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Author Topic: Pseudopod 325: Entrance And Exit / The Terror Of The Twins  (Read 4715 times)

Bdoomed

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Pseudopod 325: Entrance And Exit / The Terror Of The Twins

both by Algernon Blackwood.

Entrance And Exit” was originally published February 13, 1909 in The Westminster Gazette and republished in TEN MINUTE STORIES in 1914. “The Terror Of The Twins” was originally published November 6, 1909 in the same newspaper and republished in 1910 in THE LOST VALLEY AND OTHER STORIES.


ALGERNON HENRY BLACKWOOD, CBE (1869–1951) was an English short story writer and novelist, one of the most prolific writers of ghost stories in the history of the genre. He was also a journalist and a broadcasting narrator. He was born in Shooter’s Hill, Kent, England and, after schooling in Europe, Blackwood’s father sent him to Canada in 1887 on business. From Canada, Blackwood moved to New York City, which was a less agreeable experience. He said of New York: “I seemed covered with sore and tender places into which New York rubbed salt and acid every hour of the day.” He was surrounded by criminals and other undesirables, and his roommate stole much of his money. He was sick and in poverty most of the time, and he was framed for arson. His jobs in New York included reporter for the Evening Sun and the New York Times. Blackwood returned to England in 1899. During the ensuing years, he traveled throughout Europe. His travels included a trip on the Danube River and camping on an island near Bratislava, which he used as a setting for possibly his most famous story, “The Willows”, praised by H.P. Lovecraft and others. In 1900 he joined the secret occult society the Order Of The Golden Dawn. It wasn’t until 1906, when Blackwood was in his late 30s, that he had his first major publication, which was a collection entitled THE EMPTY HOUSE AND OTHER GHOST STORIES. Two years later, his fame was assured with his stories of John Silence, a psychic investigator, and he spent the rest of his life writing, traveling extensively (he acted as an undercover agent for British military intelligence in World War I). In 1934, at 65 years of age, Blackwood started a new career by reading ghost stories on BBC radio, which enjoyed immense popularity. Two years later, he started appearing regularly on television. He retired in 1940 to Kent and continued preparing radio productions. He was made a Commander in the Order of the British Empire in 1949. After a life in which he received a modest income from his writing, Algernon Blackwood died in 1951.


You have two readers this week!

Entrance And Exit” was read for you by David Rees-Thomas, the co-editor of Waylines Magazine, which can be found here. Issue 2 just came out March 1st! Check it out!

The Terror Of The Twins” was read for you by Simon Meddings, who is a writer and director at Martian Creative, a company creating audio books, plays, podcasts and scripts for televison. Click the link under their name for a listen! Simon ALSO also runs the Waffle On Podcast with his friend Mark all about classic television shows and films from around the world. Available on itunes, Stitcher radio and direct at Podbean.



“These three — the old physicist, the girl, and the young Anglican parson who was engaged to her — stood by the window of the country house. The blinds were not yet drawn. They could see the dark clump of pines in the field, with crests silhouetted against the pale wintry sky of the February afternoon. Snow, freshly fallen, lay upon lawn and hill. A big moon was already lighting up.

‘Yes, that’s the wood,’ the old man said, ‘and it was this very day fifty years ago — February 13 — the man disappeared from its shadows; swept in this extraordinary, incredible fashion into invisibility — into some other place. Can you wonder the grove is haunted?’ A strange impressiveness of manner belied the laugh following the words.

‘Oh, please tell us,’ the girl whispered; ‘we’re all alone now.’ Curiosity triumphed, yet a vague alarm betrayed itself in the questioning glance she cast for protection at her younger companion, whose fine face, on the other hand, wore an expression that was grave and singularly rapt. He was listening keenly.

‘As though Nature,’ the physicist went on, half to himself, ‘here and there concealed vacuums, gaps, holes in space (his mind was always speculative; more than speculative, some said), through which a man might drop into invisibility — a new direction, in fact, at right angles to the three known ones — higher space, as Bolyai, Gauss, and Hinton might call it; and what you, with your mystical turn’ — looking toward the young priest — ‘might consider a spiritual change of condition, into a region where space and time do not exist, and where all dimensions are possible — because they are one.””




“That the man’s hopes had built upon a son to inherit his name and estates — a single son, that is — was to be expected; but no one could have foreseen the depth and bitterness of his disappointment, the cold, implacable fury, when there arrived instead — twins. For, though the elder legally must inherit, that other ran him so deadly close. A daughter would have been a more reasonable defeat. But twins — ! To miss his dream by so feeble a device — !

The complete frustration of a hope deeply cherished for years may easily result in strange fevers of the soul, but the violence of the father’s hatred, existing as it did side by side with a love he could not deny, was something to set psychologists thinking. More than unnatural, it was positively uncanny. Being a man of rigid self-control, however, it operated inwardly, and doubtless along some morbid line of weakness little suspected even by those nearest to him, preying upon his thought to such dreadful extent that finally the mind gave way. The suppressed rage and bitterness deprived him, so the family decided, of his reason, and he spent the last years of his life under restraint. He was possessed naturally of immense forces — of will, feeling, desire; his dynamic value truly tremendous, driving through life like a great engine; and the intensity of this concentrated and buried hatred was guessed by few. The twins themselves, however, knew it. They divined it, at least, for it operated ceaselessly against them side by side with the genuine soft love that occasionally sweetened it, to their great perplexity. They spoke of it only to each other, though.

‘At twenty-one,’ Edward, the elder, would remark sometimes, unhappily, ‘we shall know more.’ ‘Too much,’ Ernest would reply, with a rush of unreasoning terror the thought never failed to evoke — in him. ‘Things father said always happened — in life.’ And they paled perceptibly. For the hatred, thus compressed into a veritable bomb of psychic energy, had found at the last a singular expression in the cry of the father’s distraught mind.”


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Listen to this week's Pseudopod.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


kibitzer

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Reply #1 on: March 27, 2013, 01:16:41 AM
Not even ONE comment?


Sgarre1

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Reply #2 on: March 27, 2013, 02:24:58 AM
Oh, it'll come - they're busy with the contest, I guess....



Scattercat

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Reply #3 on: March 27, 2013, 04:16:15 AM
Eh, I know it's like spitting on a saint, but I really don't dig Algernon Blackwood that much...

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lowky

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Reply #4 on: March 27, 2013, 12:50:18 PM
thanks, I will look for more by blackwood.  I love getting exposure to some of the lesser known or older authors.  I know Blackwood is said to have influenced Lovecraft, but had never read any.  Ambrose Bierce is another.  they are classics, but don't get the exposure that Lovecraft got.  I need to relisten to these, because I have been busy with library books and time between listens to this episode were greater than I prefer.  I try to listen straight through, but sometimes get interrupted and don't get back to it right away.  I enjoyed the first story more than the second. 


Scumpup

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Reply #5 on: March 27, 2013, 12:54:42 PM
Eh, I know it's like spitting on a saint, but I really don't dig Algernon Blackwood that much...

He's never been a favorite of mine, either.



Alasdair5000

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Reply #6 on: March 27, 2013, 03:02:03 PM
Oh, it'll come - they're busy with the contest, I guess....

Hey these two? My favorite of the 'Classics' stories that we've run so far. Seriously, I'm a mark for this sort of stuff at the best of times but Blackwood seems to have specialized in the same thing James did, the delayed or implied reveal. I really like it and will wait patiently until it comes back into style:)



Sgarre1

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Reply #7 on: March 27, 2013, 03:31:03 PM
Finding the right Blackwood was a challenge, I'll tell you.

First, he wrote A LOT! so much short fiction that I don;t think anyone has every attempted a "Complete" works through fear that someone will turn up yet another old magazine.  So I went back and did some spot reading from my notes to try and pick something specific that would work in format and be representative.

Second, he has a period where he was very very wordy and so classics like "The Willows" (which is excellent - there's a nice reading on Librivox and I have a feeling TALES TO TERRIFY may be doing it soon) are too long for us (and, in truth, his wordiness can sometime work to his detriment. "The Man Whom The Trees Loved", iirc the title right, is a story about elemental natural forces - Blackwood had a thing for elementals and elemental forces, maybe coming out of his tenure in the Golden Dawn - is a great idea for a story, with a man essentially being "dissolved" into a higher force of nature, but it goes on quite a bit.).  But then, he carves all his prose back and we get wonderful little bits like these two ("The Trod" is another).  His John Silence stories are interesting but problematic at times.

