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Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Transition of Juan Romero

“Upon investigation it was seen that a new abyss yawned indefinitely below the seat of the blast; an abyss so monstrous that no handy line might fathom it, nor any lamp illuminate it.”

Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we delve into the last of the juvenilia from the Del Rey book “The Tomb and Other Tales.” If you want to follow along, we’ll be covering the last three fragments at the end of that book in the next three weeks!

This story has a bunch of interesting lore involved, and where it isn’t specifically Yog-Sothothery, it’s a good basis for his cannon.

The story starts with Lovecraft’s classic unreliable narrator. He is unwilling to give much background but we know that he fought in the Anglo-Indian wars, as he “…was much more at home amongst white-bearded native teachers than amongst (his) brother officers.” Which to me indicates maybe he was of mixed race, Indian/English who never felt at home. He was an outcast in his homeland and I get the feeling that he chose to go to India to fight, not our of civic duty, but of a desire to prove he belonged.

He leaves India, but instead of going home, he heads to the American West and takes on a new name: “…a life wherin I found it well to accept a name – my present one – which is very common and carries no meaning.” indicating that his name had meaning before he started his new life in America. He is an outsider that somehow holds some sort of unforeseen talent or power and just hasn’t realized it yet.

His new life consists of being a miner at the Norton Mine, looking for gold along with his fellow miner, Juan Romero. During the dig, they do some blasting and they blow out a huge abyss with no end (see opening quote).

That night there are strange sounds; drumming from the deep (which is almost the exact same line from Tolkien. I half wonder if Tolkien stole it for the Mines of Moria), some wolves howl, and Juan Romero freaks out. He goes to the edge of the abyss: “and with a wild outcry he forged ahead unguided into the cavern’s gloom.”

Romero yells “Huitzilopotchli,” which is the Aztec god of war, the sun, and human sacrifice, before heading into the maw. I first thought this an odd inclusion the tale, because why would the deity which watches over Tenochtitlan be buried in a huge abyss underneath the American West? The more I thought about it however, I realized that this was probably just a manifestation of what Romero thought might be down there. There is another possibility which I’ll cover later, but I prefer this one, so we’ll leave that here.

There are some strange lights, “at first I beheld nothing but a seething blur of luminosity;” then he sees Romero through the diverging forms in that light. Romero has changed! We don’t know into what; in fact Lovecraft has his popular non-descriptors which made his horror so palpable. He doesn’t describe it, which makes the idea that much more terrifying: “but God! I dare not tell you what I saw!” He allows the reader to formulate in their own mind what this terror could possibly mean. The brilliance of this is that each reader will come up with their own interpretation of what the horror is which hits the hardest for them.

Some kind of deific power comes down and collapses the cavern, filling in the abyss to the point that the drillers are never able to find it again. Our narrator is not sure how he got away, but he”…noticed the unaccountable absence of my Hindoo ring from my finger,” which he doesn’t believe is a coincidence: “Somehow I doubt if it was stolen by mortal hands, for many strange things were taught to me in India.”

So what does this all mean? Did Lovecraft get confused and believe that the Indian sub-continent had the same deities as the South American? How could these two different deities interact? Juan Romero sees an Aztec god, however the narrator’s Hindu ring (Shiva?) was gone after the event. How could an Aztec God possibly be effected by a talisman from a Hindu God? What was Lovecraft getting at?

I believe Lovecraft knew what he was doing. Lovecraft himself seemed too versed in religions and he tended to research and ask questions, so I very highly doubt he confused the deities of two very separate religions. What I think is more likely is that Lovecraft is taking a more unifying approach.

Lovecraft was not religious; in fact he seemed to despise religion. So why would there be two religions in one story? There wasn’t. The characters believed they were two different beings, but we are one people, and there’s a reason so many of our religions are so similar. Think about all the cultures which have a flood myth. Lovecraft is saying that we are of one culture and the true deity which was nearly released was a cthonic god. A God which was the basis of all world religions. Their moniker is only what a culture called them based upon their experience. That’s why the Hindu ring worked on an Aztec god. They were one and the same, buried under our earth much like Cthulhu is in his lost city of R’lyeh.

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Street

Artist Jimmy Tran

“There be those who say that things and places have souls, and there be those who say they have not; I dare not say, myself, but I will tell of the Street.”

This is the best opening line I’ve seen from Lovecraft in all that I’ve read of him (Despite the weird piratey feel), and this even comes from one of his Juvenilia!

I wasn’t really sure where Lovecraft was headed with this one. This short story felt like a bit of a ramble; as if he had a basic idea of what he wanted to accomplish, but he wasn’t sure how he wanted to get there. The writing is much more sophomoric than much of his other writings, but the story itself is far more controlled and succinct than The Poetry of the Gods was (which I’ve since been told the majority of which not actually written by Lovecraft).

In this story we follow the history of a street from the dawn of time when magic ruled, to the present day. The “soul” that Lovecraft is talking about is the Street’s history; the mystery and magic that’s inherent to an individual location. This is such a through line with all of Lovecraft’s writings, but I don’t think I’ve seen it so blatant in any other story than it is here.

The Street has a soul. Through time events happen. People coalesce around the Street and form it into a community. They build it into a town. The nation forms around the Street. There are wars to defend locations and ideals, including skirmishes with “natives” and battles with soldiers wandering the streets. There is even mention of the Declaration of Independence as the world changes around the Street.

The Street, however, never loses its core. It never loses it’s spirit. Things around it can change, “the air was not quite so pure as before, but the spirit of the place had not changed.”

Lovecraft believed that the way the world was headed was a detriment to the human mind. I think that’s why he ultimately wrote about what he wrote about. It was his goal to keep things unchanged and his Yog-Sothothery was that old magic that was too powerful (both in good and evil and ambivalence) to change. Many of the people in his stories are trying to bring back those old gods…trying to bring back that old magic…to a time before humans gradually destroyed the world. That’s why he loved New England, because it held onto the traditions of old, unlike places like New York which thrived on change (See the stories HE and The Horror at Red Hook).

Overall there isn’t much to this story but that theme. That theme is such a powerful one in his writings, however, that this is an incredible addition to his works because we can gain a greater understanding of his oeuvre as a whole.

One last thing before I let you go. I noticed something strange in this story, and where it is a blind read (meaning that it’s the first time I’ve read it, so I could have easily missed some context), I think that there may be more to his legacy than I previously thought.

I’ve always heard that Lovecraft was a notorious racist. Now, because of the day and age that he lived in, I’m sure that this was true (not to mention some of the wording he uses to describe minorities, also not using this as an excuse to forgive racism), but reading his works in such a bulk and analyzing them like I have, I think that he’s a bit more of a Xenophobe and an Agorophobe. I think he equally was scared of and disliked any people who were different, or had differing cultures than he did. It actually makes me pity him more than vilify him because fears drove him as we see in his literature. (Qualifier: I am not giving him a pass. I am not saying racism in any form is ok, in fact I think treating anyone different because of melanin or cultural differences is pretty abhorrent. I’m not saying that we should look past it. It’s just an observation that it seems like he fears everyone outside of his comfort zone, not just minorities. In fact in The Horror at Red Hook the evil person is dutch. He does have terrible language which is detrimental to the world as a whole.)

Lines like; “But it felt a stir of pride one day when again marched forth young men, some of whom never came back. These young men were clad in blue.”

It seems as though he’s talking about the Civil War here. If he is, then he was firmly in the Union side (which makes sense because he lived in Providence). I want to hope that he was pro Union because of the slavery issue, that he was still a humanist, but it could be that I love his writing and I’m looking for an excuse.

I guess I’d have to read his letters to get a better understanding of the man himself.

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; Poetry and the Gods

“It was only a bit of vers libre, that pitiful compromise of the poet who overleaps prose yet falls short of the divine melody of numbers; but it had in it all the unstudied music of a bard who lives and feels, who gropes ecstatically for unveiled beauty.”

Welcome back for another Blind Read! This time we’re diving into a co-op between Lovecraft and Anna Helen Crofts. This story is a divergence from what we have seen so far in Lovecraft’s fiction so if you’re looking for a horror story, look elsewhere. What we do get to see here is an interesting genesis of Lovecraft as an author and potentially his position, much like Marcia in the story, as a herald to the gods.

The story follows the aforementioned Marcia, who lives in an austere mansion and suffers from general malaise because of, “…some greater and less explicable misplacement in time and space, whereby she had been born too late, too early, or too far away from the haunts of her spirit ever to harmonize with the unbeautiful things of contemporary reality…” This quote strikes me. It feels almost as if Lovecraft is using Marcia to be a stand in for himself (or potentially Ms. Crofts).

He was not born at the right time.

Lovecraft craved mystery, and the strange, and mysticism. Contemporary culture of the time just didn’t fit with these amorphous constructs. We see this time and again (especially in the stories such as HE or Shadow over Innsmouth) Lovecraft wanted magic in the world of technology.

We go along with Marcia as she’s approached by Hermes and brought before Zeus. Zeus is looking for a mortal to herald the coming of the gods and brings Marcia there to do so.

The text itself is interesting because the exposition is cut up by poetry, as if to expose how brilliant Marcia is, but it also displays how bad poetry can halt magic from happening.

This is pretty much everything you get out of the story. It’s disjointed and strange, but it tries to hover between the mega weird of Lovecraft and softer, more realistic fiction. It doesn’t hit the nail on the head. It leaves you with the feeling that either one, or both of the authors were trying to show off how important and how amazing they were, but the self aggrandizement comes off as cheap and smarmy. It makes the story feel useless.

Where my interest in this story lies is how similar the Greek gods of the story were with Lovecraft’s original cannon. I’ve mentioned before that Greek gods and culture were a heavy influence on Lovecraft in general, and this story solidifies this.

There is a bit of the Dream-Quest as Marcia is brought to Olympus and sits before Zeus, as he tells her, “..the time approaches when our voices shall not be silent. It is a time of awakening and change.”

There is even evidence of the Pnakotic Manuscripts or the Necronomicon with “…reading from a manuscript words which none has ever heard before, but which when heard will bring to men the dreams and fancies they lost so many centuries ago, when Pan lay down to doze in Arcady, and the great Gods withdrew to sleep in lotos-gardens beyond the lands of the Hesperides.”

So much correlation that it’s hard not to read into it. From stories such as The Tree, The Tomb and What the Moon Brings, we catch such a huge influence from Greek culture that I now truly believe that his Yog-Sothothery is based upon these gods. He just puts a slightly more nefarious tint to them.

What do you think??


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Alchemist

“At this time, my belief in the supernatural was firm and deep-seated, else I should have dismissed with scorn the incredible narrative unfolded before my eyes.”

Welcome back to another Blind Read! We’re diving back into another one of H.P. Lovecraft’s Juvenilia… The Alchemist. This was the first story I’ve read from Lovecraft that I truly feel that he had not gained his writing chops before starting. The narrative is obviously unpracticed and the plot is loose, with a number of issues.

The major thing that jumps out at me is that, unlike his other stories where he relies on inference for horror and terror, in this one he goes right to it and calls a spade a spade. The antagonists are father and son and they are evil. Flat out. Lovecraft even goes so far as to state that the father “…burnt his wife alive as a sacrifice to the Devil, and the unaccountable disappearance of many small peasant children were laid at the dreaded door of these two.” OK. That’s bad enough. We can probably leave it there. We know that these two are corrupt and irredeemable. We know they are the antagonists, but Lovecraft takes it a step further.

“…the evil old man loved his offspring with fierce intensity, whilst the youth had for his parent a more than filial affection.”

OK eww.

I hope I misunderstand this quote, and I hope it means something other than physical love, though I don’t know what else would be more than filial. Even more bothersome, Lovecraft states “…through the dark natures of father and son ran one redeeming ray of humanity,” meaning that their “more than filial love” is seen as a redeeming quality. Hmm. Mayhaps we’ve seen a little into why Lovecraft became such a recluse.

But let’s dig into the story, shall we?

