’ after dreaming of Mars. He dreams of walking along its valleys. At the beginning of the story, we are told that Mars is a world ‘which only Government agents and high officials had seen.‘ It’s not a place a ‘miserable little salaried employee‘ can visit. Kirsten, Doug’s wife, reminds him of this every day. But it’s okay because ‘it was a wife’s job to bring her husband down to Earth.

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This is how Dick’s classic story opens. As he inhales his morning shot of snuff, Doug’s wife complains that he is obsessed with the Red Planet. She wants him to take her on a trip to ‘the bottom of the ocean‘, to ‘one of those year-round aquatic resorts.‘ His Martian dreams can only lead one way: “you’re doomed, Doug!Continue reading

The Ergot Show (1972) by Brian Aldiss

‘Whenever you talk, Meyer, I begin to think of a certain tone of green.’

‘Holofilms’, ‘transport units’, ergot, references to Mars, Shakespeare, and Coleridge, Brian Aldiss’s THE ERGOT SHOW is a bit of a wild ride. It reads like a 1960s art-house film script if written by someone under the influence of something strong. Is this what is often labelled New Wave science fiction? It does feel experimental and artistic. I’m not familiar with the movement so please feel free to correct me in the comments below.

Brief Summary

The story features two film directors, Pagolini and Rhodes. One is filming the other’s film being made. They attend a party and talk about the ‘holofilm’ industry. This is interspersed with descriptions of various locations and brief scenes featuring some background characters. The effects of consuming ergot fungi plays a small part in the narrative. Continue reading

The Steam-Driven Boy (1972) by John Sladek

‘If we remove him from the past, we have to make sure no one notices the big jagged hole in history we’ll leave.’

I reviewed John Sladek’s 1983 BSFA-winning novel Tik-Tok back in December 2015. I enjoyed the story, describing it as “a darkly humorous satire that casts a wry eye on such topics as art, celebrity, power, politics and slavery.” THE STEAM-DRIVEN BOY is a humourous short story that pokes fun at Asimov’s “Robot” novels. It’s another story taken from the fine 1972 collection Nova 2.

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A Dead Djinn in Cairo (2016) by P. Djeli Clark

‘His skin was a sheath of aquamarine scales that shifted to turquoise beneath the glare of flickering gas lamps.’

It was the title of P. Djeli Clark’s 2019 novella The Haunting of Tram Car 015 that caught my attention. I’d seen it recommended on Amazon when I was browsing for a new book. It had also appeared on the Locus 2019 Recommended Reading List; a list I always look forward to every year. Before buying a copy, I discovered¬†A Dead Djinn in Cairo was a short story published in 2016 that was set in the same universe. So I quickly purchased it and read it through in one sitting–it’s only just over 40 pages long.

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