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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Review: The Fisherman

It's 6:00 and someone opened the trapdoor to heaven - the perfect time to write down my thoughts on John Langan's The Fisherman.

Yes, this is a cosmic horror novel, one of relatively few, considering the outpouring of short fiction in the genre. Its narrative structure, the telling of a story within a story, works particularly well in terms of conveying a sense of time long-passed, of leviathan forces beyond our knowledge waging cosmic war in the unobserved background, puny humans blissfully unaware.

But among us there are always those who notice the blurred edges and the things that live in them.

The Fisherman, aside from being an enormously addictive read, is a powerful example of the impact that the act of storytelling can have on our lives. Imagination, unrestricted by the forces of logic and rationale is what connects us to the Other. The Fisherman employs this link to enforce that we are inherently and inexorably drawn to what scares the shit out of us. That slumbering need to understand the darkness within while at the same time being repulsed by it. As Van Gogh is reported to have said, "The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore."

Biblical notes further underscore a sense cosmicism in Langan's novel and, for me at least, rendered the story more mythologically dense than would have, for example, purely Lovecraftian infusions. The latter is certainly present, too, perhaps no more so than in the title character; however, Langan portrays him with a sense of depth that eventually delivers an infinitely more humanistic climax than anything Lovecraft ever would have considered.

At its core, The Fisherman may intrinsically be about the horror of being human and everything this state of being entails. If you've never considered yourself a "horror" reader, this may be the book that changes your mind. And be prepared to put everything else aside once you start reading it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Dreams from the Witch House Review

Via Goodreads, a great review for Dreams from the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror. All kinds of awesome.




Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Broken Hours Review


"What is it about the darkness which draws us?... I, who feared once, as a child, not the witching autumn, but spring, that clear-lighted season of ghosts... There was something in me, I knew, something perhaps in us all which, no matter our rational selves, was haunted."  -- The Broken Hours

The Broken Hours by Jacqueline Baker is a dreamlike novel, a haunting narrative that serves as a framework for the psyche of a writer that is today more popular than ever.

The year is 1936. H.P. Lovecraft lives in a house that itself appears to be haunted, but not so much by a ghost than by the deteriorating writer that occupies it.

A contemporary literary ghost story, The Broken Hours is an unsettling novel that plays with the reader's perceptions of the real. Notions of madness, which are often central to Lovecraft's fictional universes, are employed to great effect when protagonist Arthor Crandle accepts a position as Lovecraft's assistant. Ideas surrounding identity and how we perceive reality are elevated in the interplay between Lovecraft and Crandle (the latter's name, in  both  appearance and phonetically somehow quintessentially Lovecraftian). Lovecraft communicates with Crandle only via letters; the two almost never speak face to face. On the main stairwell of the house, Arthor more than once experiences an ominous presence and at night, when Lovecraft writes in his study, the light is visible from underneath the door inside the house, but not from outside the house, looking in.

The Broken Hours is a lyrical homage to the weird that employs one of the genre's most recognisable figures as a signpost around which a maelstrom of psychic elements collect. The dreamlike quality of the language contributes to a building sense of unease, of feeling lost, of not being able to distinguish fiction from fact. I expect that those looking for details of Lovecraft's more well-known fictional creations may be disappointed. Rather, Jacqueline Baker's "novel of H.P. Lovecraft" is The Turn of the Screw gone Weird in the best possible way. Highly recommended, even if you know little about Lovecraft's own fiction; in fact, the novel may serve as an enlightening foundation for reading his fiction for the first time.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Product of your time? NO

I'm currently writing a story for a project that addresses Lovecraft's racism through stories that put all kinds of minorities front and centre. Of course, some people decided to piss and moan about this because "pandering blah-blah-blah" and "Lovecraft was a product of his time".


Product of your WHATEVER



So here's my response to this, which I will repeat here from the FB group page for this project.

"Product of his time" is too often used as an excuse. People are not mindless automatons. We have free will. We can decide what we want to believe.

I am South African and as such, racism has been a present force in my life for a very long time. Of course, as a child it was a force due to its pervasive absence - not talked about by adults or the media. 

As a teenager I was able to actually start thinking for myself, as was the case with many of my peers. Schools became bi-racial when I was around 16 and of course, unlike adults, teenagers were like, what the fuck is the big deal? Then Nelson Mandela was elected president and for a couple of months, South Africa basked in the glow of democracy and everything was rainbows and unicorns.

Then everyone got angry. Real angry. People who had been oppressed horrifically for years were in a position of power, were making the new laws of the country. God bless Nelson Mandela, because that man didn't have an ounce of hatred in him. But once he was no longer president, things began to turn ugly. People were drawing strength from hate. And once Mandela died, there was no reason for anyone to any longer hold to the ideals Madiba proposed. 

Today, there is a great deal of positivity in South Africa, but there is also still very defined racism. Blacks against whites, whites against blacks, black tribes against one another - it's a long list. 

Was Apartheid a "product of its time"? Fuck no, it was a choice. Because in the midst of Apartheid, there were thousands of whites who chose to accept black people as equals, who fought alongside them for the same rights bestowed on those of the so-called "Vaderland".

Hating someone because they are different is a choice. It's like saying homophobia is a product of it's time. Well, homophobia is still very rife, and we live in the 21st century. So no. 

I wrote my MA thesis on Lovecraft. I like the guy. I think he wrote about very important things before anyone else, and these themes are still extremely relevant today, which makes him a kind of visionary. But he was a jerk in terms of how he viewed those who were different from him. He clearly wasn't a hick in terms of how he thought about Big Ideas. But it's easier to hate something you don't understand than to actually look at your own shortcomings and fears.

[Project Editor] - when I did WITCH HOUSE, I luckily only got a small number of people complaining about publishing a Lovecraftian antho with women only. Those people missed the point of the antho entirely. Someone is always going to complain, you can bank on that the way you bank on the sun rising each morning. It's not a reflection on you or anything you're doing. If anything, you're confronting people with their own biases, and that's a good thing. You're doing just fine.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Friday, May 6, 2016

Black Wings of Cthulhu 5


Black Wings of Cthulhu V (ed. S.T. Joshi) featuring my story "In Bloom" is now available for preorder at Subterranean Press!

"This fifth instalment of S. T. Joshi’s critically acclaimed Black Wings series features twenty stories that use H. P. Lovecraft’s mythos as the basis for imaginative ventures into the weird and terrifying. One of the central themes in Lovecraft’s work is the problematical nature of science in human affairs, and in this volume we find stories by CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan, Lynne Jamneck, and Donald R. Burleson where scientists come face to face with the appalling implications of their discoveries."

While the implication of "In Bloom" might be appalling, I sometimes think that the outcome of the story might be a better option, considering what we're doing to the planet.

Read more about BLACK WINGS V at the Subterranean Press website.