Doug Talks Weird about Ligotti

Last week Doug Bolden posted the third of his video blogs discussing Weird Fiction and in this instalment he talked about the Thomas Ligotti short story ‘The Frolic’ and the meaning of the term ‘Lovecraftian’.

‘The Frolic’ is one of Ligotti’s earliest published stories and, as good as it is, it is one of my least favourite Ligotti tales. The story centres around a psychiatrist who is dealing with a patient who is a notorious child murderer -he refers to his abuse and murder of children as ‘frolicking’- and who has become increasingly cynical and bitter about his career. To me the story seemed rather simplistic and, dare I say it, trite though that could well be to do with the stories age –Songs of a Dead Dreamer which features the story was Ligotti’s first collection released in 1986- or perhaps due to Ligotti trying to curtail his literary ambitions in order to appeal to the horror publications of the time.

Where I didn’t enjoy the story Doug manages to tease the Ligottian elements from within what is otherwise a by the numbers psycho-killer story.

There was a short, 24 minute, film made of ‘The Frolic’ a few years ago which is now available on Vimeo. I’ve not seen it and so can’t comment as to the quality but you can watch it below.

Autumn Cthulhu

Mike Davis, the editor at the Lovecraft Ezine, has issued a call for submissions for an upcoming anthology entitled Autumn Cthulhu.

he sums up what he’s looking for thus:

Well, the words Autumn Cthulhu sum it up somewhat.  But, though pastiche can be done well, I don’t want it here.  In other words, less “Mythos” and more “Lovecraftian”.  I’m talking about the themes of Lovecraft: cosmic horror, deep time, man’s irrelevant place in the universe, horrific truths about reality, etc…

So the story should be Lovecraftian, set in the fall.  You could include Halloween, and in fact I very much hope some of you do, but it’s not a necessity.  There’s a mood and a magic and a mystery to autumn; think colorful falling leaves, crisp days, rainy afternoons and evenings.  A cold drizzle.

Which sounds particularly enticing. Especially as I recently began work on a Yellow story set on a housing scheme on the outskirts of Glasgow in, of all times, the autumn! So if I can get it finished and edited before Halloween(nice deadline there Mr Davis!) I’m definitely going to submit it. The story is more of a Yellow tale than anything related to the Cthulhu mythos so I’m glad Mike wants Lovecraftian over mythos stories.

All the details on how to submit stories are in the post over at the Ezine so head over there if you fancy sending Mike a tall tale. Anyway, back to work on my story.

typing

The Red Tree – Caitlin R Kiernan

I’m a huge fan of Caitlin R Kiernan. I have been since I read her weird masterpiece The Drowning Girl last year. I still think that it’s a travesty that the book didn’t win every award that it was possible to win; so beautiful is her prose. I picked up the book that was released prior to The Drowning Girl, The Red Tree, quite a while ago but due to my studies obliterating my ability to read anything like the amount of fiction I would like I have only just gotten around to reading it. I’ve nearly finished the book, and probably will this evening, but there is something about it that has been bugging me.

As with the Drowning Girl Kiernan’s story here is absolutely sumptuous and masterful in its execution. Following the final weeks of bereaved author Sarah Crow as she comes under the fell influence of the titular red tree it is presented as journal kept by Sarah Crow throughout her last weeks at the farm house to which she has fled to hide from her crumbling career. As well as being a masterpiece of Lovecraftian/Cosmic horror The Red Tree is also an intimate character examination of a middle aged woman whose life is crumbling about her whilst she is dealing with the emotional fall out of the suicide of her lover. Basically this book, as with The Drowning Girl, is a fantastic piece of genre fiction that shits from a great height upon the notion that genre fiction is all about plot and lit fic is all about character. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

High praise. So, what is it that’s bugging you so Andy? That’s sticking in your craw to the point that you have to write about this book before you’ve even finished it? Well dear readers… who am I kidding? Dear reader, it is such a small thing that it is faintly ridiculous that it bugs me so. It’s the cover.

Seriously????

