Azathoth: The Complete lovecraft #33

The novel that never was… About a deity never mentioned in the fragment that remains… Azathoth is arguably the great lost work. If a copy of the complete word exists, it is only in the Library of unwritten books in the castle of Morpheus, and if that’s the case the Liberian Lucian isn’t of a mind to lend it out.

The fragment that remains, a mere 500 words, does not even mention Azathoth himself. The biggest badest deity of all the outer gods, he of whom Nyarlathotep is merely the Herald, is never mentioned beyond the title. Though he makes appearances in several other works by old tentacle hugger including ‘The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath’ the dream quest novella which some Lovecraftian academics point to as following the same ideas and the basic plot that Lovecraft had planned for this abortive attempt. Indeed notes he wrote for himself on the subject matter of this never written novel read…

 A terrible pilgrimage to seek the nighted throne of the far daemon-sultan Azathoth.

And…

Weird Eastern tale in a 18th-century manner…

Which is not too far removed from the core plot of the dream-quest. But alas unless we manage to sneak past the gates of horn and ivory or Dream, of Neil Gaiman’s Endless,  lets us into his Library we will never know.

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So what are we left with, 500 words that were published posthumously, which I suspect Lovecraft would never have released. A fragment of a greater work that never was. Yet somehow despite that Azathoth is one of the most well-known of the mythos gods. Up there with the many masked trickster, Yoggie and old tentacle face. As a figure of inspiration Azathoth is in a class of his own. Chaosium published a cycle of works back in 1995 based upon Azathoth as a core figure. He is embraced by the extended Lovecraft universe and crops up all over the place in other stories, novels, RPG’s and computer games. Indeed there is even a zone called “Church of Azatoth” in the latest incarnation of Quake.

The treaty of the Azures, (a fictional treaty between humanity and the Deep Ones in Charles Stross’s Laundry novels.) stipulates, quite wisely…

Neither party shall summon Azathoth without prior consent from the other party…

As summoning Azathoth would, if the blind, idiot star god answered, spell in all likelihood the end of all life on earth. Or at the very least an explosion the equivale of a  small nuclear arsenal going off in one place. The most worrying thing about that clause is that either side thought it was needed. Though personally, I suspect it was the Deep Ones who insisted upon it, having met a few members of humanity over the years  I can see why they would… I could imagine the current resident of a pale building in the district threating to do so if those ‘bad dudes’ in the deep did not back off from their threatening behaviour around Innsmouth, for a start…

Another example of Azathoth in popular Lovecraftian culture is his appearance as one of the possible main bosses in the board game Arkham Horror. Unlike the rest of the main bosses you can choose to play against, Nyarlathotep, Hastur, Cthulhu, Yig, Ithaqa and the rest, if Azathoth is summoned there is no end game phase where the heroes can try (and usually fail) to vanquish the big bad back to the hellish realms from which they were summoned. Instead, the game just ends due to the little matter of the ‘The World Is Devoured.‘ effect coming into play. Which is known to shorten the end game considerably…

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Even for an entity mentioned in several of Lovecraft’s best-known works, albeit fleetingly in most cases, Azathoths influence on wider Lovecraftian culture is enormous. The star-spawn gets everywhere, which isn’t bad for what amounts to the equivalent of a scrap-end of fiction on a hard drive. As a writer myself, I have a lot of scrap-ends floating about as the wider readers of this blog will know (hence the link), but I seriously doubt any of them could ever have the overall impact of Azathoth on popular culture. Something akin to a world-sized monstrosticty eating planets… Though it is the Azathoth of other tales which has sunk him so deep into the collective Lovecraftian zeitgeist, he was after all first imagined in this one. Where I giving out tentacles for impact, then this tale would get 6 of the little suckers. But for the tale itself, it is a disappointing 1, if that seems harsh then I would say this. Lovecraft never sought publication for these words, it is an incomplete passage, even as a short story and perhaps it would have been better left buried in his scrap ends pile. Azathoth would still be who he is, and have his same place in the zeitgeist. Nothing is added here, it’s a neat piece of creative writing, but beyond that, it is nothing at all.

