Archive for May, 2019

Update 05/28/2019: “Speculations” now available!

Posted in David M. Hoenig, Frank Coffman, My Bantam Black Fay, Speculations: Poetry from the Weird Poets Society, Speculative Poetry, Updates, Weird Poetry, Weird Poets Society with tags , , , , , , , on May 28, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

I found out this past weekend that the Weird Poets Society‘s first collection, Speculations, has finally become available for order at Lulu.com (see below for link). If memory serves, it opens with my poem My Bantam Black Fay, a little ditty about a witch’s familiar. Not sure if they offer contributor copies, if so I haven’t received mine yet. If not, I’ll order one for my collection. A few of my new literary acquaintances are here, such as editor Frank Coffman, and the very talented Scott J. Couturier, as well as some genre favorites whom I don’t know personally but have interacted with here and there, like Jessica Amanda Salmonson.

Speculations: Poetry from the Weird Poets Society (2018).

According to one reviewer, the collection also has illustrations by David M. Hoenig. I assume it would be too much to hope that my poem was illustrated, but it’s still cool that the book will bear some adornment. Once I have it in hand, I can say more about it.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/http://www.lulu.com/shop/frank-coffman/wps-anthology-speculations-2018/paperback/product-24106394.html?fbclid=IwAR1fm0O5-OAgVcE9pfqY8hlFYtS8_oRkYYfX7jUcE3GlIqj0V6OwgMJbcR4

 

 

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Update 05/24/2019: Phantasmagorical Promenade wrapping up

Posted in Duane Pesice, Michael Adams, Mutartis Boswell, Night Hag, Planet X Publications, The Phantasmagorical Promenade with tags , , , , on May 24, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Saw a post the other day on Facebook about The Phantasmagorical Promenade, which shall feature my succubal vignette, Night Hag. Here is what it said:

“Couple quick notes; the ms has moved from the Editor (Duane) to the publisher (Michael at Planet X Publications) for final document formatting and file uploading. Emails concerning payments will start reaching contributors this weekend with payments to follow as soon as we have confirmed with everyone where to send their money. Countdown from here to published book is approximately 4 weeks, or maybe a little less than that.”

So, with any luck we’ll have the book in a month. I am very excited to see how it looks! By the way, the aforementioned Duane is editor Duane Pesice, and Michael is Michael Adams.

Update: 06/07/2019:

Forgot to mention that the cover shall feature artwork by Mutartis Boswell. For more on him, see his site:

https://boswellart.blogspot.com/

Update: 06/15/2019:

Here is a photo of the proof copy I nicked from their Facebook page…

Proof copy of The Phantasmagorical Promenade from their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/phantasmspromenade/?__tn__=k*F&tn-str=k*F

 

 

 

Elliott O’Donnell’s “The Midnight Hearse and More Ghosts”

Posted in black shucks, Elliott O'Donnell, Felo-de-se, Ghost Stories, kirkgrims, M.R. James, Nativity in Black, The Burning Ember Mission of Helldorado, The Midnight Hearse and More Ghosts with tags , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

I just recently moved to a new apartment and have been spending most of my free time unpacking boxes. As I was rummaging through a box of mass-market genre paperbacks I came across a selection I acquired during my tenure at Half Price Books. It was a collection of ghostly legends from the UK by author Elliot O’Donnell (1872-1965), entitled The Midnight Hearse and More Ghosts. It seems to be a posthumous collection, for the earliest version of it I can find is from 1965, the year of his death. It’s written in anecdotal style, recounting local legends from England, Ireland and Wales. I haven’t come across anything from Scotland so far.

The Midnight Hearse and More Ghosts by Elliot O’Donnell (1965, W. Foulsham & Co., Ltd.) [The cover art depicts a scene from the title story.]

His writing style is fairly straightforward and unadorned, although he occasionally throws in a colorful word for atmosphere. I enjoyed what I read, but none of it was particularly new to me or exciting. In fact, most of the ideas that caught my eye, I had already covered in my stories.  For example, there were suicide pools and kirkgrims, both of which I covered in Felo-de-se; black shucks, which I mentioned in Nativity in Black; and spectral monks, which I featured in The Burning Ember Mission of Helldorado. The best story of the lot was The Black Monk of Newstead, which read like highlights from an M.R. James story. Supposedly it’s based on a legend concerning the Byron family (the clan which gave the world poet Lord George Gordon Byron) but I cannot find any mention of it online from any reputable sources.

The Midnight Hearse and More Ghosts by Elliott O’Donnell (1971, Paperback Library) [This is the edition I have in my collection.]

All in all, it was an amusing read, but nothing I haven’t seen before and it didn’t inspire me with any nightmare visions for my writing.

 

Update 05/16/2019: Nativity in Black

Posted in Dan Sauer, Nativity in Black, Obediah Baird, The Audient Void with tags , , , on May 16, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Yesterday I reread the revised draft of Nativity in Black and made a few minor alterations to make it a tad less obscure for the average reader. Later, at the library, I sent it out again; this time to The Audient Void, for their upcoming 8th issue. In the email I explained to editor Obadiah Baird what my intention was with the piece, as it starts off sounding a bit like a thinly veiled political rant, but this is only a mirroring of the analogous passage in the original nativity story. It is basically a dark satire/phantasmagoria after that. I also asked that, were he to decide to publish it, he would leave in the bookend bible quotes from Revelations which open and close it as they set the tone and cap off the bleak denouement.

Cover art for The Audient Void #7 by Dan Sauer.

I hope he likes it and decides to publish it. What would be fabulous is if he got artist Dan Sauer to do an illustration for it, but that might be hoping for too much. I’ll just be glad to finally make it into this lovely publication.

Requiescat in pace, Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire

Posted in Ashley Dioses, K.A. Opperman, Lovecraftian Horror, Nyarlathotep, One Last Theft (2009), Past the Gates of Deepest Dreaming (2006), S.T. Joshi, The Strange Dark One: Tales of Nyarlathotep, W.H. Pugmire with tags , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

On the evening of March 26th I learned of the passing of author Wilum “Hopfrog” Pugmire (May 3, 1951 – March 26, 2019). I didn’t know him well, but from what little I did know of him he was a colorful, talented individual with a big heart. I first came across him on Amazon of all places, where his idiosyncratic reviews and comments on various Lovecraftian titles (usually delineated in an archaic diction) were always amusing and enlightening. At first, I had no idea that he was a published author until I saw his name pop up in searches for contemporary mythos fiction. I also saw him on a couple of Youtube video panels talking about Weird fiction topics. He was quite a character, looking something like a cross between Aleister Crowley and Boy George, the latter of whom he was apparently a big fan.

Pugmire signing books at the World Horror Convention on March 28, 2008 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._H._Pugmire, retrieved 03/29/2019)

When I decided it was time for me to reach out to the community of weird letters, I looked him up and friended him on Facebook right away because he seemed the most approachable. We never really talked much, mostly a post like or a friendly birthday message here and there, but he was always amicable. I wanted to read his work, so while I still worked at Half Price Books I ordered his collection The Strange Dark One: Tales of Nyarlathotep (2012, Miskatonic River Press). I have always been fascinated with this character from Lovecraft’s fiction so I figured I’d give it a try.

The Strange Dark One: Tales of Nyarlathotep (2012, Miskatonic River Press)

He had a very poetic prose style which seemed to come from the heart more than the head. He says many lovely and unusual things (the sentence “I happened to glance out– and saw the cloud of sentient mauve shadow that crept toward the tower” from One Last Theft comes to mind, as does the sentence, from Past the Gates of Deepest Dreaming, “Tenderly, I brought her magnificent hand to my lips, as I gazed within the galaxy of her eyes.”) although I felt he could have been a little more discerning in his word choices; but that is also part of the charm, and his work is that and more. There are homoerotic overtones in many places (there is a mention of a cyclopean erection in One Last Theft that would have ol’ Howard turning in his grave) and a general eroticism is prevalent throughout many of the tales. Unlike Lovecraft, he seem less concerned with the business of fear and more with just reveling in his own individual fantasy realm which in my opinion, smacks more of Ursula Kroeber Le Guin than Howard Phillips Lovecraft, despite his numerous Mythos references and archaisms. His creatures are less concerned with subjugating humans and more about having coffee with them in bohemian cafes. Why there is even a scene in one of the aforementioned tales where the dread entity Nyarlathotep, a/k/a the Crawling Chaos, in female form, braids the hair of his sister Selene (one of Mr. Pugmire’s creations) with the aid of a night gaunt (!). Well he has always been a man of many guises, like his Abrahamic counterpart, Satan. I think Mr. Pugmire found acceptance in horror fandom and especially within the Lovecraftian community that he did not find in every-day life. A place where he could express himself both creatively and as a personality without any harsh judgment.

