The Very Old Folk: TCL#55

“Malitia vetus—malitia vetus est . . . venit . . . tandem venit . . .”

Or for those of you without a working grasp of Latin…  Or who don’t have google to hand…

“Wickedness of old—it is wickedness of old…happened…happened at last…”

Those are the last words of dying roman officer, as at the end of ‘The Very Old Folk’ a tale by old tentacle hugger that is not particularly inviting to the casual reader. Indeed I would go so far as to say this is a tale for the serious Lovecraft reader only, the type of reader who wants to read everything he ever wrote regardless of if even Lovecraft would want you to do so himself…

Here’s the thing, Lovecraft did not write this story for ‘Wierd tales’ or ‘Amazing Stories’ or even ‘The American Amateur Press’. Indeed he did not write if for publication at all. Instead, this is a story taken from a letter he wrote in 1927to Donald Wandrei and found it’s way into print after Lovecraft’s death because in 1939 the same Donald Wandrei was the co-founder of Arkham House Publishing, which was first set up by Wandrei and August Derleth, with the expressed intention of preserving and publishing Lovecraft’s best work. It was they who came up with the title for the piece and included it in one of there earliest collection of Lovecraft’s stories. Presumably, because they felt a need for ‘new’ material to bulk out the portfolio.

Now the world owes a debt to Arkham House, without them there is a reasonable chance Lovecraft’s stories might have slipped away into obscurity after his death. Certainly, throughout the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s they were the ones keeping Lovecraft’s work and the work of many other writers in print and in the zeitgeist. But they are also responsible for some of the more obscure and often more forgettable pieces of Lovecraft’s Bibliography coming to print in the first place and ‘The Very Old Folk’ falls neatly into that inauspicious band. It is doubtful Lovecraft himself ever intended it for publication or even thought a great deal about the story. Though it’s not terrible by any means and contains hints and snippets of Lovecraft’s broader mythos, it’s also fairly bland and difficult to love. Not least because of all the Romans… more to the point the endless roman names that are scattered throughout the story, which just become a pain to read…

The story itself is the narration of a dream the narrator had, a dream of being a Roman soldier in the north of the Spanish province and the strange goings-on of the hill-folk who live in the mountains. After the hill-folk surprisingly don’t take prisoners for sacrifice on their sabbath, and because the townsfolk are afraid because they didn’t have anyone kidnapped, the Romans mount a punitive expedition into the mountains. Yes, that’s right, because the local hill tribe decide not to kidnap a victim for sacrifice as they were expected to do, they must be hunted down… I know, just go with it will you…. the Romans march up into the hills, and bad things start happening…

9rufcasu9l211

There is nothing wrong with the story, apart from some of the logic within it, but its also just not particularly engaging or all that interesting. There is no resolution, not even a Lovecraft style resolution, just the mildly ominous Latin above followed by a  paragraph of ‘then I woke up’. It’s not Lovecraft his best, it’s not Lovecraft his worst, it’s just Lovecraft playing with ideas and someone publishing his scrawled notes, probably with a little editing along the way.

the_very_old_folk_by_muzski_d4v4504-fullview

Romans go up the hill for spurious reasons, Romans see things that scare the crap out of them, Romans run away…  the end… oh then I woke up…

By this point in Lovecraft’s career, he was not only capable of better, but he was also writing it consistently. If he wrote this with the intent to make something publishable out of it, I doubt somehow this was the story he intended to tell. So read it, don’t read it, forget its existence or try and analyse the hell out of it to find something in there worth the time and effort involved, (trust me many have) But for the most part, there isn’t anything here that the Lovecraftian world could not have lived perfectly well without. It gets a couple of tentacles because I don’t hate it, but at the same time, that’s because it doesn’t hold enough interest to be bothered to have much of an opinion on it at all…

2out 6

Further Lovecraftian witterings as ever can be found here

Posted in amreading, book reviews, books, cthulhu, dreamlands, goodreads, horror, Lovecraft, mythos, Nyarlathotep, reads, retro book reviews, rites, sci-fi, supernatural | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Awesome Stuff Update: Summer 19

An irregular collection of awesome stuff from my inboxes

I get a lot of mail, facebook messages and twitterings full of awesome stuff, much to the disgruntlement of my postperson when I have stuff delivered I am sure. And what is a Geek to do but share the joy with the world and shout from high mountains of the wonders the world does behold… For a geek loves to share his/her bounty with all… But as I never get time to do a post about everything individually, here is a post of many things, a cornucopia of delightful and rounding up of news from the summer so far…

Upon the isle of Hopeless Maine, Victims now reside…

The third volume of Tom and Nimue Brown’s Hopeless Maine is now out in the world and ready for your eyes to feast upon…   https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hopeless-Maine-3-Tom-Brown/dp/1908830166/ If you have not read the previous volumes yet I can only ask why do you flagellate your soul by not doing so… ‘Remedy this situation’ is my most ardent suggestion, or you may never know who is stealing your spoons…

Tantamount and the year of the sad plastic bag…

The ethereal Meridith Deboniree has collected her history of the delightful town of Tantamount on the banks of the river Seven into a form the town’s library will accept. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tales-Tantamount-starting-Abandoned-continuing-ebook/dp/B07TVQ2KSL Now if only the library would stay in one place so she could drop off a copy there… If she can negotiate with The Carrion to let her pass and the Shadow council permit it… Frankly, this is too weird and wonderful for you not to read it…

Harvey Duckman presents Volume 2 (3  and 4)

Those wonderful folks at Sixth Element have produced the second of there Harvey Duckman anthologies crammed full of fresh new talents and old favourites. As well as a crotchety old hack from Yorkshire… https://www.amazon.co.uk/Harvey-Duckman-Presents-2-Book/dp/B07TZBX55C Volume 3 is now in production and plans for volume 4 are well advanced. If you like discovering new writers and fabulous stories, and who doesn’t, feed your imagination with the strange, the weird and the wonderful…

hd banner

Kapow…

In a rare public appearance, having been strategically shaved, and crammed into an airship-pilots shirt I hung around with a whole bunch of other authors, a half dozen stormtroopers, a Harry Potter stage magician, a T-rex, Some delightful ladies singing something called frozen, and a whole host of damn fine geekery at Kapow Sci-Fi Fair in Stockton last weekend. This is an utterly useless update as it has already happened, unless you have a time machine, in which case what better use could you put it to than to nip back in time and have a chance to buy a book or two. Maybe you already did, in which case it was a pleasure to meet you… And I am posting this here to avoid breaking continuity…

D-58MwkXUAIZZQy

 

Much more Awesome Stuff can be found here in the Indie’Omacon 

Posted in amreading, books, errol the bookcase dragon, goodnews, indie, indie novels, IndieApril, indiewriter, pointless things of wonderfulness, reads, sci-fi, steampunk, supernatural | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Colour Out Of Space: TCL#54

It was a scene from a vision of Fuseli, and over all the rest reigned that riot of luminous amorphousness, that alien and undimensioned rainbow of cryptic poison from the well—seething, feeling, lapping, reaching, scintillating, straining, and malignly bubbling in its cosmic and unrecognisable chromaticism.

Now there is a sentence with a life of its own. No one could accuse Lovecraft of underselling the strangeness of the life form that falls to earth in a quiet rural backwater of New England. This is life, if that’s the correct word, but not as we know it, not as we know it at all. Which is the key in essence to this whole tale, life is almost undoubtedly out there in the cosmos, the universe is too big for that to be otherwise. But life as we know it, nice, simple, understandable, carbon-based life, well of that there is probably little doubt too, but it is no more unlikely than life as we don’t know it. Life that did not evolve from the same roots of the tree as us. Indeed, not to put too fine a point on it, we can’t even be entirely certain there isn’t life on our own little mud-ball which isn’t actually life as we know it. Frankly, if your search for life is based on the premise of that it must be carbon-based, you have already narrowed the scope of your definition, and perhaps that in itself is the first mistake. But if we can’t even trust our definition of Life on our own planet, then how can we rule out the possibility of life out there in the endless beyond not perhaps conforming to that definition.

art-by-marcus-crassus

And if it doesn’t? If something falls to earth that isn’t just alien in the rubber costume, extending neck, light up finger with a strong desire to ‘phone home’ kind of alien. Not a carbon-based, understandable alien that while beyond our experience is not beyond our comprehension… What if it is something utterly alien to us on a cellular level, on a DNA level, on the level of amino acids and the basic building blocks of everything we understand as alive in our narrow carbon-based way? What then…

You can call Lovecraft a lot of things, and over the course of the last couple of years or so god knows I have, but by the last 20’s (1927 in this case) he was writing not only some of his best fiction but also some of his most insightful, and ‘The Colour Out Of  Space‘ is certainly both. Even more so when you consider that science at the time had yet to get to grips with cellular life and DNA. To say no one was writing stories quite like this back in the 1920’s is an understatement because while it was written almost a century ago it still has much about it that seems strange and beyond the scope of the universe in our very human definitions. It was also, far more than even ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ a breakout story for old tentacle hugger, it was one of his first stories to receive broad praise and re-publication beyond the confines of ‘Amazing Stories’ and other pulp magazines.

It’s also definitely ‘Colour’ not ‘Color’, which as Lovecraft wrote exclusively in American English suggests a definite choice on his part. Perhaps the choice of spelling was a subtle way to inject a little of the alien into the title, just to throw his mostly American audience off kilter a tad.

Ostensibly the story of a Boston surveyor visiting a remote rural area known locally as ‘Blasted Heath’, and investigating the rumours around how the area came to be abandoned and spurned by the locals. It is what he discovers as he investigates that is so compelling about this tale. Lovecraft, who was a bit of a strange bod at times as you know, excels at describing the weird and uncanny. The description of the heath and its strange flora and fawner, of plants that glow a little in the dark and fruits that ripen sour and inedible, and of all the strange events following a meteor crashing to earth forty years before the story is set, is a masterpiece of strangeness. Something alien is about in this remote part of New England, something so alien it is almost beyond comprehension. And it’s still there, dormant, perhaps waiting, though if it’s waiting for something, who cares even to guess what that might be, and what may happen when its waiting is done…

Of all Lovecraft’s tales, this is perhaps one of the strangest, and yet the most readable. there is a reason it remains so well loved today. It also still seems a modern tale, where other stories may have dated, or become fractured by time, this could, with little changed, be written and set today, and it would still seem as vital, oddly possible and not entirely unfrightening possibilities it provokes. Life, as we know it out there in the cosmos, may come down here one day, if we are lucky it will only be that, life as we know it…

It gets all the tentacles and my unhesitating recommendation, if you’re looking for a story that will make you lay awake with thoughtful if rather chilling possibilities floating around your mind…

6out 6

Further Lovecraftian witterings as ever can be found here

Posted in amreading, cthulhu, dreamlands, fiction, horror, indie, Lovecraft, mythos, Nyarlathotep, opinion, reads, retro book reviews, sci-fi, supernatural, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alternating covers…

This is not a cover reveal. It’s a, not decided which cover to go with, reveal of the options I have before me at the moment…

My original plan was that after book one I would have two characters pictured on book 2, and three on book 3, completing the trilogy. Hence the cover on the right. However, I hit a problem in that the trilogy is actually going to be a pentalogy, as Hannibal never tells a story quite as straightforwardly as he could… So that originally fine plan has become a little stretched. Also, I have become fonder of the single window covers as I have been going through my back catalogue. It has become a theme for my novels (with the exception of Cider Lane which remains as ever the exception to every rule). As you can see from those currently in print…

As such I am leaning towards the new cover (the one on the left) for tassels.

So as I said this is not a cover reveal, it is just a reveal of the considerations I am having as far as covers are concerned. And of course an invitation to opinions…

Posted in amwriting, books, goodreads, Hannibal Smyth, indie, indie novels, IndieApril, indiewriter, opinion, pointless things of wonderfulness, publication, sci-fi, self-publishing, steampunk, Uncategorized, writes, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creative Connections…

A few years back I did a series of posts that offered advice to those considering self-publishing. You can find them still if your interest in the Publishing and Writing section at the top of the page, as 90% of the advice is still valid. The reason for this particular post, however, is down to one comment I made in all those posts, and have made more than once in others which is the single most important piece of advice I can give to any fledgeling writer, which was neatly summed up towards the end of the first of those original posts with the following phase…

Engaging with the community, that is priceless

I have, I would venture to say, never said truer words. At least in regards to the indie writing and creative community. Engagement matters and oddly enough engagement is often its own reward. For the writer is a solitary beastie, that hides from direct sunlight and types away at keyboards made to bleed fingers and souls in equal measure… So it’s good sometimes to realise you are not alone, but more than this, it is good to share the dreams of wonder once in a while and making creative connections to like-minded souls who shun the mundanity of existence as they strive to create something greater than the sum of its parts, well it restores your faith, if not in humanity, then in the possibility that it all may even be worthwhile somehow.

Now if that all sounds a tad pretentious, a little overblown, perhaps even a smidgen melodramatic, then I suspect you have not spent quite as much time with writers as I have. For writers are, I have always found, primarily introverts with extrovert souls… We have a perchance for the occasional piece of flowery prose… Well, I do at any rate…

But to get back to the point, Engaging with the community is priceless, and the story of my writing life is one of engagement with a strange collection of individuals in an ever more entangled web that, if all truth be told, is more complex and entangled than I or even they perhaps perceive. So let me tell you a story of those connections, and I apologise not at all for the plethora of links involved, for all these people have done much to keep me sane, happy and engaged with a world that would seem at times cold and shallow were in not for their ilk…

Where to start, well perhaps it’s best to start somewhere near the beginning, not at the very beginning, for that is a much longer tale involving typewriters, teenage angst, the birth of the personal computer, word processors and about thirty years of slavishly writing words that no one would ever read, for I would be damned before I let them. But to skip forward a little, to a point not long after I first starting writing this blog (all be it a different blog then, on a different site). I was out one weekend with my girlfriend of the time, and we wondered into Stockton high street where Kapow Sci-fi fair was underway and somewhere in the main marque I met the first of these connections at a small stall, the wonderful C.G.Hatton, writer of the Thieves Guild novels, and matriarch of Sixth Element Publishing, who convinced me not only to by a copy of her splendid first novel, but in a five minute chat where I admitted to writing the odd word or two myself, she convinced me to actually finish a novel myself. And, shock horror, perhaps even publish it and see what happened…

kapow-banner-1-e1463582308766-300x139

Now my first meeting with C.G. has developed into legend, as such things are want to do, a legend told in darkened rooms over a pint or two, amongst a small collection of people, mainly because I bring it up a lot… and perhaps the legend is greater than the truth could ever be… But all the same, without that nudge I doubt Cider Lane would ever have been written, Passing Place would still be an ever-growing manuscript constantly being rewritten, and Hannibal, well I suspect that roguish swine would never have ended up existing at all (whether or not that would be a good thing is open to interpretation).

Through C.G. and a man who is certainly not called Harvey I also met another connection in the form of Craig Hallam. A writer of Steampunkery, and strange horrors, and a jolly nice chap to boot. I came across Craig because of Twitter, but only because I knew C.G. and 6E, they knew Craig through conventions, so as he was liking and commenting on the same posts as me we started talking and following each other.

Then there is Meredith Debonaire, who appeared on my radar I actually know not how, possibly witchcraft was involved or some combination of Twitter, blogging and sheer fluke, but through her and Craig I started to notice posts by Tom and Nimue Brown and their wonderful Hopeless Maine… Tom recently drew the cover for Merry’s next book and has done some art for Craig of late but that was after I started following the Druids behind Salamandra, indeed I was barely aware of the connections between these four at the time. But there is more, there is always more…

The Browns led to Pheobe Darlique and Madaline of Boston Metaphysical fame, and Nils the lord of Sussex Steampunkery... C.G. led to the writers of 6E, the Thursday night writers who seldom talk of writing, and all the Harvey Duckman crowd. There are other too, Katie Salvo over in the states and Karen Carilse in the land down under. Kate the Blockchain princess, Pete and his rat, And a whole lot more. Connections connections connections…

And the point? The one I am groping towards? I said it right up there at the start…

Engaging with the community, that is priceless

Because this eclectic collection of worthy souls has helped me in so many ways. Ways they often don’t even realise. When it all seemed pointless, they were lights in the darkness, when I needed a kind word they were they to give one, when I needed encouragement they supplied it in spades even if they did not know they did so. The more connections I have made, the better life is as a writer, so my advice to anyone is this, engage with the community, find new friendships, be splendid, and they will be splendid to you. (of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but I endeavour never to be one myself.)

Which is why this Saturday I will be back at Kapow, where this journey kind of started, only stood at the other side of the table behind a wall of books, and who knows I may inspire someone else to actually finish writing a book and letting out there into the world… Because sometimes all you need is a push and a maybe a little help from friends you have yet to meet…

Posted in amreading, amwriting, goodreads, Harvey Duckman, indie, indie novels, IndieApril, indiewriter, kapow, opinion, pointless things of wonderfulness, publication, reads, sci-fi, self-publishing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gormenghast on the river Anhk…

One of my favourite series of books, written it is no coincidence by the late great Terry Pratchett, are the Discworld novels, in particular, the novels that centre around perhaps his greatest creation, the city of Anhk-Morpork. Not least this is because the city of Ankh-Morpork itself is as much a character in his novels as the likes of Sam Vimes, Granny Weatherwax, Death, Susan, Nobby Nobbs and all the rest. It is a city that sits like a spider at the centre of a web, feasting on all. A city of a million souls, and probably a couple of million people… A city I know as well, or perhaps even better, than any city in the real world I have ever trod around. From The Shades, to the Patricians place, to the mended drum, the street of Small Gods, to the low doorways of Short Street. It is a city that has seeped into my DNA, I could read about it endlessly, and have.

On the other side of the literary coin are the gothic towers and sprawling mass of Melvin Peakes the castle and inhabitants of Gormenghast. A series of novels which I have always wanted to love, and have tried to read on more than one occasion. My old battered omnibus edition of all three novels has been picked up and started so many times it almost took up permanent residence upon my bedside table in the ’90s because it was a series I should love. It has everything I could want, everything Anhk-Morpork has, a gothic setting full of characters and ideas that are grotesque, strange and more than a little rum and uncanny. As I say, I have always wanted to love them… Yet somehow, I never do. It has a lot to do with Peakes overly literary style, perhaps because I was raised on pulp fictions and to a degree because a three-page descriptive passage about a single cobweb leaves me cold… Indeed it could be said, with a great deal of truth, that I love everything about Gormenghast but the novels themselves…

So there you have it, two sides of a literary coin, both much-praised works of inventive genius. Yet my personal take on them could not be more different. Regardless of this, it is the places that leave the strongest impression. For all Pratchett wonderful characters, it is the stage of the great city of the So-lat plains that makes them live in the imagination. Just as the dusty looming towers and broken battlements of Gormenghast transcend the unfortunate fact that Peake’s style leaves me cold. I love a good setting, the strangeness and wonder of these places. I only wish Peake’s style was less arid, and unwieldy, a little closer to Pratchett’s perhaps, or at least less Peake… I want to explore the setting, I just want to enjoy doing so at the same time. Which brings me, in my own round-about and occasionally, languid way to another strange and wonderful gothic monstrosity of a city Craig Hallam’s Greaveburn, a city with much in common with both Anhk-Morpork and Gormenghast. A city populated by those same grotesque, strange, rum and uncanny characters you get in both.

graveburn

Greaveburn, like Peake’s Gormenghast, is a world onto itself. An isolated gothic landscape where the richest and poorest lead very different lives, and everyone else sinks somewhere in the middle. There are murders and macabre goings-on from the highest to the low and events all conspire so they become entwined. Every character, be they a minor role of a major player is realised in intricate detail. All with shades of grey, some quite lightly, other with dark shadows on their soul than others. The heroes have shades of villain about them, while some villains have the odd moment of heroism. All human life is here, realised with all its flaws, against a backdrop with a character all of its own. It is very Gormenghast, and not a little Anhk-Morepork, but while the setting and the characters lend much of the former, the writing leans more to the latter. This is Gormenghast without the dry relentless descriptions of cobweb strewn corridors that go on longer than it would take to dust those same corridors.

Greaveburn reads like the city and its inhabitance are alive, rather than some shambling undead parody of life. The characters live and breath on the pages, be they villains or heroes, or those endless shades in-between. It is strange, but it is beautifully strange. It’s grim but gorgeously so. It’s dark, but there is light enough for the shadows to dance in narrow alleyways and secretive snickets. Not everyone gets what they want, not everyone gets what they deserve, but what the reader gets is what they need. A world to sink into, feel in your bones and dwell in the dark corners of your mind. A world that leaves you with many questions, but that is also as it should be because this is a story of a city, and no city tells all its secrets. It leaves you wanting more but isn’t that exactly what it should do.

In case your wondering. Just on the off chance, you’ve not picked up on it, I’ve told you very little, save that I could wonder these streets again and again because I think you should visit the city yourself, dear reader. I can promise you won’t regret it… Well, you might, but only if you lack a readers soul and a love of the shadows in the dark…

Have a read yourself…

 

notes.

I have reviewed some of Criags Hallam’s other books, you can find those reviews by clicking on the links in the Indieomacon here…

Craig is also one of the writers in both of the current Harvey Duckman Volumes, like myself you can find out about them here…   

Posted in amreading, book reviews, books, Canadian steampunk, fiction, goodreads, Goth, horror, humour, indie, indie novels, IndieApril, indiewriter, insomnia, Lovecraft, mythos, Nyarlathotep, Passing Place, pointless things of wonderfulness, reads, rites, sci-fi, steampunk, supernatural | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The return of Harvey Duckman…

Harvey Duckman presents Volume 2 is the second in a series of collected works of suspense and mystery in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror and steampunkery, called, oddly enough Harvey Duckman Presents…

This anthology features work by exciting new voices in speculative fiction, including both established authors, previously unpublished writers from all around the world, Great Britain, America, Germany, Australia  and even Teesside…  and again oddly enough, one written by an itinerant Yorkshireman with so many multiple personalities he has decided to give them all numbers so he can keep track of them all, (otherwise known as me.)

Personality #17, whom has an occasionally lurid sense of humour, wrote a wonderfully baroque little sci-fi tale for this volume, called, ‘The Strontium Thing‘ which brings together a princess in need of suiters and a mercenary pirate warlord with an interesting collection of body parts, each with their own little tale, which leads to the princess feeling a little flushed, and sitting not entirely comfortably as the Warlords tale is told…

If that’s not enough on its own to send you running to your local bookstore, I will add that it is just one tale in a collection with fifteen new and exciting authors for you to discover. As with the first book in this series, I am predictably excited to have one of my stories included in the anthology alongside so many other great writers, but what I am really looking forward to reading all the other stories myself when I get my hands on my own copy. Among them are several authors I have read and reviewed here before as well as those who are new to me. As I am sure you can guess I love nothing more than discovering new writers. Except perhaps telling people about them when I find them. So here’s a chance to discover some new indie writers yourself, and plunge into whole new worlds of wonder, darkness and light…

D9hJ2rNW4AAjyhC (1)

Volume 2 includes stories by: A.D.Watts, A.L. Buxton, Jon Hartless, J.S. Collyer, Paul Goodchild, Craig Hallam, Mark Hayes, Peter James Martin, Phoebe Darqueling, Lynne Lumsden Green, and more… And it was edited by the every wonderful C.G. Hatton

It’s available for Kindle on preorder in the UK here or on the picture above… 

Or across the pond and in other realms Here

And will be released in paperback on the 6th of July at Kapow sci-fi fair in Stockton on Tees, where you will find me (or at least, one of my personalities, probably #9, C.G and several of the authors stood around pretending not to be nervous about talking to people about our collective writings, signing books and being ridiculously enthused about everything, because we generally are.

The first volume of the Harvey Duckman Presents series is also still available in paperback and now only £2.99 on Kindle, I would put up a link but it’s not like I haven’t done that a dozen times or more over the last few months … Oh, go on then click on the picture below, it will take you to other worlds…

55517402_10157155685619182_5053875243970461696_n (2)

Posted in amreading, amwriting, book reviews, books, booksale, fiction, goodreads, Hannibal Smyth, Harvey Duckman, horror, humour, indie, indie novels, IndieApril, indiewriter, insomnia, kindlesale, Lovecraft, mythos, novels, Nyarlathotep, Passing Place, pointless things of wonderfulness, reads, sci-fi, steampunk, supernatural, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment