Bright Futures: BitCoin Hurricane’s

The future’s bright… Utopian in fact… No, really it is… Everything has an upside, even global warming, welcome to a future where Burgundy grapes are grown on the south facing slopes of the North Yorkshire Moors, and English summers are no longer a slightly less wet weekend in July…. The problems we expect of the world of tomorrow are just waiting for the solutions we have almost thought of today. So just because a book is set thirty years in the future is no reason for it all to be gloom and doom on a global scale… We just need to embrace technology and let it lead us into a bright new era of electric self-driven cars and fridges that tell you-you’re almost out of milk, then order some more that will get delivered via a drone in twenty minutes. A future where even investment bankers are basically good people trying to do whats best for the world…

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Okay, so I was raised on a diet of dystopian sci-fi and grim visions of the future, everything from Mad Max to Bladerunner, Neuromancer to V for Vendetta. I expect a horrendous polluted world, where corporations rule openly or through politicians corrupted ever further to the religious right in a fight for control. And that’s before it all comes crashing down once the resources we have so blatantly squandered for the last couple of centuries run dry, and it’s all biker gangs and feral children. If of course the A.I’s we created don’t supplant humanity. So adjusting my perspective to embrace a somewhat more utopian vision of the near future is a little weird.

But why should the future be dark and grim, why not a brighter one. After all, all evidence would suggest that on the whole things get better over time. My son was not being sent up chimneys at the age of five to help put a crust on the table. My daughter went to university and a career rather than domestic servitude. While they may be extreme examples, remember its still less than one hundred years since women got the vote. We have only had universal health care in the UK for just over sixty years, colour TV for less than fifty, freedom in Eastern Europe for less than thirty, mobile phones for less than twenty, and ten years ago no one had really heard of BitCoins… and the idea that currency does not have to be inextricably linked to national boundaries…  The world, on the whole, becomes freer and better for more people as the decades go by, so why should the future not be bright…

Enter K.R. Baucherel’s novel BitCoin Hurricane, a thriller set in this bright and somewhat utopian near future, but all is perhaps not a bright and shiny as it could be. For, while new technologies made have improved a lot of things, basic human nature remains the same as ever, and reliance on technology will always leave ways for that technology to be exploited by those of nefarious morals. Cybercrime is the way forward for criminals after all, and there will always be criminals. And if you have criminals, you need those who stand between them and us. Cybercrime needs cybersecurity agents to fight it, and as the criminals get smarter, so those ethical hackers need to get smarter too. This at least is not so much something of the future but where we are today.

Bitcoin is much in the news right now. The value of the virtual currency has been soaring ever higher, sparking speculation that this is a Bitcoin bubble, and as with all things economic the real question for currency speculators is when the Bitcoin bubble will burst. Having studied economics at degree level, one thing I can tell you with certainty is the Bitcoin bubble bursting will make some shady people very rich, almost certainly at the expense of a lot of other people. This is because while there are many differences between the digital currency and the traditional national currencies we’re all used to, the morality centres of some currency speculators remain the same. Bitcoins are currency and as such criminals are going to try and steal them, be they the North Korean hackers suspected of a recent heist, or the kinds of criminals who wear suits and operate in the grey areas of currency manipulation of the kind that crashed the pound against the dollar in the late eighties making those behind it fortunes at the expense of the Britsh economy…

All of which, including my own somewhat shaded view of currency speculators, does mean that the scene is set for a Bitcoin thriller around the idea of someone attempting to manipulate the markets and make a Bitcoin killing… Of course, an idea is just an idea, and thrillers are tricky beasts to get right. It’s also handy if you are planning to write one if you really understand how Bitcoin economics work. Just as having a good grasp on other emerging technologies is helpful if you’re going to set it in the kind of near future where digital economics have become more than just an emerging fringe. Luckily K.R. Baucherel ticks all those boxes as a writer on non-fiction on emergent technologies and digital currencies in particular. But most importantly of course if you’re going to write a thriller, you need to be able to write fiction…there is a difference between being an expert on a subject. Writing in-depth technical non-fiction on complex subjects and doing so in such a way you explain them to those without your grasp with great clarity, and writing fiction. Fiction takes a certain flair, a little sleight of hand, and ultimately telling a lie well enough for your readers to buy into it. Because at the end of the day you’re always asking your reader to suspend their disbelief, and no matter how well you know your subject matter if you can’t pull off that trick your wasting your time. But more than that you need to take the reader into your confidence, while keeping them on there toes.

