Thursday, October 17, 2019

Windy Day Terror Tale

The New York metro area has been in the grip of a nor'easter these past two days. Yesterday was marked by torrential rains, today is marked by gusty winds, approaching gale force. I had to send an email to my boss and our events team, detailing the wind damage that was inflicted onsite, namely downed branches and toppled tents. It's an appropriate day to write a post about August Derleth's The Thing that Walked on the Wind. Derleth has a spotty reputation among fans of 'weird tales', having been an early champion of the works of H.P. Lovecraft, albeit one who tried to maintain an iron grip on the 'old gent's' literary oeuvre to an unseemly degree. His 'Lovecraftian' fiction is often derided for a Manichean worldview at odds with Lovecraft's conception of an utterly uncaring universe. He also tried to hammer Lovecraft's ultramundane monster-gods into a silly 'classical elemental' model. One of his worst literary sins, though, was his addiction to pastiche- his 'Lovecraftian' tales often devolve into a catalogue of referents, with entire passages consisting of name-dropping of Lovecraft's evil entities.

The Thing that Walked on the Wind, originally published in the January 1933 issue of Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror (which also featured the better story Murgunstrumm by Hugh B. Cave), refers back to Algernon Blackwood's The Wendigo. Derleth's 'wind walker', patterned on Derleth's Wendigo, is a classical air elemental, worshiped by rural Canadians near the Arctic Circle. It's not a bad tale, an early Derleth effort before the man devolved into a pasticheur. Here's an audio recording of the tale:

On a day like this, a story about a malevolent airy being isn't doesn't seem all that far-fetched.

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