Friday, February 20, 2015

Still Reading ye Variorum Arc

I have just started reading AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS in my advance reading copy of volume 3, & I am quite enthrall'd with ye story, more than ever.  When I first read it, as a very young Mythos fanatic, the text was so difficult for me, so above my frail intellect.  Now ATMOM thrills me absolutely.  I am reading the story slowly, and aloud.  I want to put to ye test S. T.'s statement:  "I believe it is now sufficiently well established that Lovecraft was in fact one of the great prose stylists of the English language..."  My literary passion is for what I suppose wou'd be regarded as great writing, literary classics; & so it is to the works of Wilde, Kafka, Woolf, Henry James, Poe, Melville, Keats, Proust, &c &c that I compare the prose of H. P. Lovecraft.  Reading him aloud helps to give his language an additional life that I cannot sense when reading silently.  I'm told that the best way to investigate an author's style is to type her fiction yourself, and I may yet attempt to do so with some of Lovecraft's shorter tales.

Unlike S. T., I am not a professional when it comes to understand language or the mechanics of good writing.  However, from my intense study of Lovecraft's texts, and my comparison of them to classic Literature, I find myself in complete agreement with S. T. when he writes:

"I am now beginning to think that those who criticise Lovecraft as a 'bad' prose writer have simply placed a dunce-cap on their heads--in the most literal sense of the word, they do not know what they are talking about.  What these people do (I am being generous to them in attributing to them an actual course of reasoning) is to define 'good' prose by a very narrow and artificial standard (usually based on transient contemporary usage), with an utter failure to comprehend the incredibly wide variations in prose expression as found in thousands of writers over the past 2500 years of literary history in the West.   They also entirely ignore...the extend to which Lovecraft chose his prose style deliberately to create the precise aesthetic effects he was seeking."

The more I read Lovecraft, the more I admire the excellence, originality, and brilliance of his work.  He is indeed an American Literary Classic.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Ye Madness of Art

"We work in the dark - we do what we can - we give what we have.  Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task.  The rest is the madness of art."
                                                                   --Henry James, The Middle Years

"When a writer succeeds in translating these nebulous urges into symbols which in some way satisfy the imagination--symbols which adroitly suggest actual glimpses into forbidden dimensions, actual happenings following the myth-patterns of human fancy, actual voyages of thought or body into the nameless deeps of tantalising space and actual evasions, frustrations, or violations of the commonly accepted laws of the cosmos--then he is a true artist in every sense of the word.  He has produced literature by accomplishing a sincere emotional catharsis."
                                           --H. P. Lovecraft, Selected Letters IV, page 113

When I first became an obsessed H. P. Lovecraft freak, I was not much of a reader.  I was obsessed with horror films and certain that I wanted a career in horror cinema.  My relationship with Shakespeare was as a player in dramatic events, not a reader or a poet.  It was not until I came out as queer and began to read queer authors such as Wilde and Woolf that I began what is now my obsession with Literature.  Wilde was influential in a number of ways, not only as poet and writer of fairy stories and one supernatural novel, but as exhibitionist and camp stylist.  Writers such as Kafka and Maugham were, to the youthful me, artists absolutely, writers with vision.  I was affected with profound emotion when I first read Of Human Bondage in junior high school.  I cannot now what prompted me to begin my initial investigation of Henry James, but I am certain it had something to do with my learning of the hints regarding his ambiguous sexuality--probably finding a passage concerning it in some Wilde biography.  As with Wilde, my initial fascination with James came with ye reading of biographies, then a reading of his complete short stories in a series of volumes I found in library.

My obsession with Lovecraft dimmed a little when I got into the local punk scene and lived a frantic social life within the punk community.  I had given up my early attempt to write weird fiction because my early attempts were so awful--which didn't stop them from seeing print in small press journals.  It wasn't until 1985, when Jessica Salmonson invited me to collaborate on a story for the anthology Cutting Edge, that the idea of a serious return to writing bloomed within my mind.  This coincided with a new flourish of critical commentary on Lovecraft's fiction in book form, which also coincided with my new-found passion for literary criticism.  It was then that I became aware of Lovecraft as a literary artist, a man obsessed with the creation of excellent fiction.  I noticed, more and more, his use of the word "art" in his reflections on weird writing.