You may have noticed I have said very little if anything about the story itself, that’s because there is very little you can say about it. It is only 500 words or so long after all and doesn’t go anywhere much in the process. But if you want to read it, there is an online copy here at the depository

But until the Sandman opens up his liberty and lets us read the novel that was never written, that’s all we have of Azathoth the novel…

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Further Lovecraftian witterings 

 

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Darker Wisdoms

Writers can be a dark lot at times…

Terry Pratchett, who has many so many of us smile, and laugh, and filled us with joy once told his friend, compatriot and occasional co-conspirator, Neil Gaiman, that he wrote not from joy but from a deep-seated well of anger. It was, he felt, anger that made him the writer he was, a dark rage that drove him to write. In this anger, he was not alone, there is a dark twist to this set of quotes. But from the dark recesses of a writer soul beauty can be born… Or perhaps just pretentiousness, you’ll have to decide that one for yourselves…

“Writing is easy: just stare at the screen of your computer until a tear drops on your keyboard.” ~ Paulo Coelho

“I write for the same reason I breathe-because if I didn’t, I would die.” ~ Isaac Asimov

“If I’m writing, at least I don’t feel as paralyzed.” ~ Laura Goode,

“I need solitude for my writing; not ‘like a hermit’ – that wouldn’t be enough – but like a dead man.” ~ Franz Kafka

“The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering.” ~ Tom Waits

“If the novel is dead, I’m a necrophiliac.” ~ Tiffany Madison

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“Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.” ~ Raymond Chandler

“Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the backyard and shot it.” ~Truman Capote

“What is your advice to young writers?”
“Drink, fuck and smoke plenty of cigarettes.” ~ Charles Bukowski,

“I don’t think all writers are sad, she said.
I think it’s the other way around—all sad people write.” ~ Lang Leav

“Writing a book is a blood sport. If it doesn’t hurt when you’re done, you’re probably doing something wrong.” ~ Kevis Hendrickson

“To write is your last resort when you’ve betrayed someone.” ~ Jean Genet

“I think horror, when done well, is one of the most direct and honest ways to get to the core of the human experience because terror reduces all of us to our most authentic forms.” ~Alistair Cross

“The way to write is to throw your body at the mark when your arrows are spent.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Happy children do not seem to grow up to be writers.” ~ Piers Anthony

*cough so no pretension at all in that lot… But as an occasional collector of quotes, I can’t deny I am occasionally drawn to the darker ones rather than the just plain inspirational. But then I am a writer myself, and the dark is an old friend…

Finally, a last word from old tentacle hugger himself…

“At night, when the objective world has slunk back into its cavern and left dreamers to their own, there come inspirations and capabilities impossible at any less magical and quiet hour. No one knows whether or not he is a writer unless he has tried writing at night.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

 

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

and one on miss-quoting, Misquoting Kipling

 

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Writing Novels: The rules

A writer should write what they want to write, and write it how they want to write it. This is a theory I have expressed before, and one I will continue to express. I am aware that some may disagree with me on the subject. They will tell me that you should be writing to an audience, and you should stick to this golden formula, or that golden rule etc. Self-help guides and novel writing courses are full of golden rules. As are the majority of ‘How to succeed as a writer’ posts on Faceache. Which almost always is trying to get you to buy their ‘How to succeed as a writer‘ guidebook for $1.99 on kindle…

One of the ways to be successful as a writer as far as I can gather is to write a ‘How to succeed as a writer’ guidebook and advertise it on every Facebook group in the known universe, five times a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. The reason this must be a formula for success is because the one selling those books are always ‘BEST SELLING AUTHOR’ Joe Blogs. Who much to my surprise, when I go and look them up, appear to have not written any books other than ‘How to succeed as a writer’…Which is fine, though I personally don’t feel I should take advice on writing a novel from someone who has never written fiction…

Unless of course ‘How to succeed as a writer’ is actually a work of fiction, which would explain a lot…

Here is the thing, the kind of advice offered in these books I have always found to be patronising at best. They are based, as all such ‘self-help’ books are, on the concept I alluded to above. That being that there is some golden formula to writing a novel. A set of rules, that if followed, will produce a masterwork. In turn, by following the rules, you will, according to the blurbs:

‘Sell thousands of copies, be lauded by all. You will indeed go on to win awards and be able to write books  as successful as ‘How to succeed as a writer’  by the award-winning, best-selling writer Joe Blogs. Just follow these golden rules…’

On the off chance, you’re reading this in the hope of discovering the golden rules, which as I have a certain degree of faith in my readership I suspect is not that case, allow me to clarify my position on the golden rules by deferring here to the wisdom of W. Somerset Maugham.

