What the hell was THAT?!

Those of you who’ve managed to read all seven parts of Son of my Father might well be asking yourself what the hell that was all in aid of. It started out one thing, turned briefly into something else entirely, segued into Cthulhu country, flirted with the notion of ending in a way no Lovecraft inspired story should, then went back to where Lovecraft fans (myself included) feel comfortable. Those of you who’ve never read Lovecraft, Derleth, Lumley, Campbell or any of the thousands of other works of fiction set in or around the Cthulhu Mythos will be justifiably confused. Those of you who have, might be a little put out by some of the things I’ve done in the story.

Minor Spoilers under the cut

The first thing I did which might upset some purists, was to make my character three things. Working class, sarcastic and heart broken. The overwhelming majority of Mythos protagonists are middle class, educated, articulate, a little on the cold and cerebral side and often sorely lacking in a sense of humour. Very often, they’re obsessive personality types as well. I wanted to avoid that, wanting to put a more… down to earth character into a similar situation. Am I really the only one bored of reading about how Professors and/or graduate students find themselves pulled into the Mythos? I lacked the courage of the brilliant and prolific Elizabeth Bear in her Hugo Award winning story “Shoggoths in Bloom”, and rather than make my main character a person of colour, I settled for making my protagonist working class, driven by emotions, rather than intellect, and sarcastic. I also broke with tradition and made him someone who feels he can look after himself in an altercation. In short, I inserted a hero from an entirely different story (probably a story about smart-mouthed petty criminals getting in over their heads with mobsters) into somewhere far out of his comfort zone.

Secondly of all, I included a mildly explicit scene of my protagonist being sexually assaulted by two members of the Cult of Shub-Niggurath. Mythos stories aren’t renowned for their graphic sexual content, as well as the fact that the “sex” in this story was non-consensual, so in order that a rookie writer like myself didn’t appear to be leering over it, I kept the description vague. I hope that what actually transpired was apparent in the text. Scott was drug addled at the time as well, so my choices of language in those passages was deliberately skewed. How well that works is for others to decide. I haven’t had enough time to distance myself from the story and read it with something that approaches objectivity.

Something else I did which some Mythos purists may disagree with, was to allow Scott to escape a life threatening predicament by means of graphically described physical violence. This is distinctly out of the norm in Mythos stories and I’m not 100% sure how it will sit within the overall tone of the story. I only know I’m somewhat bored of protagonists who never just headbutt a motherfucker when shit gets reeeeal. Ahem! Which is to say, not every Fight or Flight Reaction ends with someone running away. It was either Sun Tzu, Yoda or  Oscar Wilde (I forget which) who said “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.”, or something like that (I think it might have been Darth Wilde, now that I think about it). Why does it always have to be the frightened one who suffers most?

Those are the main things I did within the structure of the story which will annoy purists, but I also played a little fast and loose with the appearance of Shub-Niggurath, as well as adding the concept of The Children, a race of hybrid creatures created by means of a woman cultist taking the seed of an unwilling male human, inseminating herself and then letting the essence of Shub-Niggurath alter the fertilised egg by some manner I never made explicit. It mainly remained off the page because a.) I have no idea how the mechanics of a three way parentage would work, especially when one of the parents is an extra dimensional monstrosity of god-like power, unimaginable size and incomprehensible shape, and b.) Thinking about it kind of squicks me out.

Now, why the hell is the story so damned long? Well, truth be told I had nothing to do with that. Scott might not be an intellectual, but he’s observant and takes in the little details of what goes on around him, as well as what happens inside his own head. When someone like that is the focus of the story, it tends to ramble on a bit. Also, I sort of enjoyed breaking him at the start, allowing him to recover a bit, then breaking him again at the end. I guess I’m just a bit sick like that. I had so much fun doing it, that he might well appear again in future stories, providing his mind hasn’t been completely destroyed by having the focus of a Great Old One fall on him, however briefly. I may get back to you later on that one.

One final thing. Why the title? What in blue blazes have Chicory Tip got to do with the Cthulhu Mythos? That one’s a bit convoluted. The story wa initially going to be an affectionate parody, much in the vein of Neil Gaiman’s “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar”, entitled “Ch-who-lu?”. The title made me smirk when I thought it up. Then I realised as I wrote it, that Scott wasn’t going to come out of this with nothing more than a strange to tell for his troubles. The title became Once Upon a Time in Cumbria. I liked the title. It fitted the story well, I thought. Then on the day I was due to post the first part, Derrick Bird did what he did in Cumbria. Suddenly, posting a blog entry entitled “Once Upon a Time in Cumbria” didn’t seem like such a good idea. The thought that those looking for information on a very real human tragedy and finding a Cthulhu Mythos story which just happened to go up on the same day as real people lost their lives was a little more than I was willing to do. I cast around desperately for a new title, settling finally on an old song my dad used to like when I was a kid. It also seemed to fit, in a strange way,  since the story opens with Scott mourning his own father, killing an abomination fathered by a Great Old One and also unknowingly becoming a father himself, of sorts, in the course of the events that take place. It’s a story with daddy issues, that’s for sure.

Two final points.

1. I’m not sure why once again, my protagonist won a fight by nutting someone in the back of the head. This happened in Redcap as well. It’s becoming something of a signature move, which means I’ll have to be a lot more aware of it in future.

2. Whenever I read a Mythos story from now on, when the Black Goat with a Thousand Young (Which may or may not be Shub-Niggurath, Lovecraft scholars are divided on this) is mentioned, I’ll hear this.

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3 responses to “What the hell was THAT?!

  1. OK, I’ve had time to digest (absorb?) the story now, so here’s my thoughts, such as they are!

    Your playing fast and lose with the standard Lovecraftian set up and protagonist doesn’t bother me in the least – like you, I find said protagonists a little bland (though I appreciate that was Lovecraft’s intention). Scott is an engaging and interesting character, his “rambling observations” add real detail and richness to the story, and while he might feel out of place he doesn’t seem out of place. His decision to fight back feels absolutely right, though I would add that I thought he despatched The Child maybe a little to easily, even if he did it in a very cool way. All in all, I’d be very happy to see him make a return if you can find a compelling way to bring him back.

    As far as the sexual element goes, the idea of alien dieties and whatnot interbreeding with humans is a fairly common theme in the Cthulhu Mythos, so it’s not as if it’s tacked on. It fits in well with the story, and as I rather crudely commented earlier, is creepy as hell, which for a horror story is always good. It felt kind of like an alien abduction by human proxy, if you get what I mean!

    Elsewhere, I loved the murals and the stained glass window on the church, as well as Scott’s observation of its odd geometry – very fitting! The town and its inhabitants had a definite Innsmouth feel about them, in spirit anyway, and the idea of an alien cult headed by a Nora Batty lookalike = inspired! On the subject of The Child, can I just say, “Goddamn!” Brilliantly grotesque invention. Oddly, what freaked me out the most was when it absorbed Scott’s blood. It’s such a small thing, but it leaves you wondering just what would’ve become of Scott had it really got its claws into him.

    Basically, I really enjoyed this story – you got me truly hooked in part two! I also like the title, I think it fits quite nicely. Mind you, it has left me with that damn song playing in my head for the last few days! 😦

    Nice one, Dan!

    Jake

    • As regards Scott’s seemingly “easy” defeat of The Child, I can offer only two justifactions…

      Firstly, I didn’t want the fight to drag on too long. Much as I loved Fritz Leiber and Robert E. Howard, those 4 page fight scenes would get on my wick, sometimes. On a slightly different note, my second justification is that real violence tends to explode quickly, it happens very rapidly and usually ends with startling suddenness; most often once one participant gets the other at a disadvantage, from whence brutality ensues. If I’m totally honest, I also knew that if Scott didn’t win quickly, he wouldn’t win at all. Luckily for him (or unluckily, considering what happens afterwards), prison taught him to fight dirty and he won’t hesitate to attack from behind or when his opponent is down.

      I should admit one other mistake which I’m going to have to correct. I knew there was a small village in west Yorkshire, near the Pennine foothills, which is entirely real and a made up Cumbrian village inside my head. One was called Ingleton and the other was called Inglethorpe… Unfortunately, I wrote the first section some considerable time ago and mixed up which one was which in the text when I went back to it. If anyone from the real Ingleton happens to see this from a keyword such or something, I’m VERY SORRY. It’ll be fixed in rewrites, I promise.

  2. Good points, Dan, I hadn’t considered those. I also didn’t notice the Ingleton/Inglethorpe thing. Must be because I’m a nancy boy southerner!

    Not to add to his woes, but I found this and couldn’t help but think of Scott!

    And you thought the CSA was bad…

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