Madame Lenora’s Rings – ficlet

Madame Lenora’s turban was a sizzling pink, and she was fat again.
‘You’re fat again,’ said the Marquis, before seating himself at the table in her legendary tent.
‘Your head is fatter. The usual?’
‘The usual,’ he affirmed, containing a sigh. He still felt woozy from the warding glyphs placed among the pictures on the tent’s painted exterior. They couldn’t keep him out, of course. But they could let him know he wasn’t welcome. Except that he was, for the same reason a fly is welcome in a spider’s web. It just wasn’t a personal welcome.
He watched her hands while she shuffled the cards. It was awful, but he couldn’t make himself look elsewhere.
Each fat black finger was decorated with a ring. Fancy costume jewellery, enamel beasts and big semiprecious stones, as flashy as the rest of her costume, and, indeed, his own silver-sequinned jacket. Their kind weren’t given to understatement.
Nine of the rings glowed like little lightbulbs. Only one, on the fourth finger of the left hand, a marcasite panther curled around a moonstone as big as an olive, was dull. Uninhabited.
All nine of his brothers and sisters she had captured. Each capture made her stronger, each imprisoned sibling gave her another suite of powers.
He was one of the strongest of the ten, and he was the luckiest. But he would have to be very lucky to beat her now. Very, very lucky.
The spread suggested that luck was on his side. Madame Lenora’s smile was mischief itself.
‘Well, Marquis?’
He pursed his lips and tapped the head of his cane. This was unexpected. She might lie, but her cards didn’t.
On the other hand…
There was a reason why no one had gone to anyone’s aid until it was too late. Sibling rivalry was the curse of their family. It had taken him a thousand years to start missing one or two of them. As allies they would never be better than unreliable.
Yet it sat badly with him to take no action, attempt no revenge, to be a coward. But the consequence of failure… and there would be no rescue for any of them if he lost.
Madame Lenora, still full of mirth — were fat people really happier? — interrupted his thoughts.
‘How about you try your luck tonight? I’m game if you are.’
It was already over. The moment had passed, if there had even been a moment. ‘It seems I never am,’ he said, trying to be breezy.
Her pity wasn’t a pleasant meal, but he had a cast-iron digestion. He could make something of it.
He put the right amount of money down on the table and returned to his own black leather tent. Several customers were queued up outside, patiently waiting their turn to be flogged and humiliated.
He wondered if he hadn’t picked up some of their quirks of character.

(One-draft ficlet. Madame Lenora has been in my head for years, though I only got a name for her today. She has a cameo as another character in Gunpowder Tea. No matter what she looks like, she always wears these ten fancy rings. I assume they symbolise the ‘jewels’ of a well-developed and balanced nature, but I was thinking about what they could mean in a story, and I came up with this.)



Man, these bronze sculptures are hard to photograph. These pics are corrected in Photoshop to try and bring out natural colour and shadow detail. I don’t know if I can do better than this with the camera and lighting (i.e. the sun) I’ve got. (ETA I’ve bought a better lightbulb…)





The Weird: A Compendium of Dark and Strange Stories

THE WEIRD: A Compendium of Dark & Strange Stories
Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

Pub Date: Mid-October; Publisher: Atlantic, Corvus imprint (UK edition)

Foreword: Michael Moorcock
Introduction by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer
Afterword: China Mieville

Ann and Jeff VanderMeer have put together a humungous 750,000 word compendium of weird fiction covering over 100 years and 20 nationalities. More information at Jeff VanderMeer’s website, but I’ve included the table of contents below. It looks awesome, to say the least.

I’m pleased that Australian stories are identified as such. I think Australia has a funny position in the Anglosphere — English-speaking but far from the middle of things, with angles of our own from which we write, even if the material isn’t overtly Australian, and it’s nice to have one’s difference acknowledged.

Alfred Kubin is the first author in the book and I’m the last, which in itself gives me a rather weird feeling. Kubin was primarily an artist and I like his work a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a collection with dead authors before, and it gives me that good old sense of life’s brief span!

Table of Contents

Story order is chronological except for a couple of exceptions transposed for thematic reasons. Stories translated into English are largely positioned by date of first publication in their original language. Authors are North American or from the United Kingdom unless otherwise indicated.

Alfred Kubin, “The Other Side” (excerpt), 1908 (translation, Austria)

F. Marion Crawford, “The Screaming Skull,” 1908

Algernon Blackwood, “The Willows,” 1907

Saki, “Sredni Vashtar,” 1910

M.R. James, “Casting the Runes,” 1911

Lord Dunsany, “How Nuth Would Have Practiced his Art,” 1912

Gustav Meyrink, “The Man in the Bottle,” 1912 (translation, Austria)

Georg Heym, “The Dissection,” 1913 (new translation by Gio Clairval, Germany)

Hanns Heinz Ewers, “The Spider,” 1915 (translation, Germany)

Rabindranath Tagore, “The Hungry Stones,” 1916 (India)

Luigi Ugolini, “The Vegetable Man,” 1917 (new translation by Anna and Brendan Connell, Italy; first-ever translation into English)

A. Merritt, “The People of the Pit,” 1918

Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “The Hell Screen,” 1918 (new translation, Japan)

Francis Stevens (Gertrude Barrows Bennett), “Unseen—Unfeared,” 1919

Franz Kafka, “In the Penal Colony,” 1919 (translation, German/Czech)

Stefan Grabinski, “The White Weyrak,” 1921 (translation, Poland)

H.F. Arnold, “The Night Wire,” 1926

H.P. Lovecraft, “The Dunwich Horror,” 1929

Margaret Irwin, “The Book,” 1930

Jean Ray, “The Mainz Psalter,” 1930 (translation, Belgium)

Jean Ray, “The Shadowy Street,” 1931 (translation, Belgium)

Clark Ashton Smith, “Genius Loci,” 1933

Hagiwara Sakutoro, “The Town of Cats,” 1935 (translation, Japan)

Hugh Walpole, “The Tarn,” 1936

Bruno Schulz, “Sanatorium at the Sign of the Hourglass,” 1937 (translation, Poland)

Robert Barbour Johnson, “Far Below,” 1939

Fritz Leiber, “Smoke Ghost,” 1941

Leonora Carrington, “White Rabbits,” 1941

Donald Wollheim, “Mimic,” 1942

Ray Bradbury, “The Crowd,” 1943

William Sansom, “The Long Sheet,” 1944

Jorge Luis Borges, “The Aleph,” 1945 (translation, Argentina)

Olympe Bhely-Quenum, “A Child in the Bush of Ghosts,” 1949 (Benin)

Shirley Jackson, “The Summer People,” 1950

Margaret St. Clair, “The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles,” 1951

Robert Bloch, “The Hungry House,” 1951

Augusto Monterroso, “Mister Taylor,” 1952 (new translation by Larry Nolen, Guatemala)

Amos Tutuola, “The Complete Gentleman,” 1952 (Nigeria)

Jerome Bixby, “It’s a Good Life,” 1953

Julio Cortazar, “Axolotl,” 1956 (new translation by Gio Clairval, Argentina)

William Sansom, “A Woman Seldom Found,” 1956

Charles Beaumont, “The Howling Man,” 1959

Mervyn Peake, “Same Time, Same Place,” 1963

Dino Buzzati, “The Colomber,” 1966 (new translation by Gio Clairval, Italy)

Michel Bernanos, “The Other Side of the Mountain,” 1967 (new translation by Gio Clairval, France)

Merce Rodoreda, “The Salamander,” 1967 (translation, Catalan)

Claude Seignolle, “The Ghoulbird,” 1967 (new translation by Gio Clairval, France)

Gahan Wilson, “The Sea Was Wet As Wet Could Be,” 1967

Daphne Du Maurier, “Don’t Look Now,” 1971

Robert Aickman, “The Hospice,” 1975

Dennis Etchison, “It Only Comes Out at Night,” 1976

James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon), “The Psychologist Who Wouldn’t Do Terrible Things to Rats,” 1976

Eric Basso, “The Beak Doctor,” 1977

Jamaica Kincaid, “Mother,” 1978 (Antigua and Barbuda/US)

George R.R. Martin, “Sandkings,” 1979

Bob Leman, “Window,” 1980

Ramsey Campbell, “The Brood,” 1980

Michael Shea, “The Autopsy,” 1980

William Gibson/John Shirley, “The Belonging Kind,” 1981

M. John Harrison, “Egnaro,” 1981

Joanna Russ, “The Little Dirty Girl,” 1982

M. John Harrison, “The New Rays,” 1982

Premendra Mitra, “The Discovery of Telenapota,” 1984 (translation, India)

F. Paul Wilson, “Soft,” 1984

Octavia Butler, “Bloodchild,” 1984

Clive Barker, “In the Hills, the Cities,” 1984

Leena Krohn, “Tainaron,” 1985 (translation, Finland)

Garry Kilworth, “Hogfoot Right and Bird-hands,” 1987

Lucius Shepard, “Shades,” 1987

Harlan Ellison, “The Function of Dream Sleep,” 1988

Ben Okri, “Worlds That Flourish,” 1988 (Nigeria)

Elizabeth Hand, “The Boy in the Tree,” 1989

Joyce Carol Oates, “Family,” 1989

Poppy Z Brite, “His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood,” 1990

Michal Ajvaz, “The End of the Garden,” 1991 (translation, Czech)

Karen Joy Fowler, “The Dark,” 1991

Kathe Koja, “Angels in Love,” 1991

Haruki Murakami, “The Ice Man,” 1991 (translation, Japan)

Lisa Tuttle, “Replacements,” 1992

Marc Laidlaw, “The Diane Arbus Suicide Portfolio,” 1993

Steven Utley, “The Country Doctor,” 1993

William Browning Spenser, “The Ocean and All Its Devices,” 1994

Jeffrey Ford, “The Delicate,” 1994

Martin Simpson, “Last Rites and Resurrections,” 1994

Stephen King, “The Man in the Black Suit,” 1994

Angela Carter, “The Snow Pavilion,” 1995

Craig Padawer, “The Meat Garden,” 1996

Stepan Chapman, “The Stiff and the Stile,” 1997

Tanith Lee, “Yellow and Red,” 1998

Kelly Link, “The Specialist’s Hat,” 1998

Caitlin R. Kiernan, “A Redress for Andromeda,” 2000

Michael Chabon, “The God of Dark Laughter,” 2001

China Mieville, “Details,” 2002

Michael Cisco, “The Genius of Assassins,” 2002

Neil Gaiman, “Feeders and Eaters,” 2002

Jeff VanderMeer, “The Cage,” 2002

Jeffrey Ford, “The Beautiful Gelreesh,” 2003

Thomas Ligotti, “The Town Manager,” 2003

Brian Evenson, “The Brotherhood of Mutilation,” 2003

Mark Samuels, “The White Hands,” 2003

Daniel Abraham, “Flat Diana,” 2004

Margo Lanagan, “Singing My Sister Down,” 2005 (Australia)

T.M. Wright, “The People on the Island,” 2005

Laird Barron, “The Forest,” 2007

Liz Williams, “The Hide,” 2007

Reza Negarestani, “The Dust Enforcer,” 2008 (Iran)

Micaela Morrissette, “The Familiars,” 2009

Steve Duffy, “In the Lion’s Den,” 2009

Stephen Graham Jones, “Little Lambs,” 2009

K.J. Bishop, “Saving the Gleeful Horse,” 2010 (Australia)


Pan gets a face

Went to the studio twice this week. Wax on, wax off — the figure was looking too bulky, so I did some scraping; then he looked too thin. His legs are now pretty much as they were, but the torso is a little leaner. I also bit the bullet and lifted the right leg up to show the tilt of the pelvis, which means armature is now exposed. That will be cast in the hard wax and I’ll have to remove it.

I made three heads. The one with the face I like best is too small (it started out the same size as the others but got whittled); although it looks an ok size in most of the shots here, that’s just the camera lying. Rather than try to increase that head’s size and keep its appearance I think I’ll use it as a reference to make a bigger one. I also might try to make a slightly older but still pretty face as another option.

I need to finish off the arms, hands and pipes. For the pipes I think I’ll try wax around toothpicks. I also need to think of how to support the hands/pipes. At the moment there’s heavy wire underneath, and leaving it there and cutting it off the hard wax might be as good a solution as any.