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You may not have heard of him before, you may never have read any of his novels, but Maugham wrote some twenty very successful novels, numerous short stories, plays and is undoubtedly, therefore, a man whose opinion carries some weight in this regard.

(Confession time, I knew him only from the quote, until I decided to dig around and realise he wrote ‘Of Human Bondage’, which has been on my ‘classics I should read‘ list for years, despite me not knowing the author’s name. Which says unfortunate things about my literary education.)

So, there are no rules, there are certainly no golden rules, and I guarantee any advice you are given by anyone on the subject is flawed to one degree or another. I include my own advice in that, I am not claiming to be any authority here. But I am fairly convinced that the one place you almost certainly will not find ‘the golden rules’ is between the pages of ‘How to succeed as a writer’  by the award-winning, best-selling writer Joe Blogs, because what those books mostly focus on is ways to game the market…

They will generally tell you to do one of the following as its where the money is:

  • Find a gap in the genre markets, the novels no one is writing and write to it.
  • Research the most successful sub-genres and write for them.
  • Write a YA version of a successful sub-genre with plenty of angst
  • write erotica version of a successful sub-genre
  • have a word count that fits exactly with the most popular books in the genre
  • plan for a series of three books because readers like a trilogy

So that’s clear, what you should be writing if you want to be successful as a writer is ‘teenage paranormal, dystopian fantasy with werewolves.’ Or possibly not as the market may be flooded with ‘teenage paranormal, dystopian fantasy with werewolves‘ and instead you should write ‘werewolves vs paranormal teenagers in a dystopian fantasy world.’ Make it between 70000 words long and 90000 but no longer. Have a plan for the next two novels and write them before you publish or write erotica.  So that’s nice and clear then.

Or you could just write a story, see where it takes you, and write what you want to write. I say this because if you want to write fiction because you want to make money. If indeed your sole aim in writing books is the money that could be made by doing so. You’re making a big mistake, and coming to the craft from entirely the wrong angle. Believe me, there are far easier ways to make money than writing books. Except perhaps ‘How to succeed as a writer’  self-help books because given the sheer number of them out there someone must be buying them…

Now I am not saying you should not write a  ‘teenage paranormal, dystopian fantasy with werewolves‘ if that’s what floats your boat. In fact, if that’s what you want to write, if it sparks all your imaginative neurons and gets you to the keyboard then you should do just that. Just because it’s popular is no reason not to write it. Any more than writing ‘50 shades of grey‘ clones is something I would sneer at if that’s what someone really wants to write ( Please for the love of all things small and furry write something better than the original garbage though.) Here is the thing, as a writer, I write best when I am into what I am writing. When I believe in what I am writing. When I am writing what I want to write and saying it just how I want to say it.

I am sure, due to having spent many years writing one word after another in some form of coherence, that I could turn my hand to writing anything. The basic craft, the construction of sentences, paragraphs, chapters and telling a story, that is something you can learn. No really, for those who doubt this, it is. Write a few hundred words every day, write a million or so over the years. Eventually, you’re going to start getting it right. Eventually, you’ll be able to figure out how to tell stories and make them reasonably professional. So having done that I am sure I could apply the craft to ‘teenage paranormal, dystopian fantasy with werewolves’ or ’50 shades of turquoise’ and in doing so create something that is probably sellable. It would be soulless, and a sham, but I could do it. But I would hate myself, begrudge every word, and it would show in the final print. It would be writing by numbers.

Writing is more than just the craft of writing, writing is putting a slither of your soul on the page. My best work is always the work I believe in. It comes from deep within. It means something to me that no reader could ever grasp, and yet they will recognise that when they see it. More importantly, they would recognise its absence, even if they could not tell you what was missing.

So if there is a golden rule, it is simply this, write something you believe in. Write what you want, how you want. Perhaps you will not find an audience, at least, not an audience as easily as you might with 80000 words long ‘teenage paranormal, dystopian fantasy with werewolves, book one of the howling angst teen chronicles’  the self-help books are not entirely wrong on this score. But when you find an audience they will actually believe in your book, your world, your characters, because you do.

