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Plush Cthulhu Conquers the Net: The LNN interviews Paul Blake from ToyVault

After four months of lugubrious wrangling, the LNN is pleased to finally announce the completion of the latest entry in our reckless crusade of in-depth celebrity interviews. Today we tread a path few journalist dare to, well, be on the record as having trod upon. It is a path marked by foul monstrosities, mind shattering vistas of horrifying reality (which goes without saying these days), and velvety soft, extra dimensional entities.

Today is the the day we present our interview with Paul Blake, a developer from ToyVault--the maniacal purveyors of the blasphemously adorable Plush Cthulhu line.




Blake: First, an introduction. My name is Paul Blake, and apart from being ToyVault's Game Developer, I'm also the resident Lovecraft Geek (possibly surpassed by Jon in that respect - possibly), so it fell to me to fill in the blanks for this interview. The answers I give here are a mixture of my rephrasing Jon's answers, my rephrasing elements of our company history, and (where he specified that I should use them) Jon's exact words. In these answers, when I say "I", I'm referring to myself, individually. When I say "We," I'm referring to ToyVault as a company.

LNN: Tell us about how the Cthulhu line got started and what was behind the decision to turn him into a cute, cuddly, stuffed animal.

BlakeInitially, Jon's response included phrases such as "While I was studying at Miskatonic University," and "My good friend Herbert West," so I'm not entirely sure how seriously he was taking the matter.

In truth, Jon's decision to make Lovecraft-based plush toys was, as so many things are, the intersection of several unrelated events. ToyVault has, in many ways, been a showcase of the personal interests and fascinations of the creative minds within the company - most notably Jon himself.

Jon's an avid gamer, a voracious reader, and a diehard fan of almost every media franchise in our product catalog. He had long wanted to make Lovecraftian toys, but during its earliest days, ToyVault primarily made action figures.

While a Cthulhu action figure might have a market, technical limitations of the form would likely alienate just as many potential customers as it would attract. For instance, how posable should such a figure be? Which specific artistic representation should be used? How detailed should the sculpt be? Action figures of this type have a rigidity, not just of material, but also of concept. Fans have an image in their minds eye of what a character should look like, and an action figure representation should match that image as closely as possible. With comic book or film subject matter, that matchup is fairly easy. With literary subject matter like Cthulhu, it is substantially more difficult, and so he tabled the idea.

Some time in late 1999, ToyVault was approached by another company - I'm not at liberty to name them specifically - to produce their version of a Cthulhu plush toy. The toy was manufactured, but a payment dispute prevented the product from reaching the market.

In the process, however, Jon learned the ins and outs of plush manufacturing, and the idea of a plush inversion of the Cosmic Horror trope appealed to him. A new design was commissioned, and the prototype was displayed at San Diego Comic-Con. Attendees were told that we would produce it "if there was sufficient demand." At the show, two major distributors committed to enough pre-orders to cover an entire production run, and the line has been self-sustaining ever since.



ToyVault's now out of print Plush Shoggoth also doubled as yarmulke for the theistically challenged

LNN: What is is about Lovecraft's fiction that makes it marketable as opposed to, say for example, the works of a better known author such as Jane Austen, and what does this say about your target demographic?

BlakeIn terms of ToyVault's marketability of Cthulhu and other Lovecraftian horrors, part of it is recognizability. Show a Cthulhu toy to anyone who has read Lovecraft and they should be able to recognize it as Cthulhu. I would be surprised if any Jane Austen fans could differentiate between, for instance, Elinor from Sense and Sensibility, Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice, Fanny from Mansfield Park, and any other Victorian-era lady of refinement. You could make a line of Sense and Sensibility dolls, and without changing anything but their labels, rebrand them as Wuthering Heights dolls.

However, that only speaks to the visual distinctiveness of Cthulhu, which doesn't completely answer your question. It seems that, to some extent, Cthulhu's popularity specifically as a plush toy is down to a growing trend of postmodern deconstruction in media and culture in general. Cthulhu is a widely recognizable icon not just of Lovecraft's work specifically, but of the Cosmic Horror genre as a whole - and by extension, an icon of undefinable fear, creeping madness, and abstract nightmares. Contrastingly, plush toys are an icon of the innocence of childhood, and all that is cute and cuddly. Merging the two creates a complete inversion of both of the concepts.

What that says about the demographic - Either that they have a sense of humor, or that it comforts them to see an incomprehensible terror from beyond the reach of time reduced to cuddly, huggable teddy bear.

LNN: What significance does the Cthulhu line have for you company, and what percentage of your business does it comprise?

BlakeCthulhu was the first plush toy we manufactured, and its popularity completely changed our business model. It turned us on to the fact that Geeks (and I use the term to include myself - I'm possibly the nerdiest guy Jon knows) have an interest in plush toys that are conceptually ironic.

Our General Business Manager won't let me discuss exact sales figures, but I will say that Cthulhu products are consistently our most profitable plush toys, and we have no plans to stop making them.


Mounted Cthulhu Wall Tropy: For the Big Game hunter who still knows how to read

LNN: Your website says that you acquired the license for Cthulhu in 2000. Who currently claims ownership of the franchise now in terms of memorabilia, and what are your thoughts on literature and the public domain? Does your business affiliation make you a de facto supporter of the Swedish Pirate Party and Electronic Freedom Foundation?

BlakeThe phrase "Cthulhu license" on our website is a bit poorly phrased on our part, and somewhat confusing. Its usage is due to the fact that we were approached to manufacture the product by an external company - As I mentioned before, I can't name them - and a license was involved for that specific product, as the toy was based on their artistic interpretation. That product never made it to market.

ToyVault does not have any official business relationship with any parties claiming ownership of Lovecraft's copyrights. To my knowledge, no such parties have contacted us claiming infringement. Such a claim would, after all, need to be backed up with sufficient evidence that the work in question is not in the public domain, and that the plush toys did not represent a non-infringing parody. Either way, if the matter were to be brought to trial, it would at least settle the question officially.

As for who claims ownership of the license, we don't have any additional information beyond that which is already known. Derleth's claim of ownership is the only one with any credibility at all, and even that is dubious. In any event, his estate seems singularly disinterested in pursuing it. Chaosium's claims of ownership are only over specific elements unique to their RPG line, and the use of the phrase "The Call of Cthulhu" in gaming products. Whether this last would stand up to a true legal test remains a matter of much debate.

The purpose of the public domain is for the general improvement of culture and the arts. The arguments against its existence seem transparently greedy in nature. Such arguments are never made by an artist or author with regards to his or her own works: They are instead made by those who have purchased or inherited rights, and fear losing the stream of revenue those rights have generated. However, the complexity of copyright reform is well beyond the scope of us as a toy company. On this subject, I would recommend Spider Robinson's short story "Melancholy Elephants." (Note to editor: This link is legal. Baen is Spider Robinson's publisher, and routinely makes much of their catalog available for free)

ToyVault, as a company, does not have any political stances or affiliations. We make toys and games. If there existed a political party opposed to the manufacture and/or sale of such things, we'd probably be in opposition to them. To my knowledge, no one in the company has any direct ties to either the EFF or the Swedish Pirate Party.


Quake with trepidation at "The Cthulhu Waist Pouch"


LNN: Well, don't be surprised when an honorary membership arrives in the mail.  .  . The plush Cthulhu doll has become something of its own Internet meme and has developed its own sub culture, including such websites as "Tales of Plush Cthulhu" and "Calls for Cthulhu." How do you perceive your product is shaping the history and current culture of Lovecraft and his fiction?

BlakeAll things will be parodied. It's a natural part of all fandoms, especially those for which the subject matter is no longer ongoing - A canceled television show, a completed series of movies, or the body of a late author's work, for instance. It allows the fans to express their enthusiasm in a new, creative, and unique way. Our plush toys were simply the most convenient tool at hand for some of these expressions.


LNN: What is the most peculiar place you have seen or heard of a plush Cthulhu showing up?

BlakeI've seen at least one university professor who wore our Cthulhu backpack, and more than a few computer repair places with a mini Cthulhu on staff - presumably to terrify the computers into working again. However, the strangest instance I've personally witnessed was during a trip I was taking to visit family out-of-state last year. In a shopping mall in a semi-rural North Carolina area, I happened to see a child no older than 8 holding a Medium Cthulhu. It was the Christmas season, and the child's parents were taking him to see Santa. When he caught sight of the jolly old fatman, he clutched Cthulhu tight to his chest, and buried his face in Cthulhu's head - apparently terrified of old Saint Nick.


I swear I heard him crying "F'tagn!"


LNN: ToyVault now has a "evil" version of the plush Cthulhu that is darker in color, sharper in its features, and more malevolent in its product description. Whence the need for an evil counterpart to its cuter cousin?

BlakeAre you referring to Cthulhu the Wicked?

Cthulhu the Wicked is. . . at least slightly heterodox in his views of the modern papal authority

Strictly speaking, Cthulhu is not evil - he (or more accurately, it) is completely alien to our underlying concepts of good and evil. Cthulhu the Wicked is a hypothetical scenario - what if Cthulhu understood our model of morality... and embraced evil?

Just kidding. We made him because he looks cool. "Wicked" seemed the best descriptor for the visual style.

LNN: Were you disappointed you were not contracted by the special effects department at the HPLHS for their silent film project?

BlakeYes. At the very least, we would have liked to have seen our Cthulhu toy used in place of the stop-motion model as an alternate take or easter egg on the DVD. Alas.

LNN: Obviously you are a business and want to make money, but where is the line between genuine affection and shameless commercialization when it comes to the creation of products based on the works of a well respected author? How do you address this ethical dilemma in your corporation, and what is an example of something you would consider to be literary sacrilege?

BlakeJon Huston's official answer: "That line is somewhere in orbit around Alpha Proxima."

The line is not well defined, but we definitely try to remain respectful. I would personally think that the line can be defined in two ways: Firstly, if a derivative product is thematically irrelevant to its source material. Secondly, if the derivative product purposefully attempts to replace the original in the minds of the public.

Some might see the Judy Garland version of The Wizard of Oz to be guilty on these counts, just as an example.

LNN: What impact do you think it will have on Lovecraft's reputation as an author, public perception of his work, and your business if either Del Toro or Ron Howard go through with a big budget Lovecraft movie in the next few years?

BlakeWe're cautiously ambivalent regarding the possibility of a big budget Lovecraft film. Past efforts have been enjoyable, but not what anyone would classify a "commercial success." Del Toro has expressed that the studios are pretty much completely opposed to Lovecraft's themes, saying that they want "a love story and a happy ending." It seems more likely that a television series would be able to remain faithful to his work - the BBC would be the most capable of pulling it off, although HBO could also do it well. Until the public domain issue is officially settled, though, it's unlikely that any big budget approach gets past the "purely hypothetical" stage.




LNN: With the recent success of viral movie trailers, has ToyVault ever considered creating an online trailer to promote plush Cthulhu where he devours your other stuffed animals in the office? If you did, which would be the first to go?

BlakeKiss versus Cthulhu. I'd watch it.

In all seriousness, the terms of our licenses specifically exclude exactly this kind of thing. Sure, it would be fun, but our legal department can't repel threats of that magnitude. The only ones we could do would involve our unlicensed toys, such as the Egyptian Gods, Here Be Monsters, Norse Gods, or Nightmares.

LNN Edit: We found one here. Its authenticity is questionable, but it does appear that Cthulhu likes Edgar Winters.

LNN: Can we ever expect to see jello molds, spaghetti products, bathtub sponge capsules, or a chia pet with Cthulhu's likeness from your company?

BlakeFrom our company? Unlikely. Partly due to our current manufacturing capabilities, partly due to our primary markets.

From any company, ever? Possibly. There are companies who do those kinds of things, and who cater to the geek culture market. Business abhors a vacuum.

LNN: Would it be ethical for our readers to purchase and then donate a plush Cthulhu to a charitable organization for kids like Toys for Tots, or is this inadvisable?

BlakeWe don't have an official stance on the matter. I would think that would be more a matter of whether the toy would be appreciated.


This out of print "Dracthulhu" plush doll apparently came with its own sacrificial virgin.  Let us know when the new batch is ready to ship, ToyVault!

LNN:  Any thing else you would like to put on the record?

Blake:  Jon's official response: "A few tracks from The White Album, some Dark Side of the Moon, and a 10-minute loop of the Wilhelm scream."

We think that the HPLHS has done a fantastic job of presenting Lovecraft's work, and hope that they continue to do so for a long time to come. We're especially fond of their audio dramas, but then, we like audio drama in general.

Speaking as fans, we'd love to see someone approach the Cthulhu mythos as an ongoing retelling of Lovecraft's original stories, but bringing them together as a connected series of events. Audio theatre would be a great way to do this.

Also, a personal gift from me to you: The Miskatonic University Alma Mater song.

Go, Fight, Miskatonic, Miskatonic Squids,
Our Alma Mater hail!
Crush the opposition with your terrible visage!
Squids shall never fail!


We shall overcome them,
And drive them mad with grief:
In disturbing dreams they shall
Beg for death's relief.


Fight again, Fight again, Ya Ya Ya!

--Paul Blake
ToyVault Game Developer
& Lovecraft Nut

LNN:  Thanks!

Learn more about the History of ToyVault and Plush Cthulhu:
ToyVault Homepage

Order Plush Cthulhu online:
Intertubes

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The Contrarian releases Lovecraft-inspired album: "Eldritch Musicks"

Casey Rae-Hunter is a professional writer, editor, and musician in Washington DC. He currently produces, records, and publishes under the moniker The Contrarian, and has just released a Lovecraft-inspired album called Eldritch Musicks. The physical edition also comes with an original short story, complete with gorgeous illustrations.




We are pleased to be announce that we will publish an exclusive interview with Mr. Rae-Hunter in the near future.

Official Press Release

Having assumed many guises over the years, Rae-Hunter has now settled on a creative process he calls “Illuminated Musicks,” the details of which he is not at liberty to divulge.

Based on early 20th-century weird fiction (HP Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, etc.), Eldritch Musicks delivers top-shelf “haunt-rock” that, while entertaining, also offers a glimpse into an eerie world of symbol and derangement. With its uncanny atmosphere and guitar-driven authority, Eldritch Musicks calls to mind classic Blue Öyster Cult and other masters of occult musical mojo.


In fact, the idea for the record came out of a conversation between The Contrarian and Sandy Pearlman — renowned producer/manager and the mastermind behind Blue Öyster Cult’s finest albums. Pearlman suggested that there had not been a credible rock record concerning Lovecraft’s Mythos in at least two decades. Always up for a challenge, The Contrarian decided to make one.

The Contrarian engineered and produced the recording and also performs all instruments and vocals. Additional sonic materiel is supplied by The Ten Thousand Things, who contributed four lush and unsettling “eldritch drones” to the project.

Eldritch Musicks is available as a limited-edition CD with artwork from Jared Metzner (The Cancer Conspiracy), as well as digitally through all major online retailers. Physical product is available exclusively at this site. Here’s what you get:

* A signed and numbered CD copy of Eldritch Musicks

And a link to download:

* Lyrics to all the songs on the album in “eldritch font”
* “The Cove” — a short story with exclusive illustrations
* A behind-the-scenes video shot at Sounds of the Baskervilles studio in Washington, DC
* The Contrarian: Eldritch Podcast — a track-by-track exploration of the album’s themes and the inspiration for the songs. Just like getting drunk with The Contrarian in real life!


Learn more or purchase the album at the Contrarian's website:

http://www.thecontrarianmedia.com/the-contrarian-eldritch-musicks/

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Fact or Fiction: Bohemian Grove Cult of Lovecraftian Proportions

In the interest of keeping things interesting and fresh, we deliberately keep our scope of coverage broad and our topics eclectic. In our indefatigable quest to cover all things Lovecraftian, a most peculiar slice of history has been plopped onto our plate that we cannot resist presenting here. Considering the nature of our studies, it is not often that we are taken aback or experience shock while gleefully covering the often unspeakable actions of cosmic horrors and the cults who worship them. Today is an exception.

The following story is not new, but it was new to us, and we present it now for your viewing pleasure. In all honesty, we were not quite prepared for just how unexpectedly Lovecraftian this story is, and thus we present it to you as an intellectual exercise and cautionary tale of just how strange our world is.

Not your typical scout camp bonfire



Allow me to cautiously introduce Mr. Alex Jones. Don't get too close--he bites.

First off, let me be explicitly clear: The LNN is quite progressive in its views, and we openly denounce Alex Jones as a crackpot. And he's not the funny kind of crackpot either, he is, as the Dickipedia would say, "a full-fledged nutjob. The type of person that makes you turn to your friend the moment he gets up to use the bathroom and mouth 'He's craaaaaaazy,' complete with hand motions and bug-eyes." Naturally, this makes him the perfect character to write about for the Lovecraft News Network.

When he is not juxtaposing non sequiturs of deranged political diatribes on his maniacal radio show, Mr. Jones enjoys sneaking into secret meetings of the world's elite.

Mr. Jones claims to have filmed a real life cult of, dare we say, Cthulhic proportions. Though we question both the veracity of Jones' footage and his sanity, his video seems straight out of the pages of Weird Tales. Thus we present to you the following outrageous conspiracy theory and invite you to decide for yourself.