A young man is locked away in a tower because the “…restriction was imposed upon me because my noble birth placed me above association with such plebeian company.” (though really it was because of the curse, but more on that later) Because of this isolation our narrator spends the majority of his time reading over old archaic tomes, but “Those studies and pursuits which partake of the dark and occult in nature most strongly claimed my attention.”

Through these tomes he reads of a man by the name of Michel Mauvais and his son Charles, also known as Le Sorcier. Mauvais, an evil sorcerer who strove for “such things as the Philosopher’s Stone or the Elixir of Eternal Life.” Meanwhile the Count, our narrator’s ancestor, finds one day that his son is missing and immediately goes to Michel Mauvais’ house and kills him for the murder Godfrey, his son. It is later found that Godfrey had just wandered off and eventually came back, though too late to save Mauvais. Le Sorcier curses the count and his ancestors, stating that every man in his lineage will die at the age of 32.

The tome tells how each ancestor of our narrator dies at that age. Eventually on the narrator’s 32nd birthday, Le Sorcier appears and says that it was actually he that had lived these past 600 years and had killed every one of the Narrators kin on their 32nd birthday to ensure the curse continues. He takes the Elixir of Life to help him in this capacity. Here the tale concludes.

We know the narrator wins the inferred scuffle, because he lives to tell the tale. We also know he steals the Elixir of Eternal Life from Charles Le Sorcier because the narrator tells us that the events he described were 90 years prior.

There are two possible outcomes here. The first is how the narrator tells it: he kills Le Sorcier, takes the drought, and lives forever in his tower. The second is that the narrator is none other than Le Sorcier himself, and the earlier story of being holed up was a hoax. Neither one of these are well thought out conclusions however. Either one of these outcomes leave a large number of plot holes, even in this seven page story. Unfortunately I felt this was Lovecraft’s weakest story of which I’ve read so far.

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Beast in the Cave

“Cautiously advancing, we gave vent to a simultaneous ejaculation of wonderment, for of all the unnatural monsters either of us had in our lifetimes beheld, this was in surpassing degree the strangest.”

Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week, we’ll be diving into some of Lovecraft’s “juvenilia,” as it’s called. This is one of the last stories he wrote as a young man (The Alchemist being the last), before taking a break from writing these types of fictions. He returned to fiction years later and wrote the rest of his better known bibliography

This is a good story with echoes of future works tucked inside of it. Now, where there isn’t much in terms of cosmic horror or a Mythos connection, there is a slight thread (though far fetched) that we’ll be examining in a bit.

The story is a simple one and very straight forward. Lovecraft doesn’t leave much to the imagination, but he does create a great little horror story. The story begins with our narrator taking a tour through some strange caverns. He gets separated from his group and ends up fighting (really just throwing rocks at) some kind of creature that rose up from the depths of the cavern system.

He thinks he kills the creature with the rocks and tries to inspect it. He finds that it’s a white haired ape like creature, but it’s too hard to see because his torch extinguished in the time he wandered, lost. When the tour guide eventually finds him, flashlight en tow, they see that the creature was actually a man, assumed to be down here so long that he has mutated (I wonder if Gollum comes from this story).

It’s fun and short, and what you’d expect from a young man’s fiction. But what if this were the seed for so much more?

So the obvious connection is The Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and his Family, because that is a story of a man intermarrying a Portuguese woman, who eventually turned out to be a Congan Ape Goddess. Arthur Jermyn and his family all had apish aspect because they were offspring of the Ape Goddess. Maybe the beast in the cave was actually a Jermyn?

But then we can go deeper. There are a few mentions of the people of Congo praying to this Ape Goddess “Under the Congan moon”, and inference that potentially the moon could have been where the Ape creatures came from (see What the Moon Brings and The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath). Could this be the mythos connection? Could these creatures have been somehow been connected with the moon-beasts?

Even in stories such as The Doom that Came to Sarnath have this moon connection, where it seems as though something has come down from the moon and taken over, or corrupted life on our planet. This could be the cosmic connection we’re looking for, because the vast majority of Lovecraft’s mythos come from the stars.

Of course, this is a tenuous connection to say the least, but I like to think that Lovecraft’s beginnings could have had this kind of influence, at least subconsciously, over his later work. His vague mythos (which from what I understand, he didn’t want to have much connectivity), may have actually been more connected than we really thought of previously.

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Evil Clergyman

“His build and lower facial features were like any other clergymen I had seen, but he had a vastly higher forehead, and was darker and more intelligent looking – also more subtly and concealedly evil-looking.”

Welcome back to another Blind read! This time we’re reviewing the very short and to the point, “The Evil Clergyman.”

There isn’t a whole lot to this one. It’s pretty straightforward, dealing with our classic un-reliable narrator, with themes of cosmic horror and sanity. This story doesn’t add to the cannon of mythos (unless there is something that I’ve missed, or something that I haven’t read yet), but it’s a fun little off shoot story.

We start off with our narrator looking an attic apartment. The man who is offering the apartment makes illusions to one of the previous tenants, and references what he did. We don’t know what it is, but we can tell that it is severe. It seems as though the narrator is not moving into the apartment, but he is rather there for research into “That abominable society…” whom he was a part of, and stayed there. I half wonder if this is the same he from the story with the name HE. They do have similar descriptions.

The man giving the apartment up (or perhaps the narrator is a working lodger) gives a number of requests: “I hope you wont stay till after dark. And I beg of you to let that thing on the table – the thing that looks like a match-box – alone.”

Whatever the previous tenant did we know it was terrible, and potentially had something to do with the thing that looks like a matchbox…which immediately made me think that the item could have potentially been a talisman with an elder sign on it. As far as I’ve seen so far, Lovecraft doesn’t have any elder signs in his fiction, so they are probably a creation of one of his acolytes, but this could have been the genesis of it.

Our narrator takes a “Flashlight” out. He delineates that this flashlight shines purple, not white light, so immediately we know that he’s either testing something, or hes doing his own nefarious experiments.

There is a familiar vacuum sound, a description that Lovecraft has used frequently to indicate summoning, and before the narrator a newcomer appears. The titular Evil Clergyman gets ready to hang himself and seems to peer into our narrator.

At first I wasn’t sure if this was a dream story, or reality, but as the Clergyman starts to hang himself he looks devilishly at our narrator, and our narrator is overcome with fear. He does the only thing that he can think of …”and drew out the peculiar ray-projector as a weapon of defense.”

This scares the Clergyman and breaks the spell. The man who offered the warnings at the beginning comes back and lets us know “Something very strange and terrible has happened to you, but it didn’t get far enough to hurt your mind and personality.”

We find that this is not the first time this has happened and that others have died in this room by their own hand. The Evil Clergyman was trying to take over our narrators body, and in fact, partially succeeds, “This is what I saw in the glass: A thin, dark man of medium stature attired in the clerical garb of the Anglican church, apparently about thirty, and with rimless, steel-bowed glasses glistening beneath a sallow, olive forehead of abnormal height.”

Our narrator had become the Evil Clergyman.

I read this story as two different meanings. The first is the purely horrific, Lovecraftian story where we have an outside being forcing his way into our world. A Clergyman who vied for more power and ended up being taken over, body and soul, by a malevolent cosmic horror being. It follows that their goal is to take over a new form and enter our world. That makes it a fun little story.

There could be deeper meaning here though. The specific mention of Anglican garb gives me a bit of pause, because of Lovecraft’s notable hatred of religion. I wonder if there is a piece of Lovecraft that said that if you let religion enter you, it would destroy your life. You would become beholden to the religion and lose a sense of your own creativity and end up killing yourself, who you are, and your very soul, by letting the religion take you over.

If this is the case, that means the people in the attic are against religion too, and they worry that in the dark of night, when terrors abound, the narrator (as many in the past have as well) might turn to religion.

There are two instances which could make this reality. The first is the description of the room contains strange geometry, much the same as in The Dreams in the Witch House. This strange geometry is a conduit for connecting one world to another. The second, is the people who stopped the Evil Clergyman in the past were “That abominable society.” Why would an abominable society be trying to stop something evil cross over? Could it be that the abominable society were in fact Cthulhu cultists, or something of that sort and they were trying to stop religion from coming into the world?

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Strange High House in the Mist

Welcome back to another Blind Read! By the looks of things, I will have made it through all of Lovecraft by the end of the year. SO…If you have an author that you’d like to discuss, or have trouble reading let me know! Maybe they can be the next author covered in this series.

At length, being avid for new strange things and held back by neither the Kingsporter’s fear nor the summer boarder’s usual indolence, Olney made a very terrible resolve.”

This story is a connector of the Dreamlands stories. In it we have a house perched on top of a tall cliff, with the only doorway leading out to the abyss of the cliff. Inside the house we have a protector. Someone who spends eternity guarding the world from the other gods and the incursion of the Dreamlands into our reality. We are enabled to see this house because our intrepid adventurer, whom out of curiosity and a lust for life, finds a way up to “The Causeway” and meets this caretaker.

We start the story describing the harbor town of Kingsport. Right from the very first paragraph we are given knowledge that the people of Kingsport know there are strange dealings around them. The feel of the town is one of mysticism. The fantastic nostalgia for a simpler time. A time when older gods ruled the world and people only wanted for basic survival. There was no rat race, but a desire for simplicity and knowledge. This is the core of Lovecraft, both person and writings. He believed in simplicity, and loathed materialism. You can see this starkly in his portrayals of cities like New York, as he yearns to stay in his protected, almost mythical, section of New England.

Thomas Olney, our main character, is new to Kingsport and he hears stories about the house from sailors and an old bearded man in town. He can occasionally catch glimpses of it as well through the thick mists that circle the craggy cliff it sits upon. His curiosity overwhelms him and he decides that the’s going to take the trip up to it. It is a dangerous and arduous journey, but eventually he gets there and finds that the only ingress to the house are the closed windows, and a door that opens out over the cliff. He hears someone approach and hears the door creak open, so he hides beneath the sill of a window, only to be pulled into the house. The man who pulled him into the house is young and bearded and he is reminiscent of the grouchy old man in the village who seems to know about this house.

The bearded man tells stories to Olney; “…and heard how the kings of Atlantis fought with slippery blasphemies that wriggled out of rifts in the oceans floor, and how the pillared and weedy temple of Poseidonis is still glimpsed at midnight by lost ships…”

This is both a reference to R’lyeh, the city where Cthulhu is buried in slumber, and Dagon, one of the pantheon of lesser gods and linked with Poseidon. In other stories there is mention that the god like men of Atlantis fought off the Elder Gods, Cthulhu being one of them. Where they couldn’t defeat them, they buried R’lyeh, the lost city, and trapped Cthulhu within the earth. Dagon is the fish god, and still calls creatures from the sea in a slow effort to gain back control. See The Shadow over Innsmouth.

Olney is also told of older things: “Years of the Titans were recalled, but the host grew timid when he spoke of the dim first age of chaos before the gods or even the Elder Ones were born, and when the other gods came to dance on the peak of Hatheg-Kla in the stony desert near Ulthar, beyond the River Skai.”

There is a lot to unpack there, but basically we have the establishment of what Lovecraft himself called “Yog-Sothothery”, later to be coined “The Cthulhu Mythos” by August Derleth, one of Lovecraft’s closest friends and writing partners. The other gods were first; terrible creatures and malevolent in nature. The Elder Ones came later. Creatures like Azathoth. Then later, came the deep ones like Cthulhu. The River Skai also has importance in the Dreamcycle as we see in the Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath and other stories.

Shortly after describing this, something comes to the door of the house. The bearded man hurries and locks the door, then goes around the house and shutters all the windows. It’s a suspenseful scene as he tells Olney to get low and be quiet. “And the bearded man made enigmatical gestures of prayer…“. The bearded man is setting wards against shadows that are gathering in the room, “For there are strange objects in the great abyss, and the seeker of dreams must take care not to stir up or meet the wrong ones.”

