Providence 8

Providence08-regBelow are annotations for Providence, No. 8 “The Key” (40 pages, cover date March 2016, released 6 April 2016)
Writer: Alan Moore, Artist: Jacen Burrows, based on works of H.P. Lovecraft

>Go to Moore Lovecraft annotations index

Note: Some of this is obvious, but you never know who’s reading and what their exposure is. If there’s anything we missed or got wrong, let us know in comments.

General: Black explores the dreamlands with Randall Carver. Later Carver and Black attend a talk by Lord Dunsany, where Black meets H.P. Lovecraft.

Cover

  • The scene depicted is the interior of Randall Carver’s home in Boston.
  • Randall Carver is Providence‘s analogue for Lovecraft’s character Randolph Carter. Carver first appears in Providence #7 P26,p3. Some additional Carver/Carter background is available at this Providence #8 preview post.

Page 1

panel 1

  • Captions are the voice of Randall Carver, who first appeared in Providence #7 P26,p3. Carver is Providence‘s analogue for Lovecraft’s character Randolph Carter.
  • “Wallace Tillinghast” and the “secret aeroplane” story was a real-life famous hoax, featured in Charles Fort’s Book of the Damned, which Lovecraft is known to have read. The name may have provided inspiration for Crawford Tillinghast, who was the antagonist in Lovecraft’s “From Beyond.”
  • “Stella Sapiente” are the Worshipful Order of the Stella Sapiente, the American coven associated with Liber Stella Sapiente (aka Hali’s Booke or the Kitab), Providence’Necronomicon analog. See Suydam pamphlet in Providence #2 for background.
  • Appearing more extensively in issue #9 (starting P1,p3), “Henry Annesley” is the Providence analogue for Crawford Tillinghast from Lovecraft’s “From Beyond” and a relation to Shadrach Annesley from Providence #3, P7,p4. Henry Annesley was first mentioned in Providence #7, P11,p1 as he appears in Pittman’s photo of the Stella Sapiente, which was first shown in Providence #6  P10,p1.
  • Panelwise, borders for panels 1-3 are ruler-straight, compared to panel 4 which utilizes the typical uneven hand-drawn borders for most panels in Providence and Neonomicon. In other places (including #4 P1 and #5 P9,p3 and many others) this straight border seems to indicate a paranormal perception.

panel 2

  • “Worcester” is Worcester, Massachusetts.

panel 3

  • “Midwinter festival” is possibly a reference to Lovecraft’s “The Festival,” or possibly to traditional pagan solstice rituals.

panel 4

  • On the left is Carver; to the right is protagonist Robert Black.
  • The date is 20 October 1919. The location is Carver’s Boston home.
  • “So you could say all of my tales are inspired by dreams” pertains to H.P. Lovecraft, many of whose tales were recorded dreams, or began as such.
  • “You’re a genuine Massachusetts Decadent” refers to the Decadents, an artistic movement of the 1880s and 1890s, including Oscar Wilde, who proved influential on weird fiction. Lovecraft scholar Barton Levi St. Armand famously titled one critical work H. P. Lovecraft: New England Decadent, which highlighted Lovecraft’s stylistic similarities.

Page 2

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  • The chapter title “The Key” references the names of two of Lovecraft’s Randolph Carter stories: “The Silver Key” and “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”.
  • Several aspects of Carver’s dress and the decoration of his home are deliberately (and somewhat atypically) oriental: his fez, his pointed slippers, the Buddha incense holder, the Chinese teapot and Persian rug, in this picture are all examples of this. Orientalism (such as the Arabian Nights) was an important early influence on Lovecraft, but it also speaks to Carver’s deliberate “exoticism.”
  • First glimpse of Carver’s black cat, who is laying in shadow under the table.
  • Unidentified print above the fireplace – a fallen angel?

Page 3

panel 1

  • “Sous le Monde” is a fictitious book that is Providence’s analog for the Chambers’ fictional play The King in Yellow. See Providence #1 P3,p2.
  • “Chambers’ King in Yellow” is the 1895 weird literature novel The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers. See Providence #1 P3,p3
  • Hali’s Booke” is  Hali’s Booke of the Wisdom of the StarsProvidence’s analog for Lovecraft’s Necronomicon. See more publication detail in Suydam’s pamphlet in Providence#2 P32-40 or Providence #6 P1,p1.
  • “Amateur publication” – Lovecraft became very involved with amateur journalism during World War I, which in the 1910s-1930s was highly organized, with several national-level organizations with annual conventions, elected positions, official organs, and dues. Most of the periodicals created by members were small literary and fiction magazines, to which Lovecraft contributed many poems, essays, editorials, etc., including producing his own amateur journal for a time, The Conservative.
  • Beyond the Wall of Sleep” is H.P. Lovecraft’s story.
  • “Pine Cones” was an actual amateur journal, published in 1919. The vol. 1, no. 6 issue contained Lovecraft’s “Beyond the Wall of Sleep.”
  • Beyond Black’s head appears to be a small statuette of the Hindu god Ganesha, who would serve as the inspiration for Frank Belknap Long’s novella “The Horror in the Hills,” which contained a long dream-excerpt from Lovecraft’s letters, and was serialized in Weird Tales.

panel 3

  • “Had me hooked from the first sentence” – The first sentence is often designed as a hook to draw the reader into a story.
  • “Algol” – Arabic name for a star in the constellation Perseus, known as “The Demon Star.”

panel 4

  • “after these weeks I’ve been visiting you” – Black has apparently been spending quiet some time with Carver, and this bit of exposition prepares readers for the time-gap.

Page 4

panel 1

  • “‘Pauvre Eddie’ Poe” – Edgar Allan Poe, (“Poor Eddie” being a nickname, pauvre being French for “poor”).
  • “Orphaned early” – A convenient way to dispose of family relations which might get in the way of a good story; Lovecraft never elaborates on Randolph Carter’s parents. Over the next few pages, Moore gives an essential sketch of Randall Carver’s life, tying together the scanty biography of Lovecraft’s Randolph Carter to his new Mythos.

panel 2

  • “Most unattainable of my many dreamlands” recalls The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, where Randolph Carter seeks to discover a particular dreamland, which is in fact his beloved home of youth.
  • Panelwise, borders for panels 2 and 4 (and, through page 7, alternating panels depicting Lovecraft fictions and Carver recollections) are ruler-straight, compared to panels 1 and 3 which utilizes the typical uneven hand-drawn borders – see P1,p1 above.

panel 3

  • “The Yellow Nineties” is a name for the 1890s, referring specifically to the period of Decadent literature, especially The Yellow Book. Alan Moore once wrote a light essay on the history of pornography discussing this period, which was later published in an expanded form as 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom.
  • “1898” – Significance unknown; in 1898 Lovecraft was eight years old, his father finally passed away, and he first attended school.
  • “A consistent geography” – The consistent Dreamlands of Lovecraft’s cycle of stories.
Providence #4, Dreamscape variant, art by Jacen Burrows
Providence #4, Dreamscape variant, art by Jacen Burrows

panel 4

  • The depiction of the face on the mountain recalls a scene from The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (also depicted on the Providence #4 Dreamscape variant cover):

Stern and terrible shone that face that the sunset lit with fire. How vast it was no mind can ever measure, but Carter knew at once that man could never have fashioned it. It was a god chiselled by the hands of the gods, and it looked down haughty and majestic upon the seeker. Rumour had said it was strange and not to be mistaken, and Carter saw that it was indeed so; for those long narrow eyes and long-lobed ears, and that thin nose and pointed chin, all spoke of a race that is not of men but of gods. He clung overawed in that lofty and perilous eyrie, even though it was this which he had expected and come to find; for there is in a god’s face more of marvel than prediction can tell, and when that face is vaster than a great temple and seen looking down at sunset in the cryptic silences of that upper world from whose dark lava it was divinely hewn of old, the marvel is so strong that none may escape it.

