Monday, October 31, 2011

HAPPY HALLOWEEN from R. A. Lafferty

The seven (or eight) evil counts are sometimes conventional counts in evening clothes and monocles. And sometimes they are huge bat-winged creatures flitting ponderously down the lightning-lit corridors of Castle Beden. The castle, in fact, is the main character in the drama. It does not have formal lighting, as it is lit by lightning all twenty-four hours of every night (there is no daylight at Castle Beden). The floors and walls howl and chains rattle constantly. The counts have sometimes conventional six-inch-long eyeteeth, and then as suddenly they will have hollow fangs eighteen inches long and deadly. And there is a constant lot of howling and screaming for what is supposed to be a silent television drama.

A flying count will suddenly fold his bat wings and land on the broad bosom of one of the three maidens and have into her throat with his terrible blood-sucking fangs. And every time it happens, there is a horrible flopping and screeching.

The voice of Clarinda Calliope is heard loud and clear and real in a slow angry sound.

“Dammit, Aurelian, that’s real blood they’re taking out of my throat.”

And came the suave voice of the master dramatist Aurelian Bentley (but the voices shouldn’t be breaking in like this):

“Right, Clarie. It is on such verisimilitude that I have built my reputation as a master.”

Clarinda, in her three roles, seemed to lose quite a bit of blood as the drama went on, and she fell down more and more often. And the drama was a howling and bloody success, no matter that the story line was shattered in a thousand pieces—for each piece of it was like a writhing blood snake that gluts and gloats.

-R. A. Lafferty, ‘Selenium Ghosts of the Eighteen Seventies’ (1978)


Stephen Cefalo said...

Not to be redundant, but I'm always awestruck by the quotations you post from this guy. Wow again.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

That's the kind of redundancy I personally never tire of. Glad I can be a conveyor of the repeated striking of Laffertian awe.

Jonathan Strange said...

What a great (weird) writer. I am very happy to have just found my second and third Lafferty novels at a used bookstore (The Reefs of Earth and Apocalypses). He definitely has a good feel for the comic-horror element in his stories. I look forward to reading more!

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

'Comic-horror', absolutely, Jonathan. There's a great chapter some ways into Apocalypses that has this burlesque-grotesque comic-horror feel. Men affixed on a wall to the 12 (or 13) points of the clock, awaiting there executions - the ground below is swarming with mechanical rats waiting to eat them. It's really weird and wonderful. Look out for it.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

correction: awaiting 'their' executions

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Oh, and come to think of it, Reefs of Earth opens with a series of little comic-grotesque ghost stories that the children tell each other - really wonderful. One of my favourite Lafferty chapters.

Jonathan Strange said...

I just finished The Reefs of Earth, which was almost entirely in this "comic-horror" vein. From the ghost-stories, to the odd bloodlust of the Puca children, to the corrupt humans, it was a kind of horror-fest with some jokes thrown in. It was excellent, and I enjoyed it much more than Past Master. I will get into Apocalypses after a few other books on my "to-read" pile!

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

'A kind of horror-fest with some jokes thrown in' - ha! so true. Lafferty fans so often wildly disagree about what are the best works (although there's also always huge overlap). I, for example, have always rated Past Master near the very top of his novels and, though I do love it, Reefs of Earth quite a ways down the list. With re-readings it may well move very far up the list. This is as apt to happen as not in re-reading Lafferty's body of work. Glad to hear of someone freshly discovering Laff and enjoying him so. Thanks so much for sharing, Jonathan.

'It was all strong talk with the horns and hooves still on it.'
(R. A. Lafferty, The Devil is Dead)