" 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

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"The Same Deep Waters As You", Brian Hodge

"The Same Deep Waters As You", Brian Hodge, Weirder Shadows over Innsmouth, Edited by Stephen Jones, Fedogan & Bremer 2013. Cover by Les Edwards.

Stephen Jones has dedicated 3 vols. to the strange folk from Innsmouth. Shadows over Innsmouth 1994,  Weird Shadows over Innsmouth 2005, and this his third volume
Weirder Shadows over Innsmouth.

Hodge's view of the Deep One/Hybrids is far darker and stranger than that offered by Ruthann Emrys in "The Litany of Earth". Kerry Larimer is the divorced mother of one and host of a moderately successful program on the Discover channel Animal Whisperer. Kerry has some innate ability to understand animal behaviour. She describes this ability as "A combination of things. It's like receiving emotions, feelings sensory impressions, mental imagery, either still of with motion. Any or all. Sometimes it's not even that, it's just ... pure knowing." It it this ability that has resulted in Kerry's recruitment by Homeland security and her transportation to a facility described by it's commanding officer, Colonel Daniel Escovedo as an older version of Guantanomo Bay, holding the most-long term enemy combatants ever held in US. custody. Some 200 plus inhabitants of Innsmouth were rounded up in 1928, some 63 remain. Since 1942 they have been housed on an island off Washington state in a facility more impregnable zoo than prison .

"They were down to the last leg of the trip, miles of iron-gray ocean skimming three hundred feet below the helicopter, and she was regretting ever having said yes. The rocky coastline of northern Washington slid out from beneath them and there they were, suspended over a sea as forbidding as the day itself. If they crashed, the water would claim them for its own long before anyone could find them. Kerry had never warmed to the sea—now less than ever"

from "Same Deep Waters as You". 

While the youngest of the prisoners were initially capable of communicating with their captors, all have now fully changed and no communication has occurred in decades. Kerry has been brought in because for only the second time in their very long captivity the creatures behaviour has changed, 

" like they were waiting for something"

from "Same Deep Waters as You". 

I will leave you there, I hate spoilers. I have read an embarrassingly large number of Lovecraft inspired stories. Many, especially the early one had almost the same plot elements, old books, scholarly but rather clueless narrators and some variation of a giant alien. Hodge has obviously given a great deal of thought to all the ramifications of the situation he has set up. How prisons work, how government works, expanding beautifully on the few lines HPL provided on the fate of the Innsmouth captives, indeed these lines from Lovecraft's original story form the epigraph to Hodge's story

"During the winter of 1927–28 officials of the Federal government made a strange and secret investigation of certain conditions in the ancient Massachusetts seaport of Innsmouth. . . . news-followers. . . wondered at the prodigious number of arrests, the abnormally large force of men used in making them, and the secrecy surrounding the disposal of the prisoners. No trials, or even definite charges, were reported; nor were any of the captives seen thereafter in the regular gaols of the nation. There were vague statements about disease and concentration camps, and later about dispersal in various naval and military prisons, but nothing positive ever developed. "

"The Shadow Over Innsmouth” . H. P. Lovecraft (1936)

from "Same Deep Waters as You". 

Also the early stories almost inevitability features a male protagonist. Now the field has become far more inclusive with a far greater diversity of authors participating but I was still pleased to see a male writer create a fully realized female character. I also love that Kerry shares Howard's aversion to the sea. As I mentioned I feel atmosphere and good writing are essential to capture the mood of this type of story and both can be found here. 

 “It was easy to forget how remote a place could once be, even on the continental U.S., and not all that long ago, all things considered. It was easy to forget how you might live a lifetime having no idea what was going on in a community just ten miles away, because you never had any need to go there, or much desire, either, since you’d always heard they were an unfriendly lot who didn’t welcome strangers, and preferred to keep to themselves.”

from "Same Deep Waters as You." 

For me, as the quote below indicates, Brian Hodge gets Lovecraft, what elements are important and how to introduce them to a story in a way creates a new, interesting, innovative story. 

David Hodge on Lovecraft

"For me, he was working in this ideal window of time. He was a contemporary of physicists like Einstein and Max Planck and Niels Bohr. His work often taps into that zeitgeist of the frontiers of science being radically expanded, and the nature of reality being plumbed at a much deeper level, where things get very strange. At the same time, the world was a bigger, more disconnected place. There were no interstate highways. Aviation was barely underway. Global population was less than a third of today’s. No camera phones, no satellites, no TV with a 24-hour news cycle. The more remote locales he uses feel genuinely isolated and hard to get to. They’re places where superstitions die hard. They feel capable of containing weird events without them drawing much wider attention, with plenty of time to congeal into area folklore. I love how he stirs all this together."

from Rue Morgue, Why is LOVECRAFT still relevant? Seven experts weigh in
Wednesday, November 25, 2015


This story has been reprinted several times, please see the link below to locate it.


I thought the plotting and characterization excellent, the introduction of action well handled, and having as I have said read many pastiches I still found the ending of The Same Deep Waters As You to be, possibly the most unsettling.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Litany of Earth by Ruthann Emrys

 The Litany of Earth by Ruthann Emrys full text at this link

Tor also offers original fiction including Ruthann Emrys brilliant "The Litany of Earth". Lovecraft’s novella The Shadow Over Innsmouth, has long been a fertile source for pastiche, with the Deep Ones and especially their hybrid offspring often little more than spies or brutal thugs in the service of the Cthulhu Mythos. Lovecraft himself seem conflicted about the nature of the inhabitants of Innsmouth on the one hand the group pursuing the narrator is described as a horrific inhuman mob,

“ a limitless stream - flopping, hopping, croaking, bleating - surging inhumanly through the spectral moonlight in a grotesque, malignant saraband of fantastic nightmare. And some of them had tall tiaras of that nameless whitish-gold metal ... and some were strangely robed ... and one, who led the way, was clad in a ghoulishly humped black coat and striped trousers, and had a man's felt hat perched on the shapeless thing that answered for a head.

I think their predominant colour was a greyish-green, though they had white bellies. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills, and their long paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four. I was somehow glad that they had no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, clearly used for articulate speech, held all the dark shades of expression which their staring faces lacked.”

from The Shadow Over Innsmouth

Yet having recognized his heritage and planning his return to the ruins of Innsmouth to joins his kinsmen, the narrator states, 

“Stupendous and unheard-of splendors await me below, and I shall seek them soon. Ia-R'lyehl Cihuiha flgagnl id Ia! No, I shall not shoot myself - I cannot be made to shoot myself!

I shall plan my cousin's escape from that Canton mad-house, and together we shall go to marvel- shadowed Innsmouth. We shall swim out to that brooding reef in the sea and dive down through black abysses to Cyclopean and many-columned Y'ha-nthlei, and in that lair of the Deep Ones we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory for ever.”

from The Shadow Over Innsmouth

so which is it. I want to look at two excellent stories that offer very different views of the Deep One/hybrids, the first being “The Litany of Earth” and the second in a separate post, “The Same Deep Waters As You” by Brian Hodge. 

How does an author undo the years of stereotypes concerning the Innsmouth folk. Emrys does it brilliantly through the use of sympathetic analogies. The main character Aphra Marsh was an child when the Federal Government carried off the inhabitants of Innsmouth killing her father and removing her mother to a separate facility. Those that were left spent decades alone in desert camps far from the sea, until needing the space the government used the same camps to house the Japanese American internees during the World War II. Aphra also mentions that inhabitants of the camp were punished for speaking R’lyehn, an experience similar to the real experience of the Native American children held in residential schools in Canada who were punished for speaking their native languages in an attempt at assimilation. These subtly drawn but not belaboured parallels really enrich the story and provide us with a alternative view of the Innsmouth culture to carry the rest of the story. 

Now released from the camp, Aphra lives in San Francisco with her adopted Japanese American family and works in a bookstore. The bookstore owner Charlie’s interest in the beliefs around the Aeonist canon and the fact that he has a room full of forbidden texts allows Aphra to instruct him and us in the whole history of the world as written by the Great Race of Yith, another lovely parallel to the great historic chronicles of the universe supplied by HPL in “At The Mountains of Madness” and “The Shadow Out of Time” Mercifully Emrys’s version is more concise than Howard’s and beautifully presented as a (true) child’s fable. Indeed Aphra life seems to be back on track until she is contacted by the FBI with a very strange request. To avoid spoiling the story I will stop here but another thing that drew me to “The Litany of Earth” was the beautiful writing. HPL was capable of some pedestrian prose especially in the conclusions to his stories but he was also capable of beautifully atmospheric passages just read the opening paragraphs of “The Picture in the House”, “The Colour Out of Space” or especially “The Call of Cthulhu" and this passage by Emrys to see what I mean.

“All of man’s other religions place him at the center of creation. But man is nothing—a fraction of the life that will walk the Earth. Earth is nothing—a tiny world that will die with its sun. The sun is one of trillions where life flowers, and wants to live, and dies. And between the suns is an endless vast darkness that dwarfs them, through which life can travel only by giving up that wanting, by losing itself. Even that darkness will eventually die. In such a universe, knowledge is the stub of a candle at dusk.”

from "The Litany of Earth" by Ruthann Emrys

Emrys is offering us a brilliant contribution to the Mythos to enjoy, please give it  a try.