H.P. Lovecraft And The Shadow Over Horror

Scary tentacles

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H.P. Lovecraft’s stories are among the foundations of modern horror. He has an entire subgenre named after him (Lovecraftian horror, also called cosmic horror). His stories can still wring shivers from the modern reader; his gods and monsters are cloned, adapted and mutated by new authors every year (I’m one of them). I don’t actually know how many anthologies include either his name or his iconic creation Cthulhu in their titles — though a sample make up a largish shelf among my books, and then there are the movies, songs, role-playing games and plush abominations (another shelf). During the 2016 election, a Washington Post op-ed claimed Cthulhu’s endorsement for Donald Trump.

But Lovecraft was a bigot. He was a bigot by the standards of our time and his. He hated and feared African-Americans, Jews, poor people and anyone who had the temerity to speak languages other than English in his presence. He once wrote a poem called “On the Creation of [N-words]” and a story in which the horrific punchline was that the femme fatale with monstrous, man-strangling hair was “a negress.” Though sometimes less overt, his terror of humans who were not upper-class Anglo-Saxons pervades his stories. One celebrated classic […] ends by recognizing a strange and alien race as “men” like the reader — men whose civilization collapsed because of a revolt by their monstrous slaves. Those slaves, the shoggoths, appear as boogeymen throughout Lovecraft’s oeuvre.

What to do about the darkness gnawing at horror’s roots? Perhaps Lovecraft’s own metaphors are best: Can this ancestral taint be denied, or does it warp its descendants even today? Could we destroy it, even if we wanted to? If we did, what would remain of our modern branches? Could we instead transform it? Horror excels at making thought-provoking beauty and terror out of the most vile seeds. Can we work such metamorphoses with our own foundations?

Every time someone raises this topic, traditionalists accuse them of forced amnesia. “You’re trying to bury Lovecraft’s memory. You want us to forget him.” Yet modern horror has repeatedly chosen transformation over suppression. Victor LaValle, Caitlin R. Kiernan, N.K Jemisin and Matt Ruff are only a few of those now penning Lovecraftian stories in which bigotry itself is the horror.

Pervasive in cosmic horror is the conflict between attraction and repulsion. Lovecraft’s narrators stumble into terror because they can’t look away: The only thing worse than knowing things man wasn’t meant to know is putting down the book. I feel the same way about Lovecraft. “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” begins with the town’s amphibious inhabitants being forced into internment camps; my first novel resulted from yelling at the story until I had to put my fury down on paper. Yet “Shadow” also contains moments of strange sympathy for its monsters and a protagonist who ultimately discovers himself to be one of them, and transforms to “dwell amidst wonder and glory” beneath the waves of the Atlantic.

Lovecraft, too, was conflicted — though in his short life he never found the courage to let his attraction to difference overcome his repulsion. Perhaps we keep building on his creations in the hope that we can finally complete that half-hinted transformation.

Lovecraft’s repellent assumptions still make their way into modern work; even beloved modern authors sometimes show hints of that taint. If we know that a story or author [we’re discussing] is problematic, we’ll tell you — and no shame on anyone who doesn’t care to dip their hands into that particular variety of putrescent pool. There are a few I won’t touch myself. But for those who can’t turn away from what glints at the heart of the slime — or who seek imperfect materials to sculpt into strange new forms — we’ll do our best to map the abyss.

By RUTHANNA EMRYS, August 16, 2018, first appearing on Books : NPR

Editor’s Note:

Ruthanna Emrys is the author of the Innsmouth Legacy series and co-writes Tor.com’s Lovecraft Reread. She lives in a mysterious manor house on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. with her wife and their large, strange family. You can find her on Twitter as @r_emrys.



World’s Highest-Paid Authors 2018: Michael Wolff Joins List Thanks To ‘Fire And Fury’

Michael Wolff is the first nonfiction author on the list in 11 years.PHOTO: RALF JUERGENS/GETTY IMAGES. DESIGN: NICK DESANTIS, FORBES STAFF

“Once a day, I cast my eyes heavenward and say, ‘Thank you for Donald Trump,’” Michael Wolff said last spring.

He has good reason to thank the president. Without Trump, Wolff would not have made this year’s rankings of the world’s highest-paid authors.

After The Guardian published leaked quotes from Wolff’s explosive tell-all Fire and Fury in January, Trump’s attorney sent the author and his publisher Henry Holt a cease-and-desist letter, alleging the book contained libelous and defamatory information. Trump, unsurprisingly, also attacked Wolff on Twitter: “Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book.”

Far from deterred, Henry Holt took advantage of the free publicity and moved up the release date of Fire and Fury. The “really boring and untruthful book” flew off the shelves, topping 1.7 million copies sold across hardcover, e-book and audio formats in its first three weeks. In our 12-month scoring period, it sold 1,015,000 hardcover copies in the U.S. alone, in addition to tremendous e-book, audio and international sales.

Thanks to Fire and Fury—and Trump—Wolff earned an estimated $13 million from June 1, 2017, to June 1, 2018, before taxes and fees, placing seventh among publishing’s top moneymakers. The only newcomer and nonfiction writer on the list, Wolff supplemented his massive royalties with seven-figure deals for a sequel to Fire and Fury and the film and television rights; a series is in the works with Endeavor Content.

James Patterson is back on top after J.K. Rowling nabbed the title of highest-paid author last year. GETTY

The world’s 11 highest-paid authors sold 24.5 million print books combined in the U.S. during our scoring period, logging $283 million. The prolific James Patterson takes first place, earning $86 million and selling 4.8 million books in the U.S. alone, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks 85% of the domestic print market.

Patterson’s earnings are likely to surge next year thanks to The President Is Missing, which was released just outside our scoring period. The political thriller, co-written with Bill Clinton, has sold more than 660,000 copies since its June release.

This is the 10th time that Patterson has ranked first in the list’s two-decade history. Patterson’s secret to his success is persistence; 31 publishers turned down his first book, but he refused to give up. “Don’t take ‘no’ when your gut tells you ‘yes,’” Patterson told Forbeslast year.

J.K. Rowling still made $54 million without releasing a new Harry Potter book. SAMIR HUSSEIN/WIREIMAGE

J.K. Rowling takes second place with $54 million, a $41 million drop from last year, when she briefly took the top spot from Patterson. The Harry Potter scribe’s book sales plummeted without a new book about The Boy Who Lived, but Rowling earned plenty from back-catalog sales—Rowling sold 2.9 million copies in the U.S.—as well as theme parks and the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child productions on Broadway and in London’s West End. Although the latest Fantastic Beasts film was poorly received by critics and will almost certainly end up the lowest-grossing Harry Potter film to date, the franchise is far from over; three more Fantastic Beasts movies are planned, for a total of five.

The king of horror, boosted by the success of It, has several television adaptations in the works. GETTY

Stephen King rounds out the top three with $27 million. The king of horror sold 2.7 million domestic books, boosted by the success of the movie version of It, adapted from his 1986 novel of the same nameKing nearly doubled his earnings by collecting an eight-figure paycheck from the film, which grossed $700 million worldwide on a $35 million budget. The clown-centric movie became the highest-grossing R-rated horror movie at the domestic box office, and the sequel, planned for next fall, could break that record again.

This year, The Girl on the Train author Paula Hawkins went missing from the list. The British author first made the rankings in 2016 with earnings of $10 million from her debut novel, but her latest thriller, Into The Water, failed to live up to its predecessor. In the U.K., the paperback edition of The Girl on the Train outsold Into the Water by nearly 100,000 copies last year.

We close the covers on Hawkins—for now, at least.

After all, everyone loves a comeback story.


All earnings estimates are from June 1, 2017, through June 1, 2018. Figures are pretax; fees for agents, managers and lawyers are not deducted. Earnings estimates are based on data from NPD BookScan and Box Office Mojo, as well as interviews with industry insiders, including some of the authors themselves.

The World’s Highest-Paid Authors Of 2018

10. E.L James (tie)

Earnings: $10.5 million

10. Rick Riordan (tie)

Earnings: $10.5 million

8. Nora Roberts (tie)

Earnings: $12 million

8. Danielle Steel (tie)

Earnings: $12 million

7. Michael Wolff

Earnings: $13 million

5. Dan Brown (tie)

Earnings: $18.5 million

5. Jeff Kinney (tie)

Earnings: $18.5 million

4. John Grisham

Earnings: $21 million

3. Stephen King

Earnings: $27 million

2. J.K. Rowling

Earnings: $54 million

1. James Patterson

Earnings: $86 million

By Hayley C. Cuccinello, December 14, 2018, first appearing on forbes.com

Excelsior! How Stan Lee Remade American Myth

Stan Lee poses with Spider-Man during the Spider-Man 40th Birthday celebration in 2002 in Universal City, California.

