“Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.” [He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.]Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil. Aphorism 146

On June 6, 2014, I was struck with the inspiration for a novella.  It came to me in a flash as I was riding in the car.  I had just begun work on what would become The Start of the Majestic World a few weeks earlier, but the idea for this other book came to me so close to fully-formed that I felt compelled to write it down.  I finished the first draft in August of 2014, and then spent the next year editing it.

What was remarkable about the experience was how easily it all came to me.  Normally (for me, anyway) writing a story is a difficult and tedious process.  I have a general idea what I want to do, but filling in all the details is a long, painful ordeal.

Not on this one.  90% of it came to me in the space of a day.  Everything from a detailed plot structure to the characters to minor bits of description and lines of dialogue appeared ready-made.  It was almost as though the book wrote itself. Not only that, but I very quickly became convinced it was the best story I had ever written.

So why, given that, haven’t I already published it, since I wrapped it up over a year ago?

Well, the thing is, it’s really, really dark.

Most of my stories are horror, or at least have horror elements.  I’ve written stories involving human sacrifice, murder, torture, demonic possession, and all sorts of other disturbing things. So it’s not like I’m a stranger to grim subject matter.

But this was different.  It was creepier than even some of the stuff that Colonel Preston did in Majestic World that I ultimately cut for being too disturbing.  And the ease with which it all came to me only made it more troubling.

I did a lot of soul-searching after writing this book.  That sounds dramatic, but I really did start to wonder about what kind of mind would come up with this kind of stories.

A lot of things have changed in my life since I first got the idea to write it, and for whatever reason, I haven’t felt the same desire to write horror since I finished it.

I was thinking about this recently, ever since the calendar turned to October.  I still love this month, and Halloween, and spooky stories–but I think I want to return to writing less intense stories; more on the order of The Revival, that stresses atmosphere and mood. And maybe I’ll dabble in other genres as well.

With all that said, I am thinking of publishing this book soon.   I spent the time to write it, so I think it is worth putting out into the world.

Longtime readers know I love alternate interpretations of fiction. I never could make it through Majora’s Mask. Too weird, even for me, and I hate timed games. I loved Ocarina of Time though. In any event, this clever analysis by The Game Theorists does make me a bit more appreciative of the game’s merits:

It’s only fitting that I should begin an article about one of the worst video game ever with a quote from the best: I am reminded of Kreia in Knights of the Old Republic II and her line “Much is buried here… and there is much that should remain buried here.”

They have uncovered the infamous landfill of E.T. video game cartridges dumped in the desert during the video game crash of the ’80s.  Why they spent the money to go find something that was buried specifically because no one wanted it, I don’t know.  I suppose so people like me would write about it.

Apparently, they are going to use this as part of a documentary about the collapse of Atari and being financed by Microsoft. Which does beg the question: is the worse example of poor management

  1. burying your disastrous failures in the desert, or
  2. spending money to dig someone else’s failures up again?

I never played the game, or even saw the movie E.T., so I can’t say for sure it’s the worst.  Hard to imagine it’s worse than Superman 64, though.

A few months ago, for the first time, I got cable television.  Seeing the college football bowl games was nice, but apart from that, I have not found a lot worth watching. The only things I watch much that aren’t over the air are C-SPAN and the History Channel.

It was on the latter that I saw a program called “Ancient Aliens”.  (On the former, one may only see modern imbeciles.)  It is about the “ancient astronauts” hypothesis, which supposes that aliens visited humanity some time in the past.  The episode I saw was about the idea that the Norse Gods were in fact alien beings who visited the vikings.

It’s both an amusing and an annoying show. Annoying because it couches everything in the following way (Not a quote, just a paraphrase):

Could it possibly be that Thor was actually real, and the stories of his fantastical hammer are true?

I kept waiting for someone to say, “well, you can’t actually disprove it, but it’s extremely unlikely.”  But no one ever did.  All they did was keep saying non sequiturs, like “well, we modern humans certainly can build things as powerful as the legends say Thor’s  Hammer was.”  They seem to be implying that this suggests Thor’s Hammer was a thing, when Occam’s Razor suggests it means that modern humans can make stuff the vikings could only imagine.

(Interestingly, I saw another program on the History channel about the Nazis and their interest in the occult and mythology. It claimed that SS leader Heinrich Himmler believed in similar ideas of the reality of such artifacts from Norse mythology. That program  treated this as evidence of just how completely insane Himmler was.)

As I said, the show was kind of amusing, and it’s a cool idea for science fiction writers to play with, even if it’s a bit of a cliche at this point.  But it was presented as a very plausible idea, not as a wild theory based on largely on “wouldn’t it be cool if…?”

