Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Mask of Tamrel - Now FREE on Amazon!

Happy to announce that my dark-fantasy novel The Mask of Tamrel is now (finally!) available on Amazon for absolutely FREE. Follow the link below to download a copy, please share & review, & have a very very Happy New Year!

Get THE MASK OF TAMREL for Free on Amazon!

All Light in Winter Darkness,

~Scott C

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Way I Feel........

                                                   (Austin Osman Spare)


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Hurl the Weaklings to the Fire! - A breakdown of thoughts on H.P. Lovecraft: A Biography

Okay, so I've been putting off talking about it directly. My reasons? It involves a complicated web of self-examination to discuss the topic, I suspect. The topic? L. Sprague De Camp's rather infamous biography of HP Lovecraft.

Not that it's a bad bio. Written back in the mid-70s, it was a sufficiently scholarly work to make the academics take notice, & is credited with finalizing Lovecraft's ascent to his portenteous position as the 20th century's 'Master o' the Macabre'. It's a pretty thick whomping volume, too; I got ahold of the slightly expurgated paperback version, which excludes 13,000 words of L. Sprague's sprawling (yet strangely unsympathetic) prose-narration of Lovecraft's life.

It's fascinating to watch L. Sprague berate Lovecraft across time and space, bellowing at him like some fulvous-hued gym coach. There are biggish chunks of the book where he breaks into open stigmatization, scolding Lovecraft for not attending to his craft in a properly professional manner, mocking his self-taught typing style, & getting all pissy at the dissolution of his marriage (the tongue clucking is nigh-audible). De Camp writes with a craftman's eye, yet seems to have little sympathy for making actual art & the eccentricities it can entail; his summarization of Lovecraft's work is that he produced a decent lump of 'entertainment' (his exact word), & that he could have produced a whole lot more 'entertainment' if he'd manned up, eaten more red meat, & transcended his constant crushing sense of self-doubt (this last, at least, I can agree with). Sprague writes like a hyper-actualized, accultured, heterosexual white male in full possession of his so-called faculties; never dogged by spurts of psychoses, always able to go to bed & rise at a decent hour, & just damn sick of all these crybabies whining on when they should be story-bombing every available publisher, invincible ego primed to absorb any and all rejections.

While I agree that ego transformation is important, & that the artist must be capable of opening themselves to rejection in order to 'make it'/deliver their work into the hands of their readers, I certainly wouldn't classify a hyper-sensitive visionary with rejection issues as anything less of an artist on account of his querulous tuning. Lovecraft was indeed a visionary; L. Sprague was a respected writer of many things, most notably sword n' sorcery yarns distending from Robert E. Howard. He was possessed of the ability to move in highly normative circles, & confesses at the beginning of the bio that he feels singularly qualified to write about Lovecraft due to his subject's alien nature contrasting sharply with his own. Herein lies the boundary between writing-as-craft & writing-as-art; De Camp frequently reiterates his disgust that Lovecraft should EVER think of himself as special, or better/different (the terms seem interchangeable) than other people, in any way. To him, writing is ultimately like spinning wool, with small consideration for Beauty or shamanic 'nonsense,' & certainly conferring no right to sacred exaltation. Conversely, to Lovecraft writing was an invocation, in which he strove to personify abstract extradimensional impressions, symbols, & arcane revelations seemingly received via atavistic astral/dreamtime states, psyche all-the-while in violent revolt against the norms of his age. Couple this to HP's insistence on being a cogwork rational materialist in waking life, & one wonders how he managed to stay sane at all.

In short, De Camp is just too damn normal to write a bio of Lovecraft (LeGuin says something similar to this in her review of the biography), & I'm glad to see that there's a more respected contemporary bio written by S.T. Joshi. And yet...it was a good book. I learned a lot from it, & had my first extended glimpses into Lovecraft's voluminous correspondence; it also allowed me to juxtapose two very antipodal creative personalities (biographer & biographee). I'd recommend Lovecraft: A Biography overall, though I'll confess I'm not feeling very compelled to branch out into De Camp's fiction. A man so insistent on marginalizing relative artistic value can't have a whole lot to say. Some of the garbage he spews is frustratingly prosaic - really, there's 'no such thing as good or bad art, it's all subjective'? Piffle. Dismissing high art on the premise that 'it's all high art to somebody' is lazy, callous, & self-suppressive thinking. I refuse to believe there's no difference between Shakespeare and Duck Dynasty, so out the window that reasoning goes.

In conclusion, I must acknowledge that Lovecraft was very (frustratingly) self-defeating. He reacted to the merest hint of rejection with paroxysms of innermost doubt, resulting in his writing tapering off towards the end of his life. De Camp is right to address these traits, and fully justified in using them as red-flag examples for other writers, though the reader wonders at the very personal wording he chooses at times. This highlights the quixotic modern mass fascination with Lovecraft: many of those who profess to have been inspired by HP wax long about how they hate his writing style, abhor his racism, & think of him as having more psychological than artistic value. Yet all of them are caught up in his universe, battling his monsters, invoking his gods, & crying out at the black uncaring abyss he postulated. Lovecraft accessed something far beyond mere 'entertainment;' he gave the 20th century a new-birthed pantheon. For that, for everything (especially his vestigial passion for tricorne hats & periwigs), I forgive him his myriad faults. Hopefully someone will similarly forgive me one day.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Final Revision of an Earlier bit of Draughtsmanship....

The Accomplice

The sparrow and the nightingale
- I am their ally.

Feather-friend to the crow &
the raven, to all carrion-feasters of the wing -
Kin to the owl bearing blessed night
on the tide of its wings -
I am brother to the songbird,
to the screech and sonar-silence of gloaming,
to the holy rite of kill and consumption,
to the mournful cry & low piping air of the loon.

(In short)

I am the accomplice of all-hallowed night,
Though the cock's crowing does not set me to flight.

Copyright Scott J. Couturier 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

At Home With The Dead: The Dream-Quest for Definitive Obscurity

Greetings all. Up semi-bright (quite overcast outside, actually) and quasi-early, primarily due to joint pain I suspect is connected with the mutational weather. There's no snow (yet), & Northern Michigan is doing that decidedly un-charming brown thing, overset with short, pinched days of perpetual gray. Very big change from the bright burning sun of the desert, though ironically the weather is just as warm.

I've spent the last several hours combing the Internet for all things Weird Fiction, Lovecraftian & otherwise. As always, the sheer colossal (one could even say Cyclopean) breadth of information, blogs, magazines, & websites swamps my psyche. I feel lost in a vast, bustling, whispering maze of like-minded beings, incapable of getting a foothold or starting a seminal dialogue, awed & intimidated by the infrastructure of a vein of literature I didn't even know existed until a mere half-decade ago. It seems strange to me that the work of Lovecraft (hoary, phantasmagoric, occultish, obtuse, heavy, wet) has inspired such a vast, mainstream response; a testament to the truly primordial & extradimensional powers he contacted & named. There are Cthulhu collectibles of every sort (though I note no one seems preoccupied with endless reiterative depictions of Hastur or Nodens of the Great Abyss), endless collections & magazines dedicated to 'Weird' fiction (many make explicit the need to deal with Lovecraftian thematics), & message boards & Facebook groups aplenty, where the enthusiastic & truly dedicated can conjoin, ramble, & wax philosophic. Indeed, I find one of the key elements excluding me from deeper interactions is my relative newness to the genre o' the Weird (though my brain has been hardwired to its cosmic sensibilities from birth). I've only just finished reading the main bulk of Lovecraft (still have The Horror in the Museum to explore), & have only read the Hyperborea collection by Clark Ashton Smith (I'm ravenous for more, but his books are rare, flighty specimens. Gonna hafta order off of Amazon, methinks). Of Robert E. Howard I have little direct experience (I've got the majority of his fiction in book form, & plan to start my muscle-bound, leather-scented journey soon), and of course that's just scratching the surface. My partner has been reading C.L. Moore & freaking out over her. Just found a collection of M.R. James's ghost stories the other day. Algernon Blackwood & Arthur Machen remain unplumbed. Then there's Kuttner, Merritt, Chambers, Bierce, Long, William Hope Hodgson, etc etc etc. This bevy of still-unread supernal fiction is simultaneously overwhelming & a comfort.

So, just how does an aspiring reverer of strange & subconscious visions, an acolyte of the putrid, dripping eidolon of unwholesome revelation, figure out just where the heck he fits in a teeming world of billions of babbling souls? It's a tricky thornbush of a question. Lovecraft certainly never figured it out while materially incarnate, & most of his contemporaries have sunk to abysms far deeper than the crushing blackness entombing antique R'lyeh. I'm thinking an excellent place to start would be to polish off some of the short stories I've been developing & get them submitted to the myriad of weird/genre publications that proliferate across the Internet, but I still feel I'm missing some primal, obvious aspect to this whole mass-community business. I'm not a very good fanboy; I love desperately that which I love, but not in a sterile, preserved-under-glass way. Most of the communities I stumble across seem to be folk heatedly debating aspects of the Mythos, 'geeking,' or showing off their own work with excessive force (how do creative exchanges happen these days, with all the swollen-ego swaggering?). I read about Lovecraft & Company, & marvel at the complete lack of irony they expressed. Now, it seems the writer has to tailor themselves to excessive niche markets; there are boundaries to Weird fiction, & an entire over-ripe ethos permeating the genre's contemporary manifestation. Reading at the flurry of letters exchanged by the pioneers of the Weird, it quickly becomes clear that they were not caught up in self-abstraction, or more concerned about their market that their creative output. They were, collectively, advanced dredgers of the subconscious, sublimating their transcendent dream-quests into concrete, wildly vivid expressions. It was a movement, a renaissance of pulp sensationalism wedded to deep powers and dark catacombs of the self; one can readily draw comparisons to Chaos Magic, & the self-constructed occult systems of Austin Osman Spare (was delighted to discover that Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith actually discussed Spare's work, & exchanged prints of his paintings).

