Posts Tagged ‘Cthulhu’

I had a revelation recently. No, not the kind that inspires texts that are the basis for entire religions. I had that already, and you do not want to know what information was imparted to me. No, it’s about Lovecraftian fiction.

Now, the common image among people, readers and writers, of Lovecraftian fiction is Cthulhu or any other Great Old One/Elder God/giant terrifying monster from the deep sea/outer space/alternate dimension. And that’s not wrong. From stories like The Dunwich Horror to the recent science-horror film Underwater, big monsters are a major part of the story and, along with the mind-bending insanity and dark truths they represent, are the main source of horror.

But it’s recently come to my attention that Lovecraftian horror stories are about more than just the monsters. Sometimes, it’s about psychological horror. Sometimes, you can have an effective scary story by not showing the monster, but by instead relegating the monsters to mere glimpses or suggestions and focusing on the characters’ reactions. And if done right, it can lead to some compelling horror.

There are actually plenty of stories like this. And if you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably run into plenty of them. The Call of Cthulhu, for example. Being by Howard Phillips himself, it’s obviously Lovecraftian, but have you ever noticed that we never really see Cthulhu? Think about it. The closest we ever get to seeing the High Priest of the Great Old Ones himself is through the eyes of a Scandinavian sailor’s diary. The narrator only sees drawings and statues of him.

And yet we’re scared, because the very idea of what we glean from these diary recordings is of a worldwide cult, one devoted to a very real god. One that will use humans as its pawns so that, when it finally arises, it’s in prime condition to take over our world. And the cult will do away with anyone who gets in their master’s way.

And while that’s a great example, there’s plenty more where that came from. Last year’s film The Lighthouse (see my review here) was Lovecraftian with a capital L, but we barely saw any of the marine monstrosities supposedly behind the horrors occurring on the island. And what we did see, we weren’t sure if they were real (within the film, anyway). Are they monsters, or are they just the manifestations of two men on an isolated island having a breakdown? Or maybe it’s a bit of both. It’s hard to tell.

A great example of this Lovecraftian psychological horror, 2019’s The Lighthouse.

And not just The Lighthouse. Stephen King’s novella N is told from the POV of people who all claim to be guardians of a circle of stones. If they don’t perform certain rituals, the stones will become a portal for terrible monsters. We never see these monsters though, and it’s possible that all the characters are suffering from a shared delusion. Or is it something more?

And in the novel I’m reading now (I hope to finish it and have the review up tomorrow or Thursday), there’s a Lovecraftian undertone, but the focus is on the characters and how they’re dealing with all the lies and hidden secrets swirling around them.

Or maybe that’s not a Lovecraftian undertone, but some other supernatural undertone. I’ll let you know when I finish the novel.

Anyway, it’s a good thing I’ve noticed that. The story I’m trying to write next is going to be heading into that psychological/Lovecraftian territory, so hopefully I can do a good job of it. And even if I don’t, it’ll at least be good practice.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to bed. I hope you’re not going stir-crazy while social distancing yourselves. If you want, we can talk in the comments for a bit.

Anyway, until next time, pleasant nightmares!

2020 has gotten off to a rocky start, to put it mildly. Threat of war with Iran, fires in Australia, and now the coronavirus, or COVID-19, has gone from an abstract threat we nervously made jokes about to a terrifying pandemic. It’s caused a lot of anxiety and terrified reactions, with people rushing to the store to grab supplies, turning to every supposed cure or preventive measure out there, and being afraid to go outside their homes.

And I know, the last thing you want to see is me talking about the virus. But you have to understand: I’m doing this for me. As many of you know, I have an anxiety disorder. And as much as I keep an upbeat attitude, wonder what everyone needs that much toilet paper for, and what we’re going to get for April (I’m hoping Cthulhu rises up from the Pacific), I have been feeling anxious over this virus. So anxious, in fact, that last night, instead of editing a short story like I’d meant to, I ended up binge-watching an entire series of anime till two in the morning. Escapism!

So what’s a guy to do? Well, in my case, I have to exorcise myself. Not literally, that’s a Friday night thing. No, I need to get my feelings out on COVID-19. Because I conquer what scares me, and in this case, this is how I do it.

Strap in, kids. This might be a long one.

My thoughts

What are my thoughts on this pandemic? Well, it’s almost Lovecraftian in how it’s inserted itself into our lives. First it’s this abstract and undefinable threat that we can’t imagine touching our lives. We even laugh at it. But pretty quickly, it becomes this thing that could not only affect us, but kill us. And our own species–loved ones, coworkers, the passerby on the street–are how it extends its invisible tentacles into the world.

The only thing to do is isolate ourselves, but that’s scary in and of itself. Even our most curmudgeonly need human contact of some sort. Can we survive without that human contact? And then there’s the economic toll, as people who rely on their jobs find themselves out of work or unable to make ends meet, relying on their dwindling savings to get by. It’ll be worse in more expensive cities to live in.

This pandemic can be likened to a Lovecraftian entity. And it’s just as ugly.

