Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Miscellany No. 1

Here is an item from "The Bizarre Mystery of M.K. Jessup and the Allende Letters" by Brad Steiger and Joan Whritenour in Flying Saucers Have Arrived!, edited by Jay David and published in 1970:
On June 11, 1958, the New York Herald Tribune carried a story that told of the results of a series of excavations conducted by archaeologists in Mongolia, Scandinavia, and Ceylon in which similar artifacts were discovered to those found among the Eskimos. The Smithsonian Institution, sponsors of the study, thereby concluded that ten thousand years ago the Eskimos inhabited Central Asia, especially the warm tropical paradise of Ceylon.
Why any people would want to leave a veritable Garden of Eden for the bleak northern wastes seems beyond comprehension. The Eskimos themselves, however, have had an answer for hundreds of years, which was always received a patronizing chuckle from anthropologists and missionaries. The Eskimo tradition says that they were "deported" to the frozen northland by a flock of giant metallic birds. Shall we continue to laugh at a "legend" of metallic birds today? (p. 175)
I'm not sure that the Smithsonian Institution ever concluded that Eskimos originated in Central Asia, and I'm really, really sure that Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka, isn't anywhere even close to that part of the continent. Reading that item, though, made me think of "The Call of Cthulhu" and the nineteenth-century expedition of William Channing Webb to West Greenland during which he "encountered a singular tribe or cult of degenerate Eskimos" and looked upon their "fetish . . . . a very crude bas-relief of stone." This fetish bears a distinct resemblance to one recovered by Inspector John Raymond Legrasse in his later raid on a group of Cthulhu-worshippers in a swamp close-by New Orleans. It is here in the story that pieces of the Cthulhu puzzle are put together for the first time.

In the supposed nonfiction item above, the Eskimos are described as having been "deported" from their ancestral home. They would seem, then, to have been victims of a kind. And what were the giant metallic birds that did the deporting? Could they have been the Vimana of ancient Indian legend? (The Eskimos came from Ceylon, you know, which is slightly closer to India than to Central Asia.) Now in researching this posting, I find that eight American soldiers disappeared in a "Time Well" generated by a Vimana discovered in a cave in Afghanistan (which is in Central Asia) just like the men who got "stuck" after the unsuccessful Philadelphia Experiment, in which Morris K. Jessup was indirectly involved by his correspondence with Carlos Allende, aka Carl Allen. (1) This reminds me of the story of Fred L. Crisman, who claimed to have encountered Shaverian Deros in a cave in Burma (a cave which seems to have been by his description in Central Asia). Remember, too, that Lovecraft's Leng is also in Central Asia. I also find that Eskimo warriors wore laminar armor (pictured below) which seems to have had a delta-wing configuration, just like a Vimana. Could this configuration have been an evocation of a long-ago time when the Eskimo people were carried away on silver wings from their tropical paradise of a homeland in Sri Lanka into exile in the frozen north? I tell you, thinking about these things will wear out your brain.

Anyway, the Eskimo cultists in "The Call of Cthulhu" are obviously not victims, as they worship Cthulhu, who plans on stomping over the Earth like Godzilla on Tokyo. (Both are green and come from under the sea by the way.) But like the Eskimos who were deported, they have connections to faraway places, in this case to Louisiana and the South Pacific. And speaking of crude, H.P. Lovecraft once again demonstrated his crude racialism in casting brown-skinned non-northern Europeans as among his villains. I have written before about the idea that cultists, fanatics, and true believers tend to emanate not from the lower classes or peasantry as in Lovecraft's stories but from the middle class. Karl Marx came from the middle class and hated the middle class. Lenin and Mao were teachers. They hated the middle class, too. Hitler was an artist and the son of a minor government official. Osama bin Laden and Yasser Arafat were engineers. Writers, journalists, and pundits always seem surprised to learn these things. They were so surprised, I think, to find out that the Easter-worshipper bombers in Sri Lanka turned out to be middle-class businessmen and former university students. (The California Passover-worshipper shooter is very distinctly from the middle class.) I'll say it again: they are generally people from the middle class who become the terrorists and the political murderers, the tyrants and the totalitarians, I suspect because they despise what they have come from and wish to see it destroyed. (I feel certain that they also very often despise themselves and wish to see themselves destroyed.) Fancying himself an aristocrat, Lovecraft seems to have missed that insight. Today, fancying themselves aristocrats, too, journalists, pundits, politicians, and academics also miss it. It seems to be a simple thing, yet they miss it. But then they live by lies and are purveyors of lies, so why should they see the truth in anything? All I can say is that the Eskimos should be glad that they were carried away from Central Asia and Ceylon all those years ago because now they can live in peace way up above the murderousness, chaos, and destruction of our current culture.

