Tuesday, February 23, 2010

At Last

The inspiration seems to have been found. I have the opening paragraph of the first new prose poem. I've been studying the prose poem -- form -- and perhaps this new thing isn't a prose poem at all but merely a regular poem written out in prose form. I am writing the thing in pure poetic voice, thus:

I breathe into the artificial air, where pseudo-stars blink at me from afar, their false light trapped into these spools, my eyes. Within my eyes I hold a fractured world, where toys of blood and bone engage in play. I see it all within these spools, my eyes, and breathe into the artificial air. My breath, escaping, makes a little sound that eddies in the manufactured sky in which I watch the frolic of false stars that catch the lifeless light of one dead moon. That lunar husk -- so gross and gray and grim -- engages the mechanics of my eyes, those viscid spools that blink into false light, the dimming light of imitation stars.

The entire thing could easily be written out:

I breathe into the artificial air
Where pseudo-stars blink at me from afar (above?)
Their false light trapped into these spools, my eyes.

I'm wondering if "above" would be a better choice, to match the "b" sounds of "breathe" and "blink" -- or should I leave it "afar" to match the "f" sound of "artiFicial" and "from." Oy, decisions, decisions. And I should probably make "those viscid spools" "these viscid spools" to match the other usages of "these spools" when speaking of mine orbs. I love this kind of stuff, this working out of a new piece of writing, finding the expression of it that seems exactly right.

The piece is mostly inspir'd by Lovecraft's prose poem, "Nyarlathotep." I'm hoping to make almost all of the new prose poems things that are inspired by Lovecraft but not necessarily "Lovecraftian." I do have one idea for a prose poem called "Postcard from Prague," inspired by a postcard that Maryanne K. Snyder sent from Prague of a Jewish cemetery in snow.

I alo want to write, for this new book, a major Sesqua Valley novelette set in the time when Imagist poetry was in vogue, around 1917 (the year in which HPL returned to writing fiction), with one of my characters based on the poet who sign'd herself H. D., and another character based on Lovecraft's friend, Robert H. Barlow. I have a vague idea about plot but have yet to do any serious outline or dreaming of the tale. I love -- so much -- the mental phase I find myself in when I begin working on a new book, when I watch the book take form within my imagination, and then when it surprises me once I actually begin to write it and it takes me to those places I never suspected. This is the thing that makes life absolutely worth living -- this Literary life!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ye Ecstasy & Agony

I moved in with my ailing Mother two years ago, into the house that my father had built when I was around five years old. It has always felt like home here, and often, during the decades when I had my own apartment or lived with friends in a shared house, I ached to return "home." It has been a mixed blessing. Mother simply does not understand the writer's life, and she has problems comprehending that I have patrons who are supporting me in order to stay home and write books of Lovecraftian horror -- which is, in these times, a very strange and wonderful thing! Often, it is impossible to concentrate because Mother won't leave me alone. "Why are you down there in the dark all the time? Go out and get some fresh air, look at that sunshine. Why don't you go jogging?" My current problems with congestive heart failure rule out jogging, methinks. Mother's health continues to fail, and she has had two episodes of falling this past week-end. This utterly ruins my ability to concentrate on work, and for the past two days I have been able to write but one little line for a prose poem for the new book:

"I breathe into the artificial air, where pseudo-stars blink at me from afar, their false light caught into these tools, my eyes."

(Trying to be "Cosmic," aye....)

So, I'm feeling a bit frustrated -- but happily, when I cannot concentrate on writing fiction, I can come here and write about writing, or I can go to Amazon or Goodreads and review books. But I'd rather be working on me book. I miss, always, my wonderful solitude that was mine when I lived on my own. Perhaps this is one reason why writers are sometimes thought of as selfish -- we need to be left alone. I can go for days not seeing anyone, and my fantasy life at times is to have some hidden place into which I can disappear for weeks at a time and do nothing but read and write. Such a life would probably not live up to the fantasy.