So, this a character examination of a middle aged lesbian encountering such stark and unthinkable horrors that it twists her sense of reality, shakes her to her core. Yet someone at ROC thought it was a good idea to put a moody looking early twenty something on the cover making this look like by the numbers paranormal romance or urban fantasy. Talk about mismarketing and misrepresenting the work within. Sarah Crow is 44 years old and broken. She isn’t a 22 year old mysterious and sultry goth girl.* I know that we’re told from a young age not to judge a book by its cover and all that jazz. Unfortunately, when it comes to buying books, that’s exactly what we do. If I had seen this on a book shelf, without having previously read The Drowning Girl, I would have most definitely not have picked it up. I would have assumed it was some kind of a Twilight cash in. When Little Ms. X saw me reading it recently she guffawed and asked if I was reading a kids book. When I explained the plot of the book she looked at the cover unbelievingly.  It does this work an immense disservice that it is dressed in the black crushed velvet of a paranormal romance novel.

I honestly can’t recommend this work highly enough and if you see it tucked between some god awful Twilight cash in nonsense at your local book store please, please rescue it and give it a good home. You will be grateful that you did.

Rant over. 😀

 

*Not that I have anything against mysterious and sultry goth girls. It’s just that this book isn’t about one.

Five of my Favourite Lovecraftian Short Stories

Over at the Lovecraft Ezine Mike Davis has been getting well known figures in the world of weird literature to share their top five favourite Lovecraftian stories. Now, I’m not well known, in the world of weird literature or otherwise, 😀 but thought I would pop a wee list of five of my favourites here. Not that they are my ‘top five’ as I can’t really rank stories(or music, or anything else for that matter) in that way. Such things change with the day and/or the wind. 🙂

Also, I suppose some of these fit into the broader ‘weird fiction’ category rather than being specifically Lovecraftian.

In no particular order:

The Broadsword by Laird Barron: Horrible and unsettling story of an older man, disconnected from his family with few friends still living. A chance encounter brings him to the attention of an horrific cosmic force that… well, that would be spoilers. 😀 The Broadsword was published in S.T. Joshi’s collection Black Wings of Cthulhu: Twenty-One Tales of Lovecraftian Horror.

Inhabitants of Wraithwood by W.H. Pugmire: Riffing off of H.P. Lovecraft’s Pickman’s Model Wilum Pugmire paints a grotesque picture(see what I did there?) of a man on the run encountering a strange family which would make most people long for the comfort of a jail cell. Inhabitants of Wraithwood is also in Black Wings of Cthulhu: Twenty-One Tales of Lovecraftian Horror.

The Area by Stefan Grabinski: Grabinski(1887-1936) was a Polish author sometimes referred to as being a Polish ‘Poe’ or ‘Lovecraft’. Whilst I don’t think either of these are especially adequate comparisons his story The Area has a very Lovecraftian feel to it. Following an author’s obsession with an unoccupied cottage opposite his own residence and, eventually, the manifestation of his innermost imaginings. The Area has been translated into English by Miroslaw Lipinski in the collection The Dark Domain.

Technicolor by John Langan: In this short Langan investigates the use of colour by Edgar Allen Poe in The Masque of the Red Death. It takes the form of a university lecture outline the mysterious circumstances that influenced Poe to write his tale. I can’t heap enough praise on John Langan. The collection that contains TechnicolorThe Wide Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies, is a masterpiece of weird fiction. I would probably have included all the stories in this collection but thought I should go for a wee bit of variety. 😉

Our Temporary Supervisor by Thomas Ligotti: I’ve mentioned before that I am a massive Ligotti aficionado. His unrelenting negativity and extremely black humour has a very particular appeal to me. Of all the stories I have read by Ligotti however it is Our Temporary Supervisor that has had the most impact upon me. Part of his series of corporate horror stories involving the Quine Organisation this story, more than any of his others, for me perfectly encapsulates the pointlessness and  spirit crushing nature of most work in modern capitalism. The story of a worker who assembles metal pieces all day long, who has no idea what they do other than, he assumes, that they fit into a larger whole. The alienation and dehumanisation of abstract labour. Our Temporary Supervisor is available in the collection Teatro Grottesco.

So there you go. Five weird tales and collections to check out should you so wish. And you do. Wish to. Go on. Buy them. 😉