Jennifer K. Oliver

Speculative Fiction Writer

Category: Writing: Authors

Podcast Rec: The HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast

Lovecraft’s stories are very hit-or-miss. A few years ago I went through a whirling reading fest and over the course of about two weeks I inhaled as many of his stories as I could manage. Afterwards, I took a break and tried to sift through my feelings.

For the most part, I came out of it frustrated–so much of his work is problematic and not easy to stomach, regardless of the period in which he was writing. At times it’s racist, xenophobic, classist, homophobic; female characters are under-represented; and his prose can be horrendously purple. And some of his earlier work just isn’t very good at all, on any level.

On the other hand, some of his stories are stunningly creepy and imaginative, and if nothing else, we can thank him for shaping what a lot of weird fiction and horror is today. There’s a reason people still love to run around in his playground, and I think it’s even more important to continue reinventing that playground, make it more accessible, diverse and consistent. But I digress.

At the time I started listening to and loving the heck out of The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast (otherwise known as H.P. Podcraft) hosted by Chad Fifer and Chris Lackey. Basically, they go through most of Lovecraft’s work and provide readings, commentary, music and resources. There were a couple of stories I wasn’t originally able to finish – The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath being one – but recently I’ve revisited them with the podcast providing a kind of Cliff Notes / York Notes support. Plus there are always additional laughs and observations I hadn’t considered. Chad and Chris also often give background info about the stories, such as when Lovecraft wrote them, what he said about them in his letters to correspondents, which magazines they were published in (or rejected by!), and other works inspired by them. It’s interesting listening, and Lovecraft himself becomes a more interesting character when seen through someone else’s eyes.

Of course, eventually you’re going to run thin on Lovecraft material, but they continued the podcast by reading works by other authors of weird, dark or horror fiction, many of them Lovecraft’s contemporaries.

And, for anyone who hasn’t tried HPL before, The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast is a terrific place to start, especially if you’re intrigued about Lovecraft but haven’t been able to find anything by him that’s easy to get into (as I said above, he can be very hit-or-miss).

You can also find them on Twitter and their forums.

When I Met Terry Pratchett

My poor 2012 Macbook Pro is struggling with my heavy-duty graphic design, so I have sorted through all my photos before I move to a new iMac. There are so many wonderful memories from years ago, I’d quite like to share some of them here to break up the writing chatter.

The first one is the day I met Terry Pratchett and the brief conversation we had.

It’s no secret that Good Omens is in my Top Three Books of All Time. The day I went to Terry’s signing I had my dogeared copy clutched in my hands. Most people in front of me passed him his newer books, but when I got to his table and gave him Good Omens, this is what happened:

Jen: “I wasn’t sure which of your books to have signed. But since Aziraphale is my favourite angel ever, it had to be this one.”

Terry: “Oh really? Even though he’s probably gay.”

Jen: “He makes me laugh, no matter how many times I read the book.”

Terry: “We [him and Neil Gaiman] had a conversation about it, and decided that angels were sexless and therefore could be whatever they wanted.”

Jen: “I wouldn’t love them any other way.”

(Please note: I don’t know the other people in the photo. If this is you and you are uncomfortable with this post, let me know and I will remove the photo.)

Was Aziraphale’s sexuality ever disputed? I figured him and Crowley were pretty much asexual. Aziraphale could be considered camp in his mannerisms, so I can see why Pratchett and Gaiman originally had the idea that he was gay.

I love this day in my past and I loved revisiting it recently. A number of years later I went to see Neil Gaiman during his The Ocean at the End of the Lane book tour, so I have had the pleasure of seeing both of these incredible authors in person. Now if only I can meet Stephen King!

D Is For Disillusionment

Ever found an author, actor, musician, or artist’s website or blog and found that they are not as peachy-keen as you first thought and hoped?

This sense of disillusionment has happened a couple of times over the years. I remember hunting for a particular author whose books I loved as a teenager. I read their blog, and quickly noticed how regularly rude they were about their readers. The author isn’t writing as much nowadays, but it’s still bad form. Fans are still buying their books, which is the greatest praise. It shouldn’t matter whether or not a writer likes their old work. If the bacon is still coming in, the least an author can do is be quietly thankful and not insult the people who are spending money on their product.

I try not to let someone’s personal attitude get in the way of my enjoyment of their work. But sometimes it’s hard to look beyond their public conduct. This is why, when I discover someone new, I try not to dig too deep. The internet, social networking, and online marketing makes everyone incredibly accessible. But this can work against people, too.

We are entitled to our opinions, but how far do we take it? And how do we recognise when we’re not only damaging our reputations, but also unnecessarily hurting other people? It’s usually not until after the proverbial shit hits the fan, and by that time feelings are hurt, opinions are formed, and it’s hard to backtrack. It’s almost impossible to make people forget you’ve acted like an ass on the internet, because everything we say is copied and pasted, screen-captured, stored in caches, and caught on way-back machines and freeze-pages.

The lines between sharing our thoughts and airing dirty laundry are getting blurrier. I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk about our feelings, but bear in mind that sometimes a little mystery goes a long way. We don’t have to leap head first onto every bandwagon that comes along just because we want to be heard.

There are certain topics I’d never discuss at a dinner party, and those same topics will never be discussed here.

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