The Dunwich Horror: TCL #57

Its been a while… Eons have past… Dark eons full of strange dreams…

Well about six months at any rate, for all of which ‘The Dunwich Horror’ has been sat in my to blog list after I read it back in august. you might imagine it has been sat waiting to be written about because I don’t like the story, which is not entirely incorrect, but is not the whole truth. the whole truth is I have been busy with other things and kept forgetting, but then ‘The Dunwich Horror’ is sadly easy to forget. Not least because there is so damn much of it, or rather there isn’t, but it feels like there is.

At a little over 16675 words it is long for a short story, in modern terms it is edging towards a short novella, but it is still a short story, but it is one that old tentacle huger drags out for all it is worth, and then a bit more. Which is not to say the length is an issue, but more the style of the writing, the building of tension upon… well basically nothing, and that is my issue with this tale. Lovecraft at his best build stories that in terms of tension are like climbing a staircase. Each step raises the stakes a little more, each building on the latter as you climb the stairs to the landing where you know there is something deeply wrong awaiting you, some dark malignant force…

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Quite often, when you reach the top of the stairs you find the landing empty, or leading to another flight of stairs… And Lovecraft’s best short stories always do this. they build to a climax in slow steady steps that take the reader ever closer and with each step a little higher, a little more afraid of what they will find.

The Dunwich Horror doesn’t do this at all. For most of the story it just plods along vaguely hinting at the wrongness but failing to really build on itself. The scope is too wide for a short story, its charts a strange family history, a sinister old man with a strangely fay daughter, a daughter who dies suspiciously but not before giving birth to a son who is some what strange and sinister. Meanwhile the old man starts making odd changes to his house, and much comment is made about the number of cows in the family’s small herd. presumably this is a great and sinister mystery because the farmers who regularly sell the cows to the family, who’s herd never seems to get any bigger, are worried the cows may be getting eaten… or something.

Yes I know that’s a tad flippant, but as a tension raising device cows been eaten mysteriously leaves something to be desired…

Then the old man (Old Whateley)  dies and the grandson (Wilbur), who grew rather quickly, a tad too quickly, goes off to the Miskatonic to ‘borrow’ the Necromonicon, which causes a bit of a ruckus and end sup with him been mauled by a dog and dying… At which point his odd deformities come to light.

Which leaves the strange family farm house, and the last member of the family, and the one really good line in the whole story Wilbur’s twin brother, though it “looked more like the father than Wilbur did’ which is to say a giant monstrosity…

All of which is interesting to an extent and if it had been shorter, said rather less about the cows, and actually built a little tension it could have been so much better.

There are lots of people who love ‘The Dunwich Horror’. Its certain one of the most renown of Lovecraft stories, it has been the title story for several collections and there have been film versions (a 1970 horror of true 1970 mid budget horror style, see the trailer below, its actually somewhere between dreadful and awesome depending on your view of old horror movies)  , several comic book versions , audio productions, even a stage play.  So what do I know?

It is certainly one of the story’s central to the mythos, and perhaps worth a read if you never have. Perhaps it is just because it is one of the more famous stories I find it disappointing, and always have. This is far form the first time I have read it, but I always feel it lacks the tension and drama of Cthulhu, or MoM, the wit of Herbert West or the sheer strange allure of some of the better shorts. It fails at that most crucial of things, it never makes me want to read more.

So, tentacles.. if you have never read it, perhaps a 4, even a 5, and yes I realise that sounds odd after all I have just said but I suspect for me it gets a low score as much because I came to it jaded, knew the tale, and have never overly cared for it. So from me its a begrudging 3…

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Further Lovecraftian witterings as ever can be found here

 

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Quotes for 2020 #37

An on going series of a quote a day from those most worthy of individuals, writers…  Disclaimer: Not all quotes are meant to inspire… Not all comments I make upon them are entirely honest either, occasionally Hannibal writes them…

Today’s quote comes from Homer, no not the ones form Springfield, the ancient Greek who may or may not have lived at some point between 1200BC and 600BC and almost certainly didn’t write anything down, at least not in any manuscript of pre-ancient Greek. His great epic poem were composed to be spoken, and learned by rote by bards and performers through the generations until they were finally first written down around 400BC. By which time, thanks to Chinese whispers, much of the originals had probably been altered, a little here, and a little there.

So in essence today’s quote is probably from Homer, or may be by from some unknown skauld who was wondering around ancient Greece back when Aristotle was a lad. It is however a fine quote and one that many a writer would do well to remember, in the wee black coffee fueled hours of the soul when wiser men are long abed…

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Of course, few writers are truly wise, when it comes to themselves, and while there may be a time to sleep, most nights I struggle to find it. but Insomnia is good for the soul, as no one ever said….

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Quotes for 2020 #36

An on going series of a quote a day from those most worthy of individuals, writers…  Disclaimer: Not all quotes are meant to inspire… Not all comments I make upon them are entirely honest either, occasionally Hannibal writes them…

On occasion, the odd quote just stands on its own as a piece of unequivocal genius, it need no further explanation, not twee comments, there is no requirement on my part to write a few humorous asides, or explain why I like the quote in question. So with that in mind, because of this particular piece of genius comes form Tom Clancy I’m going to nip off and play a little rainbow 6  and not bother to write any more for this one….

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Oh and avoid helicopters, they are bloody silly things. Way too noisy and they make it hard to read a book while your flying…

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Quotes for 2020 #35

An on going series of a quote a day from those most worthy of individuals, writers…  Disclaimer: Not all quotes are meant to inspire… Not all comments I make upon them are entirely honest either, occasionally Hannibal writes them…

Today’s quote comes from one of my favorite scifi authors and people C.G. Hatton the author of The Thieves Guild Series, among the best military / alien invasion scifi out there. Fast paced breakneck scifi that doesn’t pull any punches and has been known to leave the reader exhausted from being unable to put a book down till they have got to the shattering climatic conclusion… At which point, if they’re lucky, they get to take a breath before the next book…

When she’s not writing C.G. runs her own publish house and is working with other writers. She is always full of advice and encouragement, this particular quote comes from a question she was asked on Goodreads, which is good advice if you can stick with it, because if you force yourself to write ten words, then your far more likely to write the eleventh, the twelfth and so on.

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Normally at this point in these posts there is a little banner advertising my own books… In the vain-glorious hope that you dear reader might click on it… However as C.G. is a Independent press writer, I think I shall forgo my own banner today and put one up for her books instead… Frankly they should come with a health warning due to the lose of sleep and nerve shattering pace… but I’m sure your heart can take it… So go on , click…

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The great cover debate…

One of the problems with self-publishing is that the writer exists in a microcosmic world. Unlike more traditional routes where many decisions are taken for you and to a degree a certain amount of the weight is taken form your shoulders, you can end up doing everything yourself. Particularly if your a clinical obsessive with control issues who tries to do everything possible themselves….

Luckily for me I have a great support system for friends and fellow writers who are only too willing to lend a hand. Unluckily for me I am a clinical obsessive with control issues who tries to do everything possible themselves…. So while there is support out there and people who are only too willing to help and do things for me, I often find I have locked out that help and retreated to my own little self-contained world and don’t ask for advice and help when I actually need it…

I am, in my experience, not alone in this. Writers in general spend a lot of time in their own heads, we sort of have to, that’s where the imaginary people live. Also, while we may not admit it to anyone, we kind of like it that way. Those imaginary people that talk to us and tell us there stories, they are as real to us in many ways as our friends. And yes I know how that sounds, no I am not a little mad, I know Hannibal, Bad Penny, Richard the Piano Player, Sonny, and even the cat are not actually real. But they are a little real, figments of my imagination, aspects of my inner ide, but a little real all the same…

Okay, maybe that is just me and I am a little mad, but if that is true I will take it over being entirely sane any day of the week. But back to the point.

Now some self published or indie-press published authors do make use of cover designers, blurb writers, Social media managers, all kinds of things. Those writers who do are probably wiser than I, but again clinical obsessive with control issues who tries to do everything possible himself… I design my own covers. Which I shouldn’t do, I should pay those wonderful people at Sixth-Element who publish the Harvey Duckman books to design covers for me, because that would take away the angst that accompanies designing them my self from me. (except of course I like designing my own covers, its a form of procrastination that is still creative…)

