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I am, right now, reading through what I have written for a second Robert Louis Stevenson-based book–a sort of sequel to the one (The Beast of Gevaudan) I’ll have out here pretty soon. I’m about 40k words into it. Both books, at their core, are driven by Stevenson’s love for his eventual-wife, Fanny Osbourne. An American, she was eleven years his senior and married, with one adult daughter, a teenaged son, and when they met, she was grieving the death of her youngest son, still a toddler. You would have thought that these two people couldn’t possibly have anything in common, Stevenson, a Scotsman in his twenties, never married, no children, etc. But what they went through fairly early in their relationship, I think, spoke of something pretty amazing that none of us will ever really know anything about.

Biographers of Stevenson can’t seem to decide exactly how they feel about Fanny, which is understandable, as she was somewhat elusive emotionally and, at many points, erratic. They met in France, and from then on they’d spent about two years together, and by “together,” I mean that, too, was erratic. Then, a final summer during which they lived together–and she picked up rather abruptly and returned to the States, to her husband (who kept his own mistress). We can suppose she had her reasons, and they range from the impropriety of divorce in the mid-to-late 1800s to her own emotional instability. It was likely both, but it all must have been largely informed by who she was at her core, and the life that brought her to that sense of self, unstable though it may have been. Mostly, history doesn’t shed much of a kind light on her, Stevenson being so outgoing and his literary output so engaging and so well-loved. I, myself, have a hard time thinking of her as detached from what must have been going on inside, which few know much about. She kept quiet about a lot of that.

My assumption–and I think it’s a safe assumption, based on how people work–is that she was less restrained about how she truly felt about things with Stevenson. And whoever she was in those moments must have been rather amazing. I don’t know if anyone can paint a perfectly accurate picture of what their conversations and intimacy must have been like during those first two years, particularly during that final summer in France, when she nursed him as he lay dangerously ill. But what Stevenson had clearly come away with was a deep and indefatigable love. Fanny’s leaving nearly flattened him, though he kept moving, kept writing, kept falling into bouts of illness and eventually coming out. What’s clear, though, is that his dedication to her–regardless of the pain he was experiencing–didn’t waver for at least a year. During that year, he made his journey through the French highlands (the setting and backbone of The Beast of Gevaudan). In his Travels with a Donkey, on which my book is based, he included this passage:

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He was undoutbedly thinking of Fanny, who must have consumed most of his waking thoughts. This was a few months after she’d left. Yes, still pretty fresh at the time, and so understandable. But it was a year to the month she left that he’d received a letter from her, the contents of which no one knows for sure, that drove him into what was, at the time, a rather rash and unthinkable action, particularly in the eyes of his family and friends: He set off to America, and not just America, to California. It took him a month of hard ship and rail travel to reach her, and when he arrived, she received him coldly. He’d spent the entire journey terribly ill and near starving (as anxiety and his impoverished conditioned left him frequently unable to eat), and yet he took a horse and, in despair, disappeared into the desert (had he not been found and nursed back to health by a couple of ranchers, he likely would have died much earlier than the equally-tragic age of 44).

What on earth is wrong with this woman? Well, probably a lot of things. Her adult life on the frontier with a philandering husband who disappeared for lengthy periods was rather traumatic (at one point, he’d left his family to selfishly go prospecting, was rumored “killed by indians,” but returned no worse for the wear almost two years later–and she took him back, for the umpteenth time). Overall, she thought very little of herself and was fairly mistreated. She was prone to fits of “madness,” not in her right mind–which could have been emotional dysregulation brought on by so much unresolved trauma and disappointment. If she was difficult to deal with from another’s point of view, her garbage sense of self likely made it much more difficult to deal with herself.

This, I think, is the key to their relationship and obvious dedication to one another.

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Hold tight. These words make my heart ache.

Whatever her issues were–whatever made her do the things she did, however irrational and potentially hurtful–Stevenson knew better, because he knew her better than anyone. For me, that is the only truly rational explanation for their relationship, which sustained itself through years of turmoil and thousands of miles. The time they’d spent together in the beginning must have been absolutely bonding. There must have been something bigger and deeper than merely having things in common, or relating somehow, through all the various human experiences, or things comparable. It must have been, despite their differences in how they functioned in life, some indelible identifying as two individuals–it had to have been something that transcended the average give and take between two people. There had to have been such a monumentally deep level of understanding that forgiveness and affection came as naturally as a heartbeat. And this sounds lovely, doesn’t it? I would hazard to guess, though, that it’s not as common as we’d like to think.

Too many people throw away good people because of hurt or angry feelings, and many of us have been on the receiving end of that. Not every relationship could, or should, work out, but when you can see someone’s worth through their hurtful behavior–because perhaps that behavior stems from something beyond their control–and you refuse to let go because you know they are, in reality, much better than that, that’s probably something worth holding onto or holding out for. Stevenson held out and held on. He told Fanny, in what was very likely one of her “fits of madness” to hold tight. He’d be there. In the end, I think, whatever Fanny’s misgivings might have been about hitching herself to Stevenson in the long run (and she did have them), it surely was this that swayed her to his favor. That, for once, all she’d have to do is hold tight, and he’d be there.

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Fanny and Stevenson, with Fanny’s son, Lloyd (floor), King Kalakaua of Hawaii, and Stevenson’s mother.

My books are somewhat lighthearted, and involve the supernatural, which is always fun to write. But, the driving force, really, is the bond between these two people who, regardless of how things looked to others (and often even to themselves), refused to give up on one another. Stevenson experts will say this is too romantic a take, but I disagree. I think it’s a human way to think about all that missing information–those gaps of correspondence. He might have written to friends to say he was truly low, but considering he was half-starving, near-deathly ill and on a crowded, stinking train en route to a woman he didn’t even know would take him, “truly low” is a bit of an understatement. And Fanny didn’t talk. Rather than fill in those gaps with the views of his friends and family, gleaned from copious letters between themselves, which absolutely eviscerated this woman they barely knew, I’d rather fill them with an idea of true love, true caring, true understanding that can withstand the worst of what life hits you with, even when it comes from each other. This is the only way I can understand what Stevenson put himself through to be with “the woman a man loves.”

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I know, it looks like he’s singing right now. Possibly recording. But he’s clearly reading a book by a writer he admires.

I have so much admiration for people that choose to be a writer as a profession, to sit down with a sheet of paper and ideas, and tell stories and write down ideas. That’s an amazing choice in life to devote yourself to, and I have a lot of admiration for that.
I was reading this awesome interview with Luc Lemay of Gorguts yesterday, and came across this lovely thing he had to say about writers. Je t’aime aussi, Luc LeMay…je t’aaaaaime… ❤
Seriously, great interview.

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It feels much worse than this.

I’ve been feeling pretty shitty for a few days now and not really knowing where it was coming from. Here’s what’s tough about C-PTSD and starting therapy for it–you know something is wrong, so being depressed, or what have you, is expected. It doesn’t make it even a little bit tolerable, but it is expected. The trouble is trying to figure out which of a thousand things it could stem from. For me, at least, it’s very often almost impossible to tie it to one thing, and without being able to do that, I feel completely helpless to address it and work through it. So, I’m just completely overwhelmed with this bleak, worthless, piece of shit feeling.

Well, Father’s Day, obviously, right? Am I upset about the father who consistently told me how lazy and stupid I was, or the one who wasn’t around 98% of my life and showed up just to tell me: 1) that he didn’t actually think I was his daughter, and 2) he’d rather have been able to talk to my sister (whom he believes is his), but he didn’t have her contact information? Both? Great. So, let’s say that’s bothering me…

…except that it’s probably also the stranger online that “complimented” me on my “gut” the other day. You, relatively well-adjusted person who thinks I’m probably just weak as fuck, would probably blow that off, because who cares what a stranger thinks? My conscious, rational mind says that too, but here I am a few days later, without even thinking of that guy, except I am thinking “I need to never eat anything again.” What? Just because of some idiot online? Of course not. I weighed 99 pounds when I graduated high school at 17. Throughout high school, I was called “anorexic.” I worried about my weight and was very self-conscious about my appearance. I ate everything I could fit in without puking, but nothing worked. At home, my very overweight mother and older sister treated me like the enemy. They acted as if my life was somehow blessed to be perfect because I was skinny. All of my social and psychological issues didn’t matter, nor did the fact that I wasn’t thin. I was grossly underweight. I suspect a normal parent would have looked at her 17-year-old, 99-pound daughter and thought, “Christ, is this a medical issue?” Especially when that daughter is crying and drinking protein shakes all fucking day, trying desperately to put on a few pounds. But no, while I did that, I was verbally abused and treated like shit. My dad? He said it was my fault. He said I’d have a normal weight if I stopped “eating shit all day.” “Shit” was protein shakes and pasta. A lot of pasta. Whatever the case, no one thought to take me to doctor. And when my metabolism shit the bed when I was 23, I piled on about 50 pounds over the course of 3-4 months. I was horrified. It didn’t help that when I went home to visit my family, my mother and sister made fun of me, welcoming me to their social hell. They thought it was funny. They started calling me “fat.”

So, yeah. “Nice gut,” the guy said. I am 41 years old. I weigh about 137-138 pounds. I’m 5’6″. I work out 5-6 days a week, an hour to an hour and a half per day. And I’m thinking that I should never eat anything again. So, okay, that’s what’s bothering me…

…except I got a text today from the cat shelter saying they want to have a new person join me on the days I volunteer to clean there. A couple of the things I like about going there is: 1) I’m just surrounded by cats (who aren’t calling me lazy, stupid, or commenting on my gut), and 2) quiet, alone time. It was good and therapeutic for me, since I’m having such a tremendously terrible time with people lately. But now, I guess I’m supposed to drive 45 minutes one-way once a week to spend 2-3 hours engaging in uncomfortable small talk with a stranger. And by “engaging” I mean “white-knuckling it,” and by “uncomfortable,” I mean, “I’d rather slit my wrists.” I’m not exaggerating. Just thinking about it pushed me into an anxiety attack. Right now, I’m trying to figure out a way to get out of it. The thing to do is to just be honest, but, let’s face it: Who wants to tell someone they don’t know very well that they can’t come in anymore because they’ve gone through so much fucking trauma in their lives that the idea of having to spend a few hours with a stranger every week makes them think dying in their sleep would be preferable? And sure, I can go on and on about this shit here, to the faceless Internets. But it’s different when it’s someone who don’t know well and you have to see them, even just sometimes. Because after this, I’ll never be able to be around this person ever again without assuming she thinks I’m a fucking nutcase.

And all I can think is: I really liked going there and seeing the cats. I liked the cats. Cats are good. People are not good. I will miss them.

So, I’ve pinpointed by problems, right? Good. Except…it doesn’t even fucking matter. I have no idea how to actively address any of it. I often feel like I’d have been better off without having figured out what my problem is. Sure, I’d have kept going through life experiencing shitty emotional flashbacks and hating myself, but even then, there seemed to have been reprieves. I had coping mechanisms, healthy or not, and they got me through. They were stepping stones keeping me out of the lava. Now it’s just lava, all the time.

Once you figure out it’s C-PTSD, there’s no where to run. And the episode I had a few months ago–there’s really no getting over all of that. It didn’t just rip off some scabs; it ripped off my skin. I can’t come back from it. There isn’t any kind of going back. Everything terrible that’s ever happened to me is no longer occupying some bullshit closet in the back of my brain. It’s all up front and inescapable, and it’s triggered by everything. Literally everything. From the shit I mentioned above to things like: articles of clothing, places (for instance, cabins: I can’t go into why, but any cabin will do–actual cabins, pictures of cabins, the word “cabin”–that is one example out of an endless supply), certain objects, sometimes just shapes or colors, smells, times of day, my own body and face (seriously, try that one on for size), everything. All of this and more will trigger feelings of deep loneliness, abandonment, self-loathing, etc. and these things roll over into a sort of numbness, which is really just a blur of everything until it becomes indecipherable, which seems to stay settled in this extremely nihilistic enveloping cushion of depression. And then I start thinking that this will never end–this cycle of feeling okay for a handful of days, and then, exactly what I described. It is going to keep happening, over and over, and this will be the rest of my life. And then I want to kill myself, because this shit isn’t living. It’s unbearable. And it’s not fair because it’s not my fault and I didn’t ask for it.

You might think I can just smile, or think positive thoughts, or whatever. Like all the super-awesome memes say. Happiness is what you make it, right? You just have to decide to be happy. Do you actually believe that shit? Well, if it works for you, that sure is nice. But that doesn’t work for people like me. These feelings, when they come, they don’t feel like they’re coming from any particular place in you. It really feels like something unconnected to you that is happening to you. Something that is completely out of control. Imagine having this stranger in your real life who is ten times your size and strength, and who, without any warning whatsoever, comes out of nowhere and beats the living shit out of you. Like, really beats you absolutely bloody, and then he disappears. He is never apprehended, never punished. And you don’t really know why he does it. In fact, you have no idea why. Maybe he sometimes kind of looks like your mom, or dad, or sibling, or friend, or ex-, or just some nobody. When he’s somewhat recognizable, you think maybe you know why it’s happening–because maybe your mother treated you like shit. But see, that’s not even the reason, because when you’ve been abused and neglected from Day One, from before you can even remember, you have never known why she treated you like shit to begin with. And chances are, you’ll never know. But your infant brain was wired to believe it was your fault. So, this guy who beats you and gets away with it–you hate him, you don’t really know why it’s happening, but God, you hate yourself for it.

And frankly, if you don’t nod your head immediately and know exactly what I mean, then I don’t think it’s anything you can ever understand.

But this is where I am right now, here on this fucking Father’s Day. Social media isn’t an option for distraction because it’s just a sea of love for fathers everywhere. I hate my biological father. And while I loved my step-father, I can’t deny that he was verbally belittling and verbally abusive (and yeah, maybe you thinks that’s not a big deal, but I already had so much going against me at that point, it’d have taken a feather to knock me down). And he’s dead anyway.

I don’t know how to process this. Any of it. Any of the deep-past, the recent-past. A lobotomy at this point seems like a viable, reasonable, more pleasant option. I’m not joking.

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This was an actual break in writing.

I should probably not swear in blog titles, right? That’s a “don’t” in blogging, I think. Well…whatever…

About three months ago, just after my little episode, I wrote a 66k-page novel in just under 2 1/2 weeks. Despite being manic, pharmaceutically fucked up, and emotionally-driven to do it, the revision process (or, the editing-in-order-to-do-a-proper-revision process) revealed that it’s actually pretty decent. But I still need to actually do the revision. At this point, facing it seems too difficult, considering the conditions under which it was written. I just need some time away from it, but hopefully not too long. It’s practically finished. I know what the cover will look like. If I sucked it up and worked hard, I could put it out next month.

But I’m not going to do that. It’s just too hard, even if the story itself is probably the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever written.

But I do have a MS that is all ready to go. Here is something I’ve learned about myself: I really have no patience, and by that, I mean, I have no patience with the publishing submission process–certainly in terms of novels. Short stories–I would just sort of send it off and forget about it until the rejection/acceptance email. Not usually something I get bunched up about. Though, short stories aren’t really my thing, I realize. This I’ve learned. I write long. It takes a real effort on my part to keep short stories, well, short, and frankly, that cramps my style. Fucks up the flow. It just isn’t where I’m going when I sit down to write, and the end result, to me, always feels stilted. Sitting down and trying to tell the story I want to tell in the way I need to tell it, while trying to keep it 3k words or fewer–you know, if I ever want to see it published, which is sort of the end goal, really–it’s a pain in the ass. So…novels. Maybe novellas, I haven’t really tried that yet.

That’s not to say I write long novels. I don’t. As far as novels go, they’re fairly short, falling between 60k-70k words. That seems to be my sweet spot. And no, they’re not the 100k+ monstrosities some folks like to churn out, but despite my tendency to go on, I do also know when to edit myself. So, mine lean short. But they’re still work. They’re still often difficult to get out. I outline like a crazy person, so I cut down as much “writer’s block” as possible, but still. It’s work.

So, when an agent sits on it for 6+ months, or a press for even longer, with no word…I mean, what the fuck, folks? I know you’re busy and all. I do. But the MS I have right now, that’s all finished and ready to be read–I finished it more than three years ago. And I understand and am fine with rejection. But…tell me, right?

I’ve considered resubmitting it elsewhere. But I kind of know how these things work. We all do. It enters the slushpile and it sits there. And sits there. And sits there. And that’s sort of wasting my time. And here’s the thing, and this is going to sound egotistical, but since ego has been in such short supply for me these days, I’m just going to let it rip. The book is good. I read through it and even I–who is the very last person to give myself any credit for just about anything–even I have to say, hey, it’s good. It’s a good book. I did a damn good job with it. So, I’m not waiting for some gatekeeper to give their blessings. Especially with the industry as it is nowadays anyway.

There’s the self-publishing stigma, but really, who gives a shit? How can I possibly give a shit? Will published authors look down on me? Sure, but, you know what? I’m an editor. I’ve read some of their submitted, unpublished work, and guess what: A lot of it is crap. Not all, but a lot. There, I said it. And there are Stoker award winners I’ve started and just couldn’t get past the first fifteen pages because, Holy Christ, where was the editor? Who on earth accepted this for publication? (And yeah, it kind of makes me wonder what the fuck goes on there over at the Stokers). So, do I really need to be worried about what published authors will think of my self-published book? I’m leaning heavily toward “no.” All I guess I could say to them is, “read it.” Yeah, I’m actually that confident with this one.  “Read it and then come back and tell me it’s crap.” This one, at least. We’ll see what happens after it, but this one is good. It’s better than good.

And, I’m pushing 42 years old–I don’t really feel like waiting to find just the right publisher who thinks it fits their general marketing strategy, which, let’s face it, is never much to begin with. Again, I know. I edit. I publish. I do have a pretty fair idea how micro-small-to-medium presses function. And the way I see it, the only thing I have to gain with a publisher is “cred.” The rest of the work is up to me. I know what it takes to publish a book. I have enough experience in both traditional publishing and print-on-demand to not fuck this up too badly. So, basically, I can do what a publisher would do for me, work wise. Otherwise, the work is the same. If I published with someone else, I’d still be doing the bulk of the promotion and whatnot, if not all of it. I’m not bagging on presses…this is what it is when you either don’t have the budget, or you don’t know how to use your budget. Shit happens. Things are what they are. But I just don’t have the patience for the time it takes to deal with all that shit when the reward is so minuscule. The fact is that I could likely do just as well self-publishing, or better. Yes, it’s work, but it’s nothing I don’t do already anyway, so, again, it comes down to respectability and pub street cred.

So…fuck it. I’m no longer tying myself to this dying industry just because I’m a-scared of what anyone thinks–writers, editors, publishers, reviewers, etc. The times, they are a-changing, some douchebag once said. Other than myself. So, watch this space.

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Here’s me in a sweet-ass Rush shirt being all like, “Fuck it.”

The novel in question is the Robert Louis Stevenson werewolf piece I blogged about here forever ago. Yes, it’s a historical mystery horror novel. Tough to categorize, but still not unusual. I’ll eventually get around to revising the one I crapped out a few months ago. That is a somewhat bizarro adventure/love story involving meth labs, dildos, and extreme social anxiety. And the WIP, thus far, seems to be indescribable (I need to work on that). But it’s about a group of people set in the factual town of my upbringing, Fairchance, Pa. The main throughline character is a black albino former mortician named Ludlow. There’s death and ghosts. There’s child molestation and burning buildings. There’s religious fanaticism and explosions. I’ve been working on it on and off since about 2008, but I’m coming up on finishing it, finally. Then revision, but that generally goes pretty quickly. I think it’s more literary in terms of the writing and maybe the subject matter, but, again, I’m shit with that sort of thing. I appreciate labels and genres–they’re obviously helpful. But I kind of write what I write and unless I make a real effort to fit a certain genre, it can really be anything. I gave an large chunk of it to a writer whom I respect greatly and he liked it a lot, so, I’m pretty confident about this one, too. But, in time. It’ll get done.

I’m looking to get these three books out before the end of the year. Maybe more. I do have some fairly lengthy outlines sitting around and being tinkered with. We’ll see. So, here we go…

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hp-lovecraft-and-sonia-greeneThis particular topic is neither here nor there. I only bring it up because I happen to have just enjoyed a stellar performance by the impeccable David Crawford of his one-man show, Lovecraft’s Monsters, last night. I knew Lovecraft’s undeniable racism would be addressed, and rightfully so. And it was. But later in the piece, Crawford worked in something that most conversations about Lovecraft’s racism skip over.

I’m not going to get into the many ridiculous apologies/justifications for Lovecraft’s bigotry, and I’m not going to get into the arguments for replacing Lovecraft’s image on the World Fantasy Award statue. You’ve either read it all before, or if you haven’t, you can use Google as well as I can. Suffice to say, I’ve seen more talk about his racism in the last few years than I ever have before, and while on one hand that’s a good thing (because the unsavory beliefs of our most beloved icons should not go ignored, nor can they be defended). But on the other hand, that’s usually where the conversation ends in regards to that aspects of Lovecraft’s character. “Yeah, I read Lovecraft; he’s great. Too bad he was a racist.”

To that, I would add, “…and too bad he died so young, because he seemed to have been on his way to being a better person.” Because, he was.

H.P. Lovecraft was a tragic individual who spent most of his life isolated and impoverished before dying of intestinal cancer and malnutrition in 1937 at the relatively young age of forty-six. Anyone who’s done a little reading into Lovecraft’s biography and letters, as Scott Kemore points out in this piece from September of last year, would conclude that while he was a racist in his younger days, he had mellowed on the subject as he got older. You know, kind of like we all do. We all believe things passionately, strongly in our teens and twenties, maybe the wrong things, but as we age, we learn, we experience, and we change. Lovecraft was no different.

Kenmore says:

Any thorough reading of his personal correspondence (mine includes the 2,000-page Arkham House Selected Letters series) makes clear that Lovecraft’s bigotry was in full, gleeful bloom in his late teens and early 20s, but that it gradually shriveled away as he got older—as, crucially, his opinions in other areas also began to change. If Lovecraft was not exactly anti-racist by the end of his life, he was a least bored with it as a subject. ( when his correspondents try to bait him into a discussion of race, he comes across like an old dog who has tired of chasing that particular ball.)

In his final years, Lovecraft realized that many of the notions he’d found charmingly “antiquarian” in his younger days were flatly asinine. This shift is perhaps best encapsulated in a letter he wrote—just a year before he died—to Jennie K. Plaiser. A salient passage reads: “…I realised what an ass I had been. The liberals at whom I used to laugh were the ones who were right—for they were living in the present while I had been living in the past.” Lovecraft had gone from being an unintentional parody of a British Tory to a (man) who was interested in policies that would benefit everybody, not just “aristocratic” whites.

Kenmore concludes this point with:

Was Lovecraft very bigoted at some points in his life? Absolutely, yes. But it’s inaccurate to give the impression that Lovecraft held the same views throughout all of his 46 years. The truth is more complex and interesting than that.

Had he not died so young, who knows how his thinking on the matter would have continued to change, but I’d be willing to bet that he was heading in a more progressive direction. And considering his general alienation, considering his issues, considering pretty much everything about him, that he’d progressed at all by aged forty-six was a minor miracle, and one I think he should be commended for. No, I don’t think we need to go around foisting him up as an anti-bigotry hero (because there’s no argument from me that he was ever anything but, overall), but the very least we can do for someone who lived largely so miserably and yet who gave us so much in terms of his writing is to not guillotine the conversation at “too bad he was a racist.” I would hope, after I’m dead and gone and unable to grow and change, let alone defend myself, people would not be latching onto some crackpot thing I’d gotten into my head when I was twenty and defined me that way, forever and eternal, no matter how I’d grown otherwise before I kicked it.

And some folks will, I’m sure, say I’m defending his racism, sweeping it under the rug, etc. I feel pretty secure, knowing myself well enough, that that is not what I’m doing. And, in fact, to say that would be ignoring the facts as we know them. On the contrary, I think his racism should be addressed, but as it is, so should the evolution of it.

So, why do I think we should give Lovecraft a break? Is it only because he’s done so much for the genre and genre writing, as a lot of people seem to think? Actually, it’s not even a little bit that. I don’t think any amount of prestige or talent gives anyone a pass in terms of their abhorrent views. You believe something disgusting, you’re going to get raked over the coals no matter who you are and what you’ve done. But, that said, I also believe in credit where credit is due.

Lovecraft didn’t die in 1937 the bigot he was in 1912. And here’s the thing: Isn’t that what we want? Isn’t this the kind of transformation, no matter how slow (and in this case, incomplete due to death), for which we’d like to give credit? Or is the whole point of racial dialog to simply nail the racists? True, some people will never change their beliefs. Some people were born and raised in the Klan, grew up to be Klansmen, and they’ll be buried in their cowardly robes. Lovecraft, though…a little knowledge of his life shows his circumstances and resulting disposition were fairly unique, and frankly, to be pitied. And more importantly, he was moving in the right direction when he died. He was moving toward a potential state of non-bigotry, willing to admit where he had been wrong, which is more than many of us can do, over the course of many more years than he’d had, and for much less. I feel like that’s worth keeping in mind…

…and it was something I’d been thinking of when I went to see Crawford’s performance last night, and yes, it was gratifying to see that Crawford had, indeed, addressed it. Throughout the piece, Crawford goes through Lovecraft’s various stages of life, and within each he addresses Lovecraft’s bigotry in regards to the “Irish, the Italians, and the Slavs.” But as Lovecraft is older, and clearly wasting a way, painfully, he says (and I’m paraphrasing, as I didn’t think I’d need to memorize it): “My best friend is Jewish (Samuel Loveman). I married a Jew (Sonia Greene). I’ve experienced these people and I know them. They are good people.” Crawford went exactly where these conversations should go. If you’re racist and you die still a racist, the conversation ends at, “He was racist.” If you’re racist and you demonstrated signs of more progressive thinking when you died, that’s where that conversation ends, not a few steps back at, “He was racist.” So, kudos to David Crawford, because while it may not have been particularly PC, it was intellectually honest.

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Horror Flicks and Gender

CHicks HorrorI had the pleasure, last year, of having my story, “The Obstruction,” published in Postscripts to Darkness 3, edited by Aalya Ahmad and Sean Moreland. That is how I know, and respect, the author of this article.

My objective for “The Monstrous Feminist” was not to “convert” feminists into horror fans, although that did sometimes happen, but to open up horizons for both horror and feminisms. Firstly, I wanted to offer horror as a site of critical reflection to students who might be unaccustomed to combining their feminism with film or literary theory and cultural studies. Secondly, I wanted to expand on well-known feminist theoretical analyses that seemed to lock feminisms into perpetual struggle with horror, raising intriguing questions of gendered spectatorship. In what follows, I will briefly review a few of these theories in discussing the experiences of the “Monstrous Feminists,” who repeatedly demonstrated that the feminist classroom can engender interpretive strategies beyond the scope of the “male gaze” first conceptualized by Laura Mulvey in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (1975). Mulvey’s influential essay tends to exclude the possibility of a gaze that is not only acutely aware of what horror does with and to women, but also of what feminists might do with and to horror.

I suggest having a read. It’s fascinating overall to read how this incredible class functioned and, clearly, thrived (still thrives, I hope, if not this semester, then another soon), but equally fascinating (and stemming off into a thousand different directions of thought) are the concepts considered within the class. I wish (and you do, too, admit it) that I’d had this class as a choice during my undergrad and/or grad years. Honestly, it’s amazing where your thought processes can go when you stop considering females in horror (whether in front of, or behind, the camera) as defined strictly by the male gaze, or by the female gaze as influenced by the all-powerful male gaze. These women, and horror in general, open up significantly if you consider these characters and filmmakers as operating under their own volition and with their very own sets of ideas. Wonderful.

As mentioned at the end of the article, an earlier version of this paper appeared in Fear and Learning: Essays on the Pedagogy of Horror, which Aalya again teamed up with Moreland (they sure make a swell editing team).

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BeastGevaudan1For this was the land of the ever-memorable Beast, the Napoleon Bonaparte of wolves. What a career was his! He lived ten months at free quarters in Gévaudan and Vivarais; he ate women and children and “shepherdesses celebrated for their beauty”; he pursued armed horsemen; he has been seen at broad noonday chasing a post-chaise and outrider along the king’s high-road, and chaise and outrider fleeing before him at the gallop. He was placarded like a political offender, and ten thousand francs were offered for his head. And yet, when he was shot and sent to Versailles, behold! a common wolf, and even small for that.

–Robert Louis Stevenson

I just finished yet another revision of this story, the title of which has been changed a hundred times and, at this point, stands at The Wolves of Gévaudan (still not satisfactory). Although I am leaving for a week-long mindfulness retreat at the Blue Cliff Monastery from September 10th-18th, I still have a few days to work on the second Stevenson novel I’ve got in my head. It’s sort of in my head.

While Wolves is basically set against the template of RLS’s Travels with a Donkey Through the Cévennes, this second story will follow Louis to America–this time I’m using The Amateur Emigrant, Across the Plains, and The Silverado Squatters. Right now, I’m just figuring out the timeline, which characters I want to use and how I want to use them. In this book, we will actually meet Fanny Osbourne, so I’m thinking a little extra reading is in order. I think my favorite part of writing something like this is all the research/reading associated with it.

So, last time we had werewolves (and you really can’t go wrong with werewolves). This time, I think I’m going to be exploring a variety of geography-dependent folklore. Who’s with me?

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