Posts Tagged ‘HP Lovecraft’

Back in January I got into another Lovecraft binge (see my thoughts on that here), and during that binge I read one of Lovecraft’s most famous stories, “The Call of Cthulhu.” Around the same time, I found out there was a movie version of that short story that was made in the style of a 1920’s silent film, matching the period of when the story was written, and knew I had to see it. Which turned out to be easier said than done: it’s not on any streaming service I can find, copies at my library had all been lost or damaged to the point they needed to be taken out of circulation, and I did not want to illegally stream it on my laptop. Finally, with some Amazon gift card money, I managed to buy my own copy, and after Amazon lost the package and had to send me a new copy (was that Cthulhu’s work, I wonder?), I finally got to watch the film with dinner this evening!

“Call of Cthulhu” tells the story of a man as he recollects becoming the executor of his late great-uncle’s estate, and how he discovered his uncle’s research on a cult devoted to the worship of a being known as Cthulhu. As the man goes deeper into the mystery of the cult and even conducts some research himself, he finds himself falling deeper into a rabbit hole of madness and despair that has no way out, and some things waiting within.

Firstly, this movie looks and feels like a 1920’s silent film. It was filmed using Mythoscope, a process that combines older and newer techniques to produce a film that looks like a silent picture but with much better special effects, and it looks great. You can tell that a lot of work went into making this film just right. And what’s truly amazing is that this film was made almost in a DIY sort of way: sets were made with cardboard, tape, and even a few blankets, with cast and crew sometimes working in miserable condition and using props bought off eBay to make this work. If you watch the film and then watch the behind-the-scenes video, like I did, you gain such a deeper appreciation for how well executed this film is.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this film are the actors. They are great at their work! As it’s a silent film, much of the storytelling is done through expression and movement, like in a ballet. You never once doubt for a moment that the actor are feeling the emotions they are trying to convey to us, and that just makes the film all the more amazing. It also helps that these actors are not Hollywood stars. In a major motion picture, the narrator of the story might be cast as Tom Hanks or someone else who’s good at playing an everyday guy put into extraordinary circumstances. The actors in this movie, however, often look like folks you see on a daily basis, and that instantly makes them more relatable to me.

If there’s one thing I didn’t care for, it might be Cthulhu himself. Or maybe I do care for him. I’m kind of split on my opinion of him when he finally appears. On the one hand, he doesn’t appear on film that much, even at the climax of the story, and when he does, it’s often very quick or he’s seen as a shadow. The stop-motion used to animate him is also very well done, and he looks like how he might be styled in a 1920’s film. That’s very good. But, he is the film’s big bad, and I like to feel even jut a little intimidated by the big bads I see in film. And whenever Cthulhu is on screen, I’m just not intimidated. I guess if I had lived in the 1920’s (an age where Lon Chaney’s version of the Phantom of the Opera was so terrifying to audiences, people actually fainted in their seats or ran out the theater screaming), I might have found the stop-motion terrifying, but I’m from the age of CGI, so it takes more to terrify me. So I’m honestly unsure of whether the stuff with Cthulhu himself adds or takes away from the film.

But all in all, this is a great film, an artistic masterpiece courtesy of the HP Lovecraft Historical Society (do they have a museum to the guy yet?). And when you consider that the original short story has been called “unfilmable,” and the conditions during production tried to prove that assertion, you learn to love it even more. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving “The Call of Cthulhu” a 4.8 out of 5 (as well as the title of “one of my new favorite films”). Find yourself a copy, and enjoy the experience.

Now I just need a good adaptation of Shunned House. That story is SCARY! And it feels like the sort of story that would translate very well to film.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Join me next week when I watch another Lovecraftian-influenced film. No, not Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (though I probably will see that next weekend with my sister). It takes more than a tentacled monster to make it a Lovecraftian story. No, I mean the film adaptation of Junji Ito’s terrifying manga, Uzumaki.

So I started up a binge on H.P. Lovecraft again right after the new year. I’m not sure why; maybe I was just in the mood for him, or maybe something I read made me think of good old Mr. Lovecraft and I wanted to pick him up again.Or maybe the YouTube video where I discovered Uzumaki mentioned him, and that did it. Whatever the case, I’ve noticed that the gaps between my binges are shortening with every binge. I first put him down in September 2015 after first buying my edition of his collected works, picked him up again in June 2016, put him down once more the next month and picked him up again in January 2017. I wonder when I’ll be in meeting Mr. Lovecraft again? Early summer, maybe?

Now if you don’t know who H.P. Lovecraft is (and there seems to be a lot of you who don’t), let me tell you about him. Lovecraft was a writer from New England who wrote in the early 20th century, and is considered the father of cosmic horror, a sub-genre of horror that deals with man’s inconsequential place in our universe, and that some revelations about that are so powerful, they cause you to go mad (it’s the kind of stuff that keeps you up at night if you think too much about it).

I started reading Lovecraft two years ago because I heard he was very influential on some of my favorite writers and filmmakers, and each time I delve into his work I like to write my thoughts on him (see Parts 1 and 2 here). So what did I think this time around?

Well, I have to say, the further I get into Lovecraft’s work, the easier it is to read. I’ve mentioned before that he writes like he’s living in the 1820s rather than in the 1920’s, but I think as time goes on, he learned to write in a more contemporary style while still sounding like he was a contemporary of Poe. I’m not sure that the collection I have of his work is chronological, but if it is, then I’m definitely seeing him develop into a better writer. I also think I’m getting a better grasp at what makes Lovecraft so memorable. Before, I probably would have used generalizations, such as “he’s creepy” or “vaguely disturbing.” Now, however, I’m able to point out what exactly about the story sticks in my mind and why it is successful or not successful, such as the mysterious nature of the monsters in one story or the twist at the end of the story in another.

I also think that the stories written in this period (assuming that the stories are ordered chronologically, of course) are much better than his previous works. I got to read one of his famous stories “The Call of Cthulhu,” and I found it very interesting. Not just because it contains one of Lovecraft’s most famous characters, but it has the essence of his cosmology and philosophy in that story. The idea of man as the insects of the universe, and greater beings just waiting to come back and take over is succinctly and powerfully presented through the narrator’s encounters with the titular demon-god’s cult.

Got to read the story with this guy.

 

I also really liked the short story “Pickman’s Model,” about an artist who draws very disturbing paintings in an old colonial home. It was well told, and I really enjoyed the twist at the end, which even I didn’t see coming.Same with “Cool Air,” a short story about a doctor living in an apartment building. I read the list at the end of that story, and I was like, “Damn! That’s actually very clever.”

If there was any story I did not like, then it was the last story I read by him this particular binge, and also the longest. “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath,” a novella that felt like an acid trip ending  in a Lewis Carroll ripoff.* It was too long, silly trying to be serious, and like I said, the ending rips off Lewis Carroll in the most obvious way. I kind of wish I had skipped over this one.

All in all though, I’m really starting to gain a healthy respect for H.P. Lovecraft. He added a lot to the horror genre, even if he didn’t live to see his influence, and I can see why he’s still read today. I don’t know when I will pick up his work again, but I have a feeling I am in for a treat when I do.

In the meantime, I found out there’s a movie version of “Call of Cthulhu,” so I will try to get my hands on a copy of that. Hopefully I’ll get it soon, and when I do, you’ll hear my thoughts about it.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to have a new author interview out Friday, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Until then, pleasant nightmares.

*Weirdly, it wasn’t acid he was on. LSD wasn’t invented until year after Lovecraft died, so there’s no way he could have gotten his hands on it. Or Lewis Carroll, for that matter. Which begs the question: if those two were high when they came up with their respective stories, what were they high on?

Well, I’m writing this at a time I’m normally preparing for bed, but what can I say? When you’re on a roll and nearing the end, you just don’t stop writing.

Now, if you didn’t know, I’m taking a short break from working on Full Circle to work on some short stories. This particular short story, The Red Burst, is one I particularly had fun writing. The story is about a man and his husband who go to visit the former’s sister in a small town, only to find out that something that gives off bursts of red light (hence the title) is driving the residents insane. It’s definitely a dark story, and it’s special too for a number of reasons. One is that this story is very HP Lovecraft-influenced in many ways.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with HP Lovecraft, he’s a horror author who wrote during the first half of the twentieth century, and has become very influential since (see my posts on my forays into his work, Part 1 and Part 2). A lot of his themes include the idea that humanity are ants in the grand scheme of things, that there’s no real meaning to existence, and that there might be things in the universe that are bigger than us and might see us as a food source or playthings. This is called cosmic horror, and I tired to incorporate those themes into The Red Burst. I got so hooked on the Lovecraft aspect of the story, I actually started reading his work again, and I listened to Lovecraft-themed relaxation videos on YouTube while I wrote the story (yes, those are a thing. Look up Ephemeral Rift on YouTube if you’re interested).

Another thing I liked about this story was that I got to incorporate a gay couple into the story. Even better, a Jewish gay couple! I like having diverse characters in my stories, and I know a lot of LGBT Jewish couples, so it was interesting having that sort of couple in the story, portraying not just their relationship but also their faith and how the events of the story affect that faith. I have a feeling though some of those LGBT couples I know will be coming up to me asking if I based the characters on them. The answer to that, of course, is no, because they haven’t done anything horrible enough to warrant that treatment from me.

And a final thing that I enjoyed with writing the story was that I got to use a drone in it! I don’t know why, but including modern elements in horror stories is just a blast for me. It’s like, “look, there’s a powerful demon from Hell, and now there’s an augmented reality game!” Or, “there’s a ghost after me, but at the same time, superhero franchises!” It’s like they don’t go together, but at the same time you make them go together, and it’s an incredible result. Plus with some, like the drone, you feel like there aren’t that many stories with the same elements in them, so you’re kind of exploring new territory. It’s a real thrill.

So what’s next for this story? Well, I’ll give it some time and return to it at a later date to edit it. It’s around 7,500 words, but I’ve discovered quite a few Lovecraft-themed magazines that are open to longer stories, so I may find this one a home. And if it does get published, I think people will really enjoy it. Especially Lovecraft fans who like a story with his themes but without language that was prevalent in early 19th century.

In the meantime, I’ll return to Full Circle ASAP and get to work on finishing that. I still have quite a ways to go, but after working on some short stories involving werewolves, cars, and insanity-causing red lights, I think some gangster science fiction shouldn’t be too hard. I’ll let you guys know if there’s anything new going on when the time comes.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear! Pleasant nightmares!

It’s Friday again, so you know what that means. It’s #FirstLineFriday!

Now, if you don’t know what #FirstLineFriday is, let me explain it to you. On Fridays, you:

  1. Create a post on your blog titled #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  2. Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  3. Post the first one or two lines of a potential story, a story-in-progress, or a completed or published work.
  4. Ask your readers for feedback and then try to get them to do #FirstLineFriday on their own blogs (tagging is encouraged but not necessary).

This week, I’m doing the beginning of a short story idea I had earlier this week, one that I think will be a ton of fun to write if I ever get around to it. It’s got a bit of Lovecraft in it, a bit of Five Night’s at Freddy’s, and a whole lot of Rami Ungar in it. Oh, plus a dash of Halloween, which I actually celebrate year round. Anyway, enjoy:

“No way,” said Jemma, her flashlight roving over the abandoned arcade and all the games left behind. “They just left all this shit here?”

Thoughts? Errors? Let’s discuss.