Mr. Pugmire’s passing inspired an outpouring of love on Facebook from his various friends and acquaintances. S.T. Joshi did a touching tribute on his blog stjoshi.org. Oddly enough, even though I never really got to know him well, it was through looking up info on W.H. Pugmire that I first encountered Miss Ashley Dioses. She was mentioned on some reference site in one of those “See also” links which I believe lead to her blog. However, I didn’t really meet her and Mr. K.A. Opperman (electronically) until some time later. I think my malaise over Mr. Pugmire’s passing is due to the fact that on some level I identify with him. Like him, I have been writing a long time but only have been getting official recognition late in life. He is known for his poetic prose and I have decided to make that my focus as well. Although I do not share his orientation, I can relate to his feeling of being different, being the outsider, which, in turn, I am sure he found in Lovecraft’s work. I only hope that I can someday inspire the love and admiration that he engendered during his all too brief sojourn in this vale of tears.

 

“The Dreams in the Witch-House” (1933)

Posted in August Derleth, Gothic Horror, H.P. Lovecraft, Masters of Horror, Science Fiction (Sci Fi), Stuart Gordon (director), The Dreams in the Witch-House with tags , , , , , , on May 14, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

“The Dreams in the Witch House” first appeared in the July 1933 issue of Weird Tales.

Although often dismissed by critics, H.P. Lovecraft‘s The Dreams in the Witch-House is actually one of my favorite of his latter tales. I’ll admit that it is imperfect, but it is also admirable in it’s scope. Lovecraft mixes Gothic Horror with really high brow Sci Fi. And therein lies the problem. Lovecraft gets so technical and oblique in his descriptions of Walter Gilman’s night-time sojourns that it gets a bit distracting. Also, he introduces elements that don’t really pay off, like the mention of the Elder Things which goes nowhere or even the Black Man of the Witches (an avatar of Nyarlathotep) who never makes a proper appearance and is only glimpsed furtively running around with the witch, Keziah Mason, and her familiar Brown Jenkin. Then there is the all too familiar xenophobia creeping in with Lovecraft’s descriptions of the Polish immigrants, who are portrayed as brutish and uncouth.

Even so, I got a kick out of some of the scenes where Gilman sees Keziah and Brown Jenkin in the outer spheres either as weird geometrical congeries of bubbles and polyhedrons hinting at their earthly forms or when they are seen outright making cryptic hand gestures to guide Gilman to the desired portals into the dream dimensions. I also like the hints of how Keziah used her secrets culled from ancient tracts, like the Necronomicon, to find a way to escape Salem Gaol during the infamous Witch Trials of 1692. The horror elements of the tale are terrifying and very dark: witch’s Sabbaths, black books and child sacrifice, all told in a very effective and convincing way as only Lovecraft can do.

Variant title poster for Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968).

I think the tale has definite cinematic potential and indeed it has been adapted a couple of times before. First in the 1968 film Curse of the Crimson Altar, featuring the triple threat of Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee and my beloved Barbara Steele! It is a very loose adaptation however that, although entertaining, has very little to do with the source material. Stuart Gordon‘s 2005 Masters of Horror adaptation H. P. Lovecraft’s Dreams in the Witch House is much closer to the story, but still makes some notable changes. For starters, Gordon and co-writer Dennis Paoli eschew most of the Sci-Fi parts and only hint at the geometrical basis of the dream travel. They focus on the horror elements but change Gilman’s college buddy Frank Elwood to attractive single mother Frances Elwood, who is presented as a potential love interest, and whose baby ends up replacing little Ladislas Wolejko from the original tale in the final confrontation between Gilman and Keziah.

DVD cover for Masters of Horror 2005 adaptation by Stuart Gordon.

All in all, I think it’s a much more daring and ambitious tale than critics give it credit for. Even August Derleth was critical of it, which made Lovecraft a bit self conscious I think. For more on that, check out the Wikipedia entry here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dreams_in_the_Witch_House#Reception.

It remains, in my estimation, a great work of dark fantasy and I also think, given a thoughtful reworking, it could make a fascinating film.

 

Update 05/08/2019: Spectral Realms #11 soon to be released

Posted in S.T. Joshi, Satanic Sonata, Spectral Realms, Updates with tags , , , on May 8, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Just received a group email from S.T. Joshi letting the contributors know that Spectral Realms #11 is almost ready to be released. He was looking for bio blurbs from new contributors and asked previous contributors whether they wanted to update theirs. I sent an updated bio and a revised copy of Satanic Sonata for issue #12. When I get more news about the cover art and the release date I’ll let you all know, of course.