Moore’s Vendetta

There have been a number of movies adapted from comics in the past few years. Spiderman and the X-Men films have shown that at least some of the time, Marvel knows what they’re doing (the rest of the time, they’re making Punisher, Daredevil and a TV movie of Manthing). But ever since DC handed Batman over to Joel Shomaker, it’s as if the Men in Suits at Time Warner have lost their collective minds. Such horrors as Constantine and League of Extraordinary Gentleman (and From Hell, which works as a movie but pales in comparison to the source material) are not so much a failure to adapt Alan Moore’s source material as a colossal failure to know when you have a good story on your hands and instead, deciding to hollow out it’s soul and dance around the theater in its skin. It’s grotesque.

Moore, for his part, has attempted to keep these mockeries of his work at arms length, but after some shady deals with DC, he’s come out swinging:

Moore felt that enough was enough and decided that if something was worth reacting to, “it was worth overreacting to.” He stated “I’d have nothing to do with films anymore. If I owned the sole copyright, like with ‘Voice Of The Fire,’ there would not be a film. Anything else, where others owned copyrights, I’d insist on taking my name off future films. All of the money due to me would go to the artists involved. I’d divorce myself from the film process, the film industry and any adaptations. And I felt a sense of moral satisfaction.”

…Earlier in the year, Moore received a call from “V For Vendetta” writer/producer and “Matrix” director Larry Wachowski, but told him politely, “I didn’t want anything to do with films and had no time this year, being in the middle of work, my day job, writing, I wasn’t interested in Hollywood.”

Shortly afterwards, Alan Moore was made aware of a press release sent out covering a press conference producer Joel Silver and the cast had held.

In this press release, Joel Silver, as well as announcing that the release date November the 5th 2005 was the 100th anniversary of Guy Fawkes attempt on Parliament, instead of the 400th anniversary, also said of Alan, “he was very excited about what Larry had to say and Larry sent the script, so we hope to see him sometime before we’re in the UK. We’d just like him to know what we’re doing and to be involved in what we’re trying to do together”

Alan felt, basically, that his name was being used in vain. Not only had he expressed the opposite to Larry, but his endorsement was being used as a selling point for a movie – the reason he’d requested his credit and association be dropped from all of these movies.

The Comic Book Resource article has a sidebar, detailing some of the heinous details either omitted or added to V for Vendetta. It’s a shame no one seems capable of adapting Alan Moore to the screen without feeling compelled to meddle with the details. But at least we still can read and enjoy some of the greatest graphic novels, ever.

Towards a Geek Enlightenment

My little Star Wars rant ran long and some may find a hint of desperation in the tone. With the Star Wars movies done at last and no new Star Trek series/ movie on the horizon, there’s been talk of a void in the world of geekdom. Some are concerned we’ve lost our guiding light and that geeks like me are flailing because the sagas of our childhood have finally come to a close. Luckily, our young Prince of geek, Wil Wheaton sets things straight:

I actually think it’s the beginning of a new golden era for geeks: technology is putting massive computing power in our hands, we’re never more and a few hundred feet from the internets, we’ve got our own network (sci-fi channel) and the big summer blockbusters are all inspired by comic book movies. HHG comes out this year, it looks like Peter Jackson is going to do The Hobbit, there’s talk about a movie based on The Watchmen in 2006, and there’s a Firefly movie due out as well. Don’t overlook Sin City, or Hellboy, and don’t forget the new Battlestar Galactica! (Ron Moore is even connecting with geeks using the unprecedented medium of podcasting commentaries *for free* on all the new episodes, as well as communicating directly with the show’s fans via his blog.)

That tone in my previous rant was not desperation, but frustration. Contrary to popular opinion, Star Wars and Star Trek were never the twin suns lighting our imagination. Mostly, they were just a plateau where we got comfortable and set up a base camp. We stayed too long and forgot that we were supposed to keep on climbing the next day. Well, now that Lucas has struck camp and Rodenburry’s ghost has finally been set free, we can set out once more to see if we can’t find our Geek Shangri La.