In short, I find myself in awe of (& primarily spending my time with) the dead instead of the living. This suits me fine; I'm atavistically drawn to atavism, & have had little luck finding modern writers capable of surrendering to vision over self-awareness. However, I've also barely plumbed the inky depths of modern Weird fiction, & acknowledge that my supreme out-of-stepness may be a simple manifestation of technophobia & uncharitable disillusion. The only solution I've been able to manifest is to Keep Working: ultimately recognition & compensation are tertiary to the making of a thing, but I would love to find some fellow voyagers on the wide, beatific river Oukranos.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Non-Lucid Lucidity: or, The Author Rhetorically Defends his Bedtime

There's something lucid about experiencing a crippling day of illness following hard on a day of festivity. To have the flesh transported so acutely in two very different directions in such a short space - bewildering, to say the least. In case the reader is wondering: Yes, I had a very REAL Thanksgiving, followed closely by a very REAL (& quite feisty) triumvirate of ailments. I'll spare the hoary details; let's just say I felt worked-over by the seven plagues of Egypt. I found myself staring at the ceiling & giggling hysterically, contemplating the fact that, although I was relatively sure I wasn't dying, it felt like I was dying. How many lives have been snuffed out after long, horrific ravages of illness, the soul tossed into the gulag of plague for a spell before being quickened and loosed?

By the time I'd recovered enough strength to walk sans staggering, I'd developed a deep, abiding sense of gratefulness (a grotesque Thanksgiving miracle, perhaps?) for the thrum of a well-functioning human body. A body whose operations are so refined, well-timed & uninhibited by microbe or mutation that the mind & spirit are free to employ it as a launching-place, & tread the ether unconcerned with the ever-waxing threat of clogged heart valves or the metastasis of lurking cancers. Due to proclivities for such projections, artists are often somewhat unkempt in appearance (at least in their natural habitats). The mind, the spirit is off holding court in alien dimensions & attending strange sabbats, not contemplating sock compatibility (at least this is the excuse I offer when some highly-conscious-of-propriety individual points out that I've absentmindedly put my shirt on inside-out). Such 'mistakes' may seem hilarious (perhaps even troubling) to some, who will attempt to project their epistemological values (justified belief or opinion?) on the person breaking the seeming taboo. This is one of the most common, minor perils in my line of work; I can't even begin to estimate how many times friends/family members/enemies/associates/postmen have upbraided me on my unstructured wake-and-sleep schedule. The active (even studied) disorientation of the senses is an immemorial tool of the poet, the magician, & the bard. Sadly, our hyper-modern hyper-materialistic reality considers the Promethean pursuit of craft and Beauty (ie: idle scribbling) a poor excuse for staying up after ten o'clock (though a media-binge marathon is somehow apt justification!).

My newfangled answer to all incongruities of perception is to Love. Simply, idiotically, against the grain of all terrestrial turmoil: Love. To be human is a shocking (as in PTSD) blessing: we are all walking wounded, half-blinded by the orchestrated horror of the world & our own subsumed Divinity. In the wake of my illness I felt actually lighthearted, open to a gust of wind exciting raptures, achingly grateful for the entities I call friends, family & lovers. I'm sure that a resurgent sense of jaded regularity will dull these feelings in short order, but I will strain to remember them, and moreover to embody them. For me, this means writing: for you, it probably means something else.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Reality: The Affectation

Well, gosh darn it, we seem to be nearing the lateral end of November. I was charitably poked the other day and reminded that one of my chief duties is to cook up brain matter to splash judiciously on this page. Someone wanders off from writing an already sporadic-as-hell blog for a few months, and the readers of said page naturally assume a failing of purpose, a waning of vital force; yet here I be, quite alive, the better for a dozen strange sojourns, & straining at the seams with cogitation. Expect a few bumps and bramble-scrapings 'afore this post terminates. I'm listening to a lovely sludgy psych thing called Mr. Flood's Party, & it's manning my nerves for the immediate present.

Have moved back to Michigan, and spent several months adjusting to a very different (yet oddly familiar) new existence. All seems well as the snow begins to fall in graceful, mild quantity...very different than the desert, here. It took me a month to fully compute and integrate the sheer abundance of trees & green life, and then there was a long lingering Autumn, with mild but everlasting rust colors spilling over the hills (odd, I always thought of the area as flatter). I'm prepared for the coming crystalline flood, only slightly apprehensive, but the old Nordic blood is beginning to boil a little. I grit my teeth and exhale a cloud whenever I step out the door. There are no cacti in sight.

So, in short, 2015: the Year I Hurtled. I came up to Michigan twice on visits, then executed a full cross-country move with my boyfriend and his nephew. Settled back into the house I lived in before I went away to college, and have been gradually unfurling my senses. Always odd to come back to a town you've lived away from for many years, odder still if it's altered as much as TC; it was always a tourist-fed community, but it seems the ol' berg has exploded into something of a boomtown. The two-lane road that ran near my house ten years ago has swelled into a five-lane monstrosity. There's a tantalizing array of restaurants and about two-trillion locally made beers, a genuinely bustling downtown district, etc etc...the half/mask prosperity of inspired gentrification. I believe the new season of South Park addresses the phenomena with abundant causticness.

However, prosperity is prosperity. There's a lot of dedicated artistic energy being focused here. And the lakes, forests & dunes are every bit as beautiful as they have been declared in countless magazines. I merely observe, & do not complain (tho railing about the yearly influx of 'Fudgies' is a hallowed local tradition, after all!).

