The Trades: Wind River (2017)

My family is one of recommendations and I am no exception. If we like something, we are both surprised if you haven’t been made thoroughly aware of it yet, and demanding that you correct your egregious ways. We’re also the types of people who, if you recommend something to us, our interest in that subject plummets.

To that end, my family and I (my Mom, Dad, and brother, Mike) have come together and invented “The Trades.” For every one recommendation given a recommendation must be received. Through this simple agreement, we’re all taking steps toward watching movies that we would have lied about seeing for decades to come.

Additional rules have been added over the weeks to keep things civil. For example, we can’t recommend movies from genres that we know the others don’t like (ie: No horror for mom and dad) and since we know each other so well we need to try not to recommend movies we’re aware they simply won’t enjoy.

But…there’s no time stamp on when those recommendations need to be watched by, so I have already started to slip back into my “I don’t really watch a lot of movies lately” mentality. So, I am taking this a step further and am going to review the recommendations that I receive in as part of The Trades.

The first trade was made between my parents and myself. In exchange for my making them watch one of my favorite movies (Predestination), my parents recommended Wind River, starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olson.

Wind River follows a small rural town as they are struck by what seems to be a murder. A woman is found 6 miles from civilization in the coldest parts of the world and her lungs have exploded from the cold. Elizabeth Olson plays an FBI agent who’s small and female so everyone assumes she’s useless. This gives her plenty of opportunity in this modern day “Western” to prove that she’s more than capable enough. Jeremy Renner is a local predator hunter who is well known for his tracking skills and knowledge of the area. He offers to help Olson solve what’s going on here, and the resulting scenario is both amazing and tragic. These are A-list actors who didn’t phone it in with a modern cowboy kind of story that hit all the high notes of that kind of story telling without feeling dated or misplaced.

The ending blew my mind and sent us off with a farewell that I thoroughly enjoy in hero or western drama styled stories. This was a great movie. 5 out of 5 stars.

For their part, my parents liked Predestination (they aren’t heavily science fiction folks), although the time lines and intersecting parts were obviously confusing (as they are for everyone). They are both Ethan Hawke fans and liked the story.

Review: The Peaslee Papers by Peter Rawlik

The Peaslee Papers: A Lovecraftian Chronicle by [Peter Rawlik]

This is going to sound counter to literally everything I am, but bare with me: I don’t normally enjoy to completion anthologies that are hardcore mythos.

The reason behind that is that when I read something, I fall hard for it, even the crap stuff, and I demand more. If you give me Reanimator, then hook me up to an IV of the green stuff and keep her coming. We’re reading about Yog-Sothoth today? Then blow my mind up! Unfortunately, large anthologies that tend to be a deep dive into the mythos tend to bounce around the universe and rarely touch back on whatever subject first sparked my interest.

Peter Rawlik’s The Peaslee Papers is something else entirely. It’s similar in effect to what I’ve been trying to be a part of in the group anthologies I’ve joined. Almost like a TV show, in that each story in this anthology acts more as a chapter, telling an enclosed story that actually lends itself toward the larger and all-encompassing plot of the book.

The Peaslee Papers is a biography of the Peaslee family, starting with the famed Nathanial Wingate Peaslee and following his descendants throughout the history of the world. They encounter the Mythos in differing ways (it touches on almost everything) and in ways that I don’t ever see enough of (had some good King in Yellow stuff going on) and are always tied back to the main part of Peaslee’s story: Quantum Leaping with the Yith.

It goes beyond that, though, in that we get to see a hint at the Yith’s very alien, and in many ways, all too human, agenda. He adds to the Mythos at regular intervals without feeling like it was shoehorned in. It wasn’t, it’s been there the entire time, we just didn’t know about it until Rawlik told us.

I’ve been a huge fan of Rawlik’s Reanimators series of connected stories, with my favorite being Weird Company, but this gave me a new dimension. Instead of the more visceral look at at flesh-craft and the psychology behind reanimating the dead, we got a philosophical look at manipulating the universe.

This book is an easy 5 out of 5 for me. I’m about to start his Legacy of the Reanimator anthology, with co-authors, and am looking forward to just as entertaining of a deep dive into the history of Herbert West as we received with Professor Peaslee.

