Revolutionary Authors… of the Damned: H.P. Lovecraft

 

Born on 20th August, 1890, in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, Howard Phillips Lovecraft was referred to as “The King of Weird” by Joyce Carol Oates in the New York Book Review.

Lovecraft was one of the first authors who successfully managed to fuse horror and science fiction writing together within individual storylines. Influenced a great deal by Edgar Allan Poe, Lovecraft’s work fist came to public attention in the horror magazine, Weird Tales, in 1923.

Arguably his most seminal story, The Call of Cthulhu, was published in Weird Tales in 1928, but it wasn’t until after his death that his work became popular, and a model for future horror, gothic and science-fiction writers to aspire to.

Brought up with a father who suffered from a severe mental illness that saw him committed permanently to hospital, and suffering from a series of health issues himself, Lovecraft was largely taught from home. He suffered a nervous breakdown as a teenager, and lived as a recluse for many years. Lovecraft used this time alone to write articles for many newspapers, periodicals and pulp fiction magazines.

It was The Call of Cthulhu that first illustrated Lovecraft’s skill in creating his otherworldly type of terror, which we might recognise as one of “modern fiction”, but which for its time was unusual. He excelled in the creation of ancient and extraterrestrial beings, ostensibly hidden behind a paradox of science and the supernatural, that could wreak havoc upon mankind. What would appear a weird ghost story would in fact have its roots in high science fiction. Despite the nature of his stories, though, Lovecraft insisted they were based on the flaws of humanity.
“The most merciful thing in the world…is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.” (from The Call of Cthulhu)

In his own lifetime, Lovecraft was ridiculed for his work, and had to take up editing and ghost-writing to make ends meet. He died of cancer in 1937, leaving behind over 60 short stories, including the acclaimed The Outsider and novella At the Mountains of Madness, the latter of which would ultimately be the basis for the sci-fi horror classic film, 1981’s The Thing, or more recently, 2011’s Hunters of the Dark. These are just two examples of how influential his stories would be, not just on the page, but on the screen and stage.

After his death, two of Lovecraft’s friends, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, formed the Arkham House publishing company to promote his work.

A truly revolutionary author, Lovecraft is an acknowledged inspiration to many of the most renowned writers of the modern age, such as Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. His work continues to delight- and give nightmares to- a whole new generation of avid readers.

“I think it is beyond doubt that H.P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” – Stephen King

More information about H.P. Lovecraft can be found at http://www.hplovecraft.com/

 

September_-_back_to_work_-_back_to_school_-_back_to_BOOKS_LCCN98509757

Whether you’re a young person at school or college, or a mature student returning to education, the new academic year can appear daunting. There’s so much to organise, so many things to remember, and if you’re embarking on a new course, you might be concerned about your ability to keep up with the class. If you’re feeling anxious or negative about starting your course, you might think that it is inevitable that this will lead to you forgetting things and finding the work difficult. Most people believe that we are ruled by our feelings and these dictate our behaviour. However, William James, who was an eminent expert on the workings of the mind in the late 19th century, and whose work is read today by students of behavioural psychology, questioned this theory. James believed that we can choose to feel positive and in control by smiling and taking direct action ourselves.

If you’ve decided to smile and take action to start the academic year with a positive attitude, here is a step by step guide to taking control:

Get organised

As soon as you’ve received your timetable or schedule for the term, make several copies. Put one on the wall beside your study area at home, one in your purse or wallet, and keep some spares. You should also print out a calendar and write the deadlines for all coursework for the next few months. Make a list of all the books and other study materials you are going to need. Having read the course contents, you should then write the dates by which you will need particular books and materials onto the calendar.

Integrate with other students

If you are going to a school or college, join a group that is related to your course, or opt for something extracurricular. If you are a distance learning student, you can join other people on your course in an online group. If you can find a way to connect with people who are studying the same material, you will enjoy the course much more and find it easier to grasp difficult concepts.

Engage with your teachers or tutors

If you are starting a distance learning course, find out who your tutors will be. Contact the tutors via email, introducing yourself and asking questions about the course. Whether you are learning at home or at college, it is important to establish a good working relationship with your teachers. In addition to allowing you to feel comfortable enough to ask for help when you need it, a good rapport with your tutor will also help you to feel more positive about your studies.

You might be a few days into the new academic year already, but it’s never too late to develop a positive attitude that can foster great success. You don’t have to allow doubts and fears to hinder your progress, you can take action and take control.

XVIII_FdPdM_tl_Lina_ZerónWhy not celebrate the onset of summer with a visit to a literary festival this weekend? Here is a taste of several on offer over the next couple of days.

The Althorp Literary Festival is in the magnificent surroundings of the Spencer Family Estate. Giles Brandreth, Lady Antonia Fraser and Sophie Dahl will be putting in an appearance. The festival runs until Saturday, 13th June, http://www.spencerofalthorp.com/literary-festival.

Hot Air 2015, the Stoke Literary Festival (http://www.stokeliteraryfestival.org/) is also running, on Friday and Saturday. Sathnam Sanghera will be reading from Marriage Material, an updated version of Arnold Bennett’s Old Wives’ Tale and on Friday Michael Palin will also be there.

A visit to a literary festival is the perfect way to combine a day out with a love of literature.

Pages_MacThe ability to write a letter correctly, either on paper or via email, is an essential life skill.

There are two main styles of letter; formal and informal.
Formal letters should be used when writing to business, organisations, newspapers, and for job applications. Informal letters should only be used for friends and family. When writing a letter it is important to use the right sort of language and layout, depending on what you want it to achieve.
A letter that is clearly written, neatly laid out and uses easy to understand language is much more likely to get you what you want than a poorly constructed and badly organised letter.

When writing a formal letter-:

1. Put your address in the top right hand corner of the page.
2. Put the date underneath the address.
3. If you don’t know the person’s name, start the letter with Dear Sir, Dear Madam, or Dear Sir or Madamor and finish with Yours faithfully.
4. If you do know the person’s name, start the letter Dear Mr/Mrs (put the person’s surname here) and finish with Yours sincerely.
5. Begin your letter by stating why you are writing, and then follow with further details.
6. Conclude your letter by indicating what you’d like to happen next. For example, you could end with the line, ‘I look forward to hearing from you soon.’

When writing an informal letter-:

1. Put your address in the top right hand corner of the page.
2. Put the date underneath the address.
3. Start the letter with Dear, followed by the person’s name.
4. Finish the letter with Best wishes, Regards, Yours, From, or even Love from if you know them well.

512px-Charles_Dickens-A_Christmas_Carol-Title_page-First_edition_1843First published on 19th December 1843 (by Chapman and Hall), Charles Dickens’ classic festive story A Christmas Carol is the story of the reformation of the rich and avaricious Ebenezer Scrooge. After being visited by four different ghosts (Scrooge’s deceased business partner Jacob Marley, the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come), the miser sees the error of his greedy ways, regrets his harsh treatment of the poor, and learns to embrace the values of Christmas.

The initial idea for A Christmas Carol came to Dickens after he’d visited Manchester. There, the appalling scenes of deprivation he witnessed at the Field Lane Ragged School caused Dickens to resolve to “strike a sledge hammer blow” for the poor. As the idea for the story took shape and the writing began in earnest, Dickens became engrossed in the book, and teaching the miser who caused the poor so much misery- in this case Scrooge- a lesson.

Victorian Britain was a time and place where nostalgia for traditional Christmas values began to combine with new and popular trends, such as Christmas cards, trees and crackers. By making Christmas time the backdrop to his tale, using its fun and joy as a stark contrast to the images of darkness, despair, coldness, sadness and death that Scrooge himself experienced as a child, and is fearful of expecting in his future, Dickens expertly used his writing to push forward his argument that more needed to be done for the poorest in society.

To this day A Christmas Carol remains popular. The book has never gone out of print and has been turned into many plays, films, and even an opera.

Zzz_sleep.svgIt is a well-known fact that teenagers like a lie-in. After years of early mornings, parents struggle to get their adolescents out of bed and into school. But, could it be because they need that lie-in? It’s been long-suggested that a later start could boost results, and now scientists in Oxford are launching a study of 32,000 pupils to try and determine the truth.

Professor Colin Espie suggests that whilst it is often thought teenagers are simply lazy, or should go to bed earlier, “there are developmental changes during the teenage years, which lead to them actually not being as tired as we think they ought to be at normal bedtime and still sleepy in the morning.” So, normal school start times simply aren’t in sync with their biorhythms. However, Paul Gringas, a consultant at Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital, suggests that teenager’s sleep problems are a result of social change. An example given is in teenager’s frequent use of social technology and other muti-media, of mobile phones and computers; artificial light stops our bodies winding down for the night. Frequent, everyday use of games consoles and mobile phones prevents the production of melatonin, which enables you to fall asleep. The consequences are obvious and inevitable.

What everyone agrees is that teenagers aren’t getting enough sleep: recent studies suggest that whilst they need an average 9.5 hours a night, most teenagers fall short of this by two hours, sleeping only 7.5 hours a night. But does that sleep need to be on a different schedule to the rest of the working world? Or do they just need to go to bed earlier?

Researchers have suggested that we all avoid exposure to blue light- from computers, smart phones and tablets- for an hour or two before bed to improve sleep patterns. So perhaps all teenagers need is an earlier bedtime and a limit on evening technology. Try keeping an adult from technological devices for that long, though, never mind a tech-savvy, trend-conscious teenager. More realistically, dimming screens, keeping them at a 12 inch distance from your eyes, and wearing amber tinted glasses all reduce your exposure to blue light.

It may be that parents and carers need to enforce some bedtime rules and routines to ensure that their teenagers get enough sleep, Perhaps teenagers need to cut out the technology before bedtime and keep the same hours as the adult population. After all, they’ll have to fit into those routines in the working world. Then again, that could also be an unrealistic expectation, if we believe that, as Espie suggests, teenagers simply run to a different schedule.

It seems our teenagers are overtired, and tiredness certainly affects their learning. Small trials certainly have suggested later starts have had a positive impact on performance, but a trial has never been performed on quite such a scale before. The evidence so far suggests that an extra hour in bed certainly improves results: but, does it have to be in the morning?

640px-Tiffany_Window_of_St_Augustine_-_Lightner_MuseumKnown as Augustine of Canterbury, after the city where he was to become Archbishop shortly following his arrival in England, Saint Augustine had been the prior of a monastery in Rome. In 595AD, Pope Gregory the Great picked him to lead the Gregorian mission, a campaign to Christianise Britain.

This quest to spread Christianity had the secondary effect of bringing the first organised schools to England and then on throughout Britain. Although schools had been commonplace in Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt and China for many hundreds of years, it wasn’t until St Augustine reached England in 597AD that the idea of group education was introduced here.

The first schools were founded by St Augustine because he needed to educate men to become priests, and boys to sing in the church choirs. This double approach to education led to Saint Augustine and his followers establishing two types of school. The first was the grammar school, which was created to teach Latin to English priests, and the second was the song school, where the ‘sons of gentlefolk’ were trained to sing in cathedral choirs.

Saint Augustine designed his schools in a similar fashion to the Roman and Hellenistic schools he was used to at home. These schools concentrated on seven subjects that were regarded as essential for going on to study theology, law and medicine: grammar, rhetoric (conversation), logic, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy.

Historical documentation from the sixth century suggests that the very first grammar school in England was established at Canterbury in 598, and was endowed by King Ethelbert, who had been baptised as a Christian by Augustine a year earlier in 597. Many of the early ‘song schools’ still exist alongside our private schools and cathedrals today, including Dorchester in Oxfordshire (around 634), and Winchester (648).

5.4.13_Ljubljana_15_(8623814958)The United Kingdom is well known for its heavy rainfall, but what causes it to rain in the first place?

Rain occurs when warm, moist air cools down, creating condensation, or vapour. This water vapour originates from rivers, lakes and the sea, and rises into the air to form clouds of water or ice crystals. As the clouds rise higher, the air surrounding them gets colder, until eventually the cloud becomes too heavy, and the water vapour falls back to the ground as rain or even snow.

Although rain always forms in the same manner, it can be categorised into three different types – orographic rain, frontal rain, and convective rain.

Orographic rain is only produced over mountainous areas close to prevailing westerly winds, when moist air from high ground is forced upwards, producing clouds.
The geography of the UK means that this type of rainfall is most common in the north and west, and is one of the main causes of rain in the wettest part of the UK, the western Highlands in Scotland, where they receive three metres of rainfall every year.

Frontal rain occurs when a mass of warm air meets a mass of cold air. As the two masses have different densities they can’t mix together, so the less dense, warmer air is pushed up and over the cold, dense air. This creates a weather front which condenses the water vapour into raindrops. This type of rain is not subject to geographical factors, and can happen anywhere across the UK.

The final type of rain, convective rain, is most common in the warmer climate of the south and east of the UK. Convective rain is produced by clouds that are formed in vertical motions caused by the instability of the atmosphere. This instability is caused by heat from the sun warming the ground, and moisture from that ground evapourating and rising. At the same time as this, the hot ground also heats the air above it. This additional water vapour rises as well, cooling and condensing into clouds before turning to rain.

The flooding that has been so severe in the UK in recent years was caused by all three of these types of rain occurring at the same time.

Hopefully we shall not see too much rain in the next couple of months, but from past experience, that may not be too likely…

Wright_Brothers_AeroplaneOn May 22nd, 1906, the Wright brothers patented their “Flying Machine with a motor”, an event which heralded the beginning of the age of air travel. This huge achievement, which went on to influence every aeronautical invention since, began with some basic observations of nature.

After years of studying the motion of birds in flight, in 1899 Wilbur and Orville Wright wrote a letter of request to the Smithsonian Institution for information about conducting their own flight experiments.

The brother’s detailed ornithological research led them to believe that they could use the way that birds soared into the wind, and how the air flowed over the curved surface of a birds wings to create lift, to help them design the perfect aircraft.

Combining this research about the way bird’s wings re-shaped themselves to make the most of the air currents, with the information and ideas from the Smithsonian Institution, the Wright Brothers designed their first small aircraft.

Flown as an unmanned kite to test their solution for controlling the craft by wing warping, this initial craft was a small, biplane glider. It was to become the first of many unmanned gliders the Wright brothers designed over the next three years.

The steering and manual control of flying their crafts was the hardest problem to solve, and the brothers decided to consult with inventor Octiave Chanute, and studied the hang gliding flights of Otto Lilenthal in their hunt for the perfect solution.
Orville and Wilbur’s first successful full sized glider test eventually came at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina in 1900. This biplane glider weighed just 50 pounds, and had a wingspan of 17 foot. Using the wing-warping system the brothers had developed from watching birds in flight, the glider was tested unmanned, before becoming the first full sized pilot glider.
It was due to the success of this short glider flight, that the Wright Brothers refined the crafts controls and landing gear, and went on to build an even bigger aircraft.

On Sunday the TES reported that home schooling breeds broader minds. Anecdotally, I agree with this statement. However, as is so often the case when I read about so called scientific evidence that either supports or opposes home education, this case isn’t really supported by the new report, certainly not in the UK.

The report uses a two part questionaire. Part one establishes the social and political groups whose beliefs the respondent considers most contradict their own. Examples would include Gay Activists, Republicans and Fundamental Christians. Part two of the questionaire establishes to what degree the respondent is happy to extend basic human rights to members of their least liked group.

The report concluded that Home Schooled University Students had a greater political tolerence than their state schooled counterparts.

So, TES, all good so far. However, the report, and your article, has several limitations. Firstly, this study takes place in what scientifically would have to be described as niche. In this case it is a Private Christian University in the United States. The culture of both state schooling and home education is vastly different in the US from the UK and this is a very small subset of that culture. Therefore I don’t see how any inference can be drawn from this study that would be relevant to the UK.

As for the expert comment within the article, one can only hope that the TES didn’t actually provide the report to those it asked for comment. John Bangs, visiting professor at the University of London’s Institute of Education, apparently said  he “simply did not recognise” the picture of state schools hampered by political correctness. John, from this study, why would you expect it to? And Education Otherwise, I don’t think that this study supports our shared view that Home Education in the UK breeds tolerance and political awareness.

I am afraid that if we want rigorous evidence for the performance of home education in the UK, we have to stop looking and reporting on evidence from across the pond and do it ourselves!

The abstract to the report can be viewed here. A more detailed scientific analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the report can be found at the international center for home education research.

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