Evil Nightmare Stuff By Mail

Good morning from, judging by the weather, the planet Dagobah. Christ, it’s nasty out. Like walking around in a fat man’s ass. The upshot of this is unsettled atmosphere, which means thunderstorms. I’m gonna sleep like a baby tonight.

It’s been a while since we last spoke, and for that I apologize. My day job was hectic as an orangutan fucked up on angel dust, and my laptop’s internal fan has decided to take a dirt nap. Probably because of all the dirt.

***

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m a shill. I am completely open to whoring this blog out to corporations for money, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t want to give that impression (seriously, though, I will do anything for money). I mentioned the Problem Glyphs kickstarter because I think it’s something that will be of value to people. If you’re reading this, let’s face it, you’re probably gonna be somebody I know, and as such we’ve probably got compatible interests. So from time to time, I’ll mention something cool that I’ve come across, and want to pass along.

Either that, or somebody’s paid me a shitload of money (dead serious, call me, marketing gurus, I got a mortgage that isn’t gonna mort itself).

In the former category I humbly present The Mysterious Package Company. This Canadian concern produces one of the most original and thoughtful services I’ve ever seen. It literally puts you in the middle of a story.

In a lot of Weird fiction, one of the big tropes is having a protagonist stumble across Things Humankind Was Not Meant To Know. They get an anonymous parcel filled with strange items, hastily scrawled notes, newspaper clippings, things of that ilk. The MPC does precisely that.

Their current campaign, called The Century Beast, was financed by a wildly successful Kickstarter, and that was my first exposure to the malevolent secrets squirming beneath the surface.

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This image came in a plain yellow envelope with a Canadian postmark. The fact that I knew it was coming (my wife, God bless her, could not keep a secret of this magnitude and awesomeness if the fate of the free world depended on it) in no way impeded the thrill I got when I opened it up. I’ve received four or five mailings so far, each more amazing and dreadful than the last. I’ve gotten handwritten notes, the cassette liner notes from a Scandinavian death metal album, a USB drive with a frankly terrifying recording (wrapped in a police evidence bag, mind you), and a bunch of other ephemera. It feels like it’s coming to a climax, and to be honest, I’m worried.

The story itself concerns an old Norse myth, similar to the one about Thor going fishing and snagging Jormungand. Ships disappear in a terrible maelstrom. Survivors come back to shore mad. And there’s evidence that it’s not an isolated incident from a thousand years ago.

The MPC has a bunch of different experiences that they offer, scaled to a wide range of budgets.  Their work is beautiful. Everything is aged appropriately, foxed and folded and dog-eared to perfection. Suspension of disbelief is effortless. This is the ideal gift for fans of The Weird, mystery and puzzle junkies, or somebody you want to scare into an early, screaming grave. Highest Recommendation.

***

Still working on the SECRET PROJEKT I’d mentioned. One aspect of it is based on a nightmare I once had. I dreamed I was in a trench in World War I–the battlefield was silent and empty, but maybe it was only like that for me. I peeked up over the top, and saw a lone horseman not too far off–he was uniformed, helmeted, and wearing a gas mask, and had a banner on a pole attached to his saddle. Then the horse turns and looks at me, and I knew I’d been had. Its flesh flaked and blew away, revealing some weird automaton. Its horse skull grinned as the doughboy on its back sank into a turret-like hump, and green flames burned in its guts, in its mouth, in its eyes.

You bet your ass I woke up after that. And into the Idea File with ye!

I don’t generally remember my dreams lately. That really sucks, because I feel like I’m missing out on a lot of cool stuff.

I can’t say that I miss the night terrors, though. I’m all set with those, thank you.

***

I’m working up the courage to doing video entries, maybe once a week. It’s hard for me. I have a distinctive accent, and I am not a good-looking person. Give me a bit. I’ll work on it.

***

That’s all I got for now. Take a second, as you go about your day, and give a little thought for your neighbors. Everybody’s going through some serious shit, so be nice.

And I was dead serious about money.

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Free Fiction Friday: The Book Of False Memories

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Good morning once again from the ol’ Coastal Plain. Trying something a little different today: freebies! I don’t know if I’m going to do this every week, but you got to try if you’re gonna buy, right?

Right.

