Sunday, May 27, 2007

Lovecraft & the Awful Redux

H.P. Albarelli Jr. has contacted Ghooric Zone central on the matter of 'the Awful' (his comments can be found attached to the earlier post on this topic), having taken issue with my thoughts on his article. Mr. Albarelli informs me that he has no reason for emphasising a link between Lovecraft and Vermont, and that he does not even care for Lovecraft's writings. 'Fair enough' we at Ghooric Zone central say. But why then make such an issue of Lovecraft's alleged involvement in the case? And why claim that said cryptid had an important influence on Lovecraft's writing career? However, questions such as these simply sidetrack the main issue: where is the evidence to support claims about Lovecraft's interest in the case? And, indeed, for his supposed secret visit 1925 to Vermont? Given that Mr. Albarelli's article emphasises the important influence of 'the Awful' on Lovecraft's writing, it would also be helpful if full and proper referencing/sourcing of Lovecraft's alleged quotes on the matter could be provided. The following paragraph being the most problematic on this account:

"When H.P. Lovecraft returned to southern Vermont from Richford he told friends he was convinced that the Richford locals he had interviewed were "not in the least mistaken about what they had witnessed." Lovecraft later wrote, "The Awful became ample sustenance for my imagination" and "over time the creature became the basis for many of my own fictional inventions."

I'm trying not to be too smug or trite about this, because if Mr. Albarelli's claims can be supported they would constitute a major breakthrough in contemporary Lovecraftian scholarship, indicating a significant new source of Lovecraft's ideas, and necessitating a re-evaluation of Lovecraft's well-documented scepticism of things Fortean. I await Mr. Albarelli's response with trepidation.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Conspiracy Against the Human Race

My, how the last couple of weeks have flown by! It only seems a few days ago since my last post...

In any case, Thomas Ligotti has posted his first major work of philosophical non-fiction The Conspiracy Against the Human Race at Thomas Ligotti Online. The essay is currently available to view for free on-line or as a pdf download for members of the site, but is likely to be removed once Durtro publish the essay in hardcopy.

This seems like a good move, especially to someone like myself who has become increasingly frustrated at how difficult it has become to procure Ligotti's recent works (most of which seems to have been published in expensive limited editions): as a major literary exponent of the weird, Ligotti certainly deserves wider recognition.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Lovecraft & 'The Awful'

The June issue of the Fortean Times (no. 223 in the UK) contains an article on p.10 drawn from a Vermont local newspaper, the County Courier. Said article reports on the return of a flying cryptid known locally as 'the Awful', and the author makes various claims that Lovecraft secretly visited Vermont in 1925 to investigate this monstrous entity. In fact, the article in its entirety can be found on-line here, where additional claims are made about the pervasive influence of 'the Awful' on Lovecraft's writing. Unsurprisingly no references are supplied for any of the supposed quotes, although the final quote of Lovecraft's cited in the comlete article comes from his short travelogue 'Vermont - A First Impression' (an account of his documented 1927 trip to Vermont and published in March 1928 - see Lovecraft's Collected Essays vol. 4 published by Hippocampus Press, 2005). Otherwise, there is no evidence (at least of which I am aware) to support the claim that Lovecraft went to Vermont in 1925. Of course, the trip being secret, we can presume that evidence is either non-existent or difficult to come by (which begs the question of exactly how the article's author uncovered these 'facts'!).

In any case, said author was probably banking on the association between Lovecraft and Vermont via 'The Whisperer in Darkness', working Lovecraft into the tale about 'the Awful' retrospectively. In any case it seems that what we are actually dealing with here is a case of a fiction being used authoritatively to support another fiction.

On a more conspiratorial note (those of us at Ghooric Zone central being partial to the occasional dissemination of conspiracies) the on-line context in which the article appears makes me wonder if 'the Awful' - sounding a little bit too Lovecraftian, perhaps, to constitute an piece of established local folklore - has been purposely manufactured to legitimise a particular reading of Lovecraft as occult/Fortean apologist?

What fascinates here is the cultural salience of Lovecraft's very name (especially, it seems, within Fortean and occultural circles) and the presumption that simply adding 'Lovecraft' to the mix implicitly validates the claims of the writer deploying it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Lovecraft & the Occult MP3 files available for download

The mp3 files of my 'Lovecraft and the Occult' talks at Treadwells Bookshop are now available for download at
A massive thank you to Paul of Cthulhu for offering to host the files, and for maintaining what is without doubt the premier (and Ennie award-winning) site for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying community.

