“A Guest” by Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Bierce’s Birthday:
Bierce regards Death with fine, sarcastic, suppurating contempt.
-The Voice before the Void

“A Guest”

Ambrose Bierce

Death, are you well? I trust you have no cough
That’s painful or in any way annoying—
No kidney trouble that may carry you off,
Or heart disease to keep you from enjoying
Your meals—and ours. ‘T were very sad indeed
To have to quit the busy life you lead. Continue reading

“The Man Who Went Too Far” by E.F. Benson

Summer Vacation:
A monster story and a philosophical story about summertime, communion with the natural world, spiritual youth, the inescapable horror of death, and the inescapable horror of life.
-The Voice before the Void

“The Man Who Went Too Far”

E.F. Benson

The little village of St. Faith’s nestles in a hollow of wooded till up on the north bank of the river Fawn in the country of Hampshire, huddling close round its grey Norman church as if for spiritual protection against the fays and fairies, the trolls and “little people,” who might be supposed still to linger in the vast empty spaces of the New Forest, and to come after dusk and do their doubtful businesses. Once outside the hamlet you may walk in any direction (so long as you avoid the high road which leads to Brockenhurst) for the length of a summer afternoon without seeing sign of human habitation, or possibly even catching sight of another human being. Continue reading

“Robert Fuller Murray” from Wikipedia

Thirty years old.
-The Voice before the Void

“Robert Fuller Murray”

Wikipedia

Robert Fuller Murray (1863–1894), was a Victorian poet. Although born in the United States, Murray lived most of his life in the United Kingdom, most notably in St Andrews, Scotland. He wrote two books of poetry and was published occasionally in periodicals.

Murray was born 26 December 1863 in Roxbury, Massachusetts, son of Emmeline and John Murray, the latter a Scotsman and a Unitarian minister. In 1869 his father took him to Kelso and from that point on, except for a brief visit to Egypt, he stayed in the U.K. He attended grammar school in Ilminster and Crewkerne and in 1881 he entered the University of St Andrews. In 1886 his father died. He worked for a while assisting John M.D. Meiklejohn, Professor of the Theory, History, and Practice of Education at the University of St Andrews, and contributed some poems to the school newspaper. In 1889 he left St Andrews and worked in Edinburgh at low-level journalism, including a period of employment at the Scottish Leader. He began to have frequent bouts of colds. In 1890 he returned to St Andrews, where he contributed occasionally to Longman’s Magazine. At this point it became clear he had the beginnings of “consumption” (likely tuberculosis). In 1891 he went to Egypt, but his stay was short as he disliked it. He again returned to St Andrews, and his first book, The Scarlet Gown, was published. His second book, Robert F. Murray: His Poems with a Memoir, was published in 1894 after his death. The volume includes a lengthy biographical introduction by Andrew Lang. In attempting to place Murray in the context of his contemporaries, Lang wrote:

…the Victorian age produced Scottish practitioners of the art of light verse who are not remembered as they deserve to be. Lord Neaves, perhaps, is no more than a ready and rollicking versifier, but George Outram is an accomplished wit, and Robert Fuller Murray a disciple of Calverley who might well have rivalled his master had death not taken him while still in his pupilage.

“Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler incident” from Wikipedia

Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler Incident Anniversary:
War is a crime and war stories are horrific, but any story of mercy is a great story; any story that humanizes an enemy is a great story; and any story of friendship is a great story. This story is triply great.
-The Voice before the Void

“Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler incident”

Wikipedia

The Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler incident occurred on the 20th of December, 1943, when, after a successful bomb run on Bremen, 2nd Lt. Charles “Charlie” Brown’s B-17 Flying Fortress (named “Ye Olde Pub”) was severely damaged by German fighters. Luftwaffe ace Franz Stigler had the opportunity to shoot down the crippled bomber, but for humane reasons, he decided to allow the crew to fly back to England. After an extensive search by Brown, the two pilots met each other over 40 years later and developed a friendship that lasted until Stigler’s death in March 2008.

1. Pilots

2nd Lt. Charles L. “Charlie” Brown (“a farm boy from Weston, West Virginia,” in his own words) was a B-17F pilot with the 379th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces’ 8th Air Force, stationed at RAF Kimbolton in England. Franz Stigler, a former airline pilot from Bavaria, was a veteran Luftwaffe fighter pilot attached to Jagdgeschwader 27; at the time, he had 22 aerial victories to his name and would be eligible for the coveted Knight’s Cross with one more downed enemy bomber. Continue reading

“Body Ritual among the Nacirema” by Horace Mitchell Miner

Worth listening twice.
-The Voice before the Void

“Body Ritual among the Nacirema”

Horace Mitchell Miner

Most cultures exhibit a particular configuration or style. A single value or pattern of perceiving the world often leaves its stamp on several institutions in the society. Examples are “machismo” in Spanish-influenced cultures, “face” in Japanese culture, and “pollution by females” in some highland New Guinea cultures. Here Horace Miner demonstrates that “attitudes about the body” have a pervasive influence on many institutions in Nacirema society.

