Lovecraft scholar Robert M. Price’s roof has been saved from the shoggoths :)
Popping up on the blog-dar today: Graham Harman was at Rice University yesterday…
“Harman’s [Lovecraft tinged] philosophy [the OOO variety of the new Speculative Realism] does not distinguish categorically between humans and nonhuman or life and matter. Drawing on Heidegger, Harman extends phenomenology’s account of the relation between human beings and the world to objects and the relations among objects.”
No video. But here’s a Dec 2013 talk by Harman I found, so decide what it all means for yourself…
I mostly fail to see the usefulness or point of modern academic philosophy, possibly because I’m not trained in it but also because its hair-splitting concerns seem so utterly arcane. But for my own amusement I’ve just attempted at a quick translation of the above-linked Wikipedia page section. At first glance Harman’s core ideas seem to me rather like a standard semiotics framework, shunted sideways into the language and categories of contemporary philosophy. Here’s what I can make out, in as plain an English as I can manage…
* Real physical objects are made up of complex combinations of objects, sub-objects, materials, and forces.
* Real physical objects exist amid complex landscapes of other real objects and physical forces.
* Amid such ramifying complexity, most humans find it useful to imbue a real physical object with a shorthand mental caricature of it.
* We use these shorthand mental caricatures to engage with real physical objects, just as much as we use our eyes / fingers / ears.
* These shorthand mental caricatures about objects exist and operate within culture and language, where they tend to interbreed and mutate over time.
So, let’s try that on a real world instance: a suspension bridge across water can be both a real physical object and a cultural form. The bridge is imagined and designed, and as such it is undoubtedly a cultural form. Yet once constructed, the bridge is also undoubtedly a real physical object. Yet the real bridge rapidly becomes a shorthand mental caricature, part of a more complex symbolic landscape of nation, city, travel, speed, ambition, work and commerce, structural elegance, the alluring sublimity of weather and light at play over a large human structure, etc. But this complex web of symbolic meaning is not enough to keep the bridge aloft: since we only wish to actually cross the bridge if it can be shown to rest on immutable and objectively-real laws of physics and geometry. In this sense the bridge also rests in part on the accumulated historical labour of many human minds, those special men who in the past discovered the countless correct object-combinations needed to build such a bridge. The bridge also replicates itself physically into the future, as designers and engineers are inspired by it to create new structures elsewhere. Poets and artists may likewise develop the bridge’s symbolic meanings, long after it has been dismantled or has fallen into the river and decayed to rust, weakened by the implacable web of objects and forces — weather, wind, waves, tide, rain, human use and neglect/repair, accident, barnacle attack — in which the bridge was placed.
I’ve not looked in any depth at the new Lovecraft-inspired philosophy before, but (judging by Wikipedia and a video, and some vague memories of a couple of book reviews) one of the most interesting things the OOO variety of speculative realism appears to ask is: what happens when real objects autonomously interact and recombine? Especially when objects are able to autonomously develop interactions that lie beyond human symbolic meanings (perhaps initially via some kind of embedded generative/emergent semantic artificial intelligence, I’m guessing?) Thus OOO seems relevant to autonomous generative emergence in nature (the wheeling flight of many flocking birds, complex weather systems, population dynamics over time, and even weirdly unknowable deep earth-crust ecologies), and also to autonomous emergence in new human technologies (AI singularities, unstoppable grey nano-slime, online bot ecologies, etc). Most of which emerge relatively independent of us, and appears to care little or nothing for us.
Hence Lovecraft, presumably: unspeakable knowledge about unknowable realities; the cosmic indifference exhibited by nature and time, in terms of the fate of man; the arcane trajectories of unfeeling inhuman conspiracies; and the frailty of the human mind when faced with knowledge that such things can exist without reference to us.
Following the recent Robert M. Price podcast, and its musings on the most Lovecraftian of Stephen King’s stories, I listened to the free 90-minute professional audio reading of “Jerusalem’s Lot”. It doesn’t make me inclined to plough through the rest of King, but I was pleased to find it neatly remixes a number of Lovecraft stories while sustaining a Lovecraftian feel, tone, and setting throughout.
What it fails to port over from Lovecraft: his close attention to period architectural details; his skill with the dialect of remote rustic types; the deft interweaving of his own autobiographical detail; the use of his deep chorographic topophilia to bring veracity and psychological depth to descriptions of the New England landscape. King’s addition of small touches of ‘the cosmic’ also feel rather forced.
Two trailers for The Gospel According to Price, the forthcoming feature length documentary film about Robert M. Price…
What Became of Harley Warren? a Kickstarter for a new stage play by Re:Conception Theatre, based in Oxford in the UK.
Above: Kellogg Field Phone, 1917.
A Lovecraftian novel Move Under Ground (2009) has been released for free in PDF and HTML. It’s also on Amazon as a hardcover or a trade paperback or for the Kindle ereader. No audio book, sadly. Reviews were rather positive, although its 60,000 words and 210 pages were damned as “short”, by the sort of annoying reviewer who thinks a key measure of the worth of a modern novel is its thickness in inches.
Move Under Ground is reportedly a successful pastiche of Kerouac’s trademark gyrating stream-of-consciousness style, melded with Lovecraft’s approach to extended riffs on the monstrous-in-landscape. The famous Beat writer Jack Kerouac tells the story (spoilers) of the rising of R’lyeh off the coast of California, and of the road trip Jack takes as he flees from California to Manhattan to tackle the murderous Cthulhu cult. Cassady, Ginsburg, and Burroughs all have bit parts, it seems. I’ve had a 10% free sample sent to my Kindle.
* Nicholas Mazzuca (2009), The Dreamer Deepe: A Two-Act Play in the Lovecraft Horror Mythos (Stage play submitted in place of a formal Masters disseration, Clemson University)
* Kurt Fawver (2013) The Terror of Possibility: A Re-evaluation and Reconception of the Sublime Aesthetic (PhD thesis, University of South Florida. Appears to touch on Lovecraft from time to time, throughout)
* Ryan P. Kennedy (2012), Evolution of Effect: The Numinous in Gothic and Post-Gothic Ghost Experience Literature. (Undergraduate dissertation, a short section discusses the theme in H.P. Lovecraft’s short stories)
* Xavier Gamboa (2012), Baroque Worlds of the 21st Century (PhD thesis, “an analysis of the unfolding twenty-first century neobaroque phenomenon”. Not on Lovecraft per se, but seems to have been inspired by Patric MacCormack’s 2007 essay “Baroque Intensity: Lovecraft, Le Fanu, and the Fold” and other writing on the neobaroque)
Snagged from eBay, a scan of the rather nice cover for a 1982 Necronomicon Press chapbook edition of “The Colour Out of Space”. 400 copies. Artist: ?