And depending on where you live, your leaders may be doing a great job at fending off the horror, or an inept one.

This may be the closest we get to actually experiencing a Great Old One invading our reality. And God, is it terrifying.

Good thing I have my collection of HP Lovecraft stories, plus four or five cosmic horror films on DVD and Blu-Ray in my collection. They’ll make great therapy. I should also see the movie Contagion again. It practically predicted this entire pandemic, so it’s worth another watch.

Anyway, there is a silver lining (and no, not the silver solution that con artist preacher is selling! That’s more likely to lead to heavy metal poisoning, the prick). Unlike Cthulhu or Nyarlathotep, there is a way to fight against this monster. As hard as it is, social distancing can limit infection and prevent further cases. So does extensive handwashing (no duh!) and other hygiene practices. And to avoid fake cures, keep this in mind: make sure to check with reputable sources like the CDC or National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. And if you don’t trust bureaucrats, remember this rule: if it sounds miraculous or too good to be true, IT PROBABLY IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE!!!! Any fix to a medical problem always required hard work to achieve. Even aspirin took forty years to get from the labs to the pharmacy. Don’t go for the quick “cure” just because it seems Heaven-sent.

This virus is going to change things, and possibly have lasting effects on society. I hope that it teaches people to at least be more considerate of others. Because right now, that’s what we need to do in order to make it out of this pandemic with a minimal death toll.

Speaking of considerate…

Support your authors if possible

As I said, this pandemic is effecting a lot of people’s jobs and livelihoods. This includes authors. They rely on bookstores, conventions and in-person events to sell their books and support themselves. Those places are either closing down or cancelling, which is huge slash in revenue. I’m extremely lucky, even if I don’t write full-time: my job allows me to make a good living and put away savings. Other writers aren’t so lucky. This virus is going to bite into them pretty deeply.

Care about authors? Consider supporting their work during these difficult times, if you’re able.

Now, I’m aware not everyone can do this, and I completely understand and sympathize. However, if you are in a position to help your fellow writers, please do so. Buy copies of their books in your favorite format, tell people about their work in reviews or tweets or whatever. Especially if you enjoy their work. It might be small gestures, but for the writers you’ll be helping, it’ll mean the moon and stars.

And it will give us time to come up with some decent stories involving COVID-19. I’ve already had one or two.

Final thoughts

Thanks for reading this post. I needed to get this off my chest. And I think, once I’ve taken care of myself a bit, I’ll be able to get back to writing and scaring people like I normally do. As for the rest of you, remember that everyone else is in the same boat as you. They’re as scared as you, but they can also be as brave as you. And if you’re a Follower of Fear, you’re likely very brave.

This too shall pass. And we’ll make it pass faster by keeping each other safe.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to set up and test my at-home workstation. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and REMEMBER, SWALLOWING OR GARGLING BLEACH IS GOING TO KILL YOU! Why would you think it would help you? It’s corrosive!

A sketch of Cthulhu by HP Lovecraft, and an embodiment of cosmic horror.

Earlier today, I read a very interesting article about how cosmic horror is evolving from the state it was in when HP Lovecraft pioneered the genre, courtesy of Bloody Disgusting (you can read the article here). To sum the article up, the author states that cosmic horror originally had little room for emotions other than fear. The idea was to explore a vast cosmos filled with powerful entities and secrets that humanity can’t begin to grasp. Humanity, and our ideas and emotions, are inconsequential to these beings, and they are too much for us to fathom. However, lately the genre has been used to explore emotional themes such as closure of grief or to overcome childhood schisms and trauma.

I thought it was an interesting article, so I shared it among my fellow horror writers (as well as reserved some of the films mentioned in the article from my local library). And the responses I’ve gotten so far have been rather telling. One author I’m friends with mentioned that horror, including cosmic horror, has always been used to explore themes of emotions and the human experience. Sure, that sometimes involves things so outside the human experience our mind can’t comprehend them, but in the end, they deal with every day human fears of how much we matter, whether we’re alone in the universe.

Look at IT, for example (and yes, I am excited for Chapter Two. My sister and I are even trying to arrange to see it opening weekend). While it is about a shape-shifting being fond of the form of a clown and the people who stand up to him, it’s also about dealing with the change from childhood to adulthood, how reality hardens you and destroys your sense of wonderment. Very relevant to the human experience, underneath the clown make-up.

Another person in that discussion also mentioned how, in the age of the Internet, Twitter, and all the human-made horrors, some people doubted the need for cosmic horror. I mean, isn’t everyday news bad enough? Who needs alien gods with tentacles when you have mass shootings and human rights violations?

Well, not necessarily. Think about how, despite all the “connections,” we live more hermit-like and isolated existences these days. We live very much alone. And seeing all these awful things in the world, one can feel powerless. The world is just too much to handle, it seems, let alone take on.

And that’s cosmic horror in a nutshell. Humanity feeling small, our lives not ours to control, but at the mercy of forces that don’t care one way or the other about our well-being. It was a common enough feeling for many after WWI when HP Lovecraft was building the genre, having experienced the trenches, the gas, and the flamethrowers. And it’s still a common feeling today.

