Progress continues on “Advanced Operators.” I’ve got three or four other stories pounding at the door of my mind, demanding to be written, but AO is filling up the creative room, floor to ceiling, door to window, like an overfed shoggoth. Nothing else gets written until this beast is finished.

But Jack Sheed wants in, let me tell you.

I’m still going back and adding scenes, plot points and character development to AO (how much of the language of fiction writing has been replaced by that of film?–or perhaps they’re both in debt to drama). Thus, making forward progress has been difficult. But now I have only one major aspect of the plot to figure out, and once that’s done, the rest of the story should (in theory) unfold fairly easily.

In other news, finally decided on a screenplay for my screenwriting class. I’m going to do an adaptation of Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror.” The story has been filmed before, as a 1970 teen horror flick starring Dean Stockwell and Sandra Dee. But that movie has little in common with Lovecraft’s story other than a few names.

I’m sure there are many screenplays out there based on “Dunwich”–independent filmmakers love him, for some reason–but I’m going to write my own anyway. My plan is to do it Lovecraft-by-way-of-Hammer Films (similar to Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow). The protagonist will be, in true Lovecraftian fashion, a middle-aged scholar. Perhaps, after Guillermo Del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness comes out (and I sincerely hope he sets it in the thirties), Lovecraft will become a hot property in Hollywood, as Stephen King was in the eighties and Jane Austen in the early nineties.

As usual, I’ve already envisioned a movie trailer. I tend to enjoy movie trailers as much as (if not more than) the films they advertise A few of my favorites are the trailer for Sleepy Hollow and the teaser trailers for Gladiator and Star Trek: First Contact. The latter two benefited greatly from music borrowed from other (better) films–Basil Poledouris’s soundtrack for Conan the Barbarian and James Horner’s soundtrack for The Wrath of Khan, respectively (for my trailer, I’d swipe the music from Sleepy Hollow).

In my trailer, we see a montage of brief, bizarre images from the story, such as a huge man in a trenchcoat trying to check out a book at a library, a meadow with a great swath of crushed grass, and a close-up of a worried-looking man in front of a crumbling rustic house on a misty New England morning. At the end of the trailer the screen goes dark, and we hear the climactic dialogue of the story: an unearthly voice crying “F-f-f-father!” followed by (in a horrific roar) “YOG-SOTHOTH!” Then, in thin orange letters, the words “YOG-SOTHOTH IS THE GATE” fade in and out, followed by “YOG-SOTHOTH IS THE KEY”; and then the date the movie comes out.

In class, we have to “pitch” the story, as we would to a group of producers. Since one of the scenes in Lovecraft’s story takes place at Harvard’s Widener Library, where I’ve worked for nearly eight years, I began my pitch by describing the scene as if I’d actually witnessed it. It worked well enough–though when I got to the part about the guy dissolving into a ichorous mass of putrescence, with tentacles visible beneath his coat, everyone became a bit incredulous.


Still working on “Advanced Operators,” which has gone from a Lovecraftian novella, to a Stephen King-ish novella, to a Lovecraftian short story, and now to a Fritz Leiberesque short story.

The jury’s out on whether it will have any of my own style, but I’ve been particularly inspired by this passage from Leiber’s “Smoke Ghost”:

Have you ever thought what a ghost of our times would look like […]? Just picture it. A smoky composite face with the hungry anxiety of the unemployed, the neurotic restlessness of the person without purpose, the jerky tension of the high-pressure metropolitan worker […] the aggressive whine of the panhandler, the inhibited terror of the bombed civilian, and a thousand other twisted emotional patterns. Each one overlaying and blending with the other, like a pile of semi-transparent masks […]

This was written in 1941, mind you. As usual, ol’ Fritz has beaten me to the punch.

I’ve uploaded a few stories to the Fiction section. Many will note with amusement that I’ve chosen to upload only an “excerpt” of my Sherlock Holmes pastiche in hopes that it may be published someday. Laugh now–it won’t be so funny when I’m paid $15 for it to be anthologized in an e-zine.

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