Sure, we’ll all miss Kirk and Luke and Han. But their descendents are already with us and they are brighter, faster and smarter than their forefathers.

The Bronze age of Sci-fi is over. Let the Enlightenment begin!

Wookie Talk

Years from now, Sociologists may be able to explain why my wife and I spent a perfectly good Saturday afternoon standing in line to see Revenge of the Sith.

Going into the theater, I was expecting to be disappointed. After all, no one in their right mind would expect Lucas to pull himself out of the pool of money he’s been wallowing in for the last twenty five years and actually make a decent film, rather than another self indulgent special effects vehicle. I had a glimmer of hope that the movie would at least be watchable. Most of the reviews I had read before hand had said it wasn’t as bad as the previous two episodes. Perhaps that was just the nostalgia of those particular reviewers clouding their judgement. Or maybe Lucas got to them with his Jedi mindfuck. But these people have genuinely misinformed the public and should apologise.

Sith is a bloated, twenty-three car pile up on the side of the motion picture superhighway. It’s cinema carnage, like someone ran over a bus full of Wookies. Special effects litter the side of the road for miles. Luckily, Natalie Portman, Ewan Mcgregor and Samuel Jackson walked away from the crash with just a few cuts and bruises, but Hayden Christianson wasn’t so lucky. It’ll take years of traction, and probably acting lessons to salvage his career.

Not one moment of this film makes a lick of sense. The story is little more than a kludge designed to superglue lightsaber battles onto explosions. We’ve grown accustomed to Lucas inability to write dialogue that passes as genuine human speech, but he seams to have had the last shred of his ability to write convincing characters surgically removed. Not that you’ll realise it until about thirty minutes after you leave the theater. It takes about that long for the buzz of spectacle to wear off. Your mind is bombarded from the first frame by impressive imagry, all of which means little. Interspersed between explosions are minute and a half scenes of actors explaining what they just did or what they will do next. Or awkwardly professing their love, in the manner of Vulcan preteens who are putting on a show illustrating this thing humans call love. You’ll spend the rest of the night trying to figure out what just happened durring the last two and half hours, which can be fun, if you’ve just seen a film by David Lynch, or any director and writer who is smart enough and trusts their audience enough to let nnuance and ambiguity play their part. Half the fun of going to movies is having some intangible subtext to chew on for a while, even if it’s just the drive home. And for Sci-fi movies, it’s a prerequisite.

But there is no nuance in RotS. It’s like he saw the Passion and said, “Mel Gibson’s a genius! I’ll just beat my audience senseless with the point, pound every moment I want to emphasize roughly into their skulls and then blink some lights! They’ll walk out of the theater dazed, and with a headache! I’ll make millions!”

This is the movie that all those skeptics were talking about a few years ago when the first wave of digital movies came about. They were concerned that story, characterization and ambiguity would be thrown out in favor of whizbang and cartoon nonsense. Now, if Lucas had made this movie circa 1995, he might have been hailed, once again, as a technical innovator and we would have overlooked the fact that the story is garbled nonsense because at least he was pushing the boundary of what the medium of film could be. But instead, he made this movie in 2005. After Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, there’s no excuse for digital sets that look flat and restrict the actors to a small space in which to move. After Lord of the Rings, there’s no excuse for digital characters to be hollow. Golum has not just weight but gravitas. You feel for him as a character because Andy Serkis and WETA went the extra mile to make him not just look cool, but to emote like a human actor. Yoda never feels like he’s really there. Frankly, I would have preferred the puppet. In fact, I would have loved to have seen puppets-as-aliens all over the place. Jim Henson’s Co. did it for Hichhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, George, why can’t you? You have Frank Oz, possibly the world’s greatest living puppeteer sitting in a sound booth, talking like Grover instead of crawling around under the set like a madman. The technology and know-how is there, Lucas simply refused to use it. Instead of building on what other people had done, he reinvented the wheel, only he made his square, so it’d be different than everyone else’s

In the end, that’s all this movie, and all the Star Wars movies are about: techno-cool stuff. George Lucas should have made a video game and let other people make the movies. Instead, in his attempt to tell, “The rest of the story”, he strangled all the drama out of the existing films.