And so long as that feeling of hopelessness and isolation in the face of a seemingly senseless, uncaring world is part of people’s lives, there will be an audience for cosmic horror. The genre will evolve and change, but the swirling darkness that birthed Cthulhu and other monstrosities will always be at its core.

But what do you think? Is cosmic horror evolving? What direction do you think the genre will head? Are you, like me, actually an entity from beyond this planet or realm whose true form induces all who see it to madness? Let’s discuss.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, goodnight and pleasant nightmares.

Last night, I did some writing. And while that statement on its own might not be the most groundbreaking thing I’ve ever written on this blog, it was important for me. As you know, since early June, I’ve been consumed with the editing, publishing and marketing of Rose, as well as editing some other stories (but I won’t go into that right now). In fact, I’m still working on that last bit! I’ve been doing a lot every day to make sure people are reading the book. Just today, I’ve probably sent about ten emails related to the novel!*

Add in my day job, taking care of myself, sleeping and making sure I’m relaxed enough in the evenings not to go on a killing spree the next day, and I’ve had very little time to devote to new projects. I tried a week or two ago to do some work on a new short story, but it didn’t go as well as I would have hoped. I blame that on the story being existential horror, and I’m in too bright a state of mind these days to write that sort of horror well.

But last night, I was able to get back into the swing of things and get a significant number of words down on paper on a novelette I’ve been wanting to rewrite since 2015 but haven’t done since then (yeah, I can go for years without working on a story if I think I need more time before I work on it again). And I think part of the reason I was able to get so much of the story written in a single sitting, other than a glass of beer, was that I was able to put myself back in the mood to write after such a long hiatus.

The first thing I did while writing last night was make sure my writing space–aka my desk and where I take most of my meals–had everything I normally used to write. I had my laptop in front of me, with the story and the outline for it in front of me. I had something to drink–usually tea with honey but last night beer–and some mints nearby, as well as whatever music I’m in the mood for playing on iTunes (these days, it’s classical). And I had some incense burning by the Cthulhu statue. That helped me really get me in the mood for writing, because those are all things I associate with and use while writing. Just having them all there, especially after such a long break from doing any real writing, made a huge difference.

There’s a perverse pleasure in lighting incense in front of a Cthulhu statue that makes you want to write horror, don’t you think?

Another thing that really helped was that I had the right story to work on. I think this story, which I expect to end up being a novelette between ten and twenty-thousand words, was perfect because it was simple and easy to work on. I won’t go into details at this point about it’s plot (though I will tell you this YouTube video I’ve linked to is a hint as to the subject matter), but it’s not a complicated story. It’s not dealing with any deep themes like the fragility of the human mind, or requires extensive research. It’s just a simple story about a supernatural force affecting the lives of a bunch of teenagers.

But that’s the beauty of it. By not giving myself a really challenging story, I’m easing myself back into writing. I’m getting back the motivation to write after so long away. And it works. Because the last thing you need after getting one of the most challenging stories you’ve ever written published and then doing everything to market it is something just as hard or maybe even more so, right? No, you need an easy story to get back into it.

With both of these factors working for me, I was able to get a ton of writing done, and maybe even get some more done this week. And after that? I don’t know. I have a few ideas. But at least I know I’ll have an easier time writing now that I’ve eased myself back into it.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll probably have a new post about effective horror writing out in the next week or so, so keep an eye out for it. Until then, pleasant nightmares!

*And speaking of Rose, I think all that marketing work is…well, working. Amazon finally got both pages for the ebook and paperback linked, and the page lists the novel as a 4.5 out of 5 based on six reviews. In addition, Amazon Canada has the book rated as a 5-star and Amazon UK has it rated as a 4-star (both based on only one review each, but it’s a start. They also list the American reviews, but don’t list them for whatever reason). And on Goodreads, Rose is rocking a rating of 4.2 out of 5 based on 5 ratings and 4 reviews, and has nearly thirty people listed as having the book on their TBR list.

Not trying to brag, I’m just stating this is really good news and possibly bodes at more good things to come. Fingers crossed!

Well first off, I did order a hard copy of The Complete Works of HP Lovecraft. That should arrive by Thursday. In the meantime, now that I’ve finished reading his entire body of work,* I thought I’d take a moment to list my favorite stories of his work. Why? Because A) I want to, and B) despite the overuse of 18th century language and enough racism to make me want to punch the guy, there are some good stories here worth reading. And if anyone ever wanted to try HP Lovecraft but didn’t know where to start, and if they trust my reviews at all, I think this would be helpful.

So starting from Number 8 and working our way up, let’s go over my Top 8 HP Lovecraft Stories.

