Shrinking world…

The world shrinks every day, in more ways than one, but as a by-product of our shirking world, many people feel less safe. They think that the world is getting more dangerous, more bad things are happening, people are nastier, there is more violence, more horror, more death and destruction, and the world is a worse place than it has ever been… Yet this is an illusion we have brought upon ourselves.

When I was a child, back in that other world, we called the 1970’s, we have a 30-minute news program on the TV every night. Just that, 30 minutes at 6’oclock, then thirty more at 9, or 10 if you watched the other channel. There were only three channels btw, and they did not broadcast 24 hours a day,  BBC2 was mostly just the test-card girl… For most of us, she was still in black and white…

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The other sources of news were the radio and newspapers. So there was only so much News to go round, basically, you got as much news as you could squeeze into 30 minutes on the TV and the broadsheets. That’s if you wanted it, it was easy to just blank it out and go news free for days on end. Most of the time we didn’t know what was going on outside the UK, and quite often we had sod all idea what was going on inside it. A war in Africa might make the news once a fortnight and only then if someone really important visited the area like the pope or the foreign secretary, or a former Beatle… Even then unless you actually sought out the news, you would probably only hear about these things third hand at best… If you wanted to block it out the world, you could, without seeming strange, or being considered odd in any way, because most people didn’t really care much about the news they never got. Times were grim, but no one bothered to tell us times were grim, so we didn’t worry overly much about it.

Fast forward to a different world. 24-hour news channels, channels mind, not just one of them, but an endless selection.  And in case you miss the news itself, Twitter, Facebook, the whole social media explosion will repeat it to you. The news is constant, and the bad News is the News people pay attention to. You can’t avoid it, it’s in your face, and we interact with it on a level that has never been seen before. In the 1970’s you might discuss the news down the pub (okay in the playground in my case and not very often at that) if you were angry about something, and I mean really angry about something, you might write to a newspaper, or That’s Life… Now if you wish to vent your spleen, and boy do we enjoy a good spleen-venting, we can go online and broadcast our inner nazi to the world… And we do…

(for Americans and other stranger forms of life, ‘That’s Life was a 1970’s consumer rights program that championed the small guy and got dogs to say sausages. It was a bit like a poor mans U-Tube once a week for five minutes. With the same damn dog every time )

The world is not a more dangerous place than it was in the 1970’s. People are not nastier. There are not more paedophiles, rapists, murders, killers and hate spewing nazis in the world. There aren’t more wars, disasters and death. (okay maybe more environmental disasters, I am no global warming sceptic.) The world, in general, is not a worse place.  In fact, the opposite is true. Successive generations are ever more liberal-minded, less racist, less homophobic, more accepting of difference. We have just let ourselves be swamped by it all.

We have given voice to the worst of us, let the worst of the world come to our door and then opened ourselves up to it. It is the price of the shrinking world, one we all pay and while it nice to look back on the days before the internet and 24-hour news revolutions we need to remember the world was just as much of a shite pond then. Indeed it was a damn sight worse, we just didn’t know it…

And perhaps, once in a while, put down the screens, turn off the TV and just let the madness of it all stop for a moment…

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A Quote Or Two For NaNoWriMo

With the thirty days of NaNoWriMo looming on the horizon for many of us. I’ve trawled my big book of quotes for inspiring words, (and some not so inspiring) here’s a selection of quotes on the subject of that most NaNoWriMo of things, the deadline…  But first a little historical perspective…

“Historically, the ‘deadline’ was the line around a prison beyond which prisoners were eligible for shooting. In keeping with shifts in the exercise of control, what one was delineated spatially over life is now enforced temporarily over labour.” ~ CrimethInc.