Agent G Omnibus Review

When it comes to terms that end in “punk” I have never been a huge fan. I enjoy the aesthetic of Steampunk, but can never get into the stories, and that Cyberpunk 2077 video game came out and all I really cared about was how much the Keanu Reeves character actually looked like the talented actor.

That being said, I originally picked up the first Agent G book because of the author, C. T. Phipps, without any real idea that the story was “cyberpunk.” Instead, I dove into what I saw as a mix of James Bond’s serious take on the world and the level of body-mod technology akin to Austin Powers’ “machine gun jubblies.”

The world building of these stories is great. Not only is there the prebuilt world that is everything we know about it as normal people, but on top of that is a layer of black ops computer warfare that includes clones and augmented cybernetic enemies. There’s technologies that can hack anything and technologies that combat those hacks, with every new technology being countered by something even more fierce and incredibly imaginative, all while people fight with the moral dilemmas associated with the ethics of cloning, editing histories, manipulating the masses, government take-overs, and the exercising of free-will.

The first book introduces us to this amazing world, slamming us into the backseat as we follow Agent G, a nameless member of a combat elite with more secrets in his past than even he is aware of. He is led to believe that his organization is fighting on the side of right, but as Biggs Darklighter would soon discover, joining the Empire has it’s costs. Along the way, he meets assassins of equally morally dubious standing and discovers that everyone’s labels for good and bad don’t mean anything if everyone is out to kill you.

Another great comparison to this series is Pinocchio. Mostly because these books are the journey of a man who thinks he can be nothing more than a machine for the company discovering the things that make him human.I won’t go into the follow up works included in this omnibus because the only thing you need to know is that the battle rages on. Not just the battle between the company and Agent G, but the battle inside Agent G’s head.

I have said this in previous reviews of Phipps’s work, he soars when he’s working on character development and having a mindless automaton assassin discovering moral quandaries on the level of “do I have a soul” is the best playground possible for C. T.’s skillset. We start with someone who is happy with his place in the world and not really questioning anything. He has his home and his relationships as well as an understanding that his life is programmed to be short and is only as valuable as his next target’s status. Then we move onto him discovering that the world isn’t as it seems and maybe he isn’t either. It is the kind of wedge under a character that’s small, but can lever us into a huge character arc. And Phipps delivers.5 out of 5 stars and I can’t wait to see what more comes into the world of Agent G.

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 – 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.

Review: Lovecraft Country Episode 1 & 2

I almost forgot that this show was about to air when all of the Lovecraft Facebook groups that I follow became flooded with posts and reviews.

Before I get into my review of the first 2 episodes, I had a few things that I wanted to say:

The first is that this review covers Episode 1 and Episode 2 of Lovecraft Country on HBO and I wish I could that it was an artistic choice to combine the review of both of them together, but it’s not. The truth is that I didn’t even think about reviewing the episodes until a day before the third one aired. This two episode combination review is my “catch up.”

Secondly, (this is where I address the 30 huge elephants in the room) Lovecraft Country covers a dark period in American History that a lot of white Americans like to pretend didn’t happen. The subject matter (race and racism in the 1950’s, not the Lovecraftian stuff) triggers some people in a way that I see as entirely selfish.

What I mean by selfish is that these people (read that as “racists”) have no problem watching an uncomfortable subject matter in another period piece as long as it doesn’t pertain to race or ‘Murica. Denying our darker past to forget about it is selfish, ignorant, and, of course, racist. I bring up this salient point for a multitude of reasons.

The first of which is that a large percentage of the posts I saw on those Lovecraft Facebook pages were claims that the show’s message was too much or statements that demanded that black people shouldn’t be put into the racist author’s legacy.

One post went as far as to claim that the Nazi’s didn’t go far enough, and used this to imply that if they had, this wouldn’t be a discussion.

These people are disgusting, obviously, and are a complete waste of the flesh they use to house their hateful demons. That being said, I am going to address some of these points.

Claiming that adding race to HPL’s stories disgraces his legacy is dumb for several reasons. Being a damned racist in the first place is what disgraced his legacy. Nobody can even speak about Lovecraft and being a fan of his work in this modern era without someone mentioning his overzealous amount of racial hatred. If anything, adding new and diverse ideas to his mythos only keeps the mythos alive by adding fresh stories and working to redeem the author’s dark opinions.

The other thing that bothers me is this claim of ownership over HPL. Trying to gatekeep people from creating any type of story, including those that include race, directly contradicts his feelings concerning the shared universe of the mythos.

The current, accepted, belief regarding new stories in the mythos is that none of his stories are protected in a way that stops authors from adding and joining them. The mythos was meant to be a sandbox that allowed creators to expand and play in. Imagine the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or The Flash’s Multiverse, but with existential dread. We, as creators (and the “Nazi” that I meantioned previously is actually a fairly famous creator) can’t create and add to the mythos when it suits us and then try to close the gate when the other artists create something that we don’t agree with. The only person who has that responsibility died in the late 1930’s.

Finally, my last major point to the haters is that this show, and the book by Matt Ruff, have been clearly advertised for years without demonstrating any sort of hidden agenda. This show is clearly what it claimed to be. If a show doesn’t intrigue ME with it’s trailers and ads, I won’t watch it. These haters all had ample warning to the content of the show and could have simply avoided it.

Instead, they watched it anyway and then bitched about it online. They are trolls looking to be fed and I encourage all moderators to block users who conduct this behavior so that they will starve and, hopefully, learn from their behavior.

Anyway, that is the only time (I only kind of promise this) that I will be bringing up people needing to stop being racist assholes in reference to this show. Now onto the review. Full disclaimer: I’ve read the book, and it was a long time ago, but I remember enjoying it.

Disclaimer number 2: My brother and I watch this together, remotely. He watches on his tv 20 minutes away while I sync my show up with his (“Ready? Ok, 1, 2, 3, hit play.”) and we sit in a party chat. Mikey’s opinions will be regular short pieces in these reviews.

Disclaimer number 3: I tried to write this without spoilers. I couldn’t do it. You’ve been warned. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. Boom! Warned again.

Episode 1 – Sundown

This episode is a perfect example of how to introduce characters and keep things moving. The opening scene is beautifully done, and while I know everyone was talking about it, I was excited to see the dread lord Cthulhu get his ass handed to him by the powerful swing of Jackie Robinson.

Atticus is the main character, but it becomes obvious that we’ll be following several other characters (his uncle Geoge and his wife, Letti and her sister, and the almost too white Braithwhites) throughout this series.

Atticus has just returned from the Korean War and there are questions as to whether he has “Shell Shock” or PTSD as we know it today. On top of that, he’s found a letter from his father requesting that he go out east and find him in “Lovecraft Country” (OMG they said it!).

George, Letti (who’s a mooch and a drifter), and Atticus decide to make this trip together and get paid doing it as George is the editor-in-chief (with his wife) of the “Green Book.” The Green Book is a book that is sold/handed out to black people to tell them safe routes, places to stay, and more in the incredibly racist 1950’s. This book is the key to surviving a roadtrip if you happen to have the wrong skin. Unfortunately, it isn’t always perfect and needs to be regularly updated, as we’ll see throughout this entire series, I’m sure.

The first 70% of this story is just them getting to their destination and dealing with very horrible people (chased out of town with shotguns, told to get out of a county before sundown, etc). It’s the getting chased out of the county that opens up the first real (there was minor bits before) supernatural stuff.

The sheriff is going to kill all three of them in the woods when suddenly…

SHOGGOTHS!

There are few televised moments that make me that happy. You can verify with my brother, Mikey, that I screamed with terror and delight when they arrived on the scene. The shoggoths came from nowhere, and even though I had them spoiled for me a little before the show, I still jumped.

Let’s get the big thing out of the way that everyone is talking about: No, they didn’t look like shapeless forms of whirling flesh, or a black mass of gel, or whatever you think shoggoths are supposed to look like, but that’s ok. As a writer for Shoggoth.net, I know what I’m talking about. Shoggoths have the ability to take many shapes, and they have come in many different flavors. This might have big six limbed bipeds, but they also had eyes and mouths covering their entire bodies.

Also, the vampire bite changing thing bothered a few people, but obviously nobody that was bothered by that ever watched “The Thing,” by John Carpenter. The monster in “The Thing” was the best vision of a shoggoth that I have ever seen, and simply touching a person made it take over and replace that person with it’s own self.

These things were shoggoths, and they were beautiful. I want 2.

Anyway, I’ve already broken my cardinal rule and spoiled a lot of the episode, but this episode ended on quite the high note (the shoggoths, duh) and put our heroes into a place that I thought (from my vague memories from the book) they wouldn’t get to until the end of the season.

 6 out of 5 stars. It was that good.

Mikey’s thoughts: “The best line in that entire episode was tied for Letti screaming for them to get the F out of that diner and for Uncle George looking at Atticus and asking what happens when someone gets bit by a vampire.”

Episode 2 – Whitey’s on the Moon

They ended up at Braithwhite mansion, the last place that Tic’s father was seen. The Braithwhites are weird, but friendly, and offer them anything and everything, but they were also expecting them and all of their favorite stuff fills each of their rooms.

Another odd thing, no one without Braithwhite in their blood can remember the shoggoths, and George and Letti can’t see to recall any of Tic’s weird crap he’s explaining to them. So Tic must be a Braithwhite. When he discovers the memory crap he makes friends with the lady of the house (who’s name is escaping me) and demands that she proves her friendship by undoing whatever spell stops George and Letti from remembering. She agrees and suddenly there are screams everywhere.

Fast forward a bit and they quickly discover that Daddy Braithwhite is trying to make a spell that will open the door to Eden and provide him with eternal life. This spell had been tried once before by (as it turns out) Tic’s great-great-great grandfather and super bad cultist, but he screwed it up and the house burnt down with Tic’s great-great-great grandmother escaping to give birth to the next line of Braithwhites.

George has a powerful scene in this episode where he does what he does best and reads. His readings lead him to understand this cult and their bylaws thoroughly and he uses those to manipulate the entire cult into giving Tic everything he wants, namely his father.

George and Letti get shot, with Letti getting killed, and the cult uses her revival to explain that they can also save George, Tic just has to take part in the ceremony.

The ceremony…

Hoo-boy…that was a doozy.

In a good way, of course. I don’t think this show could do anything wrong if it tried.

Anyway, Tic does the ceremony but it goes all wrong and I don’t know if it was because of Tic’s will, Tic’s great-great-great grandmother, the cult screwing up, or Lady Braithwhite doing something behind the scenes. I’m sure they will let us know later in the series as a big plot twist. Whatever happens, everyone, including the house, gets destroyed except for Tic, Letti, Montrose (Tic’s dad), and George…

And then George bites it.

Ugh. Tears.

Anyway, another 6 out of 5. This show is better than anything I’ve watched in a while. I’m on the edge of my seat the entire time and can’t get over how dang good it is. To prove how much I like it, just look at how many names I remembered. I never remember names of characters, not even in shows that I like. 

Mikey’s thoughts: “All I have to say is ‘Snake Penis.’ We knew it was going to happen as soon as they showed the stained glass window. Even so, I was still not fully prepared.”

Review: War of the God Queen by David Hambling

Hambling’s War of the God Queen was a relatively new look at the Cthulhu Mythos for me that not only worked, but was great at using the Mythos as a background piece of the plot without taking away from the very character driven story.

The story follows Jessica, who is thrown into the past while fighting the dread beast Cthulhu himself. I loved the portrayal as R’yleh as something more than just a location on Earth, but also as solid thing throughout time.

Jessica lands in tribal times where that same tunnel through time has also been regurgitating Lovecraftian beasts that have been kidnapping woman for breeding purposes.

She’s forced to convince tribal leaders that not only can she help, but that also being a woman isn’t something that’s a hinderance to her aid. She has to learn the language, their way of life, and how to survive in those old times while trying to figure out how to get past the monsters and climb back through the hole through time that she fell through and get back home.

My favorite thing about this story was the anthropological look at the people and Jessica’s integration. While a lot of the people she’s with see her as a goddess from on high come to save them from their demons, the rest tend to see her as a political tool, or push aside religious iconography to accept her as a person with more knowledge than they have.

Additionally, the entire story reads like an epic Hambling adventure akin to Harry Stubbs, with it being evident that Hambling did his research.

I’m a huge fan of this book and can’t see where else David takes this world that he’s been building.

5 out of 5 stars!