Tag Archives: H. P. Lovecraft

Quick Review: Crooked by Austin Grossman

There is a special place in my heart for both Secret Histories and Eldritch Beings, and Austin Grossman’s Crooked ticks both those boxes very neatly. The twist? Crooked is the story of the rise and fall of Richard M. Nixon, the 37th president of the US.

It’s quite a trick to take on the voice of such a well-known and often reviled figure as Nixon, let alone make readers sympathetic towards him, but that’s just what Grossman does. Never does the prose bog down in squamous Lovecraftian verbiage, yet H.P.’s influence runs strongly through the story. Of particular note is just how much of the lurking horrors of the world are left just at the edge of the page, with readers getting only fleeting glimpses at the things in the shadows. I’ve seen some readers complain about this, but I found it to be a powerful part of the story, as the horrors I can imagine are all the more insidious than what any writer can explicitly describe.

This book was 100% my jam, and I hope that you like it, too.

Buy Crooked on Amazon and support sporadic blogging!


Filking (My Father Would be Proud)

So yesterday, this happened on twitter.

And then I sang it to myself and to my partner and to my writing group, which fortuitously happened to be meeting just a little while later.  And then I tweeted this today

To which Seanan replied

And, well, I’ll just leave this here for you.  It was recorded in one take, on my phone, right before I left for work, because this is the future (or something).

So, um, horray!

At the Mountains of Madness

Some time ago, I posted, somewhat cryptically, that I was working on a thing.

Well, I’m proud to announce that, finally, that thing is done.

What started as a quick project over the summer to make a game alongside my students in PuzzleScript has led, eventually, to the completion of At the Mountains of Madness, a game based on the novella of the same name by H. P. Lovecraft.

So go ahead and give it a shot.  The whole game, or interactive graphical fiction-thing, whatever, should take a first-timer around ten to fifteen minutes to play through.


I’m Making a Thing!

It’s a…it’s a…it’s a THING!


Happy All Hallow’s Read!

Also, happy Halloween.  To celebrate, as is only right, I want to give you some scary stories.

Archive.org has a nice, nearly-complete collection of H. P. Lovecraft’s stories on audio, available to download for free, right now.  (Okay, okay, I know, listening to an audiobook isn’t actually reading in the strictest sense, but there are lots of folks who talk bout “reading” an audiobook, when they mean that they’ve listened to the book, and this way you can get your scare on during your commute, even if you drive, walk, or bike to work or school.)

Second, I’d like to plug Space Eldritch II: the Haunted Stars, which you can now get as an ebook (and, if it’s anything like the first volume, will eventually be available in paper as well).  I absolutely loved the original–it had fantastic atmosphere and a great collection of authors–and this one looks to have more of the same (I haven’t yet dived in to my copy).  Space Eldritch II is available on Amazon and Smashwords.

Finally, here’s my pumpkin version of Lovecraft because, you know, Halloween.

Howard P(umpkin) Lovecraft. Haha. I'm sorry. (I'm not.)

Howard P(umpkin) Lovecraft.
I’m sorry.
(I’m not.)

In Lieu of an Actual Post

I present you with something that you might wish to buy.  The Poe v. Lovecraft shirt from Qwertee.

Can you get much cooler? (Yes, actually; my “Cthulhu Hears the Call” shirt from shirt.woot still wins, but it’s a close one.)

If you’re reading this right this very moment, then you’ve only got about 5 hours left to guarantee a shirt, so jump on it.

Making the Unseen Seen

I have a lot of opinions (surprise!) about a great many things.  Cheesesteaks, for example, or how so few people on the west coast seem to know what the word hoagie means or what does and does not constitute steampunk in the realm of fiction.  It should not be a shock, therefore, that I have opinions on H. P. Lovecraft and by extension Lovecraftian fiction and (Cthulhu) Mythos stories.

On a recent visit to a local bookshop, I ran across The Lovecraft Anthology: Volume 1, a collection of Lovecraft’s stories as interpreted by various comic book artists and writers.  Now I’m all for a well-illustrated weird tale–I absolutely love Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics, which I find to be a perfect blend of compelling characters, interesting storytelling, and perfectly atmospheric art–but something just felt a bit off to me about this collection.  While a picture may be worth a thousand words, there are some words that a picture just can’t capture.  This, I’ve found, is the case with Lovecraft’s stories.  So much of the horror in Lovecraft’s fiction stems from what the audience cannot see, and to attempt to capture those things with pictures seems like it would diminish the impact to a greater or lesser extent (depending on the story).

This is the part where I confess that I only leafed through the book, rather than giving it a thorough read, even for a single story.  I did look through the table of contents, and I was happy to see that they hadn’t touched some of my favorite stories, though I suppose that that does deny me the opportunity to complain about their ruining something I like.  On the other hand, there’s always the possibility that they would do a good job–lots of things are possible.

In the end, the thing I most object to in this collection is the same thing that annoys me about many of the movie adaptations of books that are out there–the pictures that other people are showing me are the ones that they have in their heads, and those don’t always mesh with what I’ve imagined.  I find this especially problematic in the context of Lovecraftian horror because static pictures of monsters don’t scare me that often, and in a graphic story, pictures are, by definition, the main way that information is conveyed.

