Forum Posts

pietermerel
Mar 03, 2022
In Elder Sign
So, I updated my profile (fka 'brouwpieter') and listened to the great episodes about the story by Jeff Vandermeer. Unfortunately I don't have time anymore to listen to the episodes and read along as frequently as in the past, because I now have a paid (or as some call it 'real') job, being a mail deliverer, next to the more intense writing on my novel, but that's okay I guess. I really really enjoyed reading 'City of Saints & Madmen', my first Vandermeer, where postmodern writing meets the eerie and the weird (and some humor as well). This book, and also the episode about the writing of Vandermeer, the meaning of the Künstlerroman as a format, but especially about the world building (and 'new-weirdism') really helped me out of the stagnation of my own writing: proofreaders thought my world building was faulty and should be more clear. I tried to improve it by setting it in my own realistic world complete with Dutch history, but that didn't work because it couldn't capture the atmosphere I was trying to reach (something like the atmosphere in Ligotti, Kiernan or Miéville - or even like Edvard Munch (not only the Scream, but other great stuff like The Sick Child) or Dave McKean, who were rightly mentioned in the show). Reading Vandermeer helped me on track again, as I now totally rewrite my novel into a slightly different and more magic realist world with an alternative (socio-economic, political and cultural) history and geography. So I'm really glad I've read the book and listened to the show - thanks!! As for the music: I listened to a whole aray (or should I say collage) of music while reading the story and the rest of the book, from drone to Satie, from film and game music to ambient and jazz.
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pietermerel
Dec 10, 2021
In Elder Sign
What a wonderful story, both in atmosphere and style and plot. Atherton is definitely going on my shortlist of literary discoveries! I had never heard of her before this. Even though I largely read stories that end badly or openly, it's wonderful for a change sometimes to read a story where everyone (yes, except the bishop) is nice to each other. The concept of "talking dead" is, as mentioned in the episode, also very well used by Neil Gaiman in his Graveyard Book, which has a playful, childlike atmosphere there. I myself was also reminded of Mussorgsky's 'vignette' Cum mortuis in lingua mortua (although according to the internet, that's not really about speaking dead people). I further agree with Glenn and Brandon that the story is an example avant garde magical realism, which may explain my enthusiasm for the story. I hope to see more Atherton discussed on Elder Sign in the future.
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pietermerel
Nov 18, 2021
In Elder Sign
I’m miles behind, following Elder Sign. But I’ll keep listening and reading, so I’ve now read Black Corfu and listened to the episode on it. I liked the Kafkaesque aspects of the story, the ending and the discussion on the podcast about the question if the protagonist made a mistake or not (Like Brandon and Glenn, I don’t think he did). As a matter of fact, I’m also reading Lovecraft Country (and the series DVD’s wait for me on my table). Both are speculative fiction that has racism as on of the big themes. There is a great deal of focus on "leftist" themes such as racism, climate, and gender variation in modern speculative fiction, which I think is interesting – especially when thinking about the great but xenophobic, racist and rightwing texts of Lovecraft and other ‘classic’ weird fiction writers. My girlfriend (among other things university lecturer and researcher on literature and climate change) – who is, like me, a white person - pointed out the fact that both works are written by white authors, which is on itself not negative (though there is the question about the experience of the author), but which made me wonder if there are black weird fiction writers. I know the answer of course is ‘yes’ (and I read some horror by black writers), but I can’t remember reading stories like Black Corfu (magical realism) or Lovecraft Country (urban fantasy) by black writers. There is this movement of Afrofuturism, but that’s mostly science fiction I thought, though according to Wikipedia it also encompasses magical realism. The Wikipedia article may be a good starting point to delve more into black weird fiction. But maybe readers of this post also have tips for black writers who are involved in the (new) weird. Let me know! Because Black Corfu is about racism and Venice (the 17th century republic), my girlfriend recommended me to read Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh. According to her, Venice (the city), racism (discrimination of Bengali-Americans) and the effects of climate change play an important role in this book. I haven’t read it yet, so I can’t say much more about it, though I think there isn’t anything weird in it.
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pietermerel
Jul 09, 2021
In Elder Sign
Unfortunately, I haven't read the Chetwynd-Hayes tale (I haven't find a not too expensive edition of the Monster Club - yet). But I enjoyed the episode on The Werewolf and the Vampire, especially the conversation about 'monsters as people'. Like Scott Dorward, the guest on the show, as a kid I also wanted to read books that turned the bad-good principle upside down or let it 'gray' - by using humor, strangeness and/or eerie atmosphere. Most of the times I ended up with Brittish children's horror, though I've unfortunately forgotten which writers these collections of stories were written by. Later I became a huge fan of Neil Gaiman in whose books I recognized this typical Brittish style (nicely mixed with the American style of superheroes). Actually, when I write horror/weird tales myself, I don't manage to get the monsters really scary, because I often see them as human anyway and feel sorry for them (or see them on par with the terror of humanity). As a result, I've started using things like terrifying dimensions for the horror effect, or strange events that shouldn't be possible - that works better for me (I owe a lot to reading Thomas Ligotti for that part). I recently got 'The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous' in which I hope to find more answers to the questions regarding monsters versus humans. By the way, right now I am reading 'Monster, she wrote - The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction', which won a Bram Stoker Award and a Locus Award for non fiction. It's a real nice and interesting read that seems to me to be an interesting access to more stories for Elder Sign as well. Scott Dorward also made me curious about 'The Litany of Earth' by Ruthanna Emrys - I hope to read that one soon too. So, thanks for the inspiring episode!
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pietermerel
Jun 08, 2021
In Elder Sign
Again, a great episode of Elder Sign. This time with much ethics, esthetics and Plato/Plotinus/Christianity in it. When Roger Scruton was mentioned, and later on the 'bad side' of (the use of) esthetics or pseudo-ethics, I had to think about the influence of the so-called 'Blut und Boden' which gave rise to the National Socialism (Nazi) arts, which only was to be used to praise the Nazi politics (all other arts were 'entartet'). In the Netherlands these days pseudo-esthetics are misused by the popular and far-right-wing populist politician Thierry Baudet. Wikipedia on this: "Baudet has a strong opinion on arts, the topic of his book Oikofobie, and considers non-Western art and Western post-1900 modernism in visual arts inferior to Western Realism, encourages education and programmation of tonal music opposed to atonal music and dislikes modern post-1950 architecture. In reaction to this, Musicologist Yuri Landman warned Baudet for approaching the concept of degenerate art with his conservative criticism." I think these are dangerous ideologies today. I also had to think about The Never-ending Story (the book, not the terrible movie), which is rich in all sorts of philosophical ideas. Michael Ende in this book shows the importance of (the use of) fantasy (instead of art), but also its dangers when used in the wrong way. For those who can read German, there is a great article on this on the German Wikipedia: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inhalt_und_Interpretation_der_Unendlichen_Geschichte#Phantastische_Literatur_als_Ausdruck_einer_neuen_Ethik. As for the question about the money lender (is he the devil or an evil person): I think there are too many clues in the story not to personify him with the devil. Why does he want to survive himself through the portrait? Maybe then he can stay on earth to damn people more easily? (I don't know. Maybe I've seen too much Lucifer on Netflix and in the Sandman.) Or maybe Gogol mixed the allegorical devil with an actual bad person?
