On Lovecraft, horror, holy shit racism and writin thangs.

I first read a Lovecraft story more than twenty years ago as a young teenager. I cut my reading novels teeth on horror and discovering Lovecraft was like finding a new home.

Except, I couldn’t really be home because Lovecraft was racist as fuck.

Like holy fuckballs even when I was a “colorblind” young teen in a  super white environment and friends told me it was racist, holy fuck he was SO FUCKING RACIST…ahem.

At that age I was way better at compartmentalizing the racism and just kind of hunching my shoulders and getting through it because I fell in pure love with the mythos Lovecraft created. Elder Gods? Squiddy nightmares? All those words he used to denote the madnesses and things?

Fuck to the yeah.

So fast foward a bit.

In my 20s I wrote some Lovecraft influenced fiction with some friends. We used Lovecraft’s mythos as a bit of a blueprint and went wild. We created new races of monster, we played with noir and vampire horror and things.

Move ahead to the last couple of years. I have had this deep desire to write Lovecraftian type fiction with my own flavor. So that means a lot of POC, a lot of genderbending, the gay, lots of things.

My problem has been as it has been with returning to writing horror at all was how to get my shit in there, without feeling gross.

If you’ve been here for a while you already know I am a horror fanatic. I am a horror nerd of epic proportions. From basic fan squee to gettin real nerdy about the psychology of horror and shit once I get going it’s hard to get me to stop.

Horror from the industry side, so much racism, sexism and grossness when I dipped my toes in and lurked a lot of the industry side message boards and things I just got sickened and gave it all up.

Evidence of this can be found in my bucketload of novella drafts, notes and ideas.

Part of how I function as a writer means that I can’t always write through everything. And for years I could not write things that were horror or related because all I could think of was all the bullshit.

Also, at that time I was still really into the idea that mainstream publication was the way to legitimacy as a creator.

Fuck that.

Now that my position on legitimacy and industry bullshit has changed I am walking back into writing horror.

Going back to my Lovecraft story I have been nursing this idea of the Nyarlathotep.

Uh, it’s gonna get real nerdy from here on out. Fair warning.

So Nyarlathotep is canonically a “dark” Egyptian man, a salesman type. Showboaty.  This bit from Wikipedia is pretty relevant to the vision I am playing with:

Nyarlathotep, however, is active and frequently walks the Earth in the guise of a human being, usually a tall, slim, joyous man. He has “a thousand” other forms, most of these reputed to be maddeningly horrific. Most of the Outer Gods have their own cults serving them; Nyarlathotep seems to serve these cults and take care of the deities’ affairs in their absence. Most of the gods use strange alien languages, but Nyarlathotep uses human languages and can be mistaken for a human being.

Okay so in my vision Nyarlathotep is reborn into the modern world and has come to fuck shit up. She in my head looks something like this man but a woman:

egyptian

So you know not Hollywood’s EVERYONE EVER WAS WHITE version.

Incidentally, I frequently use google image search so I can have a picture in my head for a character or setting etc. We’ll discuss it another time.

There is my Nyarlathotep.

Being that she’s Egyptian dealing with (in that story) an American, I mention she speaks slowly. I use that not only to give the reader a downlow clue to slow down but because every Egyptian I’ve ever known speaks very quickly.

When I got the idea my Nyarlathotep was more fast talking greasy type but the slowed down type I find scarier.

Now the language. Lovecraft was very wordy. Not that I can’t be a windbag on occasion but, I wanted to cut it down.  Chill it out a little and modernize it without losing some of the great language he used.

A fine line to walk.

Lovecraft has a very particular vocabulary. See this list for reference.

I worked really hard to put in some of that Lovecraft vocabulary so that my fellow lovers of the Elder Gods would be like, oh I see what you did there. And other folks would just get the creeps. See here from the above link:

The best-known R’lyehian fragment comes from HPL’s story, “The Call of Cthulhu:”

ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn

HPL translates this as, “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu lies dreaming.” Using this dictionary, however, a more literal translation is, “Dead, yet dreaming, Cthulhu waits in his palace in R’lyeh.”