In 2000, Jones snuck into a secret meeting at the Bohemian Grove in California and taped what he claims is proof of an "ancient Canaanite, Luciferian, Babylon mystery religion ceremony." What gets better is who was on the guest list. . . the President of the United States.



According to Rotten.com, the "Bohemian Grove is 'the greatest men's party on Earth,' according to once-regular attendee Herbert Hoover. A secret little getaway for America's male upper crust, the 2-week long annual retreat in Monte Rio, California, has all the luxuries you'd expect of an elitist clique: outdoor plays, an orchestra, delicious food and beverages, public urination, streaking, and human sacrifices, to name a few. Nestled in beautiful redwood forests, every Republican president since Coolidge has partaken in the gala, as well as a host of other huge names in business and politics."



"The gathering includes semi-Masonic themes that center around a 40-foot tall stone owl, whose voice is provided by regular attendee Walter Cronkite ("And that's the way it is, hoot hoot."). Mock-Druidic rituals are performed, and the attendees (referred to as "Bohos" or "Grovers") wear Ku Klux Klan-style garb. Public policy speeches are given, conveniently away from the public that will eventually have to suffer under these policies. Called "Lakeside Talks", the topics of discussion range from "Communists, Democracy and Golf"; "America's Health Revolution: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Pays"; "America's Promise: Leading Armies and Leading Kids"; "Defining the New World Order"; and other such jolly cocktail chatter. It is boasted that the Manhattan Project first took shape at a Grove meeting."



Now if your right-wing conspiracy BS-'o-meter is going off, you are not alone. But the existence of the Grove and it's weird dealings has been surprising well documented, which makes Jones' video all the more intriguing. Go ahead, look it up and check for yourself.



Here are a few things that seem to be indisputable facts:

-Alex Jones is a crazed conspiracy theorist

-However, the Bohemian Grove festival is very real, very weird, and it really has drawn the most powerful men in the world for over a century, including every Republican president.

-Though there is no solid evidence to explain its specific purpose, attendees really do engage in some kind of mock human sacrifice to a giant owl statue for some inscrutable reason.

-President Nixon really did utter the following baffling statement, "The Bohemian Grove, that I attend from time to time—the Easterners and the others come there—but it is the most faggy, goddamn thing you could ever imagine, that San Francisco crowd that goes in there; it's just terrible! I mean I won't shake hands with anybody from San Francisco."

Several questions spring to mind:

1. Why have we not heard about this before, and, Luciferian or not, why does this not interest more people?
2. Is this just a strange, yet harmless game for the wealthy and powerful?
2. What do one do with this information if Jones is correct?
3. How do I get an invitation?
4. Is there a gift shop, and can you get a Moloch key chain for the kids?
5. What does Cthulhu think of this blasphemous, Babylonian impostor?

We'll let you decide.

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New Teaser for Lovecraftian film "Altitude"

A brand new trailer has been released for the upcoming aviation horror film Altitude. Starring Jessica Lowndes, the movie will be the directorial debut of award-winning comic artist Kaare Andrews.




The plot:

After a mysterious malfunction sends their small plane climbing out of control, a rookie pilot and her four teenage friends find themselves trapped in a deadly showdown with a supernatural force.

Watch the trailer here:


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'Tis the Season for Cult Awareness: A festive PSA from your friends at the LNN

Here at the LNN, we are always on the lookout for new frontiers of exploration into the world of Lovecraft-inspired culture.

Not content to merely chronicle the literary adventures of our cosmically inclined compatriots, this holiday season, we want to give back to the wonderful community of fans, enthusiasts, authors, directors, and artists who keep our inbox full of fantastic new creations.

Thus, friends, we present to you a gift we hope is fitting of the genre in which we gleefully traffic: a seasonal, Lovecraftian public service announcement!

                                             [Click Image to Enlarge]




Though we are quite excited by the possibilities such a project might present for lugubrious satire, we invite you to contribute your thoughts, critiques, and opinions on the ethics, politics, and potential for success of our prototype PSA. In a world already full of anger, the project must not cross the line into the realm of dogmatic vitriol, which we feel would be counterproductive to the cause and decidedly un-Lovecraftian.

Depending on the response we receive, we may turn this project into a series on Cult Awareness; or, conversely, we might disavow our knowledge of its existence and pretend it never happened.

This holiday season we invite you to have fun, give thanks, and remember that cults are all fun and games until someone gets burnt at the stake. Cheers!

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CDW: "Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom: Appetizer for Existentialism "

The LNN recently received an early release copy of the upcoming graphic novel Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom by author Bruce Brown. In lieu of a "review," which we find dull and cliche, we have unleashed our director of public relations, Charles Ward, on the task of chronicling a personal encounter with the text.

Disclaimer: The LNN does not necessarily endorse or support the following opinions. In fact, we will just go ahead and wash our hands of them altogether in advance, just in case they don't make any sense, you don't like them, or they make you want to sue us. Unless, of course, you do like them, at which time we take full credit for their presentation.



"Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom": Appetizer for Existentialism
by Charles Ward

The mind of a child is precious thing to waste. . . at least that is what I would imagine a cannibalistic cultist might say before shopping at a local daycare.  My childhood mind was filled with Heinlein, Bradbury, and all the Outer Limits and Twilight Zone reruns I could bear to watch alone.  Sometimes I wonder how I would have turned out differently had I not been permanently traumatized by The Zanti Misfits, but I'm sure it only improves the complexity of my cranial culinary potential.

I will freely confess that I was never a big fan of comic books, as they were hard to come by and always seemed a bit patronizing to me in their lack of intellectual complexity. My local library had too many other tempting distractions, and I usually ended up loading up my bicycle with tapes of Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World and forgetting about Superman and his spandex beclad escapades.




Considering these things, reading a pre-release copy of Bruce Brown's upcoming graphic novel Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom evoked a different feeling than I had anticipated. The text is a juxtaposition of two starkly disparate worlds: on the one hand, it is a family friendly tale of adventure, and its rhetoric is clearly dialed down to a child's level; yet conversely it draws from the literary heritage of the deepest and darkest of weird fiction à la the treacherous dreamscapes of Lovecraft. Though the cartoon bubbles are filled with the language of a child, its images are unremittingly menacing and I image they could easily be seen as quite disturbing. This conflation of the puerile and sinisterly sublime is not something that we see too often--if ever--in mainstream media, but it was also something I appreciated and sought out when I was young and always found deeply fulfilling.

Though I will admit that my feelings about Wes Craven are mixed at best, in the documentary The American Nightmare (2000), he offers a glimmer of insight into his work that I have felt is a key to unlocking many of the mysteries of entire horror genre. He says,

“Kids who are in a much more chaotic state of mind and life than most adults remember or realize, they can go into these [horror films] as kind of boot camps for the psyche, as I have said. Strengthening their egos, strengthening their sense of fortitude; just as a soldier comes, you know, from momma’s arms into the drill instructor’s gaze and ends hardened, but feeling like he can survive battle. I think that’s, in a sense, what goes on with kids that go to scary movies. And it’s something that the grownups never seem to think about; they’re always worried about, ‘Oh, the kids have been damaged, the kids have been traumatized.’ It’s always been kind of the basis for my sort of optimism about what I do, and of being kind of a right thing, because the kids feel spontaneously grateful for it, even if it gives them nightmares, there’s something going on there that is needed.”




While Freddy Kreuger was probably too much for me at a very early age, the terror of the Outer Limits, for example, was just about right and provided me an entry point into what I was then too young to understand was a very real craving for the intellectual and ideological challenge unique to horror media. It was wasn't merely a "scary movie" I was watching for fun. I would later develop a vocabulary that allowed me to begin to process what I was watching: Lovecraft, of course, called it "cosmic horror."

This is what sprang to mind while perusing Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom. It is a children's story to be sure, but it is attached to something so much deeper. Like the dreams of its titular character, the graphic novel itself is a gateway and portal to an intellectual awakening and reevaluation of one's place in the universe, wrapped up neatly in a package digestible for the cautious, young existential acolyte curious about what he or she might find.




Perhaps I am over analyzing this--maybe it's just wishful thinking--but since this reading only serves to heighten my enjoyment of the project, I remain blissfully unrepentant. However, it does seems prudent at this point to at least briefly casually invoke Sartre at the expense of Mr. Brown's status as not-yet-dead: my reading is neither definitive nor at odds with any intentionality of his.

In summation, reading Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom was a highly pleasurable experience, but it was not an empty thrill It is precisely the sort of dark, yet accessible text I would have sought out as a child and risked my mother's wrath to furtively read before she discovered and confiscated it. It is an entrance into something much bigger than the simple story of a boy's strange adventure: it is a doorway into a new way of thinking about one's place in the universe. There's something going on there that's needed.

