Friday, February 20, 2015

Still Reading ye Variorum Arc

I have just started reading AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS in my advance reading copy of volume 3, & I am quite enthrall'd with ye story, more than ever.  When I first read it, as a very young Mythos fanatic, the text was so difficult for me, so above my frail intellect.  Now ATMOM thrills me absolutely.  I am reading the story slowly, and aloud.  I want to put to ye test S. T.'s statement:  "I believe it is now sufficiently well established that Lovecraft was in fact one of the great prose stylists of the English language..."  My literary passion is for what I suppose wou'd be regarded as great writing, literary classics; & so it is to the works of Wilde, Kafka, Woolf, Henry James, Poe, Melville, Keats, Proust, &c &c that I compare the prose of H. P. Lovecraft.  Reading him aloud helps to give his language an additional life that I cannot sense when reading silently.  I'm told that the best way to investigate an author's style is to type her fiction yourself, and I may yet attempt to do so with some of Lovecraft's shorter tales.

Unlike S. T., I am not a professional when it comes to understand language or the mechanics of good writing.  However, from my intense study of Lovecraft's texts, and my comparison of them to classic Literature, I find myself in complete agreement with S. T. when he writes:

"I am now beginning to think that those who criticise Lovecraft as a 'bad' prose writer have simply placed a dunce-cap on their heads--in the most literal sense of the word, they do not know what they are talking about.  What these people do (I am being generous to them in attributing to them an actual course of reasoning) is to define 'good' prose by a very narrow and artificial standard (usually based on transient contemporary usage), with an utter failure to comprehend the incredibly wide variations in prose expression as found in thousands of writers over the past 2500 years of literary history in the West.   They also entirely ignore...the extend to which Lovecraft chose his prose style deliberately to create the precise aesthetic effects he was seeking."

The more I read Lovecraft, the more I admire the excellence, originality, and brilliance of his work.  He is indeed an American Literary Classic.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Ye Madness of Art

"We work in the dark - we do what we can - we give what we have.  Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task.  The rest is the madness of art."
                                                                   --Henry James, The Middle Years

"When a writer succeeds in translating these nebulous urges into symbols which in some way satisfy the imagination--symbols which adroitly suggest actual glimpses into forbidden dimensions, actual happenings following the myth-patterns of human fancy, actual voyages of thought or body into the nameless deeps of tantalising space and actual evasions, frustrations, or violations of the commonly accepted laws of the cosmos--then he is a true artist in every sense of the word.  He has produced literature by accomplishing a sincere emotional catharsis."
                                           --H. P. Lovecraft, Selected Letters IV, page 113

When I first became an obsessed H. P. Lovecraft freak, I was not much of a reader.  I was obsessed with horror films and certain that I wanted a career in horror cinema.  My relationship with Shakespeare was as a player in dramatic events, not a reader or a poet.  It was not until I came out as queer and began to read queer authors such as Wilde and Woolf that I began what is now my obsession with Literature.  Wilde was influential in a number of ways, not only as poet and writer of fairy stories and one supernatural novel, but as exhibitionist and camp stylist.  Writers such as Kafka and Maugham were, to the youthful me, artists absolutely, writers with vision.  I was affected with profound emotion when I first read Of Human Bondage in junior high school.  I cannot now what prompted me to begin my initial investigation of Henry James, but I am certain it had something to do with my learning of the hints regarding his ambiguous sexuality--probably finding a passage concerning it in some Wilde biography.  As with Wilde, my initial fascination with James came with ye reading of biographies, then a reading of his complete short stories in a series of volumes I found in library.

My obsession with Lovecraft dimmed a little when I got into the local punk scene and lived a frantic social life within the punk community.  I had given up my early attempt to write weird fiction because my early attempts were so awful--which didn't stop them from seeing print in small press journals.  It wasn't until 1985, when Jessica Salmonson invited me to collaborate on a story for the anthology Cutting Edge, that the idea of a serious return to writing bloomed within my mind.  This coincided with a new flourish of critical commentary on Lovecraft's fiction in book form, which also coincided with my new-found passion for literary criticism.  It was then that I became aware of Lovecraft as a literary artist, a man obsessed with the creation of excellent fiction.  I noticed, more and more, his use of the word "art" in his reflections on weird writing.