This is true for any form of fiction, but perhaps more so with a thriller, as a thriller by its very nature needs to keep the reader in the dark and on edge but do so without losing them along the way. What I want most from a thriller is to be surprised, to be thrown the odd curveball that keeps me guessing and to never be entirely sure what is going on, while being certain that the writer knows exactly where they are taking me. Indeed it’s almost a given that a thriller will manipulate the reader on one level or another. If it’s not throwing you curveballs, it’s not doing its job.

BitCoin Hurricane did just that. Indeed, Baucherel caught me completely off guard and laid bare a somewhat gross assumption on my part. Did so with some style as well as it was the same assumption being made by another character in the novel and it was not till about a third of the way in when that character realised the mistake they were making that I realised my own foolish assumption. It is a simple enough curveball to throw a reader, but it was somewhat masterly pulled off, so cleverly pulled off that I actually made a second assumption just before that particular reveal and was impressed how well the writer had worked it in, only to realise it was a false one on my part. If I had not been hooked before then, (and I was), I was well and truly hooked now, because I am a sucker for having my assumptions thrown back at me…

Throw in a plethora of references of geekdom even I had to look up at one point… (Sleeper Service… not read Excession for a while, so could not figure out where I knew that ships name from…) The strangely utopian nature of the writer’s world actually getting past my doom-laden grim Yorkshire pessimism. The way the technology in the novel is both weird and wonderful in places, and yet a logical extension of emerging technologies today, both fully realised and feeling real. With a plot that is paced to draw you along and never slows to a plod yet never races ahead of itself. What you have is a surprisingly good thriller ( and no, I have no idea why I say surprisingly, I just did not expect it to be as good as it is, it’s a happy surprise).

Bitcoin Hurricane is the first of a series of novels set around the cybersecurity world of the main character who’s online pseudonym is SimCavalier

So, the future’s bright… Utopian in fact… and if it isn’t, it will at least have more K.R.Baucherel novels to come, which on the whole is definitely a good thing…

 

There’s a link here that will even get you a free preview, so enjoy…

 

 

So, anyway, all that said, I’m off to play Fallout 4 and run around a grim future of raiders, mutants, murder, mayhem and irradiated zombies, before I head to bed and read 1984 again. Because there is only so much bright positive utopian future my grim facade can cope with at any one time…..

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To Blog Or Not To Blog..?

That’s not really the question… but if you can’t steal from the old hack of Stratford on Avon then who can you steal from…

This then is a bit of an odd blog post, because it’s a blog post about blogging, so it’s somewhat incestuous in that regard. It is, like many of these posts, inspired by a question asked on a writer’s chat group. Which went something like this:

I would like to start a blog, but I do not know how to start a blog or how blogging can generate an income?

Before I go any further though, let me start with the last part of the question. ‘how blogging can generate an income?’ The simple answer is through advertising. and the less simple answer is to forget about making any income from your blog through advertising… Let me just say this and get it out of the way, if your sole interest in writing a blog is to make money you may as well forget about it right now. That’s the wrong place to start, and you will be better off learning to sell cars. In case you’re in any doubt, let me just say that the next few bits of this post are all to dissuade you for bothering to start a blog if you’re doing it with a view to making money… If you’re thinking of doing so for less fiscal orientated reasons you could skip down a bit, but you might find this interesting all the same…

Yes, there are people who make money blogging professionally. Generally, they are niche blogs, that have built a large following over a number of years, know exactly what they are doing and work towards that audience. Good luck to them, I have no axe to grind, and I wish them nothing but the best. They are making a living through writing, I would love to do the same.

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Yes, I could monetize my blog. It’s WordPress hosted, just in case you were not aware, the WordPress icon on the follow button is a bit a clue. I pay for the domain name and the basic package, which keeps it advert free, but that’s my choice it could have been completely free for me to build and have adverts on it. I could have also taken the next package up (for a small fee), monetised the site and got paid ‘by the click‘ for adverts on it. I didn’t and have no wish too for two reasons.

