Wednesday, June 23, 2010
THE TANGLED MUSE soon to see publication!
Fun with Images! This is the Virgil Finlay illustration that will be illustrating the title story to my new book, The Tangled Muse, which (according to Centipede Press) is soon to go to print. The title story is one that I have wanted to write for over a decade, but I simply could not find the "right" idea. I brought in an old daemon from an earlier vignette, "Wormhead's Kiss," which was publish'd in an issue of Deathrealm, & this new story is a huge expansion on that original idea. I was finally able to write it because of my invention of the city of exiles, Gershom (the name was inspir'd by one of my favorite writers on Jewish mysticism, Gershom Scholem -- hey!, what a great idea, a new prose poem sequence inspir'd by Scholem's books, something mystical and Jewish like the story I wrote with Maryanne that was publish'd in Weird Tales!) You see, I kinda got interested in this thing called The New Weird, and I decided to invent a new locality for some new weird fiction, an urban setting. The stories that I wrote in this new series wou'd be totally non-Lovecraftian and utterly modern! Yeah! A new artistic direction! The first story, which was rejected by
Weird Tales, was a semi-Lovecraftian piece inspir'd by, um, "Pickman's Model" (it will see its first publication in me Centipede Press omnibus, where it is the lead story). The next tale was kinda a take on "The Picture of Dorian Gray." My characters are named Sebastian Melmoth, Ada Artemis, Max Romp and my young painter, Japheth Beardsley. My "utterly modern" city is very much Wilde's London of ye 1890's. Oh well...
But the new setting was what I needed to write my story, this thing that I had been trying, year after year, to create, with no success. I set the story in Gershom, which is also inspir'd by Wilde's exile to France at the end of his life -- which is why I named my character based on Wilde "Sebastian Melmoth," which was the name that Wilde adopted as his own in exile. And it worked. Here is my introduction to the story's title character:
When the surrounding chatter quieted, Japheth looked up and saw the woman who watched him as she sauntered past their table and walked to where a blind boy sat at a piano. The room listened as the lad began to play his somber music, and something clutched at Japheth's heart as Audre Brugge began to sing Baudelaire's "La Muse malade." Sebastian forgot his drink and felt his slow-beating heart grow weighty with woe. He began to chant the words with whispered voice.
"Ma pauvre muse, helas! qu'as-tu donc ce matin?"
"Hush, Melmoth," Max scolded.
"Her voice is like the coming of Death. No, I cannot listen." Sebastian rose and vacated the room, stepping onto the porch and puffing furiously at his cigarette. His companions sat, transfixed, their eyes and ears bewitched. The woman's voice was deeper than Japheth had remembered. Her eyes, those colorless orbs, penetrated him with their staring, and her perfect mouth made love to the language she uttered. The artist, his hands itching for his pen, took in her mauve skin, her coils of tawny hair; and he marveled at how luxurious that hair looked in the misty light of the place, how it seemed in his imagination at times to writhe with an almost lecherous sentience. He watched as her hands trembled to the emotion of her song as they stroked her velvet vest, and he stared at the dark nipple of an exposed breast. Her song ended, and the room exploded with wild applause. Japheth blushed as the lithe chanteuse winked at him and licked her lips as she exited the room.
Sebastian Melmoth felt the presence behind him, one that commanded him to turn and acknowledge. He refused to do so and stared at the yellow moon as if that sphere of dust would grant him inner strength.
"Have you another cigarette?" a husky voice asked. He watched as Audre Brugge moved to a lower step and stood before him. How eerie that the poisonous light of the dead moon seemed to have been transferred to the eyes that held him. Hypnotized, he reached into his vest pocket and brought forth his golden cigarette case. He watched as the woman made her selection and placed the reed of nicotine into her mouth; and he trembled as she bent to him and touched the tip to his. "Your breath tastes of wormwood," she stated, "lots and lots." He detected a Dutch inflection in her accented voice.
"Yes, " he replied. "One must imbibe to fulfillment. The first glass will show you things as you wish they existed; and the second gives you a glimpse of things as they are not. The third glass of absinthe -- reveals the truth behind the mask of reality, and that is the most horrible of revelations."
"And what do you see behind my mask?"
He sucked deeply on his bit of nicotia and exhaled a patch of scented fume that floated as curtain between them. "Nay, Medusa, your alchemy cannot touch me. My heart turned to stone ages ago."
Secretly she smiled, licked her mouth and walked away.
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You will see the tributes that I pay in that portion, to Poppy Z. Brite, to one of Lovecraft's revision tales, to many things. And then, you can imagine my amazement, when hunting for an illustration for the tale's appearance in my book, I found that drawing by Virgil Finlay!!! Life never ceases to amaze me!