***

The artwork above is by the extremely talented Dmitri Arbacauskas, proprietor of Tormented Artifacts. If you need leather goods, props, posters for your next Stars Come Right Cotillion, you go see him–his work is breathtaking. The piece up there was commissioned for the story, which appeared in Weaponizer Monthly.

***

This piece came from an extremely dark place. The act of writing it was like pinning it down, naming it, and through the work I exorcised it. It was incredible. Words have power. Never doubt it.

***

The Book Of False Memories

by Christopher Hickey (© 2013)

Craig stopped at the bar on his way back to the University of Southern Maine campus. His office hours weren’t for a while yet. One of his Intro to Lit students recognized him and gave him a “Hey, Professor Spiegel!” Craig raised his pint with a wan smile.

He didn’t make a habit of getting drunk, but he found that a beer after an appointment with his therapist braced him for the rest of the day. “We don’t like the term ‘crazy’, Craig,” she’d said. “What you’re feeling is, for you, perfectly normal,” she’d said. He closed his eyes, letting the yeasty smell of the pub drift into his pores.

“Yes, is this Mister Spiegel? Mister Spiegel, hi, this is Trooper MacDonald of the Maine State Police. Is your wife named Mary, sir? There’s been an accident.”

He closed his eyes, hoping to bulwark himself against the memories, but they always broke through. Every day for the past six months, they broke through.

“She’s lucky to be alive. Another four inches to the left, and she woulda been a goner.”

Oh, they all loved to say that. As if all the cops and doctors themselves bent physics to ensure her survival, oh, and by the way, you’re welcome.

The next memory in the chain was Mary, looking like a little spider at the center of a web of wires and tubing. Her left eye was blackened like a boxer’s, and her leg was in traction. He sat down hard in the monstrous recliner that looked like it was upholstered in dragonskin. The tears were coming, hard, when Mary’s right eye opened, as blue and as radiant as it was on the day they’d met.

“Don’t you dare, Craig. I need you, so you pull it together.” And then she slipped back under the tide of opiates and went back to sleep, and Craig never wept about the accident.

Mary was lucid enough to send him home at eleven-thirty the next night.

He wandered around their house like a ghost. He fed their dog, a goofy hound named Paco. He washed the dishes, unattended for the past forty-eight hours. He drank a beer in one go, his throat clutching and releasing like birth pangs.

The thought blasted into his skull like a bullet: This is exactly what it would be like if she’d died.

He’d be feeding Paco if she’d died. He’d have dishes to do if she’d died. He’d be drinking a beer had she died.

He laid down on their unmade bed, smelling her scent on the pillow next to him, which he’d be doing if she’d died.

But she’s alive. I just saw her. She kicked me out for hovering.

And his logical mind knew this. He clung to the thought like it were his last hope.

It sustained him when, two days later, his first day back at class, he thought Right now they’d be lowering her into the ground. I’d throw some earth on her casket, and that’s that. A day after that: Today’s the day the University would be calling, asking if there was anything they could do, but meaning when are you coming back to work, Intro to Lit doesn’t teach itself, you know. And the day after that: I think today is the first time I try to drink myself to death. How much booze would that even take? A bottle? Two? Or would I take chance out of the equation and get a pistol? Put it in my mouth and just explode out of this life.

***

A week later, a whole week of the double track of equally valid memories, Mary was released from Maine Medical Center. Aside from the busted leg, she was in good health and good spirits.

The shame Craig felt at his depression was a groaning mass on top of him.

The months passed, and Mary grew stronger. She kicked the painkillers she’d been given for ibuprofen. Once she got out of the little wheelchair, she started going for short jaunts around the block on her crutches, and then longer trips around Portland.

It was around this time she’d noticed Craig’s fey moods.

She’d surprised him one day, wearing nothing but his oldest tweed blazer–”English Professor Drag” she’d called it. She leaned on the cane with both hands, scowling at him as hard as she could.

“Hey, idiot. I’m Doctor House.”

He went to her, smiling, unbuttoning the blazer. “Oh, look at you. Spend all that time around doctors and you think you are one.”

“Mm-hmm.” It had been a very long time for them both. He kissed down her stomach as his hands went up her ribcage.

He clamped his eyes shut as his thumb speedbumped over the livid purple scar on her flank.

He willed himself not to wither. They needed this, God damn it. He pulled her to him, gently guiding her to the cushions, careful to angle his hips in such a way that he didn’t put pressure on her bad left leg.

It was quick, and very sweet.

They’d stayed tangled up in each other for a little while when she spoke. “I noticed you almost stopped when you touched the scar.”

“Shit. I was hoping you didn’t notice that.”

Mary propped herself up. “I want you to understand, honey. I’m okay. I’m here, right here with you. Why can’t you be here with me?”

He wanted to answer, but he couldn’t.

“Okay. We’ll talk later.” Mary rose slowly, leaning on her cane. “By the way–a FedEx came for you today.”

He pulled his jeans up. A large Tyvek envelope lay on the kitchen table. The waybill was marked with his name and address, and the usual FedEx indicia and bar codes, but in the place of the return address was a series of Xes.

“Ooh. Mysterious.” He sliced the pouch open with a kitchen knife.

It was a paperback, fairly thick, and the only markings were the imprint of the publish-on-demand outfit that printed the book on the back, and the title, “The Book Of False Memories”, on the front. He riffled the pages, and it looked like it was made up of ten different typefaces, and paragraphs and margins were of little consequence.

Receiving books like this wasn’t out of the ordinary; about once a semester, one of his students, apparently thinking that being a professor of English at a mid-sized university brought perks like having an in with the publishing industry, would send him a novel. Usually they were “Twilight”-themed crap or experimental bullshit, and this looked like it fell into the former camp.

Ah, to be twenty with a new copy of “Deathbird Stories”.

This one listed no author, however, which was odd. He set it back on the table and went to find his shirt.

***

It was another week before Craig thought of the book again. Mary was going into town for physical therapy, and he and Paco had the house to themselves. “Just us guys,” he said to the dog as he scratched behind his ears. He looked up and saw the book lying where he’d left it.

Why not. At least I’ll have a laugh.

He turned to page one, which was the first page of the book. No title page, copyright, not even a dedication.

My name is Craig Spiegel. I am thirty-eight years old. I live in Portland, Maine. My wife, Mary, is dead. When this work is complete, I will end my life by firing a bullet up into my brain.

He read that paragraph once, then twice. It seemed like a practical joke, one of his students or a colleague at the university. He was actually laughing before his brain picked up the one key line.

My wife, Mary, is dead.

“Oh, fuck this. Fuck you.”

A joke’s a joke, but this was obscene. Who would go to all the time and expense to POD a book just to say “Your wife is dead”? His hands were shaking.

The worst part of it was the feeling of resonance.

It sat on the coffee table like a predator; he struck first and picked it up.

Part One, of three, entitled “Coming To Be: That Which Is True”, was his own history as if written by a madman. The facts were all there–childhood, schooling, even his old girlfriends–but it was all out of order. There was no narrative flow; it seemed as if the joker who wrote it was adding things as he thought of them.

Part Two, entitled “Dissolution: That Which Is False”, dealt with the accident. It began:

They kept telling me that, had the other car hit four inches to the right, she would have gotten off with a broken leg, maybe some internal injuries they’d have to keep her for a week to keep an eye on. The other car, however, was not apprised of this, and hit her four inches to the left instead. She lingered and she died. Her last words to me were “Don’t you dare, Craig. I need you, so you pull it together.” And then she slipped back under the tide of opiates and went back to sleep, and I never wept again, because she never woke up.

Craig blinked hot tears off the ends of his eyelashes. He realized, in an abstract sense, that he should have been asking himself who did this, how they knew all this.

All he could think as he read was “Poor Craig 2.”

Today was the funeral. People kept coming up to me, touching my hand, squeezing my shoulder, and I wanted to machine gun them. Fucking destroy them like I was destroyed. I’d been thinking that somewhere out there, there’s a world where she’s still alive. I would murder them all happily if it meant getting it all back.

Part 3, “Rebirth: That Which Shall Be” was where it started to get weird.

I talked to Aleksander. He said I smelled bad, that I should get cleaned up and come back to the university.

I told him to suck my cock, and I asked him about my parallel world theory. If people could travel back and forth between them. He said it was impossible. “Ah, I am sorry my friend. The expenditure of energy–even if we had the technology to run it through–would be unprecedented with the expertise we have today.”

