October Reading

As the leaves turn to russet gold and red and the wind begins to bite the year begins to turn into the season for reading chilling stories. Barnes and Noble have offered up some suggestions for what they call ‘gothic’ tales to give you a scare this month and so I thought I would add my own five to their list.

The Grimscribe’s Puppets: Joseph S. Pulver Sr. (ed.)

Grimscribe's Puppets cover
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The B&N list starts off with the newly released edition of Thomas Ligotti’s two collections Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe. Whilst these are indeed fantastic collections I want to add the Joeseph S Pulver edited collection The Grimscribe’s Puppets. This is an anthology of work inspired by Ligotti and penned by some of the most exciting writers in the world of the weird renaissance, including: Scott Nicolay, Livia Llewellyn, Nicole Cushing, Michael Cisco, Gemma Files, and more. The table of contents really does read like a who’s who of the modern weird.
Stand out stories: ‘Furnace’ by Livia Llewellyn, and ‘Eyes Exchange Bank’ by Scott Nicolay.

Gateways to Abomination: Matthew M. Bartlett

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Matthew M. Bartlett’s Gateways to Abomination is one of the most interesting books that I’ve read over the last year or so. Featuring a series of very short stories and vignettes Bartlett paints within this collection a sordid, and extremely creepy, picture of the city of Leeds, Mass. A city whose very fibre is permeated with an ancient witch cult which perverts and debases all who live within the city’s borders and which propagates its malign influence through the local radio station: WXXT.

Stand out story: ‘path’

Ana Kai Tangata – Tales of the Outer, the Other, the Damned, and the Doomed: Scott Nicolay

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Scott Nicolay’s fantastic collection Ana Kai Tangata (Meaning ‘the cave that devours man’) contains eight novella length expeditions that take us off the edge of the map. Into the Outer Dark perhaps? 😉 You can read my review of the collection here.
Stand out story: I’ve already tagged ‘Eyes Exchange Bank’ above so here I’ll recommend the titular ‘Ana Kai Tangata’


Blood Will Have its Season: Joseph S. Pulver Sr.

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As well as being a marvellous curator of weird stories for anthologies Joe Pulver is also one of the Weird’s more outré writers combining, as he does, cosmic horror and noir with a hard boiled beat sensibility. Blood Will Have its Season is the first collection of Pulver’s short fiction, published in 2009, which he has been producing since the 1990s. He’s well known for his love of Robert Chambers’ King in Yellow stories and the decadent aesthetic gets a dark and disturbing overhaul in many of the stories contained in this volume. The collection was also recently reissued as an eBook by the Lovecraft Ezine. You can pick that up here.
Stand out story: ‘Blood Will Have its Season’ (Not for the feint hearted.)

Year’s Best Weird Fiction -Volume One: Laird Barron (ed.)

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This collection -the first in a series from Undertow Books- came out last year and was edited by Laird Barron (whose collection The Beautiful Thing That Awaits us All is also highly recommended) and brings together some of the finest work produced in the previous year. There are so many fine tales in this collection that I can’t actually pick one, or two even, to single out: the collection is just that good that you should read them all. You can read my review of it here. There will be a second volume of this series released in the next couple of months; this time curated by Kathe Koja ad I can’t wait to read it.

So, if you want some nice dark and disturbing reading to see you through the death of summer as the air becomes ripe with the pungency of rotting leaves then you wouldn’t go far wrong with any of the above. Enjoy. 🙂


The Outer Dark with Nicole Cushing

The latest episode of The Outer Dark podcast series is out now. This episode sees Scott Nicolay interview Nicole Cushing, the author of the chilling novellas Children of No One and I am the New God. Cushing has a new novel out now from Word HordeMr. Suicide– which I will be ordering come pay day and can’t wait to read. I’ve raved about Cushing before and everyone should go and buy Mr. Suicide right now and then also pick up her novellas as ebooks so that you can read those whilst waiting for the book to arrive.

You can listen to the interview here. Enjoy.

Buy Mr. Suicide here.

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.

