Uncanny Interviews: A Conversation with (the late) Arthur Machen

English: The House of Souls by Arthur Machen (London: Grant Richards, 1906), with cover designs by Sidney Sime (1867–1941)

The Welsh writer Arthur Machen, whom I recently channeled for Weird Fiction Review, has been receiving some renewed interest these days.

Last year Penguin Classics reprinted a number of his proto-weird tales in The White People and Other Weird Stories. Weird fiction is becoming more popular, mostly due to the efforts of people like Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, and many readers unfamiliar with this genre are rediscovering the early influences, Machen being one of the finest examples. This month, in the Evangelical Christian magazine Christianity Today, the writer Jonathan Ryan made a distinction between the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft and the sacred terror of Machen. Matt Cardin over at The Teeming Brain takes issue with this:

Cosmic horror and sacred terror don’t have to be set up as opposites. For my money, and more pointedly, in my own experience, the most profound effects, and also the most profound insights, come when they’re wedded in a kind of dark enlightenment that sees the horror in the sacred and the sacred in the horrific.

Coincidentally, I was recently asked by Weird Fiction Review if I would help them channel Arthur Machen for their series Interviews with the Dead and Departed. While channeling is an imperfect art, after a series of complex rituals I was able to “speak” for Machen. We discussed The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, World War I and tobacco. As for sacred terror, Machen said:

“Others see me as weaver of horrors, when what I wanted was merely to open those secret doors so that once the hidden truths are revealed, fright should turn to awe and awe to an epiphany that we spend our lives in shadows when we should be seeking out the greater Light!”

Continued at Weird Fiction Review

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  • http://www.facebook.com/rthoneunomia.celine Threedinium

    I remember reading a piece of Luciferian literature called ‘Adamu’ that inspired a similar experience of awakening addressed in the article. Hoo boy I thought I had already lost my innocence, after reading that I certainly had. But embracing the revolting and destructive allowed me to integrate a part of myself that I had previously been ignoring with idealistic notions of pure light and fluffy sunshine. Which y’know can be lovely and all but was ultimately lacking in substance, in the same way that ignoring the light and fixating solely on the darkness seems to lead to.

    I have to admit also I’m very curious about the art of channeling the deceased, it’s not something I have first hand experience of. I believed for a long time through childhood that I would hear the voice of my father who had died when I was a toddler, a voice of wisdom that I would converse with that often gave me the illusion of being more mature than I perhaps was. I’ve often wondered about the reality of it.

    • Calypso_1

      Are you referring to the necro/tantric -softporn ‘Adamu’ by Michael W. Ford?

      • http://www.facebook.com/rthoneunomia.celine Threedinium

        Lol yes that’s the one. It was… interesting to say the least.

        • YHVH

          that guy doesn’t write occult tomes, he writes dungeons and dragons monster manuals.

          • http://www.facebook.com/rthoneunomia.celine Threedinium

            I’m assuming you’re not a fan then lol. Well I often have difficulty finding things written in an up-to-date enough language that I can more easily relate to. Maybe you can recommend me something?

  • Haystack

    I’m glad Machen is getting more attention, at least. The White People is probably the best short story I’ve read so far.

    Some other weird authors from the period are William Hope Hodgson (House on the Borderlands), Algernon Blackwood (The WIllows) and Lord Dunsany (Time and the Gods). If you know Lovecraft but haven’t encountered the other weird writers from the period, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

    • Matt Staggs

      I’m a huge fan of Clark Ashton Smith. A true Outsider Artist.

      • Haystack

        I haven’t gotten to him yet, but he sounds really cool.

  • craig poet

    Clark Ashton Smith, though he is more in the Lovecraft boat, where as Machen was still some kind of christian mystic?

    • Haystack

      Machen was one of Lovecraft’s major influences, and pays homage to him in his stories. Some of his ideas became part of the Cthulhu mythos, like the Aklo language. A lot of the occult threads in Lovecraft have a very strong affinity with Machen’s work, whose stories were often inspired by Welsh pagan traditions, fairy lore and so on.

      The mystical half of the movie “Pan’s Labyrinth” was based upon his story, “The White People.”