The anthropologist has become so familiar with the diversity of ways in which different people behave in similar situations that he is not apt to be surprised by even the most exotic customs. In fact, if all of the logically possible combinations of behavior have not been found somewhere in the world, he is apt to suspect that they must be present in some yet undescribed tribe. The point has, in fact, been expressed with respect to clan organization by Murdock. In this light, the magical beliefs and practices of the Nacirema present such unusual aspects that it seems desirable to describe them as an example of the extremes to which human behavior can go. Continue reading

“Ronald Skirth” from Wikipedia

Armistice Day:
The only type of war hero worthy of veneration.
-The Voice before the Void

“Ronald Skirth”

Wikipedia

John Ronald Skirth (11 December 1897 – 1977) served in the Royal Garrison Artillery during the First World War. His experiences during the Battle of Messines and the Battle of Passchendaele led him to resolve not to take human life, and for the rest of his army service he made deliberate errors in targeting calculations to try to ensure the guns of his battery missed their aiming point on the first attempt, giving the enemy a chance to evacuate. Many years later, after retiring from a career as a teacher, he wrote a memoir of his years in the army, describing his disillusionment with the conduct of the war and his conversion to pacifism. In 2010 the memoir was published as The Reluctant Tommy, edited by Duncan Barrett.

1. Early life and war service

Skirth was born in Chelmsford and grew up in Bexhill-on-Sea. In the First World War, having volunteered for the British Army under the Derby Scheme, and having requested that the process be expedited, he was called up in October 1916, two months before his 19th birthday. Continue reading

First chapter of A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

World War I:
A work unto itself, the first chapter of A Farewell to Arms is a great war story.
Like other works of devastating power, it can serve as a denunciation of the societal institution of war.
Like other of Hemingway’s works, it is constructed with a punchline.
The immensity of war’s tragedy arrives with the realization that the incident referenced is but one of many incidents, of many wars.
-The Voice before the Void

First chapter of A Farewell to Arms

Ernest Hemingway

Fair use of the text is claimed under U.S. copyright law for the purposes of education and commentary.

“Sex and sexuality in speculative fiction” from Wikipedia

Some of the most challenging of ideas.
-The Voice before the Void

“Sex and sexuality in speculative fiction”

Wikipedia

The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject.

Sexual themes are frequently used in science fiction or related genres. Such elements may include depictions of realistic sexual interactions in a science fictional setting, a protagonist with an alternative sexuality, or exploration of the varieties of sexual experience that deviate from the conventional.

1872 illustration by David Henry Friston in lesbian vampire story Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu 0Science fiction and fantasy have sometimes been more constrained than non-genre narrative forms in their depictions of sexuality and gender. However, speculative fiction also offers the freedom to imagine societies different from real-life cultures, making it an incisive tool to examine sexual bias and forcing the reader to reconsider his or her cultural assumptions. Continue reading

“Paratrooper” by Sean Barnett

U.S. Memorial Day Special:
The best of contemporary war poetry.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Paratrooper”

Sean Barnett

Deteriorating cartilage,
torn meniscus,
bruising of the femur.

Arthritic diagnosis,
disabling infusion
of shrapnel, peppered
by an explosion.

Then, my parachute’s
canopy partially inverted,
slamming me to
the weakened joint.

Early morning clicks,
occasional popping midday,
and an aching in the evening
only endured by way of
abusive substance.

And that’s the good knee.

Plastic Bottles at Midnight in Mongolia by Meredith Potts

Meredith Potts is the executive director of the non-profit NGO FIRE, the Flagstaff International Relief Effort, based in Flagstaff, Arizona and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Since 1997, FIRE has been administering aid programs in Mongolia, with a current focus on viral hepatitis and liver cancer, which are epidemic in Mongolia. As of May of 2015, FIRE has also begun a relief project for the survivors of the village of Langtang in Nepal; the village was almost completely destroyed by a landslide triggered by the earthquake of April 25.
Learn more and help support FIRE at: fireprojects.org. FIRE is a non-profit organization; all contributions are tax-deductible.
⁓The Voice before the Void

Plastic Bottles at Midnight in Mongolia

Meredith Potts

Dusk did not even begin until 9:45 PM on this May night in Mongolia’s capital city. Still feeling energized, I took the long way home from a friend’s house at 12 midnight through Chinggis Square. It has been more than four years since I was last in Mongolia. As I casually strolled, absorbing the dramatic changes in Ulaanbaatar, from the skyline to the abundant and overly friendly taxi drivers concerned for my safety at that late hour Continue reading

“Of Withered Apples” by Philip K. Dick

Walpurgis Night Special:
From autumn into spring, perfect weirdness from the regent of reality-challenging stories, Philip K. Dick.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Of Withered Apples”

Philip K. Dick

Something was tapping on the window. Blowing up against the pane, again and again. Carried by the wind. Tapping faintly, insistently.

Lori, sitting on the couch, pretended not to hear. She gripped her book tightly and turned a page. The tapping came again, louder and more imperative. It could not be ignored.

“Darn!” Lori said, throwing her book down on the coffee table and hurrying to the window. She grasped the heavy brass handles and lifted.