My goal with this piece was to take a very small box *parameters of Yeah, Write*, a concept *Nyarlathotep*, remove the racism, add in my flavor and see if I could keep it sexy and creepy. Mainly because I like sexy and creepy.

I feel like I succeeded in my goals.

This is also why Clive Barker is such a huge influence on me. I really love when there is the sensual terror and erotic body horror in scary stories.

Now my Nylarthotep is not scary but I got some creep in there.

I realized I need to gently get back into the scary.

Next time I do a Lovecraft thing, I might take a new direction. Maybe some straight up erotica that isn’t necessarily tentacle porn.

SO yeah.

See I told y’all I nerd real hard. This is not even the tip of the iceberg with my nerding.

But I’ll stop now.

 


Yeah Write #200 entry- A New Girl for Nyarlathotep

A New Girl for Nyarlathotep

by Shannon Barber

“I want to be the vehicle of your annihilation.”

Her voice is smooth and she speaks slowly and carefully. I want to look away but can’t. Her big black eyes have me. I try to speak and fail, fidget with my drink.

“I don’t offer empty handed.”

Something about her manner incites a kind of gibbering desire deep inside me. It bubbles and burns like a madness that starts between my legs and spreads through me until I’m helpless and craving a darkness beyond midnight.

Her smile is wide and white, her teeth gleam against her dark lips. She leans forward and strokes my cheek with soft long fingers.

“I know the darkness you seek. The blackness you try to create in your body. I know that in your dreams you hear them, you know the dreams of the Old Gods.”

Her voice grinds to a gravid whisper, it pulls me in and holds me tight. Her words are a hand around my throat and one locked around my soul. I haven’t spoken in hours and when I do, I don’t recognize the cracked oozing thing that has become my voice.

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.” 

Her head tips back and she laughs, the noise is grating and enormous. Everything around us drops away to nothing, now that the darkness is revealed to me, the darkness I know I was born from. Nothing else can matter in the grip of the Old Gods.

I rock back and forth, my drinks and drugs and cigarettes forgotten. The Eldritch madness is coming, it is pouring into me like foul black water and I open my mouth wide to take it.

She leaves me there, screaming.

“Dead and dreaming dead and dreaming dead and dreaming dead and dreaming…”

I am hers, I know her name she is called Nyarlathotep. She is the daughter of Azathoth, she is the obscene desire in me and the horror I have been craving my whole life.

I am not her first. I will not be her last.

I will be hers, I will follow her into the darkness. I will ride her thousand forms and live in her crawling chaos.

Dead and dreaming, dead and dreaming…

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.

###

p.s

I will be back tomorrow talking about why this little thing is special to me and my relationship with Lovecraft.


Writing bucket list 2015

Some shit I want to accomplish this year.

  • Get paid more. I want to gently step up my freelancing. While making sure I don’t get down on myself because I’m not a journalist.
  • Maybe get paid for some fiction.
  • Add a bit more to my etsy store.
  • Finish Self Care Like A Boss with a big ass bang.
  • Get back into writing about bodies and get paid for said writing.
  • Just get fuckin paid.

I am working on figuring out what kind of freelancing I can handle. I’ve discovered I’m not great at newsy current events type stuff. Unless it is something that comes out in a big ole pain porn flood and I can’t emotionally deal with doing that all the time. Especially if I know I probably won’t get paid.

That being what it is, I need to further work out my pitching terror. I have very little confidence about that type of writing and I need to get to a better place with it. Which is to say, I just need to fuckin do it.

I have ideas and notes for stuff that isn’t so rip my heart out but the idea of pitching them puckers my asshole.

I really want to ease into some changes. I want to back myself while I’m doing some new kinds of writing.

SO yeah.

Shit is changing and I’m working it out.


On Twee Subervsion or Keepin it White n Easy

I have written about transgressive and subversive writing before. Pardon me while I quote myself from last year:

Essentially, I want my transgression to work harder. Go deeper.

And:

Recently the issue of transgressive writing, censorship, and the like have been popping up in lit land. This time around we have two separate events that both prove my problem with how the idea of transgressive or subversive literature functions in the lit world right now.

I just heaved the biggest sigh.