Firstly, I don’t actually want adverts on my site. God knows the internet has already become the adman’s wet dream. Faceache, Twitter, all the rest are full of ads. So are most news sites, most sites, in general, come to that, and a fair few blogs/opinion sites. All of them happily slowing down the internet and try to sell crap no one wants. Half of the sites on the internet are click bait trying to increase footfall for advertising revenue. the whole reason we all need faster broadband is that sheer number of adverts we have to download to get to the content we actually want to see. So I don’t want my site to be full of adverts. The only adds on my site, if you wish to call them that, are Amazon links to my novels. You’ll have to forgive those, I think I can justify advertising my own work on my blog… But aside them I prefer people to have an ad-free experience when they visit my these pages. You know, the way the internet used to be…

The second reason is not to do so is foot-fall… It is simply uneconomic to have ads on your site if your average visits a day (not views, but individual visits) is at a minimum of 250 a day. If that doesn’t sound that hard let me throw a few numbers at you. This blog in its present form has been around for about 8 months, before that it was on blogger (where it did actually have some paid ads but that’s another story). On Blogger it had existed since August 2013 and I ported over a lot of the earlier posts. In total, not including this one there are 175 posts, on various subjects, some of which have been very successful, some of which are I’ll admit more niche. I deleted a fair few old one from the blogger site or there would be closer to 250+. In all, between the two sites, I have had well over 18000 views since I started blogging. This site alone in the 8 months it has exists accounts for over a third of them. On occasion, I have even surpassed that magic 250 a day ( twice I believe). I have built a solid bunch of followers, post regularly, and a lot of people like stuff I post. Yet, if I was actually inclined to monetize the site I am nowhere near the numbers I would need to make it viable.

This blog has never been for me about making money. I also don’t sell anything other than my own novels via the blog. No mugs with the ‘Passing Place’ logo, no T-shirts with ‘Cider lane’ signposts. No pin badges, nothing. This is because of a massively complex set of reasons but mainly come down to ‘no one ever asked me for any of these things‘ nor do I expect they ever will. All these would be a way to make your blog pay, if you were so inclined, but again you have to create a following in your niche and sites that do that kind of thing have earned it through hard work. There are plenty of people in the artistic writer, artist blogger community who do.  I own a couple of Dark Legacy T-shirts because I love Keydar’s work. If I thought I could get away with a mug at work that read ‘Real princess’s Wear Combat Boots’ I would have bought one from Jeanie at the Devils Panties (not satanic porn) for much the same reason. I have no objection to artists making money or buying their stuff, I read their blogs and comics, they make me smile, laugh and the world a more joyful place. But in both these cases what they are giving to the world via there blogs/comics is unique and wonderful. I also suspect that neither Jeanie or Kaydar started out on this path with the view ‘How can I make money from this.’ but rather started doing something the loved then stumbled into a commercial venture when they realised they had an audience that wanted them to.

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All of which is a rather long way around saying this. If your interest in blogging is to earn money unless you’re prepared to do a whole lot of work to earn it then forget about it, and even if you are, forget about it because you’re starting from the wrong place.

If, however, you’re thinking of starting a blog because you think you have something to say. Something that may add to the greater human experience. Something that may inform, or make someone smile, or you just want to have a good rant to the universe in the vague hope someone might listen. Express yourself, your opinions, your idea’s. Try to help make the world a better place. Just get on with it, start a blog, talk to the world, throw your ideas out there and see what comes back.

And then maybe you’ll reach some form of apex where you can decide to try and make money out of your blogging. If enough people give a damn about the things you have to say…

But don’t start with that in mind. Entertain, inform, help make the world a little better, or give people inspiration, advice and ideas, but don’t go straight for there wallets…

 

Mark

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The Rats In the Walls: The Complete Lovecraft #38

The first Lovecraft story I ever read was ‘The Rats In The Walls’. I always have, and will always, looked upon it fondly, for all its flaws. It remains the tale I am most likely to recommend as a starting point to anyone who has never read the old tentacle huggers macabre scribblings. So with that in mind, I can not claim to be entirely unbias on this one…