#8: The Lurking Fear

You ever go hiking or driving through a mountain range at night and expect something like Jason Voorhees to pop out? I have, and it’s enough to make you really question your decision to ever set foot in those areas. Such is the force behind The Lurking Fear, about a reporter who goes into the Catskill mountains to investigate reports of monster attacks on local villages, and comes across something much more sinister. It’s a story that takes advantage of its setting and using a monster unseen to create the sense of horror. And while the twist might be slightly predictable, it still does add to the sense of horror you feel reading it. Fans of the movie The Descent should especially like this one.

 

#7: Pickman’s Model

Art can both exhilarate and terrify, move people to tears and to action. And in some cases, it can even haunt us forever. Pickman’s Model follows an artist who becomes friends with the titular Richard Upton Pickman, an artist whose work tends to lean more towards the horrific, and how that art seems to have an effect on both the men and their environment. This is a scary story with a fun twist at the end that shows just how the world and art can play with each other and change each other in unexpected ways.

Also, I think if anyone wanted to update the setting to a high school art club and Pickman as an angsty teen, it would make a great student film. Someone please make that happen!

 

#6: Cool Air

Written during Lovecraft’s brief stay in New York City and considered by some to be one of his best stories from that period, Cool Air tells the literally chilling tale of a young man who becomes friends with a doctor living in the apartment above him who always keeps his apartment cold. The twist at the end of this story is also kind of predictable, but it’s got a great atmosphere and is engaging from beginning to end. Plus it’s one of the few times Lovecraft depicts non-white people in a positive light, which makes it worthy of a read in and of itself. Remember to read with a warm blanket handy.

The Colour out of Space

#5: The Colour out of Space

One of Lovecraft’s most memorable and beloved stories, this story about a crashed meteor and the strange colorful substance inside it that affects a farming family that can’t leave their old homestead has terrified generations of readers. It’s especially memorable for the unsettling atmosphere it creates and for being a great early example of the sub-genre of science-horror. I’d consider it perfect reading for Halloween and you’re in the mood for something creeping, agoraphobia-inducing, and just slightly weird.

 

#4: The Temple

This early Lovecraft story isn’t as well-known as some of his other works, but it’s a favorite of mine. When a WWI German submarine sinks a British sub, they start experiencing strange phenomena that slowly drives the crew members to the brink of sanity, as well as a place only seen in nightmares. Claustrophobic and full of just enough strange elements to make you feel very creeped out by the inexplicable nature of it all, it tends to stick in your mind once you read it. I hope someday there’s a big budget adaptation of the story, or even a small budget that maximizes atmosphere without excessive CGI. That would be the shit!

Or maybe it would just be shit, but I can dream, can’t I?

 

#3: The Call of Cthulhu

I bet many of you were wondering where this one would be on the list. The most famous of his stories and the one where the entity Lovecraft’s mythos is named after, it follows a professor who becomes aware of a dangerous, worldwide cult while going through his late uncle’s effects. Weaving its story slowly to make you really consider that this cult and its horrible god may not only be dangerous but very real, it’s endured for a reason. I would recommend this one to anyone looking to get the essence of Lovecraft in one story, as well as to check out the silent film adaptation from 2005, modeled to look out it came out around the same time as the story was published (though much better than your average silent film).

And remember, Ph’nglui mglaw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn.

Spelled that correctly the first time around! Yeah baby!

Shunned House

#2: Shunned House

This Gothic horror story follows two professors who investigate a house where every previous occupant has come to an unfortunate end and discover a terrible entity within. While not as well known as his more cosmic-horror works, this story absolutely entranced and terrified me while on a car ride home from Detroit in the summer of 2016. Blending a setting whose rot you can practically smell with a welcome twist on an old monster (let’s just say, no sparkling here), Shunned House used to be my favorite story prior to the #1 choice, and I would recommend it to any horror fan out there.

Also, I have an idea for a ballet based on this story. Yes, you’ve read that right, a ballet. And I would help in any way I can to bring that to life. BalletMet (or any other ballet company) email me. Let’s talk and make it happen.

 

#1: The Shadow over Innsmouth

I only read this story last week, but it immediately became my favorite of his work. A young man makes a side trip to a small fishing village in New England, and discovers that the strange townsfolk all share a terrible secret. Gothic, unnerving and with more action than your average Lovecraft story, it’s a great story about how the desire for prosperity can lead to damning consequences for both you and your descendants. If you want Lovecraft at his best, this is the story I’d recommend above all others. Definitely check it out.

 

That’s my top 8 Lovecraft stories. And while, as I’ve said before, his works don’t really age that well, there’s plenty to pick up from these stories for even causal horror fans. And if you do, I hope you–holy crap, a portal from another world just opened up in my apartment. Excuse me while I go greet an entity from another universe and keep it from either eating all of humanity or impregnating everyone in my apartment building, I’m not sure which (I’m a little rusty on this universe’s language).

Until next time my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Have you read any of these stories? What did you think? What others would you put on this list?

*Well, the official canon, anyway. Lovecraft also did a lot of ghost-writing and collaborations that aren’t normally included in collections of his work. Considering Through the Gates of the Silver Key is one of them, I can see why.