On to business: I know there are a few people very interested to know what happens to Kelrob and Jacobson in the next installment of The Magistricide. I've been spending a large amount of energy adapting to my new, very-different-than-a-trailer-perched-on-the-edge-of-reality existence; however, I have been doing some very devout, if periodic, writing. Much of my effort has been poured into a series of weird fantastical tales, which I'm hoping to polish and submit for zine publication in the next year. I've hacked at The Curse of Roc-Thalian, which has gotten itself into a very gooey, horrible flow - I definitely seem to be fusing elements of horror & fantasy with larger interpersonal arcs, & have hope for the book, though I doubt it will see print before early-to-mid 2016. I know I swore to get it published by October of this year, & admit the deadline became a somewhat uncomfortable lodestone in the midst of drastically & concretely altering my life. However, the book is mostly writ, and my editor (remember that friendly poke mentioned above?) is currently looking it over. With the luck of Dionysus and the fetid blessings of Nyarlathotep, the third installment of The Magistricide will burst into the world slightly before the leaves & flowers, along with a trickle of shorter fiction.

I've got more to relate; expect increased clutter on this page in future days. Lots of thoughts ricocheting in me brainpan: Lovecraft (& L. Sprague de Camp's rather infamous bio of him), Clark Ashton Smith (found a beautiful - but overpriced - hardbound book of his in town, drooled & walked away), krautrock (currently listening to later Kraan, which is kinda like disco-prog), getting the podcast up and humming, the fact that people have been rationalized out of an understanding of magic, allowing them to be constantly enspelled by corporate wizardry, downed Russian planes & the viscera left behind by suicide vests (Always remember, War ain't good for business: War IS business!), & a host of other glandular secretions desirous of being expressed in language. In short: The Curse of Roc-Thalian still being written. Also writing a host of odd and depraved little fictions. Have moved to Michigan, unified my family, & am prepared to endure the coming freeze-out. Also I like using &s now, apparently......AFFECTATION?

..........reality is an affectation. G'night n' talk soon.

Kindly Afterthought:

“Inability to accept the mystic experience is more than an intellectual handicap. Lack of awareness of the basic unity of organism and environment is a serious and dangerous hallucination. For in a civilization equipped with immense technological power, the sense of alienation between man and nature leads to the use of technology in a hostile spirit—to the “conquest” of nature instead of intelligent co-operation with nature.”- Alan W. Watts

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Strange Wine

Hello, all you esoteric darlings and those further affixed in the cryptosphere. I should warn the lot of you: I've been reading Harlan Ellison, and he tends to lend a certain profuse flare to my ramblings. Which is good, because honesty is called for on all fronts. Especially the honesty of the lie, that profane means by which the artist decants truth to strange wine.

Last week I 'came out' to my parents. I indulge in parenthesis due to my boredness with the entire epistemological concept of coming out. I've been with both men and women over the course of my life, and consider myself definitively pansexual. My current partner (Shayne) and I have been together for a good while. He's a (here's the part where I simultaneously get to brag and make him blush) polymath: writer, musician, visual artist. We constantly bounce ideas, concepts and visions off of each other, and he's one of the prime editors of my books. I now announce to the entire gaping interwebs: yes, I am in absolute love with a man. There. I guess that's my coming out. Envision a cloud of expanding glitter if it suits your symbolic fancy.

Onwards to further revelations. I've been living in Las Cruces, New Mexico for the last two years (or, more precisely, in a trailer at the very edge of the Chihuahuan desert in sight of Organ, NM). It's been a cleansing, bedeviling, maddened, sweet, drifting, horrible, divine experience, but a myriad of considerations have led me to the decision to move back up to my home town of Traverse City, Michigan. This will put me back in the sphere of my family, which is one of the primary goals; one of the other primary goals is to wed my biological family to my chosen family. Shayne and his nephew Evan will be moving with me up north.

This is all the result of what I am dubbing Project Love, an explicit magical working established at the crest of Venus retrograde. I confess to being a mere dabbler in the occult, though the symbolism of the ceremonial magicians has a pleasing tendency to spring into my path. I hereby (gather close folks: here comes an announcement) declare myself a dedicated syncretist. The walls and subdivisions of genre (alongside magic, science, religion, and God) have no meaning to me save as artificial boundaries to be generatively violated. It's the dawn of a new millennia, and everything old is new. Which means the new will consist of a twisting, permuting, perverting, and venerate remaking of the old. Having fresh visions extrapolated from the current boundaries of human perception is desecration and reverence encompassed in a single act. It's our sacred duty to yearn for the past while sculpting the future.

All of which is very high falutin' talk, I admit. This brings me to my final announcement: I'm a writer. This might seem self-evident (or so I flatter myself), but I've long been a-straying in the realms of metaphysical dissemination, and find myself ultimately unfulfilled. Fiction, to me, encompasses the greatest act of magic: all the arcane numerologies and Promethean intent of the arch-magicians serve as inspiration and fuel for my desire to write. As I mentioned above, I've been reading Harlan Ellison, and he's particularly adept at reminding the individual to be true to their native mode of expression. I hereby yield myself to the instinct of craft, and clamp the Muse's teat between loving lips. I pray she won't mind the bruises.