All of this information, plus numerous mentions of dreams and dream seekers, leads me to believe that this house is a way point. This house, in between Kingsport and Arkham, is an thin place that connects the dream world to the real world. The keeper, the bearded man, must be careful not to let these ancient horrors through the world. He gives the information to Olney, just like he gave it to The Terrible Old Man (Lovecraft even capitalized this honorarium in the story) so many years before. They get just enough information to be afraid of the house, and potentially keep others away. Olney never goes back, and in fact he loses some of his natural curiosity because of the shock of the experience, and eventually moves away. But still that Strange High House in the Mist stays and guards against the others from transcending into our world.

What do you think?


The Power of Imagination

In a time of such division.  A time where people across the world are scared of terrorists.  A time where people don’t trust and fear their leaders.  A time when we seem to be moving apart from one another instead of moving closer to each other.  A time where fear is perceived to be more prevalent than love.

There is hope.

We as a people go through waves and there are always troughs as much as there are peaks.  You can see it in the way the cultural perspective has shifted.

The popular things now are reality TV, minimalistic music based around repetitive beats and repetitive lyrics, poorly written books meant to shock or entice.

We have weaved ourselves into a trough of apathy and complacency, where we let others tell us what to do or think and our entertainment is not there to entertain, but to anesthetize.

But out of the malaise comes art of quality.

Small at first.  A book here.  A movie there.  A song.  A painting.  A TV show.

Something that comes along that makes us think again.  That makes us wonder.  That makes us hope.

They come from the strangest places.  Disney’s Wall-E.  Bad Robot’s Star Trek.  Netflix’s Stranger Things.

You might be thinking what does this have to do with where the country is?  What does this have do with us as a people?

It’s about the power of Imagination (with a big I).  We as a species have separate processing systems in our brain.  One processes logic and the other processes creativity.  The creative part of your brain controls your emotions.  It follows that when you feel fear or hopelessness you have an absence of creativity.

The more imagination we develop, the more we will be able to process, the less we’ll fear; the more we will hope and dream.

Art leads the world.  Star Trek had one of the first interracial couples (and many of the first inter species couples). Star Wars ended the gritty anti hero hate that was brewed during the Cold War.

We went through such a boon in the 90’s that we couldn’t help but slip back.  The Cold War came to and end, Apartheid ended, the global economy was growing more than ever in history.

So we relaxed.  We let our imaginations grow cobwebs.  But the more you see unique new shows.  The more unique new art you see.  The more intricate the lyrics of the music you listen too.  The better the writing of the books you read…

Know that the more and more good or great art you see and intake, the more and more the culture is shifting.  Our hope comes from our imagination, so lets be more childlike.  Lets go on adventures.  Lets fight more dragons.  Lets have more tea parties.  Lets Imagine.


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Horror at Red Hook

But at this time it was all horribly real, and nothing can ever efface the memory of those nighted crypts, those titan arcades, and those half-formed shapes of hell that strode gigantically in silence holding half-eaten things whose still surviving portions screamed for mercy or laughed with madness.”

Wow, what a wild ride this story was. This was probably the scariest and most classic horror of any H.P. Lovecraft that I’ve read up to date.

As the story begins we are introduced to detective Thomas F. Malone who is on extended medical leave for trauma. The first portion of the story describes how he’s living and dealing with this trauma, of which we are still ignorant.

The second portion of the story covers Red Hook. We get a call back to HE, as there is a similar tenement structure our narrator experienced there. This story also takes place in New York, which is absolutely unique for Lovecraft. It does not hold the same atmosphere as much of his work, but from the start of this story the tone has a much darker and sinister feel. The basis in New York gives Lovecraft the ability to explore different themes than the usual fantasy/cosmic horror that he frames in New England.

The third portion of the story is the introduction to Malone’s quarry, Robert Suydam. “Suydam was a lettered recluse of an ancient Dutch family,” and he purchased a space in the run down, twisting alleyways of Red Hook. After a strange trip to Europe, Suydam began to deteriorate. His personal hygiene took a hit, he lost friends, and “When he spoke it was to babble of unlimited powers almost within his grasp, and to repeat with knowing leers such mystical words or names as ‘Sephiroth’, ‘Ashmodai’ and Samael’.” And there it is. We have three demons from the Kabbalah and Christian religions. The text has gone beyond the normal Lovecraft, no longer in the world of the cosmic horror. We are no longer in the dreamlands (though there is a little bit of dream stuff to come), we have now crossed over into religious horror. To me this raised my hackles. I find this subject matter far more terrifying that anything I have yet come by within Lovecraft’s oeuvre.

The fourth section of the story delves into the police work. Trying to uncover just what strange dealings that Suydam has been up to. They raid his home, which is empty, and they come across blasphemous art work and things that Malone simply “did not like”. They also found an inscription:

O friend and companion of night, thou who rejoices in the baying of dogs and spilt blood, who wanderest in the midst of shades among the tombs, who longest for blood and bringest terror to mortals, Gorgo, Mormo, thousand-faced moon, look favourably on our sacrifices!

I had no idea what this meant. Though obviously a atmospheric quote, I believed it had deeper meaning. Lovecraft infuses lots of Greek mythology and heritage within his work. There is a certain amount of admiration he obviously felt for the culture and the artwork. He loves the idea of marble structures and busts and even includes some of that iconography in this story as well. So when I came across this quote, it was no surprise to me that it was about Hecate, the Greek Goddess of the underworld, ghosts, and magic. This story was not going to deal with cosmic horror, it was going to deal with something closer to home. It was about Hell.

The next short section of the story tells of a journey Suydam takes across the sea, where he dies. He instructs that his body be conveyed to the bearer of the note provided.

Then we move into the Horror. Malone goes to Red Hook and investigates, noticing a melee. He goes to allay the fight and finds strange sounds and smells while all the participants of the battle flee. Malone suspects something nefarious behind a large door, so he takes a stool and breaks the door open, “whence poured a howling tumult of ice-cold wind with all the stenches of the bottomless pit, and whence reached a sucking force not of earth or heaven, which, coiling sentiently about the paralysed detective, dragged him through the aperture and down unmeasured spaces filled with whispers and wails, and gusts of mocking laughter.

Malone is sucked into Hell. He experiences some truly horrific scenes, perfect for any fan of this type of fiction, and much more evocative than anything I’ve experienced from Lovecraft. We see Suydam giving himself over to a demon, finally getting what he was after, and becoming one with hell.

The final section explains how the mysterious group brought Suydam’s body back to that experience and how Malone could hear that same refrain from some “hag” speaking to young children about Hecate. The knowledge of the fate of Suydam and that whatever devious magic caused it is still alive and well in Red Hook is what truly throws Malone over the edge.

When I think of Lovecraft I don’t generally think “disturbing”, but I have to say that this one was up there. That penultimate chapter covering Malone’s experiences in Hell were truly unsettling.

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; Azathoth

“And because mere walls and windows must soon drive to madness a man who dreams and reads much, the dweller in that room used night after night to lean out and peer aloft to glimpse some fragments of things beyond the waking world and the greyness of tall cities.”

Welcome back to another Blind Read! We’re going to be tackling a fragment from later in Lovecraft’s career, that gives indication for the expansion of the Dream Lands and his pantheon of gods. This short was thought to be the beginnings of a novel that never truly came to fruition, and instead became what we know as “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath”https://seanmmcbride.com/2018/05/11/blind-read-through-h-p-lovecraft-the-dream-quest-of-unknown-kadath-pt-1/ (check out my Blind read of that story here). Azathoth is mentioned in a few other stories as well, but is basically known as the chaos at the center of the universe. A god of gods, something that the narrator of “The Dream Quest” knows that if he views Azathoth straight on, he will lose his sanity. A quavering mass of teeth and eyes and malevolence. He is also known as the Dream God. Some think that Azathoth creates dreams, or at least created the dream lands. He is, however, ignorant of this. Also known as the Blind Ignorant god, Azathoth himself is not actually malevolent in his intentions. He may be a force of chaos, but he is not truly evil. He’s just dreaming and moving through existence, but because he is beyond the understanding of humans, a view of Azathoth means a view of the entirety of the universe, which is too much for a mere moral to withstand. Thus madness.

This short was the first time in the oeuvre of Lovecraft that we get to hear of Azathoth and there is one really interesting mention. Opiates.

Lovecraft was rumored to either use Opium or some such subsidiary, and some say that many of his stories were opium dreams. I prefer to believe that he may have dabbled early on and had some crazy visions. This led him to believe that Opium may be a drug to alter existence. Lovecraft at his core was a terrified man. I don’t believe by the indications of his writing that he would give himself over to an addiction of a drug this powerful; he’d be too scared to lose himself. He was a well known recluse and a well known bigot. These things developed (of course he must have had an early life redolent with them), out of fear of the unknown. If you’re scared of something, you’re going to vilify it, instead of trying to understand it.

I believe this is why he wrote about the subject matter that he did. Writing about fears and horrors was an outlet for him. He was unable to deal with these types of fears in real life, so he fought them in his dreams and with his pen. Fears do not always have to be about monsters.

The loss of innocence was big for him. He believed that the world had moved on, and the drive for the 9 to 5 (or at this time in our history, more like 7-9) took something away from you. Took away part of your soul.

For example:

“It is enough to know that he dwelt in a city of high walls where sterile twilight reigned, and that he toiled all day among shadow and turmoil, coming home at evening to a room whose one window opened not on the fields and groves but on a dim court where others windows stared in despair.”

Lovecraft lived in a world of fantasy. As we saw in “He” https://seanmmcbride.com/2020/05/08/blind-read-through-h-p-lovecraft-he/ Lovecraft’s narrator hates New York because it has lost its whimsy. Lost it’s fantasy, and become a “city with high walls where sterile twilight reigned”. Twilight, the mystery and magic of it, is sterile there. He believed that to have emotion, to have a reason, you needed that fantasy, and that’s what he gained from New England. He was scared of the loss of innocence. He was scared of losing his fantasy. His fear of the sterility of life in the city is what drove him to such excess in his fiction.

Many of Lovecraft’s stories are about the search for this lost innocence. The search for this lost magic. What Lovecraft realized from his own isolation, was that the search could be a fine line. The creation of the Outer Gods, was an example of going too far in the wrong direction. As in “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath” the journey is the key. If you become too incessant about uncovering the whole truth, you’ll find that there is horror there. The horror may just be that there is no point. The horror may just be, that if you get to the answer you were desperate for, you find that you are only in a …”dim court where other windows stared in despair.”

They key to avoiding this? Live in your dreams. Live your dreams.

…”and for days not counted in men’s calendars the tides of far spheres bore him gently to join the dreams for which he longed; the dreams that men have lost.”

I’d love to hear what you think!

Join me next week for another Blind Read!


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; He

“For a full three seconds I could glimpse that pandemoniac sight, and in those seconds I saw a vista which will ever afterward torment me in dreams.”

Welcome back to another Blind Read! I had to take the series on hiatus for a little while for work reasons, but we’re back and I’m determined to finish with the rest of H.P. Lovecraft!

This is the story He, written in 1925 at the height of his “fame” (it’s in quotation marks because Lovecraft was not popular while he was alive. The majority of his fame came from August Derleth, continuing on his legacy after he died). Despite his vast vistas explored in such stories as At the Mountains of Madness, this, for me, was his most atmospheric piece. It is also his first work in a city that takes place outside of New England.

We follow our intrepid narrator who is excited to go to New York. It is a place he’s heard a lot about and has read about extensively, and he has an expectation in his head. An image of New York of yesteryear. He imagines walking through the boroughs and seeing the history first hand. He wants to be inspired by the muse of New York, by the poetry of the city. When he gets there he is disappointed because the world has moved on. New York is, well, new. Buildings are built up, there is no nostalgia. There is only the bustle of the city, the history is dead and gone.

Our narrator goes into a depression, desperate to leave the city, but decides to take one more excursion. He tries to go as deep into the heart of the city as he can, escaping down alleyways, and travelling through slums. He soon becomes lost and meets up with a strange man. The man takes him even further into the depths of the city and they end up in a room the man (the titular He) leads them to. The man knows what our narrator is looking for. The man becomes the muse.

