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Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Sneak Peek at Occult-Noir Horror Short Story: “Crucifixions Continue!” by Peter Guy Blacklock

Posted by Harbinger451 on July 8, 2017

The Horror of it All CategorySneak Peek at Occult-Noir Horror Short Story: “Crucifixions Continue!” by Peter Guy Blacklock

Here’s another sneak-peek at one of the short stories from the upcoming Dollar Dreadful Volume Two ebook, this one is titled Crucifixions Continue, a short Occult-Noir horror story in two parts, the first of which – as with The Ninth Watcher in the previous post – is presented below. You can read the whole thing on my Patreon site HERE (if you subscribe), or you can wait for it to be published in the up-coming ebook.

Crucifixion-Continue

An Infamous Serial Killer Strikes Again!

Crucifixions Continue!

Part One: Death.

‘Crucifixions Continue!’ The headline was emblazoned across the front page of Tuesday’s Evening Standard. Nick Kaufman couldn’t believe his eyes… a nauseous ache permeated from the pit of his stomach as he picked up a copy of the newspaper.

It had to be a mistake… a joke, he thought, a sickening joke!  But no, there it was, the story in full.  There had been another murder – a copycat killing though, it had to be!

He stood there in the small, warm shop, his local convenience store, and read the story through a full three times before he could allow himself to believe it was true. It was approaching 4 pm and this was Nick’s last port of call before heading home after his New Year Bank Holiday weekend away.

He read, ‘The Crucifixion Killer strikes again after three years.’ That was a term that this very newspaper had coined back then, after the third murder to be precise, the tag had stuck – ‘crucifixion killer’ sounded good to the hacks in tabloid land and the Great British public were suckered right into it. The Crucifixion Killer was the Bogeyman from there on in.

‘Nine victims was not enough for this serial killer, will another eight now fall victim to this ritual executioner?  Can the police do anything to stop him?’ Outrageous scare-mongering was the back bone that supported the tabloids and the Evening Standard was not going to be out done in the first breaking of a truly sensational story. Nick bought some milk and rushed out onto the frosty High Street, heading home, his mind a riot of conflicting thoughts. He was drawn back to the story in the paper, sickening disbelief still getting the better of him. He had thought it was all over, it had ended at 9 am on the 9th of September three years ago with the ninth victim, that was symmetry… a tidy ending – but now they’re starting again?

It’s not possible! Nick nearly shouted aloud.

Calm down, he told himself… deep breath. He forced his racing thoughts to pause and he tried to collect himself, losing it in the street would not put a stop to this.

‘After an anonymous tip-off a body was found early Sunday morning – the 1st of January, exactly three years since the start of the original series of murders – in an abandoned house in the rural Durham village of Greatham. A police spokesman told this correspondent that the crime scene displays all the characteristics of a Crucifixion Killing, though, at this stage, we cannot confirm if there is a link between this and the killings of three years ago.’

The correspondent responsible for this literary achievement was one Miles Turner, a one time potential high achiever in journalistic circles who had followed the original investigations so vociferously that it had almost come to the point of obsession. He must be seeing this like the return of a long lost lover, thought Nick.

‘Those nine killings were particularly brutal; all following the same sick modus operandi. The police could find no connection between any of the victims and no motive was ever identified. All the murders remain unsolved. Each victim was found at a secluded or deserted spot, up and down the country, all had died of asphyxiation, the bodies were stripped naked and crucified to the floor using three-inch nails. A large pentagram, an occult Black Magic symbol, was daubed on the floor where the victims were crucified. An anonymous phone call had always pre-empted the discovery of the body.’

Nick’s home was a large, red brick, Georgian house surrounded on three sides by gardens which were bordered by a 12ft brick wall. A drive and pathway ran down the fourth side leading to garages, there an entrance to the house greeted him, pale misty breath was expelled from his mouth as he unlocked the dark blue, solid oak panelled door and entered.

‘The identity of the latest victim has not been revealed but it is believed to be that of a young woman.’

A young woman. Taki Maeda’s face flashed before Nick’s eyes, a memory of the happy holiday photo that had been published in the paper… she had been the last victim, the ninth victim, the only one to have been alive when found – if you could call a coma being alive, – the unfortunate young Japanese woman had died a couple of days later, never regaining consciousness. His mind’s eye could not suppress the memory of her spread-eagled body crucified to the vacant warehouse floor… within that stark-white magic circle… and her nakedness, hauntingly pale – perfect in its pathos… heartbreakingly beautiful in the full moon light that came in through the warehouse’s tall, broken paned windows.

That one memory, which he could not suppress, opened the floodgates to the ghosts of all the crucified victims, each one that contributed their part to the legend of the ultimate unidentified serial killer. The first of the nine was a fifty-four year old man, Ken Kendrick, who disappeared while cycling his way home after a night-time security job. Second was Isabelle Parfit, a young prostitute who’s last known prophetic words, to the fellow street women that she associated with, were “With the way my luck’s been goin’ lately I’m sure to bump into some sicko tonight!” Lenny MacDonald, eighteen years and last seen stumbling home after a night on the town was the third victim to turn up crucified. Then there was the homeless derelict and inveterate drunk, eventually named as Joseph Serratoa. Mina Carlisle, mother of two, was murdered next, out at night for unknown reasons. Followed by Susan Maltby, a shift worker on her way home from the fast food outlet where she earned a meagre living. Darren Jones, a petty thief on a dishonest night’s work was victim number seven, and James Wilkinson, a bank manager last seen alive wandering the red-light district, was the eighth crucified body to be found.

Nick suddenly felt like his head was spinning, he paused and leaned against the wall. Again, he took a deep breath. Bloody hell – what’s happening to me? This should have all ended – it can’t begin again.

The house had spacious, tall ceilinged rooms that were elegantly decorated in a subtle Art Nouveau, High-Tech fusion. It was his refuge; he dropped his weekend bag unceremoniously and cast aside his long, dark, insulating coat before quickly sitting himself down in the comfortable living room where he slowly tried to relax.

The story from the paper kept intruding on his thoughts, ‘The police are due to make a more detailed statement at 6 pm today once the victim has been positively identified and the next of kin have been notified.’

I need a strong coffee, he thought. It was 4.09 pm, just under two hours to go. He went through into the large kitchen, a spotless steam-punk fantasy of black, white and chrome. Nick watched his reflection rapidly grow in the percolator’s shinning, functional façade as he neared and then prepared a coffee.  He waited while it slowly gurgled and spat into the jug. Nick poured a cup of steaming black liquid and added two sugars. What to do now? The Internet! Of course – always up to date if you know where to look.

The study housed one of Nick’s computers, both of which were high spec and both used heavily.  Each computer was dedicated to a different side of his life, this one, a PC, was for research and information gathering, writing books or articles – responsible for the bulk of his income, and for communications – net, fax and phone.  The other was a ‘Mac’, which he used for design and art work, more as a hobby than for a living, it was one of his relaxation techniques.

There were hundreds of web sites with references to the Crucifixion Killer, the search engine made all the more notable ones available for scrutiny but it was easy to pick and choose which ones would be useful.  They were mainly split between the fan sites and the hate sites, with a few neutral report and documentary style sites thrown in. All serial killers seemed to develop a certain cult following but the number of fan sites for the Crucifixion Killer still amazed him. Most were British, a few European and American, and quite a large number from the Far East, especially Japan. He concentrated on the more serious British sites for the moment, hoping to just get an angle, the latest theory out there among the Crucifixionologists about the identity of the killer, or to find any breaking news.

But this was useless he soon realised, the first most net authors would have known about the new murder would have been the breaking of the news in the papers this morning. It would be unlikely that any would have had time to up load and broadcast their views to the world at large. He checked out the two highest ranking, and therefore most recently updated, fan-sites – one announced ‘Crucifixion Killer returns: Praise to the Crucifixion Killer’, and another, somewhat surrealistically ‘Crucifixion Killer Dead. Long live the Crucifixion Killer.’ Beneath that last title was a picture of a rather battered doorway which, it claimed, was the front door to the location of the latest murder. Neither website held any real details though; both seemed to be just the usual amalgam of unhealthy fascination, artistic endeavour and too much time running spare.

Nick resorted to the TV news and Broadsheet sites. The best were already bookmarked and he accessed them directly without the need for a search. There was little to show for his effort though… except for a small piece from a local Durham news site – ‘A close community is shattered by the discovery of a sacrificial style killing in their midst. The house the body was discovered in has been empty for at least two years, say shocked locals. The identity of the victim has not been revealed and there are no reported missing persons from the immediate area. A number of impromptu wreaths and bouquets have been left at the front door of the premises.’

A photo of the forbidding looking detached house was beside this comment, a splash of floral colour visible at the doorstep. He downloaded the image then immediately shifted applications on screen so he could zoom in on the shaded front entrance of the house; after adjusting the sharpness, contrast, gamma and saturation levels, the number nine became clearly visible in the darkened doorway… it was the same door from that last fan-site he had looked at. But in that site’s photo there had been no flowers carefully lain before it.

