Posts tagged S R Jones

‘When The Stars Are Right’ TOC Announced


Our author S R Jones has finalized the Table of Contents for his upcoming non-fiction work, When The Stars Are Right: Towards An Authentic R’lyehian Spirituality, and so this morning we present it to you, our discerning and classy Migraineers, in all its perplexing and evocative tease. With a Foreword by Jordan Stratford and interior illos by Michael Lee Macdonald, this book (which we’re producing in our usual e-formats AND the hoary old medium of *gasp* PRINT!) will offer to the reader an interpretation of Lovecraft’s Mythos not yet seen. Serious gnostic text? Crank fundamentalist screed? Psychedelic auto-ethnography? YOU DECIDE. Whatever it is, we hope and plan to have it ready by Christmas time, so you can get your festival on right!

Please pepper us with questions and/or concerns in the comments, and if you’d like to tweet about When The Stars Are Right we encourage you to use the hashtag #keepinitrlyeh  And, as long as you’re on Twitter, follow @Cthulhusattva, where Jones is posting excerpts from the work as it is completed. Alright! Enough with the promotional hoo-ha! Here’s the TOC…

Towards An Authentic R’lyehian Spirituality

Foreword (by Jordan Stratford)

Sunken Bells in the Deep: An Introduction

H P Lovecraft: An Acknowledgement, A Dismissal

The Deadly Light: Examining the Great Old Ones

The Prolonged of Life: Meditations on Yog-Sothoth
Telling the Audient Void: the Voice of Nyarlathotep
The Conqueror Womb: Parsing Shub-Niggurath
A Certain Sort of Men: Dagon & the Deep One Aesthetic
On Cthulhu

The Cthulhusattva Vow

A Tour of R’lyeh

The Black Gnosis

Beating Nietzsche’s Horse: Notes on the Black Gnosis and Mental Illness

Beyond the Strange Angles

Chilling in the Ghetto with the Deep Down Homies
My Own Private Necronomicon
The Wisdom in the Clay

The Unbearable Strangeness of Being: Sex and the R’lyehian

Through Sunset’s Gate: Death and the R’lyehian

Afterword: Yes, Meridian, There Is A Great Cthulhu

Funny Little Games: Ross Lockhart’s “Tales of Jack the Ripper” (review)


Tales of Jack the Ripper, edited by Ross LockhartI know what everyone knows about Jack the Ripper: Whitechapel serial murderer of the late 19th Century. Five victims, all prostitutes. Taunting missives to the authorities. Some odd, ritualistic elements to the crime scenes. Never caught, and so the bogeyman figure of Jack is shadowed in conspiracy and horror to this day. And that? That’s about it, as far as my knowledge of the Ripper goes. Not what you’d call “in-depth”. I’ve (partially) seen From Hell, but it was around the time I was going off Alan Moore’s work and I was nursing a compound hangover at the time; it may have been switched out for Solaris, which is more friendly to morning-after-regrets.

So I was a little worried when I received an ARC of editor Ross Lockhart’s latest anthology, Tales of Jack the Ripper. Did I know enough about Jack to be able to really enjoy the book? Would I have to be a Ripperologist to dig the subtleties, savour the grim flavour of the thing? I’m glad to report that I shouldn’t have been worried at all, and that any reader coming anew (or relatively so) to the world of Jack the Ripper through this collection is doing themselves a huge favour. There are broad, masterful strokes here but with just enough tasty minutia to encourage further reading.

Down for bloody details and speculation on Jack’s identity? Ennis Drake’s The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker, Pete Rawlik’s Villains By Necessity and Stanley C. Sargent’s When The Means Just Defy The Ends are all serviceable tales well told, if a little dry.

The devil for me, at least as far as Jack is concerned, isn’t in the details: he’s in the place where the Ripper legend grows beyond the details. In the shadows. And there were a few standout authors here that really make the collection live, with stories that pulled inspiration from those shadows, the true bogeyman aspects of Jack…

It’s been years since I read any Ramsey Campbell and I was glad to find that time has not diminished his skills. Jack’s Little Friend is a prime example of Campbell’s claustrophobic, harrowing style of cerebral horror, and the final scene of this tale of possession and obsession is truly stomach-turning. It’s subtle, his use of the singular horrific image, but devastating in its effect, as is the way Campbell places the reader behind the eyes of his victim. Look-over-your-shoulder amazing.

The Truffle Pig by T.E. Grau lets a little Lovecraft into the book, and for that I was surprised and grateful. This story is great fun, riffing on the ritualized aspects of the murders, but taking things much further than the standard “Freemasons did it” conspiracy theory, into the realms of the cosmic and deep into the past.

I also enjoyed Abandon All Flesh by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Jack here is a display in a wax museum, mooned over by a young girl. It’s basically a coming-of-age story but Moreno-Garcia also weaves in Central American myth systems (with their focus on bloodletting and sacred murder) to create a unique perspective on the Ripper legend and a meditation on our fascination with him and his descendants. It’s “Death and the Maiden”, Mexico-style.

I wasn’t sure, even upon reading it twice, how exactly Laird Barron’s Termination Dust related to the Ripper, but frankly, I didn’t care, because (not unlike Campbell’s story) this one is pure Barron: hard-scrabble, terse, monstrous, funny… tough people performing bad works for worse reasons on the frontiers of the continent and the human soul. Which I guess is Ripper territory after all. I wish I could write like Barron; everything he puts out is a class for me, and I’ll be coming back to Termination Dust again and again.

E. Catherine Tobler’s Once November is the ghost story in the bunch and it is a beautiful, heartbreaking look into the lost souls of Jack’s victims. The writing here is superb, and there are interesting spectral mechanics and the kind of poignancy that makes a good ghost story work. Sorrowful and soft, Once November is a great way to close out the collection.

The only entries which fell a little flat for me were from the two Joe’s: Joe R. Lansdale and Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. The set-up for Lansdale’s God of the Razor comes off as a bit of standard E.C. Comics grue and Pulver’s Juliette’s New Toy is… I want to say experimental (ie. daring, innovative) but this prose-poem is essentially a hallucinogenic word-salad with more cleverness than craft in evidence. By the end of this short piece, there’s some hint about a (possibly female) Ripper in space? Dunno. It’s a weird, off-note.

All the stories are book-ended by two poems by the talented Ann K. Shwader, Whitechapel Autumn, 1888 and Silver Kisses.

Editor Ross Lockhart (Book of Cthulhu and Book of Cthulhu 2, Chick Bassist) has done a stand-out job with Tales of Jack the Ripper. This one’s going out to certain names on my Christmas list, that’s for sure. You know the ones. With their “funny little games”. Recommended.

Available for purchase soon from better independent booksellers everywhere and now available through the following online booksellers: trade paperbacks and Kindle editions through, TP and Nook editions through B&N, Powell’s Books, IndieBound, Book Depository, and Kobo ebooks.

The Voyeur at the Threshold: Shimizu Takashi’s “MAREBITO”


(this review appeared originally on the Lovecraft eZine, May 23, 2013)

Marebito (2004)

Directed by: Shimizu Takashi
Starring: Shinya Tsukamoto, Tomomi Miyashita

J-horror films rarely tread beyond their traditional revengeful ghost-children territory (or at least, the films that see release beyond Japan don’t) so it’s refreshing to come across Marebito, (loosely translates to The Stranger From Afar, apparently) which is undeniably weird, disturbingly perverse, and, though its treatment of the themes is heavy-handed and clumsy at times, definitely a Lovecraftian film.

This is a film set against a backdrop of holes, abysses, caverns: all the hollow places in the earth and in the human mind. Appropriately enough, it was filmed in the 8-day hole between director Shimizu Takashi’s two Juon (aka The Grudge) films. It’s a film about emptiness and the madness that results from contemplation of that emptiness: the things we do to distance ourselves from it or encounter it more deeply. Marebito’s protagonist Masuoka (a freelance  professional cameraman), does both, often at the same time, using his always-to-hand video equipment as combination filter and microscope. He is a fully urbanized human, sheltered and fed (and feeding upon others) through the media that cocoons him.

As a story, it’s also full of holes: hard-to-parse gaps in the narrative that make it difficult to follow, character motivations that seem to come out of nowhere and are barely resolved before disappearing. Dropped hints. Suggestions of tunnels that could be travelled down but fade from the film’s memory in only minutes. This could be deliberate on Takashi’s part, an attempt to induce a paranoid dream-state in the audience, or it could be the result of the speed of filming. Chances are also good that this narrative disorientation is entirely a cultural thing: I admit I haven’t watched a lot of J-horror (outside of The Ring) so I am perhaps unfamiliar with some of the subtleties.

Our pill-popping and voyeuristic cameraman becomes obsessed with the look of horror that he captured in the face of a man who killed himself (in what we’re to understand is a sudden and gruesome fashion) in a subway tunnel. Why Masuoka was filming a suicide we’re left to guess, but it’s clear he’s not entirely well, mentally. In any case, his obsession with learning the fearful thing that drove the dead man to suicide leads Masuoka deep below Tokyo, down endless Escher-staircases, to a place he begins to call the netherworld. Along the way he encounters the ghost of the suicide and they engage in a philosophical discussion on such occult subjects as the Hollow Earth and crank favourite Richard Shaver’s DEROs (or Detrimental Robots). Masuoka shows the ghost the video of its own death, causing it to vanish.

Further descent brings him to a place he calls “Mountains of Madness” (using some clever but very low-budget matte photography effects, the actor appears to wander across unreal landscapes) where he encounters a thoroughly creepy, pale girl, chained by her ankles to the wall of a small grotto or oubliette. As singular, horrific images go, this is pretty unsettling stuff, which I assume is why it’s used in many of the promotional materials. Mute, catatonic, and more beast than human, Masuoka nevertheless decides to free the girl and return with her to the surface world, where he deposits her in his closet-apartment, a space jammed to the ceiling with surveillance and video equipment. The girl (who he calls F) folds herself into the smallest space she can find (under a futon) and falls asleep. Through the rest of the film, Masuoka monitors her via various linked cameras and his cell phone. Naturally, odd things begin to happen, both in the collected footage and in the increasingly fractured perception of Masuoka.

F begins to deteriorate, and her captor receives calls on his phone from artificial voices who advise that she is dying, that she should not have been brought to the surface. By accident, Masuoka learns that F can only tolerate blood as nourishment, and though animal blood will do, she really enjoys the human variety. If this listless, autistic creature is a vampire, then she is one of the weirdest ever in film. Masuoka, no less a monster, and already far removed from the normal human social spheres by his work and voyeuristic fetish, has little trouble taking the next logical steps in keeping his bizarre pet healthy.

One thing leads to another (even as the straight-ahead narrative gives way to greater and greater porosity) and by the end Masuoka becomes a classic Lovecraftian protagonist, consumed by his obsession and destroyed by the very knowledge he sought.

Visually, Marebito is ugly and flat looking, a fault due mostly to the cameras used. Flat, but also real as a result, and the home-made, voyeuristic feel of the film gives it a very disturbing vibe. I could imagine coming across this footage and being instantly alarmed by some of the contents.

Shinya Tsukamoto (as Masuoka) is sometimes clumsy in his emoting (there is a scene where F drinks blood from a cut on his finger and he is either trying hard not to laugh or is actually aroused; who can tell?) but overall he manages to depict a depressed, fetish-burdened man descending into horror and insanity fairly well. However, the over-use of internal monologue narration by Masuoka, although effective in the first quarter of the film, tends to become droning, soporific, and fails to capture the emotional tension as his madness descends upon him. Again, this might be a deliberate choice, but it was an off-note for me.

Tomomi Miyashita’s performance can only be described as intense. Her portrayal of the catatonic underworld vampire F has the severity and simplicity of Noh theatre: her postures and expressions, her bestial vocalizations, everything about her is thoroughly unpleasant and creepy. Whenever she was on-screen, a line from Lovecraft’s The Festival kept going through my mind…

Great holes are dug where earth’s pores ought to suffice,
and things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl

And that was Marebito for me: an uneven, extremely porous and shifty narrative film experience that was at the same time (and perhaps for the same reasons) effectively dreamy and nightmarish. I’m not sure it would stand a second viewing (due to its cheapness and hole-y plot) but as a late-night venture into a part of horror culture I’m not over-exposed to, it was pretty good.

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