What a Day

Wow, yesterday was rather good for me and mine and I truly hope it was good for you too.
C and I got to spoil Little Ms. X, and one another, absolutely rotten. It was also really nice to see that the most excitedly expectant look on Ms. X’s face wasn’t when she was opening her own presents but when C was opening the Tremors collection we had gotten her. She’s a good kid so she is.
I’m presently laying bed nursing something of a hangover after having rather over indulged in one of my more liquid presents..


I do like a wee tipple of Laphroig so I do.
I’ve been laying here in bed for the last half an hour or so wanting to crack into one, or some, of my other gifts from C and X but you know what? I can’t decide which to delve into first! I have options paralysis! Oh the humanity!


As an added bonus this also turned up in the post on Xmas Eve.


So I have a rather wonderful amount of reading to do over the next few months if only can decide where to begin. 😀

The Degenerate Little Town|Thomas Ligotti & Current 93

Thomas Ligotti has in the past collaborated with the English industrial band Current 93. In this track Ligotti himself reads the poem This Degenerate Little Town over music from Current 93.

This Degenerate Little Town

Thomas Ligotti

The greatest secret,
which appears in no religious doctrine
and is found nowhere
in the world’s overburdened library
of myths and fables
nor receives the slightest mention
in any philosopher’s system
or scientist’s speculation…
The greatest secret,
perhaps the only secret,
is that the universe,
all of creation,
owes its existence
to a degenerate little town.
And if it were possible
to strip away the scenery that surrounds us,
to pull up the landscape
of every planet,
to rip away the skies
and shove aside the stars and suns,
to tear from ourselves our own flesh
and delve deep into our bones,
we would find it standing there eternal,
the origin of all things visible
or invisible,
the source of everything that is
or can be,
this degenerate little town.
And then we would discover
its twisted streets
and tilting houses,
its decaying ground
and rotting sky.
And with our own eyes
we would see the diseased faces
peeking from grimy windows.
Then we would realize
why it is such a secret.
The greatest and most vile secret.
This degenerate little town
where everything began
and from whose core of corruption
everything seeps out…

From the beginning,
if there was a beginning,
this degenerate little town
has become ever more degenerate;
its streets more twisted
its houses more tilting
its ground more decayed
its sky more rotten,
those faces behind ever more grimy windows
have become ever more diseased
And in the end…
But there can never be an end
for this degenerate little town.
No more than an end will ever come
for the worlds that have seeped out of it
for everything we can know
is degenerate from the beginning,
everything becomes more twisted and tilting,
more diseased and decayed
rotting from the very sky.
This is the law of things,
if there can be any law
in a universe that has its source and origin
in a degenerate little town,
which has been degenerate from the beginning,
if there was a beginning,
and will go on with its degeneration,
its ceaseless twisting and tilting,
its disease and decay,
its infinite shades of rottenness
forever and without end.

We cannot help but wonder,
in our most perverse moments,
what it would be like
to inhabit this degenerate little town
where the sky is forever dripping its rottenness like rain
to be among those faces
that are diseased faces
eternally diseased faces
eternally peeking through the glass of grimy windows
and out into twisted streets
lined with tilting houses
in a town that is forever degenerating
and will be degenerating forever.
We cannot help but wonder
in our most perverse moments
as we look through bleary eyes
and see the stars that seem to form
so many twisting roads through the blackness,
or feel our flesh rotting upon our bones,
and yet we can only wonder
we can only whisper
or cry out in our dreams
“O Where is the way to this degenerate little town?”

There are those among us
who claim to have seen
this degenerate little town,
although they may be unaware
of its true nature.
There are those who have emerged
from some painful ordeal of the body
or of the mind,
and then begun speaking
of how they saw in the distance
an outline of crooked houses
tilting this way and that,
or walked along some twisted street,
and felt the ground soft with decay
beneath their steps,
or even glimpsed those diseased faces,
their skin rough and pale as plaster,
peeking from behind grimy windows.
But those who claim to have seen such things
always seem to tell a somewhat different story –
failing to compose a consistent picture
of what they may have seen,
or imagine they have seen.
And so we stare at them suspiciously
for a moment,
and then start to walk away,
leaving them to their lies or their illusions,
which of course are the very essence
of this degenerate little town.

“Where is this place?
This degenerate little town?
What is its name?
And who were its creators?”

Such questions are inevitable
and a matter of course
whenever a world knowledge
is attained about anything.
Never mind the greatest secret.
The greatest mystery.

