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.

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: 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 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: The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft

The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft

The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft

(First publisher for Shoggoth.net)

Normally, I have mixed feelings when it comes to anthologies. It’s not that I don’t like them, my problem is quite the opposite. I love them, but once I get to the point in an anthology story where I want it continue divulging the secrets it’s only just now begun to show me is when the story ends and we shift gears into an entirely different story.

I feared that would happen with The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft, but I wanted to give it a try anyway because I’m a huge fan of Donald Tyson’s Necronomicon books and knew that he had written the descriptors of the gods between each of the individual stories.
I was pleasantly surprised to find every story in this anthology pleasant to some degree. I still suffered, especially at the end of tales such as A Dying of the Light by Rachel Caine.
This anthology was well put together, in that it introduced new tales with very beautifully written takes on the different beasts of the Mythos, while still making itself a primer for each of them. It works well as an introduction to the Mythos, or as a database to update your knowledge if you’re fairly involved in the lore, but haven’t had the time to read any of the Clark Ashton Smith stories (for example).
That leads me to my favorite bits. I haven’t read much of Clark Ashton Smith, but I’ve read some and have only really read the Wiki page for Tsathoggua. With that being said, one of my favorite stories from this mix was The Apotheosis of a Rodeo Clown. This story was one of the few that left me begging for it to continue, as it ends with some revelations about the main character that I think (I need to read CAS to be sure) harkens back to the original Tsathoggua tale.
On the other side of that coin, my other favorite stories were Dream a Little Dream of Me (Jonathan Maberry), In the Mad Mountains (Joe R. Lansdale), and Down, Deep Down, Below the Waves (Seanan McGuire). In the case of Dream a Little Dream of Me, we got some great pulp adventure while expanding on the Dream Lands and the Night Gaunt Mythos. In the Mad Mountains seemed to create a new interpretation of the Mountains of Madness, while also creating an absolutely horrific tale. Down, Deep Down, Below the Waves was simply great Innsmouth story telling and kept me on the edge of my seat. I didn’t know who to cheer for and that, in itself, was somewhat horrific.
At the end of this book, I was left craving more, so much more and encourage everyone to pick up a copy. This was a 5/5 star anthology.

Review: I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

I Am ProvidenceI Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I went into this book pretty excited. The premise sounded like a lot of fun, and I liked Mamatas’ The Damned Highway. Unfortunately, this was a 3 star book for various reasons that only managed to get its fourth star from me because I did find myself regularly compelled to continue turning the page just for the murder mystery plot.
Unlike other reviewers, I mostly enjoyed the protagonist, Colleen Danzig. The parts that bothered me revolved around the victim’s point of view. Originally, those chapters were very entertaining and promised a very Lovecraftian answers. I felt that the story never delivered on those answers.
Once again, the murder mystery plot was very good, and felt like an homage to Poirot or Sherlock.
What Mamatas did, and what I think makes me uncomfortable enough to lose enjoyment during this novel, was write a novel aimed at the very specific audience of the Lovecraft crowd, and then use that sniper focus to shine a jaded mirror on that very same crowd, all while stating very plainly in that reflection that they are all whiney and opinionated enough that if they complained there would be no validity to their man-baby cries. My question is why someone would pick a target audience to write to and then insult it.
The answer, that I suspect, was that Mamatas was going for realism, but from the point of view of a fan who was tired of his fandom’s more negative people. If you’re a fan of Ghostbusters, Star Wars, or just about any series that’s been rebooted or sequeled in the last few years, than you’ve probably experienced similar feelings. You want to enjoy the medium, but when you go online, have a conversation with someone, go onto a Facebook group, or actually go to a CON than you’ll run into so many people that are adamantly argumentative about things you thought were just fun.
You can see this also in Mamatas’ mention of the Indie Author crowd. He brings up how getting found doesn’t mean anything other than a few more bucks and maybe a movie deal that won’t ever happen. How everyone with a pen makes an anthology or a publishing house. He complains from the perspective of someone who’s tired of hearing everyone else complain.
And he gets kind of mean about it.
I get it, there are a ton of stereotypes regarding the fans of Lovecraft, and honestly, I’ve never attended more than one convention-styled event, in a guy’s basement, filled with some of the stereotypes described in his book. The problem was that this book comes across as an angry “letter to the editor” about the fandom, his dislike of the conventions, and the people that he’s been stuck at his author booths talking to. As if he wrote this on a grumpier day in his career.
The last page of the book, the Acknowledgements, even states “First I must thank Jeremy Lassen, whose desire for one more Mythos novel from me inspired this book. He will never ask again, clearly.” And then he ends it with “As it turns out, writing a novel is a lonely business.”
Wow, that’s just bleak as Hell.
But the plot for the murder mystery was great. There’s a great story in this book and for that alone I think this novel deserved praise. Mamatas obviously wanted to put forth a good story.
It’s just unfortunate that his good story got mired in his hate letter to his fans.

View all my reviews

Review: Reanimatrix by Peter Rawlik

Reanimatrix by Peter Rawlik

Reanimatrix by Peter Rawlik

Reanimatrix is the third in a series of books written by Peter Rawlik that focuses on a world that Peter has built out of H.P. Lovecraft’s works focused around the story Herbert West: Reanimator. In the previous stories in Rawlik’s world, he’s introduced his own reanimators and several other characters, but weaves them into the Lovecraft mythos flawlessly so that you can see exactly where these characters are even when you’re just reading Lovecraft’s stories. He fills the gaps, so to say, and he’s very good at it.

Reanimatrix follows a protagonist who has seen some weird stuff, a la Lovecraft, and after being indoctrinated into the world view that this weird stuff is kind of everywhere, he becomes a local specialist in Arkham. He’s the guy on the police force that the police send to the weird crimes.
After meeting a woman, Megan Halsey-Griffith, briefly before his police career, the protagonist, Robert Peasley, falls in love with her from afar. Alas, this romance isn’t to be, as the next time that Robert sees Megan, she’s dead and entangled in a fisherman’s net.
When her body disappears, and the case seemingly gets closed, Robert becomes obsessed. He buys her house, reads her diaries, goes off the deep end essentially.
Then things get really weird. Her diaries map out her interesting history, her lineage tied back to the actions of Herbert West and events that took place in the first book by Rawlik as well as in Lovecraft’s tale.
The Bad: 
It has a very slow pacing. The most interesting scene in the beginning focuses around a botched version of the Reanimator Formula in France that has people reliving their last moments. This scene did well to introduce the concept but also made me wonder if following that serum and it’s use (maybe in criminal investigations) might have been a stronger narrative. That is the only really exciting bit at the beginning, and after that it becomes incredibly over-descriptive in every possible scene, slowing the pace even further. I’ll be honest in that I picked up this book about a year ago, stopped reading it only a quarter of the way through, and only recently decided to finish it last week.
The pacing does pick up, although the description of every little thing never stops, and this book really picks up pace when Robert finds Megan’s body. Then it gets weird… There’s lineage stuff in this book, and sex is a big part of how lineage comes about, obviously, but instead of explaining that people have sex, the story disembarks “Weird Murder Mystery” and suddenly jumps the track to “Esoteric Eroticism” but for only two scenes in the whole book. These scenes weren’t necessary for the plot and only came across as the author looking to exercise his skill set. Somewhere along the lines, it feels like he wanted to know if he could write weird sex scenes (weird like Lovecraft with fish people and zombies, not weird like “eww sex.” Sex scenes have their place, even weird ones), and so he did and then he put them into a story that’s weird pacing hadn’t revolved around weird sex scenes. It would have made sense if he continued to pepper them through the story, but he has only two and then an exposition on how one of the main characters will be trained in the arts of sex but then never touches on it again. I guess my concern is: What was the point?
The Good:
The things that I liked about this book were plenty, and weighed heavily in it’s favor. Rawlik does what I’ve done with some of my stories (looking at you Dr. Doran) and weaves a tale that tries to incorporate multiple stories from the Mythos. We have the Reanimator, obviously, but also the Dunwich Horror, The Witch House, Thing on the Doorstep, Shadow Over Innsmouth, Whisperers in Darkness, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and more. Every chapter touches on a different aspect of the mythos and flawlessly weaves it into the narrative.
Also, I joked earlier about Robert’s obsession with Megan, but that wasn’t really a problem. His obsession is obvious, as he’s seen weird things and he’s gotten a crush. His obsession with the weird sets him out on a mission to either save, protect, or solve the mystery that is Megan Halsey-Griffith. Taking us down the Rabbit-hole this way makes Robert seem not weird, but enlightened.
I really liked the portrayal of Herbert West throughout this story as well. He’s creepy, but not just Lovecraft-creepy, as I feel this version definitely embodies Jeffrey Combs.
I mentioned the clever weaving of Lovecraftian mythos into this story, but Rawlik also involves several other stories from that time. I had to google the obvious mentions, but there’s one that references Ms. Halsey-Griffith visiting a cousin who just so happens to be from a movie out of the 30’s regarding reanimation, and yet another that I can’t recall at the writing of this review. Rawlik has a gift for stitching together narratives in a way that makes it seem natural.
I did like this book, a lot. The slow pacing, weird sex scenes, and descriptive nature of the story don’t detract from the strength of the addictive plot that pulls you in and makes you want to solve Peasley’s case with him.
I give this story 4 out of 5, but hope that future installments go back to the Weird Company side of Rawlik’s writing.

Review: The Tower of Zhaal

Post-Apocalyptic fiction is fun, but Post-Apocalyptic Lovecraft fiction is even better.

That kind of fun led me to C.T. Phipps’ “The Tower of Zhaal.”

The Tower of Zhaal is the sequel to Phipps’ first successful foray into Lovecraftian fiction, Cthulhu Armageddon. In that first book, the world has been ravaged by the long ago (but still in our current future) rise of the Great Old Ones. The hero of the first book, John Henry Booth is back, and the taint of the world has eeked it’s way into his own flesh. With Nyarlahotep whispering in his ear, and the threat of the end of the human race on the brink of happening, John has to risk everything with a team that he can’t trust in order to save the few parts of the hellish world that mean something to him.

While traveling to and with some very Mythos specific names, as well as some that are a treat for readers of contemporary Mythos fiction (ie: the Ghoul priest being named Hoade as an obvious reference to fellow contemporary Mythos writer, Sean Hoade). The explanations of Magic, the Science of the Mind, and the different Alien races make it an epic adventure on par with Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, but within the Mythos elements that bring us back.

The world has ended, Alien Gods are everywhere, and the question of humanities survival is a complex one. Can Humanity survive? Should Humanity survive? Would the Humanity that survives even be recognizable as Human?

Phipps weaves a great tale, that makes for an exciting read.

5 out of 5 Stars!

Minor Potential Spoiler: There’s a scene in this book that made me laugh out loud, but not because it was funny. The moment I read it, I wanted to shout, “Ah! He’s been Rick and Morty’d!!!”