The Gutter Sees the Light that Never Shines / Alistair Rennie
The Salon of Catastrophists lay on the border between the Cerebral and Cymeline districts. It was a guild frequented by an exclusive coterie of artists, poets and theoreticians renowned for their speculations on the various ways in which Life as they knew it would come to an end.
The Salon of Catastrophists was a square-shaped, spacious auditorium with a high ceiling and no upper floors but, it was said, plenty of lower ones. On the whole, it was grim. It was also one of the few buildings in the city whose walls were divested of the pictorial extravagance that was common to others. This was in keeping, however, with the principle that buildings should be decorated according to what they were used for; and, given that the Salon of Catastrophists was used for discussions about catastrophe, it is only right that its walls remained bare.
Members of the guild generally assembled to practice rituals of attainment and loss, consisting of recitals, readings, performances and exhibitions, followed by uproarious drinking sessions (lasting for days) that were intended to convey the passage of Life through various stages of degeneration. Yet, in spite of the seeming absence of formality, the Salon of Catastrophists was organized into two distinct intellectual groups.
Overall, it is agreed by the Catastrophists that the Universe is encoded with contradictory conditions of order and chaos which necessitate its failure as a sustainable entity. To this extent, all things are destined to perish: but the question remains as to the nature of the how?
In their attempts to resolve this issue, the Salon of Catastrophists has become divided into the Continuity and Discontinuity Schisms.
The Gutter Sees the Light that Never Shines (from The New Weird) / Alistair Rennie
Dispatches: Colson Whitehead at McNally Jackson
Last night Colson Whitehead met with a standing-room only crowd at SoHo’s McNally Jackson. All were gathered to celebrate Whitehead’s latest novel, Zone One, a story set in lower Manhattan after a zombie apocalypse.
Instead of the standard reading and Q&A format, Colson began with a wry retelling of how he became a writer. (The crowd’s bursts of laughter was the soundtrack to the evening).
Surprisingly, Whitehead didn’t start writing—seriously, at least—until after he graduated from college.
Starting out as an assistant at The Village Voice in 1991, he was in charge of opening packages of books sent for review—a job that offered a glimpse into the publishing life. Quickly, after some haranguing, he was given the task of writing reviews, first television critiques, then as a writer for the literary supplement, a part of the paper that sadly no longer exists.
Soon, he felt confident enough to write fiction. It was a rough start for Colson and at one point, after the rejection letters rolled in, he found himself alone in his dirty Brooklyn apartment, surrounded by beer cans, listening to Donna Summers sing about cake left out in the rain—a song that he soon found was the perfect metaphor for his own trampled-on literary adventure.
Luckily for us, Colson kept at it and is now a wildly successful and talented writer.
Those who know him from his previous literary hit, Sag Harbor, might be surprised by this foray into the realm of zombies. In fact, many places, possibly unsure of how to handle the idea of Colson writing something akin to science fiction, have made sure to separate it from its genre roots by reassuring people of it highbrow quality.
As a writer, Colson stays away from these categories and prefers to go with his gut rather than with a trend—especially given that he’s terrible at predicting such things. He was, however, a big scifi and horror fan growing up and counts “Dawn of the Dead” and “28 Days Later” as part of his research.
It was a great night with Colson Whitehead, he’s truly a charmer, and I encourage everyone to go see him speak if you have the opportunity … and definitely check out Zone One.
The Call of Cthulhu / H.P. Lovecraft
I saw him on a sleepless night when I was walking desperately to save my soul and my vision. My coming to New York had been a mistake; for whereas I had looked for poignant wonder and inspiration in the teeming labyrinths of ancient streets that twist endlessly from forgotten courts and squares and waterfronts to courts and squares and waterfronts equally forgotten, and in the Cyclopean modern towers and pinnacles that rise blackly Babylonian under waning moons, I had found instead only a sense of horror and oppression which threatened to master, paralyse, and annihilate me.
—He / H.P. Lovecraft