An automaton ghost and the Reality Gun

During a recent brief hospital confinement, I randomly selected to read two steampunk short stories from my copy of Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant.

The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor by Delia Sherman shares the legend of Mistress Angharad Cwmlech, daughter of Sir Owen Cwmlech who went into battle and secured her in Cwmlech Manor.

steampunk

The Manor House At Jas De Bouffan by Paul Cezanne (1870). Romanticism style, watercolor landscape on paper. Impressionist period. Retrieved from https://www.wikiart.org/en/paul-cezanne/the-manor-house-at-jas-de-bouffan-1870 on January 5, 2017.

The tale is told from the perspective of Tacy Gof, filial daughter of a smith and a former kitchen maid of the said manor. She grew up with a passionate admiration for Mistress Angharad Cwmlech who hid well her family treasure and confronted a large group of enemy soldiers with a sword.

The night the Roundheads broke into the manor, they found her on the stairs, clad in her nightdress, armed with her grandfather’s sword. They slew her where she stood, but not a gold coin did they find or a silver spoon, though they turned the house upside down with looking. (Source: The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor by Delia Sherman)

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Four lucky men, some unlucky ones and a witch

I had an enjoyable experience reading some Visayan folktales that Berton L. Maxfield and W. H. Millington compiled for The Journal of American Folklore in 1906. These tales, published by the American Folklore Society, are meant to introduce Americans to the “few of the tales related by Visayan parents to their children, or by the public story-teller in the market, as the people gather to the material for the evening meal”.

There are seven tales in the first of its series but I will talk only of the first six. The last one, Juan Pusong, a more popular story and longer, will be reserved for another post with much discussion.

Visayan folktales

At The Well (1901). Art Nouveau (Modern) Poster by Ivan Bilibin. Retrieved from https://www.wikiart.org/en/ivan-bilibin/at-the-well-1901 on December 29, 2016.

The other stories are new to me even when I’m a Visayan. I live in the Central Visayas of the Philippines. The compilers were stationed separately in Iloilo and Mandurriao (both in Western Visayas), a long trip by ship from where I am. Still, I find these tales highly interesting for they share similar themes with those of the Cebuano folktales and with some of those I’ve read from outside the country.

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Reading 52 short stories in 2017

EDITED – Why do I read short stories? When you can explain to me how a great short story writer manages to tell a complete tale by a few paragraphs, each meaningful and bewitching, I will pull you aside and tell you not the reason but the reading experiences, each unfeigned and memorable, which draw the entire picture of my reason.

I am a relatively new short story reader, having only patronized the fruits of this challenging craft less than five years ago. While I cannot remember the first short story I read or the first that left a distinct impression on my senses, I know that one short story just led to another, from one writer in America to a writer in India, from gothic genre to social development issues.

Then my feet would drag me to book sales and my heart would easily flutter at the sight of a short story collection whose writer I haven’t even heard or read about until that time. The books naturally start to pile up.

short stories

Reading A Story. Realism Painting by James Tissot (1878-1879). Retrieved from https://www.wikiart.org/en/james-tissot/reading-a-story on December 25, 2016.

Short stories are, to me, addictive, taunting me to read a few provocative lines until I would realize I have read the entire composition. They lend a glimpse into events that could have unfurled around the writer at the time of writing the story and offer me the chance to see and understand them through the writer’s lens.

Briefly yet satisfactorily, these good short stories would introduce me to various teasing scenes: the kaleidoscope of a curiosity shop; a corpse’s advanced stage of putrescence; long hair as black as coal, cared for like one would for a child; and the chattering neighbor’s attention and concern that is often, or perhaps rightly,  dismissed as gossip.

The appetite for discovering new scenes from worlds beyond my boundaries, as depicted in the short stories written with tremendous skill, encourages me, after careful thought, to join Deal Me In 2017: Short Story Reading Challenge created and hosted by Jay of Bibliophilopolis. It is the sort of challenge that reinforces my reading habits and nurtures my love of short stories.

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New year, new book wish list

I can dream. There are no limitations to mental frills, I know. It is for this weak and common reason that I conjure a list of books I dream to search, acquire and read starting at the first crack of the new year. These books provide focus and direction for my reading experience toward satisfying the restive reader in me. These books, though, when acquired, will add to the troublesome search for additional space upon which their covers will rest, emancipated from dust, heat and pest.

Despite all, writing this wish list is in itself satisfying. I may not be able to acquire all of them in print, my preference, within a year, but these are dreams and the very nature of dreams is enough to tickle to indescribable joy this easily tempted bookish heart.

2017 book wish listh

“Landscape With Tree”. Realism Painting by Gustave Courbet (1868). Retrieved from https://www.wikiart.org/en/gustave-courbet/landscape-with-tree on December 24, 2016.

The primary direction is gothic fiction, myself being a fan of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It was not my intention to overlook other possible long stories that share similar characteristics with the godforsaken macabre landscape of Thornfield Hall.

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Quite a long hair in exchange for a Christmas gift, and a star named Billy Jackson

The following is a repost, but edited and improved, of an old piece of musing I wrote for my previous and now defunct blog:

I’ve read the biography of O. Henry and I knew I just have to read his works.

Henry, William Sydney Porter in real life, is a simple American who bore a lot of heartaches. He was born in North Carolina in 1862. He stopped his formal education at 15 but he pursued his love of reading and writing. How (figuratively) rich he was, for the world had turned into his school. He went through a lot of odd jobs—working in a drugstore, in a ranch, in a general land office, and in a bank.

As a teller, O. Henry began to show signs of poor money management. His accounts showed irregularities, but it was only later, after his wife of 10 years with whom he has two children died of tuberculosis, that he was prosecuted and convicted. He spent more than three years in prison where, with enough time on his hands, his short stories (and his pen name) were born. He purposely made O. Henry, after Orrin Henry the prison guard, as his nickname as a way to keep his identity a secret. He wanted it that way.

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