Although I am not a social person, there is one event to which I am keenly looking forward, and that is MythosCon, to be held next January in Phoenix, Arizona. Let's see if I can correctly supply a link:

http://mythoscon.org/Home_Page.html

Ah! I figured out how to edit! You see, one can learn new tricks.
Okay, instead of creating a new blog, I shall continue with this one. The idea of MythosCon opens for me a wide spectrum of ideas and questions. I want to use the convention to investigate the Nature of ye Beast, to understand this thing we call the Cthulhu Mythos. I went through a kind-of anti-Mythos phase when I began to edit Tales of Lovecraftian Horror for Bob Price's Cryptic Publications, back in the late 1980s. One of the first tales I accepted was "That Which Devours," by Walter C. DeBill. It seemed such a good story, and I was annoy'd that an editor of a Mythos anthology had rejected it, finding it non-Mythos or not Mythos enough. This made me initiate an editorial rule that my publication would not contain any Mythos tales. I went so far as to deny that I was myself a Mythos writer -- I was an author of Lovecraftian horror. I have since had a huge reversal, and now I proclaim myself "a professional Cthulhu Mythos writer" at every opportunity.

My tutorial concerning the Mythos came from reading Lin Carter's Lovecraft: A Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos and August Derleth's Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos. Carter tried to explain the rules:

"Now, what exactly does it mean to say a short story belongs to the Cthulhu Mythos? In order to so qualify, obviously a given tale must do more than just mention one of the Lovecraftian gods, such as Nyarlathotep (otherwise The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath qualifies; Nyarlathotep is one of the characters who appears therein), or one of the Lovecraftian place-names (otherwise The Picture in the House, set in Arkham, qualifies). The tale must, I think, present us with a significant item of information about the background lore of the Mythos, thus contributing important information to a common body of lore."

This is nonsense, unless one wants to pen tales about the Mythos, as Carter and Derleth did. If I were to write a completely non-Lovecraftian tale, in which I suddenly have a quote from the Necronomicon in which is revealed a new revelation concerning the nature of Shub-Niggurath, does that make my story suddenly and automatically a Mythos tale? Certainly not. One can write a story with the Mythos in the background, in which no stunning new revelation is pronounced, and that story can still be a Mythos story.

When I began writing Weird Inhabitants of Sesqua Valley, Mythos Books published S. T.'s The Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos -- and that book so entranced me that I was determined that my new book would be a total Mythos-to-ye-core collection. In this I failed, and I failed because the Mythos and its relationship to "pure" Lovecraftian horror is still something I have not completely comprehended. I was certain, when I was writing "Into the Depths of Dreams and Madness," that I was writing a Cthulhu Mythos story -- but reading over the story now I find no Mythos "elements" at all. It is a tale of Lovecraftian horror. "An Eidolon of Nothing" is tainted absolutely by The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and uses a summoning of the power of Yog-Sothoth -- but that is its only Mythos element, if such it can be called.

This all fascinates me, and I look forward to gathering with other Mythos writers at MythosCon to debate and contemplate the nature of this beast we call the Cthulhu Mythos. The two newest anthologies of Lovecraftian tales that I have read, Lovecraft Unbound and Black Wings, cannot be called anthologies of Mythos fiction; indeed, Ellen forbade the inclusion of cliched Mythos elements, as she wrote in her introduction:

"I asked for stories inspired--thematically and possibly--by plot points in Lovecraft's mythos. What I wanted was variety: in tone, setting, point of view, time. In fact, I'd prefer not to have any direct reference in the story to Lovecraft or his works. No use of the words 'eldritch' or 'ichor,' and no mentions of Cthulhu or his minions. And especially, no tentacles."

This is very near to what I was striving to do with Tales of Lovecraftian Horror, but it is even more extreme. I allow'd mention of shoggoths and such. Anyway, I hope to see many of you at MythosCon next year, where we can discuss these things, and celebrate the wonder that is H. P. Lovecraft.

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!

Monday, February 15, 2010

MY GAWD!!!!! I AM OBSESSED WITH WRITING!!!

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
IX.
W
e 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.