Howard Tayler, in a recent episode of Writing Excuses on the subject of death, related how, when he draws a character’s death in Schlock Mercenary, he usually draws that part of the scene in silhouette, which allows the readers to fill in the details of the death, making the event that much more graphic.  Lovecraft, when writing about the monsters in some of his stories, does the same things with his language, using words to outline the monster and making his readers fill in the details with their minds.  While this technique may retain some of the impact of Lovecraft’s original words, I still think that something gets lost in the translation to a graphic story.  You cannot draw the unseen, and unless you want to fill your comic with walls of text (which you don’t), it’s difficult to convey the unseen effectively.

For all that I’ve written up to this point, I don’t think that this collection, or its sequel, are bad.  For many who are already fans of Lovecraft’s work, they could be a nice companion and a glimpse into what Lovecraft’s stories mean to the various artists featured.  These collections could also serve as a good gateway drug for those who may have previously found Lovecraft’s (rather dense) text to be inaccessible, and hopefully some percentage of the previously uninitiated will go on to read Lovecraft’s stories as they were first introduced to the world.

Howard Phillips Has a Posse

Okay, the joke may have been done somewhere else already, but I couldn’t help it.

The first person to paste this poster to a wall and show photographic evidence will get 1,000 internets and a stern talking to because vandalism is wrong.

On the Subject of Cthulhu

So apparently Cthulhu’s been having a resurgence lately?  With the circles that I run in, it’s really hard to tell.  For those not in the know, Cthulhu is a squid-headed, dragon-bodied being from beyond the outer planets of our solar system who currently lies dead, or just sleeping, deep beneath the seas in the sunken city of R’lyeh, waiting until the time when the stars are right, at which point he/she/it will awaken and, being really hungry after sleeping/being dead for so long, devour everyone in sight.  Or so the story goes; you’d have to ask Howard Phillips Lovecraft to get it straight.

Anyhow, it seems silly to have a blog about urban fantasy and not mention Cthulhu somewhere.  I mean, I love Cthulhu.  Dude sits in my car and keeps watch over my shifter.  Really.

It came to my attention that Cthulhu, and the works of Lovecraft in general, are seeing something of a resurgence because of today’s lesson on Surviving the World, which, in turn, led me to this helpful diagram:

If there was an original point to this post, other than to make more people aware of Tie-thulhu, I don’t know what it was, other than maybe to say that, yes, my writing is informed by Lovecraft and yes, I am a dork.

What I’m Working On

You may remember that, a while back, I posted a call for ideas on topics that you would like to see covered here.  Well, I’m finally responding to the answer I got.  Penguin, in brief, suggested that I talk more about the things that I’m working on and the things which give me trouble in my writing.

Though higher education occasionally gets in the way of my writing whenever I find inspiration, it sometimes helps, and although I haven’t had much time to touch some of my older, unfinished pieces, I have been turning out a lot of new material, and I’m currently sitting on close to a dozen pieces which are in at least ready to progress to second draft, if they haven’t already gotten there or beyond, and another big piece in the works.

My main struggle in my writing is time and inclination.  At school, I often find that the that time I have to work on non-class-related-writing is better consumed by socializing with my equally busy friends or gets wasted away doing seven kinds of nothing.  I often run into the same problems when I’m on break, minus the academic work.  Nevertheless, I have gotten better at managing my time and making sure that I do actually work on my writing.  I strive to do at least as well as I did several summers ago when I managed to turn out close to one hundred manuscript pages of text.  Not all of that got finished, and not all of it was even that good, but I got it done, and a lot of that writing is still useful to me.

Since I have about a dozen pieces of fiction that I’m sitting on right now, I’m not going to try to go into all of them in detail, but I will give some of the highlights.

For several years, I’ve had a character by the name of Marshall Celan who has been my go-to character when I have an idea for a story, but little in the way of characters.  Mr. Celan is also my main urban fantasy protagonist: a paranormal investigator from Philadelphia, circa 1970, who can see what others can’t and does his best to use this as a marketable skill.  At the moment, I have three tales about Mr. Celan which are in various stages of completion, one being out on market pending a response, one on its third draft and almost ready for market, and one in first draft with workshop notes which need to be acted upon.  Marshall also has a stack of stories which are half-formed in my mind, waiting for the right moment to spring onto the page.

Among the other stories which I’m sitting on at the moment, the ones which I’m most excited about don’t quite fit the urban fantasy mold.  One, a novelette about pseudo-Victorian technology, is more of what I’d call weird fiction, running along the lines of Lovecraft, but without any of the supernatural trappings which that normally entails.  Another piece is a retold fairytale, a Cinderella-story set in a post-apocalyptic world, while the third, a total work-in-progress is shaping into an alternate-history story with a healthy dose of mythology.

This last story, which is currently little more than scrawled notes in a few different books, is going to look a lot more like the original, broader definition of urban fantasy, as stated in my last post.  It’s also a rather large project, being assigned as a novelette/novella-length piece, and I’m going to do my best to track progress on it here as a kind of follow-up to my post on research from several months back, so you can expect at least a few posts out of me on that subject in the coming month.

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