And while you’re at it, why not try #FirstLineFriday on your own blog? It’s fun, easy, and great practice for writers. In fact, I think I’ll tag someone. Let’s see…I choose Lorraine Ambers. Congrats, Lorraine. You either have to do #FirstLineFriday this week or next. Good luck and have fun with it!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I have a big announcement to make soon, so I’ll try to get that out by Tuesday. In the meantime, I hope you guys have a wonderful weekend and I’ll see you soon.

So I recently got back into reading The Complete Fiction of HP Lovecraft, after about a year’s gap since I last dove into his work on my Kindle. I actually got from 15% to 32%, which for a 1112-page book is pretty good, if you ask me.

Now, if you don’t know who HP Lovecraft is, he was kind of the King of American Horror between the reigns of Edgar Allen Poe and current monarch Stephen King, though he didn’t really achieve any sort of fame or influence until after his death. When I read him last year, I found his style old and outdated, and while some of his stories were actually pretty creepy, others were just strange or boring (see my thoughts in Thoughts on Lovecraft: Part 1).

So what were my thoughts one year later, having read several more stories? Well, he still prefers to write like a contemporary of Poe, one of his main influences in writing, which I find still rather irksome (I could parody it here, but I did that well enough in Part 1, so why try and repeat it?). I’m not that big a fan of that style, as I find it stuffy and somewhat boring, so occasionally that made for an annoyance to get through.

And Lovecraft is still a proud and unrepentant racist and xenophobe. Seriously, “The Horror at Red Hook” manages to drag so many non-white ethnicities, including Kurds and Yazidis, through the mud.

And he’s the only author I’ve ever met who’s used the word “eldritch,” meaning sinister or creepy (why didn’t he just use those words?).

But other than those problems, the tales I read in this section of the book were much better than the ones I read in the last one. Sure, the short story “Azathoth,” which was the first mention of the Elder God, is actually just a fragment of a novel Lovecraft never got around to finishing, which was annoying. Imagine, I get to the end of that short piece, and I was like, “Wait, that’s it?” Thank goodness for Wikipedia, which explained to me why I shouldn’t be so angry.

And there was that story, “Imprisoned with the Pharoahs,” which got a little dense with the language and made it annoying to get through, though as a fictional account of one of Harry Houdini’s adventures, it is pretty cool in retrospect.

But other than those two, these were very good stories. They were creepy, dark, and had some pretty nice twists and turns in them. I can see why a few of them have been adapted several times into movies or radio plays and the like. “Herbert West–Reanimator” is a fun tale about one man’s growing obsession with overcoming death and extending life (very Frankenstein), and how that obsession causes a domino fall of events that shows the readers the price of obsession. “The Lurking Fear” felt like a Stephen King novel from an earlier age, filled with elements of insanity, the supernatural, and insane tastes. And “Shunned House” needs to be made into a movie by Blumhouse Productions, because it is freaking scary! It’s a vampire novel that hearkens back to the days when vampires were barely human, and is probably the best of the stories by him I’ve read so far. Imagine a movie version, with James Wan in the director’s seat! No one would see it and think of vampires with Twilight or any of that other sentimental crap out there ever again.

Eek! Rats in the walls! Now I can’t sleep.

Also, “The Rats in the Walls” is great if you want to scare anyone around a campfire. Just saying.

You know, the more I read of Lovecraft’s work, the more I see why he’s been so influential. Sure, his early stories could be rather pointless or silly, and never approached scary, with the exceptions of a few, like “The Tomb” and “The Temple.” But as time went on, as tends to happen, he got better. He figured out what worked and what didn’t. He learned how to get into our heads and make us tremble, make us wonder. He pushed the envelope for his day, introducing elements of cannibalism, satanism, gods that care nothing for us except maybe as snacks. And he did it so well.

And even now, after I’ve decided to take a break from him, I still find myself getting inspired by him. I’ve already gotten a few new novel and short story ideas from his stories, particularly “The Lurking Fear.” I have no idea when I’ll write them, but I think that when I do, they may even chill me.

So yeah, I think I’m definitely a Lovecraft fan now. Last year I wasn’t so much of a fan, but now I think I am. He’s definitely grown on me. And I think I may visit him again someday, perhaps even before the end of the year. Especially if he gives me so many good ideas. And if you like a good scary story and can handle some old-timey writing style, then I suggest you visit Mr. Lovecraft too.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got my own stories to work on, so I’m going to get on that. In the meantime, I hope you have a scarily good time, my Followers of Fear. Until next time!

Yesterday someone in one of my writers’ groups on Facebook posted about a recent upsetting experience. She’d told her family that her book was coming out later this year in July, and that she had other books on the way too. Apparently her family’s response was entirely negative, telling her that only rich and famous people actually called themselves authors, and that she should keep her head out of the clouds and on the ground because she obviously wasn’t one.

Not only was this reaction just plain horrible (we should be getting tons of love and support from our families for our writing dreams, not criticism and put-downs), but it’s also ignorant. While not all authors become rich and famous, they don’t need to be to be called authors. And even the rich and famous ones, which are rare to begin with, started out as dreamers with a manuscript they wanted to get published. Seriously, every one. JK Rowling was a single mother living on state benefits while writing Harry Potter. Stephen King was a teacher with three kids and not a lot of cash before the paperback rights to Carrie allowed him to move up the economic ladder a little. HP Lovecraft never saw true success in his lifetime, but he’s considered one of the most influential authors in modern-day horror. We all have to start somewhere.

But that’s beside the point. What I’m actually trying to say is that fame or finances are horrible ways to measure whether or not someone should be called an author. Someone could have millions in the bank or have a reality show and a famous spouse and write terrible fiction. No, if you’re going to measure by what right someone has to be called an author, then do it by how passionate someone is about writing, and by how their work resonates with others. If someone is very passionate about writing, about telling stories and sharing them with others, and that person’s work resonates with readers, I really think they deserve to be called an author. And in the case of this particular author, she’s clearly passionate about her writing, and it resonated enough with her publisher that they want to publish it and believe it’ll do well in sales. In my eyes, she definitely deserves to be called an author.

Of course, there are always people who feel they know better, whether or not they’re inside the industry, and there will always be people who just want to put others down just so they can put others down. I run across those people from time to time. I can’t say which kind the family of the author I’ve been talking about it, but I know what response I would give them: Screw you. Those people don’t hold any power unless you allow them to, and your own opinion of yourself and your work is more important than what they have to say. And if they’re only going to say hurtful or denigrating things, then maybe it’s best to put them aside and find people who will give you the support you need. Let them stew in their own negativity.

Or to put things more simply (and humorously):

So let them naysay. It won’t get them anything if we don’t let them have anything from it. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t intend to let any of my detractors (few that I have) say anything bad about me and bring me down. No, I’ll keep on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing, and listen to the voices who will help me along in that.

And in its way, having those supporters is way better than any riches or fame (though those would be nice).

 

You know what there are a lot of these days? Fictional universes where characters from a variety of diverse works are all brought together into a single work or series of works where they interact with one another in various ways. From HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, to the many different iterations of DC and Marvel comic book worlds and their film and television counterparts, to the shared elements of Anne Rice’s vampire and witch series and Stephen King’s interconnected multiverse and then some, there are a lot of these shared universes these days. Heck, there’s even theories from everyday people about how different works by certain creators are all secretly part of the same story (examples include this Pixar theory and this theory on the majority of Joss Whedon’s work).

So I’m wondering, what is the reason behind all of these interconnected story worlds? What makes storytellers and creators of all different mediums want to have such expansive universes where everything is secretly connected and you have to create a huge conspiracy layout on your wall with tape and string and stuff?

