Saturday, December 01, 2007

Thinking Out Loud Mostly

For the last week, a few chapters a night, because you don't want to eat it all at once, I've been reading Gene Wolfe's next novel AN EVIL GUEST. I think I need to read it again. (This is a perfectly valid way to feel on finishing a Gene Wolfe novel.) I'm going to write about it here by way of setting my thoughts in order. It's set about eighty years from now, sort of, although the future feels like a high tech 1930s (intentionally, I assume, because in Gene Wolfe fiction it is safe to assume that things are intentional), so much so that one finds oneself reading the book trying to find a key to open it. The obvious key is Lovecraft, whose initials are dropped early, and further inside the book we find Miskatonic University and Great Cthulhu Himself (although not quite by name) , although that still doesn't really help figure out what kind of thing it is one is reading.

The book is the story of Cassie, a minor stage actress who is just about to become a major Broadway star thanks to the wizardry of Mr Gideon Chase, a high tech mystery man and problem solver, and Cassie is also about to become involved with a multibillionaire named Bill Reis, who may be trying to murder her. (It also has Hanga, the shark god from Wolfe's chilling story "The Tree Is My Hat" in it, from the Wolfe collection Innocents Aboard.) The point that I felt I was getting a key to what kind of book this was was the point where the name Cranston was dropped. As in Lamont, and The Shadow. Which made sense of a few things, as both Gideon Chase and Bill Reis get to cloud mens' minds in their own ways, have high tech gadgets and adventures. And when I realised that then the book sort of shook and shifted in my head and it seemed right and sensible that the future was a sort of 1930s future, that the book moves from horror (sort of) to spy adventure (sort of, with FBI agents and competing government agencies) with a tech sometimes indistinguishable from magic, that Chthulhu's in there and a stage Musical called Bride of the Volcano God, that Cassie is a sort of actressy Margo Lane, that the very real Polynesians of "The Tree Is My Hat" have been replaced with larger than life characters who feel like they could have stepped down from a movie screen, that there is at least one werewolf (there are hidden wolves in most Wolfe books, perhaps all) and a zombie and things like huge bats that I'm still not sure what they were. It's a pulp thriller -- and that's a compliment, because Wolfe knows from pulp thrillers (he wrote a wonderful pastiche of one in "The Island of Dr Death and Other Stories") and because here he's creating a strange sort of genre meltdown, a 21st century pulp adventure thriller with SF and horror elements that nobody else could possibly have written.


Hi Neil,
"A near death experience with a bumblebee"
An article on the questionable authorship of Footprints.

As mentioned in Sandman 15, I think.

You know, I rather like the idea that it welled up out the collective unconsciousness and forced hundreds of people to write it whether they wanted to or not.


I am studying Stylistics at the University of Nottingham and am doing a corpus linguistic study on the language used in the Beowulf screenplay to invoke a sense of Germanic/Scandinavian history.

I've purchased Beowulf: The Screenplay, but in order to do a good corpus study I need the text in an electronic format. I'm starting to scan in the pages, but it's tedious work. Could you tell me if there is an electronic copy of Beowulf: the Screenplay out on the web somewhere? I've checked google and the obvious sites, with no luck.

Thanks for taking your time to read this note. I very much appreciate any help you can provide.

It's not out there as far as I know, although you might be able to buy it as an ebook. Although this reminds me, I keep meaning to link to Karl Hagen's blog -- particularly (there were versions of the script with lots of alliterations and kennings in, but none of them survived to the director's final draft) (which says that Roger and I relied heavily on the Seamus Heaney translation, which I am sure we would have done if it had been around in 1997, but it wasn't, so we didn't.)

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