So let me get this out of the way first, no matter what else I say, I love ‘The Rats In The Walls‘, it is a masterpiece of the grotesque, the disturbing and the chilling. If, as a writer, you want to write horror. If you want to send chills down the spines or your readers. If you want to know how to get under their skin, to make them feel the itch they can not scratch, study this tale. It is the quintessential horror story, it is as good as it gets for insidious, nasty narratives about the worst of humanities failings and the thoughts of a disturbed mind. It is, in a word, perfect…

Heres the thing, despite these blog posts been a generally lighthearted look at Lovecraft, and occasionally stumbling blindly in to literary criticism, I don’t really want to tell you all about ‘The Rats In The Wall‘, because of all the Lovecraft stories, this is the one I most want people to read. So here is a link to the story itself, go read it…

http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/rw.aspx

Or alternatively listen to it being read by the wonderfully dulcet tones of David McCallum, him of Saphire and Steel, the Man from Uncle, and many more TV shows and movies. His distinctive voice adds to the tale all the more…

So, now you have read, or listen to it ‘hopefully’, and agree its perfect… Let’s talk about its many flaws…

Reading ‘The Rats In The Walls’ you can not help but feel you have read it before. Okay, in my case I most certainly have read it before on several occasions, it’s my favourite Lovecraft story after all, but that’s not what I mean. If you’re reading these in order along with me you will know what I mean (at least three people are apparently according to their emails, which is both gratifying and horrifying in equal measure, so possibly I am inflicting a reading list on more than that, but I digress.)  The story centres around an American who has brought back the old ancestral pile, and is the last remaining descendant of the last remaining scion of a family with a long history that fled to the United States to escape some dark event in that family’s past… Sound familiar yet? Further to this, they have to bring in workers from far afield, as the locals still tell black rumours of the old house up on the hill and the family who once lived there… If you’re thinking you’ve heard this tale before, well this is not a surprise… He also manages to glean more of his family history form the folklore and whispered tales of those few locals willing to talk to him. Not that most do, because of the shadowy history of his family and dark acts over many centuries. Even fewer once he adopts his original family name rather than the Americanised version he began life with…  Got it yet?

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Basically, if you aren’t sure, this is the plot from ‘The Moon-bog‘ which back in #31 got a measly 2 tentacles. It’s not even a case of this story been written after but published before, and the moon-bog only coming to light when Lovecraft achieved more popularity. The Moon-bog was published two years before ‘Rats‘, and the recycling of so many elements of the plot really has no defence. That said a good story stays a good story no matter how many times you retell it. Doctor Who has been saving mining colonies in outer space form the ancient evil they freed by mistake for over fifty years. Every incarnation of Star Trek has a time loop story in it at least once a season. Every James Bond novel tells the same basic plot, and the problem with ‘the Moon-bog’ was never the story itself. All the same to read ‘Rats’ so soon after ‘Moon-bog’ is somewhat jarring in its familiarity. Beyond one been set in Ireland and the other in Sussex, there really is hardly a slither between them in the basics of the setting and background plot.

There are other problems too. Not least the name of the narrator’s favourite cat. Let’s just say its a black cat and much like the dog in ‘Dambusters’, it was a different time. It does bring up an internal debate I have had with myself, and indeed a wider audience than my inner thoughts. I am, generally speaking against censorship, I explained my point of view on the subject in some detail in the post ‘That Offensive Word…’ a few months ago. I also am absolutely against the diluting of an author’s work after they are dead, just as I understand why Ray Bradbury was so angry about the way Fahrenheit 451 was butchered for America schools. But there is a case, all the same, for some minor tampering to match 21st-century sensibilities when it has no effect on anything other than the name of the cat. If the cat were called ‘Mr Tibbles’ it would have no effect on the story in any way. That said I would call the cat ‘Shadows’ or ‘Darkness’ to keep it clear its a black cat we are talking about. Would it matter if the name was changed in newer editions of the collected works?

