Moana, Lovecraft, and Me.

Before I dive into this, I should give the uninitiated of you a little background of myself. I was an Archaeologist for a few years, and studied for just about as long. My favorite cultures of study were the Mayan and Aztec. This led me to learning about the Popol Vuh.

The Popol Vuh was a set of stories that included their creation myths and, my favorite, the story of the twins (I could read the Wiki article, but doing this from memory is more fun for me). In it, the Twins go through a series of adventures that drag them through the land of the dead and back to the land of the living after a series of adventures and pranks against the various gods. (One of those stories has one of the brothers getting his head removed and they replace it with a cabbage and the cabbage transforms into the twin’s head. No issues. So, either magic cabbage or the kids were magic. I think it was the kids being magic.)

Anyway, I have a point to all of this. To succeed in their quest, they had to die, travel through the underworld, succeed, and escape the underworld. A lot of other cultures have similar stories of passing through the underworld to accomplish a goal. And I have a theory that this happened in Moana.

Yes. Moana, the Disney movie. With the Rock.

I have a 2 year old who is in love with, what she calls the movie, “Maui Time!” So, I have seen this movie more times that I have watched any movie I ever had to do an essay on in college (looking at you “The 6th Day”).

Moana’s goal is to leave the island with the Heart of Tafiti. If you watch it like any 2 year old or person with a passing interest, you will watch as Moana leaves the island, gets swept up by the ocean, wakes up on a tropical island where she finds the demigod, Maui. Other stuff happens that I’ll get to later.

Ok, so this theory of mine is that she doesn’t find any of the gods and underworld stuff, and she wouldn’t have ever found them, until after her ship gets capsized, exactly like happened to her father and his DIED DURING THE CAPSIZING friend. Then she mysteriously wakes up on the correct island and the demigod that she was looking for is there.

So, here’s my story. When Maui lost the Heart of Tafiti, the ocean brought it to the world of the living. Moana found it, and she was quested with returning it to him. Except he is in what I will henceforth refer to as Level 1 of the Spiritual Realm. Her boat capsizes because she has no idea what she’s doing on a canoe. She drowns and is spirited away to Level 1 of the Spiritual Realm where the spirit of the ocean has more power and can help guide her unconscious spirit to the right spot. Great, part one is done. She has found Maui. There’s arguments and then they meet a few things that she’s never seen in the land of the living, like the coconut critters. They fight them and then he takes her to the gateway that leads to the Realm of Monsters, or as I will refer to it, Level 2 of the Spiritual Realm. They literally have to dive into this deeper level of the spirit world in order to get his Hook, which disappeared along with the Heart. In other words, this is evidence that when Maui lost them they both ended up in different worlds.

Alright, the rest of the movie happens and they end up fighting the firey goddess and lose because of, in my opinion, a lack of communication. Maui ducks out and Moana is set adrift in the middle of the ocean, where we get a third level of the Spiritual Realm. This one is the “land” of the dead. It’s more “ocean” of the dead, but that’s kind of the theme of the movie. Anyway, she gets spiritual guidance from a lot of ghosts, but mostly her grandmother.

The grandmother is a little bit of a conundrum for my version of this story. When she dies, you see her spiritual manta ray surge under the wave as Moana pushes past the reef. This doesn’t mean that everything else doesn’t happen, but it shows more of a spiritual presence in the living world than I am normally comfortable with in this theory, as Moana needs to leave her world to enter the world of magic…but there is magic when her grandma does that. It works, vaguely.

Anyway, grandma and a bunch of old dead guys give her the confidence she needs to succeed. She fights the evil god, gets her friend back, and restores the Heart. Watch the movie for detailed spoilers on that part. After she meets the god, she gets a boat that, essentially is identical to the one she left on. I don’t know if that’s important. She takes the boat and sails back home. We don’t know how long that takes.

When she gets home, her family rejoices that she’s still alive and she takes the time to share her Wayfinding mastery with her people and help them explore again.

In this last bit, I feel the movie glazes over her return because we’re past the climax. Obviously, the ocean spirit and Tafiti are responsible for her return to the land of the living. No small feat, but I think the ocean is the only medium that could have returned her and her knowledge from the gods.

If you’ve seen the movie, you can see that my interpretation is a little darker than Disney would have wanted to portray. Moana dies, travels through multiple levels of the underworld to retrieve the knowledge to save her people (sailing), and saved two gods to return the world to balance, before returning to the land of the living.

Her head was never replaced by a cabbage, but a giant crab with a New Zealander accent tried to eat her, so to each their own.

Where am I going with this? That’s a great question, and I am glad you have stayed with me this long to ask.

Wouldn’t it be cool if this kind of journey through the underworld was mirrored or told through the eyes of a New Englander and Lovecraft?

“But Matt,” I can hear you say, “isn’t that The Statement of Randolph Carter? Or The Silver Key? Or literally any story with Randolph Carter in it?”