It reminded me of the radio show Coast-to-Coast AM, and lo and behold, I see from Wikipedia that George Noory, host of that program, was in a few episodes. Both programs are rather entertaining in their way, and yet there is always the lingering fear that some people, somewhere may take them as established fact.

Did you hear about this weird rant by the House stenographer right before the vote to re-open the government?  Very strange stuff:

I don’t know if there’s audio, but according to this article, part of what she said was:

“This is not one nation under God. It never was,” she said. “Had it been … the Constitution would not have been written by Freemasons, they go against God.”

Longtime readers know my mantra: I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, but I love thinking about them. This would make a great opening scene for a Dan Brown-esque conspiracy novel.

I usually don’t dream–or rather, I don’t remember my dreams–because I sleep very deep.  But last night, I had some very odd dreams, almost all centered in one way or another around a “Halloween” theme.  It’s impossible to say what dreams are about, being so nebulous, so I will only say that my impression of the dream was that it was about Edgar Allen Poe traveling through a place that looked like one of the castle areas from Quake–the sky, especially, was all dark orange and filled with unnatural clouds like those of that old game.  There were other things too, but they are so vague I’ve forgotten them.

As I’ve mentioned before, October is my favorite month, and Halloween is my favorite holiday.  But it’s not like I’d really been thinking about it.  Rather, it was almost like, at some subconscious level, my mind was aware of the changing of the month.  This may not seem weird to you, but to someone who rarely dreams, it’s very interesting.  Reminds me of the quote from Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu:

“[D]reams are older than brooding Tyre, or the contemplative Sphinx, or garden-girdled Babylon.”

Lovecraft drew inspiration for stories from his dreams.  Not a bad way of getting ideas.

I will also say, not to brag, but just as an observation: I wasn’t frightened by any of this, despite the theme.  I didn’t wake up screaming or anything.  As I recall, my only real feeling in the dream was mild perplexity.

Football season is starting, and that means, among other things, a lot of commercials that I’ll have to mute in order to better ignore them.  Many of these commercials will be for beer and, since I am a teetotaler, will be wasted on me.  Of course, the commercials rarely show much of the drink they’re supposed to be selling.  Generally, the drink is only a background element to the key motifs of these ads, which are

  1. Women in swimsuits
  2. A bunch of “cool dudes” hanging out together.

See my post about whether advertising is a waste of money.

But the types of beer advertising are many and varied. Yesterday I discovered one that seemed calculated to attract even my attention–of course, it was almost 50 years old.  It was a book of lyrics, written to Gilbert and Sullivan tunes, in praise of Guinness beer. (The G&S Archive has it here.) To quote from the Archive’s description: “In the 1960s, Guinness produced a series of books adver5tising [sic] their products to be put in doctors’ surgeries (on the basis that ‘Guinness is good for you’)”

This makes it especially amusing to me that the first page of the book features an illustration of Jack Point, one of only two Gilbert and Sullivan characters to “die” onstage, holding a glass of Guinness.  Come to think of it, why didn’t they include the other one, John Wellington Wells?  Did they feel that the character of a dishonest seller of magical potions and diabolical brews wasn’t quite right for the ads?

I laugh at it, but the truth is that this is a far more creative and ingenious bit of advertising craft than the “get a model in a bikini and have her tell people to buy our product” method.    Still not sure about the “Guinness is good for you” business, especially the song about the Heavy Dragoon who builds muscle by drinking beer, but still, an “A” for effort.

I think the English/Irish beer advertising seems to be very creative.  There was a television ad for Whitbread Beer (which I’ve never even heard of otherwise) that featured a parody of the song “Abdul Abulbul Amir“. It’s the catchiest advertising jingle I’ve ever heard.

Have you heard of Mothman?  Legend has it that a winged humanoid was seen flying around Point Pleasant, West Virginia, in the late 1960s.  The sightings are connected with the collapse of the Silver Bridge, with folklore suggesting that the “Mothman”, if not directly responsible, is at least a harbinger of bad luck.

Statue depicting the Mothman. Image via Wikipedia

What this legend reminded me of was the H.P. Lovecraft story The Whisperer in Darkness, which tells a tale of strange flying creatures in the Vermont hills.  The “Mothman” stories even tell of  buzzing noises and strange animal disappearances just like the events in Lovecraft’s short story.

What’s even more interesting is that, in the first chapter of Whisperer, the initially skeptical narrator writes of the prevalence of these kinds of legends the world over:

It was of no use to demonstrate… that the Vermont myths differed but little in essence from those universal legends of natural personification which filled the ancient world with fauns and dryads and satyrs… When I brought up this evidence, my opponents turned it against me by claiming that it must imply some actual historicity for the ancient tales; that it must argue the real existence of some queer elder earth-race, driven to hiding after the advent and dominance of mankind, which might very conceivably have survived in reduced numbers to relatively recent times – or even to the present.

Well, add West Virginia to the list of places that have such legends.  The description was so close to Lovecraft’s flying aliens, the Mi-Go, that it is a bit uncanny.  (Of course, the skeptic in me says that the most obvious explanation is that whoever started the legend had read the story.)

There was also movie made about the Mothman legend about ten years ago, entitled The Mothman Prophecies. I haven’t seen it, but it seems like it plays up the paranormal/conspiratorial nature of the story.

My friend Thingy informs me of a disturbing phenomenon.  Apparently, there is a chilling statue of the television character “the Fonz” in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I mean, everybody has their own tastes, but personally I think it’s bizarre-looking.  The eyes are especially unnerving.

Wikipedia says there are also statues of Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat in the air and Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden in Minneapolis and New York, respectively. I am not a huge fan of statues in general, but at least statues of historical figures who actually did real, important things make some sense.    But fictional characters?  From comedies?  Seems weird to me.

Maybe it’s the same reason it looks so strange to me to begin with. Statues are better suited to looking solemn, because that fits better with being unmoving.  Something that appears to be grinning manically and yet does not move seems unnatural and sinister. (The Mary Tyler Moore statue is also kind of odd looking to me, although less so because it appears not to be multicolored.)

I don’t blame the sculptors for how these look; it seems like they did as well as anyone could have. It’s just an impossible task.  What interests me more is why you would want statues of fictional comedic characters in your city.  Maybe I’m too old-fashioned, but it seems kind of like saying “we didn’t have any real famous people, so it was necessary to invent some.”

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the average blogger to correlate all his links. We live on a placid island of ignorance, in the midst of black seas of Wikis, and it was not meant that we should check the references. The Wiki editors, each biased in their own direction, have hitherto harmed us little. But someday, the linking together of barely-associated articles will open up such terrifying vistas of the internet–and of our own frightful pagerank therein–that we will either go mad from the revelation, or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of icanhascheezburger.com (Many apologies, Howard–MM.)

It all started with this post from Thingy–I realized I had never found out the origin of the common phrase “it was a dark and stormy night. So, I followed the link and it turns out, it was from this guy Edward Bulwer-Lytton. He was a prolific writer who also coined the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword”.

So, I decided to read some of his books. Being a fan of horror, I chose to start off with The Haunted and the Haunters: or, The House and the Brain. It starts off as a fairly generic ghost story, but the end has some very interesting bits of philosophizing. Not a great work, but an enjoyable read, all in all.

He also wrote a book called Vril, the Power of the Coming Race. I tried to read it, but it was pretty dull. The plot did remind me a little of Arthur Machen’s later work The Novel of the Black Seal, which influenced Lovecraft greatly. But apparently, Vril inspired something of a “cult following”, and by that I mean that people actually thought it was true. The book is about a super-race that lives underground and has a powerful substance “Vril”, which allows them to do all sorts of amazing things. Some, notably the theosophists, believed that “Vril” existed.

Which is curious to me, because I know basically three things about theosophists:

  1. In the paragraph immediately after the one I parodied above in Call of Cthulhu, Lovecraft mentions the theosophists briefly.
  2. The Theosophical Society was founded by Helena Blavatsky, who I know about solely because of the lines in the Warren Zevon song “Sacrificial Lambs”: “Madame Blavatsky and her friends/Changed lead into gold, and back again.”
  3. They have one weird logo. Observe:
Theosophical Society emblem, via Wikipedia

I only saw this symbol the other day, when I was reading about the lyrics to the They Might Be Giants song “I Palindrome I”, which includes the lyric “I am a snake head eating the head on the opposite side”. The technical word for this is Ouroboros. That word is also whence the name of the character Borous in the Fallout: New Vegas add-on Old World Blues is derived.

“Hold up, Mysterious Man,” cries the bemused reader. “What the Devil is the point of all this free-association?” Well, I’ll tell you: there was some philosopher I was reading about many months ago who had some sort of reasoning system of free-association, “correlating contents” and looking for subtle inter-connectivities in Nature. It was really interesting, but in recent days I have searched Wikipedia with considerable diligence, but I can’t find his page. I think his first name might have been Charles, but that’s all I can remember. Any information you can furnish me with as to who the guy was would be appreciated.