Werewolf Wednesday: “In the Forest of Villefére” by Robert E. Howard (1925)

WeirdTalesAug25“In the Forest of Villefére” was published in the August 1925 issue of Weird Tales. Its author, Robert E. Howard, was nineteen when he wrote both this story and its sequel “Wolfshead”, which was published in 1926. He would remark in a 1933 letter to H. P. Lovecraft that “it was two solid years before I sold another line of fiction”. His most famous creation, Conan, would come later; during this brief period of his young career, it was werewolves rather than Cimmerians that loomed large in Howard’s writing.

The story’s rapier-wielding protagonist – de Montour of Normandy – takes a twilight trip through a forest purportedly home to a werewolf. Here, he encounters a masked man; this stranger, who gives his name as Carlous le Loup, offers a peculiar explanation for his disguise:

“A mask!” I exclaimed. “Why do you wear a mask, m’sieu?”
“It is a vow,” he exclaimed. “In fleeing a pack of hounds I vowed that if I escaped I would wear a mask for a certain time.”
“Hounds, m’sieu?”
“Wolves,” he answered quickly; “I said wolves.”

The two men travel together, and de Montour grows increasingly perplexed with his new companion. For one, he is unable to identify Carlous le Loup’s nationality: “he had a very strange accent, that was neither French nor Spanish nor English, not like any language I have ever heard.” The conversation between the two men soon turns to the local werewolf. “The old women say,” remarks Carlous, “that if a werewolf is slain while a wolf, then he is slain, but if he is slain as a man, then his half-soul will haunt his slayer forever.” At the same time, the masked man appears to be in a hurry, encouraging de Montour to move on “before the moon reaches her zenith.”

Continue reading “Werewolf Wednesday: “In the Forest of Villefére” by Robert E. Howard (1925)”

A Long Year’s Dreaming: January Progress Report

I’m still at work on my essay collection A Long Year’s Dreaming: Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror in 2020 and it’s steadily coming together. As noted before, my plan is to squeeze in as much work over the course of January and February before I’m distracted by my annual review cycle (hello, Splatterpunk Awards!) Right now I’m hoping to get the Last Emperox, Mulan and perhaps Tenent essays finished by the end of the month, then a few more essays come February. Then, hopefully, it’ll be plain sailing.

Here’s a list of the essays that are complete, in-progress or at least firmly decided upon:

  • Copter Crash: Isabel Fall and the Transgender SF Controversy
  • Coronaphobia: Horror Films in Lockdown
  • 2020 A.D.: Reviving the British Anthology Comic
  • MAGA 2020 and Beneath: The Strange World of Trumpist SF
  • Broken Futures: Iron Man 2020
  • Investing in the Gods: Jiang Ziya and the Fengshen Cinematic Universe
  • Out with the Old and into the Sun: The 2020 Hugo Awards
  • Dragons and Death Cults: The 2020 Dragon Awards
  • The Year we Had No Heroes, Except for This Lot: Superhero Films in 2020
  • Wit, Weirdness and Warped Ethics: Megan Giddings’ Lakewood
  • Cannibal Women, Laughing Lords and Ownvoices Iconoclasm
  • First Lady: Lilith as Icon of 2020
  • The Last Laugh: Animated Films Before the Pandemic
  • Prophets of Doom: Did these Authors Predict COVID-19?
  • Red Brains: Zombies in 2020
  • Blue Veins: Vampires in 2020
  • For Better or Worse, the Film of the Year: Tenet
  • Huns, Rouran and Uyghurs: Mulan goes to Xianjiang
  • Untitled Last Emperox Essay
  • From Smashing the klan to Killing Jimmy Olsen: The Superman Family in 2020
  • Bang in the Coffin: Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s Dracula
  • Ghosts of Christmas Present
  • Untitled Doctor Who Essay

Werewolf Wednesday: “The Werewolf” by Eugene Field (1896)


Originally published in the Ladies’ Home Journal, Eugene Field’s “The Werewolf” sets its story of lycanthropy in the Anglo-Saxon era (specifically, during “the reign of Egbert the Saxon”, although it is unclear which King Egbert is referred to). It opens by establishing a love triangle: Alfred is in love with Yseult, but Yseult is in love with Harold. Filled with envy, Alfred taunts Harold by mentioning the latter’s cursed ancestor, Siegfried:

Harold’s grandsire, Siegfried the Teuton, had been a man of cruel violence. The legend said that a curse rested upon him, and that at certain times he was possessed of an evil spirit that wreaked its fury on mankind. But Siegfried had been dead full many years, and there was naught to mind the world of him save the legend and a cunning-wrought spear which he had from Brunehilde, the witch. This spear was such a weapon that it never lost its brightness, nor had its point been blunted. It hung in Harold’s chamber, and it was the marvel among weapons of that time.