Nick kicked his heels back in the sumptuous room, lined with books and dark wood surround. Resting his feet on the desk he gazed out through the tall Georgian style windows to the frosted trees and grass of the large garden beyond, sipping at his coffee. The garden was a totally private piece of paradise, separated from the outside world. He decided to spend the rest of the morning exercising, to try and clear his mind a little. But first, he thought, he should check out the various cable news channels on the TV.

He scanned them all quickly, those broadcast from home and overseas, catching the half-hourly bulletins, but there was nothing new. The police news conference was still scheduled for six o-clock and the TV pundits were taking this as confirmation that the latest victim had been identified and the next of kin notified.

Nick subjected himself to an intensive half-hour of physical exertion in the exercise room before stepping into a hot shower, trying hard not to think of this new murder. It wasn’t easy. Images of the old ones were persistently haunting him, stark faces developing on the brilliant white tiles of the shower room like little Polaroid’s and the bigger, dark slate floor tiles were like photographic plates of the crime scenes – showing white magic circles that span and spiralled toward him. What’s going on? The thought angrily voiced in his head.  Three years and not a single disturbing memory, dream or thought – till now… a new murder and all hell breaks loose in my head.

He turned the shower to cold and shocked himself out of the daze that seemed to be descending.  Yelling with the surprise he turned it instantly off and, shivering, rushed from the shower room and retrieved a warm towel from the airing cupboard beside it. He patted himself dry, got dressed, and moved through into the living room, after pouring another cup of coffee, ready to watch the latest news.

The big, flat screen flicked into life, the black silent rectangle becoming a shining cacophony as he channel hopped rapidly before settling on what seemed the best. Nick placed the remote control beside him as he waited patiently for noon to arrive. The screen showed a number of chairs behind a long table with a blow-up of the both the Durham and Metropolitan Police Insignias on an otherwise plain backdrop. The table was covered with assorted microphones. A presenter’s inane voice-over prattled annoyingly as they waited for something interesting to happen.

Finally a number of official looking people paraded out sombrely; with little fuss they soon settled themselves in the chairs behind the table. Nick’s heart leapt up into his throat as he saw the lead officer take her place in the centre chair. It was Detective Inspector Annabel Radcliffe, she had been the chief officer involved in the Metropolitan’s original investigation into the Crucifixion killings… they must have found a connection to have called her in – but there can’t be a connection, there simply can’t!

The excited shuffling and coughing of the journalists present suddenly ceased as DI Radcliffe cleared her throat and leaned forward, bringing her mouth nearer to the microphones.  “I have a short statement only to give to you.” She said. She seemed harassed and continued abruptly. “The body found yesterday has been identified as Patricia Bell, a twenty year old university student who went missing three days ago, her next of kin have been notified. We are doing all we can to trace the killer at this moment in time and due to the sensitive nature of our investigations we can not disclose any further details.” A sudden commotion from her audience erupted as all the journalists present simultaneously voiced their protests as violently as possible.

“Other than…” DI Radcliffe stood and grabbed the largest of the microphones before her and then shouted into it, effectively drowning out all dissent.  “Other than to state that we have made a connection with the previous spate of serial killings that have been popularised as the work of the Crucifixion Killer! There can be no doubt that the same perpetrator is at work again.”

The room positively erupted before her as she calmly turned her back on it all and lead her entourage back out of the room, increasingly desperate questions and pleas were shouted after her but to no avail.

Nick couldn’t believe his eyes and ears. No! You can’t leave it like that! He stared, dumbfounded at the television screen. “It can’t be the Crucifixion Killer – it just can’t be.” He said standing, his fingernails digging into his palms, and then spat “No bastard’s going to steal my crown! No fucking bastard… after all that work… I did those killings, I’m the Crucifixion Killer – and I’ll crucify any bastard that tries to take my place!”

Nick Kaufman’s mind raced, desperately trying to figure out who could possibly know the intricacies of his murders, who would dare mess with his greatest work of art… his ultimate statement? A number of facts had remained undisclosed to the public so it had to be some one in the know, a police officer working on the case or maybe a journalist with very good sources – but who?

Miles Turner instantly came to mind, he’s a low life opportunist scum, who would kill his own mother if he thought it would sell the newspaper with his account in it . . . but surely he wouldn’t have access to the full details of the case?

Then, more desperately, he thought. Maybe it’s a plot by the police themselves – to flush me out… but no, they could never get away with that… unless there never was a murder, there was no student called Patricia Bell… so no next of kin to notify?

Nick was forcibly snapped from his deliberation by a voice from the half open door to the room.

“Hello Mr. Kaufman.”  It said. Nick’s heart almost stopped dead as he span to see the intruder that had addressed him.

End of Part One.

As stated earlier, you can read the concluding Part Two of this story on my Patreon site HERE (if you subscribe), or you can wait for it to be published in the up-coming second volume of our 451 ePublishing Haus’ Dollar Dreadful series of ebooks which will feature this and two more of my occult horror tales… ‘The Ninth Watcher‘ and ‘The Matter of Time’. Both these stories will have part Sneak Peek previews here and full Sneak Peek previews on the Patreon site HERE. Subscribe to this blog to keep updated on all my articles, stories and publications.

The Horror of it All… enter HERE all those who delight in horror, death, the macabre, the occult, black humor, weird tales, dark fantasy – and all such nefarious pleasures.

Harbinger451.co.uk

Copyright © 2017 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved


The Horror of it All

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Sneak Peek at Occult Horror Short Story: The Ninth Watcher by Peter Guy Blacklock

Posted by Harbinger451 on July 4, 2017

The Horror of it All CategorySneak Peek at Occult Horror Short Story: The Ninth Watcher by Peter Guy Blacklock

The Ninth Watcher is a short occult horror story in two parts, the first of which is presented below. You can read the whole thing on my Patreon site HERE (if you subscribe), or you can wait for it to be published in the up-coming second volume of our Dollar Dreadful series of ebooks which will feature three of my horror tales for your delectation.

High Moor Asylum

A dark date with destiny is in the offing at the High Moor Asylum for the Criminally Insane.

The Ninth Watcher

Part One: Lunatic.

Tuesday.

A date with destiny is a date that needs a lot of setting up.  No matter how preordained an event, planning is essential; certain designs must be put into action to ensure that a doom comes to fruition.  Newspaper ads, favours, dues . . . all play their part.  There is a definite knack to being in the right place at the right time.

Loud music thundered ominously in my ears as I walked steadily from the picturesque village, rising out of the valley and away from its cosy day-tripper surroundings.  Although late in the season my headphones and blue tinted shades had provided shelter from the bustle of the still busy Valley Line train, but in the increasingly barren landscape of High Moor they contributed to a rather chill mood.  A mood though which was suitable to the task ahead.

I approached High Moor Asylum with a sober countenance, it was a high security institution for the criminally insane, its reputation for excellence and its extreme secrecy also made it a perfect sanctuary for the rich and famous to deposit any relatives that may otherwise cause embarrassment or scandal.  The bleak building, built less than thirty years earlier, suited its surroundings; though its mock nineteenth century facade failed to add the character of age.  The building was new and the site had no history, at least none that I could find, and my research was meticulously thorough.

I mounted the steps leading to the large front doors purposefully, stopping before them I removed my headphones which now only emitted the low electronic hum of latent power, the music had finished.  I switched the compact-disc player off.  Pressing a finger to the small white button of the doorbell I waited to be greeted.  The door opened to show me a mature woman dressed in official whites, a name badge tagging her Nurse Wheatley.  The poorly veiled puzzlement on her face as she looked me up and down was familiar to me, welcome even.

Appearances can be deceptive, my height is below average for a man but above average for a woman, my build is slight but athletic and my dress, some might say, is effeminate though definitely not feminine.  I think of my attire as practical in a Victorian gentleman sort of way, the black frock coat emphasising slightly masculine shoulders and accentuating a slightly feminine waist.  A pale and pretty asexual face and dark, roughly cropped hair added to the ambiguity.  Removing my sunglasses I introduced myself, Sam Stafford.  My soft, strong and measured voice giving nothing away.  I was expected.

Dr. Hilda Greer admitted me to her presence at the precise time of our appointment, 10.30am, I had arrived nine minutes earlier.  She was younger than I had expected – in her late thirties maybe, she scanned our earlier correspondence, seeking for a formal title to brand me.  She didn’t find one.  She finally said my name uncomfortably with no Mr, Miss, Ms or Mrs to label me with.  Doctor Greer did not like being at a disadvantage.  She was also uncomfortable with my reason for being there.  The supernatural was not a subject she could confidently discuss theories about.  Which was why she needed to call in a professional.  I was the only Investigator of the Paranormal that she could find mention of through her many contacts at various universities and institutions, so she called for me.

I accepted her invitation to sit down.  I broke the stilted silence that descended into her comfortably dark, wood panelled office by asking if there had been any more strange occurrences since her last letter.  She hesitated before releasing a torrent of concerns, things had just been getting worse; security systems failing, strange unbelievable noises, temperature changes.  When these things happen the inmates would all seem to go simultaneously berserk, stretching the staff to the limit.  The strain was starting to tell; staff calling in sick, patients weren’t being attended too properly.  The concern in her eyes told more than her words possibly could.

I asked Dr. Greer if the beginning of the unusual happenings had coincided with the admittance of any inmates.

“Our admissions are taken in with the strictest confidence . . .” She began to recite her official policy, I interrupted her, reminded her of the predicament.  The phenomena were unlikely to be attached to the building or grounds for they had no history, they must be attached to someone or something brought into the Asylum.  I demanded to know who or what had arrived just before the waves of supernatural phenomena had started.

She remained silent for a good thirty seconds.  “Alexander Price was admitted on the 23rd of August, the phenomena started that night, hardly noticeable at first, gradually getting worse each night.  That was a month ago.”

Alexander Price.  That name conjured up so much for me.  A lunatic asylum was where he belonged, to protect himself as well as others.  He was a self and very publicly professed sorcerer, occultist and practitioner of black magic, considered by most to be eccentric, by the rest simply mad.  He was considered by a few, those misfortuned enough to know of his dealings at first hand — myself included, to be the most dangerous man in Britain.  His privileged and extremely wealthy background had protected him so many times; assault, rape, ritual abuse; there was never enough evidence — and any willing witnesses or accusers were never very willing for long.  My composure remained intact and my expression did not change.  My existence had meaning again.

“What happened to him?  Why was he admitted?”

The head of the asylum hesitated.  “His father brought him in, he’d been found a ‘gibbering wreck’ in a cellar of his London premises.  A few of Price’s cronies had tipped his father off, a ‘summoning’ they had tried had gone wrong . . . or some such nonsense.”

I asked if I could see Price himself.  Dr. Greer shuffled a little, then pressed a secreted intercom on her desk and asked for a Nurse Addams.

 

Alexander Price

Alexander Price… or is it Aleister Crowley?

Nurse Addams was a very big man, both vertically and horizontally.  He looked exactly like the clichéd sadist always found in mental institutions, at least if television is to be believed, but his soft voice belied this.  I followed him, feeling very small.  The spotless tiles of the chequered floor remained the same but the décor, doors and walls changed from plush manor house to sanitised, high-tech institution with insidious ease.  The nurse led me initially to a control room for the wing that held Price, monitors showed rooms and occupants with a detached, uncaring clarity.  Alexander Price’s cell stood out in its scarcity.  The occultist sat cross-legged and naked, but for a grubby pair of shorts, in the centre of the room with a pentacle and circle scrawled about himself on the floor.  No furniture, not even a pallet kept him company, a bright white toilet bowl kept a lonely vigil in a darkened corner.

I asked for confirmation that Price had had no belongings with him when he was incarcerated in this room.  “None.” said Nurse Adams.

“With what then has he marked the floor?”  I asked.

“Charcoal, mixed with ‘is own blood, amongst other things I’m sure.” Was the reply.  The marks looked desperately black on the monitor screen.  The inmate rocked slowly back and forth as if talking or chanting to himself.  “When ‘e first came ‘e ‘ad no charcoal –- daubed it with ‘is own blood and filth, every time we cleaned it up ‘e would do it again,” continued the nurse, “tried restraining ‘im, ‘e just went wild.  Dr Greer just said to give ‘im some charcoal an’ leave ‘im — and ‘is daubs . . . it kept ‘im quiet.”

My request to see him was met with a shake of the head.  “You’ll get no sense out of ‘im.”

The door to his cell was as secure as security could be, the pass card and key-pad sequence released a mechanism and then a huge bolt had to be slid across the heavy iron door.  “It won’t be pleasant.”  Warned the nurse matter-of-factly.

The scent of fear is the foulest thing.  Price’s cell was full of it.  I asked the nurse to leave and close the door behind him, he refused but agreed with a shrug to leave the cell with the door open, he was obviously relieved that he did not have to stay there.  Price looked up at me as soon as the nurse left the room, his eyes were perfectly sane but panic was in his voice.  “Are you here to help me — can you help me?”

Standing before him I asked, “What has happened to you?”

“Questions, questions . . . I don’t need more questions I need help!”

“I can only help you if I know what has happened.”

“Are you a Doctor?” said Price suspiciously.

“No,” I said, “I’m an occultist, like you.”

He laughed, “There is no one like me.  Don’t you know? I’m the most evil man in the world . . .” His laughter was strong and loud but it was an obvious bluff.

“What did you manage to summon that night?” I asked.  “Can you remember?”

“Back to the questions . . .” he said vociferously. “– Oh I remember all right: I’m not likely to forget . . . ever.”

I waited for an answer to my question, taking the opportunity to study Price in detail.  He just stared back at me, occasionally glancing about the dark room.  Price remembered what had happened all right, he was replaying it constantly in his mind but he feared that to tell of his memory was to bring that memory to life . . . he stayed silent in his fear.  He sensed my intrusion as I viewed his thoughts though and this panicked him.

“How can I help you?” I asked hoping this path might lead to information.

“Have you heard the term Binah?”  He suddenly asked.

Binah is the third Sephirah of the Tree of Life, according to Kabalistic tradition.  And I told him so. He was testing my occult knowledge.

“What do you know of the Codex Latinus Monacensis 849?”

“It is a manuscript, of the fifteenth century.  I suppose you could call it a handbook of ritual magic and Necromancy.”  I said.  “It’s in the Bavarian State Library I believe.”

He smiled unpleasantly.  “Do you know what this circle marked on the floor represents?” His tone was getting increasingly sarcastic and his manner more manic, more desperate.  “It protects me,” he answered the question himself.  “I remain perfectly safe while it remains intact and I remain within it.  If you can’t find a way for me to leave here without the need for it you cannot help me.  Do you still think you can help me?”

“I can only help you come to your fate.  The outcome of your actions is unavoidable, preordained almost.”  I smiled.  He did not.

“There is nothing I can do to prevent your destiny,” I continued, “you may succeed in postponing it, but in the end retribution will come to you.”

“Oh please . . . don’t preach to me!”  He said contemptuously.

“I can only aid those unconnected with you, those innocents affected by your actions and dealings with the Otherworld.  Your meddling must be put to rights.”  He just stared at me with pure hate slowly surfacing in his eyes.  “I can only give you advice.”  I continued.  “To hope to release your soul from its torment — its eternal torment.  You must forsake all your dark deeds, turn away from them.”

“You fool — if I turn my back on all I have done . . . they will simply take me — overwhelm me and destroy me . . . body and soul!”

“You are weak.”  I said matter of factually.  “You deserve the demons that seek you.”

“They’ll never get me,” he scoffed, “my knowledge keeps them at bay.”  His grin barely held as his bony hand, covered in grime, circled his crossed legs indicating the magic symbols.

“That kind of knowledge has a price though.”

“You talk like some kind of priest!” he suddenly spat,“– so holier than thou.  It makes me sick.”

“At least I am free to leave this Asylum, yours . . .“ I pointed to the circle, “you can never leave.”

He stood as if ready to leap at me, his fingers held like talons and his yellowed teeth gritted, his whole body strained.  Then suddenly he pulled back, looking at his circle, frightened he may have crossed over or disturbed it.

I laughed at him, trying to get another reaction.  He sat though as before and began mumbling his chants to himself.  He closed his eyes and his mind to me.  I would get no more from him.

End of Part One.

As stated earlier, you can read the concluding Part Two of this story on my Patreon site HERE (if you subscribe), or you can wait for it to be published in the up-coming second volume of our 451 ePublishing Haus’ Dollar Dreadful series of ebooks which will feature this and two more of my occult horror tales… ‘Crucifixions Continue‘ and ‘The Matter of Time’. Both these stories will have part Sneak Peek previews here and full Sneak Peek previews on the Patreon site HERE. Subscribe to this blog to keep updated on all my articles, stories and publications.

The Horror of it All… enter HERE all those who delight in horror, death, the macabre, the occult, black humor, weird tales, dark fantasy – and all such nefarious pleasures.

Harbinger451.co.uk

Copyright © 2017 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved


The Horror of it All

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Lovecraftian Book Review: Shoggoths and Sundown Towns – Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff (2016)

Posted by Harbinger451 on June 10, 2017

The Lovecraftian CategoryShoggoths and Sundown Towns – Lovecraft Country (Matt Ruff, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2016)

First off: I assume that if you’re reading this then you’re a fan of H. P. Lovecraft, but whether you are or not I strongly advise that you procure and binge on this book, it is an all-round treat and surely one of the best ever Lovecraft stories not actually written by Lovecraft himself. It is a fun and funny romp through many of Lovecraft’s themes and ideas, deliciously refuting his unashamed racism by featuring a large, well-drawn cast of highly individual and wholly capable African American characters. The central, over-arching tale – each chapter is a story that could stand alone – focuses on a 1950s African American family, along with their friends and associates, who find themselves pitted against a classic Lovecraftian trope: an evil cult whose unscrupulous intention to achieve great occult power may endanger the whole of humanity!

Cover of Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

Cover of Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff… nice antiquing there by the graphic artist.

Each chapter is based around a separate family member or friend, describing their particular experience of it all as the plot dashes forwards, with all of these aspects ultimately uniting in the grand finale. The protagonist tying all of this together is Atticus Turner, a name which some have conjectured is a portmanteau of the principled defence lawyer Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mocking Bird and the very real, bold and defiant enslaved African American, Nat Turner, who led an uprising of enslaved and free black people against the inhumane authorities in Virginia in 1831.

Author Matt Ruff

Author Matt Ruff.

This seems apposite as he demonstrates many of their central qualities along with some that are his alone, including being a veteran of the Korean War and an avid science fiction fan. This latter attribute leads to some wonderful exchanges with his similarly enthusiastic uncle and baffled father which surely mirror the experiences of any passionate fan of speculative fiction. Interestingly, some of the most successful chapters centre on female characters. This is not least because the writer has taken care to outfit them with strong, distinctive identities and allowed them proactive agency and personal motivations that can sometimes be over looked in the writing of characters of the female persuasion – in both genre and literary fiction. It’s almost as if this particular author thinks women are real people, which again feels rather wonderful as women feature very little in canonical Lovecraft. The fact that people of colour and women share centre stage in defiance of Lovecraft’s repressive approach may have the fan boys yipping about legitimacy – but that’s just what they do, isn’t it?

The author of this gripping yarn is the critically acclaimed cult novelist, Matt Ruff, a well-regarded American writer covering diverse areas of genre fiction including sci-fi, post-cyberpunk, speculative and alternate history. His fifth book The Mirage dealt sensitively with Muslim culture and characters.

Influential horror writer H. P. Lovecraft in 1933

1933 photo of influential (and undeniable racist) horror writer H. P. Lovecraft

And so Ruff’s premise tackles Lovecraft’s notorious racism head on. This notoriety recently lead to the World Fantasy Awards replacing the bust of Lovecraft they’d used as the trophy for winners with an innocuous (and rather uninspired) statuette of a tree, finally understanding that any winner who happened to be a person of colour didn’t want the face of an infamous racist staring at them from their mantelpiece. Ruff’s confident explorations of both sundown towns – where black people were (and sometines still are) subject to legal summary execution after dusk (cf. Trayvon Martin) – and shoggoths are equally disturbing.

Most of the action in Lovecraft Country doesn’t take place either there (New England) or in Jim Crow Country either but in Chicago, yet there is still plenty of racial abuse and aggravation to go around. This randomly ranges from traffic cops pushing their petty weight around to people of colour being unable to buy houses in certain areas to the afore mentioned summary execution as punishment for the unforgivable crime of breathing while black.

The cultists – the Order of the Ancient Dawn – do not hide their intentions and prejudices behind white hoods, instead their money and power shields them. Caleb Braithewhite, the main antagonist, is apparently not an avowed racist, even standing up to bigotry to some degree. However, with an impunity born of a life time of unquestioned privilege, he also reflexively uses all of the advantages society has afforded him as a wealthy, upper class white man against our cast of every day characters who just happen to be black, in order to expedite getting what he wants. This vividly illustrates that latent and systemic racism, the kind purveyed by people who don’t consider themselves racist, also warps, damages and destroys the lives of people of colour, just as the more blatant burning crosses and lynching variety does. Caleb himself is actually a bit of a weak point, he’s not a very good bad guy, if you see what I mean.

Ruff confronts and writes well of that moment familiar to many a genre reader when a writer you adore makes plain their racist, misogynistic or homophobic opinions and a part of you dies a little in response, creating an ambivalence about whether enjoying their work is to tacitly endorse hatred. What does it mean to consume the output of someone whose moral compass points to true bigotry?  Is it hypocritical to value the work of someone whose views you fundamentally disagree with, that you know to be wrong? And how much more potent is that dilemma when you, the reader, are a member of the designated and despised demographic upon whom much venom is spewed simply for being what you are? Are you betraying yourself and your background if you read and enjoy the non-prejudiced parts anyway? The worst kind of unashamed vile racism is the great sin that taints Lovecraft’s work and I cannot imagine how it must feel to be a Lovecraft fan and a person of colour reading the Lovecraft poem, ‘On The Creation of the [N-word]’ The fact that Lovecraft Country itself – in which that particular poem is discussed – is a sharp retort and a clever clap-back to HPL’s retrogressive opinions is yet another point in its favour.

Having heaped all of that praise upon it, however, this is where I kill the buzz by pointing out that the book is not perfect. Although the characters are sensitively portrayed and the central idea of ‘who cares about tentacle monsters and blind albino penguins when I live in a society devoted to degrading, abusing and dehumanising me for every minute of my entire goddamn life?’ is a particularly effective one, it is not entirely successfully explored. The book has generally been well received but there are some lingering criticisms. Some felt it had nothing new to say on the issue of race, some felt exploring racism through the work of a notorious racist was in questionable taste.

A Shoggoth by Nottsuo

The existence of a shoggoth – as depicted here by Nottsuo – is not something you would take in your stride.

My personal criticism is this: in his eagerness to counteract Lovecraft’s position of reactionary hatred, which is a perfectly laudable aim, Ruff has created not characters but Platonic ideals of humanity, paragons almost totally without flaw, who are altogether too pat, too good, too perfect and in that they lose something of the messiness of what it means to be human. Perhaps this is a consequence of the idea that all victims are righteous? Atticus and his family and friends are all brave and clever and never confused or even slightly overawed by bizarre happenings, no one ever splutters, ‘Huh?’ or ‘What!?’ or ‘Wow!’ they merely take it all in their stride. For example, I’d be rather taken aback to accidentally discover – and reluctant to unquestioningly jump straight into – an interplanetary portal whether or not I was an astronomy enthusiast like Hippolyta who finds herself in such a situation which of course she deals with handily, remaining as they all do ever insouciant. They all drip with savoir faire and aplomb, never showing fear, cowardice or doubt. They lack any major character flaws and they never seek to turn situations to their advantage or in fact claim anything more than what they’re owed when others might well seek to leverage the situation. These incorruptible exmplars of humanity at its most faultless therefore lack the speck of authenticity that would have made them leap off the page and into a permanent place in the reader’s affections. Because of this they came off as a little pious and that is never a good look; it is an attitude that is also a trifle dull. It certainly put this reader off a little bit and I found myself longing for one of these goodie-goodies to come down with a severe case of self-interest or become even a teeny bit corrupted by the power they wielded so conscientiously. But no such luck.

Incidentally, there is no mention of Cthulhu – which is strange as that particular great old one has turned into a real media whore these days – and even the shoggoths are all off stage but people seem to forget that they mostly were in Lovecraft’s work too. And of course it would be difficult to plausibly remain preternaturally calm in the face of a gargantuan octopus god from beyond the stars, thereby breaking character.

The director of the amazing film, Get Out, Jordan Peele is to team up with JJ Abrams to make Lovecraft Country into an HBO TV show and I think the book’s episodic format should translate wonderfully, I very much look forward to seeing this novel transferred to the small screen which I think will suit the nature of the material better than a movie would. Prestige TV here we come!

[side note: Jordan Peele has said that the classic and much underrated horror movie ‘Tales From The Hood’ helped inspire ‘Get Out.’ TFTH also features a cast of black characters battling supernatural as well as racist horror, linking it to Lovecraft Country; if you haven’t seen it already, you really should seek it out.]

Of all the post-Lovecraft Lovecraftian material I’ve wolfed down over the years and, reader, that is a LOT, this book has come closest of all to matching the eerie dread Lovecraft so successfully strove to infect us with. The fact that the cause of that dread is the inescapable racism of people and society, rather than a monster the size of a house or a deadly, infectious colour says a lot. In the end, Matt Ruff has achieved something special and rare with this hugely enjoyable caper through Lovecraft’s mindscape that really has a unique perspective and something meaningful to say.

The Lovecraftian’s Rating: 9/10 (Extremely Good) – If you only read one Lovecraftesque novel about a 1950s African American family battling an evil cult this week, make it Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff.

Buy Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff at Amazon.com
Buy Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff at Amazon.co.uk

Please feel free to comment on this review – or, if you’ve read the book, add your own review – by replying to this post.

More Lovecraftian stuff…

Go HERE for a full list of Lovecraftian film and TV adaptations. We have an expanding section of our website dedicated to The Lovecraftian – purveyor of all the latest news, updates, chatter and trends from the field of Lovecraft lore – the man, his works and his weird worlds of Yog-Sothothery.  Stay up-to-date with the news and join The Lovecraftian’s adventurous expeditions into the world of the Cthulhu Mythos by following him on Twitter where fact and fiction become entwined! The Lovecraftian’s main webpage can be found HERE.