“Are there seasons in the land of this town?
Is there a springtime in which great rains poor down day and night from that rotting sky?
Are there sultry summers that lay a heavy stillness upon those twisted streets?
And what of its autumn, which must be so succulent with all the colours of decay?
Do the winters there, in this degenerate little town, pile their weighty snow upon the roofs of those tilting houses? “

So many question about this secret place.
But as long as such questions are asked,
and countless answers are offered,
the greatest secret will always remain protected,
for no questions will ever be asked,
no answers will ever be allowed
concerning those diseased faces
that have gazed forever
behind the glass of grimy windows.

Like every phenomenon
that we cannot fully face,
this degenerate little town
must remain a cult in its essence
and serve as a limit
for such as we care to know
about what is beyond
the blackness of night
or what is deep in our bones,
for like every phenomenon
that we have actually come to face
this degenerate little town
can only pain us,
adding to our lives
a mere surplus of the pains
we have known so well
throughout the agonised ages
of a degenerate creation.

But like no other phenomenon
that we have ever faced,
this degenerate little town,
under its rotting sky,
standing upon decayed ground–
a landscape of a pain
that is like no other–
may be our last hope,
the only hope we have
of killing all the hopes
we have ever had
and murdering every mystery
we have ever cherished,
so that we may step forth, finally,
into that great shining kingdom
of which we have always dreamed.

It may be quite likely
that we are grotesquely mistaken
to think there is anything special,
anything remarkable at all,
about this degenerate little town.
Far from being the greatest secret,
the worst or the finest of all our dreams,
it may be quite likely
the greatest commonplace,
the supreme banality.
Consider the possibility.
Who among us
have not found ourselves
beneath a rotting sky?
A sky broken and rotting
from what has been heaped up to it
during every epic of this earth,
this ground that is miles deep
with the decay of everything
that has ever lived upon it.
Who has not traveled
through twisted streets,
and under the shadow of houses,
even the straightest of which,
if our eyes could only see it,
is veering towards to tilt?
As for diseased faces,
they are ever prevailing
to the point of embarrassment.
And so much for this civic marvel
that is beyond the blackness of night,
or resides deep in our bones.
Yet if this is the case,
as it quite likely may be,
what remains for us in a universe
where there is nothing special,
nothing of any account,
let alone the saving miracle
of this degenerate little town?

It seems entirely natural that,
should anyone gain full knowledge
of this degenerate little town,
they would deny the truth
of this greatest, most terrible of secrets –
and, as a consequence,
as an act of self-protection,
would fabricate some other
set of circumstances,
a more companionable picture
of the way of things.
This would explain so many
of the deranged idols and beliefs
that have arisen in our world.
At least we would be able to account
for the multitudes of Mannequin Saviours,
as one might view them –
their faces smooth and serene
behind display windows,
welcoming the faithful who,
upon their death,
will enter a department-store paradise
of the most vague and intangible delights.
And some mention must be made
of what might be called
the Sect of the Puppetlands,
whose highly deranged adherents
posit a transcendent universe
of infinite and harmless antics
that are imperfectly mirrored
in the chaos and crises of our own world,
which, in any case, will end nicely
when the Great Puppet Play is concluded
in a sweet bedtime of slumber…
until the next show begins.

Yet, who would begrudge anyone
the denials or alternate renderings
of the twisted streets and tilting houses
the diseased faces and grimy windows of
this degenerate little town,
which itself seems so perfectly bleak,
so in tune with the world we know
forever inclined to ever greater degeneracy
that even the few enlightened ones among us
sometimes doubt it to be real.

We sometimes imagine
that we have heard voices.
Strange and harsh voices,
faintly calling from beyond
the blackness of night
or from deep in our bones.
And even if there are no actual words,
no actual language we know
in which the voices speak,
still there is a terrible understanding
delivered into our world
that only a few may comprehend,
and none would desire,
for this understanding,
this message of strange harsh voices
from beyond the blackness of night,
or from deep in our bones,
declares that this degenerate little town,
that greatest of secrets,
is only a facade
or a mirage,
a picturesque lie
or illusion
in the guise of twisted streets and tilting houses,
all the rottenness and disease which we sense
as the source of all the things we know
or can ever know
when in fact there is something else altogether,
something which none could comprehend,
or desire to comprehend,
yet which they cannot fail to hear
when it slips through the sounds
of those strange and harsh voices,
when it drifts through
during the briefest moments of silence
and from beyond the blackness of night,
or from deep in our bones
comes forth as the hollow resonance
of a most dismal laughter.

