Publication, and Musings on Lovecraft, Horror and Religion

Monstrum Ex Machina, the third novella in the Grey Revolutions series, is released today.

Inspiration for stories come from numerous directions, and there’s usually more than one needed to construct a decent tale. One of the elements from this story came from considering Lovecraft’s cosmic horror, and how it differs from more traditional horror.

Disclaimers: I don’t have a deep knowledge of Lovecraft’s work, and less of horror in general, but have no intention of letting ignorance hold me back from giving an uneducated opinion. That’s what blogs are for. Also, this might result in some waffling, and anyone of a religious disposition may take offence. So better to stop here if this is you. Unless you want to be offended, in which case don’t blame me.

 

Lovecraft, Horror, and Religion

From the little research I bothered to do, I’m not sure there is a clear definition of cosmic horror. A good part of it is the terror at realising how small and insignificant you are. But associated with this is that the vast horrors to fear are usually indifferent to the harm they cause on something as small as us.

As opposed to a malevolent evil actively intent on doing us harm, so archetypal of a casual view of horror. This malevolent evil often has ties, either explicit or casual, to religious concepts of evil.

I see religion as starting out as folk tales used to explain the otherwise inexplicable world. Over time they’ve come to be considered more than mere stories, and held to tightly as a safety blanket. Of course they can’t be allowed to change over time, or it could disturb the illusion of authority they demand. So they still reflect the times in which they developed.

Times during which there were creatures out in the dark that meant us harm (besides each other). Even if only animals, they were threats. And the stories that built up around them shifted to less known terrors as familiarity grew.

Stories gave the fears form, and by doing so the promise that they could be survived, maybe even bested. But they also maintained the idea of the malevolent force outside our view, to keep the faithful from straying.

By Lovecraft’s time, the dangers in the dark (besides each other) had become less of a true concern. Settlements had grown so vast that a danger lurking outside it was well away from the beds of most in the settlement.

What was within the settlement became more of a cause for anxiety. The vast horde of strangers, feeding feelings of insignificance and isolation in this expanding worldview.

Lovecraft followed scientific discoveries, often using or referencing them. The growing understanding of the vastness of existence, and our smallness within that almost infinite scale, is obvious in his work. His horror was that of recognising one’s insignificance in an indifferent universe. The horror of being at the mercy of mechanisms that may not even register our existence.

Yet religion still seeks to engage people’s fears of malevolent forces, retaining that as the prism through which to interpret the world. Reinforcing divisions of us versus them. Cosmic horror is more about us versus it. Life. Vast and uncaring.

In part that may be why I see religion as archaic. It may once have offered comfort against the things people feared, but now seems to conjure its own boogeymen, oblivious to the true horrors of modern life.

Which can sound dark, but this worldview can also inspire awe (awe in the sense of wonder tinged with fear). And that’s where I feel it’s most interesting. It can raise all kinds of questions, and suggest further stories.

 

Moving On

This became only a minor element in the story, serving as motivation for one character’s agenda. So this shouldn’t spoil much. The spirit probably runs through many of my stories though, especially the one I’m currently working on.

The working title is Soul Food. It’s a contemporary, stand-alone story. I’m not sure if it’s horror or urban fantasy. It starts out as a detective story. I suppose I should try and get better at aiming for a particular genre if I want to get any kind of a proper writing career. Maybe someday.

 

Monstrum Ex Machina

Monstrum Ex Machina smallThe world is changing, in ways it shouldn’t.

Even on the mindscape, things don’t just happen. Someone must think them. So monsters of fable, and haunted houses, must be thought into being.

Theresa wants to arrest those responsible, for whatever their crime is. Alex is happy to have a mystery.

Then things get violent.

Can they solve it before the nightmare plague becomes uncontrollable?

A 34,000 word sf novella.

 

Smashwords

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Monstrum Ex Machina Pre-Order

Monstrum Ex Machina, the third novella in the Grey Revolutions series, is available for pre-order, and will be out on September 1st. It’s currently priced $0.99, until publication day.

Monstrum Ex Machina smallThe world is changing, in ways it shouldn’t.

Even on the mindscape, things don’t just happen. Someone must think them. So monsters of fable, and haunted houses, must be thought into being.

Theresa wants to arrest those responsible, for whatever their crime is. Alex is happy to have a mystery.

Then things get violent.

Can they solve it before the nightmare plague becomes uncontrollable?
 
A 34,000 word sf novella.

 

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Smashwords

 

Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale

This month Smashwords have their annual Summer/Winter Sale. All my longer works are included, with 50%-75% off (using the codes listed on the pages).

My Smashwords page

Grey Enigmas is free for the month, it’s sequel Monster in the Mirror is half price, and the third in the series, Monstrum ex Machina, is just about finished so will probably be out in September.

 

A Meandering Rant About the State of Britain

I’m so embarrassed. My country (and nation, Wales also voting in favour of stupidity) has decided we should be more isolated from the world. As though that were possible.

I remain convinced it’s an asinine, backwards, decision. But the petitions and calls for a rerun are nonsense. The public has spoken. Sure, now they know much of what they were told were lies – and some seem genuinely surprised by this – but it doesn’t matter. The damage is done. To our economy, our political establishment, and to the EU.

Having had a few days to absorb it all, I’m convinced the main problem is that we didn’t have a proper debate. We simply don’t have the infrastructure to do so in so large a population.

The Labour party is imploding in the wake of the result, as many MP’s who never liked Corbyn (who was elected by support of the actual members rather than MPs) use the opportunity to try to oust him. There have been accusations of him doing little in the referendum, despite him having travelled probably more than many of his detractors to try convincing voters.

The main problem he has is that he’s too reasonable. And that isn’t newsworthy. So while he talks to small groups, the louder, less rational, voices get all the media attention, spreading their hate-filled rhetoric for mass consumption by those who can stomach it. Because, as I’ve ranted about before, the media is a business, which profits by the amount of attention it draws. So of course their going to report on the ‘entertaining’ idiots.

As a result, we got a vitriolic, hate-fuelled campaign that focussed on immigration, a convenient target for so many of the troubles the country is suffering, and one sure to incite passions.

While overpopulation is a problem, and our infrastructure can’t really support our current numbers, this is a short-sighted view, looking for a quick fix, regardless of whether it’ll work. And immigration isn’t what we were voting on.

Not that the Leave campaign necessarily said this would stop immigration (or lead to mass deportations as some idiots seem to believe will happen). They also never said the money saved would go to the NHS (which is now more likely to be chopped up and privatised). But they did manage to imply these, and to paint the EU as the source of all our troubles. And the media were only too happy to spread this.

Also at play was the general sense on impotence on the part of the public, unable to do anything about the forces that are throwing the world into uncertainty and effecting our lives. Trust in politicians is justifiably low, so when we get a chance to change things of course it’s going to appeal to many who can’t be bothered thinking what the change will mean exactly. It’s something we can do.

It looks like many in the Leave campaign didn’t really expect to win anyway, few expressing any clue as to what to do going forward, and most looking stunned that they actually succeeded.

So we’re stuck with racist abuse on the rise on the streets, the economy in the toilet, our neighbours hardly well-disposed towards us, and Farage gloating in the EU about having given them a good thrashing.

Welcome to the new Britain. (Except that you’re not welcome)

Anyone know any good places to emigrate?

EU Referendum

[This is a trimmed version of a diatribe that got even more long-winded. I dropped the detailed discussion because it was fractured and ill-informed. Which isn’t to say that this won’t be.]

 

Here in the UK we’re currently debating whether or not to leave the EU (I won’t use the term Brexit). I say we, but most of the debate comes from politicians, with much of the public bemused as to the facts. Bemused because as soon as one side presents a fact, the other side dismiss it as optimistic, or simply a fabrication.

The campaign has been particularly toxic – or amusing, depending on your point of view. Most of the facts are so flimsy because the truth is that no one knows what the results of leaving will be – despite the conviction on display when they tell you what will happen.

Many of the arguments focus on currently hot topics – immigration playing a large part. They seem to overlook that this is a long term decision, and framing it in terms of immediate problems only makes it look opportunist, focussing on people’s fears to achieve unclear ends.

 

Sovereignty

One issue that could be considered long-term, and the reason the referendum was probably called (mainly because of factions in the Conservative party which have always wanted out of Europe), is sovereignty. Decisions on British law being made by unelected representatives in Brussels.

As a Welshman, I’m used to decisions for my country being taken in another nation (mainly by Saxon immigrants), so this isn’t so much of an issue. It’s not as though any of the candidates to replace politicians are noticeably different from them, so I don’t see being able to vote individuals out as that big a deal.

 

In or Out

Ultimately I’ve heard nothing to persuade me from my inclination to stay in the EU. It may not be perfect, but we’re unlikely to change it from the outside. And in an increasingly internationalised world, where corporate entities seem to be taking power from countries, I don’t see isolating ourselves as being productive.

Building barriers between neighbours only helps reinforce the idea of the other that leads to so much conflict. We need to be engaged with our neighbours, so we can try and deal with our shared problems together, rather than enduring them alone.

Glyphmaster

Glyphmaster, third book in the Glyphpunk series, is now available.

Glyphmaster

Glyphmaster cover smallWar has been averted, the Society’s power diminished, but peace has yet to reach the shores of the Scarred Sea. As unrest spreads, there remain a few finishing touches to making the world as Thjorn wishes it to be. But the hallucination of his dead friend won’t let him work, and others have their own ideas about how things should be.

The final plays are being made, as pawns and players alike are moved into place.

 

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Smashwords

 

Glyphpunk

With the third book out, I’ve made Glyphpunk free on Smashwords. The updated price will propagate to the associated retailers soon, but while I’ve reported the lower price on Amazon I can’t know whether they’ll bother taking notice. I’m not sure yet whether I’m making it permanently free, but it’ll stick at this price for a while.

Progress Report

Remember the plans I outlined in my last post. Not so much with the getting them done. I tinkered with the cover, and had some rough ideas for Dwimmerfall. But another story intruded on my thoughts.

It follows on from ideas I’ve had percolating for a while, and from some elements in Monstrum ex Machina. Since it’s finally started to coalesce, I’m at least making notes.

Soul Food (Working title)

It’s stuttering a bit at the moment, as I start to lay out the rough outline of events and realise the fantastical element doesn’t really come in till about a third of the way through. Prior to that it’s pretty much a detective story, the fantastical elements fairly vague, which could be a bit jarring to a reader who paid little attention to the genre (not sure whether it’ll be urban fantasy or horror).

The brute force solution would be to start with the encounter then flash back to the earlier story. But I dislike flashbacks. Alternatively, the story could be written in the past tense, presaging the fantastical elements in the narration, which is currently planed to be first person. That’d be preferable to a flashback, but I’m not yet convinced it’ll work.

Monstrum ex Machina

In the meantime I’ve done the first revision cycle of Monstrum ex Machina, and found… actually very little. Which is worrying. There’s usually at least a few things that need changing in the story. But so far I’ve just been tinkering with the text. Maybe I need to leave it another month and come back to it. That certainly seems more likely than that I got it pretty much right on the first draft. I might do another cycle and see if anything reveals itself.

Progress Report

I’ve finished the first draft of Monstrum ex Machina, the third novella in the Grey Revolutions series. So that’ll go aside for a few weeks. Probably a bit of work to do on it. I was experimenting with not doing quite as detailed an outline (mainly because I was getting the urge to write it before I did the final cycle of breaking it down), but it doesn’t feel quite as comfortable, and I’m sure it’s going to require more revision time than it would have taken outline time. I think I’m closing in on my preferred working method.

Next up I’ll have a look over the first two parts of Dwimmerfall as I try and plan out the rest of the story. It’s been close to a year since I last worked on it. I’m going to rewrite the first chapter, since it isn’t quite working and I’ve had an idea of a better opening.

I might have a look at redoing the cover of Allegiances, on the assumption I’ll ever get around to the other stories in the series. Maybe.

Glyphmaster Pre-Order

Since I’ve received the proof copy, I’m making Glyphmaster, third in the Glyphpunk series, available for pre-order. It’ll be out June 1st. I should be able to get it prepared by then.

It’s currently only available on Smashwords and associated sites, because Amazon require some form of text provided, and I can’t be bothered formatting a version of it just for that. I should get it done by the end of the month anyway, so it’ll still be available for pres-order for a month or so. Not that I expect many actual orders.

It’ll be $2.99 until publication day, at which point I’ll put it up to the regular price point of $3.99.

It might not be out in print initially, since I’m not happy with how the cover came out. It’s a different cover to the eBook version anyway, since that wasn’t going to work for print. Not sure what to do instead, and I’m reluctant to order another proof just to check the cover. Unless sales pick up (or start) on print copies of the earlier books, I doubt it’ll matter.

 

Other Stuff

Proofing it and preparing the final version will put on hold the current project, the third in the Grey Revolutions series, currently with the working title Monstrum ex Machina. The story is pretty much broken down, with only another pass or two of outlining before I’m going to have to start writing.

And after that maybe I can finally get back to work on finishing Dwimmerfall. Although that’s looking like it may be more than just a third part of the story that needs doing. One of the features of pantsing the writing.