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!”