FULL BLEED: CARCOSA (IS HERE), DREAMLAND (IS NOT)
I'm doing this week's entry a little early. Going on vacation and I need to get some stuff out of the way first. Attempting a reset. We'll see if it takes.
I did want to get back to a thing I've teased a couple times last week before I forget all about it, though. Wanted to talk about Carcosa and horror and fantasy and the spaces between. Mostly because they're all territory I stuck my toe into with the last piece of short fiction I wrote (and probably under-wrote, but hopefully will have a chance to develop it a bit more fully. If not, fuck it, I'll just write it as I think it should be written and throw it into the Howling Pit.)
But yeah, Carcosa. A name/place invoked originally by Bierce, hijacked by Chambers (and many others, given the way the Lovecraftian horror genre works – remind me to talk about this phenomena in relation to superhero comic universe franchises and early fandom all kind of dovetail together.) I honestly can't recall if HPL himself used it as a place/name and am too lazy on a Sunday morning to go look it up. (Quick research indicates he did, but only as a referred place – remember, HPL borrowed as well as the rest of that whole circle.)
It doesn't matter if he did. There were many Carcosas, cursed and horrible cities that were the final destinations of the unwary, repositories of damnation, alien and Other. As was Bierce's Carcosa, not necessarily a city but a geography, more appropriately a purgatory. Carcosa was a place like ours, but wrong and therefore horrible. R'Leyh and Iram of the Pillars and the cities of both the Old Ones and the Great Race of Yith, all of these places are recognized as cities by HPL, but cities of the damned due to otherness. And sure, let's throw Red Hook in there, Innsmouth as well (though both started as human places overrun by the terrible Other and we'll leave it at that, as these are well documented.)
But Bierce's Carcosa was like our world, land and sky and stone. Its simple existence, was terrible. Because it *was* and you could find yourself in it. It was just Wrong, capital W. Like the Other capital O.
But what if Carcosa wasn't terrible on its face? What if it was beautiful? What if it was just like home only a little skewed? A thousand little differences adding up to a different place but essentially the same (though you'd lose every Trivial Pursuit game you played.) Is that a place that is welcoming because it's almost home or just another way to pick out the differences, and define a thing by that which it is not? Both, maybe.
Anyways, I wanted this to be a guiding force in what I was writing. Which makes my work fantasy and not horror (a difference that is in the eye of the beholder and emotional destination as much as anything, though simple nihilism is often substituted for horror and they are certainly not the same thing. Horror is hard, nihilism is lazy.)
Funny that HPL is not recalled more for the Dreamland books, though, which are straight fantasy and not the science-fiction/horror hybrid that he's known for. Or maybe it's not weird at all. Dreamland was strange by its very existence, but not repulsive, not horrific. It was simply Another, not the Other. Does this make sense? Maybe it doesn't.
Wonder or terror? Awe or fear? Revelation or Apocalypse? (Hint: they're not the same, well actually those last two are basically the same thing only we've taken Apocalypse to mean the end of everything and not simply revealing a hidden truth. Or is it that the truth revealed is so devastating?)
Yeah, chew on that one for awhile.