Do you remember where we first see the Death Star, in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, when Han Solo mistakes it for a moon? It’s a wild and disorienting moment, filled with awe and surprise. And it’s meaningless now, because we see the Death Star being built outside the window of a star destroyer at the end of Sith.

Jabba the Hutt used to be this mysterious name dropped once or twice in the first two movies. Who was this gangster that was so bad, Han had to abandon the rebellion, just to pay him back? Then, in Jedi when the curtain opens and we discover that he’s a giant slug! Well, in the special Editions, Jaba slithers into a scene in the first movie, to haggle with Han like a common criminal. And Greedo shoots first? What?

Then there’s the moment. I don’t even have to describe it, because it’s one of the most startling revelations in all of film: when Vader tells Luke who his father is. Except, if you watch the movies in numerical order, the moment is deflated. You already know Luke’s father is the whiney, spoiled Jedi kid who pisses all over three films.

With the ccompletion of this movie, Lucas has revealed the final shocking piece of the picture, and chronicled the rise and fall of the spoiled little Jedi who got everything he wanted and it still wasn’t enough to make him happy. Not exactly Joseph Campbell material, more like B-list Mother Goose.

And of course, it’s our fault. The fans made him what he is today: a geek with too much money and not enough friends to tell him when he’s wasting his time. We were too busy dreaming in the good parts of the story to realise Yoda wasn’t a sage, but a puppet selling us sci-fi fetish with no soul.

Wikipedia, Again

About two weeks ago I wrote about Paul Boutin’s critique of Wikipedia at Slate, in which he criticizes Wikipedia for not working at the same level as Encarta, or other web based encylopedias.* As Bryan pointed out in comments, Microsoft owns Encarta. I suggested that they also own Slate. Well, this morning, I received an e-mail from the author:

Hi Keith,

I enjoy a good open-source rant as much as the next guy, but Slate is owned by The Washington Post Company.

Yours,
Paul

I responded thusly:

Paul,

Thanks for the fact check. Though, you can understand my confusion, seeing as how MSN is all over the site, including in the URL. And while the Washington Post Co. owns Slate (and apparently offers some of their stellar advice when it comes to editorial decisions), Bill Gates is obviously paying the bills in the form of heavy advertising. Perhaps if Slate (and the Washington Post) didn’t let commercial interest supersede their facts, I and others would be more inclined to trust their respective content.

Sincerely,
Keith

I’m always happy to correct a few facts, especially my own.

But as I mentioned in the E-mail, the layout of Slate’s site gives one the impression that MSN at the very least underwrites the efforts of its staff. While it is now obvious to me that this is not the case, there is still what I would characterize as a conflict of interest. Normally, we don’t think twice about an editorial piece that just happens to dovetail nicely with the desires of a major advertiser of a news website. That’s just business as usual and not really new. But in this instance, the criticism of Wikipedia’s editorial system was unfounded. Also, Mr. Boutin had several of his facts wrong, facts that were easily verified simply be checking Wikipedia’s own stats. Such mischaracterization, if unchecked, can go a long way towards damaging the reputation of a very useful resource, be it Wikipedia or the Encyclopedia Britannica. I don’t think Mr. Boutin did so maliciously. I may be cynical, but I’m not that cynical. When someone in the media wishes to trash something of unverified merit, they don’t go about it half assed. If Slate or WaPo wanted to rip Wikipedia a new one, they would have done so in purple prose and at length, using the methods perfected by such great newsmen like William Randolph Hurst.

Now, I’m not saying Slate is by any means, the tool of a nefarious billionaire with shady business practices. Nor am I suggesting that they bite the hand that feeds them. All I ask, is that their writers check their facts and their editors double check them.

And while I’m at it, I’d also like a pony.

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* Which it isn’t. Wikipedia is far more useful than Encarta and other web-based encyclopedias, for reasons I mentioned previously, and in a case study I recently completed for my master’s work. If anyone would like to read this case study, which is riveting stuff, send me an e-mail. I’ll gladly attach a PDF copy.

Mystery Cat Blogging

So, last night, I’m sitting on the couch watching TV while Elvira is fixing dinner. Our couch is just below the window in the living room, by which I mean, the whole front wall. Our building is circa 1951, and the windows go from about three feet from the floor all the way up and as wide as the whole room. That wall is nothing but window. Unfortunately, these windows don’t really open. They have little cranks in the corners that are supposed to let you ratchet open four panes in each corner but none of them have worked as long as we’ve lived in the apartment.

So, I’m being lazy, watching Gormenghast when something thumps against the window. It’s dusk, and hard to make out what it is. Sometimes pigeons land on the narrow ledge outside the window flap against the glass and fly off. But this is no pigeon. It’s a cat. On the ledge.

Now, when I say the ledge outside the window is narrow, I mean narrow. Two inches wide, tops. But here’s this little cat, balancing against the side of the building, three stories up. Elvira and I scramble to raise the blinds, and pop open the window as best we can. I’m frantic, because if there’s one thing I cannot abide, it’s animals getting hurt. I hate stories about people who are cruel to animals or let bad things happen to pets because of negligence. I’m ready to take a hammer to this window if I have to but luckily, all it takes is the butt of my hand to pop it open.

The cat comes inside, looks around and proceeds to make herself at home (as witnessed by the picture). Judging by her size, she can’t be more than a year and a half old. And she’s very friendly. However, Lucy does not play well with others. She ends up in the other room for the rest of the night and, as I write this, is still cordoned off in the hallway by the bathroom. I feel bad but it’s either that or a cat fight.

We took a picture of Mystery Cat and while Elvira went down the hall, knocking on doors to see if someone was missing a pet, I went outside to look at the building and see if I can find an open window. There it was. Right next door. Which makes sense, because, given the size of the ledge, it’s not like this cat sauntered around any corners. Neither did she fall from the sky, or a higher floor. We wrote a little note explaining where the cat was and left it taped to our neighbor’s door.

As of writing this, the cat is still at our place. Our neighbor was out quite late ( I know because we went out to a club and didn’t get back to 1 AM and the note was still on their door). Hopefully, they’ll get their lazy ass up soon and come get their cat. And fix that window.

Update: 10:00 AM– I just knocked on our neighbor’s door to see if perhaps they might be interested in having their cat back. I was greeted only by the sound of scratching and meowing from the other side of the door. There’s at least one other cat in that apartment, which kinda sucks, since these apartments are small (and ours is getting smaller by the minute). They have until noon. Then I talk to the Building manager.

Update 2:00 PM– After knocking on the neighbor’s door at noon, half past and finally quarter after 1, we were finally able to return the Mystery Cat, whose name is Bella. Lucy is very happy to have her apartment back.

The Very First Friday the 13th

The Knights Templar were an unusual order in that they were not merely knights but monks as well. Founded by Hugh de Paynes in 1118 as a charitable order, the Knights took up residence in the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem and dedicated themselves to protecting pilgrims who ventured to the Holy land during the Crusades. They became wealthy, which made them envied and branched out into the money lending business, which made them powerful, so much so that Pope innocent II granted them immunity from excommunication. But with power comes politics. When they started to build their own castles in Europe and cart around their treasure in a private fleet of ships, to and from secret ports, they became more than envied by the kings of Europe. They became feared. Especially by King Philip “The Fair” of France.

On Friday the 13th 1307, 123 members of the Knights of the Temple of Solomon, including Grand master, Jacque de Molay, were arrested and subjected to torture until they confessed to a number of crimes. These included: blasphemy, black magic, homosexuality, heresy, spitting on the crucifix and idolatry, specifically, worshipping a severed head.

Some theories suggest that the head was ornamental, either brass or wood, either with two faces or just one, maybe female, maybe male, possibly with four legs. Other stories suggest that the head was none other than that of John the Baptist and, if the stars were right, would speak in an oracular voice, predicting events cosmic and miniscule. Still others suggested that it was not a head at all, that this particular story was merely Inquisitor’s mythologizing, that in fact the Templars had worshipped a small black doll that was an idol of a devil named Baphomet.*

In 1314 Jacque de Molay renounced his confession, declaring that the various charges were erroneous and extracted under duress of torture, especially the charges of Black magic. For his honesty, he was burned at the stake and the Order of the Knights Templar were disbanded. From the stake, as the flames licked his boots, Jacque de Molay cursed the Pope and the King of France, inviting them to join him in death within the year. Pope Clement V died one month later and King Philip IV, seven months after that.

Most historians regard the allegations of Satanism and idolatry as trumped up charges by a jealous royalty in order to seize the wealth of the Templars. Very few have anything to say on the happenstance of the predicted deaths of the Pope and king of France, other than vague allusions and nervous jokes.

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* Baphomet may actually be a name for Sophia, used in the Atbash Cipher. Sophia, in Gnosticism, is the Godess of Wisdom, often seen as the female counterpart to either God or the companion of Christ.

Shamanstvo!

It started with a snow storm, both a real fluffy white one outside and a metaphorical storm of words, falling form my head. Thursday morning, I woke to find it snowing and the university closed. This was perfect, as I wanted to get a little writing done that day. And boy, did I. I wrote nearly ten pages of the new version of the story I’ve been working on.

For those keeping track at home, this is the story about the immortal King, with the conniving but not too bright descendants who are trying to kill him. I had finished the first draft of this longish short story last month and been rolling ideas around in my head, trying to figure out how to improve it. It was good but it lacked something. Kevin read the draft and over Thai food, we had a long discussion about that elusive quality that makes stories great rather then just a mildly amusing way to waste a few minutes or hours. Nabokov called this quality shamanstvo, the “enchanter quality.” We decided it was a mixture of wonder at the strange and horrific beauty of the world and an attempt to bottle the ineffable.

Tuesday, The Mouse Empire released Miyazaki’s animated masterpiece, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind on DVD. I saw this movie as a child, while living in Cuba. I couldn’t have been more than ten years old at the most but sitting there in that amphitheater, watching Nausicca and the giant Aum and the Toxic Jungle, it was the perfect example of an artist who had successfully bottled shamanstvo. That movie has stuck with me ever since. I saw it once more, edited all to hell on VHS as a teenager but still, loved the film. In fact, me talking about it was what inspired my wife to buy for me as birthday present, sight unseen, a copy of Princess Mononoke. We’ve both been huge Miyazaki fans ever since.

And what all this has to do with my story is this: Tuesday night, I watched Nausicaa and remembered the awe. I thought about it all the next day, and dreamed Wednesday night of fungus and wonder and the death of humankind.

Thursday, I awoke to snow and spent the day writing. Friday, I played hooky and spent the day writing. Six thousand words and seventeen pages later, I finished the second draft of the story. And I’m pleased. This is something that doesn’t happen often. On the rare occasion that I finish a story, I usually find that in completing it, the idea wasn’t worth the time, or the finished product is Ok but needs so much work to make it not embarrassing that it’s not worth it, or I’ve lost the desire to finish it or show it to anyone. But not this time. This is the first time I’ve written something that I’m proud of. Something that I think has real potential to be great. It still needs some polishing. I’ve got to dot the Is and cross the Ts but it’s all there.

As this story is ostensibly a present for my wife, I’m not going to post it online just yet. This summer, perhaps. Though I’m seriously considering sending the story off to a publisher. So we’ll see.

The only reason I wanted to write about this was as a way to try and put shamanstvo into words, to try and verbalise the feeling of finally reaching the long sought after but elusive goal of not completely failing at what I’ve always tried to do.

Uncurious George and the Thought Police

Anyone who doesn’t think we’re sliding into some nascent American version of fascism needs to read this. Everyone else who has noticed needs to read it as well. From the Fort Worth Weekly:

The war on terror, coupled with budget deficits, seems to have morphed into a war on information.

“This administration is trying to keep information from the U.S. citizens,” said Monika Antonelli, a UNT librarian who monitors attempts to restrict government information. “When I worked in government documents at UNT, the cost of the program was [about] 20 cents per taxpayer, and it was money well spent. The Depository Library program received less funding than the budget for military bands. This is not about saving money but about stifling information.”

The latest skirmish erupted last month when Russell, at a meeting of the American Library Association in Boston, announced the federal government’s 2006 budget would include money for only “50 essential titles” for the nation’s 1,250 depository libraries. Hundreds of other documents that the government for years had deposited in the nation’s libraries would no longer be available except online.

The ALA and the American Association of Law Libraries said the proposal would “eliminate almost all” of the printed material traditionally made available to libraries. The law librarians further complained that the plan “represents a major disruption to the [Federal Depository Library Program’s] role of ensuring no-fee, permanent access to government information for the American public.”

[…] Others are worried that shifting the responsibility for archiving government documents from public libraries to the government itself will make political editing of information too tempting. Librarian watchdogs have already noted that at least one agency, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, appears to have deleted some documents critical of the Bush administration from its web site.

“What happens when the Bush administration wants to prevent a particular policy point of view” from being aired? asked Arlene Weible, head of UNT’s government documents department. Shifting control of information from the libraries to the government leaves the public “with less of a check” against government abuses.

[…] But the shelves of the nation’s libraries are only one front on the government war on information. Increasingly, the government is thwarting requests for public information under the Freedom of Information Act with demands for exorbitant search fees. In one recent case, People for the American Way sought records about government requests to seal records about immigrants detained after 9/11. The Justice Department initially refused the request, saying that to release information about the detainees would violate the privacy of those individuals. It later amended its response, saying it would gladly conduct a search for the records � for a fee of $372,799.

Dictators like to keep the masses ignorant of their true intentions, while blowing purple smoke up their collective asses. How many times does Bush jave to spit on the constitution before we get a clue? Does he have to install gas-powered showers in GTMO? Start rounding up gays and liberals?

I know, I know. We aren’t supposed to soil the discourse by comparing Bush to Hitler. But for fuck’s sake people, what’s the man got to do before we call him on his fascist thought control actions, grow a little mustache?

Our own government has decided that they don’t want you or me or anyone else who isn’t on the Bush family Christmas Card List to know what they’re planning, who they’re planning on doing it to and who’s getting your tax money in no-bid contracts to do it.

Luckily, there are ways to take action against this.

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Thanks to Lynne and Elvira for the links.

Dr Gonzo Rides No More

I rolled out of bed at four AM this morning, kissed my wife goodbye and hopped a plane back to the Nation’s Capitol. 600 miles of screaming air and fog and rain to come back here and wrestle the swine, to sit in my office and read the news: Hunter S. Thompson is dead.

My world is unhinged, just a little more. And not just because of the teenaged, spanish speaking Civil War re-enactors sitting behind me on the plane, munching popcorn. Though, that is something that puts the fear into you. To stumble down the umbilical tunnel, into the belly of a 747 and see the Union Army come for this Southern boy at last… And gibbering in Spanish, no less.

A drowsy haze of careening followed. On my iPod, I listened to Jeff Tweedy sing about the ashes of American flags. It was the only thing that kept my wits intact. And now this.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is one of the most crystalline, brilliant pieces of prose ever written and I’ll bare-knuckle box anyone who says otherwise. Especially if they’re Republican and whine about it’s drug addled jangle or Mr. Thompson’s crazy eye, and how he and all us Gonzo dopeheads are somehow responsible for how we got here, to this crazy day, slipping down the slope towards Communism, Socialism, Gay marriages or whatever the hell it is we’re supposed to hate this week. You know what I hate? Fascists dressed like corporate executives, selling my American Dream, driving one of my heroes to blow his brains out at his kitchen table, one February morning.

God damn you George W. Bush, you’ve robbed us all again.

Update: Giblets spotted the Good Doctor just hours ago, while the King of Zembla points us to his last column.

Den of the Invisible Whistling Octopus

Salon1 reviews the starkly contrasted legacy of H.P. Lovecraft, just in time for the much anticipated collection of his stories about to be published by Library of America:

Lovecraft’s narrators routinely rave about the “hideous,” “monstrous” and “blasphemous” nature of their revelations. Wilson went on, again quite reasonably, to observe, “Surely one of the primary rules for writing an effective tale of horror is never to use any of these words — especially if you are going, at the end, to produce an invisible whistling octopus.” That octopus crack is a particularly low blow, since the most celebrated of Lovecraft’s stories and novels partake of what has been dubbed the Cthulhu Mythos, an alternative mythology involving an enormous and malevolent being whose tentacled head resembles a cephalopod.

In classic form, a Lovecraft tale begins with a narrator explaining that ordinarily he’d never impart the terrifying secrets he is about to relate, but some urgent cause compels him. Initially, apart from the occasional allusion to “unmentionable” horrors, the voice is relatively calm, authoritative and rational. Often the story is presented as a semi-scientific or semi-official report, compiled from multiple partial accounts. The story’s hero encounters some mystery — a strangely blighted plot of farmland, a friend or relative’s research into bizarre and secretive religious cults, nasty goings-on among the residents of a small New England town, etc. — and in the process of investigating it has his entire conception of the universe overthrown.

What Lovecraft’s typical protagonist ultimately discovers, underneath the placid surface of conventional reality, is the existence of heretofore unknown “gods” and other less exalted but equally unpleasant beings. Important figures in the mythos include Cthulhu (“The Great Sleeper”), Yog-Sothoth (“The Lurker on the Threshold”), Shub-Niggurath (“The Black Goat of the Woods With a Thousand Young”), Hastur (“The Unspeakable One”), the ever-popular Nyarlathotep (“The Crawling Chaos”) and the supreme entity, Azathoth, a “blind, idiot god,” who, we are told, resides at the center of the universe where he/it “gnaws shapeless and ravenous amidst the muffled, maddening beat of vile drums and the thin, monotonous whine of accursed flutes.”

Lovecraft intended this pantheon as a metaphor for mankind’s harsh encounter with the mindless, mechanical universe unveiled by modern science at the turn of the century. Extensively self-educated, he took a keen interest in science (this makes the scientific passages in his stories particularly convincing) and wrote about astronomy, chemistry and other fields for newspapers and journals. “All my tales,” he wrote, “are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large.

I’ll admit, Lovecraft isn’t the greatest prose stylist to come out of New England but he does have style, of a singular sort, and that is why he’s popular. Someone once said that what makes poorly written pulp stories and movies fun is the enthusiasm of their creators. MST3K proved this: even if you can see the wires on the flying saucer, you can still enjoy the story if the people involved in creating it have an unswerving commitment to the internal reality and genuinely convey their sense of glee at their work, whistling invisible octopus be damned. And that’s why fans of Lovecraft love his stories– they are illustrative of an imagination that, like the reoccurring evil fungi in his stories, is unrestrainable. They may not be the prettiest creations in the world but you’ll never forget them.

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