“A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it’s better than no inspiration at all.” ~ Rita Mae Brown

“Are you aware that rushing toward a goal is a sublimated death wish? It’s no coincidence we call them ‘deadlines.” ~ Tom Robbins

“Dreams without deadlines are dead in the water. Deadlines are really lifelines to achieving our goals.” ~ Mark Batterson

30 days of deadlines

On a slightly lighter perspective…

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” ~ Douglas Adams

“Deadlines just aren’t real to me until I’m staring one in the face.” ~ Rick Riordan

“…a deadline should not prevent you from writing, but writing will help prevent you from missing your deadline. Then write a word. Then remind yourself of that again. And then write another and hey, look at you! You’re spitting in that deadline’s eye.” ~ Courtney Summers

“A deadline is a finish line. Don’t stop ’til the door shuts in your face!” ~ Raven Moore

“I had three days to screw over Nicodemus Archleone and his crew and get this thing out of my head, without getting myself or my friend killed while I did it.” ~ Jim Butcher

“A hammer made of deadlines is the surest tool for crushing writer’s block.” ~ Ryan Lilly

“If the novels are still being read in 50 years, no one is ever going to say: ‘What’s great about that sixth book is that he met his deadline!’ It will be about how the whole thing stands up.” ~ George R.R. Martin

Speaking of George, a final word from that most awaited of writers Pat Rothfuss, fans of whom have been waiting for the third novel in the Kingslayer trilogy for quite some time. They have also been complaining since the moment they finished reading the second instalment… Which led to Neil Gaiman once to say of both Pat and George (I paraphrase slightly), ‘Readers, they are not your bitch…’ But as promised a word from, Pat…

“Normally I miss deadlines like a stormtrooper misses Jedi.” ~ Patrick Rothfuss

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Good luck to all the NaNoWriMo writers out there and have fun chasing those deadlines…

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Hypnos: The Complete Lovecraft #35

“…Young with the youth that is outside time, and with beauteous bearded face, curved, smiling lips, Olympian brow, and dense locks waving and poppy-crowned.”

As gods go in Lovecraft’s fiction, the Greek god of sleep is probably one of the least terrifying. Lovecraft’s elder gods are usually a little more utterly terrifying after all. Tentical faced gigantic winged beasts for whom humanity is just a eat all you can buffet laid out for breakfast once the stars are right. Beings that will send you mad trying to comprehend them fully, tend to inspire a modicum of awe after all… Where as a god of sleep seems just a little mundane in comparison…

But wait a moment, in the original Greek myths Hypnos is the son of the night and darkness, brother to death and resides in Hades. Sleep is ever the little death… Which is why old tentacle face lays in a sleep akin to death beneath the oceans. Where there is sleep, there are dreams… and dreams in Lovecraft have a nasty habit of being more than the nightly meandering of the mind as it tries to bring order to the chaos of the day… So let’s not write of Hypnos just yet, for the night is indeed dark and full of terrors…

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It is fear of sleep that haunts the narrator of this strange little tale. A fear that takes its name from that same Greek god, Hypnophobia. As a man who likes a pleasant doze on the sofa, I find the concept of being afraid to sleep, terrified of sleep to be more exact, a little on the scary side. Even when my random bouts of insomnia are at there worst at least, I am not afraid of sleep, the faces in the dark perhaps… But that’s the fear that at the heart of this tale, and our narrator, like so many Lovecraft narrators, brought it all on himself…

The narrator who is not named just for a change, (one occasionally thinks Lovecraft just didn’t like thinking up names very much with all the nameless creations who tell his stories…), is a sculptor, a bit of a recluse and for most of his life friendless. Until he meets a mysterious man in a railway station. With a logic that escapes me, he realises the stranger will be his friend the moment he opens his:

“immense, sunken, and widely luminous eyes”

Because let’s face it the moment you meet a mysterious stranger in a railway station with huge sunken eyes that glow the first thing that crosses your mind is the word ‘friend’… but hey, artists, their sanity is always fluid even outside of Lovecraft’s fiction…

Regardless, he sees something in this stranger, that something been mysteries he has always sought knowledge of reflected in those strange eyes… and takes him home with him. (see I told you he brought it all on himself.) He then spends his days making sculptures of his friend, or at least busts of his face.  While he spends his nights…

‘exploring worlds beyond human comprehension.’