I haven't decided yet if it's a good thing or not that this type of project does not appeal to more people. This is a complex and perhaps unanswerable question I shall have to ponder further. When the text is released early next year, Mr. Brown might have the opportunity to share it with a large contingent of the current generation of youth. I don't know what TV shows kids watch these days, but I can just picture this erupting violently into my childhood via Reading Rainbow. I imagine it would go something like this, as read from the lips of an exuberant eight year old:

"And then little Howard enters the hideous cave and encounters the blasphemous monstrosity of unspeakable horror where his sanity is destroyed and his insignificant place among the cosmos is finally revealed--but you don't have to take my word for it!"



Charles Ward is the LNN's Director of Public Relations and resident phrenologist. He enjoys pop semiotics, rhetorical altercations, and leverpostej. He lives in a state of denial with his wife and two cats.

http://djyano.blogspot.com
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Official soundtrack to "Lovecraft Paragraphs" released by Reber Clark

Composer and filmmaker Reber Clark has finally released the official soundtrack to his recent movie Lovecraft Paragraphs, which debuted to critical acclaim at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in October.  S.T. Joshi called it a "scintillating and breathtakingly original visual experience." 

Mr. Clark stopped by to tell us a little about the release and his experience at the festival.




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Lovecraft Paragraphs the Original Soundtrack

Lovecraft Paragraphs is a movie I made - the sole goal of which was to be accepted by the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival (HPLFF) in Portland, Oregon and to be shown there. It actually premiered there in October 2009.

In the movie (not a “film” – no film involved! “Video” sounds cold, hence “movie”) most of the references - visuals, audio etc, will be familiar to Lovecraft readers but not so much to non-aficionados. I hope people enjoy it and that it helps these paragraphs stick in the mind.



What the movie is about is how Lovecraft’s paragraphs stick with you even after the plot details have become hazy. I utilized four different electronic voices to state Lovecraft’s words in an effort to de-personalize the presentation. The reason for this is from two quotes of Lovecraft:

“I like a tale to be told as directly and impersonally as possible, from an angle of utter and absolute detachment.”
– Howard Phillips Lovecraft, In a letter to Frank Belknap Long, August 2 1925

“. . .for in its cryptical arabesques there may stand symbolised all the aims and mysteries of a blindly impersonal cosmos.”
– Howard Phillips Lovecraft, The Silver Key

The soundtrack release, available now as an MP3 download from Amazon.com, contains twenty music cues from the movie with their narrations and these same cues without the narrations. There are forty tracks for under ten bucks. A pretty good deal.

Hopefully it means a little income and greater exposure to film makers who might want music for their productions. I have met a few people interested in Lovecraft through this project and we have several ideas on the table. Because of my experience the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival I can now see a way to have these ideas come to fruition. I have ignored my monsters for far too long and it’s time for them to be fully accepted into my life.

LNN: Tell us about your experience with the HPLFF, if you wouldn't mind.”

Clark: Please keep in mind I am a relative newcomer to film festivals and film making. The 2009 H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon was the first film festival I’d ever been to, and my movie Lovecraft Paragraphs was the first movie I’d ever released – in fact it premiered at the festival.



Upon arriving in Portland one is struck with the cleanliness and efficiency of its rail system the TriMax. I had no trouble getting from the airport to my hotel, Hotel Fifty, in downtown Portland. I tried to book a hotel nearer to the festival but they were booked up by the time I received word that my movie had been accepted. C’est la vie; the trains made it an extremely easy commute every day.

The Hollywood Theatre (opened in 1926), where the festival takes place, and surrounding shops and eateries sit on North East Sandy Boulevard – a through street much like any other in older sections of towns built in the 1890s thru the 1930s. There were local burger joints that had been there since the invention of the cow as well as current chains such as Quiznos. The surrounding shops varied from dry cleaners to knick-knack shops to the amazing Things from Another World store. Down the street is Tony Starlight’s where the most visible after-hours gatherings take place after the festival theatre closes for the night.



I entered the theatre and was greeted by the fabulous Mrs. Linda Migliore – Andrew’s wife. Andrew Migliore runs the festival (I believe he is secretly insane – but in a good way!). Linda set me up with a badge/festival pass and a poster and T-Shirt – apparently film makers get ‘em free! Bonus! I wandered the theatre – an old one from the thirties - kept in decent repair by those that love movies.

There were two screening rooms upstairs – a converted balcony - and the vendors had their stuff set up in the upstairs lobby. You could buy anything from Liv Rainey Smith’s fantastic hand made prints to T-shirts, jewelry, skulls (!) and books galore. It was amazing. I bought a Yellow Sign hat from Dagon Industries. The main screen was downstairs and is a spacious auditorium with those great red upholstered seats.

The popcorn smelled right in this place so I figured I was among those who loved movies as well as Lovecraft. I felt weirdly at home and relaxed around all of these people. We all seemed like some members of some scattered, dysfunctional yet happy family. I knew I would be back.

The schedule of movies combined several feature length films with 3 blocks of shorts – each run twice. Alongside the film presentations was a schedule of writers’ panels, discussions, and events called the “CthulhuCon.” I had to pick and choose which to attend because the writers’ blocks (no pun intended) competed with the film blocks for time. This was a shame because my interests lie in both worlds.

I wanted to go to both showings of Shorts Block One because that’s when Lovecraft Paragraphs was being shown and I had never seen it with an audience.

They loved it and they hated it! It was fantastic! I love it when people have a reaction then talk about it. What is the worst is the “meh” reaction. If at least they feel something about the project I know I’m doing my job.



Some quotes and comments from the festival include:

"Lovecraft Paragraphs is a scintillating and breathtakingly original visual experience. The 'paragraphs' from Lovecraft's work have been chosen with exceptional care to highlight some of Lovecraft's most powerful and provocative utterances; and the images chosen to accompany them emphasise exactly those elements of weirdness, cosmicism, terror, and otherworldly beauty that distinguish Lovecraft's stories. Every reader of Lovecraft will come away with an enhanced appreciation for the Master's writing and imagination from seeing this splendid film." - eminent Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi, author of H. P. Lovecraft: A Life

"A wonderful, wonderful movie."
- Wilum H. Pugmire, author of The Fungal Stain and Sesqua Valley & Other Haunts

"Lovecraft Paragraphs was an extraordinary presentation of his [Lovecraft's] prose in voicesynth vocals, with visuals. Like Carl Sagan on PCP." - Alex Russell, on Twitter

"I thought Lovecraft Paragraphs was a visual delight, and an enjoyable Lovecraftian journey." - Robert Cappelletto, Director of Pickman's Muse (H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival Audience Pick (Best Adaptation) winner 2009)

"Lovecraft Paragraphs was easily the most controversial film at the festival this year." - Andrew Migliore, Director, The H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival

I was blown away with S. T. Joshi’s generous comments as well as all of the authors and film makers who had these reactions, but believe me there were plenty of folks who audibly groaned at the movie. Admittedly it is a bit overlong and not full of snappy lines. Perhaps I will re-edit it if it is ever released on DVD.

LNN: What's next for you and Lovecraft Paragraphs?

Clark: I would love to release the movie on DVD and get it distributed. That may be in the works – we will see. If nothing else I may put it up on Amazon.com as a video download.

As for me – I am finishing up this year’s music commissions – one for a high school in Indiana entitled Christmas Heralds and another for a school in Renton, Washington entitled Africa Ascendant. There are also four pieces for wind ensemble at my publishers but I haven’t heard if they are in the pipeline or not.

Depending on how well Lovecraft Paragraphs - the Original Soundtrack does on Amazon.com I may begin work on a Lovecraft Suite which I have always wanted to do. It would be a straight musical work for orchestra or wind ensemble. I have had it planned out for a long time and now may have a reason to commit to it. I also have plans for three or four Lovecraft-related movie projects; one based on some Lord Dunsany tales, an idea for a funny Cthulhu short and Robert Cappelletto and I have talked about several projects. He won the Audience Pick for Best Adaptation this year at HPLFF for his beautifully shot film Pickman’s Muse.

Things continue. I am very happy that my work has had so much acceptance in the Lovecraft community, particularly among the authors and scholars and I look forward to many more darkly happy years working on Lovecraftian projects. LNN is a great resource for Lovecraftian info and you provide an excellent service. Thanks for allowing me to talk about my latest release.

LNN:  As always, it was our pleasure.  Thank you.

Order Reber Clark's Lovecraft Paragraphs Soundtrack at the following link:

Amazon.com


It includes all cues from the movie with narration, as well as those cues without the narration. A total of forty tracks for under ten bucks!

Learn more about Mr. Clark and his other projects:

www.reberclark.blogspot.com
www.youtube.com/reberclark
www.lovecraftparagraphs.blogspot.com

http://djyano.blogspot.com
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LNN interviews British author Andrew McGuigan on "Cumbrian Cthulhu"

We are pleased announce the release of a new work of Lovecraftian fiction from British author Andrew McGuigan.

His latest collection, entitled Cumbrian Cthulhu, can be read for free on his website, which is also now accepting fiction from similarly minded authors.

We asked Mr. McGuigan to tell us a little bit about his project:




McGuigan:

I have always been a fan of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu horror mythos, “Shadows over Innsmouth” being my favourite. I like the way that modern writers have made their own attempts at writing stories based on his worlds.

So anyway, my parents have retired over to Maryport in Cumbria, England.
It’s a nice west coast town, right next to The Lake District and a perfect setting for a bit of seaside horror. By using some local history books my parents own I have constructed a three part Cthulhu horror set in 1950’s Maryport, using researched references correct to the period.

“The Chamber in the hillside”

Synopsis:

The story is written in the first person by an elderly archaeologist. It takes the form of a series of three warning letters distributed to people he hopes will listen. He writes after reading proposed plans to excavate the Roman fort site at Senhouse, Maryport. He warns that contrary to popular belief that area has been dug before. This was in 1954 by a team he assembled. The three letters describe what was found, the horror that unfolds and the writer’s subsequent descent into Lovecraftian madness.

To get my story online it would be easy to create a blog and just link to it. I then thought it might be an idea to make the blog inclusive to other writers on the same subject, and gather together some amateur Cumbrian Cthulhu fiction and poetry on one site.

And so http://cumbriancthulhu.blogspot.com/ has been born.

You guys are the first people I am sharing this with having published the first part of the story online, and send out some authentic looking printed copies to places in Maryport like writers groups and the local newspaper etc.

All three parts are now written and ready to go. I will space them out and send the printed letters (as if written by the story protagonist), timing the first one to be received by Senhouse Fort visitors centre shortly before the 13th November where (as luck would have it) the annual Maryport literary festival takes place. All of the letters will include a card advertising the blog site.

My original idea was to simply write my own Cthulhu tribute story. I then decided to invite other writers to produce stories of a similar theme. I have sent out paper copies of part one of my own story to several writers groups in Cumbria, and will send parts two and three at regular intervals. The postings always include an invitation to contribute stories to the site.

It is my intention to collect these works together in one place as has been done previously with themed Cthulhu anthologies. If interest is strong enough, I would love to see the collection published as a hard copy one day.

I have included below a link to the “About Cumbrian Cthulhu” section.
Apologies for occasional site maintenance, I am learning as I go!

http://cumbriancthulhu.blogspot.com/2009/10/about-cumbrian-cthulhu-and-how-to.html

Thank you for listening. If you enjoy the idea of the site I hope you will encourage Cthulhu fans to visit and contribute!

http://djyano.blogspot.com
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H. Harksen publishes new Lovecraftian anthology Eldritch Horrors: Dark Tales

H. Harksen Productions is an independent, small press specializing in dark fiction—specializing in Lovecraftian fiction & Cthulhu Mythos tales.  There latest anthology is entitled Eldritch Horrors: Dark Tales.

From the deepest oceans to shadowy woods, dark cities, across wars and unspeakable realms of the unknown-to forbidden books, strange cultists, dread lore & mad, ancient Gods from beyond time & space. The world is not safe; no one is safe.

The collection includes fourteen new tales of the gruesomely weird by  Paul S. Kemp (of Forgotten Realms fame), W. H. Pugmire (with new Sesqua Valley tale!), Gary Hill, Thomas Strømsholt, and others.  We spoke with editor Henrik Harksen and asked him to tell us a little about himself, the publishing industry, Victor Borge, and state of Lovecraftian fiction.





LNN: Tell us a little about yourself in general.

HARKSEN: Well, I have a MA in Philosophy, am married with my wonderful wife Hanne with whom I also have a wonderful baby girl, My (yes, I know that name is weird in an English speaking context; the proper pronounciation is the 'y' somewhat like the German 'ü';-)). We also have a cat in our household (rather typical for a Lovecraftian, eh?). Oh, and I live in Odense, Denmark. The same city that fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen was born in.

LNN: What is your background in the publication industry, and how did you end up publishing Lovecraftiana?

HARKSEN: I don't really have a background in the publishing industry. Assuming you're talking about a professional level of publishing. Although I have been involved with school magazines and journals (incl. when I was studying Philosophy at the University, where I was Assistant Editor). And for the four issues it existed I helped editing Studies in Fantasy Literature.

It all started years before, though. I have published various amateur publications for a number of years. In fact I have done so ever since I was a child back in the late 1970s. Back then, though, I was creating "LP record covers" for imagined albums. Hehe. So I guess that's where it really started. Go figure:-P Later still I also created "publications" of my own writings (mainly poetry and fledgling short stories; but also the papers at school, college etc.). As you can see, it was way before the Computer Age, so it was back when it was really "copy & paste";-)

It is in connection with the latter that I came up with "H. Harksen Productions". I wanted to write a Copyright note, even in my amateurish mode & state of mind, and for some reason it sounded grander to use a company name instead of merely a name. Don't ask why; I am weird, that's all I can say. And in my wild imagination I also thought it would be cool with an English sounding company name, for, after all it could be great if some day I published Internationally, right? Hehe. (Also, more often than not I wrote in English anyway, even if my native language is Danish.) And, as you can see, my name remained, even in that--at the time fictive--company name.

In the late 1990s I was invited by Derrick Hussey (publisher of the excellent Hippocampus Press) to join the Esoteric Order of Dagon Amateur Press Association, an APA with a time-honored tradition, dedicated to things Lovecraftian and with the world's leading Lovecraft scholar at the helm, S. T. Joshi. Here I started getting more "serious" with what I did, not only when it comes to writing but also when it comes to creating aesthetically satisfying looks of my 'zine, The Philosopher, and the odd booklet I designed once in a while and shared with the members. All of it published through said amateur small press company, hehe.



LNN: Tell us about the mission of H. Harksen Productions. What are your goals for the press?

HARKSEN: My goal with H. Harksen Productions is to primarily (1) publish good, solid, quality stories in the Lovecraftian/Cthulhu Mythos vein (primarily with a focus on new directions of the genre & the ideas), (2) include high quality illustrations and artwork, (3) with aesthetically satisfying layouts and design of the books. The latter is quite important to me. A subsidary goal is to publish non-fiction, Lovecraftian-related books (such as the August Derleth monograph by John D. Derleth published November 2009). In Denmark I have also published a non-HPL horror anthology, which seems to be well received; at this point it is unlikely I will do the same in English.

I am proud that with my first English publication, Eldritch Horrors: Dark Tales, I have managed to gather well-known authors (i.e. Paul S. Kemp, who is a New York Times bestseller of Forgotten Realms novels, and Lovecraftian writers such as W. H. Pugmire) as well as talented new-comers; and succeeded in gathering what I think is an array of excellent pieces of artwork by the esteemed artist Jørgen Mahler Elbang. So I am off to a good start with (1) & (2), I think;-)

A personal goal is to improve my skills. Each publication from me shows improvement--and I learn every step of the way. I wear many hats and I have gotten better at taking the time doing what's needed for each process. I am talking about editing, proof reading, typesetting, designing layout, marketing etc., etc. And since this is all done in what little spare time I have this requires quite a lot of planning. To get closer to these goals I am now receiving help from a good friend of mine from Australia, who will assist in proof reading future products, Phillip A. Ellis (who is an excellent poet of the weird, btw!).

LNN: Your first publication was a purely Danish horror anthology. What prompted the decision to switch to English?

HARKSEN: That is a fair question, but it is really the other way around. Originally I intended to publish in English first--but switched to Danish. The reason is quite simple: I wanted to learn the basics first, and it felt safer doing this when concentrating only on a very local area--in Denmark. Would have been too big if it was the whole wide world from the beginning. Likewise I wanted to have personal contact with the first printing facility I used--so I used one with an office in Denmark. The idea essentially was to learn, before doing a fullfledged International publication. And so I started off with hplmythos.dk#1, Fra Skyggerne og andre Cthulhu Mythos noveller (2007).

Eldritch Horrors: Dark Tales was delayed, but I finally got around to publish it:-) I hope it is the first of many hplmythos.com volumes:-D I have been so fortunate to have so many talented people on this first project, so I am optimistic.

LNN: You wrote a critical essay entitled, "Some Thoughts on The Ninth Configuration," which will be included in the book American Exorcist: Critical Essays on William Peter Blatty. Tell us about this article and how you got involved in horror scholarship.

HARKSEN: The collection was published in 2008 by McFarland. I'd written a (minor) piece for editor Benjamin Szumskyj's Fritz Leiber: Critical Essays, and he kindly asked me if I'd be interested in contributing with an essay to this one; evidently I said yes;-) In "Some Thoughts..." I employ Philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum's theory on literature and philosophy as presented in her excellent essay collection Love's Knowledge (1990). I won't bore you with the details, but in essense I try to demonstrate that using specific parametres (cf. Nussbaum) some heavy philosophical, existential (& religious) features clearly show themself in Blatty's The Ninth Configuration. Features that are especially enlightening qua Blatty's writing.