Thus I became interested in the idea of writing weird fiction that was not only eerie but poetic, beautifully expressed.  I felt a yen to become "the Oscar Wilde of Lovecraftian horror".  I am still extremely interested in writing weird fiction that is as near to art as I can make it.  I feel that this requires writing fiction that is not only excellent but deeply personal, and expression of one's soul and passion, of that which haunts one's mind.  If we can make our weird fiction perversely our own, we have gone far, I feel, in doing work that is original and vital.  But just as important is that we strive for excellence, we learn in any way we can how to write, even poor uneducated sods such as myself.  It's not enough to write a bunch of stories.  We need to strive toward being the very best writers we can be, so that we grow and excel at our craft, our art.  To this goal, I dedicate all my future years.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Just Arriv'd

My contributor's copy arriv'd in ye poft this after-noon, & I was delighted to see it--even though I rue that Titan Books felt ye need to alter the book's title and drag in the name "Cthulhu", a practice of modern publishers who feel (perhaps rightly) that having Cthulhu in a book title helps to sell books.  It's ironic, because moft of these new Lovecraftian anthologies are edited by persons who do not want stories about Cthulhu in their anthologies and say so in ye guidelines.  I confes that I didn't read all of this third volume when it came out inhardcover--because that edition was riddled with so many misprints that I got annoy'd and stopped reading.  I think Caitlin's story, in ye hardcover edition, had something like 16 or 18 errors!!  So I am reading ye entire book anew, & hoping that Titan has hired skilled proofreaders to go over ye texts.

I love ye BLACK WINGS series and am especially looking forward to ye publication (hopefully this month, definitely next month) of volume IV, for which I wrote a new tale set in Lovecraft's Kingsport.  I usually wait & read the stories when ye book is publish'd as hardcover--but when S. T. sent us the pdf of BLACK WINGS IV so that we cou'd go over our stories and correct any errors, I found myself reading the other tales as well--and they so fascinated & enthrall'd me that I cou;d not stop!  It is a magnificent anthology.  After BLACK WINGS V (for which I wrote a story set in Arkham, "In Blackness Etched, My Name"), S. T. plans to take a break from editing Lovecraftian anthologies and will work on a general horror anthology.  I assume that he intends the book to contain classic reprints as well as original work, & I  look forward to seeing what stories he includes. 

We also have a number of Lovecraftian books coming from PS Publishing soon, including Darrell Schweitzer;s anthology of historical Mythos fiction, That Is Not Dead, for which I have written a tale set in Seattle after the fire of 1889.  This book shou'd be out any day nigh.  Also soon to be publish'd by PS Publishing are ye next three volumes in their Lovecraft Illustrated series; & later this year they'll be bringing out Innsmouth Nightmares, edited by Lois Gresh, for which I scribbled a new yarn, "The Imps of Innsmouth".

Paula Guran will bequeath unto us two new Mythos anthologies this year--New Cthulhu II, in which ye tales will be moftly reprints, and The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, for which I have written a new story, "A Shadow of Thine Own Design".  I think it is safe to say that we have enter'd a new Golden Age of Mythos anthologies!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Annie Lennox - Precious

It's strange the way an obsession can enter into one's mind and try to take root.  I've been watching ANGELS IN AMERICA all week-end, repeatedly, and it remains my all-time favourite film.  When I watch it I am fill'd with heartache and a potential for hope.  The film makes me regret the many wretched mistakes that I have made in life, & yet recognize that my errors and stupidity have helped to shape the person I am now, and that I can see them as brutal stepping stones to maturity and a kind of wisdom.

The writer in me is so enchanted with the film that I am fill'd with an ache to write a "definitive" angel story.  I have used angels in two or three of my tales (that I recall), but as I dwelt on the idea to-night it seem'd, more and more, a stupid idea, because I wanted to portray a typical angelic thing, with wings and all; & the traditional angel is, in fiction, as tired an idea as the romantic vampire.  Still, ye idea is there, gnawing at me potently; so perhaps I can change the idea into that of a creature resembling a harpy or some such.  Or maybe I shall simply shrug ye idea off and forget it, and simply dream about such a beast and the kind of influence it may have over me.  

Of course, being a Latter-day Saint, I believe in angels absolutely.  

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Angels in America - The Angel America arrives for the 2nd time

Angels in America - The Angel America arrives for the 2nd time

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Return to Wraithwood--sort of....

I am officially announc'd as guest for ye upcoming CthulhuCon that is happening in Portland at ye end of April.  I was very serious in thinking that my convention days are over--I get so worn-out, to the point of physical pain as far as walking goes.  However, my buddy and co-author David Barker will be attending, and Dark Renaissance Books is hoping to have our new book, IN THE GULFS OF DREAM AND OTHER LOVECRAFTIAN TALES, out in time for it to debut at ye convention.  The con is only one and one-half days, so it won't be the usual four or five day event that I am used to.  So that convinced me to try it this year.  I'll be getting a ride down with S. T., so that will be very pleasant indeed.  

