Hello all. This is the first post of MY WEIRD YEAR, a blog which aims to explore the origins and influence of weird fiction over the course of 2013. Introductions are in order. My name is Nick Melton. I am twenty-seven years old and hail from Chapel Hill, North Carolina (though I currently reside in Los Angeles, California). I read voraciously as a child – I vividly remember adding Moby-Dick and Shakespeare to my reading list in fifth grade – and before I wanted to be anything else, I wanted to be a writer. I spent days secluded in my room typing out short stories.
The first story I ever wrote was about an alien invasion. I don’t remember anything about it, except there were a few instances of profanity arguably unbecoming of a seven-year-old. I wrote an unabashed rip-off of The Hobbit, complete with paragraph-sized “chapters.” Perhaps the best story of that era was a humorous vignette entitled “John Lennon Is A Werewolf.” To this day it is remembered fondly by family members. The sequel, “Paul McCartney Is A Vampire,” was less successful and so I abandoned the planned follow-up, “George Harrison Is A Mummy.” Eventually, I discovered music and chose to pursue it through college and grad school. In college I rediscovered horror fiction and for the first time encountered the work of H. P. Lovecraft, the greatest practitioner of the weird tale. I started writing again, working within the horror genre. As of now I’ve been out of grad school for almost two years and have had one story published, a Lovecraft homage titled “Open Wide.” I’m hoping to get more published this year.
With those biographical details out of the way, I’d like to explain the purpose of this blog in greater detail. One of my resolutions for 2013 was to read more books, as the pace of my reading had been steadily declining over the last few years. At about that time I had the revelation that if I was to write horror fiction, I needed to actually read the classic texts of my genre. I decided then that I would spend the year mostly – but not exclusively – reading classic horror and fantasy, as well as the work of writers who helped developed the weird tale.
For those who are wondering, “weird fiction” is a subgenre of speculative fiction written in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, distinguished from horror and fantasy in that it predates the niche marketing of genre fiction. Because genre or stylistic conventions had not been established, weird tales often blend the supernatural, mythical, and scientific. Many are of a macabre nature. Some important writers of weird fiction include Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, Ambrose Bierce, M. R. James, Lord Dunsany and Clark Ashton Smith.
The format of the blog is simple. Every time I read a story or novel, I will write a post about it giving my thoughts and opinions. I will also attempt to trace the novel/story’s influence in future literature. I’ll try to keep dry author biographies to a minimum, though if I see any interesting tidbits I’ll be sure to include them. My ultimate goal is to discover the roots of my craft and explore how other authors have grown from these roots. As many of the works I’ll be reviewing are in the public domain, they are easily accessible online. Therefore, expect spoilers. If I review a more recent work which is still copyrighted, I’ll put a spoiler warning at the top of the post. I may also occasionally post short poems or stories if I’m feeling creative.
Surprisingly, my first book choice of the year is not a horror novel, but Melville’s Moby-Dick, which I never did end up reading in fifth grade. This choice was prompted by author Joe Hill, son of Stephen King and a talented writer in his own right, who proposed a “big readalong” to his fans online. As of now I’m a little more than two hundred pages in and quite enjoying it, though because it’s such a weighty book I don’t expect to finish until closer to March. As a result of this, the blog is unlikely to pick up until then. Apologies! I will, of course, post a lengthy review when I’m finished.
However, I do have a few stories to review in the meantime. First up is one of the defining classics of the weird tale, Arthur Machen’s “The White People.” Stay tuned!