gormenghast

I think generally Mervyn Peake is still not properly valued. His incredible 3-volume epic (the 4th volume cut short by his early illness and death) of the Groan Dynasty and their habitat, Gormenghast, is unique – in that word’s true meaning. There was nothing like it. And where there is, somewhat, now, that is due only to the exquisite influence of his work on others. He wrote like no one else. His was, and is, a Voice that – though I suppose it is copy-able – stays yet unreachable. His structures – words, images – his moon-high illuminations and abyssal shadows are frankly inimitable. He breaks the rules, while remaining one of the kings of it. Here and there Peake can, admittedly, be a densely-forested read, but these passages are, too, like a graceful movie of perfect camera-work and lighting. Like paintings coming calmly into life. Or riotously. The sequence circles on itself like music, and then one falls out into the glowing, breathable water of his prose. Peake can terrify and make laugh, and shock and tantalize – and break your heart. He can do it in 10 pages. Or 3 words. Unique, as I said…

Tanith Lee
Interview with Weird Fiction Review September 2012

to save her own life’

September 26, 2017

A woolf

As in all patriarchal societies a young woman is considered more attractive than an older woman, and while the man can murder and consume an old woman if he chooses to, only ‘immaculate flesh [really] appeases him’. In a sharply sick twist – so common in this collection and part of its unnerving genius – the young girl on her way is a willing martyr to his abuse.

Or is she? Angela Carter skilfully and devastatingly presses hard on the disturbing line between fear and submission, choice and force, humiliation and annihilation, self-sacrifice and self-preservation. When the young woman sees a ‘tuft of white hair’ belonging to her murdered grandmother she realises that ‘she was in danger of death’. She then gives herself to him apparently ‘freely’ ‘to save her own life’ because she ‘knows she was nobody’s meat’ – overlooking the obvious riposte that if one offers oneself to save one’s own life, it is hardly a free choice. At the heart of this story is the hideous coercion that needs no violence, as the girl already knows what the ‘tender wolf’ is capable of.

Bidisha
Angela Carter’s Woolf Tales

beyond horror fiction

September 26, 2017

Evil Dead

For the first decade or so of my career, I was happy to be regarded as just a ‘Lovecraft scholar’. But, as Robert Bloch once said, “Lovecraft was my university”. By this he meant that, in his correspondence, Lovecraft opened up so many worlds of intellectual and aesthetic inquiry beyond horror fiction that the result was a tremendous expansion of his interests. In the same way, my interest in understanding Lovecraft – the man, the writer, the thinker – has led me into directions I wouldn’t have expected. This expansion first began with my book The Weird Tale (1990), where I studied several of Lovecraft’s literary predecessors (Machen, Dunsany, Blackwood, Bierce, M. R. James). Subsequently I wrote The Modern Weird Tale (2001), which in a sense took the history of weird fiction from Lovecraft to the present day. Beyond literature, I found Lovecraft’s atheism so intellectually cogent (I myself never received any religious education in my youth, not even in my native Hinduism) that I felt the need to explore it further. So I compiled Atheism: A Reader (2000) and other such volumes. Even such a volume as Documents of American Prejudice (1999) was in part inspired by my desire to come to grips with Lovecraft’s own racism. So, in many important ways, Lovecraft has been a touchstone for all the intellectual inquiries I have made over the past 30 years.

S T Joshi
Gods of the Godless: a discussion on H P Lovecraft

It’s magical

September 26, 2017

Egypt - the white desert, farafra

The one area that always enthuses me is the one I’m writing at that particular moment – but of course you do get an influx of other things you want to do, usually in the middle of an enormous novel. I just love writing. It’s magical, it’s somewhere else to go, it’s somewhere much more dreadful, somewhere much more exciting. Somewhere I feel I belong, possibly more than in the so-called real world.

So I don’t mind what I’m doing, and I think that’s why I have such an eclectic way of writing, because I just love doing everything – and I have to add that I’ve also done contemporary novels, a detective novel which is coming out soon, and lesbian fiction. Almost anything, really. It’s very selfish when I write. I’m not aware, ever, of writing for another person; I’m not even really aware of writing for myself, though obviously I am. I’m writing what comes into my head, or through me, or from somewhere else, and it is the most extraordinary, exciting thing. I love it, and I’m very greedy, and I really enjoy it!

Tanith Lee
Interview with John Jarrold 2004

Sunday morning idea

September 24, 2017

Camomile Tea

September 24, 2017

Outside the sky is light with stars;
There’s a hollow roaring from the sea.

And, alas! for the little almond flowers,
The wind is shaking the almond tree.

How little I thought, a year ago,
In the horrible cottage upon the Lee
That he and I should be sitting so
And sipping a cup of camomile tea.

Light as feathers the witches fly,
The horn of the moon is plain to see;
By a firefly under a jonquil flower
A goblin toasts a bumble-bee.

We might be fifty, we might be five,
So snug, so compact, so wise are we!
Under the kitchen-table leg
My knee is pressing against his knee.

Our shutters are shut, the fire is low,
The tap is dripping peacefully;
The saucepan shadows on the wall
Are black and round and plain to see.

Katherine Mansfield

here be monsters

Her ( Tanith Lee ) eagerness to work in different modes and mix genres also demonstrates the reach of speculative / nonrealist fiction, which, when goaded by the right talent, can insinuate its tentacles into practically any other genre with fascinating, and often subversive, results. Lee’s gorgeously crafted imagistic prose and wide-ranging use of pulp conceits (body-snatching and body-switching, vampire fetish bots, monsters on the moon, alien visitations, falling angels) create a hybridized fiction that’s equal parts poetry and titillation, fusing high and low art to once again render such dubious distinctions pointless.

Lee’s stories, no matter how simple or complex, often trace their power back to myth, to a human inclination to use imagination to express fear, awe, and wonder at the incomprehensible, vast universe that surrounds us. They vividly express the conceit that modern fictions—in particular the archetype-littered modes of science fiction and fantasy – are recursions of mythology that has gestated within the cultures of humanity since we first walked…

Indrapramit Das
Space is just a starry night
Strange Horizons October 2013

excitement and dread

September 24, 2017

fetish fun

I visited her every third Wednesday of the month, that strange, hard woman who was my secret obsession. And I always experienced the same sense of excitement and dread as I walked from the bus stop to her home.

She would be there in her spiky high-heels and tight pin-stripe skirt, long legs enclosed in black fishnet, a waiting spider to my hesitant fly.

Why did I visit her? Was it the cruel suede whip? The humiliation? The feeling of warm, oiled, heavy chrome beads being inserted carefully, one at a time?

Or did I simply wish to explore the psychic territory of pain in search of an ultimate, mystical proof of “otherness” in life, at the outer edges of death? Pain, pleasure, delirium and reason – she provided it all. For a price…

Dirty Thoughts
James Claudel

a wind up simulated girl

September 24, 2017

a wind up simulated girl

‘The Tiger’s Bride’, the second story in the collection that is based on Madame de Beaumont’s tale ‘Beauty and the Beast’, is narrated by Beauty, who is intelligent, considered and proud. She begins her narration with a pragmatic phrase that immediately indicates her awareness of her status as a commodity in a world dominated by men: ‘My father lost me to The Beast at cards’. When she begins to trust The Beast and does remove her clothes (notably, this is finally done by her own choice), she comments ‘I felt I was at liberty for the first time in my life’. Her femininity, which had previously cast her in a prescribed role as her father’s daughter, has been a repressive mask of its own. Beauty recognizes that in accepting this identity she has been merely performing the typical role of a woman in a society that does not value women. There is a particular emphasis on the burden of living as an object of the male gaze, a concept that has been extensively discussed by Laura Mulvey, as Beauty describes the world as ‘the market place, where the eyes that watch you take no account of your existence’. In an incredibly symbolic act of defiance that indicates both the miserably limited existence of women in such an oppressive society as well as the materialistic foolishness of the dominant patriarch, she uses a wind up simulated girl to take the place of her former self: ‘I will dress her in my own clothes, wind her up, send her back to perform the part of my father’s daughter’.

Samantha Halpin
How does Angela Carter deconstruct conventional and repressive gender identities in the Bloody Chamber