The end approaches, but the apocalypse is long-lived.

As 2018 lets loose its death rattle, I’ve compiled a brief list of what I’ve accomplished on the publishing front. A quiet year, and a rough one at that: on the job front, on the writing front, politically, economically, etc., etc. Hopefully this decline will level out soon. No stories due out before the end of the year, and only a handful of publications over the last 10-months.

“Affirmation of the Spirit: Consciousness, Transformation, and the Fourth World in Film” appeared in issue #1 of Vastarien.

My flash piece “They Delight in Extinction” took root in Forbidden Futures #2.

“Alectryomancer” was translated into German for NightTrain: Next Weird.

A brief essay titled “The Numinous in God, Nature, and Horror” was posted at The Plutonian.

No author events or conventions in 2018, which is to say, I continue to avoid them. I’ve never done a podcast, so this year was true to that pattern. No interviews this year either.

I think that’s it.

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The Numinous in God, Nature, and Horror, revised

http://www.theplutonian.com/2018/10/guest-post-numinous-in-god-nature-and.html

Just a quick update on this essay. I doubt many are that interested in the references and whatnot, and hopefully the essay reads fine without them. I realized the references and bibliography were missing and/or formatted improperly, so I thought it best to provide them for the sake of completeness.

Here is the corrected information:

Bibliography

Almond, Phillip C. Mystical Experience and Religious Doctrine: An Investigation of the Study of Mysticism in World Religions. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2014.

Benson, R.H. The Necromancers. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1909.

Bering, J. M., & Bjorklund, D. F. “The natural emergence of reasoning about the afterlife as a developmental regularity.” Developmental Psychology, 2004:40.

Keltner, Dacher and Haidt, Jonathan. “Approaching awe, a moral spiritual, and aesthetic emotion.” Cognition and Emotion, 17, no. 2, (2003).

Gatta, John. Making Nature Sacred: Literature, Religion, and Environment in America from the Puritans to the Present. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Kelemen, D., & DiYanni, C. “Intuitions about origins: purpose and intelligence in children’s reasoning about nature.” Journal of Cognition and Development,6, (2005).

Otto, Rudolph. The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational. Translated by John W. Harvey. Oxford University Press, 1958.

Soyinka, Wole. Myth, Literature and the African World. Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Uhlman, Eric Luis, Poehlman, Andrew, and Bargh, John A. “Implicit Theism.” In Handbook of Motivation and Cognition Across Cultures, edited by Richard Sorrentino, Susumu Yamaguchi, Cambridge: Academic Press, 2008.

 

References

[1] Wole Soyinka, Myth, Literature and the African World, (Cambridge University Press. 2000), 155.

[2] Rudolph Otto, The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational, trans. John W. Harvey (Oxford University Press. 1958), 19.

[3] Phillip C. Almond, Mystical Experience and Religious Doctrine: An Investigation of the Study of Mysticism in World Religions, (Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2014) 113.

[4] Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt, “Approaching awe, a moral spiritual, and aesthetic emotion,” Cognition and Emotion, 17, no. 2, (2003), 303.

[5] R.H. Benson, The Necromancers, (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1909), 305.

[6] John Gatta, Making Nature Sacred: Literature, Religion, and Environment in America from the Puritans to the Present(Oxford University Press, 2004), 78.

[7] Ibid., 129.

[8] J.M.Bering & D.F. Bjorklund, “The natural emergence of reasoning about the afterlife as a developmental regularity,” Developmental Psychology40, (2004), 217–233.

[9] D. Kelemen, & C. DiYanni, “Intuitions about origins: purpose and intelligence in children’s reasoning about nature,” Journal of Cognition and Development, 6, (2005),3–31.

[10] Eric Luis Uhlman, Andrew Poehlman, and John A. Bargh, “Implicit Theism.” In Handbook of Motivation and Cognition Across Cultures, ed. by Richard Sorrentino, Susumu Yamaguchi (Cambridge: Academic Press, 2008), 72.

