Sunday, January 24, 2010

Inspiration Strange & Rare

After some few months of being unable to work on new fiction--due mainly to tedious ill health--I am nigh suddenly very much in ye Writer Mode, for which I thank ye black stars near Yuggoth. I have started writing a new series of Sesqua Valley tales, and I want each one to be, in some way, inspir'd by the weird fiction of Robert Bloch. The story I am working on now is related to Bloch's "The Cheaters," which was delightfully film'd as an episode for BORIS KARLOFF'S THRILLER. The story features a character that I invented when writing new stories for my Delirium Books hardcover collection, SESQUA VALLEY AND OTHER HAUNTS -- the wicked and deprav'd first-born beast of the valley, Simon Gregory Williams. He taught me a one cool lesson: that by inventing a new character that is fun to write about, I can find inspiration for stories in a way that wou'd have been otherwise impossible. & so I have been trying to think up some new characters for this new collection of Sesqua tales -- & I found her by watching Bjork videos on YouTube of all places! When I watched those videos of this strangely beautiful young creature prancing through enchanted woodland, I was immediately seized with inspiration about how to create a similar being as a new child of Sesqua Valley's shadowland. And with such a character, I can expand the legend of Sesqua Valley, by having her emerge from the shadowland on her own, without being ushered forth by the dark magick of mad Simon. & I can give her distinction in the way her eyes look, so as to separate her from those other silver-eyed children of ye shadow'd realm. It's all fitting into place.

& then I decided I didn't just want this pixie to appear unbidden, but to be drawn forth by some special thing. & this brought to mind the image of a young musician playing a pipe or a violin, the music of which penetrates the mystic veil & is heard by this inhuman female beyond the rim of mundane mortality. & then the idea of a violinist brought to mind H. P. Lovecraft's haunted viol player, Erich Zann. & this got my imagination working again, dreaming of how I can recreate Zann in my own peculiar image and place him among ye denizens of Sesqua Valley. I dream'd ye idea, & came up with an elderly chap who was once mute, until kiss'd by ye lunatic lips of Simon Gregory Williams. He will have problems forming words, speech is still difficult -- & it is with his music, his violin, that he best expresses his soul. That sounded kind of rad.

Which return'd me to HPL's tale, & a wonderful rereading of it. How amazing he is, Lovecraft' the spell of his fiction never diminishes; we return to him again and again with renew'd joy & wonder. The spell of his genius never falters. I read ye tale in my favourite edition of Lovecraft, ye Penguin Classics volume entitl'd THE THING ON THE DOORSTEP AND OTHER WEIRD STORIES. I took the book with me when my dear patrons took me to Providence for a four-day stay; & I carry'd it with me when S. T. Joshi (in town doing work on ye Clark Ashton Smith archives at John Hay) led us on a walking tour of Lovecraftian sites, ye finest moment of which came as we stood before 10 Barnes Street. I love those Penguin editions edited by S. T. for numerous reasons, one of which is the plethora of notes at the back of the book. Here is S. T. writing about "The Music of Erich Zann":

"The music of Erich Zann" was probably written in December 1921. It was first published in the National Amateur (March 1922) and reprinted in Weird Tales (May 1925) and reprinted a second time in Weird Tales (November 1934). HPL considered the tale among his best, although in later years he noted that it had a sort of negative value: it lacked the flaws--notably over-explicitness and overwriting--that marred some of his other works, both before and after. It might, however, be said that HPL erred on the side of underexplicitness in the very nebulous horror seen through Zann's garret window.
The story appears to be set in Paris. Franch critic Jacques Bergier claimed to have corresponded with HPL late in the latter's life and purportedly asked him how and when he had ever seen Paris in order to derive so convincing an atmosphere for the tale; HPL is said to have replied, "In a dream, with Poe." . . . But there is no evidence that Bergier ever corresponded with HPL, and this account may be apocryphal."

"The Music of Erich Zann" is a tale that excited my imagination upon the first reading, & continues to haunt. I plan to give my character (perhaps I shall name him "Jon-Erique," in memory of that handsome actor who starred in ye tv series, Voyagers!) a garret room in the museum-com-lodgings whose proprietor is Leonidas Creighton, a character inspir'd by the "vampire" in Lon Chaney Sr.'s lost film, London After Midnight -- a room from which he can watch ye mauve mist of my haunted valley, from which, unbidden & unannounc'd, young and lovely Isobel (the name is from a Bjork song) will emerge, to cause charmed havoc among the inhabitants of Sesqua Valley. Why, even the Beast, Simon Gregory Williams, may be a bit . . . intimidated . . . by her lunacy & loveliness!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why Be Lovecraftian?

I just saw a wee thread on a Ramsey Campbell site in which people were discussing my fiction, and one lad was saying how frustrated he was that I am so dogmatic about remaining an author of Lovecraftian horror. Here's the thing: I am convinced that my growing reputation has been the result of staying Lovecraftian in the majority of my work. I want to cultivate a solid core of readers, and I want those brave souls to be Lovecraft fans. Because I care absolutely nothing for commercial "success", I have the freedom to write exactly what I want to write. But with this freedom comes a responsibility to do my very best -- especially if my fiction is supposed to be a sincere tribute to Lovecraft. We do not pay homage to Lovecraft by stealing his ideas -- and although I love to borrow bits from his weird tales, I hope that I do so with ingenuity, in my own way. I believe, and this has been my goal as an author, that we can write Lovecraftian fiction that is uniquely our own. We must, if our work is to have any validity.

However, I feel that I have certainly crossed over the Mythos fence and written tales that are not in any way Lovecraftian. My collaborative tale in Allen K's INHUMAN #4 is in no way Lovecraftian -- and my story in S. T. Joshi's BLACK WINGS -- although it deals in part with Richard Pickman -- is not very Lovecraftian, but rather tries to be an original work that has its inspirational roots in "Pickman's Model". One of my favouriter tales in SESQUA VALLEY & OTHER HAUNTS is "The Zanies of Sorrow," and I like it because it seems to me original in a non-Lovecraftian way.

Yes, I am adamant in remaining an author who is linked to my Master and my Muse, H. P. Lovecraft. But I don't think this retards my efforts. Lovecraft is an eternal fount of priceless inspiration -- moreso now than ever before. We can write in his tradition and still be absolutely our artistic selves. Selah.