Category Archives: Books

On Fairy-Stories

“On Fairy-Stories” is an essay by J. R. R. Tolkien which discusses the fairy-story as a literary form. It was initially written (and entitled simply “Fairy Stories”) for presentation by Tolkien as the Andrew Lang lecture at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, on 8 March 1939.

Tis a bit weird that I somehow happened to be reading about this 80 years to the day that it happened, and only a stone’s throw away.

Pax Pamir: The Great Game?

Thanks to The Men Who Would Be Kings I’ve developed an insatiable fascination for the North-West Frontier. Recently I’ve been compulsively reading Khyber by Charles Miller and have been thoroughly captivated by the farce, tragedy and international intrigue of the Great Game. Khyber’s sub-title in the front pages of the book is “The Story of an Imperial Migraine”… says it all really! I got my copy of Khyber for £2.78 and I would happily have paid ten times that for the riveting read. If you’re looking for an entertaining traverse through the NWF then do pick it up.

Anyhoo as luck would have it, I stumbled across Pax Pamir on Kickstarter. It’s a boardgame I’d never heard of before, but it looks like it captures the spirit of the shenanigans of the Great Game in Afghanistan. If this sounds like your bag, you can find out more about it here:

Arthur Machen

“Arthur Machen’s stories of the supernatural twitched the veil between our own world and an underworld populated by gods, demons and malevolent ‘little people’. His themes were visions, dreams and madness and his novel The Hill of Dreams was described on publication as “the most decadent book in the English language”. Machen was also responsible for one of the great myths of the First World War – the story of the ‘Angels of Mons’- and he has inspired generations of horror writers and film-makers, from Stephen King to Guillermo del Toro.”

“Machen spent a solitary childhood roaming the hills and woodlands of his native Monmouthshire. He became fascinated by the history and folklore of the border landscapes and the idea that this was a ‘thin place’ which touched supernatural borders too. As a writer he returned to this area again and again in stories which revealed abduction, possession and routes into dark underworlds. By contrast, his other favourite place was London and he was probably the first horror writer to set terrifying events in everyday, suburban settings.”

“Writer Horatio Clare grew up in the same Welsh landscapes which so haunted and inspired Machen. On the 150th anniversary of his literary predecessor’s birth, Horatio Clare hunts for Machen and his supernatural familiars in a North London necropolis, a fairy-haunted wood and a nightjar-haunted hill. And he meets an artist whose work was already full of malevolent Machen-esque faeries long before she discovered that Arthur Machen was actually her great-grandfather.”