Friday, September 28, 2018

Japan Landing on Asteroid This Week Was Predicted Nearly 200 Years Ago by a Short Story

This week the world was astonished to learn that the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) landed two "hopping rovers" on an asteroid named Ryugu that is 186 million miles from earth. Watch the video above.

Perhaps even more astonishingly is that a science fiction short story published in 1835 told about landing on a comet, which essentially is an asteroid with ice particles. The British tale was titled "Glimpses of Other Worlds" and it told of a ride on a comet (after visiting the sun, of course) that was controlled by "a phial or two of concentrated essence of gravitation."

You can read the amazing short story in Mesaerion: The Best Science Fiction Stories 1800-1849. Enjoy!

#AsteroidStories #LandingonAsteroid #BestScienceFictionStories

Saturday, September 22, 2018

When Edgar Allan Poe Attended Church on Christmas Eve 1847

Edgar Allan Poe

Today we do not think of Edgar Allan Poe as the church-going type. There is a humorous account of Poe attending a service in New York City after taking the train 14 miles from his cottage in Fordham, New York. Poe even told how he thought he would make a good priest.

On Christmas Eve 1847, Marie Louise Shew (nurse to Edgar and Virginia prior to her death in January of that year) coaxed Poe into attending a midnight service conducted by Reverend William Augustus Muhlenberg at his protestant episcopal church. The church was located at the corner of Sixth and Twentieth Streets in New York City. Shew recounted the service and Poe’s nervousness while listening along with Shew’s unnamed “lady friend.” I believe the lady friend was Frances Osgood. 

Poe came: "to town to go to a midnight service with a Lady friend and myself. He went with us, followed the service like a ‘churchman,’ looking directly towards the chancel, and holding one side of my prayer book, sang the psalms with us, and to my astonishment struck up a tenor to our sopranos and, got along nicely during the first part of the sermon, which was on the subject of the sympathies of our Lord, to our wants. The passage being often repeated, ‘He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.’ He begged me to stay quiet that he would wait for me outside, and he rushed out, too excited to stay. I knew he would not leave us to return home alone, (altho’ my friend thought it doubtful), and so after the sermon as I began to feel anxious (as we were in a strange church) I looked back and saw his pale face, and as the congregation rose to sing the Hymn, ‘Jesus Saviour of my soul,’ he appeared at my side, and sang the Hymn, without looking at the book, in a fine clear tenor. He looked inspired! And no wonder. He imagined he would have made a successful orator, and priest — I did not dare to ask him why he left, but he mentioned after we got home, that the subject ‘was marvelously handled, and ought to have melted many hard hearts’ and ever after this he never passed Doctor Muhlenberg’s 20th St. Free Church without going in, if the doors were open. He considered Dr. M. a wonderful man, ‘with a large heart for his kind, superlatively so!’ as he proved to be, as we owe St. Luke’s Hospital, to his influence and many other charities!!!”

#EdgarAllanPoe #MariaShew "StLukesHospital

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Review of Best Ghost Short Stories 1800-1849 Edited by Andrew Barger

I recently came across this thoughtful review of The Best Ghost Short Stories 1800-1849 that I edited and thought my blog readers might find it of interest during this fall time of year. By ElizaJane:

Reason for Reading: I have a particular interest in the Gothic story and my favorite literature time period is the Victorian era, which admittedly doesn't start until 1837. But both the time frame of this book and the life works of the included authors does fall within my preferred historical reading period.

This is a fine collection of ghost stories. Andrew Barger has done an excellent job of combining the familiar with the obscure both in title and author selection. He has written an interesting, engaging introduction to the topic and his choices of stories. From this introduction the reader knows they have an editor who knows the literary time period and genre being presented. Preceding each story is an introduction by the editor with background information on the story and the author in relation to the particular story.

This is invaluable reading and is a joy for the reader to have this contemporary insight before proceeding with the story. I always appreciate an anthology that introduces each story. Following the collection of nine stories, is a long list of stories from which Andrew Barger read to select those he called "best" for this collection. This would make a great reading list for the enthusiast! I found most of the stories very good, with several excellent, only a couple merely good and just one less than satisfying. Mr. Barger has several other books which I look like they would make excellent reading. The stories included and my impressions:

1. Adventure of the German Student by Washington Irving - A depressed German student goes to "gay Paree" for his health, unfortunately it's just as the French Revolution gets underway. Sickened by the blood of the guillotine he becomes a recluse and dreams of a woman. One night as he takes a walk, the only time he'll ever leave his flat, he meets the woman of his dreams, and has an encounter that literally drives him insane. Good, even though I'm not a huge Irving fan. 3/5

2. The Old Maid in the Winding Sheet by Nathaniel Hawthorne - Two women who loved the same man who dies young make a pact to meet up again in the room of his deathbed, in the distant future. One to go on and make something of her life, the other to stay in the village, a recluse, following death. This was pretty creepy and I enjoyed it a lot. Hawthorne is hit and miss with me. I don't like his novels but his stories usually win me over, as did this. 4/5

3. A Night in a Haunted House by Anonymous - This was an ideal ghost story. A naysayer after hearing the story of a haunted house, from a parson no doubt, asks to spend the night in the abandoned house to prove there are no such things as ghosts, only overactive imaginations. Needless to say he has an eerie evening and becomes a believer. This is a long short story, clocking in at 30 pages and a very good read. Really two stories in one, first the parson's story and then the other man's story; I can imagine how it would have hit the sensibilities of the public at the time it was written (1848) being quite creepy and containing the classic qualities of both the ghost and Gothic story. For the modern reader it's not hard to guess the twist at the end fairly early into the second part of the story, but still it is an eerie, fun story and one I enjoyed a lot. A classic ghost story of this era (5/5)

4. The Story of the Spectral Ship by Wilhelm Hauff - A new-to-me author, here with a Flying Dutchman type of ghost ship story. The main characters are Muslim, making it rather unique for its time. A well-told eerie ghost tale. I'd love to read more of the author. (5/5)

5. The Tapestried Chamber by Sir Walter Scott - I wasn't looking forward to this story as Scott always brings to my mind his horrible historicals such as "Ivanhoe" and his wretched poetry. I didn't know he was a fan of this genre as well, so was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this classic tale of an upstanding military General spending the night in an haunted room. Tame by today's standard's but a disturbing story nevertheless. (5/5)

6. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving - Everyone knows this tale from one source or another. I've read it before and didn't like. It is long, Irving's writing is too old-fashioned for me and I just don't find the story scary or creepy. It's been about 8 years, so I gave it another go, but found it just as boring as I previously always do. (2/5)

7. The Mask of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe - I've read Poe many times. This is classic! Extremely creepy, the images the words create in your mind are just impossible to render in visual media. It is very debatable whether this is a ghost story, though. I've never thought of it as such. The character, to me, here is Death, or Disease manifested, not a ghost. Nevertheless a fine story! 5/5

8. A Chapter in the History of a Tyrone Family by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu - With one short story left to go I don't think it's too early to call this long short story the "piece de resistance" of this collection. A masterpiece of a story whose plot has been retold numerous times by now but as the original still manages to thrill and shock. The plot follows a theme used in Jane Eyre and yet pre-dates that classic by 8 years prompting the editor to include an afterword to this story alone that convincingly suggests Bronte "borrowed" from it. I'm not very familiar with Fanu's work but I would certainly like to explore him further! 5/5

9. The Deaf and Dumb Girl by Anonymous - This is another fin example of an eerie ghost story that tells the tale of a tragic used, spurned woman whose spirit waits for the return of her ruthless lover to exact revenge upon him. This is an obscure story the editor says has not been published since its original appearance in 1839. A chilling tale to end the volume with! 4/5

Buy Tonight - Best Ghost Short Stories 1800-1849

#BestGhostStories #BestGhostShortStories #BestGhostAnthology