Friday, November 21, 2014

Amateur or Artist?

I know of nothing more boring than thinking of writing as a daily profession.  As H. P. Lovecraft has shewn, some amateurs are artists of exceptional excellence.  There are many kinds of writers, and a multitude of reasons for writing.

I write because I must, it is a compulsion beyond my control.  It began when I was a wee gay Mormon kid in love with Broadway musicals.  We had this event called "road shows," ten minute skits that were written by church members.  I was always writing the songs for these shows, even though I couldn't read music.  It was thrilling to watch the finished production and hear my little songs played on a piano in full arrangement.  In junior high and high school I wrote full musical comedies, alone or with a buddy.  I also began, in high school, to do fanzines devoted to horror films.  As a Mormon missionary in Northern Ireland, I began to write weird fiction, influenced by my correspondence with Robert Bloch.  Returning to the states, I became a Lovecraft freak and began to publish my Lovecraftian fanzines.  When I discovered punk rock, it was my natural instinct to celebrate this new lifestyle by publishing Punk Lust.  My punk identity was linked to writing as much as it was to music.

My core identity now is that of being a writer of weird fiction.  I am not a professional and have no interest in being so.  I strive for excellence in my work, and I consider myself an artist.  Some may find it pretentious to link the work "art" to the writing of horror fiction--surely we are entertainers merely, not artists.  Bullshit.  It was, in part, because H. P. Lovecraft cared about the artistic quality of his work that his fiction is still relevant and admirable.  He was every inch an artist, obsessed with language, the poetics of beautiful prose, &c &c.  That is the lesson I have learned from him, from Oscar Wilde and Henry James, from S. T. Joshi

I regret that I lack the discipline that is requir'd of a professional writer.  I've been trying, for weeks, to write a new thing for S. T.'s forthcoming GOTHIC LOVECRAFT.  I love writing Gothic fiction and so you'd think this wou'd be a simple thing for me.  I can't fucking concentrate.  Every thing I begin fails to move past the first page, seems lifeless and uninspired.  I have, at times, come close to giving up; but I know that if I fail to write for this anthology I will become tremendously depressed when it is publish'd.  Forcing the work of writing seldom works for me, but I feel the need to force it nigh.  Perhaps, from forcing it, I can overcome this bogus fail, get past the first page, and find myself inspir'd.  Gawd, I hope so.

Little things encourage me.  I just had an old story selected for a forthcoming Cthulhu Mythos reprint anthology.  That's lovely--you get a cheque and don't have to do any work, & then you're in a way rad book with lots of excellent writers.  Sweet.

But there is nothing sweeter than finishing a new story, printing it out and holding that manuscript in your hand.  That's what I live for.

And so--to work.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Eldritch Heaven

I love that jacket for Lovecraft Remembered, with E'ch-Pi-El hovering in ye heavens as some Eldritch Yahweh.  He hovers there for me, in this sad modern era.  I have been an obsess'd Lovecraft fanboy for moft of my life, since around 1973; & yet it is now, to-day, that being a Lovecraftian, for me, has reach'd heights of wonder.  I cannot believe how lucky I am! This evening Leslie Klinger and S T. Joshi will appear at the University Bookstore to discuss HPL as part of a book signing event for The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft.  Have I told ye yet how much I LOVE this new edition of Lovecraft's tales?  Such a fabulous book!!!  One of the great things about being a Lovecraftian to-day is the serious critical work being done on Lovecraft's texts.  The definitive edition of those texts will be S. T. Joshi's forthcoming Variorum edition--now, alas, postponed until January or thereabouts.

As an author who is obsess'd with writing stories that are linked to Lovecraft's fiction and poetry, I am greatly aided by the current scholarly writings, which inform me of aspects of Lovecraft's genius that I am too intellectually clueless to discover on my own.  One of my great joys in the past has been to hang with Lovecraft scholars at conventions or the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival.  Because of increasing poor health, I will no longer attend such exhausting events--but that's okay, because we have our own wee Lovecraft/Weird fiction gang here in Seattle.  

Seattle has been magical since S. T. Joshi moved here, and to-night is going to be one enchanted evening.  Some few of us will meet at S. T.'s for a pre-signing nosh of cheese & wine, and then we will all pile into one car and drive to the signing.  I will be buying a copy of The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft for a friend--but because S. T. is a part of the event, I am hopeful that his editions of Lovecraft and his Lovecraft and a World in Transition will also be offer'd for purchase.  I am also hopeful that a huge crowd will assemble to hear these two editors of Lovecraft discuss his work, his text, &c.  Bitches, I thrive on this kind of thing.  After the signing, if it isn't too late, some of us will find a place for a late dinner, & thus continue the discussion on HPL &c.  