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pietermerel
May 21, 2021
In Elder Sign
When I began reading Furtherest the first thing I thought was: I don’t like this story – it’s again one of those tales with too short sentences and too many punctuations. Yes, I know this is something about taste, I like the style of long, swaying sentences of the romantic old English literature. I still don’t think I like the style on sentence level, but the story began to be haunting without knowing exactly why and how. So I really liked the discussion on the episode with Paul Jessup about the dream logic and all. I had to smile when Glenn and Paul kept on trying to grasp the story and kept coming to different conclusions and just more questions. The talk about night/dream logic was very interesting. I find the best stories those which give you a feeling of there being something wrong; you cannot point to it or explain it exactly but at the same time you feel that your subconsciousness does understand. Paul Jessup said the best weird is mystery without a solution and with many ambiguity. I second that, but only when the dream logic acts as the cement to give the story coherence. In this story it has something to do with her ‘showing-don’t tell’, which also works on the emotional level of the protagonist, as was said in the discussion. Repeating and connecting the story elements is a thing that is – I think – necessary to give the story coherence when using this kind of showing. The human mind always wants to see meaning and patterns and connections, and it is the job of Warren to ‘help’ the reader with this intuitive night logic and make the story credible on a subconscious level without explaining it. The distinction Mark Fisher makes in his "The weird and the eerie" is interesting when looking at this story. He defines weird as “the presence of that which does not belong”. The cosmic horror of Lovecraft then is weird, but he also mentions the dreamscape of David Lynch’s Inland Empire and other examples. On the other hand, “the sensation of the eerie occurs either when there is something present where there should be nothing, or when there is nothing present when there should be something.” (Fisher gives examples, like ‘The Birds’ of Daphne du Maurier but also works of M.R. James, Margaret Atwood and even Eno). Weird has to do with the monstrous, the deviant, eerie has to do with things that are normal in itself, but are missing or present when they shouldn’t. Returning to the story: Why are there jars of goo? Why does the protagonist sees a figure where there should not be one? Why this inscription FTH? Why those mannequins? There even is something wrong with the presence of those strange memorials. Why are people behaving so strangely? There ‘should be’ a clear police report about the dead boys int the story, there ‘should be’ a detective or someone who acts like one in connection with the suicide or suicidal tendencies and the old man. And on a metafictional level there ‘should be’ a narrator who explains or at least question those eerie things. As Fisher states: “A bird’s cry is eerie if there is a feeling that there is something more in (or behind) the cry than a mere animal reflex or biological mechanism – that there is some kind of intent at work, a form of intent that we do not usually associate with a bird.” To me this story is an ‘eerie bird’s cry’ – and Warren does a great job in making it so.
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pietermerel
May 10, 2021
In Elder Sign
Thank you for this interesting episode about the mashing up of genres in pulp fiction, how Seabury Quinn as popular writer in doing this, in a way invented urban fantasy. Honestly, I think I was more of a grumpy Lovecraft when reading this, thinking again and again: this is so not original, this is too obvious, too simple. But this is just why this story (and the other Quinn stories, I imagine) is so special - the mashing up of all those genre conventions and tropes. Brandon is so right by the way when he says popular fiction has a lot more to say as a cultural artefact than the canon (which often represent precisely exceptional opinions and worldviews, or critiques on mainstream culture). I now have volume I of the De Grandin tales, but I don't know if I will read a lot of them. If I will read on it is because I'm curious about what type of monsters Quinn will release in his tales - I'm always interested in the choice, invention and use of monsters and mythical creatures in all types of fiction and other media, because they say a lot about the types of anxiety or wonders that occupy the relevant period and location of the writer. The last book my own book club read was The Island of dr. Moreau (it was my choice), but unfortunately due to corona measures we could not discuss it any more (most of the members would only discuss it when physically being together again - hopefully this summer). It would be great when this novella would be discussed on Elder Sign!
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pietermerel
Apr 30, 2021
In Elder Sign
Again a fine story and a fine discussion. Yes, this really is the type of Machen story I like (and I indeed had read it already before). And these type of stories are no doubt the ones Lovecraft got inspired by: the fear for the unknown/unknowable and the vagueness, typical to this type of weird fiction. I do think this story is much more lighter (and indeed sometimes quiet comical) in comparison with the darker stories (and essays in his Hieroglyphics) about the sublime / the ‘grail’ and the veil (a word Machen uses a lot). To me, the best weird fiction keeps it vague, because it exactly is about the unknowable; but I understand readers that think of this as too easy or cutting corners. If the threat and vagueness is written down really evocative and suggestive, that’s enough for me to ponder and muse after reading it (and for inspiration for my own stories). As you said ‘the encountering of the unknown/unknowable’ is what makes weird just what it is, not what comes after it, or explaining the whole thing: ‘scooby-dooing’ or rationalizing such a tale would totally break it. I liked your approach by comparing the story with detective stories. I admit with shame that I haven’t read a Sherlock Holmes tale yet (though of course I know most of the stories form several tv shows and movies). I look forward to Conan Doyle entering Elder Sign! I’m also interested in his other tales by the way (maybe some out of the collection ‘Tales of unease’ – I haven’t read it, but it looks interesting). As I said some times in other forum posts: I really like the idea of a weird ‘hidden’ city beneath the superficial one. I will not again discuss this topic, as it has been covered already several times, but it’s one of the things Machen is very good at, in some of his other tales as well.