  • “After that, my abilities faded” recalls the lines from “The Silver Key“: “When Randolph Carter was thirty he lost the key of the gate of dreams.”
  • “Resorting to then-fashionable occultism” – Presaging Randolph Carter’s interlude with Harley Warren in Lovecraft’s stories.

Page 5

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  • A scene from “The Statement of Randolph Carter.” Warren’s descent beneath the earth ties in with Pitman’s comments about the Stella Sapiente‘s own descents in Providence #7.
  • “Cypher-Pages” are presumably pages inscribed in Aklo to conceal their secrets; in “The Statement of Randolph Carter”:

As I have said before, the weird studies of Harley Warren were well known to me, and to some extent shared by me. Of his vast collection of strange, rare books on forbidden subjects I have read all that are written in the languages of which I am master; but these are few as compared with those in languages I cannot understand. Most, I believe, are in Arabic; and the fiend-inspired book which brought on the end—the book which he carried in his pocket out of the world—was written in characters whose like I never saw elsewhere. Warren would never tell me just what was in that book.

  • “Harvey Warner” is the Providence analogue of Harley Warren.

panel 2

  • “With hindsight, both my occult adventures may have been mere hallucinations.” – Recalling Black’s difficulty in discerning his own underworld experiences from dreams or reality.

panel 3

  • “Indescribable horrors” refers to Carver’s version of Lovecraft’s “The Unnamable,” which was set in Arkham.

panel 4

  • “family documents” – From “The Unnamable”:

Then I told him what I had found in an old diary kept between 1706 and 1723, unearthed among family papers not a mile from where we were sitting; that, and the certain reality of the scars on my ancestor’s chest and back which the diary described.

  • “Different colored rooms to suit my moods” refers to a description from “The Silver Key“: “He [Carter] decided to live on a rarer plane, and furnished his Boston home to suit his changing moods; one room for each, hung in appropriate colours, furnished with befitting books and objects, and provided with sources of the proper sensations of light, heat, sound, taste, and odour.”

Page 6

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  • “Prince Prospero’s palace” – A reference to E. A. Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death.”

panel 2

  • “Sometimes it appeared an earthly place that had preceded our earliest civilizations” recalls the ancient land of Mnar in “The Doom that Came to Sarnath” et al.
  • The scene and dress recalls the armor and trappings of ancient Rome. Lovecraft had a special affinity for Rome, and dreamed of himself as a Roman, such as in the dream later titled “The Very Old Folk” which formed a critical chapter in Long’s “The Horror from the Hills.”

panel 3

  • “Seven hundred steps to deeper slumber” – Recalling how Randolph Carter entered the Dreamworld in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath:

So asking a farewell blessing of the priests and thinking shrewdly on his course, he boldly descended the seven hundred steps to the Gate of Deeper Slumber and set out through the enchanted wood.

  • “Stella Sapiente head and prominent freemason” – Whipple Van Buren Phillips, the maternal grandfather of H. P. Lovecraft, founded Freemason Lodge No. 28 in Greene, R.I. in 1870.
  • “General Albert Pike” is Brigadier General Albert Pike – see next panel.
General Albert Pike - image via Wikipedia
Albert Pike (1809-1891) – image via Wikipedia

panel 4

  • On the left (made clearer on P10,p2 below) is Whipple Van Buren Phillips, grandfather of H.P. Lovecraft. Whipple Phillips has been foreshadowed. He is mentioned as a leader of the Stella Sapiente (under the name “Buren”) in #3 P11,p3. He appears in the photo in #6 P10,p1. From that photo, Pittman names him as “Buren, Van Buren, something like that” in #7 P11,p1.
  • On the right is the first appearance of Albert Pike. Brigadier General Albert Pike was a prominent and active freemason (Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite.) Pike was mentioned in Providence #4 P9,4 where Garland Wheatly mentions “General Pike’s associate.”
  • Oddly enough, the Phillips and Pike do not appear to be using any sort of masonic handshake. Pike is in his confederate uniform; in 1863 the American Civil War was still ongoing. The men were not known to have met in real life, but see P9 and 10 below.
  • Nitpick: the general’s left sleeve should have a gold band around the cuff to match the right sleeve.

Page 7

panel 1

  • The scene is rather typical of Colonial fiction, which much of weird fiction borrowed or built from, but is not directly correlated with any of Lovecraft’s stories (unless one accounts general references to ruined civilizations on “the dark continent.”)
  • Idle Days of the Yann” is an influential story by Lord Dunsany.

panel 2

  • Lord Dunsany visited Boston in 1919; H. P. Lovecraft was there to hear him read, though he was too timid to ask for an autograph. Dunsany was, as Carver says, a titled aristocrat, a soldier in the British army, and a big game hunter.
  • “prompted me to enlist in the French Foreign Legion” – In “The Silver Key” Lovecraft recounts of Randolph Carter:

It was as early as 1897 that he turned pale when some traveller mentioned the French town of Belloy-en-Santerre, and friends remembered it when he was almost mortally wounded there in 1916, while serving with the Foreign Legion in the Great War.

  • Notably, however, Carter served in France, while the Foreign Legion in Carver’s recollection appears to be in a desert climate, suggesting a variance from Lovecraft’s story – and perhaps that Carver isn’t telling Black everything.

panel 3

  • “I…uh…I was turned down for, uh, for medical reasons.” – Black’s dissembling suggests he did not actually enlist. Lovecraft attempted to enlist, and was briefly accepted, but his mother and family physician had the enlistment annulled.

panel 4

  • “My method is purely cerebral.” – Carter’s method resembles modern techniques of guided meditation.

Page 8

 

panel 1

  • The steps are numbered, recalling the “Seven Hundred steps” – notably, the cat is leading; in Lovecraft’s mythology, cats exist in both the Dreamlands and the waking world.
  • “Dream journals” – A contemporary practice of lucid dreaming, where the sleeper has some conscious control of the dream-state; it is also, perhaps ironically, what Black has been doing somewhat with his Commonplace Book.
  • Panelwise, as in previous issues, the transition to three-column panels signals a descent into a dream state. Again the borders here are ruler-straight – see P1,p1 above.

panel 2

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  • The background resembles Stephen Biesty’s cross-section books or David Macaulay’s Underground, with buried pipes, rock strata, the subway, and bones.