I never thought my life as a Lovecraftian wou'd be so enrich'd.  Hell, I never thought I'd have my own wee books of weird fiction publish'd.  Life is good.  Life is eldritch.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Playing Shakespeare (1982): 1. The Two Traditions

Re: Shakespeare's "Cymbeline" (1982 TV): Act 1, Scene 7, pt2

The one sure way, when dealing with writer's block, of feeding ye Muse anew is to return to Shakespeare.  Shakespeare is my Ghod of Literature.  I first encountered Shakespeare as an actor in high school.  My girl friend
my high school girlfriend, Valerie McBeth
was a Shakespeare freak, and she and I presented two scenes from the plays (Macbeth and The Taming of the Shrew) to a drama room full of students on three or four occasions.  I then had a very minor role in a production of Much Ado About Nothing at the Snoqualmie Falls Forest Theatre.  Oh, to be in troupe of players performing Shakespeare!  Nothing else in life has given me more pleasure.  I thought I was going to be an actor, and pursued a life on stage for a wee while after returning from my two years as a Mormon missionary.  However, it was in Ireland that I first became obsess'd with weird fiction, when I began to collect British paperback anthologies.  It became obvious to me that I was a bad actor (although with proper training I may have improved; good acting is something that requires practice and instruction.  I have seen too many poor local Shakespeare productions where the acting was appallingly awful, where the players, at times, mumbled

Shakespeare's immortal language. 
It is, now, that language that enthralls me.  I miss the stage always, and wish I had tried to stay with it and improve my acting abilities (I loved, most of all, the rehearsals, being part of a company, a family of players; I have never found anything to replace that special sense of community, except in punk rock).  I loved trying to get to "know" the audience, to learn from the, to listen to their responses, with which they help tutor the actor in ways remarkable ways.  

Acting is a very social existence.  Writing is entirely private.  I need to be completely alone, with no interruptions, in order to write.  It was becoming a writer that led me to the magical discovery of Shakespeare as a writer of genius.  And it is that language that evokes my Muse during those times when writing fiction seems impossible.  I love audio Shakespeare, listening to the plays; but listening to the plays presents them primarily as dramas, and to read the plays in the silence of your room is to discover other elements of textual power and beauty.  I think my favourite study of Lovecraft's language is Frank Kermode's book of       2000, Shakespeare's Language.  

Literature rules my life, and is my salvation, my sanity, my soul.  When I visit Facebook (less and less, it's so boring), I am always mystified that others who are writers or editors almost never post things relating to writing--it's always boring political crap or social commentary.  Why do they never discuss the one thing that matters--Literature?  Mystifying, and as a result I almoft never read their posts or visit their timelines.

I sometimes "return" to the stage in my dreams.  I am thankful for my memories of acting.

with Brian Arthur Paloy in MRS. McTHING (1969)

a college production in which I portrayed a tortured corpse, 1971

Knight of the Burning Pestle, 1971

Monday, November 3, 2014

progress of a kind

I have broken ye tedious writer's block by finishing a new thing of merely 1,000 words, "Your Gift of Alchemy."  Looking at that title now, I have a vague feeling that I've used it before.  S. T. Joshi and David Schultz once chided me for beginning too many of my tales with "The"--and so I have, over these past few years, tried not to do so.  Thus, instead of "The Inhabitants of Wraithwood," the "The" is missing.  In my new chapbook, instead of "The Black Winged Ones," I have "These Black Winged Ones."  Now S. T. has said that I am overdoing avoiding "The" in my titles.  Some people are never satisfy'd.  When the new story is reprinted in my next volume from Centipede Press, its title will be "The Black Winged Ones."

The photo is me at one of my favourite burying grounds, St. John's Churchyard in Providence, a place haunted by Poe and Lovecraft when they lived.  I held a picnic there last year, on ye first day of NecronomiCon.  To-day I am going to try again to begin writing a story for S. T.'s forthcoming anthology, Gothic Lovecraft.  I have the story all imagined in my mind, but the three times I have try'd to begin writing it didn't work.  The opening sentence, originally, was something like, "I awakened to soft sunlight and removed the pennies from my eyelids."  Now I am debating whether to have the thing told in first or third person.   I prefer what I consider the "personal touch" of first person narrative.  I want this new story to combine the influence of Poe and Lovecraft.  I want to have mimes.  I see them dragging a cart of bones along the road of some antient town, pulling ye cart to some distant tower or abbey or some such thing.  There, they will assemble the bones as a kind of throne for the story's narrator, Madame Death.  Or some such thing.

Let's see if I can make any real progress on the story before ye end of day.