August 3rd, 2008

chi 5

Thirteen Years

A wonderful cool day here in Providence today. Only 77F out there as I type this.

Most of yesterday was spent re-reading Arthur Machen, in preparation for writing the introduction for Joshi that I should begin today, but will likely begin tomorrow, after more reading. I'd forgotten how much I adore Machen's "The Great God Pan." It's certainly not his best, and bears all the marks —— good and bad —— of the first important work of a very young author —— he was only 32 when it was first published in 1894, and in those days before the instant gratification of POD, 32 was young for an author. Truthfully, it still is. Anyway, I'd forgotten what a great influence the novella had on Peter Straub's brilliant Ghost Story (1979), which is essentially a 20th-Century retelling of "The Great God Pan" moved to upstate New York and writ large (and minus Machen's rather absurd proto-sf elements). Exchange Helen Vaughn/Mrs. Herbert/Mrs. Beaumont for Alma Mobley/Eva Galli/Angie Maul/Anna Mostyn, and maybe exchange Pan for the Manitou. For that matter, I'd not realized the degree to which Machen's story had so influenced a couple of my own short stories, including "Houses Under the Sea" (2004) and "Pickman's Other Model" (2008). Influences fascinate me, and as I almost never claim any attempt at originality, I have no qualms about pointing out those places where I have borrowed, intentionally or unconsciously, from another.

In Machen's introduction to the 1916 reprint of the story, he writes:

Stevenson [Robert Louis], I think, knew of the emotions which I am trying to express. To his mind the matter presented itself thus: there are certain scenes, certain hills and valleys and groves of pines which demand that a story shall be written about them. I would refine: I would say that the emotions aroused by these external things reverberating in the heart are indeed the story. But, our craft being that of letters, we must express what we feel through the medium of words. And once words are granted, we fall into the region of the logical understanding, we are forced to devise incidents and circumstances and plots, to "make up a story"; we translate a hill into a tale, conceive lovers to explain a brook, turn the perfect into the imperfect. The musician must be happier in his art, if he be not the sorry slave to those follies which mimic the lowing of cattle by some big brazen horn. The true musician exercises a perfect art; there is no descent into the logic of plots for him.

Which rather nicely sums up my thoughts on the artifice and contrivance of plot, the writer's sadly necessary evil, and I love that phrase, "...descent into the logic of plots...."

And today, it has been thirteen years since Elizabeth's suicide.

My thanks to everyone who commented yesterday, as the comments pretty much rendered moot any need for a poll. The journal will stay as is. Also, my great thanks to the few who have taken a moment to comment on Sirenia Digest #32, particularly on "Derma Sutra (1891)." It was one of those stories I was especially reluctant to show the world, and I have been heartened by the responses I've seen so far. More comments are welcome, of course.

Please have a look at the eBay auctions. And if you can, pre-order a copy of the forthcoming mass-market paperback of Daughter of Hounds. Also, be advised that subpress is accepting pre-orders for A is for Alien.

As for the rest of yesterday, not much to it. A quick trip through a thunderstorm to Borders. This dratted constant pain in my dratted face. Spooky made a really fine stew, mostly with stuff from our CSA bag —— green bell pepper, elephant kale, zucchini, tomatoes (fresh and canned), white mushrooms, patty-pan squash, white onion, garlic, chicken, and I won't even try to list the spices, because I'd only forget most of it. Later, we had a bit of Second Life rp in the Tower of Serpents in the "Kingdom of Sand" sim. Later still, we watched the last episode of Angel —— "Not Fade Away" —— as I wanted to see it before reading After the Fall.