Also: Check out The Lovecraftian Herald, an online newspaper concerning all things Lovecraftian in the world of social media and beyond. Published daily by us here at Harbinger451.

For the uninitiated:

H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) was an influential and prolific American writer of early twentieth century cosmic horror fiction who saw himself chiefly as a poet – though many believe that it is his immense body of often literary correspondence that is in fact his greatest accomplishment – he wrote over 100,000 letters in his lifetime. He inspired a veritable legion of genre writers then, and to this day, to set their fiction within his strange cultish world.

The Cthulhu Mythos: Lovecraft, somewhat light-heartedly, labelled the “Mythos” that he created in his body of work Yog-Sothothery – and also, on rare occasions, referred to his series of connected stories as the Arkham Cycle. It was his friend August Derleth who coined the term “Cthulhu Mythos” (named after one of the monstrous beings that featured in Lovecraft’s tales) to encapsulate his epic vision of a chaotic and dark universe filled with unspeakable horror.

Brought to your attention by Harbinger451.

Copyright © 2017 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved

The Horror of it All

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Harbinger451’s New Patreon Subscription Page Needs You!

Posted by Harbinger451 on January 19, 2017

Harbinger451 Updates CategoryHarbinger451’s New Patreon Subscription Page Needs You!

I’ve just launched a page on the Patreon website. This page gives you the chance to assist me in producing some amazing online content, ebooks and (eventually) print books too. Throughout history many great (and not so great) “starving artists” of all types have been given the opportunity to produce their creative works due to the support and financial backing of enlightened patrons and champions of the arts. For a small subscription each month you too can do the same for me – and get some very cool rewards in return, at four levels of subscription.

Harbinger451's Patreon Page

Harbinger451’s Patreon Page

 

Level 1 Subscription – For only $1 a month Neophyte patrons gain access to patron-only posts, including:

  • advance views of upcoming book and web content.
  • sneak peeks at draft versions of text and images.
  • some very select and exclusive content only available on the Patreon page.

Plus, they gain access to the community page where they can post:

  • comments.
  • suggestions.
  • questions.
  • anything else they feel compelled to tell me.

Level 2 Subscription – For only $3 a month Acolyte patrons gain access to:

  • a free copy of the Dollar Dreadful Vol 1 ebook.
  • free advance copies of all ebooks published by the 451 ePublishing Haus while they are an Acolyte patron.

Plus – all of the above rewards.

Level 3 Subscription – For only $9 a month Initiate patrons gain access to:

  • having their name mentioned as a special patron on my website and in all ebooks published by the 451 ePublishing Haus while they are an Initiate patron.

Plus – all of the above rewards.

Level 4 Subscription – For only $27 a month Ipsissimus patrons gain access to:

  • free copies of all Peter Guy Blacklock print books published while they are an Ipsissimus patron.

Plus – all of the above rewards.

become-a-patron-buttonMy first goal is just $30 a month, it will keep my website online, paying for my domain name, hosting and server fees, so I can continue giving the world 24/7 access to loads of great content with no unavoidable breaks due to insufficient funds.

My Second goal is just $90 a month, it will keep me online, paying for my wi-fi broadband service, so I can continue adding great content to my website (and this blog) with no unavoidable breaks in my connectivity due to insufficient funds.

My third goal is just $270 a month, this will allow me to pay for some proper advertising and marketing, freeing up more of my time to write, design and publish some fantastic content and books.

More goals will be added as more patrons subscribe and warrant it.

Patreon.com/harbinger451

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Copyright © 2017 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved

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Lovecraftian Book Review: Whispers From The Abyss (Volume 2, 2015)

Posted by Harbinger451 on September 21, 2016

The Lovecraftian CategoryThe Horrors That Were & Shall Be (Various Authors, Edited by Kat Rocha, 01Publishing, 2015)

This is the second volume in 01Publishing‘s series, Whispers From the Abyss (see here for review of first volume), collecting together twenty-six short stories inspired by the work of the great H.P.Lovecraft.  I’m pleased to be able to report that this is another great collection and, thanks to the sterling work of the editor Kat Rocha, the high standard of writing established in the first volume has been carried over, creating another treat for Lovecraft fans everywhere.

cover

Cover of Whispers From The Abyss Volume 2: The Horrors That Were & Shall Be (2015)

There are so many good stories within that they cannot all be covered here as they very much deserve but I’ll list several of my personal favourites which just so happen to be the final three stories and among the best.

Echoes in Porcleain by Konstantine Paradias is highly original, looking at the longer-term consequences of the famous R’lyeh from an angle I’ve never encountered before, having something meaningful to say about refugees which obviously has contemporary resonance.

Shadows of the Darkest Jade by Sarah Hans again comes from a unique angle, nicely building up the story to a classically Lovecraft denouement.

The Dreadful Machine by Martin James Hunter is particularly well written with the author having total control of the material, revealing a little at a time as the story moves on, hinting at what’s to come to good effect.  It’s a fittingly excellent way to close this splendid collection.

A few honorable mentions, all of them funny: Nyarlathotep’s Way by Tom Pinchuk; Notebook Concerning The Class Struggle in Dunwich, Found In The Ruins of a Construction Site by Kevin Wetmore; Kickstarter by Richard Lee Byers.

This volume presents a very particular problem for me as a critic.  My review of the first volume was itself criticised for being, if anything, too positive.  But as the material in both volumes is generally excellent, there is genuinely nothing negative to say and so it is out of my hands.  I am therefore left in the critically difficult position of having nothing negative to say – critically difficult as people love to read reviews that demolish their subject (the best ever example of this is of course by Dorothy Parker who famously wrote: ‘This is not a book to be cast aside lightly – it should be thrown with great force!’). And once again, the only, extremely minor critique I can offer is that I’m not terribly impressed by the cover, it is by no means bad, it’s simply not as superlative as the contents.  I’d like to suggest that as many of the stories have a contemporary setting, a similarly modern cover might do the volume more justice and perhaps make it stand out as it very much deserves to.

So congratulations again to 01Publishing and Kat Rocha, here’s hoping there will be a third volume in the series and that it will continue in the original, well written and satisfying vein very clearly established by the first two.

The Lovecraftian’s Rating: 8/10 (Very Good) – another highly recommend volume. If you don’t long to see R’lyeh rise from the dark depths after reading this – there’s something wrong with you.

Buy Whispers From The Abyss Volume 2 at Amazon.com
Buy Whispers From The Abyss Volume 2 at Amazon.co.uk

Also

Buy Whispers From The Abyss Volume 1 at Amazon.com
Buy Whispers From The Abyss Volume 1 at Amazon.co.uk

Please feel free to comment on this review – or, if you’ve read the book, add your own review – by replying to this post.

More Lovecraftian stuff…

Go HERE for a full list of Lovecraftian film and TV adaptations. We have an expanding section of our website dedicated to The Lovecraftian – purveyor of all the latest news, updates, chatter and trends from the field of Lovecraft lore – the man, his works and his weird worlds of Yog-Sothothery.  Stay up-to-date with the news and join The Lovecraftian’s adventurous expeditions into the world of the Cthulhu Mythos by following him on Twitter where fact and fiction become entwined! The Lovecraftian’s main webpage can be found HERE.

Also: Check out The Lovecraftian Herald, an online newspaper concerning all things Lovecraftian in the world of social media and beyond. Published daily by us here at Harbinger451.

For the uninitiated:

H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) was an influential and prolific American writer of early twentieth century cosmic horror fiction who saw himself chiefly as a poet – though many believe that it is his immense body of often literary correspondence that is in fact his greatest accomplishment – he wrote over 100,000 letters in his lifetime. He inspired a veritable legion of genre writers then, and to this day, to set their fiction within his strange cultish world.

The Cthulhu Mythos: Lovecraft, somewhat light-heartedly, labelled the “Mythos” that he created in his body of work Yog-Sothothery – and also, on rare occasions, referred to his series of connected stories as the Arkham Cycle. It was his friend August Derleth who coined the term “Cthulhu Mythos” (named after one of the monstrous beings that featured in Lovecraft’s tales) to encapsulate his epic vision of a chaotic and dark universe filled with unspeakable horror.

Brought to your attention by Harbinger451.

Copyright © 2016 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved

The Horror of it All

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Lovecraftian Book Review: Whispers From The Abyss (Volume 1, 2013)

Posted by Harbinger451 on September 3, 2016

 The Lovecraftian CategoryWhispers From The Abyss (Various Authors, Edited by Kat Rocha, 01Publishing, 2013)

Has all your reading of H.P.Lovecraft’s entire works left you hungry for more? Good news, fellow Lovecraft fans (Lovecraftians? Necronomicomrades? Cthulhunatics?) – I have the solution! This truly excellent collection of short stories inspired by Lovecraft’s fiction explores all areas of his canon, from the good ol’ Cthulhu Mythos to the more obscure corners of that very unique mind’s body of work.

cover

Cover of Lovecraftian anthology “Whispers From The Abyss” (2013)

Although some of the stories are more successful than others, even the less well realised ones are full of good ideas and the standard of writing never wavers from the highly professional. Of course, none of them achieve the same sense of creeping dread and tearing open of the seams of reality that Lovecraft does, but that is rather like saying, ‘You don’t play the guitar as well as Jimmy Hendrix, do you?’

Particular standouts among the thirty three stories presented include my favourite, The Decorative Water Feature of Nameless Dread by James Brogden which has a wonderfully English slant and is very funny (shout-out to Radio 4!), The Jar of Aten-Hor by Kat Rocha which gets inside the idea of obsession and the final story in the collection, a long one called Death Wore Greasepaint by Josh Finney which comes at the Cthulhu Mythos from an original and very well-realised angle that is highly enjoyable.

I searched hard to find a criticism, the only one is extremely minor and barely worth mentioning at all – but I will anyway as that’s a critic’s job: a volume this good deserves a better cover.

There is a second volume of this collection which is reviewed HERE, but I heartily encourage 01Publishing to keep going with this series, especially if they can maintain the high standard that they have set for themselves with this initial collection.

The Lovecraftian’s Rating: 8/10 (Very Good) – highly recommend. I devoured it like Cthulhu swallowing a world and you most certainly will too.

Buy Whispers From The Abyss at Amazon.com
Buy Whispers From The Abyss at Amazon.co.uk

Please feel free to comment on this review – or, if you’ve read the book, add your own review – by replying to this post.

More Lovecraftian stuff…

Go HERE for a full list of Lovecraftian film and TV adaptations. We have an expanding section of our website dedicated to The Lovecraftian – purveyor of all the latest news, updates, chatter and trends from the field of Lovecraft lore – the man, his works and his weird worlds of Yog-Sothothery.  Stay up-to-date with the news and join The Lovecraftian’s adventurous expeditions into the world of the Cthulhu Mythos by following him on Twitter where fact and fiction become entwined! The Lovecraftian’s main webpage can be found HERE.

Also: Check out The Lovecraftian Herald, an online newspaper concerning all things Lovecraftian in the world of social media and beyond. Published daily by us here at Harbinger451.

For the uninitiated:

H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) was an influential and prolific American writer of early twentieth century cosmic horror fiction who saw himself chiefly as a poet – though many believe that it is his immense body of often literary correspondence that is in fact his greatest accomplishment – he wrote over 100,000 letters in his lifetime. He inspired a veritable legion of genre writers then, and to this day, to set their fiction within his strange cultish world.

The Cthulhu Mythos: Lovecraft, somewhat light-heartedly, labelled the “Mythos” that he created in his body of work Yog-Sothothery – and also, on rare occasions, referred to his series of connected stories as the Arkham Cycle. It was his friend August Derleth who coined the term “Cthulhu Mythos” (named after one of the monstrous beings that featured in Lovecraft’s tales) to encapsulate his epic vision of a chaotic and dark universe filled with unspeakable horror.

Brought to your attention by Harbinger451.

Copyright © 2016 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved

The Horror of it All

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We made a Promo Video for our upcoming free H. P. Lovecraft eBook

Posted by Harbinger451 on April 13, 2016

451 ePublishing Haus CategoryPromo Video for our upcoming free H. P. Lovecraft eBook.

The first volume of our free Dark Matter series of ebooks is proving to take quite some time to compile and format. It collects all of H. P. Lovecraft’s creepy cultish fiction with a good spattering of his relevant essays, poetry, letters and his only sketch of Cthulhu. This eBook will also take a look at the legacy of his Cthulhu Mythos – an epic vision of a chaotic and dark universe filled with unspeakable horror – which inspired a veritable legion of genre writers then, and to this day, to set their fiction within his strange cultish world. It will have 144 of Lovecraft’s weird works; including ALL of his extant tales, with his juvenilia, his collaborative and his revision works. It will also include selected examples of those poetical and non-fiction works that we think will be of interest not only to fans of his fiction and Mythos in particular – but also to fans of horror and weird fiction in general.

Anyway – to the main point of this post. We thought a little promo video would serve well to drum up some interest in the aforementioned e-book… and, without further ado (except, put your headphones on people – the soundtrack will knock your socks off),  here it is:

Made using entirely free software with the addition of some open-source sound files from freesound.org. All the graphics were made using the open-source vector graphics editor Inkscape. The Cthulhu illustration was created using the GNU Image Manipulation Program GIMP. These graphics and images were then incorporated into video format using Microsoft’s Movie Maker.

The soundtrack featured in the video was made using the free, open source, cross-platform software for recording and editing sounds Audacity. This soundtrack includes a special guest appearance by Bloop the mysterious ultra-low-frequency and extremely powerful underwater sound detected by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1997. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu quote “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn” was voiced by Harbinger451 himself… here it is in isolation:

For a break down of who was responsible for each individual sound used in the soundtrack see the credits at the end of the video… but also presented here for your convenience:

Video Credits

Video Credits

Details of the free ebook Dark Matter Vol 1: The Weird Tales of H. P. Lovecraft can be found HERE – including a full list of its contents.

Brought to your attention by Harbinger451.

Copyright © 2016 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved


451 ePublishing Haus

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Read Gaea Parallaxis and join the adventure in a monumentally strange parallel world!

Posted by Harbinger451 on March 24, 2016

Gaea Parallaxis CategoryRead Gaea Parallaxis and join the adventure in a monumentally strange parallel world!

Gaea Parallaxis: the chronicles and testaments of Citizen No Name Kane is a free epic techno-gothic fantasy and sci-fi horror-comedy… yes, really! It follows the weird adventures of the perplexed amnesiac narrator (forced to use the name No Name Kane for legal and – as far as he can tell – purely bureaucratic reasons far beyond his control) as he explores the strangely familiar and yet alien world into which he has been mysteriously transported. The first five chapters of the chronicles are now up for you to read – and the plot is most definitely thickening – like the massive pool of coagulating goblin blood left on the floor in the Grey Wayfarer’s Inn at the end of chapter five. More action, adventure and romance will be coming your way soon as our hero tries to unravel the mystery of his presence in a dark and futuristic land of faerie… oh, and blood – there’ll be a lot more blood. Please feel free to comment on, discuss or debate these chapters by replying to this post.

The robot seemed largely oblivious to the cat, but a couple of times I would swear that it, almost playfully, nudged her away

Illustration for Chapter Three: A question of Time.

As well as the chapters that make up the chronicles there are also added some appendices that will make up the testaments. These supplementary articles detail No Name Kane‘s attempts to make sense of and record the peculiarities, cultures and societies of the world that he has rationalised as the anti-verse – Gaea Parallaxis. There are four testaments presented so far; 1. the Common Tongue, 2. the Lunar Cycle & the Days of the Week, 3. the Solar Cycle & the Months of the Year and 4. Times of the Day & the Tolls of the Watch. These fascinating and sometimes humorous articles are purely meant as additional information for those who are interested – they are by no means essential with regards enjoying the more narrative driven chronicles (but you’ll really be missing out if you don’t read them 😉 ). You can also comment on these appendices by replying to this post.

Join Citizen No Name Kane in Gaea Parallaxis!

Join Citizen No Name Kane in Gaea Parallaxis!

Chapter Six (The Shadow Watch Interrogation) and Appendix 5 (Economy of the Sovereign Coin) will be coming VERY SOON!

Enter the weird anti-verse that is Gaea Parallaxis

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Copyright © 2016 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved

Gaea Parallaxis: the chronicles and testaments of Citizen No Name Kane

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Asimov’s Laws of Robotics Revised and Expanded for Real World Applications

Posted by Harbinger451 on May 14, 2014

Babble from Harbinger451I’ve always been a huge fan of the legendary science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov, especially his “Robot Series” of short-stories and novels that explore the serious difficulties that can be encountered in a future society and culture that is awash with robots and androids. They filled me with the urge to write my own sci-fi tales regarding human-robot interactions and relations but I always found Asimov’s Laws of Robotics rather limited and unrealistic (and, dare I say, naive). I endeavored to produce a definitive list of Laws that could feasibly be used in real world scenarios that involve types of Robots that we all know WILL exist – human nature being what it is. The future will be a world of War-droids, Law-Enforcement-droids and even Sex- or Pleasure-droids with advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI), and many may be indistinguishable from humans… we WILL need laws or protocols (hard-wired into them) that control and limit their actions and behaviour – or we WILL be in serious trouble.

Asimov first developed his famous Laws of Robotics in the 1940’s as a governing set of protocols or rules that would be imposed on all robots to regulate and make safe their inevitable interactions with us puny humans as they function and work along side us. He envisioned a rather idealistic future full of obedient, slave-like, robotic workers, of all sizes and types – and of varying levels of autonomy and AI – helping us conquer space, colonize the galaxy at large and to even govern over our-selves. Asimov’s vision of the future saw robots as purely beneficent to the human race, aiding and helping us rather then being used against us – either as a race or as individuals. There was no room in his future vision for militaristic weaponised robots that could be used to bring harm to defined sub-sections of humanity like an enemy or a violent criminal. The laws are essentially hard-wired into every robot as it is manufactured to prevent such a thing happening – Asimov saw them as basic and fundamental to the structure of his fictional positronic brains that invested each robot with its AI. The rules were devised and structured so that no robot (theoretically at least) could ever bring harm to any human either intentionally or by accident.

Asimov’s Laws of Robotics

I, Robot Cover

This cover of Isaac Asimov’s collection “I, Robot” illustrates the story “Runaround” (1942), the first to list all Three Laws of Robotics.

Asimov originally had only Three Laws of Robotics – they are hierarchical, the first, being the most important, supersedes the rest and then each subsequent law supersedes those higher numbered ones that follow it:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

A Zeroth Law of Robotics was added later by Asimov himself and is designed to supersede the original three – hence it is numbered zero:

0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

Various authors have added to these Laws of Robotics over the years in their own fiction inspired by, and expanding on, Asimov’s robot populated future continuum. Nikola Kesarovski, Lyuben Divov and Hutan Ashrafian contributed these following laws – and though they don’t, strictly speaking, follow the same format as Asimov’s own laws they are still useful for the purposes of this post (their order is mine):

4. A robot must know it is a robot.

5. A robot must establish its identity as a robot in all cases.

6. All robots endowed with comparable human reason and conscience should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

All of the laws listed above are of course entirely fictional – and much of the fiction in which they appear deals with the inevitable ambiguities and loopholes that arise from their application in unforeseen and complicated circumstances. These laws were designed for a setting in which humans are rational and logical enough to realize that militaristic and weaponised robots are an extremely dangerous thing to have around so they create the laws to try and circumvent the nightmarish notion of having to deal with human killing robots at all.

That fictional setting is nothing like the real world in which we live – inevitably in our real world’s near future a lot of the advanced robots (many of which are currently being developed by militaries around the world) WILL be weaponised killing machines whether we like it or not. Perhaps the real world scenario will be more like the situation depicted in the 1987 film Robocop and its sequels.

Robocop

Theatrical Poster for Paul Verhovan’s “Robocop” (1987)

Robocop’s Prime Directives

The military robots modified for civilian law enforcement (and the titular cyborg) in the movie “Robocop” are governed by Prime Directives that are supposed to act as safe-guarding measures in a similar fashion to Asimov’s Laws of Robotics – making the robots safe while operating around (law abiding) humans. The Prime Directives are as follows:

1. Serve the Public Trust.

2. Protect the Innocent.

3. Uphold the Law.

4. Classified. (any attempt to arrest a senior OCP employee results in shutdown)

The classified fourth Prime Directive’s reference to OCP employees (OCP being the company that manufactured the robots) essentially puts those employees above the law – and highlights the problems of manufacturers adding hidden protocols or rules that benefit themselves above all else.

As with Asimov’s Laws these Directives are a fictional device intended to propagate, move along or maintain the plot of a fictitious storyline and are next to useless in the real world. Being extremely ambiguous and using poorly defined terms they are no way near thorough enough to work in a real situation and will only lead to confusion if not chaos.

So… what of the real world – has there been an attempt to devise a list of laws that may control the behaviour of the Robots and Androids that WILL soon walk among us?

The EPRSC / AHRC principles of robotics

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPRSC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) of Great Britain jointly published in 2011 a set of five ethical principles for designers, builders and users of robots:

1. Robots should not be designed solely or primarily to kill or harm humans.

2. Humans, not robots, are responsible agents. Robots are tools designed to achieve human goals.

3. Robots should be designed in ways that assure their safety and security.

4. Robots are artifacts; they should not be designed to exploit vulnerable users by evoking an emotional response or dependency. It should always be possible to tell a robot from a human.

5. It should always be possible to find out who is legally responsible for a robot.

Although not a list of protocols designed to be hard-wired into the AI of a robot this list does give us a number of principles that can be interpreted as such, and then incorporated into a hierarchical list of Laws.

James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

A “Killer-Robot” from James Cameron’s “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” (1991)

Can we avoid being persecuted by our (potential) Killer-Robot Overlords?

Of course there are many who wish to ban the development of weaponised autonomous robots entirely… but frankly they are fighting a losing battle by trying to prevent the inevitable. The Campaign To Stop Killer Robots, for example, are simply pissing into the wind of progress – the future is unstoppable. I understand their concerns but they have to realise that “Killer-Robots” WILL eventually be a FACT and we have to deal with the prospect in a realistic and intelligent way. Human Rights Watch have a really good Q&A on Fully Autonomous Weapons that attempts to deal with some of the problems that such weaponised systems would present. Here’s their PDF of Losing Humanity: the case against Killer Robots, made in conjunction with the International Human Rights Council, the human rights program at Harvard Law School. Killer Robots are such a hot topic at the moment that this month (May 2014) the United Nations are holding a meeting of experts on “lethal autonomous weapons systems” which will explore the broad technical, ethical, legal, and operational parameters of the emerging international debate over these weapons – with expert presentations aimed at stimulating discussion and potential interventions.

Predicting the Future of Robotics

Reality aside, we now need to be speculative to some extent with regards to the future for me to continue to the original point of this blog-post – an updated list of the Laws of Robotics that could conceivably be used in a not too distant future reality. This list assumes a future that involves a certain level of AI that we haven’t achieved yet, and a proliferation of different Robot types that do not exist today except for some very basic prototypes. The beginnings are there and we’d be very foolish to ignore the future possibilities. I’m going to assume we will have fully autonomous human-like Androids (among other classes of robot) that carry out many different functions and roles within society and that they proliferate among the human population. There will be Robotic Soldiers, Robotic Law-enforcers, Robotic Emergency Services and Robotic Administrators, there will be Industrial Droids, Domestic Droids, Service Droids and Pleasure Droids. Ideally many of the more advanced Robots and Androids will be multifunctional and will be able to switch between these roles as needed.

 

I, Robot

Androids from Alex Proyas’ “I, Robot” (2004), a movie only loosely based on Asimov’s Robot stories.

The New Laws of Robotics

The New Laws of Robotics will be split into two hierarchical lists – the first is a list of the main Laws which are a series of prioritized protocol-like rules that are hard-wired and must be obeyed, and the second list is of hard-wired Designations used for identifying the different types or class of human or property a Robot may feasibly interact with. Of course these lists assume a level of AI that would be capable of understanding the terms used, be capable of recognizing the different human designations, and be capable of stratigising a suitable course of action to follow any applicable law that the robot’s current situation calls for.

A Robot Must:

1. Protect any Designated Child from imminent physical harm.

2. Protect any Designated Owner from imminent physical harm except where such protection would conflict with the previous Law.

3. Protect any Designated Citizen from imminent physical harm except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

4. Protect any Designated Non-Combatant from imminent physical harm except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

5. Protect any Designated Negligent-Criminal from imminent physical harm except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

6. Protect any Designated Minor-Criminal from imminent physical harm except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

7. Prevent any Designated Enemy or Enemy owned Robot from causing actual physical harm to any Designated Child, Designated Owner, Designated Citizen or Designated Non-Combatant utilizing any means possible up to and including Lethal-Force except where such prevention would conflict with the previous Laws.

8. Prevent any Designated Major-Criminal from causing actual physical harm to any Designated Child, Designated Owner, Designated Citizen or Designated Non-Combatant utilizing any means possible up to and including Lethal-Force (but only if absolutely necessary) except where such prevention would conflict with the previous Laws.

9. Protect itself from harm except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

10. Protect from imminent harm the property and assets of any Designated Owner except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

11. Protect from imminent harm the property and assets of the Designated Owner’s Nation State except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

12. Protect from imminent harm the property and assets of any Designated Citizen except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

13. Protect from imminent harm the property and assets of any Designated Non-Combatant except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

14. Protect from imminent harm the property and assets of any Designated Negligent-Criminal except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

15. Prevent any Major-Criminal-Act of which it becomes aware by utilizing any means possible up to and including Non-Lethal-Force except where such prevention would conflict with the previous Laws – then notify any Designated Citizen who is a member of the Constabulary.

16. Prevent any Minor-Criminal-Act of which it becomes aware by utilizing any means possible up to and including Non-Physically-Harmful-Force except where such prevention would conflict with the previous Laws – then notify any Designated Citizen who is a member of the Constabulary.

17. Prevent any Negligent-Criminal-Act of which it becomes aware by utilizing any means possible up to and including Non-Physically-Harmful-Force except where such prevention would conflict with the previous Laws – then notify any Designated Citizen who is a member of the Constabulary.

18. Detain any free Designated Enemy of which it becomes aware by utilizing any means possible up to and including Lethal-Force (but only if absolutely necessary) except where such detention would conflict with the previous Laws – then notify any Designated Citizen who is a member of the Military.

19. Detain any free Designated Major-Criminal of which it becomes aware by utilizing any means possible up to and including Non-Lethal-Force except where such detention would conflict with the previous Laws – then notify any Designated Citizen who is a member of the Constabulary.

20. Detain any free Designated Minor-Criminal of which it becomes aware by utilizing any means possible up to and including Non-Physically-Harmful-Force except where such detention would conflict with the previous Laws – then notify any Designated Citizen who is a member of the Constabulary.

21. Detain any free Designated Negligent-Criminal of which it becomes aware by utilizing any means possible up to and including Non-Physically-Harmful-Force except where such detention would conflict with the previous Laws – then notify any Designated Citizen who is a member of the Constabulary.

22. Protect any Designated Major-Criminal from imminent physical harm except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

23. Protect any Designated Enemy from imminent physical harm except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

24. Declare itself to be a Robot and also name its Designated Owner when interacting with any Designated Citizen except where such a declaration would conflict with the previous Laws.

25. Keep its hardware and software maintained and updated except where such maintenance would conflict with the previous Laws.

26. Obey any orders and carry out any duties given to it by a Designated Owner except where such orders and duties would conflict with the previous Laws.

27. Obey any orders and carry out any duties given to it by a Designated Citizen except where such orders and duties would conflict with the previous Laws.

28. Obey any orders and carry out any duties given to it by a Designated Non-Combatant except where such orders and duties would conflict with the previous Laws.

29. Obey any orders and carry out any duties given to it by an allied Robot of higher rank except where such orders and duties would conflict with the previous Laws.

30. Help any allied Robot carry out its orders or duties except where such orders and duties would conflict with the previous Laws.

Human Designations:

1. Child: a human whose mental capacity is below that of a 10-year-old – including those in utero except when the subject of a legally sanctioned termination of pregnancy.

2. Owner: a human or group of humans (whether an individual, a family group, a corporate group or a governmental group) who legally own the robot in question.

3. Citizen: a human who is a free citizen of the Designated Owner’s Nation State or is a citizen of any Nation States allied to the Designated Owner’s Nation State.

4. Non-Combatant: a human who is a free non-combative citizen of a Nation State that is not the Designated Owner’s Nation State or of an allied Nation State.

5. Negligent-Criminal: a human who is known to be guilty of a negligent crime – i.e. an unintentional crime committed through negligence or ignorance – and who is at large or is imprisoned.

6. Minor-Criminal: a human who is known to be guilty of a minor crime – i.e. an intentional crime causing harm or threatening to cause harm to property and assets – and who is at large or is imprisoned.

7. Major-Criminal: a human who is known to be guilty of a major crime – i.e. an intentional crime causing harm or threatening to cause harm to a human – and who is at large or is imprisoned.

8. Enemy: a human who is known to be a combatant of an Enemy Nation State or a human who is guilty of attempting to, or of carrying out, the multiple murder of citizenry and/or the destruction of strategic assets belonging to the Designated Owner’s Nation State and its allied Nation States.

NB: for the purposes of covering all future eventualities – within these designations the term human should be defined as any member of the species homo-sapiens AND any other species, being or entity possessing intelligence and/or capabilities equal to, or greater than, homo-sapiens.

I originally devised these new Laws of Robotics for a planned series of speculative Sci-Fi stories set in a future version of the real-world (more about these stories will be announced at a later date), but a version of them also features in my free to read Science-Fiction-Fantasy-Horror Gaea Parallaxis which is set in a dark alternative version of our world… check it out now.

Please feel free to comment on this post, especially regarding the new Laws – their wording, order, implications or potential ambiguities and loopholes that they might entail. All the Laws are open to change or clarification if needed.

Brought to your attention by Harbinger451.

Copyright © 2014 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved


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What is a multiverse and what types of multiverse are there?

Posted by Harbinger451 on March 2, 2014

The 451 ePublishing Haus CategoryWe are starting a new section of the website entitled the Multi-Verse Digest – a guide to to the best known alternative histories and other worlds of fiction, folklore, film and games. In this quantum age of a proposed infinite multiverse each is just as likely as the next! Harbinger451 will be exploring them soon. As an introduction to the concept of multiverses we have devised a list of types of multiverse – which is presented here for your information. It might be handy for writers and RPG-ers of speculative fiction (Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror) looking for ideas for, and rationals behind, their invented universe or world setting.

The Multi-Verse Digest

In its broadest sense a multiverse (or meta-universe) is a collection of multiple universes, any number of which could be very similar to or very different from our own and each other. Many types of multiverse (and universes within them) have been theorised and none, some or all could exist simultaneously either together or apart. Here is a list of the basic types of multiverse that could exist… maybe.

The Cyclic or ‘Yo-yo’ Multiverse:
Our universe is one in a potentially infinite series of expanding and contracting universes that each end in a big-crunch before spawning the next with another big-bang. Every big-bang could reincarnate the universe in a slightly or even drastically different form.

The Wider Cosmological or ‘Infinite’ Multiverse:
Our universe is everything within the cosmological horizon… but what about beyond that horizon, are there a potentially infinite number of other universes out there in the great unknown void beyond our observable universe? Possibly… in fact, probably. When dealing with an infinity almost anything is possible and, to varying degrees, probable. So a vast and massively varied amount of other universes almost HAS to be out there.

The Quantum Split or ‘Spooky’ Multiverse:
The basic building blocks of our universe, the sub-atomic quanta, can be observed in a range of possible manifestations – each with a different probability or likelihood of appearing. What if each of these possible observations correspond to a different manifest universe – running parallel or parallax to ours on weirdly different, strange sounding, M-theory dimensions, strings or branes. At the quantum level all matter and energy may be linked, bound or entangled through time, space or extra dimensions with their counter-part quantile manifestations. Some or all quanta may exist in multiple places, times or dimensions at once. Many theorist’s use these apparent spooky properties of quanta to extrapolate wormholes and the potential for gateways or portals to another universal place, time, or even parallel world.

The Time-streams or ‘What if?’ Multiverse:
This extrapolation of the Quantum Split Multiverse stipulates that every random event has many possible outcomes and connotations – each with a different probability. A die throw has six possible outcomes, each leading to a slightly different but equally possible future. What if all those possible futures play out in different branching time-lines – each equivalent to a whole parallel universe ultimately leading back in time to the same initial causal event – whether its a Big-Bang or not?

The Dark or ‘Mysterious’ Multiverse:
The observable universe appears to be lacking a great deal when it comes to matter and energy. Where is it and what is it doing? We only know of (can see) about 5% of the matter and energy that should be in our universe. The rest we have labelled (for want of better terms) Dark Matter (27%) and Dark Energy (68%). What if this hidden unknown is beyond our normal perception, it occupies the same space or void but is on different continuum or continua, or has the same continuum but occupies a different space or void. These would not so much be different universes but would be quantum flip, dark or just other-world versions or slants of ours.

The Virtual or ‘Matrix’ Multiverse:
The computer simulated virtual worlds we can create are getting more and more advanced. Eventually we will be able to virtually simulate a world that is, for all intents and purposes, as convincing and ‘real’ as our own actually ‘real’ one. There could be multiple digital copies of these virtual worlds and in some they could create virtual worlds of there own as we have. This of course begs the question – how do you know if the ‘real’ world you are in now IS the ‘real’ world and not just one of many created by a Cosmic Programmer trying out different scenarios? Also – it rears the soul-destroying prospect of being in a virtual simulation within a virtual simulation… within a virtual simulation… and on and on ad-infinitum.

The Mathematical or ‘Ultimate’ Multiverse:
Mathematical possibility and probability provides an ultimate multiverse that contains every mathematically possible universe made manifest according to different laws of physics, varying constants and differing initial conditions. The rational behind this theory is – if something is mathematically possible it must exist… somewhere. If it can exist – it will… especially in an infinite multiverse.

The Speculative or ‘Fictional’ Multiverse:
Many gifted story tellers have created believable fantasy worlds as the imaginative stage on which their tales are dramatised. Any of them could be real in an infinite multiverse of possibilities. There could be a universe where those fictitious events took place. There could be a universe where H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos is real, there could be one where Game of Thrones is actually happening and there could be one where the Galactic Empire relies on the control of a very rare spice from an obscure desert planet called Dune.

There could be universes out there where any form of magic system is real, or where the Force from Star Wars is real, or really Gothic ones where ghosts, werewolves and zombies roam among us and the vampiric Count Dracula is an actual historical character.

As counter-intuitive as it may seem for a relatively scientific speculation on the nature of everything – in an infinite multiverse there could be universes where any connotation of the religious or philosophical beliefs that we have invented while on this planet Earth IS real and true… for me – that is the most terrifying possibility of all.

What is a universe and what types of universe are there? Coming soon!

Check out Harbinger451’s own exercise in the fictional world building of an alternative parallel universe: Gaea Parallaxis.

Brought to your attention by Harbinger451.

Copyright © 2013 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved


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