To which I answer, Shut up! Yes, that is something that Lovecraft more or less already did, but his wasn’t nearly as fun, gory, or written by me, as mine would be. The Carter story was also something more personal to the main protagonist, as it should be, but my idea is that the story would have more world ramifications.

Think about it. Random book nerd learns of the coming cosmic apocalypse. He knows that he needs to stop it and he thinks he’s found the item, a black shard of something that seems to shift shapes. He discovers a crypt under the local library. Breaking in at night, he makes his way into the crypt and finds the remnants of a ceremony that has already happened. The clock is ticking and the dominoes have been tipped. He sees a carving in the stone wall and runs his fingers over it, reading the R’lyehian text out loud. Nothing seems to happen, but he hadn’t expected it to anyway. Then he hears a growl, turns, and is attacked by an alien monstrosity with teeth everywhere. He’s knocked unconscious in the struggle.

He wakes up deeper in the caverns but has no idea where. He swears he thought he was going to be as good as dead. The monster surely wanted his throat, but he seems fine. Then he sees a marking on the wall and realizes that he’s actually closer to his destination than he thought he would be. That’s when he meets an old professor he thought had passed years ago. Obviously not. Together they work toward solving the mystery and come across horrors that our hero never imagined coming across before.

Yeah, that could be fun. I think I might try fleshing something out in that regard. Maybe a novella.

Anyway, thanks for sticking with me through this lengthy explanation for a fun idea. If you know of anyone else who has already done something similar to this, or other ancient stories that follow a similar structure, please share them in the comments.

Banners!

I’m a little behind in my words, but once I got 2,318 done today, I needed a break.

So, I jumped onto Photopea (a browser only photoshop clone), and started playing around with PSD files from CoverVault.

These are some of my upcoming titles and my bigger titles.

And these are my current and upcoming anthologies only.

Those are some beautiful covers, but I’m biased. Head on over to Amazon to see what they are about.

Another NaNoWriMo Update

NaNo has been going great. I started walking about 3 times a day lately, and yesterday I was just too tired to make the wordy words. It’s put me a little behind but nothing is more motivating that seeing your next book cover coming to life.

As I work on Satan’s Salesman 2: The Devil is in the Details, I’ve asked Putnam Finch, my favorite artist, to start work on the next cover. He sent me this beautiful piece of work today.

Going to get some words down tonight and try to catch up for my day off over the week.

Update: NeaNoWriMo and More

I know that I still owe you all a review for the last two episodes of Lovecraft Country, but honestly, I’ve been rocking and rolling on the novel writing front and don’t want to lose that momentum (he says as he writes a blog post…).

Andrew Doran and the Scroll of Nightmares is with Beta Readers and my editor, Kelsey! This is awesome! I took way too long (as many of you have told me) to get this novel out. To be fair, there are a lot of ways that I gave you more Andrew Doran during the wait, but I get it. You didn’t want the afternoon snack, you wanted dinner. Well, we’re almost there! Just gotta get through edits!

Andrew Doran was my NaNoWriMo goal, and I got that done in the first 7 days. Now I am using that momentum to pick up the pace on Satan’s Salesman 2: The Devil is in the Details.

Satan’s Salesman is a book that I had originally intended as a one-and-done. It was only when fans and reviewers started asking for a sequel that I wondered how I would even do it. That’s when a fan and fellow author, C. T. Phipps, came to me with a plot idea that we worked together to develop what we hope is a strong plot. This month I’ll be fleshing it out and hopefully those same fans and reviewers (HI!) will enjoy what Phipps and I have created.

That reminds me, I’m going to need to reach out to my buddy Putnam Finch and talk about the next Satan’s Salesman cover. I’m thinking demon sales lady. Sexy, black and white, and definitely evil.

Oh, and hey, we may or may not have a new president, although you don’t have to read between the lines to know I’m hoping for the ‘may.’ I can’t wait to see what this change brings to the good ole U. S. of A. but I’m ready for it.

Also, I have two more anthologies coming out. I don’t know when but you can look forward to The Book of Yig: Revelations of the Serpent (with Andrew Doran and the Journey to the Serpent Temple) and Tales of Yog-Sothoth (with Andrew Doran and the Forever Gate).

Review: Lovecraft Country Episodes 7&8

Even though the finale just aired (and I have yet to see it), I’m going to take a moment and review episodes 7 and 8 (I Am. and Jig-a-Bobo). This has been a great month for my writing projects, but at the same time I have had to borrow writing time from other things (such as reviews) to get there.

Episode 7, “I Am.” was a fun piece that I’m sure a lot of people are going to claim wasn’t even remotely Lovecraftian. Perhaps I’m wrong and they will be singing its praises but I have yet to read other reviews that take the same opinion on these that I do. Episode 7 followed Hippolyta, George’s widow, after she discovers the correct mathematical equation to open the Orrery. When she does get it opened, she discovers a key and a set of coordinates and decides that whatever this thing is, it has to give her answers to her burning questions regarding George’s death and her family’s lies.

At the same time, Atticus and Letti are trying to figure out their next steps and accidentally walk in on Montrose and his boyfriend. The issue is the times and the way they dealt with homosexuality, and whatever we’ve built Atticus up as in our heads, he’s still an Army boy from the fifties with huge respect for his mama. When he discovers that his dad is gay, he doesn’t know how he can trust someone who’s lied to his mother for years as well as struggles with the fact that his dad is gay.

In true “manly” fashion, Atticus decides to ignore it and focuses on the problem at hand until he and Letti realize that Hippolyta might have gotten herself into trouble.

Hippolyta is a resourceful gal, and she discovers and activates a sort of interstellar telescope that opens a portal through time and space (possibly multiple spaces). The security guards of the place show up, Atticus shows up, everybody is getting shot at, the machine gets hit by a stray bullet, security guards die, and then Hippolyta gets sucked into the portal.

She wakes up in a space cell. A prisoner (even though the aliens say she isn’t) of an alien or future race.

THIS IS LOVECRAFTIAN.

I had to put that in bold because a lot of people think that the term “Lovecraftian” means it has to fall directly in line with Lovecraft’s mythos. That isn’t my definition. Lovecraftian means otherworldy elements being interpreted as supernatural. Lovecraftian means aliens with unknown motives manipulating individuals in much the same way we like to laserbeam ants with a magnifying glass.

When Hippolyta fell through the portal and into time and space this group of aliens or whatever grabbed her and decided they wanted to examine and study her for their own unknown motives. They put a weird glass thing in her wrist and, in the only thing they do that makes mortal sense, they tell this woman who has had her freedoms held back by society that she can choose how free she wants to be. You can’t look at Hippolyta falling through time, getting snatched by an alien influence, and being experimented on and not think of the Yith or the Mi-Go. If you can, then I have to question your own understanding of the mythos. Are these aliens Yith? I doubt it, and they certainly don’t look like it, but then again, the Yith inhabit different species’ bodies as they die. This could be a future or past iteration of them from when they weren’t living in large insect-like crab-claw bodies. Do I believe that? No, but my point is in the idea. What is Lovecraftian? Alien influences and motives altering the course of human lives in unexplainable ways that seem supernatural. And that’s exactly what happens to Hippolyta.

In a lot of ways, this is exactly the same thing that happens with Ruby. On a lesser scale it is happening with Montrose. These people who are held down for whatever reasons are being given a level of freedom they have never experienced. For Hippolyta, she’s being told that she can decide her life, but she needs to understand who she is first.

Suddenly she’s thrust into a journey through different lives, times, and places, where she can examine herself and who she is. First she lives the dream, singing and dancing on the stage in Paris, then she’s learning how strong she is as she leads a band of women to fight every hateful man in history, and then she finds a place where George didn’t die and she tells him everything she’s needed to say in order to find herself again. And George, who I’ve always been a huge fan of, steps up and says, “Alright, I’ll be your sidekick. Let’s go.”

Probably the most romantic thing in this entire show.

Space adventures ensue, and Hippolyta says she’s ready to go home once she knows who she is, but we never see her step out of the portal again.

Back in our world and time, it turns out that Atticus got sucked into the portal too, and he gets spit back out, carrying a book with the same title of the show and runs away, leaving two dead guards and his cousin’s comic book, implicating Hippolyta in the guards’ deaths.

Episode 8, Jig-a-Bobo, is a mix of the aftermath of Hippolyta’s lack of return as well as a return to the more local situation. Immediately following the very-real-world death of Emmett Till, killed graphically for talking to a white woman while in her family’s grocery store. In the lore of Lovecraft Country, Emmett was also a friend of Hippolyta’s daughter, Diana (Dee).

Mikey and I had to take a moment when we discovered that this boy’s death was a real-world occurrence. This tragedy is heart-breaking and should be a story that people share for eternity to remind us of the horrors of hate as well as to keep Emmett Till’s name alive. Hate does nothing good for anyone and has no place in the hearts of man.

Understandably, Dee is upset. She needs to breathe, she needs to talk, and she still doesn’t know where her mother is. Atticus is still avoiding his father, and Letti is remorseful after her last conversation with her sister.

This episode does a lot to connect the dots between people’s stories, but the creepy crap is all happening to Dee.

In this episode we’ll see Ruby and Letti hear each other’s stories. Letti will understand that Ruby has been working with Christina. Ruby thinks Christina’s a good guy. Atticus will accept his father for who he is. We’ll also see that Atticus got sucked to the future in the last book and met a woman gave him a book, written by his own son, that recounts the upcoming events.

All of that is important and I care only in the grand scheme of the rest of the series, but can we get back to Dee? Thanks.

Dee gets cornered by zombie/wizard cop. Zombie/Wizard cop SPITS A LOOGIE ONTO HER HEAD and casts a spell. She wakes up later and my first thoughts are nothing good. I’m ready to kill this guy, but it turns out all he did was curse her with demons that’ll kill her, not any of the horrible stuff I expected him to do.

But I’m ahead of myself.