Indeed they together seek to transcend into the unknown to rule the universe, through the excessive use of drugs…  Artists… What can you say… But eventually, they come to a barrier they can not cross and when they awaken once more the strange friend warns the sculpture that from then on they must avoid sleep at all cost. Which can only be achieved through the use of more drugs… It’s the sixties all over again …

If Lovecraft had lived in the sixties, the sculptor would be a pop culture artist and call himself Andy while hanging around with assorted Beatles… For a teetotaler old tentacle hugger certainly,  he likes his drug fantasies. This is hardly the first time his narrators have been heavy users of powdery substances… With the aid of drugs, the two avoid sleep as much as possible, but when on occasion they succumb, they rapidly age in appearance and are plagued by nightmares which in true Lovecraftian fashion the narrator refuses to explain. Eventually one night, the stranger falls into a deep-breathing sleep and was impossible to arouse. The narrator shrieks, faints and awakes surrounded by the police and his neighbours. Those neighbours claim he never had a friend, yet there in the centre of the room is a statue of the stranger with the weird eyes. Engraved with the Greek word: ΥΠΝΟΣ… (Which in case you can’t guess is Hypnos).

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So there you go, the drug fulled fantasy life of an artists insanity and obsession with strange men that could be greek gods… Or a visitation of a greek god upon a mortal that ends in madness… With a lot of sixties vibes thrown in. The only thing missing is a girl called Lucy hanging about on a cloud wearing nothing but an 18-carat diamond studded tiara and Sargent Pepper playing in the background…

It’s a bit of an odd tale, and I ain’t very fond of it. I am not exactly sure why. The sixties references that are not sixties references perhaps. I don’t think it has aged well, not because of anything internal to the story, but because the world has moved on. The narrator is not some strange junkie living a strange wild life because we have had the sixties, and the seventies, the eighties, the nineties… etc. Junkie artists are hardly an oddity to us, they don’t inspire much when they are just a stereotype that’s so common as to be mainstream… Which is not to say the 1920’s did not have junkie artists of its own, but they were not just a run of the mill stereotype, they had an alluring mystery that they just don’t have to a modern reader. I’m from the ‘Trainspotting’ generation, even the sixties and LCD trip fiction seems a little tame, and I have read Micheal Moorcocks ‘Fireclown’. I am used to Irvin Walsh, dead babies on the ceiling and diving into the worst toilet in Scotland … So in drug-fueled visions, I kind of expect more…

It’s unfair of me I suspect, to expect a teetotaler from prohibition era Providence Rhode-island to match up in drug fantasies to the sixties, let alone the nineties Edingbrough heroine scene with its imagery, and normally I don’t compare the fiction in that way but with Hypnos I struggled not to. So its a mere two slimy tentacles reaching out from the pillbox for this one. That and the god of sleep telling someone not to sleep… just seems a little odd… Still, don’t let me bring a downer on it all… pop one of these and have pleasant dreams instead…

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Further Lovecraftian witterings 

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NaNoWriMo: Or how to first draft…

With November less than a month away, and in the mildly self-aggrandizing of attempting to offer some advice to budding writers… This is the story of how I managed to write my first novel. It is also the story of how I managed to write my nineteenth novel. They just happen to be the same book. The other eighteen are still sat on hard drives, in paper copies or in one case on an old Amiga floppy disc I can not access. You see, in case you have failed to guess, the only reason Cider lane became my first novel was because I actually finish writing it. More importantly, perhaps, I actually finished the first draft.

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Like most writers I suspect, I have started a lot of projects over the years, far more than nineteen technically, as I have endless notebooks and scrap ends, one-off chapters of unwritten masterpieces (or utter drivel in all likelihood). That nineteen is the number of projects that got past 40 pages or around 20000 words minimum. Then for one reason or another, they ground to a halt. Some are a lot longer than that, some just scrape over the line, but all of them had one thing in common, all of them (until Cider Lane) never got completed to the end of a first draft.