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pietermerel
Apr 23, 2021
In Claytemple Fiction
I hope it's okay to use this forum for asking help regarding my own weird stories. So, here it is: In 2020 my Dutch debut 'Gepelde aarde' (Peeled Earth) was published: a collection of sixteen thematically related weird/horror/magical-realistic/absurdist stories. Because English speaking people kept asking me if they were translated, I decided to get them translated. Three of the stories my Dutch readers liked best are translated by now: The Descent, The Emergence and The Opening in the House near Chaton. Problem is, I don't have experience of publishing tales on English (genre) magazines/e-zines at all. There are so many of them and there are so many rules and differences between them. So, I'm not sure where and how to start. I don't want to 'rush in' and regret my actions later on. Does anyone know how to tackle this problem? Maybe there are some useful publishing guides on this matter? Or are there things I really should and should not do? Please, if you can help me in this, let me know. When I've succeeded to publish the stories, I'll put links to them here, so you can enjoy (and discuss) them!
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pietermerel
Apr 20, 2021
In Elder Sign
I’m glad you had the same thoughts about this story as I did. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed reading this, having the other M.R. James stories I read in mind. It’s anti-climactic and not working in the use of character focuses. I also think the story was too short to introduce and form the side characters well, who are now a bit out of the blue. You asked what readers thought was good about the story, but I don’t know, other than the already mentioned pretty humoristic chattering of the Anstruthers and the writing style of M.R. James. As a writer one of the few traps I never fall into is the leaving out of real consequences of the characters’ actions. (It’s one of the errors that really stands out when rereading your story, so I don’t think James reread this story very well.) Putting the scary or thrilling parts at the right moments and in the right focus is something else: I often find it difficult when to hint instead of put something in full light (or vice versa) or not to wait too long to give the reader a well-deserved thrill (the reverse of what James does here). I think that’s the craft lesson for me here: paying more attention at timing and focus of the thrilling/scary parts.
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pietermerel
Mar 24, 2021
In Elder Sign
Wanted to let you know I liked the lesson on anthroplogy by Glenn. Oh and the other things on the episode ;-) (And I can't understand how you are physically able to read this story while having a baby - I couldn't manage to do such things when my kids were babies, but then again I'm misophonic like Brandon, so I'm obviously just retroactively jealous.) It took some perseverance, but after a while I got used to the language in this story. I think Moore indeed is very skilled in this. (You mentioned Joyce's Portrait - I haven't read that one, but I had to think about Ulysses when reading this - I really had to force myself reading that, even more than Moore's story, though Ulysses also had some great chapters where you really look at the raw stuff inside the head of the protagonist, just like in this story). I also was surprised by the quote from Alan Moore. But because it's Moore, I doubt I should take his statement seriously. More so because my reading of the story (also before reading the introduction by Gaiman) was equal to yours: I thought the protagonist was mentally disabled, and I thought it was cool to think of such a point of view and to approach the language in an according way. But then again, other points in the story may indicate the opposite... I'm interested in the fire motive of the book as a whole, so I hope that another chapter of Moore's book will be discussed on Elder Sign in the future.
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pietermerel
Mar 11, 2021
In Elder Sign
This guest episode was nice for a change - Nathan Carson did a good job. When I read the four short stories in 'The Parenticide Club' (among which Oil of Dog), at first I was a bit puzzled. Were these tales cheap shocks, were they meant as morbid jokes or were they cynical satire? A quick look at the internet (and Joshi's work The Weird Tale) showed me that opinions are divided on this. After listening to the episode I agree it is most plausible to read it as cynical social commentary - at least as to the (in my opinion) best of these stories, Oil of Dog. Though I also had to smile at the provocative understatement in the first sentence of An Imperfect Conflagration: 'Early one June morning in 1872 I murdered my father—an act which made a deep impression on me at the time.' I've come to the conclusion that I liked the stories, regardless of the sadistic plots. When reading, on a certain moment I had to think of De Sade, on another of Quentin Tarantino, on another of Max und Moritz (see for example https://static.dw.com/image/18806085_303.jpg). Finally I want to quote Joshi on The Parenticide Club on Bierce's play with the reader: 'Bierce can't lose: if we are revolted, then he can merely chuckle and heap contempt upon us for our squeamishness; if we laugh, we stand self-condemned as sadists.' I hope he isn't right...