It took me nearly three and a half years of on-and-off reading, but I’ve finally done it. Through wordy paragraphs full of outdated language, enough racism to make me want to punch a dude, and an increasing amount of multi-sided shapes and magical angles, I have finished reading the copy of The Complete Works of HP Lovecraft on my Kindle. And of course, after such a momentous occasion, there’s only three things I want to do: drink a beer; peruse hard copies of the same book; and blog about my thoughts on Lovecraft’s later work and its influence on the horror genre, as well as on my own writing. This is that last thing on my list.

So if you are unfamiliar with who Lovecraft is (and I find most people are), he was an early-20th century writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. While not very well-known during his lifetime, his creation of the sub-genre of cosmic horror has ensured that his work has lived on and influenced other horror creators and enthusiasts such as Stephen King, Alan Moore, Guillermo del Toro, and myself. What really appeals about this genre is the idea that the universe is a dark and uncaring place full of forces that have no care for humanity or other minor species in the cosmos and can destroy lives and civilizations (as well as usually having a vaguely fishy smell).

When you consider the dude was a sickly bundle of nerves who dealt with anxiety and depression his whole life, had a classist-type of racism where skin-color and social background were very important, was frustrated over his inability to finish his education, and felt more comfortable letter writing and staying in Providence than actually interacting with people and going to crowded places, it makes sense. And while his stories have each aged differently, there’s plenty you can get out of them, especially when it comes to the mechanics of cosmic horror.

This time around diving into his work, I finished out reading his work with some of the most famous of his latest work, which included At the Mountains of Madness (which was also the nickname for the summer camp I went to), The Shadow over Innsmouth, and The Shadow out of Time. By this point, Lovecraft was consciously trying to add scientific concepts to his work wherever he could, especially in Mountains of Madness and Shadow out of Time. Sometimes that works very well, such as in Mountains, but other times, like Through the Gates of the Silver Key, I just found myself scratching my head in confusion (not sure angles work like that, dude). You can also see that by this point, he’d really gotten a grasp over this fictional world of his, throwing casual references to numerous recurring elements in the course of a single story. For once in his life, he was comfortable with something.

Also, while the racism is still evident, it’s kind of mellowed out at this point. Not much, but enough that I don’t feel so uncomfortable reading during certain passages of his work. Progress, I guess.

So were any of these stories any good? Well, old HP’s work has always been hit and miss with me, but there were some good things here. At the Mountains of Madness, while not my favorite, did have a great premise and kept me engrossed for most of the story (he probably could’ve cut parts about the Elder Things’ history and city, though. That went on forever). And Shadow over Innsmouth is probably my new favorite Lovecraft story: it’s this freaky Gothic tale of a town whose citizens have basically sold their souls and their humanity for prosperity and long lives, and the one person who ends up upsetting that arrangement. I’d totally check it out if you’re interested in a different sort of Gothic horror story.

Elder Things from “The Mountains of Madness!” They’re not pleasant!

That being said, I was not a fan of Shadow out of Time. I know that one’s pretty beloved by his fans, but I just thought it was too wordy, to the point where I would look over entire sections and forget most of what I’d just read. The Thing on the Doorstep had an interesting premise, but I felt it wasn’t as scary as some of his other works. Dreams in the Witch House also had a great idea, but I think a couple of changes could’ve been made to improve it. And I’m never going to get back the hour I spent reading Through The Gates of the Silver Key. Seriously, only real enthusiasts should try that one, and only if they’re really sure about it.

Still, it was all worth the dive, in my opinion. I’ve learned a lot by reading the work of HP Lovecraft over these few years, and getting a grasp of why people still read him and write cosmic horror today. And I think over time, it could lead to me writing better stories. Hopefully. I’ll let you be the judges of that, though.

In the meantime though, I’m going to continue working on my own stories and start reading some work by an author who’s older than Lovecraft but somehow easier to understand. Who is that, you ask? The Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare.

That’s for all now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll hopefully have a new review for you guys soon. Until then, Hail Cthulhu and pleasant nightmares.

 

For my other examinations of HP Lovecraft’s work, check out Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4. Also, I highly recommend this video from the YouTube Channel Overly Sarcastic Productions. They look over Lovecraft and five of his most famous works with fun illustrations and hilarious commentary. Trust me, it’s worth a look.

If you’ve been with me a while, you remember a few years ago I read this awesome horror manga called Uzumaki by Junji Ito (and if you don’t or weren’t around then, here’s the link) Since then I managed to get my hands on the movie adaptation of Uzumaki (you can read that review here), read plenty more of his works (his stories can be hit or miss, but generally I like them), and watched a couple episodes of an anime adaptation of his various short stories (which, by the way, sucked. I didn’t even bother to review it, it was sooo bad). And most recently, Ito’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was released in the United States, along with eight previously untranslated short stories, six of which are interconnected. All in one big volume.

How could I not read and review that?

Obviously Frankenstein is based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, the tale of one scientist’s journey to create a living being through science and the disastrous series of events that follows, along with elements from some of the movie adaptations out there.* And honestly, Ito’s art is perfect for this story. I’ve heard he spends upwards of ten hours on illustrating a single page or frame, using ink and shadow, as well as his disinterest in making his art pretty or visually appealing in the normal sense of the phrase. I mean, look at the reveal of the Monster.

Um, yikes!

Seriously, this guy has to do more Gothic horror. His style is a natural for it. And it’s a natural fit here, really allowing you to feel the horror that early audiences felt of the original novel, especially in bringing the monster to life. There’s also some decent changes from the original text in order to make the story more compelling for the style of manga, such as when it comes to the creation of the Monster’s Bride.

Still, there are some things that could’ve been improved. A couple of Ito’s changes do make the story a bit slower near the end, and the translated text might be a little too close to the actual novel for a modern audience (if I wanted old-timey speak like that, I’d read Lovecraft). And honestly, I would’ve liked to see Ito take more liberties with the story, make it his own. His stories can be really unnerving, and I’d love to see him bring more of his style to the Frankenstein story.

The short stories added to bulk up the book (because of course they are) are decent, for the most part. Six of them follow Toru Oshikiri, a teenager living in a giant mansion by himself who starts to have a strange series of experiences, gradually leading to him making a shocking discovery about his home. Some of these stories work really well, but sometimes the build-up in them seems to lead to a letdown.

The real problems though are the unconnected stories. They don’t really add anything, and one of them is definitely from the bottom of Ito’s portfolio.

By itself, I give Ito’s adaptation of Frankenstein a 4 out of 5. If you want a really creepy visual adaptation of the original Frankenstein story, this is definitely worth a read. With the addition of the other stories, I’d give it a 3.5. Not what I’d recommend for anyone coming to Ito’s work for the first time (for that, I’d point to Uzumaki or his collection Shiver, which came out in December 2017), but for anyone familiar with his work already, this collection is probably worth checking out.

Speaking of which, Ito’s got another collection, Smashed, coming out in April. I might have to check that one out and give that a review as well. Hopefully his stories Hellstar Remina and The Bully are included. I hear those are reeeeally freaky.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If I don’t post anything within the next couple of days, then I’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year. May Cthulhu bless us, every one (because of course I would go there). Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*Highly recommend the 1994 adaptation with Kenneth Branagh. It’s not just the most faithful adaptation of the original novel, it’s got the best “bringing-the-monster-to-life” scene I’ve ever seen.

I talk a lot about my writing career. Not just on this blog, but everywhere else: when I was at school, at social events, at wherever I happen to be worshiping (usually it’s at a synagogue, but occasionally I’m at other places), when I’m hanging out, and of course, at work. I’ve mentioned to more than a few people at work that not only am I a writer, but I’ve told them that Rose is getting published by a publishing company. The vast majority of people I’ve talked to about it have been very excited to read it, even if horror is not their normal genre (though I think Rose would be more classified as a supernatural thriller at this point). It really boosts my mood when people say that, and makes me want to be an even better writer.

Today, a coworker from another office and I passed in the hallway at work. She asked me about updates on Rose, and I told her that my publisher was hopefully going to get back to me this week about some revision suggestions I’d made. She got that “how cool!” look on her face and told me to keep her informed. She then dropped this on me: she’d been telling her kids about me, as I was proof of success for “following your dreams.”

Well, this really got my thinking. I mean, I’m flattered and all, but do I really deserve to be called an example of following your dreams? To my coworker, I probably am. After all, to non-writers, getting the book accepted by a publisher counts as living the dream. But to me, I haven’t accomplished my dreams yet.

That’s not modesty on my part, I’m just not sure I can say I’ve reached my dreams. At least not at this point. My dream has changed over the years, from being the next JK Rowling to the next Stephen King to just being able to make a living off of writing and maybe writing full-time, which is where my dream is that today. And I’m not there yet by any means. I still work a 40-hours a week job to pay my bills (sometimes longer if I have to stay late to finish up certain projects). And while Castrum Press wanting to publish Rose is a big step in the right direction, the book still has to come out.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m still following those dreams. I’m still working to make it so that I’m in bookstores, to get lots of people to actually want and look forward to reading my books. And I say “books,” because it’s probably going to take several books, if I’m very lucky, to be able to write full-time. It’s rare for authors to be able to write-full time, and even rarer just after the first book. If I somehow manage to make that happen, then hooray. But at the moment, that’s still several years in the future.

I guess I’m still chasing my dreams. Right now, I’m on the right track, and I’m an example of how hard work, lots of revision and rejection, a bit of backbone, and a Plan B if you don’t happen to be one of those overnight success stories (aka employment) can pay off a little. But of successfully chasing your dreams? Well, we’ll see where I end up in the next few years. Fingers crossed it’s a better place than where I am now, even if I’m still not writing full-time.

On an unrelated note, you remember how in my last post, I talked about getting a statue of Cthulhu? Well, my boss took a look at it this morning and okayed me to keep it in the office. To which I say, “Yay! Now I can really start turning my workspace into a den of horrors!” But seriously, it’s nice to really be able to personalize my workspace in such a way. Before now, it really didn’t have that much to say, “Oh, this is totally Rami’s desk. You can just tell by looking at it.” There’s a lot of rules to how one can decorate their workspace at my job, so being able to just have Cthulhu there is a big deal for me. Perhaps in the future, I can also put some other cool stuff around my desk to really help me feel at home while I work.

Until then, I’m cool with just Cthulhu. Besides, he looks so cool there, doesn’t he? I think he does, anyway.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Thanks for letting me ramble on about this stuff. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Back in December, I posted about how I was collecting dolls, figurines, and statuettes. Since then, I’ve collected quite a few more for my collection, so I thought I’d write another post about the collection and show off my new acquisitions (as well as have another go at giving my parents more grey hairs and making them wonder where they got such an unusual son. What can I say? I am a nasty little devil).

First, let’s talk about those Nightmare Before Christmas pixies. Remember when I said there were about four of them? Well, turns out there’s a lot more than four:

So apparently the line comes with its own little Halloweentown display. I got that not too long after the last doll/figurine-related post.

After that, they sent me Oogie Boogie’s character.

And then Zero the ghost dog.

And I thought that was it, but then they sent me Lock, the kid in the devil costume.

And then they sent me Shock, the witch girl.

And that’s where we are so far. I’m assuming Barrel, who I think is some sort of skeleton kid, is on the way at some point. I’m not really sure how many characters are in this collection, but I’m happy to keep paying for them and seat them in a circle in my apartment.

Also, I recently bought another, very special figurine from The Hamilton Collection, the company that makes those little statues. This is the Guardian of the Underworld.

Yeah, pretty scary. And I’m pretty sure that’s an old Rolls Royce hearse she’s sitting on. I wanted to bring that into work, but my supervisor put the kibosh on that one. Too bad, it would’ve been such a great talking point for anyone who came to visit my office. Then again, given what we do in my office, it might put people off and give them the wrong idea.

Of course, not all my new additions have been from The Hamilton Collection or look like pixies from Hell. Remember in my last post I mentioned that my very first figurine was one I made of the character of Zero from the anime Code Geass? Well, I finally got a real Code Geass Zero figurine!

This was one of my most anticipated acquisitions when I bought it. And it’s so cool! You can change heads and arms depending on whom you want to wear the costume (spoiler alert: different characters in the anime wear that costume at different points), and take on and off the sword around his waist. But I’m telling you, lining the real figurine next to the one I made all those years ago was a big moment for me. It felt like I was showing myself how far I’ve come in life that I can actually collect these things for myself, and I don’t just have to make them.

I’ve also made a few acquisitions that coincide with another love of mine, ballet. The first acquisition of this type is a figure of Asuka Langley Soryu from the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion (I already have two figurines of her, as she’s my favorite character, but this one is probably my favorite), dressed up as a ballerina. I absolutely adore this figurine. It looks like she’s about to break out into dance, which would be very cool if it could happen.

I also got two figurines based on Odette and Odile from Swan Lake. I was really psyched to get these, especially since I saw that ballet last November.

These figurines comes with their own individual stands, as well as a shared one for a pas de deux (not something that ever happened in the actual ballet, but whatever). They look so graceful and their eyes are so expressive, I just love it. They’re so wonderful, they gave me an idea for a novella a while back that I’d like to write at some point. They also came with a lithograph of an illustration that I believe inspired these figurines (I think that’s what the figurines are based on), which I hung up not too long ago after finding a picture frame that was the right size, right by where I keep the actual figurines.

My third ballet-related acquisition is a proper doll, a Liccca-chan doll. Licca-chan is like the Japanese equivalent of Barbie, and this one was so up my alley, that I couldn’t help but order it. The arms aren’t as movable as I thought they’d be (so no fifth position posing), but I still like it and I’m glad I bought it.

Of course, not all of my collection is so pretty. You guys know I’m a Lovecraft fan, right? Well, I recently acquired a Cthulhu statue from Chile. I’ve been wanting a statue of Cthulhu for quite some time now, so to finally get one was pretty awesome. I’m actually not really sure what this statue’s made of, to be honest: I bought it off Etsy, and it’s supposed to be made of some sort of clay, but at times it feels like wood, and other times like stone. Which, considering this is a statue of a powerful god in the Cthulhu Mythos, does not surprise me in the slightest. My supervisor may let me keep this one in the office, which I would find cool, but others might freak over. Of course, that’s the intended effect, so let’s hope he says yes.

Also, the store I bought it from included a free Cthulhu keychain because he’d been on a hike when I made the order and didn’t get it until when he came back a week later. I told him that wasn’t necessary, but he included it anyway. Such a nice guy, and I love the craftsmanship. Also, I’m not sure what this is made of either. Fuh-reaky!

And finally, we get to my last and possibly my favorite acquisition, as well as the one most likely to be haunted. This is a Pullip doll, which is a brand of South Korean fashion dolls known their big heads and equally big eyes.  This particular one is from the Alice du Jardin series, so I call her Alice, and she is the “Mint” version. Sometimes I feel like she’s really watching me while I’m writing or watching movies on the couch, and that she’s trying to influence me. If she is, I think she’s trying to influence me in positive ways though. Easing my stress and that sort of thing.

So that’s the latest on my collection. What did you think? (Yes, I’m aware that some people find my collection very weird, but since when have I ever been interested in being “normal?”). I’m personally very proud of it, and hope to add to it over time. I’d especially enjoy getting the entire main cast of Sailor Moon in figurine form, though that’ll have to wait until I get some new cabinets (someone’s letting me have his when he moves out of town). In the meantime, I love what I got, and I don’t ever want to part with them.

Do you collect dolls and figurines? What are your thoughts/suggestions on collecting them?

You know, I’ve seen a lot of YouTubers do series where they watch specific kinds of stories–sequels of great hits, weird-ass anime, the Mummy series, etc.–and I appreciate what they do, but I feel like I’m getting an idea of the horrors they have to endure just to entertain me. A lot of what they watch can be really bad or silly or painful, and they endure it just to bring me YouTube commentary and humor.

How do they do it as often as they do? They must have some serious endurance.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: A bunch of friends/lovers go to a cabin in the woods for the weekend, and obviously, something horrible happens. It’s the embodiment of the cliche, if not the original that started the cliche.

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: I saw it right before the remake came out, and I thought it was totally stupid. It was dated, the effects were terrible and cheap, and far from scary. I could not see how it became a phenomenon. And after I saw the remake and loved it, I was amazed that the original didn’t just get swept into the dustbin of history.

WHY I REWATCHED IT: You hear enough people talk about the influence of the original, and even do YouTube videos comparing both films (YouTube is a big part of my life, if that’s not obvious), you start to wonder if you missed something. It also started a phenomenon, as well as jump-started the careers of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. Not to mention that the shooting was pretty dangerous: people were actually thrown into and had furniture fall on them. Not only that, but when the characters are fighting demonically-possessed friends with sharp knives, they’re actually fighting other actors with gunk in their eyes, completely blinded, while using actual sharp knives! Kind of makes you want to see if your opinion needs reevaluating.

THOUGHTS: Ummm…it’s better than I remember it. A little better, anyway.

There are some things about this film that are good. The camera work is always interesting, showing things from points of views I don’t normally see in horror films. At times, it feels like a drone is holding the camera: odd angles, fast movements, branches and whatnot hitting the camera. There are some really atmospheric moments, like when the characters arrive and there’s this eerie music and the porch swing is knocking against the wall.

And there are some shocking moments, like the…rape-tree scene. Yeah, if you didn’t know, that’s a thing this movie has. And it’s shocking and disgusting. Which is what the filmmakers were looking for, the most shocking horror film ever put to screen at that time, so I guess they got what they wanted.

But I have a lot of problems with this film. For one thing, the shock and awe only stays shocking as long as the audience isn’t desensitized. And I’ve been desensitized since I was nine and saw my first PG-13 movie. And when that stuff loses it power, what’s left has to hold up the rest of the film, and it doesn’t do that very well. Biggest issue I have is the effects: I know they’re going for memorable and it is, but they’re very silly at the same time, and in a horror film, even when I put aside my distaste for excessive gore, that’s just going to turn me off.

While I don’t expect the characters to be that fleshed out–not that kind of film–but they could’ve done a better job of establishing their relationships early in the film. I could not tell who was dating who, and they waited till nearly two-thirds into the film to reveal that Girl #3 was Bruce Campbell’s sister. Um…could’ve pointed that out earlier. I thought she was just a fifth wheel who went with the other four so she didn’t have to feel bad about not having a boyfriend. Which she was, but the sister part should be mentioned earlier.

And weirdly enough, for the bare-bones story, it actually gave me questions. For one thing, after the sister’s possessed and one of them is badly injured, the other characters are way too calm. Why are you so calm? Your friend’s possessed! Be a bit more freaked out and active! And why are the spirits said to be “sleeping” prior to being summoned by the incantations in the Book of the Dead, but they’re able to possess a hand or cause cars to swerve into the wrong lane? They seem pretty active to me! Are they like Cthulhu, sleeping but still able to affect the world, they’re just not at full power unless under certain circumstances? I’m so confused.

JUDGMENT: It may have caused a phenomenon and started a few careers, and you should see it for those reasons, but I wouldn’t expect to be really scared once you’re past age fourteen. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give the original Evil Dead film a 2 out of 5. That may be the unpopular opinion, but let’s face it: some classics don’t age well with time. We saw that with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and I’m seeing that with Evil Dead. And I’m not sorry for pointing that out.

At the very least, I’ll check out the next film. I hear that and its sequel are at least a bit more enjoyable. And hopefully they will be.

 

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I’ve already reserved #7 in this series, and I think that, even if I don’t enjoy it as a film, I’ll find it interesting from an academic point of view. I’m talking Nosferatu.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!