The article is really a background work for a larger, philosphical thesis I am working on--which revolves around the horror genre (especially HPL's writings & philosophical stance), theory of literature (with particular focus on Nussbaum) & philosphy ("can we get genuine insight/knowledge from a work of fiction?" in particular).

What got me involved in horror scholarship... Hehe... It started with me reading Professor Airaksinen's fascinating and, to me, frustrating The Philosophy of H. P. Lovecraft. Just about everything he wrote in that book grated on my nerves & my senses. It didn't resemble anything I'd read and understood of HPL when some years earlier I'd delved into his letters (the original Selected Letters by Arkham House). But I was going on memory alone, since it had been a while since I had looked at HPL's letters and stories, and that wasn't satisfying. I delved into everything I could get my hand on (at first this was through the University's library), cross-examined it with philosophical theories I knew--learned some new ones along the way--and wrote a paper at the University about some of the things I ended up concluding. A rewrite of this paper was later published as "Metaphysics in "The Music of Erich Zann"" in Lovecraft Studies #45 (2005), edited by S. T. Joshi. I actually contacted Mr. Joshi before joining the EOD, via e-mail, asking him about some of the issues I were working on. At first he wasn't too keen on my core thesis of the paper (although he liked the project and praised it as well as urged me to continue), but when I showed him some hardcore evidence of why I thought it made sense that HPL made a distinction between "ontology" and "metaphysics" he acknowledged my argument. That was a proud day, I can tell you! Almost as proud as the day he asked if I'd mind contributing the piece in Lovecraft Studies. Wow! Me--with a piece in the heart of HPL studies??? I couldn't believe it.

Still can't, actually...;-)

I could say a lot more about horror scholarship--and its philosophical ramifications, in my opinion--but I think this covered the basics of your question ;-)

LNN: What is the state of the market of Lovecraft-themed fiction, both in Denmark and the world wide markets?

HARKSEN: The state of the market seems to be growing again. Tremendously so. Ellen Datlow does excellent editor work, for instance; and the Cthulhu Unbound Series seems to garner much--well-deserved--praise. And even S. T. Joshi has joined the "new Lovecraft/Cthulhu Mythos line" surging these years, editing anthologies for Perilous Press. A writer like the marvelous W. H. Pugmire seems to be more popular than ever and with new works in the pipeline already sold to publishers. So things are looking very good, very good indeed.

I am glad you asked me about the state of "Lovecraftian-themed fiction" and not "Cthulhu Mythos fiction", since I make a distinction between the two. As do many others nowadays. There is nothing wrong with the latter but, a few stories and novels excepted, for many years the Cthulhu Mythos equalled Lovecraft and Lovecraftian fiction. I write a little more about this in my introduction to Eldritch Horrors: Dark Tales, but gladly things have changed. And with focus more and more on the Lovecraftian aspect I am very excited about the current boom.

Sadly I can't say the same about the state of things in Denmark. Yes, on the amateur/fan-base level there is a lot going on, but so far I seem to be the only Lovecraftian trying to publish books with a decidedly Lovecraftian twist. And it is hard to convince the bookstores that it's a good idea having these books on their shelves. I am working against the tides, I must admit, but at least the libraries have been fairly recepting and now that there seems to be a stirring of interest in horror literature, more generally (some of the larger publishers have started publishing horror again), with a little luck times they are a-changing;-)

That said, I am fortunate that the horror society here in Denmark has embraced my project and are very supportive. So I am not complaining.

LNN: Scandinavia is often viewed by conservative Americans as "godless" and "secular." For these people, these terms are pejorative and are used to frighten small children to attend Sunday school and mobilize the right wing political base. However, though many do consider themselves atheists, in fact Scandinavia has a deep, religious tradition, and Denmark even still has a state-sponsored church (at least they still did when I was there). How do Danish beliefs and attitudes towards spirituality--or the lack of them--play out with Lovecraftian ideologies, and how does this affect the way Lovecraft is perceived in Scandinavia?

HARKSEN: The last question first: It has no affect at all. At least, I don't think so. Yes, Denmark still has a state-sponsored church (but besides that it is separate from the state). I would say that the majority of Danes consider themselves, hm, semi-religious. A rather lukewarm description by American standards, but if you really go into a discussion with many Danes I am quite sure most will step away from both outright atheism and all-embracing religion, saying something like "Well, I am sure there is something more but..." This, I think, is tied up with Danes in general having embraced--without knowing it--Søren Kierkegaard's notion of religion as a private matter.

The strange thing is that most Danes feel rather uncomfortable with religion. As for spirituality, well, here it is more or less the same but with an inclination to either believe in "that kind of thing" or dismissing it with a sneer ("superstitious bullocks!"). I think. Many will say spirituality is linked with religion in some way.

Personally I side more or less entirely with HPL's view that there is no God or meaning in the universe. He said something like being "in theory an agnostic, but in actuality an atheist"--I will simply say I am an agnostic with heavy leanings towards atheism;-)

Considering HPL's views on the matter I would say he ought to be more easily appreciated in Denmark than in, say, the US. Oddly enough he isn't--besides the usual cult following & acknowledgment from underground milieus such as roleplay and the heavy metal scene. The main reason for this is that in Denmark we just don't have a strong tradition for weird tales in literature. What is appreciated is, generally speaking, strict "realism" in some form.

LNN: Which do think tend to me more successful for Lovecraft inspired authors: pastiche, emulation, or more subtle invocations of Lovecraft's style and themes? More specifically, what things do you look for when scouting out material for your collections?

HARKSEN: I am sure they can all be successful, one way or the other. It depends on your criterion for "success." Truth be told I look for them all when I look for material. I will readily admit to have a personal preferences for "emulative" and stories with "subtle invocations", since, in my opinion, they are more personal and more easily provide a genuine worldview & new approaches to the philosophical themes often found in HPL's work.

For Eldritch Horrors I looked for a wide spectrum, in an attempt to catch all of the variations you mention. I know there are readers for them all, and I figured it could be fun to introduce something for everybody, so to speak. In the past there has been an emphasis on the Cthulhu/Derleth Mythos formula, and I wanted something else. But some will prefer, say, Leigh Blackmore's "The Return of Zoth-Ommog" (entrenched in classic Mythos storytelling) and perhaps think Ron Shiflet's "Out of the Frying Pan" an odd-ball that doesn't follow the "rules." But they both clearly take inspiration from HPL and the Mythos--but in a very different way. In presenting this spectrum I hope to show how amazingly versatile and varied inspiration from HPL can be. It is really unlike anything else in literature.

I may follow different roads in the future, depending on the publication I have in mind. For instance, W. H. Pugmire has said it could be interesting to see stories taking place in, say, Copenhagen or Prague, or some other non-US location. It all depends on what you want in the book you're planning. There seems to be readers for most of it, anyway. Grandpa from Providence started something unique.

LNN: What advice do you have for aspiring Lovecraftian authors, and when do you plan to start accepting submissions for future collections? Will you host an open call for papers?

HARKSEN: I'd say to any aspiring writer that they should write what they want to write. But also not be blind to what the potential editor advices... Consider it carefully before, maybe, dismissing whatever is said. There could be something to it. I will not disparage any newcomers by saying it is a mistake to lean up close to HPL in writing style and thematics, since this really can be good exercise (not to mention great fun). But I will say that sooner or later they need to find something that is their take on it; their approach. I am not necessarily talking about "finding your voice"--whoever says you only have one voice anyway?--but merely pointing out that if you have yourself in the writing then it is more likely to be interesting. In doing this you also expand the whole Lovecraftian (and Cthulhu Mythos) universe, which is something I certainly appreciate.

My basic advice is really repeating HPL on the matter. So, in short: Read HPL's advices, take them to heart--and you're off to a good start;-)

As for future submissions... When I have laid out the basics of my new project, hplmythos.com Vol. 2, I will post an Open Call for Submissions on the website. I doubt it will be on this side of 2010, but stay tuned for early 2010;-)

And, please--dear Potential New Author--please read the guidelines carefully and only send in something that actually fit within that framework. (Note that I say "framework." That's on purpose. You see, the idea I have in mind, thematically, can be approached in many ways. So it's not that I am totally square--but that I want to see relevant material, okay?)

Oh well, so much said about that and yet I remain secretive about the specifics. Neat, eh?:-P

LNN: What does you wife think of your interest in Lovecraft, and will she let you buy a plush Cthulhu doll for your children to play with?

