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Weird Fiction: The Passing of the Generational Torch

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Last year, in the wake of the NecronomiCon Providence convention, I posted a video of S. T. Joshi’s keynote address in which he focused on the long and winding history of H. P. Lovecraft’s literary reputation. These many months later, a video of much higher quality, with multiple camera angles and nice production values, has just been published, and it shows not just S. T.’s speech but the convention’s entire opening ceremony:

In light of this, it seems an appropriate time to publish Teeming Brain columnist Jason V. Brock’s brief reflection on the convention and its significance. He wrote the following words several months ago, but I failed to publish them during the blog’s winter break. Especially since there’s another NecronomiCon Providence in the works for August 2015, I think Jason’s comments about the way last August’s convention represented a generational passing of the torch for the weird fiction community are hardly out of date. In fact, they grow more timely with every passing day. – MC

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There are, and always have been, acolytes of various subdomains of interest, and the current period is no exception. Indeed, one major link in this chain has been the development of H. P. Lovecraft as a cult figure of some renown. To that end, I’d like to offer insight into one landmark event in particular: NecronomiCon Providence I, the Lovecraft convention that took place last summer in in Providence, Rhode Island.

It is hard to encapsulate such a sprawling, enormous event as this convention. Originally envisioned as an homage to Lovecraft and weird fiction, it bloomed into something not only of the genre, but something transcending it. The gathering had been building momentum for nearly two years, and it finally came to fruition in late August, 2013, in large part due to the donors of the online Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, as well as through the generous time and support of sponsors and volunteers and the hard work of the organizing committee, headed by Niels Hobbs. The size and range of this gathering of writers, artists, filmmakers, patrons, fans, and scholars was daunting, but it (mostly) came off without a hitch.

This was the inaugural event in what will hopefully be a new series of these conventions, all to be located in Providence, the former domicile of Lovecraft and the current residence of several Lovecraft-inspired creators, among them writers Jonathan Thomas and Sam Gafford, as well as author Caitlín Rebekah Kiernan (The Drowning Girl). These are planned to convene every other year: the next one is scheduled for 2015.

While paying respect to the core and origin of this type of fiction, and also to the works it has inspired, this con clearly showed the passing of the torch from the Third Generation to the Fourth (a trend that I discussed in a previous installment of this column). It was all quite fascinating to witness, and I was pleased to have a role in it, however modest.

As I recall the staggeringly rich and varied interactions and activities that unfolded last August, I realize there is really nothing more to say, except that this was likely the single greatest congregation of Lovecraft/weird fiction professionals in history, and that it took place in a fantastic, beautiful setting. The panel discussions were informative and interesting, the new research presented was stimulating, the socializing was epic, and everyone was excited, happy, and enthusiastic. If you missed it, be aware that this was one for the record books.

My advice: Don’t miss the next one!

H. P. Lovecraft’s literary reputation: Joshi’s keynote address at this weekend’s NecronomiCon (Video)

The NecronomiCon, long known as the greatest of all Lovecraft conventions, is going on in Providence even as I type these words. A huge number of my friends in the Lovecraftian realm are there, and I’m presently experiencing severe pangs of regret at being unable to attend.

Here’s some consolation, though. Steve Ahlquist has done us all a fine favor by uploading a video recording of S. T. Joshi’s keynote address, which was delivered yesterday at Providence’s historic First Baptist Church in America. It was a fitting location, since this church was famously one of Lovecraft’s favorite buildings.

S. T.’s topic was the long and convoluted history of Lovecraft’s literary reputation, extending all the way from his mainstream obscurity during his lifetime to his famous “pulp hack” reputation among the reigning literati during most of the twentieth century to his final canonization as a major American author at the turn of the millennium. S. T. also spoke briefly and movingly on Lovecraft’s deep personal connection to Providence and his status as “a uniquely American writer” in an era when his renown and popularity have grown to become a manifestly global phenomenon.

For those of us who couldn’t be there, this video is a gift indeed.

