Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Treasury of Modern Fantasy: The Platypus Reads Part CCXLVI

After finishing up Marion Starkey's The Devil in Massachusetts, I've decided to add a little lighter reading to my list.  Interspersed with my academic reading will be A Treasury of Modern Fantasy, a collection of the best magazine fantasy short stories up to 1980 compiled and edited by Terry Carr and Martin Harry Greenberg.  It should be a nice complement to The Mammoth Book of Fantasy which I read several summers ago.  First up on the list of stories is an old favorite by H.P. Lovecraft: The Rats in the Walls.

The Rats in the Walls is one of Lovecraft's best short stories.  Lovecraft's normally over-articulate prose is paired down and his mythos is deployed in a careful, subtle manner that avoids any of the usual C'thulhu gooberishness.  As always, Lovecraft is careful to link the story back to his beloved New England, but the setting in old England adds a sense of the classically gothic that strengthens the tale's atmosphere.  We also get to see Lovecraft deploy his typical tropes of reversion and forbidden knowledge with a deft sense that is often lacking in his more experimental work.  What cinches the deal, ultimately,  is the pacing.  The best Lovecraft tales all feature a sort of creeping dread learned from the progenitor of the art in its short story form, Edgar Allen Poe.  Lovecraft is careful to seed The Rats in the Walls with subtle hints of the horror he intends to unveil that slip beneath the first time reader's radar but create a growing sense of unease.  The end, when it comes, feels completely natural and completely unexpected bringing about a true sense of horror and revulsion.  This isn't a mere one trick horse, either.  On a second read, knowing the ending only increases the horror as all the subtle clues Lovecraft has left for the reader stand out in all their ghastly significance against the calm naivete of the narrator.

So there you have it: The Rats in the Walls by H.P. Lovecraft.  Next up is a piece by another master fantasist, Abraham Merritt, The Woman of the Wood.  I read and enjoyed Merrit's The Moon Pearl several years ago, so I'm looking forward to this next piece.  I'll let you know what I think as soon as I finish.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Long Road: Creative Platypus

So, at long last I'm getting set to wrap up the first draft of my second novel, "The Place of the Skull."  I should have the conclusion and epilogue done by the end of the week.  Then it's forward to editing and back to applying a few things I've learned to draft four of the earlier work in the series, "The Corpse House."  Once that's done (I move on a glacial time-scale), it will be on to plotting the third book tentatively titled "Our Lady of the Wastes."  I may also take a break to mess around with a short story that will go into "Casebook: Volume I" just to get a bead on some of the characters' further trajectories.  Anyhow, it's been lots of fun and I look forward to being able to tie this one up with a big, black bow.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Conference Platypus

Houston has been a bustling place this fall with a host of conferences, lectures, and debates.  For as many as we've made, there have been two or three that we missed.  Of particular note for us was the Providence Classical School Colloquy which turned out to be an even bigger success than the one two years ago.  All the plenary and breakout sessions are now posted online at the school's website.  We've also enjoyed the seasonal round of Lanier lectures, but of particular interest was the HBU debate on the existence of God between Reynolds and Barker (now on Youtube).  Our seniors attended the lecture along with an assortment of teachers and family making for a particularly fun and informative evening.

All of this, of course, is really an elaborate apology for the lack of content on my blog this month but it's also an update to let you know some of the things we've been doing (it also consoles me just a little for missing all the amazing things that have been going on at Biola and the Gettys -no, seriously, every time I get the Getty newsletter I want to bang my head against the desk.).  There's also been the usual round of reading and teaching too which will hopefully produce its share of blog posts in due time.  All that to say: as soon as I get a minute to process all this stuff I'll be sharing it with you.  Until then, the Platypus still speaks Truth.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Sigurd and Fafnir: Whiteboard Platypus

This picture of Sigurd and Fafnir is loosely based on the Hylestad Door.  It's my attempt to honor our transition from Beowulf to The Volsungsaga.