The Painter of Spirits
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THE PAINTER OF SPIRITS
by Brian Stableford
cover by Daniele Serra
There isn’t anyone in the local crowd who doesn’t know that Henri Lemastur put you into a trance last week and that you drew a spirit that he recognized as his dead daughter...
Paul Furneret, a young artist working in Paris in 1901, is invited to attend a séance at Camille Flammarion’s observatory after having participated in an experiment in “automatic drawing” at another séance a week earlier, in which he drew a picture, while unconscious under hypnosis, of a young woman recognized by one of the participants as his dead daughter.
Paul’s friend, Victor Marvaud, is unable to accompany him, as arranged, because a ship carrying another of their friends, Gaston Lambrunet, has struck a rock in the Channel, and although all the passengers have been put into lifeboats, the one containing Gaston’s mother and sister has not yet reached land. Victor insists however, that Flammarion’s séance is too important for him to miss, and, in order to make sure that he gets there, has asked his physician, Antoine Cros, to take Paul to the observatory in his stead.
The skeptical Cros is also escorting the writer Jane de La Vaudère, who has previously taken part in Flammarion’s experiments, and the two of them provide Paul with a great deal of food for thought on the journey. Their contrasted perspectives become all the more significant when Paul, hypnotized by a “magnetizer” named Madame Zosima, produces four images, including one of Gaston’s sister, whose lifeboat still has not landed yet, Dr. Cros’s late brother Charles, and a woman tentatively identified as Jane’s long-dead mother.
Cros tries hard to provide a naturalistic explanations of what Paul has done, but the uncertainty as to the fate of the lifeboat turns Paul’s artwork and its apparent supernatural nature into headline news, spurring the participants in the séance to meet up again in Dr. Cros’s house the following night in order to discuss the implications of Paul’s seeming ability to draw the dead, albeit unconsciously.
A second experiment produces even more challenging results, which throw Paul’s life into dire confusion, nearly cost a young model her life, and also affect the lives of his new acquaintances, leaving Paul with difficult dilemmas to address and an intriguing metaphysical mystery to resolve...
Brian M. Stableford has been a professional writer since 1965. He has published more than 60 science fiction and fantasy novels, as well as several authoritative non-fiction books. He is also translating the works of Paul Féval and other French writers of the fantastique for Black Coat Press which also published his most two recent fantasy novels: The New Faust at the Tragicomique and The Stones of Camelot.
The Painter of Spirits (2019)