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Saturday, December 29, 2012

This Is True

The great thing about writing fiction is that you can give free reign to your inner ass, idiot, moron, bad guy and inner optimist.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

So...Plot.

Anyone who ever has to hear me whinge about plotting knows that it's the one aspect of writing I like least. There's a good reason for that. I suck at it.

Because I'm a character-driven writer, plot is always the last thing on my mind. My characters have issues, and as such, they spend a lot of their time in their own heads as opposed to the outside world. Though that makes sense, if you're going to tell an entertaining story, you still need an external something to play off the emotions of your characters. Emotions often lead to action, and action, in the narrative sense of it, takes place outside rather than inside.

So, because I have this huge chunk of novel that I feel is unstructured, I have made myself type out a ten page document with which to structure the whole thing. This might seem logical to some writers, but it's not usually the way I ever write things. This also may explain why some people find my writing obtuse, but in most cases, I will disagree with that. I'm usually obtuse on purpose.

I'm actually excited by doing this whole structuring thing. I feel it's the final step I need to get this book onto paper. Everything is basically there, except a few key links in the chain. which, you know, is important.

Any tips for plotting that has made things easy for you in the past? Sharing is caring. In return, I offer these from other writers. Quite a few I subscribe to myself, such as the "said" thing for dialogue, as well as use of the word "suddenly".

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Weird Bodies, Weird Language of "Angels in Love"

My essay on the weirdness of our bodies and of language is now up at Weird Fiction Review. The essay is part of an ongoing series of essays featuring the 101 writers featured in The Weird, the ground breaking World Fantasy Award winning anthology edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer.

I had the opportunity to look at a short story that has stuck with me since I first read it - Kathe Koja's "Angels in Love."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lovecraft: 1. Everyone Who Laughed At His Giant Penguins: 0

This just in: penguins over six feet tall really did exist.

From "At the Mountains of Madness" (H.P. Lovecarft, 1931):

"For it was only a penguin - albeit of a huge, unknown species larger than the greatest of the
known king penguins, and monstrous in its combined albinism and virtual eyelessness."

"All the birds had flown away, save only the great, grotesque penguins."

"Their size reminded us of some of the archaic penguins depicted in the Old Ones’ sculptures..."

So that's some fiction. Now here's some science:



Giant penguin fossils found in Antarctica

(Source: AFP)

BUENOS AIRES — Argentine experts have discovered the fossils of a two-meter (6.5 foot) tall penguin that lived in Antarctica 34 million years ago.

Paleontologists with the Natural Sciences Museum of La Plata province, where the capital Buenos Aires is located, said the remains were found on the icy southern continent.

"This is the largest penguin known to date in terms of height and body mass," said researcher Carolina Acosta, who noted that the record had been held by emperor penguins, which reach heights of 1.2 meters (4 feet) tall.

Lead researcher Marcelo Reguero added that the find, announced Tuesday, will "allow for a more intensive and complex study of the ancestors of modern penguins."

In its next expedition to Antarctica, during the region's summer, the team will seek additional fossils of the newly discovered species, as well as information about its anatomy and how the giant penguin might have moved.

Previous finds from prehistoric penguins indicated they did not sport the iconic black and white feathers the birds are known for today, but had reddish-brown and gray plumage.

Feckin' Awesome.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Whoa, where has the time gone?

Yea, one day you're drying Lavender and the next a month has gone by.

In the past few weeks, I have done a lot of packing and unpacking and moved to a new place on the opposite side of where we were in Auckland. The difference? When Jen and I walk into the supermarket people stare at us. I kid you not.

Anyhoos, the new place has a nice big multi-fuel burner, which we have already used a few times because Auckland cannot decide whether it wants to be hot or cold. All I want right now is to have all the boxes unpacked and my clothes out of bags.

In the meantime, I've been proofreading academic essays, writing, proofreading and writing. I'm finally getting round to some reading as well. Last week I finally picked up a copy of House of Leaves, which I aim to read at leisure. Otherwise it might kill me.

Right now - and I have to share this, as I'm typing this, I am watching an episode of Magnum, P.I. on Youtube. I'm enjoying it way too much (I blame nostalgia), but I have to say -  Magnum, you're pants are too stone-washed and way too tight. But Tom Selleck sure has pretty eyes.

