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."