Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Breeders




DOCTOR: 
Nardole, I want you to lead the evacuation. 

NARDOLE: 
What? No. 

DOCTOR: 
There's another solar farm on floor 502. 
There should be enough livestock in the cryogenic chamber 

NARDOLE: 
You need me with you. 

(The Doctor downloads everything on the laptop into his sonic screwdriver and shuts the lid.

DOCTOR: 
Thanks for all the software. I will take it from here. 

NARDOLE: 
Sir, with respect, I'm worried about your plan. 

DOCTOR: 
Plan? What plan? 

NARDOLE: 
I think as soon as this place is evacuated, you're going to blow the whole floor, killing as many Cybermen as you can. 

DOCTOR: 
No. No, course not. I won't do that until I've left. 

NARDOLE: 
Liar! It can't be done remotely. 

DOCTOR: 
You couldn't do it remotely. 

NARDOLE: 
Neither could you. 
And more to the point, you are not sending me up there to babysit a load of smelly humans. 

DOCTOR: 
Yeah? Well, I'm afraid that's exactly what I'm doing. 

NARDOLE: 
Huh? This is me we're talking about. 
Me. You know what I was like. 
If there's more than three people in a room, I start a black market. 

Send me with them, I'll be selling their own spaceship back to them once a week. 

Please, I would rather stay down here and explode. 

You go and farm the humans. 

DOCTOR: 
Listen. One of us has to stay down here and blow up a lot of silly tin men, and one of has to go up there and look after a lot of very scared people, day after day, for the rest of their lives, and keep them safe. 

Now the question is this, Nardole. 

Which one of us is stronger? 

(Long pause.

NARDOLE: Damn. 

DOCTOR: My condolences. 

NARDOLE: 
I'm going to name a town after you. A really rubbish one. 

DOCTOR: 
Oh, I'm counting on it. 

NARDOLE: 
And probably a pig. 
Young lady, you're coming with me. No arguments. 
May I remind you I'm still empowered to kick your arse. 

BILL: 
You'd have to go back down there to that hospital and find it, then. 

NARDOLE: 
Look, Bill 

BILL: 
My arse got kicked a long time ago, and there's no going back. 
(she stands next to the Doctor
All I've got left is returning the favour. 

NARDOLE: 
Oh, great. So she's allowed to explode. 

DOCTOR: 
Are you sure? 


BILL: 
You know I am. 

NARDOLE: 
I don't know what to say. 

BILL: 
You'll think of the right words later. 


NARDOLE: 
Doctor. Bill. 
(starts to leave) 
You're wrong, you know. Quite wrong. I never will be able to find the words.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Fox



68 After Mass of a morsel he and his men partook.

Merry was the morning. For his mount then he called. 
All the huntsmen that on horse behind him should follow 
were ready mounted to ride arrayed at the gates.
Wondrous fair were the fields, for the frost clung there; 
in red rose-hued o’er the wrack arises the sun, 
sailing clear along the coasts of the cloudy heavens. 
The hunters loosed hounds by a holt-border; 
the rocks rang in the wood to the roar of their horns. 
Some fell on the line to where the fox was lying, 
crossing and re-crossing it in the cunning of their craft. 
A hound then gives tongue, the huntsman names him, 
round him press his companions in a pack all snuffling, 
running forth in a rabble then right in his path. 
The fox flits before them. They find him at once, 
and when they see him by sight they pursue him hotly, 
decrying him full clearly with a clamour of wrath.
He dodges and ever doubles through many a dense coppice, 
and looping oft he lurks and listens under fences. 
At last at a little ditch he leaps o’er a thorn-hedge, 
sneaks out secretly by the side of a thicket, 
weens he is out of the wood and away by his wiles from the hounds. 
Thus he went unawares to a watch that was posted,
where fierce on him fell three foes at once 
     all grey. 
He swerves then swift again, 
and dauntless darts astray; 
in grief and in great pain 
to the wood he turns away. 


69 Then to hark to the hounds it was heart’s delight,

when all the pack came upon him, there pressing together. 
Such a curse at the view they called down on him 
that the clustering cliffs might have clattered in ruin. 
Here he was hallooed when hunters came on him, 
yonder was he assailed with snarling tongues; 
there he was threatened and oft thief was he called, 
with ever the trailers at his tail so that tarry he could not. 
Oft was he run at, if he rushed outwards; oft he swerved in again, so subtle was Reynard. 
Yea! he led the lord and his hunt as laggards behind him 
thus by mount and by hill till mid-afternoon. 
Meanwhile the courteous knight in the castle in comfort slumbered 
behind the comely curtains in the cold morning. 
But the lady in love-making had no liking to sleep
nor to disappoint the purpose she had planned in her heart; 
but rising up swiftly his room now she sought 
in a gay mantle that to the ground was measured
and was fur-lined most fairly with fells well trimmed, 
with no comely coif on her head, only the clear jewels
that were twined in her tressure by twenties in clusters; 
her noble face and her neck all naked were laid, 
her breast bare in front and at the back also. 
She came through the chamber-door and closed it behind her, 
wide set a window, and to wake him she called,
thus greeting him gaily with her gracious words 
     of cheer: 
‘Ah! man, how canst thou sleep, 
the morning is so clear!’ 
He lay in darkness deep, 
but her call he then could hear. 