Write what you know, as the old adage goes. But write what you know you want to write I would say. That way writing will always be a joy and never a job …

 

Adios for now

Mark

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Other posts on writing and self-publishing are collected here:

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The Other Gods: The complete Lovecraft #32

Pantheonic gods are cooler than monotheistic ones. I say this not to denigrate anyone’s faith. Somethings just are…

A cigarette smoking teenage Marlon Brando in black leather in ‘Rebel without a cause’.  Leaning against a Harley Daverson answering the onerous question “What are you rebelling against?” with a sneer as he replies   “What have you got…?” is by its very nature cooler than Old Marlon in ‘The Godfather’ being the don and talking with a mouth full of cotton wool.

They’re both, if you like that kind of thing, awe-inspiring in the literal sense of the word. But Thor, Odin, Loki and all, or Zeus, Ares, Aphrodite and the rest of the toga-wearers who make mortals their playthings, are cooler, than the big bearded guy in the clouds who created everything, knows everything, and is everywhere. Giant wolves that are going to eat the world, serpents that encircle the earth, frost giants, magic hammers, minotaurs, showers of gold that seduce princesses, hydras and golden fleeces. War gods, thunder gods, love goddesses, gods of wine, muses, fates, feasting halls and homes on clouded mountain tops are just a whole lot of cool. A Church of England chapel on a Sunday morning with a dozen choir boys and an organist, not so much…

Norse_Gods

Cool does not imply good btw, Bonnie and Clyde were ‘cool’, Charles Manson was considered to be the hight of ‘cool’ right up to the point the family started killing people, Roman Polanski was ‘cool’, Phil Spector was ‘cool’. The CoE Monotheistic god may not be ‘cool’, but at least he isn’t going around unleashing the Kraken, or hurling lightning bolts at people… At least not since the end of the old testament anyway…

That’s the thing about Pantheonic gods, they may be cool, but there a right set of bastards as a rule, and every pantheon also has its ‘other gods’. For all the fertility goddesses and protecting All-fathers there a Loki, a bunch of frost giants or titans. The monotheists have the Devil, who may well have all the best tunes. The pantheons, however, have their ‘other gods’ and they tend towards the nasty side of chaos. You may sacrifice a goat or seven to Zeus, but you made sure you did not upset Hades, of Hectate at the same time. No one might openly worship Hel, but they probably tried not to upset her just in case.

All this mildly heretical preamble leads us up to ‘The Other Gods‘. A Lovecraftian tale that sits in the middle of all his works. It also links to a fair few other stories both earlier and later in his bibliography. Its two main characters come from that city of the cat lovers Ulthar. Barzai, the elder of the two, was the one who convinced the elders of the town of the wisdom of not killing felines. This may have had something to do with a particular goddess of Egyptian persuasion who is somewhat feline herself. Or more likely that Lovecraft stalwart who ‘came out of Egypt‘, who is himself later linked to this tale in ‘The Dream-Quest Unknown Kadath’. When ‘Nyarlathotep‘ speaks to Randolph Carter in a sardonic fashion of the ill-fated expeditions of other impertinent god-seekers and relates when Barzai’s hubris brought him to the baleful attention of the Other Gods, they “did what was expected”. So, if you don’t read Lovecraft in order, thanks for the spoiler there oh wearer of masks…

The other main character is Barzai assistant/ apprentice Alat, the son of an innkeeper in Ulthar who witnesses the weird rites of the cats on the night that the old Cotter and his wife are killed. He also turns up in ‘The Dream-Quest Unknown Kadath‘, though by then he is 300 years old, has a beard you could hide a yak in and is running a temple of the elder gods. All of which makes a certain amount of sense as ‘The Other Gods‘ also is where Lovecraft first makes mention of  ‘unknown Kadath in the cold waste where no man treads.’ There is a lot going on in this story, it sets up a lot of what is to come and not with mere hints as has happened before.

There also a whole lot of lore been slipped into the background that will come back later in Lovecraft’s stores. Barzai the wise, for example, earned his moniker by reading such works as the Pnakotic Manuscripts (first mentioned way back in ‘Polaris‘ )and the Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan. Though reading forbidden ancient texts seems a very unwise thing to do in the Lovecraftian universe… These strange books crop up again in ‘The Dream-Quest Unknown Kadath‘. Kadath itself crops up in several stories, including ‘Beyond the Mountains of Madness’ and in Dunwich. Yet written in 1921, ‘The Other Gods’ still predates most of the tales it links back to.

Barzai and Alat set out on a quest to look upon the faces of the gods of the earth. It is clearly more Barzai’s quest than Alat’s. Alat one suspects would far rather be at home in Ulthar, sipping warm tea and surrounded by cats… But given what he witnessed in ‘The Cats of Ulthar’ as a boy perhaps trailing after a half-mad prophet to a forbidden mountain to look at the faces of the gods seemed a safer option to him… It’s always worth noting that if someone is proclaimed as wise due to reading a few books no one else understands and then starts raving about climbing mountains to look upon the face of the gods, giving them a wide berth is probably safer for your health. But never the less Alat goes traipsing off with Barzai to the mountain most likely to play host to the god’s version of a high school reunion. You know the kind of thing., drinking, dancing, reminiscing about when you were all powerful and worshipped with human sacrifices before those pesky humans got all monotheistic on you…

The gods of the earth, old pantheons long forgot, or at least only half-remembered, have been hiding out at the top of mountains for aeons. But those pesky humans keep climbing them and forcing the gods to change mountains because the last thing you want as a declining pantheon is people to see you in your under-crackers watching games shows in your retirement village… figuratively speaking in any case. Better by far that the humans still think of you as the cool rebel Brando,  but once in a while, they like to go to the old corner and hang out for a while. Luckily the locals know well enough to keep away when the clouds start to form around the mountains. Barzai on the other hand…

Barzai scales the mountain, in true zealot style.Regardless of his own safety, or the safety of poor Alat who follows on behind. Alat is at least wise enough to hang back a little, while his mentor races ahead. Into the clouds goes Barzai, to see at last the faces of the gods… But when he gets there he is not greeted by…

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  “The other gods! The other gods! The gods of the outer hells that guard the feeble gods of earth! . . . Look away! . . . Go back! . . . Do not see! . . . Do not see! . . . The vengeance of the infinite abysses . . . That cursed, that damnable pit . . . Merciful gods of earth, I am falling into the sky!”

Well there you go, what do you expect when you try to seek up on the good half of the pantheon. When you crash a high school reunion there gonna be the bullies there as well as your high school sweet heard and that smart guy from chemistry… Where there be gods, there be the other gods, the twisted ones, the monsters…

There is a lot in this short tale, a lot that ties other stories together, and which lays the seed of things to come. But it is also a good old yarn, a nice bit of mythology, and has a whole lot of cool about it. You can see the ending coming, but that’s beside the point. The strange behaviour of the gods, so beyond the comprehension of mortal man is matched only by the idiocy of the one who is so determined to look them in the face. While the only sage ones here are the villager in the foothills of the mountain who point out the gross error Barzai and Alat are making. It gets five slithering tentacles of encroaching doom from me, as it may be the first fully Lovecraftian tale so far. This is steeped in his own lore and knows exactly what it is doing. But then I am a sucker for pantheonic gods, it’s the cool leather jackets I’m sure…

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Further Lovecraftian witterings 

 

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Wise words…

More of the wisdom of writers: or a few scattered quotes that could be wisdom or tosh, it’s not always easy to tell. But such are the words that on occasion inspire me to write, even those full of derision…

The inspiring…

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” ~ Jack Kerouac

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” ~ Saul Bellow

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” ~ Ray Bradbury

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ~ Anton Chekhov

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” ~ Louis L’Amour

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” ~ Philip Pullman

“Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay the rent.” ~ Neil Gaiman

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” ~ William Wordsworth

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ~ Jack London

“Cynics are simply thwarted romantics.” ~ William Goldman

The somewhat derisive…

“Write what you know. That should leave you with a lot of free time.” ~ Howard Nemerov

“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

“So what? All writers are lunatics!” ~ Cornelia Funke,

and finally from the writer of a certain epic space opera…

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” ~ Frank Herbert

Earlier posts on writer quotes…   words of wisdom  further words of wisdom  WoW3

and one on miss-quoting, Misquoting Kipling

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The Moon-bog: The Complete Lovecraftian #31

If in doubt, the sunken ruins of a lost city are just where you go, at least if you’re the old tentacle hugger. You have probably noticed that and if you haven’t then you’re not really paying attention. Lost cities and ruined temples, the last vestiges of some forgotten place, often built be some forgotten race, right back to the earliest of his stories like ‘The Tomb‘. As a plot device, it turns up everywhere in Lovecraft fiction, even his dreamlands tales are littered with ancient cities and strange ruins, or echoes of them. So it no surprise that this tale features a lost city, submerged beneath an Irish bog.

The Moon-bog is a bit of an oddity all the same. It was written not as a tale to be read in a magazine but one to be spoken at dinner. Specifically, at a Hub Club gathering of amateur journalists in Boston on March 10, 1921. The tale set in Ireland because the gathering had a St. Patricks day theme to it, and Boston, as it still is today, is a city of the Irish. And it has a sunken city in it because if your Lovecraft and your rattling something out in a hurry, the sunken ruins of a lost city is just where you go…  Particularly if you have some nice Irish mythology to lean upon…

Ireland is a land of myths, even more so than England, the wild nature of Ireland took far longer to tame. Added to this the Irish myths have never been as well mined as the Britsh,  Greek, Viking or European counterparts. Ireland has always been a land on the fringes, and its Celtic roots run deep. The ancient history of the emerald isle and the cycle of texts known as ‘Lebor Gabála Érenn’ or ‘The Book of Invasions‘ is a rich source of mythology, interwoven with Christian myth that has been layered on top of older myths. The Ireland of ‘Lebor Gabála Érennt’ is a rich deep vain of pre-history and prehistoric peoples. The Cessair,  the Partholon, the Nemed, the Fir Bolg and the Tuatha De Danann, all reside upon the Isles before the Gaels arrive, and it is the Gaels who eventually form the core of the Celtic peoples. Through-out this mythology the peoples of Ireland fight battles and wars against other non-human invaders,  Fomorians, or as one literal translation would have it ‘the undersea ones‘.  Though Fomorians are also described in other ways and become the great monstrous race of Irish mythology. They are not human and existed before humans came to Ireland. A rich vein that was happily mined by 2000AD writer Pat Mills for his Slaine stories. Retelling suaves of ‘Lebor Gabála Érenn’ with the warped one battling the evils of Fomorians civilisation, and free the enslaved people of Ireland from the grip of that ancient alien race…

So that’s Ireland for you, steeped in a mythology that almost begs Lovecraft to use it. The Fomorians could not be more a myth that harkens to ‘Deep Ones’ if it held up a sign saying ‘scaley prehuman civilisation R’US’. Combining Lovecraft’s mythos to Ancient Ireland mythology is almost a free pass. A gift that would keep on giving. An open goal that just requires a nudge to get the ball over the line…

Somehow with ‘The Moon-bog’ Lovecraft manages to miss…

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about this story. It is well executed if it only follows a simple thread. It’s as Lovecraft as can be, yet somehow stunted. It lacks a spark or perhaps that little grain within it that would make it more than its whole. Perhaps it suffers from its original intent as an orientation. In these days of audiobooks, we are used to stories being read to us, but even now were you to write a tale to be read out to a crowd you would write it differently. The pattern of words and the use of language is different. This is why a script seldom makes for a good book… and yet passages like this one hint at so much more that could have been made of this tale…

The narrator’s tale is simple enough, perhaps too simple. A wealth American returning to the old country and buying the estate of his forefathers. Bringing life and wealth to an impoverished region, but not truly been part of it for all that. He sees an opportunity for more wealth in the draining of the bogs and dismisses the locals objections as superstitious ignorance. Thus laying the ground for his own fate when folklore proves to have more substance than he could ever believe. It’s simple, and it’s predictable, yet passages like this one hint at so much more that could have been made of this tale…

There my eyes dilated again with a wild wonder as great as if I had not just turned from a scene beyond the pale of Nature, for on the ghastly red-litten plain was moving a procession of beings in such a manner as none ever saw before, save in nightmares.

These then are my real problems with ‘The Moon-bog’, it is not the story itself, but the telling. The story was rushed,  hacked together in short order,  without Lovecraft’s usual meticulous craft. It was written for an audience rather than a reader. It does not invite you into an intimate triest, and allow you to explore with trepidation its hidden harbours. Instead, it just lays out the story and tries to elicit the reaction of a crowd rather than you as an individual. And finally, it is such a rich vein squandered. Perhaps because I have a good grounding in Irish

And finally, it is such a rich vein squandered. Perhaps because I have a good grounding in Irish mythologies, as well as Pat Mills explorations of them with Slaine in the pages of 2000AD, but I can not help but feel there is so much that could have been done here. A combination of Lovecraft’s mythos and Irish myth could be so deeply layered. There is a good story, a novella, or even a novel to be made of such a combination. Yet for me at least the moon-bog fails to make the most of that. A wasted opportunity to seed his own mythologies into ‘real’ mythology. Yt it leaves so little to talk about when it could have left so much… So I am going to give this tale a disappointing two tentacles and move on. As much as I love Lovecraft’s work, this tale can, to use the words of Slain McRoth.. ‘Kiss my axe…”

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Further Lovecraftian witterings 

 

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The Outsider: The Complete Lovecraft#30

Every writer will on occasion be influenced in style and subject by those whose writing he admires. That’s why they are called influences after all. Sometimes this is deliberate, sometimes not so much, and on occasion sometimes the writer doesn’t realise they have been influenced at all till they read the story sometime later. With that in mind, this is what Lovecraft himself said of ‘The Outsider’  in a letter a few years after he originally wrote this macabre and visceral little tale…

  “It represents my literal though unconscious imitation of Poe at its very height.”

So when I say this story reminded me of Poe, in much the same way ‘The Music of Erich Zann‘ did, I’m in good company drawing that comparison. Certainly in style, and more than a little in content old Edgar looms large, but it also harkens back to earlier gothic fiction, most noticeably for me Mary Shelley’s grand opus, which undoubtedly had influenced Poe. All the resonances of Frankensteins monster are here, along with the trappings. A dark crumbling castle, long abandoned and rotting, the loneliness and longing of the protagonist devoid of companionship, the isolation and despair, and in the climax of the story and its poignant moment of self-awareness.

The tales protagonist, in Lovecraft’s favourite first-person narrative, knows nothing of his own history. His first memories are of being alone, wandering the halls of the half-ruined darkness enshrouded castle. A castle with no reflective surfaces, all mirrors long destroyed, and the ever-present darkness shrouding others. He reads old books in the library by the light of spluttering candles and explores the endless dusty corridors and wonders who he is, and from whence he came. He could almost imagine himself a ghost, or some other long-dead remnant of this forgotten place. All he knows of the world beyond the castle walls he learnt from books. While he seeks a way to pass beyond the barriers of the forest and the castle walls, long years pass. Longing for companionship in a well of loneliness, dwelling in the decaying darkness among the shadows, the rats and the ruins. A lost soul embodied in its own futility.

You could only get more gothic than this if you overlayed a ‘Sisters Of Mercy’ soundtrack and got Peter Cushing to read it to you in a dark velvet smoking jacket, while Peter Lorie served you with red wine in crystal goblets…

And, the gothic themes continue throughout. When he finally leaves the castle, the protagonist stumbles upon another castle, one strangely familiar to him, yet one full of life. A great party in full swing, all light and life and joy. The positive to his homes negative. But when he enters the castle his progression through the party is reminiscent to deaths walk through ‘The Masque of the Red Death’… All who see him flee before him, fear and loathing upon their faces. Then there is the final scene, the moment of reveal, which is Frankenstein and the pond…

Just to be certain of the tales Gothic pretensions Lovecraft opens the tale with an epigram is from Mary Shelley’s contemporary, and close friend of her husband, Keats’ the romantic poet ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’.

That night the Baron dreamt of many a woe;
And all his warrior-guests, with shade and form
Of witch, and demon, and large coffin-worm,
Were long be-nightmared.
—Keats.

Turn up ‘Temple of Love’ and dig out the eyeliner…

I like a good gothic tale, and Lovecraft does just that in ‘The Outsider‘. It’s heritage is obvious, but it is none the worse for that. Beyond itself, there is little to link this with other Lovecraftian ushering, the briefest of connections to the last tale he ever wrote ‘The Haunter of the Dark‘ that sits at the very end of the story like an odd little addition to give it some link to other tales. Though unless he came back from the dead, a ghoulish visage of himself, to add that little amendment after his death, then I suspect the ending is just a final little twist. The Ghoul fleeing to Egypt to live among the dead.

It is a shame though, think of it, zombie Lovecraft returns to edit his tales… He could finish ‘Azeroth’…  He could read this blog… Ermm… Oh hell…  Just to be on the safe side, I will give this a nice solid four tentacles… Just in case that shambling figure coming up behind me has been reading my thoughts on ‘Celephais and wants a quiet word…

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As a final aside to this one here is the complete synopsis of the tale in a quirky comic form just because it made me smile when I stumbled over it…

LovecraftComic outsider

Patrick Dean, the artist who created the comic, has more of these and lots of other fun stuff on his website, so if you enjoyed that pop along….  (his Nyarlathotep is genius…) http://underwhelminglovecraft.tumblr.com/

Further Lovecraftian witterings 

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