 

 

An Errant Conduit: Exchanges with Adam Golaski

I cannot emphasize how eye-opening Adam Golaski’s work was for me. I wouldn’t dream of comparing my writing to his, but I felt a kind of symmetry on my first reading “The Animator’s House”. It felt as if I’d stumbled across a writer far more skilled than I, but was interested in following non-traditional paths of storytelling as well.

And what can I say about Clint Smith? His stories are time and again the superior entries in many an anthology, and I read him with an equal mixture of awe and despair on realizing I’m just a pleb watching someone consistently hit their mark. I’m eagerly awaiting his sophomore collection due to be released next year.

Clint Smith Fiction

WTMIn upcoming months, a conversation will be available between Adam Golaski and I—an exercise (which has been structured as an interview) that began in the autumn of 2017, one in which I was reluctant to conclude late last winter (the publication venue will be announced in due time).

About a year ago, Scott Dwyer (steadfast champion of the horror genre and editorial superintendent of the “nightmarish and…nebulous” site The Plutonian) had achieved breathing perverse life into his publicational labor of love, Phantasm/Chimera:  An Anthology of Strange and Troubling Dreams, for which he had a specific vision, fulfilling a specific vision for creating a project with a singular roster of writers.

phant,chim

In addition to writers, Dwyer’s “cast” included writers who I’d previously established contact via reader-writer interactions on social media, namely Jon Padgett, John Claude Smith, Matt Bartlett, and Chris Slatsky.  Still, there were others whose…

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“I did not know where to begin nor where to end, that’s the truth of the matter.”——Beckett

This site expires on the 4th of August, and I see little reason to delay the inevitable. I post infrequently, and only started the blog 3-years ago in hopes it would help with the writing endeavor. Suffice it to say I don’t think this has been the case. I figure it’s best to wrap things up as I have nothing forthcoming on the publishing front. What I’ve written is out there. I will of course change my mind and continue if something comes along soon, or I might start a new blog if things pick up in the future. But for the time being I can no longer justify wasting even the modest $20 annual fee to keep this thing open.

On a more positive note, I cannot offer enough thanks to those who took the time to swing by here to read an entry or two over the last 3-years. Your kindness, generosity, and thoughtful messages have been a source of inspiration to me.

Thank you all, and all the best to everyone.

 

Vastarien: A Literary Journal

Vastarien: A Literary Journal was released back in March and has garnered positive responses and reviews in the following weeks. Congratulations to Jon Padgett and Matt Cardin for their combined effort and talent in bringing this Ligottian tome to life, and for forging ahead with future issues to broaden the journal’s horizons and voices. Though my story “Affirmation of the Spirit: Consciousness, Transformation, and the Fourth World in Film” hasn’t attracted much attention (and even less acclaim) compared to the other pieces, it was a pleasure to have been involved despite my story’s reception.

I hope the pretentious pseudo-academic title doesn’t scare potential readers away! Despite it falling into the hybrid category, “Affirmation of the Spirit” is a work of fiction. It is not a reprint, Cinemassacre magazine never existed, and while the references and quotes are real, any and all concepts related to any film “fourth world” are purely my creation. “Affirmation'” is a spiritually connected to my stories “Film Maudit” and “Making Snakes” (specifically the Powdery Man’s presence), and was intended to expound on the role of film in Weird-horror fiction—at least as it’s portrayed in my stories.

While literary geniuses like Gemma Files and Ramsey Campbell have contributed some of the most powerful stories concerning film and horror, my hope was that my humble contribution could be used as a template to tell similar stories, to explore similar themes on the role of film in altering storytelling, consciousnesses, and reality.  That was the intent anyway.

We’ll see what happens next, if anything.

VASTARIEN

 

Chthonic: Weird Tales of Inner Earth

Chthonic: Weird Tales of Inner Earth is now available. Scott R. Jones always does a magnificent job in corralling a stampede of unruly stories into anthologies with a variety of voices. And Jones is not only a fantastic writer, he’s also a pleasure to work with.

Denizens of dank cenotes, the motto “Non gratum anus rodentum” engraved on a Zippo lighter hinting at ominous stirrings underfoot, and strange childhood memories on an isolated farm feature in my story “Tellurian Facade”. If that’s your thing, it might be of interest. Regardless, this is only my second reprint (the first was in another Martian Migraine Press publication), so I’m thrilled to have been included with some authors who have been a tremendous inspiration to me, as well as more recent ones I’m always interested in checking out. It’s pretty much a guarantee you’ll find much to your liking here.

TOC is as follows:

H. P. Lovecraft
The Rats in the Walls

John Linwood Grant
Where All Is Night, and Starless

Aaron Besson
A Song for Granite Khronos

Gemma Files
The Harrow

Scott Shank
Nivel del Mar

Nadia Bulkin
Pugelbone

Christopher Slatsky
Tellurian Facade

Adam McOmber
The Re’em

Antony Mann
Vault

S. L. Edwards
Volver Al Monte

Tom Lynch
The Writhe

Belinda Lewis
The Dragons Beneath

Sarah Peploe
UNDR

Adam Millard
Tending the Core

Orrin Grey
Hollow Earths

Ramsey Campbell
The End of a Summer’s Day

David Stevens
Some Corner of a Dorset Field That Is Forever Arabia

CHTHONIC

 

Petrushka

I have a story— ostensibly an essay, or a fever-dream paper on the philosophy of film, perhaps a weird horrific tale about film and reality?— included in Jon Padgett and Matt Cardin’s Vastarien: A Literary Journal which is due to be released soon. I’m humbled to have been involved in the project in my small manner, as the editors and contributors are top notch, and Thomas Ligotti has been such a profound source of inspiration for decades.

I first read Ligotti in 1986, picking up a copy of the Silver Scarab edition of Songs of a Dead Dreamer at a bookstore in Eugene, Oregon (I believe the bookstore was located within the 5th Street Market, where I also purchased all of my Lovecraft editions with the Michael Whelan covers). I was fascinated by “Drink to Me Only With Labyrinthine Eyes” and “The Chymist”, but sold the book a few years later in one of my many property purges. I held only a lingering memory of the author until I “rediscovered” him when stumbling across a copy of Grimscribe at a Crown Books around ’91 or thereabouts.

With this in mind, I remembered a very short story I wrote back in 1987 when I was all of 17-years old. It’s an unapologetic pastiche, and sloppily mirrors the plot of “The Chymist” as unashamedly as a teenager obsessed with a newly discovered literary genius can emulate. I love weird Russian folklore, and puppets and dolls have always been sources of numinous awe and dread since I was a kid, so this early example of my writing fell into place pretty succinctly. I must have polished it here and there over the years, but it’s essentially a window into 17-year old me. The story is called “Petrushka”, and here it is in all its clumsy sincerity.

Petrushka

Please forgive my manners Miss Elisabeth; I am more than happy to offer you my time. You’re from the university of ________? Yes, of course, the Cottage Hollow Community College. I hope I’m sufficient fodder for your essay. And you’re writing about local artists, correct? Their inspirations and such? Interesting. I’m flattered you’re even aware of my work. Am I to assume that I have garnered something of a reputation in my small town? Ah yes, harmless old men rarely attract much attention outside their neighborhood save through their eccentricities. Heh, you are more than welcome to laugh at that dear. You have a lovely voice Miss Elisabeth. The children do call me Papa Carlo, but only from the safety of the sidewalk. No offense taken at all dorogoy. No, no, my memory has been whittled away by the years but I do remember our phone conversation. My time is yours.

I see that you are well prepared for my narrative: the notebook and pen are satisfactory, the camera and recording device are unnecessary. I am old and photograph rather poorly. And my voice! I have listened to myself for far too many years. No need to record and preserve me forever. The machines stay inactive please.

