A touch of yellow…

Those who have followed my blog previously will know that aside from the odd post about writing in general, book reviews, talking about my own work, and the occasional pondering on the inner workings of the universe, mental health and wittering on, I have written rather a lot about the old tentacle hugger of Providence, Rhode island and not always kindly, it has to be said…

Indeed, I have written a whole book on the writings of HP Lovecraft, a bluffers guide to his stories if you will, that I was hoping to release this year, but thanks to some minor inconvenience (the global pandemic) it has been tied down with my editor slightly longer than envisaged…

Lovecraft, like many a writer before him and since, was something of a magpie when it came to borrowing from other writers. I can’t really blame him for that, I am something of a magpie myself, almost every writer is. Oh we call them influences, but what we really mean is ‘that’s a good idea, I’m nicking that’. He also liked to reference, to a greater or lesser extent, the work of other writers in his own, usually with there permission if they were contemporary’s. In some cases he even went so far as to write them into a story… then kill them off… but all in good fun, for the most part…

One of the unintended results of his being a literary magpie is some aspects of the ‘Cthulhu mythos’ which are generally associated in these latter days with Lovecraft first and foremost, were actually shiny trinkets he ‘acquired’ for his nest. The most famous example of which is arguably the play, ‘The King in Yellow’ which originally appears in the a book of short stories of the same name by Robert w Chambers in 1895. Lovecraft ‘borrowed’ a lot from the king in yellow, and was certainly influenced by Chambers style and fiction in general. The play, is portrayed as a piece of occult literature, mentioned in the same breath as the Necronomicon in Lovecraft’s ‘The Whisperer in Darkness’.

Strange is the night where black stars rise,

And strange moons circle through the skies,

But stranger still is

Lost Carcosa.

Excerpt form the play ‘The King in Yellow’ in the story of the same name ~ Robert W Chambers

Before chastising old tentacle hugger for his literary magpieing, it is also of passing note that Chamber was something of a magpie himself, and ‘borrowed’ the king in yellow himself and entity named Hastur from ‘An Inhabitant of Carcosa’ by Ambrose Bierce, and Carcosa itself come to that. Though in fairness to Chambers, all he really borrowed in this case was the names. His Hastur is not ‘a god of shepards’ as he is in Ambrose’s story. Besides, as I say, writers, we are all magpies… Which brings me to the reason I am writing this clearly fascinating and insightful piece (hey, you have read this far) A book I picked up because I have bumped into the author (Keith Healing) a couple of times at conventions and he is a likable chap, who is also something of a literary magpie in this grand tradition.. and so I was curious. And also because of the aging leather fob on my keyring…

I made myself that keyfob some years ago on a whim (I hope) as carved into the leather is ‘the yellow sign’ of Hastur… I made myself a wallet at the same time, which had an elder sign craved into it. This was a joke, of sorts. An invitation to disaster, and the means to repel it…

I didn’t say it was a funny joke…

Also, that wallet has long since been thrown away after it started to disintegrate after a few years, yet the yellow sign keyfob is still there. I occasionally wonder, in the darkness on the night, while staring up at the faces in the ceiling, if I should be worried by this… but shuffling merrily along.

The Burnt Watcher, by Keith Healing is a strangely involving novel, it draws you in to a strange disturbing world some half a millennium or more after a great calamity has struck mankind. The nature of that calamity is never really explained, but then it need not be. Told as it is in first person by the title character his understanding of what happened five hundred year before is all you have to go with, and he doesn’t know. All you can do is take implication for the after effects. London, Birmingham and other great city’s of our own age are now ‘the glass’. Hell holes no one wanders into. Less towns and city’s are no less dangerous. Something in stone causes ‘the fear’ and ‘the fear’ haunts ever aspect of life.

What ‘the fear’ really is, well that’s in part is ingrained into the very fabric of this novel. My suspicions changed several times as I read, my first assumption was the fear was caused by radiation form a nuclear war, hence the major city’s are now ‘the glass’. It is an assumption that would explain much of how and why this strange dystopian world came into been, except it doesn’t explain everything. And the further into the novel you go the less that assumption explains. There is something else, something at the heart of things, something insidious. An insidiousness that is their in the writing, the way the tale is told, layers been stripped back and revealed careful, so if you are making assumptions those assumptions are fed carefully before they are revealed to be wrong…

I have theories of course, the novel and its author, invite the reader to have theories, by explaining little of what has happened to the world, he is inviting you to make your own connections. To guess what ‘the fear’ really is and where and how it arose. Perhaps the great physic screaming of billions of souls as the calamity struck and so many died managed to draw something through the dimension, something that has always been there, but fed by the cataclysm is strong enough, and insidious enough to effect the real world… Meh, its a theory, I suspect I will have to read the next book to find out… I suspect I will be doing that shortly. As I said it is a strangely involving novel, but strange and involving in a good way, and hard to put down…

There is also a hint or three of the colour yellow, mention of a king, and ‘strange is the night where black stars rise…’

This entry was posted in amreading, amwriting, big questions, book reviews, books, cthulhu, goodreads, horror, indie, indie novels, indie writers, novels, reads, rites, sci-fi, steampunk, supernatural, Uncategorized, writes, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A touch of yellow…

  1. mathewmccall says:

    A clever book, utterly different from anything I have read before… saying that though, a distant memory of the Chrysalids by John Wyndham arises in the back of my mind, that with a touch of the Elder Gods…and that is a mighty comparison. Good Stuff, loved it… do more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Books of the year | The Passing Place

  3. Pingback: Echo’s of Lovecraft | The Passing Place

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