It is so strange & yet so wonderful, to have writing as one's obsession. The depression that I experienc'd these past few months, which originated from not being able to work on new fiction due to gnarly bad health, is gone. In authentic manic-depressive fashion, I now have so much energy that I find it next to impossible to sleep! That daemon buzzing, like some insects of Nyarlathotep, swarm inside me brain!
Some of the ideas I have for future books are quite outlandish. My gawd! When S. T, Joshi finds out that I plan to write an ENTIRE BOOK of Lovecraftian fiction inspir'd by the weird tales of bleedin' AUGUST WILLIAM DERLETH he will utterly disown me! And yet ye idea is not as perverse as it may at first seem. We cull our inspiration from where we will -- & then we use our own perverse originality & hopefully create something outlandishly our own. Right? So, yes -- I am going to write an entire book of mostly Sesqua Valley stories that have as their inspiration the horror fiction of Augie, my brother in freakishness. (My sister, too, so he is....) To help me in this I have order'd some out of print Arkham House books, MR. GEORGE AND OTHER ODD PERSONS and COLONEL MARKESAN AND LESS PLEASANT PEOPLE. It rather saddens me that ye onlie Derleth collections I have are DWELLERS IN DARKNESS and THE WATCHERS OUT OF TIME (in horror -- I have the entire Solar Pons series in pb). I used to own SOMETHING NEAR -- with that wonderful jacket illustration by Ronald Clyne, then a teenager), but when I came out as queer and lost my job and became loathsome unto my family and society, I went into a three-year seclusion, living rent-free at my granny's house; & ye way I survived was to sell my extensive collection of rare Arkham House books). I can quite easily see myself writing a new Sesqua Valley story inspi'd by "Colonel Markesan" (& yet it will probably be equally inspi'd by the magnificent version of it that was filmed for Thriller and starred Boris Karloff!).
The book I am working on now -- or was, but maybe still is -- is a book of Sesqua Valley stories inspir'd by ye weird fiction of Robert Bloch. This idea came to me when I wrote, as a portion of my prose-poem sequence "Uncommon Places" (whut will see its initial publication in me Centipede Press omnibus) a sequel to, not a story by Robert Bloch, but rather his teleplay for "The Grim Reaper" that was filmed as an episode of Thriller. Here is the opening of that, which encompasses three or four segments in "Uncommon Places" ---- :
Uncommon Places -- Inspir'd by Entries in the Commonplace Book of HPL
We stood before the door to the garret room and I felt a keen sense of adventurous expectancy. The withered beldame hesitated before pushing the key into its lock. "It is strange, Monsieur. I always feel -- I do not like to disturb the quiet of this room -- his room. I spent many years in your country, when the legend of his painting was beginning to -- spin. That was many years ago, and still the legend grows. And now you tell me that you are writing a book on Honore Radin!"
"A novel, Madame Dupin. The success of the recent horror film related to his famous painting and its supposed curse has generated much interest in the artist himself. I'm unqualified to write a biography -- fiction is my forte; but a semi-biographical novel would be interesting to write."
"And so you have come to his garret room in Paris to collect its -- quality?"
"It's ambiance -- just so."
"Oui." She shrugged slightly and turned the key in its lock. A fragrance of ancient air spilled to their faces as the door was opened. "Entre, Monsieur Blake." I stepped into another world -- an elder realm. "When the people from Hollywood came to film the opening sequence, they spent a fortune on restoring the room to how it looked on that evening in 1848, when he was found hanging there. A, what money they lavished, those cinema people! You see, the gaslights, the antique furnishings -- all as they imagined the room would look so long ago."
But I could not listen to her -- I was too focused on the painting above the mantelpiece. "This is the replication they had painted?"
"Oui. You know, of course, that they had the original brought 'out of hiding,' as it were, for when they filmed the sequence of his suicide. They invited me to portray the original propietaire, but I could not be in the room with that -- thing in oil! This replication does not capture the aura of the original piece. We had steep security on the day -- the museum would let us have it one day only -- when they filmed here. You know of the lunatics who feel that the painting is evil, and of the attempt to destroy it at the museum where it is now kept locked away in a secret chamber. I stood at that door as they were installing the original in its place -- and I felt such foreboding, such -- displaisance." Although my back was to her, I could sense the shudder that convulsed her ancient limbs. "Well, I will leave you to your -- work."
Turning to her, I went and kissed her hands, and then I took out my wallet and gave her a substantial sum. "I know you charge a pittance for those who come to see the room. My gratitude runs deep, and so I want you to accept this sum."
"You are very generous, Robert Blake. I shall set some of this aside so as to purchase your book when it is published." her soft old hand patted my cheek, and then she was gone.
And I was seized with a curious -- and absurd and sudden -- sense of panic. I did not want to be alone in the room, with its shadows and its silences -- its memories. Much of the artist's original belongings were still in the room, which his queer old landlady had locked up and refused to rent after the painter's suicide. Looking up, I gazed at the ceiling beam on which the rope that had been secured that had helped the artist to extinguish his mortality -- an act that had ushered him, ironically, into a kind of immortality over time. My eyesight drifted down to the bookshelf against one wall, and to the titles on those shelves. Surely these could not be the actual books belonging to Radin -- some of them were fabulously rare. It was known that the painter had had an interest in macabre literature and santanic rites, and the titles of these books bore that out. Stepping to the shelf I found the Comte d'Erlett's Cultes des Goules, Gaspard du Nord's 13th Century translation of the Book of Eibon, and the strange Sorcerie de Demonologie. I reached for one sheaf of bound foolscap and trembled when I realized that it was nothing less than a highly obscure French translation of the Necronomicon -- and I wondered if this could possibly be the actual copy that had vanished from a 13th century monastery in Southern France. Yes, this was a treasure trove of arcane lore. It had been emphasized, in the Hollywood replication of Honore Radin's life, that he had sold his soul to the dread god Thanatos, and that his suicide was but his final sacrifice to his dark deity; but the film had not detailed the depths with which Radin had been a connasseur of daemonic literature -- else Madame Dupin would have had to secure the door to this room with more than one lock and never leave visitors here alone, this fabulous library unguarded.
I turned again to the replication of his infamous painting, "The Grim Reaper," and reflected on its diabolic legend. It was said that whoever owned the painting met with violent death, and that their demise was proceeded by a warning from the painting itself in the form of a stigmata that appeared on the Reaper's blade. I walked to the painting and touched my hand to the scythe's curved blade -- and as I touched the canvas of the excellent fake I felt a genuine chill of terror. And then I noticed, scrawled in russet French script, a line of verse that I recognized from one of Shakespeare's sonnets. My mind quickly made a translation into English:
"And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defense..."
Was this inscription part of the original painting? It, too, had been neglected in the American horror film based on the legend of the painting's curse. Had this been Radin's maniacal occult quest: immortality?
I turned to glance at one dark corner of the room, where a tall object had been enshrouded wuth a sheet of black cloth. I knew what it was from having seen the film. It, too, would figure in my novel based on Radin's mad life and secret death. Going to it, I clutched the cloth and yanked it to the ground. Before me stood the framed full-length mirror that had, I knew, been here sincve that drear evening in 1848 when the artist had taken his life. I stared at the image that had been painted onto the mirror's surface, and the chilly room grew colder. There, in muted colors and hazy detail, the mad artist had painted his self-portrait. The thing was almost complete. Strangely, the very lowest portion of the trouser legs and the artist's shoes were missing, as if he had somehow stepped into and beyond the surface of glass. It was strange to stand before the self-image of the artist -- it seemed to add to the uncanny sense of presence in the room.
He had been a handsome young man. The horror film had represented Radin as a man of middle age; but if this mirror painting had been a correct copy of him as he was when living in this garret, then he had been very young. Except for his eyes: he owned the eyes of one who had gained rare knowledge, if not wisdom. His face, as he has painted it, was very pale -- and I saw at his forehead a place where the mirror's surface had slightly cracked, forming a kind of weird webbed symbol in the middle of the young man's brow. And then I studied the hand held at his side, palm turned upward; and it perplexed me to see, drawn onto the middle of that palm, the self-same symbol that had been accidentally etched into the painting's forehead.
I stared into the beauty of his eyes. He had painted his lips partly open, as if he were about to speak; and as I gazed steadfastly at those pale curved lips, I thought I could almost read the words they would have whispered to me. How eerily the painted surface of the mirror beguiled my senses. How soft its surface seemed as I pressed my mouth against his and spoke the words that dreamed inside my vaulted skull. How sturdily his arms enfolded me as he pulled me to him and inside the mirror.
Pardon any typos. I've been at this bloody keyboard all day and I am exhausted. Part of the problem of having so much energy for writing is becoming unaware of the passage of time, until finally one realises how utterly exhausted one is. I ache for bed and dreams.
Anyway, writing that portion of "Uncommon Places" was such fun -- and there are two more portions in which we discover the writer's nameless fate -- that it instill'd within me a urge to write an entire book of weird fiction, mostly Sesqua tales, inspir'd by the weird fiction of Robert Bloch. I am now 4,000 words into a story inspir'd by "The Cheaters," & I have a feeling it will be a long novelette.
So, a book of Bloch-inspired tales, a book of Derleth-inspired tales -- and just today I proposed to S. T, Joshi that my next book for Hippocampus Press be a collection of mostly prose poetry in the tradition of Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, with maybe three very long stories added for sake of variety. I have lots of writing ahead of me -- the glorious artistic work of weirdness in our glorious genre of weird supernatural fiction.
Gawd, you wouldn;t believe ye typos I've had to correct while typing this blog. I'm going to bed.