While trying to fight off a nasty virus of some sort, I spent the better part of last weekend watching old episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. As I reacquainted myself with the original TV movies and some of my favorite episodes of the subsequent series, I began thinking of other famous supernatural investigators and created a brief presentation with the new presentation editor, Prezi (still in private beta). The resulting images and texts can be found here, and if you follow the path by clicking the “next” arrow, they will even display in chronological order. Enjoy . . .
For a project I’ve been working on, I’ve been compiling a list of occult detectives and have made it publicly available and editable. Please check it out and feel free to add to it!
Ed Webb and I were on National Public Radio on Sunday, April 3rd, talking about Doctor Who, the Daleks, and genocide. The show, Keepin’ the Faith, is hosted by University of Illinois emeritus professor of Religion, Steve Shoemaker, and since the program deals with issues of ethics and morality, he thought it might be a good venue for a discussion of our Doctor Who and Philosophy chapter, “Should the Daleks Be Exterminated?” Despite the gravity of the subject, we all had an excellent time and greatly appreciate Steve’s inviting us on the show, which is now available as a podcast:
This video turned up three days ago at Livejournal’s Vintage Photographs community (and was promptly taken down–it’s not a photograph). I haven’t yet tracked down the source, but it does appear to be footage of turn of the century Manchester and so I thought it should have a home here.
Ok–it’s not a ghost story, and it’s not season specific. I’m simply referring to the old custom of telling scary stories at Christmas time. Here’s one I wrote, titled “Le Péril Vert”, that originally appeared in the Nov. 2007 issue of The Willows.
An outstanding title for a remarkable show, and I’ve been watching quite a bit of it lately thanks to YouTube user, DFORCE1969. The show, which originally aired from 1970-1972 on BBC 1, was the brainchild of Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler, the creators of Doctor Who‘s Cybermen. The focus of Doomwatch is, essentially, mad science, and it chronicles the travails of a government scientific agency charged with monitoring potential scientific and technological threats to nature and society. These duties, in turn, make the team equally unpopular with the scientific community, big business, and the very government that is funding them, so that its scientists are perpetually threatened, both physically and existentially, from all sides. Socially conscious, bleak, paranoid, and perpetually ahead of its time, the show not only made an impact on contemporary British programs (Doctor Who, Survivors) but also influenced several later series (The X-Files, Fringe).
Though several episodes are online, I’ve found the audio and video to be out of sync in many. I would recommend starting with these:
On Nov. 23rd, 1963, the BBC aired the first episode of Doctor Who, “An Unearthly Child”, launching what has become the longest running science fiction show ever. Though there was a significant “hiatus” between 1989 and 2005, during which no new episodes were aired, the series continued with books, audiobooks, and a (to put it politely) disappointing Fox Movie of the week. Since Russell Davies brought it back to TV in 2005, it has once again become a worldwide ratings success, and today the show is celebrating its 45th anniversary.
Its success throughout the years can be largely attributed to the strength of the writing behind each episode. This is where, as Harlan Ellison correctly (and belligerently) states, it trumps the Star Wars films, which in all honesty, despite their brilliant special effects and pacing (both areas where Doctor Who often fell a bit short) suffer from sophomoric and slapdash plotting and dialog. The only science fiction series that really approached Who in the sophistication of its scripts was the contemporaneous Star Trek. But, because The Doctor’s adventures were regularly serialized in half-hour episodes over the course of 4-6 weeks, Who was often able to achieve greater depth than Trek, and over the course of 45 years, has become an incredibly dense text. As my friend Ed and I found while recently writing about the show, there are almost unlimited thematic threads that can be traced throughout the many years of episodes, and this has undoubtedly also contributed to the show’s success, that it has created a vaster universe than even Start Trek for its fans to explore.
Another thing that set Doctor Who apart from most science fiction fare was the show’s eccentric origins, and these are being celebrated by the BBC with the creation of the new Genesis of Doctor Who archive. For more history and episode details, the BBC’s New and ClassicDoctor Who sites are a must, as well as the Doctor Who Wiki. Finally, for fan fiction, there is A Teaspoon and an Open Mind and The Doctor Who Project. The latter began as a very serious attempt to continue the series in the 90’s and contains fiction of a very high quality.
Ed‘s comment on rephotography in my last post reminded me of Chris Perridas’ blog, H.P. Lovecraft & His Legacy. I’ve been following it for quite awhile, and during that time, Perridas has unflaggingly posted a photo, letter, article, or some other piece of Lovecraftiana every day. While stopping by, be sure to check out some of his other blogs, particularly the Antiquarian Weird Tales one.
“From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent. Sometimes it enters directly into the composition of the events, while sometimes it relates only to their fortuitous position among persons and places. The latter sort is splendidly exemplified by . . . the ancient city of Providence . . .”
–H.P. Lovecraft, “The Shunned House”
As I was driving through Providence, RI the other evening, on my way to dinner with some fellowTEI Workshop attendees, I couldn’t help but think about H.P. Lovecraft and the various stories he wrote portraying this city, his home throughout his brief life. The streets and scenes I saw seemed almost familiar to me thanks to the Master’s portrayal of his city in such stories as “The Shunned House”, which begins by tracing the walks of Edgar Allan Poe when he was courting Sarah Helen Whitman, and “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”, in which both colonial and modern Providence act almost as characters within the story.
Some would likely argue that this injection of verisimilitude assists in making the more horrific elements of these fantastic stories that much more intense, and I would not disagree with them. But, I think, more specifically, in Lovecraft’s case, that by drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge of such an old American city as Providence, Lovecraft is emphasizing that even the trappings of civilization that seem so ancient to his readers, are really nothing in comparison to the vaster, far more ancient chaos of the universe and that these artificial constructs of humanity can be erased at any moment. I also believe that Lovecraft is not alone in this use of realistic, local geography in his horror tales and can think of parallels in the London strolls of Arthur Machen‘s various protagonists and even the North African settings of Paul Bowles. I’m sure readers of this blog can come up with more examples.
At the end of Tod Browning’s Freaks (at about 1:03 in the clip below), as the freaks chase down Cleopatra to exact their revenge, there is a particularly creepy scene that shows the armless and legless Human Torso crawling along the muddy ground with a dagger clenched between his teeth.
I always get goosebumps when I see that and can never help wondering what the Torso would look like in action. W.C. Morrow’s short story, “His Unconquerable Enemy” (originally published in the Mar. 11, 1889 issue of The Argonaut), goes a long way toward answering that question. It features an avenger in a similar physical state and a morally bankrupt first-person narrator who may be even scarier. Well worth reading.
Imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever.”
In 1954, the BBC aired a teleplay of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four that has become legendary. Produced and directed by Rudolph Cartier and scripted by Nigel Kneale, it stars Peter Cushing as Winston Smith. By making the most out of stark studio sets, location shooting in still war-devastated London neighborhoods, and virtuoso performances from Cushing, Donald Pleasance, and Yvonne Mitchell, this adaptation succeeds at being both genuinely disturbing and deeply moving. This version is also striking for its frank treatment of sex, particularly the segment that takes place in Pornosec, and violence. You can download the show in its entirety by navigating to the host of the clip below.