Maybe I just lost interest in a story. Maybe I found myself inspired by something else and launched myself into it and left the earlier work behind in the ‘get back to this later’ tray. Quite often life just took a turn to the left, life does that on occasion, I have been writing for over thirty years, after all, children, relationships, depression, different jobs and a whole lot of other stuff has happened in that time. Life has a way of happening to us all… But if I was asked to nail down one main reason that all these manuscripts fell by the wayside it is this one: I used to edit as I went along…

Edit as you go, go back to chapter one and rewrite it again, and again. Write a bit further then feel you need to revise things again. Edit, edit edit. Re-write, re-write, re-write… I could write 100000 words, but the actual manuscript would still be 10000 words long. I know I am not alone n this experience… It is also one of the reasons why I would get stalled with a story.

Generally, I would go back to a previous chapter because something had made a little light bulb come on in my mind and I would realise that whatever I had just written would work better it ist had a bit of foreshadowing, perhaps just if it was alluded to by a character in an earlier chapter. Then I would go back to add it, or change something and find myself sucked into revising the whole chapter from the start, yet again…

When NaNoWriMo came around every year I used to be busy, November in my old job was the worst, long hours tight deadlines. Added to which I would always be in the middle of something writing-wise. So while I always like the idea, I never actually did it.

NaNoWriMo, for those who do not know, is ‘National Novel Writing Month’. It’s well organised, but you don’t necessarily need to go down the organised route. The idea is to write a 50000 novel in the 30 days of November. There are groups who cheerleader each other along. Calendars to track your writing with. A whole lot of social engagement and help from other sources, you can register here, and find a local group via the main website. Importantly they also have a couple of guiding principles they suggest you stick to if possible.

  • Write every day… and stick to your targets
  • Don’t edit just write… editing if for December…

Its the latter one that really makes the difference for me, so I decided one year to try it. In July … as I say November was always a busy month for me. But other than getting the date wrong I used the word count guides and the forums, and the guideline on not editing as I went along. A month later, I had done it, not a 50000-word novel, but at the time a 69000-word novel. I overshot because it went so well. It was bare bones, there was almost a year of redrafting, editing more redrafting more edit etc. before the manuscript was somewhere near its final stage. But I had the first draft and therein lays the trick… I had something real, and complete to work with.

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I am an exception, to a degree. Few NaNoWriMo novels ever get published by there writers, that’s not really the aim. Certainly not in the form they are first written (when I say Cider Lane had a lot of editing afterwards I mean a lot.) But plenty prove to be the ground stones on which a novel is built. Its an exercise in creativity, not perfection. It forces people, in a gentle way, to write with a certain amount of self-discipline. There is no failure if you don’t succeed in completing your 50000 words, not in any real terms, no one will look down on you for failing, but they will all cheer when you cross the finish line on November the 30th. Even if you fail, you will still have words on a page, something you might be able to take on to the next level, or just a whole lot of practice in writing. Also, it can do wonders for your self-discipline, teaching you not to edit as you go, to work to deadlines no matter how self-imposed. and just the pure love of writing.

What I got out of it was just that, which helped me no end, and still does. I am a better writer for it, not just in terms of productivity.

Its October, you have all month to register at https://nanowrimo.org/ you can plan and plot your novel as well if you want, or just wait until November the 1st and start writing. But in the end, you have little to lose, and much to gain, if all you gain is friends who struggle along with you…

I will be doing it this year, if I have finished editing the latest draft of ‘A spider in the Eye’ which started out as last years failed attempt oddly enough ( I got to 40k words and then had to bow out when work went crazy in the last week..) I have no idea what I will write, but if I do I will probably end up with another half-finished manuscript. But hey, you can never have too many of them…

Current ‘working’ titles I have under consideration:

  • A Squid on the Face   (a sequel to A Spider in the Eye)
  • Like a Bad Penny  (a spin-off of a spider in the eye with a female protagonist, guess what her name is…)
  • The Droitwich Horror (spoof Lovecraft horror set in the west midlands…)

A lot depends on that final draft I am trying to finish, if it is done and off to proofreaders then I shall be partaking, if not, I will be cheerleading others along the way…

Besides, NaNoWriMo, it’s like being in a cult without the free robes…

Posted in nanowrimo, opinion, pointless things of wonderfulness, self-publishing, writes, writing | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Wisdom of Scribblers

Writers, never short of a quote on any subject. Often these quotes contradict quotes by others, such is the nature of the beast, but then you can’t live your life by quotes, can you? The best that can happen is the occasional bit of inspiration by one or two of them, even the ones that you disagree with… For whatever reason people seem to like these posts, and I suspect it’s not for my wittering preambles, so on to the wisdom of the scribblers at odds with each other…

“In order to write about life first, you must live it.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

“That’s why I write, because life never works except in retrospect. You can’t control life, at least you can control your version.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk

“The beauty of writing is imagining new endings to a time of darkness, like burning off a morning fog with the heat and clarity of the sun.” ~ J.J. Brown

“If being a writer doesn’t make you humble, nothing else will.” ~ Verge Le Noir

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“All good writers are thieves. The best get away with a heist.” ~ Michael Stutz

“The pen is mightier than the sword as long as it doesn’t run out of ink.” ~ Matshona Dhliwayo

“Live a life worth reading about. Then write it.” ~ Chris Campanioni

“Writing is my life. Life is my hobby.” ~ Emma Lai

“If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered.” ~ Stephen King

“Writers are a superior breed. No one else can face so much rejection and still thrive.” ~ Susie Smith

“Reading is sexy. Women who read are suspect. Women who write dangerous.” ~ Chloe Thurlow,

“Life is more than one genre’.” ~ Juliette Power

“Writers don’t have bad life days; they just have good research days.” ~ Julie Wright

“Writing is a miserable, awful business. Stay with it. It is better than anything in the world” ~ Ann Patchett,

“Writing is the great invention of the world.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” ~ Philip Roth

“I do not over-intellectualise the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.” ~Tom Clancy

Finally, if you’re ever tempted to take up the old quill yourself but put it off because there are so many other things you want to do. Bear in mind this little nugget of wisdom from Ariel Gore

“No one ever does the last thing on their list.” ~ Ariel Gore

 

Earlier posts on writer’s quotes…   words of wisdom  further words of wisdom  WoW3 wise words

and one on miss-quoting, Misquoting Kipling

 

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Herbert West-Reanimator: The Complete Lovecraft #34

Opinions are, as someone famous once vulgarly said, like arseholes, everyone body has one, and they stink up the place when let loose… Herbert West – Reanimator is a tale that inspires many opinions.  S.T. Joshi, who has carved out a career as a Lovecraft scholar opinion on old ‘Herbert’ is summed up as:

“Herbert West–Reanimator” is “universally acknowledged as Lovecraft’s poorest work.”

Which is somewhat damning, but also a relatively bold statement, for one thing, it’s not Celephais and not being Celephais alone debunks that statement as far as I am concerned. Yes, I am aware that I am a voice in the wilderness when it comes to my utter distaste for Celephais, but at the same time, I suspect I am not alone in my opinion that Celephais is a festering pile of twaddle. I also suspect I am not alone in disagreeing with Joshi because ‘Reanimator’ may have its problems, but it is far from the poorest piece of Lovecraft’s fiction. Indeed, quite a few people like it rather a lot…

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S.T.Joshi is, however, in good company in his disparagement in one sense at least, as the old tentacle hugger himself was far from happy with it. He reputably claimed he wrote it only for the $5 fee per instalment he received from Weird Tales. He was far from a fan of writing serials, with their need for a chief hanger at the end of every ‘episode’, and a recap beginning every instalment. It wasn’t his usual style, and reanimator was the only out and out serial he ever wrote. His later works in a longer format were often serialised without the trappings of the serial. It’s a fair criticism as when you read the story with modern eyes those recaps and the built up to ‘cliffhangers’ are a little on the painful side, and yes it’s not the journey you expect when you read Lovecraft. It’s also far more pulp than any of his usual writings. There is little that could be considered literary art going on here, and not the usual slow creep towards impending doom that is oh so familiar with Lovecraft’s work.

Yet, despite its derision by Lovecraft aficionados, Reanimator also managed to be the most successful of all Lovecraft’s tales when it comes to the film industry and indeed other media like radio and comics. The story has a much broader appeal in comparison to other Lovecraft stories. It doesn’t have the same issues that make so many other attempts to bring Lovecraft to the big screen faltered. It has a story that can be told on a simple level which certainly doe sit no harm. It’s a mad scientist makes monsters story after all. Both Hollywood mainstream and its ‘B’ movie studios have been using the same basic idea for many decades. It has all the tropes of Frankenstein without the self-consciousness. 1985’s reanimator was probably the most successful of several adaptations and spawned two sequels. There is even a new reanimator reboot movie is expected in 2018, because as we all know Hollywood producers love a reboot at the moment…

It is also important to remember old ‘Herbert’ also managed to break new ground in horror. This was one of first if not the first widely published story which framed the reanimated dead as mindless flesh-eating monsters. Thus it gave birth to a genre in this respect. Like Bram Stoker’s Dracula is to vampires, Lovecraft’s Herbert West is to zombies. No Herbert then perhaps no ‘Night of the Living Dead’, ‘Dawn of the Dead’, ‘Day of the Dead, Light Supper of the Dead…  Georgio Romano owes Lovecraft a bit of a debt here in the inspiration stakes. The popular cultural image of the zombie was born in this tale. The argument can be made that without ‘reanimator’ no one would be enjoying sitting down to watch Rick Grimes have another bad day in ‘The Walking Dead’. Ultimately for all the cultish following, Lovecraft has through his tales of Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth and there is an argument to be made that the much-disparaged Herbert West has had the bigger and more longest lasting impact on popular culture than anything else Lovecraft wrote. It’s rather a shame therefore that he was not overly proud of this creation…

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Importantly for me, if you put aside that irritating recaps at the beginning of every instalment this is a good read, which is all you should really be measuring a story on. While far from the best Lovecraft story, it’s certainly not the worst. The pulpy nature of it adds to its appeal for me as well, but I grew up on Saturday morning Flash Gordan serials, rerun on the BBC as cheap kids programming. There is an aspect of the serial formate I genuinely enjoy, and I love a good B movie. Also as I am working through these tales in the order they were written this is the longest Lovecraft story so far. While it is in effect six short stories following a common narrative it is still something I have been aching for if truth be told since I started this blog series, a take which has some story arc to it, indeed the characters have space to develop, something the pure short form disavows. While Lovecraft’s other long works are novella’s and the one novel they still sit in the future. For now, we are still in 1922 and at a stage where Lovecraft was still trying to find his audience in many regards, indeed doing this serial opened up the likes of weird tales and other magazines to Lovecraft which until then he had never had. After Herbert Lovecraft’s stories were much more in demand, and many of his older tales are first published after Herbert West. It was, for all ist faults his breakthrough piece and without his Reanimator, we may never have heard of old tentacle face and the rest at all.

Yes, it’s pulpy, and yes it’s not your usual Lovecraft fayre, but it’s none the worse for that. While the old Tentacle hugger and his more devoted minions may look upon it with a certain scorn, it has both an important place in the cannon and its own charms. There is something infinitely interesting in the way Herbert becomes steadily more and more a ‘Mad’ scientist as his story develops. Lovecraft doe a great job of describing this slow decline towards madness edged with logic and a cold sanity that puts his work beyond mere concepts of morality. When we first meet him he is messing about with mice in the lab in a quest to find a way to return men to life. By the end, he is lest interested in restoring a semblance of a true life back to men as to animating dead tissue in the form of amputated limbs attached to bits of lizards and other macabre imaginings. While the narrator, the Igor to his Doctor Frankenstein, steadily goes from a form of hero worship to terrorised victim incapable of breaking away from his abuser. There is horror and humanity in this tale, the latter is something Lovecraft has been known to lack. There is also a few elements that it could do without, the darker stuff like Lovecraft’s innate racism is kicking about, which I would sooner edit out that the what I admit are annoying recaps at the start of each episode. Overall though it’s a fun story, it’s pulp qualities adds to its charm more than they detract, and so I’ll give it four tentacles.

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No doubt the old Tentacle hugger and the purest Lovecraftian scholars will disapprove. But it’s fun damn it, and if anyone wants me I’ll be down in the lab making plot zombies to unleash of the nye sayers…

Further Lovecraftian witterings 

Posted in Lovecraft, mythos, reads, rites, sci-fi | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Darkest Fears: behind the masks…

The Last body hit the floor, blood spurting, screams dying, jeers and harsh laughter erupting around the hall. the stench was sickening, the incessant hum of the alien hive mind as oppressive as a giant fist pressing down on his skull.

LC watched, unflinching, from the prisoner cage, next in line…

The above is the opening few lines of a novel called Darkest Fears, it’s not published yet, and no it’s not one of mine… Those are however the first lines. I only know this because its author, C. G. Hatton, surprised me by sending me a gift in the post. A copy of the Limited Edition First Chapter Preview she created for ComicCon. As gifts go, it’s fairly awesome, because, let’s face it I am a geek at heart and a bibliophile in my soul.

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I have never been to ComicCon. There’s a little matter of an ocean between me and it, the difficulty in getting hold of tickets and out of date passport probably doesn’t help either. But I would be lying if I said I have not always wanted to go. So being given just a smallest slither of a piece of it was bound to make me smile.

Then there is the bibliophile in me that just loves collecting books. Even tiny little ones like this that contain just a solitary chapter. I’ll slip it between a couple of other C.G. Hatton books on my shelves where they are currently residing beneath an antique ukulele Banjo after writing this, because it will need a home. The ukelele is a family heirloom that belonged to my great granddad, so a prized possession, which makes it a suitable place to put this tiny book. It is a mere coincidence that it happens to be where C.G.’s books happen to reside on my shelves. I have a lot of bookshelves, they reside between the guitars, swords, blunderbuss, duelling pistols, dvd’s,  pops, drinking horns and the occasional top hat. My house is occasionally a bit of an Aladdin’s cave of geekiness… but there you go. This odd little signed collectable limited edition mini book will feel right at home…

So why am I tell you, my erstwhile reader, all this? If you have read much of my blog you’ll know that between the Lovecraftian witterings, post on writing,  self-publishing, occasional book reviews and the general mish-mash of stuff I write on here there is the odd post that bares the merest slither of my soul. I have talked about depression a few times, and my political opinions, and on the odd occasion something important. Well important to me at any rate, or actually about me. This then is one of those posts, which also means it is one I will probably regret posting at some point, not for any good reason, but just because I prefer to hide behind masks most of the time, rather than betray my darkest fears… (Did you see what I did there? Well done, I thought you would.)

Everyone wears masks. It’s a cynical view I know, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Some of us, however, wear more masks than others. Some of us wear masks over our mask because woe betides if we let one slip, at least, we have another to fall back on. The more insecure we feel, the more insular we become, the more masks we wear. Masks of confidence to hide our insecurities. Masks of bluster, Masks of cynicism. Masks of humour, oh but it’s so much easier to make a joke out of something than face it directly. Masks built of smiles to hide our depressions. Masks, we all have them, even if we don’t know we do. I am by nature an introvert, and introverts wear the most masks of all I fear. While the darkest fear of all, is the fear of letting all the masks slip, just once, not in front of anyone else, but in front of the mirror and seeing ourselves for who we are. (see I told you it was one of those posts…)

I find it hard to let my guard down, to let a few, just a few, of those masks fall away because I really don’t do people. Everyone else seems to know how to interact with people, though I have long suspected this is because they are hiding behind masks, I never have. Don’t misunderstand me, I do not mean I cannot deal with people, it’s just I am one of those people you meet in the kitchen at parties, or who sits on the edge of the dance floor having quiet conversations. I am not unhappy about this, this is not one of the causes of my occasional bouts of depression. On the edge of things is where I prefer to be. I wear black a lot, its suitable for all occasions and lets you merge into the shadows just a little if you keep to the edge. (Yes I also have every Sister’s of Mercy album, what of it?) Basically, I am not good with people, I have found I don’t like them as a rule, people I mean. I like individuals. Which is why I have really good friends and very few casual acquaintances. Small talk has never been a skill I managed to learn, and its why I have a mortal dread of actually talking to people about my novels. I have never found a way to reply to that most awkward of questions ‘what’s it about…?’ because I expect I will look like a bumbling fool when I do.  I really need to find a ‘confident writer guy’ mask to wear, but I am not even sure I know how to make that one…

