Tag Archives: weird fiction

Welcome to Munchen, Minnesota

Munchen, Minnesota is a place that may be of interest to you in your travels. This upcoming series being developed by Christine Borne (who is also apparently working on a YA novel about Krampus!) and Justin Glanville is planned to debut in April 2014 and centers around a fictional town, its residents, and their outsider, esoteric, supernatural and weird stories. It’s a little early to know much more about this project, but it certainly sounds promising to me, and perhaps to you as well.

Welcome to Munchen, Minnesota

“Hello, and Welcome to Munchen, Minnesota!

Like a lot of older industrial cities in the Midwest, Munchen (pronounced ‘Munchin’) has fallen on hard economic times. As people and businesses have moved away, many of the town’s neighborhoods have emptied, leaving old houses vacant and crumbling. Crime is rampant. The public schools are in disarray.

But Munchen’s got an even more serious problem: It’s on the verge of a supernatural invasion. The threat seems to loom ever larger as the town declines. And the only people with the power to save it are a geeky teenage girl, her gay librarian father, and an ambitious city planner who didn’t have a clue what he was in for when he transferred from the East Coast.

This blog is a platform that Christine and Justin developed for launching our series about Munchen and its unlikely heroes. It is our Sunnydale, if Sunnydale were in flyover country and overcast 267 days of the year. We’re both attracted to the mystique that place holds for certain people — whether for good or ill. Munchen is as much a character in our story as any of our humans (or non-humans).”

“We’re planning to launch Munchen as a serial, though right now we’re still experimenting with format. Will it be a web comic? A series of e-books? A full-cast audio production? Surely the answer will come to us in a dream, or leap out from behind a door when we least expect it.

Meanwhile, we’re going to chatter at you about writing, weird fiction, creatures with sharp teeth, and the forgotten places at the far corners of the psyche. Oh and also TV.” [via]

H P Lovecraft’s Dark Arcadia

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews H. P. Lovecraft’s Dark Arcadia: The Satire, Symbology and Contradiction by Gavin Callaghan, from McFarland.

Gavin Callaghan H P Lovecraft's Dark Arcadia from McFarland

Gavin Callaghan’s Dark Arcadia is a capable and engaging critical treatment of the weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft. He brings an interesting combination of methods to this material. Recognizing Lovecraft’s professed interest in classical literature, he examines the allusions to antiquity and the possibility of satirical method in HPL’s stories. As a complementary tactic, he invokes psychoanalytic appraisals of Lovecraft’s authorial motives (strongly indulging Jungian approaches) to account for significant tropes in his output.

Although the publisher’s jacket copy praises Callaghan for “ignoring secondary accounts and various received truths,” he is clearly well-read in the existing body of Lovecraft criticism. While he brings some new ideas to the field, his most significant contradiction of “common knowledge” about HPL and his work is to consider the “cosmicism” of Lovecraft’s horror to be ornamental rather than essential. Callaghan asserts that the various instances of cosmic scenarios and phenomena in Lovecraft’s stories (actually rather outnumbered by more conventional gothic horror tropes and contexts) are simply grandiose exaggerations of the author’s familial mise-en-scène, and vehicles for his ambivalent antagonism toward the cultural decadents of his parents’ generation and his own. The “Old” and the “Elder” to which HPL attribute a veneer of deep time were, according to Callaghan, in living memory in the fact of their inspiration. The extra-dimensional hugeness of Lovecraft’s monsters simply reflects the subjective enormity of parental figures.

Callaghan also opposes the notion that there was in any sense a “mellowing” or relaxation of Lovecraft’s social and cultural conservativism in his later fiction. In the interpretive context Callaghan provides, he makes a persuasive case in this regard. Callaghan’s own value-position relative to Lovecraft’s ideological stances is not made especially clear. While he does indict HPL for his racism and misogyny, he also repeatedly implies sympathy for Lovecraft’s right-wing “acuity” (8). Callaghan notes with evident distaste, for example, the fact of “some branches of the modern Wicca movement finding allies and common cause with environmentalist, feminist, luddite, leftist, gay liberation, and other radical organizations” (207), and he refers to “the insanity of the sexual revolution” (8, 58).

The volume is divided into six loosely-interlinked essays, three longer and more general, and three shorter and of narrower scope. It opens with the long “Dark Arcadia,” in which the focus is on Lovecraft’s preference for Roman over Greek antiquity, and his satirical intent directed at the decadent culture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Chapters three and six are the other long pieces, and they address the principal psychological materials that Callaghan discerns in the HPL oeuvre: “Behind the Locked Door” is about the paternal image with classical allusion to the myth of Theseus, and “HPL and the Magna Mater” provides an analysis of the Lovecraftian feminine. The smaller essays address Lovecraft’s use of apiary imagery, his trope of the “moon-ladder,” and an interpretation of the “coda” that concludes “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”

Callaghan dedicates a section of his bibliography to an odd assortment of six works on occultism. His insightful remarks on Lovecraft’s antagonism for the Theosophical Society show that this reading was not wasted, but he generally hews to popular derision for modern occultists such as Aleister Crowley. (In this contempt, he probably tracks with Lovecraft, who appraised Crowley as a “queer duck.”) Callaghan’s gloss on the monumental Etidorhpa of John Uri Lloyd is quite superficial, but he deserves a point for mentioning it at all.

