Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Lovecraft Challenge: "Ex Oblivione": Part 1 (The Review)

The attraction of "Ex Oblivione" is first and foremost the atmosphere.  In his dreams, the narrator discovers escape to another world, one that provides sharp contrast to his own which is unbearable in its “greyness and sameness” (Lovecraft 131) and is likened to Chinese water torture.  In this dream “world,” poetry and beauty fill its essence.  There are “old gardens and enchanted woods.”  When the wind is “soft and scented,” the narrator hears the “south calling,” and he sails “endlessly and languorously under the strange stars.”  He also glides in a barge down “a sunless stream under the earth” until he arrives at another world, and this one offers “purple twilight, iridescent arbours, and undying roses” (131).

Beyond languid and undying beauty, beyond the atmosphere, there is mystery and the basic human need to have what one is denied.  The mystery starts with the “golden valley” that leads to “shadowy groves and ruins” (131).  Which begs the question, who once lived there?  This is deepened by the inclusion of a “mighty wall green with antique vines, and pierced by a little gate of bronze” whose latch is hidden.  What once started out as a Lotos-land dream becomes an obsession.  The narrator wants to the go through the gate, not only to escape his own world, but because he feels it must be better than anything he has seen yet in the dream world.  Despite the fact his research uncovers divided opinions on topic--some authorities speak of wonders and others speak of horrors and disappointment beyond the gate--he has come to a point of no return.  He has to breach the gate.

This sets up a doubt in the reader’s mind.  Will it hold a horror or will it be wonderful?  He finds a “white void of unpeopled and illimitable space” (Lovecraft 132).  According to the narrator, this is beyond his greatest hopes.  In the end, the question is answered as the authorities had answered it: it depends on the man.

There are a few other tidbits in this short piece that stand out.  Such as, the narrator visits a dream-city to research the gate, and he finds what documents the people of that city had left behind.  That alone is interesting--what happened to these dream-sages?--but what is most striking is that they were “too wise to ever born in the waking world” (132).  Little details like this pepper the short piece, and they lend to the surreal atmosphere.  For such a short story, it resonates on several levels, which is why, to me, it is so successful.  That and I have always been a sucker for ruins, mystery, and the surreal.

Works Cited

Lovecraft, H. P. "Ex Oblivione." H. P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction.  Comp. Barnes & Noble.  New York: Barnes & Noble, 2011.  131-132. Print.

The Lovecraft Challenge: "The Other Gods": Part 2 (The Story)

The second part of The Lovecraft Challenge was to write a story inspired by one of H. P. Lovecraft's.  My story, "Covert," was inspired by his "The Other Gods."  You can read more about it here:   

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Lovecraft Challenge: "The Other Gods": Part 1 (The Review)

When reading about "The Other Gods" in An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia, I was struck by the line about falling into the sky (Joshi and Schultz 196).  With that, my weird-dar started binging, and I was eager to read what weirdness lead to this critical point.

One of the first milestones along the way is the gods of earth "weep[ing] softly as they try to play in the olden way on the remembered slopes" (Lovecraft 170).  That poignant image made me go "aww" until I began to wonder what exactly their play consisted of, especially given the fact they consort with "the other gods."  After all, there's that saying about the company you keep.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Another milestone of weird is the "cloud-ships" (Lovecraft 170).  They reminded me of an unpublished novel I wrote many years ago, where ships sail through the sky, carrying the dead to their proper moon.  Even if I did not have that connection, cloud-ships are just . . . cool.

After that, the journey itself begins to pick up, especially when we get to where Barzai the Wise, the main character, claims that the earth's gods fear him.  We begin to suspect, due to his hubris, it is he who is about to be afraid.  The first hint of such is when "a spectral change in the air" occurs, "as if the laws of earth were bowing to greater laws" (172).  This culminates in Barzai's cry about "the other gods," for it is not the "feeble" gods of the earth he has encountered but those of the outer hells.  By end, he is almost begging the earth's gods as he shouts the key line: "Merciful gods of earth, I am falling into the sky!" (173).

But the weirdness doesn't stop there.  When people go in search of the missing Barzai, they discover a "curious and Cyclopean symbol fifty cubits wide [carved into the naked stone of the summit], as if the rock had been riven by some titanic chisel" (173).

In the end, this is not just a great HPL story; it is one worthy of an Odditorium Review (a series to cover weirdness in tales).  The accumulated details in "The Other Gods," from cloud-ships to earth god's play and from gravity shifts to the Cyclopean stone markers, make this HPL top-shelf weird.

Works Cited

Lovecraft, H. P. "The Other Gods." H. P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction.  Comp. Barnes & Noble.  New York: Barnes & Noble, 2011.  170-173. Print.

Joshi, S. T., and David E. Schultz.  "The Other Gods."  An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2001. 196. Print. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Lovecraft Challenge

On my shelf of weird, there are several books by (or about) H. P. Lovecraft.  One of my favorites is a silver-edged affair by Barnes and Noble (I also have its gilt cousin, a Sherlock compilation), but do you know, I haven't read him all that much.  I have an Excel list of all the stories I own of his (96), but I haven't read even a dozen yet.  That's going to change. 

Now, I don't do well with deadlines.  The minute I start calculating minutes or days, it never fails: the cheerleader effect of such challenges turns in its pom-poms, usually by the next day ("There's your deadline for ya!").

That just means I have to come at this via a weird angle.

I'm not only going to read and review his stories one at a time, but I have to be inspired be each and every one.

That is not to say I'm going to write 96 stories (numbers, remember; my cheerleader hates 'em); some might be combined into one, and others might be combined with whatever other challenges I have going on.  But it's gonna get done, and we'll see how long we can keep my pom-poms going this time.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Am-Reading Book List (through Goodreads)

While I am working on updating this blog, I'll display a list of my am-reading list. The ones labeled "giveaways" are free books I received through the Goodread's Giveaway program.


Jodi's bookshelf: currently-reading

0 of 5 stars
tagged: currently-reading and giveaways
0 of 5 stars
tagged: currently-reading

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


I've decided to revitalize this blog, but in order to do that, I have to remove or repost some items.  So, basically, this blog is under maintenance.