76 Now indoors let him dwell and have dearest delight, 
while the free lord yet fares afield in his sports! 
At last the fox he has felled that he followed so long; 
for, as he spurred through a spinney to espy there the villain, 
where the hounds he had heard that hard on him pressed, 
Reynard on his road came through a rough thicket, 
and all the rabble in a rush were right on his heels. 
The man is aware of the wild thing, and watchful awaits him, 
brings out his bright brand and at the beast hurls it; 
and he blenched at the blade, and would have backed if he could.
A hound hastened up, and had him ere he could; 
and right before the horse’s feet they fell on him all,
and worried there the wily one with a wild clamour. 
The lord quickly alights and lifts him at once, 
snatching him swiftly from their slavering mouths, 
holds him high o’er his head, hallooing loudly; 
and there bay at him fiercely many furious hounds. 
Huntsmen hurried thither, with horns full many 
ever sounding the assembly, till they saw the master. 
When together had come his company noble, 
all that ever bore bugle were blowing at once, 
and all the others hallooed that had not a horn: 
it was the merriest music that ever men harkened, 
the resounding song there raised that for Reynard’s soul 
     awoke. 
To hounds they pay their fees, 
their heads they fondly stroke, 
and Reynard then they seize, 
and off they skin his cloak.

77 And then homeward they hastened, for at hand was now night, 
making strong music on their mighty horns. 
The lord alighted at last at his beloved abode, 
found a fire in the hall, and fair by the hearth 
Sir Gawain the good, and gay was he too, 
among the ladies in delight his lot was most joyful. 
He was clad in a blue cloak that came to the ground; 
his surcoat well beseemed him with its soft lining, and its hood of like hue that hung on his shoulder:
all fringed with white fur very finely were both. 
He met indeed the master in the midst of the floor, 
and in gaiety greeted him, and graciously said: 
‘In this case I will first our covenant fulfil 
that to our good we agreed, when ungrudged went the drink.’ 
He clasps then the knight and kisses him thrice, 
as long and deliciously as he could lay them upon him. 
‘By Christ!’ the other quoth, ‘you’ve come by a fortune 
in winning such wares, were they worth what you paid.’ 
‘Indeed, the price was not important,’ promptly he answered, 
‘whereas plainly is paid now the profit I gained.’ ‘Marry!’ said the other man, ‘mine is not up to’t; 
for I have hunted all this day, and naught else have I got 
but this foul fox-fell – the Fiend have the goods! – 
and that is price very poor to pay for such treasures
as these you have thrust upon me, three such kisses 
     so good.’ 
‘’Tis enough,’ then said Gawain. 
‘I thank you, by the Rood,’ 
and how the fox was slain 
he told him as they stood.

The Sanyassin : H. P. Lovecraft


"I am essentially a recluse who will have very little to do with people wherever he may be. I think that most people only make me nervous—that only by accident, and in extremely small quantities, would I ever be likely to come across people who wouldn't. It makes no difference how well they mean or how cordial they are—they simply get on my nerves unless they chance to represent a peculiarly similar combination of tastes, experiences, and heritages; as, for instance, Belknap chances to do . . . 

Therefore it may be taken as axiomatic that the people of a place matter absolutely nothing to me except as components of the general landscape and scenery. 

Let me have normal American faces in the streets to give the aspect of home and a white man's country, and I ask no more of featherless bipeds. 

My life lies not among people but among scenes—my local affections are not personal, but topographical and architectural. 

No one in Providence—family aside—has any especial bond of interest with me, but for that matter no one in Cambridge or anywhere else has, either. The question is that of which roofs and chimneys and doorways and trees and street vistas I love the best; which hills and woods, which roads and meadows, which farmhouses and views of distant white steeples in green valleys. I am always an outsider—to all scenes and all people—but outsiders have their sentimental preferences in visual environment. 

I will be dogmatic only to the extent of saying that it is New England I must have—in some form or other. 

Providence is part of me—I am Providence—but as I review the new impressions which have impinged upon me since birth, I think the greatest single emotion—and the most permanent one as concerns consequences to my inner life and imagination—I have ever experienced was my first sight of Marblehead in the golden glamour of late afternoon under the snow on December 17, 1922. 

That thrill has lasted as nothing else has—a visible climax and symbol of the lifelong mysterious tie which binds my soul to ancient things and ancient places.

Letter to Lillian D. Clark (29 March 1926), quoted in Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters edited by S. T. Joshi, p. 186



However—the crucial thing is my lack of interest in ordinary life. No one ever wrote a story yet without some real emotional drive behind it—and I have not that drive except where violations of the natural order . . . defiances and evasions of time, space, and cosmic law . . . are concerned. Just why this is so I haven't the slightest idea—it simply is so. I am interested only in broad pageants—historic streams—orders of biological, chemical, physical, and astronomical organisation—and the only conflict which has any deep emotional significance to me is that of the principle of freedom or irregularity or adventurous opportunity against the eternal and maddening rigidity of cosmic law . . . especially the laws of time. . . . Hence the type of thing I try to write. 

Naturally, I am aware that this forms a very limited special field so far as mankind en masse is concerned; but I believe (as pointed out in that Recluse article) that the field is an authentic one despite its subordinate nature. This protest against natural law, and tendency to weave visions of escape from orderly nature, are characteristic and eternal factors in human psychology, even though very small ones. They exist as permanent realities, and have always expressed themselves in a typical form of art from the earliest fireside folk tales and ballads to the latest achievements of Blackwood and Machen or de la Mare or Dunsany. That art exists—whether the majority like it or not. It is small and limited, but real—and there is no reason why its practitioners should be ashamed of it. Naturally one would rather be a broad artist with power to evoke beauty from every phase of experience—but when one unmistakably isn't such an artist, there's no sense in bluffing and faking and pretending that one is.