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pietermerel
Oct 31, 2020
In Elder Sign
I just read the story by Marquez and listened to the podcast episode. For me it's one of the most interesting episodes, because it exactly pointed to what I'm struggling with as a writer (and I think as person as well). I thank you for the discussion about how magical realism, urban fantasy and weird fiction relate. I often try to work out what the difference is. When people ask me what I write I say something like 'Yeah, a sort of horror, but not exactly horror, but more something like urban fantasy or magical realism or weird fiction. Depends on the story also.' But the thing is, I don't know what I write. Because of your discussion I'm know able to put my different stories better into different categories or crossing-overs. Of course, it isn't important in itself, but it says something about how I treat the weird element in my writing. As I was brought up in a very scientifical/rational family/milieu, I always had the feeling that there was something missing in the story about how the world works. I never became religious (though I was on the verge of studying philosophy), but I think the idea of the 'great splendid human race' able to know and explain everything always stroke me as naive. (In that sense I was a bit like Lovecraft I think.) Consciously and unconsciously I asked myself the question of how to treat the weird, the unexpected, the unexplainable (if it is out there or just as fictional construct) into a thematic question in my writing. To be short: listening to this episode gave me the instruments to think on using this theme in my writing in a more conscious way, and this tale of Marquez also helped me with that (or better: the discussion of this tale). As to the child in this story: one of my own stories is about a child who discovers that all parents lie, and that animals, plants and even adults are made in factories, and lifeless things and products grow on trees. I belief that kid doesn't imitate the ways and ideas of the adults, but I'm not sure if this kid is innocent in the Blakeian way also. I honestly don't know why I wrote that tale. But whatever... Thank you for the great discussion! It helped me a lot.
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pietermerel
Oct 27, 2020
In Elder Sign
I have to admit that when I read the story, I was a bit puzzled what was expected of me as a reader - I don't like stories with too much allusions (seems a bit elitist), and to me the schism between thoughts/narration and the action of and focus on Moore's story was a bit confusing. Furthermore, I missed a sense of atmosphere (like I also missed it in Amber and for example in stories like those of Isaac Asimov) - like most sf and speculative fiction they are rather experiments in social constellations. In some way Ray Bradbury is able to combine sf and a more personal, atmospheric type of story, though. But I know now I'm not doing justice to these sf and speculative fiction stories. After listening to the two extensive podcast episodes on The Graveyard Heart, I have to admit I just should have read the story multiple times to understand it better. Your discussion showed there is a good reason Zelazny uses this bombardment of allusions, there is a reason he confuses the reader with the aforementioned schism. Though I don't think this story is weird fiction, I had to think of two weird fiction writers (according to Lovecraft, that is) when you discussed the allusions to mythology (gods with a minor g) and religion (Catholicism). Firstly, I had to think of Unger as a sort of Arthur Machen when he is lamenting about the hollowness of humanity when they become gods and art becoming empty. In his essay Hieroglyphics, Machen says: 'Man is a sacrament, soul manifested under the form of body, and art has to deal with each and both and to show their interaction and interdependence.' Together with Machens notion of 'ecstacy' (a vague notion, but some sort of required 'soul' in literature and art, maybe the Sublime), I think you can view Unger and Machen as persons who wanted to unify Catholicism with the Dionysian, a sort of mysticism as opposed to the 'clean' dogmatic and pragmatic Apollonian version. Secondly, when you mention gods with a minor g in a weird fiction podcast, you almost automatically say Lord Dunsany. His world of gods is (superficially) a far more romantic one than for example Zelazny's worlds of Amber, but both writers use these gods as a frightening mirror of humans turning into gods or meddling with divinity - as S.T. Joshi calls it (about Dunsany's stories) it is 'Nietzsche in a fairy tale'. As you said in the podcast, those gods are perfect on the outside but also 'soulless' when it comes to ethics, and the humans in The Graveyard Heart are heading the same way, according to Unger.
