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Creator / Algernon Blackwood

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Algernon Henry Blackwood CBE (14 March 1869 — 10 December 1951) was a very prolific (for his time) writer of Horror and Fantasy short stories and novels as well as an early writer of the cosmic horror story as well as a journalist and broadcasting narrator. His works combine the beauty of nature (often going into scenery porn) with various gothic horror tropes as well as creatures and folklore from various religions such as the wendigo. His most famous work is probably "The Willows" which many consider his best. He also was an early influence on the occult detective genre of fiction with his creation "Dr. John Silence". His work would occasionally play with a trope and feature black comedy. In contrast to many other authors like him Blackwood had a genuine interest in the supernatural and actually worked as a paranormal investigator with a group of friends before he moved into writing.

Tropes appearing in Algernon Blackwood's works include:

  • Arcadia: The theme of The Centaur, where an Irish reporter experiences cosmic consciousness in the Caucasus mountains. He believes he's experienced Mother Nature in the Garden of Eden and that humans should discard material possessions and live as close to the earth and nature as possible. Some believe him, but warn that most people won't get it unless they've had the experience themselves.
  • Astral Projection: The kids and some adults in A Prisoner in Fairyland do it to collect starlight in Fairyland, which they distribute to their loved ones as kind of a mental/spiritual anodyne.
  • Brain Bleach: The protagonist of "The Man Who Found Out" learned something so repellent from two ancient tablets that he had a hypnotist eliminate the abhorrent knowledge via Laser-Guided Amnesia.
  • Cool Train: The Starlight Express in A Prisoner in Fairyland.note 
  • Don't Go in the Woods: A recurring theme, although in The Centaur it's more like the forces there are powerful, so be careful, but they're not evil.
  • Drugs are Bad: In "A Psychical Invasion" they cause a man to get possessed by a ghost.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Some are encountered in "The Willows," and they're literally incomprehensible. They produce a loud ringing sound, dig perfectly conical pits in the sand and in the body of the man they eventually kill, and although their presence can be felt they're invisible.
  • Eldritch Location: The setting of "The Willows." More specifically, it's set in the remote countryside around the Danube River in Slovakia/Hungary. And there's something just wrong about it. The characters speculate that an incomprehensible dimension that does not like humans somehow borders or touches it, but they never even come close to finding out the place's actual nature.
  • Elemental Embodiment: "The Nemesis of Fire" features John Silence fighting against a Fire Elemental.
  • The Fair Folk:
    • They heavily influence the countryside that is the setting for "The Trod".
    • A couple of them make an appearance in "Ancient Lights," when the main character intrudes on their woods.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Blackwood writes a well-meaning one in Jimbo, who is aghast that his five-year-old son, whom he intends to send to military school, is "an imaginative child" who might become "an ass", or a "poet, or one of these -- these -- !"
  • Genius Loci:
    • The setting of "The Willows" - or at least one of the things that is speculated about the setting.
    • The forest around the protagonist's house in "The Man Whom the Trees Loved" is implied to be alive.
    • The spirits of Fright and the Frightened Children in Jimbo in the haunted house are this.
    • The "fairy wood" in the story "Ancient Lights" is either very responsive to the will of its residents, or has a strong will of its own.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Essentially what happens to anyone who reads the translated message from the tablets in "The Man Who Found Out".
  • Growing Up Sucks: Averted in some tales, especially A Prisoner in Fairyland, where adults may get "wumbled" with daily cares and forget about the realities behind the "real" world, but can re-learn the necessary skills at any age.
  • Haunted House: "The Empty House" has a fairly typical example. Jimbo has a kind of subjective example, with the kid initially thinking the ghosts are friendly, until his governess tries to Scare 'Em Straight and ends up traumatizing him and being fired as a consequence. Jimbo subsequently has a serious accident and his astral self becomes trapped in the house and terrorized by its residents. Meeting his governess there, he learns to survive and free himself from fear until he's ready to wake up, only to discover she was Dead All Along — she died a few days after being fired, and in a My God, What Have I Done?, was trying to help him before going on to heaven.
  • He Also Did: In addition to his supernatural writing, Blackwood was also a radio broadcaster and wrote a great deal of children's literature, literary fiction and propaganda. The television series Tales of Mystery (1961-1963) was based on his stories.
  • Human-to-Werewolf Footprints: In "The Wendigo", the prints of a man being dragged off by the monster become a copy of the monster's footprints—and grow further apart, until eventually they disappear.
  • Magical Native American: "Running Wolf" has one that come back from the dead as a wolf and only the (white) protagonist can grant him release.
  • Made of Indestructium: The Tablets of the Gods in "The Man Who Found Out"; the first victim spends months trying to unsuccessfully destroy them. Following some Laser-Guided Amnesia by the second victim, they get casually tossed out as bits of rubbish.
  • More than Three Dimensions: "A Victim of Higher Space"
  • Nature Spirit: Blackwood was fond of this trope; his variants tend to fall somewhere between The Fair Folk and Eldritch Abomination.
  • Occult Detective: Dr. John Silence.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different:
    • "A Psychical Invasion"
    • "The Empty House"
    • "Running Wolf"
  • Our Vampires Are Different: "The Singular Death of Morton"
  • Our Werewolves Are Different:
    • "The Strange Adventure of a Private Secretary in New York" has an example who behaves similar to a werewolf but never actually transforms.
  • Sound-Only Death: Horrifically reenacted in "The Empty House." As soon as this is finished, the murderer's spirit appears to direct its attention to the house's living visitors, but they get away.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: In "The Man Who Found Out", an explorer discovers the long-lost Tablets of the Gods, reputed to explain the true purpose of human existence. Reading their translation causes him to lose the will to live, and the friend who inherits the Tablets destroys the text and has his own memory of reading it erased via hypnosis.
  • Wendigo: "The Wendigo" is an influential early example of modern treatments of the concept.
  • When Trees Attack:
    • "The Man Whom the Trees Loved".
    • In "The Willows," provided you take the view that the... things they encountered were spirits of the willow trees.
  • Write What You Know: Many of Blackwood's stories take place in New York (where he lived for a time) or feature various fictional accounts of cases investigated by him when he was part of the Psychical Research Society or things he learned from the Rosicrucian Order or The Hermetical Order of the Golden Dawn when he was part of them. Others recapitulate (with added spooky) wilderness expeditions he'd undertake by canoe or on foot.