As it happens, while the curse of Siegfried’s bloodline has been “slumbering a century”, Harold is indeed afflicted with it. He keeps this a secret from Yseult, but his rival notices his habit of going off on his own, ostensibly to hunt. “‘Tis passing strange,” says Alfred, “that ever and anon this gallant lover should quit our company and betake himself whither none knoweth. In sooth ‘t will be well to have an eye on old Siegfried’s grandson.”

Continue reading “Werewolf Wednesday: “The Werewolf” by Eugene Field (1896)”

On Dryden’s Amboyna, Part 3


See also the first and second parts of this series.

With Towerson’s life having been spared — for now — his wedding to Ysabinda goes ahead. The celebrations include an epithalamium, a dance, and a song honouring Towerson’s heroics at sea (“Hark does it not thunder, no ’tis the guns’ roar/The neighbouring billows are turned into gore”). But the wedding is interrupted by the arrival of Captain Middleton and an unnamed English woman “all pale and weakly, and in tattered garments”. The minor character of Middleton was possibly based upon Captain John Middleton, who did indeed visit the island — but would have been dead years before the story’s events take place.

The woman details a harrowing tale: while at sea aboard an English ship, she and the rest of the passengers were invited on board a Dutch vessel; the treacherous Hollanders then proceeded to ply the guests with wine, steal their goods and throw them overboard. She narrowly escaped with her husband, who subsequently died of grief. Furthermore, she accuses the Dutch merchant Van Herring of being complicit in the crimes, thereby establishing that the play’s only Dutch character to show the faintest degree of moral nuance so far is as bad as the others after all.

Continue reading “On Dryden’s Amboyna, Part 3″

“Squeecore” and the Cartoon Mode in SF/F

The podcast RiteGud recently did an episode called “A Guide to Squeecore” that’s been causing quite a bit of buzz in SF/F circles. It touches on a number of topics and makes some good points about the uglier aspects of the contemporary genre establishment: behind the pride flags and celebrations of diversity, the authors wealthy enough to afford expensive writing workshops are the ones who make valuable connections while real outsiders remain on the outside. At the same time, a climate of complacency has led to such incidents as last month’s Hugo Awards being sponsored by Raytheon.

But the main focus of the podcast is the assertion that this cliquishness has led to a single aesthetic dominating modern SF/F, which the speakers Raquel S. Benedict and J.R. Bolt dub “squeecore”. They decide against naming any specific works that fit this aesthetic until some brief comments at the very end, however, which muddies their efforts to define squeecore.

I have nothing substantial to add to the podcast’s observations about backroom politics, so this post will concentrate on the question of the squeecore aesthetic. I’d also like to stress that none of the observations in this post should necessarily be taken as criticisms or objections: while the podcast is heavily critical of squeecore (even the chosen label is derisory) if the aesthetic exists, there’s room for it to be discussed in neutral terms.

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The House of Eddas: Loki’s Cousin (and Magneto) in Journey into Mystery #109

Well, it’s been a while, but my off-and-on series about Norse mythology in Marvel’s Thor comics is back. Once again, though, I’ve arrived at an issue that really doesn’t have much to do with Norse mythology — even in the Asgardian back-up story. Oh well.

The main story of Journey Into Myhstery #109 is an X-Men crossover entitled “When Magneto Strikes!”, which should tell you all you need to know about how it compares to anything written by Snorri Sturluson.

The story’s opening scene reminds us that Thor is part-and-parcel of the Marvel Universe by having him view an exhibit at the World’s Fair, where a statue in his honour stands alongside similar monuments to various other Marvel heroes (including an amusing long-armed Mr. Fantastic statue).