The room is decorated as an 18th century library, and the man takes our narrator to a window with a yellow curtain (I cant help but think of the short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman The Yellow Wallpaper) . He peels the curtain aside and shows the narrator various vistas. They start off small and verdant field, followed by cities. Our narrator asks the man if he can take him further. The man, properly egged on, uses his magic to take them to a far off place…but something goes wrong. The man takes in too much of the other world energy and it instantly transforms him into a blubbering creature, eventually nothing but a ball with eyes and arms. Our narrator flees, and lives to tell the story.

This is the story of Lovecraft getting the most out of a difficult situation. Lovecraft was a homebody, nearly a hermit. I truly believe that when he went to New York (which I’m sure he did), he had much the same experience. He went for the nostalgia, he went for the muse, he went to write poetry, but instead found a cinderblock and steel city, devoid of the wonder he craved. This story was his effort to extract that wonder. The world had moved on from him and his mythos, so he needed to create a character to bring that back. He wanted a way to bring that wonder back to New York.

But New York had already moved on. The narrator accepted it, as Lovecraft had. So this elegiac tale was about dreams. He dreamed that there was someone strong enough to take him backwards. Take him back through the nostalgia. No one, however is strong enough to take him forward. No one can withstand the steady, unrelenting march of time. not even this incredibly old magician. He too succumbed to time, and was reduced to nothing more than a ball with eyes. Something that had no power, except to watch as the world moved on.

I’d love to hear what you think!

Join me next week as we do a blind read of The Horror At Red Hook!


Quarantine woes and hopes

Quarantine has been a strange thing. I keep telling myself that it isn’t that bad. I get to stay home, I get to read, I get to write. All the things that I have wanted time to do, and sneak minutes here and there, in between spending time with my family and work. I’ve been more productive in my writing that I have at any point in my life. I’ve gotten more done around the house than I ever thought possible. I’ve read more books so far in quarantine than I have in some years. All of these things should make me happy, right? They should make me feel fulfilled, because they hang over me as things I want to do while I’m doing other things. Now I’m actually doing them, and I feel as though it’s not enough. I need to get more done. I’m being too lazy when I decide to slow down and watch a television show. That’s 43 minutes that could have been used on something else. Something more productive. I only have so long in quarantine after all. Things seem to be coming to a close here. This forced “vacation” is almost done. Will I be happy with myself when I do go back to work? Will I be happy when I know that I have to sneak a few minutes here and there for these things that I’ve been able to do freely for going on two months?

Years ago I started collecting John Steinbeck novels. Not just buying them at Barnes and Noble, but actually seeking out First Editions and unique printings. He is my favorite author, you see, and I want to be able to look at my book shelf and feel the nostalgia. I want to look upon those unique covers and have the stories rush back to me. I find that having those unique covers delivers this feeling, much more so than the standard Penguin Classics black monochrome delivery. Sure those look good an a shelf. They’re good for OCD, because they’re all the same size. All the same color. They’re easy on the eyes. But something gets lost in the translation. They begin to blend. They become a concept. They are Steinbeck on a shelf, but they lose all personality. They lose their individuality.

A few days ago I picked up my first edition of “The Moon is Down”, which was first published in 1942. I put on gloves because I didn’t want to damage the pages. I felt strange doing this. I was in my home. It was my book. Why was I wearing gloves to read a book in my home? I was sure I could be careful enough with it that I wouldn’t damage it. So I took the gloves off and started to read. It was freeing in a way that I couldn’t describe.

But there was still that need to get stuff done. I had something I wanted to savor, and I could only think of what I wanted to read next. I felt an overwhelming melancholy because I realized that I wasn’t enjoying it like I should. Much like I was gulping down my expensive coffee that I carefully spend twenty five minutes every morning making, because I just needed the caffeine. I was missing something.

Yesterday I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t know why. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I sat in my reading chair and I had The Moon is Down open in front of me, but I couldn’t focus on it. I took a deep sigh, reveling in the strange feeling of shame I was feeling, and I caught a familiar scent. It was the book. The indescribable scent of an old book. Remember that the book I was reading was published in 1942. The book in my hands was 78 years old. Something happens to books as they age that gives them a familiar scent. A scent that every book lover craves. I know there is a science behind it, and I can wager why, but I’ve never wanted to, because something about that scent elicits mystery. It elicits fantasy and memory. It represents hope.

I leaned in and took a deep breath, taking in the memory of the first time I found a Steinbeck book in the corner of a used book store in Seattle. I remember seeing a brownish/crimson cover. The title was “The Pearl”. The book was battered, but it was a price I could afford. I bought it.

I took another deep breath. It made me think of the Cemetery of Forgotten books, a mysterious library from my favorite book “The Shadow of the Wind”.

I took another deep breath and I thought about searching through old used book stores for copies of John Steinbeck books with my fiancee (now wife), as favors for attendees of our wedding.

I felt pressure release from the back of my head with every inhale. I felt my eyes relax. I felt my brain let go of some of those desires to just get stuff done.

To me, it was a figurative “stop and smell the roses” moment. But I don’t care about flowers. I care about books and emotion. This was the first time in quarantine that I let myself enjoy what I was doing.

Dont mis-understand. The point is not to say that I stopped working. The point is not to say “watch more tv and relax”. The point is to enjoy the work. The point is to have fun with what you are doing. The point is the journey, not the output. The point is, in 78 years someone will read a book and take a deep breath and be taken to a place of wonder. If I can enjoy what I’m doing, maybe. Just maybe. That deep breath can come from something that I have created. And I can give that solace, and nostalgia, and mystery, and fantasy, and hope, that I find now.


Updates and more

So most of us are stuck at home “Sheltering in place” during the coronavirus pandemic.  I’m taking the time to get caught up with my writing and all the work that goes along with that.

2019 was a difficult year for me.  I worked my butt off for the majority of the year, working 16 hours days trying to get a promotion, which I didn’t get in the end.  The reality of many writers is that they have to work day jobs to make ends meet.  I’m under no preconceptions that I’m going to break it through to the bigs, or even break through to make enough money to subsist upon without a full time day job.  So I strove for this promotion to try and make life easier for my family.

I learned quite a bit during this time period, but the portion of my life that really suffered was my writing.  I just didn’t have the time, nor the mental capacity to work that much, have a family life, and write at the same time.  I dropped off my Instagram.  I dropped off my Patreon.  I basically didn’t do anything but my day job.

That time period is over.  My life has regained some normalcy (well, pandemic aside).  So I’m trying to put that much effort into research, writing, promotion, and advertising.  I know most of this means nothing to most of you.  This is basically just an apology post for letting life get in the way of priorities, and this is my effort to get back some of the time I’ve lost.  That’s what I’m looking at this quarantine as…extra days added onto my life to regain my writing chops after the 2019 doldrums.

That being said.  Here is an update for the present and future of my writing, as well as updates to this website to make it more user friendly and give more access to my writing.

Anyway.  Here it goes!

Elsie Jones Adventures:

Another fatality of 2019.  My contract has expired with the publisher, which means that I’ve lost my venue for releasing these books.  I’ve also lost my artist.  Where I’m going to be working hard to either get him back, or procure a new artist.  My intention is still to release all 15 of these books.  In fact I’ve retained the rights to the books, so if I have to do full self publishing, I will do it.  There is a very good chance that I will be re-releasing the first three, and will continue to produce the rest afterwards.  Especially since 12 books are written, and the final 3 are outlined.  I would love to see these see the light of day.  I love the stories told in these books.

The Legacy (and Patreon):

My adventure novel (My version of Indiana Jones) which I was serially publishing on Patreon ostensibly came grinding to a halt last August when the whole work thing happened.  Since December I have been back at work on the novel, however I have not posted anything on Patreon since then.  For my patrons, I am going to resume posting Chapters (The first one will be posted on 03/26/2020), without payment attached.  I believe that in the midst of COVID-19 and the many month lapse on my part, you all deserve more of the novel for free.  Not to mention that writing a serial novel is way harder than I anticipated, and will eventually have to go back through and edit earlier chapters for continuity errors that I have created in the last few chapters.  The good news is, I have the rest of the novel organized and plotted out.  It will be a sprint, but my hope is to finish with the first draft by the end of next week (the purposed end of my shelter in place).  The good news with this, is that even if I cant quite complete it within this time frame, I’ll still be able to post bi-weekly Patreon posts until the novel is completed there.  This was also why I’ve waited until now to post them; not starting in December when I began working on the novel again.  I didn’t want to cause any more delay in the pace of release.

The Book of Antiquity

This book has been for a ride.  I started this originally on a rainy day in 2004, and it had a basic idea.  A kid is trying to find a book that can change the world, set in a realistic/fantasy setting.  Think the world of Pan’s Labyrinth.  Over the years is has gone through 3 full iterations (meaning I’ve written this book in total 3 times).  and I’ve never been happy with any of them.  There are moments of brilliance, but they are stuck in a slog of sophomoric writing and ideas.  It has gone from a single novel to a trilogy, to a tetrology.  It has gone from a fantasy to a steampunk to a western.  The main characters have never really changed, but in every iteration I’ve gained more characters.  What I’ve come to realize is that I was trying to shoehorn in too many ideas, and I had such an ambitious plot that the characters were just flat.  This is now going to be a series of books, and Teen books at that.  They will be all of the above themes, but spread out enough to give the characters time to blossom; as well as having many more characters.  The reason for this is, told through the lens I originally had in mind, it was just too restrictive.  Now I can slow down the narrative and make it more emotive.  Now it doesn’t have to be about how it ends, it can be about the journey.  I’ve outlined most of the first book, and I have to say, I am far more excited about this than I ever have been before.  This was always my opus.  My big idea that I always came back to.  Now that I have it in a frame that I like, I cant wait to tell it to you.

All Other Writings:

They are still on the table, but the projects mentioned above are taking precedence.  I’m going to spend my time completing The Legacy and finding a home for Elsie Jones.  Once the Legacy is completed (in draft form), I’ll be diving head first into The Monster in the Woods, which is the first book in The Revolution Cycle.  Otherwise known as the Book of Antiquity.  I will be re-editing all of Elsie Jones and writing them the way I want to write them, and despite the trappings of what 2020 looks like, it’s an exciting time for my work!

 


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; Celephais, and The Silver Key

“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars.” – Walt Whitman

“If youth knew, if age could.” – Sigmund Freud

“Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty.  Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”

Ah the origin story.  The tales where we uncover the history of the characters we follow, and find out what makes them tick; why they are the way they are.  Here we have the dreamlands.  What brings King Kuranes and Randolph Carter to the dreamlands?  What made King Kuranes a king??

Welcome back to another blind read!  Sorry for the limited blogs, but I’ve been extremely busy with writing and vacations (hey!  Vacations are work too!).  To make up for my truancy, I’ll be covering two short stories this week.  Celephais and The Silver Key.  But first, a brief synopsis:

Celephais:  Kuranes creates the city of Celephais while being a child dreamer.  Then as he grows old, he goes to the dreamlands and becomes a King over the city that he created (keeping it simple, but this is pretty much it!)

The Silver Key:  Randolph Carter used to dream all the time as a child.  He would travel constantly, but as the story begins Carter is 30 and has been unable to get to the dreams that he once had.  That is until he meets a man at Miskatonic University (there is a brief description of the events of “The Statement of Randolph Carter” [ Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Statement of Randolph Carter ]) which opens his eyes to the world that he once knew.  He starts to dream again and has a dream about his grandfather who tells him to go back to his childhood home, and look for a box in the attic.  He goes and finds a box with arabesque designs.  When he opens it he finds a parchment with symbols reminiscent to what he saw in the Necronomicon, and inside of the parchment is the eponymous key.  His dreams become more vivid and more reminiscent to what they once were.  He goes to the place of his childhood, and there he goes into a crevice, holding the key.  He then enters a dream state.  The story ends how Carter, beginning at the age of ten, when he found the crevice, knew glimpses of the future that he could not possibly know.  We also find that a narrator has been telling us this story, a narrator who is a king of a city that he hopes to see Carter in one day.

So there you have it!  The origin stories of Kuranes and Carter!  Celephais seems more like a fragment from “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath”, than an actual story, just a little more illumination of Kuranes, whereas The Silver Key seems much more like a full story, not to mention, it looks like it’s continued on in the next story of the book “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”, even though that’s a collaboration.

There are some major links between these two stories, that both seem to link with Lovecraft’s personal life and ideals, and to the evolving dreamlands.  Take youth for example.  There is a romanticizing of what it means to be young in both of these stories.  The innocence, the ignorance.  It reminds me of all those horror stories back in the eighties (yes I know they continue on now, but that’s because it’s a trope.  I would be interested in researching this and finding out where it actually stems from), where the child could see or interact with the supernatural element, but the parent could not.  Seemingly because of the lost innocence, and lost open mindedness.  The stories deal with this in two different ways:

Celephais is a lamentation of the innocence.  Kuranes moves forward with his life, but regrets his decisions, and thus in “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” he reverts Celephais to a version of Cornwall, so that he may re-live his past experiences.

The Silver Key is an effort to spurn the vagaries of everyday life and get back the mystical nature of youth.  In fact Carter actually goes back in time and becomes himself as a 10 year old, to re-establish those experiences and memories.

This seems allegorical to Lovecraft himself (There is even a portion of “The Silver Key” where the narrator tells us that writing helps get back the mystery, through opening of one’s mind).  Both of these stories show that at some point, there was belief in wonder, belief in the mystical, that came from Lovecraft’s youth.  But then, like with many of us, life happens.  You grow up.  You have responsibilities that take away time and energy from the mysteries of life, making it easy to become bitter, hardened, or ignorant of the fantasy that can be apparent in life. I really felt as though Lovecraft was saying in these two stories that writing saved his life.  He was getting bogged down with the stresses of everyday life, bills, housing, love and intimacy, but when he was able to sneak away into the worlds that he created he no longer feared about these mundane issues.  He freed his mind in his fantastic worlds, just like Kuranes and Carter did in their dreaming.

Another interesting factor is drugs.  There is a finite stigma against all drugs, but there is a certain amount of research that proves that in controlled environments that drugs can be helpful.  For example LSD, and marijuana (or Hashish in Kuranes’ case).  In modern medicine, these drugs are used as a better alternative for treating things like PTSD and anxiety disorders, and at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, they would be far more prevalent if Big Pharma didn’t get their hands into government pockets and stymie their progression.  In Lovecraft there is countless mentions of drugs helping dreamers get back to their “dream state”, of characters opening their eyes to the actual world that is around them, instead of believing and trusting in the veil.  I think this subject is probably better suited for an entire post later on, but I think it very worth noting here, because of the content of these stories and the stigma of drugs.  Is it considered juvenile?  Irresponsible, to take these drugs to try and open up your consciousness?  Is it ignoring your responsibilities or reverting, to try and recover youth?  Or is there in fact a veil, that needs to be punctured, and we must attempt this in any way possible?

What do you think?

Join me next time for a blind read of “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”!


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, conclusion

“If you say int he first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off…” – Anton Chekhov

“But oh God, under the weight of life, things seem brighter on the other side.  No way out of here…” – Dave Matthews Band “Big Eyed Fish”

“Just as anyone who listens to the muse will hear, you can write out of your own intention or out of inspiration. There is such a thing. It comes up and talks. And those who have heard deeply the rhythms and hymns of the gods, can recite those hymns in such a way that the gods will be attracted.” –  Joseph Campbell “The Hero’s Journey”

In literature when we go on a journey with a character, there is always a mental journey as well as a physical journey.  Why is our hero, our hero?  Why is it he/she that has been chosen to do this task?  If they chose it, then why?  These are the questions asked from any good protagonist on a hero’s journey, so what did Randolph Carter learn?

Welcome back to another Blind Read!  We’ll be talking about the epic conclusion of The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, and some theories that i have from reading it.  Again these are all my own theories, but feel free to give me some of your own!

The last time we saw Carter her was at the gates of Sarkomand and the great abyss.  He finds some Ghouls who are trapped by the same evil merchants and helps them escape.  Then calls upon the remainder of the ghouls to fight against these horrible minions.  With the help of Nodens he gains the help of the night-gaunts.  With these night-gaunts (whom “even the Great Ones fear”) and the Ghouls, they have an epic battle against the Shantak birds and moon-beasts and the fish like creatures (of which one can only assume are off shoots of Dagon).  Once they win the fight, mainly because of the vastly superior night-gaunts, they all go back to Sarkomand and the ghouls go back down to the abyss and Carter, again with the help of the night-gaunts, flies to Kadath.

Upon reaching Kadath he finds that the castle is empty, all except for a Pharaoh like man, who gives him directions to the sunset city, and tells Carter that he must get the Great Ones (Earth’s Gods) back to their homes on Kadath.  He tells Carter that they got the glimpse of the Sunset City from him, for it is a recreation of New England, Boston and Providence specifically, and the earth gods loved it so much that they went there.

Carter leaves, flying out on a Shantak, but realizes that he has been tricked.  The Pharaoh like man was actually Nyarlathotep and he is having the Shantak take Carter to the center of the universe and the seat of Azathoth to be devoured (I think this means both physical and mental).  Carter realizes the ploy, and leaps from the Shantak, and creates a kick, to bring him out of the dream.  He finds himself back in Boston, and revels in his sunset city.

In a brief epilogue, Nyarlathotep is bitter that Carter escaped, but he has been able to bring the Great Ones back to Kadath and mocks them as they brood.

This is without a doubt the most uplifting story that I’ve read by Lovecraft, and that has me wondering.  I understand that this story was published posthumously by August Derleth, and where I’ve not seen information to state that Lovecraft didn’t finish this story, it does seem, from the battle scene on, like a different type of story.  I wonder if Derleth took over this story and finished it, to have the dreamlands be a thing. But I digress.

I have three main points for the end of this story and they all revolve around the quote’s up at the top of the page.  The first is Chekhov.

There are many call backs throughout this story.  We have Pickman coming back at the end.  We have the slant-eyed merchant continuing to re-emerge as a sinister being (no doubt spurned on by Nyarlathotep).  Finally, we have the duplication of New England as the sunset city, in the same way that King Kuranes created Cornwall to be the place of his dreamland life.  This was the foreshadowing of where Lovecraft was going to take the story.  Kuranes goes to great lengths to describe how he created the land that he wanted, and that he had been chasing for all these years, while he’s speaking with Carter.  Then when we go back to the beginning of the story:

“…and as Carter stood breathless and expectant on that balustraded parapet there swept up to him the poignancy and suspense of almost-vanished memory…”

Lovecraft is saying right here that what he is chasing after is a memory.  it wasn’t until the end that I remembered that line, and the whole story was brought full circle.  That cyclical journey.

If we continue in that line it brings me to my next point.

“…the pain of lost things and the maddening need to place again what once had been an awesome and momentous place.”

He is both trying to remember what the sunset city was in his dreams, but he is also trying to reconcile the memory of New England with what it is now.  His memories were what built the sunset city, and it’s wonderful and glorious vision.

The way that Carter views his current situation is that New England is run down, and the city of his dreams is so beautiful that he wants to go there.  “Oh god, under the weight of life, things seem so much brighter on the other side.”  He thinks that by going to the sunset city he will find heaven, or at least some version of it that he can live in, in the dreamlands.  This is merely a projection however, because the reality is that the sunset city is his own creation, just like King Kuranes created Cornwall.  He is searching for an idyllic memory, when what he is truly looking for is right outside of his bedroom when he wakes up.

That’s the major irony of the story, because things aren’t better on the other side.  They are only better once you come to realize that the world is what you make of it, and when Carter wakes, he realizes that he is in his Sunset City finally, and the journey to Kadath, while spectacular, was unnecessary.

The last point is one that is very interesting to me, particularly when it comes to the cannon of Gods.  The Great Old ones are the “Earth Gods” as Nyarlathotep calls them.  Carter has nearly transcended the gods, and has completed his mythological journey (quest), by creating something that the Great Ones want to experience.  At the end of the story, the Great Ones actually go to the Sunset City in the dreamlands.  They see all the glory that it beholds.

The dreamlands are of neither time, nor of space.  We see that because of the things that the dreamers can do, create cities and such.  Stay with me now, because I’m going to get a little crazy.

So back to Carters journey for a second.  The Great Ones are the Gods of Earth and everything on Earth has to do with them, not directly, but in the Lovecraftian world, we developed from these moon creatures.  So when Carter created the Sunset City based upon New England, there was a link between the Great Ones and the vision of the city.  They saw something in it that called back to the time that they were here, and that was the point of his journey.  To bring solace to the Great Ones, to lure them back into complacency and slumber, because they could experience the world, without having to come to our world.

The tragedy of the journey is that he ultimately fails.  That is where the menace and horror of the story come in.  Nyarlathotep tricks Carter, and instead of making sure that the Great Ones know about the city, he is taken elsewhere, and Nyarlathotep can collect the Great Ones and take them back to Kadath, where they don’t want to be.  Nyarlathotep wants the Great Ones to long for Earth, he wants them to come to earth a sew destruction (just because of their nature, not because of malice).  So he brings them away from their reverie in experiencing what the Earth is like, just having a small taste, and then brings them back to the cold wastes of Kadath, and taunting them, on their loss…until they get frustrated enough to escape and head back to New England.

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, Pt. 3

Dark tales told in a circle, with the only illumination coming from the campfire.  The master storyteller, eliciting the terror from their subjects as they tell their story.  Cadence and timing is paramount to the proper telling, and this story teller has it down to a science.

Welcome back to another Blind read!  This time we delve deeper into the Dream Quest of Randolph Carter, and we get some new illumination on the cannon of gods prevalent in the world.  But first, a recap…

We last left off when Carter got to Celephais, and we pick up this week with the introduction of King Kuranes.  He is the king of Celephais and has died in real life, thus becoming a permanent denizen of the Dreamlands.  King Kuranes has made Celephais look like Cornwall, because he had a longing for being in a land of his childhood.  They speak for a while about the dreamlands in general, and Kuranes tries to talk Carter out of going on his trek to Kadath, but Carter is set in his path and he joins another ship, to head out to the plateau of Leng to find Kadath.

On this ship they find their way to Inquanok, a city made out of Onyx.  The sailors tell Carter that the city was made from a number of quarries, where they mined the Onyx, but there is one Quarry farther on, that no one goes to any more, that quarry has larger and unknown quantities of Onyx.  It is here that Carter wants to go because he has heard that the great city of Kadath is built of Onyx, much like Inquanok.  There is  temple to the Elder Ones here in Inquanok, and it is overseen by a “High Priest, with inner secrets”.

Carter continues on and goes to an old sea tavern, where he finds, again, the slant-eyed merchant.  Who seems to have followed him on his journey.

The next day Carter purchases a yak to travel to the unknown quarry to find answers and hopefully get closer to Kadath.  He is sure that he is very close, because of the Onyx connection.

He travels through the quarries, and eventually the yak gets spooked and runs away, and finally the Slant Eyed Merchant finds him and captures him with aid of the horrible Shantaks.

I have to say, I love getting a little more knowledge about the gods of Lovecraft.  I know that this one was published after Lovecraft died and I wonder how much of the influence of this story comes from August Derleth.  But I digress.

The most interesting thing I have come to realize about Lovecraft is his style of writing.  I have always had a bit of trouble getting into his verbose style, but what i have come to realize is that Lovecraft is best read as though he were  storyteller around a campfire.  The tone and inflection are the same, and if you read anything, especially “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath”, in this way, the story comes through so much more vividly and beautifully.  Every author has their own voice, and once you have come to realize that voice the experience of reading that author becomes that much greater, and though I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all the Lovecraft I have, up to now, I know that with this understanding, I will absolutely love everything else!  I just wish I hadn’t gotten through more than half of his works before coming to this realization!

Ok, back to the story…The first notable mention is the delving in to dream.  King Kuranes is the ruler of Celephais, and he is dead in the waking world.  It is not made clear in the story as to whether he died in the dream world or in the waking world, but he still has the power to change the landscape and make it that of the Cornwall of his childhood.  There are a few interesting ti bits in this that we can examine.  The first is that King Kuranes is a friend of Carters, even back in the waking world.  Carter is an experienced dreamer, that we know from the description at the beginning of this story, and he has known Kuranes mainly through dream, but Carter has known him in the waking world.  In fact “who in Carter’s latter dreams had reigned alternatively in the rose-crystal Palace of Seventy Delights at Celephais and in the turreted cloud-castle of sky-floating Serannian.”  So the question is, how can Kuranes still be a living monarch in the dreamlands when his body is dead in the waking world.  Did he die while dreaming?  Is this why he can stay here?  Are the dreamlands some sort of afterlife that we come to when we die?  Or are only experienced dreamers able to come to the dreamlands after they die, their dreams tying them to the dreamlands?

I tend to cater more towards the latter, because the image of the “rose-crystal Palace of Seventy-Delights”, elicits an image of the 72 virgins from the Quran.  We as humans tend to think of the afterlife as a reward for a life well lived here on earth.  If the dreamlands are a vision of this afterlife, where you have alternative versions of heaven, hell and purgatory, then this could be an example.  Kuranes is able to actually change the landscape and create the Cornish fields of his childhood after all.  This seems as though this is his afterlife, based upon the life he lived in Cornwall as a child.  I hope to have a better sense of what the dreamlands actually are once we get a little farther into the story.

Next set of business is the clarification to the cannon of gods.  This is what I’ve been waiting for, for so long!  While Carter is speaking to Kuranes, they discuss the danger of his quest, and Kuranes tells him what little he knows, as a way of warning Carter away from the quest.  We find out that there are three different types of gods…Other Gods, Elder Ones and Great Ones.  The whole point of this quest is to find the Great Ones, to find more information about that sun kissed city, but Kuranes warns him because, he says, the Other Gods had ways of protecting the Great Ones from “impertinent curiosity”.  He made it sound as though the Other Gods would gather the Elder Ones, The truly malignant forces in the universe, to avert this curiosity.  These Elder Ones were such as Azathoth and Nyarlathotep.  We are as of yet unclear as to who the Great Ones are, and we know that the Other Gods (from both this story and the short story “The Other Gods) guard the outer Hells and barren space, “…especially where form does not exist…”.  In fact when reading the short story “The Other Gods”, when Barzai the (not so) wise climbs Hatheg-Kla to do the same thing that Carter is trying to do here, (seek out the Great Ones), the Other Gods, do something horrible and Barzai is seen no more.  The Other Gods guarded the Great Ones from “impertinent curiosity”.

The question is why is it so important for the Other Gods to protect the Great Ones, that they would pull in the malignant Elder Ones?

Hopefully we will gain an answer at the conclusion of this story!

Ok, one last little anecdotal note, which shows how pervasive Lovecraft is in our culture.  The slant-eyed merchant is known to deal with a “High-priest, not to be described, which wears a yellow silken mask over it’s face and dwells all alone in a prehistoric stone monastery.”  This seems to me to be the basis for the “King In Yellow”. which is a play in a book by Robert Chambers.  The play is said to induce madness and despair for all who read it.  Could it be that there is a correlation between worlds?  Is the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, connected to the slant-eyed merchant in some way?  Could that be where he got his information to write the Necronomicon?

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, pt 2

Worlds converge and lands that were once thought to be unique are connected by the dream.

Welcome back to another blind read!  It’s been a little while, and I apologize for the silence, but it’s been a really busy month! And that’s a good busy, because it’s been all surrounding writing.

Like I mentioned in the last edition of the Blind read, I’m taking a different tact for this story.  There is a bit of fluidity in the story, however there is far more to analyze than there has been in previous stories.  That being said lets get back into a little bit of a recap.  I’ve read nearly half of the story of Randolph Carter journeying through the Dreamlands in his search for Kadath.

The last we saw Carter, he was just escaping the turbaned men, who were trying to take him in the Abyss to Nyarlathotep.  The Cats of Ulthar helped him escape, and he boards another ship and sails away to Oriab.  He travels across the land and finds a carving of the gods he is trying to find, and is surprised that they look much like the sailors in Celephais.  He vows to head to Celephais, when he is captured by winged horrors called Night-Gaunts.  The Night-Gaunts take him to the underworld, supposedly to die.  There, in the underworld, he finds a former friend, Richard Pickman, who has become a Ghoul.  Pickman and his Ghoul friends help Carter avoid the Ghasts (horrible creatures of the underworld), and ascend the staircase to get back to the Enchanted Wood, a higher level of the dreamlands.  He then heads off to find Celephais.

There are a few concepts that I’d like to cover here that I find particularly prescient.

The first is completely meta, and touched upon a little in the last Blind Read ( https://seanmmcbride.com/2018/05/11/blind-read-through-h-p-lovecraft-the-dream-quest-of-unknown-kadath-pt-1/ ), but this is a story (which was published posthumously, so it may have never been intended for publication) where Lovecraft brings together many different stories he previously created.  This is the story which establishes the dreamlands as we now know them.  Despite what I’ve heard that Lovecraft wasn’t looking for cohesion or a “mythos” (forgive me, I forget where I read this, but I’ll do a little research and edit in the link if I find it), this book seems to disavow that concept.  It seems as though Carter was to become his hero of dreams.  The interesting part of this is that the dreamlands and the mythos are considered to be two separate collections, but it seems as though they are irrevocably intertwined.  We have Nyarlathotep as a central being of insidiousness, and Azathoth as the ruler of all creation and destruction.  These Outer Gods have a direct link through the dreamlands, where despite Nyarlathotep heading to earth in the story of his own name, it seems like the easiest way to contact these gods is through the dreamlands.  On top of that We have the concept of the story itself.  Carter is striving to find the gods, specifically by travelling through the dreamlands.  This is a blind read, and I’m only about half way through the story, but that seems almost like incontrovertible evidence to me.

Speaking of gods, there is a mention of a new one, I had never heard from before, which I’m pretty sure comes from Celtic mythology.  Carter is taken by Night-Gaunts to the underworld to be left to die.  The way the text is written it seems as though the underworld is a deeper level of the dreamlands, but more on that presently.

This new god’s name is Nodens, who in Celtic mythology is known as a Pan (the Roman god of mischief, amongst other things), and Nodens controls the Night-Gaunts.  So here we have another god who is trying to stop Carter, or at least delay him from reaching Kadath to ask the gods about the golden city.  If Pan is truly the inspiration for Nodens, then we know that he has more fun in playing with emotions, than with dealing in absolutes, like death.  So Nodens has his servants the Night-Gaunts kidnap Carter and try to deliver him to the despair of the underworld and revel in his misery.

This now brings us to the final point.  This portion of the story is a metaphor for depression.

The Night-Gaunts are a black winged, slightly humanoid creature, who does no harm, but delivers Carter to the underworld.  Much like the demons and devils from medieval art are portrayed.  These devils that speak half-truths into the subjects ears and put them on a downward spiral.  In the dreamlands, the Night-Gaunts are much the same, but have a more active role in actually taking Carter to the underworld.  He is not hurt, in fact he is gently placed and left alone to wallow in his despair.  He is left to die, but he is in no way injured.  He is just in the underworld.

Carter just never let go of his hope and his drive to find the golden city of his dreams.  He then soon sees what happens when one does give up hope.  He meets Richard Pickman, a former friend from Boston, who was a very talented painter.  Pickman has become a Ghoul.  A horrible former joke of the person he once was.  Luckily Pickman retains enough of his former self to understand that Carter was once a friend and rallies the other Ghouls to help him escape the underworld.  To escape the depression of what the underworld represents.  It is already too late for Pickman, he cannot leave the underworld, and returns to his life of horrors once Carter is safely out.

This section is the first truly horrifying section of the story, because previously Carter is merely travelling.  Now he had made a descent.  He is taken deeper into the dreamlands, where he has trouble seeing the light, he has trouble seeing the point of his quest.  So the deeper into the dreamlands you get, the depression takes over your mind, and derails you.  Much like the afterlife dreams in Richard Matheson’s “What Dreams May Come”.  Were these Ghouls sent here because of what they did in their lives?  Is this their hell?

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, Pt. 1

At which point the inception was implanted in his mind.  What was the truth?  What was reality and what was dream?  Was there any truth to what he had experienced, or was the implantation of the concept there to set the pace?  Curiosity killed the cat (with the exception of the cats of Ulthar).

Welcome back to another Blind Read!  This time we’re diving into the Dreamlands, a place where I’ve been interested in for quite some time, and dying to dive into.  But low and behold!  We’ve already read many stories that take place in the Dreamlands and were just unaware that that’s what they were!

This story, much like “At the Mountains of Madness”, seem to be a world building exercise for Lovecraft.  This is a bit of a departure from the weird stories that I’ve been devouring.  This one is more of an adventure, that incorporated elements of some of the other stories.  Because of this correlation, it shines some new light on those other stories and what their meanings might have really been.  I’ll get more into that in other posts, however, because that would be a post in and of itself.  Here I’d like to talk a little about the story and the concept of Inception.

So we start the story with Randolph Carter, after just hearing his statement in the previous Blind Read.  Here we find that Carter is a experienced “dreamer”, and through this lucid dreaming, has the ability to travel throughout the Dreamlands.

The story starts with our intrepid traveler dreaming about a beautiful sunset city:

“Three times Randolph Carter dreamed of the marvelous city, and three times was he snatched away while still he paused on the high terrace above it.  All golden and lovely it blazed in the sunset, with walls, temples, colonnades and arched bridges of veined marble, silver-basined fountains of prismatic spray in broad squares and perfumed gardens, and wide streets marching between delicate trees and blossom-laden urns and ivory statues in gleaming rows…and as Carter stood breathless and expectant on that balustraded parapet there swept up to him the poignancy and suspense of almost-vanished memory, the pain of lost things and the maddening need to place again what once had been an awesome and momentous place.”

OK, lets start with how many times Carter was able to see the fabled city.  Three is an interesting choice, not only for the religious implications, but also in western Occultism (though I wonder how much of Western Occultism actually stems from Lovecraft).  Knowing a little bit of Lovecraft’s religious views, however I proscribe that there are a few different things going on here.  The first is that 3 is a prime number, whose only factors are one and itself.  Once Carter viewed the city three times, he was unable to view it any more.  Could this have something to do with the exclusivity of the city and that there are 3 levels of the Dreamlands?  Could he have only viewed the city once (the first factor), but because there are three different layers of the Dreamlands, he was able to view it three times?  One for each layer?

While you chew on that, thee is also an Odd number, truly the first Odd number.  Where number 1 can be mixed into other equations, the number 3 throws a wrench into things.  So this could be that Lovecraft is trying to make us feel on edge, through a subsumed psychosomatic response?  Just like we talked about in the Blind Read of “At the Mountains of Madness” ( https://seanmmcbride.com/2018/03/23/blind-read-through-h-p-lovecraft-at-the-mountains-of-madness-conclusion/ ) Lovecraft uses Trypophobia (or the fear of small holes, as in a honeycomb) through his description of architecture.  Something that nature made, that was not quite natural.  Also his use of odd angles in “The Dreams in the Witch House”.  He uses these slightly off themes to set the pace for the story.

Then we see some of the grand architecture through his description of the city.  This hearkens back to stories like “The Tree”( Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Tree ), where we get some grand beauty, with a yearning to be where it is so pristine and wonderful.  Doubtless this is what Carter feels.  He has a desire to reach this city, but there is something ominous about it.  Just like there was in “The Tree”.  It is off limits, unattainable, and in fact the visions were stripped from him, and every person he asks tells him to drop it.  That the pursuit of the city is not one he should continue.  Could this all be a ruse set about by Nyarlathotep to enslave Carter?