Callaghan gives a great deal of attention to a number of Lovecraft’s “lesser” stories and collaborations, such as “The Green Meadow,” “The Moon-Bog,” and “Medusa’s Coil,” suggesting that in those instances where the writer’s technique is less polished, his methods and motives may be more exposed. His insistence on the abiding Puritan character of Lovecraft’s orientation, as well as the polemical intent of stories that seem so focused on evocative mood, is tied together quite convincingly with a study of the psychological conditions that could inspire such polemics. The book is, on the whole, a fascinating read for anyone familiar with Lovecraft’s work. [via]

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

The King in Yellow

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The King in Yellow by Thom Ryng:

Thom Ryng's The King in Yellow

This stage play text was written to fulfill a literary hoax, one that in fact helped to inspire the notorious Necronomicon of Lovecraft. In the weird fiction of Robert W. Chambers, The King in Yellow was a play with a degenerative effect on the morals and sanity of its readers. Thom Ryng is not the first to flesh out the text of the play; in his introduction he suggests that he is perhaps the eighth, and he refers specifically to two earlier attempts: one by Lin Carter and one by James Blish. (I’ve read both.) In the first edition of the Ryng text, the conceit was that the text had been recovered from a 19th-century French edition. In this softbound reprint, editorial and authorial matter confesses its actual late-20th-century composition in the distant wake of Chambers’ fiction. It has been produced on stage at least once, if we are to believe the current edition.

Materially, the book is a sturdy softcover volume with a generous font size. I was a little disappointed that the cover had the false Yellow Sign originally designed by artist Kevin Ross and corrupted in the editorial process for the Chaosium role-playing game Call of Cthulhu. (Chambers’ original Yellow Sign was probably the “inverted torch” insignia that appeared on the binding of early editions of Chambers’ story collection The King in Yellow.)

There is a vein of socio-political commentary that is disturbingly prescient (the author implies that it could have been causative), considering that the book was written in the 1990s. Readers are also furnished with a Hasturian incantation to achieve magical invisibility.

When I read this book, the experience was attended with appropriate inter-textual synchronicities. The Oedipus eyes of Thales echoed my recent philosophical reading in Nietzsche criticism (to wit, The Shortest Shadow and Foucault’s Lectures on the Will to Know). Also relating to that reading, but opening onto a perpetual return to a secret place, is the play’s portrayal of Truth as a phantom who is martyred.

Overall, I was suitably impressed, instructed, and infected by Ryng’s deposition from the ether of this dread volume. [via]

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

The Fuller Memorandum

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Fuller Memorandum (A Laundry Files Novel) by Charles Stross, from Ace:

Charles Stross' The Fuller Memorandum from Ace

 

In his third Laundry novel, Charles Stross performs an interesting piece of magic. He provides enough clues to allow the reader to accurately guess coming surprises about five-to-ten pages in advance, repeatedly throughout a 300-page book. When the actual details are revealed, it is done gracefully enough that a lazy reader won’t feel too stupid for not figuring it out. But it’s impressive how well the author caters to an attentive reader’s enjoyment of “figuring it out” before the protagonist did, even if the protagonist is also the narrator with informed hindsight (thus justifying the presence and noticeability of the clues). I’m not a routine reader of mystery novels, but it seems to me that this book should be satisfying for those who are—if they can stomach the elements of other genres, that is.

The other genres are Lovecraftian weird fiction, cyberpunk sf, “rational fantasy,” and espionage thriller. The hero “Bob Howard” (not his real name, of course) is a sort of glamorized “everygeek” working in Her Majesty’s Occult Service. In the course of this book, we get his usual droll assessments of civil service and managerial culture. We also get to seem him buy a new iPhone and tangle with cannibalistic death-cultists.

The two earlier Laundry books were each homages to a luminary of the espionage fiction genre: The Atrocity Archives to Len Deighton, and The Jennifer Morgue to Ian Fleming. They also included essays by Stross in which he discussed some literary underpinnings of “Bob’s” latest adventures. I was a little disappointed that this book has no such essay. It’s also just a single novel, without an additional novella or short story, as was the case for the earlier volumes. (The Wikipedia entry suggests that The Fuller Memorandum is a riff on Anthony Price’s Dr David Audley/Colonel Jack Butler series, while another reviewer indicates Adam Hall’s Quiller books. Having read neither of these, I don’t have an opinion on the matter.)

MINOR BUT IRRESISTABLE PLOT SPOILER: For the well-read Thelemites and historians of twentieth-century occultism out there, the “Fuller” of the title is that Fuller, as revealed in pages 87-90. And since he’s in the title, you know he’s significant to the story. I read this book pretty hot on the heels of Spence’s Secret Agent 666, and Stross’s imaginative fiction meshes just fine with Spence’s speculative fact. [via]

 

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.