Interview: Gary Mark Bernstein

Name: Gary Mark Bernstein

Author of: “Optional at the Beach at the Festival of Shug Niggurath”

Age: way too many decades too old to be just starting out as a writer

Geographic Location: Toledo Ohio

Past publications: SURFACE, a play, selected by Triantan Theatre as their presentation for the Festival of Life in Cork Ireland.  Over a hundred very short pieces accepted by small magazines and sites like Spectrum, Peer Amid Literary Magazine, Eucuyo, Show Me Your Lits, etc.  Peer Amid Literary Magazine serialized a section of my as yet unfinished novel THE VAMPIRE FRAGMENTS.

What’s your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story or other Mythos story? My favorite Lovecraft works are the short story the “The Outsider,” and THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD.  I favor dream fantasies of style and skill of which I think “The White Ship” is the highest example.  I realize this is not the most popular choice among Lovecraft fans. I have read all of Lovecraft’s fiction with gusto but consider some of it more flawed, less elegant, than others.  I must admit, it was in 1970 when all of Lovecraft first became widely available in Beagle Book paperbacks that I last read most of it, and I would flunk a trivia quiz  on the Mythos if I took it today.  I think the stories written or co-written posthumously by August Derleth hurt Lovecraft’s reputation badly.  The best Lovecraftian stories by other hands came from the very young Robert Bloch.  And a man named Gary Myers published a collection of Lovecraftian storiesof the highest quality called HOUSE OF THE WORM.

What comes to mind when you think “Lovecraft” + “Erotica”? I remember thinking how the series Night Gallery transformed and enriched the Lovecraft stories “Pickman’s Model” and more particularly “Cool Air” when these were adapted for television with the addition of a female character of some romantic interest.  Some might find these changes unfaithful to Lovecraft’s intent but I found them of deeper involvement with the new element added.  Lovecraft seemed unwilling and perhaps incapable of focusing on the erotic in his fiction.  Some psychoanalytical literary criticism surely must have suggested that sexual repression may have given force to Lovecraft’s sense of dread horror.  However, I think that repression might be somewhat unleashed and re-channeled to good effect.  I also remember reading either Derleth or a commentator on Derleth saying something to the effect:  Derleth added a fire deity to the Mythos that Lovecraft had inexplicably omitted.  And I remember taking objection to this in my mind, for Lovecraft lived in world without overt fire, I fear, just as he could not openly acknowledge the existence of Eros. I think the idea of combining the Erotic and Lovecraft does not so much expand the original Lovecraftian vision as create a companion universe of different esthetic criteria.

How did you hear about Cthulhurotica? I heard of the project for the first time at the last minute just before the deadline closed for submissions.  I heard from a brief comment by another writer on a site called ShowMeYourLits.com, something to the effect “I have a lot to do today including finishing my submission to Cthulhurotica.”  I felt so intrigued by the idea of an erotic Cthulhu work, that I looked it up on the net, and then felt I had to try to be part of it.

What inspired your story? I don’t know exactly what cumulative forces have influenced all my writing.  But this story was influenced only in the negative by all the fine Lovecraftian writing I had read and occasionally tried to imitate.  I wanted to write a story regarding Cthuhlu Mythos totally unrelated in tone to Lovecraft and his followers, yet not incompatible with the story telling values of that universe.  While I may have succeeded in injecting some moments of humor in my story, I think nothing in it satirizes Lovecraft; rather modern mundane things totally opposed to the Lovecraftian universe come in for some satire. The writer’s submission guidelines encouraged my impulse to deviate from the conventional tone as the editor made it clear she wanted to expand the range of what Lovecraftiana could enfold.

What music or movies helped you to write this story? None of which I am consciously aware.  I am a big movie fan and may be generally influenced by them in my writing, but not specifically in this work.  Music energizes me but does not inspire content in my writing in so far as I am aware.  Lyrics may influence my writing sometimes, like any poetry, but not in regard to this story.

How many rewrites did you do before submitting? I wrote this rather fast.  As part of a continuing exercise, I wrote the first draft from scratch in 90 minutes, with an actual timer.  The focus of the revision changed the story considerably.  Before I did any real revision, I decided to emphasize the elements that made it specifically suitable for the Cthulhurotica project.  For example, the name “Nyarlathotep” did not appear in the original draft, and the character was drawn slightly differently.  But once I saw the idea of making the focus an erotic Mythos piece, the goal seemed inevitable. I gave it one thorough rewrite, keeping so much the same, but refocusing the direction, and ending up with an infinitely stronger story.  If there had not been a submission deadline, I might have let the story cool and done another rewrite in a couple days, but there was no time.   I regret to report that I am a rather sloppy first draft writer, and even with the one, long, relaxed rewrite, my story lacked a good deal of polish.  Someone else edited off the rough edges for me, totally improving the feel of the language.  I had to slap my forehead and say, Oh, I should have seen that myself.

What is your favorite bit? I regret that I cannot quote a favorite bit.  This is not out of modesty but rather out of vanity.  For while I like the story far more than an objective reader would, and I like almost every part of it, I like each bit in context.  This is the ultimate vanity for a writer, to believe each piece of his story supports and depends upon every other piece, and upon the arrangement.

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