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OUT NOW: L is for Lycans, Featuring My Story “Harzie Pulls the Trigger”

Doris V. Sutherland LycanPromo

I’m proud to announce that L is for Lycans, the latest book in Red Cape Publishing’s A-Z of Horror series, is out today — and my werewolf sex-worker story “Harzie Pulls the Trigger” is amongst the thirteen tales inside. I’d like to take the time to thank Emily Lauer, Kelly Jennings and Contrarius, each of whom provided invaluable beta-reading feedback.

Buy your copy of L is for Lycans today, and perhaps also check out some of the other anthologies in the series — including I is for Internet, which features another of my stories.

Werewolf Wednesday: Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf by George W. M. Reynolds (1846-7) Part 28, the Grand Finale

Part 1 • Part 2 • Part 3 • Part 4 • Part 5  • Part 6 • Part 7 • Part 8 • Part 9 • Part 10 • Part 11 • Part 12 • Part 13 • Part 14 • Part 15 • Part 16 • Part 17 • Part 18 • Part 19 • Part 20 • Part 21 • Part 22 • Part 23 • Part 24 • Part 25 • Part 26 • Part 27

And here we go: the final chapter of Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf. While the events of the previous chapter were occurring, Grand Vizier Ibrahim has been meeting with the aristocracy of Florence to conduct diplomatic business. To the dismay of the Florentines, Ibrahim demands a hundred thousand pistoles by sunset, or else his troops will destroy the city. He also orders that the Inquisition’s prisoners to be freed, two of the novel’s minor characters — Manuel d’Orsini and Isaachar ben Solomon – are duly led into the room in chains.

Manuel’s experiences turn out to have soured him towards Christianity, so much so that he offers to become a slave to Ibrahim, “a Mussulman who can teach the Christians such a fine lesson of mercy and forgiveness.” Ibrahim declines to enslave Manuel, but concedes to allow both Manuel and Isaachar to become his travelling companions back to Constantinople. Finally, the grand Inquisitor is fined, and the 100,000 pistoles required for Ibrahim’s ransom are obtained.

Back in the palace, Francisco and his new wife Flora look down at the bodies of Wagner and the recently-departed Nisida. They are reassured by none other than Christian Rosencrux, who tells him that the two souls have gone to a better place. The deceased receive funerals, and the forbidden chamber is walled up.

The final stretch of the novel wraps up the characters’ fates. Isachaar passes away as a result of the torture he endured; Ibrahim heads back to Constantinople accompanied by Manuel, who renounces Christianity and joins the Ottoman army under the name of Mustapha Pasha; years later, Ibrahim is finally killed by Demetrius and the four black slaves to avenge Calanthe; Francisco and Flora, meanwhile, each live to a ripe old age before dying in the arms of their children.

So concludes Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf. And I have to admit that, even though it shows many signs of having been made up on the fly, this is a more coherent piece of work than its fellow penny dreadful Varney the Vampire. However, anybody expecting a novel that does for werewolves what Varney did for vampires may well be disappointed, as there is very little lycanthropy in Wagner. The werewolf is but an occasional motif in what is ultimately a riff on the Faust narrative that periodically gets distracted and goes to Constantinople.

On Dryden’s Amboyna, Part 2


See the first part of this series here.

Amongst the real-life figures included in Dryden’s Amboyna: A Tragedy are the English captain Gabriel Towerson and the Dutch governor Herman (or Harman) van Speult. Dryden gives each of these men a fictional family member: Towerson is now engaged to a native woman named Ysabinda, while van Speult has a son, Harman Junior. These two made-up characters are central to the events which, in Dryden’s telling, culminate in the Amboyna massacre of 1623.

Harman Junior, who is purportedly friends with Towerson, has become attracted to Ysabinda. He tries to court her, stressing that he has more money than Towerson, but she shows no interest. He then pleads with Towerson, offering various benefits in exchange for Ysabinda: “I’ll make my father yours, your factories shall be no more oppressed, but thrive in all advantages with ours; your gain shall be beyond what you could hope for from the treaty”. Towerson, however, dismisses this call to “make merchandise of love”.

Harman Junior decides that he has just one course of action left: killing Towerson. While pursuing the Englishman he bumps into the Dutch Fiscal. “I would, like you, have Towerson dispatched; for as I am a true Dutchman, I do hate him” says the Fiscal, although he tries to encourage the impetuous young man along a more subtle path.

Continue reading “On Dryden’s Amboyna, Part 2″