“In the City of Grand Tahrk the crowds had gathered for Masque Day revels.” So we enter into a mystery of an implied space where a number of strands of thought and cultural media expressions entwine into a complete piece. Over on my blog Dark Pines Photo, I recently posted a fantasy narrative entitled “ Dream Voyage of The Star Feather’s Challenge“.
As you can see from the above image, the sub-title of this tale is How the Poet & The Tinsmith brought forth The Clock Romance Dreaming. What you will find in this post you are presently perusing are five selected images from the fifteen total that accompany the tale of the ship’s fateful annual voyage along the north eastern shore of the Kashteshmyre Sea in the Lands of Dream. Along with the sample images is an account of the process that generated the tale & images.
The genre and style of the narrative derives from the American writer H. P. Lovecraft‘s Dreamlands Cycle ( roughly thirteen to seventeen stories depending on criteria used ). In these tales set in The Dreamlands, Lovecraft was emulating the works of the Irish writer, Lord Dunsany. Written between 1918 and 1932, the narratives concern themselves with “The Dreamlands,” a vast, mythic reality that the dreamer can enter via their dreams. The Dreamlands are shaped and influenced by the dreamer’s hopes, fears and memories.
I will go into more detail about my interpretation & adaptation of the Dreamland setting and Lovecraft’s tropes & motifs a bit later, first I need to identify the seed & intention of my Dreamland tale. To begin with, it was going to be a much shorter post for Implied Spaces and more of a Broken Folklore Mass media stream of consciousness piece. Along the lines of some of my other posts, it would be more Lord Dunsany and Marshall McLuhan. The reason for this intended form was that the DNA seed for this literary exercise was a list of search terms. This list was used to reach this blog.
The top search terms for finding this blog on one particular day were 2015 Kashmir sex “parking between the lines” turtle. I decided to use those terms in a search and see what I got. A couple of search suggestions gave me a few more words, plus a slight reorganization of word order. I then messed about with it a bit more using Google translate and some lines of text from some old novels recently added to Project Gutenberg . I then took this morphed piece of text and began sculpting it into a coherent narrative.
Right from the start, I found multiple settings ( location & time) and narratives (characters) that had an implied connection of causation. The tone, while sharing elements of Broken Folklore narratives, drifted more into a dreamlike Dunsany tale, rather than the blended mass media stream of consciousness voice. The more dark surreal dream qualities reminded me of Lovecraft’s passages and there I was, navigating the Dreamlands.
Once I had settled on The Dreamlands as a setting for the tale, the narratives shape and tone began to coalesce. To flesh out the tale I referenced some online sources, see embedded links above, as well as some of my treasured paperback copies of fantasy books.
As I proceeded with writing & image design, I dropped into some WordPress blogs to see what others were doing on the topic of Lovecraft and Dunsany, as well as related fantasy literature & art. Morgan Billings posted about reading Lovecraft for the first time. Biblioklept had an assortment of images, commentary and reprints of short fiction that gives a sense of the aesthetic in text and illustrations. There you can read The House of the Sphinx by Lord Dunsany ( the original illustration by Sidney Sime).
Lovecraft is a problematic writer. Immensely creative in his interpretation of a cosmic metaphysical basis of horror (Cosmicism); he and his work have influenced many writers, artists and creators of pop culture. Strongly influenced by Poe and the British Augustan Literary period, his writing style could be both overly ornate and pulpy at the same time. Lovecraft had an almost obsessive interest in the antiquities and the supernatural and first his literary model was Edgar Allan Poe. Lovecraft was a Goth and a Nerd, long before the terms came into vogue in their current cultural meaning. Like himself, his work was living with one foot firmly planted an idealized past, while the other was attempting to skip the present and get to the future. Intellectually gifted from a young age, his family life was both intellectually enriching and suffocating. Eager to accept anyone of intellectual and cultural merit, yet he was almost obsessive in the typical prejudices against race, ethnicity and gender of his time and place.
His anxiety can be placed in part on his upbringing by his mother and two maiden aunts, but I suspect from the description of his precocious nature , introverted characteristics, obsessive behaviour, sensory acuteness and learning styles that he would fall somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Circumstances of upbringing were compounded by special exceptionalities in processing information. In spite of his phenomenal memory and skills and interests in literature, theatre, science-astronomy, he was not able to graduate high school because of problems dealing with higher levels of mathematics.
The tropes and motifs used by Lovecraft reflect his obsessions, upbringing and personal experiences and sensitivities. An example of this is the creation of the Nightgaunts , which appear in Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. These faceless humanoid creatures are based on his experience of night terrors & sleep paralysis . Poor young Lovecraft was once again ahead of his time by a few decades; his description of the gaunts sound like those nasty alien entities, The Greys, that abduct people and watch & terrorize them. The flip side to sleep paralysis, false awakenings and vivid nightmares are out of body experiences and lucid dreaming. It is no wonder then that Lovecraft was so taken by Lord Dunsany’s stories and settings in a dream world and journeys beyond the fields we know & that he would be inspired to create stories set in the Lands of Dream, where a protagonist could venture.
Lovecraft was very concerned with the darkness, forbidden and secrets. He moved from the more hopeful wistful & romantic tone of Dunsany towards Poe’s dark fatalistic horrors. His family was full of secrets and facades – a father whose sexual indiscretions resulted in madness & death from a STD, a beloved maternal Grandfather whose death created a strong emotional loss, a loving, but overbearing mother, who succumbed to mental illness and finally, imposing elderly aunts who attempted to keep up social class even as the family wealth was slipping away. I can not help but wonder if some of Lovecraft’s feelings towards other races and ethnicities could be tied to some race mixing, either by the father or earlier generations. The trope of dark family secrets and mixing of human and non-human may have reflected a unspoken family truth. The cosmic horrific truths that the sane human mind can not hold may also touch on family secrets & fates not spoken of in polite society or in front of impressionable sensitive young minds. All this would lead to the trope of the dark Elder Gods who control the universe and control human destiny.
As you can see, Lovecraft can be seen in pretty Freudian terms, when you look at the family history. I chose to take my interpretations of the Dreamlands in a more Jungian direction – shadows are for confronting. While using the tropes, I included ironic turns that were ambiguous & at times humorous. Contemporary cultural allusions that suggested a different metaphysical context to the setting. There is an implied commentary that can be a bit satiric as it raises questions about the roles of commerce and art/media . My preoccupation with time and memory is evident in this narrative – how we reconstruct memory and perceptions as time passes plays out on a symbolic/allegorical level. There will be cats and music. As the elderly Priest Atal points out to the protagonist in The dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, while The Dreamlands are “a general land of visions”, each Dreamer brings elements of their own “especial Dreamland”.
Final comments on process and structure. There are multiple narrators. The first is an unnamed member of the voyage. Their journal entries are in keeping with Lovecraft’s use of journals, letters and news clippings. There is the narrator of distant historical/legendary events. There are stanzas composed by The Poet. Unlike Lovecraft, who emulated the “occasional” verse of the 18th century and the poetry of Poe, I chose the Japanese Tanka and Haiku forms; another cultural blind spot of Lovecraft, whose background was Euro-centric & especially Anglo-centric. There is the narrator who reveals events surrounding The Poet & The Tinsmith and their village of Celephais ( note that in Lovecraft’s narrative Celephais is a beautiful magical city ). At the end of the narrative I supply links to music that fits the mood and themes of memory & loss. It also acts as a counter point to Lovecraft’s cultural biases and discomfort with the 1920s & 30s – the jazz & blues that sprung from the Afro-American experiences would not likely be on his hit parade.
As to the visual pieces, they are either fully formed just for this narrative or they incorporate earlier works to create an appropriate image. of particular interest are the phoenix and fish. I created those some time ago by reassembling parts of flowers from some garden shots. I hope this was helpful and you enjoy voyage into The Dreamlands.