Friday, 4 December 2009

Competition Time (for me)




When chatting to my pal Gareth, we have decided to try and enscriven our psychomorphic concepts of the nature of reality. Hopefully we will en-plegnify these on the medium of the aethersphere and to the entukasmic joy of our readers, make these gems of writing available... except beware 'those not dead eternal lie'.

Sorry, bit carried away there. Anyway, we were chatting about our shared affection for HP Lovecraft. Was he a philosopher, satirist, pompous windbag, madman, racist fanatic, Anglo-Saxon (therefore ‘superior’) Baudelaire, psychologist, humanist, mystic, materialist? Or all these things and none of them?

If I can quote Joyce Carol Oates:

In the celebrated opening of "The Picture in the House" (1920), the nature of Lovecraft's infatuation with landscape is vividly rendered:

Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places. For them are the catacombs of Ptolemais, and the carven mausolea of the nightmare countries. They climb to the moonlit towers of ruined Rhine castles, and falter down cobwebbed steps beneath the scattered stones of forgotten cities in Asia. The haunted wood and desolate mountain are their shrines…. But the true epicure in the terrible, to whom a new thrill of unutterable ghastliness is the chief end and justification of existence, esteems most of all the ancient, lonely farmhouses of backwoods New England; for there the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness, and ignorance combine to form the perfection of the hideous.

In Lovecraft, as frequently in Poe, style and self-parody are indistinguishable.


Anyway, we decided that we would both try and write stories in his style.

My posts are getting few and far between. To be honest, I really hate politics, and were it not for my sincere belief that my country is in crisis I would not write on the matter.

(As a lot of my posts were on Russia, this is slightly more complex: to do partially with my love for Russian culture, and partially because I dislike the way that Russian history and politics are forced, like Medieval Chinese girls’ feet, into the received wisdom of ‘philosophy of history’)

Still, I love reading fiction but have never had the motivation to give it much effort because I always think of how discouraging the slush pile is. I've spent numerous hours trying to write a book inspired by 'The Devils' (by Dostoyevsky). But it was a bit of a mess. However, if I can even manage to write a short story, and only a few friends read it, I would think it worthwhile.

8 comments:

  1. 1. I love Lovecraft too.
    2. Good luck with the story.
    3. Incidentally, one of my longer-term plans is to become a fantasy writer.

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  2. Hi Anatoly

    1. I love Lovecraft too.

    A man of good taste I see. Noticed that Stas Mishin also referred to Lovecraft. At risk of seeming pompous, I think that Lovecraft was in some way a precursor to John Gray and his anti-humanist atheist materialism. It seems to me that at its best, Russia offers a materialist view without a lot of Western kitsch.

    2. Good luck with the story.

    Thank you very much.

    3. Incidentally, one of my longer-term plans is to become a fantasy writer.

    Oddly enough, I first came to be a Russophile through dark fantasy. From the news and films, I thought Russians were pachycephalic savages whose only aesthetic achievements were the Yak helicopter and the AK 47. Then I read a The Overcoat by Gogol, became an addict and then read Dostoyevsky and Chekov. Oddly enough, I found the ‘supernatural’ fantasy no weirder than the ‘realism’ in Gogol. Tsarist Slavo-Byzantine Russia seemed to have been created by an opulent fantasist, especially as it was not just cupolas and Cossacks but also cockroach-flavoured soup and flea haunted divans.

    Modern Brit Russophobia is, I think, inextricably linked with our astounding cultural vulgarity (and don’t get me started on knowledge of history).

    Best of luck with your plans to write fantasy. Is this sword n sorcery or borderline sci-fi?

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  3. Borderline sci-fi... or maybe even just sci-fi. ;)

    As you know, I'm now working on a "future history" of the 21st century. That is certainly sci-fi. However, it would also have a continuation...

    The idea is that after "The Collapse", there will emerge a new world of the post-industrial and of the deeper past... the "Rust Age". A world enticing and foreboding, strange and sublime. Ruined cityscapes, wild deserts, bleak steppes, dead seas, submerged settlements, roving bandits and petty chiefdoms, hi-tech relics, and guns and whiskey. A plethora of new cultures appear - though still tenuously linked by a former global culture and common language.

    The fantasy element will consist of the rediscovery of the power of belief, and a limited removal of barriers between the physical and the spiritual worlds (i.e. magic). However, that same removal of barriers also let's in a dark presence - a Great Sublime that yearns to break free of its ethereal fetters to annihilate reality itself and remake it in its own image (i.e., a "Dark Lord" who must be stopped).

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  4. Kak Vi Interyesnet (is that right? I tried learning Russian a while ago, but I seem to have a new interest every week and so little time)

    It sounds good; hope you also make use of your linguistic knowledge as well: it would save you from PHilip K Dick style 'crumbles' 'wibbles' madey-upy words. You could even attempt a 'Clockwork Orange' style pidgin lingua franca.

    Have you read anything by Thomas Ligotti? He writes very well about the dilapidated industrial estates that I love wandering through.

    Somewhat more conventionally aesthetic, through the cover of a Lovecraft book, I came across a Russian painter Nicholas Roerich, whose work is really haunting and fascinating. I especially liked his series 'The Doomed City'. I believe this inspired a book by the Strugatskys which sounded interesting (though Roadside Picnic was translated so badly, I doubt if TDC will make it into English).

    I especially like the sycnretism of Roerich; I see Europe and Asia as two interdependent continents in a way that is difficult to define.

    I have myself planned several 'dark fantasy' books, but I think that JL Borges and his shadow Philip K Dick show that a book (especially fantasy) can be better in its elegant synopsis than its entirety.

    (I do really like PK Dick's plots and characters, though his writing can be tiresome).

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  5. Kak Vi Interyesnet --> Kakoj Vy Interesnyj / Какой Вы интересный

    The problem with (trying to) imitate Borges, Lovecraft, or even Dick is that they are far more imaginative and brilliant than I could ever be. Following in their footsteps would no doubt result in a single book, written over a lifetime, that no-one will read. ;)

    Nah. I don't know about you, but I think I'll avoid pretenses to literary genius in favor of solidity and popular appeal - Robert Jordan, George RR Martin, Ursula Le Guin, Stephen King, etc, are my icons in this respect. ;)

    Re-"Clockwork Orange". Too complex, don't have the mental stamina to pull off something on his scale. Will be too hard to keep track of stuff.

    Re-"Thomas Ligotti". No. Will check up on him. Will now google Roerich. Speaking of Russian painters and knowing your tastes, you may like to become acquainted with Aivazovsky.

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  6. 'The problem with (trying to) imitate Borges, Lovecraft, or even Dick is that they are far more imaginative and brilliant than I could ever be. Following in their footsteps would no doubt result in a single book, written over a lifetime, that no-one will read. ;)'

    Sounds like where I was heading.

    'Nah. I don't know about you, but I think I'll avoid pretenses to literary genius in favor of solidity and popular appeal - Robert Jordan, George RR Martin, Ursula Le Guin, Stephen King, etc, are my icons in this respect. ;)'

    I've only read Stephen King of that list, but I really think the hardest thing about writing would be to write several hundreds of pages of complex plot and character. I'm not being ironic when I say that I think King is more of a genius than many 'literary' writers. But I think the whole word 'literary' is a straitjacket. This is something I was speaking to Gareth about; people have decided what 'good writing' is and decided that Lovecraft doesn't fit the bill. But Lovecraft both influenced many peoples' lives and is really inimitable (yes, he is easy to parody, and often parodied himself, but very difficult to copy. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I also think it should be the sincerest mode of ridicule: try to write a story as fascinating as The Rats in the Walls, ye mockers).

    'Speaking of Russian painters and knowing your tastes, you may like to become acquainted with Aivazovsky.'

    I very much like Aivozovsky's paintings, but I might have classified him as Armenian. Another Armenian painter I liked was Martiros Saroyan:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martiros_Saryan

    They both made very distinctive use of colour; as with writing style, I think painting style is also something that is praised for following the critics' advice rather than moving people, which I think is part of a conspiracy against humanity.

    I'm hoping to formulate this into a philosophy, which sees opinion newspapers as the no1 evil in the world, which will probably sound immensely pompous and daft ;-)

    Any recommendations re GRR Martin, Ursula LeGuin or Robert Jordan? Prob won't have time to read much soon, but might be worth considering in future.

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  7. Ursula Le Guin is best known for her Earthsea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthsea) series. 1970's stuff. Rather conventional, but IMO very well pulled off.

    Brandon Sanderson... I recently read his Mistborn: The Final Empire (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mistborn:_The_Final_Empire). He has great potential, but IMO hasn't yet matured as a writer.

    GRR Martin... people have assured me he's really good, but I couldn't get past the first 50 pages of his first book in A Song of Ice and Fire. Meh.

    Robert Jordan is by far my favorite fantasist, more so than Tolkien even, and writes the series "Wheel of Time", the first book is called "The Eye of the World". Get that and you may get hooked, though he's not to everyone's taste.

    I for one even have a little fan page for his work @ http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/about/misc/books/wot/

    Unfortunately, RJ is now dead, and Brandon Sanderson is finishing his series. (That's btw how I got to know of BS).

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  8. Thanks for the suggestions Anatoly; prob be quite a while before I get opportunity to read any of them.

    Just now I've started reading a pretty good historical novel called Pompeii by a Brit called Robert Harris. I prefer historical to fantasy (because I don't think anyone could imagine a society as aethetically beautiful as the Ancient Meditteranean). But writing historical fiction must be a nightmare.

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