Wednesday, June 29, 2011

At First Just Ghostly

Since I'm talking about Karl Edward Wagner I'll throw in a humorous (hopefully) little story. A few years back when I picked up the Nightshade Books volume Midnight Sun: The Complete Short Stories of Kane, I came across Wagner's story 'At First Just Ghostly' for the first time. Now you may recognize where the title comes from immediately, but I didn't. I just thought it a nifty turn of phrase and at that time I wasn't familiar with Karl's tendency to pull titles from song lyrics.
Anyway, that summer my workplace was playing an oldies station on the plant radio, which I can just barely hear in the office where I do my AutoCAD drafting and I thought I heard someone singing the line At First Just Ghostly. I sort of recognized the song as one I'd heard a lot as a kid, so I got up and went out into the plant in time to catch the second verse and then the chorus:

And so it was that later
as the miller told his tale
that her face, at first just ghostly,
turned a whiter shade of pale

This is, of course Procol Harum's famous 1967 song A Whiter Shade of Pale. Guess I'd just never paid much attention to the lyrics...


Anonymous said...

You got me. I've admired this story for years and never nailed down the title's reference.

Hey, in connection to KEW and his work, do you have David Drake's collection, Balefires? This is an anthology of Drake's early fantasy and horror work, done mostly when he was recently back from Vietnam, hanging with KEW and Manly Wade Wellman, and writing stories directly inspired by the Weird Tales tradition.

Although I've read virtually all the stories in the collection elsewhere, they are very much worth reading again. Grouping them together creates a volume well suited to sitting on the shelf next to KEW's In A Lonely Place.

John Hocking

Charles R. Rutledge said...

No, wasn't familiar with that one, John. I shall see about getting a copy immediately. Thanks for the heads up!

Jim Rockhill said...

The only problem with BALEFIRES is its exclusion of Drake's equally fine Vettius and Dama stories set in the Roman Empire. Fine "heroic" fantasy with a strong horrific element - the qualifying quotes denoting that Drake's fantasy stories, at least at this time in his career, is just as sharp-edged as that of his friend, Karl Edward Wagner. If Wagner looked toward Howard for inspiration, Drake tended to look toward Clark Ashton Smith, and these stories would pass be out of place in ancient Averoigne.

Jim Rockhill

Charles R. Rutledge said...

More stuff for me to look for. Thanks Jim!