Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Friday in the Library With Lovecraft

This year I made my third trip to the Northeastern Writers Conference, better known as Camp NECON. Necon isn’t like any other convention. My pal James A. Moore nailed it when he called it a cross between a con and a family reunion. Now that I’m a member of that family, I look forward to seeing my distant relatives every July.

This year, though, several of us made a side trip of epic proportions. Writer Brian Keene arranged for a group of us, including me, Jim Moore, Mary SanGiovanni, Nick Kaufman, Alexa Antopol , Dave Thomas, and Paul Tremblay, to visit the John Hay Library at Brown University in Rhode Island and view the H.P. Lovecraft manuscript collection.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then think about that for a moment. Me, Charles Rutledge, Lovecraft Fanboy, going to see HPL’s handwritten manuscripts. As you can imagine, I was pretty psyched.

Despite knowing more or less where the library was, we had a little trouble finding the place. Typing the address into the GPS results in you ending up at a different location, almost as if there is something working against you. Perhaps the non-Euclidian angles of the streets resist modern technology. We finally made it though, and because we were a little early for our 10:00 am appointment, I took the chance to make another dream come true and got Jim to take my picture at the Van Wickle Gates, across the street from the library. You see, there’s a famous picture of Lovecraft seated on a stone bench in the corner of one of the gates and that bench is still there, so Jim and I took turns sitting in the exact spot where HPL had been over seventy years ago.

When the library opened we were met by Christopher Geissler, the Librarian for American and British Literary and Popular Culture Collections, who was to be our guide. Mr. Geissler couldn’t have been nicer, and I think he was glad to have some visitors who showed the reverence and enthusiasm for the collection that we did.

Before going upstairs to see the manuscripts, we first had a look at the recently restored main reading room. The John Hay was built in 1910 and over time the huge reading room had been turned into three separate rooms. In the last few years though, the walls were removed and the room was restored to its epic dimensions. It really looks like a set from Hellboy or some Gothic horror film with its high ceilings, tall windows, and busts of authors set above the shelves. I felt like I could have been there to view the Necronomicon and in a way, I guess I was. (Mr. Geissler told us that while they didn’t have a copy of the Necronomicon, they did have Lovecraft’s manuscript for ‘The History of the Necronomicon’.)

Then we went upstairs to one of the rooms used for meetings and other functions, another place that looked like a Gothic set. Walls of dark wood panels. A fireplace with hearthside chairs. More tall windows and heavy furniture. We gathered around a long table and Mr. Geissler began to set out the manuscripts. I’m going to post some pictures with this entry, but I can’t show you everything we saw. Among the treasures were handwritten and typed manuscripts for THE CALL OF CTHULHU, THE DUNWICH HORROR, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD, and THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE.

We also saw Lovecraft’s notes for AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, including a drawing of an Elder Thing. Some of the coolest things we saw were several color drawings of Lovecraft’s creatures made by a teenage Robert Bloch. I’m not allowed to show you any of these, but they’ll be available at a new exhibition at the library, about which I will give you more information later.

While looking at the manuscript for THE CALL OF CTHULHU, I read the first paragraph aloud. Jim Moore got me to do it again so he could video it. Turned out pretty cool. Maybe I’ll post it, if I can figure out how.

Probably the most moving moment for me was reading a hastily added postscript to a letter from Lovecraft to Duane Rimel, telling of just receiving a report of the suicide of Robert E. Howard. Both of these writers are literary heroes of mine and to see the actual handwritten note made my eyes smart, I’ll admit. Made it more real to me, I guess.

Anyway, it was an amazing, even overwhelming experience, so thanks to Brian Keene for setting it up, to Christopher Geissler for his knowledge and patience, and to the other folks who went on the expedition for their enthusiasm. Seeing the manuscripts with a bunch of like-minded people made it even better.

Oh, and thanks to H.P. Lovecraft for writing the stuff in the first place. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

More of 'My' Superman

  This just in. You may recall how pleased I was that 'My' Superman had come back for two issues of DC's Convergence series. Apparently I wasn't the only one who liked it. It sold really well. News from Comicon is that there will be a mini series featuring that version of the character, who is married to Lois Lane. I'd really like to see 'Old' Superman outsell current Superman. So buy this when it comes out!

A Short Stack of Comics

Did something last night I haven't done in quite a while. I sat down and read a stack of comic books. Back at the height of my comics reading, when I was buying ten or twenty titles a week, I would often sit down and read the whole stack at once.
My comics reading has dwindled over the last few years and when I do bring several titles home, it often takes me a while before I get around to reading them. This Wednesday night I picked up three comic books and last night I re...ad them back to back.
As some of you may recall I was fairly taken with the first issue of JLA (Justice League of America). Issue number two is just as good, with the core DC Superheroes, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, and the Flash, (with the addition of Cyborg) all acting in character. I hope DC can keep this up. It's nice to be able to read a comic with the heroes more or less as I remember them.
Read issue three of SWORDS OF SORROW. This one focused on heroes I'm not as familiar with, but it as still a lot of fun. The various mini-series attached to this title have been hit or miss, but Gail Simone's strong writing has kept the central book interesting and fun.
And finally issue two of Alan Moore's PROVIDENCE. The first issue had elements of H.P. Lovecraft's COOL AIR, and this one contains references to THE HORROR AT RED HOOK and THE SHUNNED HOUSE. As usual with Moore, this is sort of a mixed bag. He gets a little carried away describing the histories of various magic rituals. Nobody has been raped so far, but knowing Moore, I get worried every time a female character appears.
So yeah, reading comics. What a concept.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Monster Mash

Okay, all you Monster Kids. You want Mark Voger's new book, MONSTER MASH. It is a terrific pictorial history of all things monster, from Horror Hosts to Aurora Models. From Famous Monsters of Filmland, Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella to The Munsters and the Adams Family. The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Dark Shadows. Movies, TV Shows, Comic Books, Books, games, toys, models, bubblegum cards, etc etc. Just an amazing book. This would make a great Halloween present for anyone who loves monsters and especially for anyone who was a kid during the 60s and 70s.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

King of the Bastards

"Part sword and sorcery, part extreme horror, King of the Bastards is wild adventure across seas, beaches, and mountains full of horrifying monstrosities, dark magic, and demonic entities.
Rogan has been many things in his life as an adventurer — a barbarian, a thief, a buccaneer, a rogue, a lover, a reaver, and most recently, a king. Now, this prehistoric bane of wizards and tyrants finds himself without a kingdom, lost in a terrifying new world, and fighting for his life against pirates, zombies, and the demonic entity known as Meeble. And even if he defeats his foes, Rogan must still find a way to return home, regain his throne, save his loved ones, and remind everyone why he's the KING OF THE BASTARDS."

    A lament I often hear is that there's no good sword & sorcery being published these days. Well let me tell you, with the release of KING OF THE BASTARDS by Brian Keene and Steven Shrewsbury , that's no longer the case. When I say sword and sorcery, I'm not talking about the latest Tolkien Clone of Game of Thrones Knock-off. No, I mean the good old stuff, like Robert E. Howard and Karl Edward Wagner. The stuff that's based in horror and drenched in blood.
   Within the first 30 pages you know you're in good hands as King Rogan, former barbarian, thief, reaver, slayer, etc and his comrades face off against a sea monster and then a band of pirates. It's a violent, bloody beginning and the guys are just getting warmed up.
   When the smoke clears, Rogan and his nephew Javan wash up on the shores of an unknown land and the adventure really gets started. Tasked by a local tribe with killing a sorcerer in his lair, the two men are soon faced with foes who use both cold hard steel and the darkest sorcery.
   Reader's familiar with Brian Keene's 'Labyrinth Mythos' will find some familiar elements. In addition to earthly enemies, Rogan and Javan must deal with Meeble, one of the thirteen, an otherworldly pantheon of entities that aren't quite angels, gods, or demons. I've run into other members of The Thirteen in Keene's books about occult detective, Levi Stoltzfus. Almost all of Keene's books and stories are linked one way or the other in a sort of 'Keeneiverse', which, continuity conscious comic book fan that I am, I really enjoy.
   In various essays here at Singular Points, I've discussed how I feel that the best sword and sorcery has a horror tale at its heart. Karl Edward Wagner often said that his stories about the immortal warrior KANE were really horror stories with enough action to make them heroic fantasy. Similarly, many of Robert E. Howard's Conan and Solomon Kane stories are really horror yarns. Fritz Leiber, himself a corespondent of H.P. Lovecraft, filled his Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories with dark sorcery and horror. Ditto C.L. Moore, creator of Jirel of Joiry, the original red-haired she-devil.
   Keene and Shrewsbury have learned their lessons well. Brian had told me before I started KING that I'd find a lot of Karl Edward Wagner influence in the book, and without giving away too many plot points, I definitely can see what he meant. This book is as much a horror novel as a sword and sorcery tale. And for me that makes it work really well.
   Anyway, if you're one of those people who are always looking for a good, bloody, sword & sorcery tale, then look no farther. KING OF THE BASTARDS has what you want in spades. I was fortunate in that Apex Books offered me an advanced reading copy of the book on the same day I had placed my pre-order for it. So I got to read it early and soon I'll have a shiny new copy to put on my shelf. The book is expected to be released on July 21st, but you too can pre-order here:


Saturday, July 04, 2015

Happy Fourth!

This is the back cover from the 1976 Marvel Treasury Edition, Captain America's Bicentennial Battles, a heartfelt tribute to America by Jack Kirby, aka Jacob Kurtzberg, the son of Jewish immigrants, who grew up to co-create the symbol of the spirit of the USA. The country may be flawed, as all countries are, but the spirit remains.

Cthulhu Saves!

My awesome new Cthulhu bank in all its Eldritch Glory.