Of course, once you start down that road, where do you stop. Lovecraft is beset with issues, but for the most part not much worse than many other writers from the same era, though he tends to show his underskirt more often, and certainly is less liberal than most of his contemporaries. The writer’s politics are just something you have to contend with and reach your own conclusions about, it should not be sanitised just because we don’t hold the same views on the whole as he did then. If you can’t read Lovecraft or any other author because their views and politics horrify you then fair enough. Just as not reading a book by Steve Bannon now because of his horrendous views makes sense to me, it doesn’t give me or anyone else a right to decide what should be printed and what should not, that is an uncertain road down which to travel. So I guess it’s better to live with a cat call N******-man…

What set’s ‘Rats’ apart from the likes of ‘Moon-bog’ is the intensity of the tale and the way it quietly, and slowly builds up. It is also a window into the mind of madness, or possibly not, as the story is told from Delapore ‘the narrators’ point of view exclusively. Is he really hearing the rats, or is it all in his fevered imagination. Is he slowly going mad, is this a family trait, is it just karma for naming his cat N*******-man… The descent of  Delapore’s sanity is matched by the descent into the caverns below Exham Priory, and the ancient sites dark history. Yet what you chose to believe is the truth of the tale is left ever open-ended, all of which adds to its strength as a narrative. That and those wonderfully telling hints of the winder Lovecraft universe like the one below…

…the rats seem determined to lead me on even unto those grinning caverns of earth’s centre where Nyarlathotep, the mad faceless god, howls blindly to the piping of two amorphous idiot flute-players…

I am not alone in thinking this is the perfect Lovecraft tale.  Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Barbarian among others, wrote to Wierd Tales praising ‘Rats’ after it was published. This letter was passed on to Lovecraft and was why they became friends and correspondents for the rest of H.P’s life. While Lin Carter, who wrote a few Conan stories himself,  called “Rats” “one of the finest stories of Lovecraft’s entire career. If you read one Lovecraft Tale in your life, then Rats is the one to read, as it achieves what Kingsley Amis described as ‘a memorable nastiness’…

In case you have not guessed this is a tale that gets all the tentacles from me. Six is not enough so my out of six scale, may have to grow a couple of extra pseudo-pod’d limbs.

allout 6

 

Finally, in keeping with another increasingly long-running theme of these posts, ‘Lovecraft stories inspiring Metal bands,‘ American Power metal band Seven Kingdoms wrote ‘In The Walls’ based on the tale. Its a surprisingly cheerful bit of speed metal. (It has reached the point I will be surprised the next time I do a story that hasn’t inspired a heavy/death/goth/metal band of troubadours to pen a tune. Also possibly disappointed when that happens…)

Further Lovecraftian witterings 

Posted in fiction, horror, Lovecraft, music, mythos, opinion, pointless things of wonderfulness, reads, retro book reviews, sci-fi | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wisdom for the uninspired…

I found myself lacking inspiration, having crashed out of NaNoWriMo this year earlier than expected and waiting on a proofreader. So while it goes against my nature as a rule to seek inspirational quotes, I found myself looking for them last night. Mainly it was to take a break from the Nuka-world/Supergirl combo that has been taking up way too much of my free time since I took the decision to drop the NaNo novel due to external factors. Basically, I hit a slump and needed a boost of motivation to get on with the editing I had before me on ‘A Spider In The Eye’. So for those in a slump or those who need just a little nudge to help them along with there own NaNoWriMo projects if you’re still going (and I hope you are), here are some of my favourites.

“I get my best writing done when I’m supposed to be doing something else entirely. And that’s why I keep my day job.” ~ Joyce Rachelle

“You flourish one hushed breath at a time. Imagine all you can build word by single word.” ~ Laurie Seidler

“One does not travel, any more than one falls in love, to collect material. It is simply part of one’s life…” ~ Evelyn Waugh

“Writing is lonely. Until that moment you write your first character and suddenly you have company.” ~ Eliza Green

“An idea for a story can be anything. The sky is not the limit, the limit is beyond it.” ~ Chrys Fey

“I think… the most brilliant thing about being a writer is that if you don’t like the way the world is, you can create your own.” ~ Maegan Cook

“a sentence a day keeps the doldrums at bay” ~ Nikki Broadwell

“Solitary walks are great for getting new ideas. It’s like you’re in a video game and you pick up idea coins on the way.” ~ Joyce Rachelle

“What doesn’t kill me provides writing material.” ~ Wayne Gerard Trotman

“If at first you don’t succeed–write more!” ~ N.B. Williams

“A love of writing is far greater than any word count.” ~ Molly Looby

So, hope that leaves you inspired, (not sure reading all these and a few hundred other last night helped me but I did get a chapter of final editing done before I slipped back to the sofa and the PS4 so who knows…) But one final quote, which may help those struggling with NaNoWriMo, and which Hannibal Smyth would certainly agree with… From the delightful Kilian Grey…

