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.

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