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iotar
Posted on Monday, February 24, 2003 - 03:30 am:   

Made a bit of a start on Waking the Moon. I was struck by Sweeney's dream on her first night at the Divine, where she sees dark figures in her room, reminded me of the very odd incident in Black Light where Lit sees half of Alex Kern bouncing up and down in her bedroom at night. Are either or both of these moments based upon personal experiences of sleep paralysis or perhaps other people's accounts of this phenomenon?

I was reading up about sleep paralysis just after Christmas when I had an encounter with this sort of thing. Interpretations and accounts varied: demonic possession, alien abduction, some sort of psychological emergency reset or pause mode. In your books you tend to deal with it as a manifestation of some kind of psychic epiphany, often of a particularly malign type. What do you think it *actually* refers to, if anything?
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liz hand
Posted on Monday, February 24, 2003 - 05:40 am:   

Interesting question, Zali. I have always had extremely vivid dreams and nightmares, and also episodes of parasomnia, where I act out (often in violent detail) my dreams. Once I jumped on the bed, shouting to my boyfriend that the room was on fire -- I was so convincing he believed me (all evidence to the contrary), especially after I turned and smashed my fist through the window so we could escape -- fortunately it was summer and there was a screen in, not glass. About a year ago I woke (or thought I woke) to an intruder in my room: I raced across the room, yanked a very heavy wooden curtain right out of the wall and started to fight him off. Then woke, to find myself stark naked, holding the curtain rod and shouting at the top of my lungs. No intruder. I have had one or two episodes of sleep paralysis as well, quite terrifying; and yes, I drew on one of them for the scene in BLACK LIGHT.

For the rest I suppose it's just a lifetime of extremely vivid dreams. The figure of the Boy in the Tree from WINTERLONG came to me in a dream when I was seventeen (I've spoken about this before, somewhere) -- a dream of being on a misty, lightless plain, a sudden flash of lightning and thunder that sent me sprawling to the ground; when I blinked and looked up, this Dionsyian figure was standing in front of me, leaning to touch his finger to the center of my forehead. I had this terrible, wonderful feeling that I have only had in dreams, and only in *those* dreams with the Boy in the Tree (as I called it); then woke. Years later someone told me that the center of the forehead is the seat of the Third Eye or some such thing, and it was a good ten years before I learned while doing research for WINTERLONG that Dionysos Dendrites, D. in the tree, was one of the god's names.

Do I believe in this stuff? Well, not really; but I do believe that it could be construed as a psychic epiphany, with the meaning of course imposed by me and not by some Other. And I do make use of it, constantly, in my work. Whatever neurological glitches or excesses make it difficult for me in waking (or sleeping) life, I'm usually able to channel into writing. I'm not actually very good at Making Things Up, so most of what I put on the page has, in one form or another, been part of my own experience. I don't believe in gods or demons, but I can very easily envision them. Probably I would have been burned at the stake a few hundred years ago.

It comes to me upon rereading this that the episode of fighting off the invisible intruder is not unlike Carlo Ginsburg's accounts of the real benandanti in THE NIGHT BATTLES, who went into the fields at night armed with sticks to fight witches.
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iotar
Posted on Monday, February 24, 2003 - 07:43 am:   

Yes, one of the theories I read seemed to suggest that sleep paralysis works in some way to avoid the dangers of parasomnia. As if there were some sort of emergency device that kicks in if you are about to cause yourself injury from acting out a dream.

I also tend to draw upon dream imagery for writing, especially those areas of it that suggest an unconscious consistency. The feeling that you *know* everything about a place, a neighbourhood, a person who has no analogue in waking reality, but the whole thing has been constructed in mere hours if not minutes.

I think the usefulness of gods and demons is that they can carry certain psychological meanings that would appear dry or overly intellectual if they were explained merely as constructs. Hinduism in particular seems to work in this way - they don't seem to have to *believe* in gods the way that monotheists do. The ritual or devotion are just part of a toolkit, it's all very pragmatic. Sorry, generalising enormously - I'll get beaten up by any Hindus listening.

I did think of something else about the weirdness of the Alex Kern episode but I've forgotten now. Oh, did a Kraftwerk track appear on the radio sometime shortly before that dream? Oh, I can't remember the connexion anymore!
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iotar
Posted on Monday, February 24, 2003 - 08:48 am:   

Re: Dionysos Dendrites - also reminds me of scenes in at least two Vance novels where there is a strange conjunction of man and tree: In The Houses of Iszm, a tree starts to grow out of the protagonists head, and in another one whose name escapes me the footloose villain cursed by strange primitives wades out of the water, puts his roots down and turns into a tree. I'm not sure if Vance got this image from Clark Ashton Smith who had a great line in lush alien vegetation.
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liz hand
Posted on Monday, February 24, 2003 - 03:22 pm:   

Sounds very Clark Ashton Smith to me, a la ZOTHIQUE. Have you read A. Merrit? Another childhood love of mine -- I read THE MOON POOL and SEVEN FOOTPRINTS TO SATAN around 12-13 and they imprinted. To my detriment some have said, and I must say I haven't reread them in ages; but when I saw INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM it seemed like an incredible ripoff of FOOTPRINTS, which I always thought would make a great movie.

Thinking of which, IGBEY GOES DOWN has a marvelous Edie Sedgewick/Ondine homage in the characters of the junkie girlfriend Rachel (forget the actress' name) and her 'performance artist' friend.

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iotar
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2003 - 06:21 am:   

Haven't read Merrit but I there was a bit of an Indiana Jones vibe going on in some of Magda's scenes in WTM - so that might have been echoes of Seven Footprints to Satan that I just didn't get!
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Ellen
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2003 - 07:08 am:   

I loved _Igby Goes Down_. I think I missed the reference. Junkie girlfriend was Amanda Peet.
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liz hand
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2003 - 12:33 pm:   

Well, the Indiana Jones stuff in WTM was just wishful thinking on my part -- I'm an armchair archaeologist ever since my undergrad days. I gather there's been a site recently uncovered on one of the remote Cyclades that is movie-ready: an intact ancient temple that's never been plundered. That would be something to see.
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Jack Haringa
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2003 - 07:10 pm:   

Ms. Hand--

Very pleased to see you mention Merritt here--I brought the name up on the Night Shade suggestions board, but with little result. Merritt's Creep, Shadow! would seem to have some relevance to the dream/vision conversation, although the poor narrator is remembering, in Lovecraftian fashion, something that happened to someone else entirely. Even if that someone else might have been he in an earlier lifetime.

Have you read Merritt's The Metal Monster? Marvelous truly alien landscapes and life forms that put the dweller in the moon pool to shame. The book is effervescent with Merritt's particular poetic prose, and at times suggests an SF novel written by Lord Dunsany, if you can imagine such a thing. Actually, the book influenced Lovecraft (or so my thesis claims), particularly in the writing of "At the Mountains of Madness." And we're back to archaeology with that one.

What an odd, rambling statement I've made. No idea how to clean it up. Anyway, good to see someone else impressed by Merritt--I think it's a benefit at least.

~Jack~
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liz hand
Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2003 - 04:43 am:   

Jack -- I have read THE METAL MONSTER, though ages ago -- I loved it. The Dunsany SF analogy is great! if only ...

But I don't think I have read Creep, Shadow -- is it easily found? I'd like to see it, after your description.

I really did love Merritt, those great swooping descriptions and even the eternal triangles between the hero and his best friend and the beautiful though wicked priestess. Maybe it was kitschy emotionally, but even D.H. Lawrence looks pretty kitschy these days. At least Merritt was trying to infuse a genuine sense of erotic longing into his work, inextricably tied to the marvels of his alien landscapes -- I don't know how many of the pulps had that. And his strongest women characters may have been villains, but at least they had power, even if they were never immune to brawny embraces of guys like Kelly (I think that was his name).

It's interesting that with recent chatter about science fantasy, Merritt's name hasn't come up more often (or if it has I haven't seen it). I love Dunsany and Vance et al, and wouldn't make claims that Merritt's work stands up as well as theirs, but his stories did have their roots in The World We Know, which was always the sort of pure virgin to the Other Land's seductive queen. I always found that compelling.

Jack, where was your earlier post about Merrit? I'd like to read it.
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Jack Haringa
Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2003 - 06:03 am:   

Ms. Hand--

In the Night Shade Books: Suggestions? thread I posted the following:

>>They've [Hippocampus Press] also done A. Merritt's "The Metal Monster", but I'd love to see some of Merritt's more obscure work back in print, like "Seven Footprints to Satan", "The Moon Pool", and his short story collection "The Fox Woman and other stories". This last would be great in combination with Sam Moskowitz's book on Merritt (a collection of fragments, a short biography, some poetry, and essays) "Reflections In the Moon Pool". I don't believe the short story collection has seen print since its original run in 1946 or so, and Moskowitz's book had only one short run from Oswald Train in the 70s.<<

As to the availability of Creep, Shadow!, there was a mmpb omnibus edition of it and Burn, Witch, Burn in the 1996 by Leisure. Like Dwellers in the Mirage the book captures that powerful erotic longing and melancholy lost love that you mention and that Merritt perhaps alone among his contemporaries in the SFF fields tried to bring to his work. Merritt's position as a wealthy editor of a Sunday supplement made it possible for him to write exactly what he liked, and apparently the readership liked it too, since his name on the cover of a Munsey periodical would send it flying off the shelves.

Of course, Merritt wasn't immune to many of the plot conventions and stereotypes present in popular fiction of his day, which may be why he does seem kitschy to us: The brawny "men's adventure tale" protagonists of some of the earlier books, the women who swoon into their arms, the "ethnic" sidekicks. But they're all embellished by Merritt to make them better than stock characters: the men are often intellectually aware and contemplative, the women powerful (outside the arms of the men), the sidekicks genuinely cared for by both reader and hero. Merritt remains one of the under-rated greats of the pre-war period (IMO), and should be more widely read. He had better "forward narrative thrust" (to borrow Dick Laymon's term) than Dunsany, though not the same literary weight, which may be why his books sold in the millions in paperback editions through the '70s.

~Jack~
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liz hand
Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2003 - 06:50 am:   

Jack, I agree with you completely. Dunsany may be a more refined stylist, but I was never able to reread his stuff as I could Merritt's. And Merritt's characters were far more lovable and realistically drawn, even given the constraints of their age; and there was his intriguing use of applied anthropolology and folklore, as in the conflation of the sidhe with the other race in MOON POOL.

As for narrative thrust, those books had it in spades; and without sacrificing the hallucenogenic descriptions. I had to rely on finding them in used book stores thirty-odd years ago, and so my reading of them was kind of jumpy. I should go back and work my way through them again, now that I have some breathing space. I'm certain THE MOON POOL was somewhere in my subconscious when I was writing WAKING THE MOON.

I'm pretty sure there was a paperback reprint of THE FOX WOMAN AND OTHER STORIES in the 1970s -- I have it somwhere, I'll check down at my cottage later.
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iotar
Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2003 - 07:16 am:   

Oh dear, *more* stuff for the reading list! Another author's name to forget as soon as I walk into a bookshop.

Just reading that Redsine interview that you did. I should have guessed about Durrell - I read the Alexandrias in one extended feast last year. Amazing stuff! Of course *that* Balthazar is quite a different kettle of fish.

I'm also going to have to get hold of a copy of Aestival Tide - sounds like fun!
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liz hand
Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2003 - 09:59 am:   

Aestival Tide is a hoot. Maybe not deathless prose but certainly over-the-top. That was my M.John Harrison novel; I had recently read him for the first time, and set out to write an elegant, old-fashioned sf potboiler (oxymoron, I know), plundering everything I could think of -- Vance, Godzilla, Flash Gordon, you name it.

And of course you can never go wrong with a talking prehistoric whale.

I think AT is pretty hard to find. I actually bought an extra copy for myself online a few months ago, after I started seeing copies going for 25 or 30 bucks. It's the one book of mine that I've always thought should be brought back into print; again, not because it's my best book ("This is the one I'll be remembered for!" as Ed Wood shouts in the Tim Burton movie) but because it's fun. Well, my kind of fun, anyway.
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liz hand
Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2003 - 10:00 am:   

I should add that this is $20 - $30 dollars for a PAPERBACK. The noive!
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Henry
Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2003 - 03:51 pm:   

Just stumbled upon this message board, and wanted to say how much I've enjoyed your books; esp. Winterlong and The Glimmering. I read the former in 1995 while going to grad school at Georgetown - the bit where the ruined Riggs bank on M street is surrounded by carnivorous trees resonates when you have to pass the damn building every day on your way into school.

Two questions. The one book of yours I've never read is Icarus Descending - is it as much fun as Winterlong and AT? Also, I'd love to know a bit more about the relationship between The Least Trumps and the John Crowley books that it (in part) riffs on. Clearly, the story is much more than a commentary on someone else's work, but it seemed to me, when I was reading it, that TLT fairly deliberately took issue with Crowley's enchanting but slightly paralysing nostalgia; his sense that there was once an opportunity to change the world, but that it's slipped away forever. Certainly, the story ends with a re-opening of possibilities, rather than the loss of a world that there is at the end of Little Big or Engine Summer. Is this just my (mis)reading, or reading too much of my own ideas into TLT, or is there something to this interpretation?
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liz hand
Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2003 - 05:47 pm:   

Henry -- I'm glad you recognized that beautiful old bank! Though these days I feel Winterlong & Glimmering resonate a little too much with current events. I haven't been back to DC for a few years and miss it intensely (I know, hard to believe for people who live there, especially this winter ...) and am really looking forward to visiting this fall. I still dream of it all the time.

I should say, in all honesty, that Icarus Descending is the least favorite of all my books, and the one where I really discovered my limitations as a science fiction writer; i.e., I'm not very good at it at all -- *real* science fiction, as opposed to science fantasy or more straightforward fantasy. The book has a few nice scenes, and one good idea -- the transformation of Margalis Tast'annin, begun in Winterlong and carried through in Aestival Tide and then Icarus, from a human being to a robotic construct and ultimately a neural/AI network and a kind of angel, a transformation that in the end redeems him -- but, well, that book has never been written. I won't disown ID, because, well, I DID write it.

The Least Trumps was meant more as an homage to Crowley's work (and M. John Harrison's, and Lawrence Durrell's) than as a critique; though there *is* a response, in that I feel that books and art -- the best books, and the best art -- actually do change the world. Maybe not the sort of global change Pierce Moffett at first envisions, but change on the individual, cellular level. A novel may not effect a cure for cancer, but reading a great book can make it possible for some of us to live with the effects of cancer, or depression, or isolating loneliness, or loss.

So on one level that's what TLT addresses: whatever limitations Crowley's books (or another writer's) may have, they've changed *my* world.

On the other hand, within the context of TLT, Ivy realizes that the world has changed -- that *she* has changed it, perhaps through Fox's agency, perhaps through her mother's (or both: they're both writers) -- but of course it doesn't *really* change until she walks out the door. At which point *she* has finally become the Prime Mover.

I don't see Crowley's work as being mired in paralyzing nostalgia. I find his books pretty dark, and somewhat emotionally reticent; if anything there appears to be a deliberate refusal of a hope for a Golden Age, *any* Golden Age. The end of Little, Big seems more like a continuation of an ongoing fairy quadrille, with everyone moving on (and so not paralyzed), except for Smokey, who like most human bridegrooms served his purpose for the fairies and was then discarded. Which doesn't seem a particularly warm & fuzzy ending for a fairy story.

I guess if I were making a retort to Crowley's world view, it would be that Things Aren't Quite As Bad As They Seem, Maybe. Which seems kind of perverse, coming from the person who wrote Glimmering, but then I thought that had kind of a happy ending, too (for the microbes).

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liz hand
Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2003 - 05:58 pm:   

Henry -- I'd be interested in what you (and anyone else) thought of "The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines."
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Henry
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2003 - 08:19 am:   

Hi Liz

Perhaps I should start by saying that I love Crowley - he, Wolfe and Harrison are the three f/sf authors that have shaped me the most deeply - all very different writers of course. My early post was a bit hasty - I think that elegaic is the word that I was looking for rather than nostalgic. But elegaic with an underlying residue of bitterness. I'd qualify slightly your argument that he has a "deliberate refusal of a hope for a Golden Age, *any* Golden Age" - imho the theme that he returns to again and again is that there was once a time when a Golden Age was possible (or at least when we thought that a Golden Age was possible), but it has slipped away; it's irrecoverable. This comes to the fore in "Engine Summer" where Rush-Who-Speaks' story, and the possibilities that open out from it, are brutally undercut when we realize what Rush-Who-Speaks now "is." The end of Little Big seems to me like a more gentle, but equally profound - cutting away - of the possibilities of fairyland from everyday life. The last couple of sentences "Even the weather isn't as we remember it clearly once being ...or shade as deep and full of promise as we can remember they can be, as once upon a time they were" locate the theme of the story - and the "Little-Bigness" - the sense of connection between inner and outer world, in a sense of possibilities that we've lost a long time ago. Crowley's writing reminds me of Choe Ashton in Harrison's story - there's something in the world that loves us, but only once, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to deal with this, and failing.

Which leads on (along a slightly rambling path) to "The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Heroines" - I think it's the best thing he's written since "Little, Big" - and the best short piece that he's ever written. It's beautiful, but savage - a distillation of loss, of regret, of bitterness, of the strategies we use to deal with how we are not what we were. I suspect that this is why I reacted to "The Least Trumps" as I did - because you build on some of Crowley's tropes, but towards a very different ending. This comes out very clearly when the two stories are in the same volume. Ivy - like the protagonists in TGOSH - has been trapped for a very long time in a life of marginality and compromise - but then escapes, as none of Crowley's characters ever really do.

I loved DC too - I'm based in Toronto, but my wife is still in the District, so I go back and forth pretty regularly.
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liz hand
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2003 - 09:50 am:   

Well, I wrote Least Trumps somewhat under the spell of TGOSH, which I'd heard Crowley read from, and which I had read in manuscript. Ivy and the island were outtakes from Mortal Love, which I'd just finished days before, and Ivy's mother was inspired by Margaret Wise Brown (GOODNIGHT, MOON, THE RUNAWAY BUNNY, etc.), whose magical Only House I visited once on Vinal Haven -- it's in the family of an old college friend of mine.

Crowley and Harrison are the sff writers who have shaped me as well, along with Angela Carter. I also felt that same resonance between Choe and some of JC's characters (SIGNS OF LIFE is one my favorite books: I've read it four or five times and it still amazes me). I know JC & MJH are miles apart in some ways, but to me they sometimes feel like two sides of the same coin. And I suppose I just wanted to stand the coin up on its side, which is sort of what I tried to do with TLT.

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liz hand
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2003 - 09:52 am:   

And yes, TGOSH is one of the best things I've ever read, from Crowley or anyone else. A beautiful, sad, wrenching story.
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liz hand
Posted on Thursday, February 27, 2003 - 09:56 am:   

"Snow" is the other one that I love; the first thing of Crowley's I ever read, when I was in my late twenties and took my first writing workshop -- it was our first (and I think only) homework assignment.
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Henry
Posted on Friday, February 28, 2003 - 12:24 pm:   

Carter is wonderful too - "Nights at the Circus" is one of those books that you buy umpteen extra copies of to press on friends. Kelly Link seems to have some of Carter's sense of fun - some of her short stories are just wonderful. I like the image of trying to stand the coin up on its side - Crowley and Harrison share some themes but there are extraordinary tensions between their views of the world. I think that what Crowley sees as the natural order of things, Mike tries to interrogate - there's something more restless and ferocious about Mike's work. Have you seen his discussion forum - at the TTApress.com site?
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liz hand
Posted on Sunday, March 02, 2003 - 06:14 am:   

Yes, I do read Mike's BB, have off and on for the last six months or so and more lately, with his Conjunctions thread. Very interesting. MJH's work is indeed restless and ferocious; Crowley's more lyrical but often just as savage, I think. TGOSH is devastating and quite hard-headed in its lack of sentiment -- I think Crowley's work is sometimes mistakenly viewed as sentimental, when in fact the very lyricism of the writing lulls readers into a false sense of security. Whereas MJH's style -- euqally beautiful but sleeker -- has an almost predatory quality and effect. One could see them as Stealth and Cunning in a passion play.

I will pull out an ancient, oh-so-last-century analogy here and say that you could see MJH as the Rolling Stones (with Brian Jones) and Crowley as the Beatles. Or the Replacements and Wilco. Or George Jones and Willie Nelson.

Either one could be Hank Williams in a different mood.

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liz hand
Posted on Sunday, March 02, 2003 - 06:16 am:   

And belated greetings to you, too, Jack! How goes it down there on the bottom of the world? I was thinking of you yesterday -- went to see RABBIT PROOF FENCE, which put me in mind of how when I was a kid my only dream was to someday live in Australia. I suupose now I could streamline that a bit and hope I might someday visit!

You have a new book out, no? or forthcoming?
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Lucius Shepard
Posted on Sunday, March 02, 2003 - 07:32 am:   

Hi,, Liz...

Some of those who don't particularly care for Crowley, a number among which I include myself, find him not so much sentimental as overly precious. Admittedly, that is in itself a form of sentimentality, but not the garden variety. Frankly, while attempting to read Little, Big, I kept thinking of Percy Dovetonsils, the poet character whom Ernie Kovacs used to play from time to time, wearing a satin smoking jacket, holding a champagne cocktail with an orchid in it. There was an effete quality to the book I found off-putting. I liked, as mentioned in correspondence, Engine Summer, and I liked, albeit somewhat less than you, the story in Conjunctions. But I think there's a disconnect between my view of human nature and Crowley's. I just don't believe his characters--they seem overly intellectualized, not in their process, but in their writerly definition. The POV character in The Least Trumps, which--I'm told--is a story that contrives an homage or something to Crowley, seems a much more realized character than any of Crowley's. Realized in the sense of juicy, bloody, inhabiting a real volume of space. I think viewing that story in terms of Crowley unnecessarily diminishes it.

Hell, I don't know. Maybe the guy's the greatest thing since Gutenberg, huh? I never really cared for Picasso, either. Much prefer Redon, Klee, et al.

Lucius
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liz hand
Posted on Sunday, March 02, 2003 - 09:11 am:   

Hmmm. This is all very interesting, must go brood about it for a bit. There is a (probably wholly spurious) gender divide here -- I should see if I can bring in Alice Turner ...

Lucius, I will admit this here for the first time: I have never been that crazy about Picasso either. And I too love Redon.
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Ellen
Posted on Sunday, March 02, 2003 - 09:25 am:   

I like Picasso's rose and blue periods best. I remember seeing the show that was an overview of all his work from when he was a child till he died and he was a much better "technical craftsman" than I'd ever expected. He could DO anything he wanted. He chose to move into cubism, etc. I like Redon a lot too.

I loved Little, Big but haven't read Crowley's other novels, I'm afraid. Never had the time. I very much enjoy most of his short stories--published "Snow" in OMNI.

I think I understand what Lucius is saying about TGOSH --its characters are over-intellectualized --but I think in that particular story that's the point.
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Lucius Shepard
Posted on Sunday, March 02, 2003 - 10:17 am:   

Liz -- bringing in Alice to talk about Crowley is like bringing in Tucker Carlson to talk about George Bush. :-) Truthfully, I'm only qualified to talk about what I've read--if that--and that includes the first portions of most of his novels, a handful of stories. I just can't get into him. I don't think it's a gender disconnect totally, though I'd suppose more women than men like C's stuff.

Lucius
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liz hand
Posted on Sunday, March 02, 2003 - 11:22 am:   

Well, Alice knows more about it than I do -- I get lost in all the obscure stuff.

I was really just joking about the gender thing. I suppose, like everything else, it all comes down to a matter of taste. I really love Crowley's contemporary people -- this may be because they remind me of all those neo-pagan types I used to know here in Maine -- but I do find the historical types, a la John Dee, less compelling. Ditto the historical narratives.

JC does have intellectualized characters; but then doesn't someone like Robert Stone, as well? I don't have the philosophical chops to create that kind of person; I'd rather spend the energy on writing sex scenes. I've never been a huge fan of other philosophical romances, i.e., Robertson Davies' works, because his characters always seemed like those little paper figures in toy theaters. Though I think that MJH could be termed a writer of philosophical romance (he would probably hit me on the head if he heard me say that), and maybe you, too, Lucius. (I'm ducking.)

As regards Crowley, there may also be the Dreaded Catholic Card in play, since I was raised Catholic (Irish Catholic father, Southern Protestant mother who converted after her fifth child) and even went to Catholic University, where I had to take four semesters of philosophy and four of comparative religion, most of it devoted to ancient and medieval philosophy and heresies, much of it experienced under the influence, and most of which I loathed; but also a geat deal of Byzantine and medieval history, which I loved; and of course I was majoring in playwriting and breathing Shakespeare. So that aspect of my education, such as it was, kinda primed me for reading someone like Crowley.

As for Ivy and TLT, and my other stuff too I guess -- I'm really not good at making things up. So it's not so much that I inhabit these characters, as that I really sort of channel them from experience. Which sometimes feels like a cheat, though I know that's just me being paranoid, and I do try to be rigorous in how I present them on the page. In a way it's like the difference between Method and Classical acting, both of which I studied (I was equally horrible at both) -- I always wanted to find the perfect balance between the two. Crowley strikes me as a Classical kinda guy, but not Percy Dovetonsils (though that cracked me up. Ernie Kovacs! the Sandy Becker of his generations!)
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Lucius Shepard
Posted on Sunday, March 02, 2003 - 11:55 am:   

There's a difference between intellectualized characters and characters with the intellectual capacity for self-examination, which would be how I'd characterize Stone's characters and even some of my own. To an extent, C's characters sometimes strike me as being motivated by philosophcal verities. They're often--to my mind--less people than poorly disguised ideas about people, or ideas posing as people. Or conventions of a philosophically directed plot. He's a very clever writer, but cleverness doesn't do it for me -- in fact, I find it kind of loathesome in some incarnations. But hey, who cares. Long may he wave...

Take care,

Lucius
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Jeff Topham
Posted on Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 05:29 am:   

Hi Liz,

I'm coming late to the party, but I found this fascinating:

"you could see MJH as the Rolling Stones (with Brian Jones) and Crowley as the Beatles. Or the Replacements and Wilco. Or George Jones and Willie Nelson."

What a wonderful image! although I'm not sure I see the Replacements working for either of these writers--both are too polished. But I think George Jones works perfectly for JC--aching beauty layered over a profound melancholy.

BTW, I haven't read Aestival Tide in some time, although I remember the novel quite fondly. Strangely, I recall (among other things), your use of Roky Erikson lyrics, an artist I'd just discovered. This, I thought, was about the coolest thing ever. I still think "Starry Eyes" and "You Don't Love Me Yet" are among the finest songs of their time.

Regards,

JT
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liz hand
Posted on Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 09:45 am:   

Okay, *I'll* be the Replacements!

I love Roky Erickson. I've always found his work beautiful and even quite profound -- that one line "If you have ghosts, then you have everything" sums up a lot of how I feel personally about the act of writing.

A weird sidebar as regards Roky: when I was reseaching Mortal Love, I did a lot of study on the British fairy painter Richard Dadd. There is a single extant photo of Dadd, taken in Bethlam Asylum (I think, and not Broadmoor; I could be wrong and should check) while he is at work on "Contradiction." In the photo, Dadd is a dead ringer for Roky Erickson circa late 1990s. It's really astonishing -- not just the general unkemptness of their appearance (scraggy beards, hair etc.) but also the look of their gaze, at once distant and knowing and terribly, terrifyingly lost.

I think that RE's own version of "I Have Always Been Here Before" is one of the eeriest songs I have ever heard. Genuinely otherworldly.
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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 10:42 am:   

Liz.. I came kind of late to this thread, so I can only shake my head in amazement. I too love Rocky Erickson, and I too suffer from parasomnia. Is there a connection here? I don't think so, but you never know.

Some of my more memorable night time rambles include punching my fist through a window (Yes there was glass in it... It took three tries, but I managed to punch through the double pane -- as soon as the glass broke, I woke up). I also ran out of my front door naked, fleeing the giant florescent spiders that had appeared in my bedroom. And I have only chocked my wife twice. :-(

Luckily for me, my wife has trained me to respond to her voice when i am asleep... I jumped out of bed last week, and was going to flee the room, but she called out my name in a stern voice, and I went right back to bed. The only downside to this is when I get up at night (when I am actually awake) to go to the bathroom, she immediately thinks I'm sleeping, and is telling me to lie down, etc.

My sleep disorder seems to be linked to stress. So of course, I become an independent publisher, which is a life completely devoid of stress.

My mother suffered from a bout of incidents like this when she worked in the ICU. (she tried to give my father CPR in her sleep), but after leaving the ICU, they pretty much went away. I guess there might be a genetic component... something that at least pre-disposes you to it.

oh... And there was certain incident at the most recent World Fantasy Convention, involving one of Night Shade's authors. I don't think he will be sharing a room with me in the future.
:-(

-JL
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Jeff Topham
Posted on Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 11:11 am:   

Liz & Jeremy,

There was a record released a few years ago called (I think) Never Say Goodbye, which consisted of songs Erikson wrote and recorded between 1970 and 1990 or so, some of them while he was institutionalized.

I was pretty skeptical of this for a while, since it smacked of an attempt to cash in on Erikson's rather lurid reputation, but after a while I gave in. The songs are actually quite good--some of them great. They sound like shit, however, since they're mostly home demos recorded on a mono tape deck, but the quality of the material shines through. In addition, I think proceeds from the album go to benefit Roky's trust fund.
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liz hand
Posted on Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 12:19 pm:   

Jeff & Jeremy -- I have a fairly recent Roky CD (last few years), that sounds like it might be the same one -- it has several versions of "Starry Eyes" on it, and a lot of Buddy Holly-style rave-ups. And yes, the sound quality is poor but the songs themselves are good.

I've always felt bad because I spent several years diligently trying to track down RE or whomever represented him, so that I could pay for rights to the songs of his that I quoted. After three or four years I finally received a very sweet letter from his mother, with an address in Austin (where I knew he lived). I was in between novels at the time, and then I moved, and now I can't find the letter. I figure I'll use the internet one of these days to track her down and send her a check.

It is quite astonishing (and chastening) to realize how people as psychically damaged as RE or R. Dadd still manage to produce compelling artistic work.

My own parasomnia probably has some stress-related component related to ancient traumas, but I have no idea what triggers it now. I've never attacked anyone (that I know of) in my sleep; I mostly just say and do embarrassing things. The scariest images are figures made of absolute darkness; those and the scorpions that crawl across my pillow -- probably related to Jeremy's spiders.
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lucius
Posted on Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 12:27 pm:   

Hey Liz,

Don't know if you're aware of this, but the only tribute album ever worth a sh*t is the Roky Ericson tribute, When The Pyramid Meets The Eye, featuring a lot of late 80s, early 90s bands like Thin White Rope, Sister Double Happiness, Bongwater. I'm sure it's OP now, but if you want, next time I;m around a CD burner, I'll toast you a copy.

Lucius
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Jeff Topham
Posted on Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 01:26 pm:   

Liz: I've always been leery of the cult of damaged figures like Erikson and Syd Barrett, who are sometimes revered more for their erratic behavior than for their music. I agree with you on Erikson, however--it's wonderful how such a troubled life could yield music of such power and clarity.

Lucius: Another tribute well worth checking out is the Neil Young tribute album, The Bridge (also a fundraiser), which does one of the best jobs of matching artist to material that I've ever seen. Sonic Youth, Flaming Lips, Psychic TV, Pixies, Nick Cave. Came out in the mid-late 80s, and I think it's now OP.
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lucius
Posted on Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 01:37 pm:   

Jeff...

Got it. Yeah, it's pretty good. One of two tribute albums, then, worth a sh*t. :-)

Lucius
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liz hand
Posted on Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 02:27 pm:   

Hey, Lucius! Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye has been on constant heavy rotation for me since it came out. Awesome CD. Beautiful T. Bone Burnett cover of "Nothing in Return," one of my all-time favorites.

I don't know the N. Young tribute, but I'll check it out. There's some okay stuff on Leoard Cohen's tribulte, especially Nick Cave's version of "Tower of Song."

I've had a weird week, music-wise. After years of very occasionally playing and never, ever liking WHAT'S THE STORY, MORNING GLORY, it suddenly clicked for me on Monday, and I've been playing it obsessively in the car since then. Then this afternoon I bought a Donna Summer album (on vinyl, no less) because I suddenly needed to hear "I Feel Love." The birth of techno! that or the death of what remains of my brain cells.
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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 06:31 pm:   

Liz,
I feel I should clarify... When I chocked my wife, it was because I was protecting her from the <dark> at the foot of the bed. :-) Really.

She was lying in my crook of my arm, and I "saw" the thing at the foot of the bed, so I pulled her closer to me. Alas my arm was around her neck when I did this. She began making chocking sounds, which I interpreted as her being afraid of the dark thing at the end of the bed. I assured her I would protect her, and pulled her closer. She elbowed me hard in the ribs, and I woke up, contrite as all hell.

The creepy crawly stuff always seems to work its way into these types of dreams a lot... spiders bugs etc. And it seems that, when confronted with these night terrors, I usually choose flight over fight. When I punched through the window, I was desperately trying to escape from something... It was a shame that leaving through the door never occurred to me.

At world fantasy, I was trying to PROTECT my author from the dark creepy demon looking thing that was hovering over him. Really.


I am going to have to look for that Rocky Erickson CD... Never Say Goodbye. I only have the "best of" Compiliation on CD, with several stand-alone tracks scattered around various soundtracks and compilation albums. Its funny, but the first place I ever heard Rocky Erickson was on the soundtrack to "The Return of the Living Dead", which I caught in the theaters way back when. I ran out and bought the soundtrack on the basis of Rocky’s song "Burn the Flame". Amazingly, the soundtrack turned out to be a very solid punk rock compilation.
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liz hand
Posted on Friday, March 14, 2003 - 04:28 am:   

I don't know the Romero movie or soundtrack. Sounds interestng.

These dark figures seem to be common in parasomnia events. It's strange, since when I dream, I see fully realized peple, even if I don't recognize them from waking life. Whereas the dark forms appear terrifyingly supernatural. I wonder what part of the brain produces them?

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Robert Hoge
Posted on Monday, March 24, 2003 - 09:53 pm:   

I notice you mentioned Black Light before, Liz...

I only read it earlier this year and it was the first exposure I'd had to your work, other than possibly a short story or two around the place. I enjoyed it overall - moody and surreal but I was really impressed with your use of first person. I found that sort of minimalist (unintrusive) pproach really interesting and very easy to read. Is that your 'natural' first person or did you cultivate that sort of style on purpose for this particular story?

Cheers,
Robert
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Henry
Posted on Tuesday, March 25, 2003 - 10:01 pm:   

Re: the Leonard Cohen tribute, I heard a radio interview with Nick Cave about a year after it had come out, where he talked about how pissed off he was that everyone else on the CD had played it straight, rather than whooping it up a la "Tower of Song." Although the Fatima Mansions' cover of "A Singer Must Die" has a mordant, playful edge to it too ...

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