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grobbo
May 29, 2014


MockingQuantum posted:

Just finished Carmen Maria Machado's Her Body and Other Parties and I feel like it's worth mentioning in this thread. It has some excellent moments, though it's only "horror" in the sense you'd call, say, certain Ray Bradbury stories or We Have Always Lived in the Castle "horror" (I would, in both cases, but it's apparently contentious?)

In any case, a lot of the stories definitely could be called gothic, surreal, or supernatural in nature and touch on some subtle horror elements in a way I haven't encountered before.

Just to let you know that I read this on your recommendation and (mostly) had a ball! As you say, not horror, but horror-adjacent at times, and with dips into Jackson and Angela Carter (with the first story in particular, I thought).

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grobbo
May 29, 2014


pospysyl posted:

What are some good horror novels that deal with institutions? I'm thinking of schools, corporations, or other organizations with strict hierarchies and rules. Authority from the Area X trilogy would count, as would the darker parts of Kafka's The Trial. I'm also looking to check out Andres Barba's Such Small Hands, which is about a girl's orphanage.

I don't think he ever quite strays into horror, but since you mentioned Kafka - Kobo Abe's books often feature a hapless hero trying to navigate a mysterious institution with its own set of bizarre and unbreakable rules (The Woman In The Dunes, but also Secret Rendezvous and Kangaroo Notebook)

grobbo
May 29, 2014


So I just finished Devil's Day, by the author of The Loney…

...and I'm pretty annoyed and baffled by the novelist's continued commitment to building unease and semi-ambiguous supernatural elements in an atmospheric setting with its own history and secrets that all seems to be on the verge of cohering into something right up to the final page, and then just ending the whole thing without wrapping up.

I enjoyed the careful pacing and focus on the everyday relationships throughout, but once the climax arrives, so many different horror elements have been teased that the refusal to commit fully to any of them doesn't feel subtle or deliberate, it feels slapdash and half-hearted - especially as he keeps adding increasingly silly 'normal' plotlines to try and offer an alternative explanation.

Is this a horror story about the Devil haunting a family in rural Lancashire, or just the realistic tale of an elderly farmer who shot a sheep-thief who was the nephew of a local crime lord, while a criminal attempted to return home but was possibly eaten by a vicious stray dog or murdered by the crime lord, while that same criminal's daughter had a nervous breakdown and creeped out the pregnant hallucinating wife of the farmer's grandson, who'd also accidentally killed another child in these woods while he was young but thought the Devil made him do it? That's not some elegant tightrope of storytelling, it's anything but.

grobbo
May 29, 2014


It was both pretty inept and fundamentally light-hearted, but I just watched Velvet Buzzsaw and I was struck by how it probably had the most Ligotti-ish premise I've seen in mainstream cinema or TV.

('The Bungalow Tapes' for the macabre outsider art that reveals a hypnotic, horrific truth, or any story where a bunch of affected, competitive artists are destroyed by their exposure to something genuinely visionary and awful)

Am I missing anything else, that one unmade episode of the X-Files aside?

grobbo
May 29, 2014


Relevant Tangent posted:

every story that references the King In Yellow is what you're looking for

It's a good collection of short stories but the title story is not as good as some of the pastiches of it.

Thanks, but I was talking about Ligotti-ish cinema / television!

I think you need to discount True Detective S1, despite the cribbed monologues: the heroes are too action-driven and capable, the villain's motives too ordinary, and despite much build-up to the contrary, they end up getting a glimpse of the true nature of things and come out bruised but with a refreshed appreciation of their own humanity and the possibility of order and meaning in the universe, which is perhaps the least Ligotti-ish ending you could conceive of.

grobbo
May 29, 2014


Does anyone subscribe to the 'Year's Best Weird Fiction' anthologies?

I tried the first one a couple of years back and didn't get on with it - it was co-edited by Laird Barron and I remember there being a lot of tired, antiquated Lovecraft homages - but I just picked up Vol 4 and it's giving me a bunch of interesting, unique new horror voices I want to seek out and hear more from.

grobbo
May 29, 2014


Dr. Video Games 0081 posted:

Although there's good stuff in there, My Work Is Not Yet Done itself, the novella and not the collection, is probably my least favorite Ligotti story I've read: it's just too much focused on incident and character, and those aren't the things I like in Ligotti's work.