“The Uncanny Convergence of Religion and Horror”: My new column for NAMELESS MAGAZINE

The first installment of Numinosities, my new column for [Nameless] Magazine, is available for free reading at the journal’s Website.

[Nameless] is a newly launched “Biannual Journal of the Macabre, Esoteric and Intellectual.” Edited by Jason V. Brock and S. T. Joshi — a fine team indeed — its stated goal is “to meld divergent (even challenging) critical perspectives on a variety of subjects — fiction, music, art, film, social commentary — and present them with the best content (literary, artistic, and, in the case of the website, multimedia) we can muster from the genres of horror, science fiction, magical realism, slipstream, and dark fantasy.” The format is a biannual print journal and electronic edition combined with a Web magazine.

The debut issue, dated Summer 2012, is now available, and is a really impressive piece of work featuring a beautiful visual layout and contributions from the likes of William F. Nolan, John C. Tibbetts, and Gene O’Neill. So it was a welcome thing when Jason contacted me with an invitation to contribute a recurring column about horror, religion, and philosophy to future issues.

The first Numinosities column is about the perennial entanglement of religion with horror in a way that makes each imply and entail the other. Here’s the gist:

In point of fact, horror and religion have always been bound together in the most intimate of entanglements. Look to the ancient Sumerians: you’ll find in their cosmogony the tale of Tiamat, the great chaos dragon who formed the original, primal substance of reality until her children, who were more anthropomorphic, and who were therefore the gods worshipped by humans, overthrew her. Observe that horror came first, before divine solace, in the most ancient creation story of which we’re collectively aware. Check the ancient Egyptians, those vital quasi-neighbors of the inhabitants of the Fertile Crescent, and you’ll find similar instances of daemonic monstrousness built right into their reigning theologies at nearly all points. The same goes for the ancient Greeks, some of whose creation myths involved the progressive overthrow of primal chaotic monstrousness — think the Titans, think Kronos devouring his children — in order to produce the ordered cosmos we have today.

[…]

So why, then, should people today still find it necessary to ask about the connection between religion and horror? When it would be more reasonable to ask if they have ever not been connected, why do so many of us moderns find it odd or shocking to hear their deep linkage called out and explicitly identified?

Perhaps — and here I may simply be indulging my own temperament and mistaking it for insight, or perhaps I may really be onto something (a judgment I will invite the reader to make for him- or herself) — perhaps it has to do with an unconscious recognition that only a few have ever named aloud, a recognition that is simultaneously implicit and explicit in all of those great biblical images of a wrathful God whose transcendent nature is categorically other than the natural world, so that, even though this nature is technically termed “holiness,” it emerges in human experience more as a tremendous, awe-and-dread-inspiring eruption of supernatural nightmarishness that is fundamentally corrosive both to the world at large and to the human sensibility in particular. In other words, perhaps it has to do with a psychologically subterranean sense of unsettlement at the notion that the divine itself, not just in its conventionally demonic aspects but in its intrinsic essence, may be fundamentally menacing.

— Matt Cardin, “Things That Should Not Be: The Uncanny Convergence of Religion and Horror,” Numinosities, [Nameless] Magazine, December 1, 2012

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Image: “”Saturn Devouring His Son” by Francisco de Goya [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Next Big Thing: TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN

“The Next Big Thing” is a meme that asks authors to answer ten questions about their next project, after which they tag five additional authors to do the same a week later. Last week I was tagged in this regard by my friends, fellow authors, and fellow Teeming Brain writers Stuart Young and T. E. Grau, whose own contributions to the fray involved Stu’s description of his forthcoming horror collection Reflections in the Mind’s Eye and Ted’s description of his forthcoming horror collection (co-written with his spousal other half, Ives Hovanessian) I Am Death, Cried the Vulture.

So here, right on schedule, is my perpetuation of the Next Big Thing meme.

1) What is the working title of your next book?

“To Rouse Leviathan.” It may or may not come with the subtitle “A Book of Daemonic-Divine Horror.” Read the rest of this entry