Counter Esperanto Podcast Presents: An Attempted Conversation About Robert Aickman Episode 1

Greetings listeners!

We are pleased to bring you the first episode in a series about one of our favorite writers, Robert Aickman. As longtime listeners of Counter Esperanto know, we are something of a hybrid podcast: we began as a Twin Peaks podcast which filtered that series, and other David Lynch projects through weird stories, folklore, and history. In that process, we have often featured authors such as Thomas Ligotti, Franz Kafka, and of course H.P. Lovecraft.

It is Robert Aickman, though, that we feel deserves special attention. As we will discuss in this inaugural episode, those who have loved the mystery of Lynch’s films, especially the late films, and especially Twin Peaks: The Return, will find much that resonates with Robert Aickman’s brand of “the strange.”

To get a sense of what this author is all about, read one of his most anthologized stories, “The Hospice,” right here.

Robert Fordyce Aickman, born June 27, 1914, was in his time chiefly known, and now chiefly remembered, for two things. First would be his work as co-founder of the Inland Waterways Association, which was instrumental in the rejuvenation of the British canal system, which, by the mid 20th century, had long fallen into disrepair.

The second would be for his career as a writer of what he called “strange stories.” While he wrote all his life, Aickman was something of a late-bloomer, publishing most of his work after the age of 40. Still, he must have felt that being an author was in his blood. His maternal grandfather was Richard Marsh, a contemporary of Bram Stoker whose macabre and spooky novel The Beetle initially outsold Dracula upon release.

Aickman was a believer in ghosts and the supernatural, and as a young man participated in ‘ghost hunting’ investigations, which included excursions to the Borley Rectory, which was infamous as one of the most haunted buildings in England.

When he began writing stories in earnest, Aickman had become editor of the Fontana Book of Ghost Stories, generally including one of his own recent tales in the mix.

Robert Aickman wrote 48 “Strange Stories,” In addition to a handful of novels and novellas. While not great in number, Aickman’s stories stand alone not only in their economy and effectiveness of characterization, but also in their ability to submerge the reader into the feeling of a real dream, or nightmare. These are subtle stories which, while they aren’t necessarily to everyone’s taste, they have nonetheless gained new life, an “Aickmannessance,” if you will, thanks to the wide availability of Faber & Faber’s reprints, the masterful and astute readings by actor Reece Shearsmith, available on Audible, and of course deluxe volumes of his stories under their original titles published by Tartarus Press, run by authors R.B Russell, and Rosalie Parker. Russell also wrote a fantastic biography of Aickman, also available by Tartarus.

Ep. No. 46 Just a Taste of the Elixir: a “Project Mercy Seat” Teaser

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Merry Yule, everyone.

Today, just in time for us to call it a Christmas gift to you, we present just a taste of our Super Secret Project that we’ve been cooking up for over a year now, one which we have given the provisional title, “Project Mercy Seat.” We don’t know if it will be a novel, a series of interconnected stories, or something else entirely, but we do know that we will be sending out these dispatches periodically as we work. This is a sprawling work of Weird Fiction that takes place over the course of 140 years, from evildoings near a mining town in Washington State, to dark drawing rooms in the roaring 1920s, to a van making a pilgrimage to San Francisco in 1967, to realms beyond all common understanding. And we’re just getting started!

Karl kicks it off with a reading of a short prose poem by the great Clark Ashton Smith, and after a brief introduction, Jubel reads a portion of the journal of one of our primary characters, Leonora Wiggins. To finish off, we re-enact a lost interview with a musician who has perhaps bitten off more than he can chew, existentially speaking.

All music and editing by Jubel Brosseau. Text written by Jubel Brosseau, and Karl Eckler.

Ep. No. 45 HBO’s The Last of Us, and the Terrifying Power of Love

The Last of Us series of games on Playstation did a great deal to promote serious consideration of the medium as a true narrative art form. The performances, the attention to detail in building its characters and world, and especially the writing and directing from Neil Druckmann and others gave a story that players are still discovering, and in indeed weeping over.

It’s this emotional core, among other things, which has been brilliantly transferred to the medium of television thanks to Druckmann and Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin. The HBO series eschews many of the game’s action sequences in favor of expanding the characters, the world, and the complex connection between protagonists Joel and Ellie.

Ultimately, as Druckmann and Mazin have stated, The Last of Us is a story about love. Love of all kinds, how it survives through the darkest of times, how it enriches and enlivens us, and how it may cause us to commit unthinkable acts.

For this conversation, Karl and Jubel are joined by Bryon Kozaczka of the acclaimed Twin Peaks Unwrapped and Geekonomics Podcast, and Josh Minton of the Red Room Podcast, In Our House Now, and author of the book A Skeleton Key to Twin Peaks. We thank you for joining us for our at-times emotional discussion, as we celebrate this fantastic story.

Ep. No. 44 Twin Peaks: The Return Rewatch Wrap-up

2022 was something of an experiment for Karl and Jubel, and we believe it was a resounding success. We’ve always talked about wanting to incorporate more interviews into the mix, so we did five consecutive interview episodes exploring Twin Peaks: The Return. We want to extend our heartfelt thanks to John Thorne, Rob King, John Bernardy, Lindsay Stamhuis, and Adam Stewart for their generosity, patience, and insights.

To paraphrase some version of Dale Cooper towards the end of the series, “we hope to see each and every one of them again.”

This episode is something of a wrap-up on the rewatch and discussions of the past year, and it’s particularly tangent heavy. For example, we bring up the topic of Hauntology, which we explored a bit with Adam, and then we drifted off to other things. This is due in part to the fact that while we had questions written down that we wanted to ask each other, we decided in the moment that a loose discussion would be more fun, and yield some unexpected results.

The other reason was that Jubel was in the midst of a really gnarly head cold, so keeping himself on track was an exercise in futility. Our hope is that the magic of editing has at least made the conversation listenable!

Counter Esperanto Podcast: Tangents About Twin Peaks: The Return Part 5

This episode marks the last in a series of five episodes following our re-watch of Twin Peaks: The Return, which feature guests each of whom bring a unique and thorough perspective to the puzzling, beautiful, haunting, heartbreaking, harrowing and frustrating text that is Twin Peaks. Karl and I would love to offer our deepest thanks to John Thorne, Rob King, John Bernardy, Lindsay Stamhuis, and of course, this episode’s guest Adam Stewart. We hope to talk to each of them again, someday soon.

Our last guest in this series, Adam Stewart of Diane Podcast takes us into a broad view of Twin Peaks: the space of “post-theory” Twin Peaks. To get there, we need to talk about hauntings. We start with the classic author of ghost stories M.R. James, what made his work so special at the time, and why his work resonates now, and why it also resonates with our beloved show.

We talk about John Thorne’s new book, Ominous Whoosh and question whether Twin Peaks theory doesn’t get any better, or comprehensive, and if so, now what?

From there, things get “hauntological,” (a term coined by Jacques Derrida, and popularized in the modern era by media critics such as Mark Fisher, a podcast favorite for Diane as well as us), and we see how the past haunts the present in the real world, in the world of the show, in media at large, and how all of these realms interplay and comment on each other. 

For a deeper view, we discuss the concept of “late style” in art, and how David Lynch’s late style comes to bear as he revisited the world of Twin Peaks all these years later.