Stan Lee poses with Spider-Man during the Spider-Man 40th Birthday celebration in 2002 in Universal City, California. 

Born as Stanley Lieber to immigrants, he was an avid reader who dreamed of literary fame. He found his way into comics. First, he filled inkwells in the years when the medium was considered a public menace.

Soon, he was writing comics. He split his first name into two in the credits (he legally changed his name in the 1970s) of his earliest works, implying that his new comics imprint, Marvel, had more writers than it really did. And those credits appeared on stories about heroes who were a little more human than the caped crusaders that dominated the comic book shop shelves. Spider-Man might save the day, but he still has to do his homework. The Fantastic Four were a formidable fighting force that couldn’t stop bickering at times. And Wolverine … well, was Wolverine.

The characters also lived in the real world, and Marvel comics sometimes addressed social issues of the time.

From a 1968 column Lee wrote in Marvel comics:

Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them—to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater—one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately.

It wasn’t Lee’s political stances that earned him professional ire, though. From The New York Times:

Mr. Lee was often faulted for not adequately acknowledging the contributions of his illustrators, especially Mr. Kirby. Spider-Man became Marvel’s best-known property, but Mr. Ditko, its co-creator, quit Marvel in bitterness in 1966. Mr. Kirby, who visually designed countless characters, left in 1969. Though he reunited with Mr. Lee for a Silver Surfer graphic novel in 1978, their heyday had ended.

Many comic fans believe that Mr. Kirby was wrongly deprived of royalties and original artwork in his lifetime, and for years the Kirby estate sought to acquire rights to characters that Mr. Kirby and Mr. Lee had created together. Mr. Kirby’s heirs were long rebuffed in court on the grounds that he had done “work for hire” — in other words, that he had essentially sold his art without expecting royalties.

The Marvel characters didn’t stay in the comics forever. As we all know, the screen adaptations of Spider-Man and, later, the Avengers, found gigantic audiences on screen. Marvel now generates billions of dollars in ticket sales with each new blockbuster. The comic books that were once a menace are now a goldmine. And the characters that were once for kids are now for everyone.

Stan Lee may have lived an American story, but then he ended up creating them.

Show produced by Amanda Williams.

NPR, November 14, 2018, first appearing on Books : NPR


Romance Writers on How the Genre Empowers Women

Romance novels get a bad rap. Most people judge them without even reading them, and accuse those who enjoy the genre of not reading “real” books.

We gathered together six well-known romance authors to help dispel stereotypes about the genre, and discuss how their stories are especially meaningful to women. Tune in to the video below to see what they had to say.

Transcription of romance authors discussing the importance of the genre for women.

Chanel Cleeton: You know romance gets a bad rap a lot, and we all know that.

Kate Bateman: I mean, people just think it’s literally trashy novels.

Shayla Black: And I grew up in the era of reading romance when it was his love lance and his man root. Let’s just call it what it is, and move on.

Kate Bateman: But as a genre, it’s literally the most feminist literature you can get. It’s like mainly for women.

Tamsen Parker: By women, about women.

Kate Bateman: The entire purpose is to make women feel empowered and feel good about themselves.

Sarina Bowen: The women are always their own savior, alongside with finding somebody to spend their lives with.

Tamsen Parker: In a lot of popular culture media, it’s harder to find really multi-dimensional characters, where I feel like that’s really common in romance. People have families. They have careers. And they have a love interest.

Kate Bateman: I like the fact that my women are kick-asses in corsets. My girls will have cool jobs. So they’re like thieves or they are counterfeiters.

Milly Taiden: I always felt that curvier women, there weren’t enough of them. So that’s why I started writing them. I loved the stories. They were fantastic and the romance was great. But I was like, well, that’s not like a girl like me.

Sarina Bowen: I have actually a female character in one of my books who comes down with a sexually transmitted infection. And it’s a huge disaster and a blow to her ego and her sense of self. And I did once get a letter from somebody who thanked me for writing that story, because that happened to her and she was horrified and embarrassed and felt a lot of shame. But she really loved the portrayal of that event in this book, and that it’s not the end of the world.