Hm? Indeed, those bright-eyed mannequins discarded in the hall are an example of my craft. But that is why you’re here Miss Elisabeth—what muse inspired my Theater and all that pretentious rot. Do make yourself comfortable. Are we ready dorogaya moya

I was an only child. My parents emigrated from Krasnaya Lyaga when I was a babe. My mother left us shortly after arriving. My father never spoke of mat’ so I can’t describe her in any detail. He was a master carpenter yet had trouble finding consistent work in his adopted country. He drank too much and drifted away over the years so that by an early age I was fully independent. I assume he drank himself to death though I know few details: the police knocked on my door one morning and announced that they’d found his body in an abandoned storehouse notorious for addicts and criminal activity. I was simply required to finish some paperwork, there were no clues to decipher, no coroner’s report, no funeral arrangements, just the announcement and then my life continuing unaffected. I was all of 14. I am indebted to my father’s vocation as it was the root from which my craft bloomed. 

As early as I can remember I was fascinated by puppetry and the ventriloquist’s art. I have a vivid childhood memory of watching a street performer’s bizarre demonstration. He appeared to be homeless, a tall man wrapped in gray rags so only his eyes and the top of his disheveled head was visible. His tangled hair was wetted down in an attempt at grooming, water obtained from what I assumed was the stagnant pool in the fountain behind him. He had a small wooden box propped up on a footstool, a sackcloth curtain obscuring its contents. The performer remained silent the whole time. A small crowd gathered-—some I imagine as curious about the performer as they were the mysterious box.

The performer then pulled the sackcloth curtain open. Inside, nestled on a pile of rags, was a woman’s head. 

The head was crudely hacked from a slab of wood and garishly painted to resemble a young woman’s features. The head wore a cloche hat perched tightly on a wavy black wig, the hair lying loosely on her cranium. I remember being frightfully anxious that after the performance had started the wooden head responded in a high pitched tremulous voice to the audience’s queries. I feared she’d dislodge the ill fitting wig and hat. 

This curious ventriloquist act was made all the more memorable when the head projected its voice from behind the box rather than from its face, and in one instance, when the audience held their collective breaths in awe, the mouth of a babe cradled in the arms of its mother! Near the end of the presentation the man made the head appear outside the box, peeking over the back, the wig and cloche hat wobbling comically while she continued to reply to the audience. Then, in one grand gesture of incomprehensibility it peeked out from the folds of the performer’s filthy clothes.

Then the head slipped back into the box where the curtain was closed and it ceased talking, like a parrot in a covered cage. At this the crowd assumed the display was over; they dropped a few coins onto the derelict’s outstretched hand and slowly went about their business. I was fully taken in by the man’s glamour.

The experience changed me. 

I was determined to become a master puppeteer. This was my newfound passion. I studied theater and mime diligently. I applied the carpentry skills I learned from my father and took to carving puppets and marionettes. I started my career with simple Buratino and Malvina performances. They were a fitting introduction to my craft: the performances were entertaining, the violence shocking, the skits amused my friends who were also my test audience. And those grotesque puppet faces! Nightmarish yet beautiful to me as a boy. They were oddly compelling with their petite features, blue hair and malignant grins. At this point I knew that I wanted to shape the world through storytelling.

Tea? A splendid blend Elisabeth, a bit peppery yet I hope you’ll approve.

I eventually graduated from the clownish designs favored by ventriloquists to finely detailed pieces influenced by Rodin and the obscure, some say obscene, creations of Barabas Gillulim. I whittled and carved life-sized actors and trained myself to manipulate their every gesture as accurately as possible. I adapted plays and wrote original works in which my puppets could perform. I produced The Revenger’s Tragedy, La Ronde—I also experimented with my own works. Forgive an old man his pride but I was particularly pleased with my dramas Ignis Mori and The Count of Chorazin.

My marionettes appeared cunningly human, so much so that some critics thought my performers were thespians in wooden costumes or clockwork automatons like those used to play chess in 18th century parlors! I lost the only manuscripts of my plays to hungry mice many years ago; my head is too empty to rewrite any of them. Oh no, I no longer perform; my skills are limited to carving facsimiles in only the most clumsily crude forms. 

As for inspiration, well, mine came from the love of my dear wife Camille. In the early days we were mawkishly romantic, often surprising each other with gifts of books, art, perfumes and dolls. She died long ago, but I still have some pieces of hers as a memento of our years together. Her doll collection was vast. I’m particularly fond of this one, please feel free to hold her, she’s still perfumed with cinnamon and jasmine. After her death, well, my ability to carve puppets faded with my mental decline. My hands withered into parchment and could no longer do fine detail. Allow an old man his self pity when I confess my appearance filled me with disgust. I don’t know how long I waited in this place; I despise the monotony of timepieces and the dust on the window sill is an inadequate measure of time. More tea? Still comfortable milaya moya?

Camille was my ultimate inspiration; everything creative came from her. She would patiently dissect plot subtleties and critique character developments in my writing. Her voice would stimulate a poignant colloquy, her mannerisms an entire plot line. She sewed closets full of costumes for our troupe. We dressed most of the performers in fashions of her taste, trained them to emulate her gestures, body language, poise. All of my female marionettes were modeled on her. I replicated her bright green eyes for the puppets eyes; I even captured the flecks of sea-green in her left eye. I molded her teeth and replicated her dentition in porcelain for all of the mannequin’s palates. 

But here the story changes dragotsennaya. Though we performed in several of the more avant-garde and subversive art houses in the city, the performances still degenerated over time. There’s a limit to the nuances a marionette can convey; only a sentient actor can capture the varieties of expression as well as the subtleties of emotional conviction. Like all else, Camille’s stimulus eventually faded. Oh make no mistake, I loved her as much as I ever did, I simply was not as motivated by her company as I once was. No playwright, poet, or philosopher offered anything comparable to the visions my wife once aroused in me. But like all else, my beloved muse grew tired and old. When she died I lost any remaining vestige of motivation. I tried dear, I truly did. I continued to make my puppets but their insides always came out different from Camille’s, their eyes weren’t as aware. You wrinkle your young face in such concern Elisabeth—is it the appearance of my teeth that finds fault? 

Many years ago, a few short months after my Camille’s death, I sat in this very room carving and polishing the face of my latest creation, another failed attempt in the wake of her death. I thought I heard my wife’s voice echoing faintly from the hall you arrived through. A hint of her voice, like the suggestion of a familiar scent. I hobbled creakily to the door, pressed my ear against it, straining for another whisper. I thought I heard movement. I stood trembling, fear preventing me from turning the knob. I opened the door. 

And what do you think I discovered in that hall? I’m afraid you may find it difficult to speak. Please allow me to wipe that tea from your chin.

I am content in celebrating those rare memories and moments of clarity that dance on the stages of this facsimile of life. I know there is no Puppetmaster that directing existence, no guide to this apathetic universe where all performers are ultimately stringless. I’ve come to accept that moment ages ago when I opened the door, a cold breeze blew the cloying scent of cinnamon and jasmine through the empty hall. 

Oh do please cease convulsing my dear Elisabeth; you’ll dislodge the hat. And now my breathless kukla, are you ready to perform

END

Postcards at Night

Palladium at Night was Dim Shores’ fastest selling title to date. I’m assuming Dave Felton’s art is responsible for the enthusiastic ordering. Those who wrote a review for my chapbook back in July were entered into Dim Shores’ GoodReads contest. Chris Gomes was the winner, and took away a beautiful scratchboard piece of art from the brilliantly talented Dave Felton.

There were eleven participants total, so Dave made postcards for them all, including me(!). Here’s a taste: SKULLS IN SPACE POSTCARDS