Even though there is no evidence
that a degenerate little town
forms the greatest secret
and is the source
of all the things we know
its truth and its existence remain assured
and there do seem to be certain indications
certain aspects and elements of our lives
that in no uncertain terms
inform us of one fact:
sooner or later we will find ourselves
in this degenerate little town
whether we wish to go there or not.
Because when the sky
begins to darken,
as if rotting before our eyes,
and when our bones
begin to change,
growing soft with decay,
we know that all the ways
of our lives
have been leading us,
and can only lead us,
to this degenerate little town.
And then we may understand
that everything around us,
everything within us,
has a direct point of contact
to that secret place,
that source of all things.
Dreams, for instance,
the dreams of our sleep
wherein every mind is destined
to go twisted and tilting
into lands of swift magic.
These dreams alone would make the case –
if anything were ever needed
in the way of evidence.
These dreams alone
would put us in close view
of those grimy windows
behind which diseased faces
peek out through the glass,
as if they are waiting for
someone to arrive –
as if they are waiting
for everyone, sooner or later,
to enter their little town.

The Spectral Link – Thomas Ligotti

To be at odds with the status quo of one’s world can be frustrating to the point of madness. Fear, hate, and desperation are just a few of the mental states that fall to those who would have things other than they are. To become unhinged from the majority is to lose that vital link that keeps one complacently within the fold. Set adrift within the forbidden, the outsider remains on a steady course towards utter doom.

So opens the preface to The Spectral Link – the first release of new Ligottian fiction since 2006’s collection Teatro Grottesco. I received my copy in the post last week and the wait for its delivery brought about an impatience that I’ve not experienced since I was a child waiting for Christmas.

The book itself is a very slim volume, only 94 pages, and only contains two stories – Metaphysica Morum and The Small People. Only 94 pages but it is a truly beautiful wee volume. Everything from the quality of the paper through to the silk smooth dust jacket screams quality and we really should expect no less for a work that has been so anticipated since its surprise announcement last year(if I remember right). This is the first book that I’ve ordered from Subterranean Press, due mostly to the price, but if their releases are all to this standard I can see myself buying many more in the future. Bibliophilia is an expensive habit…

In the, very brief, preface Ligotti outlines the core theme of much of his work. That of the outsider who does not merely find himself at odds with society but with reality itself and of the only salvation being insanity.

Of course, the situation is hopeless for those who wish an alteration in affairs that by their very nature are fixed and define the world in which we are all chained. Their dispute is with reality itself, or what passes for reality.

Metaphysica Morum

The first of the two stories in this collection is told from the perspective of a person who seeks nothing more than to be “euthanized by anesthesia“, a phrase repeated often throughout the tale. This repetition reinforcing the fragile mindset of the protagonist as he experiences strange phantasmagoric dreams involving a ‘dealer’ who offers him a “all-new-context” and tries to relate these dreams to his therapist come meditation guru; a Doctor O.

There is an unrelenting bleakness to this story that readers of Ligotti will find most familiar but which others may find rather disturbing. Even someone familiar with Ligotti’s previous work may find that this tale really ramps up the horrifying ennui, pessimism and depression that permeates works like My Work is Not Yet Done and Nethescurial. The narrator describes his fragile mental state as being the result of a demoralization he feels when confronted with the world as it is and the strange connection between his dreams and what he perceives as reality.

You could attribute my psychological instability to this fact as well as to the dream occasions that so suspiciously bled into my quotidian life that sometimes I could not tell one from the other, which hypothetically might be attributed to there being no actual distinction between them.

Something that is, no doubt, reinforced by the revelation of his somewhat insalubrious origins as revealed in a partial letter from an estranged family member.

As with Ligotti’s other work; the text drips with a very concisely manifested bleakness and philosophical rejection of all that that others take for granted as being of value.

