sense of wonder

November 4, 2017

alien landscape3

Wells is teaching us to think. Burroughs and his lesser imitators are teaching us not to think. Of course, Burroughs is teaching us to wonder. The sense of wonder is in essence a religious state, blanketing out criticism. Wells was always a critic, even in his most wondrous and romantic tales.

And there, I believe, the two poles of modern fantasy stand defined. At one pole wait Wells and his honorable predecessors such as Swift; at the other, Burroughs and the commercial producers, such as Otis Adelbart Kline, and the weirdies, and horror merchants such as H.P. Lovecraft, and so all the way past Tolkien to today’s non-stop fantasy worlders. Mary Shelley stands somewhere at the equator of this metaphor.

Brian W. Aldiss
Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction

from a now-vanished world

October 4, 2017

(Algernon Blackwood’s) works spanned two centuries and inspired Elgar, Henry Miller and H P Lovecraft. He counted H G Wells, Hilaire Belloc and W B Yeats as his friends, and appeared on the very first British television programme. Blackwood came from a now-vanished world; his mother was the Duchess of Manchester, his evangelist father was a knight, but he forsook his privileged heritage to become an adventurer and traveller, and remained a natural storyteller to the end of his life. He was awarded a CBE in 1949, and still we knew virtually nothing about him, probably because he hailed from a period when the concept of the peculiar Briton was hardly a novelty.

Christopher Fowler
Algernon Blackwood

Tintern Abbey

Weird writers were explicit about their anti-Gothic sensibility: Blackwood’s camper in ‘The Willows’ experiences ‘no ordinary ghostly fear’; Lovecraft stresses that the ‘true weird tale’ is characterised by ‘unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces’ rather than by ‘bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule’. The Weird entities have waited in their catacombs, sunken cities and outer circles of space since aeons before humanity. If they remain it is from a pre-ancestral time. In its very unprecedentedness, paradoxically, Cthulhu is less a ghost than the arche-fossil-as-predator. The Weird is if anything ab-, not un-, canny.

China Miéville
M.R. James and the Quantum Vampire

I didn’t learn about Barlow until the spring of 2005, when I met the poet and novelist Robert Kelly. He told me the story of H P Lovecraft and the poet R H Barlow, who was a young Lovecraft fan. He wrote letters to Lovecraft, and they became friends through the mail; then, in the spring of 1934, Barlow invited Lovecraft to visit him in central Florida, and Lovecraft went. He stayed with Barlow for about six weeks, which was very unusual, both because Lovecraft (who has the reputation of being a recluse) didn’t spend that much time with anyone, and because Barlow had just turned 16 in the spring of 1934, and Lovecraft was 44.

Paul La Farge
Interview with Matt Staggs for Unbound Worlds, March 2017

Ferdinand Knab

I should not have ventured out that night; for the taint of thunder was in the clouds, and hellish phosphorescence rose from the rank swamp at the bottom of the hollow. The call of the dead, too, was different. Instead of the hillside tomb, it was the charred cellar on the crest of the slope whose presiding daemon beckoned to me with unseen fingers. As I emerged from an intervening grove upon the plain before the ruin, I beheld in the misty moonlight a thing I had always vaguely expected. The mansion, gone for a century, once more reared its stately height to the raptured vision; every window ablaze with the splendor of many candles. Up the long drive rolled the coaches of the Boston gentry, whilst on foot came a numerous assemblage of powdered exquisites from the neighbouring mansions. With this throng I mingled, though I knew I belonged with the hosts rather than the guests. Inside the hall were music, laughter, and wine on every hand. Several faces I recognised; though I should have known them better had they been shriveled or eaten away by death and decomposition. Amidst a wild and reckless throng I was the wildest and most abandoned. Gay blasphemy poured in torrents from my lips, and in my shocking sallies I heeded no law of God, Man, or Nature. Suddenly a peal of thunder, resonant even above the din of the swinish revelry, clave the very roof and laid a hush of fear upon the boisterous company. Red tongues of flame and searing gusts of heat engulfed the house; and the roysterers, struck with terror at the descent of a calamity which seemed to transcend the bounds of unguided Nature, fled shrieking into the night. I alone remained, riveted to my seat by a groveling fear which I had never felt before. And then a second horror took possession of my soul. Burnt alive to ashes, my body dispersed by the four winds, I might never lie in the tomb of Hydes! Was not my coffin prepared for me? Had I not a right to rest till eternity amongst the descendants of Sir Geoffrey Hyde? Aye! I would claim my heritage of death, even though my soul go seeking through the ages for another corporeal tenement to represent it on that vacant slab in the alcove of the vault. Jervas Hyde should never share the sad fate of Palinurus!

H P Lovecraft
The Tomb

The true function of phantasy is to give the imagination a ground for limitless expansion, & to satisfy aesthetically the sincere & burning curiosity and sense of awe which a sensitive minority of mankind feel towards the alluring & provocative abysses of unplumbed space and unguessed entity which press in upon the known world from unknown infinities & in unknown relationships of time, space, matter, force, dimensionality, & consciousness.

H. P. Lovecraft
letter to Clark Ashton Smith of October 17th, 1930

trees-and-mist

The true function of phantasy is to give the imagination a ground for limitless expansion, & to satisfy aesthetically the sincere & burning curiosity and sense of awe which a sensitive minority of mankind feel towards the alluring & provocative abysses of unplumbed space and unguessed entity which press in upon the known world from unknown infinities & in unknown relationships of time, space, matter, force, dimensionality, & consciousness.

H. P. Lovecraft
letter to Clark Ashton Smith of October 17th, 1930

haunted-place

It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be left alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.

H.P. Lovecraft
At the Mountains of Madness

demon-hands

I decided long ago that one must paint terror as well as beauty from life, so I did some exploring in places where I had reason to know terror lives.

H.P. Lovecraft
Pickman’s Model

The Messenger

November 11, 2016

hood-and-candles

The thing, he said, would come that night at three
From the old churchyard on the hill below;
But crouching by an oak fire’s wholesome glow,
I tried to tell myself it could not be.
Surely , I mused, it was a pleasantry
Devised by one who did not truly know
The Elder sign, bequeathed from long ago,
That sets the fumbling forms of darkness free.
He had not meant it – no – but still I lit
Another lamp as starry Leo climbed
Out of the Seekonk, and a steeple chimed
Three – and the firelight faded bit by bit.
Then at the door that cautious rattling came –
And the mad truth devoured me like a flame!

H P Lovecraft