I do have to modify that though, especially if you're reading the Penguin collection that has Grimscribe in it too, because "The Last Feast of Harlequin" is a perfectly coherent, traditionalish short story driven by character and plot, and that's another one of my favorite Ligotti stories.

When I was growing up I was reading a lot of Donald Barthelme, and I always think of Ligotti as being like a horror Barthelme at his best. For instance, from Barthelme's "Departures":


Or I know even more Ligotti gets compared to a Borges or a Kafka. I always think about the Kafka story "Odradek"/"Cares of a Family Man":


That Barthelme comparison is really fascinating, and I completely agree about the experimentation and influences in TG that make it feel like so much more of a unique work.

I re-read My Work Is Not Yet Done recently and I enjoyed it much more on the second go, but I don't think there's any doubt that the longer form exposes Ligotti's weaknesses by forcing him to work with a more action-driven plot and a bigger cast of characters, which he doesn't particularly seem to enjoy.

The first third of the book is this brilliant little sketch of office politics and social paranoia as 20th century horror, focusing on the narrator's Underground Man fantasies that everyone around him is out to get him, undermining him, cheating him...but then there's nowhere for the plot to go afterwards at that kind of length, other than the office workers actually being a parade of deliberate villains, who he then kills off one by one in a slightly weary succession of Ligotti's Greatest Thematic Hits.

grobbo
May 29, 2014


Mel Mudkiper posted:

So I just got done reading Kwaidan which is a book of ancient buddhist ghost stories and it owned

I downloaded this onto my Kindle and was won over by the mention of crabs with human faces on their shells on the very first page.

Awesome recommendation, thank you so much! The focus on 'lonely traveller's strange encounter' fiction makes me think of The Dark Domain, which is a very good thing.

grobbo
May 29, 2014


I know this thread is a constant cycle of Ligotti Chat and The Time Between The Ligotti Chat, so this recommendation has been made before, but:

I've been relistening to the Current 93 collaborations and they're pretty great. 'I Have A Special Plan For This World' is a drat good 22 minutes of 'what if Thomas did spoken word?'

grobbo
May 29, 2014


TOOT BOOT posted:

I don't remember how I originally discovered this but it made a very strong impression on me. Everything about it is just superb.

You would think 20 minute spoken word piece :jerkbag: but it's actually quite hypnotic.

Yeah, completely agreed.

The use of repetition makes it end up feeling quite...beautiful and Beckettian in places, I think? Although I don't know how much Ligotti would acknowledge or accept that influence (he dismisses Kafka's Metamorphosis in one of his interviews, so it's probably just best to give up on making assumptions about the writers he likes).

quote:

He whispered
That my plan was misconceived
That my special plan for this world was a terrible mistake
Because, he said, there is nothing to do and there is no where to go
There is nothing to be and there is no one to know
Your plan is a mistake, he repeated
This world is a mistake, I replied

grobbo
May 29, 2014


SniperWoreConverse posted:

I disagree. I consider it to be some kind of philosophical retrogenisis mindset. Like un-separating the light and darkness as was done in the first part of the bible. The strangely shining light and darkness before there was night and day.

It sort of reminds me of uh, what's that one where aliens appear and a linguist figures out their language and it breaks her sense of time and causality? I get the same kind of feeling from special plan were there's some kind of extremely weird woldview that cracks... idk some kind of logical relationship that people take for granted.

When the puppets look at the puppet master they become something else and it's kind of like once you peer through the gaps and see things as they really are you can't go back, and it's best to do this when everything is finished and you can put away the things you care about, because if you do it before then it may be more regrettable, because to others you will be seen as alternately-sane at best. This is also related to the narrator teaching the kids about the true nature of the world -- it's a plan that will continue to tick away after he dies.

It sort of reminds me of those stories where people get buddha'd up but use that power for something that would be considered bad if they were still subject to normal morality.

See, I read the poem as essentially exploring two interconnected anxieties:

1) Lack of finality. The fear that suicide alone will not be enough; that there can never be an end so complete and permanent as to go beyond wiping out "tongue and teeth and hunger and flesh...and the very dust of bones and the wind that would come to blow the dust away", which is what the narrator (and presumably Ligotti) truly desires.

2) Procrastination. The fear that all of us - even the most hardened pessimist - will find excuses and rationalisations to put off that ending. The joke is that the conditions the narrator is demanding in order to enact the Very Special Plan will never come about. Our nightmares will not be obscured. We will never be truly alone, and have run out of desires. We will never have that final silence.

I said it reminded me of Beckett before, and now I'm wondering if that's deliberate; in one verse the narrator finds himself in dialogue with a spiritual forebear 'who was looking at the moon and waiting for me to turn the corner'.

The man tells the narrator that the Very Special Plan is a mistake because 'there is nothing to do and there is nowhere to go. There is nothing to be and there is no one to know'. This isn't a million miles from Beckett's own 'Nobody comes. Nobody goes. Nothing happens. It's awful', and it's expressing a very Beckettian idea - that even the Very Special Plan, the longing for absolute obliteration, is in its own way seeking meaning, and therefore as equally absurd and futile as anything else in a meaningless universe. It’s just another way to pass the time.

The narrator retorts that the world is a mistake and deserves to be wiped out, but nevertheless he keeps talking, keeps endlessly expounding on his theme, unable to stop for just one moment and actually take action - and the verse about the 'funny little man' feels like a self-recrimination in that regard, a storyteller who knows the awful truth about the world but rather than acting on it, shares it with others to provoke a reaction and ends up creating (shudder) entertainment in the process.

Notably, the moment of ultimate truth and horror at the puppet show isn't described as actually happening - we cut away before we get to it. It's the moment the narrator is desperate for his art to finally evoke, but it's still 'what could never be / what could never be seen'.

The narrator is like the Endgame character who desperately wants to leave the house, who keeps insisting that he's ready to abandon human connection and dialogue and the search for meaning and step out into the deadness, but finds himself, even at the end, still lingering on the threshold, talking about leaving.

grobbo fucked around with this message at 20:14 on Mar 4, 2020

grobbo
May 29, 2014


Apsyrtes posted:

OP, in the past few pages you have asked for recommendations for:

* must-read early horror or gothic literature that maybe flies a bit under the modern radar
* 18th-19th century stuff
* poetry that's horror-adjacent
* poetry that captures a sense of the macabre, dread, or darker side of human existence
* horror (or horror adjacent) novels with strong gnostic influence


Les Chants de Maldoror by Comte de Lautreamont checks all those. You need to read that. I recommend the Alex Lykiard translation, it's a very nice book.

The fact that I was introduced to this work by way of Current 93 kinda ties it in nicely with the rest of the recent thread.

This is a great recommendation!

Given this thread's fondness for extremely strange people, the works of Hans Henny Jahn might be a good shout as well:

https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/hans-henny-jahnn/

grobbo
May 29, 2014


I enjoyed True Detective but it drove me to the brink of madness.

Why would you lift directly from two horror authors, both of them exploring the inability of mankind to live with the revelations of the true, awful nature of the universe (and choose a theme song about being driven mad by a sight too strange to comprehend, no less), if you were going to conclude it by having the agents of civility triumph over backwoods weirdness and basically get over the whole pessimism thing, because maybe good things in this world are worth fighting for?

It's like Nic Pizzolato wrote and produced a prestige TV show with the aim of annoying me personally.

grobbo
May 29, 2014


MockingQuantum posted:

I mean the honest answer is that going hard into Ligotti/Barron style grimness is probably too depressing to sell a show on

I think that's what still confuses me about it. Why introduce these specific authors and themes so prominently if you're only going to discard them? I don't think anyone at HBO was calling for a show that capitalised on the sought-after Ligotti audience, so why bother with this?

Why drop lots of cosmic horror hints if they're only going to be distracting non sequiturs by the time the show wraps up? (Why *were* all those minor characters speaking in deranged whispers about a mysterious and otherworldly domain that turned out to be a non-fantastical Mardi Gras Sex Abuse Fort?)

Was there anything more to it than authorial ego and the idea of prompting dozens of buzzy The Horror References In True Detective You Might Have Missed articles around the show?

grobbo fucked around with this message at 19:55 on Mar 10, 2020

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grobbo
May 29, 2014


I mean, the beauty of that unmade X-Files script is that you could swap out Mulder and Scully and drop it into pretty much any TV show for added Puppets.

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