(1) Here's a link to the article in which these things are discussed, "A five thousand year old ancient Indian VIMANA found in Afghanistan cave, eight American soldiers stuck in TIME WELL disappeared in attempt to remove it" by Sathish Ramyen.

The laminar armor of an Eskimo warrior in the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), St. Petersburg, Russia.

Original text copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, April 29, 2019

Easter Stories

The holiday is past us. Now people all over the world will have to wait until next year to worship Easter again. Hopefully their holy colored eggs and sacred chocolate bunnies will last for a while. In the meantime, there has been an attack on Passover worshippers in California. It happened on the seventh day of the holiday that they worship, about forty-eight hours after the New York Times published a cartoon showing the current prime minister of Israel as a dog leading our current president--depicted as a blind man wearing a yarmulke--wherever he pleases, I guess. And he's not just any dog. He's a dachshund. You know, a German dog. Isn't that so funny? Isn't the New York Times just the greatest? The really funny part will come when they try to condemn Jew-hatred after having perpetrated it in their own pages.

In all seriousness, the root of the problem before us is not so much that there are barbarians at the gates as that there are those inside the gates who wish to fling them open to allow the barbarians in. I suppose the reason is that the barbarians will do what the enemy already inside the gates wishes to be done, namely, lay waste to this city called Civilization. Only then might Utopia be built upon its ruins. The shooters and the bombers are without a doubt monsters, but the philosophers, inspirers, and facilitators of and apologists for mass murder may be more monstrous still and an even greater danger to all of us. A Jewish woman in California gave her life saving a life on the last day of Passover. More than two hundred Christians died in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. I would wager that the faith of no one is shaken by these things. It is likely only strengthened. The enemies that we have with us inside the City should know that, and they should know also that--despite any power, prestige, status, or fame they might have attained--they cannot win and that their grand ideas and schemes will be the ones to perish.

* * *

It's a little late for this year, but here's a list of weird fiction and fantasy stories with themes of Crucifixion and Resurrection. This list is by no means complete. Feel free to add to it in the comments section below.

  • "Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani" by William Hope Hodgson, originally entitled "The Baumoff Explosive" and published (posthumously) in Nash's Illustrated Weekly for September 20, 1919. Reprinted in Weird Tales, Fall 1973. I should warn you that this is a muddled story and one that relies in part on the obsolete notion of the ether, this in the same year in which Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity was validated by the observation by astronomers of the bending of light waves during a solar eclipse. That was a century ago, in a seminal year and by Paul Johnson's estimation the beginning of the twentieth century.
  • "When the Graves Were Opened" by Arthur J. Burks, published in Weird Tales, December 1925. Reprinted in Weird Tales, September 1937. An unusual story of faith and time travel and one that attempts to puncture materialism by an encounter with the supernatural.
  • "Roads" by Seabury Quinn, published in Weird Tales, January 1938. The fourth most popular story, as judged by readers, in the period 1924-1940. "Roads" is also a Christmas story and a Viking story.
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, written in 1928-1940, published in an English (American) edition in 1967 by Signet. An extraordinary work from a Russian author who labored away under sickness and Stalinism but who continued to love and to hope.

Copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

And Explosions on Easter

Holy Week began with fires atop the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris and ended with terror and murder in Sri Lanka. Predictably and almost on cue, people on the leftist/socialist/statist end of the spectrum, notably our most recent ex-president and his hench-woman, the most recent big loser of a presidential election, weighed in, less predictably referring to the murdered as "Easter worshippers" and their murderers not at all.

"Easter worshippers."

As if the murdered were members of some strange cult that reveres colored eggs and fluffy white bunny rabbits. As if they worshipped a holiday rather than a Supreme Being.

As someone on social media wrote, "If only there was a single word for 'Easter Worshippers'." There is in fact a word for them. There is also a word for people who so obviously and laboriously avoid using that word, but this is a family-oriented blog, and we can't use words like that here.

The word for the murdered is "Christians," Mr. Ex-President.

"Christians," Ms. Never-President.

Say it with me, both of you: "They were Christians."

(Thank God, thank God, I thank God every day that she wasn't inflicted upon us.)

And not only were they Christians, they were also Christian martyrs, murdered for their faith by people who will be called martyrs by the worst of their co-religionists. (Or else the religion/ideology of the murderers will be brushed aside with words like these, spoken by a Democratic member of Congress: "Some people did something"--a phrase that leaves off its most logical conclusion, "And some other people became dead because of it.")

I wrote last week about the anti-Christian stance of our current culture and its élite, especially its governmental élite. But I'm not sure that I or anyone else could have come up with a more telling example of that stance than the bizarre locution "Easter worshippers." And yet here we have it. Even some Muslims have called it as they have seen it and referred to the murdered as Christians. They have also condemned the attacks and the terrorists who committed them. In this they and many millions of others have shown courage, while from our mealy-mouthed élite we have words of what exactly? Cowardice? Or conviction? Haven't they really just shown themselves to be what they are, that is, hostile towards Christians, Christianity, and any religious belief that lies outside that of and in and for the State? They have in fact done that for anyone who cares to hear it.

I would rather write here about genre fiction, its authors, artists, themes, and stories, but if the subject of the more conservative genres of weird fiction, fantasy, horror, and romance is the past, and the subject of the more forward-looking or progressive genres of science fiction, utopia/dystopia, and the post-apocalypse* is the future, and the subjects of the past and the future have become and are now so thoroughly politicized, then we can't avoid politics in talking about genre fiction. As much as we as readers and fans would like to escape from the concerns of the day, we are continually thrown back into them by its events. Maybe all of that is just an excuse for me to write about these things now. Then, too, if I were to leave them alone, I would be leaving unfinished what I began the other day. I made a halfway prediction on Wednesday last week. Now that the other shoe has dropped, or, to use another metaphor, now that we have bookends to Holy Week 2019, I write again. Predictions or projections for the future lie within the province of genre fiction. Knowing what we know now (and what conservatives have known for centuries), what might we say about things to come? What predictions or projections might we make? What horrors might we foresee in the great and glorious future?

*Stories of dystopia and the post-apocalypse are actually better written by conservatives, who have a better understanding of human nature and a more healthy skepticism of the idea of "progress" than do their more liberal counterparts. 

Copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Fires Before Easter

For the second time in less than a year, a great work of culture, art, and history has burned. First it was the the National Museum of Brazil in September of last year. This time, of course, it was the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. Things look better today than they did last night, but it's hard to see the fire at Notre-Dame as anything less than a disaster.

I wish to speak, and I might use any tenuous connection there might be between the cathedral and Weird Tales or weird fiction as a pretext, but the things I wish to say have little to do with the magazine or the genre. As it stands now, the fire is supposed to have been caused by an accident. Risking their lives, Parisian firefighters finally extinguished it several hours after it began. Other Parisians rescued relics and works of art from the interior as the fire raged, including the Crown of Thorns, saved by a heroic Catholic priest. (The Crown of Thorns, the flames, and the Cross--which at Notre-Dame survived--are among the elements of the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.) We can't take anything from these and the many millions of people of Paris and of France, and we can't exploit the incalculable loss experienced by them in this tragedy. But we also can't overlook the symbolism of the event, or a possible interpretation of it as something more than a mere fire in a centuries-old building. We are now in Holy Week and we will soon have the holiest day in the Christian calendar. It seems needless to point out that Western civilization in general and Europe in particular were built upon a Judeo-Christian foundation. The cathedral of Notre-Dame was constructed at the height of an age of faith, but in a later age of reason, after having been seized by the State, it was abused, plundered, and converted to the house of an atheistic cult. Soon returned to the Roman Catholic Church, the cathedral was again taken over by the State in 1905, and it is under the ownership of the State that Notre-Dame burned. For eight and a half centuries Notre-Dame stood, and now it burns.

I don't think it's any stretch to say that the current European State--and Western culture in general, at least among the élite--is secular, materialist, and anti-Christian, even radically and viciously anti-Christian. I don't think anyone in the French State has anything to gain and much to lose in the burning of a cathedral. Notre-Dame and places like it have become secular symbols of the cities or countries in which they are located. Even adherents to anti-Christian and post-Christian religions have their uses for things made by the Church and its members. The Hagia Sophia comes to mind as an example. It's curious to me, though, that the current president of France should ask for help from other nations to rebuild Notre-Dame. I guess his France is fiercely independent except when it's not. More to the point, people of faith built the cathedral to begin with. Are there not enough now in France to rebuild it? I'm certain there are in fact. Despite the best efforts of the State in that nation and elsewhere, Christianity lives and thrives, as do faith, hope, love, and charity in the hearts of Christians everywhere. And who has stepped forward to offer funds for the rebuilding? None other than the wealthy of France, the same kind of people who are ceaselessly vilified by the leftist and socialist State and its true believers, the same who are looked at as an endless source for legalized plunder. As always, though, that same State and its adherents survive on other people's money, and as always they bite the hand that feeds them. In any case, I believe that Notre-Dame will be rebuilt. I also believe that some people will see this as a symbolic event--"a wakeup call" as people say after there has been a terrorist attack. Some will even see it as an intervention or as a kind of miracle, as an act of God, not in the mundane, actuarial sense, but in the real, literal sense. In 1944, Adolf Hitler demanded to know: Is Paris burning? The German commander there stayed his hand and did not set the city afire. Yesterday a symbol of the city, of France, of Christendom itself burned. Are we paying attention? And if so, how will we respond, not just to the fire in the cathedral but to the flames that threaten to burn down Western civilization? With post-Christian lassitude and ennui? Or with vigor and confidence charged by belief? In the choice between fire and ice, we seem to have chosen ice. We are in trouble, perhaps without even realizing how seriously we are in trouble. Is this then a fire that might thaw us, that might warm us, warn us, and wake us?

* * *

From the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, selected titles containing the phrase "Notre Dame":
  • "The Fools' Pope," an excerpt from Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo (1831) in The Monster Book of MonstersMichael O'Shaughnessy, ed. (1988)
  • "Notre Dame des Eaux" by Ralph Adams Cram in Black Spirits and White: A Book of Ghost Stories (1895)   
  • "The Juggler of Notre Dame" by Anatole France in Tales from a Mother-of-Pearl Casket (1896) 
  • "The Specter of Notre Dame" by Lloyd Owen in Ghost Stories (May 1931)
I have written before about Weird Tales from France, but neither Victor Hugo (1802-1885) nor Anatole France (1844-1924) had bylines in "The Unique Magazine," even if Hugo's Hunchback of Notre-Dame is recognizably a Gothic work (and his title character was an Aurora monster model of the 1960s). Today is Anatole France's birthday by the way, so Happy Birthday, Anatole!

Notre-Dame converted into an airbus station, from Le Vingtième Siècle (1883) by the French artist and writer Albert Robida (1848-1926), reproduced in Science Fiction: An Illustrated History by Sam J. Lundwall (1977). As I have written before, the artist is a canary in the coal mine of culture and history. In this case, the artist foresaw that a cathedral might one day be used for worldly purposes. At least these people are having fun: perhaps Robida and visionaries like him could not have equally foreseen the funlessness of our world today. (We may be hedonistic but there doesn't seem to be much fun and certainly no love or warmth in any of it. In America at least, that funlessness seems to come from a certain Protestant, more specifically Puritan, worldview that--even if they have thrown off Christianity as the most hateful of things--infects progressives like a disease. The creation of Utopia-on-Earth is, after all, a deadly serious business, partly because it must be done NOW, for there is no after.) Anyway, all of this makes me think of the opening sequence in La Dolce Vita (1960) in which a statue of Christ, dangling from a helicopter, shows religion in our age to be merely a worldly spectacle to distract and momentarily entertain bored and jaded people.

The box lid for the 1960s Aurora monster model of Quasimodo, from The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1923), the screenplay for which was cowritten by Perley Poore Sheehan (1875-1943), who was, as it turns out, a teller of weird tales.

Text and captions copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Brundage and Ingres

No, those are not emotional states. ("I take Brundage at your remark!" said Margaret. "I am in turn Ingres at you!" replied the Frenchman.) They are the names of artists. Margaret Brundage (1900-1976) of course drew dozens of cover illustrations for Weird Tales magazine. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) was a French painter. Whether she realized it or not, Margaret Brundage worked in a Romantic tradition. Ingres, on the other hand, was a leading Neoclassical artist who worked in reaction to Romanticism. Both, however, created fantastic scenes, including the two shown below.

I am not the one to make the connection between these two images. That distinction goes to Jacques Sadoul (1934-2013), a Frenchman and a fan of science fiction and fantasy. He may or may not have put his observation into writing, but we have it from another fan, Richard Minter (1920-2005) of North Carolina, who wrote to The Weird Tales Collector in 1978 (#4, page 12), letting us know that it was Jacques Sadoul who pointed out to him the resemblance of the Brundage drawing to the Ingres painting. I have come upon the late Mr. Minter's letter because I have finally completed my collection of The Weird Tales Collector: last month, I found the missing issue #5 in a dark, dusty room in the back of an antique mall in Nitro, West Virginia. Thank you, West Virginia.

At the left, the cover of Weird Tales for June 1933, with a drawing by Margaret Brundage illustrating "Black Colossus" by Robert E. Howard. At the right, "Jupiter et Thétis" by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, from 1811. The resemblance of the first image to the second is unmistakable; whether Margaret Brundage was inspired by or even swiped the painting by Ingres is another story. I suspect that this pose--the supplicant kneeling at the foot of her god and touching his mouth or chin--is rooted in the natural expressiveness of the human body and the ways that it moves and poses itself in various emotional or psychological states. In any case, Ingres is recognized as an extraordinary draftsman--just look at the folds in the drapery over his two figures--but I have never liked his distortions of human anatomy--the rubberiness and stretchiness of arms, legs, shoulders, necks, and so on. (People have skeletons, you know.) Margaret Brundage seems to have floated her figures into the scenes she drew. Ingres manipulated them--to his own artistic purposes to be sure--like he was pushing and pulling on Stretch Armstrong.

Text and captions copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley