Sure, the alphabet is responsible for that placement, but I couldn’t be happier about it–or about the fact that my story “Entirely Surrounded by Water” is part of this assemblage of new and classic works of cosmic horror. The title comes from Chapter IX of Winnie-the-Pooh, although I imagine that my late maternal grandmother, who gave me my well-worn copies of Milne some years ago, would not approve of the use to which I have put it. If you get a chance to read the story, I hope you enjoy it. . . .
I spent much of last weekend at the Hollywood Theater for this year’s H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. It was one of the better festivals of recent years, partly because I saw some very good films and partly because I got to spend a lot of time hanging with some reading and writing friends, especially Dale Ivan Smith and Anthony Pryor.
Organizers made a heroic attempt to widen the scope of the festival this year, with a lot of panels and readings held in an auxiliary location a block from the theater. I appreciate the widening, but I attended almost none of those events–interesting as many sounded–because the festival is still about films for me, and I wanted to see as many as I could. (More on that in a moment.) I did, though, enjoy a very good dramatic reading of Alex Shvartsman’s story “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma,” presented by Pulp Stage. I heard a talk by Charles Stross, the guest of honor, whose Laundry Files books I like a lot. And I was on hand when Wendy Wagner read “Queen of a New America,” her delightful and twisted story from the anthology She Walks in Shadows. I got to hear readings by Andrew Fuller and Molly Tanzer at the same event.
And now for the films. There were three feature films I wanted to see, and six blocks of short films. The shorts blocks have always been my favorite part of the festival, so I worked my schedule-fu to see all six of them and two of the features. I came home last night with tired eyes and brain, but with the satisfaction of having seen some fine films, a lot of decent or interesting ones, and only a couple of real duds.
Here are my standout picks:
Black Mountain Side, feature length. A tense, eerie, and professional iteration of “people alone in the wilderness when weird shit starts happening and minds buckle.” It reminded me, in a good way, of Larry Fessenden’s Wendigo and The Last Winter, but at the same time it was fresh and assured, and not without some black humor. (The screenplay for this film won Best Screenplay award at the 2013 HPLFF.)
Tesla vs. Cthulhu: The Nightmare of Desolation Sound, short. Well-done episode, in full period style, in the ongoing attempt of Tesla and others to halt the irruption of the Great Old Ones and their evil minions.
Mercy, short. A very tight short film with a character arc and a distinctive tone, dealing with a mysterious find on a beach and its aftermath. This film won the festival organizers’ award for Best Short of the year. It is the letter M in Filmmaking Frenzy’s ABCs of Death 2.
Cat Killer, animated short. I know, the title. It’s a bleak fable, but beautifully animated and surprisingly touching.
The Trap, The Littlest Chtulhuist, and The Call of Farqunglu, shorts. Amid an infinity of shorts involving the ocean, tentacles, a mad artist and his dreadful model, or the sole survivor of a descent down a flight of subterranean stairs, these three films were a breath of fresh, funny air. The first two are live action, the third animated with customized Lego figures. All made me laugh, and all were well-written and produced.
There were plenty of others I enjoyed–too many to mention. I look forward to next year’s festival. If you like any of the films I’ve mentioned here, you should, too.
Props to the festival’s organizers and volunteers for a job well done, and to the Kickstarter backers who made it happen.
A couple of days ago I finished Revival, Stephen King’s latest. (“Latest” as of this writing. By the time I finish this post and put it up, it may have been supplanted.) I enjoyed it a lot. It was leaner and less over-stuffed than many of his novels–even many I like–and it marked a return to his roots in horror. Not chase-you-with-an-ax stuff but cosmic horror in the Lovecraftian vein. Indeed, Lovecraft’s work, along with Machen’s The Great God Pan, gets a shout-out from King when he lists his influences, and HPL, the Lovecrafty Ludwig Prinn, and other notable names in the pedigree of this particular vein of doors-not-meant-to-be-opened horror get name-checked or obliquely referenced toward the end of the novel. Revival‘s got that authentic 60s Maine flavor that King does so well, although it ends in 2014; it’s got a character-driven story and a narrator you cannot help but like and trust; and it sticks the knife deep into religion and twists it, which is something I always appreciate. In its tone and its air of dark weirdness it reminded me of another favorite, From a Buick 8. Nicely done.
Specfic writer and publisher Silvia Moreno-Garcia has traded rainy British Columbia for somewhat- less-rainy Portland–for a few days. She shared a couple of her vacation hours with me at lunch today.
Moreno-Garcia is, among other things, the publisher of Innsmouth Free Press. If you like horror and dark speculative fiction, you probably already know the site. It’s an online magazine packed with reviews, interviews, articles, and–thrice annually–fiction. (Horn-tooting: Moreno-Garcia and editor-in-chief Paula R. Stiles bought a story of mine, “The Second Sphinx,” for an upcoming fiction issue.)
Innsmouth Free Press serves up cosmic dread and Lovecraftian horror. As its recent anthology Historical Lovecraft shows, IFP’s vision of Lovecraftian horror is much broader than tales of appalling Elder Gods and forbidden tomes, wonderful as those are. In our conversation today Moreno-Garcia shared her enthusiasm for weird and dark fiction that reaches beyond the derivative to explore new territory, not just in subject matter but in approach to storytelling.
One weird tentacle has probed its way into Portland’s restaurant scene, and I’m not talking about calamari. Lunch took place at the Lovecraft Bar, a dark venue decorated with a cabalistic ceiling painting, Lovecraft posters and images, and many, many skulls. Animal, not human. In this spectral setting Moreno-Garcia and I talked about Clark Ashton Smith, the challenges and the importance of writing about the Other (cultures, races, eras), and trends in publishing. Ebooks are accounting for a much greater portion of total Historical Lovecraft sales than expected, Moreno-Garcia told me–a fact that fits in with a lot of what I’ve been reading lately about ebook sales.
Here’s hoping the Lovecraft Film Festival resumes here in Portland next year. It might lure Silvia Moreno-Garcia back for another visit.
If you’ve read HPL’s “Supernatural Horror in Literature” you’ve seen his remarks on, say, Edward Lucas White’s story “Lukundoo.” If you then thought, Hey, I’d like to read that story, and googled it, you probably wound up at HorrorMasters, a site with a vast library of classic horror, novels as well as short fiction, all free, readable online or downloadable. There’s new fiction, too, but for me the best thing about the site is the availability of hundreds of older works, including many that cannot be found at Project Gutenberg or Google Books. It’s a priceless resource.
If you haven’t checked out HorrorMasters, give it a try. “Lukundoo” isn’t a bad place to start.