He corners her because everyone wants to know where Hippolyta disappeared to after those (white) security guards died.

Of course, Dee has no idea. For reasons that still don’t make any sense to me, he cursed her to be chased by creepy (like Pennywise) invisible demon things to stop her from… telling people? Warning people that he’s looking for her mother? I still don’t get it, but whatever.

Anyway, the rest of the episode is her getting hunted by these demons until one of them scratches her.

Atticus decides he’s going to use magic to make himself impossible to harm and recruits his dad to help. Letti tries the same thing, but recruits Christina to help. Christina knows that she needs to sacrifice Atticus to become immortal, so she’s decided she won’t save him, but she’ll gladly put a spell of “no harm” onto Letti and her unborn baby (totally preggers with Atticus’s kid).

Atticus and his father do the spell but Atticus doesn’t feel any different. He’s confused, but decides he’ll try to work another angle. Somewhere in this he explains to his dad about his future kid and the book.

During this, the cops have decided to storm Letti’s house. Everybody shows up. Bullets rain down on the place and Letti is totally bulletproof. She’s gonna kick ass, but then Atticus shows up and she goes running out to protect him from the bullets.

Except the spell Atticus and Montrose did worked! With an entirely different effect. It turns out that while they didn’t make Atticus into Superman like Letti was hoping for, he got his own protector in the form of a giant black shoggoth (the black shoggoth looks so much cooler than the pale ones).

Dee is scratched by the demon kids and dying. The episode ends with her sick, Letti impervious to harm, and Atticus all protected by monsters.

And now I want a monster shoggoth to eat all my enemies. Gonna have to rewind and rewatch that spell…

Mikey’s thoughts:

Little different this time folks. Every episode has historical audio files that play at certain moments. Sometimes it’s at a moment when all hope is lost or feels lost. But each time, realizing what is said and realizing that it really happened and these were said during a time where you could be killed because you looked at someone the wrong way. Each time, I feel like my heart is going to break. I just can’t believe the horror that lives in the hearts of man.

Also, this friggin show knows how to keep me on the edge of my seat. I want a Shoggoth.

Review: Psycho Killers in Love by C.T. Phipps

Psycho Killers in Love by [C. T. Phipps]

Psycho Killers in Love by C.T. Phipps is the newest venture of Mr. Phipps, bringing him out of the realm of superheroes and apocalyptic fiction and straight into slasher horror. Of course, the illustrious Mr. Phipps can’t go dancing in the ballroom without bringing his own pizzazz and he most certainly does that.
Psycho Killers in Love takes the slasher genre as a whole, from Michael Myers to Freddy to whoever else you could possibly think of, and turns them into their own evil pantheon akin to the Gods on Olympus. Powers are bestowed to those of Slasher lineage that gives them their innate abilities that we all thought were plot holes when we watched the movies.
We follow William and his sister, Carrie, as they discover that a local group (local for now. The nature of their “business” means they travel a lot) of high society folks have been harnessing the power of the Slashers in their annual hunt. It helps that the otherwise sexually ambiguous William has found a romantic interest in the antithesis of Slashers. Together they have to work to save her friends and sister while also harnessing, and avoiding over-indulging, their inner natures.
It’s interesting, of course, seeing Phipps’ spin on the slasher genre with his antihero being morally questionable (much like his Lucifer’s Star lead) in that he has hard lines that one should never cross, and to a point that includes killing, until the killing is what he needs to complete his goal. Phipps spins a great story torturing our protagonist’s soul through questionable deeds, abusive relationships, and overprotective sibling behavior. All while trying to figure out if he can trust his new girlfriend.
The best part of this story, and this is a rare thing for me to say about a Phipps book, wasn’t the characters. They were great, but I really enjoyed the world building around the mythos of slashers. You see it shine when William takes on his moniker, The Accountant, and he seamlessly ties the dream worlds of Krueger with the slasher powers of Jason and the torture porn of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. All with a godly voice in the back of William’s head that makes you wonder how many other horror movie creatures were hearing a similar voice in theirs.
Especially because of the world and powers that Phipps invented, this gets a 5 out of 5 from me.

Review: Lovecraft Country Episode 6 – Meet Me In Daegu

This episode was called “Meet me in Daegu” and serves as a flashback episode to fill us in on why Atticus is so obsessed with an unknown Korean woman and what exactly he experienced during the war that made him so different to everyone he’s come back to.

This episode’s existence hints that we’ll also learn why he’s shouting “How did you know?” into the phone of episode 5. That is a lie. Don’t fall for it. We’ll learn who he’s shouting it to and what they are shouting it about, but as far as whatever he’s specifically referencing on the letter he’s translated, you’ll only have to speculate.

And to help you with that, here’s my “Early into the Review Speculation!”

I think Tic translated that the only way he can protect his family/earn immortality/win the lottery and get everyone moved to a much less racist place, is to go through some spell that requires the death of the person with the magic blood. Who he knows is himself.