Thank you, gentle reader. Allow me this indulgence of ye ol' Victorian convention, and understand you are loved.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Ode to the Makers

Ode to the Makers

O you beautiful transmigrants!
Sewn to words like a deleterious cloth.
A wild, swaying passion seizes the mind
and the pen scribbles rampant.

O you beautiful transmigrants!
Effigies of former ages cast
in quantum flesh.
Your busts will loom o'er
the atom-blasted waste.

O you beautiful transmigrants!
Flare in worship sufficient
to sunder and remake the soul.
Dark chasms are yours,
and the inhabitants therein.

O sweet poetry! The curving rhyme
laps up the tail's singularity
and all is distraught
buffeted by the winds of Apollo.

O sweet suit of skin
a humming carapace of molecules
to execute animacy.
The act of every hand
and the word of every tongue
are preserved in the poet's eye.

O darling transmigrants!
The madmen raving at anthropomorphic marble
the magician hot with stave and will
the wail of Grecian harps
regurgitating up the throat of time.

Great Pan calls, and I must answer.

O you beautiful transmigrants,
Drunk on strange wine
and fed on queer dishes
gorged on the weird milk
of the Muse –

O darling transmigrants!
Let thy flow be my pulse.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Old Man, recede into your shell
and stopper up that bastion well.
Cram your ears with lumps of dirt
and hide from all that serves to hurt.
Hear not the scream of wind and rain
nor heed the rising swell of pain
that overtakes all living things
(tho Change is what this agony brings).

The guard, the day, the aeon absurd
will alter as surely as the Word!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Reflections, Work, Rock and Change

Big day over here in the States. Awoke to sudden marriage equality; currently there's a sense of simmering elation, a strange sudden understanding that alteration (CHANGE) is in play, will eternally be in play. We've constructed innumerable shackles for our minds, spirits and bodies over the millennia, primarily via the construction of societal norms...but reality is as mutable as we allow it to be. Right now there are thousands of fuming xtian fundamentalists writhing on the hook of that which they detest. I don't doubt that there will be innumerable further hurdles (there are always hurdles; without them change can't effect its eternal flux) but tonight is a brief moment of triumph. Of course one can argue about the institution of marriage as a whole; of course we can question this deep-seated assumption that our contemporary definitions of family and society are graven in stone when these conventions are also (gasp!) subject to change. The ideal family of ancient Greece is a dramatically different thing than the ideal family of Babylon or Rome or Imperial China; one can only assume (hope) that a thousand years down the road we will have arrived at an entirely new means of interacting with our human brethren as whole, to make no mention of mating conventions. But at this moment in the United States anyone can get married that wants to. The big picture yields to the little in some cases, especially when there's an occasion for frantic celebration.

Haven't posted on here for a while. And what mischief have I been up to in the last month? Working, traveling. I took a trip up to Michigan for a bit, connecting with family and friends. Enjoyed the stay, but it's always a pleasure to return to my peculiar little box in the dry lands. The first draft of The Curse of Roc-Thalian is nearing completion; I admit I'm a little behind schedule, but then I've always flourished in environments of looming deadlines. I set out to write this book without a definite idea of where the characters would go, trusting them to lead me in the right direction, and I haven't been disappointed. Now there's just a few hundred gallons of elbow grease required. Lots of work (long hours, contemplation, revision, despair and renewal of purpose) go into writing a book, at least any book worth reading. I'm hoping that all my blood and tears and other bodily fluids are evinced in the final text.

I'm currently in the midst of reading The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. My first Butler, and amazing; the capitalization of CHANGE above is owing to her influence. I'm enamored of her concept of a new faith/religion (Earthseed) arising to displace the outmoded spiritual systems of old. Butler's concept of revering change as the one constant, as the true face of God, is definitely the direction (or at least one of the directions) I feel we need to embrace. We need to learn from our past, not just record it and then fetishize it endlessly (WWII 'documentaries', I'm looking at you). We loathe change congenitally; we flourish on familiarity, to the extent that the smell of baking bread can waft us back to the forgotten demesne of childhood. But childhood does end, both for individuals and for races. The human species is poised on the brink of our own destruction/revelation, and CHANGE is the key. We must alter, shed the past while simultaneously revering it; we owe it to god/the gods to concoct new faces for the divine, instead of wallowing in age-old systems awash in entropy. That said, I encourage any and all fans of sci-fi, fantasy, or actual thought the read Butler immediately. Her vision of the near future is both chilling and beguiling.

So who am I? What am I? Am I a fantasist, a metaphysician, a crank, a magician, an alchemist, a writer, a fool? I'd argue all of these things. I certainly own the label 'Fool,' and savor the sensation of peering into the sun while my foot dangles precariously over the cliff. I decry labels, especially the labels of genre; we've become too cluttered, too post-modern, to convinced of our mastery of trope and narrative, while losing our ability to tell meaningful stories. I am definitely a writer, and will take that self-definition to the grave. But my interests are far-ranging. To me the hideous and grotesque are bedfellows with Beauty, that utter principal that needs no justification beyond itself. I do not seek perfection, but esteem the act of creation as the utmost human pursuit and purpose. I love my fellow-beings, even as they drive me to distraction; humanity is my palate, my materia, my definition and my drive. I can be no clearer than this. What I do decry is humanity's endless preference for locking itself in cul-de-sacs. CHANGE comes, whether or not we are prepared; indeed, change is our birthright. There is a general preference for stagnation amongst humans (thus our eternal craving for an unending Utopia) but natural processes (us included) just don't work that way. Change is coming, you better run. Or mutate.

