J.D. Moyer

beat maker, sci-fi writer, self-experimenter

New Theme, and a Quick Story About How I Searched for Nonexistent Phrase for More Than a Decade

As regular readers will have noticed I switched WordPress themes. The new theme is called Lovecraft. It’s big! I like it. Lately, I’ve felt like going big. I threw a big birthday party. I’m writing lots of words. Big big big.

The reason I switched: the font size of Coraline (my previous theme) was too small. I found a way to make it bigger in the theme customization options, but the latest WordPress update got rid of that option, and my font size shrunk again. I know I could have fussed around with css, but screw it — it was time for a change anyway. I got rid of that picture of myself wearing that hat and holding the empty wine glass, and now the banner has some great pictures of our planet, courtesy of NASA. Thanks NASA! (And once again, big!)

Lovecraft. That reminds me of a story. A story about a story.

Over ten years ago I was having a conversation about a concept illustrated in a short story I’d read. The phrase I remembered was “positive threat,” indicating how people can feel threatened when someone becomes more powerful. I remembered the story was either by H.P. Lovecraft or within the Cthulhu universe. Because I was curious, I decided to track down the story I had read as a young adult. This proved to be a harder task than I expected, especially considering the number of writers who have written stories in this world. Here’s a forum post of me searching for the story back in 2005.

Finally, after countless hours of searching (my intense obsession with finding the story had shades of Lovecraftian insanity), I found the anthology I’d read in junior high. New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, edited by Ramsey Campbell. Victory!

New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos -- Orig cover

Except, even though I was positive it was the right book, it didn’t contain the phrase I was looking for. It didn’t even contain the idea I had remembered. I obtained a copy of the book, reread each story, and did a digital search on a PDF copy to be sure.

I fruitlessly continued the search for a few years after that. Maybe I’d remembered the phrase from a different story? I tried deep searches in Google Books, looked up Library of Congress records for horror anthologies published around that time. Nothing.

Finally I remembered, out of the blue (and just a few months ago), that I’d come up with the phrase as a reaction to one of the stories. My own interpretation. And one that was totally off-base, flat-out wrong, nothing to do with the story at all.

My mind was playing tricks on me. [great track, but nsfw/profanity]

It was a relief to figure it out, despite the embarrassment I felt that my junior high reading of the story had been so off-base. It was also a good lesson, that not everything we remember is real. Sometimes we remember our own thoughts as if they were real.

(I do still like the positive threat concept).

I hope you like the new theme. Go big, if that feels right!

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14 Comments

  1. Tom Stillwell

    I associate your tenacity. When I was in 8th grade, I lost the regional spelling bee on the word dilemma, which I spelled dilemna. For the past 45 years I’ve sworn I was robbed by a textbook or primer that spelled it that way. Many of my peers think it’s spelled that way. I’ve periodically searched for the source, although if I found it, I’m pretty sure it’s to late for a rematch. FWIW, autocorrect accepted both spellings as I typed this!

    • Good story. I haven’t seen that spelling but I’ll take your word for it — you were robbed!

  2. positive thread . . . ?

  3. Brian Sundermeier

    Cognitive psychologists have a term for what you experienced: source confusion.

  4. A friend pointed out that “positive threat” does exist as a phrase in the field of law (and I did run into a few instances in my searches, but nothing in the realm of fiction).

  5. It’s a funny thing indeed. It happens to some memories that I have from my childhood. And when I ask my parents what they actually remember, their versions often differ drastically from mine. But, of course, their memories might not be totally reliable 🙂 By the way, a great book that talks about this is Subliminal, by Leonard Mlodinow.

  6. Aaron Ashmann

    Awesome sauce. As soon as you said Lovecraft I knew some Cthulhu Mythos was right around the corner. Nice job with the site. It is much easier to read. What are you using again for it. I might actually start my blog one day…

  7. Interesting read, as always. Thank you.

    Edit suggestion: You wrote “of base” instead of “off base” the first time. The second time is fine and you decided to use a hyphen as in “off-base”.

  8. Love the big new theme. I hope you didn’t suffer too much in the transition.

    • Thanks — glad you like it! There were a few caching issues but setting up the new theme was seamless. WordPress rocks.

  9. Thomas Brooks Lockett

    Hi J.D. I am a college student studying the body’s potential healing powers to help treat MPB and I was wondering how you got in touch with Rob or Henry Choy of the study in Hong Kong. I am trying to set up a research study of DT because it worked for my hair. Please let me know of any way to contact these guys. It would really help me out. Best.

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