" It is new, indeed for I made it last night in a dream of strange cities: and dreams are older than brooding Tyre, or the
contemplative Sphinx, or garden-girdled Babylon" The Call of Cthulhu

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Documents in the case of Elizabeth Akeley by Richard A. Lupoff

Upon arriving at the cabin this summer I began mining the bookshelves at the family farm (it is just down the grid road) for any SF my wife had left behind. As well as books I found one magazine, a tattered copy of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from March 1982. Imagine my amazement when I realized the cover story was "Documents in the case of Elizabeth Akeley" by Richard A. Lupoff. Yes I am afraid to admit that as unlikely as it seems Mr Lupoff has drawn us yet again into the dark orbit of Yuggoth. This rather stylish young man is brought to us by cover artist Duncan Eagleson.

We are immediately told that "Surveillance of the Spiritual Light Brotherhood Church of San Diego" (126)  began in the mid to late 1970's.  The church was founded by George Goodenough Akeley who immigrated to California from Vermont, founded the Spiritual Light Brotherhood Church and served as it's Rediant Father until his death in 1971. Our story takes place in 1979 when his  18ish year old granddaughter Elizabeth Akeley now serves as Radiant Mother.  The church doctrine is not extensively discussed, it seems be be a mixture of conventional religions and modern physics. The most interesting aspect of the church services occurs when Elizabeth enters a seance like trance to answer a limited number of requests submitted earlier by Congregants,  mainly asking to communicate with deceased relatives. Everything is fine until June 13th, 1979 when Elizabeth receives an unexpected communication that begins “ Wilmarth … Wilmarth … back. Have come … Antares … Neptune, Pluto, Yuggoth …,” etc. 

The action now shifts to a newsletter received by “the authorities” the Vufoi or Vermont Unidentified Flying Object Intelligencer published on an old mimeograph machine by it’s 19 year old editor Ezra Noyes in his parent’s kitchen. The issue in question concerns recent sightings of bat winged moth man like creatures in Vermont. We are then provided with a history of the Akeley family which includes  a Sarah Philips, spiritualists, at least one involved in the Starry Wisdom cult of New England, fascists, and others of even less savoury natures. This genealogy also provided a direct link between Elizabeth and Henry Akeley of Windham County who disappears mysteriously in 1928. Much of the information needed to reconstruct events is provided by the negro sexton of the church, one Vernon Whitehead who is actually monitoring the church for a “Men in Black” type organization tasked with monitoring cults. Whitehead is also able to supply Elizabeth and her boyfriend Marc Feinman with miniature recording devices later in the story. 

Eventually Elizabeth, convinced that she needs to follow up on these communications contacts Ezra Noyes about the Vermont sightings and decides to travel to Vermont with Whitehead, her boyfriend Marc Feinman being temporarily involved in a family emergency. It is with her trip East to Vermont that Elizabeth enters Lovecraft’s territory. 

Spoilers and Quibbles

All of Lupoff’s Yuggoth stories are pastiche’s or rifts on Lovecraft’s “Whisper in the Darkness”, however this story goes full bore. In "Discovery of the Ghooric Zone - March 15, 2337” see my post here
http://dunwichhorrors.blogspot.ca/search/label/Richard%20A.%20Lupoff Lupoff subtlety wove illusions to many Lovecraftian elements within an interesting future history. Here names and other elements seem to be dumped in willy nilly,  Sarah Phillips HPL’s mom, Whitehead HPL’s friend Henry S. Whitehead, the Starry Wisdom Cult from “The Haunter of the Dark”, while fans normally love this type of thing I just felt it a bit intrusive in this story. The inclusion of American fascists also seemed a bit odd until I remembered the Lupoff had written a novel called Lovecraft’s Book, which I have not read, in which Lovecraft is asked to ghostwrite a political tract by a fascist sympathizer. I am not sure if these references relate to events in that book or if this is a coincidence. 

Vernon Whitehead is useful as he can supply ”bugs” modern equivalents for the field telephone with really long cord that Harley Warren takes on his subterranean explorations in “The Statement of Randolph Carter”,  but overall his organization seems fairly ineffectual, “being particularly sensitive to criticism of the agency for alleged intrusion upon the religious freedoms of unorthodox cults, the representatives of the agency were constrained to accept Feinman’s offer.” (156) 

I did enjoy Ezra Noyes and his mimeographed Vufoi newsletter, a nice nod to Lovecraft’s time in amateur journalism and a interesting foreshadowing of the type of plot element made popular by the X-Files. 

But overall felt this story was a bit predictable and did not offer as fresh a look at Yuggoth as Lupoff did in "Discovery of the Ghooric Zone - March 15, 2337” or ” Nothing Personal” my post here http://dunwichhorrors.blogspot.ca/search/label/Richard%20A.%20Lupoff .