HARKSEN: Hehe. Yes, I am sure she will let our daughter play with one. (That reminds me that I want to buy one for her! Thanks!) She thinks I have an odd and strange interest. It is one she does not share at all. However, the issues pertaining my HPL & the horror genre that hold my interests have popped up in conversation again and again, and she now understands my fascination (which is, mainly, because of the philosophical elements raised in good horror & weird tale literature--especially in a writer like HPL, or, say, a writer like Thomas Ligotti), and understands why I want to delve into these dark matters.

In other words: She respects it.

LNN: What is the best Danish translation for cyclopean? (All I could come up with is "uhyggeligt," which seems far too banal)

HARKSEN: LOL. A good question... You're right. "Uhyggeligt" would be "scary." As far as I know there is not an exact Danish match to "cyclopean" but I would say a good substitute would be "enormt." (Which again can be translated back to "enormeous";-})

LNN: If Victor Borge had performed a skit entitled "The Music of Eric Zann," what would it have looked like?

HARKSEN: LOL!

The really scary thing is that a skit actually popped up in my head! Have you ever seen his classic act, "phonetic punctuation"?



Imagine him making saying "Cthulhu-like words" in between the singing (as in, "ïa!", "fthagn" etc.), add a viol playing in the background... And Dean Martin either dropping dead as the act closes or, more powerfully, him being sucked out of a window teethering with an abyss totally incomprehensible etc.

Not entirely true to "Zann," perhaps, but certainly with a Lovecraftian punch;-) I'd say something similar could be built around a lot of Borge's other, classic acts:-D

LNN: Anything else you want to put on the record?

HARKSEN: Well, I'd like to advertise the next English-written books from H. Harksen Productions, if you don't mind:

The Unspeakable and Others by Dan Clore (revised and expanded edition of his collection of macabre tales; with many illustrations by the amazing weird artist Allen K.) - coming this November!

August Derleth Redux: The Weird Tale 1930-1971, a non-fiction monograph by the Derleth scholar John D. Haefele. Look out for this brand-new look at Derleth and his importance for the weird tale genre. Also this November.

Hex Code and Others by John Mayer. My first hardcover publication, with a very exciting, original novella and some macabre short stories. Mayer was a friend of the late Karl Edward Wagner, and one of the stories has Wagner as a central character;-) Mayer is also a talented artist and has created beautiful artwork for this publication that sees the light of day early 2010.



Thanks for your time & your interest in H. Harksen Productions. Also thanks for your time, Reader:-)

LNN: It has been our pleasure

Learn more about H. Harksen Productions at their website:
http://hplmythos.com/
Order the latest anthology on Lulu:
http://www.lulu.com/content/5460936

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LNN interviews scholar and historian Chris Perridas: Author of "HPL and His Legacy"

Author, scholar, and blogger Chris Perridas is currently one of the most prolific Lovecraft historians actively writing today. His popular blog H.P. Lovecraft and His Legacy contains a staggering 2,000 articles and has been viewed by nearly 100,000 people. But Perridas chronicles more than just Lovecraft: he runs concurrent blogs analyzing other literary and biological subjects related to the Weird.

Perridas maintains a grueling daily publication schedule, and he is thus the primary gatekeeper and guru of Lovecraftian media and the masses. We were thrilled when he offered to answer a few questions about his work in a fascinating interview.



LNN: How did you get started with your blog?

PERRIDAS: I started the blog when someone came into my office in 2001 on an afternoon after a long day of business and mentioned he'd just reread Lovecraft. "Hmm," I thought, "that name sounds familiar." I recalled that a biology teacher in High School - about 1970 I guess - mentioned the name, but I wasn't into that kind of thing, so I'd dismissed it back then.

I went to Barnes and Noble that weekend and was surprised there was so little by the man, HPL, but I got a book and read it. Before that I thought, horror, eh. I'd studied ghost stories as folklore, but not horror per se. I had been into sword and sorcery and science fiction as a kid. Never particularly liked horror, though I was a big fan of the Universal Monsters as a kid.

I was immediately hooked on HPL. I saw the folklore element of Lovecraft, and the eerie fantastic writing, and when I got to Colour Out of Space I wondered if he was a chemist, as I am. That got me going. That and the vast cosmicism of the writing.

One thing led to another and before long I'd read most of his fiction, sent off for numerous biographies and other things about Lovecraft, and began to record my notes and some things that caught my interest into Blogger. I knew nothing about blogging, so I asked few people for advice and plunged in. I was startled to see that two or three people were readng the blog back then, and while I had no idea who they were, I thought that there might be some interest in what I was doing, so I tried to minimize the typos, write the best I knew how to do, and let it evolve naturally. I incorporated new tools as they became available, and the most fun is the little Yahoo Group I host. People I read and admired, are now people I converse with regualrly - how cool is that?

My fascination for HPL is less his fiction and more of his mystery of a life. He's a bit of an enigma, as anyone who ever knew him or knew of him will attest. The mystery of how an obscure writer became so entrenched in the lives of other - and perhaps greater - writers is a sociological connundrum as well, and one I decided to pick apart and understand.

LNN: Just so I can be clear, could you please list the diverse projects, groups, and blogs you currently manage?

PERRIDAS: Currently I am associate editor with Arcane Wisdom (publisher Larry Roberts), and a contributor to Dark Recesses.

I host a cordial yahoo group about Lovecraft in coordination with my "H. P. Lovecraft and His Legacy" blog, which I usually refer to as HPLblog.

Mr. Lovecraft has been an important part of my literary life for several years, but I have more interests than that one note. I have a "Weird Beasts" blog to which I post occasional odd scientific and human interest news on how animals interact. I also have begun a "Young Lin Carter" blog of discoveries I've made about his per-1960 life.

I also post occasionally to what I refer to as "The Antiquarian Thread". I have several incarnations, as this is highly experimental at this time. One version is at Blogger, one is at "The Haunt" a forum attached to Horror Mall, and another is at Dark Recesses. As it is a thought experiment about how to educate newer horror fantasy fans to authors who've come before, I don't have a solid definition of how this will work.

LNN: If I were to anoint you with a title, it would clearly be the preeminent Lovecraftian archivist of the 21st century. Your daily, indefatigable efforts cataloging incursions of HPL into contemporary culture are so prolific as to be nearly unbelievable. How much time does it take per day to manage your various projects and do you get help from anyone to do so? What does your family think of the project?

PERRIDAS: I'm uncomfortable with "21st century archivist" or any other title, but that aside, I use the tools Blogger gives and it automatically lets me post at times I select. I peruse Ebay, the auction houses, read through my copious emails, and news feeds and pick out items that appeal to my interests. Most of the time these are the same things that interest the blog readers!

I get moral support from good friends, occasional bits suggested by readers, but I do the blog by myself. All typos are mine.

On a good week, I spend daily about an hour and a half, but it could be 3 hours per day or more. A lot of that comes in spurts. I've seen massive auctions of rare items that I had to sift through and study, do research on their background, and so forth. Those are exciting times, but they can keep me up to 2 AM. Then it's bleary-eyed off to work!

I love getting email, and correspondence from blog readers. One weekend I had over 70 emails to sort through, but that's a bit atypical. Mostly, it's well wishers – lurkers – who tentatively want to confidentially share a story, incident, or item with me. I believe that the isolation of Lovecraftians from one another, and the nature of privacy among collectors, makes the community guarded and cautious.

My wife has little interest in horror, or Lovecraft, and so quietly tolerates my proclivities to acquiring musty old books from the early 20th century. My neighbors, relatives, and friends are equally uninterested so the topic rarely comes up. When it does, they are stunned to realize the number of stories and articles I've published, and the modicum of notoriety I've carved out.

LNN: You mentioned that, "My fascination for HPL is less his fiction and more of his mystery of a life." This is actually something I hear from many of the long-standing figures in the world of contemporary Lovecraftiana. What then, beyond mere fandom, is the significance of Lovecraft and his ideas for you? More specifically, what have you discovered after all these years of study about "The mystery of how an obscure writer became so entrenched in the lives of other--and perhaps greater--writers" and how has it impacted you?

PERRIDAS: When I first crossed paths with Lovecraft, I enjoyed his sophisticated language, his blend of horror and weird tale themes, but mostly his use of folk lore and scientific structuralism to convey realism. It's similar to my own thought process, and this is precisely what turns many people off about Lovecraft. He's often tagged as having adjectivalism. Even in his own day people wondered at his relatively stiff way of writing and lack of characterization.

However, as I've tracked his trajectory through the shadowy corners of history, Lovecraft is more of a "feeling" or an "idea" than a person or of his writing. His close friends alternatively adored and wondered at his posing as an old man, at his oddities, and at his erudition. This next metaphor might easily be misconstrued, but Lovecraft's life is a miniature of what occurred with Jesus as the end of the 2nd century neared, or perhaps Socrates – other names could be used, but these will suffice. His powerful presence, his attempt to master the weird tale, awed his contemporaries and inspired a generation of young men who sought to continue that legacy. However, times changed as 1940 came, and scientifiction trumped horror fantasy splitting the modern weird tale into factions.