Blackwood's themes - elementals, faeries, conceptions of the imagination, extremely subtle psychological examinations ("The Empty House"), the "new space" opened up by physics and mathematics - I wanted to try to hit some of these and so two shorts seemed like a good choice.  "Entrance" gets the higher maths stuffs in (with even a little touch of faerie)  and, since it's more "eerie" than "scary", I went with "Twins" because it's a classic ghost story set up with a strange, psychological twist at the end.

Blackwood benefits from a lot of reading - he wrote so much that there's bound to be clunkers throughout, but also undiscovered gems.  Even when treading familiar territory he usually finds an interesting detail or angle.  "The Doll" is, in some ways, a traditional "haunted/cursed doll" story (albeit with Hindu magic and not voodoo) and was adapted on NIGHT GALLERY (probably on HULU or YOUTUBE somewhere) but there's a wonderful moment in it that's always impressed me - the protagonist by this point in the story suspects the doll is animated and up to no good and finally catches it twitching on a bed or something - he's horrified, as would be expected, but this feeling of *anger* wells up inside him at such a hideously unnatural thing, as if it's black magic existence is an affront to the natural world and engenders immediate repulsion and hatred.  Great stuff!



Sgarre1

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Reply #8 on: March 27, 2013, 03:31:31 PM
Oh, and Al - very glad you enjoyed them!



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Reply #9 on: March 27, 2013, 06:41:17 PM
It's a combination of the prolixity and the themes, I think.  I am not so interested in, as you say, elements and elemental forces, at least not in the way Blackwood conceives them.  That is, I am interested in the idea of essential identity, of the foundational structure of the universe, but Blackwood's elementals tend to all end up with this same sort of airy dissolving thing going on; I end up feeling claustrophobic and shuttered rather than a sensation of terrible vastness and unknown reaches.  It's as though everything is made out of oatmeal underneath, and every story is about some new dude finding the oatmeal and freaking out.

Mind you, he's actually pretty close to correct, in that the universe appears to be, at a fundamental level, built of nothing folded up very cleverly, but the way he tells it just never lights a fire underneath me.

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Sgarre1

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Reply #10 on: March 27, 2013, 09:24:24 PM
Well, that really is only one of his themes - God knows "The Willows" has other-dimensional tentacled monstrosities (albeit, invisible).



Scattercat

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Reply #11 on: March 27, 2013, 09:37:21 PM
Yeah, but they end up kind of basically an elemental force of the area, all the same.  :-/

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Scumpup

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Reply #12 on: March 27, 2013, 10:33:26 PM
I don't share the penetrating insight many of you do.  When I read Blackwood I come away feeling like I just read a lesser effort by Agatha Christie or P.G. Wodehouse on a day they felt like trying a different genre.  I'm not a fan of either, and their work, along with Blackwood's, is just so mannered and so very, very English.



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Reply #13 on: March 28, 2013, 01:45:40 AM
A man who cannot appreciate Wodehouse is truly dead inside.

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Scumpup

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Reply #14 on: March 28, 2013, 06:37:37 PM
I wouldn't say I cannot.  I would say I do not.  My taste in UK humor runs more toward  Benny Hill than to Wodehouse.



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Reply #15 on: April 26, 2013, 01:36:58 PM
I enjoyed The Terror of the Twins.  For me it evoked a feeling similar to some of Poe's stories, between the format and the subject material, and I felt the protagonist's reaction as it was happening.  Well told.

Entrance and Exit...  again my memory fails me, trying to call up details to remind me what that one was about.  Stupid memory.   :(



Bdoomed

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Reply #16 on: April 29, 2013, 03:40:51 PM
Need to give this one a listen on headphones when I have a chance.  I tried listening in my car, but the first story was too tinny, and then a high pitch started up in the background (which I am annoyingly attuned to higher pitches) so I had to shut it off for fear of my ears bleeding.  This is to say nothing against the narrator or his recording equipment.  I rather blame my car/driving on the highway, and merely need to listen to it with different audio equipment.  Hopefully some nice bassy headphones will ignore the high pitch that threatens my sanity.  :)

I should also say that I was enjoying the story that was unfolding. :)

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


Meds

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Reply #17 on: August 14, 2013, 07:32:54 PM
I enjoyed The Terror of the Twins.  For me it evoked a feeling similar to some of Poe's stories, between the format and the subject material, and I felt the protagonist's reaction as it was happening.  Well told.

Thanks for the comment, I enjoyed narrating the story. :)