Also thanks to Dan Harms, John Gonce and Jason Colavito whose works I plundered for the second and third instalments of the talks.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Patricia MacCormack at Treadwell's

Patricia MacCormack - of whom the fungal hive-mind here at Ghooric Zone central can claim a brief acquaintance - will be speaking at Treadwell's tomorrow night, and rumour has it that her talk will include more than a little Lovecraft:

08 May 2007 (Tuesday)
Enfolding Magic
The Demon of the Female
Dr Patricia MacCormack (Anglia Ruskin University)
7.15 for 7.30 pm start

'The reconfiguration of flesh underpins contemporary Continental philosophers Deleuze and Guattari. Tonight, Patricia MacCormack takes this idea, and enfoldment of surface, as a starting point on a journey through inflecting flesh of female genitalia, sexuality, magic, horror, daemonic alliance, and the idea of becoming-woman. The female genitalia, she posits, is a monster, all the more monstrous for being so tempting, for evoking the fascination of ambivalence. For all the ways it transgresses dominant phallic paradigms it is both prohibited and revolt-ing (in both senses of the word). It is, above all, an assemblage of folds, organs, elements, textures, tastes and involutions with its disciples. It is a daemon. Who dares and invokes this daemon, then? Tonight's speaker is senior lecturer of Continental Philosophy at Anglia Ruskin University; she works on philosophical issues in contemporary magic, including chaos magick, feminism, occult culture and HP Lovecraft.'

Those of us here able to extract ourselves from the tendrils of the rhizomic Ghooric zone collective (currently residing at an undisclosed location below the Plateau of Leng) will endeavour to be present tomorrow. For those of you not fortunate enough to be in the locale on the evening, we would point you in the direction of the following online essay on Lovecraft, Lefanu and Leibniz which Patricia contributed to the Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Lovecraft Scholars

I've just added a link to the Lovecraft Scholars discussion group at yahoo which I co-moderate with James Kneale and Bill Redwood. The group is a diverse and sometimes lively forum for discussing things Lovecraftian from a broadly 'scholarly' (though not necessarily 'academic') point of view. Admittedly, though, I haven't been much of a contributer myself in recent months due to general busy-ness. Whispers on the Lovecraftian esoteric grapevine also intimate that additional visual evidence of yours truly engaging in 'anthropological fieldwork' may be forthcoming on YouTube...

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Weird Realism Re-visited

Just a note to the effect that Mark Fisher has posted some astute observations and reflections on the the notion of the 'weird' as well as commenting on the recent Weird Realism conference at his k-punk blog.

As Mark notes, the conference remained largely focused on its stated aim (although admittedly my paper strayed somewhat from this), but did not satisfactorily resolve the 'problem' of 'the weird' in definitional terms (not that such a thing should be expected from a one-day conference!). China Mieville summed up the problematics of the weird when he made a statement along the lines of 'I can't define the weird but I know it when I see it', which leaves me wondering whether an attempt to conceptually 'fix' the weird might ultimately fall into the trap of overdetermining the concept (thus divesting it of its power)? This is why, in my mind, occultural appropriations and explorations of Lovecraft's universe often fail: they tend to frame Lovecraft's Old Ones - a la Derleth - within the safe and meaningful intersubjectivity of an anthropocentric worldview, or otherwise try to fix Lovecraft's cosmicism within the familiarity of established esoteric structures of thought(attempts by Kenneth Grant and Alan Moore to subsume Lovecraft's creations into the kaballah for example). However, as Mark notes, this is the very reason why many of Lovecraft's tales are written from a first-person perspective: the very 'weirdness' of the 'weird' is produced by intrusions 'from beyond' upon the normative expectations and contraints produced by an all-too human subjectivity. The problem with the occultural use of Lovecraft - and perhaps a consequence of subjecting the weird to too strenuous an analysis - is it so often takes the weird and makes it familiar. Even when Lovecraft does this (describing the Elder Things of Antarctica as 'men') he then presents us with a kind of recursive horror(to paraphrase Fritz Leiber, Lovecraft intimates that there is something that even the monsters are afraid of).

Also, I wonder if it is useful to delineate a clear conceptual boundary between the 'weird' and 'the fantastic': Hodgson's 'Night Land' seems to straddle both the weird and the fantastic; the same could also be said of M. John Harrison's 'Viriconium' tales and indeed Mieville's Bas-Lag novels. There are even (albeit brief) intimations of intrusions of 'outsideness' in Tolkien, although I certainly wouldn't consider his writing to be of 'the weird'.

I guess I'm wondering here at the embodied, affective and experiential dimensions of reading Lovecraft that are perhaps not easily fixed or reducible (and that coming from a reductionist materialist!)...

None of this is, of course, meant to suggest that Lovecraft should not be theorised - as modernity's key 'mythographer' he more than any other modern writer is in desparate need of a sustained theoretical investigation.