The Small People

Then I saw the sign just off the right side of the road. It had one of those simple faces on it, and written below were the words: SMALL COUNTRY. My whole body tightened, as it always did when I saw one of those road signs.

The second offering in the volume concerns a young person’s hatred of,  and obsession with, the eponymous ‘Small People’. As with Metaphysica Morum the tale involves a doctor which is of note, I feel, as these stories were penned following a brush with death that lead to the author’s hospitalisation. In this story the narrator is directly addressing a doctor as the tale of their childhood unfolds.

The narrator is obsessed with a group of people who live apart from normal, ‘real’ being the distinction the narrator makes, human society. This story is very open to multiple readings and interpretations. The Small People with which the protagonist is obsessed could be read as a representation of a society from which the narrator is alienated or as a section of our society, especially of groups marginalised by race/ethnicity or lifestyle.

Until then, I scarcely had a glimpse of any small people. My strange fear of them originated mostly from the simple face on the road signs that alerted people, real people, of their impending entry into small country. The mere idea of the smalls was enough to make me anxious about something I couldn’t name. And looking into that red plastic toy, I was sorry I hadn’t thrown myself onto the floor of our car, even knowing that my parents would have called me a shameful little bigot for the rest of the vacation.

Again this story is typically Ligottian with it’s focus on things which mimic humanity – in earlier stories marionettes/puppets/clowns all feature heavily. Yet I think that the fear/anxiety elicited in the narrator by the existence of the smalls is a step beyond similar stories by Ligotti which I have read as it is so easily read as a reflection of real world bigotry. Something which, I feel, gives the story a greater depth than it otherwise may reach. It is similar in this manner to my personal favourite Ligotti story Our Temporary Supervisor in the collection Teatro Grottesco which plays with the horrific alienation of work in a capitalist society.

Thomas Ligotti - Teatro Grottesco by SergiyKrykun
Thomas Ligotti – Teatro Grottesco by SergiyKrykun

The book, in hardback, is still available via Amazon UK though the Subterranean Press website is listing it as sold out. I would highly recommend picking this up before it disappears into the realms of the overpriced Ligotti collectibles market.

Ligotti Online has an interview with the author where he discusses the background to his writing of the stories and the tales themselves. You can read it here.

True Douche… I Mean Detective

I loved True Detective when it aired earlier this year. As I squee’d at the time it was heavily influenced by some of my favourite weird fiction -the works of RW Chambers and Thomas Ligotti– which elevated it from being a mere buddy cop drama into something rather unique in the world of television. Whilst I was aware of the Ligottian and Chambersian influences going into the show, what I only recently discovered was the extent to which the show’s writer and creator, Nic Pizzolatto, had directly lifted dialogue from Thomas Ligotti. Nor had I realised how assiduously he has avoided mentioning Ligotti in his interviews or elsewhere – to the point that there isn’t a single mention of Ligotti or Conspiracy Against the Human Race(USUK)(the work from which Pizzolatto drew his most notable dialogue) in the commentaries on the DVD release of the series.

Thankfully Jon Padgett, of Thomas Ligotti Online, did the leg work and has pulled together some pretty damning evidence which shows how True Detective was less homage to Ligotti than it was blatant plagiarism. Over at the esteemed Lovecraft eZine Mike Davis interviews Padgett and presents the evidence for all to see.

I, personally, have a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards plagiarism. I don’t see an inherent problem with plagiarising work so long as one acknowledges where one has taken it from. All culture is, after all, built upon remixing and rewriting themes and tropes that date back to when we first became a species that creates. What I take especial umbrage with here is that Pizzolatto has wholesale lifted the work of an obscure author and made himself rich with it. If he had at least promoted the work of Ligotti in his interviews and in the show, it would not have been difficult to have CAtHR sat atop a pile of books in Rust Cohl’s apartment, so that some light may be shone upon Ligotti’s obscurity allowing him too to benefit from the show’s success.

To add insult to injury Pizzolatto has been nominated for an Emmy for writing True Detective.

Oh well, that’s me not enthusiastically promoting season two. Unless Pizzolatto comes clean and gives Ligotti, the true genius behind the show, some credit I shall remain completely silent about his next show. I hope that others will do the same and so deny Pizzolatto the free publicity we so generously give to creations and creators we admire. I also hope that many people will not watch the show on HBO/Sky Atlantic but will download it from pirate sites and so also deny him our patronage.