He also called me crazy when I swept this shit onto the floor. He called security. So much for my professorship at USM.

Fuck it. Not important.

Am I crazy? Is Aleks right?

At least now he had a lead.

The key slid into the front door, making him jump. He hid the book under the cushion, like a young kid with a titty mag. He didn’t want Mary seeing this. She’d come so far.

***

Three hours later he was at Yamaoka, a nice sushi joint downtown. He was into his third Kirin when Aleksander walked in, spotting Craig with a hearty wave.

“Doctor Maciejewsky! How’s the Physics teaching racket? Any trouble finding the place?”

“No, no! None whatsoever.” He flagged down a waitress and asked if they had Pilsner Urquell; he looked crestfallen at the denial. “It’s terrible. You can’t get a decent lager here.”

“But let’s be honest, Aleks–can you get Bud in Krakow?”

The thin blond man beamed. “Yes! Proper Budweiser, not the swill they sell at your football matches! But I take it you did not ask me here to talk beer. How is Mary?”

Poker face. “Good. Real good! She’s on a cane now. Stronger every day.”

“Wonderful! Send her my love.”

“I will. What I wanted to ask about–would I be wasting your time, science-wise, if I asked your opinion on parallel universes?”

“No, Craig, not at all! It’s very valid, and the science is pointing towards them being fact. Why do you ask? It’s a very specific line of inquiry.”

“I’m, er…researching a book.” Not a lie.

“Excellent! Ah, I always knew you had the look of the novelist! So, this is science fiction?”

“You could say that.” Craig snatched a hunk of nigiri, like a heron snagging a fish. “The question I had was, can people travel to one? Like, with today’s technology?”

“Ah, I am sorry my friend. The expenditure of energy–even if we had the technology to run it through–would be unprecedented with the expertise we have today. Information, maybe, given the proper resonance, since we’re talking sci-fi, but people? Things? No.” He looked at Craig like he was about to yack up a half pound of raw fish. “Craig? Are you all right?”

“Yeah, yeah. Fine. Just a little deja vu.”

***

After Mary had gone to bed, he went back to his research, growing more scared by the minute.

I’ve come to believe, despite that polack’s lack of faith, that there are indeed other worlds than this one. Maybe there’s one where my beautiful Mary (I had a flash today of her just wearing one of my blazers, acting like Dr. House, and I punched the wall until I thought I’d pass out from the pain.) is still alive.

I’ve made that world my focus. There’s nothing left for me here.

So that other Craig (I have the feeling he calls me Craig 2, good, let’s go with that) is enjoying the life I lost. I’ll make him my vector. I’ll spend every day–a minute here, working upwards–telling him to write it. Write it. Write it, Craig. Write it. Write me. The acid is helping, I think.

Maybe I’m just crazy. I lost my wife and I’ve gone crazy. Still, what could it hurt?

“Oh, is that your book?”

There she was, looking down at him from the staircase.

“What?” On guilty reflex he slammed the book shut.

“The book! The book you were writing and wouldn’t let me see!” She was making her way down the stairs. “Is that the FedEx that came for you?”

“Uh, yeah. It finally got here.”

“Well? Let me read it!”

“Ah…not just yet, okay? It’s still very raw, need to go through with some edits. You know how us…writers are.”

She made a disappointed moue. “Okay, Stephen King. But make sure I’m the first to read it once you’re through.”

He had managed to make it to the kitchen sink, spraying hot bile onto the aluminum.

Craig dragged out the cleanup process as much as he could. He’d be compelled to pick up the book–his book–again if he sat back down.

Which he did. There was a further drunken spiral, more hallucinogens, which Craig 1 could only assume was heightening the bond they shared, and further alienation. Timmy, his brother–their brother–had written him off, saying there’d be no more help from the family unless he got cleaned up. That sounded unlike Tim to Craig 1, who had always been the Good Time Charlie between the two of them.

Strangest yet was this passage, towards the end, referencing a Wikipedia article:

Tulpa, the Buddhists call it. A being made out of thought. A person, conjured. I almost thought I made one the other night while I was tripping on mescaline.

Possible. Possible. The seed, then the vase.

Then the fruit.

Craig didn’t know what to make of it. The book had been full of incoherent rambling and pseudophilosophy; he didn’t know why this stuck in his mind.

Then, the last page:

In about five minutes, I am going to insert the barrel of this handgun–a Glock G22–into my mouth, and I’m going to pull the trigger. THIS IS NOT A SUICIDE. This is simply a situation where I am exploding into a better life.

Timmy, sorry about the mess. I know it’s going to be hard for you and Ma, but try to understand.

Aleks: I’m sorry about all the things I said about you. I was frustrated.

And Craig 1. I am so sorry about all this.

And that was that, the end of The Book of False Memories.

By the time he got up to bed, collapsing in behind Mary in his clothes, sucking in the scent of her hair, he’d almost convinced himself that it was all some stress-related fugue, and the catharsis of being confronted with his shadow-self was a step along the road to healing.

Two nights later, there was a knock on the door. It’s a good thing Craig answered.

“Hello, Craig 1. Thank you for reading so thoroughly. You brought me over almost as real as you are.”

It was like looking into a funhouse mirror. The copy had red-rimmed eyes and a crust of beard on its chin, and it was wearing a filthy tank top.

Just as Craig had imagined him from the seeds planted in the book. “N-no.”

Craig 2.1, the tulpa-Craig, raised a very real pistol. It almost looked like there were toothmarks along the barrel.

“I’m ready to take my life back now.” He tightened his finger on the trigger. He began to sob, jubilant tears making tracks in the grime on his face. “I’m ready to see my Mary.”

You’re Using The Word “Bliss” Wrong, Goddammit

Good morning from the MACP. It’s dreary out there, man. Relatively chilly–the Carolingians are swathed like Shackleton’s crew, but this New England kid is ready for Mai Tais poolside. It’s a good day for The Good Fight.

Let’s get to it.

***

One thing you ought to know about me, if we’ve only met recently, is that I am a total mark for Joseph Campbell. You know how people have that one author they read, generally in college, and it just rewires their entire neural net? Joe C. is mine.

My Facebook memories for today, rather than bum-rushing me with pictures of my dead father, served up this gem from “The Power Of Myth” that I’d posted last year:

“Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

Now, Madison Avenue would have you believe that the word “bliss” means “that feeling you get when you eat chocolate or sit in a bubble bath.”

Bullshit.

“Bliss,” according to Campbell, is almost like being on the proper flight path. You’re in the pipe, five by five. Deviate from that path, you fly into a mountain or get shot down by an F-22. But if you stay the course, you get to where it is you need to be. It’s like the thread Lachesis spins. It’s your route. And when you’re on the right track, it feels right.

It feels right because it is right, goddammit. It’s your doom, in the old sense of the world. You’re acting in accord with wyrd. Five by five.

I feel like I’m beginning to course-correct. I feel like my doom is giving me a big-ass thumbs up. You’re getting there, kid–just try not to fuck it up.

Working on it. I might even have a little chocolate today.

Not a bath, though. Never a bath.

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***

The Phil Coulson Power Hour, one of my favorite programs currently on TV, really chapped my ass this week. No spoilers, but consider this your warning if you want to know nothing.

All week long, the ads  pulled the “This Week: AN AGENT WILL DIE!!!” stunt, and the two-hour season finale was, and I can’t back this up yet, an elaborate torture device designed by Joss Whedon to drive us all nuts. A few weeks back, one of the characters had a vision of somebody’s death, and all we knew was that the dead person was in space, had a crucifix on a chain, and a SHIELD patch on their shoulder. And all through the episode, the crucifix and the jacket got passed around like it was a Harlem Globetrotters game. Come on, Marvel. I’m rooting for you here, but you gotta give me something. I stick up for you. Meet me halfway.

***

Thinking about doing a Free Fiction Friday segment, where I go into the Vault and drag something out to show yez. Let me think on that some. I’m also considering video messages, but you guys are going to make fun of my accent, I just know it

forget i said anything okay jeez

***

The Far Harbor expansion for the magnificent Fallout Foah comes out today, set in the great state of Maine.

I am calling it now. In the zone representing Bangor there’s going to be a big, spoopy Victorian, with wrought-iron bats flitting about the gate. Inside said edifice there will be either a skeleton or a Ghoul at a terminal. The terminal entry will be a horror story.

Ten to one odds. Somebody take the bet.

***

Speaking of sai King, photos from the actual, real-life movie set of The Dark Tower surfaced this week, showing Idris “Goddamn” Elba in costume as Roland Deschain, scion of the line of Eld, last of the Gunslingers, and Mad Dog of Gilead.

He looks PERFECT. Dead serious. The Dark Tower is tied with Star Wars as my all-time favorite story. I know what I’m about here. Elba is Roland. The Guns are as if somebody went to Mid-World, just like you can do in the stories, somehow got ahold of Roland’s gunbelts, and brought them back. It’s unfuckingcanny.

***

And if you want to talk shit about Elba not being able to play Roland because he’s Black, you can go fuck yourself. You’re not needed here, nor are you wanted. Go fuck yourself.

***

AND ON THAT NOTE. I hope each and every one of you take a little time today. Take a breather. Kiss the person you want to be kissing. Make a nice sandwich. Tell a dirty joke. Because, you know what? Sometimes the little pleasures are the only things keeping the Abyss away. And that’s what we want.

Problem Glyphs Kickstarter–Hack Your Subconscious

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[REGRET IS A LESSON]

The campaign for the Problem Glyphs art book, by artist/bog witch Eliza Gauger and enabled by Strix Publishing, is now live on the Kickstarter.

This is a thing you want to be hip to, folks.

The concept goes like this: Starting in late 2013, people would write in personal problems to Ms. Gauger, anonymously, and she would respond with a hand-drawn sigil representing a possible solution, or simply lending support. The art created in response to the flood of requests is simply staggering.

I have suspicions that Ms. Gauger is some sort of cyborg. Like her hands pop apart into twelve separate pens, and she just goes shithouse. It’s an astonishing body of work, and it’s good work. There’s a glyph for every problem, from trans kids wanting to own their flesh and feel magnificent in it, to survivors of abuse wanting to change the narrative of their experiences, to people who want to get the hell off-planet. It’s what I point to when I want to illustrate the idea of art helping people. It’s sure as shit helped me, at some really lousy, low times.

Go, have a look.

 

Attitude Adjustments, Giant Carnivorous Whales, and The Money Chant

Good afternoon from near the Southern end of the BAMA Sprawl.

Feeling anxious today. Heart racing, chest aching, eyes scanning for an open exit. It happens–the brain gets bathed in too much of one neurochemical or another, and the Ape Mind starts seeing Smilodons lurking behind every bush. What can the Twenty-First Century Hominid do when faced with terrible, illusory felids?

That hominid does what that hominid can do–The Work. Always The Work.

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Many a nun has tried to break my hands and reset the bones into a proper Palmer Method configuration. They have all failed.

I took my own advice from last week and started writing freehand, and it’s absolutely a different beast from writing on a computer. You fuck up? Scratch it out. The self-editor is squeezed out by the indelible nature of ink. You’re stuck with two options: stop or keep going.

I think I’ve found what works for me.

***

My love of monsters, real and imagined, is well-documented. I happened to catch a documentary on National Geographic called Sea Monsters: The Definitive Guide, which was a delight. It compared monsters of legend against their zoological bases–the Kraken versus the giant squid, for example. But one beastie they covered just tickled my brain’s Monster Center–a whale from the Miocene called Livyatan melvillei. Basically an orca the size of a sperm whale with the craziest goddamn teeth I’ve ever seen. I mean, look at this sumbitch:

Physeteroidea_-_Livyatan_melvillei

 

***

Formulating plans to go to Heroes Con  in Charlotte over Bunker Hill Day weekend. I’m going to meet some friends, but it sticks in my mind that every author I know says to Always Be Networking while at conventions.

I do not know how to do this. I’m guessing it involves pounding my chest and singing.

***

That’s all my fragile mental state will allow, friends, so I’m out. Be kind to one another.

Old School

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It’s going to be a good day today. I know it is. It has to be. Good morning from the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain.

I tried something a little different yesterday: Writing.

I mean it! Actual, old-school pen-on-paper storymaking. Like the Pilgrims used to do!

I’d heard authors I admire say that they’ve taken, in greater or lesser measure, to handwriting manuscripts, at least in the first draft. I wasn’t feeling the work yesterday (hey, man, it happens), so I decided to give it a whack.

It felt like play. Like I was just screwing around. But lo and befuckinhold, progress!

I don’t know how it works–there’s a complex neurological reason as to why handwriting and typing use different parts of the brain, I think–but you can’t argue with results.

Another tool in the toolbox. Fuckin’ A.

***

Your favorite television program probably got cancelled yesterday. I empathize. I’ve been singing dirges to “Agent Carter.” Peggy, we hardly knew ye.

***

This week has been a goddamn meat grinder.  I haven’t had the energy to get to the gym until this morning, and man, I felt every second of my time there. Seeing Chris Evans’ ridiculous form on the big screen on Wednesday was a big motivator. If I had a physique like that kid, I’d have to be put forcibly into my shirts.

***

I’m still trying to figure out a format for this blog, something to make it a little more interesting and/or informative. I can only shill so much before people make the j/o gesture and move on.

At the same time, though, it’s a good place for me, personally, to set some intent. To figure out where my own head is at. Make myself accountable for doing the work. Does that make sense?

So far, it’s been fun, and I hope it’s been fun for you as well.

 

 

Fuck Lovecraft

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Good morning from the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain. It is four in the goddamn morning as I start this entry, Foo Fighters are on the VH1 Classic, and it is what it is, as if it could be otherwise.

I’m thinking this morning about where stories come from. It’s almost like a chemical reaction. Mix bleach and ammonia, you get deadly gas. Mix Experience A with Influence B, combine with Song On Ipod C, and you get a story. The beginnings of a story, anyway. You still need to put that ass in front of the keyboard and expend some mana, but you get the idea.

I was talking with my associate Aaron Jacobs (follow his blog or my curse be upon ye) about H. P. Lovecraft–we were in Brooklyn, not too far from the setting of “The Horror At Red Hook,” the thesis of which is “What Are Those Immigrants DOING In There?!” Lovecraft’s racism is no secret, the way he used slurs as punctuation. But as we’re talking, we come to the conclusion that his bigotry suffused his entire body of work almost at a molecular level.

Horrors coming from beyond with agendas unknowable to even his learned protagonists? Accursed lineages borne of ancestors mixing with other races? A terror of the chaos lurking outside of his experience?

Holy shit–it’s baked right in. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

It’s a good thing that Weird fiction and cosmic horror aren’t locked into HPL’s xenophobia–the fear of the Unknown is universal, and even though Howie’s Unknown was African-American people, Jewish folks, women, and other human groups, the unease about what’s beyond the firelight was with us all along, and will continue.

And yeah, Lovecraft influenced me–the title of this very blog is taken from the the Arabic name, al Azif, of his go-to Shunned Tome. But once you see it, you can’t unsee it. You take what’s universal, and you leave what’s harmful. Always be critical. Always examine your lineage and see if there aren’t any monstrous fish-folk swimming around there.

You want a good deconstruction of Lovecraft’s fictional ecosystem, I implore you to check out The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle. It takes the framework of “Red Hook,” strips out the bigotry and the squamous, batrachian prose, and infuses it with the living, breathing soul of a haunted Depression-era New York. Dead serious, this novella is legit, my only complaint being that it feels like the first act of a bigger story. Go get it, then read “Red Hook,” and tell me which is better.

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I saw a story this morning about an opera, an honest-to-god opera, based on The Shining, which looks interesting. Theater is something I’m not too well-versed in, and in this era of Hamilton ripping things up, that’s something that needs to change. My wife and I went and saw the touring production of 42nd Streetwhich was a delight.

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My love of fictional spy Phil Coulson is well-documented, and a little creepy. I freely and fully admit to this. No content here, I just feel like it’s something I needed to let out there.

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I only just saw the brilliant Attack The Block yesterday. Man, what a movie. I only knew John Boyega from The Force Awakens,  and his brilliant online presence, and his performance in ATB was shocking. Don’t be like me. See if if you haven’t.

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That’s all I’ve got for now. I hope the day is kind to you. If it isn’t, grab it by the neck, threaten it with a knife, and ask it why. I’m right behind you, fam. Believe.