So when someone who falls outside the banner of ‘close friend’ (ie mostly my close friends are people I have known since the last century) and they give me a gift, I really have no idea how to react. I genuinely don’t… which is why when this tiny package of joy from C.G. dropped through my letterbox I was actually stumped. Oh, I contacted her on Twitter and said ‘thank you, you’re awesome, this is awesome…‘ and probably came off as a bit of a bumbling fool. (bumbling fool, that’s a really useful mask that one, slides in right next to humour as a defence mechanism). I then retreated hastily, because what do you do when someone does something nice and you’re a cynical introvert who builds walls to hang all his masks off of…

Well, it turns out a day later, when you have spent most of the evening editing your latest novel, you write this blog post. Possibly because you have spent the evening editing a chapter which for reasons best known to myself a year ago, includes a segment where the main character is considering if he should write ‘The Good Death Cell Guide’ due to the latest in a long series of misadventures…

‘It may only be because they want to keep you alive long enough to hang you but at least, they have the good grace to keep you warm. A four-star death cell. Highly recommended if you happen to be looking for a place to spend your final hours of incarceration.’

This caused me to have a moment of retrospective or did once I got past my own bewilderment at what Hannibal Smyth has managed to get himself into this time and just how ridiculous he was being. Nothing makes you consider your own ridiculousness as someone else being ridiculous, even if he is a fictional character of your own creation.

(note, I left this novel sitting fallow for about nine months after the second draft so I had genuinely forgotten that bit and quite a few others, which causes me to wonder if it is a good sign when you laugh at your own jokes when you rediscover them… Or a sign that you should stop editing for a while… but moving on…)

So, having recognised my own failings, and feeling the need to put them in order I started writing this blog post a couple of hours ago. I do that a lot as writing down my thoughts in this way helps clear my head. The majority of suvch posts don’t get published because the process is on occasion more important than the results. But on occasion they do, you know regular reader, those posts…

It was intended to be a short thank you to C.G., but I have wandered somewhat down strange byways of inner self-knowledge ( I deleted a couple of my meanderings because no one wants to see behind all my masks, not even me…) So back to where this post started…

Darkest fears is due out in 2018, I have read the first chapters and damn it 2018 seems like a bloody long wait to read the rest of it because like all of C.G. stuff is incredibly well written, this solitary chapter draws you in and is, to quote from quotes within the ‘Limited Edition First Chapter Preview’…

Written with the joy of a storyteller’s soul, fast-paced, surprising and full of the unexpected.

Which is taken from a review some bumbling idiot wrote for her last novel Beyond Redemption. I know that blurb line was written by a bumbling fool because it’s taken from my review of that novel which you can find here…

Seriously, what was I thinking,  ‘surprising and full of the unexpected‘ there is a whole lot of redundancy in that sentence … (can you tell I have spent severral evenings in a row editing…)

It is though remarkably nice to find that someone has used your words as a recommendation blurb for their novel. It’s not the first time C.G. has done that either because she also used…

A joyously fun read, and a window into the darkest corners of the real world because it is so well written.

Thankfully that was not quite as loaded with redundancy. I wrote that one in a review of Kheris Burning, the previous novel which you can find here… 

While I am linking reviews I also write one for her first novel Residual Belligerence an age ago which you can find here…

Anyway, the real point of this post is just to say thank C.G. for continuing to write awesome books, and for being such a damn well nice person and sending me a little booklet of joy.

Oh, and to tell the rest of you to go and read her novels… I may be crap at talking about my own but I can talk about hers all day …

CGHbooks

 

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