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pietermerel
Oct 08, 2020
In Elder Sign
The story was a funny and a light read, which was nice for a change (between the more serious stories - though I always have to laugh at times when listening to the Elder Sign podcast itself). I think earlier there was mention of the idea to spend a thematic episode on humor in weird fiction (which indeed isn't the most obvious thing; maybe I'm mistaken?). Accidentally I bought Blustery Day (e-book) when looking for The Ereshkigal Working, and read that one too, not knowing it too had been discussed on Elder Sign. I had a hard time to find The Ereshkigal Working, but found it in (an e-book version of) the sorcery-anthology 'The Way of the Wizard' (ed. John Joseph Adams), which also contain some other well known writers, like Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin and Ursula LeGuin. After reading the two Jonathan L. Howard stories I'm very curious about his novels. Seems like a lot of fun and necessary distraction from the more black and serious (weird) stories. My own first amateur essay writing was about the films by Romero, how to interpret them, and how The Day of the Dead in my eyes was one of the most undervalued zombie movies. The zombie(apocalyps)-subgenre stays interesting and I can imagine it is one of the most researched horror subgenre (next to vampire stories and Frankenstein/golem ones). There certainly are more weird zombie stories (like those by Robert E. Howard, and I remember a zombie story by August Derleth), so there's also a possibility for a thematic episode on that ;-)
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pietermerel
Sep 21, 2020
In Elder Sign
I agree that 'The Alchemist' clearly is a juvenile story (i.e. the narrative technique isn't fleshed out yet and contains numeral 'mistakes') and also that at least the first paragraph consists of nice evocative sentences. I was curious what S.T. Joshi had to say about this tale, so I looked it up in his 'The Weird Tale'. He's actually quiet positive about this story because of how Lovecraft handles the supernatural in a (according to him) innovative way: first the 'typical' supernatural explanation seems to be a familiy curse (so, sorcery), but then the typical HPL-way of wanting to use a natural explanation causes the solution of a living human being, killing the aristocratic scions. Then, Joshi explains, Lovecraft puts the supernatural back in by having this alchemist to prolong his life unnaturally. I myself think that this latter was way to obvious in the tale (but yes, Lovecraft still had to learn better story telling techniques). On the other hand Joshi's take on it in itself (as a new way of approaching the supernatural) is interesting. He also points at the typical Lovecraftian archetype of 'the very old man' which has its starting point in this tale (and indeed he has given one of his tales the name 'The Terrible Old Man'). I think this is something to go back to when discussing other HPL tales, like 'The Picture in the House' or 'Cool Air'.
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pietermerel
Aug 14, 2020
In Elder Sign
For the second time since the beginning of Elder Sign, I didn't read the tale, but just listened to the episode (it had to do with not finding a cheap version of the story and already having a REH-book, which I didn't like very much, though it wasn't bad). But the recap and discussion were clear enough. I really liked the episode, although the tale wasn't weird. And though ethics of a tale have been discussed earlier in Elder Sign, they hadn't been discussed at this scale. It was interesting to compare medieval chivalric literature with 'modern' chivalric and 'post' chivalric; and old, less old and new views on ethics (and gender) when talking about murder, justice and the (not) divine status of human beings. I love the work of Alan Moore, who was one of the first persons in 'pulp' fiction to make a point of the questionable status of the hero (esp. in Watchmen). I think since postmodernity took its place in culture, there isn't a serious chivalric hero anymore in the Solomon Kane sense of the term. There are of course those revenge-and-violence types of things, like the Tarantino movies (Kill Bill), to which I personally have a love-hate relation: they give bad example, but it depends on the viewer how to interpret this I guess (though I fear it can make violence/resentment seem excusable for angry, thrill seeking people). Postmodernity indeed shows the thin line between ethics and arbitrariness, and the rise of uncertainty what to do as a not-divine human. I do think this existentialist questioning is not only there in noir, but also in new weird (esp. Thomas Ligotti) - so there we are back to weird fiction still ;-) And though this episode wasn't on storytelling, it made me think on how to treat the ethical questions of the protagonists in my own writing, so I thank you for that also.
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pietermerel
Jun 12, 2020
In Elder Sign
As a teenager I read stories and novels by King (and Clive Barker). I really liked Pet Sematary, It and some of the stories, like Jerusalems Lot, and many of the film adaptations. After that I didn't read King for a long time, but when I did (e.g. some of his later novels at an age of around 33), I didn't like them anymore - it seemed to be a bit too much mannerist and the themes didn't interest me. Because of the Elder Sign podcast I'm now rereading Night Shift. I liked the first story - Jerusalems Lot; it is much more Lovecraftian than Graveyard Shift. I like the letter novel-style and the gothic atmosphere. But it's still far behind Lovecraft's own stories for me. (I also read the postapocalyptic 'vignette' Night Surf, which I didn't like, but I'll keep on reading.) After rereading Jerusalems Lot AND rereading the great story The Rats in the Walls, I honestly was disappointed in Graveyward Shift. It just doesn't work for me. Maybe it is also because I like rats and other rodents, so that is no horror to me (and a bat is totally different from a rodent being an insectivore with a totally different way of living, and many bat species DO live in cellars, but that doens't matter for the story of course). I liked the discovery of the trapdoor to the subcellar and the subcellar itself, the evoked image of a desecrated church and the '12 years darkness', but apart from evoke some atmosphere, King doesn't do anything with the cellar and it's old contents to give more depth to the tale, I think. Unless you are supposed to have read The Rats in the Walls and are supposed to infer a whole story there, maybe. What I did like was the switch in sympathy, from Hall to Warwick. After listening to the podcast discussion, I also think King made a parallel with the Lovecraft story in that the rats have the same sort of role: they lead the characters to the real horror. In Lovecraft the horror is the degradation of the protagonist into his cannabalist sectarian ancestry, in King it is the evil that rises in Hall. But, as you said, King isn't really clear about what corrupts Hall. Lovecraft's tale is far deeper, complex and atmospheric than King's. But I think the short story collection Night Shift as a whole is interesting from a literary point of view, as you implied in the podcast episode, in that it shows how the young King is experimenting with styles and themes.
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pietermerel
Apr 10, 2020
In Elder Sign
How nice to listen to the live show at PhilCon 2019, though it was a bit short (I think there's a lot more to say about this story, but I understand the time limits at a con). When I reread this story - which already was one of my favorite HPL stories (complete with S.T. Joshi notes) - I even saw it has had much more influence than I thought on the writing of my first short story collection (which will see the light at the end of may, though it is in Dutch - sorry for the secret advertisement here). I also don't get the opinion of Joshi on this one. I really like HPL's not-mythos short stories like this one, and like The Music of Erich Zann, even The terrible Old Man, and the more refined and longer story The Dreams in the Witch House - all these stories about 'portals to the unknown/terrible' and persons who are meddling with it. I like this theme and sadly it is sometimes overshadowed by the whole mythos thing.
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pietermerel
Mar 10, 2020
In Elder Sign
I read this story some time ago, right after I read The Repairer of Reputations, but then I didn’t see as much of the denseness of the story as I did after listening to the podcast. I wonder how Chambers wrote this story, being so complex and yet so lightly written? Did he first devised the whole thing or did he rewrote it again and again? When in the episode the neoclassical nature of the Fates was mentioned, I thought about the tales of the Metamorphoses, especially the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, in which Pygmalion wishes his ivory statue of a woman into flesh with a kiss, by help of Aphrodite. (Interestingly, the Greek version of the Fates (Moirai) are thought to be an old version of Aphrodite.) I think Chambers pointed (also) to that story deliberately. The best part of the episode for me were the thoughts on the significance of the King in Yellow in this story. I think your interpretation is very plausible: the tale being a distorted fantasy by a madman and Jack seeing or suspecting the cruel truth. I never looked at it that way. It really made my day and the tale still better!
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pietermerel
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