Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Lovecraftian Thing a Day (2018) No.171: The Slenderman Mysteries by Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern’s books are something of a guilty pleasure for me - his work is constituted of easily consumable, uncritical and problematically-researched takes on a range of pop-culturally-relevant paranormal and conspiratorial themes and ideas. I also consider him to be one of the more significant conduits by which Lovecraftian themes have been entering into contemporary paranormal, ufological and conspiratorial subcultures.

Needless to say, the shade of Lovecaft is invoked more than once in Redfern’s recent offering, The Slenderman Mysteries - unsurprising, given the acknowledged influence of Lovecraft’s work on this relatively recent piece of digital folk/fakelore. Simlarly, it has been recognised that the figure of Slenderman owes something to the modern ufological mythology of the Men in Black - an issue which Redfern explores in this book. Bear in mind the fact that I haven’t offered citations in support of the above claims, as I don’t want to be labelled a hypocritic in relation to what comes next (but message me if you require the relevant references, as I will be happy to provide them).

For my part, I’ve been predisposed toward the notion that the mythology of the MiBs was at least partially influenced by  Lovecraft’s fiction: specifically, an early analogue of the MiB appears in Lovecaft’s Whisperer in Darkness - a tale which also involves an early fictive example of alien abduction. Indeed, in his They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, Gray Barker notes that Alfred Bender - who, via Barker’s book (and Bender’s own Flying Saucers and the Three Men) shaped early ufological lore concerning the Men-in-Black - was an avid fan of science-fiction literature.

In relation to which, for a brief moment, Redfern’s The Slenderman Mysteries offered me the hope of additional evidence in support of a Lovecraft-Bender-MiB link by way of the author’s claim that Bender was ‘a big fan of the writings of H.P. Lovecraft’. Sadly, as is the case with so much of the rhetoric of contemporary pop-cultural paranormal and conspiratorial texts, this is presented, via a kind of occulted illocutionary act, as an authoritative fact for which documentary evidence or appropriate citations in support of the claim are deemed uneccessary. Indeed, as with so much of this material, even where one does encounter the concrete citation of sources, these often direct one to either a wikipedia entry, or some other dubious, wholly uncritical and non-peer-reviewf online source. In this respect, more than once have I had to point out to a student the error of treating the number of referenced footnotes in the work of someone like David Icke as evidence of the author’s academic credentials.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Lovecraftian Thing a Day (2018) No.170: NecronomiCon 2017 Commemorative Book

I received the first hint today (via Facebook) that preparations for NecronomiCon 2019 are underway - in anticipation of which, I present the commemorative convention book from NecronomiCon 2017, which contains a fine collection of art, essays, and short stories in celebration of the con.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Lovecraftian Thing a Day (2018) No.169: Wentwood Tales - Creep

Wentwood Tales is an imprint of Three Imposters press dedicated to producing chapbooks of short-form weird fiction influenced by Arthur Machen and the Welsh landscape. The first of these is Jon Gower’s ‘Creep’ which, if I’m honest, doesn’t quite seem to launch the series off to an auspicious start. There are vague elements of Machenesque folk horror involved in the narrative, and on occasion ‘Creep’ echoes Machen’s style in its more sardonic phases; but overall there is nothing here which really seems to speak to a profound or primordial exploration of the metaphysical topography of rural Wales which one typically finds in Machen’s work; thus, whilst I approach this from the perspective of an uncouth southerner, this feels like a horror story set in Wales rather than a Welsh  horror story.

That said, my anticipation is that the next two chapbooks in the series - Catherine Fisher’s ‘The Tunnel’ and Matthew G. Rees’ ‘The Word’ (and which should be winging their way to me as we speak) - may perhaps demonstrate a closer affiliation to Machenesque moods and themes; and in other respects, ‘Creep’ is to be commended: it is not, by any means, a bad piece of weird fiction - and as a chapbook is a high quality production with regard to the Three Imposters’ usual standards; in addition to which, it is great to see a resurgence of limited edition weird fiction chapbooks such as this in an increasingly digitised age.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Lovecraftian Thing a Day (2018) No.168: Palladium at Night

Today’s offering may be apposite in light of the release of the first episode of CBS’ Strange Angel: Palladium at Night (or PAN) is not only an actual spy satellite launched by an (as yet undisclosed) US intelligence agency in 2009, it is also the title of a limited edition novelette of weird/cosmic horror by Christopher Slatsky, which treats said satellite as the focal point of a tale of intersecting dimensions - and the weaponsation of time by a militarised NASA, employing occult technologies developed by none other than Jack Parsons.

Without giving too much away, Palladium at Night thus fits neatly into this blog’s recent run of conspiratorial Cold War Lovecraftian horror - although here we are dealing with a more inflected Lovecraftian cosmicism which veers in the direction of William Burroughs moreso than towards the trappings of the Cthulhu Mythos. One of my favourite purchases from NecronomiCon 2017, this really did not disappoint. Hopefully Palladium at Night will be made available again in a more accessible format at some point in the near future.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Lovecraftian Thing a Day (2018) No.167: The Book of the Lost

The Book of the Lost by Emily Jones and the Rowan Amber Mill provides the imagined soundtrack to a number of forgotten 1960s British horror movies, which were revived as part of an eponomously titled late night movie series which ran throughout the 1970s and early 80s. Everyone remembers The Book of the Lost - especially its haunting opening titles - although no one now can quite remember on which channel it aired (probably BBC2); curiously no listings of the series survive in the archives of the Radio Times (and no, you won’t find it on BBC Genome).

Perhaps only nominally Lovecraftian in that the synopses of two films - The Mash Thing and A Necklace of Shells - are very suggestive of Lovecraftian thenes, nonetheless The Book of the Lost is a nicely evocative piece of aural hauntological folk horror, reminding you of those Hammer and Amicus films that never were, but should have been.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Lovecraftian Thing a Day (2018) No.166: The Rizen

We return once more to Cold War Lovecraftiana with 2017’s The Rizen: a low budget British sci-fi horror movie set in a underground military installation (Kelvedon Hatch) in the 1950s, and concerning the aftermath of a secret programme involving experimentation with an occult physics, sponsored by a sinister British government department. Needless to say, there is a heavy, if not overt, Lovecraftian overtone to the movie - and both the premise and setting of The Rizen held the promse of something very unique; in addition to which, the film also includes cameos by some very solid British actors such as Ade Edmonson, Sally Phillips, Tom Goodman and Julian Rhind-Tutt.

Unfortunately, these occasional star turns are not enough to lift the acting skills of the principle players, whose abilities for far too much of the film seem unable to rise above the level of a rather provincial amatuer dramatics society; the setting of Kelvedon Hatch is also underused, focusing on the same two or three corridors for most of the film. In addition to which, the action scenes are not terribly exciting, and the horror elements are handled poorly. In many of the above respects, it seems that the initial promise of The Rizen was always going to be undermined by its low budget.

In fairness, though, it is worth a watch as a featuring something of an original setting for a piece of Lovecraftian horror - and apparently a sequel is in production (hopefully with a bigger budget).

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Lovecraftian Thing a Day (2018) No.165: The Delaware Road

It’s questionable whether the rhizomic beast which is The Delaware Road could formally be described as Lovecaftian; yet there are a number of tangential Lovecraftian associations arising from it which, I think, nominally legitimate said classification.

What, then, is The Delaware Road? Played out across multiple media platforms (a cd, a performance piece, a poem and a partial screenplay) The Delaware Road is an event which encapsulates elements of folk and speculative horror: powerfully influenced by the work of Nigel Kneale, cosmic and otherworldy forces manifest by way of strange occult rituals encoded in the audio archives of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop (originally based in the Delaware Road, London), all the while intersecting with nightmarish bureaucracies, the threat of nuclear apocalypse, and Cold War paranoia in 1960s Britain.

A chilling spoken word piece - fraught with occult significance - provided by Dolly Dolly (whose Lovecraftian pedigree is evident in his recently released A Dollop of HP) is the fulcrum of The Delaware Road, framed by various hauntological scores evocative not only of classic, optimistically speculative 1970s British TV shows as Tomorrow’s World, but also of the far more terrifying atonal experimental electronic sounds which formed the backdrop to so many of the folk-horrific children’s programming of the period (think Children of the Stones).

I had the good fortune to witness The Delaware Road performed in the setting of Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker in 2017.

Built in the 1950s, Kelvedon Hatch was a Cold War era bunker meant to function as the site of regional government in the event of a nuclear strike against the UK. Decommissioned in the early 1990s, it has since become something of a cult tourist attraction. Its functional, brutalist architecture - alongside the now-retro but strangely unsettling machinery dotted about the place - gives Kelvedon Hatch bunker the Quatermassian/Lovecraftian feel of a location in which nameless experiments using largely incomprehensible technolgies and occult physics once quite likely may have taken place; this may be the precise reason why The Rizen was filmed there, also in 2017: a low-budget British science-fiction horror movie, The Rizen takes as its central conceit the weaponisation of occult physics by the British military in the 1950s, with the intention of calling forth Lovecraftian horrors from beyond time and space.

Perhaps one of the most curious aspects of the Kelvedon Hatch performance of The Delaware Road was the appearance of British snooker superstar Steve ‘Interesting’ Davis, who was wandering around the event looking vaguely lost; apparently not - he has, it seems, an abiding interest in avante garde electronica, and lives in the vicinity of Kelvedon Hatch. The universe is, it turns out, stranger and far more incomprehensible than we thought.

As something of an aside, regular readers of this blog might be interested to know that the Kelvedon Hatch performance of The Delaware Road also formed the basis of one of the field reports from last year’s Horsingdon Transmissions.

So there we have it - The Delaware Road forms a curious bookend to the last few days of Cold War-themed Lovecraftiana. And in this I am reminded of a point which Charles Stross raises in the afterword to The Atrocity Archives: that there is something about the Cold War (at least for those of us who lived through it) which frames it as an intrinsically Lovecraftan moment, when billions of people stood powerless against the cold indifference of vast state apparatus - an apparatus which treated its citizenry as little more than a statistical problem in the aftermath of unleashng monstrously destructive cosmic forces in the name of abstract and meaningless ideologies.