The problem with designing my own covers is that I’m not really an artist or a graphic designer, I just know how to use a few design tools and manipulate images… I don’t necessarily have an eye for it and I tend to go down the odd rabbit hole. Which for a clinical obsessive with control issues is not a happy place. I also tend to stumble upon new ideas by trial and error experimentation and get carried away with a new idea. Its about that point I really have to stop and actually ask for advice. Which of course is the one thing I never do…

So for once I did and on Friday I invoked the wisdom of the crowd. I mean whats the point of having a support network of writers, artists and friends, if you don’t use it. So I did and I sent them all this and asked they to tell me which cover spoke to them…

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A little background may be in order. The Maybe trilogy is a new trilogy of books set in the same universe as my Hannibal novels. They are however entirely separate to those novels and set about 150 years before Hannibal’s time, right at the start of the divergence of his history and our own. So they are entirely separate and can be read independently of the Hannibal books. But they are linked in terms of been the same universe. As such (and because I discovered how to put a series of different filters on the de-facto background I use for my steampunk novels) I decided I wanted to diverge the covers, so rather than use the dirty brown of the cover on the far right, I wanted to use another colour to differentiate between the two series. While keeping the general theme…

There is an argument that says I shouldn’t do so, and that I should keep the common colour scheme… But I am reasonably convinced even after opening the floor to debate that a new background colour for the Maybe books is the way to go.  There were as you might expect a multitude of views on what colour I should go with. Some people going with their gut reaction, some taking a while to consider the options. And I am entirely grateful for everyone who contributed to the debate on Facebook and Twitter. It was good to know people cared enough to venture an opinion, because in the isolated world of the self-published writer it is all too easy to forget your not actually alone in this grand enterprise and help is always there if you ask for it.

That is the most important of lessons and one I think every writer needs reminding of from time to time. It also rekindled the spark of faith in the writing community, they are all wonderful people as a rule, its good to remember they are there. 🙂

And the results? Well there was a consensus of opinions. Though every cover had a few supporters. And in the end I and still a clinical obsessive with control issues… So the final choice will be made by me, but as I have a little time to mull it over I’ll not be doing so for a few weeks yet. So i am still open to opinions if any readers have them to share…

But it was a reminder that there are plenty of people out there who care enough about my stuff to venture an opinion. And a healthy reminder that the characters in my imagination are not the only people I would be listening to. Though of course Hannibal has an opinion, but what he knows about art you could scrawl on the back of a fag packet I am sure…

 

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Quotes for 2020 #34

An on going series of a quote a day from those most worthy of individuals, writers…  Disclaimer not all quotes are meant to inspire… Not all comments I make upon them are entirely honest either, occasionally Hannibal writes them…

Today’s quote comes from one of the pre-eminent voices modern British Science-fiction Stephen Baxter. A writer whom I admit I first came across because of the Long earth series he wrote with Pratchett, I have since read rather a lot of Mr Baxter’s work, and fallen in love with his sense of the grand scope of events, that individuals can affect the out come of those events, that the smallest of actions can have unforeseeable outcomes  given enough distance and time.

It is some solace in a universe so vast and cold to think that ones actions can influence the grander scheme of everything.

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It is also something of a vanity, just like the belief that we are alone in a universe, or even in anyway significant to the universe beyond our own little world, which in turn given the scope of time we have barely existed upon, let alone influenced in any way. Humanity has existed for less than a ten-thousandth of the eons that dinosaurs walked the earth, if and when we vanish from this world it will be as if we never existed.

A sobering thought if ever there was one.

I may be a little down today…

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Quotes for 2020 #33

An on going series of a quote a day from those most worthy of individuals, writers…  Disclaimer not all quotes are meant to inspire… Not all comments I make upon them are entirely honest either, occasionally Hannibal writes them…

Today a quote from the sadly departed genius of Douglas Adams, who had a way of making the most cutting observations on humanity and the world around us, and placing it in terms that made it wisdom.

As a man who detests his mobile phone when ever I want to just set a bloody ring tone, yet had gadgets everywhere that cause equal bouts of frustration, there own ‘I just want you to bloody work’ moments when you have to work your way through clicking on agree, proving your not a robot by typing out a six letter word written in an utterly incomprehensible fashion (a nightmare for a dyslexic believe me, I mean seriously why make reading a word more difficult than it has to be), find the right folder, and then find it the wrong media type and have to start from scratch… moments. this particular bit of wisdom speaks loudly to me…

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