Well, I think some part of it is money. At the end of the day, most storytelling is a business (except for maybe some of what appears on YouTube), and if two characters in separate stories are making profits for a creator or their business, they may try to bring the characters together if it’s feasible and if the fans want to see it. Heck, that’s kind of the reason for most comic book crossovers and the movies based around those crossovers. Fans enjoy seeing Superman and Batman work together or Tony Stark mentor Spider-Man or whatever, so the companies give them what they want and get a profit back.

That’s not to say that all of it is money or that money’s the biggest motivator (unless you’re a Hollywood studio, of course). Another big part of it is the creators. They love their characters, and many would like to see those characters they’ve invested time and effort in come together in an awesome story. How would they play off each other? What sort of trouble would they get into with each other and how would they pull themselves out of it? And how would they grow after meeting each other? I think a lot of writers create these crossovers just so they can answer these questions. They may make multiple volumes to continue asking those questions, adding new characters or situations to continue creating exciting new stories and dynamics. It can be pretty enticing to do that with characters you love so much, and I bet audiences enjoy it as well.

In fact, I’ve imagined doing that with Snake and Laura Horn. Yeah, I have. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve wanted the story of the Snake to continue, and I’ve planned sequels not just for Snake, but for LH as well, including one where the two characters meet and get into a crazy adventure together. And I may be a few books and several years from that crossover, but it’s there if I want to write it, and eventually I will write it. It just sounds like too much fun to pass up.

snake front cover

I really have to get around to that sequel someday soon.

Another reason that creators may do crossover works is just because it makes things easier. Now, I hear you typing in the comments already “How the heck does a crossover or shared universe make things easier?” I know it seems counter-intuitive, but let me give an example: Anne Rice introduced in Queen of the Damned, the third book in her Vampire Chronicles, the Talamasca, an international organization of scholars interested in studying the paranormal. Now, try as I might I could not find any information on why, but when Rice wrote her Mayfair Witches trilogy, she brought in the Talamasca society. Why? Because at some point in the first book she details the entire family history of the Mayfair family and its dozen-plus matriarchs and I guess it made sense to just bring in the Talamasca as an explanation as to why there was an entire history of the family when the family itself isn’t very interested in its history. And it helped with the later books in certain ways to have the Talamasca. See? It was easier to bring in an existing fictional organization concerned with the paranormal than make up an entirely new reason for a third party to document an entire mystical family’s history.

I’ve also heard that’s why HP Lovecraft created the Cthulhu Mythos. He didn’t intend to create an entire cosmology, he just decided it might be easier to work with some familiar characteristics when creating all-powerful monsters, and from there it wasn’t too hard to make the jump to connecting Cthulhu to Yog-Sothoth and any of the other Old Ones. Now, I’m no Lovecraft expert, but I’d buy that explanation.

King’s references are so crazy! Check out this chart!

Of course, some authors do it because it’s fun to have a shared universe, for a variety of reasons. You can return to familiar characters and locations by doing so. You can make your readers marvel and go back to another story to say, “Hey, that matches up with so-and-so.” You can create a cosmology or a special reason why a character or characters or place or places appears in so many stories (I’ve got a character or two like that, I just haven’t been able to put them into any works yet. I tried with the human Barbie story and Evil Began in a Bar, but I couldn’t fit them into the former and I haven’t figured out how best to edit the latter yet, so…). And sometimes, it’s just fun to mess with your readers and make them wonder what the heck it all means (I’m pretty sure that’s the reason Stephen King references his other works so much, and the Dark Tower books simply grew out of a desire to create a complex story out of all that messing about).

Whatever the reason someone creates a shared universe, it’s pretty clear that there are plenty of reasons to do so, and that shared universes are here to stay. And whatever the reason behind them, as long as they’re done with love and people enjoy them, I see no reason not to keep doing them. Besides, I may have one or two I’d like to create someday.

Do you have a shared universe in your fiction? Why’d you create it? What has been the result of that?