“When in doubt, go the scandalous route.” ~ Kilian Grey

 

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30 Days of NaNoWriMo: Day 16

The best-laid plans of mice and men, and all that… Sixteen days in and the observant among you may have noticed it been eight days since my last update. Simply put doing the blog and trying to keep up with the word count was becoming too much of an issue. Something had to go by the wayside and these blog posts, as they are a product of doing NaNoWriMo this year, were the obvious sacrifice…

So drop the blog posts for a while and focus on writing the novel… great plan… and like all great plans equally doomed. This is because I’ve had a bit of a real-life interlude… Work has been hectic, and so I’ve been working extra long hours. The few events I had planned for, took more time out than I expected. Such as watching Alice Cooper getting beheaded by a vengeful Nurse Betty taking up the what was left of Saturday after I had to work that morning… (which as it was Alice Cooper, was worth losing a day to…)

Alice Cooper

But between full day gigs and fuller than usual days at work, my writing time has been limited. On top of which I got back a serval chapter edit of ‘Spider in the Eye’ the current novel I am actually working on (aside from the NaNoWriMo tale)  and lost another couple of days working through the notes from the proofreader. I hadn’t expected anything back till form them until the end of the month, but the questions I was being asked dragged me back to the story and I thought I would be fine losing an hour or two looking at them ( two days later, damn…). Then there was more work; a simple two-hour job turned into a twenty-hour shift at the coalface and… Well, to use one of my favourites Douglas Adams quotes… Whoosh…

Douglas-Adams-Quotes-5

So here I am, 16 days in and only 10000 words down on paper, calling it a draw… All I can really do is caulk it up to experience, take what I have and not worry too much about it. It is not the first time that I have crashed out on NaNoWriMo, it won’t be the last, but as my real job is not going to ease off for the next week or so, and I have another busy weekend ahead I am going to stop trying to force the writing to happen.

But there is a bright side to this, failure though it may be, no one really fails at NaNoWriMo. I have 10000 words down of a good solid premise, the dotted plan of an interesting story and while it’s going in the scrap file on my hard-drive, for now, there are elements of both the story and the characters I can and will reuse. Indeed, it occurred to me while I was writing it that much of it would work within the Passing Place framework. Indeed it was shaping up to be very much a Passing Place style tale that while it will not directly fit into ‘Something Red’ the sequel I have sketched out for my 2016 novel ‘Passing Place‘, it may well be drawn upon anyway. It actually fits well in the very rough sketches I have for the third in the series.

So, while I am disappointed to be bowing out of NaNoWriMo2017, I am philisop[ical about doing so. No writing is ever wasted. At the very least, all writing is practice in the art. To steal another quote…

quote-you-have-to-write-a-million-words-before-you-find-your-voice-as-a-writer-henry-miller-130-92-60

I found my voice with ‘Cider Lane’ and ‘Passing Place’ but I still need to practise the art, every author does, and a whole lot fo my ‘million’ words were written in previous NaNoWriMo ventures… So for those who like me have found themselves struggling with NaNoWriMo this year. Take heart; you lose nothing through trying and falling by the wayside because even if you fail to hit those deadlines you will gain more for the trying than you ever would if you hadn’t tried at all…

So, adios for now, and for those still in the chase, the best of luck to you all. I’m back to working on ‘A Spider In The Eye’ in what little writing time November seems to be affording me. Which has its own deadline, which already went whooshing by me a couple of months ago…

Mark

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The Lurking Fear: The Complete Lovecraft #37

Old tentacle hugger has inspired a lot of writers over the years. He’s also inspired an awful lot of bands. There is definitely something about Lovecraft and musicians. Not that I can claim to be above the occasional musical reference in these blog posts, as regular reads may have noticed… (Yes, I know ‘The Hound‘ which I covered last time read like the hitchhikers guide to my record collection…) As such it would be remiss, for me not to mention that if you google ‘The Lurking Fear‘ the first things that pops up is not the H.P.Lovecraft tale, but the Swedish death metal supergroup… Yes, its a supergroup, as they were formed by a bunch of death metal artists from influential and successful Swedish death metal bands, several of which even I have heard of… What is it about the Scandinavians and heavy metal? Must be the Viking in them… They are, it has to be said, my usual cup of Earl Grey, while I can appreciate it, I would seldom listen to more than a couple of tracks in a row, but I can recognise good death metal when I hear it. And this is damn good death metal, so if it’s in your ballpark give them a listen, there is a link further down to the wonderfully Lovecraftian track ‘The Starving Gods of Old’… But back to the ‘literary’ review…

With ‘The Lurking Fear‘ Lovecraft is back up in the Catskill mountains, he has a real thing about the Catskills, or at least about the people living there. He is as unpleasant about the locals in this tale as he was in ‘Beyond The Wall of Sleep ‘. Specifically, he refers to them as…

…a degenerate squatter population inhabiting pitiful hamlets on isolated slopes. Normal beings seldom visited the locality…

Normal, in this regard I suspect means White New England Presbyterians. Lovecraft, as I have mentioned occasionally, but not as often as I might have done, was a man whose opinions on politics, race and gender don’t sit well with my own sentiments. I read him with my eyes wide open to his failings, and a certain degree of the forgiveness for living in a different time, but occasionally he can offend me even with the allowances I make for a writer from the 1920’s. Let’s just say the name of the narrator’s black cat in the next story I will be reviewing is reminiscent of the name of the dog from the ‘Dambusters’, and from a 21st century point of view as reprehensible, but I get ahead of myself, that’s for the next post in this series… Suffice to say that Lovecraft’s characters opinions about the people of the Catskill’s are consistent enough whenever they crop up in his fiction that one can only suspect it reflects his own views very closely, and they are not pleasant opinions… Indeed, on occasion the views are a tad more horrifying than the stories…

lurking

The Lurking fear centres around an old mansion in the mountains, that once belonged to rich Dutch immigrant landowners, the Martense mansion is one of those places that abound in Lovecraft’s fiction, an abandoned half ruin of which there are many forboding local legends. Forboding legends, the locals at least believe have more than a grain of truth to them, given recent events the narrator mentions, including the massacre of a whole village one stormy night which has led both the narrator and a flood of reporters to the region. It’s odd that the narrator spends so much of this story belittling the humanity of the locals, (he is very fond of the word ‘degenerate’) but he puts a great deal of weight to the locals tales, he is, however, a man who describes himself as having a:

love of the grotesque and the terrible…

and of having:

made my career a series of quests for strange horrors in literature and in life

So I suspect he is a man used to listening to those he considers ‘degenerate’ when he wants something from them. isn’t that always the way…

This is another tale that is separated into several parts as it was originally published as a serial. Unlike the first of these ‘Herbert West,’ it doesn’t suffer from recapping at the start of each part, which is a blessing. It does, however, lack ‘Reanimators‘ slightly quirky charm. More importantly perhaps, neither does it have the sense of progression you get in Herbert West. In part that can be explained away by the shorter time span, Herbert’s tale covers a decade or more, whereas the events in The Lurking Fear take place over the course of a couple of months, but it is a poorer story for it. Where Herbert West charts a descent into depravity and madness by the main character that carries the story through its various threads, this feels more like a few short stories strategically nailed together with a common narrative to make a longer tale. There really is no reason you could not treat the four parts as separate tales if you wanted to. It reads as if Lovecraft did so when he wrote it…

The narrator managed to survive each episode, unlike whomever the ‘hero’ gets to tag along with him, who die off like red shirts on an away mission. Which is one of the problems, new characters are introduced as no more than fodder for the monster to kill, and you realise this very quickly because the author doesn’t invest much in them either, by the third episode the redshirts don’t even get names… The monsters themselves are cave dwell mole like bestial creatures that it’s hinted are the descendant of the Martense family. As they share a common weirdness of eye colour with the family. Which is in part where this whole tale started to lose me. Unlike most Lovecraft, it both tries to explain itself or refuses to explain itself in equal measure, this story tries to do both and fails.

