Eccentric Discredited Diseases, Thirteen Hallows, and Mabel Bunt’s Mouth

I’ve spent the last week or three studying questionable diseases, watching a maniac decorate other people’s houses with the dwellers’ innards, and smirking with a generously breasted wench with a whip for a mouth. Aren’t books just the best things in the world?

The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases, edited by Jeff VanderMeer and Mark Roberts is a hoot. The “Enthusiastic Introduction by the Editors” is funny, the “Reluctant Introduction by Dr. Lambshead” is hysterical, and the details about the diseases have made me laugh until my gut hurt. One of my favorite illnesses is the Third Eye Infection, a malady that produces “trance-like states… [that] resulted in the publication of many philosophy Master Theses in the mid-1970s. Numerous artworks were attributed to it, as well as the creation of… Meta-Infectional Fiction, literature intended to spread itself as an infectious mental illness.” And to my never-ending delight, the Neil Gaiman story is signed by the author… a fact that makes me all giggly and stuff, since I paid less than a dollar for the collection. Go me!

The Thirteen Hallows, by Michael Scott and Colette Freedman, narrated by Kate Reading (one of my favorite readers) has been a glorious surprise. I started reading it under the impression that it would be some lighthearted young adult dark urban fantasy—I was introduced to Scott’s writing, via The Alchemyst, a young adult novel. Well, what I’ve read of this tale about old magic running wild in a modern city is very grown up… and bloody. The mythology weaved within the tale is quite magnificent. And the imagery is startling at times. This bit stuck: “…the dots of her unconcealed freckles were connected with dried blood. Her eyes were deep in her head, black smudges edged beneath them…”

Mabel Bunt and the Mask of M’selle Moppet, written by our own R. Collins and B. R. Marsten is a dance between sharp swords and Mabel’s witty bantering. I’ve been laughing (and nodding) at so many of the things that come out of Mabel Bunt’s mouth. The woman tells it like it is, and the telling is hilarious. Like when she tells her co-protagonist, “If [he] kills me, bury me arse up so people know where they can kiss.” I mean, who doesn’t appreciate that sage sentiment?

And that’s what I’m reading right now. I’ve also finished a handful of books these last few weeks, of which I highly recommend Sparrow Hill Road, by Seanan McGuire. If you like ghost stories and old urban legends made deliciously new, then you might enjoy this one. What about you, my Luvs, what tales have you been delighting in these days?

The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases
from “Diseasemaker’s Group”, by Neil Gaiman

A Bit Twisted, but Smiling

All dead children go to haunting heaven. The luckiest go to Gashlycrumb Tinies Manor first… for therapy. Heaven can be a terrible place to endure without proper therapy.

Amy’s death did not diminish her loathing of stairs. Or of teeth, she really despised teeth. They made her think of uncannily shaped steps that had to be flossed and brushed and kept away from sweets. She waited in soothing darkness, about to start a session on stairs desensitization therapy with Mr. Slim, the Gashlycrumb Manor nanny. They had spent decades trying to exorcise Amy’s death night out of her memory. It wasn’t working.

“Every time I walk down the stairs my neck snaps, Mr. Slim. Then I’m forced to spend all night and most of the morning driving the kinks out of my cervical spine.” Amy wasn’t afraid of the actual breaking. But the constant need for stretching and the neck cracking that followed were horrid things to bring to the breakfast table. Her housemates never mentioned it—death fosters civility—but she saw mild disgust in the glare of their eyes. In those with eyeballs to glare with.

“Oh, Amy,” Mr. Slim said, with an unintended grin. Not grinning wasn’t an option for someone whose face was a bleached skull. “Everyone haunting The Manor agreed to face his or her fears.”

She stared at him, wondering if he could sniff the hypocrisy in the air. She never asked, no one ever had, but Amy still wanted to know why Mr. Slim walked around with a parasol. If he had mastered his mortal dread of sunburn and defenestration, the parasol would be gone.

“Focus on what you’ll be able to gain, Amy. Few things are as nourishing or as exhilarating for us as the trepidation of a living soul walking down the creaky stairs of our grand old house.”

Taking a deep breath she didn’t need, Amy faced the stairs. Going up was no trouble. She simply floated between the oak banisters, her slippered toes hovering a few feet above the steps. After reaching the top, she turned around towards the first-floor landing. The wretched steps dared her to walk on them. She faltered, but not for very long.

Amy closed her eyes and visualized future hauntings—her icy hands clutching your shaky ankles, her blueish lips whispering chills into the back of your neck, the fog of her spectral breath snuffing out your candlelight, her childish glee giggling nightmares into your dark.

Like it always happened, Amy’s left slipper got caught on a nail. She tumbled down the stairs, the top of her head hit the landing with a wet crack, her neck snapped. Death is repetitious. Amy stood up a bit twisted, but smiling. On the next haunting, the stairs and your fear will be all hers.


A Bit Twisted, but Smiling (Tales of the Gashlycrumb Tinies, 1)from The Gashlycrumb Tinies, by Edward Gorey