I find myself almoft desperate to return to writing, but haven't had any of those inspiring ideas that make me burn to create new weird fiction--until now.  Some years ago, in an attempt to get away from writing my typical Lovecraftian thing, I invented a city of exiles, Gershom; and I imagined that it would become my "new Sesqua Valley", and that I wou'd set lots and lots of stories therein.  Didn't work out that way.  However, I invented Gershom so that I cou'd bring in more of ye Baudelaire/Wilde/Kafka influence, and of late I have been returning more & more to Baudelaire; & this has had me thinking anew about ye Gershom possibilities.  To-night, I came up with ye germ of an idea that I like more and more as I contemplate it.  And that is to have two of my Bohemian poets from Gershom visit a neighboring town, a town perhaps similar to North Bend or Falls City, that is isolated and quaint.  It will be a town with a sinister though vague reputation, a place shunned.  That is has a sinister reputation is part of the reason my poets (male and female, I think) will be interested in visiting it.  And there they will find and stay at a kind of boarding house, similar to the one I wrote about in "Inhabitants of Wraithwood", but this time the place will be filled with picture frames that encase empty canvases, with one or two rare and weird exceptions.  I've been wanting, actually, to write a sequel to "Inhabitants of Wraithwood", and S. T. once suggested that I shou'd turn the story into a novel; so although this new thing would not be a direct sequel, it would be a semi-sequel with a very similar tone and equally odd characters and goings-on.  This idea has taken hold of my imagination, and I feel, at last, a real urge to begin writing it, something I haven't felt for a long time.  So hopefully my next blog will record that I have either completed this new story or, if it proves excessively lengthy, that I have made a good start.

I also want to return work on the dreamlands novel that I want to write with David Barker.  I began work on it, wrote an opening paragraph, and then with all the ill-health crap completely forgot about it.  I have the ache, the growing need, for creativity.  I think that ache is now strong enough to ensure that I will actually begin working.  I hope so!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Elton John - Razor Face (1971) Live at BBC Studios

There are a few people I admire because of their tremendous talent and their dedication to work.  In ye realm of weird fiction, none inspire me more than Caitlin R. Kiernan, because she is so devoted to the strenuous labor of writing, which has resulted in the creation of book after marvelous book.  I see her as a vital example of how one must be utterly dedicated to one's creativity, and that talent is nothing if not accompanied by the discipline required to sit down and do the actual work.  This discipline I sorely lack.  

Another artist I greatly admire is Sir Elton John.  I first discovered him with the GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD album, and his music has been an important part of my life ever since.  Having him come out as gay at around the same time I was struggling with accepting my own queer nature helped me enormously, encouraged me to be myself no matter the "cost".  His flamboyant style also helped me to accept my own exhibitionist nature, seeing it as a natural and innocent aspect of my persona.  I have spent this morning watching the dvd to his Elton 60 concert, a very lengthy concert in which he performed 40 years of original music.  This reminded me that I have been writing weird Lovecraftian fiction for roughly that same amount of time.  Devotion to craft is a beautiful thing, for nothing is more consoling to this artistic soul than the work, the sitting down and writing, the experience of the Muse as she inspires new work and artistic growth.  

I've been thinking about this because I am about to try and write a year's worth of new fiction.  I thought I could get away with being lazy and have my forthcoming second collection for Centipede Press be almost entirely reprints.  This morning I got an email from my publisher saying that he prefers new original work.  It's been such a long time, or so it seems, since I have had to concentrate on writing a bunch of new stories and create a new book that the prospect of it now feels rather daunting.  Can I do it?  Do I have the imagination, the vision, the ideas?  Sitting around and worrying about it is a dead-end.  I gotta just get started and begin to write and see what I come up with.  I need to find my groove, baby.  

Like Elton, and Caitlin, and so many others whom I so admire, I want to produce work that is excellent.  Writing is still something that I am learning, and I make an awful lot of mistakes.  I am encouraged, however, by my beloved fans.  I've got a core group of readers who really dig my work and encourage me to continue.  Wanting to please them is a great impetus when the going is uncertain and seems difficult.  

Hopefully in a few months I can begin a blog that tells of progress, of stories penned and progress accomplished.  

at Copp's Hill Burying Ground in Boston