Thus I became interested in the idea of writing weird fiction that was not only eerie but poetic, beautifully expressed.  I felt a yen to become "the Oscar Wilde of Lovecraftian horror".  I am still extremely interested in writing weird fiction that is as near to art as I can make it.  I feel that this requires writing fiction that is not only excellent but deeply personal, and expression of one's soul and passion, of that which haunts one's mind.  If we can make our weird fiction perversely our own, we have gone far, I feel, in doing work that is original and vital.  But just as important is that we strive for excellence, we learn in any way we can how to write, even poor uneducated sods such as myself.  It's not enough to write a bunch of stories.  We need to strive toward being the very best writers we can be, so that we grow and excel at our craft, our art.  To this goal, I dedicate all my future years.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Just Arriv'd

My contributor's copy arriv'd in ye poft this after-noon, & I was delighted to see it--even though I rue that Titan Books felt ye need to alter the book's title and drag in the name "Cthulhu", a practice of modern publishers who feel (perhaps rightly) that having Cthulhu in a book title helps to sell books.  It's ironic, because moft of these new Lovecraftian anthologies are edited by persons who do not want stories about Cthulhu in their anthologies and say so in ye guidelines.  I confes that I didn't read all of this third volume when it came out inhardcover--because that edition was riddled with so many misprints that I got annoy'd and stopped reading.  I think Caitlin's story, in ye hardcover edition, had something like 16 or 18 errors!!  So I am reading ye entire book anew, & hoping that Titan has hired skilled proofreaders to go over ye texts.

I love ye BLACK WINGS series and am especially looking forward to ye publication (hopefully this month, definitely next month) of volume IV, for which I wrote a new tale set in Lovecraft's Kingsport.  I usually wait & read the stories when ye book is publish'd as hardcover--but when S. T. sent us the pdf of BLACK WINGS IV so that we cou'd go over our stories and correct any errors, I found myself reading the other tales as well--and they so fascinated & enthrall'd me that I cou;d not stop!  It is a magnificent anthology.  After BLACK WINGS V (for which I wrote a story set in Arkham, "In Blackness Etched, My Name"), S. T. plans to take a break from editing Lovecraftian anthologies and will work on a general horror anthology.  I assume that he intends the book to contain classic reprints as well as original work, & I  look forward to seeing what stories he includes. 

We also have a number of Lovecraftian books coming from PS Publishing soon, including Darrell Schweitzer;s anthology of historical Mythos fiction, That Is Not Dead, for which I have written a tale set in Seattle after the fire of 1889.  This book shou'd be out any day nigh.  Also soon to be publish'd by PS Publishing are ye next three volumes in their Lovecraft Illustrated series; & later this year they'll be bringing out Innsmouth Nightmares, edited by Lois Gresh, for which I scribbled a new yarn, "The Imps of Innsmouth".

Paula Guran will bequeath unto us two new Mythos anthologies this year--New Cthulhu II, in which ye tales will be moftly reprints, and The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, for which I have written a new story, "A Shadow of Thine Own Design".  I think it is safe to say that we have enter'd a new Golden Age of Mythos anthologies!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Annie Lennox - Precious

It's strange the way an obsession can enter into one's mind and try to take root.  I've been watching ANGELS IN AMERICA all week-end, repeatedly, and it remains my all-time favourite film.  When I watch it I am fill'd with heartache and a potential for hope.  The film makes me regret the many wretched mistakes that I have made in life, & yet recognize that my errors and stupidity have helped to shape the person I am now, and that I can see them as brutal stepping stones to maturity and a kind of wisdom.

The writer in me is so enchanted with the film that I am fill'd with an ache to write a "definitive" angel story.  I have used angels in two or three of my tales (that I recall), but as I dwelt on the idea to-night it seem'd, more and more, a stupid idea, because I wanted to portray a typical angelic thing, with wings and all; & the traditional angel is, in fiction, as tired an idea as the romantic vampire.  Still, ye idea is there, gnawing at me potently; so perhaps I can change the idea into that of a creature resembling a harpy or some such.  Or maybe I shall simply shrug ye idea off and forget it, and simply dream about such a beast and the kind of influence it may have over me.  

Of course, being a Latter-day Saint, I believe in angels absolutely.