Letter to E. Hoffmann Price (15 August 1934) , quoted in Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters edited by S.T. Joshi, p. 268




I must confess that my estimate of Lovecraft would not have pleased his most ardent admirers. 

The view I expressed in that book [i.e., The Strength to Dream: Literature and the Imagination (1961)] was that, while Lovecraft was distinctly a creative genius in his own way, his pessimism should not be taken too seriously: that it was the pessimism of a sick recluse and had about an element of ressentiment, a kind of desire to take revenge on a world that rejected him. 

In short, Lovecraft was a 19th century romantic, born in the wrong time. 

Most men of genius dislike their own age, but the really great ones impose their own vision on the age. 

The weak ones turn away into a world of gloomy fantasy.

Colin Wilson, preface to his Lovecraftian novel The Mind Parasites, p. 2 (1967)


The Little Glass Bottle
By H. P. Lovecraft
[ Aged 6 ]
“Heave to, there’s something floating to the leeward” the speaker was a short stockily built man whose name was William Jones. he was the captain of a small cat boat in which he & a party of men were sailing at the time the story opens.
     “Aye aye sir” answered John Towers & the boat was brought to a stand still Captain Jones reached out his hand for the object which he now discerned to be a glass bottle “Nothing but a rum flask that the men on a passing boat threw over” he said but from an impulse of curiosity he reached out for it. it was a rum flask & he was about to throw it away when he noticed a piece of paper in it. He pulled it out & on it read the following
Jan 1 1864
I am John Jones who writes this letter my ship is fast sinking with a treasure on board I am where it is marked * on the enclosed chart
     Captain Jones turned the sheet over & the other side was a chart


on the edge were written these words

dotted lines represent course we took

     “Towers” Said Capt. Jones exitedly “read this” Towers did as he was directed “I think it would pay to go” said Capt. Jones “do you”? “Just as you say” replied Towers. “We’ll charter a schooner this very day” said the exited captain “All right” said Towers so they hired a boat and started off govnd by the dotted lines of they chart in 4 weeks the reached the place where directed & the divers went down and came up with an iron bottle they found in it the following lines scribbled on a piece of brown paper
Dec 3 1880
Dear Searcher excuse me for the practical joke I have played on you but it serves you right to find nothing for your foolish act—
     “Well it does” said Capt Jones “go on”
However I will defray your expenses to & from the place you found your bottle I think it will be $25.0.00 so that amount you will find in an Iron box I know where you found the bottle because I put this bottle here & the iron box & then found a good place to put the second bottle hoping the enclosed money will defray your expenses some I close—Anonymus”
“I’d like to kick his head off” said Capt Jones “Here diver go & get the $25.0.00 in a minute the diver came up bearing an iron box inside it was found $25.0.00 It defrayed their expenses but I hardly think that they will ever go to a mysterious place as directed by a mysterious bottle.







Howard Phillips Lovecraft:
The Life of a Gentleman of Providence

by S.T. Joshi

This brief biography first appeared in the
H.P. Lovecraft Centennial Guidebook
and appears here with S.T. Joshi’s permission.

Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born at 9 a.m. on August 20, 1890, at his family home at 454 (then numbered 194) Angell Street in Providence, Rhode Island. His mother was Sarah Susan Phillips Lovecraft, who could trace her ancestry to the arrival of George Phillips to Massachusetts in 1630. His father was Winfield Scott Lovecraft, a traveling salesman for Gorham & Co., Silversmiths, of Providence. When Lovecraft was three his father suffered a nervous breakdown in a hotel room in Chicago and was brought back to Butler Hospital, where he remained for five years before dying on July 19, 1898. Lovecraft was apparently informed that his father was paralyzed and comatose during this period, but the surviving evidence suggests that this was not the case; it is nearly certain that Lovecraft’s father died of paresis, a form of neurosyphilis.


     With the death of Lovecraft’s father, the upbringing of the boy fell to his mother, his two aunts, and especially his grandfather, the prominent industrialist Whipple Van Buren Phillips. Lovecraft was a precocious youth: he was reciting poetry at age two, reading at age three, and writing at age six or seven. His earliest enthusiasm was for the Arabian Nights, which he read by the age of five; it was at this time that he adapted the pseudonym of “Abdul Alhazred,” who later became the author of the mythical Necronomicon. The next year, however, his Arabian interests were eclipsed by the discovery of Greek mythology, gleaned through Bulfinch’s Age of Fable and through children’s versions of the Iliad and Odyssey. Indeed his earliest surviving literary work, “The Poem of Ulysses” (1897), is a paraphrase of the Odyssey in 88 lines of internally rhyming verse. But Lovecraft had by this time already discovered weird fiction, and his first story, the non-extant “The Noble Eavesdropper,” may date to as early as 1896. His interest in the weird was fostered by his grandfather, who entertained Lovecraft with off-the-cuff weird tales in the Gothic mode.


     As a boy Lovecraft was somewhat lonely and suffered from frequent illnesses, many of them apparently psychological. His attendance at the Slater Avenue School was sporadic, but Lovecraft was soaking up much information through independent reading. At about the age of eight he discovered science, first chemistry, then astronomy. He began to produce hectographed journals, The Scientific Gazette (1899–1907) and The Rhode Island Journal of Astronomy (1903–07), for distribution amongst his friends. When he entered Hope Street High School, he found both his teachers and peers congenial and encouraging, and he developed a number of long-lasting friendships with boys of his age. Lovecraft’s first appearance in print occurred in 1906, when he wrote a letter on an astronomical matter to The Providence Sunday Journal. Shortly thereafter he began writing a monthly astronomy column for The Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner, a rural paper; he later wrote columns for The Providence Tribune (1906–08) and The Providence Evening News (1914–18), as well as The Asheville (N.C.) Gazette-News (1915).


     In 1904 the death of Lovecraft’s grandfather, and the subsequent mismanagement of his property and affairs, plunged Lovecraft’s family into severe financial difficulties. Lovecraft and his mother were forced to move out of their lavish Victorian home into cramped quarters at 598 Angell Street. Lovecraft was devastated by the loss of his birthplace, and apparently contemplated suicide, as he took long bicycle rides and looked wistfully at the watery depths of the Barrington River. But the thrill of learning banished those thoughts. In 1908, however, just prior to his graduation from high school, he suffered a nervous breakdown that compelled him to leave school without a diploma; this fact, and his consequent failure to enter Brown University, were sources of great shame to Lovecraft in later years, in spite of the fact that he was one of the most formidable autodidacts of his time. From 1908 to 1913 Lovecraft was a virtual hermit, doing little save pursuing his astronomical interests and his poetry writing. During this whole period Lovecraft was thrown into an unhealthily close relationship with his mother, who was still suffering from the trauma of her husband’s illness and death, and who developed a pathological love-hate relationship with her son.


     Lovecraft emerged from his hermitry in a very peculiar way. Having taken to reading the early “pulp” magazines of the day, he became so incensed at the insipid love stories of one Fred Jackson in The Argosy that he wrote a letter, in verse, attacking Jackson. This letter was published in 1913, and evoked a storm of protest from Jackson’s defenders. Lovecraft engaged in a heated debate in the letter column of The Argosy and its associated magazines, Lovecraft’s responses being almost always in rollicking heroic couplets reminiscent of Dryden and Pope. This controversy was noted by Edward F. Daas, President of the United Amateur Press Association (UAPA), a group of amateur writers from around the country who wrote and published their own magazines. Daas invited Lovecraft to join the UAPA, and Lovecraft did so in early 1914. Lovecraft published thirteen issues of his own paper, The Conservative (1915–23), as well as contributing poetry and essays voluminously to other journals. Later Lovecraft became President and Official Editor of the UAPA, and also served briefly as President of the rival National Amateur Press Association (NAPA). This entire experience may well have saved Lovecraft from a life of unproductive reclusiveness; as he himself once said: “In 1914, when the kindly hand of amateurdom was first extended to me, I was as close to the state of vegetation as any animal well can be... With the advent of the United I obtained a renewal to live; a renewed sense of existence as other than a superfluous weight; and found a sphere in which I could feel that my efforts were not wholly futile. For the first time I could imagine that my clumsy gropings after art were a little more than faint cries lost in the unlistening world.”


      It was in the amateur world that Lovecraft recommenced the writing of fiction, which he had abandoned in 1908. W. Paul Cook and others, noting the promise shown in such early tales as “The Beast in the Cave” (1905) and “The Alchemist” (1908), urged Lovecraft to pick up his fictional pen again. This Lovecraft did, writing “The Tomb” and “Dagon” in quick succession in the summer of 1917. Thereafter Lovecraft kept up a steady if sparse flow of fiction, although until at least 1922 poetry and essays were still his dominant mode of literary expression. Lovecraft also became involved in an ever-increasing network of correspondence with friends and associates, and he eventually became one of the greatest and most prolific letter-writers of the century.


     Lovecraft’s mother, her mental and physical condition deteriorating, suffered a nervous breakdown in 1919 and was admitted to Butler Hospital, whence, like her husband, she would never emerge. Her death on May 24, 1921, however was the result of a bungled gall bladder operation. Lovecraft was shattered by the loss of his mother, but in a few weeks had recovered enough to attend an amateur journalism convention in Boston on July 4, 1921. It was on this occasion that he first met the woman who would become his wife. Sonia Haft Greene was a Russian Jew seven years Lovecraft’s senior, but the two seemed, at least initially, to find themselves very congenial. Lovecraft visited Sonia in her Brooklyn apartment in 1922, and the news of their marriage on March 3, 1924, was not entirely a surprise to their friends; but it may have been to Lovecraft’s two aunts, Lillian D. Clark and Annie E. Phillips Gamwell, who were notified only by letter after the ceremony had taken place. Lovecraft moved into Sonia’s apartment in Brooklyn, and initial prospects for the couple seemed good: Lovecraft had gained a foothold as a professional writer by the acceptance of several of his early stories by Weird Tales, the celebrated pulp magazine founded in 1923; Sonia had a successful hat shop on Fifth Avenue in New York.


     But troubles descended upon the couple almost immediately: the hat shop went bankrupt, Lovecraft turned down the chance to edit a companion magazine to Weird Tales (which would have necessitated his move to Chicago), and Sonia’s health gave way, forcing her to spend time in a New Jersey sanitarium. Lovecraft attempted to secure work, but few were willing to hire a thirty-four-year-old-man with no job experience. On January 1, 1925, Sonia went to Cleveland to take up a job there, and Lovecraft moved into a single apartment near the seedy Brooklyn area called Red Hook.


     Although Lovecraft had many friends in New York—Frank Belknap Long, Rheinhart Kleiner, Samuel Loveman—he became increasingly depressed by his isolation and the masses of “foreigners” in the city. His fiction turned from the nostalgic (“The Shunned House” (1924) is set in Providence) to the bleak and misanthropic (“The Horror at Red Hook” and “He” (both 1924) lay bare his feelings for New York). Finally, in early 1926, plans were made for Lovecraft to return to the Providence he missed so keenly. But where did Sonia fit into these plans? No one seemed to know, least of all Lovecraft. Although he continued to profess his affection for her, he acquiesced when his aunts barred her from coming to Providence to start a business; their nephew could not be tainted by the stigma of a tradeswoman wife. The marriage was essentially over, and a divorce in 1929 was inevitable.


     When Lovecraft returned to Providence on April 17, 1926, settling at 10 Barnes Street north of Brown University, it was not to bury himself away as he had done in the 1908–13 period; rather, the last ten years of his life were the time of his greatest flowering, both as a writer and as a human being. His life was relatively uneventful—he traveled widely to various antiquarian sites around the eastern seaboard (Quebec, New England, Philadelphia, Charleston, St. Augustine); he wrote his greatest fiction, from “The Call of Cthulhu” (1926) to At the Mountains of Madness (1931) to “The Shadow out of Time” (1934–35); and he continued his prodigiously vast correspondence—but Lovecraft had found his niche as a New England writer of weird fiction and as a general man of letters. He nurtured the careers of many young writers (August Derleth, Donald Wandrei, Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber); he became concerned with political and economic issues, as the Great Depression led him to support Roosevelt and become a moderate socialist; and he continued absorbing knowledge on a wide array of subjects, from philosophy to literature to history to architecture.


     The last two or three years of his life, however, were filled with hardship. In 1932 his beloved aunt, Mrs. Clark, died, and he moved into quarters at 66 College Street, right behind the John Hay Library, with his other aunt Mrs. Gamwell in 1933. (This house has now been moved to 65 Prospect Street.) His later stories, increasingly lengthy and complex, became difficult to sell, and he was forced to support himself largely through the “revision” or ghost-writing of stories, poetry, and nonfictions works. In 1936 the suicide of Robert E. Howard, one of his closest correspondents, left him confused and saddened. By this time the illness that would cause his own death—cancer of the intestine—had already progressed so far that little could be done to treat it. Lovecraft attempted to carry on in increasing pain through the winter of 1936–37, but was finally compelled to enter Jane Brown Memorial Hospital on March 10, 1937, where he died five days later. He was buried on March 18 at the Phillips family plot at Swan Point Cemetery.


     It is likely that, as he saw death approaching, Lovecraft envisioned the ultimate oblivion of his work: he had never had a true book published in his lifetime (aside, perhaps, from the crudely issued The Shadow over Innsmouth [1936]), and his stories, essays, and poems were scattered in a bewildering number of amateur or pulp magazines. But the friendships that he had forged merely by correspondence held him in good stead: August Derleth and Donald Wandrei were determined to preserve Lovecraft’s stories in the dignity of a hardcover book, and formed the publishing firm of Arkham House initially to publish Lovecraft’s work; they issued The Outsider and Others in 1939. Many other volumes followed from Arkham House, and eventually Lovecraft’s work became available in paperback and was translated into a dozen languages. Today, at the centennial of his birth, his stories are available in textually corrected editions, his essays, poems, and letters are widely available, and many scholars have probed the depths and complexities of his work and thought. Much remains to be done in the study of Lovecraft, but it is safe to say that, thanks to the intrinsic merit of his own work and to the diligence of his associates and supporters, Lovecraft has gained a small but unassailable niche in the canon of American and world literature.



On June 18, 1931, a young man named Robert Barlow mailed a letter to the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft’s stories about monstrous beings from beyond the stars were appearing regularly in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, and Barlow was a fan. He wanted to know when Lovecraft had started writing, what he was working on now, and whether the Necronomicon—a tome of forbidden knowledge that appears in several Lovecraft tales—was a real book. A week later, Lovecraft wrote back, as he nearly always did. It’s estimated that he wrote more than fifty thousand letters in his relatively short lifetime (he died at the age of forty-six). This particular letter was the beginning of a curious friendship, which changed the course of Barlow’s life, and Lovecraft’s, too—though almost no one who reads Lovecraft these days knows anything about it. Who keeps track of the lives of fans?

Lovecraft was well known in the world of “weird fiction,” a term that he popularized: it was an early-twentieth-century genre that encompassed supernatural horror stories as well as some of what would now be called science fiction. He had a reputation as a recluse. He’d been married, briefly, to a Jewish Ukrainian immigrant named Sonia Greene, and he’d lived with her in New York, but by 1931 he was back in his native Providence, living with his aunt and making a meagre living by revising other writers’ work. Barlow, meanwhile, had grown up on military bases in the South, until his father, an Army colonel who suffered from paranoid delusions, settled the family in a sturdy and defensible home in central Florida, about fifteen miles southwest of the town of DeLand.

Barlow didn’t know anyone in Florida, and where his family lived there weren’t a lot of people for him to meet. There certainly weren’t many who shared his interests: collecting weird fiction, playing piano, sculpting in clay, painting, and shooting snakes and binding books with their skin. “I had no friends nor studies except in a sphere bound together by the U.S. mails,” he wrote in a memoir about his summer with Lovecraft, published in 1944. Letter by letter, Barlow drew Lovecraft into that sphere. He offered to type Lovecraft’s manuscripts. He told Lovecraft about his rabbits. He wrote stories that Lovecraft revised. Finally, in the spring of 1934, Barlow invited Lovecraft to visit him in Florida, and Lovecraft went. Barlow hadn’t mentioned his age, and he was reluctant to send along a photo of himself, because, he said, he had a “boil.” Lovecraft was surprised to discover, when he got off the bus in DeLand, that Barlow had just turned sixteen. Lovecraft was forty-three.

So there they were, the older writer, in a rumpled suit and with a face “not unlike Dante,” according to Barlow; and the young fan, slight and weasel-faced, with slicked-back black hair and glasses with thick round lenses. Barlow’s father was visiting relatives in the North, and Lovecraft ended up staying with Barlow and his mother for seven weeks. What did they do, in all that time? Barlow tells us that they gathered berries in the woods; they composed couplets on difficult rhymes (orange, Schenectady); they rowed on the lake behind Barlow’s house. Lovecraft found the Florida climate stimulating. “I feel like a new person—as spry as a youth,” he wrote to a friend in California. “I go hatless & coatless.” He liked Barlow, too. “Never before in the course of a long lifetime have I seen such a versatile child,” he wrote.

Literary critics have speculated that Lovecraft was secretly gay, but the salient feature of his sexuality really seems to be how indifferent he was to it. His ex-wife, Sonia, described him as an “adequately excellent lover,” a phrase one could take in a variety of ways; after his marriage ended, Lovecraft had no intimate relationships that we know of. In his letters, he was quick to condemn homosexuality, and he would later discourage Barlow from writing fiction on homoerotic themes. But Barlow was not the first young man he’d visited. That honor belongs to Alfred Galpin, who was twenty when Lovecraft went to stay with him, in Cleveland. While he was there, Galpin brought him around to see the poets Samuel Loveman and Hart Crane, both of whom were gay—though this may be a coincidence. Galpin was straight; Lovecraft wrote a number of teasing poems about Galpin’s infatuations with high-school girls.

Barlow, on the other hand, was actively if not openly gay as an adult; even at sixteen, he knew in which direction his desires lay. There’s a telling line in his 1944 memoir: “Life was all literary then,” the published version reads. But in the typescript, which is in the John Hay Library, at Brown, you can see that he crossed some words out: “Life, save for secret desires which I knew must be suppressed, and which centered about a charming young creature with the sensitivity of a was all literary then.”

Lovecraft returned to Florida in the summer of 1935, and stayed for more than two months. He and Barlow explored a cypress jungle near the family house, and worked together on a cabin on the far side of the lake. The next summer, Barlow went to Providence, but Lovecraft was busy with revision work and seemed to resent his presence. When the two of them took a trip to Salem and Marblehead, towns which Lovecraft had mythologized in his fiction, another of Lovecraft’s young protégés, a sixteen-year-old named Kenneth Sterling, who was about to enroll at Harvard, came along, too. If Barlow was in love with Lovecraft, he had a lot of suppressing to do.

You can feel his yearning for something in the last story he gave Lovecraft to edit, in the summer of 1936. It’s called “The Night Ocean,” and it’s about a muralist who rents a cottage on the beach to rest his nerves. He swims, he walks, he goes into town for dinner. Then, one day, he sees mysterious, not-quite-human figures swimming in the ocean. He waves at them, but he never figures out what they are or what they want, and, in the end, he can only conclude that “perhaps none of us can solve those things—they exist in defiance of all explanation.” It’s as if Barlow himself had come close to something—a consummation or an encounter with another realm of being—but left with a mystery, and an abiding sadness.

Lovecraft died of cancer in March, 1937. He named Barlow, the devoted fan who’d typed so many of his manuscripts, as his literary executor. This was intended, presumably, as an honor, but for Barlow it was a disaster. Lovecraft had a couple of professionally minded disciples, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, who wanted to collect their master’s stories in a book. They were not amused when Barlow published Lovecraft’s commonplace book in a letterpress edition of seventy-five copies. They demanded Lovecraft’s papers. They spread rumors that Barlow had pilfered books from Lovecraft’s library. The weird-fiction community was small in those days, and word got around quickly. The macabre writer and artist Clark Ashton Smith sent Barlow a note: “Please do not write me or try to communicate with me in any way,” it read. “I do not wish to see you or hear from you after your conduct in regard to the estate of a late beloved friend.”

The effect of the letter, Barlow wrote, “was of cutting out my entrails with a meat cleaver.” He had been exiled from the literary universe that had been the focus of his life. He thought about killing himself, but instead he went into anthropology, enrolling at schools in California and Mexico before ending up at Berkeley, where he studied under Alfred L. Kroeber, whose work with Ishi, the last of California’s Yahi Indians, had made him famous. In 1943, Barlow moved to Mexico and began a period of furious activity that lasted for the better part of a decade. He travelled to the Yucatán to study the Mayans, and to western Guerrero, where he studied the Tepuztecs. He taught anthropology at Mexico City College, founded two scholarly journals, and published around a hundred and fifty articles, pamphlets, and books.

Barlow had already given Lovecraft’s manuscripts to Brown University; now he tried to convince the school to accept the remnants of his weird-fiction collection, requesting, in exchange, a printing press, on which he could publish a Nahuatl newspaper, so that the descendants of the Aztecs could read in their own language. He travelled to London and Paris to consult Mexican codices. He was named chair of Mexico City College’s anthropology department. The poet Charles Olson got hold of some of Barlow’s writings in the late forties, and called them among “the only intimate and active experience of the Maya yet in print.” It was as if Barlow had finally forsaken fantasy for reality—though, to anyone who has read Lovecraft’s stories, the Aztec gods, with their scales and plumes and fangs and wild round eyes, look eerily familiar. Perhaps Barlow had found Lovecraft’s horrors in the Mesoamerican past.

But this didn’t make up for what he had lost. “When I have a period of free time and the choice of activity, I am most discontent,” Barlow wrote in a fragmentary, unpublished autobiography. “I invent a thousand sham-pleasures to keep me otherwise occupied, or I exhaust myself so that no activity can be thought of, but only blank sleep.” By the end of the forties, he was constantly exhausted, and his eyes, never good, were failing. When a disgruntled student threatened to expose him as a homosexual, Barlow had had enough. On January 1, 1951, he locked himself in his bedroom and took twenty-six Seconal tablets. He left a note on his door that read, “Do not disturb me, I wish to sleep for a long time.” It was written in Mayan.

August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, meanwhile, had published a book of Lovecraft’s stories, which was followed by another Lovecraft book, and another. By the mid-forties, Lovecraft’s reputation as a master of horror had grown to the point where Edmund Wilson felt the need to deflate it a bit in the pages of The New Yorker. “The only real horror in most of these fictions is the horror of bad taste and bad art,” Wilson wrote. But his words didn’t deter people from reading Lovecraft, who is more popular today than ever. “The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft” came out in 2014, and even the slightest and most ephemeral of his writings remain in print — to say nothing of the crawling chaos of Lovecraftian fiction, films, video games, bumper stickers, T-shirts, and tea cozies in the shape of Lovecraft’s best-known creation, the octopus-headed Cthulhu.

Barlow, on the other hand, has been almost entirely forgotten. Even “The Night Ocean,” to which Lovecraft added at most a few sentences, is attributed primarily to Lovecraft now. Barlow’s life, which encompassed the worlds of weird fiction, experimental poetry, and anthropology—in English, Spanish, and Nahuatl—is hard to tell: according to the scholar Marcos Legaria, nine people have attempted to write a Barlow biography so far, and all of them have given up. Barlow’s obscurity may also reflect a persistent anxiety, among weird-fiction fans, about Lovecraft’s reputation, which was imperilled by suspicions of homosexuality, in the fifties, and which is now imperilled by a growing awareness of Lovecraft’s racism.

Of course, Barlow didn’t invent Cthulhu. He lived in Lovecraft’s great dream, but he never became a great dreamer himself. Until he got to Mexico, he was a serial abandoner of projects, who set out to do everything but left most of it unfinished. He was also too interested in reality: where Lovecraft had sublimated his fears and desires, Barlow had sex and saw the world. Rather than imagining dreadful Others, he took note of what other people were actually like. The fact that all his activity was ultimately to his detriment does not reflect well on reality; but, on the other hand, Barlow did end up having a strange influence on the world of fiction—and not only on account of Lovecraft.

After the Second World War, Mexico City College attracted a number of students on the G.I. Bill. One of them was William S. Burroughs, who’d come to Mexico with his wife Joan Vollmer, to escape drug charges in Louisiana. In the spring of 1950, Burroughs took a class on Mayan codices with Professor Barlow, who was, apparently, a gifted teacher. (He had “a facility of expression that brought to life long-dead happenings,” a friend recalled.) Mayan imagery shows up again and again in Burroughs’s novels: in “The Soft Machine,” where the narrator flaunts his “knowledge of Maya archaeology and the secret meaning of the centipede motif”; in the form of Ah Pook the Mayan death god, in “Ah Pook Is Here”; as the Centipede God in “Naked Lunch.” Burroughs’s nightmarish vision of a world of death-haunted “control addicts” is, among other things, a transfiguration of what he knew about the Mayan theocracy—and he learned at least some of what he knew from Barlow. “Ever dig the Mayan codices?” one of the characters in “Naked Lunch” asks. “I figure it like this: the priests—about one percent of population—made with one-way telepathic broadcasts instructing the workers what to feel and when.” The telepathic priests weren’t Barlow’s idea, as far as we know. But given Barlow’s history with weird fiction, they could have been.
Burroughs didn’t credit Barlow with anything, nor was he especially moved by the news of Barlow’s death. “A queer Professor from K.C., Mo., head of the Anthropology dept. here at M.C.C. where I collect my $75 per month, knocked himself off a few days ago with overdose of goof balls. Vomit all over the bed,” he wrote, in a letter to Allen Ginsberg. “I can’t see this suicide kick,” he added. Nine months later, Burroughs got drunk and shot his wife in the head. Writers take what they need, and maybe they have to do that, in order to make all their wonders, and all their horrors. But Barlow’s story reminds us that there is just as much wonder, and horror, in the damaged world they leave behind.

Paul La Farge’s latest book is “The Night Ocean,” a novel, published by Penguin Press





The Qualities of a Sannyasin

No two sannyasins are the same. 

They each express themselves and attain realisation in a way which depends on their own personality and samskaras. As each sannyasin progresses, his quest becomes clearer and clearer before his mind. He begins to embody higher values and attitudes which reflect a spontaneously growing spiritual awareness and an expanding conception of himself, his aim, and his mission in life.

Aiming high

The sannyasin seeks perfection by doing his best in whatever he is engaged. This is the essence of sannyas life. The sannyasin who is satisfied with second best or who doesn't really try, cannot progress. He has to try to the best of his ability in every activity and under all circumstances, whether adverse or otherwise. He has to seek and aim for perfection, not in others, but in himself.

Perfecting sannyas involves two things: feeling and willpower. It is the whispering voice of inner feeling that tells if one is doing the right thing or the wrong thing, saying the right thing or the wrong thing. It tells the sannyasin when to act and when not to act, when to speak and when not to speak. When the path of right action is known, then all of his energy is thrown into doing and accomplishing what has to be done. This is willpower, which increases according to the degree that he feels, or knows that the actions are correct. Inappropriate actions sap the energy whereas appropriate actions replenish and increase willpower and energy. It is the aim of all sannyasins to become impeccable.

The mission of a sannyasin

The sannyasin is dedicated to self-realization. He seeks to make himself 'real'; to fully accept responsibility and control of his health, his mind and his destiny. For a sannyasin, it is not enough to believe in second-hand dogmas, nor to half-heartedly practice religions or rituals. He seeks direct perception of the truth in his life, without support from any external agency. He seeks to embody the highest state of consciousness, and he will not be satisfied with anything less. He chooses to live in an ashram environment where his mind will be laid bare of all its preconceptions and false beliefs; where he will confront all his inadequacies and problems directly.

He seeks the assistance and guidance of his guru, who has trod the path before him, and has direct perception of the highest reality. For a sannyasin, only the guidance of an enlightened man of knowledge is acceptable. The sannyasins mission is to serve his guru, and the guru's mission is to serve all mankind. He lives a higher life on the earthly plane, not for himself, but for the only self that really exists, the universal self which underlies all of creation and is reflected in every individual. In the guru's service, the sannyasin learns to work with absolute dedication, but without emotional involvement, accepting the limitations of others, while leading an exemplary life amongst them.

The sadhana of a sannyasin

For the sannyasin, the whole of life becomes sadhana. Every event and every incident is an object of awareness, and no special times, places or activities are considered any more beneficial spiritually than any others. For the sannyasin, if God dwells in the temple, then he surely dwells just as much anywhere else. Although he is fully familiar with yoga, the sannyasin himself does not practice a specific yoga sadhana. The practices of yoga are necessary for householders who are living amongst the stresses and strains of worldly life, but not for the sannyasin, who lives in a relaxed ashram environment, free from personal problems.

For sannyasins yoga is not merely a practice, but a dedication of life, which is all fullness in itself. Service is the most important aspect of a sannyasins life, and brings peace and pleasure. Because they have accepted and understood the mind, yoga practices are unnecessary for sannyasins, although they may study and practice yoga in order to teach others.

Because his life is dedicated to the expansion of awareness, to transcending the animal nature and expressing the greatest, noblest, purest and most illumined aspect of spiritual life, a sannyasin seeks not to miss even one moment in indolence, or one breath in carelessness. In a sense, the sannyasin is meditating all day, closely watching his mind and its reactions, even in the midst of duties and responsibilities. He lives above matter and stabilises his awareness, while having every dealing with matter. It is a mistake to try to live the spiritual life exclusively, so in the ashram environment, the spiritual life and the material life are lived together. This is the path of modern sannyas.

The attitude of a sannyasin

A sannyasin lives totally in the present, without regrets for the past or plans for the future. His only expectation is to lose all expectations. The more completely the awareness is maintained in the present, the more powerful the thoughts and actions become. The mind loses its power whenever its attention is drawn away from the task at hand and dwells on past worries or future fears and expectations. The sannyasin attempts to remain totally absorbed in the present activity, to the exclusion of all other thoughts. He is not even concerned with whether he is happy or unhappy. In this way, his mind becomes very powerful and one-pointed.

The sannyasin takes a chance on life, by renouncing all the things that most people find most meaningful. He does not depend on name, fame, money, home or family as the basis for meaning in his life. Many people hold on to their rigid life patterns, possessions and values for fear of discovering that their lives are totally meaningless. The sannyasin releases his conformity and lets go of rigid thinking and living, in an effort to find freedom. He takes a chance, not knowing whether he will lose everything or gain everything. One cannot be a sannyasin without making that jump for the sake of freedom. The essential difference between a sannyasin and a non-sannyasin is that one forsakes all in a bid for freedom, while the other clings to the bondage of false security.

The Bowman





Bowman = Orion
Arrow-y


Nick Sagan remembered how he devised Valerie Archer's surname.

"I really wanted to name the character Archer as a homage to Dave Bowman of 2001 and to my father's character Ellie Arroway [from Contact]. 

My God, It's Full of Cosmic Archetypes!


You put bow and arrow together and you get Archer."