I have done a lot of reading around the internet lately and a lot of what is being billed as being so transgressive and subversive is just not.

Exhibiting abusive and gross behavior under the guise of “subversion” is not something new, it is not brave, it is not unexpected nor is it clever. More so if this is done in a manner that is traumatic to women and/or a cover for figurative dick swinging sexual harassment.

SO yes, let me say that publishing lists of authors you want to bone is not really that original, it’s not subverting the dominant anything.

More so if part of the schtick is anonymity.

Being anonymous and putting on the face of the dominant voice in literature is not transgressive to me at all. It is playing dress up. It is playing with the position of privilege in a very useless manner.

Twee nonsense.

Literature regardless of what niche genre we’re talking about, is rife with sexism and racism. That is the status quo. That is how it is operated and frequently that is the position criticisms of new forms or language comes from.

Giving primacy to the general white cis male heterosexual is the baseline. Regardless of even the content of the work is a reflection of how things are and have been in Western Literature since forever.

You don’t get cookies for doing the same shit everyone else is doing. You can dress it up in punk rock words and Anonymous yammering but it is still the same goddamn thing.

Can we stop bullshitting each other about that?

Let’s be honest. Do what you wanna do, but stop bullshitting.

The bullshitting is my other problem. Over the past few years I’ve seen some niche lit things gas themselves up so hard as being special.

However, if we peel the initial layers away we see a lot of the same stuff.

The men are front and center. Many behave reprehensibly as we’ve seen repeatedly. The women are often young and attractive, lots of the dudes like to talk about having had them or going to have them or having them then publishing them.

This is followed by women coming forward to say this is some bullshit, this happened to me, I don’t like this, stop this.

Men cry that they are being portrayed badly, they want cookies for not being rapists or behaving semi decently.

Lit scene implosion.

More women talk about what is wrong with how these things go down, shit gets gross.

Now these scenes are often lauded as being different and transgressive and new.

Ask any of the women who have been involved with these incidences as victims or people who’ve stood up and we’ll let you know this is not different, transgressive or new.

This is the same pile of shit wrapped in a new box.

I feel like the whole idea of doing something subversive in the lit world has turned into twee LOOK AT HOW TRANSGRESSIVE I AM, I AM WRITIN ABOUT RAPIN BITCHES OMG LOOK AT ME WTF BBQ!!

The problem isn’t that this type of subversive light literature exists. It can exist, people can write and read whatever the fuck they want.

The problem is that this seems to be among the main modes of subversive literary expression and it’s sad.

As I pointed out in my Open Letter to the Paris Review, when you have a chance take it.

Being actually subversive or transgressive when you are participating in literature happens. If you are a Person of Color, a woman, queer, etc. you are already halfway there.

The other part is that more editors need to use their editorial discretion to go beyond Transgression 101 White Dudes talking shit.

It’s hard.

It means you might have to contend with the kind of thing a lot of us marginalized folks deal with on the daily.

It is 2015.

Go the fuck in.

And I don’t mean in the smarmy “Unpopular opinion” type of Liberal nonsense.

Publish the Other voices.

Publish and promote work that is outside of your general literary sphere. Be brave.

Be rich.

Get and stay uncomfortable.

If more of the gatekeepers of generally traditional publishers and indies and the supposedly subversive want to actually demonstrate any kind of commitment to this sort of thing, you have to be uncomfortable. You have to understand that if you’re squirming because the story isn’t the type of story you know, you’re going in the right direction.

And can we move beyond body horror being only equal to EW fat people EW VAGINA, EW BARF. I think we can do better.

If we can step away from using White Dudes Write The Thing as our only barometer of what is and isn’t good or what is or isn’t transgressive it would go a long way.

If more editors could stop with the idea that because they’ve made bad decisions they are gonna get blow back from us non editor peons that’d be great.

Get at that depth of meaning that pokes holes in the Western Literary Canon and it’s bastard kids.

Go the fuck in.

Stop coming at people sideways when you’ve done something not awesome.

Come on y’all.


Yeah Write #199- Mandingo Incarnation.

Mandingo Incarnation

by

Shannon Barber

prose poem

If reincarnation is real I know how I want to come back. Fuck being a bird or a tiger.

I want to be reborn the biggest, baddest, Blackest mother fucker you ever saw.

I want to be huge and dark and bald.

So big you’ll wonder if I just got off a ten stretch where all I did was lift weights and eat Aryans.

The type of dude who’d smoke a blunt bigger than your dick, drink all your liquor,smoke all your rock and fuck you senseless. Leave you bereft of drugs, money and covered in come.

And you’d call me back because of my smile and cocksmanship.

The type of dude to beat the dog shit out of somebody, then head out for some chicken.

The type of dude every White man fears.

The type to make an officer say, I feared for my life while standing 50 yards away.

….but it’s only a dream.

I understand reincarnation doesn’t work that way. And while it might be tempting to imagine myself as the Mandingo nightmare from every shitty movie ever.

If I can’t dream of being safe-

        I will dream of being danger.

 

 ###


Dolla Dolla Bills Y’all. The Unsponsored Writer.

Apparently a lot of writers are talking where they get money etc right now.

I’ve read several of these articles and I must confess to a lot of eye rolling.

So how about the view from the bottom?

99% of financial support for my life comes from the job I have been working for more than a decade. I don’t make a lot of money.

I support my disabled partner. I live in Seattle. I’m pretty poor. Not dire straits.

Back in the day the only times I made money writing was about 25-100$ writing smut. The most I got paid was by a couple of very specific fetishists who liked how I wrote their fetishes.

I have made very little money writing fiction. I got paid for non smut fiction from, uh, shit it was yonks ago. But I opted for payment in the form of getting an anthology. I got paid for being in Thuglit.

I write for XOJane for 50$ a pop, which is apparently pathetic according to a few regular commenters.

So all in I’ve maybe made a thousand dollars (I’m over estimating a bit) in ten years. Also counting content mill work, ad copy, adult blog/toy patter etc.

Now the eye rolling, I kind of don’t give a shit where other writers get their money unless we’re talking waht publications pay and that sort of thing.

A lot of these articles seem to miss the privilege of having someone be able to financially support you while you struggle. If you struggle. Or the privilege of being hot on the internets so name recognition gets you a bit ahead.

A lot of these articles don’t talk about writers like me who don’t need to hear about how blessed someone is that their spouse/family/whomever makes enough money to support them so they can write full time and work up to making money.

I feel like folks like me need to know how to care for ourselves when we work 12 hours a day at a day job.

Managing stress when bills are late, kids need medication etc etc.

I find a lot of advice about writing that assumes that it’s a good choice to decrease hours at a dayjob, or that you have a safety net, that you won’t wind up homeless if you decide to work a dayjob less.

Now how do I fund this shitshow?

Currently my webhosting fees and formerly my Duotrope and AWP memberships are out of the household budget. Usually the months I pay for that stuff I don’t have an entertainment budget.

That being what it is, I actually haven’t reupped either my membership to Duotrope or to AWP. I can’t afford to go to AWP this year so it’s an expense I can skip.

Funding my writing means I figure out when I can lose sleep, I don’t subscribe to that many literary magazines, I have to decide if I’m going to try to work on fiction that I will probably not get paid for is better for me right now than trying to get paid for some non fiction.

Do I push myself to freelance more even though I know that I’m just not that great at it?

I don’t buy a lot of books when they are new even if I am in them. Shit I STILL don’t have a print copy of any of the things I’ve been in except for Thuglit.

I don’t do writing retreats.

I don’t do seminars.

I go to work. I write catch as catch can.

If I’m able to healthwise I write between 2-4 AM.

Otherwise my writing is unsponsored.

Or I should say my writing is brought to you by insomnia, sweat and poverty.

This is why I have the etsy shop. 

This is what it means when I post on whatever social media at 4 AM, that I am on that grind.

So yay if you’ve got it like that. However I won’t be reading any more articles about it because it has nothing to do with my life and any advice that goes along with it assumes a lot of privilege I don’t have.

So there’s the view from the bottom of the heirarchy.

I can also say that after all these years I’m very proud and very astonished that I still do this. Through near homelessness, financial crisis, stress on a level that caused me to brown out in a hospital room waiting for my partner to get out of emergency surgery and me not being sure we’d have a home to go back to-so you know real shit.

All that and other shit and I’m still doing it.

And sometimes, my work reaches out and touches somebody. Somebody has wept, somebody has laughed, somebody has had to go masturbate, somebody has had an AHA moment and that while it doesn’t make it all better it ain’t bad y’all.

It ain’t bad.


Suttree by Cormac McCarthy A review.

 

A new favorite book.

A new favorite book.

I just finished this book and wow.

Okay first thing is I’m already pretty into McCarthy’s work. Blood Meridian is one of my favorite book. We know I like it dark and grim and  he does it.

I think Suttree might now be my favorite McCarthy book. Read the synopsis here. 

The thing about this book that I love is how well McCarthy captures the casual racism of 1950’s Knoxville and also captures that singular usage of racial slurs that are not backed by implicit hate. They are there, a lot but not overdone and not as some authors make the mistake of doing always used in a very hateful context.

The Black folks in this book behaved appropriately. In their own neighborhood and establishments while they were a bit deferential, they weren’t shuck and jive negroes that populate other books.

There is something very specific about that time period and how Black and white people who are within the same socioeconomic (or close) class interact that was captured so well. It wasn’t the bucolic oh look they could ALL get along, but it wasn’t abject fear and horror.

I LOVE the language and usage in this book. McCarthy is a master with language and this book is no exception. The finesse of using the vernacular of the time, of the Black folks of the time, of the poor uneducated southerners and then every now and then slipping in this beautifully used 7$ vocabulary gave me chills. I am an absolute fool for the ability to manipulate language that way and this book, god damn it.

Even the language around how Suttree interacts with a black queer man up through the end of the book is palpably both loving and a little grossed out.

The whole book has that magic in it, the rhythm of the plot is meandering and at moments turns very sharp but never in a way that takes the reader out of the story. Shit happens and like most of McCarthy’s work there is a lot of darkness in this book and the darkness makes the beautiful moments glitter.

Often when I read books during this time period a few things happen. Often they are all White utopia’s where your average White dude spent a lot of time not saying nigger or worrying about race relations, the conflicts of the time are ignored, or it is Black folks pain porn in one form or another. Or it is LOOK THEY WERE FRIENDS AND LIVED PEACEFULLY TOGETHER IN THE SUPER DEEP SOUTH AND POWER POLITICS DIDN’T PLAY INTO IT AT ALL…*ahem the help*.

I am not old enough to have lived at the time but, I was very blessed to have had access to Black people who did. Some I was related to some not.

There is a lot of nuance in race relations during that time especially in the deep South. Beyond that there are shades of racism and realities that to write that time period successfully while including interaction between White and Black people, it’s just difficult.

This book will be difficult reading for some. The racism, the poverty, the grim winter and general darkness. For those who aren’t deterred, if you’re going to read McCarthy read this one.

It meanders beautifully. Some have said it is overlong but I don’t agree. The language is so beautifully done, it could have gone on more and I would have been happy. The POV shifts are done masterfully and smoothly.

This book reminds me of the blues, roots, bluegrass etc music I like. Some of it is so damn sad and terrible you want to lay down and cry. But it’s done so beautifully you want the pain.

So to wrap up.

Read this fuckin book.

That’s all.

I’ll be back with some craft notes maybe tomorrow and next week I’ll be back in Yeah Write with more flash.

I also want to mention that my dear friend Dena Rash Guzman talked about some recent lit world nonsense and said some nice stuff about my work. Get it at Luna Luna.

I feel like I might talk about subversion again. And the general lack of it in the lit world right now. I also probably want to talk about my poetry. I have some feels and whatnot.

AND (shit I have a lot to do, I’ve been sick for weeks and am way off my game) I really want to discuss some important feeling decisions I’ve made of late in regard to my writing.

So yeah LOTS to talk about.

Right now I’m gonna go try to write my first op-ed type thing and chug some mighty fine ass coffee.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,186 other followers

%d bloggers like this: