Thursday, January 27, 2011

Notebook page for 10-7-2010

Well, this is a list of all of the Lovecraft stories from 1930-32. It was going to be background reading for what was in the ether at the time of the Mongoose.

1931 Mountains of Madness
     Shadows over Innsmouth
     the Trap

1930 The Mound (with Zelia Bishop)
     Medusa's Coil (with Zelia Bishop)
     A Whisperer in Darkness

1932 Dreams in the Witch House
     Man of Stone (with Hazel Heald)
     Horror in the Museum (with Hazel Heald)
    Through the Gates of the Silver Key.
I can't recall why they're not listed in chronological order. I suspect that I started in 1931 and moved back and then discovered something in the notes about 1932.

The stories can be read at which is a fantastic resource for anything HP Lovecraft. Lovecraft did a lot of ghost-writing and a lot of his co-written stories are generally all his based on an idea or a plot supplied by the co-author.

Lovecraft is both a writer who fascinates me and a human being who repels me. His fears of 'otherness' are core to his writing, and this goes hand in hand with his racism. Generally, his racism is not overt but there are some notorious examples where it spills out. Horror of Red Hook is the prime suspect. Medusa's Coil, in the list above,  has an ending that is truly horrific to any sensible minded human, but not for the reasons that Lovecraft intended. Let me save you from the necessity of reading the story. A man marries a beautiful woman who is revealed at the story's end, when she tears her mask off, not as a monster from beyond the stars but as being black. Real classy Lovecraft.

More positively, my favourite Lovecraft story is "At the Mountains of Madness", which is approaching the point where it may actually be filmed in 2013 by Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth). This story reveals all the good bits of Lovecraft and is the classic proto-X-Files tale: vast icy continents, abandoned ancient cities, aliens buried under the ice, ancient earth history, alien autopsies, forensic and archealogical investigation and humans and aliens alike being hunted by something else. All it lacks is the UFO, but these aliens can fly through space, so they don't need one. The subtext of a slave creature rising up and destroying the creator has been and can be read in many ways. In light of Lovecraft's xenophobia, it can be read as a commentary on race and the change in the power of the white man, another reading is a socialist commentary on the importance of the worker (thanks China Mieville).

Monday, January 24, 2011

10-6-2010 The First List.

This is the first note from 10-6-2010.  Forgive the handwriting, when I write quickly it becomes a scrawl. Deciphering it can sometimes be part of the fun.

I'll type it now, and add notes as I go explaining some of what I was thinking.


Gef, the talking mongoose.
The family, the farm, Isle of Mann, Voirrey Irvine (James + Margaret), Newspaper men, IoM locals, Harry Price.
This is, if you like,  the initial cast and set list. James and Margaret are Voirrey's parents. Harry Price is a renowned psychic investigator who wrote the book on the haunting (which I cannot find right this second).
 The Talking Mongoose Case
There was a court case where a paper was sued successfully for libel.
"Gef was the worst thing that ever happened to me"

"I could kill you all. But I won't"
A quote from Voirrey's last interview in 2004ish (if  I recall) followed from one of the Gef quotes at the time.
India, New Delhi. 1852.
This was where Gef claimed to be from in his previous life. I went back and wrote the date in later.
1931, World Events/Weird events
Strange creature shot in 1945.

Mongoose released on IoM. 
These are avenues for further research, both general and specific. The strange creature was shot by the new owner of the Irvine farm and he claimed that it was Gef.
[Nigel Kneale was IoM]??
Nigel Kneale is the writer of Quatermass, 1984 and other television for the BBC. I had this with heavy question marks because I half-remembered that he was from the Isle of Man, but was not sure. I checked yesterday and found that he was born in England in 1922, but his family returned to the Isle of Man when he was 6. I need to compare the dates, and where they went to school, but I quite like the idea that a Voirrey and Kneale may have been contemporaries.
HPL stories for 1931
[Rats in the Walls/Lurking Fear]
Here I'm thinking of other strange tales from the same time period. Lovecraft is one of my favourites, and I'd be looking specifically at the imagery that he used.
 Do we see/hear Gef?
One thing I haven't made up my mind about is whether Gef is actually real. I'm thinking that the way forward is to hit the ambiguity hard. That Voirrey considered him real is probably the most important thing to take.

Other talking animals?
More research avenues. Like crop circles in the late 90s, and UFOs since the 50s, was there a spate of talkative wildlife around the time? It may have been in the ether. Also, it gives a bigger cloth to play with. Can Gef be located as part of a continuum of talking animals?  
Reverse Chronology.
Now this here was the first idea I had for how to structure the play. Having read the references and story on may different web-pages I was struck by how Voirrey referred to the events of 60-70 years previous. She believed with a certainty that Gef was real, and that he had a real effect on the events in her life, especially her failure to marry. The more I think about her conviction and her sadness, the more I wonder if this should be the starting point. Everything leading away from her final interview towards her meeting Gef for the first time.

What do I have?

I first thought about writing the talking mongoose story in early October 2010. Way back then I did a whole whack of internet research (i.e. google text and image searches), saved a bunch of pages and documents and then brainstormed.

My writing process involves a period of initial information gathering and then a distilling of all of that information into lists of characters, events, images and ideas.

When I first thought of doing this blog a week ago, I did an archeological dig through my notebook to see what I had already generated. (I will post each entry as a separate blog post with commentary).

This information is all the digested and semi-digested bits that I've gleaned. I like to include anything that may even be remotely of use, usually to provide contrast to the core idea. I try to have a lot of these lists, just so I can have the fun of deciding what gets cut.

What will happen now is that I will post what I wrote way-back-when, then I'll probably do a few more brainstorms and some explanation (as best I can) of what on earth I was thinking as I was writing it all. I'll also re-read and post the links for the information that I found. There are some fascinating bits and pieces out there. This story is one that hooks people.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What's the story?

Growing up, this and the other books in the World of the Unknown (one volume of UFOs and another on werewolves and vampires)  were some of my favourites. It was probably one of the books that most warped me as a kid, and there were images in them that I couldn't look at for fear of nightmares. Blood and violence, strange chills up and down my spine.

The one story that stayed with me was the one of Gef the Mongoose. On the Isle of Man in the 1930s a farm was haunted by a talking mongoose who claimed to be the reincarnation of a man from India.

There was an ambiguity in the nature of Gef that stuck with me. He showed concern for the family, while at the same time threatening them with murder. There was also debate over if Gef was a poltergeist or a criptid (talking animal) or if he were the creation of the young girl of the family, Voirrey.

And in thinking about what to write, this was the story that crept to the front with it's claws in a crack in the ceiling.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Alien Playwright Blog

Almost a decade ago I wrote 2 plays that were produced in Wellington theatres. They were a mixed bag of experiences, mostly positive. But for various reasons I have not written a completed play since and that feeling of completion has been something sorely missing in my life.

This blog is going to do a number of things.

It will be a place where I  write a draft and a half of a play. I will sit down and write directly into blogger to weave together a completed draft. It won't be as rough as a typical first draft, because I want people to see where it is going. I am considering placing this draft under a creative common license of some kind.

The second thing this blog will do is be a place for me to write about how I see the theatre and writing in general. I am not a big one for definitive statements, though it will be valuable to articulate some of the signal from the background noise in my head.

Thirdly is that I want this blog to be a calling card or showcase for my writing abilities and style. A place I can send people to when they ask "So, what do you write?"

The last and, possibly, most important is that I need a focus for my writing. It is good to have a goal when writing, beyond the final curtain, and this blog is now mine.