Except! We had an episode where Montrose is entirely accepting of who he is and willing to live freely with those choices now. We had a bliss moment in a story by the only other person who has the same magic blood (“Lieutenant Dan, you got Magic Blood…”). So, my prediction concludes with some “The Flash will Die in Crisis” BS – Montrose is going to sacrifice himself after knocking out Tic or something. Then Tic will be without any father figures but will suddenly have a begrudging respect for his out, turns-out-to-be-his-uncle, guy who raised him.

I’m way off topic.

Atticus was an asshole during the Korean War and I don’t know enough about America and our state of mind at the time to know if this was the norm or if Atticus and his crew were under special pressure during the conflict. We discover that he’s directly responsible for the murder and torture of suspected Communist sympathizers and they use murder as an incentive for people to admit they are the sympathizers (literally shooting nurses until one of them admits to being it).

We learn that Ji-ah (Tic’s future love interest) is actually a fox demon succubus thing that needs 100 souls before it can leave, or at least that’s what the ill-informed humanity keeps telling it. A woman’s husband (step-dad we ended up figuring out, but they are kind of vague), molested her daughter when she was very young. In order to get back at him and make him pay for his sins, she had a shaman summon this demon fox thing that eats men’s memories and then makes them explode with the power of her tons of fox tails. The problem is that the demon can’t leave after one soul and her daughter is possessed permanently until 100 souls are devoured in that way.

This is the most compelling part of this story. The mother claims that her daughter is gone and we have to assume from some very specific statements made by Ji-ah that she isn’t wrong. So this woman essentially kills her daughter through her ignorance and puts a monster inside of her that has to keep having sex, devouring memories, and blowing people up with the power of Sonic’s best friend until she’s left just so the mind of a child can now inhabit this adult’s body?

On top of that, this monster is constantly being scolded by the mother that she’s not human and that she can’t feel, but she becomes a nurse, and goes through classes, and makes friends.

It was during all of this crazy tail killing that I pointed out to Mikey that, “You are what you eat,” and she’s been devouring souls. So even if she was a soulless monster at one point, she’s had to learn something over time.

That’s where the complication of her relationship with Atticus comes in. He’s tortured and probably murdered her best friend. She thinks she’ll make him her 100th soul and ditch this horrible place, but as she gets close to him she actually starts to feel something for him and even manages to keep her tails in check when they do it.

Her mother says that it’s not real unless she’s honest with him about what she is and she isn’t wrong.

To Ji-ah’s credit, she tries, but his attention is young and full of sexy time while she’s trying to slowly tell him a cross-cultural story about demons. He hears it, but she never gets to say “That weird thing flying next to the blue speedy guy is me. Oh, and Swiggity Swoogity, I’m gonna blow up your booty.”

They start getting busy and her tails get loose. She throws him off, but because she didn’t kill him she ends up seeing something new.

His future.

And him dying in a ritual looking thing.

See? That’s where my theory comes from. The Monitor just told the Flash that he has to die in the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Much like the Flash, Tic doesn’t take it well. Before they got their Swoogity on, he told her he was about to go home. Now that she’s some weirdo Sega knockoff, he’s got nothing holding him there and he leaves while she’s screaming “You’re going to die.”

It’s sad because the monster loves him and the fact that she’s still herself when he calls her at the end of Episode 5 tells me that she hasn’t stopped loving him or she’d have just banged some guy and peaced out.

Mikey’s thoughts:

First:How the Hell do they get the blood off the walls? They are literally cloth walls.

Second: She’s got 99 problems but Tic ain’t 1.

Third: Her mother LOST the Mother of the Year Award by a fucking landslide.

Fourth: Tic’s future looks FUCKED UP!

Review: Lovecraft Country Episode 5 – Strange Case

Let’s start off by calling this episode “A Whole Lot of Butt.”

Although the Smallville fan in me just wants to call this episode “Metamorphasis.”

This episode is awesome, but it also reminds me of a horror version of “The Nutty Professor.”

And this is the first episode that I am going to bring up something I should have mentioned much sooner: The soundtrack for this show is a work of art.

The show starts off with the transformation that we had expected in the last episode. Ruby wakes up white and afraid. Within seconds she sees the power over life and death that the white world has over the black world and she’s so terrified that she almost doesn’t save the boy who bumped into her. While we saw this coming, what I didn’t expect was the painful and gory transformation process when Ruby changes back. This isn’t a permanent transition, and when it wears off we get either Blondy (I forgot his name again) cutting her out of her “white persona” or the werewolf style of change. It’s painful and bloody and almost not worth the cost.

The best line I’ve heard from any tale lately – “I don’t know what’s more difficult: Being Colored, or being a woman.” I love that line for it’s sheer power.

Wait…her “Last Name” is Davenport when she’s white? Interesting. I’m finding more and more stories I follow lately put that last name in there. Have I become a generic name placeholder? That’s unfortunate.

As per any great episode, we’re treated to two tales and Atticus discovered that Montrose killed the Zombie Lady and destroyed the pages. He is livid and almost kills his father over it, scaring Leti in the process. Honestly, I was not sure if I wanted him to kill him or not. His father is obviously tortured about something, but the flat out murder of someone who wasn’t a threat, instead of communicating was just “not cool.”

It’s alright though, because Leti took pictures of the pages and then we get some more Butt Scenes.

And then we get a scene that let’s another puzzle piece fall into place. Mikey and I have been toying with theories regarding Tic’s lineage. We think we’ve got it all together (Tic is actually George’s son and Montrose only married Tic’s mother as a beard to hide his being gay). The confirmation is the very injured Tic deciding he needed a good lay with his boyfriend bar-owner from the first episode.

Ruby uses her white superpowers to get a job (thus me realizing the Davenport name) at that store she’s obsessed with. There’s no better way to see how horrible white people in the fifties are than to work in retail, I guess.

After her first day as the Assistant Manager, she gets to learn what all this white skin is going to cost her. She has to attend a party as Ruby for Christina (remembered her name). The party is filled with those asshole cops and is for the brotherhood that won’t let Ms. Braithwhite into it.

Christina just said his name is William. I’ll try not to forget again.

Woah, it turns out that the police captain tried to have William killed. So Ruby is going to use some piece of magic to help her get her revenge.

I love the weird connections and secret messages in this episode. Specifically, Tic even gets a dream after he falls asleep on the pictures of the pages. It’s pretty clear that if he goes down this “You’re a Wizard, Harry,” path that he’s going to burn up.

Additionally, the archaeologist in me is happy that the language of Adam isn’t just a code (with letters equalling other letters) but also needs to be transliterated before it can be translated.

Tic isn’t an idiot either, and he has to let Leti know that Montrose didn’t just let the witch lady go, but killed her. Unfortunately, Leti thinks the pages themselves are what made Montrose do it. While I’m sure she’s right in the scheme of the story, if I was a character in here I would think she’s crazy. Montrose is just wacky. He would have killed her anyway.

There are so many twists in this show that I’m constantly on the edge of my seat.

While Ruby is acting out her half of the plan she finds some poor bastard in the closet of the Sheriff’s office. Woah!!! And I just noticed that the Captain is some sort of Patchwork Man, sewn together from other bodies. That’s why he was friends with Hiram.

The constant discussion of butterflies and locusts and then we get a scene with Montrose’s gay friends dressing as women and it makes me wonder if the message in this is more than tranformation. The beginning of the episode had the new guy stating that the locusts would devour everything in their path after they transformed.

The worst transformation for Ruby is when she destroys the vial. Her skin just melts off and damn that was nasty.

We get some interesting revelations after that. Ruby’s boss trying to rape Tamara, Montrose willing to show his face in public with his boyfriend. These seem like two worlds opening their eyes for both Ruby and Montrose. Montrose is suddenly free to be who he is and Ruby is suddenly aware that it’s not worth the freedoms of being white if you have to give up your humanity.

Question: Why did it matter that Ruby broke the vial if she has another one? Is the spell tied to the vial and that’s why she broke it, so that she could end that instance of the spell?

Oh, and another great line, this time from Christina. “Who are you really, uninterrupted?”

And then we find out…

Holy crap, and then more butt. My stomach almost couldn’t handle that.

Next question: Does Hillary Davenport have the same shoe size as Ruby? I guess she must.

This episode is less about advancing the season’s plot and more about character development, and that’s not a bad thing. We’re seeing some characters that, until now, have been mostly minor, getting detailed personality developments that are going to help us in the future of the season. We’re seeing Montrose knowing who he is and that’s going to save him or maybe his family. We’re seeing how cold Ruby can be, and that’s going to come in handy when the monsters come knocking. And we’re seeing how monstrous Tic can be. He might not have PTSD, but he’s not afraid to be extremely violent with even family if they stand between him and his goals.

Holy shit, then we learn William’s truth. He did die, like Christina said, and Christina has been turning into him to get into the lodge and manipulate Ruby. Holy shit, that’s something I didn’t see coming.

Then we’re left with some sort of weird cliffhanger at the end with Tic and the pages. My theory is that Tic just discovered that Christina wasn’t lying about the fact that she can’t die.

This episode was great, of course, but it was also…shall I say it…transformational for the cast…

Additionally, we had another opportunity (Leti in the bath) to see more butt and after everything that we just sat through I was surprised that they didn’t take that chance.

Mikey’s thoughts: “Hang on folks, this is gonna be a long one.

Shock note: Ruby’s first transformation reminded me of something that Guillermo del Toro might have done. 

Anger note: I don’t think Atticus could have beaten Montrose harder even if he knew that Montrose killed the native American.

Annoying note: I think that Ruby took the acceptance of magic in the world WAY too quickly and easily.

Cthulhu note: Every time Ruby changes and the things move under her skin, it makes me feel like tentacles are moving under her skin. 

Horror note: The Ruby/Hillary transformation we see outside the bar on the West Side reminds me of the really good Werewolf transformations they did in the scary old movies.

Odd note: It was really odd to see Montrose happy for once while he was dancing. It’s sad how he has to hide himself from everyone. 

Comicbook note: Jonathan Majors, the actor who plays Atticus, would be an amazing John Stewart. He would be a great architect and he does have a military build.

Ending note: the final “transformation” made me speechless.

Final note: What happened to George’s family? His wife and child were heading to the county where they Murder African Americans at night. They weren’t in this episode at all!”

Review: Lovecraft Country – History of Violence – Episode 4

If you read this blog, then it’s likely you have read, want to read, or at least are aware of my Andrew Doran stories. Andrew Doran is my sort of parody of Indiana Jones or the stereotypical pulp heroes that Indy is based on. Because of my own past and interest in archaeology a lot of Andrew’s backstory puts him into historical adventures in caves and tombs and constantly hunting artifacts.

So, to continue my thought from above: If you read this blog, then you’ll understand why “A History of Violence” was probably my favorite Lovecraft Country episode so far.

This story is an adventure story and a “Other half” story. We have Montrose, Tic, and Leti hunting for the pages from the book. We learn that George gave the By-Laws for the Sons of Adam to Montrose who read and, seemingly, memorized the book before burning it in a booze-fueled attempt to protect his family. Unfortunately, Montrose didn’t know that Braithwhite’s daughter, Christina, would show up and begin threatening them all.

Tic decides that the only way he’s going to stop her is if he becomes a wizard himself, which I immediately said to my brother “that never works out in Lovecraft.” Leti decided that she was going with him to find the pages because she’ll be damned if anyone is going to tell her she can’t do anything. The problem is that they don’t know where to start, but Leti makes an obvious point that Montrose knew enough to go to Ardham, he might know where to find some of the pages.

Tic hates the idea, but Leti doesn’t give him much in the way of a choice. Leti recruits him and he asks to borrow Hippolyta’s car. Hippolyta agrees but then invites herself, excited to go to the Boston Museum. Her daughter and Tree come along as well, and it’s obvious that Hippolyta is along only to find out what everyone is hiding. Tree is only along to imply that Montrose is gay, give Tic some stressors, and give us more circumstantial evidence to Montrose not being Tic’s father.

At this point, I’ll quickly go over the “Other side” story that is going on with Ruby, Leti’s sister. She is getting worn down by the way people treat blacks in America. She knows that white women would be treated better and her jealousy is coming to head with (I don’t know his name… “Boy-Christina?”) showing up and showing interest. When he stops and messes up the police tailing his sister(?) he already knows that he’s about to meet Ruby and change her life. Much like everything with the Braithwhite’s he already has the plan drawn out on how their meeting will go, and if previews for next week are any indication, Ruby’s about to learn exactly how the other side lives.

But honestly, that story didn’t matter nearly as much to me as the rest of the episode. I wanted magic and monsters and Montrose, Tic, and Leti delivered in spades on the magic. We had secret doors, flooding chambers, and a cave system that somehow bridges the distance between Boston and Chicago.

We even meet some sort of magical corpse/ghost/revived woman who was considered magical by her people for having the parts for both genders. Tic’s great great grandfather had locked her away and killed her family and friends to force her to translate the pages that Tic was hunting for. They save her and take her from the tomb, only for a horrible twist at the end that I felt was my only criticism of this episode. She could have had a much larger role in the story, with her own agenda or powers or problems, but instead, she was removed as quickly as she was brought into the story and I felt as though that robbed us of a great story tool.

That being said, I still loved this episode.

To summarize, this story was just fun. I had a blast with it and never expected them to go the traveling adventurer route, a la Indiana Jones.

Mikey’s thoughts: “First off, wow. Another great episode. My brother and I say the exact same thing after every episode: “Wow… This show” This episode is no exception! All of the episodes try to scare us and so did this one, but a little bit differently. At one point they were underground and some people might have had a claustrophobic moment, especially with the spider webs. Next, there was a plank over a HUGE bottomless pit with traps and the plank receding. And then… One of my fears shows up at the end. Fear of underwater. Not the fear of drowning btw, but fear of a tentacled monster grabbing them underwater because, let’s face it, it is Lovecraft. All in all, epic episode.”

–Back to Matt– Also, not to get on a high horse again, but I recently read an article from someone who, while I don’t know that they even have a body of work, they tend to highlight a lot of the Lovecraftian works of others, including myself. This article said that they are annoyed at the lack of Lovecraftian influence in Lovecraft Country and see the idea of tying the stories to anything even remotely connected to the author as a cash-grab based on his current celebrity status. He was referencing the entire series/book, but he used references from episode 3, “Holy Ghost.” I can’t do anything but question this guy’s credentials in analyzing what “Lovecraftian” means. Holy Ghost didn’t have any shoggoths or transdimensional beings of dread, but it had ghost stories (Lovecraft wrote a specific style of these) and human experimentation (I clearly state seeing Reanimator influence), and a secret group funneling him the people (also from Reanimator). Again, I don’t mean to be the guy who constantly keeps bringing this up, but there are a lot of people out there (much as in the Star Wars fandom) who have a specific idea of what these stories mean to them and how they define their fandom, and that’s entirely alright, but it’s obvious that a lot of these same people are using their definitions to ostracize the subject of their fandom, only because it doesn’t reflect exactly their thoughts. The problem with this is that if they succeed, they’ll cancel any other growth in the genre. Lovecraft stories have had such a hard time getting off of the ground in the past, arguably because portraying a “mind-shattering evil” without shattering the audience’s mind kind of defeats the description. So, when you shoot down shows that are trying to elevate your fandom, you’re shooting down future chances of your fandom to get more great content. I’m not saying that bad shows shouldn’t be reviewed negatively, but I am saying that if you want more of them, stop closing the gates and start critically reviewing the stuff. It’s one thing to say “I don’t like it and it could be better if it did these things,” and another to say “I hate it. Cancel it.” I would enjoy critical reviews of this show, but I’m getting sick and tired of the reviews that just hate it for not being their idea of what it should be.

Of course, I am in love with this show, so maybe I’m biased.

Review: Lovecraft Country Episode 3 – Holy Ghost

After the last two episodes, it was anybody’s guess (having forgotten how the book went) where the next episode was going to go. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that while Lovecraft’s dark underworld of wizards and magic was the first homerun, the second at-bat decided to take a swing at HPL’s ghost stories.

Another decidedly great decision was to make this story more about Letti and her backstory.

Holy Ghost is the name of the episode, and as per usual, the first half of the story takes place in the solid reality of the ignorant.

It has been several weeks since the events of the first two episodes. Montrose and Atticus told George’s family that the asshole sheriff that was eaten by shoggoths ended up shooting him. It was a lie that was more believable than the truth, but it’s obvious that something about his death (aside from the being dead part) isn’t sitting well with Hippolyta.

Atticus has been trying to assuage his own guilt through helping the family in every way that he can, but even he knows that it can’t continue as hanging out in his uncle’s house and playing his uncle’s role is only making everyone uncomfortable.

He decides to ask his dad to let him stay with him, but his father’s alcoholism and generally abusive behavior quickly show him that it wasn’t worth the effort to ask.

During all of this, Letti mysteriously came into some money and bought a large house that she plans to turn into a safe haven for black people. It’s a wonderfully quaint idea that is hit over the head in a violent manner by the fact that they are in an all-white neighborhood.

Letti likes doing things the hard way, and it’s admirable.

The neighbors get pissed off by their presence as they do renovations and more of Letti’s friends (including Atticus for a few days) move in. The neighbors put out “Whites Only” signs and tie bricks to the horns of their cars to try (as Atticus puts it) audible warfare. The police aren’t any help and we can see that, as per our suspicions, Letti and her friends are entirely on their own.

Letti decides to throw a housewarming party once everyone is settled and it goes mostly well, with Letti and Atticus (finally!) hooking up, although we learn some interesting, although not entirely important, information regarding her lack of any previous partners. The party is hopping until the neighbors push Letti’s final buttons and she goes Jackie Robinson on the cars outside.

Letti is, for some odd reason, the only one arrested. During her violent interrogation she learns that the officer who arrested her has had some undisclosed history with the house and we get to the good stuff.

The house had a mad scientist-styled doctor living there who worked with the cop to kidnap black people to experiment on. They got all sorts of messed up. Super long arms, baby heads, no jaws, and lots of other weird crap that we get to see because the ghosts of his experiments are still haunting the house. Letti and Tic get an exorcist lady or something to conduct a seance and things get down-right crazy.

It wasn’t just that this was a Lovecraftian ghost story, but my brother pointed it out before I could see the connection: this was a take (just as the bipedal creatures in the first story were totally a reference to shoggoths) on Herbert West: Reanimator. We don’t know that these mutilated people were ever undead, but the experimentation in a grotesque manner on the people that society assumed wouldn’t be missed was “on the nose.” We got ghosts, we got monster corpses, and we got a seance. At the very least, I was very pleased with this story.

So far, I haven’t found a single thing that I didn’t like about this series. Until I do, just assume that each review is going to be at least one star more than my rating system.

Before we get to “Mikey’s Thoughts,” I would also like to point out that Mikey has a theory that he keeps bringing up, but didn’t add to his thoughts. In this episode we learn that Letti was a virgin. In the previous episode there is Adam and Eve symbology as the dreams they are subjected to encourages a relationship between Letti and Tic with Letti getting scared by a snake penis (not a snake’s penis, but a penis on a person – Tic – that is actually a snake). Mikey believes that the combined symbology of the dream and the emphasis on her sexual history is going to come back in the form of some sort of monstrous progeny. I’m unsure, but I can’t deny his math.

Mikey’s thoughts: This show has a habit of making you think, “Humans can be real monsters,” and then reminding you, “Oh crap! This show has MONSTER-monsters too!” Right before making you jump out of your seat. It’s amazing.