A Lineage of Shadows, Redux

I had the honor last year of appearing on The Outer Dark, a podcast hosted by World Fantasy Award-winning author Scott Nicolay. The program has since shifted platforms, appearing now on the essential web-presence This is Horror. Scott was kind enough not only to remaster the original interview, but to record a second segment wherein we discuss Nightscript Volume 2.

Give it a listen, if you’ve the time and inclination.

 

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Defining ‘Quiet Horror’

Abandoned FarmhouseI was asked recently by Acep Hale, a contributor to Lovecraft eZine, to provide a definition of quiet horror. Here is what the ol’ brainpan came up with:

Quiet horror is that abandoned farm house at the end of the country road, the one you’ve returned to again and again, attracted by its grotesque beauty, its dilapidation, its mystery. It fills you with wonder, and most of the time you’re not entirely certain why. And that’s okay. The unknowns in life make things interesting, prod the imagination into fashioning the subtle horrors it so often seeks. You’ve snapped dozens of photos of the derelict structure, not only of its exterior but the interior as well, a select portion of which now reside along your apartment wall in sleek obsidian frames. The bustling metropolis outside your bay window is another kind of horror, more visceral, more in-your-face, brimming with not-always-wanted noise. But there is escape. You need only return to that spectral wall and gaze at the subtle, dreamlike images you have captured, experiencing that quiet and satisfying thrill yet again. The solitude of open space and the broken bit of mystery which lies upon it—a sensation and an image which linger long and challenge easy resolution.

Be sure to give the full article a look-see, as it contains four additional (and perhaps more illuminating) write-ups of quiet horror.

A Lineage of Shadows

Outer Dark PodcastThis week, I had the distinct pleasure of appearing on The Outer Dark podcast in order to discuss my annual dark fiction anthology, Nightscript, as well as talk a bit about my own writing. The show’s creator and host, Scott Nicolay (whose debut collection, Ana Kai Tangata, comes highly recommended), goes above and beyond the call of duty each and every week, profiling writers, editors, publishers, artists, and promotors of weird fiction.

Episode 17 | CM Muller: A Lineage of Shadows in the Nightscript

RIP — Jack Koblas

Jack KoblasIt was with profound sadness that I learned of the death of Jack Koblas this past Friday. Mr. Koblas was 70 years young and was the author of numerous books, primarily in the historical and weird fiction vein. He was a member of The Magpies (a group of musicians recently inducted into the Music Hall of Fame), a co-editor of the seminal small press magazine Etchings & Odysseys, a close personal friend of Donald Wandrei (and various other members of the Lovecraft Circle), and an all-around fascinating individual. Last year he was the recipient of the Minnesota Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and saw the release of two new books: Ghost Stories and Other Dark Tales (see my review here) and The Lovecraft Circle and Others. Both of these volumes had been in the works for over a decade and were greatly anticipated by many in the Lovecraft community. While the former collected nearly all of Mr. Koblas’ fantasy/horror/weird fiction, the latter contained interviews and reminiscences of numerous authors connected in some way to the Lovecraft Circle. Both are fascinating reads, and each hold a prominent place in my Weird Library.

I first met Mr. Koblas over twenty years ago, when I was invited to join a writing group devoted to Lovecraft and various other matters. And while the time I spent with Mr. Koblas might be considered limited in the scheme of things, I have and continue to draw inestimable inspiration from him. In a roundabout way, I consider him my mentor. Many years ago, when I learned of his intent to use the opening line of one of my early (and quite forgettable) horror tales in a writing course he was teaching, I was dumbfounded and elated both. But this was the type of writerly generosity Mr. Koblas was known for, as I am sure numerous of his other friends can attest — particularly those who found themselves cast as the protagonist in one of his tales.

Of late, I too found myself fictionalized into a story which Mr. Koblas was planning to include in a new collection of horror fiction. It is entitled “Mere Image” and still resides in a first draft stage, but it is more than a fitting keepsake. Rereading it this past weekend brought tears to my eyes, not for the selfish reason that it will most likely never see print, but because of the cold, hard fact that the Old Scrivener, my friend and my mentor, has been silenced, and far too soon.

But, oh, what a stunning oeuvre this Literary Lion did roar!

Thank you, Jackal, for everything….

Weird Heritage (III)

One of my favorite pastimes is tromping through boneyards. Not that I consider myself a particularly morbid fellow or one who is obsessed with death. I enjoy burial grounds for two reasons: their beauty, and for the names which they provide. As a writer I am always on the lookout for interesting monikers, and by far the best place to cull such things is a cemetery. As such, I keep an ever-ready list of graveyard names from which to chose. As with perfecting the title of a particular story, so too is it essential to give your fictional kin a fitting name.

Weird Heritage (II)

Some notes from “Grandpa” —

My reason for writing stories is to give myself the satisfaction of visualising more clearly and detailedly and stably the vague, elusive, fragmentary impressions of wonder, beauty, and adventurous expectancy which are conveyed to me by certain sights (scenic, architectural, atmospheric, etc.), ideas, occurrences, and images encountered in art and literature. I choose weird stories because they suit my inclination best — one of my strongest and most persistent wishes being to achieve, momentarily, the illusion of some strange suspension or violation of the galling limitations of time, space, and natural law which for ever imprison us and frustrate our curiosity about the infinite cosmic spaces beyond the radius of our sight and analysis. These stories frequently emphasise the element of horror because fear is our deepest and strongest emotion, and the one which best lends itself to the creation of nature-defying illusions. Horror and the unknown or the strange are always closely connected, so that it is hard to create a convincing picture of shattered natural law or cosmic alienage or “outsideness” without laying stress on the emotion of fear. The reason why time plays a great part in so many of my tales is that this element looms up in my mind as the most profoundly dramatic and grimly terrible thing in the universe. Conflict with time seems to me the most potent and fruitful theme in all human expression.

While my chosen form of story-writing is obviously a special and perhaps a narrow one, it is none the less a persistent and permanent type of expression, as old as literature itself. There will always be a small percentage of persons who feel a burning curiosity about unknown outer space, and a burning desire to escape from the prison-house of the known and the real into those enchanted lands of incredible adventure and infinite possibilities which dreams open up to us, and which things like deep woods, fantastic urban towers, and flaming sunsets momentarily suggest….

Atmosphere, not action, is the great desideratum of weird fiction. Indeed, all that a wonder story can ever be is a vivid picture of a certain type of human mood. The moment it tries to be anything else it becomes cheap, puerile, and unconvincing. Prime emphasis should be given to subtle suggestion — imperceptible hints and touches of selective associative detail which express shadings of moods and build up a vague illusion of the strange reality of the unreal….

[Excerpted from Lovecraft’s “Some Notes on the Writing of Weird Fiction”]

Weird Heritage (I)

One of the most pleasing discoveries of my life came whilst researching my family roots: I found that I was related to an individual by the name of Jonas Lie (1833-1908). I had never heard of this Norwegian author before, but the fact that he was an author was more than enough to inspire me to find out all I could about the man. I discovered, of course, that Lie (pronounced Lee) is a big deal in Norway, linked with Hamsun, Ibsen, and Bjørnson as one of “de store fire” (the big four). I became obsessed, to say the least, obtaining as many books as I could find by this famous relative of mine. Weird Tales from Northern Seas is just one of many I have amassed over the years, but it is by far (at least to this weird writer) the most inspiring and meaningful.