If Poe was our John the Baptist, and Lovecraft our weird tale Jesus, then August Derleth was our Paul. Larry Roberts and I have written that Derleth was singly important – for better or worse – to carry that legacy. By most accounts, he was bullish and spent every dollar and wrote every book with the single purpose to keep Lovecraft in print. Time and again, I've found obscure pulps and pamphlets in English and Spanish that have the unmistakable hand of Derleth – often he appears side by side with Lovecraft. After Derleth's death, we must honor Mr. Joshi and Robert Price who worked so hard with many colleagues to keep Lovecraft alive into the 21st century.

Yet, the concept of Lovecraft today, I believe, has morphed into something beyond the factual. There have always been small elements that equated Lovecraft's horror with other sociological peripheries that incorporated cabalism. Lovecraft used it himself in his stories.

In the social consciousness, 80 years of Lovecraft has merged with Fortean ideas, and some ideas of Aleister Crowley, and has become some amalgam that one might compare to Gnosticism, if we continue the Christian metaphor. Derleth had a stranglehold on Lovecraft's copyrights (the canon), and that has relinquished with dagonbytes and the advent of the internet. That, and the proliferation of all sorts of Lovecraft inspired fiction – much very good and other not so good, we are on the cusp of entering an era where the real Lovecraft may be completely pushed aside. Mainstream Hollywood has discovered Lovecraft, and what might be termed unhindered Lovecraftploitation.

For me they mystery of Lovecraft consists of how his life of elitism was shattered and thrust into the lower middle class of Providence. His reaction to that coupled with other family traumas made his zealous as a missionary. Others see Lovecrafty as a nihilist or a cosmicist. I see him as trying to find his way. Through every literate venue he could find he propagated a blend of Edwardian Naturalism and elitism. Lovecraft is the hero of all his stories. In many of them, the central character is thrust into an unknown world and while roughed up, emerges essentially changed – translated – into a new creature. This metamorphosis is somewhat akin to salvation. However, what saves is the preservation of key essentials of civilization, literacy, and the fact that the character has spent years reading certain texts, holding onto certain concepts, and resisted change by barbarous outside forces.

The population of Providence doubled between 1880 and 1910 (276,000 to 542,000) and was nearly 700,000 at his death. Many of these were minorities and immigrants, and they had to have traumatized the citizens of College Hill. Before we throw stones at Lovecraft's racism and ethnicism, we need to examine our own traumas when we see hordes of immigrants coming across our borders, and experience psychosis of terrorists around every suburban tree. His life, in microcosm, is our life today. Is it any wonder he idolized the Romans – who experienced their own Visigoths.

LNN: How does your background in science affect the way you read and interpret Lovecraft and how did it influence your own personal fiction as part of the Terrible Twelve?

PERRIDAS: When I began to write, I discovered a group formed by R. J. Cavender called the Terrible Twelve. He had a brilliant concept: Gather together fledgling writers to expand the borders of horror. However, his loose reins and a room full of Apersonalities generated both light and heat. From that cauldron emerged many names you will soon hear about – Sarah Berniker, Fran Friel, Boyd Harris, Bailey Hunter, and so many others. We mercilessly critiqued one another, and explored weird mixes of Bizarro, Horror-eroticism, metafictional, vulgarian, bloody stories, and things that are yet to have names. Many were never published – who would dare? – it was challenging, fun, and an experience of a lifetime.

My personal fiction explored blends of ghost lore, science fantasy, and eroticism. In most of the stories, a regular person experiences a drive by horror and that person must come to terms with his repressed sexuality and examine his own strength of character and will to survive.

LNN: More specifically, for better or for worse, Lovecraft's recent rise in fame has been accompanied by a vigorous dilution of his ideas as they have expanded to genres and mediums well outside those he originally intended. To the purists, this is lamentable. To others, it's wonderful. What impact do you think things like The Adventures of Lil' Cthulhu--which, for the record, I think is fantastic--have on Lovecraft's image and reputation? What do you think are some of the benefits and costs of this diverse application of the mythos and his ideology?

PERRIDAS: It's been about a century since Lovecraft began to write seriously. His letters are the bulk of his career, each one preening his correspondent, and proselytizing his beliefs upon them. Often his stories attempt the same thing, but they aren't obvious unless one compares his letters with his stories. There is a term, historicity, that compares what actually happened with what was perceived to have happened by a particular audience or society. Lovecraft's Mythos was a hodge-podge and playful expression to engage his colleagues in exploring the concept of how our minds deal with the concept of 'alien'. He selected vermin to represent these outside forces. In reality, he probably conceptualized Portuguese, Italians, and other minorities as rats, frogs, crabs, octopus. He was specifically repelled by seafood, so that was a choice of vermin he used a lot. However, when that fiction is divorced from the life of Lovecraft, how does one propagate the Mythos.

Today we sort of have a blend of Cthulhu-mythos, Fortean, magic, and National Enquirer stuff emerging into new horror fantasy art forms. This is the wonder of the horror genre, in my opinion. It's fluid. Writers take our deepest cultural fears – which change with each generation – and deconstructs them, demythologizes them, and then re-mythologizes them into new expressions. We don't recognize this as its happening, and often horror and humor are two sides of the same coin. In the past it's been Spike Jones or Mark McLaughlin poking us, or Poe, Lovecraft, Jackson, or Ligotti terrorizing us. We have our own writers doing this now, but they're too close to us. They're still working word magic. (My bet is on Brian Keene right now!)

Complicating matters is that 20th century society morphed images and words together in complex forms. Lovecraft's world had movies, but he was primarily moved by words on a page. That world is gone, and our literary expressions must be encased in sound, visuals, and words – words still being the most essential element of that expression.

LNN: What are your plans for your various projects in the near future? Will we see even more blogs and groups from Chris Perridas in the coming months and years, or is there a consolidation planned in the works?

PERRIDAS: I have a demanding full time occupation, and I moved into writing as a stress reliever. However, that avocation has now picked up its own dynamic. I'm now 53, and since I do everything myself I am faced with some difficult choices.

I still plan to continue the HPLblog, but now that I've exceeded 2100 posts and it’s taken on an encyclopedic and indexed form, I'm struggling to know where to go from here. Barring some new revelations at auction houses, most of Lovecraft's trajectory has been sketched in my blog posts. I have almost every year of his life and subsequent chronicled by some publication, and a fair portion of his friends, followers, and notable fans documented. I'm proud that some of them are now acquaintances. Readers of the blog hang on and let's see where 2010 takes us.

I have wanted for some time to write several serious articles. First is whether Lovecraft was a spy for Houdini. I want to write up an overview of the importance of Adolphe de Castro as a Jewish leader and significant literary figure. HPL's comments have misled some folks, I think. I'd like to publish an essay on the dynamism of young Lin carter's life prior to 1960. Those who only know his from his fiction have missed a significant influence in the fantasy field.

I have a few experimental blogs that have not yet had enough of my attention. The first is "Weird Beasts" that I'm attempting to define. My intention is that we are about to experience a sense of chock and awe as a society. We barely know the alien life forms on our own planet, and yet we are suddenly faced with millions of planets that are teaming with life so utterly alien – yet utterly familiar – that we will be hard pressed to absorb it all. That's something I'm trying to convey.

I have another experimental blog that I hope will chronicle the splintering and transition of the "weird tale" into scientifiction (later science fiction) and 20th century horror. Unsung heroes such as Sam Moskowitz, Forest Ackerman, and dozens of other amateurs who later became professional writers, essayists, and editors are nearly forgotten. However, they kept the faith of "Antiquarian Thread" and passed it to us despite the onslaught of the Atomic Age science fiction and it's morphing into science fantasy.

I have tentative plans for an electronic magazine, to continue to work with the team at Dark Recesses, and to work with Larry Roberts at Arcane Wisdom. The question for me is how much time will I have to actually execute these ideas and tasks.

I get occasional grumblings that I've overstepped the line by capturing images and putting them up for viewers on my blogs. I always apologize when that happens, but by and large there seems to be an accommodation that this is a resource that is enjoyed. I make no profit from this – not that I object to making profit, I just am not clever enough to come up with a plan to do so.

Visit Chris Perridas' voluminous archives:
The H. P. Lovecraft And His Legacy Blog

http://chrisperridas.blogspot.com/

Other Blogs

http://weirdbeast.blogspot.com/
http://antiquarianweirdtale.blogspot.com/
http://chrisperridas2.blogspot.com/
http://lincarter.blogspot.com/

http://djyano.blogspot.com
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