This brings me to my final point in the inception (see what I did there?) of the “Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” Blind Read.  The last time we saw Carter he passed out as his friend was killed by some horrible monstrosity in a tomb.  Could this have been the Inception of the Dream for Carter?  Could whatever creature that was down in that tomb, have imprinted the idea of the Golden City into Carter’s mind?  Could they have knowledge that Carter is an experienced Dreamer that is capable of actually getting to Kadath?  We are told that only three travelers had gone to the outer reaches, and only one came back sane.  Could this be a implanted call from the messenger god Nyarlathotep?  Is that why the call is so strong that Carter can’t stop his search, even though he is told to stop at every turn, and nearly dies in his dreams many times?

What do YOU think?

Join me next week as we talk about world building and how other short stories are in connection through the Dreamlands


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Statement of Randolph Carter

Ignorance is the foundation for Evil.  Ignorance, not in derogatory terms, but in it’s definition; a lack of knowledge, is the cause of the greatest of all issues.

Welcome back to another Blind Read!  Today we’re tackling an introduction to Randolph Carter, in the short vignette, and we’re covering the nature of evil, and how in Lovecraft, it always seems as though a willed ignorance is the cause of much of the horror.

The Statement of Randolph Carter has our titular character telling officials of what happened to his friend Harley Warren.

It seems as though Mr. Warren delved into strange occult books.  He was fascinated with something, and kept digging deeper and deeper.  He searched the world for the book that would tell him what he was looking for, and eventually he found it.  Carter says that many of the books he is looking at are in Arabic, proving that he is looking for some ancient knowledge, but that the book that holds the secrets are in a language that Carter doesn’t understand.

Carter helps Warren carry equipment to a site, but when the open the tomb Warren turns to Carter, with confidence, and tells him that he is to stay there.  That Carter’s sensibilities are too soft to experience what is down in the catacombs of the tomb.

Warren heads down and clicks on a phone, so that he can communicate with Carter.  Warren eventually finds what he’s looking for, but realizes that he’s made a mistake.  Whatever it is that he was looking for is far worse, far more powerful, far more demented, than what he anticipated.  He screams and screams for Carter to run, that it’s too late for Warren to save himself, but Carter could get out.

Carter promises to save Warren, but cant bring himself to go down into the tomb.  Eventually he hears a voice that tells carter “You fool.  Warren is dead!”

I’ll get to the idea of ignorance, but first there is something that has been happening in quite a few Lovecraft stories which had been bothering me; in many of the stories, the narrator of the story passes out from fear before they get a glimpse of the true horror that is coming for them.  Why is it that these Elder creatures and beasts are letting these people live?  They come upon them, helpless, but they always let them go to tell their story.  This is useful for Lovecraft to tell his tales, but is there a thematic reason for this benevolence?

I think there may be more to it.  How else could all these old books like The Necronomicon be written?  The knowledge had to have been obtained for the first time somehow.  Could it be that the Elder Gods allowed some man to write down this knowledge?  Or could it be that they want the knowledge to get out?

There is another possibility…do they have a moral code?  I have always assumed that the Elder Gods have a chaotic nature, but do they not attack people that don’t wish to delve into their secrets?  Do they stop their rampage when they find something helpless?  Are they like the Predator?  An alien creature who is a hunter, who never kills when the prey is helpless?  There seems to be some credence to this theory.

So if the Elder Gods are indeed this way, then why would anyone strive to find their secrets?  Is it just curiosity?  Power?  Which brings me to my next point.  It seems like the cause of much of the issues that begin in Lovecraft, happens when ignorance takes over.

These brash adventurers, who with to go after this forbidden knowledge, are in fact ignorant of what the knowledge they seek really means.  In every story these men find these books and seek their knowledge.  What we infer is that these men see that there is hidden power or knowledge and that’s where they stop.  It is their ignorance of what is actually going on that causes their deaths.

So are the Elder Gods actually evil?  Or are they only trying to stop the ignorant from accessing knowledge (like strange angles that will enable you to travel to another dimension), that they are not ready for?

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Dreams in the Witch House

“To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub,
for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
when we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
must give us pause.” – Hamlet Act III Scene 1

Aye, there’s the rub.  What dreams come from death, but who’s death are we talking about? What brings about these dreams? and do the dreams have a steak in reality?

Welcome back to another Blind Read!  This time we’re diving into a new level of Lovecraftian fiction.  Welcome to the Dreamlands.  I’ve been excited to look into this a little more (in fact I even mentioned it in a previous Blind Read), because we have already begun to tackle some of the Cannon of the Mythos, so beyond Lovecraft’s weird fiction, he has the Cthulhu mythos and the Dreamland stories.

The story follows along our protagonist, Walter Gilman, who is a student of Miskatonic University in Arkham, Mass.  Gilman is interested in weird science, so much so that he studies the Necronomicon in the library of Miskatonic U and familiarizes himself with the lore behind it.

But that isn’t quite enough for him.  He finds a local house that was known as a residence of a Witch by the name of Old Keziah and her pet Brown Jenkin (a strange animal like furball, with a humanistic face that looks strangely like Old Keziah, and also has anthropomorphic features).

He finds that he has strange dreams in this house.  He goes into strange realities and sees Old Keziah and brown Jenkin nearly every time, but he also sees strange things like spheres and polyhedrons of light, which lead him around.

He eventually comes to the realization that there are odd angles in the house.  Walls tilted at incomprehensible angles that twist the mind, and whenever something strange happens it comes from those angles.

The dreams continue to get stranger, and things follow him back into the real life.  He wakes and finds his feet are muddy after dreaming about walking in a muddy field.  He wakes and finds his ankle has dried blood on it, after he is bitten by Brown Jenkin in the dream.  He assumes that a rat bit him, but can find no blood in the room at all.

He begins to wonder about his somnambulism, and borrows flour from his landlord and places it around his room and outside of it, to try and see his footsteps and figure out what he gets up to in his sleep walking fits, but when he wakes nothing is disturbed.

The dreams continue to darken as they get closer to May Eve.

“May Eve was Walpurgis night, when hell’s blackest evil roamed the earth and all the slaves of Satan gathered for nameless rites and deeds.”

Around this time and around Hallows eve children from the poorer neighborhoods seemed to disappear.  They are well known in Arkham as dark days, and as the day nears the dreams get even stranger.

Gilman sees a “black man” in his dreams, who holds out a book to him and Old Keziah wants him to sign it and gain a new name (hers was Nahab).  The story centers around this strange ritual of Walpurgis night and this strange “black man”.

A local child goes missing, which happens nearly every Walpurgis night, and in his dreams, Gilman sees Old Keziah holding a knife up, with the “black man” watching in the distance.  She is obviously making a sacrifice of the child and attempting to drain it’s blood into a strange metal bowl with  bunch of unrecognizable symbols.

There is much confusion, and Gilman finds himself struggling with Keziah.  He for some reason wonders if he actually signed the book that the “black man” held.  The book of Azathoth.

Gilman succeeds in stopping Keziah and strangles her with the cross that a fellow tenant gave him.

But Gilman never wakes.  The same tenant hears him screaming and goes to him.  Under the blanket there is a bunch of blood coming up, and eventually a creature looking like Brown Jenkin pops out from underneath the covers, but it has a strange resemblance to Gilman in the face, and it has hands instead of claws.  The creature runs to the corner, where the inverted angles appear and disappears into the wall.

The landlord evacuates the house, and there is a fire.  In the wreckage they find bones from across the ages.  Old Keziah had been up to her terribleness for years.

This is without a doubt my favorite of anything I’ve read by Lovecraft thus far.  Terrifying and, just perfectly Lovecraft.

Lovecraft immediately puts you on edge with his mention of odd angles.  What he does so well is bring the supernatural into our world so succinctly.  There are alternate dimensions, but the fact that thee is a scientific way to get to those alternate dimensions…or to bring those dimensions to us, is utterly, and fantastically terrifying.  In addition to that, the fact that one can indeed think of those angles and gain access to those dimensions is spectacular.

Which brings me (surreptitiously I know, but bear with me) to my next point.  Walpurgis night is a brilliant temporal setting.  The names of the people involved in the story are mainly Polish and Czech names, and Saint Walpurga is a Catholic saint who is known to have driven witches out of many Germanic provinces.  So by making this about Walpurgis night, Lovecraft is basically retelling the story of Walpurga through his own lens.  Gilman, ostensibly drives the witchcraft out of Arkham by destroying Old Keziah, and limiting the connection with our world to that of the Elder Gods.

There are a few gods mentioned in the story.  There is much mention of Azathoth, who “rules from the bed of chaos”.  There is Nyarlathotep, who we know has been to our plane, and lead people out of Egypt to supplicate themselves to his will (could there be an actual connection?  Nyarlathotep is just a mention in this story, but does he have a reason why he can come to our world?  is he a master of the angles?).  Then there is Shub-Niggurath “The goat with a thousand young”.

We know that the book is Azathoth’s who is the master of chaos.  Could Shub-Niggurath be Azathoth’s concubine?  Is that where the thousand young came from?  Then if we correlate to Christianity with the connection with Walpurgis night, we see the connection with Satan being sometimes correlated to a goat.  Thus we have hell being another dimension led by Azathoth and Shub-Niggurath, with Nyarlathotep potentially being the “black man” trying to get Gilman to sign Azathoth’s book and “getting a new name”.

So Gilman actually did sign the book, and that’s why he had his transformation into a creature somewhat like Brown Jenkin, but, because he killed the only other human (old Keziah), and the Witch House was destroyed, there is a loss of connection with that hellish world.

Which brings us back to angles.  In our culture good is the default.  We have a thought that to be bad, or to do evil things means that you are off, that your brain does something different that other people’s brains.  Lovecraft gives a reason here.

Angles.

If you have the ability to see in different angles then you have access to hell.  This is how you can have someone, who is structurally the same as every other human being, but their ability to see a way into another dimension, without the need of a loadstone (like the Witch House and it’s odd angles), is what leads them to evil deeds.

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Shunned House

Welcome back to another Blind Read!  This time we’re delving into a wonderfully classic haunted house story, with a Lovecraftian twist.

This is the story of the Shunned House, and Lovecraft finds yet another way to tell a story in a unique way.  We know of the narrator’s experience there.  Lovecraft tells that up front.  A young man who is scared terribly by something that he cannot explain.

Then we delve into the history of the house, to try to garner a better explanation of what actually happened there.  The reasoning jumps around from spirits, to demons, to vampires, to werewolves.  Each person who had some kind of supernatural experience in the Shunned House have experienced something different.

The story gives some wonderfully Gothic imagery.  I had a vivid image of Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher” in both visceral description, as well as tonality.  We find a house with a history and delve into something altogether different than we possibly expected.  Poe’s story is a Gothic tragedy, but Lovecraft’s is wonderfully cosmic.

Then the story evolves.  It becomes much more like Richard Matheson’s “Hell House”, where we have a scientific study, instead of a supernatural study (Hell House is one of the singularly most terrifying stories I’ve ever read, just so you know).

“We were not, as I have said, in any sense childishly superstitious, but scientific study and reflection had taught us that the known universe of three dimensions embraces the merest fraction of the whole cosmos of substance and energy.” pp 128 “At The Mountains of Madness” Dey Rey 1982.

There is so much going on in this sentence.  First, we know that the narrator and his uncle are not walking into anything with a superstitious bend.  They intend on using facts to find the truth of the mystery of the Shunned House.  However, they recognize that science has it’s limitations and the answer that they are looking for could potentially be beyond the walls of our known dimensional world.

Then we get down into the house and discover that the story has evolved again.  Now we come to the realization that we are in a Lovecraftian cosmic horror.  The narrator talks about the “fungus ridden earth” and how there is a green and yellow phosphorescent glow.  Thus far in my blind reads I have found that this is the most consistently mentioned precursor to a cosmic horror.  This green and yellow light shows that a cosmic creature is around.  Immediately it becomes less about a ghost story, and into a completely different area.

Then we come upon the most horrible section (or should I say beautifully horrible?) of any Lovecraft story I have read thus far.  The phosphorescent pile is actually part of a creature that is sucking the life force out of the humans it comes into contact with.  This is the reasoning for the vampire and werewolf descriptions.  The creature is taking on horrible visages of other creatures to both feed and to incapacitate its victims.  It was suddenly at this point that I realized this could very well be Stephen King’s inspiration for “IT”.  A cosmic alien who shows people what they fear and eats their life force.

This is without a doubt one of my favorite stories I’ve read thus far.  I think only “In the Walls of Eryx” comes close to this one.  It’s a bit longer than most of the stories, but it’s succinct, and it changes what you think it’ll be multiple times throughout the exposition.  I think if I were to recommend any one story to someone looking to get into Lovecraft I would tell them to start on this story.

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; At The Mountains of Madness; Conclusion

“At the time, his shrieks were confined to the repetition of a single, mad word of all too obvious source: “Tekeli-li Tekeli-li”

A single enigmatic word that has such a huge meaning.

I had originally meant to only read two chapters and separate this blog into two different sections, but I just couldn’t stop reading, and there are so many ideas bouncing around that I decided to codify them all into this single blog.

Spoilers ahead, so if you don’t want to read them stop here.

We follow our narrator and Danforth out of the horrible city built by the Shoggoth for the Great Old Ones, and when they make it out they find the lost dog and the young Missing Gedney.

They catch a strange stench and they find a cave down to what the narrator calls the abyss.  They follow it down and they find some strange blind albino penguins, and continue past them…until they find some more of the specimens that Lake found, these ones alive.  Terrified they run, and they can tell that something large and terrible is following after them.  They turn and see that they are being chased by a Shoggoth.  Danforth ostensibly goes mad, but they eventually get out.

There are a few points I want to focus on here:

  1.  The Poe connection
  2. The Blind Albino penguins and evolution
  3. Trypophobia
  4. Anthropomorphism of Star Spawn
  5. Physiognomy (or lack there of) of the Shoggoth

First lets talk the Poe connection.  Tekeli-li is taken from The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, which Poe references when the narrator hears the cry echo in the abyss.

1.First and foremost, We know that Poe had a large influence on Lovecraft in general, but what is interesting about this is how the entire novella of At the Mountains of Madness is modeled after this story.  Poe set out to write a “realistic” story about a sea voyage gone wrong.  Poe being Poe, some really crazy things happen.  We have Lovecraft here, who is writing the story from the perspective of a scientific expedition.  Everything is very logical and adhering to the scientific method throughout, until the end which takes a creepy turn…the same way Poe did in Pym.  On top of that, Poe wrote about a connection with the theory of the Hollow Earth.  Basically the theory that the earth is hollow and there are vast spaces and potentially civilizations in the middle of the earth.  Sound familiar?  In Lovecraft’s story we actually see one of these massive civilizations, and it goes way farther than that when the narrator and Danforth go into what is called the abyss.  Oh did I mention that both stories take place in Antarctica?

2.Next we have the blind albino penguins.  When I started reading this section I wondered what the point was.  Why involve these creatures?  Was it just a creepy factor to try and scare?  A large creature comes out of the cave!  Oh…wait…its a blind penguin.  It seemed almost laughable at first.  Then the more I thought about it the more brilliant it seemed.  These penguins were the foreshadowing of something horrible coming.  They have lived here for centuries, and down here in the abyss.  That accounts for the fact that they are albino, for they very rarely see the sun.  Why are they so large?  The Shoggoth are huge, so if the penguins never evolved they would just get crushed (which they do anyway when a Shoggoth was incensed).  Ok so we can intuit why the penguins are large and albino, but why blind?  Is it just because they live in the caves?  That could be, but they would probably just have evolved to be able to see in the dark.  I think there is a much more sinister reason.  We’ll discuss this in the last section.

3.Next Trypophobia, otherwise known as the fear of irregular patterns or clusters of small holes or bumps, or honeycomb holes.  Lovecraft describes the architecture and the creation of the tunnels to be honeycombed, and he’s doing this for a multitude of reasons.  The first is that he wants to give a little preamble to what the Shoggoth are.  What kind of nightmare creatures create that type of pattern on purpose?  Why is that the aesthetic that they want to look at?  Which leads into the second reason, it gives the reader unease.  This strange, abnormal pattern leaves many people on edge, and I would purport that Lovecraft suffered from trypophobia as well, which is why he was inclined to include it. The last is that it solidifies these creatures as being cosmic, or otherworldly.  That is the kind of shape that one would not want around, but it may be something that makes the Great Old Ones long for home.  Yet another reason to instill madness.

4.The anthropomorphism of the Star Spawn in the bas-reliefs.  The Shoggoth make these statues almost in a recognizable theme.  Except why is that?  The Great Old Ones created the Shoggoth on our world.  Whenever something is created, the idea of how it looks is relegated to the mind of the creator.  Thus when things are created they are generally created in the image of the creator.  The Shoggoths are no different.  At the end of the story, Danforth, who read The Necronomicon to completion, mentions Yog-Sothoth.  Now this is the first mention of this name in any story I have thus read, but just before he mentions this name (which I know is some sort of god in the Lovecraftian pantheon) he mentions proto-Shoggoth.  This makes me believe that Yog-Sothoth actually created the Shoggoth in it’s image.  Switching to the Shoggoth themselves, they lived as servants for many years, until they finally rose up against the Great Old Ones.  As they lived as servants the Shoggoth watched the evolution of the planet, and how the creatures of the land actually became human from primordial ooze.  I propose that this is why the Shoggoth rose up, they saw how humanity grew and took out on their own, and they saw what they could be, instead of servants.  They thus created the images on the massive underground city based around their uprising.  That’s why such an alien culture was legible and understandable from a couple of scientists.

5.Shoggoths are these horrible creatures.  What Lovecraft does so well is that he never actually describes the creatures.  He mentions that the star spawn have tentacle mouths, and that the Shoggoth have many eyes and are spherical but that’s really it.  One of the most interesting descriptions came when the two are running away from their Shoggoth pursuer.  Danforth has started to go mad, and is mentioning subway stations.  The narrator finally understands and says that the reason is, the Shoggoth looked like a passing train.  The shoggoth looked like a blur of steel and windows.  The thing that sticks the most here is the world blur.  Despite the fact that the Shoggoth wasn’t moving particullarly fast (they were able to out run it), it still looked like a blur.  Was this because it was so hideous that our minds couldn’t comprehend it?  Or is it because their features move so quickly that they are completely amorphous?  This is the true Lovecraft horror.  This is why Lovecraft works so well.  You have these creatures that if they are described, then we can begin to understand them.  When you keep it a mystery, and our minds have trouble categorizing things then unease bleeds in and the horror begins.

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; At the Mountains of Madness, pt 4

Talk about a revelation!  Chapter 7 of this story gives so much of what I was looking for!  It’s like a primer for Lovecraft.

Our brave explorers continue on their trek through the ancient cosmic city and through the frescoes and sculptures they tell a story of the Great Old Ones who once lived in the city.  I will eventually have to go back and read through this chapter because there was so much here to consume.

First off, lets talk Shoggoth.  I had thought that this was an actual god, or species of god, or something along those lines.  What we find here is that the Shoggoths are actually creations of the Great Old Ones.  They were “protoplasmic masses” that were brought together by the Great Old Ones to have slave labor.  They were used to create the amazing city that the narrator and Danforth are exploring.  The Shoggoths eventually rise up against the Great Old Ones, but were eventually put back down.

We also see a little about Cthulhu and it’s minions.  They come down from the cosmos and attack the Great Old Ones.  The narrator mentions these creatures as the humanoid Cthulhu spawn.  There was a great war, and eventually peace broke out and the Cthulhu spawn was given the land, and the Great Old Ones and the Shoggoth took to the Ocean floor.  That is until the Pacific waters rose and the great cities of the Cthulhu spawn were swallowed by the sea.  From what I’ve gathered from other stories, the great city R’lyeh, where “all the cosmic octopi” lived is also the prison of Cthulhu itself (from info from the Shadow over Innsmouth).  So here we have the origin (at least origin from our worldly perspective) of Cthulhu.

Then, much later, after the war with the Cthulhu spawn and the uprising of the Shoggoth, there came the Mi-go, partially fungoid, partially crustacean creatures.  They also came down from the cosmos, and it seems as though they defeated the Great Old Ones, because the Great Old Ones tried to flee, but found that after so long, they could not leave the earth’s atmosphere.  They thus fled to all portions of the world.

What is significant to this, is that now we have an understanding of the Great Old One’s reach and some of their capabilities.  We also have now two different races besides these creatures, the Cthulhu spawn, and the Mi-go.

The Cthulhu spawn seems to be in the pacific ocean, with their few cities, including the fantastic R’lyeh.  So the stories containing them, have to be in the south towards the Antarctic.

Then we have the Mi-go, who began in the Antarctic, but are known in the Himalayas, so they must have migrated during the ice age.  Since the only information we have about them is that they flourish in cold environs, we must guess that any mention of the Mi-go to be surrounded by sub-zero temperatures.  I imagine this information will be important for investigation later.

SO ultimately, we have people being born from the Great Old Ones.  It is implied that our race may have started in this Antarctic city that the expedition has found.  However we still have those transformation ideas.  Transforming into a fish person.  Transforming into an Ape.  And transforming into a beast.

Since the Great Old Ones have relegated themselves to the Depths, then it is apparent that they have a direct correlation to the Fish transformation.  As of right now I would argue that they also have the Ape transformation under their wing as well.  I’m not sure where the beast transformation comes from.

Also we know that Cthulhu is empirically, NOT a Great Old One.  This was something I was hazy on.  Though I’m assuming that Dagon is one of the children, or lesser Great Old Ones, I have not gotten a name for any others as of yet.

Loving the story thus far, and can’t wait to see if there is any more Mythos in here.

Is there anything I missed?

What do you think?


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; At the Mountains of Madness, pt.3

Continuing the journey into the mountains of madness (chapters five and six).  Our narrator and his cohort Danforth head out over the mountains to search out the mysteries of this strange antarctic world.  There are sprawling descriptions of the landscape as they fly over it, but they eventually turn the corner and come across a terrible “Cyclopean city”.  In this meaning that it is a huge city, all made from stones laid together, not using mortar.  This adds to the mystery of the strange civilization, now abandoned.  They eventually land down where they can and head into this strange and massive city.

They take samples of the stones, showing that the city is incredibly old, older than any known civilization.  Older than the dinosaurs even.  This is an interesting perspective for a geologist like our narrator is.  If we take out all the horror aspect of this notion, it means an incredible find.  Somehow there was a civilization of intelligent creatures, long before we have known to be evolved from apes.

This brings up an interesting notion of transformation to me.  There have been many stories where the people in the stories have transformed into fish people, and ape people.  A strange juxtaposition.  As a writer, Lovecraft is probably trying to find transformative creatures that are terrifying, but if this is indeed the case why not transform people into crabs or some such?  Or even Octopus people to give the tentacle nightmares of Cthulhu?

I think there is something deeper that Lovecraft is going for, which is coming to light through the reading of this story.  People are descendants from apes, and even farther back, all life has developed from one celled organisms that transformed into amphibious creatures.  Is Lovecraft saying with this story that we are all descendant from the Old Ones?  Or is it that the Old Ones are transforming people back to the known quantity of what they knew when they had prevalence on our world?

If it’s the latter than there are potentially two different influences.  Which of these beings were around during the time we were amphibious and which of them were around when we were Apes?

This story seems to be about the “Great Old Ones” (of which I’m sure will come to light the farther I get in the story, though there is already mention of them), and this was their city before us.  Thus the Great Old Ones are beings like Dagon, and Cthulhu, because they are sea dwelling and such.

The strange thing is, this city is huge, but most of the rooms are small.  Which means that despite the fact that the narrator talks about how the Great Old Ones came from the stars and the moon, there were other beings here as well.  The beings that would house the 30 by 30 rooms that were no larger than 20 feet (Lovecraft goes into specific detail describing the layout of the city)…beings our size.  Is it possible that in that ancient civilization there were mortal beings from another planet?  Is the end game of this story to presuppose how Human’s came to be on the planet?

I’m over half way through the story with six chapters left, which means three more blogs (unless I get crazy into it and ignore work for a while).  I’m excited to see if any of these theories come to light.

What do you think?