A Day Off!

Three actually. In a row! I’ve not had a day off work since June 12th and now I have three of them! Wahey! I can read, I can write. Oh me oh my do I feel good. 😀

But what to read? I’ve got one hell of a backlog that has built up over the last year or so what with university, dissertation, and work. My present backlog looks a little like this, since you asked. Which you didn’t but this is it anyway.

To Finish: This is all short stories. I tend to take a collection with me to read during my commute as the 20-30 minutes on the train is normally just about right to get through a story.

The Weird – edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer

The Dark Domain – Stefan Grabinski

The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter

American Supernatural Tales – edited by S.T. Joshi

To Read: Books that I haven’t had the chance to dip into yet but am chomping at the bit to devour. 🙂

The Spectral Link – Thomas Ligotti

The Grimscribe’s Puppets – edited by Joe Pulver

Celebrant – Michael Cisco

Deadtown Abbey – Sean Hoade

The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All – Laird Barron

I also need to be writing. Currently I have a cosmic horror story set amongst the Caledonii of Iron Age Scotland, and a post-apocalyptic Lovecraftian tale on the go. I also really need to get some more blog post writing done. On that front you can expect my half arsed attempt at an analysis of Ligotti’s Our Temporary Supervisor – which is, beyond a doubt, my favourite story from the Grimscribe himself.

So, until next time. Stay weird. 😀


PS: Also; BIG congratulations to Joe Pulver who’s anthology The Grimscribe’s Puppets won the Shirley Jackson award for best anthology! WAHEY!


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. 😉

True Pessimist – True Detective

I yesterday discovered the new HBO drama True Detective thanks to The Lovecraft Ezine‘s posting about the show’s Ligottian influence. A second person then linked to an article on the Wall Street journal blog that referenced both Lovecraft and Robert W Chambers in relation to the show as well as expanding upon the Ligottian influence.

Whilst I am a bit of a fan of crime dramas I tend to veer towards European, particularly Scandinavian, shows that don’t distract from the horror of the murder/crime being investigated with gaudy effects and cack handed appeals to emotion(I’m looking at you CSI). Shows like Wallander(Sweden) and, especially, Forbrydelsen(Denmark). So normally a show like True Detective would just pass me by had it not been for these mentions of Ligotti, Chambers, and Lovecraft. Needless to say, my interest was more than piqued.

The show, now on its third episode, follows two investigations into two seemingly linked murders. One in 1995 and one in 2012. In 1995 we see detectives Rustin “Rust” Cohl(Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart(Woody Harrelson) as two mismatched homicide detectives investigating the bizarre, and seemingly occult related, murder of a young woman. the 2012 plot line consists of Cohl and hart being interviewed by a pair of detectives investigating a strikingly similar murder.

The dialogue between Cohl and Hart is fantastic throughout the show but what stands out most, to me being a Ligotti fan anyway, are Cohl’s nihilistic diatribes against life, religion, and the bullshit in which we cloak the essential meaninglessness of existence. A prime example of this is seen in the very first episode when Hart, an ostensibly Christian man, asks Cohl what he believes.

That could have been lifted from any number of Ligotti’s stories.

Whilst the murder is most certainly weird and just drips with all manner of occult symbolism it isn’t until the second episode that the influence of weird fiction authors becomes overtly clear. References to the Yellow King in the diary of the murdered woman and direct quotes from Chamber’s work are laid out before us on the screen.

The Yellow King

In Carcosa

I don’t know if the show is going to feature any supernatural elements, that exist outside of the mind of the killer/s, nor do I know if the show needs anything supernatural to convey the bleak cosmic horror of Ligotti’s work that it so closely resembles. The washed out colours, the bleak existential nihilism of Cohl, the occult(but not necessarily supernatural) elements of the murders, the hypocrisy and denial of Hart. All combine to give the show an air of resignation where the true horror lies not in the actions of the, seemingly, deranged killer but in the mundane stripping away of the façade of normality by Cohl’s unshakable nihilism.

The series continues on the ninth of this month.