Additional Notes and Commentary on Doug Talks Weird 3: Thomas Ligotti's "The Frolic" and "What's a Lovecraftian?"

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Summary: Another Doug Talks Weird is up and I'm looking at Thomas Ligotti's story, The Frolic, and also talking about what makes something Lovecraftian. As is my custom, here are some additional notes and bits.

BLOT: (31 May 2015 - 02:47:09 PM)

Additional Notes and Commentary on Doug Talks Weird 3: Thomas Ligotti's "The Frolic" and "What's a Lovecraftian?"

Glad to say that my Doug Talks Weird series had added a third main episode: Thomas Ligotti's "The Frolic" and "What's a Lovecraftian?". This one is about 3/4s the way to me hitting the sort of vibe/style I want, I just now want to pep it up just a tad. Which seems weird, considering the subject matter, but there you go.

Doug Talks Weird Title Card

I generally enjoy expanding upon the ideas in the video and spelling them out, again, so let's get to it.

Ligotti's "The Frolic" is the first story in Songs of a Dead Dreamer, a collection that was most affordable in ebook edition from Subterranean press, but that edition seems to have dried up (along with Grimscribe), meaning you will have to wait for this October's Penguin Classics edition of Dead Dreamer/Grimscribe to get a cheapish shot at it. The hardcopy editions tend to range from pretty expensive to fairly expensive, but those are an option. Another one is below.

There are at least two versions of the story. The 1980s edition and the 2000s edition. The alterations are minor. For instance, in one scene, Dr. Munck says (in the original), "Let's get drunk, shall we?," but in the 2000s edit says, "Let's get drunk and fool around, shall we?". Minor stuff like that. The upcoming Penguin edition will likely have the 2000s edition, but that's a guess.

Ligotti did indeed refer to this story as a normal story. In the Author Introduction section of the booklet accompanying the DVD of the short film adaptation (note: only place I see it available, now, is through the Amazon Marketplace), Ligotti describes the process of writing "The Frolic" thusly:

The stories I wrote at that time—the early to mid-1970s—were still bad and their characters were not normal. Very justly, they were rejected by the editors to whom I submitted them. When I discovered the world of small-press horror magazines in the later 1970s, I also discovered that—with some striking exceptions such as the twisted heroes and heroines in the stories of Ramsey Campbell—everyone was writing primarily about normal characters, that is, more or less ordinary characters who moved in excruciatingly normal environments. Desperate to get one of my stories published, I finally broke down and wrote about some normal characters living a normal life. The result was "The Frolic". The story was accepted by the first editor to whom I sent it, and appeared in the British fanzine Fantasy Tales in 1982.

Technically, he had broken through and had one of his "non-normal stories", "The Chymist", published before "The Frolic", but had written "The Frolic" before he knew of the publication acceptance.

In the video, I reference Jason Marc Harris's "Smiles of Oblivion: Demonic Clowns and Doomed Puppets as Fantastic Figures of Absurdity, Chaos, and Misanthropy in the Writings of Thomas Ligotti", which is an article I have previously written about. "Smiles" barely touches upon "The Frolic", but it does point out that the story ends with laughter as a response to the question, "Is everything all right?" Harris expounds on this more than I do, and in a different way, by asking who is laughing. Harris also brings up research that shows a cross-over between the Fool character and the Devil character in old puppet/mask shows. Of course, the Fool is also regularly used to ironically tell the truth of the story/play.

The layers of what makes something Lovecraftian, from the video, are, in order given:

Something I would add to this, around the second bullet point, is that there is potentially a layer where dark magic and highly advanced science are one in the same, but this is slightly post-Lovecraftian meta.

The line from (2000s) "The Frolic" about "A thousand [other] names" is:

According to him, though, he has plenty of other names, no less than a thousand, none of which he's condescended to speak in anyone's presence.

Whether that's meant to be a reference to "And pray to all space you never meet in my thousand other forms", I do not know. The Dreamlands bit is me stretching, slightly, since the line only says, "There's actually quite a poetic geography to his interior dreamland as he describes it." The descriptions seem more Dreamland than real-land. Of course, it also mentions Neverland, so you can go there, as well (and some already have!)

The above link to the physical copy of the short film is not the only way to see it. You can also watch "The Frolic" on Jacob Cooney's Vimeo account (or, if you want to send some money towards the creators, IndieReign. The VOD versions, of course, do not include Ligotti's write-up of the story or the other notes and goodies (including an interview fairly enlightening towards the making of the film), so that's a fair reason to go physical, even if it is not absolutely essential. You also get a copy of the story in the booklet.

What else? Oh, my post about The Blair Witch Project as a Lovecraftian movie. It was written in response to something Ramsey Campbell said on Reddit. Since writing it, I've went on to research the claims some more (looking up director's commentary and special features and such), and would actually say that I was wrong. Nearly everything unexplained, such as the stick figures, had a non-Lovecraftian origin. Putting it through the tests above, though, you get at least the Mythogenic layer, the Subverted Monomyth layer, and the External/Internal Entanglement layer. There are reasons to believe it, and disbelieve it.

I think that wraps it up. The video is down below. Enjoy. And, if you have a Youtube account and want to comment on my Lovecraftian definition, I would love to get a discussion going based on it.

Weird Fiction, Thomas Ligotti


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