Page 9

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  • King George from Providence #7; this reinforces the idea that ghouls interact between the waking and dreaming worlds. Ghouls appear in the dreamworlds of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
  • “Carver, you damn coward!” is being shouted by a man in a desert, in a French Foreign Legion uniform, suggesting Carver abandoned them – possibly tying in with Lovecraft’s “The Nameless City” – or else that the ghosts of his dying comrades literally haunt Carver’s dreams.
  • “Alice’s Wonderland” – in the original story, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), Alice arrives at Wonderland by falling through a rabbit hole. Alice’s adventures are usually used as a keystone to entering a fantastical world, but in this case it is the method of transition that is more important.
  • Note the dinosaur fossil and trilobite in the lower part of the panel; as they descend, they are almost literally going backwards in geological time. This also jives with Carver’s thoughts on the Dreamland being an impossibly distant past – and suggests further possible correlations: are these “underground” Dreamlands the same as the mythical civilizations at “the center of the Earth”?

panel 2

  • Black and Carver’s speech gets slurred as they fall into deeper sleep.

panel 3

  • “The Vendome” is the Hotel Vendome, in Boston.
  • “Hypnos’ precinct” – Hypnos being the Greek personification of sleep.
  • The checkered floor and herringbone border are almost identical to where Whipple Phillips and Albert Pike met on P6,p4.

Page 10

panel 1

  • The borders here through P15 are ruler-straight indicating heightened paranormal consciousness – see P1,p1 above.
Whipple Van Buren Phillips
Whipple Van Buren Phillips

panel 2

  • On the left is Albert Pike; the right is Whipple Van Buren Phillips. (See P6,p4 above)
  • “mutual values” – Not entirely clear, but possibly a desire for domination; if the Stella Sapiente are lucid dreamers, and they bring the Dreamlands to “the real world,” they might theoretically be able to control reality with their lucid dream techniques.
  • “Knights of the Golden Circle” – A pro-slavery secret society in the United States, who supported the conquest of territories in Central and South America, and later the formation of a confederacy of slave states.
  • “your beloved South” – The Confederate States of America.

panel 3

  • The figures behind Pike are dressed in the robes of the Ku Klux Klan (second incarnation).

panel 4

  • “Klansmen” – Members of the Ku Klux Klan. The original incarnation of the Klan was formed in the aftermath of the Civil War, and acted as a vigilante group against carpetbaggers and former slaves in the South. The second incarnation, formed in 1915, was essentially a fraternal society like the freemasons or Elk’s Lodge, but with a focus on racism and/or nativism.

Page 11

panel 1

  • The hall gives way to an abandoned trolley-yard, borrowing imagery from Lovecraft’s account of a dream, which became “The Thing in the Moonlight.”

panel 2

  • “carnal longings for our mothers”/”Professor Freud” – Referring to the oedipal complex theories of Dr. Sigmund Freud; Lovecraft was not fond of Freud’s psychosexual theories either, but it is a touchpoint that Carver is “read up” on Freud’s theories of dream analysis.
  • There is a full moon, and a tower in the distance. The tower recalls a passage from The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath:

There was one chance that Carter might be able to steal through that twilight realm of circular stone towers at an hour when the giants would be all gorged and snoring indoors, and reach the central tower with the sign of Koth upon it, which has the stairs leading up to that stone trap-door in the enchanted wood.

xxx
Providence #8, Dreamscape variant, art by Jacen Burrows

panel 3

Presently I heard a swishing in the sparse grass toward the left, and saw the dark forms of two men looming up in the moonlight. They had the regulation caps of a railway company, and I could not doubt but that they were conductor and motorman. Then one of them sniffed with singular sharpness, and raised his face to howl to the moon. The other dropped on all fours to run toward the car. I leaped up at once and raced madly out of that car and across endless leagues of plateau till exhaustion forced me to stop—doing this not because the conductor had dropped on all fours, but because the face of the motorman was a mere white cone tapering to one blood-red-tentacle. . . .

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Page 12

panel 1

  • “Our New England corners” – Possibly reference to a New England place-name tradition; Lovecraft referenced this tradition with the town of Dean’s Corners in “The Dunwich Horror.”

panel 2

  • “Such places tend to dominate my inner landscape” is a possible reference to “The Statement of Randolph Carter,” etc.
  • “The things Pitman paints” refers to Ronald Pitman’s ghoul paintings in Providence #7.
  • “The Stella Sapiente’s redeemer” refers to the Redeemer Prophecy which foretells that a Redeemer will come to “set things right,” as related in Hali’s Booke. It appears that H.P. Lovecraft is the Redeemer. The prophecy is first mentioned in Providence #2 P39 (Suydam’s pamphlet page [10]), then explained in Providence #4 (beginning P9,p4) by Garland Wheatley, and then detailed in Hali’s Booke in Providence #6 P34-35.

panel 3

  • “He is apparently useless unless contacted by an equally unlikely ‘messenger’.” seems to suggest why Black has been treated so well by most of the Lovecraftian forces he has encountered; those who are aware of the Redeemer prophecy and want it fulfilled wish to see him complete his journey. The messenger, or herald, appears to be Robert Black.

panel 4

  • “use it to access our realm’s lower reaches” – The symbolic giving way to the practical; since you go down to enter the deeper dreaming, you have to go up to enter the areas of lighter slumber. This is a process made somewhat explicit in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
  • “Those occasional twinkles could as well be stalactites as stars” – Again, the suggestion of a Hollow Earth-type scenario, which has been influential in certain occult circles.

Page 13

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  • “Reality might be a different state where it is unobserved” is an apparent reference to Erwin Schrödinger’s thought experiments on quantum superposition, which would not be invented until 1935, and which was ironically put into the infamous thought experiment of Schrödinger’s cat. The sudden presence of the cats is thus a bit of a pun.

panel 2

  • “This dainty crew know me of old and call me friend” is a reference to Randolph Carter’s alliance with the cats of Ulthar in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.

panel 3

panel 4

  • Bat-like wings creep in from the edges of the page.

Page 14

Polyptych from 1908 Windsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland comic
Polyptych from 1908 Windsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland comic

panels 1-3 and P15

  • Taken together with Page 15, we get a panoramic shot of the Dreamlands, which appears to be based largely on a mixture of Lovecraft’s Dreamlands and New England.
  • The first five of these panels form a comics polyptych.
  • This sequence is an homage to Winsor McCay‘s Little Nemo in Slumberland comic which appeared in newspapers from 1905 through the mid-1920s (actually beginnning at the New York Herald – where Black worked.) Similarities include:
    – Nemo explores dream worlds, similar to Carver/Carter.
    – McCay often employed elongated vertical panels and polyptychs. He was among the first to employ the comics polyptych technique.
    – Each strip ends with a panel where Nemo is reawakened into the real world, similar to P15,p6. This awakening is usually the anti-climax to some sort of rising tension in the latter part of the Nemo strip, such as, frequently, falling from a great height.
    Moore and Colleen Doran recently paid homage to McCay’s Nemo in Big Nemo available at Electricomics. In Moore’s Promethea, ‘Little Margie in Mystic Magic Land’ is a homage to McCay’s Nemo.

panel 1

  • Carver and Black appear to be carried aloft by nightgaunts, which appear in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (and on Dreamscape covers for Providence #6 and #9.)
  • In the upper left can be seen a modern city, Chinese towers, a smoking factory, and what might be some kind of keep.

panel 2

  • “Tickling” is one of the odder aspects from Lovecraft’s Dream-Quest: “He was flying very rapidly through the air before a malevolent tickling told him that the rubbery night-gaunts had performed their duty.”
  • The building where the trolley-lines converge, the one from which Carver and Black emerged, resembles a church.

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Page 15

panel 1

  • A medieval castle and town with curtain-wall is visible, such as King Kuranes’ realm in Dream-Quest.

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  • “Outer entities” – The Outer Gods, mentioned by Lovecraft in Dream-Quest.

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Page 16

panel 1

Summer Street Bridge in 1930, photo via Digital Commonwealth
Summer Street Bridge in 1930, photo via Digital Commonwealth

panel 2

  • This bridge is somewhat difficult to identify. According to historic maps, to get quickly from F Street to Copley Plaza, Black and Carver would probably cross the Dover Street Bridge over Fort Point Channel. That waterway and bridge are nearly unrecognizable today; the location would correspond to the 4th Street/Berkeley Street at Interstate 93 – see contemporary street view.
    There are at least a few Boston bridges with mid-bridge buildings similar to what is depicted in the panel:
    – The 1891 Harvard Bridge over the Charles River had a mid-bridge building, visible on this postcard.
    – The 1899 Summer Street Retractile Bridge over the Fort Point Channel had an operations building visibile in this historic photo.
    – The Congress Street Bridge over the Fort Point Channel has an attached building that is now the Boston Tea Party Museum. Current bridge dates to 1930.
    – The 1908 Northern Avenue Bridge over the Fort Point Channel has an attached building, but the bridge has a metal super-structure.
    The Summer or Congress bridges are more-or-less in the right area (to go from F Street to Copley Square), but none of these bridge structures/buildings are quite oriented as shown in the panel. Probably Burrows and Moore appear to have depicted an invented bridge that is similar to various historic ones in the vicinity.

panel 3

  • “Copley Plaza” was the site of Lord Dunsany’s actual 20 October, 1919, lecture and reading. The event took place in the Copley-Plaza Ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel on Copley Square.
  • “Copley Plaza so near the [Hotel] Vendome” – see these locations mapped.
  • The building on the right appears to be 140 Clarendon Street – see contemporary street view.

panel 4

  • The panel reintroduces James Montague and “Dr. [Hector] North” from Providence #5 and #6. They have relocated to Boston, echoing to their analogues’ move in Lovecraft’s story “Herbert West—Reanimator.”
  • “Scratching in the earth” is ambiguous. It is reminiscent of West’s grave robbing in “Reanimator,” but perhaps it refers to Black is trying to get underground to access the Dreamlands.
  • The location is the east end of Trinity Church – see contemporary street view.

Page 17

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panel 3

  • “Bolshevism,” here, is used as a synonym for labor unions and collectivism. Like Carver, Lovecraft was not fond of communism.
  • The setting is the front of the Fairmount Hotel – see contemporary street view. “Hardly as splendidly antique as your Vendome” compares the Fairmont, which opened in 1912, to the Vendome, which opened in 1882.

panel 4

  • “Professor Baker,” the man shown with his back to the audience (on the left), is Professor George Baker of Harvard University, who introduced Dunsany.

Page 18

  • First appearance of Lord Dunsany.
  • To quote from Lovecraft’s account of the lecture:

“Arriving early at the Copley-Plaza, we obtained front seats; so that during the address I sat directly opposite the speaker, not ten feet from him. Dunsany entered late, accompanied and introduced by Prof. George Baker of Harvard. He is of Galpinian build–6 ft. 2 in. in height, and very slender. His face is fair and pleasing, though marred by a slight mustache. In manner he is boyish and a trifle awkward; and his smile is winning and infectious. His hair is light brown. His voice is mellow and cultivated, and very clearly British. He pronounces were as wair, etc. Dunsany first touched upon his ideals and methods; then hitched a chair up to his reading table, seated himself, and commenced reading his short play, The Queen’s Enemies. This is based very obviously upon the anecdote of Nitocris in the second book of Herodotus; but Dunsany averred that he had purposely avoided reading details or even learning the names of the characters in the story, for fear his original imaginative work on the play might be hampered or impaired. I advise you to read it for yourself–it is in Plays of Gods and Men, which every well-regulated library has or ought to have on the shelves. Later Dunsany read selections from other works of his, including a masterly burlesque on his own style–Why the Milkman Shudders when he Sees the Dawn. As he read this, he could not repress his own smiles and incipient chuckles! The audience was large, select, and appreciative; and after the lecture Dunsany was encircled by autograph-seekers.
– Selected Letters of H. P. Lovecraft 1.91-92

panel 1

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  • In the center  (to the right of Black’s head), first appearance of H.P. Lovecraft. At the time 29 years of age.

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Page 19

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  • “Subterranean gems” is possibly a reference to the Dreamlands.

panel 2

  • “Brogue” usually refers to Scots or Gaelic accents; Dunsany was Anglo-Irish.
  • Commenter Greenaum points out that ““That rather depends whom you ask” is Carver’s little joke. That being that the Irish War of Independence was going on right then, so whether an Irish accent is “British” or not was a question a lot of people had differing opinions on.”
  • Plays of Gods and Men (1917) – While better-known today for his short fantasy fiction, Dunsany was a prolific and successful playwright; plays such as those in this volume echo some of the themes, tone, and trappings of his earlier fantasies.

panel 3

  • “Broadway” is America’s great theatrical district in New York City.
  • “Commencing in a temple, underground in Sixth-Dynasty Egypt, it is titled ‘The Queen’s Enemies'” – This is the story of Nitocris, who lured her enemies to an underground feast and then slew them; it has been the basis for a number of weird stories, most notably Tennessee William’s “The Vengeance of Nitocris.” Lovecraft mentions her twice, in “The Outsider” and “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs,” where she is a queen of ghouls.

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Page 20

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  • Scene from “The Queen’s Enemies,” set in ancient Egypt.

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  • Scene from “The Queen’s Enemies,” set in ancient Egypt.

Page 21

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  • Scene from “The Queen’s Enemies,” set in ancient Egypt.