The final tipping point was when the narrator realised that the strange mounds of earth appearing around the mountains were ‘molehills‘. My normally perfectly suspended sense of disbelief sunk without trace. Yet despite explaining too much (a rare charge for a Lovecraft story) it utterly fails to explain why any of this had anything to do with thunderstorms. Yet it trails that ‘thunderstorm’ motif throughout the story. This second serial style story, written by the tenants of the serial fails in all the ways that Herbert West doesn’t. So I suspect Lovecraft was far fonder of this tale than Herbert West which he always disparaged. It left me distinctly underwhelmed, so much so that I read through it only once, (normally i read them all at least twice before I write these reviews.) It is not the first time this has happened, but unlike other tales, I did not want to reread this one was simply because I was bored by it, perhaps because from a longer format I wanted more depth than this story held.

Someone somewhere loves this story, but that someone is not me, unfortunately. As such it gets only a couple of tentacles, but not to worry, ‘The Rats in the Walls’ is next… And all will be forgiven…

2out-6

Back to Music, as promised here’s Swedish Death metals finest…

But as I said, Lovecraft inspires a lot of music, so in another vain, here is another Lurking fear, by Graham Plowman, who has a whole album of orchestral  Lovecraft inspired music. So Lurking Fear for all tastes… Remarkably I like both…

Further Lovecraftian witterings 

Posted in horror, Lovecraft, music, mythos, pointless things of wonderfulness, reads, retro book reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

30 Days of NaNoWriMo: Day 8

Day 8:  Today’s gem, which the calendar feels obliged to quantify, just in case the whole experience is really getting to you presumably…

Kill somebody! (in the story)

  • Target for the day, get to 13333 words
  • Current word count 6875 words

Literary murder aside, you know your getting somewhere when something a bit odd occurs to you and you write it down, but don’t notice what an odd thought it is till you are half way through writing it… Like this little gem when I found myself thinking about how despite the urban myth that says otherwise they don’t actually keep growing after you die…

He had never realised how much of a habit biting his fingernails had been the quick ceased to be quick and he’d bitten them down to nothing. He’d tried false nails for a while afterwards. Gluing them on, however, was something for which he had little penitence. Particularly as he knew he was only glueing them on so he could bite them off again. It just seemed pointless after a while. When they talk about the troubles of the undead lifestyle, he noted, they seldom mention you can no longer bite your nails…

Which is what I get for combining a weird thought and a major character who happens to be a zombie…  BTW, if our interested, the reason hair and fingernails seem to grow when someone dies is because the skin dehydrates causing it to tighten back and so reveal more of the root and stem. Thus they appear to be growing, hence the myth…  Also BTW, please don’t judge that paragraph, it is as raw as hell, this is the first draft, and written with some hast after all. I am just using it to illustrate a point. speaking of which…

My point here, which may seem a little odd, is that what I enjoy most about writing is the joy of invention. Those little sparks of inspiration that occur to you midstream. In this case, what does a zombie who used to bite his nails do when he dies and his nails stop growing…  Or whats the strangest item of footwear that would ever become a trend among teenage girls …  (Moon boots in case your wondering, platforms shoes with soles so soft they are like walking on blancmange, the desert, not the 80’s electropop duo…)

 

Or for that matter when the odd sentence gets away from you like this one:

The cut and thrust of the politics of the Elven court was quite often a literal cut and thrust, or at least a taciturn bit of bludgeoning at any rate…

Writing should not be all blood, sweat and fears… It should be entertaining, joyous, and downright fun. If it’s not, you may not be doing it right… Besides which I am reminded of a quote from Allen Ginsberg, which I have always kind of liked to remember when I feel I am taking myself too seriously…

allen-ginsberg-writing-quote

Now as I am still a little behind with the word count, and ain’t quite ready to let a body hit the floor I am gonna ignore the calenders advice for now… The important things right now is that I am enjoying the journey, and sure in some hypothetical final edit, a lot of the madness may fall away. But right now it’s starting to be fun finding out exactly what going to slip through the medium of the keyboard next form the darker, and occasionally strange corners of my mind. Or to throw one last quote out at you, to sum up how I am feeling about the whole Nanowrimo experience right at this moment …

quote-there-is-in-writing-the-constant-joy-of-sudden-discovery-of-happy-accident-h-l-mencken-35-24-86

So I hope everyone else playing along is enjoying the NaNoWriMo ride as much as I am right at this moment… And here’s to happy accidents.

 

Adios for now.

Mark

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Posted in humour, music, nanowrimo, pointless things of wonderfulness, quotes, writes, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment