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In my first post about Edgar Allan Poe in Fiction I covered a comic and graphic novel . Today, the topic is two short stories by masters in the genre.
In ‘The Exiles’ from Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man , the year is 2120 and Poe lives on Mars with Ambrose Bierce, Shakespeare, Dickens, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, Bram Stoker and all of their creations. Back on Earth, their works had been condemned as flights of fancy and were not to be tolerated. They were systematically destroyed by the rationalist governments of the world. Some copies were kept as mementos of a less enlightened time and it was the life in those books that kept the authors alive.
Now, men were coming to Mars–no doubt to destroy the planet just as they’d destroyed Earth–and Poe is having none of it. He rouses the others to invent the most terrifying creations to frighten the humans off. They’ve taken everything else, they shan’t have the final place they call home.
The descriptions are fantastic (in both senses of the word) and atmosphere is expertly rendered. The idea of gifted writers being able to create terrors out of thin air to do their bidding is a wonderful image and having multiple characters from famous authors participate (the witches from Macbeth, yes!) was brilliant. 10/10
A quote I particularly enjoyed: ‘Twenty nights I was stabbed, butchered, a screaming bat pinned to a surgical mat, a thing rotting underground in a black box; bad, wicked dreams. Our whole crew dreamed of witch-things and were-things, vampires and phantoms, things they couldn’t know anything about. Why? Because books on such ghastly subjects were destroyed a century ago. By law. Forbidden for anyone for own the grisly volumes.’ More quotes here .
‘Poe Posthumous’ the first story in Joyce Carol Oates’ Wild Nights: Stories about the last days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James and Hemingway, envisioned the final days Poe spent after escaping Baltimore to be a Lighthouse keeper and experience true solitude. I was expecting an attempt at filling in the blanks surrounding Poe’s actual death, which was quite mysterious , and, though it didn’t include the facts of the man’s death, Oates made his fictional death into something of which Lovecraft would have been proud. There were traces of Poe’s stories–the beloved pet that … doesn’t end well… madness, a journal, a startling revelation. 9/10
A quote: I am perfectly at ease with aloneness . As Pascal observed in the 139th Pensee: …all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.
This Diary shall record whether such a ‘truth’ is universal, or applies merely to the weak.
More quotes can be found under ‘ W ‘ for Wild Nights.
If you’re looking for something less horror and more historical fiction regarding Poe’s death, I highly recommend Matthew Pearl’s The Poe Shadow .