For a moment the window resisted. Then, with a protesting groan, it reluctantly rose. Cold autumn air, rushed into the room. The bit of leaf ceased tapping and swirled against the woman’s throat, dancing to the floor.

Lori picked the leaf up. It was old and brown. Her heart skipped a beat as she slipped the leaf into the pocket of her jeans. Against her loins the leaf cut and tingled, a little hard point piercing her smooth skin and sending exciting shudders up and down her spine. She stood at the open window a moment, sniffing the air. The air was full of the presence of trees and rocks, of great boulders and remote places. It was time—time to go again. She touched the leaf. She was wanted. Continue reading

“Masters and Johnson” from Wikipedia

Science boldly marching.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Masters and Johnson”

Wikipedia

The Masters and Johnson research team, composed of William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson, pioneered research into the nature of human sexual response and the diagnosis and treatment of sexual disorders and dysfunctions from 1957 until the 1990s.

The work of Masters and Johnson began in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis and was continued at the independent not-for-profit research institution they founded in St. Louis in 1964, originally called the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation and renamed the Masters and Johnson Institute in 1978.

In the initial phase of Masters and Johnson’s studies, from 1957 until 1965, they recorded some of the first laboratory data on the anatomy and physiology of human sexual response based on direct observation of 382 women and 312 men in what they conservatively estimated to be “10,000 complete cycles of sexual response.” Continue reading

“SCP-427” from The SCP Foundation

Weird fun fiction.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“SCP-427”

The SCP Foundation

Item #: SCP-427

Object Class: Safe (Note: See containment procedures.)

Special Containment Procedures: SCP-427 displays no means of self-locomotion or malicious intent at this time, and requires only minimal containment. Due to SCP-427’s adverse effects, only medical staff of Class 3 or above may handle or utilize it.

All personnel using SCP-427 must record their total time using it in order to avoid unwanted mutations. Continue reading

“The Compassionate Physician” by Ambrose Bierce

Parable by Bierce.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Compassionate Physician”

Ambrose Bierce

A Kind-Hearted Physician sitting at the bedside of a patient afflicted with an incurable and painful disease, heard a noise behind him, and turning saw a cat laughing at the feeble efforts of a wounded mouse to drag itself out of the room.

“You cruel beast!” cried he. “Why don’t you kill it at once, like a lady?”

Rising, he kicked the cat out of the door, and picking up the mouse compassionately put it out of its misery by pulling off its head. Continue reading

“Very Unhealthy” by Sean Barnett

War, still not gone.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Very Unhealthy”

Sean Barnett

I double, then triple
painkiller prescription.
Under my blankets
I float
a foot above my bed
my mind moves
out of the desert
and onto beaches with friends.

The sound of gunfire
The smell of blood
The shrapnel in my knee, Continue reading

“Sandbar Fight” from Wikipedia

Sandbar Fight Anniversary Special:
Acting in violence is abhorrent behavior but, unfortunately, by no means aberrant behavior. / The spectacle of violence is compelling yet repulsive, for armed conflict is inherently dramatic but destructive. / Men who engage in mortal combat with each other share a camaraderie that cannot be comprehended by those who have not gambled their lives in brutal games of skill and chance. / However they may be judged, Jim Bowie’s actions in his Sandbar Fight are unquestionably memorable.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Sandbar Fight”

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Sandbar Fight, a.k.a. the Vidalia Sandbar Fight, was an 1827 brawl featuring Jim Bowie. The brawl occurred at the conclusion of a duel, and resulted in Bowie being seriously injured; nonetheless, Bowie was the victor.Bowie knife Continue reading

“What a Girl Saw on the Third Day of the Battle of Gettysburg” by Tillie Pierce Alleman

Battle of Gettysburg Anniversary Special:
Tillie was a young girl in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, when war came.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“What a Girl Saw on the Third Day of the Battle of Gettysburg”

from At Gettysburg, or What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle: A True Narrative

Tillie Pierce Alleman

The sun was high in the heavens when I awoke the next day.

The first thought that came into my mind, was my promise of the night before.

I hastened down to the little basement room, and as I entered, the soldier lay there – dead. Continue reading

“A Legend of Old Egypt” by Boleslaw Prus

The hopes of man versus the edicts of eternity: one of the great, great short stories.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“A Legend of Old Egypt”

Bolesław Prus

translated from the Polish by Christopher Kasparek

Behold, how vain are human hopes before the order of the world; behold, how vain they are before the decrees that have been written in fiery signs upon the heavens by the Eternal!…

Hundred-year-old Ramses, mighty ruler of Egypt, was breathing his last. The chest of the potentate before whose voice millions had quaked half a century, had been invested by a stifling incubus, and it drank the blood from his heart, the strength from his arm, and at times even the consciousness from his brain. The great pharaoh lay like a fallen cedar upon the skin of an Indian tiger, having covered his legs with the triumphal cloak of an Ethiopian king. And stern even with himself, he summoned the wisest physician from the Temple of Karnak and said:

“I know that you have powerful medicines that either kill or cure at once. Prepare me one proper to my illness, and let this end once and for all… one way or the other.” Continue reading