M R James nerds...

Phyrebrat

www.beanwriting.com
Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
5,356
Location
In your bedroom wardrobe...
Hi,

This is a weird request for advice inasmuch as it refers to naming of a painting in my WIP. Rather than put this is the writing discussion forum, I wanted to ask the expertise of those in weird fiction, who tend to frequent the Books and Literature part of the site more than the Writing area. Over the years, I've learnt there's often a huge gap in understanding the foibles and métier of weird fiction -- often I've been given advice from fantasy aficionados which do not apply to horror and weird fic.

With that in mind:

Those familiar with M R James will know his great story The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral. I have a religious painting in my third book which is called -- or I was planning on calling -- The Stalls of the Blasphemous Choir (the painting, not my book). But I can't help but worry at the use of "The Stalls" and the "B" and "C" being too similar to M R James's story. My story has absolutely nothing to do with the M R James one, and the only similarity is the name. I had initially thought of using Pews instead of Stalls, but to my ears, it doesn't ring very ecclesiastical. Or not evocative enough.

What do you fellow M R James nerds think?

Thanks
 

paranoid marvin

Run VT Erroll!
Supporter
Joined
Mar 9, 2007
Messages
3,906
I'm not an expert on weird fiction, but I am familiar with James' stories.

As a James fan, I would agree that a picture titled 'The Stalls of...' would immediately bring to mind his tale. If you wish to have no suggestion of connection to that story, there are a couple of suggestions I could make. The stalls are the seating area in the choir of a church or cathedral, usually reserved for the clergy and/or choir.

Apparently the choir (as in part of a church/cathedral) can also be referred to as 'quire', although I'm not sure when that term fell out of use. James refers to the area as the 'choir' rather than 'quire'.

So you could refer to your story as 'The Choir Stalls of...', or if you want to make a play on words with the use of 'quire' or 'choir' to refer to the part of the building rather than the choristers themselves.

Or alternatively dispense with the first part of the title and call it 'The Infernal Choir' or 'The Unholy Quire' or 'The Choir of the Damned' perhaps?
 

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
6,564
While I'm not very knowledgeable on M R James, I'm definitely a fan of his work. "The Stalls of the Blasphemous Cathedral" doesn't bother me, but it does feel like a nod to him in that form, so swapping "stalls" for another bit of ecclesiastic architecture might be a good plan. My main thought is that "Blasphemous" feels more Lovecraft than James.
 

Venusian Broon

Defending the SF genre with terminal intensity
Supporter
Joined
Dec 7, 2011
Messages
5,119
Location
Edinburgh
Another word perhaps to think about: Gallery.


Or if you are going on a more ooh-err missus, Carry on up the Cathedral vibe, how about "The Lady Chapel of the Blasphemous Choir"

I'll get my coat.
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
13,533
Location
nearly the New Forest
Just be careful if you do go for "quire" -- it's still in use for the part of the building, but not for the singers any longer, so if the "Choir" of your proposed title are those singing there who are blasphemous, you can't simply substitute it.

Pews are ecclesiastical, but for the laity. The stalls are for the choir/clergy as PM says. (The bishop has his own seat, by the way -- the cathedra.)

In the painting, are the singers present in the stalls, or are the stalls empty of people? If the latter, then the seats may well be up, showing the kind-of ledges beneath which are invariably decorated, sometimes with monsters, which are called mercy seats, because in long services the choristers/monks/clergy could perch their behinds on them while standing. Their latinate name is misericord (the "miseri" coming from the latin from mercy, not misery/ wretchedness) so "The Misericords of the [something] Choir" perhaps? And what might be useful for you in the story is that a misericorde is a long thin knife which was used to give the coup de grace to a badly injured opponent, so as to end their suffering -- ie mercy again.

By the way, if you're interested in VB's idea, a Lady Chapel is usually large and situated behind the altar (ie as a projection at the east end) and while a choir might sing there while processing around the cathedral, it's not really a place for them to be, and it certainly wouldn't be "of" the choir, only of the cathedral. (And isn't for ladies, incidentally -- it's named after the Lady, ie Mary.)
 

Cat's Cradle

Time, now, to read...
Supporter
Joined
Mar 3, 2014
Messages
3,026
I haven't read much James, but if I was a person familiar with his work, I'd definitely think there was an intended paralleling here - whether as homage or borrowing, I'm not sure what people would think. (I hadn't heard of this story before, so your original name seems good to me.)

I'm not sure if your painting would just show the empty stalls, or is the Blasphemous Choir a group of people/entities who would be shown? If they'll be shown you might start the name with something indicating their grouping, say, The Gathering of the Blasphemous Choir (so, omitting the stalls reference)... Or something more evocative, like:
The Clustering of the Blasphemous Choir
The Cloisturing of the Blasphemous Choir (though 'cloisture' has other meanings that work against the church setting)
Or even the gross-sounding The Clotting of the Blasphemous Choir.

Just another angle to consider, CC
 

Phyrebrat

www.beanwriting.com
Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
5,356
Location
In your bedroom wardrobe...
These are all great points! Thanks all.

Sadly I have to earn some money for a few hours by shouting at kids, so I can’t reply with my thoughts. (Also, I think there may be a bit of confusion over what I’m after (I should not post so late into the night!).)

I’ll reply when I get home.
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
13,533
Location
nearly the New Forest
Another thought came to me if the misericords interest you, which is that the painting could be used as a play on words for the choir -- ie Misery Chords.

Sorry if that's taken you even further off-piste from what you want. To answer your actual question, I'm not a James nerd, I've not heard of the story, but if I were and I had, then yes I'd probably notice the similarity and I'd be looking out for a connection to the tale, and it would disappoint me if it didn't appear.
 

paranoid marvin

Run VT Erroll!
Supporter
Joined
Mar 9, 2007
Messages
3,906
Another thought came to me if the misericords interest you, which is that the painting could be used as a play on words for the choir -- ie Misery Chords.

Sorry if that's taken you even further off-piste from what you want. To answer your actual question, I'm not a James nerd, I've not heard of the story, but if I were and I had, then yes I'd probably notice the similarity and I'd be looking out for a connection to the tale, and it would disappoint me if it didn't appear.


I think it would depend. If it was the name of a painting that was briefly referred to , I'd probably view it as an easter egg, and smile knowingly at one ghost story referencing another. If the story revolved around it, then I would probably expect more.
 

Phyrebrat

www.beanwriting.com
Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
5,356
Location
In your bedroom wardrobe...
Okay, a little later than anticipated...

Here is a picture of St Sebastian from one of my all time favourite films, a Giallo called La Casa dalle Finestre chi Ridono (House with the Laughing WIndows). Stefano is an art restorer who goes to a poor Italian village to restore the pic. Much nastiness ensues.

Mural.png


I want to have something which will have a similar colour palette, but the image will be a collection of monks in a more Renaissance/Baroque style, but with the above kind of colours. I love the medieval paintings where you have many people in profile overlapping each other almost like anceint Egyptian friezes. But in the style as below:

Screenshot 2022-02-03 at 00.56.30.png


I can't find an exact example of the overlapping same-facing artwork.

Anyway... the story is set in 1865 and 2150. In 2150 a microbial data cube from a generation ship has been received by Earth (which is now run by the New Vatican) and one of the POVs is decrypting and logging the videos from the data. It's essentially cycling CCTV images. In one of them, the POV sees -- in the generation ship's chapel -- a collection of people who look frozen in place in direct copy of a medieval painting. The name of the painting is what I'm wrangling with. At the moment I just have [painting] in the MS but I can't work like that to my best, and need to know its proper name. The people (who turn out to be monks because the Church has sent them out to interstellar space as opposed to the ordinary folk who were meant to go) are frozen in place in the choir stalls/pews. Obvs in a spaceship chapel the architecture will vary (although the spaceship itself looks like a gothic creation) but that's immaterial.

So, the painting's name The Stalls of the Blasphemous Choir is original in itself as it's a descriptive name, but it smacks of M R James, and I don't want that. I'm such a James fan (as if my 300 word entries over the years don't make that blatantly obvious), I don't want it to come aross as an homage, plagiarism or Easter egg.

Hence my dilemma.

So:

1) The Stalls of the Blasphemous Choir
2) The Quire of the Blasphemous
3) The Blasphemous Quire
4) The Misericord of the Blasphemous
5) The Gallery of the Blasphemous Choir
6) The Gallery of the Blasphemous Quire (? if that's not a tautology)
7) something else?
 

paranoid marvin

Run VT Erroll!
Supporter
Joined
Mar 9, 2007
Messages
3,906
You would expect a painting with monks sat in a quire/choir to be titled after the people rather than the building they are situated in. It also sounds like your story is about the monks rather than the choir/quire itself?

Of the options you have above, I would have chosen 3, but my suggestion would be

The Brethren of the Damned
The Damned Brethren
The Brotherhood of the Damned
The Damned Brotherhood
The Blasphemous Brotherhood
The Blasphemous Brethren
 

Phyrebrat

www.beanwriting.com
Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
5,356
Location
In your bedroom wardrobe...
Hi. Thanks PM, nice.

What I’m really after is a name that refers to the stalls not the monks. Those examples you’ve given are nice but too on the nose, I think. It’s not about the monks. There is a reveal later on that underlines this in that the monks are statues, effectively part of the pews themselves.

If it turns out Stalls is the word I use then I’ll have to just settle with that but Im keen to avoid looking lazy.
 

Judderman

The Iceman cometh
Joined
Apr 20, 2010
Messages
1,336
I wonder would the Church have frozen monks in a copy of an image known as blasphemous? Or were they doing this thinking it was a good act?
 

Top