Shayla Black: I think there’s so many facets to women. And I don’t think we should have just any one sort of heroine. I’ve written the really shy, come out of your shell types. I’ve written ones that just kick ass from start to finish. We went through a phase in romance, I feel like, where we had nothing but what everybody said was kick-ass heroines. I’m like, that’s great, but for the girls who are super shy? Sometimes even I couldn’t relate. I want to relate to this girl.

Tamsen Parker: You see it in a lot of mainstream, popular culture that FF or lesbian relationships, it’s like this is for the pleasure of somebody else to watch. When you’re looking at the romance genre, you’re talking about women’s pleasure. And that’s really powerful. You don’t see it a lot.

Sarina Bowen: I grew up in a kind of conservative part of the country, where girls my age didn’t talk about sex or sexuality.

Shayla Black: I get a lot of email about this, too, where people feel as if they didn’t really understand themselves, or they didn’t understand that something was OK.

Sarina Bowen: So it’s been a real journey for me to portray women in a positive sexual light.

Shayla Black: This is a way for them to get information, and see it processed through a character’s eyes, and understand how it functions, and how it might function for them.


Check out the books:

The cover of the book Next Year in HavanaNext Year in Havana
Chanel Cleeton
After the death of her beloved grandmother, Marisol Ferrera – a Cuban-American woman – travels to Havana, where she discovers her true identity and family secrets that have been hidden since the revolution. Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast between Cuba’s beauty and its perilous political climate. When Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.


The cover of the book A Counterfeit HeartA Counterfeit Heart
K. C. Bateman
Counterfeiter Sabine de la Tour has decided to bid a reluctant farewell to her double life as a notorious criminal, but leaving won’t be easy – she and her business partner must escape France soon, or face certain death. Her only hope of surviving is to strike a deal with the very spy she’s spent her career outrunning. Now after meeting the arrogant operative in the flesh, Sabine longs to throw herself upon his mercy – and into his arms.


The cover of the book Devoted to PleasureDevoted to Pleasure
Shayla Black
When a a blackmailer starts watching her every move, television star Shealyn West hires Cutter to keep her safe, never imagining their attraction will be too powerful to contain. As Shealyn and Cutter navigate the scintillating line between business and pleasure, they unravel a web of secrets that threaten their relationship and their lives. When danger strikes, Cutter must decide whether to follow his heart or lose Shealyn forever.


The cover of the book His CustodyHis Custody
Tamsen Parker
Keyne O’Connell leads a good life – she has a great family, a loving boyfriend, and a promising future. But one dark summer night changes everything for Kenye, forcing her into the care of her boyfriend’s intimidating, much older brother, Jasper. Jasper isn’t a good man. He’s a womanizer and a casual drug user with no interest in becoming Keyne’s guardian. But living in close quarters soon stirs up feelings inside them both that are far from platonic. Keyne needs a firm hand to keep her in line, but what she desires could lead Jasper into trouble.


The cover of the book Pipe DreamsPipe Dreams
Sarina Bowen
Mike Beacon, a hockey player, widower, and a single father, has never forgotten Lauren Williams, an ex-lover who gave him the best year of his life. When Lauren reappears in the Bruisers’ office during the play-offs, Beacon sees his chance to make things right. But Lauren’s focused on her plans for the future and won’t let a man get in the way of that. Lauren plays her best defensive game, but she’s no match for the dark-eyed goalie.


The cover of the book Fearless MatingFearless Mating
Milly Taiden
Sergeant Major Candace Obermier has arrived at Alpha League Federal Agency headquarters to shut it down. Though A.L.F.A. pledged to protect humans from paranormal threats, they’ve caused nothing but mayhem. Candace thinks the problem lies with the agency’s director, Josh Tumbel. But when A.L.F.A. headquarters is taken in a hostage situation, Josh demonstrates the critical nature of the agency’s existence, and proves his worth to Candy as a protector and lover.

Start… Your… Novels!


Ready to Write a Novel?

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.

On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

Want company while you write, fellow writers that you can bounce ideas off of? Stop by the weekly writing sessions at the Moline Library going on all month.


Celebrating National Book Month starts at home. Curl up with a good book, and commemorate America’s annual celebration of writers and readers.

Want to get the family involved? We’ve got so ideas for that as well. You could…

  • Introduce literature into family game night.
  • Family trips to the local library. This one is our favorite!
  • Family Reading Night
  • Recreate scenes from your favorite books.
  • Read to your children.

No matter what you do, there is no time like the present to take time to read!

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