Short Story (Flash Fiction) Of the Day, Memory by H.P. Lovecraft

In the valley of Nis the accursed waning moon shines thinly, tearing a path for its light with feeble horns through the lethal foliage of a great upas-tree. And within the depths of the valley, where the light reaches not, move forms not meant to be beheld.

—- H. P. Lovecraft, Memory

H.P. Lovecraft

If I was looking for something to read, and stumbled across the opening lines reprinted above… and didn’t know who wrote them – I would have skipped on. Life is too short. It has all the hallmarks of bad writing – present tense, overwritten, trite adjectives, silly names. But this is Lovecraft after all, and it is crackerjack.

When I first read Lovecraft, in college almost a half-century ago, I didn’t, at first, understand why he was so famous. The writing didn’t seem to have aged well. But then I tried to go to sleep and found my dreams haunted by the monsters from the page. Lovecraft understands what we are afraid of more than we do ourselves.

Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn—

Read it here:

Memory by H.P. Lovecraft

from Flash Fiction Online

H.P. Lovecraft

Short Story (Flash Fiction) Of the Day, Shoggoth Under The Bed by Robin Stevenson

There IS and it’s all gooey and bubbly and covered in eyes!

—-Robin Stevenson, Shoggoth Under The Bed

Mural on Construction Fence
Farmer’s Market
Dallas, Texas
Chris Hoover

Years and years ago -I was in the Garland, Texas library perusing the fiction aisles. The fiction, of course, was arranged by author. At the end of each row was the start and end of the author’s names… such as Smith-Thompson, or Adams-Baker. In the C section it had Clark-Cthulhu. That caught me off guard. I didn’t know that Cthulhu had written any popular fiction. I checked the stacks and there was a collection of short stories set in the Cthulhu Mythos written by a variety of authors and the person that cataloged the book mistakenly thought that Cthulhu himself, the great evil one, born on the planet Vhoorl in the 23rd nebula from Nug and Yeb had actually penned the tome himself.

I really wanted that little plastic sign and considered prying it off when nobody was looking. Unfortunately, I am too honest for that. When I moved to Richardson I stopped going to the Garland library on a regular basis and the last time I visited the fiction section had been reorganized and the sign was long gone.

So you have to take my word for it. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.

Nothing better than flash fiction written in the Cthulhu mythos… even if it is only a monster under a bed.

Read it here:

Shoggoth Under The Bed by Robin Stevenson

 

from Sweet Pandemonium

A Month of Short Stories 2017, Day 23 – The Call of Cthulhu By H. P. Lovecraft

Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos

Over several years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month…. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year – In September this time… because it is September.

Today’s story, for day 23 – The Call of Cthulhu by H. P. Lovecraft
Read it online here:
The Call of Cthulhu by H. P. Lovecraft

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, 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. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

—-H. P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu

I have written about H. P. Lovecraft before – I wrote about how I first read him here… and I wrote about a great really bad movie I saw decades ago based on the Cthulhu Mythos.

Today I guess I’ll mention a sort of silly story. I was in the Garland, Texas library a few years ago, perusing the fiction aisles. The fiction, as is the usual convention was arranged by author. At the end of each case was the start and end of the author’s names… such as Smith-Thompson, or Adams-Baker. In the C section it had Clark-Cthulhu. That caught me off guard. I didn’t know that Cthulhu had written any popular fiction. I checked the stacks and there was a collection of short stories set in the Cthulhu Mythos written by a variety of authors and the person that cataloged the book mistakenly thought that Cthulhu himself, the great evil one, born on the planet Vhoorl in the 23rd nebula from Nug and Yeb had actually penned the tome himself.

I really wanted that little plastic sign and considered prying it off myself when nobody was looking. Unfortunately, I am too honest for that. When I moved to Richardson I stopped going to the Garland library on a regular basis and the last time I visited the fiction section had been reorganized and the sign was gone.

You have to take my word for it. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.

H. P. Lovecraft:

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
—-from Supernatural Horror in Literature

H.P. Lovecraft

Short Story Day 3 – A Study in Emerald

3. – A Study in Emerald
Neil Gaiman

Click to access emerald.pdf

Now we find ourselves with a short story set in a nonexistent past, but not of the past (real or imagined) – the story is almost a decade old (it won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 2004) but it is a piece of the modern, internet world. You can call it a form of fan-fiction. As a matter of fact, it is a Crossover – the characters and style from Sherlock Holmes have been transplanted into the world of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

Not only that… it is a world of alternate history. In it, 700 years prior, Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones have… well, if you want to know what they have done, you have to read the thing.

Finally, it is in a unique and modern form. It’s published on the ‘net as a PDF – in the format of a Victorian Newspaper, complete with odd and disturbing advertisements. Take a close look at the ads, BTW, they are full of interesting references.

Clever and cleverer. The short piece manages to cram a lot of (alternate) history and backstory in and around its detective yarn.

Be careful about that yarn… you are forewarned. Nobody is who you think they are. Black is white and white is black. See if you can figure it out. If you can’t, the Wikipedia Page will illuminate it all for you.

So it is all clever and as skillfully put together as a Swiss Watch… but it is worth reading? Of course it is. It is a lot of fun. It is a puzzle inside a puzzle, wrapped in a puzzle. It is a pastiche. It is a homage. It is the sort of think you will like, especially if you like that sort of thing.

I shall not forget the mirrored surface of the underground lake, nor the thing that emerged from the lake, its eyes opening and closing, and the singing whispers that accompanied it as it rose, wreathing their way about it like the buzzing of flies bigger than worlds.

That I survived was a miracle, but survive I did, and I returned to England with my nerves in shreds and tatters. The place that leech-like mouth had touched me was tattooed forever, frog-white, into the skin of my now-withered shoulder. I had once been a crack-shot. Now I had nothing, save a fear of the world-beneath-the-world akin to panic which meant I would gladly pay sixpence of my army pension for a Hansom cab, rather than a penny to travel underground.
—-from A Study in Emerald, by Neil Gaiman

Sandra Dee and the Son of Cthulhu

For folks that are around my age, the most influential person in our upbringing and general outlook on this best of all possible worlds may be Samuel Z. Arkoff. Just looking at that name brings a flood of almost subliminal memories from my childhood. Arkoff was one of the founders of American International Pictures – the source of the flood of B-movie oddness that was the main warped window we had into the world at large.

American International Pictures made films for years based on the ARKOFF formula –

  • Action (exciting, entertaining drama)
  • Revolution (novel or controversial themes and ideas)
  • Killing (a modicum of violence)
  • Oratory (notable dialogue and speeches)
  • Fantasy (acted-out fantasies common to the audience)
  • Fornication (sex appeal, for young adults)

Which pretty much says it all.

When I look at a list of American International Releases from say, 1956 up to 1981… It looks like about 232 films – I am horrified by how many, well more than half, of them I have seen – and remember seeing. There were the horror films that I saw late at night on a tiny 12-inch b&w television after discovering the amazing new world of UHF television (more than three channels – wow!…Do you remember the little loop antennas?). There were the beach films. There were the Poe films (capped by The Conqueror Worm). Blacksploitation. Bad Science Fiction.

I lived on a lot of military bases growing up and they would show at least three different movies every week; I think it cost a quarter. One of the oddest experiences I had as an adult is when I realized they don’t play the Star Spangled Banner before every movie (Army brats will know what I’m talking about). American International Pictures schlock…. Most of those would wind their way around the bases sometime.

Now they are on Netflix Streaming… though I wouldn’t advise wasting too much of your time.

But I noticed one film that had really left its mark and I wanted to re-watch it (although I knew it wasn’t a very good film) to see if my memory served me well. This was The Dunwich Horror.

It came out in 1970, so I may have seen it at a theater in Panama, but probably saw it in Managua. We would get three films a week on 16mm there and would show them at the Embassy, the Marine Compound, or our house.

It’s pretty standard Arkoff horror fare – let’s see how it stands up to the ARKOFF formula:

Action them til they’re dizzy. Don’t stop. It must be in your screenplay and in your director’s head. Employ only film editors who are as movement-crazy as you are. Kid’s love action…and they”ll go back…and will tell their peers, inferiors, and superiors what’s good.

-The Dunwich Horror definitely has action – though it doesn’t always make sense. Well, actually, it starts a little slow, but does build to a frenzy of monstrous murders with the traditional villagers pursuing and being pursued by an unseen fiend.

Revolutionary scenes get talked of. Use some new photographic devices…editing techniques…locales…smells…stunts or something. Make ’em so the sheer experience of seeing them is unique. New language, new juxtapositions, new shocks, new relationships, new attire, new oncepts…new, new, new. Revolve situations, relationships, hell, even the camera if it will get your movie talked about.

-Although it came out in 1970 – it is full of (now dated) 60’s psychedelic effects – grating electronic music/noise and solarized stylized colorized fisheye scenes of naked actors in bodypaint making grotesque faces at the camera… the usual stuff. Now it’s silly… it was sort of silly back then… but it was unique enough to leave an unpleasant memory then on a kid watching it – enough for me to remember it to this day.

The attack of the garish, gaudy Evil Dream Hippies

Kill colorfully and often. Young audiences… like to experience death. Vicariously, of course. But then all storytelling is experiencing something that happens to someone else and you come out alive.

You should be sure to kill and do so in bizarre ways so your audience will get their money’s worth, and so they will tell others…Without death or the glamourous threats of it, I would never have been able to make the highest grossing independently-produced, independently-released film of all time, The Amityville Horror.

-Plenty of death. Again, some of it is diluted by the cheap and garish sixties effects – but still there.

Orate! Tell the world about your picture! Talk about it but more important…get people talking about it. Best way is through publicity. As my old buddy Jack Warner used to say, “The movie good enough to sell itself has not yet been produced!”

-I guess this is more concerned with publicity, which I can’t speak for. The characters do like to orate within the film, of course…

Fantasy is what audiences spend money for. Give them fantastic adventures. Entertain them by rushing them into worlds you dreamed up for them. Avoid the prosaic and commonplace. When they’re in those fantastic environments, keep everything moving ultra-fast. Action will help suspend disbelief.

-There was the fantastic element that I didn’t know anything about when I first saw the film – Lovecraft. The movie is adapted from one of his short stories. I didn’t read any H.P. Lovecraft until I was in college – they had these cheap paperbacks at the bookstore with lurid covers.

There were a whole series of these collections – I read them all.

I would read a story from one of the collections and think, “no big deal,” and then try to go to sleep. It is only in the half-world between waking and somnolence that the true horror of the tales would emerge. I was hooked and am still a fan.

The Dunwich Horror of the film only bears a passing resemblance to Lovecraft’s tale, but it features more than a few touchstones of his fiction: Arkham, Miskatonic University, Yog-Sothoth, The Necrominicon, and the strong hint that the protagonist and his twin brother are actually children of Cthulhu.

Fornicating is the answer to an exhibitor’s dreams. You can’t get an ingredient in most movies that draws better than sex. Of course, you have to use it wisely…You gotta have taste. Foreplay is as important in dramaturgy as in bed. But avoid too much visual sex. It is embarassing and if it goes on too long it puts audiences to sleep. Arouse but don’t offend!

Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee!

-Ah… here it is. This is what etched The Dunwich Horror into young minds. It stars Sandra Dee, for God’s sake… Gidget. She was the symbol of the innocent, wholesome teenager – so much so that she is now known mostly as the subject of ridicule in a song from “Grease.”

The Dunwich Horror, for all its Lovecraftian touchstones, is really the story of the sexual corruption of Sandra Dee. She starts out as a prim and proper university librarian that trusts an odd but handsome stranger too much, offers him a ride home, and falls under his evil spell. Before she knows what’s going on she’s up on writhing around on an altar in an unforgettable skimpy costume as the centerpiece of a ritual to bring a monstrous race of ancient horrors back to life.

This is not how she imagined this day would go.

At the very end, even after the sudden, inexplicable, defeat of the evil brothers, it is shown that now she is pregnant with Cthulhu’s grandson… the horror continues.

There is nothing explicit here – a modern film would not even bother with this sort of silliness. That’s sort of a shame – the schlock masters knew what they were doing, how powerful on a subliminal level the image of once innocent Sandra Dee writhing on that altar would be. Nothing much is shown, everything is implied, the imagination fills in the blanks so powerfully.

In lieu of expensive special effects, we have skimpy outfits, strange facial expressions, and odd awkward hand gestures.

I’ve rambled on too long about a second-rate B movie that’s almost a half-century old and deservedly mostly forgotten. But these are the memories that we live with every day – some are so deep we don’t even know they are there.

PS – a fellow blogger wrote a post on this subject:
The ARKOFF Formula and the Peter Pan Syndrome