Sold a short story last week, but remaining mum until I've done some minor editing. Mumzy.

Man, Magnum was so much better than Knight Rider.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mmmm...Lavender...

Well, I don't know if Homer would ever have said that - maybe in a parallel, holistic Simpsons universe.

I've been drying lavender lately, because frankly, it's such a handy plant that it really is a crime NOT to. My aromatherapy pillow has lost its lavender smell, but all I need are some dried petals in a bottle next to the bed and tralala! Problem solved.

The process is easy-peasy. Cut some lavender from a bush, as much as you want to dry. Yields can be pretty impressive with just a small bundle. Once you have your bundle, put it in a shoebox or something similar lined with newspaper and put it in a dry place. I put mine in the water cupboard. Works like a charm. Shake the box a little every day to help the stripping process along. After a week (or 10 days), take the box out and empty; the lavender should be dry and the buds should be slightly brittle between your fingers. If you want them drier, just chuck them back in the cupboard for a few more days.

After you've stripped the buds (and are high on essential lavender oil), let them rest for an hour or two in a dry place. Then put them in your preferred storage container. Their most basic function is to make everything smell awesome, but you can use the buds for a number of things - put it in green tea, in a bath, sachets in your closet will deter moths, it's an insect repellent, next to your bed as a sleep enhancer - the list goes on. Google is your friend.

(click pics for higher resolution)

Dried lavender left (bluish), fresh buds right (purple)
To give you an idea of yield, the bunch on the left filled the small jam jar at the bottom of this post

















Dried lavender buds (blue-ish)
Stripped, dried lavender leaves
On stalk, off stalk (thanks, Mr. Miyagi)
Bottled

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Plantelletes

When I was younger I never had any kind of interest in gardening. Now that I'm a little older and slightly more prone to senility and madness, I have found that focusing on something green makes me feel like I'm doing something right. I don't know; maybe some of the crazy is here to stay already.

Anyway, we've known for a while that we were going to have to move out of the house we are currently living in, so Jen and I have been unable to start growing veggies. We're moving soon, so as soon as we get settled in a new place, planter boxes will be gathered and potatoes will be sown.

In the meantime, I have started on herbs, since most of them can be easily maintained in pots. I've also started on a few bigger things (avocado, grenadella (passion fruit), lemon trees) that can be started in pots and then replanted.

It's nice to wake up in the morning and check on your growy-things while waiting for the jug to boil, and I've discovered that the water cupboard is a marvellous place for germinating seeds. At this stage, I have to take them out in the morning and bring them in at night to protect them from possums and snails. Once we have moved, though, I aim to get a small. portable greenhouse so they can stay outside permanently.

For the herbs, I want to grow variants used for pizza, curries and roasts. I also want to expand to include medicinal herbs such as camomile, lemon balm and valerian. My first attempt at rosemary was a fail, and my coriander stalks are way too long, making them look rather insipid. A replant is in order. Pretty pictures below.

Avocado, grown from stone

Basil (and purple basil peering out from below)

Mint

Herbs and stuffs

Sage

Small lemon tree plants, grown from fresh lemon fruit seed

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Things!

Well, it's been a while since my last post, hasn't it. I've been busy though, and that's always a good thing because it means you can pay your rent and go out to dinner every once in a blue moon.


So, what's new. Here's some things that arrived in the mail recently.

This is what I'll be reading next. I originally ran across Jonathan Thomas' The Color Over Occam on S.T. Joshi's blog, and when I read the description knew that it was something I wanted to read. It is currently available only in hardcover as a limited edition in a 150-copy print run, but will eventually be released in paperback. Get the hardcopy, it's gorgeous, and signed by the author. Here's a taste:

"Gorman County disappeared decades ago when floodwaters rose to fill a reservoir. So why should the ghosts of drowned villages resurface only now, in a new century? And what does the reservoir have to do with the grisly deaths, disease, and disappearances stalking the benighted little town of Occam?

Amateur paranormal sleuth Jeff Slater poses these innocent questions, only to encounter hostility, intimidation, and violence wherever he turns. In this saga of Lovecraftian horror, noirish detection, and festering corruption, Slater comes to understand how little he ever knew of his hometown’s macabre history and its bizarre present..."

Something else also came in the mail - my contributor copy of the special edition of Something Wicked Magazine's first anthology. The collection features my story "Into the Black Abyss", about a group of explorers in the African jungle who are terrorised by something that sorta... folds people...


Some of the best recent short specfic by South African writers and others have been collected here by the magazine's editor, Joe Vaz, who currently stars as "Big Joe" in Dredd 3D as. Great guy, and passionate about SA specfic, Joe has produced a gorgeous anthology with stories that I cannot wait to sink my teeth into.

Joe told me about two days ago that there were only about 5 copies of the limited edition left, so if you hurry, you can still get your tentacles on a copy!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lovecraft Annual No. 6, 2012


Orders are now open for the sixth Lovecraft Annual edited by S.T. Joshi (Hippocamous Press).

The journal features an extract of my MA thesis, "Tekeli-li! Disturbing Language in Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft."

Also included is an extract from my co-grad at Auckland University, Anna Klein's thesis, "Misperceptions of Malignity: Narrative Form and the Threat to America’s Modernity in “The Shadow over Innsmouth”.

Fhtagn away.


Friday, August 31, 2012

What I Am Watching

I tend to latch onto some TV shows late, but I prefer it that way, because then I can watch episodes one after the other without having to wait a week in-between episodes. And it's ad-free, too.

So recently, I started watching Rizzoli and Isles, and I have to say, it's pretty entertaining. It doesn't take itself too seriously (I'm looking at YOU NCIS, CSI, LMAO, WTF), and the cases aren't laughably convoluted. Which is refreshing. There's a crime, there are clues, leads are followed, the crime is solved. Jen is convinced that it's at least partially parody. I'm not sure.

What is particularly interesting though, is the relationship between the two lead characters. I don't have to tell anyone who watches TV that relationships between women are more often than not portrayed as, let's put it mildly, 'competitive'. Often, women are murdered, harangued, or just generally made miserable by other women. That, or they're the stoic, loner type with no friends who ends up alienating their prospective boyfriends after a week. Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles bicker and disagree, but you get the sense that both have a deep admiration for the other. It is exactly their differences that bring them together. It's unusual to see this kind of relationship between women on television (or in films). It's very likely part of why the show is so popular.

In the meantime, Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander are the perfect foils for one another. The writing is funny, but the sometimes serious and brutal nature of the cases involved creates a good and needed balance, stopping the whole thing from slipping into being overtly silly. People's private lives are addressed, something that is often missing in procedurals, and effects a distance between viewer and character that hinders the former from relating to the latter.

Bonus points: Lorraine Bracco plays Jane Rizzoli's mother. I will always remember her from Medicine Man, a movie in which she outplayed Sean Connery. By a mile.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Go Edgar!

He may have been crazy, but he knew what he was talking about.






Tuesday, August 28, 2012

On My Lunchbreak, I Invite Shoggoths Over For Tea


When AJ Fitzwater is not a shoggoth, she's an awesome specfic writer. Read more about her endeavours at her blog, Pickled Think.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Stand-Up Fundies: Help!

Jean Carroll was the first truly famous female stand-up comedian. My dad had "look...a coat" on vinyl record, and I remember listening to it as a kid. When I got older, I started appreciating the real-life comedy of Carroll's routines; tame (some would say lame) in comparison to what is considered "funny" today, there's something about the way Carroll tells a story and delivers a punchline that's both heart-warming and hilarious at the same time.

Somewhere between all the moving and changing countries, my dad's record disappeared. I had a back-up copy on tape, but that has vanished into the ether as well; not that it would have lasted long, because I had worn it out as much as I dared after record players started going out of fashion and you couldn't find replacement needles anymore.

I've been trying to find a digital copy of "look...a coat"(the entire album) for forever. Do you know where I can possibly try next? Do you have a copy. Do you know someone who does? Please HELP! I'd be extremely grateful.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I'm Interviewed By The Lovely Sharon Wachsler

Bed, Body & Beyond: Interview with Lynne Jamneck, editor of Periphery

"When my work is in an anthology it's always great fun when my copy of the book arrives and I discover what and who else is between its cover..."

Writer and editor Sharon Wachsler asked me some great questions about the process of putting together Periphery, now available from Untreed Reads in multi e-formats.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ron Fricke Returns


In anticipation of filmmaker Ron Fricke's forthcoming SAMSARA, I re-watched BARAKA with Jen this morning. It remains as transcendental an experience as when I first saw it five years ago, then a first-year Religious Studies major.

Like Baraka, Samsara is non-narrative. According to Fricke, the film "will delve deeper into my favorite theme: humanity's relationship to the eternal."

Worldwide theatrical release of Samsara is scheduled for late summer 2012.

HD TRAILER

For more on Ron Fricke, see also CHRONOS and KOYAANISQATSI

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hello Monday, You Do Not Disappoint

Today, after being away from the internet for a few days (bless, thanks Heide!) I ventured back into the virtual world that's really the real world outside my door, only to be annoyed by it again.

Three things:
It was made for pressing other more dangerous buttons

1. It's the 1 year anniversary of the Ut√łya shootings. Anders Behring Breivik's reason for killing nearly 70 teenagers? Because they supported multiculturalism, thereby "letting down Norway and the Norwegian people".

The world we live in today wouldn't exist without multicultural assimilation. For some, it's apparently fine to accept German Vorsprung durch Technik, but easy to forget that the father of algebra was a Persian mathematician named  Al-Khwarizmi. Multiculturalism is not a curse. It is not bad, and it is not the prime cause of cultural dilution. People manage to let go of their own traditions for a wealth of complicated reasons, not because they accept others for who they are.

2. The New Zealand government trying to have cigarettes sold in non-branded packaging, and in the process costing taxpayers obscene amounts of money to fight their legal battles for them.
     Stop it.
Sure, smoking is bad for you. I was a smoker for ten years and I knew perfectly well what I was doing to myself. Not because anyone told me, but because I read, and took responsibility for my own actions. I am sick to death of being told by a government what I can and cannot do with and to my own body. In the bigger scheme of things, they're doing a hell of job taking away personal responsibility - never mind personal choice - from citizens, in the process creating a society of sheep. But I guess governments like that.

Apparently, smokers summon the devil & other lesser demons
Some moron was talking on the news about how people choose specific branding because it reinforces their femininity/masculinity/coolness, and he cites this as a major reason for why the government wants branding removed. Excuse me, but aligning yourself with a brand is a personal choice and a right, despite Apple enslaving people on a daily basis, numerous brands of alcohol helping people to wrap themselves around trees every weekend, McDonalds making a valiant effort at bloating (hah!) obesity levels around the world, and Coca-Cola going gangbusters at elevating the planet's diabetes statistics. I hope then that the government is planning to remove branding from all take-away food joints' packaging, all liquor bottles and every can/bottle of soft-drink imaginable. Because that shit isn't bad for you at all.

3. The use of the word "evil". I thought after George W. Bush left the White House, this would stop. But no. Today, Barack Obama disappointed the hell out of me by calling the actions of James Holmes, the shooter in the Aurora TDKR incident, "evil".
     Stop it.
In doing so, he invoked the tenets of Christianity to associate perfectly human actions with the demonic. Insane, psychotic actions, but still ultimately human. Aligning these actions with the word 'evil' in a country that involves religion in its justice system is a very dangerous thing to do.

I understand that Obama used the word to try and make sense of seemingly senseless actions. But what happened in Aurora was the actions of a mentally disturbed human. Attributing such an instance with something supposedly outside the realm of humanity does nothing to help us understand - and potentially prevent - such occurrences from happening again in the future. If anything, it's a little "evil" itself.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Clark Ashton Smith, “Genius Loci,” 1933

"Again I looked at the landscape itself — and saw that the spot was indeed as Amberville had depicted it. It wore the grimace of a mad vampire, hateful and alert! At the same time, I became disagreeably conscious of the unnatural silence. There were no birds, no insects, as the painter had said; and it seemed that only spent and dying winds could ever enter that depressed valley-bottom."
                                          -- Clark Ashton Smith, "Genius Loci,"


Classical Roman religion identifies a genius loci as the protective spirit of a place. Clarke Asthon Smith takes his inspiration from this idea, creating a story that both attracts and repels, the same way that the painter in the narrative is simultaneously pulled towards and pushed from the malignant meadow he seemingly cannot stay away from.

Despite it's Roman origins (or perhaps because of it), Genius Loci is a story heavily rooted in Paganism. Nature as antagonist is unsettling in the way it differs from us. It is older than us, all around us, part of the cosmos in a way we are not. I have mentioned before how trees in particular seem to be very present in weird stories, and Genius Loci again uses tree imagery to great effect to instill something so ordinary with a sense of the extraordinary.

Both the narrator and the painter in the story are unreliable characters, yet there are some interesting observations to be made about "seeing" reality as it relates to Art as a medium for truth. Genius Loci never truly reveals whether there is anything evil about the meadow, or whether the sense of unease and evil both narrator and painter derive from it is one transferred from human perception onto something else -- in this case Nature -- which should seem normal and natural, but which we, at its very core, fear because we do not understand it.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

*Note:  I realise that I have skipped the second story by Jean Ray, "The Shadowy Street". I will come back to it later. In fact, I might start reading the stories at random, because I think that such an intermeshing of Weird formats and time-spans might be illuminating in terms of finding new notes, themes and re-occurring ones throughout the collection.

First World Problems

via nzherald


Vacuum alert.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

South African Specfic Anthology Needs Your Help!

So many fantastic books, comics and collections that would otherwise possibly never have seen the light of day has been made possible by YOU. That's right. We are at a point now where crowd sourcing has made it possible for readers to actively have a say in what they want to see published.

South Africa is a country that, until recently, few people associated with speculative fiction. There are always the other things people talk about when South Africa comes up in conversation.That has changed, thanks to the likes of Neill Blomkamp's District 9, and authors like Henrietta Rose-Innes, Lauren Beukes - whose fantastic Zoo City was awarded the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award - and rising star S.L. Grey.

Following in this tradition, Something Wicked Magazine, South Africa's premier market for speculative fiction readers and writers (and the only South African paying market for writers and readers of Horror and Science Fiction since 2006), has started an Indiegogo fund drive to help them with the release of their first volume of collected SA spec fiction.

SW has a week left to reach their target goal, and they have a long way to go. Editor and brains behind the magazine, actor Joe Vaz, confided in me that nothing short of a miracle will get them to their goal. Well, I say miracles happen every day, dammit. Did you know that, if you are in the US, NZ, AUS, UK or basically almost anywhere else in a developed country, your currency is worth more than the South African Rand? That means the smallest donation will mean you're actually giving more than what you think you are! WINNING! The price of a cup of coffee will make a difference; don't believe that it won't.

This is what you will be funding:




Gorgeous, yes? Everything else you want to know about, including the Perks of donating to this very worthy cause can be found on the Indiegogo page. And please help us spread the word!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I Am Writing. WIN.


"The functionalist perspectives of magic are both helpful and misrepresentative. For the informed magician this is not hard to see. The magic manipulator acts as a spiritual conduit for a bigger collective, the previously mentioned "source". The function of magic reaches further than the individual performer, and beyond all individuals aware of the bend. The purpose of magic is the bend itself, and the response sustained into perpetuity from said action."

The Strickland Diaries, Book One

Friday, July 6, 2012

I Used To Draw. Can I Do It Again?

Because Blogger's formatting is basically a nightmare I am linking this post to my Tumblr, which is way more friendly when it comes to posting multiple images. Click the picture below to be re-directed. And why, yes, that is a picture of me when I was seventeen. Shades of Stevie Nicks.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

What’s Your Geek Sign?


Apparently, my geek sign is "Superhero", which at first sounds super cool, right? Remember though, even superheroes can be douchebags. Tony Stark - I'm looking at you. Batman only pretends to be a dickhead playboy, whereas you ARE that dickhead.

To wit:


Selfless: Yes. Jen always gets the bigger piece of cake, helping of pudding, etc.

Moral: Sure. Until someone disagrees with me, then all of a sudden I'm not. Or I'm too moral. What the fuck ever.

Vigilant: Very. But I blame that on my control issue problems.

Condescending:Yes, very much. Especially if your name is Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman or Rick Santorum. Or you try to convince me that the 90's was a superior era to the 80's.

Pious: Ah, the one they got wrong.

Sanctimonious: The other one they got wrong.

Considering the above, I have drawn the conclusion that I really dislike republicans, and that there is a reason I always end up with the smaller bowl of ice-cream. This needs to stop.

Jean Ray, “The Mainz Psalter,” 1930

"When he first saw the schoolmaster, he said to me, "That man makes me think of an unscalable wall behind which something immense and terrible is taking place."
                                       -- Jean Ray, "The Meinz Psalter"

I was never a serious fan of the sea voyage/adventure story until I began writing my thesis, which consisted of spending a year wrapped up in Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness. During this time, I quickly became drawn into the fascinating mechanics of the sea story.

Ships and boats have a long history where matters of the supernatural are concerned. The influence of Poe's Pym, Coleridge's Rhime of the Ancient Mariner and others is evident in "The Mainz Psalter" (the title of Ray's story being the name of a boat). It is, however, the story's modern feeling, coupled with some fantastic, surreal imagery that creates a more prevalent weirdness that feels more obviously present than in its predecessors.

In the tradition of other sea stories, "The Mainz Psalter" features a protagonist that is rescued from imminent death at sea, and relates to his rescuers the events preceding his brush with death. Parts of the story are phantasmagorical, and it's these, juxtaposed with the precise language and descriptions of life at sea that contributes to the feeling of shifts in reality, making it difficult to figure out what exactly is going on.

I really liked this story. Sea stories have interesting things to say about the reality of the mind versus what we experience in the 'real' world. I had not read any of Jean Ray's work before this, but I am once again inspired to seek out more.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Margaret Irwin, “The Book,” 1930


"Tonight, however, Dickens struck him in a different light. Beneath the author's sentimental pity for the weak and helpless, he could discern a revolting pleasure in cruelty and suffering, while the grotesque figures of the people in Cruikshank's illustrations revealed too clearly the hideous distortions of their souls."
                        -- Margaret Irwin, "The Book"

If you've ever read a book that unnerved you so much that you put another book (or books) on top of it where it waited on your bedside table before going to sleep, then "The Book" is the kind of weird story that will terrify you.

It's true. Books are super creepy and super-duper dangerous. We may blissfully read a Dickens or a Baum or a Borges or King, and then at some later point re-read them, only to be disturbed by content we had not picked up on before. Books are not static. Like the ones in Irwin's story, they rest on bookshelves, but only until we take them off and read them. Then we open ourselves to them completely, and they to us. It is this interaction that drives "The Book" into some truly unsettling territory.

Like the strange gap in Mr Corbett's bookshelf that keeps appearing and re-appearing, Irwin's story comments on the relationship between reader, writer and what is written vs. what is read. Do we delude ourselves into finding particular meaning in a collection of words, or are they really, truly meaningful?

I had not read "The Book" before, nor have I read any of Margaret Irwin's other work. I certainly want to now. I'm unconvinced that The Book" is a straightforward ghost story... In fact, there is nothing straightforward about it. The same gaps that appear on the protagonist's bookshelf litter the narrative, leaving odd, weird hiccups in between the events that take place. This is good stuff.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

H.P. Lovecraft, “The Dunwich Horror,” 1929


"Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimaeras—dire stories of Celaeno and the Harpies—may reproduce themselves in the brain of superstition—but they were there before."
                                  -- H.P. Lovecraft, "The Dunwich Horror"

"The Dunwich Horror" is classic Lovecraft. It's a perfect example of the author's strong Naturalistic philosophies and self-proclaimed Irreligiosity. Despite such an approach to the laws of the universe, there is always something that remains...unexplainable.

The story puts us straight into the heart of the archetypal Lovecraftian milieu, Massachusetts, New England. Lovecraft's dreaded grimoire, the Necronomicon, features at the centre of the story. Genetics, sex and reproduction are all addressed. As such, "The Dunwich Horror" is also known for the fact that it's probably the only story of Lovecraft to feature a female character fairly prominently.

"The Dunwich Horror" is a Lovecraftian oddity, a story between good and evil in which good wins. But maybe there is more to the ending of this story, bearing in mind what Armitage says: "I'm going to burn his accursed diary, and if you men are wise you'll dynamite that altar-stone up there, and pull down all the rings of standing stones on the other hills." Taken in the context of Lovecraft's oeuvre of New England-based stories, we know that cursed texts and black stones all re-appear at intervals, in different places and different incarnations. What we say and what mean to do isn't always necessary what we end up doing. Despite its so-called "happy ending", "The Dunwich Horror" leaves the reader with the notion that, while disaster may have been averted for the time being, it's only a matter of time before it rears its tentacled, gooey head again.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Last Chance To Buy Tales For Canterbury!

Pretty Vogie
If you haven't already heard the fantastic news that Tales For Canterbury (which features the only zombie story I have ever written) has won a Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Anthology, you know it now! The anthology enters its final week of sales tomorrow, with just under $700 to go to reach its final goal of $5000 (NZ). All money raised will go toward relief funding for victims of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

Only a few copies remain, so head on over and grab yours before they are gone for good! Neil Gaiman, Gwyneth Jones, Anna Caro, Amanda Fitzwater, Jesse Bullington, Debbie Cowens, Brenda Cooper, Jay Lake, Helen Lowe and a host of other authors are included, Don't miss out!


H.F. Arnold, “The Night Wire,” 1926

"Sometimes, though, queer things happen. One did the other night, and I haven't got over it yet. I wish I could."
                   -- H.F. Arnold, "The Night Wire"

I loved this story. On the surface, as purely a reading experience, it effectively combines all those elements that conceptualise the inner workings of the weird tale. It has a certain elegance that, while not the refined and obscured prose of Kafka or Borges, is beautiful specifically because it is straight up about what it presents. I thought of it myself as a more elegant version of Stephen King's "The Mist."

The bulk of the story is revealed via news wires of events as they happen. One point of obfuscation is the matter of where events are unfolding. According to the news reports, it is in a place called Xebico. As the narrator finds out eventually, such a place does not exist... or does it?

In many of the stories I have read so far in The Weird, language, and the information it is able to transfer, is called into question. "Xebico" in fact, may be anywhere. Contextually, it does not exist, but neither does reality in the way we perceive it. "The Night Wire" hints that the seemingly supernatural events of the narrative may be moving towards the town in which the narrator lives; perhaps it had been there all the time.

Arnold's story approaches seemingly extraordinary events through a mirror that seeks to reflect fact. "The Night Wire" makes it clear that this is a flawed approach. Facts are sometimes of such a nature that they seem entirely impossible. Perhaps there hides in the narrative a warning against complacency, the repetitive work of the night wire transmitters an eerie vehicle for the fantastic to slip into our reality.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Blogger! *shakes fist*


Blogger and its crazy rules about dragging pictures in a line next to one another is making me insane. A recent post about playing Scrabble with fake words can be found on my Tumblr. Clicky clicky.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Stefan Grabinski, “The White Weyrak,” 1921


"Above me, several feet beyond the blade of my hatchet, I saw in the half-light of the flue a snow-white being staring at me with a pair of huge, owlish yellow eyes."
                                   -- Stefan Grabinski, "The White Weyrak"

Yea, this one is weird. As in see things and you can't unsee it. It's rather marvelous that way.

The introduction to the story states that Grabinski has been referred to as the "Polish Poe" or "Polish Lovecraft." There are definitely aspects of both authors present in the narrative. A Poe-esque sense of dread builds as two apprentice chimney sweeps are sent out to clean the chimney of a certain abode, but never return. Darkness, and more to the point, blackness, is a very real and physical presence in "The White Weyrak." The story ends in a way that, I think, would have made Lovecraft squee

with delight. You really want to know more, but also really, you really don't.

The weirdness of having a occupationally segregated space - the chimney - attached to a house becomes a very unsettling notion as the story progresses. Grabinski gives small clues as to what might be hiding away in the dark, enclosed vestiges of Santa's ladder. Up until this point, dread has steadily been building through the information we are given, and that which is left out.

When a third chimney sweep and his teacher decide for themselves to investigate the house's chimney that has seemingly swallowed their co-workers, we are given a reveal that is unexpectedly brutal and violent. The story does not end here; as readers, we are forced into the same darkness as the unlucky chimney sweep, closed in with the grotesque being that has been - well, I won't give it away.

Grabinski is another writer I will now actively look into reading more of. My own background (on my father's side) is Polish, even though I'm about a generation removed. Literature may be a good place to start from, and Weird literature may indeed be the best option for this endeavor, since I find it somehow weird that I haven't made a real effort at learning more about my Polska roots after all this time.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer

Review: Black Wings of Cthulhu


"What I have learned is that Lovecraftian themes and motifs can be incorporated in tales of many different types — ranging from pure science fiction to hard-boiled crime fiction to delicate prose-poetry to pure fantasy."
                 -- S.T. Joshi, interviewed by Lynne Jamneck (Weird Tales)

Joshi is right, of course. The Lovecraftian mood lends itself to a variety of different genres and tastes, as is evidenced by the range of authors collected together in this volume from Titan Books. Caitlin R. Kiernan, Laird Barron, Nicholas Royle, Brian Stableford, Norman Partridge and Donald Burleson (who, like Joshi, writes critically about Lovecraft) are only a handful of the writers who have contributed to Black Wings of Cthulhu.

These stories are not specifically built around Cthulhu himself, but offer a wide glimpse into the universe of a writer who has by turns been labelled racist, misogynist and sexist. Regardless of one's personal feelings about Lovecraft, the amount of literature that keeps being produced directly influenced by his own work and sensibilities highlights the attraction of the Lovecraftian philosophy to contemporary reading audiences.

The stories in Black Wings of Cthulhu range from the noire-ish "Engravings" by Joseph S. Pulver Sr, to the surrealism of  W.H. Pugmire's "Inhabitants of Wraithwood", to the beautifully paired back restraint of Caitlin R. Kiernan's "Pickman's Other Model". Pugmire's story is in fact more reminiscent of Lovecraft's Dream Cycle stories than any related to the Mythos Cycle. Kiernan is not the only writer who expands on the Pickman character, as evidenced both by Pugmire's contribution, as well as Brian Stableford's "The Truth About Pickman." Lovecraft's own "Pickman's Model" is a favourite amongst many Lovecraftians, and these stories are sure to be satisfying reads for those wanting to know more about the strange painter and his disturbing creations.

One of my personal favourites is "The Correspondence of Cameron Thaddeus Nash" by Ramsey Campbell. Written in epistolary format, the story takes the form of correspondence between a seemingly disturbed amateur author and Lovecraft himself. For those familiar with Lovecraft's letter writing habits (he was prolific, trust me), the story tackles ideas related to the powerful nature of language and the affect of this power in the form of literature. Ramsey's story is a perfect example of the allure Lovecraft's work still holds today for both readers and writers.

The twenty-on stories in Black Wings of Cthulhu are unique, sometimes puzzling, but very successfully manages to remain fresh in their interpretations of the Lovecraftian mood. As previously stated, they are not retelling of original stories, but function rather to expand the universe created by Lovecraft himself, something he would, I am sure, have approved of wholeheartedly. Indeed, they are, rather than Cthulhu himself, the wings that make the beast take flight.

Boom! Headshot.

Yea, so I think Caitlyn is my favourite character so far. I go for Trinity Force in the game first instead of Infinity Edge and it makes all the difference. Boy, did the bots suck in this one. Poor old Trundle and his cudgel.



Thursday, June 21, 2012

Franz Kafka, “In the Penal Colony,” 1919

"This is the harrow for the upper body, and here are
the harrows for the legs. This small cutter is the only one designated for the head. Is that clear to you?” He leaned forward to the Traveler in a friendly way, ready to give the most comprehensive explanation."
                     -- Franz Kafka, "In the Penal Colony"

 Kafka's story of an observing Traveller in an unnamed penal colony is particularly unsettling for the fact that it describes horrible physical torture in a manner that mimics an operations manual, or something equally technical. Indeed, death is centre stage in "The Penal Colony", but not as an abstract concept. Here, the breaking down of biology, of the human body, as it is exposed to physical torment, accentuates the struggle that our biology effects in a bid to defy death. It's all a bit traitorous; our bodies won't just cease in the face of inevitable suffering.

Theories have been put forth about Kabbalah traditions being in some way important to interpretations of Kafka's story. It's not the kind of story that will easily find any kind of "definitive" interpretation, and indeed, interpretations are many and varies widely.You read Kafka, and when you finish, what you generally say to yourself is "Yes, but what did it mean?" In my opinion, this is both a sign of a great writer, as well as the power of language (also somewhat traitorous and evading, considering we invented it). Context always changes, which makes meaning mutable. Kafka goes beyond making us simply think about what a story might mean. Rather, it seems to want to make us ask the question "What does it not mean?" Somehow, this is more confrontational, and has the potential for making us feel, rather than just curious, desperate to know what the author is trying to say, but at the same time terrified of finding out.

Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer