AFKROGE på Christianshavns Bogfestival 2018

Der sker meget på forlaget for tiden. Her løftes lidt af sløret for den næste udgivelse, som er lige om hjørnet…

Bogen kan meget snart forudbestilles på forlagets hjemmeside.

Som man siger på nydansk:

Stay tuned 🙂

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THIS YEAR: Publication of A LOOK BEHIND THE DERLETH MYTHOS: ORIGINS OF THE CTHULHU MYTHOS

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Cover design: Henrik Sandbeck Harksen (not final)

This is what I am working on right now… A bumper of a hardcover book (350+ pages!) that is bound to change how scholars look at August Derleth, founder of Arkham House and a bookman unlike any other. Author and scholar John D. Haefele tackles the critiques thrown Derleth’s way since his death in 1971, and with data culled from thorough fieldwork he sets the record straight.

Whether you’re interested in the Lovecraft-Derleth debate (Lovecraftian vs. Cthulhu Mythos), Derleth himself (he was indeed an interesting, diverse person) or the history and direction of the weird tale and publishing in the 20th Century — this is the book to get!

With a preface written by none other than one of today’s finest Cthulhu Mythos writers, W. H. Pugmire.

Talking Urban Cthulhu: Writing Nightmares — Interview 1

URBAN_front_cover1

(Artwork by Paul Carrick.)

Welcome to the first interview with one of the authors that contributed to the critically acclaimed Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities. About once a week from now on you will be able to look into the twisted minds of these literary anomalies (and that is a badge of honor, in case you were wondering). The focal point is, naturally, Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities but, not surprisingly, the interviews more often than not veer into other areas related to writing, reading and the weird tales field in general.

 

Q = question asked by yours truly, Henrik Sandbeck Harksen; A = answer by Thomas Strømsholt:

 

Q: You have a story in Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities (hplmythos.com Vol. 2), “Architect Eyes.” Without giving away spoilers what can the reader expect of this tale?

A: A tale of nightmares, weird architecture, and the splendour of nothing as seen through the eyes of an acolyte of a blind idiot god.

Q: What inspired this particular story?

A: When I saw the call for submissions for Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities, I was reading about architecture – the weird Carceri of Piranesi, the sombre visions of Boulée, the demented designs and theories associated with Deconstructivism – and the title immediately gave me the idea for the story. Another source of inspiration was David Bowie’s eminent song, “Thru’ These Architects Eyes,” from which the title of my story is derived.

Q: Speaking of inspiration: This story is, obviously, Lovecraftian and/or Cthulhu Mythos inspired, or it would not be included in this collection. What is it about the writings of H. P. Lovecraft you like and that inspires you? And do you find Lovecraftian stories and more overtly Cthulhu Mythos stories equally interesting and inspiring?

A: At the most basic level, I am attracted to that thrilling suggestion of unknown dimensions which form a major theme of H. P. Lovecraft’s fiction. A concurrent and equally fascinating theme is that of reason versus unreason. As the latter often shatters the rational or Hegelian world-view of the protagonist, the stories contain potentially subversive elements which – as far as I know – is wholly unintended by the author. Lovecraft’s best stories ring true and honest. His delirious and yet precise prose convincingly conveys such feelings as awe, estrangement and horror, and his close attention to atmosphere, so important to the weird tale, is superb. Some of his tales, though, are so devoid of atmosphere and subtlety that they’re simply dull and slightly silly. A hint of tentacles and a glimpse of pinkish things are fine, but detailed anatomies are not. I much prefer such tales as “The Music of Erich Zann,” “Cool Air” and “The Color Out of Space” to those of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Q: While it may not always be evident in my own writings or every story I accept for publication, the philosophical views held by Lovecraft – cosmic indifferentism and the existential core of life’s meaninglessness, for example – is of special interest to me. Much of this is clearly present in his letters. Does his thinking and letter writing have any influence on you?

A: The theme of “Architect Eyes” may be said to be the utter meaninglessness of existence, but in general I do not think that Lovecraft’s metaphysics – what little I know of it – has had much influence on my writing.  His essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature” has been a great influence. When I first came upon a volume of H. P. Lovecraft’s tales – a chance discovery at some seedy second-hand bookstore – I had read very little horror literature. Notable exceptions were Poe and W. W. Jacobs’ “The Monkey’s Paw,” but the rest had been so tedious and silly that I more or less avoided anything in that category. In many ways that cheap paperback volume proved to be a significant discovery. For it led me to the essay on supernatural horror which in turn led me to the classics of Gothic fiction and a whole range of authors that I had never heard about, Maupassant and Arthur Machen in particular.

Q: What differentiates your work from HPL’s?

A:  To the extent that one can generalize from the few and disparate tales I have penned, I suppose there are all sorts of differences, one being the approach to the unknown or the numinous experience. Is our oldest fear, as Lovecraft wrote, really the fear of the unknown? Certainly, the confrontation with the unknown can inspire fear, even terror, but also wonder and, perhaps, rapture …

Q: What else inspires you? What other authors – and anything else? (E.g. movies, comics, artwork?) Not to mention: Why are you inspired by this?

A: Some of my best ideas are born while I sleep. Some of my poorest ideas are inhabitants of dreams too, or they turn out to be so once I try to transmute them into something resembling literature. Art is inspiring in a whole other way. All great works of art can make the world vibrate with wonder, perhaps even open one’s perceptions to new aspects of that weird concept we call reality. Art is a highly addictive drug.

Q: Some people (writers, readers and critics alike) claim that a writer needs to find and have “a voice” of his/her own. Do you agree with this?

A: A distinctive voice or style in writing is undoubtedly important. It’s that which sets the individual author apart from the rest of the tribe. The frenetic ecstasy of Dostoyevsky, the precise prose of M. R. James, the cynicism of Shirley Jackson, the graceful style of Thomas Ligotti … one is never in doubt of the authorship. Theirs are honest voices, and honesty, as Dr Johnson said, is the one true standard of originality.

Q: Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities is an attempt to collect Lovecraftian and Cthulhu Mythos inspired stories that steer in a more urban direction than what we typically see in the sub-genre. How will you personally define “urban Cthulhu” and “urban horror”?

A: A rural setting has many advantages in that the further away we get from the city lights and noise – the greatest noise of all being consensus – the closer we get to the twilight zones of consciousness. But of course we can stumble upon – or seek out – such places in cities too. It seems to me that much urban horror or weird fiction show a predilection for the decay that we may find on the fringes of cities. Urban decay may be seen as both a metaphor for our contemporary culture but also as the natural choice of setting due to the liminal nature and uncanny atmosphere of such places thus resembling the horror or wonder that nature evokes.

Q: The 1970s and 1980s saw a boom in horror publications – Stephen King, Peter Straub and Dean R. Koontz being the most commercially prominent authors here – but then it all seemed to wane somewhat. How do you see the field, as a whole, today?

A:  That an author like King has enjoyed such great commercial success might be seen as indicative of a decline in literature and taste if not for the fact that there has always been published more rubbish than diamonds. If such contemporary authors as Mark Valentine, Quentin S. Crisp and Reggie Oliver are part of the “field,” it certainly looks as glorious as dawn. So far their fiction has – almost exclusively, I think – been published by small presses, a circumstance which surely says something significant about the publishing industry.

Q: For decades the Cthulhu Mythos sub-genre seemed to be mainly about writing pastiches, and they were (let’s be honest here) generally of a questionable quality. Has this, in your opinion, changed in recent years?

A: The only two authors that I know of who have been inspired by Lovecraft’s mythology are Ligotti and Caitlín R. Kiernan, and both write in a style uniquely their own.

Q: Do you have any work routine? Do you work day or night, for example? Lay out the plot line first, write whatever inspiration takes you, listen to a certain kind of music?

A: I get up early and pick up where I left off the day before. I never begin a new story without knowing exactly how it will end and how to get there. Along the way I correct errors and rewrite poor passages until I have finished the first draft. Then I rewrite the whole thing – or throw it away. Listening to music while I work – especially good music – would distract me. I prefer working in quietude. Writing “Architect Eyes”, though, I listened repeatedly to Outside, one of Bowie’s best albums. I’m still waiting for the follow up of the adventures of Nathan Adler …

Q: When did you find out you wanted to be a writer – and why weird fiction and horror?

A: By analogy, I began writing prose the same way as you begin smoking: you try one cigarette, just one, and before you know it you have a monkey on your back. Why is this particular monkey of mine a creature of nightmare? I suppose it has something to do with my frequent nightmares, bouts of melancholy, certain phobias and other tedious things … But it’s not all dark and morbid.

Q: Why short stories? After all, the novel seems to be the most commercially feasible product.

A: So far the short story has been the perfect format for the stories that I have desired to write.

Q: I am sure many readers would like to hear more of what else you have written and where they can find your work. Care to tell us a little about that?

A: Besides “Architect Eyes” there really is not much so speak about unless one is proficient in that exotic language know as Danish. If that is the case, there is a collection of short stories published by none other than H. Harksen Productions. (Editor’s Note: De underjordiske.)

Q: What can we expect from you in the future? Any specific stories or projects soon to be published? Perhaps something you’re working on right now that you want to hint at? 😉

A: There is a small collection of stories to appear soon from Ex Occidente Press. It is called Oriflammes and contains six stories of the strange, the wondrous and the uncanny.

Q: Do you have any advice for upcoming writers who want to pen weird stories?

A: No. I am still learning how to write, so I should really be the one taking advice.

Q: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Any last words of wisdom, warning or just plain weird you want to say?

A: Exodus, chapter twenty-five, verse eight – if anyone wondered about the significance of “zevul.”

(Editor’s End Note: Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities can also be purchased from Amazon.com and other online retailers.)

In the Works

So, how’s it going with the books? Well, here’s a brief wrap-up of the situation today:

 

 

Seret” by John Mayer. For Hex Code and Others by John Mayer.

 

BOOKS IN ENGLISH:

  • Hex Code and Others by John Mayer. I am back on track with this, which will be the first hardcover in English from me. It’s a beauty. I don’t expect any more glitches here, so it’s an August 2012 release.
  • A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos: Origins Of the Cthulhu Mythos by John D. Haefele. Just received the 200+ pages from John, and printed what I need to read the next week. Honestly, folks, this will change scholarship re. Derleth & Lovecraft. ‘Nuff said for now. Publication: October 2012.
  • Lovecraftian Covens by Franklyn Searight. Publication: November 2012.

 

BOOKS IN DANISH (written in Danish):

  • Pix. Novellesamling med moderne, gotiske fortællinger, redigeret af Henrik Sandbeck Harksen. Inkl. en CD med et nummer komponeret af Ras Bolding eksklusivt til denne udgivelse. Alt i alt en udgivelse ulig nogen anden i Danmark. Forventes udgivet i oktober eller november 2012. (Nærmere information følger snart, inkl. vedr. novellerne og forfatterne.)

 

Oh… Have I forgotten to mention that there will soon be a call for submission in the third hplmythos.com Series? A follow-up to the already very popular Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities. Theme? — Well, again the title says most, if not all: Whisperers in Darkness: New Horrors.

More on that one soon, here and on the website…

Stay tuned;-)

It Happened At the World’s Fa… Okay, At Fantasticon!;-)

Me & Ellen Datlow. (Photo  taken by Klaus Æ. Mogensen, if I remember correctly.) 

Okay, brushing off the shock of hearing Ray Bradbury died here’s a quick and dirty blog post on what happened at the Fantasticon this year. It will be a little piece-meal and random-like, since I don’t remember all the details. (I knew I should have written things down, as the hours progressed.) And I also apologize in advance  for not mentioning all the wonderful people I met during this three-day trek in this national wonderland of the fantastic genres, Friday June 1 to Sunday June 3, 2012.

I spent most of the time in the dealers room selling books from my small press, H. Harksen Productions. With a fine result. I sold more than I’d hoped for, so that was a smashing success. Wonderful — thanks to all the buyers and supporters of both my Danish and English publications. Okay, strictly speaking I didn’t spend most of the time selling books, but I was present, just in case someone was interested. Which happened frequently:-) And when I wasn’t making actual sales I was engaged in wonderful conversations and debates. So all was lively and engaging, just as one would hope for at such an event.

As I mentioned in an earlier post I was on the programme two times: Saturday in a panel discussion about “the good short story” and Sunday where I were to speak on Cthulhu and the Apocalypse. Both had a fine attendance of people.

Ralan Conley (moderator), Henrik Sandbeck Harksen (me), H. H. Løyche, Ellen Datlow and Knud Larn. (Photo by Lars Kramhøft)

The discussion was lively (at least from my point of view; I hope the others feel the same) and with intelligent and thoughtful approaches to the theme. One of the things we ended up agreeing on was that it is important for a good short story (in itself a rather broad concept, difficult to define) to have a voice. (Not necessarily the same as the story having a character.) And that element is important in order for the story to somehow grab our attention — as editors as well as readers in general. I can’t remember if we all agreed on this, but at least Ellen Datlow and I ended up agreeing that when reading a themed anthology it is more important to find the qualities in the actual story being read at the time than to go searching for the overarching theme in the story. She’d experienced such critique from time to time with e.g. her Poe anthology (“The stories aren’t written like Poe” etc.) and I pointed out the danger of looking (exclusively) for tentacles in Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities. (No, they are not written the way Lovecraft would write the stories — and no, there are not tentacles flying around on every page. It’s much more subtle than that, and therefore much more horrible.)

Also, incidentally, Ray Bradbury was mentioned by Ellen Datlow — as unjustly being considered by many as a “light writer.” Now that he’s dead, hopefully this will be corrected.

Ellen Datlow signing books to me.

Speaking of Ellen Datlow… What a kind, charming and insightful lady. As you know from an earlier blog post I was absolutely dazzled just thinking about meeting her in person. And reality — wow — it’s hard to describe, but it really was wonderful meeting her. And she was kind enough to sign — even inscribe — three books of hers that I’d brought along. Can’t read half of what’s she’s written to me but it’s still immensely cool;-)

It’s strange, really, how meeting persons whom I strongly admire for what they do can affect me. It happened years back when I was interviewing the Scottish singer Fish, and it happened when I met Ellen Datlow. It was difficult for me to approach her (when not in the panel discussion, where conversation went smoothly enough) and ask her if she’d mind signing the books. And it wasn’t until the last hours Sunday that I dared asking if we could have a picture of us together. (Which, as you can see, she readily agreed to do.)

Strange — but probably a healthy thing. Shows that my ego isn’t too much in the clouds;-)

Author Lars Kramhøft signing a copy of Grufulde mørke (hplmythos.dk Vol. 3). First time ever he signed a book.

I was told that my talk on Cthulhu and the Apocalypse Sunday went well. Good to know. I was a little nervous before starting, but I managed to say most the things I wanted to say — in a fairly coherent manner;-) It was probably the most boring PowerPoint show ever, but at least that was on purpose: I only used it to show the headlines of the topics I wanted to discuss. No more, no less. For the curious, who weren’t there: My focal point was two possible understandings of “the apocalypse,” applied to Lovecraftian fiction and the Derleth Mythos part of the fiction.

Could have said much more but you can only say so much in 50 minutes;-)

The only other part of the programme I attended (as audience) was “The fairy tale in modern fiction” with Ellen Datlow, Nicolas Barbano and Lars Ahn Pedersen (moderator). It was very interesting, and I’m glad that I joined Sarah Fürst, Lars Kramhøft and Thomas Winther to see this (among many others, of course, but they were the ones I talked the moment they wanted to go see it). It’s a topic I don’t know much about, and wouldn’t normally check out. But it was good expanding my horizon. (Isn’t it always?)

Me, my daughter, a stormtrooper, Lord Vader and a feisty tusken rider;-)

The Sandbeck Harksen Family: Our daughter, My, my wife Hanne — and me. (Photo by Anja, if I remember correctly.)

Like I said, it was so invigorating and delightful being at the Fantasticon this year. Much of it due to the fact that I got to talk to so many wonderful people. And even my little family joined the party for a few hours (Saturday), bringing along Anja, one of my wife’s good friends.

One of the greatest small press publishers and weird fiction writers in Denmark today: Nikolaj Højberg, Forlaget KANDOR.

I’d like to thank all who I talked to, it was great. Here’s to you guys (apologies to anyone omitted; and not including the people from the panel discussion): Sarah Fürst (always wonderful, stimulating company), Lars Kramhøft (finally!), Martin Wangsgaard Jürgensen (small package soon on its way!), A. Silvestri, Lars Ahn Pedersen, Bjarke Schjødt Larsen (as yourself this year;-)), Sandra Schwartz (great finally meeting you), Thomas Winther (always nice catching up), Martin Schjönning (short but good), Mads Peder Lau Pedersen (also very short — but at least I finally met you in person!), Nikolaj Højberg (that idea — I think we’re onto something cool, Nikolaj), Lykke, Patrick Leis (originator of the coolest low-budget version of Hitchcock’s The Birds;-)), Michael Kamp (hey, I actually sold some copies of your book as well), Jonas Wilmann (always a joy, Jonas)… and the Fantasticon Team. (Uh, here I must mention Flemming R. P. Rasch, who invited me to the event, and Spritt Schapiro — thanks for the coolest HPL t-shirt on Earth!)

Random picture from the Saturday’s Banquet.

Tired publisher, author, dilettante etc. On the train back home.

See you again next year.