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Black Static


Ralph Robert Moore - A Bonus Question

19th May, 2015

Author: Peter Tennant

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Ralph Robert Moore is our featured author in the Case Notes section of Black Static #46, with a review of his latest book Ghosters and an in-depth interview.

The rest of the Case Notes section is devoted to work written or inspired by H. P. Lovecraft, and as an adjunct to that I put an extra question to Ralph Robert Moore regarding his own feelings about HPL.

PT: This issue the Case Notes section will mainly be focused on the work and legacy of H. P. Lovecraft, so as a side issue, what are your thoughts on HPL? Is he somebody you regard as an influence? Would you ever write a Cthulhu mythos story?

RRM: I remember a friend and I were sitting in a Howard Johnson's somewhere in eastern Connecticut in the late Sixties, waiting for our "tender sweet" clam dinners to arrive, and we started talking again about Lovecraft, who I had recently suggested to my friend. He made a point that was perhaps more true back then than it is now: "Every time I mention Lovecraft to someone, they either know everything about him, or nothing about him."

And Lovecraft did inspire that level of interest in people who took to his writings. Like most authors you discover and find you really relate to based on whatever gateway book you start with, I soon went through his entire oeuvre (as I would a decade later when I moved to California and discovered Philip K. Dick based on the Rolling Stone article about him).

There are some stories of his that really do resonate with me: 'At the Mountains of Madness', 'The Whisperer in Darkness', 'The Dunwich Horror', 'A Colour Out of Space', 'The Case of Charles Dexter Ward', and a few others. His writing style can sometimes be problematic, perhaps a bit too eldritch, at least for me, but I was taken with his approach to writing stories, his preference for narratives that, as Fritz Leiber described in an essay, were tales of confirmation rather than revelation (and really, a brilliant insight on Leiber's part). You more or less knew how a story of his would end; the enjoyment was in Lovecraft's careful addition of one item of information after another in a story, until only one final paragraph was possible. A narrative structure where instead of the bloom of a surprise ending, you get the pressed flower of inevitability.     

Having said all this, I must admit that as good as many of his stories were, I preferred reading about Lovecraft to reading Lovecraft (and this is not meant at all to diminish his skills as a writer; it's just that, for me, his life was even more fascinating than his fiction). I was a boy who went through a period where I spent a lot of time alone in my room, reading my heroes and then trying to write my own stories. It was a thrill to discover a writer who didn't go out to nightclubs, or spend his free time trying to shoot elephants, but instead lived a significant part of his life with his aunts, venturing out for the most part only after it was dark. And that was a great reassurance to me. It really was. There were other people in this world who didn't quite fit in. In that way, he was a role model to me, much as basketball players, for example, are for other kids. If he had a commercial on TV selling special edition sneakers, I probably would have bought a pair.

Because of my interest in his personal life, where finding out about him was a lot like finding out about me, I bought every book I could track down about him. The memoirs written by those who knew him, the biographies (mostly limited back then to De Camp's far too judgmental portrayal), and of course the five volume set of Letters issued by Arkham House (which I only have to turn around in my swivel chair to see on my bookshelf). I admit I sometimes would skim through the letters that gave long, long details of his dreams (how does anyone remember such an enormous amount of dream detail?), but the mentions about his daily life always fascinated and charmed me.

Although I enjoy Lovecraft quite a bit, I don't really see him as an influence. Who did influence me? Primarily people like Nabokov, Cortazar, Robbe-Grillet, Barthelme, and a few others. I read a tremendous amount of horror growing up (Richard Matheson was my favorite), and I am proud to be considered a horror writer, but actually most of my time back then was spent reading the "new wave" writers of the period, such as those mentioned above.

Would I ever write a story set in the Cthulhu mythos? Probably not. To be honest with you Pete, and perhaps I'm alone in this, the Cthulhu mythos aspect to his stories never really interested me that much. I appreciate the conceit, and enjoyed it in mythos-related novels like Wilson's The Mind Parasites, but it's not for me.



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