My other primary influence is rock music. I haven't talked about it much on here, but my books are littered with little references. The House of the Setting Sun at the beginning of Tamrel is a homage to Swedish metal band Lake of Tears. Niblon the Black, the constellation Nuir sees on her ceiling in the house of Madame Heretia, is a call-out to T. Rex. There are other references, though none so direct as Douglas Adams quoting a bunch of Beatles songs in the beginning of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. I intend to write an entire post on this in the near future, but suffice to say music has been my guiding principal every bit as much as the written word. If you are making real music it's impossible to lie. As far as I can tell Art is the one thing that cannot lie, and so to me it is the highest purpose. Of course art can be twisted into propaganda, but then it ceases to be art; true ART is true purpose, a difficult pill for a materialist world to swallow (despite the fact that it's far from bitter). More on this later as well.

Well, I guess that wraps things up for the moment. Listening to 'Swimming Song' by Loudon Wainwright III. "Hold your breath, kick your feet and move your arms around." Blessings to all on this day of triumph.

Friday, May 1, 2015

On Fantasy (And Other Things)

A very happy May Day to you all!

April sped by in a haze of work, some of which was actual Work (The Curse of Roc-Thalian is chugging along, the first draft just topping 80,000 words). I've also been hacking away at Duncan, revising a decade-old manuscript the contents of which I barely remember. This has yielded some unexpected pleasure, insofar as the writing is fairly good, often funny, and consistently surprising. I don't have a set date on the project as of yet, but barring the amputation of all my limbs (hmmm...perhaps I shouldn't tempt fate?) The Curse of Roc-Thalian will be available sometime around Halloween. Perhaps even on Halloween; the contents certainly warrant such a juxtaposition.

I've been reading a lot. This isn't uncommon, but I recently had a barrage of really intense input from three sources. First, I finally read the Castle Brass books by Michael Moorcock, effectively resolving the 21-book saga of the Eternal Champion (no spoilers, but the end was both magnificent and maddening). I then hopped into Destination: Void by Frank Herbert, which is one of the most bewildering and enlightening hard-sf books I've ever read. Essentially the entire text is made up of four people attempting to gestate an artificial intelligence while having recursive metaphysical debates on the nature of consciousness, all while their spacecraft crumbles about them. It's the first Herbert book I've read that actually surpasses Dune (humble opinions abound, of course), and I strongly recommend it, though the diligent reader is advised to keep a bottle of ibuprofen at hand. The third and most recent book, which I'm almost done with, is Dragons of an Hourglass Mage by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. It's a Dragonlance book, the second-to-last produced by Wizards of the Coast before they pulled the plug, and I find myself enjoying it immensely.

Now, I haven't said much about Dragonlance on here. It has been, at various points, a somewhat shameful secret that I read over 75 of the mass-produced TSR tomes in my youth, speeding away from Ursula LeGuin (whose Earthsea books were the first true fantasy I read; I consider myself very fortunate in this) at a comet's pace, embroiling myself in a half-nonsense world of high fantasy shenanigans. At the core of this obsession was the writing of Mrs. Weis and Mr. Hickman, who (though they are perpetually clumsy stylists who feel the recurrent need to infect their writing with high-vaudevillian scenarios) are very, very adept at creating characters. This is a truism I've fully reabsorbed while reading Hourglass Mage; though it is written by a somewhat faded duo, they still have the uncanny ability to bring people to life.

During the Dragonlance period I was aeons away from weird fiction and early fantasy, both now active obsessions for me. I tried some of the older stuff as a kid, but Dragonlance seemed somehow more refined, more fast-paced - and it is. It is a spectacle that could only have been produced at the height of high fantasy's reign, and is an amalgamation, a transmutation of all the fantasy genres and tropes that went before (moreover, it goes without saying that any fictional universe produced by a company to make a profit should damn well entertain). However, in my latter years (personally I wish I'd hopped to it a decade ago) I've been more and more drawn to the phantasmogoric, the elegant, the eucatastrophic, and the perverse. Just today I finally stumbled across a collection of stories by Clark Ashton Smith (one of the three major players in the Lovecraft circle); I've flipped through it, and find his language to be dense and beautiful, the elegant blossom of a corpse-flower. And yet, here I am still reading Dragonlance, still pining for one more journey through the sweet-smelling airs of Krynn.

Now, much of this obsession centers on the duo of Raistlin and Caramon. Without revealing too terribly much, they are twins born of a vision-seeing mother and a woodcutter father in the backwater town of Solace. Caramon is strong and robust, even in infancy; he will become a great but (seemingly) slow-witted warrior. His brother Raistlin, sickly by disposition and powerful of mind and will, has the gift of the magic. Over a series of books (pulling them all together I think there are twelve novels, plus some short stories) we get to experience the brother's pained, agitated relationship: Caramon, overweening and protective, subject to his brother's will; Raistlin, weak and powerful simultaneously, envious of his brother's charm and physical strength. It sounds like the perfect recipe for codependence, and it is, save that the brothers truly love each other. Oh, it's a twisted, fractious love, a love that ultimately drives both of them to make unbelievable sacrifices, but it remains one of the most inexplicably vital fictional relationships I've ever encountered, in or out of the realm of the fantastic. Of course there are other characters and others stories: Tanis Half-Elven remains quite loved, Flint and Tasslehoff's endless bickering still brings an oafish smile to my face. But it is Raistlin and Caramon who (for me) remain at the heart of Dragonlance.

It was years before I read Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. Indeed, I actually saw Peter Jackson's Fellowship movie before reading either, though I grew up obsessively watching the Rankin-Bass animated adaptations of The Hobbit and The Return of the King. It's only been in the last half-decade that I've branched out, delved back into LeGuin with gusto and begun exploring the work of the pulp-era fantasists and sci-fi prophets. I've read Philip K. Dick (did you know Dick and LeGuin graduated from the same Oregonian high school? It's true, though they didn't know each other), Lord Dunsany, Theodore Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison, James branch Cabell, Lovecraft (very extensively), Frank Herbert and Michael Moorcock (also quite extensively), among a plenitude of others. I find myself suddenly a student, albeit an eager, voracious student; I've yet to read any Mervyn Peake, E.R Eddison, Frank Belknap Long, Arthur Machen, Ambrose Bierce, the aforementioned Mr. Smith and, again, a plenitude of others. The road promises to be long and nourishing, but every so often I find I have to wander back to the Inn of the Last Home for a mug of ale and a plate of Otik's spiced potatoes.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Machen, Blackwood, and the Curse of Roc-Thalian

So, I've been reading up on my authors of strange, grim, and otherwise cosmically disturbing fiction, and stumbled into H.P. Lovecraft's intense devotion to two authors outside my ken. Their names (respectively) are Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen. Blackwood, it seems, was an isolate bachelor, schooled in various modes of esoteric thought, who pioneered a new avenue of 'awe fiction' that encompassed the perfection of the post-gothic ghost story. Machen was a man of many tastes, an occultist and fantasist who is famous for many things, notably his debut novel The Great God Pan (oh, how I yearn for a copy of this). So, freshly informed and inflamed, I went looking around at local used bookstores for any traces of these heretofore unknown masters of the weird. I scoured and I quested and I dug in many a moldering corner (ended up finding an omnibus edition of Ambrose Bierce's writing in the process, which was a major joy), but nothing could I find of Blackwood or Machen.

Saddened, I wandered into one final shadowed corner (there's always one more) before going home, and discovered (drumroll) an original 1924 edition of Dog and Duck by Arthur Machen. A weathered copy, with some considerable discoloring, but definitely a Machen book. Amusing bit is, Dog and Duck is far out in the Machen esoterica, a collection of droll essays about how strange it is to be British. It seems to have little relation to his many fantastical works (none of which I've yet experienced), but in reading it I've caught glimpses of the glory of which he's capable. Of course (funds allowing) I'll probably have to resort to Amazon to settle my cravings, especially for Blackwood (who seems as scarce as a heavy, consistent rainfall in these parts). In the meanwhile I'll indulge in the whimsical abstractions of Dog and Duck, reflecting on the finer peculiarities of life all-the-while.

Also, wanted to announce that the name for the upcoming Kelrob and Jacobson book has been changed. Due to fluctuations in the plot that I hope will sincerely amuse, the story has warped into a slightly larger framework (oh, is this how Robert Jordan first talked of the growthlike swell of his series?). Kelrob and Jacobson have the adventure that finally pulls them together lock stock and barrel, all the while hurtling towards a much broader, stranger, indeterminate fate. The new name for the book is The Curse of Roc-Thalian, to be followed in relatively short order by The Quest of the Aleph.

That is all for now. Want to thank everybody who is tuned in to my microscopic-macroscopic broadcast.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Report from the Pulp Mines of Septimus 7-A

Well well well. What can I say on this most auspicious day of pi?

I'm sitting in a trailer in the depths of the desert listening to Gaucho by Steely Dan. Loved the band for years, but somehow I was daunted by Aja, and stopped there for an inordinately long time. Very pleased to have this new unplumbed album to explore...and here come those Santa Ana winds again. I've been reading extensively about the developing drought conditions in the Southwest (particularly California - New Mexico actually graduated out of a few layers of drought in the last year, owing to a surprising amount of rainfall). To summarize, there is officially one year of water remaining to the most populous state. Alteration, change, mutation and entropy are the dishes of the day - or perhaps I should say century. The species is definitely plunging into a reality heretofore theoretical, predicted by mystics and science-fiction prophets for decades (or millennia, in the case of the mystics). I stand in awe before the changing of the guard.

As for personal projects...writing continues unabated. I've dug up an old piece of pseudo-juvenilia, a massive comedic fantasy novel I completed back in 2002 while still preparing to go to college. The story concerns Duncan Qweegmire, a backwater farmer who has been determined by the gods to be the single least important person on the planet. Due to his immense unimportance, he's the ideal candidate to try and foil the diabolic machinations of the archwizard Raltishar, who has challenged the gods for supremacy of heaven and hell. The book was lost for many many years, but recent excavations of an old hard drive revealed the work in its entirety. I've started revising it, with the intent of releasing it in 15,000-20,000 word segments over roughly a year. There is currently a major uptick in people's appreciation of serialized narrative; indeed, it appears to be the way of the future for self-publishing. This excites me, as much of my favorite writing was produced in the pulp-mines of the early-to-mid twentieth century, not to mention the Victorian penchant for releasing massive (and massively influential) novels over a period of months or years. Thus, Duncan is rocketing into full production. I hope to have the first five segments completed in a month or so, with subsequent segments released on a bi-weekly or monthly basis (NOTE 1/28/16: Project long-abandoned due to unexpectedly sheer demands of revision. Good ideas tied together by longwinded youthful rambling, needing much work to cohere...something might still come it, but not in the foreseeable future).

As for Kelrob and Jacobson, their adventure is hurtling forward in many bewildering and delightful ways. I've received quite a few inquiries from friends and readers, wondering when Quest of the Aleph will be completed, and can only tentatively announce a release this autumn. It's been a very interesting experiment thus far: though Mask of Tamrel and Heretia were written completely fresh, without any reference to previous drafts, the story had existed in various permutations for nearly a decade. Writing from a blank slate has proven both daunting and enlivening. Expect familial drama, vampire hunts, and wanderings into strange misbegotten landscapes. The quest (as always) is on.

2015 is, truly, the Future. I'm hoping to get out at least two books this year, thus riding the crest of the wave rather than being subsumed; one way lies madness, the other revelation. Personally I'm fond of both. As Judee Sill stated so elegantly: "Bless the ridge rider, the ridge he's ridin' is mighty thin."

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015! Blast the Horns and Spank the Strumpets!

And so the New Year is upon us! With all sorts of chills and spills, trepidations and worries, possible revelations lurking in every shadow...there seems to be a new Cold War brewing, which is of course irritating, and then there's burbling about fresh conflict over the Falklands. Politicians are still corrupt and the entire fabric of our reality is being revealed as a byproduct of the oil industry. I am a mere writer, a spinner of notions, but for heaven's sake and land's end there seems to be some silliness pervading our watering hole!

But then that isn't new. There's plenty to anticipate in 2015 - the Year of the Sheep, or at least it will be after February 19th. I've been hammering away at the mass of primeval forces that is taking shape as The Quest of the Aleph; reading Robert Anton Wilson and Michael Moorcock (managed to squeeze in four more Moorcock books before the end of the year); there was snow here several days past, along with some truly astonishing atmospheric phenomena that manifested as mutating mist-dragons raging along the bowl of the Mesilla valley. It was nice to have a true taste of winter; a crust of snow yet lingers on the shadowed side of the trailer. But the forecast is for sunny days without limit, so I must savor the brief upwelling of my Nordic blood and let it slide.

I have been watching the slow, ponderous growth of The Mask of Tamrel across the internet; like a creeping but potent fungus, if one chooses to favor Lovecraftian imagery. I was delighted to put it up for free on most formats (Amazon was supposed to price-match, but they haven't yet), and even more delighted when it started materializing on pirate sites. There seems to be a gradually growing interest, though it's difficult to gauge such things. At the moment I am content that my work is out there in the world, no matter how sporadically.

(Spore. Fungus. I love it when puns materialize from the aether.)

As for promotion, I admit I let myself go slightly over the holidays, which were very hearty and merry and laden with good cheer. I need to be setting up further promotions, submitting to more journals etc, and that work begins now. Progress was also hampered by an ill (or perhaps serendipitously) timed coffee spill on my keyboard, which has since thankfully been remedied. I hint at serendipity because the scene I was hacking through was not manifesting properly, and it was only later that I was able to write it to my satisfaction. It's the ol' zen parable, about the horse trampling the farmer's fields (how terrible! We'll see, says the farmer) only to return and become the best draft horse the farmer's ever had (how wonderful! We'll see, says the farmer). Then the horse dies and brings plague to the village, and it's damn unfortunate...then fortunate, and onwards ad infinitum. First there is a mountain then there's not then there is.

All Donovan reverence aside, I feel very blessed at the beginning of this new unplumbed year. Perhaps this post started off on a too-overtly negative message, but then it could simply be viewed as a venting of the humours. There is much darkness in the world, all of our own harebrained manufacture; there is much stupidity in the world, fostered by the masters of war and media. But in the midst of it all we can escape, slip through the confining nets of complacency, transcend our conditioning and have new unimagined visions. They are all around us, preserved in the hallowed spectrum of art; the past and the future and worlds beyond the petty confines of dimension wait for us to merely open a book or concoct a story or listen to a song or see or movie or speak to another human being. It's an arch-blessing and doom-laden curse to be human; thankfully we need not be confined to ourselves, but can transport OUT, beyond the mortal woes of the Form Destroyer (Thank you Philip K. Dick)!

So that is that and this is this. I hope the New Year brings an ever-increasing expansion of human sensation. I hope to read many more delicious books and interact with many incredible people. I hope that my friends and loved ones and allies across the paltry limits of space-time advance, live, create, and experience. This is life, my friends and foes. Let's swallow it all until we drown (and yes, that's a James Blunt quote). Peace.