FULL BLEED: WAKING UP THE DEAD LIKE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW
Let’s just get to the point.
You can’t fix Lovecraft.
Nor should you try. The damage has already been done, right? He’s been in the ground for what, ninety years? Trouble is that his work got saved from pulp obscurity, for good and for ill. Where I fall in judgment of that is a changeable thing. There’s no doubt that his work has had a huge impact on me, and that work he directly inspired also has been a formative influence on me (keep in mind I’m older than you think I am, having been born before the first manned moon landing, but after Kennedy was killed, the first one.) This is true of many of my contemporaries (and predecessors and folks just coming up now — he said, acutely aware of his own obscurity after thirty years or more of making fiction.) I’ve also spent a lot of time trying to do something different from his work (as have others inspired by him, no doubt.) There’s plenty of folks simply trying to update Lovecraftian horror for today. Go nuts. I can’t and won’t tell you what to write. That’s not my job. It’s not your job to listen to me.
All that said, HPL isn’t going away. Those original works with all of those weaknesses and excesses and blind spots and toxic thought are still right there in the bedrock of today’s genre. I’ve often said that a bad adaptation (or a good one) doesn’t obviate the original work, doesn’t annihilate it. Those fingerprints are forever on the exquisite corpse that folks are continually adding to word by million words a day, an hour, a minute. But it’s also true of remakes and rearrangements and apologias. The works can’t be rehabilitated because they’re dead. Sure, what they inspire is a different thing altogether. (Aside – there’s no one, “The Call of Cthulhu” say, but one for each reader who comes up with their own associations and resonances that are formed out of the alchemy of their own lives. But, paradoxically, there is one and that’s the original text. Yes, it’s tricky.) Those works inspired by HPL are yet unwritten (or unpublished, since publishing is the only way works are acknowledged and have a possibility of being integrated into anyone’s personal canon. Oh yeah, publishing confers the possibility of being seen. That’s the real sauce.) These new works are in continuous process, sprawling in the infinite tendrils of growth that might be rhizomatic and become more a cloud of mycelia, jumping kingdoms as easily as I transmute metaphors before your very eyes. But there’s multiple strains that are going to filter back to HPL and what he wrought.
The works cannot be rehabilitated. They cannot be made to conform to how we act and think and consider things today. Maybe the ideas can be transfigured and the names used to ring in different ways, modernized and updated for a germ-free generation. We can operate in the margins and write from the inside out, I suppose. Many writers have done so, taking dusty corners of his work and using those as starting points and critiques. And maybe in time the edifice of all his awful beliefs which lay at the heart of much of his fiction can be made to crumble in the rootwork of those books and stories growing from that place. Maybe the influences can be atomized, broken down to their component electrons and rebuilt into something new, but literature is not exactly consumption and metabolism. The original works will still be there, not only literally there, but in the influences upon the (now) countless writers who’ve taken them in and used them to help make something new (as that’s the real alchemy in writing – the transmutation of experience and the marriage to imagination and then the work, the goddamn and seemingly endless work that may never even be acknowledged goes into the rawness of the red phase the damnable black phase the radiant and searing white phase and yielding something hopefully new and not simply a recombination of visible and recognizable parts.)
We may simply have to live with that latent cancer, to know that it’s there and that it’s on the roots of all things, that separating the rot from the root may not only be difficult but be impossible. Like all of us, a product of long chains of history we can pretend to understand and dissect but can not remove ourselves from except to try and surpass, to learn from and to do better than. To fail and fail again at achieving perfection.
Right. That’s what you all came for. Enjoy. Regular update follows.
Oh. While I have your attention, consider the reader reaction as the artists statement, that being the only thing you don’t want to be caught reading. Sure, I write ‘em. I’m as guilty as anyone. I even write long digressions at the end of the book sometimes, by way of apology or excuse or begging for indulgences, as if the readers were a pope or bishop of old, offering to absolve with the toe bone of a dead saint if only the proper donations were made.
The work is the author talking. Let it be that.
Right now I’m in a metal cylinder some five or six miles up, returning home from a trip all the way across the US. There’s a young dude across the aisle from me watching a video on how to create content posts, how to craft with a careful hook and then retain then reward the reader and I want to tell him that that path either leads to madness or to writing twenty posts a day so that the capital group which bought the website you work for can keep those numbers going up, that or to a path of soullessness and enslavement to a bunch of code. Just run away now while you can. Ain’t nobody getting rich on this now. That gold rush ended more than ten years ago. Yeah it sucks.
Watching the bottom fall out of blogging, or acknowledging that in fact some folks were able to parlay that gig into something that lasted, is pretty pretty pretty wild stuff when I stop to think about it. Then everyone got bought out or remained die-hards or never found a big audience (in fact many never even wanted that). That folks started depending on platforms they didn’t own or have a stake in for gigs, because those platforms had reach and the gamble had paid off in the past. Now those platforms are rapidly disassembling themselves in order to serve the wretched and pathetic egos of the dudes who bought them. I’m even talking movie studios folks, not just the obvious suspects here. Yeah, grim going. Now VC is buying up publishing houses, which previously had been the playgrounds of Old Money, but at least they wanted a veneer of something more than line goes up. How long until those Withered Brands get the life sucked out of ‘em like a mouse that’s crawled up inside a favorite chair only to starve to death leaving a flattened corpse behind? Oh, is that metaphor too specific? Yeah, sorry, that happened to me last month. Grisly.
Zombie brands being injected by jeweled parasitic wasps and driven around like insect hulks until there isn’t even enough juice inside to keep the joints moving and the chitin is left behind as some necrotic monument to greed. But don’t you worry, the wasps will go on and find new hosts. Maybe they’ll even pay pennies per impression or ten thousand impressions.
Hell, we wish for as stable a marketplace as the pulps, grossly exploitative as they were. At least you had a couple options who paid decently enough against a reasonable cost of living. Now we hope for eight cents a word and then we gotta watch what else they’re publishing so we don’t get bruised by reputation. Actually, what we wish for is a marketplace that’s big enough to support all the folks who want to get published and there’s no world big enough for that now. Yeah, that sucks too.
I know. I should get back to the good news. My kids are doing well, braver than I’d have been at their age and maybe even than I am now. Youngest starting second year of college a couple thousand miles from home. Oldest now in his career, having job hunted and interned while in school to get that set up. He’s only seven hundred miles from his old home. Looking at going to England in a long-delayed trip with my wife. Beginning to write again, now that I’ve come to a reckoning with who I am in this market and more importantly, what I’m willing to do in order to get sold. Of course, the answer is nothing. Like Michael Corleone at the end of Godfather 2. You get nothing. Nothing but my work. I don’t trust that any editor I could hire on a freelance basis will open those doors any longer. I’m not willing to pay artists to make covers to grab eyeballs (would be nice if I could — you get me and photoshop instead, but never ever AI). That’s me, too unwilling or too stupid to recognize that there’s a game to be played when all I ever wanted to do is write and not participate in nested systems that are designed to make folks think that One Weird Trick is all that stands between them and success. I’m back at work and god help everyone in my path.
Kidding. I’m a cuddly little kitten.
Right. Station ID. I'm Matt Maxwell. I write a genre-rejecting series called Hazeland. The first book in the series, The Queen of No Tomorrows, came out last month. There's lots of info about it at my site, that being highway62press.com and you're already there so you can look around now without guilt. The second book in the series is in progress and slated for a March release next year and is called All Waters are Graves. The third book, entitled Fake Believe, is a collection of short stories/novellas from the Hazeland setting. They're too long or too cavalier in hewing to genre forms to be published anywhere else. I can't write a five thousand word story and I don't have enough pull to get anyone to commit to taking up 12k words of space in their prestige publication. I publish my own books because I couldn't get anyone to publish them. Well, that's not true. I worked with a publisher previously and it didn't work out. I don't blame either of us as there's always enough to go around. At least this way I get to put out the book that I want and put my own art on the covers because that's the only thing that remotely makes sense anymore. No you've never heard of me. No following me won't get you any juice. I can't tell you how to be successful or even how to get sold into the marketplace. I can tell you that those aren't the same thing, though.
Until next time.