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  • A scene from the final passage of “Why the Milkman Shudders When He Perceives The Dawn.” The final line of the story ends with “dawn,” the following line being attributed to Lord Dunsany.

panel 4

  • “Silly Alice!” echoes what Lovecraft wrote: “Egged on by her aunt, Miss Hamlet almost mustered up courage enough to ask for an autograph, but weakened at the last moment. Of this more anon. For mine own part, I did not seek a signature; for I detest fawning upon the great.” (Selected Letters 1.92)

Page 22

panel 1

  • “Water-closet” is a toilet.

panel 2

  • “Young Lee” is Ed Lee, Alice Hamlet’s cousin.
  • “Steppin’ out?” means Dating. Alice Hamlet assured all she was not dating Lovecraft.
  • “All of amateurdom” references that Hamlet and Lovecraft were both involved in amateur journalism.

panel 3

panel 4

  • Lovecraft’s comments are drawn from his 1919 letter to Rheinhart Kleiner:

For my own part, I did not seek a signature; for I detest fawning upon the great. Dunsany himself has written a piece (Fame and the Poet, in the August Atlantic) which shews his contempt for the flatterers of genius.
– Selected Letters 1.92

Page 23

panel 1

  • “Sir, I am an elderly and blundering curmudgeon” – Lovecraft, at the ripe old age of 29, tended to refer to himself as “Grandpa” and to present himself in his letters as something of an old man.

panel 2

  • What appears to be Johnny Carcosa’s mother, standing outside the Red Hook church from Providence #2.
  • Panelwise, these characters flashes (here then every other panel through P24,p4) have ruler-straight panel borders indicating heightened paranormal consciousness – see P1,p1 above.

panel 3

  • “Plunkett” is Lord Dunsany, whose family name is Plunkett.

panel 4

  • Willard Wheatley from Providence #4, dragging what appears to be a cow to the shed where his invisible brother is kept.

Page 24

panel 1

  • “The motiveless stars above would surely have engineered our convergence.” – A slightly snarky take on Lovecraft’s materialism and “When the stars are right.”

panel 2

panel 3

  • “598 Angell Street” is Lovecraft’s real-life address in 1919.

panel 4

Page 25

panel 1

  • “I may write to him.” – Alice Hamlet did write to Lord Dunsany, who graciously gave her an autography by mail, as recorded in Lovecraft’s letter.

panel 2

panel 3

  • “Haunting me.” – An interesting play on words, considering how much delving in the Dreamlands Black has been doing this issue.

panel 4

  • “nightly circumnavigation of St. Augustine’s cemetery” – St. Augustine’s Church in South Boston; Lovecraft was also fond of nighttime strolls through cemeteries.

Page 26

panels 1-4

  • All text on this page is in a different font, as of a typewriter, and quotes the last lines from the opening paragraph of Lovecraft’s “Beyond the Wall of Sleep.”

 

panel 4

Page 27

Commonplace Book – September 24

  • “Lily” is Jonathan/Lillian Russell – see Providence #1, P1.
  • “Manchester” New Hampshire – see Providence #5-6.
  • “Ronnie Pittman” – see Providence #7.
  • “Athol,” Massachussets – see Providence #4.
  • “The [Hotel] Vendome” – see P9,p3 above.
  • “Randall Carver” – see P1,p1 above.

Page 28

Commonplace Book – September 24 continued

  • Pliny” was an ancient Roman author.
  • Aristophanes” was an ancient Greek playwright.
  • “classical antiquity” – Lovecraft, like Carver, was a Classicist.
  • The “late 19th century Englishwoman, possibly of the Bloomsbury set” is not clear. The Bloomsbury Set were an influential turn-of-the-century group of British intellectuals, including Virginia Woolf.
  • The description “all green and idols” appears in Robert Smythe Hitchens‘ 1902 novel Felix.

Page 29

Commonplace Book – September 24 continued

Page 30

Commonplace Book – September 24 continued

  • “Twilight Odyssey” – see P7,p1.

Page 31

Commonplace Book – September 24 continued

  • “Prose poems” are passages of sheer poetic imagery, but lacking any of the normal forms of verse, even free verse. These are more common in the corpus of Lovecraft’s friend Clark Ashton Smith.

Commonplace Book – September 28

  • “Milwaukee”, WI, is Black’s hometown – see Providence #1 P6. Lovecraft connects fictional dreamscape with hometown comfort at the conclusion of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
  • “Lilililat” is reminiscent of Lilith and the lilin, demons in Middle Eastern folklore.
  • “Thundering Cadambrua” – suggest??
  • “Stickball” is a version of baseball, usually played with a stick due to lack of access to a regular bat.
  • “The Brooklyn Bridge” appears on P1,p2 of Providence #2.

Page 32

Commonplace Book – September 28 continued

  • “The [New York] Herald offices” appear on P2,p1 of Providence #1.
  • “Freddy Dix” is Black’s Herald co-worker – see Providence #1 P2,p1.
  • “Flat and functional” [bridges in] “Athol or Salem” were depicted on Providence #4 P4,p3 and Providence #3 P7,p1 respectively.
  • “A young man, very well dressed, with a bright yellow cravat pulled up absurdly to conceal his mouth” describes Johnny Carcosa of The Courtyard and Neonomicon – see Neonomicon #1 P13,p1. Black saw Carcosa in a dream earlier – see Providence #3 P28.
  • “The long bridge in Manchester across the Merrimack…” was depicted in Providence #5 beginning P6,p1.
  • “Scattering wedding confetti on the waters of the river… realized it was Lily” echoes the opening scene where Johnathan/Lily Russell discards Black’s torn-up letter in Providence #1 P1,p1. The use of the phrase “wedding confetti” is especially ironic, since this moment commemorates the end of a relationship.
  • “the suicide, had been a simple case of mistaken identity” – Seen in a certain light, it was. Lily mistakenly thought Robert’s primary identity was “my lover”, not “a professional journalist”, which mistake led to her suicide. Ironically, after her suicide, Robert abandons journalism.
  • “Mr. [Increase] Orne” is Providence’s analogue for Lovecraft’s “The Terrible Old Man.” See Providence #3 P7,p4.
  • “Mr. [Shadrach] Annesley” is Providence’s analogue for the cannibal of Lovecraft’s “The Picture in the House.” See Providence #3 P7,p4.
  • “a small negro child dressed up in a scaled-down tuxedo and puffing conspicuously on a gigantic cigar” – See issue #12 for the identity of this figure.
  • “Professor [Sigmund] Freud” was an influential Austrian psychoanalyst. He once fond of cigars, and is supposed to have said of phallic symbols “Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.”

Page 33

Commonplace Book – September 28 continued

  • “a defeated-looking man in middle age who may have had a withered hand or something” – This is likely Carl Perlman, Merril Brears’ boss in Neonomicon. If so, this is his first appearance in Providence.
  • “the text was violet” – Possibly, in his dream, Black is making a (precognitive) connection with the mimeographs he will encounter (several weeks from now) on P36: “printed in a lurid purple-lilac shade”.
  • “Claude Guillot’s Sous Le Monde” – see Providence #1 P3,p2.
  • Ambrose Bierce” was an American writer (mentioned in Providence #1 and Providence #4 – xxx – add citations)
  • "At Sea", Paul Delvaux, 1934
    “At Sea”, Paul Delvaux, 1934

    “[Paul] Delvaux” was a Belgian surrealist painter. This is an anachronism, as he didn’t start painting until the 1920s.

  • The “naked woman… in the later stages of… pregnancy” is apparently Merrill Brears, Neonomicon‘s protagonist who is pregnant at its conclusion. This is her first appearance in Providence.
  • “false claim of paternity” – On some level, of course, Black is involved in the fathering of her child; Cthulhu could never have dreamed himself into existence without the assistance of Black the Herald.
  • “J.K. Huysmans” is Joris-Karl Huysmans, a famous French Decadent writer, mentioned in Providence #1 P1,p1.
  • Théophile Gautier” was a French Romantic writer, mentioned in Providence #1 P9,p3.
  • Hali’s Booke” is Providence‘s Necronomicon analogue – see Providence #6 P1.
  • “I think I once stayed at the same hotel as you did with the same view out the window” confirms that this is Brears. Both Brears and Black stayed in the same Salem hotel with the same view; compare Neonomicon #2, P4,p1 to Providence #3 P5,p3.
The views of Salem/Innsmouth from the hotel window in Providence (left) and Neonomicon (right.) Art by Jacen Burrows.
The views of Salem/Innsmouth from the hotel window in Providence (left) and Neonomicon (right.) Art by Jacen Burrows.

Page 34

Commonplace Book – September 28 continued

  • “Ornamental bridge fording a narrow stream” (where Lily stands) could be the bridge in Bryant Park on Providence #1 P1. This is further affirmed as Lily is “scattering confetti” as he did there scattering the torn-up letter in Providence #1.
  • Liminal is “of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process” – or – “occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.”

Page 35

Commonplace Book – October 3

  • Carver was away in Vermont a little over a week.

Commonplace Book – October 17

  • “Lord Dunsany” – see P7,p2 and Page 18+ above.
  • “[Copley] Plaza Hotel” – see P16,p3 above.

Commonplace Book – October 20

  • Written that night, after the events of this issue.

Page 36

Commonplace Book – October 20 continued

  • “The Irregular” is likely Moore’s invention. No such amateur press periodical is known to exist, but many such publications were issued quite irregularly.
  • “Pine Cones” – See P3,p3.
  • “Perhaps more accurately two or three associations” refers to there having been three national-level APAs at this point, the National Amateur Press Association and two that called themselves the United Amateur Press Association (one having split off the other after a sour election); Lovecraft began with one of the Uniteds, and switched over to the NAPA.
  • “mimeographed […] lurid purple-lilac shade” – The mimeograph was an inexpensive printing technology developed in the late 19th century, and widely used until roughly the mid-1970s, and the introduction of photocopying. The ink used was often a vivid purple.

    Typical mimeographed document, from World War I.
    Typical mimeographed document, from World War I.
  • “A Thing of Beauty and Joy Forever” is reminiscent of some of Lovecraft’s early stories inspired by Greek myths, such as “The Tree.”

Page 37

Commonplace Book – October 20 continued

  • “John Clinton Pryor” was the real-life editor of Pine Cones.
  • “F. Charles McAllister” is apparently fictional.

Page 38

Commonplace Book – October 20 continued

  • “Black Sambo,” the name of Carver’s black cat, references Lovecraft’s childhood pet black cat “Nigger-Man,” whom Lovecraft immortalized in “The Rats in the Walls.” “Sambo” was a popular common name for black people, somewhat antiquated and derogatory by the 1900s due to being used as a catch-all name for any black person.
  • “Strong impression of almost unbearable nostalgic yearning for a lost time” describes H.P. Lovecraft, whose happiest days at his family home were cut short by the death of his father and grandfather, which left the family in severely reduced circumstances and forced them to move; Randolph Carter of “The Silver Key” shares this longing for happier childhood times.
  • “Wilde’s other tendencies” refers to Oscar Wilde‘s homosexuality, which gravely affected his general reputation and resulted in a prison sentence.

Page 39

Commonplace Book – October 20 continued

Page 40

Commonplace Book – October 20 continued

  • “Leading me to Providence” suggests where Black’s next stop will be.

Back Cover

  • Taken from Lovecraft’s Selected Letters 1.91.

>Go to Providence #9
>Go to Moore Lovecraft Annotations Index

129 thoughts on “Providence 8

  1. I’ve begun re-reading from the beginning of the series. I think Tom Malone is the “Hook” that gets Robert to really invest in this “writing a book” idea, from their talk in the coffee shop–so Tom’s in on it. And I think that Prissy instigated the whole thing, as she’s the one who throws out this “Yellow Thing” idea…plus, she was hanging all over Robert (he writes) earlier; then the Stell Saps and whom/whatever found that Robert was gay, so sent Malone in to hook him on the writing idea for sure even before meeting Suydam, flattering Robert with attention, and offering exactly the kinds of praise and references (Jung, literary references, and sympathy) that Robert most wants. No paranoia is enough when dealing with Lovecraft’s characters!

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  2. Interesting but probably coincidental that Algol and Lovelady appear in the same panel.

    Algol as well as being the “Arabic name for a star in the constellation Perseus” is also a computer programming language and Ada LoveLACE is well understood to be the first computer programmer.

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    • Algol the programming language wasn’t invented until the 1960s, and I dunno if Alan will have heard of it. Did HPL not mention Algol in his writing? I dunno but I’d expect that to be the case.

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  3. I’ve found this:

    “The general ignorance of the public as regards the science of astronomy has often been noted and deplored.” This quote was the opening sentence in an article H.P. Lovecraft wrote for the Providence Sunday Journal (26 December 1909), called “Venus and the Public Eye.” Lovecraft goes on to say that in the early evening on Christmas Eve 1909 in the business section of Providence a number of people were looking at something in the sky. Initially Lovecraft was very pleased that they were observing the brilliant beauty of Venus; however, it turned out they thought they were looking at an airship owned by a local merchant, a Mr. Wallace E. Tillinghast of Worcester, Mass. When Lovecraft corrected them that the light was in fact the planet Venus the result was only mild surprise (Collected Essays, Volume 3: Science by H.P. Lovecraft, edited by S.T. Joshi, 2005).”

    https://lovecraftianscience.wordpress.com/2015/09/13/additional-notes-on-venus/

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  4. I wonder if there’s some intended connection between the Klansmen and the tentacle-headed monster from “The Thing in the Moonlight”. They pop up on opposing pages, and it’s easy to imagine those pointy hoods concealing tentacle-heads (especially since none of the Klansmen’s eyes are visible).

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  5. PAGE 15, Panels 1 & 2

    What’s noted as possibly being a representation of King Kuranes’ dreamlands castle and surrounding town also bears a striking resemblance to Canada’s Quebec City, which HPL wrote of extensively in travelogue style. He tells Robert Bloch in a letter of September 15, 1933 that no other place has the “concentrated magic” of Old Quebec.

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  6. Finally got a chance to properly re-read the issue, and so, so many thoughts. Apologies for the multiple long posts, but I’m… um… inspired.

    I’m really curious to see where the next four can go, when this issue, is such a quiet, perfect climax to the whole Lovecraft cycle. “Dreams, writing, and out outlandish human imaginings. They’re at the very heart of it.”

    This issue, revolving around four writers, is delightfully full of references to publishing history While all the stuff about amateur press associations recalls Lovecraft’s role in the development of small-press fantasy publishing, the visual references to Little Nemo in Slumberland tie it to Moore’s interest in comics history. The word balloons that appear throughout this issue’s many nested stories is Moore reveling in a formal device that only comics can do, as do more subtle touches like the shift from horizontal to vertical panels, or my favorite, the match-cut between James Montague and the Guardsman on p. 17. Even the appearance of 21st-century characters Brears and Carcosa in this prequel is like a demonstrations of YR NHHHGR in the medium of comics continuity, with events from the 21st century future reverberating through the 1920s past both within the story and, implicitly, through the metastory of Moore resurrecting his old story “The Courtyard” and building a retroactive continuity around it, moving forward in time even as he writes backwards.

    Moore has always loved cheeky formal devices like that, but in a book so caught up in the theme of fiction and reality merging, there’s something sinister in those winks to the audience. Especially when that wink is literalized from Carter’s cat on p.7, calling to mind the terrifying wink that “Randolph Carter” gave the reader on page 2 of Neonomicon #2. Monstrous books contain monstrous worlds, they seem to say, and we monsters know that your world is out there. And, dear reader, we can get into it through you.

    p.7, panel 3:

    A vast thesis could be written about the “casting” of Black and Carter in each of these flashbacks– Moore & Burrows are making all kinds of interesting decisions in the relationship between the stories in the drawings and the story of Black and Carter’s relationship. But I found this one especially poignant– Black’s moment of awkwardness is all the more vulnerable coming from the mouth of a lipless corpse.

    p.8, panel 1:

    It’s a neat transition, going from the attention-getting device of having Black & Carter’s word balloons coming out of story characters, and then starting the journey through the Dreamlands with Black & Carter’s word balloons coming out of what appear to be Black & Carter, but WHAT are really their Dreamlands avatars. It creates a nice link between fiction, memory, and the Dreamlands, as well as implying that Black goes into the world of the guided hypnosis easily, perhaps because his skids have been well-greased by now.

    p. 12, panel 4:

    “those occasional twinkles could as well be stalactites as stars”: This is a bit of a reference to the many cosmologies, including the Old Testament’s, that imagined the earth to be inside a giant bowl, with the stars as holes in “the firmament”. By the logic of Moore’s collective consciousness, it may be that in the Biblical era, the world somehow was just that, because it was believed; maybe the Biblical era is ancient enough to be the moment of the distant past when the Dreamlands existed on earth. And if you’re going to talk about how a book can commands such belief-power that it reshapes reality, the Bible is a good example.

    p. 19, panel 2:

    “…all of amatuerdom…”. Reading more about the life of Lovecraft, I’m struck by how someone who I used to think of as a veritable hermit was actually a hub of activity for a whole world of aspiring litterateurs. So it’s neat to see Moore introducing that in Lovecraft’s very first sentence.

    p. 20:

    I love Black’s body language in this sequence. Pulling his tie, rubbing his neck, casting his eyes downward– it’s a great evocation of a shy young swain confessing his love. Not only does it suggest how Black feels in the presence of his “latest bibliophiliac passion”, it’s also a nice, nasty joke to have such adorable gestures in the midst of this hellishly ominous sequence.

    As Black himself observes in the Commonplace pages, this whole story has been about trying to fill the hole in his life left behind when his loved one died. Every issue revolves around him listening intently to a fascinating man– he more or less ignores anything women say until Keziah and Elspath rather forcefully remove that option. And in the Boston issues, he flits rapidly from hero to hero: first holding up Pittman as an ideal of a working artist, then adoring the writer Carter, now directing his neediness at Lovecraft, who’s delighted to absorb it.

    p. 32:

    The moment when Black sees Lily scattering “wedding confetti” in the water is another metafictional moment– Black never saw Lily tear up the letter, but the reader of Providence #1 did, so it’s as if the image has moved from the reader to the book, instead of the more traditional transmission in the other direction.

    p. 33:

    Considering the significance of “recognition” in this story, as wonderfully pointed out by thesaintgodard in the comments on issue #5, it’s an interesting choice of word for the moment when Black refuses to accept paternity of the thing Brears will birth and walks away from the awareness that he had “been the unsuspecting victim of some complex and unfathomable stratagem or else conspiracy to lure me to this spot.”

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    • I was reading through Haunter in the Dark (in very early anticipation of #10 in August) and I came across this sentence, referring to the reputed activities of the Church of Starry Wisdom “the recorded disappearance of an inquisitive young reporter named Edwin M. Lillibridge in 1893” – and here we have inquisitive young reporter Robert Black meeting a man named Lily on a bridge!

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  7. Also, on politics…

    Issues 7 and 8 have been the most explicitly wrapped up in U.S. politics, and it’s neat to have that happen in the Dreamlands issuess: politics, like fiction or dreams, are a collective imagining that tends to drift into reality. Including things like the Boston police riots, the much-memorialized molasses flood, and the terrorists of the Klan suggests politics as a form of literature, where people try to spread images (and thus influence) into the general population. It’s a nice touch, too, to make Lovecraft’s grandfather the Stella Sapiente’s ambassador to politics, since his grandson will be their ticket to literature, and that will prove their most fertile ground.

    The wish for a police force “untainted by Bolshevism”, on p. 17, panel 3 is a another demonstration of how a literary metaphor affects the so-called real world of politics. There’s been a lot of writing on the role of instinctive disgust in political thinking– there was just a piece in The New Republic about how high disgust sensitivity to non-political images, like the drinking from someone else’s cup, was a strong predictor of anti-immigrant sentiment. The cop at the top of issue 7 predicted that Wilson would use the strike to boost his political fortunes, and Carter is using an image he might have picked up from a Wilson speech, which influences his highly conservative take on the riots. The unpleasant image of taint (um, no modern slang pun intended) was introduced to politics through a politician’s metaphor, and it spread to a writer, and that writer will no doubt introduce the theme in his writing. Moore is gesturing towards Lovecraft’s infamous feelings about ethnic outsiders here, and suggesting that the influence of such a writer might not be entirely salutary.

    And it’s all tied together so beautifully on p. 26: The story ends with the image of readers staring at a writer, as a writer’s words appear in their mouths. Then the words carry us back to see two armed soldiers– men that politics have allowed to carry bayonets on a city street– and Black’s hands, which will inflict a more terrible damage on the world than a bayonet ever could.

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  8. And finally (and sorry again for my prolixity), a few other random thoughts:

    p.5, panel 1: Over at Tor.com’s Lovecraft re-read, commenters poked a bit at the geography of The Statement of Randolph Carter, noting that a graveyard in Florida would have a high water table, so there couldn’t possibly be steps leading down from a tomb. Placing the story explicitly in the Dreamlands that Carter visits in later stories elegantly evades that problem, while giving him another chance to remind us what stairs going underground can lead to.

    p. 19, panel 2: Carter’s amused response to Black’s ignorance of the difference between an Irish and a British accent suggests that this is a moment– collect ‘em all!– when Black shows himself to be much less worldly than he’d like to think himself to be.

    p. 22, panel 4: Speaking of… Is it a mistake that Dunsay refers to “the aitch” rather than “the haitch”, as an Irish English person would (according to no less an authority as the Beeb! http://bbc.in/1oqVtad ), or is that how it was said among the Anglo-Irish?

    p. 23, panel 3: This might be reaching, but Lovecraft’s shift in diction, from absurdly formal to almost juvenile, is interestingly matched with Warren’s death in “The Statement of Randolph Carter”. Warren’s “beat it” is the sign that he’s worked up about horror, and Lovecraft’s “can’t get enough of the stuff” shows evidence of discombobulation through flattery, but it’s a similar linguistic pattern.

    p. 30: One for the nitpicks page: Black calls the lands of Carter’s story “surreal”. The Surrealist Manifesto was published in 1924. In 1919, it’s unlikely that Black would be familiar with an obscure critical term used only in France.

    p. 31: I find it really touching that the world of childhood, the section of the Dreamlands that Carter finds it hardest to return to, are right there at the start of Black’s dream. It’s as though Black is a natural at dreaming, which is perhaps why he’s in such danger.

    p. 38:Any connection between The Irregular’s “lurid purple-lilac shade” and the violet pages of Black’s letter to Lily, as seen on 1/1 of #1 and as described on p. 35? An implication that the purple pulps were created to be perfect for Black? Or all the texts in this world slowly merging?

    p. 40: “Leading me to Providence,” the last sentence, works as both a bit of “coming next issue” exposition and as a nasty pun. “Providence” is defined as the protective care of God. And whatever Black is being led to, it’s not exactly a god’s protection.
    .
    And I just noticed that in the first issue, on p.4, there’s a reference to him writing his novel “if Providence allows”. Perhaps the twist we’re heading to is not Black’s horrible death, but Lovecraft’s, followed by Black taking his place and finally becoming the successful writer he dreams of being.

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    • I noticed that in the first issue, too–Black’s going to Providence will be the lock that’s been opened by this issue’s “key”?

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    • I’ve done a bit of internet research, and it doesn’t seem like the purple ink of the pulps was historically accurate. Which reinforces the idea that it’s some kind of link to the letter Black wrote to Lily.

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  9. I just got the Annotated Lovecraft and a couple of the photos show Lovecraft with light-colored hair. Do we just think of him as a black-haired, black-suited morbid man? Is there something about Robert being a redhead that’s especially telling?

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    • We just think of him as a black-haired man because black and white photos but yes, he was actually a blond. Hard to say if the Providence team is unaware of this or chose to depict him in the familiar monochrome for iconic recognition purposes.

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  10. Maybe Henry Annesley is Providence‘s analogue for Henry Akeley from “The whisperer in darkness”.

    “A land where the trees are all made out of mathematics”, I can’t stop laughing.

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    • Thanks! Now I feel less bad for the sheer number of pixels I’m consuming…

      I spoke to a friend who does both ceremonial magick and meditation this weekend, and asked him about Carter’s “seven hundred steps” technique. He said that while he’d never heard of that particular number of steps, asking someone to visualize a descent is a very common technique for deepening hypnotic states or, if you’re a believer, approaching mystical realms. Often one first visualizes a familiar descent, then goes further, i.e. “imagine going down the steps to your basement. In the basement, you notice a hatch on the floor. You open it, and there are stairs going further down…” He added that in many shamanic traditions, one visualizes a descent prior to visualizing an ascent to higher realms, and sometimes a shaman will attempt to bring back something from the lower realms.

      This casts an interesting light on the impossible underground spaces in Lovecraft, which Moore is recreating and enhancing throughout Providence. The descent into what should be a completely flooded tomb in “The Statement of Randolph Carter”, the giant chamber seemingly 15′ under a Red Hook brownstone in Providence #2– they’re physically impossible as basements, but if they’re understood as Dreamland spaces, entered by a descent, they make a lot more sense. And if fictional characters, like Robert Black, are always in the Dreamlands, then it’s no wonder that such things are easily accessed by any convenient stairwell.

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      • It also makes sense how beings like Lilith can exist as certain parts or constants of the Dreamlands. It has been mentioned both in Lovecraft’s stories and Moore’s interpretations how there are weak spots in our world that still link up to the Dreamlands and perhaps even some of the restless parts of the Great Old Ones’ slumber. Perhaps Lilith herself along with her fellow lamia family — and in particular the space that is her cavern and temple — are just aspects of some Great Old One’s dreaming that Suydam and his cultists try to exploit.

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  11. I was just reading a book called ‘JUNG: A very short introduction’ and I happened to be reading a section titled Confrontation with the Unconscious. Anyway, I’ll put up this quote for all y’all.

    “In order to seize hold of the fantasies, I frequently imagined a steep descent. I even made several attempts to get to the bottom. The first time I reached, as it were, a depth of about a thousand feet; the next time I found myself at the edge of a cosmic abyss. It was like a voyage to the moon, or a descent into empty space. First came the image of a crater, and I had a feeling i was in the land of the dead. The atmosphere was that of the other world.” (MDR 174) Carl Jung.

    Interesting no?

    Jung called this technique “Active Imagination” & I’m sure Mr Moore has probably read “Alchemical Active Imagination by Marie-Louise von Franz”.

    Food for thought.

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  12. Providence # 10 covers are currently posted on the Bleeding Cool website! And who should turn up on one of the variants but our old friend Johnny Carcosa!

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  13. Page 12, panel 3-4 : the tower climbing to a sky underground is certainly a reference to The Outsider, where the protagonist climbs a tower only to find himself at ground level. Moore is suggesting here that he may be a ghoul unknowingly.

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  14. Just finished a story by Richard Leander (1896) called “The Invisible Kingdom,” about a fellow, George, who rescues the King of Dreams. The King takes George down, under the earth, 500 steps to Dream, and lets George the Dreamer meet his subjects, the Good, the Bad, and the Goblin Dreams. Five Hundred Steps, huh? Just thinking–HP could have read this story….

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  15. Just noticed, the “secret aeroplane” at the start of the story looks a lot like one of the thingies Tillinghast’s cousin, Henry Annesley, sees through his various apparatuses. Much, much bigger, but they seem to share a connection, different species on the same order.

    Since they’re cousins, it provides a fair clue that Tillinghast and his cousin share an interest, that they’ve both had dealings with these freaky creatures.

    Maybe the giant ones are rarer than the ones that seem to be flying round everywhere in issue 9, the small ones apparently being very common.

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  16. Re page 19 and Dunsany’s accent, “Is that a British accent?”, “That rather depends whom you ask” is Carver’s little joke.

    That being that the Irish War of Independence was going on right then, so whether an Irish accent is “British” or not was a question a lot of people had differing opinions on.

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  17. One clear visual reference which I *think* has as yet gone unmentioned:

    The double page spread of pages 14-15 pay homage to MC Escher, particularly ‘Day and Night’, with opposing flocks of black and white geese (here replaced by cats and night gaunts) viewed flying over a scene of chequerboard country fields, with canals, bridges, windmills, and the like.
    https://www.wikiart.org/en/m-c-escher/day-and-night

    This is combined with the buildings-turning-into-chess-pieces motif of ‘Metamorphosis’ – which ties into the general chess symbolis in this issue, as well as the endlessly looping structure.
    https://www.wikiart.org/en/m-c-escher/metamorphosis-ii-excerpt-6

    Nice to see some more visual art drawn into the web of literary allusions. Escher seems a perfect fit for the other-worldliness of the tale.

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  18. I believe it hasn’t been mentioned. Creatures of sound from Carver’s story may be reference to Campbell’s “The Valley of Sound”. Definitely not the best among his works, but clearly deals with the same concept.

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