Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My New Collection for Hippocampus Press

So I propos'd a new book idea to S. T. Joshi, general editor for Hippocampus Press. I want to write a book of mostly prose poems and vignettes, with perhaps three longer works (one new Sesqua Valley novelette, perhaps) included among ye wee decadent pieces. I love the prose poem form, and it appeals to my sense of adventure as an author, to do the decadent and experimental thing. I really got hooked when I began writing my series of prose-poem sequences, the first of which appeared in The Fungal Stain and Other Dreams. Then I wrote two others, "In Memoriam: Oscar Wilde" and "In Remembrance: Edgar A. Poe," both of which will have their first publication in my forthcoming omnibus from Centipede Press. That book will also include my most adventurous of my prose-poem/vignette sequences, "Uncommon Places," a sequence of 15,000 words, each segment of which is inspir'd, however vaguely, by an entry in H. P. Lovecraft's Commonplace Book. The idea for this new book wou'd not appeal to most publishers, I fancy; but S. T. is a huge fan of the prose poem, and Derrick of Hippocampus loves to publish those books that are uncommon -- so I feel that I can do something really different, Literary, & artistic up ye arse for them. I envision a rather slim volume of some 50,000 words. It would be fabulous to see it fully illustrated.

Part of the fun of working on "Uncommon Places" was to tell, within ye sequence, short stories with interrelated sequences of their own. The post I wrote yesterday from "Uncommon Places," inspir'd largely by Robert Bloch's teleplay of "The Grim Reaper" for Boris Karloff's THRILLER, was one such experiment. The first portion was told in first person. Here are the two final pieces, which complete that particular sequence within the sequence.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
UNCOMMON PLACES
X.

He
felt the hot mortal arms that held him, but when he opened his stinging eyes he saw that the arms were his own. His burning eyes could not take in the void in which he found himself, the place beyond time and space, the realm between the stars. It was not a realm untenanted -- all around him he could sense an all-observant incorporeal presence. It brooded before him, blasphemously. It revealed itself to him with sluggish graduation, this haunter of the dark. It crept to him like some chaotic eidolon, wrapped in a robe of obsidian degeneracy; to look at it was to feel the boiling of one's eyes.

And yet he could not look away. The strange dark one smiled with a cynicism that mocked mortality, and when it raised its hands the mortal saw how the heavens had decayed, how time itself had degenerated. Nothing escaped the Old One's touch. It reached into the void and plucked an object which it whimsically tossed between dark hands. The mortal saw that the object had once been Earth, that citadel of man's hopes and pride, that sphere that man had raped, pillaged and destroyed. It took no daemon from the void to wreck such havoc. Ah, how the Old One smiled as the dead globe in its hand deteriorated and crumbled. The thing of Chaos blew Earth's dust away.

The Crawling Chaos reached again into the void and brought forth two pale orbs. The mortal knew that they were the last dying stars of degenerate heaven. He wept to see how feeble they were, but then he gasped as the Old One struck the stars together so that a bolt of lightning formed between them, a streak of living fire that rushed toward the mortal and embedded itself upon his brow. The weeping mortal turned away from the mockery of Chaos and saw before him a sheet of mirror. He looked through glass, darkly, into a gas lit room, a place that was untenanted. Vaguely, he saw himself reflected, the tragic mortal upon whose forehead burned am emblem of dying wonder. Desperately, he smashed that forehead against his image in the mirror as the universe cracked and crumbled about him.

XI.
Madame Dupin heard the crash of glass within the haunted room. She paused before the door, sensing that some unspeakable thing awaited her discovery. At last she pushed open the door and stepped into the room. How faintly the gaslight flickered, as if it cowered from some ghastly fiend. There was no one in the room, and yet she knew that the gentleman had not vacated it. Her first shock came when her eyes rested upon the replication of Honore Radin's noxious painting -- for there, upon the painted blade, was a thick smear of ichor, a thing that could have been night's bloodstain. Turning from this hideous sight, she saw where the mirror's glass had shattered, littering the floor with shards. How could this have happened, to a mirror that had withstood the centuries? What had the gentleman done in this room, and where was he concealing himself? She bent to pick up one piece of glass, on which there was the painted image of a hand. She held it tenderly until she saw the trickle of blood that moved down her finger. She had somehow cut herself on the mirror's edge. But how add to see the way her blood, slipping toward and onto the glass, was somehow absorbed into the smooth surface of mirror.

She then noticed movement on the floor, a darkness that seemed to shudder on the largest shard that lay among the detritus of shattered mirror. Bending low, her bloodstained hand picked up the weighty shard and stared at the face that was upon it. She did not understand why the painted image was not that of the suicidal artist but rather of Monsieur Blake. And when that visage flapped open its bruised lips and uttered an inhuman howl, Madame Dupin fled the room forever as the large shard of enchanted mirror, dropped onto the floor, shattered into little bits.

[All three portions were inspir'd by these entries from H. P. Lovecraft's Commonplace Book:
(19)--"Revise 1907 tale--painting of ultimate horror."
(20)--"Man journeys into the past--or imaginative realm--leaving bodily shell behind."
(42)--"Fear of mirrors--memory of dream in which scene is altered and climax is hideous surprise at seeing oneself in the water or in a mirror. {Identity?} [Outsider?]"
In a letter to Robert Bloch (1 June 1933), Lovecraft relates the plot of his 1907 tale: "I had a man in a Paris garret paint a mysterious canvas embodying the quintessential essence of all horror. He is found clawed & mangled one morning before his easel. The picture is destroyed, as if in a titanic struggle -- but in one corner of the frame a bit of canvas remains...& on it the coroner finds to his horror the painted counterpart of the sort of claw which evidently killed the artist." Thinking of Bloch led me to day-dream of "The Haunter of the Dark" (one of my all time favorite Lovecraft tales, and his last original story), & thus that tale by Lovecraft influenced this sequence. I also used Bho's teleplay for the Thriller episode (starring William Shatner) entitled "The Grim Reaper." Finally, I added my fave Old One--Nyarlathotep--with imagery borrowed from Fungi from Yuggoth. I love how, now, my weird fiction has so many influences, from the writings of others, from tv, from dreams. I pluck mine inspiration where I find it.

Happily, S. T. is thrill'd with my idea for the new book of mostly prose poems and vignettes, & so that is the book I am now gonna work on full-steam ahead, with S. T. as my editor. Yeehaw!

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